Judgment 16.13

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The Abyss was ruthless, and our surroundings were coming to pieces in fast motion.  Cascades of dust flowed off of every surface, accompanied by flakes, chips, and fragments, a hundred years of wear and tear occurring over seconds.  Where the surfaces were flat, such as the rooftop, the same dust and fragments danced as the surroundings rumbled and vibrated.  Were it any lighter it might have risen as thick clouds.  Any heavier, and it would have formed an almost liquid pool.

It fell between the two points.  Ankle height, a roiling cloud of finer particles.

I was small enough that ‘ankle height’ was enough to obscure me.  My view of the others was reduced to vague silhouettes.

“We need something to tie her hands with,” Rose was saying.  She was, out of everyone, closest to the ground.

“On it,” Mags said, “Gimme a second… grab her?”

“Grabbed,” Peter said.

There was a sound of chain rattling.

“Here.”

“You’re like a superhero, a tool for every job,” Peter commented.  The chains rattled some more as they were wound around the pinned Ms. Lewis.

“Damn straight,” Mags said.  “Except I use guns, not some stick.”

Respect,” Peter said.

“Got her,” Mags said, tugging the chain to tighten the loops around the lawyer’s wrists.  “Wish I had my combination lock, but we’re good so long as we watch her.  I’d think it was too tight, but it’s not like she can die.”

“I-” Ms. Lewis started.

Mags raised her pipe with one hand.

Ms. Lewis didn’t try to say anything more.

“Use your scarf as a gag?” Peter suggested.

“F that.  My scarf is staying with me, thank you very much.”

They seemed to settle on something.  Within a few seconds, Ms. Lewis was gagged.

“Alright, well done.  Now help me up,” Rose said.

“Try sounding a little less bossy while you ask?” Peter suggested.

“I’ve been clawed open by a hellhound, possessed and hollowed by my inhuman alter ego, my head’s been rearranged and the only reason I’m still conscious is that I’m drawing some power from Conquest.  I’m going to be ‘bossy’, so shut the fuck up, Peter.”

“Wow,” was all he said.  “Maybe try saying please shut the fuck up?”

“Help me up so we can go.  Sooner than later.”

“One of you two better do it,” Peter spoke.  “Bending down is not a good thing for me right now.  My back doesn’t hurt nearly enough for how fucked up it feels.  Besides, I’m not sure I trust Rose not to bite.”

“Got her?” Paige asked.

“Yeah,” Mags said.

There was a pause as Paige bent down by Rose.

“Yeah, that gouge is pretty f’ed up,” Mags observed.

Peter managed to sound pretty casual about it.  “Am I going to have a badass scar?”

“Maybe if you don’t bleed out before we can get you help,” Mags said.  “You look pretty wobbly.”

He turned his head, but didn’t say anything.  I couldn’t see his face.

Whatever he’d done, glaring at Mags or something in that vein, it prompted her to add, “I can’t lie.”

“I like you a little less now.”

Paige finished pulling Rose very carefully to her feet.

“Buttsack!” Mags called.  “Get your ass over here!  You too, Stumpy, I know you’re playing dead.  Come, or you might not get another chance to leave.”

“Uh… you,” Rose said.  Her voice wasn’t that strong as she raised it to be heard.  “Same thing.”

The man in the ill-fitting suit, I realized.

“And he’s gone over the edge,” Rose said.  “Probably easier, if a little hard to get why.”

“We ran into him earlier.  I don’t think he’ll have any trouble making his way down.”

“Alright.  That just leaves Blake.”

“Blake?”

Heads turned.  The Sight, being used to find me.

It was Mags who bent down to collect me.

“He’s alive?” she asked.  My eye moved.  “Oh!  He’s actually alive… in a manner of speaking.”

“I need him,” Rose said.  “Let’s go, before the building does.”

My view was a warped one, wobbly.  I had little volition, almost no ability to move of my own accord.  The group took stairs as fast as they were able, and Mags was toward the front of the group, one arm on Ms. Lewis’ upper arm, periodically jerking her to keep her off balance.  Buttsack walked in front of the woman, one hand raised to hold on to her belt loop.  Trying to run would have meant hurdling the goblin to reach a lower stair.

Mags’ other arm was cradling what remained of me like she might hold a football.  I was a lumpy, crude hand with a thread of flesh running over it, an eyeball, tucked into the crook of her arm.

The walls were bleeding dust, fine cracks spreading and reaching deeper.  Every surface was caught in the same state between fluid and vapor, the stairs below almost a waterfall, though it had no force to it.  Different colors of different materials pooled together to form layers and patterns as they collected.  The sand of a million hourglasses.

We passed the floor the two demons and the chauffeur would have been on with no incident.  They would have left with the possessed lawyer, Christopher, I supposed.

With my body being what it was, I could rotate my eyeball to look through the cracks and glimpse the others making their way down the stairs behind Mags.

They were so worn out, but we’d found the light at the end of the tunnel.

There was hope.  Only a little bit further, and we won.

Power had a price.  Seeing the dust, the sweat, the blood, the sheer exhaustion, the looks in people’s eyes, and the damage that had been done, nobody would dare say we hadn’t paid a price.

Grandmother had created Rose and I to work against the system.  A snarl or a tangle in the pattern.  She hadn’t predicted the future, I was pretty sure; this degree of collateral damage was likely beyond her expectations, especially if we counted Toronto, but she’d achieved her goal.

Mags stopped, turning, and looked back to the others, who were slower to make their way down.  Rose was between Peter and Paige, and the trio were still having trouble keeping up with Mags and the hostage.

Ms. Lewis’ gaze was level, her expression oddly serene as she briefly glanced across to me, though she had drool and blood running from the corner of her open mouth, with what seemed to be tissues stuffed inside it.

While we waited, a shadow moved below.  I shifted position, poking Mags, and she turned her head.

A false alarm.  Green Eyes.  She’d been caught against the side of the building, and she’d made her way inside.

She was tense, her attention on Rose.

“Blake is with us,” Rose said.

Green Eyes frowned, but didn’t speak.

“Come on,” Rose said.  “Keep moving.”

Green Eyes made her way forward, favoring one arm over the other.

She noticed me and paused.  I stared into her eye with my own, measured the nuances of her expression.  Relief, fear, concern, all together.  Enough for me to feel confident that she was the same Green Eyes.  Those blades that had nearly killed her hadn’t cut her in two.

The mermaid looked back at Rose, and I wasn’t sure even she was aware of how her hands had flexed, fingernails scratching the floor.  A tell, as such things went.

Green Eyes took the lead, going down the stairs headfirst.

It would have been a lie to say that we were quick to reach the ground floor.  Too many people were hurt, and by the time we got that far, the stairs were impossible to see, layered with enough particulate matter that footing seemed to be an unsteady thing.

The others were waiting for us.  Ainsley and Lola were on their feet.  The kids were all there, too.  Evan was perched on a kid’s head.

“Green!” Evan greeted the mermaid as she came down the stairs.  “What happened?  Where’s Blake?  Is everyone okay?  Is the world going to end?  What’s- Lawyer!  And Rose!  Rose, you’re hurt!  Where’s Blake?”

“Mags has him,” Rose said.  “The-”

“That’s not Blake, that’s wood!”

“-Barber-” Rose said.

I moved.

“That’s moving wood!  It’s Blake!”

He flew over to me.

My eye hadn’t changed size, but the ease with which he flew so close to me, it drove home how small I was.

“The Barber,” Rose tried again, without the sparrow going a mile a minute.  “He fell?”

“He’s out there,” Lola said.  “I wasn’t sure what to do.  We reinforced the wards to the outside and hunkered down.  He hasn’t made much fuss.”

“What happened?” Ainsley asked.  “Everything’s falling apart.  Not just in here.  You have the lawyer, but… that doesn’t tell me much.”

“We won,” Rose said.  “I think.  We should go.”

“With the Barber out there?” Lola asked.

Rose’s face was grim.  She pointed at the door.

“You’re sure?” Lola asked.

“If we stay, we’ll get pulled into the deepest reaches of the Abyss.  If we go, the worst thing that’s likely to happen is that the Barber is waiting for us and subjects us all to a fate worse than death.”

“Can we hold a vote?” Peter asked.

“No,” Rose said.  “Open the door.”

“You’re being bossy again.”

But the vestige kids were obeying Rose, and they pulled the door open.

“Hang back, follow at a distance,” Rose said.  “It won’t do to let him play the pipes for you and lose this now, after everything.”

We made our way outside as a mass.  The Barber wasn’t visible, at a glance.

The entire city was… I might have said it was smoking from every surface, but the smoke flowed down.  Already, the upper floors of other buildings had started to break down, rooftops sinking or sloping.

The street itself was fractured, and it continued to break down. Large planes of pavement had broken in half, folding into zig-zagging ‘waves’ where one piece leaned against another.  Here and there, larger pieces broke down further, and plumes of debris were sent skyward as they landed heavily amid dust.

Had it been a perpetual thing, breaking down without ever ceasing to be, I might have thought the Abyss had decided what form Johannes’ domain should take.

This wasn’t that.  The decay was too fast, too measurable.

Blades that the Barber had summoned had fallen and broken like glass.  Bodies of wretches had wedged into cracks not yet big enough to swallow them.  In the gaps between sections of road, the dust was thicker, burying smaller ones and ones that had been dead for longer.

“He’s there,” Lola said.

The practitioners seemed to notice, turning their heads before Peter, Green Eyes, Evan or the vestige kids reacted.

The Barber.

I was one of the last to see.  Too many people in front.  He moved in a sideways direction, dragging the sickle behind him, and he’d elected to keep the damaged, broken body of Johannes.  The demonic taint of the Barber crawled all over the man.  Only the basic shape remained.  Scraps of hair and clothing.

He held the pipes, and we had children who were maybe in earshot.  He made no motion to play the instrument.

Instead, he drew the sickle back, as if he was about to swing it at someone just in front of him.

He threw it, aiming for us, except the ground beneath his feet cracked as he finished the motion.  Too far forward, too far down.  The sickle sank into the road, point first.

The ground beneath him caved in further.  A crater, with him at the bottom.

Heads turned.  All eyes were on Rose.  Her hand extended, fist clenched.

