Stitch in Time – 4.9

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I threw myself back out of the doorway, Mary moving in the opposite direction, her shoulder bumping mine.  She threw a knife, then twisted around, her still-wet boots skidding on the floor.  She grabbed the door and my offered hand to catch herself, than ran with the rest of us, her hand in mine.

We hurried down the hall, and I heard the briefest scraping sound.

I half-turned to see him stepping out into the hallway, a stool dangling from his hand.  When he threw it, he didn’t bring his arm back for more distance or wind-up.  It was a motion of the elbow and the wrist, a hard snap.

It took me a fraction of a second to see the trajectory.  I hauled on Mary’s arm, to pull her away, and I wasn’t strong enough.  The stool hit her and splintered against the wall in the same moment.  Her grip tightened on my hand, and she twisted my wrist as she stumbled into Helen, who was a step ahead of her.  Mary, Helen and I went down in a heap.

I flipped over, avoiding relying on my hand as I shifted positions to more of a crouch, my attention on Warren.  Mary’s throwing knife glinted in the light, sticking out of his chest, a few inches deep into his chest.  She had nailed her throw.  Right over the heart.

Could I call that irony?  The whole reason the Lambs even exist is that the Crown got this far, and the Crown only got this far because the Academies started making monsters that were harder to kill than conventional weapons were able to.  By the time weapons caught up, the Academies were producing other weapons, plagues and parasites, causing the sort of problems for their enemies that only the Academies could fix.

It was that cycle and the drive to stay ahead that drove so much of the Academy’s psychology.  Now we were, in our little skirmish here, a reversal of the dynamic the Academies had imposed.

Warren’s eyes stared as he approached.  He didn’t run, but he took long strides.  He was slower than us, but he didn’t seem concerned with that.

Gordon gave me and Helen a hand.  Lillian went straight to Mary.

It had been a hard hit.  A solid wood piece of furniture had been dashed to pieces, and something that could do that could have broken something important in Mary.

“Warren!”  Jamie called out.  With Helen, Mary and I still recovering, and both Gordon and Lillian helping us, it seemed like he was on point.  “Your father wants you to know he’s sorry!”

The musclebound man slowed, then stopped.  He was halfway down the hallway, hunched over.  His facial features were very normal, but he held his head at an angle that cast his eyes in shadow, the flickering light outlining his massive frame.  As he looked at Jamie, he raised his head, and for an instant, there was less shadow.

“He knows what happened to you,” Jamie said.  “It nearly killed your mother, hearing.”

The man that was facing us down reacted to that, hunching over more, recoiling from the words.  One fist clenched.

“Your father let things slide, with the farms.  He almost gave up, almost sold the farm.  Almost.  Your neighbors stepped in.  The Crowleys, the Behrs.  They’re rotating out, their adult kids have been volunteering, spending time with your dad, looking after things.”

Jamie was lying through his teeth, of course.  We’d stopped by, but the parents hadn’t talked to us, and they hadn’t been getting help, but they hadn’t been in dire shape either.  Not happy, for sure, but not dire.  They were a tough lot, and that unfortunately extended to Warren too.  Probably.

Lillian said something I didn’t hear, and Gordon helped haul Mary to her feet.  Every single inch of Mary conveyed agony on some level, with some blood here and there, the tension of her muscles, the look on her face, the tears in her eyes.  She also looked angry, and I had to chalk that up to anger at herself more than anything else.

“Frances Behrs was there when we stopped in to ask about you, gathering information so we could track you all down.  You were friends back when you were our age, right?”

The question got a slow nod in response.

Was Warren there mute?

There was a pause, and I saw Jamie look my way.  A glance, a check, and it wasn’t intended to see how hurt I might have been as it was something else.

My turn, then?

I drew in a deep breath, and I let go of my wrist, which was throbbing.  Holding hands in front, folding arms, and crossed legs were all signs of defensiveness.  The signals were subtle, but even the most untrained eye would read something into it.  Holding my wrist would do so twice over because I’d be subtly reminding him of pain.

“I know that it feels like going back is impossible.  Everything is different, and you’ve changed, in mind, body, and personality.  There’s a lot there you clearly wouldn’t want to take back home.  But your family survived this much, and they want you back, more than you know.”

“The door is open, Warren,” Jamie said.  “You can go back.”

I felt a hand touch my back.

A signal.  Were Gordon and Mary good to go?

“You should go back.”

Warren turned, then stepped to one side, revealing Fray, who was a short distance behind him.  She’d approached with his body blocking our view of her.

We backed away a little, and Warren and the woman advanced to match the distance.

“Cover your mouths,” Lillian whispered.  In case of more gas.

Fray spoke, “If I had to weigh in and say what was best for you, Warren, I’d say you should go.  Keep them out of my hair for two hours, we can consider your part of our bargain done.  Get a new body, see your family, piece your life back together.”

