Epilogue

Last Chapter                                                                        The End (Afterword)

Wind, the purr of the engine, they blended together to make a white noise.  His brain worked to make sense of it, and it created something very close to music, feeding into an almost zen-like sense of ease.  Not quite relaxation – he felt a tiny bit of fear with every car he passed, knowing how fragile a motorcyclist could be in an incidental collision, felt pure exhilaration running through him over the simple fact that he was on the road.

Even with his helmet on, he could smell and taste the trees and grass.  The faint aroma of gasoline and exhaust was one he very much enjoyed.  When he passed wild growths of flowers on the side of the road, he could smell those, too.

It was fresh air.  When he breathed, it felt like more oxygen got to his lungs.  There was a vague high that came with it.

The cars around him had none of that.  Some had their windows rolled down for the summer, but it was an attempt to escape the heat.  When they looked out their windows, it was through just that – a window.  He had unrestricted vision in every direction.  His body temperature was perfect, the wind sapping away the heat that soaked into the dark fabric of his jacket.

He slowed down as traffic on the highway did.  He didn’t have to, he could have navigated between the gaps without much fuss, but he figured it was sensible, especially given that he wasn’t alone.  He was a little annoyed to have to do it, especially given the reason.  The cars around him were slowing in attempt to take advantage of a slight rise and get a better look at a point further down the highway.  It wasn’t easy, given the trees that had been planted around here, obscuring the view.

He could feel the fractional drop in temperature as he passed into the shade the first of the trees offered, and he smiled.

These trees were his landmark.  He raised a hand, signalling, even as he put his lights on.  A glance over his shoulder, a double check, then a change of lanes.

He could hear the faint shift in the sound of traffic.  Another bike adjusting speed and direction, changing lanes to follow.

The exit took them off the highway, onto a poorly maintained side road, one that was very easy to miss.  He passed a spot where poles had once been holding a sign in place, but the signboard was gone.  The trees obscured the view, leaving the site a passing curiosity.

He signaled again, just to be sure his traveling companion wouldn’t go down the wrong road.

It took another ten minutes to get to their stop, going at a fairly easygoing pace on the poorly maintained road.  Traffic had slowed because people were rubbernecking further ahead.  The little booth had been erected at a spot with a better view.  Well placed, in his estimation.

It was a ways until they reached the town, but it offered a distant view of the buildings and the water that lay just a bit beyond.  A trail marked the way down to the side of the lake.  A family was already down there, kids splashing.

He signaled again, well before he braked, just to be absolutely clear what he had in mind.  He could smell the grease and the oil of the little stand well before he lifted up his visor.  With his sinuses clear and his blood pumping, oxygen flowing through his veins, he might have said that he’d never smelled anything half as good, but he’d experienced this before.

“Oh my god, I could eat a whole cow,” his companion said, behind him, echoing the thought.  She pulled off her helmet, and shook her head to let her cornrows loose where they’d bunched up closer to her neck.

“You should see the burgers here,” he said.  “It’s pretty close to eating a whole cow.”

She put down the kickstand to her bike, then approached, throwing her arms around him.  He hugged her back, and they rocked in place.

“Thank you,” she said, squeezing him tight.  “For convincing me to do this.”

“You’re very welcome,” he said, smiling.  He shifted his grip on her until one arm encircled her lower back.  He faced the surroundings with her.  The water, the trees, and a distant ghost town with far too many trees blocking the view.  Sating curiosity without quite satisfying it.

“What happened?” she asked.

“I asked, last time I was around.  Rumor is that it was something about contaminated water.  Dumping way back when, leeching into the town’s infrastructure.  I guess it was too expensive to salvage.  I don’t know the full story.”

“Why the trees, though?”

He shrugged.  “Maybe they thought it would be an eyesore.”

“We could go back and see if there’s a road we could take to go take a look?” she suggested.

“Shall we grab some food, first, miss Deidre?”

“Yes,” she said, without hesitation.  She smiled.  “Definitely.”

There were three other people in line before their turn came up.  He let Deidre order first, then gave his own order to the man with a mullet.  Burger with bacon and cheese, sweet potato fries, and fried zucchini.

He enjoyed the ambient chatter and people watching before the food was done.  Food in hand, they left their bikes behind and walked down the path to the water, locking up their helmets and bringing their backpacks, just to keep the essentials on hand.

It took them a minute to get settled, sitting on a fallen tree, halfway between the water and the little roadside booth.

They took a minute to get straight to eating.  A kid down by the water screamed.  The beach itself was as much rock as sand, but the child didn’t seem to mind, running away from the waves as they approached, then chasing them as they retreated.

“Is this the place?” Deidre asked.

“The place?”

“You said there was one place you wanted to stop by, after Toronto but before Ottawa.  Process of elimination…”

“Ah, yeah.  This is the place.”

“You never said why.  If there was a better view of the town, that’d be neat, ghost towns can be cool, but there isn’t.”

“It sounds dumb if I say it out loud.”

“Dumb?”

“You wouldn’t believe me,” he said.

She arched her fine eyebrows at him.

“Came through this area for the first time last year… it really sounds dumb if I say it out loud.”

“But you still plotted our entire road trip around this,” she said, before she took another bite of her pogo.  “There was a detour.”

“Yeah.”

“You can convince me to come with you on a spur-of-the-moment road trip, but you can’t explain this?”

He smiled, taking a bite so his mouth would be full and unable to respond.  She smirked at him.

“You’re going to have to tell me sooner or later,” she said.

He smiled, mouth still full, and nodded.

