Judgment 16.12

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“Buy me time!” Rose called out.

Easier said than done.

The others were okay, though battered, bruised, and at least one bad injury.  They were standing closer to where the dragon had been impaled, and many of the blades were in their way, forcing them to very slowly extricate themselves, out of fear of dying to a simple slip or fall.

In short, it was Mags, Paige, and Peter on one side.  Buttsack, the Welder and the Nurse were there as well, though the goblin had been gouged by the blade, the Nurse injured in the prior encounter with the dragon.

Ms. Lewis, the possessed lawyer with two deep wounds in his chest, and the chauffeur that had taken us to Toronto, and the Barber, on the other side.  The Barber was only a short distance from the throne.  Closer than anyone else.

The Barber surveyed the situation, taking it all in, while the others fought to get closer to Rose, one eye on Ms. Lewis, who loomed above them, perched on the fallen Dragon.

He started toward Rose.

Rose brought a hand to her mouth, and whistled.

“Sic ’em!” she hollered.

Bristles leaped from the wall above, a solid twenty-foot drop, slamming into the demon.  The Barber stepped back for balance, it was able to stay standing by leg strength alone.  The hound’s exterior was heavy with the arrows, makeshift spears, knife handles, darts, a spade, and any number of other tools, making it something of a mess, and each of these weapons proved an obstacle or additional hazard as it clawed at the Barber’s chest and arm, fighting for leverage.

The Barber struck it, only to cut his arm on a knife that stuck from the bogeyman’s shoulder.  He pulled back, grabbing Bristles with an apparent intent to fling the beast off the side of the building, only for Bristles to twist around, mouth opening.  In the doing, it revealed that two of the weapons had once pierced its skull, replacing teeth with a blade and what might have been a screwdriver.  It seized the Barber’s wrist in its jaws, teeth and tools cutting deep.  The attempt to fling it away failed.

The other practitioners were acting. The chauffeur was speaking, his low tones carrying.  The possessed practitioner was approaching, one hand to his chest.

Mags was already reloading her pipe, pushing a shotgun shell into the end.  She raised it, aimed, and slammed the pipes together to fire.

She was too far away to do much, but the shots did serve to interrupt the man.  It proved brief as interruptions went.  Even if he hadn’t been immune to death and dying, he was a good distance away, Mags’ aim wasn’t perfect, and the one or two stray particles that happened to find him weren’t enough to do much.

The possessed lawyer continues his march toward them, speaking under his breath as a chain unfurled from his sleeve.  The chain smoked, and the smoke began to trace out a form of a hound.  The Welder hurled himself forward, stabbing with a spear of iron, but the possessed lawyer didn’t break his verbal stride, uttering a string of guttural words in another language.  With lupine yellow eyes and scruff on his cheeks, his hair now in disarray, he looked savage, as much animal as human.

The demon within him was one of the feral choir, it was clear.

There were shouts, orders, a jumble of noises.  The Welder and Nurse stepped forward to meet him, while Buttsack cowered, unable to retreat entirely because of the blades that now blocked the stairway.

My focus, however, was shifting to Ms. Lewis, who stood above and away from it all, doing nothing but keeping me bound.  I shifted my gaze again, to Rose and the Barber.

Rose was on the edge of her seat, fingers gripping the arms of the throne.

The Barber’s attempts to beat, batter, and wrestle with the Bogeyman were proving largely ineffective.  Bristles was a sponge for abuse.

This, naturally, led the Barber to his next option.  With one hand occupied, maneuverability proved hard.  He let go of the shears with one hand, gripped one of the handles, and let them fall open, the other handle resting against his upper arm, blades pointed down at the bogey-beast.

He stopped, his eye flickering to Rose.

She’d moved, her mouth open, and he’d noticed.

When he’d stopped, so had she.

His eye dropped, to the various tools that were stuck inside Bristles’ body.

“I see,” he said, and his voice still had that rasp to it, not entirely his.  “Going to banish it, and have it take my shears with it?”

Rose didn’t react.  She was frozen in place.

Shifting the shears to the hand that Bristles was attacking, the Barber reached to the same wrist that Bristles was gnawing on, he pulled the pipes away, then maneuvered them in his fingers, as they were apparently upside down.

With one hand, he raised the pan pipes to his lips, and he played.

Rose, in the meantime, shifted position, sitting straight in the throne.  Her eyes closed.

It made for a strange effect.  Rose pursuing one plan of attack while the Barber pursued another.  The Barber’s melody was haunting, finding an echo in this strange environment that seemed to make them impossible.  It reverberated, found an echo, compounded itself.  The more drawn out notes were like a wolf’s howl, punctuated by notes that evoked thoughts of yipping, whines, and even sharper notes that suggested something else altogether.  Pain, perhaps.

Rose, however, was speaking, and she was putting Conquest into her voice.

“This demesne goes unclaimed, belonging to none by right or establishment…”

Bristles grew more aggressive, savaging the Barber.  Stronger though the Barber was, the bogeyman was the equivalent of a squirming child with a pitbull bite.  Small as it might have been, in terms of relative strength, it was tenacious enough to be a problem.

Bristles opened its mouth.  The Barber shook his arm, and the bogeyman fell free.  It found its feet and shook its head.

The music continued.

Again, Bristles shook its head.  This time, it lunged, interrupting the music with the force of the impact.  The Barber turned his full attention to the bogeyman that still attacked him.

Not a dog?  I thought.  The Barber seemed just as confused by the fact as I was.

His thought process must have been very similar to mine, as he connected the dots.  Bogeymen were a human establishment.  He’d argued they were humanity’s eventual destination.