She was doing it again.  Denying me the footholds I needed to get a leg up on her.  How was I supposed to fight her manipulations when she was agreeing with me?

Warren’s head bowed.  The shadows covered his eyes, leaving only the blue reflections of the irises themselves.  I could read it all, the body language, the hunched shoulders, the tension that seemed to settle in him.

“You’re not going to, are you?” I asked.

He shook his head.

“Can’t help someone until they want to be helped,” Fray said.  “For now, I’ll give you the support you need, Warren…”

Warren reached out without looking, and he slammed his hand into the door nearest him.  He didn’t blink as splinters flew out to decorate his custom-made outfit.

He tore out a section of the door.  An improvised weapon.

“…Even if what he needs is a good target to spend his anger on,” Fray said, quietly.

“You’re a better person than that, Warren,” Jamie said.  “Kids?

Fray said.  “As far as I understand it, and he’s a hard man to read, when he doesn’t speak, but this is my read on it… he sees you as symbols of the Academy, and Academy science, which is where the fault lies for what happened to him.”

Warren nodded.

“And you pretend you’re not good at being manipulative,” I said.  “Pushing him to go with us, knowing that the push would make him resist, push back, back into your fold.  Then you speak for him, you interpret things, and shape his thoughts in the process.”

“I’m not trying to manipulate him at all, Sylvester,” Fray said, still quiet.

I didn’t say or do anything in response to that.  There wasn’t much that I could do, in terms of options.  I’d been planting the seed for Warren’s benefit, but nothing suggested it had even gotten through to him.  The truth of the matter was, I believed her.  If she was manipulating him, it was by accident.

I studied her, watching.  She was oddly juxtaposed with the massive brute of a man, a young woman in a sweater and skirt, with high boots, relatively soft spoken, but sharp in dress, with the crimson lipstick and hair most likely styled by Lady Claire’s best.  He, by contrast, was loud in his silence, his body language and the threat of another flung weapon capturing my attention, dragging it away from anything else I might look at.

By the simple act of breathing, he made me watch him.

The antithesis of what the Lambs were.  We were a group, a network, and he was utterly alone.  We were brains, and he was brawn.

But, when I looked into those eyes and saw them watching, when I considered that he’d effectively taken Mary out of the fight with his first maneuver, I couldn’t think of him as brainless.  Not like Sub Rosa.

They advanced, we retreated.

“You portray yourself as nice, gentle.  You truly care about everyone you meet,” I said.

“I do.  I grow attached too easily.  The barriers got worn away by my Wyvern doses, along with my long-term recall.”

“But you’re going to make him hurt us?  So he can have the release he needs?”

“I’m going to let him hurt you because I don’t believe there’s anything else I can say or do that’s going to slow you down or make you stop chasing us, and you’ve clearly reached the point where you can catch up with us.”

Warren advanced a step.  Not because he was matching the speed of our slow retreat, but because he was closing the distance.

Gordon’s hand on my back moved, he grabbed my arm, and he jerked me to the side.  A knife flew through the space my head had been, sailing through the air, and passed within a foot of Warren’s head.  Ms. Fray stepped away from the projectile, though it was already pretty clearly going to miss.

“Ah,” Fray said.

Warren started forward, moving faster, and we ran.

Turning around, I had a view of the group.  Mary was hurt, and was relying on Gordon for support.  Something had stabbed through her sweater, and she was bleeding.  Again, we were faster than him.  Even Jamie.  Would have been why Fray used the stitched girl to bait us instead of Warren, now that I thought on it.

But, much as he’d done before, he made up for the lack of speed with his raw natural ability.  He hurled the piece of door he’d collected.  Gordon and I were watching, and the rest of the group was ready.  The section of door hit the ground in the middle of our group, bounced, and clipped Gordon, who nearly dropped Mary.  I put myself under her for support, my arms around her stomach, and my wrist seized up in pain as I put too much pressure on it.

Gordon recovered, I pulled away, watching over my shoulder.

No, correction, it wasn’t that he was slower than us.  It just took him time to build up steam.  He was matching our speed, finding a comfortable running pace.  The lights flickered, as they were wont to do, and there was a brief moment where only his eyes were visible.

He could see in the dark, I suspected.

“Have to slow him down,” I said.  “Mary-”

“Can’t throw.”

“Give me your knives,” I said.

She shot me a look, one that should have been reserved only for the worst class of people, like baby murderers or puppy-kickers.

There was a crashing sound behind us as Warren collected something else to throw.

“Give!” I said, more intently.

She reached under her shirt to her stomach and drew her hand away with three knives.

Extra knives in left hand, knife to be thrown in my right.  Sucked, when I was a leftie, but I’d twisted it or sprained it, but I had to make do.

