Esprit de Corpse – 5.8

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The stitched gave each of us a pat-down.  I bit my cheek rather than protest at the pain as clumsy hands prodded my side.  It wasn’t worth it, the stitched wouldn’t care, and I didn’t want to seem weak, when we already had two members down.  The older man, now with his helmet doffed, was studying us.  Jamie and Helen were looking less than stellar, even with their injuries looked after.  I could put on a brave face.

“It would be easier-” Mary started.  She made a face as the stitched pulled a knife out from her beltline.  “If you’d let me remove the knives myself.  Or I can tell you where they all are.”

The stitched didn’t react or respond, and the Brigadier didn’t give the order.

We waited in silence while it found eight more knives, each belted around Mary’s upper thighs.  It gave her a quick pat-down, then stood straight.

“If I may…” Mary said.  She reached up and pulled a long, thin knife out from the thickest part of her hair.  More a needle than a blade.  She raised one foot up, bracing calf against knee, and pulled another knife free of the heel of her shoe with a bit of a jerk.  Rather than a handle, it had a t-shaped configuration, more a knife that was punched with than thrust.  A matching knife came out of the other shoe.

She deposited two more, another punching knife from behind her belt buckle, and one with fluid in a reservoir in the handle from behind her back.  Finally, she provided the garotte-wire that had been curled around her body, hidden on the other side of her belt.

Absolutely, utterly unnecessary.  She could have kept the items on her person and lost nothing for it, but I suspected she wanted to make a point.

“We’ll have to teach them to do better,” the Brigadier observed.

“Yes sir,” Mary said.

The Brigadier was old, a caricature of a man with a puffed out chest, bedecked in a uniform jacket, with tight leggings beneath, making it seem like his upper body was meant for a different lower body than the one he had.  He had kind eyes, as he appraised us.

I instantly disliked him.

He looked at the man who still sat on the bench of the coach, his ankles bound.  The man looked deeply uncomfortable and embarrassed.

“See that Specialist Timothy gets care.  Patrick, see that your stitched search the vehicle for more spiders.  Lambs, you can come inside,” he said.  “We’ll talk.”

We passed through the doors, joined by the stitched guards.  Formations seemed to have been ingrained into them.  As we moved two-by-two, the stitched did as well, two between Jamie and I and Mary and Lillian, and two at the rear.

Past the doors was a coatroom, and we quickly removed our things.  Adult-sized shoes were on the floor.  The Brigadier paused, taking in the shoes, examining us and our feet, then said, “if you wouldn’t mind carrying on the rest of the way in socks and stockings?”

Dutifully, we peeled off our raincoats and boots.  I stepped onto the wooden floor beyond the coatroom, lifted up one foot, and saw a muddy print.  The grime and the wet had soaked into my boots.  My socks were just as dirty as the soles of my boots, if not dirtier.

I peeled off my wet socks and progressed barefoot, which was only slightly better.

The Brigadier had chosen a lodge as his base of operations.  It was one of the largest buildings, one of the sturdiest, and I suspected that had little to nothing to do with his choice.  The exterior was stone and mortar, up to a point that was just over the top of my head, with logs extending up the rest of the way.  The roof had a tree growing across it, augmented building, and swept up at an angle, the lowest point just over the front door, the highest point of the roof at the far end, where a chimney speared up from a stone fireplace-cum-stove.  It looked like a bedroom and bathroom were to either side of the coat room, tucked in at the front.  The remainder was an open living space, with tables surrounded by nice chairs and a couch, a desk was positioned near the fireplace, and the only piece of furniture that didn’t match the decor had been placed opposite the desk, a heavy table.

A stitched boy was feeding the fire.  No older than I was.  Probably the Brigadier’s personal servant.  He looked like he’d been around for a while, a stitched with actual stitches.

The Brigadier was a man who liked his comforts.  A candle burned above the desk, and a glass held ice but no drink.  If I smelled him, I could smell a trace of drink, but not the sour tang of an alcoholic.  As the boy and his style of dress suggested, he was a man who took care of things.

Hard to read, when it came to this situation.  He was so wrapped up in himself that I couldn’t get a good sense of who he was as a strategist.

Maybe that was a hint unto itself.

We walked all the way to the end of the room, passing the area that served as a sitting room or a tea room, where books and maps were laid out.  The wood of the floor got progressively warmer as we approached the fireplace.  By the time we reached the end, it was hot enough to be on the cusp of uncomfortable.  I glanced over the table opposite the desk, and saw far more maps, as well as various letters.  Pens were scattered here and there.

He took a seat at the desk.  “If the injured feel the need to sit, you could take one of the chairs behind you and turn it around.”