Animals did exist in the Abyss, that was true.  So did Others.  The dragon-bat-goblin thing I’d seen was such a case.  But Others were derived from man.  To continue along that journey wasn’t so strange.

For something to become an effective Bogeyman, had it taken on enough elements of humanity to resist the Barber?  Or had it never been human in the first place?  A human, treated like a dog, abused, finding his way to the Abyss, where it continued a journey to become doglike, but not a true dog?

Rose wasn’t smiling, but I thought I saw a gleam of satisfaction in her eyes.

A gambit, and it was one that had bought her time.  Bristles was the sort of thing that was very much worth summoning, here.

“The Abyss has a claim to all places left unowned.  As agent of the Abyss, I move to expedite this claim,” Rose said.

The Barber’s head snapped up, looking at her.

“Johannes is finished, and with him go all ties that anchor this demesne to this world.”

The Barber began to haul itself toward Rose, a limping gait.  Bristles gripped his leg, paws scrabbling for a grip on the rooftop, pulling in the opposite direction, only stopping to get a better grip and pull in another direction.

“This place can go when Jacob’s Bell goes!” Ms. Lewis called out.  “By three points of similarity, this place is anchored!  By the vestiges, echoing the people, by location, echoing the place it grew from, and by the bloodlines that are both here and there, knitting this place to that!  Inexorable, intertwined, the two cannot be separated.  When one falls, so shall the other!”

Ah.  She was ready to make a counterattack if Rose tried something.

“By three points of similarity-” Rose paused as the Barber drew nearer.  The pan pipes were in one hand, while the shears were in the other.

He slammed the handles together, and the shears became a sickle.

Only a few feet away, now.

The possessed lawyer’s hellhound lunged straight into the midst of the combined group of bogeymen, Mags, Paige, and Peter.  Peter had a cut on his back from earlier, when the blades all came flying up from below.  I could see ribs, and a whole lot of blood.  With the hellhound attacking, the rest of the group was bowled back.  The Welder was flung back into Mags, and  Mags was sent sprawling.

Buttsack was the only member of the group who wasn’t engaged in a life-or-death struggle.  He cowered within the forest of blades beneath the dragon.

“Go, Buttsack, or we all die!” Mags shouted.

“Fuck yourself with a fork!”

“If you get us out of this, I will damn well pay you in porn for as long as I am humanly able!”

Buttsack froze.

“I will give you thumb drives, you sorry excuse for a goblin!”  Mags roared the words.  The Welder was forced back again, his arms hugging the Hellhound’s muzzle, and he inadvertently kicked Mags in the side.  Still, she managed to get out another two words.  “Of weird stuff!”

He seemed to make his call, picking up his junkyard shield.

He sprinted for the Barber, and drove the base of the shield into the backs of the Barber’s knees.

Though it had been abstract as a demon, strong, it now had Johannes’ body.  It could take on aspects of its old self, but basic mechanics meant the Barber fell onto his back.  Bristles let go of his leg to go for the face.

“By three points of similarity,” Rose resumed, no longer holding her breath, caught in the chair, “Justify the connection of the vestiges here to the people there!  They’ve been butchered, and any echoes have died!”

Ms. Lewis didn’t have a ready answer.

Rose went on, her voice rising as she spoke.  “Jacob’s Bell will be removed as a place, and all that is happening here is evidence as to why.  The Practitioners here will die or leave, one and all.  Let this be the first of dominoes to fall, on both counts!  I am of the Abyss, and I am of Conquest, and from this seat, I deem this done!”

A vibration rattled through everything present.  It was much the same as if something very heavy had been dropped just out of sight, rippling through the strange firmament above, the very air, and the ground below.  The building seemed to waver.

The Welder, cast off of the Hellhound, fell at the hands of the possessed lawyer, fingers tearing his neck open.  Paige’s light was forming a shield to hold the Hellhound at bay, but it wasn’t holding up.

Below the dragon, Mags was still on her back.

I’d told her to keep a goblin in reserve, fully expecting that we’d be beaten and battered, and that we might need a distraction to cover our retreat.  Mags summoned it.

Not a particularly big goblin.  Smaller than Buttsack, who was the size of a morbidly obese seven year old.  Still it came when Mags tore the paper it had been bound into.

I didn’t hear the words, but I saw it run to the dragon’s dangling tail, which touched the ground.  Climbing, and moving toward Ms. Lewis, who appeared to be unaware, her focus elsewhere.

Paige created a brilliant flash of light, and everything went white.

The light served to blind everyone present, myself included.  Buying us time.  I used the time to pull myself together.  No longer a wing, but an arm, a hand.

In the time it took for the brilliant light to fade, people had repositioned, pulling back and away from the fighting.  Only the Barber was still caught up with the tenacious Bristles, but even he was on his feet again, back to a wall, hacking the goblin’s shield to pieces.

The chauffeur had summoned two demons, and they didn’t look like small fry.  They looked much like the Barber had.  One was grotesquely fat, covered in boils, his ‘face’ a lanky mess of hair, the sides, top and back of his head replaced with faces that looked as though they belonged to drowning victims.  The genitals that hung between the thing’s legs weren’t distinguishable as anything belonging to either gender.

The other was narrower, thin, with the head of an emaciated cat.

“I was diabolist,” Rose said, and she rose from her chair.  She’d left traces of a partial handprint in the metal of the chair’s arm, and the print glowed faintly, as her gleaming white fingers did.  “I’m now a servant of the Abyss.”

She faced down both of the demons and the chauffeur both, stepping forward.

“I think,” she said, “I’m qualified to tell you to get lost.