I spun around and hurled the first knife, hard as I could.  The whole of my attention was on the movement, remembering what I was doing.  Focus, track, visualize… throw.

The knife chipped off the ceiling above Warren’s head.

I took a second to run and catch back up with the others, while doing my best to figure out what I’d done wrong.  Later point of release, then.

I turned around, saw Warren holding a section of door in both hands, ready to hurl it horizontally, and shouted a warning, “Down!”

The rest of the group ducked, some stumbling, while Gordon shielded Mary with his body.  I threw myself to the side as the spinning section of door flew past us, then went through the motions, throwing with a later point of release.

He raised his hand to ward off his face, but the knife sailed harmlessly past him, a few feet to the left.

With me stopping outright to throw and the rest of the group stumbling, he covered a lot of the distance between us.  I could see everything that was liable to unfold, whether we ran or whether we stayed and fought, and nothing looked good.

“Should have given the knives to Jamie,” Mary said, a few feet behind me, speaking under her breath.  “At least he might have hit something.”

“Resent that!” I said, my voice tense.

“Ditto!” Jamie said.

I passed the third knife to my good hand and took a fraction of a second to remind myself of what I’d done wrong.  The movements were fresh in my muscle memory and mind both.

If you miss, he’s going to hurt my friends.  Make it count, Sy.

I hurled the knife.

It sailed past him at eye level, a few feet to the right.

A knife slashed past Warren’s face, close to the eye, and he stumbled.

I looked, and saw Gordon.  He’d let Mary drop to the floor of the corridor, and was taking the knives she offered as fast as she could retrieve them.

Gordon’s second knife flew past Warren’s head.  Warren raised a hand to protect his face, palm outward, and Gordon seized advantage.  Two throws, one knife sinking into each palm.  Not that they were small targets.  Someone could have taken the torsos of any two lambs and stuck them together and the weight and general dimensions would have matched one of those mittens.

Two more knives.  One miss.  Another into the webbing between two fingers.  They were all sinking as deep as the hilts, when they hit.

Warren was advancing, Gordon took more weapons, and hurled them.  One knife bounced off, flying through a gap between Warren’s reaching hands and striking handle-first, the next slashed a thumb and went flying off to clatter to the floor, and the third sank into one of Warren’s palms, again.

Warren didn’t stop.  He drew closer, and we weren’t in a position to run, with Mary on the ground and Lillian leaning over her bag, with contents strewn all over the floor.

He’s protective of his head.  It’s the last part of him that’s still intact.

Mary had another two knives, but as Gordon reached for one, Lillian lunged forward, knocking Mary’s hand away, pushing a bottle into place.

“Head!” I shouted, as Gordon moved to throw.

The man’s hands were a wall in front of his face, and he wasn’t letting anything slip through.

Instead, Gordon tossed the bottle into the air, slightly forward, so it would hit the ground in front of him, snatched a knife from Mary’s hand, and then lunged forward, a full-body hurl of the knife, aimed for Warren’s groin.  It hit with the blunt side, but it was still a hard throw.

Warren, it seemed, didn’t have a particular vulnerability to strikes between the legs.  That said, no man alive wouldn’t instinctually flinch in response to that.

Gordon reached behind his back and past his shoulder, catching the bottle so it was behind him, then completed a throwing motion without ever having to stop and draw his arm back.

The bottle smashed against Warren’s face.  The man stumbled, hands pawing at his face, and then dropped to his knees.

“Won’t last long,” Lillian said.

Which was all the indicator we needed.

We turned, working together to pick up and support Mary, and then we ran, leaving Warren to paw at a door, his knife-embedded palms and fingers limiting his ability to grip.

“I would’ve hit him,” I said, a little bitter that my moment of glory had been stolen.

“We don’t have a week for you to learn, Sy,” Gordon said.

“Three more throws, I could have done it,” I said.

“If you’d taken three more throws, we would’ve been creamed,” Gordon said.

I didn’t have a response to that.

Glancing back, I saw past Warren, to the end of the hallway, where Fray stood.  She didn’t chase.  She didn’t give any sign of being alarmed, concerned, or bothered.  She simply stood there.

She had told us that she’d already completed her plan.  She was embellishing it, or extending its reach.  Seeing this, how she’d treated this as a whole, I believed her.

I believed that, barring exceptional circumstance, we wouldn’t catch her like this again.  She had a hostage, with Lady Claire, and she wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

We’d lost.  We’d reached too far, too fast, we’d been caught off guard by the sudden appearance of the stitched girl, and everything else had flowed from there.  We were fighting blind, because we didn’t know what our enemy was doing.

We needed a win, on so many levels, in so many ways.

I switched mental gears, away from Fray, away from Warren.

We carried on to the end of the hall, and we reached the stairs.  A number of students were gathered around the distressed stitched girl, who was still tied to the railing.