“Out with it, Dominic.”

He finished chewing, took a deep breath, then confessed, “I came through here last summer, and again in the early fall, because I was curious.  Nothing came of it in the fall, but-”

“I’m not following.”

“It’s easier if I show you.  Can I get you to take my burger?”

Deidre did, balancing the paper container on her knee.

Dominic licked his lips, rolled his shoulders, clearing his throat.

“Stop making such a show out of it.”

Ahem,” he said.  He cupped his hands together, thumbs side-by-side, then raised his hands to his mouth.

He managed a chirping sound.  It took some adjustment until it was clearer and sharper.

“That was pretty bad,” Deidre said.

“Yeah.”

“If any bird heard that, it’ll probably take it as an insult.”

He smirked, taking his burger back.

No sooner did he have the burger in his hand when a bird appeared, surprising him enough that Dominic almost dropped his lunch.

“Hey!” he said, a short laugh escaping his lips.  The bird was circling him, going a mile a minute.  “Hey!  Little guy!”

The bird chirped in response, matching the amount of flight to the sheer amount of noise it was making.

“Hey, stop, stop.  Settle down.  Stop!  Want a bit of sweet potato?”

The bird stopped in the next heartbeat, settling on his forearm.  A sparrow, a fraction smaller than most sparrows he’d seen.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said.  He pinched off a bit of sweet potato fry and gave it over.

The bird stopped its constant chirping just long enough to down the bit of fry, then it started chirping for more.

“Okay,” Deidre said.  “That’s almost adorable enough to justify the lengthy detour.”

“Almost?” Dom asked, in the same moment the sparrow turned its full attention toward her, chirping in time with his question.

“Almost,” she held firm.

“Little guy came with me part of the way through the states last summer,” he said.

“What?  No way.”

“Rode with me.  Lost him a couple times, but he always caught up to me.  I think he just really likes motorcycles.  I think he’s someone’s pet, or he was.

The bird chirped.

“Could it be a she?” Deidre asked.

The bird chirped again.  It almost sounded indignant.

“No, pretty sure it’s not a she,” Dominic said.

“How do you know?  Are you a bird expert?”

“Definitely not a bird expert, but-”

“I say she’s a girl, then,” Deidre said.

The sparrow took flight.  Flapping violently, as it moved from Dom’s left wrist to his right shoulder.  It perched there, paused, then fluttered violently, remaining in place, before stopping, feathers fluffed up.

It chirped at her.

“Or not,” she said.

“That’s why,” he said.  “I asked the same question, back then, and I got a very similar response.”

The bird settled, feathers going smooth, or smoother.  It moved back to Dom’s left wrist, before chirping for more food.  It watched with rapt attention as he dipped his fried zucchini in cucumber sauce and took a bite.

“It’s like it knew what I was saying,” Deidre said.  “Do you understand me, little guy?”

The bird didn’t take its attention off Dom’s fingers as he reached for another sweet potato fry.  It chirped, once, as if to remind him that it was there.

“If you chirp twice, I’ll give you all the fries you want,” she said.

The bird didn’t react.

“It was a pet,” Dom said, with more confidence.  He offered another bit of sweet potato fry.  “Had to be.  It responded to your tone of voice, that’s all.  Probably reacts to a few key words, like the gender thing.”

“Right,” Deidre said.  She frowned.

“Almost done?” he asked.

She nodded.  “Sure, but you’re not.”

“Almost.  Come on.  He’s so funny with the motorcycle, I want to show you.”

He stuck the last mouthful of burger into his mouth, picked up his stuff, and led the way back up the path.  The sparrow remained on his arm, staring at the paper container that still held some stray fries.

They reached the little shack of a restaurant, and a few heads turned at the sight of the sparrow.  As they approached the bikes that were parked on the far end of the road, the sparrow took off, perching between the handlebars, then to the second bike.

It practically bounced in place with energy, seeming far too excited that there were two motorcycles.

“Okay, I have to admit, that is pretty funny.”

“I didn’t think he’d go this nuts,” Dom confessed.  “I don’t think his peanut brain can wrap his head around the idea of there being two motorcycles in one place.”

The bird flew straight for him.  He had to duck to avoid it, only to realize after the fact that it would have only grazed him.

They both turned to see the bird disappearing off into the woods.

“Huh,” Dom said.

“What was that you said about tone of voice?  I think you hurt his feelings.”

“Ha ha,” he said, deadpan.

“Seriously though, the bird was funny.  Thanks for showing me.”

“Not a problem,” Dominic said, but his attention was on the trees, his thoughts elsewhere.

“Would have been fun to have it follow along, but I guess it was a fluke thing, last year?”

“Maybe,” he said, his attention still elsewhere.

Where did the bird go?

“Hey, Deids,” he said.

“Yeah?”

“Watch my stuff?”

“Bathroom break?”

“Nah, no,” he said.  Almost without taking his eyes off the trees, he pulled off his jacket and put it with his backpack on the seat of his bike, then headed down the path.  Being still, without the benefit of the wind and the motion of the bike, he’d accumulated a bit of sweat.

He’d tracked the direction the bird had gone.  That meant veering off to the right, into thicker trees.  He used his hands and arms to brush at the branches.

The way wasn’t easy.  He made it far enough into the woods that he began to have doubts, to suspect that he’d been wrong.

But the bird had flown with purpose, hadn’t it?

The thick canopy made the way surprisingly dark.  The light that filtered through did so in beams and as an ambient glow, lighting up the dust and pollen in the air.

He heard a laugh.  A girl’s.