She swept her hand to one side.

A glow similar to the one on the chair traced along the edge of the rooftop.  As it faded, it left cracks in its wake.

The demons moved, lunging, the chauffeur moving after a bit more of a delay.

That corner of the rooftop caved in.  The demons and chauffeur were all swallowed up in the falling rubble.

“Yes!” Mags crowed.

Don’t celebrate just yet, I thought.

This wasn’t done.

The Barber was winning its brawl.  We still had two lawyers to deal with.

The goblin poked its head up behind Ms. Lewis.  It sank its teeth into her calf.  In the moments of struggle that followed, it managed to drag her off the dragon’s back.  She and he dropped.

Freed, I immediately began crawling in her general direction.  My fingers weren’t strong enough to drag my entire arm and the entrails that flowed behind, lacking a better word.

Instead, I used my fingers to hook into the cracks and individual stones of the rooftop, curled my arm, set the base down, and unfolded my arm, lunging out to reach the next handhold.

A foot or so of progress per attempt.

Chaos.  Everything they had established was now breaking down.  The power, their invincibility, the supposed inevitability of their victory.

We were, all of us here on the rooftop, people who had a tendency to stick it out, to bulldog our way through it all.  Somewhere along the line, our belief in that had trumped our belief that they would win.

There wasn’t a single person in our group now who was intact.  Our enemies, even the demons and lawyer who had been cast down with the section of roof, remained immortal.

There was a yelp.  Buttsack followed it with a cry of his own, fleeing the Barber.

The Barber stood.

I wanted to act, to respond to situations as they arose, but that wasn’t a power I had anymore.  Rose had taken on titles and roles, she’d adopted parts of me, and she was versatile.  Able to call the maimed Nurse to her side, a temporary bodyguard.  Mags had Buttsack.  Paige… I suppose Paige was supposed to have Peter, but he’d collapsed, lying on his back, eyes open.

All I could do was continue my steady progress.  I could see all the blades that lay between me and Ms. Lewis’ silhouette, as she worked on extricating the small, stupid goblin that was trying to attack her.

The possessed lawyer moved in the same instant his hellhound did.  A two-pronged strike.

The burned Nurse flung herself at the Hellhound, only for the beast to explode into flame, leaving her to stumble through.  She recovered and threw her arms around the feral lawyer.  Her embrace singed clothing and made hair smoke.

Buttsack threw itself at the Hellhound, or tried to duck beneath it as it lunged, shield raised to protect himself, I wasn’t sure.  Either way, his bulk was a stone for the Hellhound to trip over.  Paige’s rebuke took advantage of that gap, a contained flash of light that acted like a slap to the face, making the Hellhound turn its head.

Things had reduced to a brawl.  Chaotic.

Rose grabbed the chain, hauled on the slack, and forced a loop around the Hellhound’s muzzle as it came around to bite her.

Mags, for her part, threw herself forward to Rose’s side, snapping a combination lock through one loop of the chain.

The hellhound raised a paw and clawed at two of them, hard.  Mags was unscathed.  Rose wasn’t, and dropped, hard.

The Hellhound pulled, trying to get closer to the others, but there was no more slack in the chain, and try as it might, it couldn’t break the binding.  Its tenacious attempts to pull free or get closer only served to tighten the loop.

Paige and Mags backed away, Paige dropping to Rose’s side to help put pressure on the claw wound.  Buttsack, now behind the Hellhound, backed away in the other direction, toward the fracture on the far end of the roof.

I started to make my way through the blades that dripped with dragon’s blood.  The ground itself was slippery, but the blades themselves were precarious handholds where the blood didn’t touch them.

The Barber was approaching, Rose was down, and the others weren’t capable or willing to get closer to either Barber or Hound.  Mags bent down and grabbed Rose, pulling her further back.

In their efforts to get away, they backed straight up into Ms. Lewis, who had dispatched the goblin.

“This would be the beginning of the end, I suppose, for now at least,” Ms. Lewis said.  She turned her head.  “Christopher, don’t summon anything more.  We should extricate, rather than entrench ourselves.”

Christopher, the possessed lawyer, scowled.  He’d dealt with the Nurse, tearing her throat out, but was struggling to get the chain away from the Hellhound’s muzzle.  The lock prevented easy removal, the hound wasn’t cooperating, which didn’t help matters, and it apparently couldn’t turn into fire when it was shackled.

I edged closer, the same halting progress I’d been managing for the last several minutes.

Rose was crumpled up on the ground, a claw mark on her already savaged upper body.  She looked up and glared.  “You’re staying, for as long as I can get the Abyss to keep you.”

“That won’t be long at all,” Ms. Lewis said.  “You know, this all could have been so much tidier.”

“We’re not the sorts to do tidy.”

“Things are the way they are for a reason.  What have you really gained, Rose?  At the end of all this?”

“You’re assuming it’s over,” Rose said.  She grunted with pain, and the look on her face suggested she hated that it had happened.

Close.  I was so close.

Not that there was much I could do, even if I got there.  I was a hand.

“Barbatorem,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Could you convince Ms. Thorburn that things are resolved?  I’d like to accomplish that much, at the very least.”

“I can,” Barbatorem said, his voice low.  He’d already healed the damage that Bristles had done.  He spoke, and he sounded a hell of a lot more like Johannes as he did, “I’m terribly sorry, Rose.  I agree with Ms. Lewis.  I wanted to do this better.  I never harbored an abundance of ill will for you.”

“Stop,” Rose said.  Bleeding, wounded, worn out, perhaps a bit touched by the Abyss, she looked like she had more of me in her than ever.  Sheer savage stubbornness.  Warrior grit.  “Don’t use his voice.  There’s no point in faking it anymore.”

