Literature: Pact

Damn me, damn them, damn it all.

Pact is a modern supernatural/horror story centered on Blake Thorburn, a young man who returns after a long absence from his dysfunctional family when his wealthy, terminally-ill grandmother calls the family together to appoint an heir. After her death, Blake discovers that she has been keeping a secret that puts him and the rest of his family in grave danger. Started on December 17th, 2013, this Web Serial Novel is the author's second, following the popular superhero serial Worm. It can be found here.

The final chapter was released on March 3rd, 2015 with the Epilogue following on March 7th, to be followed by a third web serial, Twig.


Pact contains examples of:

  • Aerith and Bob: We see names such as Essylt, Blake, Laird, Padraic, Barbatorem...
  • Ambiguously Human: All practitioners are at least a little Other.
    • In addition, many Others are (or were) human. While most of these have largely left their humanity behind, not all have. The line between human and Other is blurry at best.
  • Ambiguous Ending: The ending leaves a lot of questions unanswered, but it does hint that Evan, Blake, and Green Eyes still remain in close contact with one another.
  • And I Must Scream: The Barber leaves victims twisted wrecks of their former selves, trapped inside whatever he leaves them of their bodies. His victims are often unable to move under their own power or request aid.
  • Anti-Magic: The Bane was made to be used against other practitioners and is immune to most magic as death has claimed it three times over.
  • Appeal to Force: Blake does this with a greater ghoul that he doesn't have time to get into a fight with, informing it that if it tries to fight he'll take it to pieces, and if it wants to avoid that it will either work for him or swear never to harm another living soul. It chooses the latter.
  • Apple of Discord: Blake attempts to create this among the local magical community by informing them that he has access to an astonishingly dangerous demon, a monstrous entity that even the most powerful practitioners consider playing with fire, and offering to make only three agreements not to use it. Laird shuts him down pretty hard by calmly reasoning out the players that could afford to defend against the demon, and suggesting three remaining groups that would take the deal, effectively eliminating the demon as a threat for most of the community.
    • James Corvidae does this as part of his powers and is very good at it.
    • And a literal one made by Sandra Duchamp to use Molly's Bell to keep their attention on the Hillglades House, making sure all the Others would attack it. Later on the bell goes out of control after Blake betrays Molly by siding with the Behaims.
  • Arc Number: 3. The Rule of Three is in full effect, and it forms a cornerstone of many practitioner trials.
    • Practitioners can be classified by their possession of three things: A Familiar, an Implement, and a Demesne.
    • Maggie is expected to bring forth three rounds of blood and fire for the leader of the Goblins that attacked her home and destroyed it.
    • Blake and Rose are expected to bind, capture, and bring three demonic creatures to the Lord of Toronto, the last of these three Blake ends up facing three times.
    • In Arc 5, Duncan plans to reset time three times in order to take advantage of this effect and force a lasting win. Blake beats him to it by casting his reputation into doubt three times by the second reset.
    • Tricks used thrice have a tendency to fail on the third attempt, or come with some sting in the tail.
    • Rackspatter of the Nine Thousand Scalps, a goblin who betrayed Johannes who possesses about 99 practitioner scalps, is effectively immune to binding thanks to the Rule of Three working about 33 times over in his case.
    Johannes: You'd be the hundredth [if you try].
    Johannes: *smirks*
  • Artistic License – Biology: Blake interrupts the To the Pain speech of a pair of Faerie by informing them of this, disrupting their Glamour.
    Nerves don’t work that way. They work by ion channels or something like that. And music of moans and groans? The only way you’d make that work in the slightest is if you caked it full of glamour. That’s not beautiful, that sounds like a five year old getting into her mom’s makeup kit for the first time.
  • Battle Trophy: For defeating Letita, Blake takes a lock of her hair as a source of her power.
    • Spikedick's familiar has a number of goblin-bound weapons it likes to show off with.
  • Beat Still, My Heart: Blake rips out his own heart at one point in the story. Granted, he did it to shove inside of an effigy body to use in the physical world.
  • Belly of the Whale: The Drains and other manifestations of Limbo serve as this for those that fall into them, often testing those within with visions of the outside world, visions of the future, or an Enemy Without that pursues them relentlessly. It certainly has got Psychological Torment Zone down pat in all possible flavours and backdrops. And, if the Thorburns think they're good at Gaslighting, they have no idea what they could learn from the master.
  • BFS: A familiar summoned by the Duchamp Coven to kill Blake has a 12 foot one. See Glamour below.
  • Big Screwed-Up Family: The Thorburn family, as shown in Family Disunion below.
  • Bigger Bad: Molly's power-up into a mini-god, the Abyss trying to take Jacob's Bell? Something else is pulling their strings.
    • It turns out to be the angel Faysal Anwar...but the real Bigger Bad ultimately ends up being the law firm of Mann, Lewis, and Levin.
  • Bigger on the Inside: The very first way practitioners normally customize their demesnes. For instance, we see the demesne of a cultist of Dionysus in passing. It's inside a condo, but can easily fit a two-story tall statue of Dionysus, the pool of wine it's standing in, the white-tiled boulevard encircling it, and the short flight of steps leading from the door to the boulevard. Not to mention, of course, the numerous nymphs, satyrs, and bacchae lounging around.
  • Black and White Morality: Practitioners and Others tend to mainly see things in terms of karma, which is why they have problems seeing past Blake's family to see him as a person.
  • Black Magic: To most other practitioners and Others, this is the schtick of Diabolists. Most who control demons tend to fall into The Corruption from the benefits they gain from offering more and more of themselves, Jumping Off the Slippery Slope until they either meet a premature end or make a deal with the Lawyers. Cases where they die without any turmoil are rare.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Lampshaded by Ty, Justified by how the rules of Karma work in the supernatural world.
    Ty: “You’re telling me the universe encourages being the Bond villain?”
  • Booze Flamethrower: A Maenad's solution to the whole Thorburn Bogeyman problem is a lighter + bottomless flask of alcohol.
  • Bystander Syndrome: The reason why Toronto and Jacob's Bell are going to hell is because the local powers don't get involved unless it benefits them.
  • The Cavalry: Rose and the Knights of the Basement arrive after Blake's group encountered trouble with Mara.