He stopped, and he approached with a little more care.

A murmur, the girl’s voice, words inaudible.

A chirp.  The sparrow.

He stopped.

She was sitting by the water, back to a tree.  He couldn’t be sure if it was an old woman or a girl with platinum blond hair bleached whiter by the sun, but the voice, the laugh, and the fit of the seafoam colored sweatshirt she wore suggested the latter.

The sparrow was perched on her finger, busy chirping.

If he’d waited any longer, Dominic might have felt like he was doing something wrong.

“Miss!” he called out.

The girl froze.

“Are you the sparrow trainer?  I was wanting to ask.  Last summer, I-”

There was a flutter, a flap.  Not the sparrow that had perched on her finger.  If it weren’t for the branches right behind him, Dom might have fallen over backward.

As it was, he caught himself, freezing with a sparrow just inches from his face, perched on his shoulder.

The smaller sparrow arrived a moment later, flying his way.  He put out a hand, and it settled on his knuckles.

The girl was gone.  Small waves lapped up around where she’d been.

“Uh,” he said.

His heart was pounding, and he couldn’t put words to why.  It wasn’t just the fact that the larger of the two birds had nearly flown into his face.

The little sparrow bounced with excitement.  The larger one remained where it was, ruffling its feathers momentarily, almost seeming to ignore Dom altogether.  Its attention was on the trees.

“Well, I’m going back to my bike.  You can come if you want,” he said.

The sparrows didn’t leave.  Dom turned to go back to the path and Deidre, then paused, glancing back.

No sign.

The birds were patient as he forged his way past the branches and everything in his way, the small one flying off and away when he accidentally almost knocked it off with a stray branch.

Back into the daylight.  The smaller sparrow perched on him again as he headed up to the food shack and Deidre.

There you are,” she said.  He raised her eyebrows.  “And you brought friends.”

“I did,” he said.

Both sparrows took off.  Each one settled on a different bike.  The larger on his bike, the smaller on Deidre’s.

“There’s two trained sparrows?”

“Yeah.”

“What do you call them?”

He shrugged.  “I don’t.”

“You could call the big one Ugly,” she said.  She turned her head at a sound, then shooed the smaller of the two sparrows.  “No!  Do not peck my motorcycle!  No!”

It evaded her sweeping hands and settled back in the same place.

Dom looked at the larger sparrow that had perched on his bike.  Unlike the small one, it seemed to be more focused on the surroundings than on him, or even the bike.  It had feathers sticking up here and there, and it was a little dirtier.  A small bit of branch was stuck in the plumage at its front.  It looked like a sparrow that a cat had hacked up and left on the forest floor.  Still, it had looked very similar last summer, too.

“I don’t want to call it Ugly,” Dom said, not taking his eyes off the little creature.  “It saved my life.  Maybe.”

“What?”

“I know it sounds dumb.  But I was riding through the states, and there was this moment where I was overtaking, and I had that feeling.  You probably know the feeling I’m thinking about.  Something being wrong.  Small voice in my head said ‘no’.  But I went ahead, ignored it, and the car I was overtaking started merging into my lane.  Totally blind to the fact that I was there.”

“The bird saved you?”

“Getting to that.  The speed I was going, where the car was, the incoming traffic, I had that moment where I realized it was all going to go in a bad way, no matter what happened.  Then, bam.  Bird that was riding with just flies off, slams into the side window of the car.  Scares the shit out of the driver, they correct, and I don’t die.”

Deidre looked at the bird.

“They rode with me all the way to Wisconsin.  Disappeared.  When I was on my return trip, they found me.  Rode with me back here.  They weren’t around in the fall, when I checked in.  In retrospect, I’m not sure they weren’t acting as someone else’s…”

He trailed off, looking at the bird, and saw it staring at him.  Very still.  As quiet as the smaller one was animated.  Deidre hadn’t said anything, so he elaborated, “…I was going to say guardian angels, but…”

“But?”

He thought of the white haired girl he’d glimpsed, the way she’d disappeared.

The ‘guardian angel’ thing had been an amusing thought before.  Now it felt a little less like an idle thought.

He couldn’t put words to that feeling.  Instead, he said, “I really like the idea of them being along for our road trip.  Especially while you’re with.”

She smiled, approaching to grab him by the shirt front, and gave him a peck on the lips.  “Sure.”

The little one peeped.

“If they’re coming,” she said.  “I’m happy if they are, but we can’t get your hopes up.”

“I think they are,” he said.  “Are you two coming with?  Deidre and I are heading to Labrador.”

The little one peeped again, bouncing on the spot.  The big one only turned, facing forward.

Dominic smiled.

“How about we loop back, see if we can’t take the other road and head down to explore the little ghost town, satisfy your curiosity?” he asked her.  “Then we can head on our way.”

“Sure!”

They began to steer the bikes around.  It was only a short trip back to a branch in the road. The birds remained at the front of the bikes.

A chain stretched across the side road, but it wasn’t impossible to duck under.

The moment they had the bikes pointed at the road in question, however, the birds took off, first the large one, then the small one.

Both perched on branches, just a short distance away.

Dominic blinked.

“Come on,” he said.

The birds didn’t move.

“Just visiting the town.  We can pass right through and pop out the other side, head to Ottawa, then Montreal, maybe.”

The little one peeped.

Still sitting astride his motorcycle, he raised his hands, and tried the bird call.

He got two blank stares instead.

“Won’t?” he asked.

“I’ll remind you that you’re talking to birds,” Deidre pointed out.