There was a long pause.

“Ah.  Yes,” the Barber said, and the words were guttural, hollow.  There was nothing of Johannes in the sounds that passed through he mouth of his black-worm face.

“Lewis,” the possessed practitioner said.

Heads turned.

Peter.  Earlier he’d fallen.  Now he was up, active.  One arm was useless, the other held a chunk of stone from the broken edge of the rooftop.

He was at the wall of blades that had been erected around Faysal, prying.

“Peter!” Paige called out.

He noticed that we, our enemies included, had realized what he’d done.  He redoubled his efforts, no longer trying to be subtle or quiet.

He smashed.  “Bullshit!  Bullshit shitty assed bullshit fakery!”

Two blades broke in one swing.

“Christopher,” Ms. Lewis ordered, only to see that the hellhound wasn’t yet free.  “Barbatorem!”

Barbatorem threw the sickle.

“Get down!” Paige screamed.

Peter didn’t.  Call it Thorburn stubbornness, or just his natural inclinations, he wasn’t one to follow orders.  He turned to look at the source of the cry, saw the projectile, and threw himself to one side.

The weapon sank into the wall above where Bristles had fallen.  A foot to the right, and it might have continued on through the hole in the wall, disappearing into whatever lay beyond, or falling to the street.

Barbatorem gestured, and what he did had to be a kind of enchantment, drawing on his connection to the blade.  He moved, and he covered the distance with remarkable speed, closing on Peter.

He stopped and went still as his hand settled on the handle of the weapon.

He pulled it free, then kicked Bristles’ body over the edge.

Peter was still sitting on his ass, hands behind him to prop up his upper body, not yet on his feet.

A demon against a normal human.

“Fuck you!” Peter shouted.

Resistance was admirable, but even with everything we’d established and accomplished, it wasn’t enough to decide that particular conflict.

I’d already gone still, lurking at the base of the wall, ready in case Ms. Lewis tried anything.  I watched, and would have been holding my breath if I’d had lungs.  Or a mouth.

A shadow moved behind Barbatorem.

Green Eyes?

She’d been too hurt.  Barely able to keep out of the way.

Not Evan, nor one of the vestige kids.

Rose had called out to anyone willing or able to help.  She’d called one Bogeyman we knew.

The creepy man in the ill-fitting suit from the Tenements stepped out from the other side of the wall.  I’d bound him and sent him out to pursue our enemies, and here he was.

The Barber saw him.  Too late to react.  The man in the ill-fitting suit stepped to one side, then pushed.

A simple, stupid one-trick bogeyman pulling out his trick.  Defenestration.

The Barber toppled over the same brink it had just kicked Bristles over.

A long pause lingered.

Peter summoned his strength and threw himself at the cage again, stone in hand.

The cage shattered, and in the midst of that breakage, the diagram that sealed Faysal’s form broke.

Light flared, spreading, and where the wings that Faysal had drawn had been obscured by the wall that rose around us, they now rose up and around us, spreading over the sky.

The light was bright enough that it helped to obscure the darkness behind.

The wings folded, and in the sweep, the orbs and expanse that had decorated the firmament of this place were wiped clean.  There was only darkness.  Not a nether sort of darkness, or anything of the sort, but comfortable, absence-of-ordinary-light darkness.

The figure disappeared, spearing out and through that darkness.

The movement seemed to prompt another rumble.  This time, it didn’t stop.

One more anchor point gone.  Johannes’ lack of claim was undeniable.

“Man, Angels are assholes,” Paige said.  “He couldn’t stick around long enough to contribute?

Ms. Lewis turned to leave, gesturing to Christopher.  Heading for the broken section of roof.  Maybe where they could have hopped down and away.

I seized her by the ankle.

It created a delay, prompting a stumble.  Time for others to notice.

Mags and Paige were on their feet in a moment.  They threw themselves at her, pinning her against the wall with their weight.  Christopher disappeared, down and away.

The struggle was brief, but it was human strength against human strength, and by virtue of numbers more than anything else, it soon came to a halt. The grip of the two girls secured on the woman’s wrists, Ms. Lewis pulled down to her her knees.  She momentarily struggled again, almost to test that she really was caught.  A long pause followed, quiet but for the steady rumble, still in the midst of an entire domain that was steadily going to pieces, fragments breaking away from every wall, every ceiling and object.

The sky above was gone, the ground was disintegrating, and everything between was breaking down.

Rose stared up at Ms. Lewis from her position on the ground.  Rose smiled.

“I didn’t want to do this, you know, given the consequences.  I was so close to being free of my debt, being free,” Ms. Lewis said.  “Orn-”

Mags struck her in the teeth with the pipe-shotgun.

“So don’t,” Mags answered.

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169 thoughts on “Judgment 16.12

  1. I love it when updates end on high notes. Although it strikes me that the only reason this is happening is because the story’s winding down.

            1. I won’t be satisfied until he is at least a head. So he can hang out with Green Eyes and Evan.

        1. Well, from Worm we had [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and even when [REDACTED] [REDACTED], [REDACTED]. The only good part about the ending was [REDACTED], and that felt more than a little tacked-on, just so wildbow could say Worm had a happy ending. Personally, I think that was [REDACTED] stupid.

          1. And All I can say in answer there is [REDACTED] disagreement. Rather a large fan of the ending and said final epilogue. Many analogues to my grandfather’s ww2 experience (that he survived)

            1. If we’re willing to overlook [REDACTED], it’s generally agreed that WWII was not a work of literature, and most agree that it would have made for a depressing, boring one.