  • Canada, Eh?: Pact takes place in wildbow's native Canada within the fictional town of Jacob's Bell and in the real life city of Toronto.
  • Cannot Tell a Lie: Technically, they can, but temporarily losing their power is a very steep price for a magical being to do so. For practitioners it gradually weakens their power based on the magnitude of the lie, but lies of omissions don't count though. Some get around this by employing non-magical 'witch hunters' who don't have this restriction.
    • The same goes for Others bound by the Seal of Solomon, in exchange for having a power source.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: In Execution 13.3, Blake and Green Eyes take the time to talk about human relationships and expectations while facing down a group of goblins.
  • Central Theme: Connections, secrets, and deception.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The nameless bogeyman that Blake and the others release from the Tenements ends up being the one to get rid of Barbatorem.
  • Cherry Tapping: The nameless bogeyman from the Tenements gets rid of Barbatorem by kicking it over the edge of the Abyss lightly. It turns out his ability is defenestration.
  • Church Militant: Templars, apparently. The author of Black Lamb Blood was one in his youth.
  • Clockwork Creature: Usually associated with Others that the Behaims truck with, including and up to an automation.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: At least a tenth of every chapter has someone swearing.
  • Conservation of Ninjutsu: Blake explicitly mentions that the Behaims and Duchamps don't suffer from this trope, which makes them even more dangerous.
  • The Corruption: Also referred to as Rot. Certain beings, Demons mostly, have this effect. Pauz's radiation, for example, lingers on Blake and not only turns animals hostile in his presence, but even a timid wallflower like Tiffany became foul-mouthed and rude.
  • The Corrupter: Agares, A Grand Duke of the Seventh Choir. But, hey: it's not like any other demon is that much of a slouch in this department, either. From mote to worse, they'll all have a go. Some other Others also practice this as a sideline. Such as Conquest.
  • Country Matters: Blake makes his opinion about his grandmother quite clear by calling her a "disgusting, evil, rancid cunt." With all due respect.
  • Crapsack World: Arguably, the whole setting is this. Roselyn Thorburn was of the opinion that the universe as a whole was wonderful... until the higher Demons demolished most of it in an orgy of feasting and wiping it out. What is left are the dwindling remains of what managed to vaguely hobble on afterwards. Most of which is being slowly devoured by smaller Demons who didn't get in on the big bash at the very beginning.
    • The Abyss is one of these in its own Pocket Dimension, Eldritch Location, Psychological Torment Zone and, probably, Genius Loci way. It comes in flavours:
      • The Drains are an Other-factory, actively forcing you to choose to give up your humanity in order to become something else to survive or you get eaten. You're not safe from it's influence no matter what, not even in your dreams, and Failure Is the Only Option in trying to hold out. Worse still, this is only one manifestation of Limbo.
      • A second one dubbed The Tenements was a sheer vertical steep where you had to climb what appeared to be the outskirts of a slowly-degenerating, utterly massive apartment block with bugs that crawl under your skin and monster clowns or other freaky inhabitants trying to kill you.
      • A third mentioned in the story, The Forest, manages to scare the bogeyman that spawned it on mention. And she's so terrifying on her own everything else usually runs from her. Make of that what you will.
      • A fourth one is The Machine. We don't know much about it, but one very scary looking Other with lost of chains is looking for souls to cast down in its workings.
      • Whatever the Abyss wants to actually do with Jacob's Bell, it hints that there might be the possibility of yet another unknown section: Creepy Ghost Town/City. Unless the Drains could do with an addition, of course.
    • The scary thing is, given the sheer scale and acquisitive nature of the Abyss, there are probably more nightmare environments than even the collected pool of practitioners know about. Even if they bothered to share the information.
  • Creepy Centipedes: A centipede man was in the Tentements and could have simply snatched Christoff up with no one able to do a thing if it were intent on ignoring them.
  • Creepy Twins: The Twins in The Siege who are both Knife Nut and share Synchronization with one another, although not at the same time as there is a lag. But it still happens.
  • Cute Monster Girl: Green Eyes.
  • Danger Takes A Back Seat: Blake hops into the mirror backseat of a couple of Behaims in order to have a conversation.
  • The Dark World: Johannes, it transpires, has created a vestige in his territory that is essentially this, a mirror world where copies of normal humans can be preyed upon by Others. And then Barbatorem gets his hands on it. Nothing is safe inside of it.
  • Dead Guy on Display: Tyler does with some gargoyle-bats to create a ward to keep more of their kind from invading the house.
  • Deal with the Devil: Quite a few going around, but this is taken literally with the Lawyers.
  • Death of a Thousand Cuts: Diary Girl's preferred means of dealing with her enemies.
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: For a moment, it looks like Blake is finally going to patch things up with Rose, ally with the Belaims, and get a clear way out of this mess. Nope! Molly's shade possesses him briefly and ruins everything for him.
    • It looks like the Jacob's Bell Lordship is coming to an end with a peaceful ceasefire...HAHAHA—No!Faysal drops them into the Abyss, Johannes gets possessed by a demon, and the world is facing a Class 5 Apocalypse How scenario if they don't do something.
  • Distaff Counterpart: Rose, a female version of Blake that can only interact with him through reflective surfaces such as mirrors.
  • Divide and Conquer: Blake's stated strategy for dealing with the various forces arrayed against him and Rose in Jacob's Bell.
  • Domain Holder: Practitioners can have a demesne, which gives them editing abilities over the laws of reality inside.
  • Eldritch Location:
    • Johannes's Demesne get's special mention though potentially any Demesne can become this with a little work if the Practitioner desires it. The rules of reality bend to the Practitioners will in a Demesne, so the owner is a "step below a god" in their Demesne.
      • When Barbatorem gets control over it, it's far, far worse.
    • The Drains and other manifestations of Limbo, where bogeymen come from. Getting in is easy, getting out is another story.
  • Enemy Without: In the Drains, Blake gains one in the form of Carl, a manipulative cult leader from his Dark and Troubled Past who pursues Blake until he either accepts him or rejects what he represents. Green Eyes had a black fish following her instead.
  • Equivalent Exchange: All magic has a price. A practitioner gives up the ability to lie, and renders oaths binding. They're also unable to take anything that's not freely given or won fairly without consequences or racking up karmic debt. Other deals can be made for other advantages.