He leaned forward, elbows and arms draped over the handlebars of his motorcycle.  “Come onnn.”

The birds didn’t budge.

“Maybe they can’t?” Deidre asked.

“Can’t?”

“It’s like… you hear about animals reacting before an earthquake hits.  You said it was groundwater contamination.  Maybe they sense something wrong down that way, so they’ll instinctively refuse.”

“Maybe,” Dom conceded.  “Poisons in the air?”

Deidre offered a shrug.  She had very nice shrugs.

“How committed are you to going this way?”

“Not very,” she said.  “If I’m being totally honest, I had a bad feeling, like the one you described.  Nothing I can reason or explain, but-”

“But a bad feeling,” he said.  He sat up straighter.  “Good enough.  On to the highway, head to and through Ottawa, find some spot between there and Montreal to settle down for the night?”

Deidre smiled.  “Sounds good.”

“What about you two?” he asked.

There was no response.

“Right,” he said.

But as he turned the bike around to go back toward the little shack and the highway beyond, there was a flutter.

The birds settled in, the large one perched on his headlight.

He paused.  The girl with white hair stuck in his mind.

“Two ways we can go,” Dominic said, “Take the main highway, or we can go by the water.”

No sooner was the word water out of his mouth than the little one started to bounce in place.

Even the large one looked at him, which was about as much attention as it had given him in the entire road trip last summer.

Deidre laughed, and it was a good sound.  “I don’t think I get a say.”

“By the water it is,” Dom said.

Dominic led the way, easing in, gently ramping up the speed, one eye on the sparrow.

It managed a good enough grip, though the vibrations of the engine had to be rattling its brain in its skull.

Tough little critter didn’t seem to mind.

He picked up speed, until he’d matched pace with traffic on the highway.  He merged into traffic, glancing back to make sure Deids and the little guy were with him.

They passed the trees that seemed to surround the little ghost town.  It didn’t take long to pass it outright.

Small as it was, the sparrow couldn’t hold on forever.  Shortly after the town was left behind, there was a bump in the road, and it came loose, disappearing off to the side.

Dominic tried not to worry, but it was hard.

But, sure enough, just as it had been last year, the bird reappeared.  It wasn’t faster than the bike, but the highway curved gently, and the bird could fly in a straight line, meeting him further ahead, then continuing on, to meet him at the next bend.

It would fall behind eventually, he knew, but it would always catch up somehow.  If it got tired, it would take advantage of his stopping for gas or food to catch a ride, somewhere where the wind wouldn’t throw it loose.

In Dominic’s peripheral vision, the sparrow was joined by its smaller companion, and the two drifted out in the general direction of the lake.

The way got clearer as they got further from Toronto and the annoyance of the slower traffic around the ghost town.  He smiled, accelerating, content to be leaving it all behind.

Last Chapter                                                                        The End (Afterword)

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141 thoughts on “Epilogue

  1. Bye, Pact.

    Bye, Blake.

    Bye, Evan.

    It was fun while it lasted. I’m glad Green Eyes seems to have a happy ending, too. Can’t help but wonder what happened to the rest of those practitioners.

    1. If they didn’t die beforehand, they got the heck out of dodge once the diabolist army descended on the place.

      1. Girl with the platinum hair. Who it is inferenced disappeared into the water. Who was speaking with Evan and Blake.

        An excellent story Wildbow. Many thanks. I’ll be reading the next one as well.

        ~Teian

      1. An entire town was destroyed! Of course it’s a lovable ending! JK, but I do kind of like to comment at least partially in character.

    1. I’d assumed that the woman was very old Rose, though I guess Mags also makes sense. No other woman I’d expect to hang out with them alone who isn’t made of sharp bits.

          1. They’re traveling by the water, presumably so that green eyes can travel with them. And to non practictioners who catch a glimpse of her, she looks like a woman bathing, probably. Very likely the woman was Green Eyes.

          2. sounds young(only hair color seemed to suggest age but was dismissed as sunbleached platinum) hangs with evan and blake, disappeared into the water

  2. Hmmm… implying that Evan is hanging out with Joanna as a sparrow? Sucks that it seems the Duchamps were never able to retrieve her for whatever reason. But I presume that they turned Padraic into a piñata in the process of freeing her.

  3. Aww, no Green Eyes? Or Rose?

    I suppose it’s left up to the readers imagination now eh?

    Well, I like to think that they rebuilt somewhere else and maybe improvedthe world just a bit more.

    Except for Maggie. Maggie is suffering (at least once more I believe anyways.)

  4. I think the implication is that blake is the big sparrow due to being dirty and such, Good to know, at least blake got a happy ending sorta. can i get a confirmation?

      1. His freedom is left. That’s what makes Blake Blake. It was his defining goal in the story and he finally achieved it.

          1. Also worth noting that while a sparrow might be all a mortal sees of Blake, that doesn’t mean that’s all there is to see.

  5. I like the ambiguous nature of the ending. It’s fitting, given Pact’s ‘belief shapes reality’ mentality.

    Can hardly wait until Tuesday to see what you have next up your sleeve, Wildbow. Thanks for another great year.

    1. It’s also awesome because we get to step out of the entire practitioner world and see, yes, it is better not being a wizard

  6. I’m confused, and crying. I get that Blake was shoved into a sparrow body, but was that Green Eyes under a glamour or what? I need to know to update the Wikia .

    And there’s so much left to be resolved. This sort of open ending is the stuff of nightmares for someone like me. Does Padraic ever die? Did Maggie get her name back? Did Isadora die?