Slowly, she relaxed it.

“You’re doing that?” Lola asked.  “You took over?”

Rose shook her head.  “I’m asking nicely, as the conqueror who has just unseated the king.  Riding momentum.  But this place isn’t truly mine.”

She gestured at the shears.  The road splintered.  Where it splintered, it folded down.  The shears were drawn in, partially buried.

“Makes me really want a demesne of my own,” Rose said.

“It’s done, then?” Lola asked.  “You’re talking about the future like this is over.”

Rose didn’t reply immediately.

“Almost done,” Rose conceded the point.

“Almost,” Lola said.

“We’re not in any shape to fight, and he doesn’t die.  I’m suspicious he can, if we wanted to defy that convention and go to war with him, but we’re not in a position to make him.  He’s still there, and he’s not out of tricks yet.  He’ll want to sneak out.  He’ll try things.  He might even attack, and I’m not sure we can put up a proper fight, even with all of us together.”

Nobody spoke.

Rose continued, “Move forward, carefully.  If you have anything reflective on you, now’s the time to get rid of it.  Toss it aside, push it into the dust between bits of road to hide it, or hide it inside your clothes.  If he gets another body, he can essentially start fresh, only with a new bag of tricks.  More resources.”

“Good day to be a bird.  Nothing on me!  I’m naked!  Right Sushi?”

Green Eyes didn’t respond.

“Sush- Green Eyes.  I’m sorry I called you sushi, and said I’d cook you.  We’re buddies, right?  You’re not mad?”

“I’m not mad, nugget,” she said.  “Don’t worry about it.  We’re good.”

But she didn’t say anything else.  Her demeanor didn’t change.  Quiet, grim.

“You might be naked, kid, but those beady black eyes are a problem,” Rose said.  “Evolution gave you almost three-hundred and sixty degree vision.  That’s three hundred and sixty degrees of access the Barber has.”

“I’ve dealt with him before.”

“Just… be safe.  Head down, eyes closed.  Ride on someone’s shoulder.”

“With Blake!  He’s kind of shoulderish!  With fingers, and an eye.  But I don’t discriminate.”

“Sure,” Rose said, and she sounded very tired, her words clipped not on purpose, but with the tension, the simple fact that she didn’t have a wealth of focus to spare.  “Same idea for Green Eyes and the…”

Rose gestured, her right arm still around Peter’s shoulder for support.

“Rat pack,” Mags suggested, for the vestige kids.

“Sure,” Noah said.  “Eyes down, extra careful.”

The tension was palpable.  Though they moved furtively, patting themselves down, glancing each other over to point out little things, like buckles or buttons, things were still.  The group a small tableau in the midst of a city that was roiling more than an ocean in high storm.  With the way everything was coming to pieces, the walls thinning out, the little details being washed away, it looked like a city made of candlesmoke, ready to simply puff out of existence.

Peter untucked his shirt beneath his coat to cover up his belt.  Mags pulled off the metallic hairband that had been failing in its duty to keep her disorderly hair more orderly.

After all of the bases were covered, the group began edging forward.

“Don’t look directly at it.  Resist any bait,” Rose warned.  “Don’t look at it in surprise, don’t look back, don’t wonder.  Keep moving forward.”

The group moved around the crater, splitting into two groups, one going right, one going left.

The Barber made a sound, guttural and inhuman.  I imagined it was akin to the sound a giant might make if it managed to howl loud enough to be heard from beneath a river of tar.  It came from a deep, dark, place, past a great deal of resistance.

In the moment the scream reached its peak, Johannes died.  Every member of the group flinched as he popped, the container of the human body no longer enough for what dwelt within.  The contents banked against the sides of the crater, dusting the group.

“Good,” Noah said.  His eyes were fixed forward.

“I wouldn’t call it good,” Rose said, her voice tense.  “But I get the sentiment.  Keep moving.  Don’t look.”

The Barber unfolded, reaching out, flexing, a fresh body in the making.  The sea of dust only absorbed his feet, the pavement cracked underfoot.  He made progress, his form alien, reaching, forming new body parts just to find more traction or hold onto what he’d managed to get, but it was glacial, slow.

The group wasn’t much faster.  Too many people limping or barely able to walk.  The ones who were strong were carrying heavy burdens.  Even Peter, with his injury, was supporting Ainsley and Rose both.

Tkkkkk.

The sound of metal on pavement.

“Don’t look,” Rose said, again.  “He will take anything he can get.  Trust.”

“He went back for the sickle,” Lola said.  “You can hear it.  I can sense it.  He can throw it, like he did before.”

“He’ll fail, like he did before,” Rose said.  “Three times, we’ve gone to war with him.  Three times, we’ve beaten him.”

“Here,” Ainsley said.  “When did you fight him before?”

“The Abyss,” Rose said.  “That was the second time.”

“Was there a time before that?”

“The day he was bound,” Rose said.  “If bloodlines count enough to drag me into this whole mess, they have to be strong enough to let my grandmother’s victory carry forward.”

Tk.  Tk.  Tk-tk.

Ainsley shot Rose a look, and it was one of alarm.

As justifications went, Rose’s was pretty thin.

But saying so would be more dangerous than anything.  It could break the spell, or sunder the confidence of the lesser members of the group.

There was a scraping sound, not the sickle, but the sound of the pavement moving, being pushed aside.

The scrape that followed was sharp, a sudden movement.  It went hand in hand with a crash, and an impact that reached out a hundred feet ahead, serving as the push that some of the sections of pavement had needed to finish breaking.  Dust was knocked upward, and dust was sent cascading forward from behind.

“Trust,” Rose said, and her voice didn’t have the slightest sign of weakness.  “Believe.”

But, and it was a hard thing to see in the cloud of dust that had surrounded us, Rose’s head trembled.  The muscle at the left side of her jaw was standing out, distinct.

The Barber moved.  Not one sharp sound, but several.  Moving fast enough and violently enough that whole sections of pavement were being pushed aside.

Another crash, more dust filled the air, and parts of nearby building faces fell away.  A fast food building shed pieces of sign and fragments of glass.  Heavier things fell with thuds.

The heavier impacts sounded like footsteps.

The shadows that stirred in the clouds of the group took on shapes.

A roar echoed around us, that same tar-thick howl, only with an edge to it.

They kept moving forward.  They didn’t look back.

There were more crashes, more explosions of dust, another roar.

Further back.

He was mired.  Caught, to be swallowed up.

“Mags,” Rose said.

“Yeah?”

Rose pointed.  As the clouds of dust thinned out, I was able to make out a dip.  A fold of pavement that was lower than the rest.

“You’re sure?”

“She’ll come after us again, otherwise.”

Mags shifted her grip.  Ms. Lewis struggled, and I could sense the hesitation on Mags’ part.

She had no problem shooting monsters or tormenting goblins, but doing this was something else entirely.

Ms. Lewis doubled over, trying to push forward.  The vestige kids got in her way, Noah and Benny each catching one of the lawyer’s shoulders.

“Buttsack, do you-”

Buttsack didn’t wait for the question to end.  He hauled on Ms. Lewis’ belt, driving his shoulder into her stomach, and tipped her.  She fell sideways, into the dip, a ditch toward the center of the road.

In contrast to the Barber, all eyes were on her as she tumbled.  Pavement broke as though it were nothing more than compacted sand.  Still-intact slabs fell around her, disintegrated on landing, leaving her half buried.

Her struggles to get out from under only served to drive her deeper.  She sat up, but her legs sank.  The sand seemed to scrape and abrade.  The Abyss at its basest form.

Ms. Lewis was trying to spit out the tissues that had been stuffed into her mouth.

“A little forward?” Rose asked.

Paige and Peter helped her get closer.

Bending down a little, Rose put out a foot, setting it on a slab.

She winced as she did it, but she pushed.  The slab slid down the slope of the little ditch and collided with the lawyer.  A section of road that, dropped from above, would have turned a person into a pancake.  Definitely enough to cave in a ribcage.  For anyone else, it might have been lethal.  But the lawyer was beyond death.

“You need a punchline,” Evan said.  “Rules.”

“I was thinking,” Rose said.  She watched Ms. Lewis’ continued struggles.  Debris half-covered the woman’s face, and the slab of pavement had driven halfway through her torso.  She worked, all the same, to try and worm her way up and free, futile.

“You want this Demesne, Lewis?”  Rose asked.  “It’s all yours.”

The little light that remained was dying.  It was the light of the night sky over a city, night lights reflecting onto the clouds above, but those same clouds were disintegrating too.  There was only a clean slate.

Ms. Lewis had stopped fighting, but the decay of this world continued.  Even staying still, she was swallowed up, only one eye, a temple, and a bit of hair remaining above the surface.  Watching us.

We collectively turned our backs on her.

Off to one side, a building folded into itself.  The cloud of dust was impenetrable, but it didn’t reach far.  There was too much gravity here.

The rumbling had slowed, until it was barely perceptible.  The predominant sound was a whisper sound, granules on granules, like sand flowing over sand, or sugar over sugar.  The demesne was an expanse of fragments and sections of building floating in a still sea of gray-brown particles.  With no wind to touch it, the clouds of dust were quick to settle.  Only traces remained.

Traces, and the fragments of road that laid out a path between us and the exit.  There were gaps between, but they didn’t break underfoot, and they didn’t sink.

Another sign that this place wasn’t an active site for the Abyss.

We were close enough to the exit that I could see the bridge that marked the division between the older Jacob’s Bell and what had once been Johannes’ demesne.

The sky over the city was so bright I couldn’t look directly at it.

“They’re gone,” Lola said.  “The lawyers on the other side.  The demons.  I don’t sense the connections.”

“Damage is still done,” Paige observed.  “There are gaps between things.  It’s saturated with wrongness.”

“But they’re gone,” Lola said, almost whispering, as if, until this very moment, she hadn’t quite believed it was possible.  “People are alive.”

“Not everyone,” Ainsley said.  “We have to brace ourselves.  It won’t be pretty.”

“But-”

“But they’re gone,” Ainsley said.  She smiled.  “And people are alive.  Yeah.  I get what you mean.”

“We won,” Paige was the one who said it.