    • There are also mundane forms of this: Blake takes a walk with his lawyer and gets some good advice, but in return she gains his trust and manipulates him towards her side.
    • This is particularly true with glamour, which, if used as a object with a magical trait, will eventually be lost and take back everything it gave you.
      • An example given is an earring that enhances hearing until it is lost, at which point:
      You might go deaf...Or you could lose the ability to hear kind words, or you could get the ears of an ass and your ass-ears can’t understand everyone’s mocking whisperings behind your back.
  • Exact Words: Most of the magical beings in the setting will temporarily lose their power if they tell a lie and worse if they break a vow. This naturally leads to many ending up as Literal Genies.
    • Also, this is the assumption one should make for the entire magical world. For magical beings, because of the tens of thousands of years of elimination preceding the story, and any magical being who cannot cut the mustard in terms of lying through the truth would have been killed, banished and/or enslaved by then. For human practitioners, because they know how to deal with the above mentioned crafty magical beings.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Animals can detect dark and evil beings, including the rot from Blake nearly summoning a devil into the world. It's stated that they still carry instincts from the older times, when they protected mankind from such things and are naturally hostile to them immensely. Just being around Pauz for less than a minute unprotected left a sort of radiation that made a dog bite its owner to try to attack Blake.
  • Evil Matriarch: Blake's grandmother, Rosalyn D. Thorburn. Though according to the lawyers she was actually one of the more reasonable and cautious Practitioners they have worked with.
  • Evil Is Sterile: Apart from making motes, demons cannot create and can only destroy.
  • Face Stealer: A bogeyman with this ability appears as the Familiar of Joseph in Histories (Arc 5).
  • Family Disunion: Happens in the first chapter, when the Thorburn family gathers at Hillsglade House to hear who Grandma's heir will be and fight amongst themselves. Rosalyn's death sets in motion events that lead to Molly's death and threaten Blake's life and the lives of everyone in line for her inheritance.
  • Familiar: Gained by enacting a ritual in the book Famulus; important for most magical practitioners. Any Other who partakes in the ritual will take on an animal form and the universe literally works against all odds to keep them together until death.
    • Familiars are important for practitioners because they give them a power source outside themselves that isn't (necessarily) a Faustian bargain and the Familiar gives them a range of additional abilities. The familiars consent to this for varying reasons but mainly to have a foothold in the mortal world and share in the practitioner's power. The personality and traits of the familiar and practitioner are often complimentary.
    • For example, Blake's familiar is Evan, the spirit of an eight year old boy who died of exposure while trying to escape a demon that Blake later defeated and bound with Evan's help. Evan gains the ability to shapeshift into a sparrow and is kept from having to "cross over" into death; Blake gains a major power boost and a familiar who excels at finding escape routes and using terrain and opportunity to his advantage.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Laird says that if the barber came for his family and he thought his defenses would fail, he would kill his family with anything available before the barber arrived. Because he loves his family too much to do otherwise. While it is believed that the barber can permanently sever his target's access to any good things that may await them after death, even without that ability death would still be preferable to what the barber does to his victims. He's not wrong.
    • The Hyena's victims leave behind ghosts that continually suffer.
  • The Fair Folk: The Faerie, they're dramatic and elaborate, often expelling members of their own court and making convoluted plans. They don't deal well with blunt speech/declarations or raw, unworked objects, but unlike Goblins they thrive in the city.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: Blake ends up getting mauled by the animals formerly controlled by Pauz in Collateral 4.8, barely escaping with his life.
    • The Siege of the Hillglades House is this in spades. So many body parts line the hallway and blood paints the wall it looks like something went through a meat grinder.
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink: Numerous mythologies are present within the story, including Greek and Celtic mythology, as well as various Abrahamic influences.
  • Feuding Families: The Thorburns vs. the Duchamps, with the Behaims entering on the Duchamps' side due to an upcoming marriage.
  • Field of Blades: What Barbatorem turns Johannes' demesne into, only they are giant scissors that can severe Others and vestiges and turn them into hordes of mooks.
  • First Episode Spoiler: In the very first chapter, Molly dies and the house—and all associated problems—goes to Blake.
  • Fisher King:
    • Pauz the Imp has this effect as it influences someone around it. In Rose's words, it reverses the natural order of things so that animals are on top of the humans in the area and forces them into hiding while they reign over the environment. It gets worse since eventually the people themselves will fall prey to it, becoming hostile, and the animals will never fully recover.
    • The Hyena has a similar effect, exerting some level of control over those it devours and maintains a connection. The moment it was bound the forest became peaceful as most resolved their issues.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: What Blake sees, we see. No Exceptions. You Have Been Warned.
    • No 6.11 because Behaim chronomancers fast-forwarded Blake through those events, leaving a gap in his memory.
    • Blake, Rose, and Evan went to deal with the Urraser the first time alone, because it ate their goblin allies.
  • From Bad to Worse: The series as a whole starts with Blake trying to stay alive in Jacob's Bell, and by the time of the last arc they're facing a potentially Class 5 Apocalypse How by demons flooding the earth.
  • Functional Magic: A variety are found here:
  • Generation Xerox: The Junior Council members are pretty much dead-ringers for their parents, which is a plot-point since it means they'll keep repeating the same actions that have led to the problems present in the series.
  • Genius Loci: The Abyss as a whole is intelligent and malevolent, with differing degrees and personalities in different sections. The Library is particularly proactive.
  • Ghostapo: Aimon Behaim fought Nazi practitioners during WWII. Notably, Hitler himself was not a practitioner.
  • Giant Mook: Mountain-Man serves as this during the first part of The Siege.
  • Glamour: The Faerie base most of their powers on this, they weave illusions so realistic that they gradually become more and more real, and when you finally stop paying attention to them as something spectacular they will become fully existent.
  • Glamour Failure: Occurs if you can stop focusing on how the object is and notice that it shouldn't work the way it does. You have to draw your attention away from it existing and point out that it shouldn't. Letita's 12-foot glamoured sword became brittle and weak to Blake's attacks when he realized it should be flimsy and almost impossible to use.
    • A more minor one with familiars, as their creature forms often have far greater strength and heft than their size would indicate, e.g. Evan being able to bowl people over as a sparrow.