    Oh no, I’m going to have to turn to fanfics to get my next fix! Curse you Wildbow! Curse you!

    /In all seriousness, great story.

    1. I agree. Open endings are the worst x3 They fill me with questions I need answered. I think what happened with Green is that the non-practitioner brain of Dominic was filling in details, trying to make sense of seeing a mermaid.

      1. I had assumed that Green Eyes was a bit too much to manage to hide behind the mental filter and it was someone else, but I guess given the shirt color you might be right. Though Glamour seems like a more likely explanation, especially since she left in a hurry and Glamour breaks down under scrutiny.

        1. And so does the hidden nature of Pactverse. Unless you are looking for it really, really hard, you won’t realise there is magic. Point in case, the Thorburns not noticing the tree person inside a mirror back when they were attacked. Besides, it’s not as though you Others should stay and chat with humans; bad things might happen.

          1. The story of Blake is alive because there are unanswered questions. It’s better for the story I think. Ambiguity in an ending is good, because it prevents the story from being “killed”.

  7. I’m not sure if Green has changed form with the year, or if stuff like the sweatshirt were just a non-practitioner’s brain filling in details.

    Beautiful, fantastic ending. Thank you, Wildbow. Be free, Blake! Good bye, and I hope to see you, Green and Evan some time again.

    1. I’m kind of sad that Blake did not fulfil his promise to the little Behaim girl. It would have been adorable.

        1. To show her how he appeared to be a young child (glamor).

          This, of course was way back when Blake was sneaking into the Behaim’s house during the big ritual that rendered the Thorburn house inaccessible.

    2. “They weren’t around in the fall”
      I bet they were on the Ur errand then, together with Rose (who had Ur on her Agenda even before making that promise to Blake) and other friends.

  8. I love that they made it to the Abyss witch’s grave in Wisconsin. Mags for the sequel, with Padriac as an antagonist is my guess, though I do wish we caught back up with the group at the church. Thank you Wildbow!

  9. The end.

    I have but one question.

    Wildbow, will you ever sell any sparrow merchandise? The small bird is kinda like a symbol or Logo for Pact? Will my dreams of little Evans be left unfulfilled?

  10. Mmm, seems whoever set up the quarantine around Jacob’s Bell didn’t do a very good job. They put up a subconcious unease field rather than making people fail to think about the possibility of going into/through the town at all, and they didn’t crank the power high enough to completely drive off even random civilians.

    1. I think a “GAME OVER MAN, GAME OVER!” field would be more noticeable, and in the end just attract more people to the place as the stories spread and idiots try to spend the night there to prove they’re hardcore.

    2. I think Mags might have had a hand in setting up the quarantine zone, since the perimeter is set by a chain.

  11. Really loved the whole thing. This ending was really very peaceful, a nice thing to go to bed to the thought of.

    To me, and I think the majority, Blake is obviously the big Sparrow and Evan the smaller. However some people seem to be getting that wrong, must be a little frustrating. Sigh…. very peaceful indeed. I don’t, unfortunately know exactly who the girl is, although my first assumption was Rose. Some plot points are kinda left hangin’, but I don’t mind one bit. Bravo sir, here’s a token for your effort:

    I was talking with a random stranger over the internet on an RP site. Casually asked if they were familiar with the name Wildbow.

    “Hell yes.” was their reply.

    Congratulations sir, [i]you[/i], are referenceable. Achievement un-friggin’-locked. Excelsior!

    1. My italics fizzled out, but the point stands. You are my Tuesday and Saturday passtimes, you are my favourite fiction author and YOU are somewhat famous. Smiles all the way. Thanks for the happy ending.

    2. Blake is obviously the big Sparrow
      It is Lefty for me (who has some Blakeness). Otherwise it’s too sad for Rose.

    3. I’d stake a sizable bet on the girl being Green Eyes, especially considering the confusion of the non-practitioner onlooker when she splashes into the water, almost as if he was seeing something incomprehensible and not /possibly/ real 😉

  12. I love this ending, but I’m so curious about how it happened. Did Rose eat Blake and then stick what’s left into a bird? Did she somehow give him back power once she’d recover? How much of himself does Blake have left? I hope there’ll be a couple more chapters to tie off all the lose ends.

    1. There aren’t going to be more chapters. Twig starts on Tuesday, so we’ll all just have to wait for the sequel!

  13. I think my only complaint to this ending is it’s maybe too generous of fan service to the reader, but I praise through faint damnation. It’s a good epilogue, and it leaves us all with a good taste in our mouth.

    Very excited to see your next project, Wildbow.

  14. Funny, but I like Pact more than Worm. Worm was growing mostly in breadth, and Pact was growing (after Toronto) mostly in height… or in depth because it was trip down the ladder. And Pact was more complex, I think? Don’t know.
    But thank you for this stories! I will read Twig.

  15. Enjoyable, damn curious about a bunch of things, but can let my imagination (shoddy as it is) sate me.

    Is mostly “What happened to X?” or “What is X doing now” or “Did/How did they deal with X”.

    Looking forward to Twig. (Amazes me a tad how you don’t seem to be breaking from schedule)

  16. I can’t help feeling sad about this chapter.. Maybe it’s just, say, my perception of a good life as opposed to Blake’s, but eternal wanderings as a sparrow, adrift from humanity, is very bittersweet to me. I think it seems even more so because I really did think it was Blake on the motorcycle at the beginning of the chapter, and everything else seems muted in comparison to that emotion. It was an honour to have been along for the ride – and you’ll forgive me, I hope, if the last image I have is of Blake on a motorbike, Evan on the handlebars, and Green eyes swimming alongside.