              Debating over who is right and who is wrong is not only pointless, but also not something to be done here.

      1. Barber falling off the tower doesn’t necessarily mean Barber is gone. Worst case…ok well, really bad case he’s down with the kids and wonded. And possibly free from his mortal body. We don’t really known what happens if the body legit dies.

        1. Oh, sure, Johannes possessed by Barbatorem falling off a tower that’s in the Abyss (maybe? It’s not clear) will get rid of him. Not like he’s come back from that within the past hour.

  2. Typo Thread:

    WordPress decided to vomit out yet another paragraph. “There wasn’t a single person in our group now who was intact.” to “The ground itself was slippery, but the blades themselves were precarious handholds where the blood didn’t touch them.”

      1. Landis. I know it looks like a sentence fragment at a glance, but it’s all one word. (The numbers are just there to get around any other Landises that may have accounts floating around)

        And you’re welcome. 🙂

    1. Missing text/punctuation: “The others were okay, though battered, bruised, and at least one bad injury. They were standing closer to where the dragon had been impaled, and many of the blades”

      Many of the blades what? Or is it just that they are standing close to many of the blades?

      1. I interpreted that as “of” being in progress beforehand, and “weird stuff” being the words being squeaked out during the impact.

    2. Ms. Lewis pulled down to her her knees. (repeated her)

      There was nothing of Johannes in the sounds that passed through he mouth of his black-worm face. (through he mouth)

      Thank you for the amazing chapter!

      1. Interestingly enough, the Super Powered community has been partying since they gained the #2 spot a few days ago. Celebrations abound in the recent comments.

        1. I just realized how what I said can be misconstrued as dirty.

          How about gagging her and tying her up in chains so she doesn’t move or get into anyone’s way?

            1. Two words: casual decapitation.

              They seen that Ms Lewis is blessed with the suckage of immortally healing from all wounds. So, you just sit there cutting off her head, over and over and over, until you’re secure in your position.

  3. Rose was pretty awesome in this chapter. She’s earned all the clout she throws around.

    Peter’s cool. I hope he survives.?

    Christopher? Whatever happened to those in The Firm losing their identities?

        1. Rose has always been the one with the clout. Blake had the friends, Rose had the dramatic speeches that got Others and reality to obey her.

  4. Is Ornias major? He has a big cost? Ms. Lewis just gained a bit more respect in my eyes. She offered to take the cost of using Ornias early in the story for Blake’s little faerie conflict. That’s impressive

    1. I think that Blake would have taken the cost, had he summoned Ornias. Not sure how that would have been good for the lawyers, but yeah, guess we may find out!

  5. I’d just like to comment on the fact that the mindless monster dog may have once been a man. Thank you, Wildbow. You have provided fuel for the inevitable nightmares I’m gonna have tonight.

    1. And, on the other side of the issue, this shows that Faysal doesn’t half-ass things. When he becomes a dog, he really becomes a dog!

  6. I especially like the Barber going down to a low-tier bogeyman whose gimmick appears to be pushing people out of windows. Solidly establishing just whose turf this is now.

    1. I especially like how a minor detail from an earlier chapter show up again with perfect timing like that. Perfect timing bogeyman defenestration.

  7. A simple, stupid one-trick bogeyman pulling out his trick. Defenestration.
    Hey. Hey hey hey. It fucking worked. Shut up, Blake. Don’t diss on your fucking savior :V

    Why on Earth was Mags carrying a lock… Even as a practitioner, I can’t think of any reason you’d carry a lock specifically. Do you really expect to have to chain things up that often?

    Gotta love fucking goblins, and also how Mags knows them so well. I really, really hope Buttsack lives a long, happy life so that Mags has to carry through her promise. I’m sorry, Mags.

    Wildbow, we want to see Ornias :<

    Commenting on the chapter overall, I kind of feel as though a lot of things happened in the background. Or maybe I just forgot. Did we ever see when Peter got hurt, for instance? And man this was amazing! I can’t wait for the resolution.

    1. Goblins are weak to charged metal. Chains are easy to charge, and it’s easier to bind stuff with chains if you carry locks around.

    2. I was surprised last chapter with Bristles. I don’t know if it was just that I had never considered animals becoming bogeymen (most likely), which we know now may not be the case, or that I had obtained a comprehension of the rules of Pactverse that clashed with the idea of animal bogeymen.

    3. Yeah… so.. Ornias appears to be part of the Darkness Choir.

      I really don’t think you want to see it.

      You know, because of what happened when Johannes saw the barber.

    4. Wouldn’t just giving Buttsack some nigh-indestructible smartphone and the code to a wifi modem free Mags of her obligations? Not to mention that if he abuses it she can just call him forsworn as he allowed her when he said “Call me forsworn”.

        1. She said she’d give him thumb drives of porn, that mean she has to fill them herself. Also I’m pretty sure that for Buttsack half the kicks will come from knowing that she also had to llok at it to select it. Goblins enjoys degrading others.

          1. She actually said “thumb drives of weird stuff”. And even if the implication was of porn, she never promised to fill them herself – she knows how to bind Gremlins, remember.
            I do want to see her give him some very strange, but nonpornographic, anime, though. I think it’d be hilarious.

    5. Re:Buttsack: Maggie promised the porn in flash drive form. I’m hoping he gets paid, then realizes that he has neither a computer nor the knowledge to use one.

  8. “He stopped, his eye flickering to Rose.”
    “His eye dropped, to the various tools that were stuck inside Bristles’ body.”

    ……since when did the barber-possessed-Johannes have eyes?

    1. Also-
      how come platinum bound blake?

      Where did Rose get injured?