Jamie did.  He dropped his backpack on the floor by the chair.  Helen remained where she was.

I did, too.

“Whitney is under attack, then,” the Brigadier said.

“Yes sir,” Gordon said.  “We moved too soon.  We hoped they would be active late at night.  When the majority of people were deep asleep, and we hoped there would be more.  Enough that their first few attempts to eradicate the spiders would fail.”

“But you were nearly ready.  You said as much in a recent missive.”

“Not that close.  Account for the fact that they’ll respond faster in the daytime, it won’t be enough.  I’d say we have less than a day before the window of opportunity closes,” Gordon said.

“I think you’re underestimating what that kind of psychological warfare will accomplish,” the Brigadier said.

“We’re well versed in that kind of warfare, we’ve dealt with experts in it for as long as we’ve been working together,” Gordon said.

“Which obviously isn’t that long,” the Brigadier said.  “Not to belittle what you do, of course.”

“Of course,” Gordon said.

Only those who knew Gordon would be aware of the subtle change of tone, or the hints that he was working just a little too hard to keep his words carefully crafted.

“They’ll break,” the Brigadier said.  “It’ll put them on their heels.  People will leave Whitney, too afraid of a repeat performance.”

“Sir,” I said.  “It’s more complicated than that.”

“Of course it is!” he said, in a laughing tone.  “There are always nuances and complications.  This is war.”

Brigadier Ernest Tylor lifted his glass, drinking the water from the melted ice, then opened a drawer to retrieve a bottle of what might have been scotch.  He tipped it into the glass.

He saw us watching, and he smiled.  “The ice is a travesty, I know, but I allow it because it goes so well with the heat of the fire.  I’d offer you drinks, to thank you for your hard work, but…”

He gestured, a kind of up-down motion.

“But we’re too short?” I asked, feigning confusion.

Jamie elbowed me from the left, and Mary kicked my leg.  It hurt more than if she’d been wearing her shoes.  Somehow.

“It’s fine, sir,” Helen said.  “Two of us can’t even drink, and I can’t even enjoy it in the same ways, myself.”

“Strange group,” the man said.  He was barely drinking what he’d poured for himself.  One sip.  A gesture of power?  Habit?

I watched and waited for him to take another sip.

The moment he did, I opened my mouth, knowing he couldn’t cut me off without sputtering.

“Sir,” I said,   “In all seriousness, what I was saying before, about complications.  They’re more prepared than you may be giving them credit for.”

He swallowed, stayed like that, glass in hand, then set it down.  “How so?”

“Three or four assassins, skilled, each augmented.  One of them was an uncanny shot with a rifle from about a kilometer away.”

He raised his eyebrows and nodded.

“They’re confident.  They know the resources you have to bear, they have countermeasures in place.  They have resources, some ace up their sleeve that we weren’t able to uncover before we had to flee the assassins.  They think they’re going to win this.”

“Then they’re idiots,” the Brigadier said.  “We outnumber them threefold.”

“Virtually every soldier they have has a gun they’ve nicknamed the Exorcist.  Designed to put down stitched and augmented creatures.”

“Not a concern.  I’ve led armies in battle.  I’ve even managed situations like this.  A fortified position, an insurgent groups with numbers on their side.  Those numbers swiftly dwindle at the first hint of defeat.  You’ve delivered that, and I’ll see that you get medals for it.”

Mary reached out and took my hand.  I squeezed it.

The look she gave me out of the corner of her eye was one of worry.  The hand-holding was for reassurance, not for some desire to celebrate the recognition and the victory.

Yeah.  That feeling we’d had was getting worse.

“There were scientists.  Ex-Academy.  This isn’t rabble, sir,” I said.  “They have knowledge they can bring to bear.  Experiments of their own.”


“Louis Peralta,” Jamie said.  “He specialized in pain.  Leopold Pock, produced modified, vat grown humans, of a different type than the assassins we encountered.  Edwin Grahl, John Durant, Christina Wilder, Ian Roy, Wesley Vas-”

“I get the picture,” the Brigadier said.  “How many total?”


The man nodded, rubbing his beard.  “At a certain point, it becomes academic.  Assuming the guns are twice as effective as the norm, the experiments all Academy class, they still have to reach us before they can take action.”

“Reach us, sir?” Gordon asked.

“They’re mounting an attack against an entrenched position.  We have a number of tools at our disposal, and we can frustrate their efforts.  Trust me when I say this, war is a psychological game.  Once they realize the cost of attacking, on top of your clever work with the spiders, their numbers will dwindle.  Without the support of the group, their hired scholars will drop away as well.  There will be nobody to hold the guns you’ve mentioned.”