  • Gods Need Prayer Badly: If a deity loses worshipers and is forgotten, they can fall into the cracks just like anything else.
  • Gondor Calls for Aid: In the final chapter of the Possession arc, Rose declares herself Lord of Jacob's Bell in order to trick the Toronto powers to come to deal with her, only to abdicate immediately on their arrival, meaning that Ms. Lewis, a diabolist who has just summoned several demons to attack her, is now Toronto's problem.
  • "Groundhog Day" Loop: Duncan Behaim sticks Blake in one to try to prevent him from getting out of jail.
  • Hates Being Touched: Blake lived on the streets for a period of time, and has an aversion to even friendly contact from people he trusts, like his landlord and friend. It's revealed that Grandma Rose programmed this into him as a vestige, as touch weakens him.
  • Haunted House: Inverted with Hillsglade House. It's one of the very few places that can't be haunted because of its magical defenses, which is why it serves as sanctuary for Blake. At least until it gets smote by a god.
  • Hillbilly Horrors: Generations of descendants that come from Feral Children and isolated families who practice incest lead to almost-humans called subhumans. They have less human trappings and if they become Other enough they can be summoned. They fall into their own categories as well:
    • Natural: They get twisted by their environment. Built for cold, desert, for living in ravines or deep caves, inhospitable places.
    • Social: They form tribes, cannibal families, or that sort of thing. Midge's family were like this.
    • Loners: Break from the pack, their pack dies, or they’re exceptional members of a family unit, too crazy or brutal to be allowed to mingle. Midge was this class.
  • Horny Devils: One of these appeared in Gathered Pages: 4, a member from the sixth choir that ran a Breeding Cult that promoted incest of all kinds. The number of Hillbilly Horrors rose in the country because of its presence.
  • Humans Advance Swiftly: According to Johannes, in a setting where Others are defined by the roles they take over centuries, the rapid human advancement following the Industrial Revolution is taking them by storm, depriving many of their roles, and steadily eroding their ability to prey on humanity. Solomon's Seal prevents them from acting openly against humanity as a whole, so the Others are largely powerless to stop the advancement.
  • Humanoid Abomination: An awful lot of Others are this by default. Many even started out as humans; but, by the time they hit "not mistakable for being human", they rarely kid about, for all they might still follow the floor-plan.
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Blake does this to Maggie at the end of their visit in 2.7. He notes that if he didn't, he would crush her hand and incur bad Karma due to her being responsible for Molly's death.
  • Instant Awesome, Just Add Dragons: Why yes, dragons do exist. And, this is pretty awesome... in the full sense of "shock and awesomely terrifyingly: wow". But, you cannot find a cooler pet/friend/whatever-is-going-on-there with which to terrorise the neighbourhood.
  • I See Dead People: Awakening, as all practitioners do, enables this, or at least their psychic impressions.
  • Karma Houdini: There are ways of bluffing the spirits into overlooking your bad choices or mistakes. It's risky, but doable and some do it better than others — notably the Duchamps and, to some extent, the Behaims. But...
    • Karma Houdini Warranty: Relying too much on the Karma Houdini act using any practitioner tricks either personally or in a blood-related group has long-term consequences. Eventually, you will falter and the spirits will notice that you have. When that happens, all that debt you built up and somehow evaded will hit you like a freight train. If you're lucky, it'll just mean a quick death. If you're unlucky, the kids of your kids and their kids will have to try to shift the family account back into the black, facing an uphill struggle the whole way. That is, if it's even doable: some mistakes have permanent consequences — just ask Fell's family. The diabolistic Thorburns are the poster children of this trope, however. Other families would do well to take note, too...
  • Karma Meter: Keeping up with your "Balance" or "Karma" is important and something practitioners do with a tool, such as a wooden ring.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: Because he can't just explain what he does to most people, Blake comes off as either a junkie, nutso, or unhinged when he tries to skirt around the truth. Eventually he decides to just tell his friends the truth.
  • Kill The Gods: Agares' goal alongside a Diabolist named Jeffrey in Gathered Pages: 4.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: A team of Behaims jumps Blake and co. ahead a half hour. The update title follows suit, jumping from 6.10 to 6.12.
  • Leonine Contract: Any oath sworn by a practitioner acts as a Magically Binding Contract, and dealing with various supernatural creatures is the standard method of gaining power. Powerful practitioners, though, tend to favor deals that are more one-sided, capturing Others and bargaining with them in exchange for freedom or solace, and powerful Others also tend to adopt this method.
  • Let Me Get This Straight:Jeremy's approach to getting into the Hillglades House warranted this reaction from Blake.
    Blake:“You’re telling me you went after the one person in Jacob’s Bell who has the most dangerous knowledge around, the one person who can tap into world ending forces, who’s maybe a little hard to anticipate to begin with, and you got her drunk?”
  • Logical Weakness: A human using Glamour against a Fae can backfire since they can weave it better and use it to their advantage, as Blake learned the hard way.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: Anything exposed to the goblin-bound axe with a face used by a giant goblin would explode in a shower of organs and entrails.
  • Masquerade: As one would expect. It is enforced by two facts: first, that introducing someone to the world of practitioners causes any mistakes they make to reflect upon your own karmic balance, and second, for the majority of people, ignorance of the supernatural is in fact a defense that prevents many supernatural creatures from acting openly against them. The fact that any practitioner can create a Perception Filter by cutting connections probably also helps. On the Other side, most (though not all) have been bound by the Seal of Suleiman bin Daoud, compelling them not to attack non-practitioners without some excuse.
  • Mage Killer:
    • Barbatorem, a demon imprisoned in the tower of Hillsglade House, and employed by Rosalyn D. Thorburn, is said to be a specialist in this-he can cross into demesnes without the permission of the practitioner and has been noted as being able to remove special abilities from his victims in addition to horribly mutilating them. The only thing that's missing in his suitableness is the "killing".
    • Witch Hunters (who don’t seem to fit the Witch Hunter trope) are nonpractitioners, armed with magical trinkets, that are employed by practitioners and Others in order to kill practitioners and Others.
  • Magic Is Evil: One character believes that all magic is ultimately the result of demons eroding the universe.
  • Magic Is a Monster Magnet: In-universe, it's speculated that the reason practitioners and Others congregate in the same places is due to this.