      I totally forgot about that boogeyman! I thought he found one of the many loopholes in that binding and just ran the hell away….

      Damn, I was hoping Rose could claim that area as her own. Oh well- this works.

      …Is this the last arc? Because everything is wrapping up…
      Wait. Why aren’t they killing Lewis?

      Can Blake somehow eat the dragon? He’s already bathing in its blood AGAIN.

      1. Best guess on the platinum is its stability. Even fluorine doesn’t react with it, which is why when my dad was a chemist his workplace got raided by the Cleveland Mafia. Blake’s a Bogeyman and strongly associated with change, so platinum’s stability provides an opposite.

        1. There was also some symbolism stuff that got noticed last time, stuff like determination that made it a close fit to “like binds like.”

            1. In lawyer terms, that probably means several decades to a few centuries left. When her time expires, she is freed (I think).

            2. Don’t typical terms start out at several centuries? I’d imagine decades. Given all she’s been through, just to see the other end, I’d imagine she’d want to endure a few more decades just to get what qualifies as a reward.

            3. But what does being freed entail? Does she merely resume mortal life, or does that means she dies? If it’s the later, does it means that the lawyers’ lives are so miserable that even for someone at the top like her, death is preferable?

            4. I assumed the former. You’d think the latter would get covered in the orientation.

      2. “Dammit,Blake, stop bathing in dragon’s blood. Again. If I’ve told that kid once…”

        Now imagining Mags as being in charge of the-Pact-cast-as-preschoolers. Oh wait, hang on, that’s just Pact itself. Or, that’s Mags’ relation to the goblins anyway.

      1. I thought they were those black leech things, that just formed over where his eyes used to be- because his eyes used to be slashed, otherwise barber could leave and possess another human any time he wanted

    2. They may be black and not all that reflective, but they’ll be there. And, the muscles around them to clue others in as to who or way is being focused on. The price for taking up puppetry from the inside.

      1. From judgement 16-10
        ” Black veins crawled over and along a horizontal line that marked his face, like cancerous worms, and knots of the veins had replaced his eyes”

        It was my understanding he didn’t have eyes? Just those black leech-vein things covering where his eyes would be. If that’s true, I don’t see how his “eyes” could “flicker” to rose…

        1. Replaced. As in “swap with the original to fulfil a similar role, not necessarily with the same building blocks”. What’re you going to call replacement eyes without taking a paragraph to do it but… eyes? You could go “optics”, but then you got fiber cable issues. 😛

  9. I don’t like this victory =(. We went from inevitable loss to victory in the span of one chapter, all apparently because Barbatorem didn’t summon the lawyers while he was still fully in control of Johannes. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

      1. I think they’d actually gone off to pick up their platinum and teleported over as soon as it looked like the Barber might actually be in trouble.

          1. You do realize that them aiding him from earlier would have actually Strengthened Rose’s claim that it was the Barber and not Johanas that was in control right? Which could have meant their side losing the war even if they immediately won the battle.

            Not to mention they were independent actors from him and moved off to gather the appropriate tools, as well as had to take their time in moving back over to him.

            1. I’m not unhappy about the specifics, per se. I’m unhappy about our overpowered antagonists totally snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

              Let me put it this way: I want Ms. Lewis or Barbatorem to break the fourth wall, say “That’s not what happened!”, rewind time to one of the dozen times when they could have curbstomped our protagonists into the ground, and proceed to do just that.

            2. I would point out that this fight was never really about the physical altercation, but about the actual ideals involved. Blake framed this as a conflict of belief, one in which humans can overcome demons through force of hope and will. This fight has been all about the demons trying to break the spirit of Blake and his allies and forcing them past the despair event horizon. This rather follows the MO of the Barber as well; we see him very deliberately prolonging the suffering of his victims in order to reduce them to a husk. He’s extremely confident and arrogant in his ability to win, so why would he think he needs to change his tactics to win quickly? It’s Blake/Rose’s indomitable hope versus the Butcher’s crushing despair. Looks like Blake/Rose won that battle.

              Regarding the Lawyers… since when has there ever been a lawyer that wouldn’t drag out a case in order to exact the highest price possible from their clients? The lawyers by their very nature are indebted to demonic forces, so prolonging the conflict as long as possible to nullify as much of their debt as they can could be an underlying motivation here. They delay giving aid to the Barber until he’s in a bad spot, and suddenly they appear as saviors. This in spite of the fact that, if they had helped to the best of their abilities from the start, then things wouldn’t have gotten to that nasty situation to begin with.

              TL;DR – The Barber is arrogant and the lawyers are sandbagging.

            3. Before the Barber possessed Johannes, I don’t recall him being that arrogant. He seemed very methodical and effective back then, turning Others into his own minions, killing one of the Behaims, and using his shears for great mobility. He was actually far more mobile in his demon form than when he possessed Johannes – despite controlling Faysal.

      1. Eh, the Lawyers were doing a phased escalation strategy where they’d call in more power whenever they seemed to be losing. Since they’re pretty much immune to permanent harm, not bringing it in fast enough just slows them down. And since them showing up in the tower would disrupt the Barber’s claim to being Johannes, their arrival would take Faysal’s gates, the terrain rearrangement, and possibly control of the dragon off the board. So they’d reach this point except with people less battered, Blake still shielded from binding, and Rose not having summoned the bogeymen.

    1. The thing that bothers me is that the lawyers, in their effort to not use resources, given just how much it costs to summon demons, they used more resources. And they did not correct for this tendency by using more demons than they would expect.