“You don’t intend to attack,” Mary said, the disappointment and disbelief clear in her voice.  “You want to stay, fight from a defensive standpoint.”

“Exactly so,” the man said, smiling.

“Why?” she asked.  She didn’t even try to hide the accusatory tone.

I squeezed her hand, a warning.

“How refreshing,” the old man said.  “I’m not usually made to explain myself.”

“I’m sorry, sir.”

He waved a hand.  “I always firmly believed that every person in a position of power should have to explain their rationale.  Your name, if you don’t mind?”


“Who are we fighting against, Mary?”


“Yes.  Rebels, revolutionaries, insurgents.  But who makes up the bulk of their number?”

Mary took a second, then connected the dots.  “The Crown’s people.”

“Assume we fought every fight by wiping out the enemy.  What would happen after?  The Academy would suffer, the Crown would suffer.  There would be long-lasting repercussions.  Resentment, hatred.  If we can minimize the losses on both sides, and still break their stride, if we do it with care, then we could very well leave them feeling thankful that we were as merciful as we were.”

“Yes, sir,” Mary said.

I wondered if the higher-ups at Radham were laughing.  Hayle had made a gambit, sending us here.  He’d believed we could be useful.  Had someone with experience with the Crown’s military allowed him to do just that, knowing just what we’d have to deal with?

There wasn’t a Lamb present, I knew, who wasn’t filled to the brim with frustration.  We’d gathered information, we’d positioned ourselves, we’d set up a trap that would lay them low enough that an army could sweep over them without much contest, and here we were.

I looked either way, down the line of Lambs.  Lillian, at the far left end, was staring down at the floor.  Her neck was rigid enough I wondered if she’d start trembling.

The others weren’t much better.

So very little gained.  He wasn’t paying attention to the information.  Lillian and Shipman’s notes on how far along they were in terms of knowing about the Academy were effectively being ignored, as was Jamie’s information on the local threats, and my details on the assassins.

“The spiders were a good ploy.  I’m glad I extended you the trust and signed off on it.  Tell me, what’s next for you?  If you want it, I’d be happy to extend you some freedom.”

“Freedom, sir?” Gordon asked.

“I imagine the Academy keeps you busy.  If you’d like, I can tell them I have need of you, and keep you for a few days.  It’s a little drab here, mines and lodges, a lot of damnable rain, but you could rest and recuperate.”

Gordon glanced at the rest of us, then said, “Speaking for all of us, sir, the offer is appreciated-”


“But I think we’d prefer to be useful, if you don’t mind my saying so.  Those of us who aren’t injured.”

The man nodded.  “Any particular duties you have in mind?”

“Something pertaining to the upcoming situation, sir?”

“Nothing to be had but turns at the watch, and trust me when I say you don’t want that task.  It’s a punishment detail.”

“Yes sir,” Gordon said.

“Let me get back to you on that tomorrow, then?” the man asked.  “It’s getting later in the day.  Recuperate, take a well-earned rest.  You’ll be staying in the Miner’s camp.  Nicer place to stay than you’d think.  Some officers and specialists there, but you’ll have enough space that you shouldn’t want for privacy.”

He was the first person I’d met who could take the Lambs in stride at first meeting, recognizing what we were and how we operated.  Gordon’s letters might have helped with that.  He was also gentle, and not above treating us with kindness.  That he’d actually considered offering us drinks said a lot. There was no deception at all in what he was saying.  He believed it all, deep down.  That veteranship of experience had layered and ingrained it all into him.  A very rare species, no doubt a grandfather, and a veteran of the Academy’s wars, his experiences mingling into someone who actually almost understood us.

I could count the number of people who fit that label with three fingers.  Hayle was the first.  This man was the third.

Yet, in my frustration, there was nothing I wanted to do than jam my thumbs into the orbs of his eyes and hear him scream.  Because he was too kind in expression as he looked down on us, because I was sure I saw a glimmer of pity that came from a place of actual understanding.

It was a surprisingly violent line of thought, even for me.

We’d been dismissed.  The others were already turning to go.  I hadn’t turned, and I still held Mary’s hand, so she hadn’t gone either.

“Sir,” I said.

“Yes.  Do you mind mentioning your name, while we’re talking?”


He nodded.

I took that as my cue to continue.  “If you’re really grateful about what we’ve done-”

“I am, Sylvester.”

“Then I’d like to maintain a responsibility, in the meantime.  I’d need a bit of help.  I want to do some patrol rounds around Westmore, personally.”

“It’s bigger than it looks, you know.  It worms between hills and mountains.”

“I know, sir.”

“What help do you need?”