  • Magical Library: The Library, a section of the Abyss. Formerly the Hillsglade House
  • Magical Society: There appear to be an array of fiefdom-like territories based out of cities, with a Lord ruling over each one.
    • Notably, they also seem to have their own printing presses, as there are quite a few magical tomes that appear to be professionally made but that they wouldn’t want to fall into muggle hands.
  • Mathematician's Answer: Endemic, as a natural consequence of Cannot Tell a Lie.
    Laird: What's this? [The circle he's trapped in]
    Blake: That's pizza. Pepperoni and onion.
  • The Mind Is a Plaything of the Body: At least, it is when you're using Faerie Glamour to alter your form.
  • Mirror Monster: The Barber uses mirrors and reflections to get about and cause havoc when he can... and, you don't get much more monstrous. Mary Frances Troxle aka "Bloody Mary" is a summon Rose uses who started out as a version of a "say the name x number of times in front of a mirror" version of these, but she warped into something else. Rose is, herself, a very tame example of the breed, if you squint hard enough. Blake starts to take the cake when they switch roles and he embraces his Other side, for all he's not in the Barber's league of scary... yet. He can give Mary a run for her money, though.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: The Duchamps who betray their allies to Blake do so on behalf of their siblings and cousins that their allies abuse.
  • Monster Clown: The Tenements, a manifestation of Limbo, has a couple of these running around.
  • Mook Maker: A goblin-bound dagger has this effect, making mini-goblins from anything it cuts.
  • Moral Myopia: Where to start... Practitioners and assorted Others as a whole look down on diabolists as being inherently Always Chaotic Evil. So, any and all steps taken to stop them in their tracks? Are considered almost a moral imperative, however amoral they'd be in other circumstances. But, the minute a not-actually-practicing-diabolism-thank-you practitioner from a diabolist family even thinks about sneezing in the general direction of anybody else or, heaven forbid, tries either defending themselves or even attempting some retaliation for an attack, they're automatically in the wrong! Worse: overlooking spirits as a whole tend to be rather literal-minded, regardless of who you might be. So, the person who is deemed guilty for a rule-breaking act won't necessarily be the one who deliberately started the chain of events that led to it, but the one stuck at the end of the chain—no matter how badly they got played into that position. Messing around too much with the Karma Meter really gives some screwed-up ideas of moral cause and effect.
  • Motive Misidentification: Blake makes the mistake of thinking that the Briar Girl, like every other practitioner he's met, is motivated by wanting power in some form, based on the fact that she's tried to kill him and wants his land as her demesne. It turns out that she wants the land because she considers the Others that live on it her friends, and beyond that has no interest in power.
  • Mundane Utility: Every branch of magic has this as an option; if you are willing to pay the price for it, that is. Want some alone time? A little shamanism and a food offering, and the spirits can ensure that nobody disturbs your reading! Need something stolen or just moved across the room and you can't move? Sympathetic magic or a handy familiar to the rescue! Getting people from A to B when they need to as part of being courteous? If you know a handy angel of the right order, it's easy to time it to the right second and millimetre! Impromptu party crash with something better than a bottle? Ask Dionysus if he feels like helping out... Broken windows? A djinn can fix those right up, what with the fire and sand they're so good with!
  • The Multiverse: According to Word of God via the comments section, Pact is in the same multiverse as Worm, Peer, Boil, Twig, etc. However, the protagonists from other stories won't be showing up.
    • Maggie Holt apparently has a series of YA novels (being adapted into movies a la Harry Potter, no less) in the Wormverse. In addition, Blake mentions a game called Weaver Dice existing in-universe as a fairly major tabletop RPG; it is also the name of a system designed for creating and playing as parahumans in the Wormverse.
  • My Significance Sense Is Tingling: Others and Skilled Practitioners are more in-tune with the way things are and can thus sense fated things of such a nature. When Blake falls into the Abyss, the aftereffects are felt by every practitioner or Other that he's interacted with in Toronto.
  • Naïve Newcomer: Blake, for the most part. Maggie too, since she was only ahead by a half of a year, which allowed them to manipulate her into killing Molly.
  • Necessary Evil: Diabolists, according to Black Lamb's Blood. Someone has to deal with the demons before they become major threats, an argument that gains some weight for Blake when he considers the events in Toronto and the fact that what the Local Powers consider three minor threats have caused unholy amounts of damage.
  • The New Tens: Pact starts on August 11, 2013.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Blake is driven to do the right thing. It bites him in the ass every time.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Averted by Laird, who, after Blake goes to great lengths to stop his ritual, even getting him arrested, has Sandra Duchamp break him out of jail, returns home, and redoes the ritual before Blake can even get back to his house.
  • Occult Law Firm: Mann, Levinn, and Lewis. Repeating the name of the firm three times summons them, and they're former practitioners, they signed themselves to the firm in order to clear substantial karmic debt and can no longer use their powers outside of the firms interests.
    • Joining the firm involves providing a powerful Other with a "foothold" in the world, be it a room, sword, or other object. Such as Barbatorem's shears.
  • Oh, Crap: Blake has a moment like this upon realizing that upon binding Pauz the imp, the feral animals and human he had under his control are freed with him in their sights. Blake ends up getting mauled and barely escapes with his life.
  • One Thing Led to Another: Nearly stated verbatim, after a brawl between a young Rosalyn Thorburn and Aimon Behaim.
    RDT: He kissed me, and I kissed him back.

    Things went to natural places from there.
  • The Only One Allowed to Defeat You: Exploited by Blake when Isadora assaults him and leaves him for Conquest to kill. As it isn't Conquest that actually defeated him, Conquest killing him then would gain him no real power-so Blake offers Conquest the chance to kill him after he's recovered, buying him three more days of life.
  • Take Care of the Kids: Blake extracts an agreement along these lines with Rose with regards to Evan, for whom he is already a surrogate parent.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Blake, as he thinks he is human and that Rose is a vestige until relatively late in the story, while she knows the truth. Turns out they're both vestiges.
  • Turned Against Their Masters: Others tend to not like those who bind them, so the first chance they get they do this since it will free them.