      If at the first meeting they had called a couple actual demons rather than imps, or in addition to imps, the story would probably be over by now.

      1. Yeah, that was the behavior of the antagonist in an RPG: send progressively stronger lackeys to help the protagonists level up, until they can eventually beat you.

        And when the lawyers did summon demons in this chapter, the Abyss was suddenly strong enough to counter two of them, despite previously being weak enough that it looked like Ur alone could destroy it…

        1. Well, I disagree with that last point. Ur was trying to get into the Abyss, and had been trying for who knows how many years. And it was being only guarded by a god which may very well be a serendipitous occurence. We don’t really know what the Abyss can and can not do.

          1. The Abyss pretty clearly handpicks gatekeepers. I sincerely doubt that some ancient sun god just so happened to be in the area where a Choir of Darkness member was attacking.

            1. Fair enough. I meant something more along the lines of “this is just one god that is fighting Ur for whatever reason. Whether by chance, by decision, or because of the reason below. If the Abyss wanted to sic more Others on Ur, it probably could”. And I do realise that I said something very different xP

              I do like the alternate theory that Ur just ate all of the Abyss it could find until it found the light god, even if that seems unlikely, for Ur should have been more powerful.

        2. The difference is that diabolists have an actual justification for sending progressively stronger lackeys – each lackey you send incurs a corresponding debt, so you want to incur as little debt as possible. Given that even imps are sufficient to deal with many problems, this approach is probably very effective most of the time.

          Incidentally, other antagonists that use this approach sometimes have good reason for it too. The most common being that our group of intrepid heroes are just one of many problems on the antagonist’s plate and he’s dispatching his 7th most powerful monster because our heroes are his 7th-highest ranking threat. Monsters 1-6 are off dealing with more pressing problems. A well-realised setting doesn’t revolve around the heroes – there are tons of unrelated issues in play, too.

          As to Urr, you’ve made quite the leap from “Urr is in the Abyss causing trouble” to “Urr is destroying the entire Abyss.” At present, he seems to have penetrated one small part of the Abyss. He’s bug and tough, but I’m guessing some of the inhabitants of the Abyss (for example the goblin-dragon) could inflict a hurting on him. And his patented connection-chomping trick is unlikely to help him much against things that have already fallen through the cracks. Urr is slowly insinuating his way into the Abyss. That doesn’t sound to me like a being who thinks he has the upper hand.

      2. I didn’t have a problem with this. Yes, they made a bad call, but it was an understandable bad call. They were engaging in a delicate balancing act between getting what they wanted on the one hand, and ending up more in debt to demons than necessary on the other. And you do not want that.

        They made the best judgement call they could about how much force would be required and they got it wrong.

        Their first escalation also seemed like it should be more than enough to finish the job. Rose and Co. threw them a curveball by fleeing into Johannes’ demense, but then they had to figure the Barber had that threat largely under control and more resources weren’t required.

        The nature of a diabolist is caution. You don’t ever want to overextend because you’ll pay heavy interest on it if you do.

  10. I believe now is a good time to reward the surviving goblins by letting them do whatever they want with Ms Lewis so long as she cannot Practice and they do not get in the way of Rose/C-word, Blake & Co.

      1. Since when do goblins care about karma? Besides, isn’t beating up diabolists supposed to be good/less bad than beating up normal people?

        1. Not bad karma to the goblins, bad karma to the practionners who allow goblins to do “whatever they want”. Yes beating diabolists is a good thing, but I think “kicking” them while they’re down might still be a bad thing. Except in cases like just then when she isn’t really down because she was going to summon a demon and Mag had to stop her.

            1. Laird specifically got another practitioner (Mags) to do the trick because she would take any karma backlash rather than him.

              The buck seems basically to stop at the first practitioner in the chain unless they can convince the spirits otherwise.

  11. This would be a really bad time for the Queen of Bones to show up. You know, that goblin lady from Mags’ backstory. The “goblin queen who is part goblin”, said to be chilling around Johannes’ demesne shortly before everything went to hell. You haven’t forgotten about her, right?

    1. Also, Rackspatter of the 9000 scalps. On the plus side, Blake doesn’t have a scalp, so he doesn’t need to worry all that much.

  12. Conquest + the Abyss? I can’t be the only one who finds that idea a wee bit terrifying.

    At least she was smart enough to hand off the demesnes to the Abyss rather than trying to claim it solely for herself, or Faysal would’ve been mad.

  13. And once again, Failsuck proves how terrible he is by running away with his tail between his leg instead of, I don’t know, instantly obliterating the lawyers.

    1. Admittedly the last time he tried instantly obliterating the Lawyers it didn’t work out so well for him.

      I am still completely unsure why he showed up when Rose and company called for him and proceeded to stick around without attacking either side.

      1. I think he originally hoped that Rose would get slaughtered quickly without making a fuss, and only decided to do something when he realized thing would get messy. By then it was too late.

        1. Yeah, but then why’d he even come? Getting into the vicinity of the Lawyers for no reason doesn’t seem like a good idea. And if he was forced to show up, the wise course of action would be to leave as expediently as possible.

          1. Not sure, but it sounded to me as if Faysal and the lawyers have met before without much open animosity or at least without getting into a messy fight.
            It is likely that he thought he knew what the lawyers are willing to summon in a small scuffle like this and that that would not be enough to threaten him.

            He only lost because the Barber got Johannes.

            Granted, Faysal could in theory have looked what happened to his former partner, then he wouldn´t have been surprised, but there was not much time between the rest of them getting out of the Abyss and Rose calling for him.

            1. Yeah, Johannes getting possessed was part of the plan, but he probably expected the possessed Johannes to stay in the Abyss.