“We’re each carrying silver badges.  They have the Radham emblem on them,” I said.  I fished mine out of my pocket.  “Would you pass on word to your soldiers, that we can go where we need to and make minor requests?”

He considered.  “If it were to fall into an enemy’s hands…”

“There aren’t any children among them, as far as we know,” I said.

He rubbed his beard, musing.  “Why, then?  We have the patrols covered.”

“Because they hired assassins.  As we mentioned earlier, there are three or four,” I said.  I paused for effect.  I wished this would sink in, convince him that this was a different sort of battle, that the enemy was smarter.  “I doubt they hired assassins to keep them in Whitney.”

“If you deem it necessary, then I’ll spread the word down the chain of command.  You’re free to go where you need to, and to make minor orders.”

I nodded.  “Thank you sir.”

“Thank you, Sylvester.”

I had the vivid mental image of the eye-piercing and screaming again.  Mary let go of my hand to head to the coatroom, leaving me behind.

I turned and crossed the length of the Brigadier’s lodge to join the others, who were flanked on either side by the stitched who had come into the door, now standing on either side of the coatroom.  I ignored the discarded socks, depositing them into the raincoat pocket, and simply slipped my feet into my boots.  There were tiny rocks in there with the silty mud, but it was far from the most irritating thing to happen today.

Among the Lambs, there was an odd kind of rush to get out the door and get away.

We covered a lot of ground before we were far enough away from the Brigadier’s men to talk.

“Why?” Mary asked, sounding genuinely lost.

“Because the Academy doesn’t lose wars,” I said.

“That doesn’t make any sense,” Mary told me.

“It makes all the sense in the world,” Gordon said.  “He’s never lost a war.   He could lose this battle, sure.  He could lose the next five.  But if the dust settles and he’s alive, which he probably will be, then what can the Academy say?  The failure is theirs, not his.”

Mary made a fist, then moved like she was going to punch a wall.  She stopped just short.

A moment later, Lillian slammed the side of her fist into the wall, a few feet from Mary’s.  She waggled it, wincing in pain, looking like she’d regretted the gesture.

“You really hated that school, huh?” I observed.

“I thought hitting things was supposed to help relieve anger,” Lillian said.  “Ow.”

“It doesn’t,” I said.

Lillian made a face.

“I need to teach you how to throw a punch,” Mary observed.

“Don’t make me feel worse,” Lillian muttered.

It was getting dark, the rain was coming down hard.

“It’s about risk and reward,” I said.  “Going back to our earlier topic, not hitting things.  Attacking Whitney is a risk.  His career, life, and control of the situation come into jeopardy.”

The words weren’t helping with the general aura of frustration that seemed to linger.  Only Helen and Shipman seemed able to be able to handle it.  Shipman had a few years of maturity and probably some experience in seeing her hard work thrown away.  Helen might not even experience frustration in the same way we did.

We could have stood there in the rain for hours, kicking at the mud with our toes and grumbling.  It was Gordon who got us moving.

“We might be arguing about nothing at all, if the man is right.”

“He’s not,” I pointed out.  “He’s missing just how angry and dedicated our opposition is.  They won’t break as easily as he thinks.”

“Sy,” Gordon said, sounding exasperated.

“Gordon,” I replied, mimicking his tone.

“I’m not arguing with you.  I’m inclined to agree.  But there’s nothing we can do about it.  Let’s go see where we’re staying,” he said.  “Get our wounded looked after.  Yourself included, Sy.”

“I wasn’t going to say anything,” I lied.

“You were,” he said.  He paused.  “The patrols.”

“No ulterior motives,” I said.  “I just didn’t want to get cooped up.”

“No.  Wasn’t going to ask about that.  Was just going to ask, do you mind if any of us come with you?”

“You want to patrol,” I said.

“Yeah.  And from the looks of it, Helen and Mary do too.”

Mary smiled.

“We’ll make a thing of it.  Go in pairs, maybe.  We’ve been split up for too long, doing our individual things, be nice to talk.”

A shout.

The crack of a dozen rifles firing.

Another shout, ordering a reload.

A violent explosion, screams.

It was so dark we couldn’t see, except when the explosions lit things up.  The dead of night.

Gordon and I were on the wall overlooking the sloped, waterlogged road that led down through the mountains to Whitney.  We peered over the top, watching the scene unfold.

From atop the wall, an entire regiment’s worth of rifles fired.

Bullets weren’t weightless.  They dropped as they traveled.  Having the high ground counted for something, I imagined.

Not that I was much of a fighter, or an expert on guns.

I watched as a series of explosions ripped out.  Something was coming up the path.  Stitched, but big, not all human.  It probably had a short lifespan.  But it wasn’t intended to live out an extended life of servitude.  It was about shock, awe, and giving our side a reason to doubt, if only for a minute.  It was holding a modified cannon in its arms.  It nearly fell as the cannon fired.