“You!” she said, with much the same inflection she’d used when she had recognized us earlier.

“Hi,” I said, panting for breath.

“Escaped experiments on the loose,” Gordon addressed the gathered students, panting less.  “Students hurt.  Get clear!”

I saw a flash of expectation or excitement in the eyes of the young women who had gathered around Wendy.  Competition removed, more seats free, and maybe a little something beyond that.  Had Dame Cicely’s bred some sadistic streaks into the student body?  Were they that gleeful over someone getting punished, or the spectacle that might surround such?

But they did scatter.

In the midst of our running, I’d pulled ahead to the front of the group, my attention forward, on what came next, the plan.  Now, as we reached the top of the stairwell, I slowed, and the others made noises of distress and annoyance.

“Wendy,” I said.

“You,” she said, in that same inflection as before.

“Yes,” I said.  “Us.  We’re going to cut you loose in just a second, okay?”

“Okay,” she said.  Then she added, “The tea is cold.”

“What are you doing, Sy?” Gordon asked.

“Talking to Wendy.”

“Warren is comi-”

“Warren is the reason I’m talking to Wendy,” I said.

Wendy frowned at me.

“You told us you were supposed to help Warren,” I said.

“Madam Howell told me to,” she said.

I glanced back at Jamie.  He looked as surprised as I was.  We hadn’t actually had all the information there.

“That’s your job?” I asked.

“That’s my job.”

“Okay,” I said.

I reached out to Mary, and she gave me another look, but she handed me a knife.

I cut the string that bound Wendy to the railing.

“Thank you,” she said, very prim, “And you’re mean.  All of you.  You’re terrible.  Excuse me for saying so.”

“We’re very terrible,” I admitted.

“Sy,” Lillian said, “I hear footsteps.  He’s coming.”

“I know, it’s fine,” I said.

“Me, hurt.  I’m not fine,” Mary said.  “I think something snapped.

“Lillian will fix you,” I said.  “Right now, our concern is Warren.

That was all it took to get Wendy’s attention.

“Wendy,” I said, patiently, speaking very clearly.  “I’m sorry we left you tied up here.”

She stared at me, concern still clear on her face.

“But we did it for your safety.  Kind of.  People ended up getting hurt.  There was fighting.  Mary got hurt, and Warren did too.”

“Oh no.”



“He’s going to be okay.  Because Miss Genevieve did such good work, didn’t she?”

“She fixed me up so nicely!  Some of the big scratches, they’re gone now!”

“We were talking about how good her work on you was.  And she gave Warren a body, didn’t she?”

Wendy nodded.

“Sylvester,” Mary said.  Her use of my full name was telling.  The pain in her voice said a lot, too.

I could hear the running footsteps.  Our pursuer wasn’t far, and he was most definitely coming after us.

I addressed Wendy, “I have something to ask you, and I want you to think very long and hard about this, okay?”

“Maybe not so long?” Gordon suggested, putting one hand on my arm.  I shrugged free.

I glanced at Gordon.  Jamie was standing behind him, and Jamie was keeping his mouth shut.  He looked spooked, but he wasn’t reminding me of stuff I already knew.

I had his trust, at least.

“Alright,” Wendy said, looking like she was prepared to give the next bout of thinking her full, concerted effort.

“Is Warren happy?”


“Does he smile, does he laugh?  Is this… is this life good for him?”

Wendy’s expression faltered.

Warren was so close, now.

“We go, now,” Gordon ordered, grabbing me.

“You go, I stay,” I said.  “This is important.”

“You being with us is important!”

I looked to Mary for support, but her head hung, she was having trouble breathing, and blood was soaking through her clothes, running down her skirt.  She wasn’t with us.

Lillian was too scared.  Helen was Helen.

I looked to Jamie.

“I’m staying too,” he said.

That’s not necessary, I thought, but I couldn’t argue, because he was backing me up.

“Damn both of you,” Gordon said.  “Mary, give me some knives.”

“No!” I said.  “No.  Just… take Mary, get a bit of a head start, head for the room.  Jamie, you should go too, you’re not a fast runner.  Leave me here.  With Wendy.  We’ll manage.”

Gordon stared at me.

“Please,” I said.

He turned to go.

I looked at Wendy, and I reached up, taking the tray, before putting it on the ground.  She looked flustered at that, but visibly calmed down as I took her hand.

“What’s going on?” she asked, her voice small.

“We wait for Warren.  Just a few more seconds,” I said.

I would have been lying if I said my mouth wasn’t as dry as a bone, adrenalin thrumming through my veins.

Warren caught up, reaching the bottom of the stairs.  He’d pulled the weapons free of his palms, and blood had been smeared from the wounds onto his clothes.  He saw Wendy and I and he stopped.

“Is he happy?” I asked.

“He’s unhappy because of you.