Rose didn’t seem so surprised.  “The cost of continuing the fight was too high, compared to the gains.  It might take them a while to digest what happened, put the pieces together, report back to whoever or whatever they report to.”

“The other lawyers will come after you,” Mags commented.  “By your own logic-”

“Their logic,” Rose corrected.

“By their logic, which you outlined just now, it’s too costly to leave you be.  You represent something.”

“Yes,” Rose said.  “I might have to stay in the Abyss until the worst of it blows over.  I’m getting a sense of how it works, it’s my battlefield, and I have work to do.”

“Scourge work,” Lola said.

“That’s part of it,” Rose admitted.  “Got to look after Jacob’s Bell.  That’s our most pressing problem.  Evacuate the citizens, clear it out, clean up the mess.  Too much damage done for it to be salvageable.  I think Alister will be willing to work with me to coordinate.  Each of us on different sides of the divide, if we have to.”

“I’m glad you’re still thinking of my cousin,” Ainsley said.

Rose nodded, smiling lightly.

I gave her the ability to care for others.  Will that be enough?

“But it’s not just the Scourge stuff,” Rose said.  “I was thinking of writing a diabolic text.  Taking after grandmother Thorburn, maybe.”

A few heads turned.

“Need to challenge ideas, change attitudes.  If I can put the right words to paper, disseminate the books, I can hurt them worse than we could repeating this fight a hundred times over,” Rose said.

We’d drawn close to the bridge.  The exit.

“I’m going,” Lola said.  “There’s people I need to look for.  My mom.  I can see the connection, but I have to make sure.”

“Bye,” Rose said.

“I feel obligated to say something or do something,” Lola said.  “But nothing’s coming to mind.”

“We just spent far too long fighting because we were supposed to,” Rose said.  “Because your families are supposed to hate diabolists, and I was a diabolist because I was supposed to be.  Fuck obligations.  Go to your mom.”

Lola nodded.  She turned to go.

“Thanks, by the way,” Rose said.

“Likewise,” Lola replied, raising a hand.  She didn’t turn around, half-running on her way past the bridge.

Hurt as she was, she picked up her pace as she ran, a limping gait.  Going home.

Mags fidgeted.

“The same goes for you.”

“I know you better than she did,” Mags said.

“And I know you,” Rose said.  “Go find your dads.  I know we’ll see you again.  This isn’t a farewell in any sense.”

“Two rounds done,” Mags said.  “As far as my count can be accurate.  Fire, darkness, and blood.”

“You’re looking to do this again?” Evan asked.  “Why?  Huh?”

“Long story,” Mags said.  “One I’d tell if I didn’t have my dads to look for.  And a Faerie to look for.  What happens to the Faerie who were exiled here when Jacob’s Bell ceases to be?”

“Depends on how things were worded,” Rose said.  “I’d guess they get to slip the noose until the individuals who exiled them hunt them down.”

Mags bit her lip.

“Go,” Rose said.

Mags gingerly handed me over into Rose’s care.  Rose held me in both hands, swaying a little precariously before catching herself.

Nobody else moved.

“Faster you all go, faster we can each get ourselves patched up,” Rose said.  “Ainsley, why don’t you go find Alister?  Bring him here?  I’m going to stay, until I know it’s safe.”

“In an empty Abyss?”  Ainsley asked.

“I’ll relocate soon, I think.  But this looks like as good a place to rest as any.  Peter?  Go with Ainsley.  Help her get to Alister, get her patched up.”

Peter glanced at Ainsley, then back to Rose.  “Sure.  You’re really okay?”

“Better than,” Rose said.  She managed a smile.

“You’re not all that bad for a Thorburn,” he said.

“Surprisingly high compliment, coming from you,” Rose said.

“I know, right?  But I can lie, so I figure I should get the most out of-”  He winced as Ainsley elbowed him.  “Geez!  I’m wounded, don’t go doing that!”

“You had a good moment back there,” Rose said.  “Freeing Faysal.  That was… heroic.  It made the difference.”

Peter smirked.

“Don’t let it go to your head.  I’ll be in touch, once I figure out how to manage it.”

His eyebrows went up.  “And the scary thing is, I think I almost look forward to a call from family.”

He offered a salute, then joined Ainsley in hobbling out and under the bridge.

“That pairing is not going to work out,” Paige said.  “I know I should watch out for statements that could turn out to be lies, but I’m… ninety nine percent positive.”

“I agree,” Rose said.  “Just don’t tell him those numbers.  He’ll make it work out of sheer stubbornness.  Maybe the failure will be good for both of them.”

“Maybe,” Paige said.

“You only stayed because you’re keeping an eye on him, right?  You’re probably itching to check on Isadora.”

“I am.  But that’s not the only reason I stayed.  I just wanted to say good work.”

“Good work?”

“Not for all of this, but for making it through.  All my life, I wanted to rise above the Thorburn stuff.  Family drama.  I kept getting dragged back down.  I didn’t realize that anyone else was fighting as hard as I was.”

“We were friends once, before Blake and I were separated into two individuals,” Rose said.  “Close, you, me, and Molly.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“I wish I remembered.”

“Like I said to Peter, I’ll try to keep in touch.”

“Yeah,” Paige said.  She glanced at those who remained.  The vestige kids, Evan, Green Eyes, and me.  “You okay like this?”

“I think so,” Rose said.

“You said you were better than okay when Peter asked,” Paige said.

“Entirely different questions,” Rose said.

“I suppose that’s true.  You did a good job, Rose.  You too, Blake, if you can hear me like that.”

Paige didn’t say goodbye.  Neither girl had anything more to add.  Paige’s exit was more of an awkward retreat.  Stepping away, constantly glancing back at our group, a concerned expression on her face.

She passed under the bridge.

The moment Paige was out of sight, Rose collapsed.  Noah tried to catch her, but he wasn’t big enough or strong enough to support her weight.  It made for an ugly, awkward fall.

The scene was still.  Even the sand-on-sand whispers had stopped.  There were no noises from Jacob’s Bell.

A car passed along the length of the highway, headlights only catching thick mist.

Darkness on this side, daylight on the other.

Green Eyes hadn’t budged an inch as Rose fell.  She watched, her expression cold.

“Green Eyes,” Rose said.

“I’m not going.”

“I wasn’t asking you to go,” Rose said.  “I’m asking you not to kill me.”

“Wait, what?” Evan asked.  “No!  We won!  This isn’t a bad end!  We fix Blake, we fix me, Rose triumphs, happy, happy, happy!”

“Rose is bleeding,” Green Eyes said.  “Too much.”

“Oh man!  You’re going to be okay Rose!  I can go for help!”

“She’s going to eat Blake, consume whatever humanity or flesh he’s got to try and patch herself up.”

Evan went still.  Shocked into silence.

“Essentially true,” Rose said.

“Then why shouldn’t I kill you?” Green Eyes asked.

“Because he wouldn’t want this.” Rose said.  “You know he wouldn’t want this.  And the promise I made with him… that was what he wanted.”

“This is better than-”

“No,” Rose said.  “I want to tell you I’ll give you the ending you want, but if I do, and it winds up being a lie, it’ll probably kill me.  I’ll be too weak.  I have to draw on him to patch myself up, I’ll probably have to pass out and rest for a bit before getting underway, and he could die at any point during that.  There might be too little left.  But with what remains…”

“There’s almost nothing as is,” Green Eyes said.  “You’re telling me what I want to hear!  Dodging the truth!”

“Green!  Green!”  Evan cut in.  “Come on!”

Green Eyes was bristling.  Fingertips digging into the pavement.  Her fins flared.

“Do it for me?  For the nugget?”  Evan asked.

Slowly, the fins relaxed.  The tension went out of the fingernails.

Rose nodded.

She turned her attention to me.

“Damn it, damn it, damn it,” she said, reaching down to break, digging for the flesh that remained.

Then all went dark.

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227 thoughts on “Judgment 16.13

  1. Last chapter of Pact. Epilogue chapter to follow on Saturday. It will probably be shorter than is my usual, fair warning, but I’m going to be focused on getting the site ready for Twig, the first chapter of which will be available on Tuesday, the tenth.

    1. Are you going to make a post on your blog about your final feelings about Pact later, should we ask you now, or should we wait and ask post epilogue?

      1. I may wind up doing a ‘the end (of Pact)’ post on Friday. The chapter doesn’t feel like it’ll be too long, little interlude, and so I might write up my thoughts and the epilogue all together.

      1. The ending as in the last chapter, or the ending as in the epilogue? Because I like Pact’s ending better than the latter, but I feel like the former had more of a conclusion.

      1. Wildbow doesn’t do breaks. Those are for lesser mortals. 😛

        Seriously though, momentum seems really important to him. He prefers to keep it going if at all possible.

    2. First time commenting on either Pact or Worm. As always, an amazing ride. The best part of your stories are I think the fully realised characters, a flair for strategy and tactics and an in-depth exploration of themes.

      But I think some critique would also be apt. I think your writing has generally improved, but some of your stylistic choices made Pact a less enjoyable read than Worm overall.

      1) Clarity

      As an arcane-horror story, some degree of opacity and mystery is to be expected, even necessary. But I think you took it too far at times. Were the mechanics and going-ons in the story understandable? Sure. Were they comprehensible without significant head-scratching? Not quite.

      You tend to place characters into nigh-impossible situations, part of the joy of reading is seeing them find crafty yet believable ways of crawling out of the box, or paying the consequences for choosing the wrong tactics. But that joy is diminished when the reader isn’t quite sure of the dimensions of the box, or even what’s at stake. Quite a few of the victories of Blake and company ended up feeling kinda like Deus Ex Machinas as a result.

      2) Theme

      Maybe it’s because I’m a law student myself (and yes, I am familiar with Canadian Law), but most of the thematic undercurrents in Pact just didn’t sit right with me. It came off as a mish-mash of popular misconceptions of lawyers, how the law works etc. There wasn’t any substantial engagement with the core dilemmas in law at all, it felt like you peppered the story with legal terminology just to spice it up.

      In fact if I could sum up the Pactverse’s major problem is that there is NO LAW. It’s a wild-west, there’s essentially no serious consequences to rule-breaking, especially not if you have power. The whole concept of oaths is worth jack, since no-one actually upholds their promises, so contracts should have no currency nor be binding. No-one EVER calls anyone out on the oceanic amounts of misrepresentation going on. In fact, everyone should be forsworn the minute they open their mouths. There are no judges… no law enforcement… the list just goes on.