The collision shook the wall.  I could hear stones from the wall falling to the road below.

Gordon and I had been mid-patrol when the alert was sounded.  Now we watched.

Westmore’s stitched were firing in barrages.  I watched them, saw another flash of light as an explosion occurred further down the road, the scene highlighted in oranges and reds.

Another explosion.  The group of stitched was one fewer.  It took me a second to spot why.

“Head down!” I shouted in Gordon’s ear.  Louder than was necessary, maybe.  The explosions and gunfire was making my ears ring.

He ducked down with me, a quizzical look on his face.

“The rifleman with the eyes, the same one who shot me.  He’s picking off the commanders of the Stitched’s squads.”

“Tell someone.”

I looked at the scene.  Just when I spotted a person who looked like he was in charge, he turned, walking the other direction, gesturing.

A group of specialists in a nearby building opened a cage.

The thing that came out was a dog without a head.  The stump was an open void, and tendrils spilled out and peeled back over the dog’s body, streaming behind it as it ran.

Sharp whistles directed it, two for left, one for right, volume guiding it.

It went over the top of the wall, pouncing.

I heard gunshots, listened, trying to identify the rifleman’s.  Knowing the dog would be taking the man’s focus, I dared a look over the top.

There was a crowd at the end of the road, approaching with makeshift shields up to cover them.  They’d reached the collection of sandbags furthest down the road, the same one that the poor sod that had gotten his legs stitched together had come from.  It became cover for them.

I imagined someone was supposed to keep that from happening, but the people who were supposed to make the call were getting picked off.

The tendril-dog was limping forward, momentum broken.  Stitched were dying in droves.  They were supposed to take a half-dozen bullets before going down.  They were taking one or two at most.

The ‘exorcist’ rifles were doing their job.

Gordon pulled on my shoulder, and I ducked down.  He gestured, and I gestured back.

We descended the stairs at our side of the wall, back to the ground level.  A gun was briefly trained on us, before we were recognized.

We had to cross the length of the street before the sounds on the far side of the wall grew muffled enough that we could talk.  I spoke, looking at the forces massed on our side of the wall.   “They need to sound a retreat.”

“No retreat,” Gordon said.  “They won’t.  They can’t.  It’s only a half-dozen men out there who die, and a lot of stitched.  If they open the gate, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to close it.”

I shook my head.

“They won’t get through,” Gordon said.  “Not tonight.”

“Probably not tonight.  This was them saying they’re here.  They’re angry, they haven’t given up.  Someone in charge probably stirred them up.  People who weren’t committed to the fight picked up guns, even.”

“Maybe,” Gordon said.  “Sy.  I want to ask everyone, but since you saw, I’ll ask you first.”

We were getting further away from the site of the battle, the volume was dying down, and the horrible ringing in my ears seemed to be getting louder in comparison.

“Ask what?” I told him.

“Do you think he’ll change his mind?”

“No,” I said, without missing a beat.  “He’ll adapt his strategy, he’ll make an excuse.”

“That they expended resources.  They’ll be weaker on subsequent attempts,” Gordon said.

“Something like that.  You were thinking the same thing?  That he’d say no?”

Gordon nodded.

I had a funny feeling about the way he was acting, which was strange.  Gordon wasn’t a guy I usually devoted a lot of brainpower to figuring out, and now I’d done it twice in recent memory.  Thrice if I counted Fray.

Okay, I was lying.  A million, six hundred thousand and two times, if I counted Fray.

But the strange mood in the market, how he’d been oddly out of sorts and avoiding the heavy lifting when I’d seen him earlier in the day and how this?

“Why does the group need to make a collective call about what the Brigadier is doing?” I asked.  “It would have to be important, for you to ask for something like that.”

Except I already knew the answer.  The look in Gordon’s eyes, faint as it was with only the streetlamp to go by, was telling enough.  He knew I’d figured it out.

“Right,” I said.  “Hm.  It might be hard to convince some of the others.”

“You think?”

“Treason is typically pretty hard to sell,” I told him.

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59 thoughts on “Esprit de Corpse – 5.8

  1. Hey, readers.

    Just wanted to say thanks for reading, I appreciate the support. General stresses have been kicking me in the pants lately, but it’s good to take a step back and be able to genuinely appreciate that it’s minor in the grand scheme of it all and that I actually have a pretty awesome situation here, with excellent readers.

    AceofDiamonds already linked to Topwebfiction (thanks Ace!). Just wanted to add that with the top spot hotly contested by Superpowereds and the questionable Loiterous sneaking up from behind, votes would be extra appreciated over the next stretch.