“Is he really?” I asked.  “If I was gone, if you held me here and let him take me, would he be the same happy boy Mrs. Howell asked you to protect?”

“He wasn’t very happy then either,” she said.  “At the start, maybe.”

I knew Warren could hear us.  He didn’t move, just staring.  His reaction was more like I had a knife to the stitched woman’s throat, holding her hostage.

“I wasn’t dressed, then,” she remarked.

I shot her a look, then shook my head, “Do you think he would become as happy as he was at the start, if you gave me to him?”

“I don’t think,” she said, softly.  “I’m not very good at it.  I do what I’m told.”

“You were told to protect him.  Maybe that means protecting him from himself.”

“Complicated,” she said.  It was a negation, a stubborn refusal to understand.

“If he walks up here and hurts me, hurts my friends, I don’t think he’ll ever be happy again.  It’s crossing a line, and he may never come back.”

“Complicated,” she said, again, her voice tight.

“He’s not the sort of man that hurts children, is he?” I asked.

She shook her head.  “He’s nice.”

“You can’t let him become someone mean, right?  Mrs. Howell wouldn’t want that.”

“No,” she said, “She wouldn’t.”

He cares about you.  I can see it, looking at him.  So long as you’re around, he’s just a little more human.  He can’t cross the line and maim or kill if you’re here, watching.

“All you have to do to protect him from that, is come with us,” I said.

Something tells me he won’t leave you behind.  He’ll make Fray stay close, or she’ll have to abandon him.

“Are you sure?” she asked.

Warren started, taking a step up the stairs.

“This is the best thing for him and for you,” I said, and I actually meant it.  “Come.  Let’s run.”

I tugged on her arm, and she didn’t move.  I did it again, with no luck.

On the third tug, something seemed to fall into place.  She connected, or she pulled it together.

We ran, and Warren chased.

But at the top of the stairs, he stopped.

The shout at our backs was ragged and loud.


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74 thoughts on “Stitch in Time – 4.9

  1. This feels like the harshest thing the Lambs have done yet. I have a weird gut punch sense of not wanting them to succeed after this get-away. Poor Wendy and poor Warren – pawns torn between two dragons…

    • Yeah, Sy’s a bit hypocritical in this chapter. Of all people, *he* accuses others of being manipulative?

      The Lambs lie *all the time*. Lies backfire, and should backfire, way more often than they do in their case. This chapter could have been a moment when Sy would have been genuinely punished for this, by losing one of the Lambs.

      And on a related note, what about Sy’s line that “If he walks up here and hurts me, hurts my friends, I don’t think he’ll ever be happy again. It’s crossing a line, and he may never come back”? As far as I can tell, the Lambs *are* reasonably happy. So does he really think they haven’t crossed that line yet? Or is it yet more hypocrisy?

      • 1. i don’t think sy cares about hypocrisy, lying, or manipulation. he accuses other people of manipulation as a manipulative tactic.

        2. the psychological makeup of the lambs is different from warren’s, so he can very much believe what he’s saying about it harming him.

      • Warren is, or was, a good man. Sy was built to be a manipulative bastard. I don’t know if Sy has crossed that line, have they fought children before?

      • Sy didn’t accuse Fray of being manipulative, he accused her of lying about being intentionally manipulative. Sy is an unapologetic manipulator, so it’s not hypocritical for him to do so. Whether or not he’s a hypocrite about other things is another matter though.

      • Sy’s not being hypocritical. He’s just stating facts, not making judgement calls.

        He can call Wendy manipulative, and whether he’s manipulative or not doesn’t change the truth of that statement. Additionally, what’s good for the Lambs is not necessarily good for Warren: Sy’s line may be much farther out than Warren’s, and he may be perfectly happy to do things that would emotionally destroy Warren.

  2. Typo thread:

    “Extra knives in left hand, knife to be thrown in my left. Sucked, when I was a leftie, but I’d twisted it or sprained it, but I had to make do.”

    One of those lefts needs to be a right.

    • “Is he really?” I asked. If I was gone, if you held me here and let him take me, would he be the same happy boy Mrs. Howell asked you to protect?”

      Missing open quotes > “If I was gone….

    • Extra knives in right hand, knife to be thrown in my left. Sucked, when I was a leftie, but I’d twisted it or sprained it, but I had to make do.

      -The /other/ one needs to be a left. Or possibly something to do with the two ‘but’s. Maybe one should be an ‘and’. Or maybe it needs to be something like:
      Sucked, that I’d twisted it or sprained my left when I was a leftie, but I had to make do.

      Situation: Sy is a leftie, his left is twisted. He can either throw with his left and complain about it, or throw with his right and complain about it.

      Oh, god, that ending was beautiful. Wildbow, I love the way you write social combat.

    • “Could I call that irony? The whole reason the Lambs even exist is that the Crown got this far, and the Crown only got this far because the Academies started making monsters that were harder to kill than conventional weapons were able to.”