      Whereas for Worm, where the core motif was victimisation (and I can say without hyperbole, I fully understand that on a personal level too), you engaged deeply with the subject-matter, you asked the right questions and it never felt superfluous.

      Everything aside though. I’m still very excited for the ending and whichever way it goes, it’s going to be a great story.

      1. It was explained at several points in the story that the judges were the spirits that made up reality. You say that there is no law, but in fact it is exactly the opposite, this world is made up of laws, symbols, and judges, the entire world is a court, and those who take the pact are put on the stand for the rest of their lives, giving up their ability to say something false for the attention that it gets them.

        1. See? That’s precisely the kind of perverse misconception of law that proves my point, In real life, laws are not just about the literal wording, but about the substantive content, about substantive fairness. How is it that Laird and Duncan can take an oath of public office as Policemen, but abuse that trust without being forsworn on the spot? How can a whole bunch of practitioners engage in unsavoury practices from slavery to abuse and sexual grooming and get away with it for decades? How can Mags “accidentally” relinquish her identity with Padraic, when she’s not even aware she was engaging in such a bargain in the first place?

          How is any of that even remotely fair? How is that remotely equitable? What kind of warped system of “law” and “judges” would allow such a thing?

          If the “spirits” and “karma” had been presented as a man-made system created by practitioners which could be gamed. Sure, the flaws would be expected, even welcomed. But instead, you’re telling me you have an omnipotent, completely impartial force of law that encourages “being a Bond villain”.

          If the spirits really worked as they intended, Blake and Molly should never have been harmed in the first place, nor coerced into practice, since they’re complete innocents. You say the Pact is based on consent, but as far as I can see, everyone’s consent has been vitiated to the nth degree.

          How the “spirits” really seem to work is by people following the most literal wordings possible “i.e. the sky is blue etc”, and then by symbolism, whoever can put on the biggest “show”. So Pact has jack to do with the law, Pact’s about symbolism and artistry, as Blake says, it’s all about “belief”. It’s clumps of unthinking Mana that attach themselves to the flashiest and/or most powerful and/or most wordsmithy person, NOT to the worthiest person.

          Don’t get me wrong, I really, really love this story to bits. It’s amazingly well written and functional. And I don’t think it suffers unduly for it’s flaws. It’s just I kept waiting for that moment where Paige (the only person who has legal training) just bursts out and goes “What?! That’s NOT what a contract means!”

          1. You said: How is any of that even remotely fair? How is that remotely equitable? What kind of warped system of “law” and “judges” would allow such a thing?

            My response: It’s not fair. The spirits that surround everyone and everything, the literal judge and jury that oversee oaths and such in the Pact world, they’re not trained lawyers. They’re essentially “us” (in general), and we’re not trained lawyers. The spirits just want a big show and those people willing to cater to that desire of the spirits get more leeway in whether or not they’re being held to some promise. A person might say, “But I didn’t know what I was really promising,” too bad, someone else pointed out to the spirits how things were explained in the fine print and the spirits ran with it, because the judge/jury/executioner is not trained in the fine aspects of the law, they’re just enforcing the law because heck, why not? They’re enforcing the “law” because of kicks and giggles. “But that’s not fair…” Darn straight, it’s not fair.

            As was said in the story multiple times, the whole “legal” aspect of everything is very old, steeped in thoughts and modes of operation from long ago. “But they had lawyers millenia ago,” you might say. True, but consider the vast mass of humanity. Are most of them lawyers or only a tiny portion? So too are most of the spirits that are acting as judge and jury not actually trained in the law.

          2. Re: “How can Mags “accidentally” relinquish her identity with Padraic, when she’s not even aware she was engaging in such a bargain in the first place?”

            I feel like that sort of deal is barely prevented against nowadays. Sure sites have to post T&C, software has their EULAs, and yes people should read them, but human psychology is surprisingly easy to take advantage of in subtle but effective ways.

            Forced arbitration reminds me of the “practitioner with the most power can avoid consequences” in that companies and services can bring their size and power to bear in getting people to accept those terms (and possibly without understanding them).

            Lastly, and perhaps more relevantly to your initial comment: I’m an actor, and in my small understanding of commercials and the contracts that go into them, it is frequent (especially in non-union commercials) for the actor to sign away the rights to their likeness in perpetuity, as well as to agree to a “buyout” where they receive no residuals from use of their image. Also important to commercials are conflicts, where if you do a commercial for say, telecommunications companies, other telecommunications companies will not hire you for their commercials while your likeness is licensed to a competitor. Larger companies especially can take advantage of this, reaching an audience of aspiring actors who don’t realize the severity of the lowball offer that a buyout is, and who potentially wind up screwing themselves over by limiting the fields they can advertise for in the future.

            I would argue that “one thing from inside your backpack” is comparable in that Padraic is taking advantage of somebody who doesn’t understand what she is giving up. How is it fair to screw actors out of future work because they don’t realize they’re engaging in such a bargain in the first place? In both cases, the language is there, but no contextualizing explanation is given, leading the party with less power to be happy to accept the deal.

            Is this more severe in the Pactverse? Yes, definitely. But I think it is represented in the real world as well.

      1. I live in America, I’m prepared to be sued!!
        Besides, that’s why you label your food with your name before you put it in the fridge. Why do you think I comment everywhere… hehehehe
        *Life does not condone the use of stereotypes.

        1. Hmm…Your disclaimer of not condoning the use of stereotypes sounds a litlee like suspiciously specific denial,but hey,thats Life,I guess.

          That said,its kinda sad that you cannot,by definition,be larger than Life.

  2. “We just spent far too long fighting because we were supposed to,” Rose said. “Because your families are supposed to be diabolists, and I was a diabolist because I was supposed to be. Fuck obligations. Go to your mom.”

    Awwwwww

  3. That was… heartwarming. Full of d’aww.

    Also, typo thread!

    ““Because your families are supposed to be diabolists,” seems like it should be “Because your families are supposed to hate diabolists” or something. Lola’s family isn’t supposed to be diabolists, right? They’re connection-mancers.

      1. I guess Canada has strange multi meaning nomenclature for familial relationships. In Jacob’s Bell, brother and sister can also mean cousin, the same way fiance can also mean wife in Toronto.

        Disclaimer: I’ve never been to Canada.

  4. I’m gonna be honest…if this ends with Blake just being gone, I’m going to have a huge problem. Like…ruin the whole story for me. It goes from being a story about someone going through an ordeal to basically being a really long snuff story.

    Blake walks through fire, does everything he can to be free, and in the end, he gets subsumed by another person instead. It’ll sour the entire plot for me.

      1. Gone in the sense of being subsumed into Rose once and for all, I would imagine, and I have to say it doesn’t sit right with me either. Not really a gamebreaker per-say but I’ll definitely be a little disappointed.

        1. Well, Blake can’t be ‘subsumed’ as it were, since the way the barber works, Rose Can’t fully mesh with him. Doing so would only make things worse.

          She said she needs the flesh.

          I’m thinking, the abyss gave him a body once, maybe rose can give him one this time.

        2. same. mostly because rose is a vastly inferior character. if she was anything less than totally one dimensional(the sole exception being attributes she took from blake over this chapter)…
          if it goes that way it feels like see a good character destroyed to shore up a weak otherwise salvageable one by giving her all of his lines(even it if is the end anyway)

          1. her being as you put it “less than totally one dimensional” is kind of a plot point you do remember how she was made and what she was made to be right? her not being somewhat limited personality wise would be a plot-hole and when it comes to it Blake is also some what limited but in a more endearing way. honestly it seems like you think her an inferior character just because you like her less

            1. shes a cardboard cutout that slowly became slightly more real by leaching off an actual character
              its as you said a plotpoint.

              what i mean is its like harvesting a human’s organs to patch up somebody’s cat

            2. besides, did like her. right up to the point she went form a potentially interesting character to one demensional as a plot point(she seemed like more of a real character when she was literally 2 dimensional in the mirror)

      2. In the sense that “Blake” as a being stops existing. It was made pretty clear that they can’t “remerge” into a person, so Blake just being used to shore up the sociopathic tendencies and other wounds in Rose would bother me. A lot.

        1. He has already given Rose almost everything; he knew beforehand it was very likely to be necessary, and finally they worked out the mechanics of it.

          There’s very little of him left, at this point; but much of what I liked about Blake has been pushed into Rose, so she’s a bit less Rose and a bit more Blake — with many of his memories, emotional history, etc..

          1. That doesn’t make Blake any less dead (in this hypothetical situation).

            If Blake is just gone in order to make Rose a more complete person, this story is about a person who, from the very beginning of their existence was filled with torment, strife, and combat while seeking only a chance to be free and happy.

            Every step of the way, he’s pushed, tortured, betrayed, and scorned for his familial karma, while giving up piece after piece of himself to keep everyone around him safe. He slowly obliterates himself, making and losing friends along the way, and then, in the end, one of the people he swore to protect eats him to shore up the pieces of themselves that are missing, making them a bit more “Blakey”, and he stops existing, leaving Evan, Green Eyes, and anyone else who’s fond of him to watch it happen.

            1. Someday, you will grok this ending. Blake is a Stranger in a Strange Land (Heinlein).

              That being said, we are not yet fully finished with this story.

            2. Same. There’s a longer post as to why I’m unhappy below, but this is my main gripe. This universe needs to do right by Blake, like right now.

            3. From the very beginning, this was a story about the vestige; the being created when Gma Rose started this whole shebang via the wrongness in the universe. We open with Blake’s creation, we close on his ‘death’. A full arc. Honestly, I really like this ending. It’s bleak, sure, even though it ends on a high note.

              This ending has been foreshadowed for chapters and chapters now, since Blake’s return from the abyss when they all realized that there “could be only one”. Blake is the result of the wrongness of the Barber.. it makes sense he should ultimately sacrifice himself to give his other half the fullness she would need, righting the wrong.

              From the very beginning, this is a horror story. A heroic one, one of survival, tenacity, but at its very core, it is about sacrifice; paying the price. That is how all of the magic here works. It’s a barter, an exchange. A sacrifice.