  • Open Secret: It's well known in Jacob's Bell that Maggie was responsible for Molly's death, but no one's willing to be straight with Blake about it.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Demons and Devils come in seven different choirs: Choir of Dark (ErasUrr), Choir of Chaos, Choir of Ruin, Choir of Madness, Choir of the Feral (Pauz, and his sire, Marquis Andras), Choir of Sin (Succubus from Black Lamb's Blood interlude), and Choir of Unrest (Agares). All of them act to damage and diminish the world in one way or another-to summon one is to damage the world itself.
  • Our Dragons Are Different:
    • Dragons are beings formed from something feeding into itself when the stars align just right, such as a lesser god that worships itself or an elemental that takes in more than it puts out. They can be fully or partially elemental, spiritual, or even deific. They're believed to mostly take reptilian forms mainly due to the world remembering the dinosaurs, giving them elements of Dragons Are Dinosaurs. They also lack any real weaknesses, with the only real way to defeat them being either backing from a god, or being overwhelmed in whatever element that embody. ie. A poison dragon getting outpoisoned, or a mountain dragon getting hit by a bigger mountain.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The Fae in general are all attractive to some extent and hate dealing with crude things, while fairies are minor denizens that are witless.
  • Our Genies Are Different: Born of elements and divine fragments, they are similar to sphinxes as Others of balance but work on a macro-scale in power.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different:
    • Ghosts are Psychic impression left on the world, with traumas being the key ones that remain, although moments of sheer brilliance can be there, too. They tend to be single-minded, repeat actions or sentences in loops and whatever sensation gripped them spreads around, such as June Burlison's death by hypothermia giving her a cold aura in death. There are the odd exceptions to the "stuck record" rule, though. If somebody passes without having their soul moved along by the usual means and leaves an imprint at the same time, occurrences like Evan happen where the ghost is quite a bit less on-script than the average and capable of acquiring some updates on their routine. And whatever is happening with Molly is also decidedly off-script.
    • Then there are Spectres, volatile ghosts that are akin to old explosives and not to be bound.
    • Wraiths or Boggarts are ghosts loaded with enough negativity that they went off the rails and built with echoes that aren’t its own making them closer to different Others.
  • Our Giants Are Different: The creations of gods, few are left in the modern age, though Johannes has managed to get one under his thumb.
  • Our Goblins Are Different:
    • They're for the most part little violent bastards that get off on the suffering of others and enjoy making people feel a little lower about themselves. They're weak to refined things and metal charged with power and because of underground plumbing (the running water charges the pipes) they're weaker in the cities, so they loiter on the outskirts.
    • Gremlins are a subcategory of Goblins. They're Trap Makers who build things to catch their prey.
  • Our Homunculi Are Different: The Feorgbold that Briar Girl creates are made from human corpses that are cleaned, purified, decorated and then empowered by her.
    • Another type are half the size of a normal person and look like they were put together from rotting teeth and nails, weak but if they Zerg Rush you then you are screwed.
  • Our Mermaids Are Different: The one who we've been introduced to became a mermaid bogeyman from having her skin torn off and Interspecies Romance with another Other while still Human. Another was mentioned to live in the waters of a castle and pick up gold.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Two varieties so far.
    • Revenant Zombie: Revenants are people who suffer fatal injuries and died but refused to stay dead since they were filled with too much rage for their souls to rest. Tallowman is an example.
    • Our Ghouls Are Creepier: There are also Ghouls, who have flesh-rotting bites. They are individuals who’ve interrupted the circle of life and death, usually by eating the dead, coming back from near-death one too many times, or practising necromancy badly. They're out of balance and need to stave off their death by hibernating for months or years and eating flesh when they wake.
  • Paint the Town Red: During The Siege the second floor hallway gets splattered in so much blood Blake could leap through the reflections.
  • Paper Master: Diary Girl, by the virtue of being made of it.
  • Paper Talisman: Maggie states these comes from the Eastern System, where they "Contract, Leash, and Bind" Others rather than contract them. She gives a few to Blake that have Goblins inside of them.
    • Tyler uses some later in the same system, Ofuda.
  • Passing the Torch: Over the course of the final arcs, Blake passes first his debts, then his power, then his memories over to Rose, so that she can continue his goals when he dies. In the last chapter, Rose consumes what's left of Blake in order to heal from the horrible wounds she suffered in the final battle.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: In Conviction 5.1, Duncan Behaim uses this method to mess with Blake by triggering his PTSD with innocuous actions.
  • Perverse Puppet: Vessels are life-sized dolls that move in accordance to the runes engraved on them by the users.
  • Place of Power: Demesnes can be used to give power to the practitioners that own them.
  • Power at a Price: All power has a price.
    • Blood, as probably the starkest example thus far, can be used as an easy method to power things, but it costs something of the practitioner's very sense of self, to the point that using enough can open the practitioner to possession.
      • Once Blake turns bogeyman he gets a significant boost to his powers or a new ability every time he sheds some of his remaining humanity, making him internally and externally more monstrous. The abyss itself tempts him by showing him visions of transformations he might like such as the wings or, MASSIVE SPOILER, eyes that have no reflection offered while he's fighting the Barber so that he can defend himself without the handicap of not being able to look at it. The way that he'd gain these eyes? Tearing out his old ones.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Evan is a dead little boy who serves to help Blake gain more power. The deal is actually not a bad one, and Evan is happy, but a lot of people who hear about it are concerned, given that Blake is a known diabolist.
    • A later example given is of a Valkalla (a male Valkyrie) who powers his weapons with the souls of his murdered siblings.
  • The Power of Friendship: Blake's friends, and his strong connection with them, are actually a source of power and strength which he draws upon to endure. He recognizes this, and that Rose lacks this, and so in a moment of desperation gives her his memories of his friends, so that she can understand and use the resulting context.
  • Powers via Possession: Blake's new frost hatchet is powered by the ghost of a woman who died of hypothermia, and is perpetually reliving the moments of her death. Blake is understandably a bit uneasy about this.
    Blake: So… she keeps suffering?
    Rose: She is suffering. As in, that thing you're looking at is an embodiment of a moment of suffering. What you see there is all there is. The real June went on to the afterlife. This is an emotional event that hit the world hard enough to make a dent shaped like ‘dying of hypothermia’. If you take away the suffering, there's going to be absolutely nothing there.