    2. To be fair, he’s a gatekeeper, not a warrior, and he’s probably weaker than Barbatorem or a lot of what the lawyers can bring to bear. But yeah, he probably could have done something

      1. But when Peter free him, defenestration guy has already gotten rid of the Barber.
        And yes, the Lawyers can probably summon worse thing than him, but can they do that before he kills them? Then again, perhaps I am overestimating his power.

        1. I’m curious as to how you propose Faysal would kill the lawyer. Have I forgotten some scene where Faysal does something other than manipulating passages? Does he have some special death bolt that can kill immortal lawyers?

          1. I always assumed he could shoot beam of light. Isn’t that what angels do in the Bible?
            But you are right, maybe he is limited in his actions by his defining gimmick, opening portals, just like the Barder main offense seems to be his blades.

            1. (then again there was that guy in worm, Phir Se, who could also only create portals, and he almost blew up half of India with it by getting creative, so)

            2. He managed to slaughter Johannes’s minions somehow during that Histories chapter, but I’m not sure if he can overcome the immortality.

            3. Angels don’t do a lot in the Bible, from what I recall. After the tenth Plague, they basically sit around, sometimes telling people not to be afraid. The worst example being that one guy who kept a couple angels in his house, then a crowd came by to rape them and what’s-his-face had to give them his daughters instead. What the hell, angels?

              These fundamental beings seem to be limited by their “gimmick,” whether angel, demon, or incarnation.

  14. Faysal has repeatedly stated that he cannot close ways, only open them. Then how did he get rid of the three (more?) gates that he had already started opening?

    1. I’m wondering that myself. Maybe these ones weren’t very stable, particularly with the Abyss dragging the demense down. Or maybe Faysal was economical with the truth again.

    2. I’m guessing that making a gate between worlds is relatively easy. It’s just that, you know, holding them open that takes the constant power if you don’t build it properly. I mean, he was bound and commanded. He was going to do the absolute minimum to get the job done according to his orders.

    3. Maybe he didn’t close them, maybe he just changed the destination? Like there may still the gates open in these horrific places but instead of leading in Joannes desmene they are linked to each other or something like that.

  15. If Bristles wasn’t affected by the pipes because he wasn’t originally a dog, why would they affect Faysal? Those pipes have weird rules.

      1. So, Faysal the angel who pretends to be a dog is more dog than Bristles the dog who turned into a bogeyman?

        1. Faysal’s not pretending; he’s been embodied AS a dog via the familiar ritual, and through expenditure of power he can assume his old form temporarily. Remember that the familiar ritual actually makes the Other mortal for the duration of the bond; it’s the whole reason a faerie would want to do it.

        2. I believe bristles was never a dog. Just as the Abyss transformed Green Eyes into a mermaid, a goblin into a dragon and Blake into a tree, I think bristles transformed a man into… that.

          I wonder if he was a furry in his previous life.

      1. I’m not sure that would lead to one solid link of control instead of two weak/one weak and one nonexistent one.

  16. This story is extremely awesome! Seeing Blake as “the Hand” is great! Green Eyes and Evan should show soon, though.

  17. Something occurred to me last night.
    Blake is “the fighter” of a pair with Rose, who is “the thinker” of the pair. Gur Ragvgvrf (Mvba naq Rqra) are a pair like them. Ba uvf bja, Mvba zber be yrff nggnpxf guvatf hagvy ur svanyyl trgf chg qbja; jr qba’g trg n punapr gb frr Rqra qb zhpu, ohg fur frrzf gb unir n ovg bs gur fnzr neebtnapr gung Ebfr unf. I could probably draw more comparisons, but I’m already stretching.
    Coincidence? …Probably, but it’s still interesting.

    1. boivbhfyl nolff gnxrf bire gur jbeyq nf cerqvpgrq, nolff fgnegf fraqvat gurz gb bgure ernyvgvrf gb fcernq vgf vasyhrapr rira shegure, ehanjnl obtl ribyhgvba naq pbzcrgvgvba yrnqf gb qrfvtaf jurer lbh rng gur bguref gb tnva gurve cbjre jvaavat bhg, riraghnyyl uhzna jbez jvaf gung tnzr, frrf urngqrngu nf gur bayl erznvavat ceboyrz jvgu gur havirefr naq sentzragf vagb fznyyre pbzcbaragf juvpu frg bhg va nyy qverpgvbaf gb svaq bgure perngherf jub fgvyy unir gur rffragvny sbepr bs punatr (gur nolff unq ybfg guvf genvg hcba orpbzvat fb punbgvp vg jenccrq nebhaq vagb znxvat rirelguvat havsbez)naq eha crezhgngvbaf hagvy gurl svaq gur tvzzvpx gung svkrf rirelguvat.

      all wildbow stories turn out to happen in the same multiverse and continuity.

      1. While the Wildbowverse does exist, I disagree with your assessment. The timeline doesn’t match up. The various stories (at least Pact and Worm) in this Mulroney’s multiverse, have firm dates for when they’re happening. Pact takes place after Worm.

      2. That first part is…interesting.

        wildbow has stated that all of his stories take place in the same multiverse. Specifically, when someone asked if they did, he said “Sure, why not?”

  18. “the possessed lawyer continues his march” –> continued

    Just caught up despite the pile of schoolwork I’ve neglected, I just really wanted to be around for the ending. I can’t imagine more than 5 chapters left, but who knows?

    1. What! After this arc, the stories of Blake the wooden thing and Rose the half woman and Evan the spirit sack and Green Eyes the murderous mermaid must continue as they save the world and eat chicken nuggets.

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