      This line is in present tense, where the rest of Sy’s narration is past tense.

    • “Sucked, when I was a leftie, but I’d twisted it or sprained it, but I had to make do.” – Something is weird here… too many “but”s.🙂

    • Previous and Next links are missing, and they’re also missing for at least the past chapter I think?

      Also, the new banner is pretty cool! Glad you didn’t get rid of the old one though.

  3. Oh great, so he can speak. Something tells me that plan was based on him NOT being able to speak and say, beg Wendy not to leave.

  4. Warren reminds me of the Tyrants in Resident Evil. I wonder whether that was deliberate……Actually, upon further thought, RE monsters probably have appeared in the Twig-verse.

    There’s going to come a time when the other side develops nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Mating those two systems will result in a sudden reversal of the Crown’s fortunes. Biology has its limits when it comes to hard engineering, I doubt any academy creation could, for example, replicate the function of many aerospace technologies we have today.

    Something I want to see eventually are the areas not controlled by the Crown, and what they’re doing.

  5. The more time I spend around the Lambs, the more time I am terrified by their… moral greyness.

    You could paint Gene as an anarchist trying to throw things into disarray (if that’s /even/ her goal) and the Lambs as the saviours, you could paint Gene as a revolutionary hero and the Lambs as Big Academy’s mindless minions, you could paint the situation in many different ways. In any case, there’s something that unsettles me about just how very manipulative they are with everyone, even if it’s necessary to save their behinds and I’d totally do the same in their position (I don’t fault them for that).

    It’s really cool! The story makes me uncomfortable, but only in ways a good story with great storytelling can.

    • Oh, and of course Gene is probably just as manipulative (and every single character, to be perfectly honest), but we don’t get to read a story from Gene’s perspective so it doesn’t unsettle me.

      • i’m actually inclined to trust sy’s read of her as not being manipulative.

        i mean, yes, she could be so incredibly high-level manipulative that it even comes across as genuine to a master like sy. but i think it’s far more fascinating the possibility that, other than being an absolutely fabulous strategist, she isnt manipulative at all.

        • It’s telling in retrospect that she spent the entire conversation with Sy deflecting and deliberately refusing to escalate. It’s likely that in outright social combat she might not match him, but unless they’re in front of a crowd she doesn’t really have to.

      • As a certain Patrician said “There are no good people. There are only the bad people and the worse people, and sometimes the two are on different sides” Roughly. The Lambs are not good people. The Crown is not a good group of people. Frey… I don’t know.

        I think from Frey’s comments this chapter, and Sy I’ve figured something out about her. She’s a lot like Sy. See Frey can do horrible shit to people who cross her, but still care deeply about those close to her. Sound familar? It’s just like Sy and the Lambs. Sy doesn’t give a shit about most people. They get hurt or killed by a plan of his, oh well. But the Lambs…. I wonder if that’s an effect of the Wyvern fomula?

        • I am of the opposite opinion, really.Thanks to the social system, good people have to fight good people…the lambs are more “conditioned” and “lawful” (despite their methods) than truly evil, while most of their enemies are good persons too, but more “chaotic” and “rebelious”.IMO all of them (except Percy and the snake charmer) being basically good people willing to kill or having no other option than to kill, either for their survival or for their ideals (suprisingly, Sy does it for the latter) makes this all the more tragic ,the academy all the more monstrous, and the story all the more enjoyable

          Also, Sy seems to unconciousy justify why killing people other than his target would be bad for his plan way too often.I think he doesn’t want to, despite what he may make us think.I mean, yes, attacking the priest’s crowd was bad strategy, but acting like he killed the scientist but leaving him alive back with Sub Rosa? not killing the postal people who could (and did) spread rumours about the Radham children, which could be a death sentence?This aren’t the actions of a man who cares only for himself, they are the actions of someone who does care for people but doesn’t want to admit it because conditioning.

    • Gur znva punenpgref bs jvyqobj fgbevrf nyjnlf jrer sebz gur bgure fvqr (bs jung lbh rkcrpg sebz n cebgntbavfg).
      Gnlybe jnf n fhcreivyynva
      Oynxr jnf n qvnobyvfg naq orpnzr n yvgreny zbafgre
      Vf vg fb fhecevfvat gung gur Ynzof ner ntragf bs n bccerffvir flfgrz?

  6. I think you made Wendy too sympathetic Wildbow. She’s the one I’m most worried about. The fact the Lambs need some kind of win, and that she might potentially be a source of information on what Frey is up too… Well the Academy won’t think twice about how badly they break her to get even a little information.

    • I don’t think they’d go that far. I expect Sy to let her go back to Warren as soon as they’re out of the heat.