              The ending fits. And I think an epilogue would go a long way toward filling that emptiness that we feel at the ending.. but it is an emptiness of parting.

            4. What makes Blake’s suffering all that special in the grand scheme of things? Rose has been denied agency for most of the story, was thrust into leadership of Blake’s friends out of her control, and has been putting herself through the ringer to make things right. Mgas has had a sword of Damocles hanging over her head for the entire story, has lost her identity and had to carve her own way alone, the younger Thorburns have lost family, have been thrown into a nightmare without their choice been injured. The members of the Junior Council have seen their families torn apart before their eyes and everything they know turned upside down.

              Maybe Blake has had more shit heap on him per capita than anyone else. But why is it a competition? Even if the universe were inclined to pay him back more according to what he’s lost, he wouldn’t want it to anyway, because he’d rather give that up to make things right.

            5. that doesn’t actually make it a bad story or bad ending.

              (before you get invested in the next story just understand wildbow likes doing that sort of thing to his characters, it feels like he caved in worm and the ending is tacked on and unsatisfying rather than stopping where he should have.)

        2. scrapping a brand new camero to fix a junkyard rustbucket vw that was only a shell when you found it and held no sentimental value to justify doing so
          (i don’t know cars, insert appropriate vehicles as needed)

          1. I hoped Blake would be back to total Erssure. Though the dog angel owes compensation.

            Honestly, without the epilogue Worm would have been a deal breaker for me.

            I’d have cancelled my patron feed and walked away. My real life is grim enough.

            1. i find it odd that one small part of a story you didn’t like would ruin it for you its not like you cant just have it end differently in your head?

    1. I’ve honestly feel as though Blake has been in the brink of ceasing to exist for so long, I just can’t bring myself to feel very bad about it. I only have so many feelings to spare before I run out. But I agree this would be disappointing. It wouldn’t be a game breaker, I think… it’s okay for heroes to die terrible deaths. It’s… real. But if there is anyone, a single bloody soul that worked hard to make the world better and who deserves to live because of it, it’s Blake.

      1. Well, and he kind of has to, right? Something Blake-esque has to exist afterward; the whole story (histories aside) was written from his perspective.

    2. as much as i like blake and want the best for him id rather he die/cease existing than survive do to some asshove to apease fans people can always have him come out okay in there head cannon

    3. After Worm shitty endings are sort of to be expected. I’m more surprised that it wasn’t somehow even crappier.

      At least only the last couple of paragraphs were terrible this time. With Worm it was approximately the last quarter of the story that went to crap, so the terrible ending last time was almost a relief.

      1. I don’t know, I felt pretty good about Worm’s ending. V Zrna, fher, Gnlybe trgf fgevccrq bs ure cbjref naq sbeprq gb yvir n obevat rkvfgrapr va Rnegu N, ohg fur’f nyvir, jvgu ure Sngure, naq trgf gb frr gur nygreangr irefvba bs ure Zbz sebz gvzr gb gvzr. Fur qvqa’g trg jung fur jnagrq, ohg fur tbg jung fur arrqrq, n yvsr gung nyybjrq ure gb fybj gur shpx qbja naq or abezny.

        Blake is afforded no such closure. His payment for this entire demonic ordeal is that he gets to sacrifice the last remnants of his being for a person who literally only stopped screwing him over when he gave the majority of his humanity to teach her how to care.

      2. Wut.

        The last third of Worm was when Wildbow buckled down and Shit Got Real. I realize it wasn’t fun or happy, but Worm wasn’t a fun or happy story so anything else would’ve been dishonest. Throughout the entire story we were told Taylor would not end well, so there shouldn’t be any surprise when Taylor doesn’t end well. The same can be said of Blake/Rose, although by their nature the tale is more fatalistic.

          1. “Because I’m done. My life is over, for all intents and purposes. No matter how hard I try from here on out, I’ll never do anything one ten-thousandth as important as what I was doing before.” i wouldn’t say wonderfully but well off considering the circumstances.

            1. There’s a difference between importance and happiness. I think that, while she may never be important again, she may never do the things that she once did again, be fnir gur ragver zhygvirefr, crefbanyyl, she now has the opportunity that she never had before, to live a real full happy life. She’s been taken off the main stage, she’s no longer a player in any scenes that will be happening, probably, but that doesn’t mean a sad life.

              It just means her story is literally and figuratively done.

    4. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that once she’s eaten all of Blake, Rose basically turns out exactly like Ross was but with some rough edges.
      In effect, subverting the Barber’s power entirely and turning his irreversible soul-cutting into little more than a sex change.
      Even better if it turns out to be the third time in history that someone’s done that, thereby reducing demons’ abilities to cause absolute destruction (in other words to literally convince everything ever that something isn’t there)
      Maybe, it can even lead to a fourth kind of powerful being on the scale of angels, demons, and humans… one whose ability is restoration. (Antithesis to humans though? Maybe it can even close the circle with angels being anti restoration-being… it seems too much of a stretch to say angels always beat humans after all)

      1. Nah, if there should be 4 fundamental powers than those would be Creation (angels), Destruction (demons), Change (abyss) and Stasis (traditions/spirits).

  5. About as happy an ending as we could reasonably have hoped for. No way Blake doesn’t continue to exist in some form.

    Not exactly a typo but awkward phrasing: “Ms. Lewis stopped fighting, but the decay of this world continued.” This sounds like something that belongs in a present tense story, but not in a past tense one.

    Thanks for being awesome, Wildbow

  6. I feel exhausted just reading this, in the best way possible. I have rarely been more sorry to reach the end of a chapter.

  7. Heh. The Rat Pack. That’s kinda funny.

    Are we gonna see what happened to Ivy and the rest of the family and Jacob’s Bell in the epilogue? I can’t imagine them being OK.

    Does the fact that I’m kinda disappointed in how happy and victorious this chapter feels say more about me or the story? What does the fact say?

      1. You’re not the only one. I can almost feel the other two partners digging Lewis out for a debriefing and further battle plans. 😐 And, the Barber isn’t actually out for the count. Nor is Urr and the cubs. :/

        1. they’re not individuals. somebody else simply gets promoted to lewis when the old one works down their debt or fails hard enough to get knocked back down to paralegal(presumably also if destroyed, and shes not even that only trapped)

          1. That and Lewis isn’t exactly dead, is she? She may come back as Lewis still, but a completely different Lewis. It would be interesting to find out.

    1. She has dibs on meat!Blake after he dies. He isn’t just yet…

      Nice ride. Looking forward to the epilogue.

        1. I thought it’d be appropriate. Much more easy and direct than saying “I recently made a comment that actually touches on some of the topics that your comment made. Go look for it.” Now there’s a direct link to the appropriate comment.

          1. Oh, sorry. I thought it was sending me to the comment I replied to, not the comment below. It’s just that at the time, your comment was the latest comment so my browser couldn’t scroll down any further 😛

  8. I can only assume Twig will tell the tale of a blonde woman living in Mexico. She has little memory of her childhood and can’t even find her hometown on the map. This woman is trying to trace her family roots but only finds one lead, a twig. She discovers her name: Joanna

      1. Because if you wake up in a strange place, with no memories and the unshakeable feeling something is really wrong: you are are definitely in Mexico.

  9. Heh, funny how Peter calls Mags a superhero, when in her Interlude she says she acts nothing like a superhero would.

    Nice little call-back there.

    Probably a Worm one as well, but that’s obvious.

        1. That’s a little dissonant, actually. You can do the willing suspension of disbelief thing if all the wizards run around avada-kedavraing each other rather than using uzis. But as soon as one wizard pulls out a firearm and it’s effective, it immediately begs the question why more wizards aren’t doing it.

          The Buffy the Vampire Slayer show exemplifies the issue. In seven seasons of the show, bad guys used guns against her twice – and in both cases almost killed her! Yet noone else ever seemed to get the memo…

          1. To be fair,the only weapons more effective than spells in Harry Potter would be weapons that could only be reasonably used in mass combat,and we dunno if there are no spells displacing them.Avada Kedavra can kill you if it hits you on your litle finger,while you are armored,and it can be activated by a thought.At that point,as far as non mass destruction goes,anything that may be a litle better than an avanda kedavra does not justify the weight of carrying,especially since a wand can do what a thousand tools can,more efficiently.Carrying guns would be,frankly,useless.Using tanks or bombs or machine guns in a war might not be,but at worse we had a coup d’etat by a mad power hungry magician who either didn’t have to or couldn’t aquire such weapons at a reasonable timeframe.In a duel,they would be fracking inneficient.

            Buffy,howeveer,has no justification other than enemy stupidity.

  10. We still haven’t heard the details about becoming a god, as Molly brought up to Blake. I’m guessing the epilogue relates to that somehow.

    It would be a pretty horrible end to Blake for him to die an invalid according to Rose’s agency. I don’t think Wildbow would do it.

      1. (if anything a little surprised they didn’t get to the bottom to find greeneyes about to be cut in half in a way that would make her eat her niceness to death and evan being puppeted by barber’s pipes)

  11. Mmm. I said in an above post that I felt as though Blake dying wouldn’t affect me too much. But now I almost feel like crying (correction, I am). Death… is bad. I consider it objectively one of the worst things, only better to “torture and death” or “illness and death” or, in the case of Pact, “eternal torture”.

    I hope I don’t come off as… pretentious; I know I get no say in the development of your characters, but I’ve known Blake for about a year and I have come to know him and care for him. I have seen him destroy himself, piece by piece, leaving a shell of the person he once was. Though, surprisingly, he retained most of his personality until just now, even as other parts of his character, like his morality, changed. And now, Blake being consumed as a healing potion is… is wrong. I hate that Blake would give his life away like that, that’s wrong, even if there would have been no other way to save everyone else. I despise that Rose treats Blake as just… a power source. And even if Blake doesn’t die, it’s so disturbingly wrong. But as I said in a previous post, in the real world, heroes don’t need to be happy. But… Green Eyes and Evan… :/ AT LEAST YOU DIDN’T KILL THEM. Phew. You do like killing off your characters. Thank goodness Evan is alive.

    Moving on.