    • In Gathered Pages: 2 the case of one person that allowed himself to be possessed by a predator spirit to give himself a leg up on football is discussed. He ends up eating a classmate and it leaves him in a state where he had to become a familiar to maintain some control.
    • Blake and Rose eventually achieve something like this by sharing Rose's body, with it growing wooden armor when Blake is in control.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: In the end, the law firm is defeated and Jacob's Bell's citizens are saved, but the town itself cannot be salvaged, Rose has suffered massive internal and spiritual injuries from Blake's [1], and Blake has been reduced to scraps of wood and bone that are barely conscious enough to observe the world around him before Rose is forced to eat what's left of him to heal.
  • "Reason You Suck" Speech: ElliePete delivers a rather explicit version to the Junior Council on how they’re turning out just like their parents.
  • Reading Your Rights: Blake, when he is arrested for the murder of Evan Matthieu in Conviction 5.1, is informed of his rights by his arresting officers.
  • Reality Ensues: That 12-foot BFS mentioned above? It breaks in 4 pieces once Blake stops thinking of it as "deadly" and starts noticing how flimsy it is.
  • Reset Button: Duncan Behaim displays this ability when it seems that Blake is about to escape his trap, resetting himself and Blake back to an earlier point in the day. It is later revealed that he just toyed with everyone's perception of time, instead of actually resetting them in time.
  • Ret Gone: ErasUrr the abstract demon's (apparent) stock in trade. The reality is slightly more complex, but has essentially the same result.
  • Ritual Magic: The hint is in the name. Practising any form of magic shown so far in Pact is doused in ritual, convention, rules, regs and bargains — and, not just if you start out human. The rules for Others may be highly different, but there are still rules and rituals to observe. Slip up badly enough... and, if you're lucky you just wind up dead or hit the Drains.
  • The Runaway: Blake Thorburn was one before returning.
  • Sacred Hospitality: A good way to incur bad karma is to attack someone you've invited into your house or the invitee attacking the person who invited them in. Blake exploits this to forge an uneasy impasse between himself and Duncan.
    • It's also noted that you can't kick down the door if the door is left open.
  • The Siege: The Duress arc has Blake and company attempting to defend Hillsglade House from a bunch of assorted Others sent by the Behaims and Duchamps to kill them all.
  • Sequel Hook:
    • In the second to last chapter, Mags notes that the battle for Jacob's Bell counts as only the second of her three rounds of fire, blood and darkness, leaving one more to go.
    • Ms. Lewis is neutralized, but the rest of the lawyers still need dealing with and likely plan on coming after Rose.
    • Pauz is still free to wreak havoc.
    • Unlike Worm, the main system is still in place.
  • Shapeshifting: Done through bathing in animal blood and allowing its will to flow through you without losing yourself. A power source is also required.
    • When done via Glamour you take the source and put it in a format you can use, such as ink and empower it. It will hold and you'll only pay for it if it breaks, but you need to leave a tell so that you don't become fixed to it. It also has the benefit of hiding connections if well-made, allowing you to move around with greater ease the more you fall into self-delusion.
  • Shout-Out: One of the monsters in Possession 15.3 is "a massive worm made of a series of overly obese humans, most with their respective heads shoved into the nether regions of the humans ahead of them."
    • There's also a pair of [2]extremely codependent "witch hunter" siblings who hunt monsters with mundane methods, who are part of a larger network of hunters]]. They even keep journals, much like John Winchester did.
  • Shut Up, Hannibal!: Blake responds to the Straw Nihilist Scourge Crooked Hat's assertion that the real world is not really any different from the Abyss with the following:
  • Soapland Christmas: Fell dies and Blake is horrifically injured by Isadora fighting Conquest on Christmas Eve, and the latter's Christmas Day is spent unconscious from his injuries.
  • Social Circle Filler: Averted with Blake's friends-they don't show up for the first three arcs after we meet his landlord in the second chapter, but Blake's fading connections with them are a constant concern, and his reconnection with them is his first priority when he returns to Toronto.
  • Speak In Unison: Blake and Rose when Alister suggests calling the Lawyers ahead of time. Considering how they've been antagonizing one another to that point, he takes it as an omen.
  • Speak of the Devil: Blake can summon a Fallen Angel if he speaks the name seven times, and many other demons have similar summoning rules.
  • Stealth Pun: The giant worm monster in Possession 15.3. It's in the Library. It's a bookworm.
  • Straw Nihilist: Crooked Hat the Scourge, to Blake's disgust.
  • Summon Bigger Fish: A real possibility, as Blake mentions to the Lord of Toronto when asked. There was a chance that whatever he summoned was more than the Incarnation could take in a fight, especially when it's possibly a Fallen Angel.
  • Summoning Ritual: The majority of the magic in Pact is based off of the trades and powers made during these.
  • Switching P.O.V.: Most of the arcs are done from Blake's perspective in first person, but the Signatures and Judgement arcs are in third person due to focusing on Maggie Holt and Rose fused with Blake respectively.
  • Synchronization: Connections between Master and Familiar allows one to feel what the other does to a degree.
  • Tarot Troubles: Using Tarot cards to tell the future is actually a practice done by some practitioners.
    • Notably, the Behaim circle and Duchamp coven use the Tarot as a means of augury to analyze their enemies Rose and Blake Thorburn, the heirs to a powerful diabolist and their enemies. Rose receives the Hanged Man, drawn from the right hand, and the Chariot drawn from the left hand, while Blake receives the Fool and the High Priestess, respectively. A fellow practitioner later explains to Blake that these are symbolic of the way that the two of them go about life, with right hand being most common and left hand being what might come out under pressure and during their darkest moments.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork:
    • For the game between Blake and Conquest in Subordination 6.4, the former's champions consist of Fell, Pauz, the Hyena, Rose, and Maggie, most of the beings listed having major beef with him.
    • Blake and Rose often have trouble getting along, especially when the former does things without her input. It becomes so much worse after Blake returns from The Drains, to the extent that they need Alister to mediate so that their blatant hostility doesn't get out of control.
  • Time Master: The Behaim Circle specializes in chronomancy, giving them a degree of control over time - or at least how people perceive time. Later on it's shown that it's possible for them to reset time to an extent, and speed people ahead in time, but this requires a large amount of power.