  17. Also, did anyone else think that Evan was so excited about having two bikes because Blake and Green Eyes were going to sweep in and hijack the bikes and ride off into the sunset?

      1. Side-saddling is not just for horses. But, you’d desperately need to have scales like she’s got to stay on at any decent clip, be careful about which side to drape over and be an acrobat like her for dismounts. Having most controls in the handle bars is a feature. 😉

  18. For what it’s worth, I absolutely loved Pact the whole way through. Thank you for persisting with it even though you had real life issues to wade through and weren’t as confident in its quality.

    The thing that is making me tear up a little right now is that Evan’s childlike insistence that they he and Blake were meant to fly together actually came true (and perhaps helped it happen). Two lost souls saving each other again and again.

    I would definitely like to see some shorter stories set in the same universe, perhaps with throwbacks to the main story:

    The binding (or not) of Ur; Mags’ third round of blood and fire; Fell’s niece, free from her bloodline’s slavery; the new demesne of the diabolist scourge; the hunt for the exiled Faerie; the nascent God of Vengeance, a.k.a. Molly Walker; the reunion of a disgraced priest and a disempowered matriarch.

    Again, thanks. I started reading Worm when it was nearly completed, but I’ve loved Pact ever since you first teased it. I’m looking forward to whatever you do next; Twig and beyond.

    1. The Goddess of Vengeance is currently busy keeping the hallways of the Library quiet.
      Not so quite peaceful-quiet as silent-quiet, though…

    2. I actually quite like that Wildbow’s stories don’t wrap everything up neatly. It makes it feel more like a legitimate ongoing setting rather than a story crafted around a single character.

      And I guarantee you that if he did do stories resolving those points there’d be more hanging threads left over by the end of it. 😀

  19. That was great. Thanks Wildbow.

    As a side note, I really appreciated the details in here about riding a motorcycle, like being able to smell everything and feel the shade of trees and so on. It was as lovely as it was accurate.

    Looking forward to whatever is next!

  20. “There you are,” she said. He raised her eyebrows. “And you brought friends.”

    That a typo? Shouldn’t it be “She raised her eyebrows.” or did he raise her eye brows by bringing two birds along…

  21. (On reading it being the end)
    The end, I feel mixed about it.

    (After reading, first impression)
    I read it, and it did read very well. It allowed me to know, yes, much of what happened is ‘resolved’ the way they said, and it’s been some time already. Yet, it only shows…
    (In writing this comment)
    wait, wasn’t that guy mentioned before? I don’t know, name seems familiar.

    (Back on topic)
    It, well it seemed, to imply that the people who got out did get out, mostly. I don’t know though, I just read through this and came out with the impression ‘yeah, they won the fight, but look what they lost.’ Even when it wasn’t mentioned, for me the motorcycle, the whole way the atmosphere on the bike, and the mention of a couple of people on it, reminded me, hard, of Blake’s favourite thing, his bike, and what’s-her-name that died in the abyss. The town was condemned and not even it’s name was mentioned, and despite being curious about the ghost town, they turn away, towards the lake and the dude does a rides-off-into-the-sunset. Only because I read this and it’s been days, not months, it feels like this guy is doing a walks-away-from-the-explosion, battered heroes in his arms.

    Hmm, to put in simply, it feels like ‘an’ end, but not ‘the’ end. Like in the scene lit by the sun, the lawyers shadow is precisely the thing left out of the scene.

    Yeah, it worked. As much as I wanted my imagined Toronto end, one where he didn’t get eaten, as much as it would have felt complete, comparing that imaginary end with this, I imagined it would have fit the tone less than this one. If this is how it ends, for now, I’m happy. If is a final goodbye, I’m not as sure. Probably would have preferred the slightly unifying end that was Toronto, at a 3.5:1 rate.

  22. That fits amazingly with the entire story. Thank you for this amazing ride.

    Blake vs Car, Current tally is 1:0. Tough little bastard.

    They gave Green a seafoam sweatshirt? That’s punny even for Evan.

    I never thought I’d ask this but…. what happened to Rose? Did she survive putting blake in his Final Form? Is she still in the Abyss?

    1. I’m guessing she became Toronto’s resident scourge and diabolist. At least that’s what she was going to do if she survived. I hope she did.

    2. I think the “seafoam sweatshirt” was mortal eyes/brain interpreting ‘this girl is literally covered in sea-green scales’. Which makes me wonder what else was present that we didn’t see, or interpreted wrong.

  23. This ending was perfect. Thank you Wildbow for such an amazing journey you’ve taken us all on. I look forward to seeing what you do with twig.

  24. Welp, I said I’d be angry if Blake was gone and the story’d be ruined for me. Needless to say, not even close to the outcome that actually happened.

    My assumption is that Sparrow Blake and Evan can talk, it’s just that the weirdness factor prevented people from understanding it, and that the girl was very obviously green eyes. Only thing I think the epilogue was missing was a few final details on Rose

    Kudos, Wildbow.

  25. I eagerly anticipated the epilogue for how it will end Pact, especially after the anticlimactic ending of the last chapter.

    And I’m quite satisfied with it. It may be ambigous and it left many questions unanswered but maybe Blake finally got the peace he always wanted and can spend it with the people he loves. I can’t believe that at the beginning I disliked Evan at the beginning.
    And I hope that all the other characters get also some kind of peace.

    Thank you wildbow for that amazing story. It wasn’t always perfect but Iloved it anyway.

  26. I am going to write an overall appreciation of Pact at your personal blog. For now I’ll comment solely about this ending.