    Pact is over! Congratulations, Wildbow. You are the only author that has ever moved and captivated me this much. Congratulations on your epic, congratulations on your fantastic work, congratulations on keeping up with your rigorous schedules, congratulations on creating such a fleshed out world, such amazing characters, such an amazing story. It’s been over a whole year. What an ordeal. Thank you so very much. I will gladly stick through Twig and any and all of your future works.

    The ending was great. I liked how they just walked away from the Barber, and the demesne is just perpetually being ground down. I wonder why? It’s not as though the Abyss needs to turn everything to sand to make something. In any case, you pulled off a fantastic and fitting ending to your story.

    I am excitedly expecting the Epilogue. I am worried that you said it will be short. I despise open endings. I want to know what happened to every single character; who died, who didn’t, whether they lived happily, whether the world was changed for better, whether humans will win over demons and angels and the Abyss (the Abyss is still objectively evil). But, well, I take what I can get.

    Thanks once more, anxiously waiting on the epilogue :3

          1. The handed-ness confusion came about because it was assumed that one was a reflection of the other. But the Barber severed the two before Rose was dumped in the mirror, meaning that reflections didn’t really come into it.

            1. This makes no sense to me. The Barber gives one person something, the other person another thing, and consumes the rest. If Rose is left-handed, then Blake should be… none-handed, or right-handed, but surely not left-handed, unless somehow the Barber can avoid splitting certain characteristics into two. Which he can’t.

            2. Nah, Barbie determines how things are distributed. He can break rules, but he can also follow them – most of his wretched pairs are both alive, after all (he did the half dead/half alive thing with the dragon wretch, but not all).

              Same thing here. He didn’t split every aspect into either Rose or Blake, they both could move around, speak, get in trouble, they both were human enough to Awaken and Practice, and so on.

          2. Alternatively, an ambidextrous person could probably be barbered into left handed and right handed wretches.

            Russel was probably not ambidextrous enough for Grannie to care about adding that detail to her recipe.

          3. They were the same handed-ness until blake went into the mirror world, and then broke himself out of the mirror world…

            Then blake became left handed… i think?

    1. Blake should be fine. Providing this doesn’t kill him and he hasn’t given too much of what he is to Rose she should be able to revive him the same way he revived her.
      More concerning is that no one has called Rose out for leaving Evan, Tiff, Alex, and Ty to die while she went off to marry Allister.

      1. well at the time rose was pretttymuch a nonperson(more like a ball of garbage left over from blake)
        she was just…doing what she was designed to do.
        its like hating a cat for torturing small animals to death for no reason. people find a way to like cats anyway
        and its easier to overlook after she took enough of blake to grow part of a soul

        1. her “thing” was not caring about others and prioritizing her own survival so she’d outlive every other heir and most of her enemies. its how she was put together and all she was intended to do/be

      2. besides its not like blake was good at plans either. we know how blake plans turn out. and rose actually acted like she somehow expected that to not be a terrible plan. unfortunately looking at some of ross’s choices I think blake actually got ALL of his planning ability…..

        even if she wanted to, was prepared or able(blake got ALL of that. possibly too much) to take a personally riskier path and was physically capable of caring more(she still did in her own weak broken (and conquest addicted) way) she probably couldn’t have come up with much better if she tried. even blake’s plan was mostly “lets hide everybody i care about in the abyss and pray it works out for all of us” which it did, but

          1. I’ve been making the point against other chapters that Rose may have been an expecting an attack but she probably expected it to take place at nightfall after Alexis, Ty et. al had had time to shore up the house’s defences. Noone anticipated a preliminary strike by the Witch hunters during the daytime.

            Rose probably figured she had plenty of time to negotiate before her circle was in any real danger.

      3. Maybe Faysal will craft another Blake for Blake’s … um self? I guess….
        Maybe consciousness?. . .

        1. Point is all there is left of blake is his ability to observe and to twitch a little… and the first person voice. Except Rose ate the first 2.

    2. Zim really says it all for me here. I love Wildbow. I love his stories. I devoured Worm and followed Pact nearly from the beginning and have loved every step in the journey except for these last Rose-Blake chapters. Honestly I feel really bad about Blake’s end. I know I should wait for the epilogue, but the use of Blake simply to patch up Rose’s wounds really feels like a ridiculously sucky end for him.

      I guess the thing that makes me feel horrible is the lack of recognition for his sacrifice. The best feeling last arc was when Blake was considering taking up the Throne in the Abyss and Evan spoke up for him. “What, he made the hard choice once, so he can do it again? No! When’s the last time any one of you made the big sacrifice?” Here he is again, sacrifice after sacrifice, with nothing to show for it. He even loses his agency to a large extent so that everyone else can pull the victory, yet Paige is the only one who even acknowledged his presence at the end. I’m hoping that Wildbow does SOMETHING with Blake to make it right, but right now I just feel like everyone, excluding Green and Evan, are so UNWORTHY of the literal hell that Blake has endured for them.

      Just can’t bring myself to feel good about this story right now…

      1. well, fwiw, this time they did make a lot of sacrifices, Peter almost bled out, Rose is dying, Paige maybe lost Isadora, maybe Mags is also hurt?

        I think everyone put a lot of themselves into winning the fight against the Barber.

      2. What exactly makes Blake worth more than he’s people? That Blake’s the one who fights hard?

        Well, up until the final confrontation, Blake has been fucking things up as much as he’d been helping him. So it’s not like his efforts are better or more worthy than Mags or Roses. And in the end everyone (present I mean) is fighting just as hard as he ever did. Rose, Peter, Ainsley, Mags, Lola. They all earned their stripes in spades.

        But the important part is that the universe does not revolve around Blake, the lives of many are more important than his, and he understands this, which is why he decided to carry on with this sacrifice in the first place.

        1. I’m not trying to take anything away from anyone else’s suffering or sacrifice. While that quote above is pretty leading, I didn’t mean to imply that Blake has done EVERYTHING in this fight. The major difference is that, at the end of the day, everyone else either has something to go home to or a chance at getting what they want. Blake’s payment for all of his sacrifice is that he gets to make yet another sacrifice. As an end for one of the most empathetic characters in the story, that’s pretty shitty.

        2. Also, the lack of recognition by everyone else makes me mad. The only ones who care that Blake is pretty much non-existent are Green Eyes and Evan. Paige is the only one who even says anything to him at the parting of ways. I just feel like the sacrifices of all present are acknowledged except for Blake’s. Then Rose asks Green not to kill her because she’s about to use up the rest of him like a healing pot. Will she even thank him for killing himself so she can live?

        3. [Scene: Pit of Despair]
          Fezzik: [(Referring to Westley) He’s dead.
          Inigo: Is just not fair.

          [Scene: bedroom]
          Grandson: Grandpa, grandpa, wait. Wait, what did Fezzik mean “He’s dead”? I mean, he didn’t mean dead. Westley’s only faking, right?
          Grandfather: You want me to read this or not?
          Grandson: Who gets Humperdinck?
          Grandfather: I don’t understand.
          Grandson: Who kills Prince Humperdinck? At the end. Somebody’s got to do it. Is it Inigo, who?
          Grandfather: Nobody. Nobody kills him. He lives.
          Grandson: You mean he wins? Jesus, Grandpa, what did you read me this thing for?
          Grandfather: You know, you’ve been very sick and you’re taking this story very seriously. I think we better stop now.
          Grandson: No, I’m okay. I’m okay. Sit down. I’m all right.

    3. I cried as well. This has been the first time that a written work had made me cry… waiting for the epilogue will be very hard.

    1. The one he hasn’t written yet. All we know about it for sure is that it’s not a Pact sequel, probably not a Worm sequel, probably will be done before 2016 is too far along, and probably takes place in the same multiverse as everything else.

        1. Because Maggie is a famous fictional character akin to Harry Potter in Wormverse, and some Pactverse humans know how to play Weaver Dice.

          1. but…that seems like the opposite of being in the same multiverse? more like refrences…unless twig turns out to be some “overwold” type world where books are portals or something

            1. According to Word of God, it’s a mutually-fictional multiverse. Each universe in it is a full universe in its own right, but each contains the other universes as works of fiction.

            2. Also, the stories are warped so that denizens of each world could have feasibly written it. Note that Wormverse!Pact is “The Maggie Holt series.”

            3. The Maggie Holt series is probably not Pact. Most of the events of Pact are probably covered in one of the books of the Maggie Holt series but I figure the series focusses on her adventures, many of which didn’t overlap with Pact.

              I wonder what they did about the series title when she lost her name.

        2. Someone asked if Pact (and the various fragments wildbow wrote) took place in the same multiverse as Worm in the comments. wildbow’s response was “Sure, why not.” That’s positive.

          1. The pactverse is so different from the wormverse that I don’t see how they can be set in the same multiverse.

            In the wormverse we have extraordinary phenomenons that are spawn from multi-dimensional space whales, whereas in pactverse we have extraordinary phenomenons from the supernatural. Wormverse ultimately draws from incompreensible, but natural and deterministic forces whereas pact draws from understantable, but paranormal and indeterministic forces.

            I think these stories work best if they are completely unrelated to each other aside from being both created by Wildbow.

            1. I don’t really see how the Spoilers are more incomprehensible than the Others, or how the Others are less comprehensible than the Spoilers. The Spoilers could quite easily be Others from an alien world–it’s stated that the Others on Earth were shaped heavily by human psychology and culture. And, of course, Word of God is Word of God.

            2. considering that the spoilers did exactly the same amount of magic but everybody in universe assumed there was some mysterious scientific explanation beyond the reach of tinkers… you could just as easily have somebody babble something about quarks to explain pact as “science” that just happens to not have been analyzed ;P

  12. Actually, I’m cool with Blake dying. Taylor lived, and she did much more good. She got a pass for saving -all- worlds. Blake? He’s just this guy, you know? I mean sure he fought the demons, but that wasn’t his win. Not really. That was Rose’s. If Blake dies, it makes the rest of the Wildbow stories wild. If Blake lives, it establishes a pattern… and a third time makes the career.

    1. Yeah, but it’s so anticlimactic to have him survive as this blob thing and make it through everything, all the battles, only to be used as a band-aid. I don’t think it’s impossible to kill off the protagonist and still have a good novel, but it seems a little lacking in dramatic flair (and isn’t the practice all about the dramatic?)