      • Seemed to be implied – to me at least – that Sy’s planning on keeping her. So long as they have her with them, Warren will refuse to leave, thus pinning Fray

    • I never imagined the Lambs giving Wendy to the academy, but keeping her with themselves until it’s time to turn her and keep her permanently or else let her go. If it’s the former then the academy wouldn’t get to see her until after the Frey situation had been resolved.

      • The Lambs kinda need to cover their own asses here though. They messed up and let Frey take control, and played into her hands. They need something to show for it, and a potential source of intel is what Wendy is.

        Remember the Lambs are a project trying to prove their worth to the Academy. And since they don’t fall into the big scary monster mold, they have an uphill battle. And the Lambs are also not very nice people at times.

        • The academy isn’t interested in information on fray. The lambs’ job is to stop her, anything else is a failure. the best chance at doing that is to find out what they can and pin her down.

          Wendy can provide them with useful information but its very unlikely that she’ll be tortured for it. 1) The lambs need Wendy to take their side so Warren doesn’t smash them. 2) Wendy will probably just tell them if they as.k nicely.

          I think the worst that she’s likely to experience with the lambs is afternoon tea and a chat

  7. Very impressed by Sy seeing that the road to any sort of victory here ran through Wendy. Wyvern is as good as advertised.

  8. It was mentioned earlier that the Lambs, as a group, were strained and coming a bit unglued. Sy claimed it was because they were directionless and had no issue to focus them, but I wonder if there’s more going on. They still have an insane amount of trust in each other, but they don’t seem to have that easy faith they had before. They’re questioning each other more, butting heads…mostly Gordon and Sy, now that I think about it, but none of the members are giving off an ‘all for one and one for all’ vibe right now.

    It could be that they’re all extremely frazzled, and things will get better once they’ve had time to come down. It could be that Gordon is quietly ticked that Sy turned down Wendy’s offer on his behalf, and (as they’re the two most focused on the group dynamic and keeping things together) that’s affecting all of the Lambs. Maybe they’re just growing apart as they get older.

    It’s all extremely interesting, at any rate. Speaking of growing up…

    I have a hunch that Sy isn’t aging properly, mentally. Human brains are plastic and moldable when we’re young, and slowly become more hardened. It’s why children are so quick to learn new things. The Wyvern formula seems to mimic or maintain this plasticity to enable faster learning, at the sacrifice of permanent, long-term gains (Sy can forget how to ride a bike). I wonder if this points towards Sy remaining childlike for his entire life – adapting to situations around him and molding himself to fit in with other adults (if he lives that long), but internally remaining the highly immature little experiment we currently see.

    To tie this back into the first point, maybe the Lambs are growing apart…because Sy’s not moving. Gordon (and perhaps some of the others) could just be getting sick and tired of Sy’s little kid shenanigans.

    • Interesting that you point out Sy and Gordon. To me that points out something else: a struggle for dominance. Gordon is the natural leader, made to be a leader. Sy (man after my own heart) is no leader, but has no interest in being led. These two personality types are practically made to clash until one or the other steps back.

      Before the audits it was shown that the other Lambs would frequently check Sy’s autonomy when he was getting out of hand. Maybe they’re not doing that anymore, and we don’t see it because Sy’s incapable of seeing it as a problem.

      • It’s been noted several times that Sy hasn’t grown physically for a while. And sexual stuff often goes right over his head. I wonder if Sy is stuck in a child state physically and mentally. And if he’ll ever be allowed to grow up.

  9. I can’t help but notice reader interest in this series is declining, as evidenced by number of comments and my own waning interest. I find this very sad as the action and plot of this series is of identical or higher quality than Worm. I keep asking myself why, and the most quantifiable thing I can come up with is characters.

    Wildbow, you write fantastic characters, and in Worm we got to meet what felt like hundreds of them. Even within the first couple arcs we met a few dozen – undersiders, wards, ABB, new wave… Prolonged exposure to these handfuls just isn’t making up for there only being a dozen of them.

    Anyway, that’s my guess for what would escalate this to Worm levels of interesting. Admittedly unsure of how to fix, but you must admit the students from these past few chapters have been unfortunately faceless.
    Though, the ones Gordon recruited were cool

    • Note: I still remember Iron Falcon. Iron Falcon showed up for about ten minutes in one chapter and got a passing mention in another. He got a name, a description and about an ounce of backstory. Apparently that’s enough

    • I also noticed the decline you mention, and like you, my interest in Twig is not as intense as Worm or Pact. However, I think the reason for this is not the characters, but the POV: the story is being narrated to us by a protagonist that is actually an amoral antagonist, and therefore the reader does not get to relate to him or the events revolving around him. This approach leads to an interesting narrative, but does not make the reader hooked to the story, since there is no motivation to root for Sly.

      That said, I also want to make it clear that I am not complaning about the direction Wildbow picked, I am merely expressing how I feel about Twig so far. Futhermore, I totally intend to keep reading this serial to the end.