    A banner has been commissioned and will pop up eventually, as soon as the artist finishes and Chris P can find the time to manually add it in, which takes a week or two, usually. I’m planning more header images, as well as a revised header image for the Patreon page (and a portrait for myself? Don’t know), mostly a treat for myself, but also a way of possibly getting more exposure. Was talking with other writers earlier about how successful the Patreon page has been, yet the works of Wildbow haven’t been featured. Better graphics may help on that front.

    May be going down to the states this fall to meet up with some fans. Will be making an announcement on this later, in case anyone is in the general area (Baltimore and/or Philly, if I remember right) and wants to swing by. I already met up with one fan earlier this summer, and crossed paths with Chris P of Webfictionguide, and both were cool experiences.

    But for now, it’s just a question of me being too hot this summer, and getting caught up on cleaning up the place and laundry, after travel and a three-chapter week have put me well behind.

    Thanks again, guys.

    • Just saying, I live in Baltimore and would love to meet you, that would be amazing!!! This story is only getting better, keep up the great work!

    • I don’t get it, Loiterous’ MC is a Mary Sue obtaining OP skills & class as a beginner character… how is the story getting votes? I guess Legendary Moonlight Sculptor really is the best in the VRMMORPG genre after all.

      • Frankly, it’s the worst of the bunch on a number of levels.

        End Online steadily improves both in writing and pace, the characters are fleshed out and the scenarios they are put in both vary in content and complexity with a well enough executed interest curve. There are issues, sure: but, it gets over those with the likability factor and doesn’t fall for cheap shock-jocking instead of good cliffhangers. It’s also the one I suspect started the whole “ice powers are cool” thing (sorry about the pun: couldn’t stop myself).😉

        Continue Online is fantastic. It’s well written, quirky, hints at delicious darkness and is highly enjoyable: I wholeheartedly recommend it to all comers as a far from typical example of the genre. How it’s not higher ranked, I don’t know.:/ It’s the Blue Wensleydale to Loiterous’ dismally processed squeeze-cheese.

        True Idenity basically rips End Online off without keeping any of the charm. I couldn’t stick it out to see if it developed a voice of its own as it progressed. But, if you don’t mind rehashed stories, it is, at least, less obnoxiously anti-female in its stereotypes than Loiterous is.😛

        • I’ll check Continue Online out, I guess. I liked LMS, I like Ark even more and CO sounds right up my alley. Thanks for the recommendation, euo, love you girl🙂

    • Yay banner art! Been looking forward to it. Graphics are all sorts of important to our ADD internet-brains.
      Question, can people create header images and send them to you hoping to have it included in the cycle? What would be the criteria for such an image? What size? Does it have to be canon?
      I think this could be a pretty neat idea.

    • Another banner! That’s pretty exciting news.

      Out of curiosity, what’s research like for your works, whether it be Twig or an older work to avoid spoilers for Twig?

      Is each fiction researched before you start writing it, and you just get into the flow once you’re ready? Or does the research start anew each new section? Are there books littering your desk and floor about psychology, poison gases, various drafts of Boil and your other writing, war diaries, and the like? Or is the paper aspect not really a thing, and you just Google up the occasional fact to make sure your memory is correct, like with Phobos and Deimos?

      Maybe it’s too much of a personal question, but I’m curious about the engine behind these fictions, three now, and still somehow rife with fresh detail a lot of the time. Life, is it that you have a process for when you need detail, or is it all organic and pulled from a mind that just has a lot experience reading and writing?

    • I’m in Philly for school and would love to meet you. Keep up the good work, and put on your boots and kick those stresses back!

    • You think your trip will take you somewhere close to the equator, maybe? It’s a long trip from here to the US😛 I’m excited for the new banners, and thank you for your work!

    • I live in Europe ;_; It’s a cruel god who reigns this world. Should you ever find yourself in the vicinity of Belgium, I’ll be happy to visit, if my studies allow for it.

    • I remember when Caelum Lex was the story competing with Worm, and now it’s lucky to hit double digits. It never recovered from the break after Book 1 finished.

      • Ties into my earlier statement a week or two ago about how online content creators don’t get vacations.

        IIRC they were doing other incentives to encourage voting as well; art or something? Stories like Citadel and the like have pulled ahead doing that. Super Powereds, IIRC, got a bump as well, just for finishing a book, and was at the top for a stretch.

  2. I’m missing the significance behind the final couple of lines. I don’t recall anything about the market or voters. Am I overlooking something?

    • Sylvester’s observed that Gordon’s been acting sort of reticent and not putting his heart into things, and I think he’s concluding that Gordon’s going to try to convince the rest of the Lambs to defect to Fray or someone else.