    2. Well… It was their win. And they are united (in some way) again.

      Yes, it’s good and harmonic end. Thank you, wildbow, it was so cool!

    3. Spoiler alert!

      For me…if a character ought to die by all laws of nature and man, regardless of whether or not s/he deserves to, let him/her die. It sucks, but that’s life, especially for a character who ends up in that situation.

      And I think you’re forgetting that Blake already survived a lethal thing. Ur, remember?

  13. I never expected Blake to survive. I never expected anyone to really survive, I just hoped my favorite characters would die a somewhat less cruel death.
    But after all that I at least thought his death would be something more special, like Evan always wanted, a blaze of glory.

    I’m looking forward to the epilogue. I’m curious of howit will tie up loose ends.

  14. Did he say there was going to be a sequel, or no?

    The epilogue better have Ur dying. Just sayin. Speaking of- whatever happened to it’s motes?

    The Queen’s man was literally the most useless character in this entire series, and that’s saying a lot. Abyss was one of the most useful!

      1. I’m pretty sure it’s not malevolent at all. Its selection is ruthless and unforgiving, but technically fair.

        Also, it clearly works alongside anyone fighting actually malevolent forces that threaten reality, like demons. Remember when Blake got empowered as an agent of the Abyss ? I’m pretty sure mister Defenestrator here got a massive power boost from perfectly pulling his one trick on Barbie.

        The abyss also lets you reject plans it has for you, as long as you pay an acceptable compensation. It’s actually much more interesting to work with than the goldfish-attention-span-spirits-managed karma system. Or it’s just that the Abyss keeps the spirits’ focused enough they aren’t the stupid tools they seem to be elsewhere.

        1. I love the Defenestrator. He is not the hero we deserve, but the one we need. When darkness threatens, he will push it out a window. He is… Defenestrator.

          1. I wonder if he knows how to install Linux on a computer.

            Wait, that’s throwing out Windows, now throwing out OF windows.

        2. I assume he meant it as vaguely sentient and vaguely malevolent, which it is. If it is evil, it hides it with ruthless but fair realism/entropy very well.

        3. “I’m pretty sure mister Defenestrator here got a massive power boost from perfectly pulling his one trick on Barbie.” Well, he didn’t actually push the Barber out a window, he knocked the Barber off the tower. Close, very close, but not exactly perfectly the same. He still probably got a power boost form it, though.

  15. “You’re like a superhero, a tool for every job,” Peter commented.
    “Damn straight,” Mags said. “Except I use guns, not some stick.”

    V pna onfvpnyyl vzntvar gur senapuvfr gurl’er ersreevat gb. Fgnegrq bhg nf n eryngviryl beqvanel fgbel nobhg n thl jvgu n cbyrnez gung unf n ybg bs tnqtrgf va vg, svtugvat pbfghzrq ivyynvaf jvgubhg nalbar ernyyl trggvat uheg. Nf gvzr jrag ba naq jevgref tbg plpyrq, ur ghearq qnexre naq rqtvre. Jrag shyy nagvureb, oebxr nyy gur ehyrf, tbg xvyyrq bss naq pnzr onpx nf n ebobg, lbh xabj gur qevyy. Naq gura pnzr gur jvqryl qvfyvxrq pebffbire fgbevrf jurer ur grnzrq hc jvgu fbzr qvzrafvba-ubccvat ivyynvaf gb xvyy n tbq be jungrire.

    Qrfcvgr orvat n fgvpx-jvryqvat jrveqb jub gnxrf uvzfrys vaperqvoyl frevbhfyl, ur’f fgvyy irel cbchyne. Naq rira gubhtu ur ybfrf frireny gvzrf gb n grrantr tvey jvgu oht cbjref, fbzr crbcyr ba gur vagrearg jvyy fgvyy vafvfg gung ur pbhyq orng hc nalbar jvgu rabhtu cerc gvzr.

    1. Vs gung jbeyq unq znttvr ubyg pevzr abiryf, qbrf guvf zrna gung guvf jbeyq unf obbxf/pbzvpf/jungrire bs gung “ureb”?

      Also- that made me smile. Thank you.

    2. Actually….if you really think about it….Npghnyyl,V jnf ernqvat guvf,naq V whfg ernyvmrq guvf pbhyq or irel yrtvg,qhr gb n fvzcyr ernfba:Nezfznfgre vf gur bayl crefba jub arire ernyyl ybfg gb Gnlybe,ng yrnfg abg ba n culfvpny svtug..

      Svefg svtug:fur jnf fnirq ol Pbvy,gubhtu fur qryvirerq n tbbq uvg.

      Frpbaq svtug:Fur orng uvz ol fbpvny sh,naq ol hfvat uvf hajvyyvtarff gb unezvaabpraef

      Guveq abg ernyyl svtug:fur arire rfpncrq sebz uvz ba ure rfpncr nggrzcg,ur whfg
      jnf ba ure fvqr nyy nybar.

      Xurcev:abg ernyyl pbhagf,nf vg jnf gur pevfvf pebffbire naq Gnlybe jnf gur cbjre jub jnf fghcvqyl birecbjrerq gb orng gur guerng.

  16. I griped a lot above, but I just wanted to reiterate: I love you stories, Wildbow. You’ve got a life-long fan in me and I can’t wait to see what comes next. 🙂

  17. So, I know that this chapter ended on a bit of a grim, cliffhangery note for Blake, but I’m putting my money on him being fine (for some definition of fine). I just think that he has too much in the way of existential momentum for the Pactverse rules to really let him die. The Abyss just has its hooks too deep in him at this point.

    His connection to Rose, an up and coming Scourge. They had a pretty decent connection before, and now that she has basically subsumed most of his humanity I can see that connection being even stronger (I can also see an argument for it being weaker, but lets ignore that for now). Rose has also promised to save a place in her Demesne for the Rat Pack, fragile vestiges who would otherwise probably slip into the Abyss. Not unreasonable that a similar deal could be struck with Blake and Co.
    His connection to Green Eyes. Blake’s actions were what allowed Green Eyes to escape the Drains, so I don’t think it would be unreasonable to imagine her being able to insist him in the same way. I doubt she could do it on her own, but if anyone was to try to summon Blake I can see Green Eye’s assistance making that much simpler.
    Blake’s own actions as a boogeyman. He spent a fair chunk of time acting in the Abyss’ interests, and fulfilled his promise of giving it a better prize for a little assistance. Just because the deal was completed doesn’t mean that the Abyss would just ignore such a useful agent.

    Altogether, I would hazard that Blake either barely survives whatever Rose is doing, or it “kills” him and he ends up back in the Abyss. Rose then summons him, which might have been hard for someone other than a Scourge, and he spends most of his time hanging out with Green Eyes and Evan in Rose’s Demesne until Rose (or another summoner) need help putting down the real monsters in the world.

  18. I’m going to comment on the ending and overall story after Wildbow publishes the epilogue. For now, I have 2 questions:

    How did throwing Ms Lewis into the pavement resolved the eminent danger posed by the Barber?

    We know from Arc 9 that Ms Lewis can come to, and leave the Abyss at will. Why would she be trapped in the Abyss this time, even if she gets buried in sand/smoke?

    1. She knew a PATHWAY to/from the Abyss. There’s a reason she threatened Blake and told him not to follow. As she’s bound, gagged, and buried alive. I see no reason for her to be able to get there.

      1. Good point. But I still didn’t fully understand how they managed to protect themselves from the Barber. Did the crater created by Rose somehow bounded him? What exactly is keeping the barber from attacking the group after the crater was formed?

        1. It didn’t, they just buried her immediately afterwards. What happened was Rose made stuff collapse in his path until he could no longer make progress and the Abyss could seal him properly.

    2. They were protected from the barber by a fairly substantial rule of 3 and the fact that the demesne was all for enforcing it. The rule of 3, Rose’s influence and the abyss ensured any attacks he tried to make missed, anything he tried to stand on broke or just didn’t give steady enough footing, etc. Essentially the spiritual equivalent of “you lost, get over it, go home”. I wouldn’t be surprised if the place rearranged itself around them to make their path shorter, either.

      Lewis, however, will almost definitely be back. This might be the first win to give people momentum when fighting off the lawyers in the future, though. The sand trap was just enough to keep her from coming after them in the here and now.

  19. I think the biggest issue here, is if Rose actually does finish him off completely, I can’t see her not being ripped apart by Green Eyes. Green Eyes already HATES Rose.

    1. If Rose can survive Conquest, the Abyss, the Barber and the Lawyers, she is ought to survive from Green Eyes too.

  20. Do not go gently into that good night,
    Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

    What is this? What is this?

    How shall we reward a thrice fallen hero? A vestige of flesh and wood in the shape of a man, that has fought with the vigor beyond ninehundred men of virtue. That has with naught but the power of his flesh, and the scraps of his deeds, opposed the deepest shadows off all things. That has fought with passion against liars, betrayers, the unclean and despised evils of the world. That sacrificed memory against the demon of Ur, that sacrificed honor for the sake of a sister, that sacrificed lordship for the sake of his companions.

    That has bound the Hyena, slain him, and ground his darkness into an instrument of unmaking. That has disposed the cruel lord of Conquest, that has bound the flesh of Ur and made his weakness known, that has wrought vengeance upon the vile of the Duncham masters. That has slain the defiling Corvidae. That has sundered the domain of the corpulent Hag and left her a withered mortal wretch violently severed of any form of power.

    That sacrificed flesh to give others the power to oppose the Diabolists who care only for the keeping of demons. That allowed those others, by his assistance, to remind these Diabolists of the folly in consorting with demons. That allowed these others the power to free an angel from its demonic bonds. That allowed these others the power to unseat a Demon Lord from within his stolen demesne. That allowed these others to trap the Demon within a crater that shall contain him within the Abyss for as long as he is bound. That allowed these others to bury a Diabolist, that thought to escape an ocean of blood, within the binding maw of the Abyss.

    What is this?

    If we do not reward those who strive with broken boned hands, with wood eaten flesh, with forgotten lives, for a better world and the removal of evil, what then do we reward?