    • Yeah, no, reader interest is increasing, not declining. More readers every week, if only by a few hundred at a time. Be careful not to conflate your own experiences with the readership as a whole.

      Anyway, I do intend to expand the world as a whole. Twig is something of an experiment and a lesson for myself in terms of the dynamic and pace of it.

      • I was thinking something similar about the relative number of characters here (not about any declining interest–my interest is tempered only by the wait for each new chapter. I read most of Worm and Pact in binge fashion). I was wondering what Mauer and the Puppetmaster have been up to this whole time–surely they’re both working on SOMETHING, right?–and whether or not Sub Rosa or Gordon’s squeeze from the previous chapter are going to come back into play. Sure, Sub Rosa was “killed,” but if you can reanimate her once…

      • I noticed that it is incredibly hard for me to stay up to date . I went on holiday for a month in May, and haven’t had the time yet to catch up – I might end up binge reading the whole story, like I did with Worm because of that.

        I would find it very helpful if there existed a wiki that gave a summary of the story up to date. Is there any fanmade thing like that out there?

        I also noticed that fan art for Worm and Pact was incredibly helpful for me to better picture scenes and characters – Twig doesn’t seem to have attracted as many fan artists yet – I didn’t find anything but the two comissioned pieces on DeviantArt.

    • I think it’s getting better and better every week. I only wish there were some way to read it all at once without having to go into Wildbow withdrawl for a year until it’s finished.

      • I understand that everyone has their own time concerns, it may not be possible to find time out of your week to read two chapters. Or maybe you can’t stand the wait, in some cases.
        But I think a key part of experiencing a web serial is the waiting.
        Still, even if you aren’t here every week, do remember to vote!

  10. “This is the best thing, for him and for you.”

    Sy actually meant that. Sy thinks that getting Wendy on their side, making Warren stop is the best thing for him.

    That may or may not be true, but it makes me wonder if Sy remembers when he crossed a line, too. And if he wishes that someone else was there to make him stop.

  11. Hi guys,

    Hate doing this, I really do believe in being professional, and sticking to what I say I’ll do. I’ve been working on the next chapter and I don’t like what I have – I stretched myself too thin these past two weeks and I got stressed enough about some background stuff that I didn’t sleep much at all last night. There hasn’t been a day that I haven’t been distracted from the writing or by meeting people or travel, I caught a ride to my town yesterday, didn’t sleep last night, and I’m taking a train tomorrow and spending some time with family the day after that, and yeah.

    I’ve tried to do my usual and step away, distract myself with something else creative, went for a walk, took a 30 minute power nap and try to revitalize myself, but I don’t like the 2.5k words I have written. Pact taught me a lesson in that I know I’ll take literary shortcuts if I push myself. The chapters will come out, but maybe not as good, and not as good at supporting what came prior or what comes after.

    There will be two bonus chapters this month, but I’m just going to stick them in the latter two weeks. I’m going to dogsit, I’ll have the weekend to myself to recharge and plot, get my feet back under me, and because it’ll just be me and the dogs I’m looking after, I’m confident I’ll be able to produce something better during those weeks.

    My fear is that pushing forward right now would just produce something poor, and I know I can produce something better if I wait until the contextual, environmental factors are all better.

    Bonus chapters will come up on the last two Thursdays of the month. Sorry about this.

  12. There are traditionally published serial authors who produce a single, much shorter chapter on a weekly or monthly basis, produce work that doesn’t hold a candle to Worm, Pact, or Twig, and are much less reluctant to take a break. If anything, you show more professionalism than the vast majority of traditionally published authors, and I doubt a Wormverse thinker whose specialty is writing fiction could maintain the quality and quantity you have.

    As for readership, I do find it weird that the readership continues to grow yet each chapter is getting only a fraction of the comments. Granted, I’m usually a silent consumer of the literature I read, but one would think an overall increase in readership would lead to an increase in the number of readers leaving comments, not a decline in commentators.

    • Worm reached a total of 700 comments/chapter before people, all at once, started the chatroom, and went in about five different directions to discuss the story on various message boards. Since then, and this is true for Pact as well, my readership has existed in a number of discrete locations. Twig gets discussed on Reddit, Spacebattles, Giant in the Playground,, and a handful of other places.

      • Also, it’s summer. I have a hard time having long chats while typing everything with my thumb. In the fall, when I go back, and am using a decent keyboard again, I’ll make more comments.

  13. Seems that the stitched can retain high levels of cognition, as seen here in Wendy. She’s capable of complex recall and can make judgments over her own and other’s situation. So what gets discarded from a stitched brain? Just memories and volition?

  14. He’s protective of his head. It’s the last part of him that’s still intact.
    Also, it’s his freaking head. His brain’s house. Just saying.

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