      • This. If it didn’t mention a time period before the talk with BGen Massive Sideburns I’d have guessed they were thinking of fragging him, but, seeing as his funk has lasted longer than that, Gordon might be rethinking the whole let’s all get tortured til we die shtick the Lambs have going for them…

        • Interesting. I was thinking that the avoiding-the-heavy-lifting was a sign that Gordon is getting closer to death faster than he’s letting on (also better explaining his willingness to join Fray earlier), but that the clear thing to do in this situation is to find a second-in-command who Sy judges /would/ be willing to act in a desirable way, then either faking an assassination of that leader or staging a mutiny–probably the first, since the second would be uglier both during and afterwards (and less effective).

          Unrelated: That leader had a _stitched_ tending the _fire_–and one that looked like an older stitch due to actual stitches, not one of the new ones with the special fire-tolerance things. No fear, no murderous rage, no paralysis even–is this really a stitched, or a spy of some sort? Odd that no one, even Jamie, picked up on that.

          • Maybe the stitched was modified after his creation? If he’s so old he probably was repaired several times, and they probably could have used him for some experiments.

          • We don’t actually know what the expiration dates mean. Maybe it’s just the date at which the person is developed enough to be put into active duty as a solo spy, or too old looking to be in with a group of kids without constantly arousing suspicion by everyone they meet. The academy doesn’t waste resources by just killing off experiments when they can be of further use in other ways

  3. Sylvester’s negative reaction to anybody that shows him a modicum of compassion based on his situation continues to be quietly heartbreaking.

  4. Typo Thread!

    said, “In all
    -Triple space

    nothing I wanted to do than
    -nothing I wanted to do more than

    lost a war. He could
    -Triple space

    wall. “They need
    -Triple space

    • More typos:

      – “We hoped they would be active late at night. When the majority of people were deep asleep, and we hoped there would be more.” -> (article confusion)

      – “The roof had a tree growing across it, augmented building, and swept up at an angle, the lowest point just over the front door, the highest point of the roof at the far end” -> (The “augmented building” seems incomprehensible.)

      – “Then I’d like to maintain a responsibility, in the meantime.” -> (I’ve only seen the phrasing “maintain responsibility” used in the sense of “continuing to be responsible for”, which doesn’t quite fit Sy’s situation.)

      – “The explosions and gunfire was making my ears ring.” -> “were”

      – “The rifleman with the eyes, the same one who shot me.” -> (Could be more specific than “rifleman with the eyes” :p.)

      – “He’s picking off the commanders of the Stitched’s squads.” -> “stitched’s squads”, or “stitched squads” or “squads of stitched”

      – “The ‘exorcist’ rifles were doing their job.” -> (“Exorcist” was previously capitalised)

      – “when I’d seen him earlier in the day and how this”

    • The words weren’t helping with the general aura of frustration that seemed to linger. Only Helen and Shipman seemed able to be able to handle it.

      Able to be able to is unnecessarily redundant.

  5. Typo thread:

    Triple spaces:
    “Sir,” I said, “In all seriousness,
    “He’s never lost a war. He could lose this
    our side of the wall. “They

  6. Hi! First time commenting on this work.

    I admit I like the slower pace of the story better than Pact and Worm. There is more focus on character introspection and family dynamics than the overall plot. Having a smaller cast helps as well. I do however believe it has grown better after leaving the ‘enemy of the month’ formula to focus on the Crown’s wars. The early arcs felt a bit repetitive after a point, until Fray entered the picture.

    Anyway, that’s a great work with some fascinating characters and interesting worldbuilding. You got yourself a new reader😉

    • Let’s see…
      – Gladys’ focus on nondestructive solutions means she probably dislikes a lot of what the Academy represents. She’ll probably accept without too much fussing.
      – Mary has nothing to lose from following, as long as she remains with the Lambs.
      – Lillian… I don’t see her defecting without some sort imminent threat. Of course, there may be some deception involved; or roofies. Why not both ?
      – Jamie’s current wounds might be problematic re:Caterpillar interfaces. If he can see it coming, that could be enough to motivate him to jump ships.
      – Helen might object lightly until placated through liberal application of confectionary. Worst case, Ibott left something to enforce her loyalty. Erhh, I really don’t like the sound of that (pleasenoselfdestructwildbowplease).
      – Sylvester will first plan on keeping Jamie (then Mary) safe, then anything that makes Lillian blush.
      – Gordon… I wonder if he wants to be actually heroic, and realises that the Academy prevents him from that path ? Beyond the whole expiration date thing, I mean.