    Let him be rewarded as his actions deserve, with flesh and power. To be used against the darkness of the earth. To wage war upon the demons and the defiling of the innocent. To sundered the darkness and make it fear. Let him be marked an instrument of justice, a vessel filled with the cries of the weak, to recompense the deeds of the evil.

    An instrument of karma. An instrument of the universe. An instrument to change the ways of the world. To bring a new order.

    To fulfill his name. Blake, first of a new order.

    1. That was beautiful. As far as I’m concerned Blake is right up there with Harry Dresden and John Constantine.

      Thanks Wildbow for such a great character.

    2. loved that apart from near the end “An instrument of karma. An instrument of the universe.” he seemed kinda against karma and the universes status quo see as how fucked up both were

      1. But he wound up being both in his own way. Bringing doom to those who tried to game the system, and would usually be exempted from reprisal.

  21. scuse me if I got it wrong, but I’m finding it hard to believe nobody said this. I mean even though worse happened before in this story but still.

    She took his EYE!! D: What the hell? And she dug it out with her hands and augh.

    Also, I’m postulating that Blake is dead but not gone. Not in the “he lives in me” way (though he does live on in Rose… for as many years as it takes for her to shed those cells, anyway.)

    I’m gonna guess that he retains his consciousness in some form and this can be put in a jar. Like Fell’s soul.

    1. You might be on to soemthing here. Maybe Wildbow didn’t kill of Blake; maybe he just blinded him.

    2. I am pretty sure that she also, you know, ate it.

      Actually, that reminds me that she probably ate his heart to get him possessing her in the first place. Oh, Rose.

  22. I have to say, I appreciate Evan being savvy enough to advise Rose to make a taunt to an opponent she’s burying alive. I like when we’re reminded of how creepily ok he is with killing people. Canadian eight-year-olds!

    1. Canadian dead bird kids. Who were high on a god’s wine and turned into a blazing phoenix earlier that day.

    2. well /hes/ dead and its really not so bad. in fact its kinda awesome
      …so i can see where justified selfdefense(maybe technically not but comeon)murder of world destroying enemies loses a bit of its sting

  23. When I realized that that was the end of the chapter, and then read the comment saying that there was the epilogue left:

    mouth falls open in terror
    silently screams
    Mouths: “NO NO F YOU WHY WHY WHY NOO!”

    Wildbow, the tears are flowing. Drink them as my thanks to you, and prosper.

    ….I mean, I thought the last chapter of worm (not including epilogue) was dark…

  24. “No,” Rose said. “I want to tell you I’ll give you the ending you want, but if I do, and it winds up being a lie, it’ll probably kill me…”

    She’s talking to Green Eyes and what ending does Green Eyes want? Blake, alive and well and with her. For everyone complaining about Blake’s end, Rose has a plan to keep him around.

    1. All hail the Man of the Ill-Fitting Suit! the Defenestrator of Demons! Tosser of Terrors! Flinger of Fiends! Hurler of Horrors! Lobber of all Loathesome! Catapult of Corruption and Pitcher of Puppets! All Hail!

  25. Regardless of the outcome of pact, my patron subscription will remain. I don’t want to pressure the author into adapting the outcome they had in mind, just to appease some fantasy I imagined the end would be like.

    You don’t buy a book and then return it when you find the ending isn’t to your liking. But that’s a bad comparison. My patronage is an expression of my desire to read more materials by the author, so a better phrasing might be “you don’t stop buying books by a particular author just because one of their otherwise great titles didn’t end your way.”

    I mean, yes you’re of no obligation to continue supporting the author, but personally I think this would be a silly reason to stop, considering the enjoyment you’ll likely get out of their next book, and have already gotten out of /this/ book, regardless of how of ended.

    So far I’m loving this, and thought worm was great too. Don’t give in to pressure wb!

  26. I’ve never commented on these chapters before despite reading them for a long time, but I want to offer my two cents on the ending of the main story because it seems to be garnering mixed responses. If Blake is indeed consumed, I think there is little to be disappointed about. Like Taylor, he has sacrificed enough that he has earned the right to pass on the torch – in the world he inhabits, that is as much a reward as anyone can expect. Of course, many of these responses may be coming too soon – as one commentator put it, Blake may have too much “existential momentum” to be permanently destroyed by Rose’s practice. Regardless of his fate, I was extremely satisfied with how the ending of the story came together. The personal arcs of the major characters – both in terms of plot and character development – came to a close at exactly the right time while leaving open countless possibilities for future growth and their continuation in a wider story. It’s a major accomplishment to tie everything together like that, especially in a piece that was both long and occasionally prone to dragging on. In the event of a sequel – although I am not against a Worm sequel, I think the plot and characters of Pact are more seriously demanding of a revistitation – there is certainly a question of how much continuity there ought to be between Blake and Rose. I strongly suspect that Blake’s diminishing independence and growing influence on Rose toward the end of the story was planned with this concern at least implicitly in mind. With that thought in mind, it might be years before anyone can make a truly informed judgement about the end of Pact, but I can safely say now was more entertained and impressed by the ending than any other part.

  27. I really have enjoyed Worm and Pact, but some part of me just wants everyone to find salvation (at least a la Nezfznfgre naq Qentba). I realize it’s not going to happen, and maybe it shouldn’t, but this terrifying monstrosity just so happens to have a soft spot for everyone.

  28. Hmm… I have a sneaking suspicion the sequel might be written from Mags’s perspective — reclaiming her name, carrying out her third instance of blood, fire, and darkness, and then dealing with whatever nightmare this drags out from under the bed.

          1. I wonder what else there is to base the world around, I mean he’s covered superheroes, aliens, alternate dimensions, the supernatural, the occult, and probably a lot more little stuff that I missed.
            WHatever it is, I’m sure that it will be interesting.

  29. [“We just spent far too long fighting because we were supposed to,” Rose said. “Because your families are supposed to hate diabolists…”]

    Pretty sure it was because her family are power hungry sociopaths.

  30. I am wondering if Twig will be set in the same universe as Pact and have Blake be a part of it in a form of a twig.

  31. I really hope the epilogue does right by Blake. It would ruin the story for me to have Rose win when she is the absolute worst person in the entire story. She is, and I quote, “a bitch.”

  32. I would really like to see these characters grow up a little bit, combine their personal styles with some long-term planning, see what comes out of it. With any luck the epilogue will include a time skip.

    I’m also still all for a theory I mentioned earlier that I will not describe for fear of jynxing it.

    So Pact was a revision of the ‘super powers as magic’ idea that Worm was not (poorly written sentence yes, I’m leaving it as I have faith that worm readers know what I’m talking about). That means Twig will be… A ‘mons story, calling it, as a variation on the ‘monsters and masters’ theme that Pact was almost.

  33. Ok, I’ve just caught up to the end after reading the series so far, so I may be a little late to the chase, but I get the feeling that humanity’s true power is the very thing that they give up for the sight.
    The power to lie is the power to alter the truth, to change reality with a word.

    I think that in the beginning of this universe there were two sides born of the beginning, the side of matter and it’s opposite, antimatter. There was no difference between the two sides, just fundamental forces exactly opposite to one another, dispersed randomly across the rapidly expanding universe. One side gained ground because they had a slightly more favorable position, and so when the sides met they were only mostly obliterated.

    The side that we call angels were the one that won, but the devils were not completely defeated, just waiting, gaining strength slowly.
    When humans arrived things started to change very fast, with their words they changed what they were on the surface, giving them intelligence and cunning. With the intelligence they saw the power that we had and coveted it, so they came up with a way to get it for themselves.

    The demons decided that they had to strike fast, so they quickly went to destroy the human’s knowledge of their power, they made them forget the power that their words held. With us having forgotten our power and feeling helpless and alone, they offered some of us their meager reserves of power to use in exchange for something seemingly worthless, their ability to lie.

    With this power in their hands they could now change how the world operated so that they could gain the advantage over their adversary. This is why the demon’s power continues to grow and the angel’s power shrinks.

    But the demons had accidentally just split humanity into two parts, one with the innate power to change things, and one who had given up their power to change for the power to know. Just as the power to create and destroy came from the same source, so to did the next opposing pair, the side of change and the side of knowing. While these do not seem to oppose each other at first, it begins to make sense once you consider that you cannot know something that is constantly changing.

    Another way to see it is that when you change something you simultaneously destroy and then create it, whereas when you study something you do neither. Where the opposition of creation and destruction can be represented as -1 versus 1, the opposition of changing and studying is represented as 2 versus 0, or pushed to an extreme, zero versus infinity.

  34. Blake being destroyed to patch up Rose seems wrong to me on so many levels. Even dying and being able to pass on would be better then losing your everything to heal your rival while your one true love screams against it.

  35. This is the first non-visual (meaning not TV, movies or (web)comics) serial I’ve ever followed along with as it was being written, and it’s been a hell of a ride. I’ll have to reflect to see what I think ultimately, but I don’t regret the time I spent on it. I never found Pact quite the same level of enrapturing that I found Worm, but I identify a lot less with Blake than with Taylor and the fresh take on a cape story was more of something I found myself hungry for that the urban fantasy .

    But this was still phenomenal, still elicited gasps and tears and nail-biting “How the fuck do they get out of this” tension, and I’m still recommending it to my friends. I don’t mean to offer what seems like faint praise by comparison, because being ‘a little less engaging’ than something I consider a masterpiece and literally the best story of its genre that I’ve ever read is still pretty damn good.

    You have a serious talent, Wildbow, and I’m looking forward to seeing what you produce in the future. You’ve got a fan in me for as long as you’re still writing.

  36. Thank you for the story Wildbow. I like Rose and I will be happy no matter what the ending looks like. Looking forward to Twig.

    (Also, seriously, you’re not going to miss an update even while switching to a new story? If you lived in Pactverse, that would have weight.)

  37. Okay, they didn’t even consider magical healing for Rose? Seriously!? Given the powers floating around, someone has to be up to healing the damage Rose has sustained. And if reaching them quickly is a problem?

    Faysal, Faysal, Faysal, Faysal, Faysal, Faysal, Faysal! (strong association between angels and 7). “You owe us bigtime, gateway guy and I need a lift”.

    That this is the only option available to her in a setting like Pact just seems ludicrous.

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