    I am not a huge fan of ambiguous/open endings in fiction. I am one of those guys that likes everything explained and every lose end resolved. However, I did like this particular ending very much, despite not resolving every single question we might have. It is very poignant, yet peaceful and warmful. And even though technically it is ambiguous, there is little doubt that the sparrows are indeed Blake and Evan, and that the girl by the lake is Green Eyes. We never get to know how Blake survived to what Rose did to him nor we get to know the whereabouts of Rose, but we do get to know that Blake, Evan and GE survived and are getting by.

    Having said that, this leads me to speculate about Rose. During the story, we get to discover that there can either exist only Rose or Blake, and one of them is destined to destroy the other. Given that it is obvious that Blake still exists (even though in the form of a sparrow), we can deduce one of two things must have happened:

    a) Blake beat the odds and ended up destroying Rose before she totally consumed him. I can see this happening if Green Eyes interfered somehow (and maybe even the Abyss assisted her).

    b) Rose used Blake to heal herself, but managed not to obliterate Blake completely, and then patched him up in a way that transformed him into a sparrow. However, this does not mean that the aforementioned profecy was wrong or broken; it only means that it was postponed, and could therotically be resolved in a Pact sequel.

    Those are my thoughs regarding the ending. I will continue in your follow-up post dedicated to Pact.

    1. I think we have enough to reconstruct the remainder. Blake was a vestigial hand and part of a face at that point, Rose took the remainder of his humanity, and allowed the rest to take on a shape that fit it, a la the familiar ritual (similar to what she did to carry Blake out of the Abyss trojan-horse style). Hence, scruffy-looking bird with twig. (Option B, in other words) After a bit of deconstruction efforts facilitated by the Abyss, she moved to Toronto with Alister and the surviving members of the “Blakeguard,” while Evan, Blake, and Green Eyes stayed behind as guardians. Also, I see no reason why Rose or Blake would have any reason to drive the prophecy regarding their destructive relationship past this point, especially since both are making an effort to put the spite aside.

      1. Throwing in my two cents, I think it was less a prophecy and more considered inevitable due to the natures of the halves. Like the parable of the scorpion. Still happy they managed to beat the odds.

      1. And both ended in the same month, too. Quick, has anyone ever seen Yudkowsky & Wildbow in the same place and does this explain why MoR took such a long hiatus?

  27. I was visualizing Alice’s Restaurant in La Honda, CA the whole chapter. Weird little burger joint in the woods on top of the Coastal Range, maybe 30 miles south of San Francisco. Biker joint & gas station. Good burgers.

  28. Okay, that was nice.

    I think, that if Blake keeps saving motorcyclists, he can get enough spirits to become a tree bogeyman again. Gain intelligence.

    Then, he harvests monsters, takes their bones, their flesh. The more flesh he takes, the more human he becomes. But I’m not sure I would wish that on him.

  29. Oh my goodness. This ending is amazing. After all that suffering. It’s nice to end on a high note. Gives me some warm fuzzies.

  30. Thanks for the good read!

    I’d like to point out, however, that the ‘next chapter’ link at the top of 16.13 is broken. I didn’t check the other link at the bottom.

  31. Honestly, what I loved the most about Pact was its magic system. It was the perfect mix of ambiguous and traditionalist, to my mind; structured without feeling as set-in-stone as a boring “true names” based system, but wild without feeling arbitrary, thanks to its reliance on grandstanding to an audience of “spirits.” After reading about halfway through, this was the work I showed to all of my friends, practically bouncing in my seat with excitement, as the perfect example of what written magic ought to be like. I love the characters as well, of course, and your dialogue and narration remains pretty damn sublime, but that was what bowled me over the most. You have a talent for settings, and for creating rules for those settings. And then beautifully, almost artistically, either weaving and loophole-ing your way within and through them, or outright breaking them. It’s a privilege to watch. This was a fitting ending, and I’m glad Evan got a sweet potato fry. Thanks!

  32. Mmm. This is the last day of ritually writing on my address bar “pac” + down arrow + enter every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.. Here comes another year of writing “twi” down enter! I’ll miss you, Pact.

    1. AHH! So excited to when I get to that point. You continue to enjoy your rituals, Zim! 🙂 I’ll see you there in another couple of years. 😛

  33. So Rose consumed Blake and stashed whatever remained in a sparrow before leaving to defend the world from the Abyss or some other heroic such. While the sparrow made from Blake helps protect motorcyclists from getting killed by flying into car windows.

    Rose really took everything from Blake except for his life, didn’t he? If whatever remained could be considered a life. God that’s depressing. Looks like she won through with the prophecy.

    1. I disagree. Looking back to his dream in the Toronto arc, this is almost exactly what his idea of a perfect world looks like, almost exactly his idea of heaven. And he’s even still saving people. As a previous commenter said, this feels remarkably uplifting, far more so than I expected.

  34. I like it.

    I know I’m a little late to the commenting game, but I just realised I have no idea what happened to Tiff. She was speaking in 16.4, and then nothing. I think she was referenced once, in the comments of a later chapter but I have no idea what actually happened to her. Undoubtedly I’m missing something obvious, but could someone point out what?

    1. 16.4 was when they sortied from the church. She wasn’t part of the strike team, so she would have stayed behind with the others to battle the main body of the Lawyers. We don’t know what happened to any of the people left behind.