  • Title Drop: In Malfeasance 11.6:
    Rose: You read that contract backwards and forwards. If there’s a problem and it’s judged to be malfeasance on our part, the property goes to the lawyers, not any of us.
  • Tome of Eldritch Lore: Several. The fact that a selection of the worst are given a place of honor in the Thorburn library, many of which his Grandmother actually wrote, makes everyone involved leery of them to say the least. The main character believes comparing them to nuclear weapons is apt.
  • Transhuman Treachery: Most Bogeymen and Revenants seem to remember they were human, but have no problem with attacking them. One was actually rather casual about describing it to Blake, citing they weren't very good at being human before their change.
  • Try Not to Die: Inverted by Fell, who informs Blake that he hopes that he dies in the process of binding the three creatures for Conquest, because it would make things simpler and because it would mean that Conquest would not have three diabolic entities at his disposal to cause widespread chaos.
  • Un Equal Rites: Diabolists are seen as the most dangerous of all and given very little leeway compared to other practitioners, though Sorcerers aren't liked much either due to not having a particular specialty.
  • Unwanted Rescue: In Subordination 6.4, Blake forces Conquest to temporarily release Rose and Fell from his service and his bindings. Rose is happy about it. Fell is more reluctant, insisting that he doesn't need a rescue attempt, but he accepts if only so he can tell Blake how much he's destabilized the situation.
  • Unwitting Muggle Friend: Blake's circle of friends. None of them have any idea about the supernatural (and to be fair, until recently, neither did Blake) but they're willing to go to bat for him anyway.
    • Up until the point, that is, that Blake decides to crack the Masquerade wide open rather than risk the loss of their friendship.
  • Urban Legends: Within the Pactverse, urban legends count as just as much Other as beings from mythology.
  • Vice City: Maggie Holt's arc suggests that Jacob's Bell is the Magical Society equivalent of this. A struggling boomtown on the cusp of a major expansion, which has been stymied by the fact that one family owns all the land that it would expand into, meaning that the town is slowly being strangled to death by the Thorburns. The size of the town means that it attracts its fair share of malevolent Others, and because it lacks a Lord many powerful Others who are in exile or otherwise cannot go into the cities are drawn there to prey on humanity. The local practitioners, who should be dealing with malevolent Others, are too busy maneuvering and sabotaging one another in preparation for the time when the town finally expands and one of them can claim the title of Lord, so they allow the Others to go unmolested so long as they don't target the practitioners.
  • The Villain Knows Where You Live: Blake, Maggie, and Rose visit the house of local police officer Duncan Behaim, help his fiancee get her car unstuck from the snowstorm, and when he shows up use Sacred Hospitality against him.
  • Villains Never Lie: Played with. None of the practitioner villains will ever tell an untruth, because they risk power drain by doing so. This is not the same as not lying. Also, they keep non-practitioners on retainer to circumvent that pesky stipulation.
  • Villain over for Dinner: Duncan Behaim arrives home to find Blake Thorburn (who he recently framed for the murder of a child) in his living room talking with his wife.
  • Weapon of Choice: A Practitioner's implement, though it is less of a weapon and more of their tool-of-the-trade. The implement can tell you a lot about what a Practitioner does.
  • Wham Episode: Void 7.11. Blake is eaten by the Abstract Demon and Rose takes his place in the real world.
    • Null 9.1. Blake is alive as Ur merely severed his connections to the world, dropping him completely into the crack between worlds.
    • Null 9.4. Rose was the true Thorburn heir, and Blake was the vestige.
  • Wham Line: Signature 8.7. Mags remembers Blake.
    "You’ve got to tell me your story,” Mags said, stepping outside, her eyes on the strangers. “Starting with where Blake is."
    • Null 9.1 Rose sabotaged her own awakening on purpose
    "All I know is, I fucked up my awakening ritual on purpose, last time around."
    • Null 9.4. Blake's full realization of his true nature.
    "I’m the vestige, aren’t I? Rose is the second Thorburn heir, I’m just the custodian. The sacrificial pawn."
    • Mala Fide 10.2. All the more impressive for how ordinary the line in question is.
    “Hi,” Molly said.
    • Sine Die 14.9 Figuring out the plan
    “Faysal the angel and the Barber aren’t adversaries in this,” I said. “We’re playing right into Faysal’s hands. He’s the threat.”
    • Judgement 16.10. Not so much the line itself, as who says it.
    Barbatorem (while possessing Johannes): Blake.
  • When All You Have Is a Hammer: A problem in the sociology of Diabolists and why attempts to purge them aren't recommended. They can often only summon demons, so if they need something done or to defend themselves...
  • Where the Hell Is Springfield?: Jacob's Bell is in Canada, presumably in Ontario since it's a few hours drive from Toronto, but its exact location is unknown. The Lords of Toronto and Montreal are mentioned several times, so one would guess it is somewhere in the middle.
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: Blake's parents appear to have given Blake this treatment-namely, they were unhappy that he wasn't female and therefore couldn't inherit from his grandmother. The pressure was bad enough that Blake ran away from home when he was seventeen.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: It's actually better for practitioners to use less direct methods when dispatching rivals so as to defer responsibility and avoid karmic backlash. Fell still reminds Blake that bullets have their utility.
  • Wizards and Witches: Practitioners in general, and they come in an assortment of flavors of Master of One Magic:
  • Wiki Rule: Here.
  • Would Not Shoot a Civilian: In the battle for the Lordship of Jacob's Bell, all sides strictly refrain from inflicting harm upon the many unaware inhabitants of Jacob's Bell. The Thorburns take it a step further by refusing to go after any of the Behaims or Duchamps who are under twenty, but the other powers make it clear that the unawakened Thorburns are not included in these protections by launching an attack on Hillsglade House with the younger Thorburns inside.
  • Year Outside, Hour Inside: Time in the various forms of the Abyss is distorted pretty heavily. Blake spends only a few days in The Drains only for months to have passed and a few minutes in the Tenements only for hours to have passed.
  • Yokai: Japanese Others like the Rokurokubi have appeared, some visiting Johannes' place while the Duchamps have strong ties to the orient.
  • You Can Talk?: Barbatorem can in the Judgement arc, and he manages to screw over the practitioners by calling them out on challenging him.