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 a 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 updates on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and occasionally on Thursdays here.
Pact contains examples of:
Aerith and Bob: We see names such as Essyit, Blake, Laird, Padraic, Barbatorem...
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.
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 it's powers and it is very good at it.
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.
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.
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.
BFS: A familiar summoned by the Duchamp Coven to kill Blake has a 12 foot one. See Glamour below.
Bigger on the Inside: The very first thing practitioners want to do with 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: Practicioners 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.
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.
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.
Church Militant: Templars, apparently. The author of Black Lamb Blood was one in his youth.
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.
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: The Drains are this and an Eldritch Location combined. The place is 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.
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.
The Drains and other manifestations of Limbo, where bogeymen come from.
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.
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: Already abused to absurd degrees by the fifth chapter.
To elaborate, 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.
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.
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.
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.
First Episode Spoiler: In the very first chapter, Molly dies and the house—and all associated problems—goes to Blake.
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.
Ghostapo: Aimon Behaim fought Nazi practitioners during WWII. Notably, Hitler himself was not a practitioner.
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.
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 they often have far greater strength and heft than a creature of their size ought to have, such as 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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Maggie Holt apparently has a series of YA novels (being adapted into movies a la Harry Potter, no less) 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 dies, 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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 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.
Other, more strange homunculi have been mentioned in the story, but few details are known.
Our Mermaids Are Different: The one who we've been introduced to became a mermaid 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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Synchronization: Connections between Master and Familiar allows one to feel what the other does to a degree.
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 imput.
Time Master: Behaim's circle specializes in chronomancy: Laird Behaim's pocketwatch is his implement, allowing him 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.
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.
"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.
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.