  35. Kind of fell out of the habit of reading these after Worm, finally got a chance over the past few days to burn through Pact. It’s been interesting to read through it from the beginning instead of section by section over the course of months and years, watching the same steady breaking down of the protagonist happen in a different setting and genre. Lot of loose ends that don’t get wrapped up here, but overall a damn fine read. Thanks for giving us another story like this, Wildbow.

    A couple of things I noticed that the web developer in me feels the need to mention:
    -The Table of Contents page doesn’t have 16.13 or the Epilogue listed
    -The banner at the top displays incorrectly on mobile devices such as the tablet I was reading the story on (can only see the T in Pact)
    -The Next Chapter button on 16.13 isn’t a link–I imagine it should go to the Epilogue

    And now I move on to Twig. Thanks again for writing Pact. I’d voted for one of the other ideas you had when you ended Worm, but I don’t think I can complain at all with the way this one turned out.

  36. ToT great ending! Balke, Green and Evan got to stay together and they even get to travel together. Good, Rose!
    Thank you for another wonderful story Wildbow!!! Now moving over to Twig~

  37. This is, IMHO, better ending than Worm, it feels more flowing and natural (probably because it is an open ending), the serenity after all the chaos was something really refreshing compared to somehow-forced-good-ending Worm was.

    Glad you’re improving, Wildbow, I’ll read your further works for sure

    Thank you!

  38. If it wasn’t for the fact that Worm’s sheer volume adds so many memorable parts to it, I might say I like Pact better. I do feel that Blake is my favorite character out of both though. What a scapper.
    In my head I view the arcs through the question “What is Blake?”
    Hobo man
    Binder man
    Leaving man
    Bound man
    Drains man
    Mirror man
    Bone-Tree …man?
    Possessor
    Arm
    Bird.

  39. Thaaaaaaaaaaaaaaanks for the meal.

    I hope you revisit the Pactverse,it feels like Blake’s story is over,but not Pactverse;s story.

  40. Been a while since I commented, but I (finally) finished, with a little delay.

    To be honest, I liked this ending (a lot), but somehow 16.13 provided a bit more… closure. There we never find out what happened layer because Blake ‘disappeared’, so it wasn’t really a problem, but now it’s a bit jarring to not know the fates of Rose, Tiff and the others at the battle of the church, Urr etc. It’s like the ending ended the story but not Blake, while the epilogue ends Blake (gave him a happy ending) but not the story. I liked both, but in a different way; the first is more satisfactory from a purely narrative point of view, while the second leaves me with a really fluffy and fulfilling feeling.
    Tl;dr loved both ‘endings’ but for different reasons

    That said, thanks for the ride. I hope to catch up with Twig asap so I can finally join the comments properly instead of just correcting typos, 90% of which have been mentioned already. Again, thanks, and I wish you the best of luck and the strength to pursue and fulfill your dream.

    1. Wow. I think everything you said there would be equally valid from me, albeit with a significantly longer delay between when I last read this and my finishing. And maybe the catching up thing, I kind of like being able to read it all in one session, even if I keep pausing for ages.

  41. Blake. Evan. Flying. Motorcycles. Open road, away from everything and everyone.
    I love that with everything he lost, and everything he gave up, he won the fight and reached exactly where he dreamed of being. There’s just enough of him left that he doesn’t have to worry about anything else.

  42. I spent the whole time waiting for Blake to snap from Rose and others continually taking advantage of him. This was like a novelized version of that childrens book “The Giving Tree”

  43. Awesome. This ending was really satisfying. Although it’s not entirely clear how much “Blake” Blake actually retained in his sparrow form, it’s great to see that he obtained some measure of freedom and peace for himself, and that he can enjoy that freedom in the company of the people he loves the most. Really, this is the best ending for him.

    I would enjoy a revisit to this setting to see some of the other loose ends in the story resolved, like Maggie’s remaining trial, or Joanna’s future at the hands of the fairies, and the Duchamp’s response to that. Really, there’s so many possibilities. It’d be neat to follow Rose a bit more, see how much more she develops as a character now that Blake has given basically all of himself to her. I’m actually glad she got to see some development in the final arcs, instead of just being an obstacle to Blake’s goals and future. In any case, I’ve moved into Twig now, and will be caught up with that soon. Awesome stuff, all around.

  44. A beautiful ending to yet another amazing story Wildbow, especially since my three favourite characters have a confirmed happy ending together.

    (The hyperctive, tiny sparrow is obviously Evan, the platinum blonde who vanishes is Green Eyes and the larger, disheveled sparrow is Blake)

    I even like the hints that Blake fufilled his promise to the gutters witch.

    It’s too bad he can no longer fight monsters though. (WMG – Blake can still make a body of sticks to do so?)

  45. I’m crying again.

    Well done, Wildbow. I really enjoyed the story and the magic system, and the exploration of “telling the truth” but not.

    Excited to start Twig soon! (as soon as I finish One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

  46. Great story, well written, fascinating universe, great characters, great plot, just excellent overall. One question though, who sent those bird zombie things after Blake in the first chapter? I don’t recall that ever being addressed. And one criticism, the epilogue probably would have been better handled from Blake’s perspective, it would have tied up the story much nicer overall.

    1. I think that was Briar Girl. She was planning to kill Thorburns until Blake persuaded her that killing down the line would be a bad idea, she’s more overtly aggressive and less patient than the other power blocs, and they just kind of seem like the sort of minion she’d have.

  47. I love the ending.

    I was going to write more, ideas on Blake being able to build a new body if he needed to, ideas on a sequel, ideas on fanfiction, but ultimately that’s all that needs to be said.

    Thanks for writing Pact, Wildbow. I know I loved reading it.

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