      • I don’t read this as defecting. I read this as “If we don’t want to lose this we need to change commanding officers.” Basicly they will lose this posistion if the Brigadeir stays in command, and this will only embolden the rebels and prolong the war. Also posibly get the lambs killed. So they need to take him out. Thing is, no way in hell they’d be allowed to take charge.

      • I don’t think the Lambs are considering becoming rebels, I think they are planning to murder the Brigadier, hope someone more aggressive takes power.

  7. It strikes me that Sy’s frustrations with the Brigadier have less to do with the kindnesses and more to do with the fact that he sent them to set up an incident he had no intention of following through on. Wasting their talents on petty terrorism. No, worse, poking a sleeping bear and then assuming that said bear isn’t smart or strong enough to win the ensuing fight.

    To quote a certain magnificent bastard: “Madness. Madness and stupidity.”

  8. Oh come one, the rebels couldn’t have waited a while? I was looking forward to Sy and Mary having a moonlight stroll on the nature trail together. Or maybe Helen with a nice bag of cupcakes.

  9. Sorry for the wall of text. I rot13’d it even though there aren’t really any plot details, just to avoid any incidents. This is a bunch of stuff about the lovely Lambsbridge Orphans, in particular their role in the group and their personality. If you think I got something wrong or want to add your own opinions, feel free to do so.
    Punenpgre Rdhngvbaf:
    Obl + Punbf + Nzarfvn= Fl
    Obl + Uneq qevir + Ebthvfuyl ybat unve = Wnzvr
    Obl + Beqre + Sver = Tbeqba
    Tvey + Png + Pnxr= Uryra
    Tvey + Pbzong Zrqvp + Yno vagrea= Yvy
    Tvey + Xavirf + Evoobaf= Znel

    Abj sbe rkcynangvbaf naq zber va qrcgu nanylfvf.
    Fl: V qba’g ernyyl guvax V arrq gb nanylmr Fl gbb zhpu. Ur vf n pbzcyrk punenpgre, lrf, ohg fvapr ur vf nyfb bhe CBI, jr’ir unq cyragl bs gvzr gb yrnea nobhg uvz. Gung orvat fnvq , Fl vf urneg bs tbyq zvkrq jvgu ryqre tbq bs punbf naq zrzbel ybff. Uvf ryrzrag/ nepurglcr zvk vf jngre (pnhfr bs uvf syhvq guvaxvat nz V evtug thlf) naq gur ebthr/fpurzre jvgu fbzr znfgre-bs-abar sbe rkgen synibe. Nyfb gur Ynapre.
    Wnzvr: Wnzvr vf fhcre avpr ohg orpnhfr bs uvf nccbvagzragf, ur vf nyfb bar bs gur fpnevrfg. Nyy V’z fnlvat nobhg gung vf gung guvf ohggresyl jvyy fgvat yvxr n orr, ohg gur orr vf zber yvxr n uvir bs jnfcf. Zbivat ba, Wnzvr vf xvaq bs yvxr na byq fzneg cubar. Ur unf npprff gb n uhtr nzbhag bs vasbezngvba naq fbzrgvzrf ur penfurf sbe ab ernfba, naq vs lbh qebc uvz bapr, ur’yy or funggrerq. Uvf ryrzrag snagnfl zvk vf gevpxl. Sbe ryrzrag V’yy purng naq fnl tynff, hfrshy lrg sentvyr. Punenpgre V’yy fgrny sebz 5 zna onaq naq fnl ‘fzneg thl’
    Tbeqba: Cvpgher n cnynqva znqr bhg bs sver jvgu n fvqr beqre bs wnpx bs nyy genqrf. Gur cnynqva gevrf gb cebzbgr beqre naq whfgvpr, unf n jvqr inevrgl bs fxvyyf, naq jerpxf cyragl bs onq thlf. Gur sver oheaf oevtug ohg dhvpxyl, naq unf n jnl bs gheavat ba lbh naq gura fhqqrayl lbhe ubhfr vf pvaqref naq lbhe ybirq barf ner qrnq. Guvf vf n infgyl vanqrdhngr pbzcnevfba, ohg zvtug uryc gubfr pbashfrq nobhg Tbeqba’f yblnygl. Gur yrnqre.
    Uryra & Pnxr: Fvapr Png + Pngavc ≈ Uhzna + nqqvpgvir fhofgnaprf, Png + Pngavc = Unccvarff, naq Uhzna + Pnxr = Unccvarff, Pnxr ≈ Uhzna Pngavc. Uryra= Png + Tvey naq fb Uryra + Pnxr= onfvpnyyl pbpnvar, ohg jvgu yrff fvqr rssrpgf. Uryra vf gur Phgr Oehvfre, fb fur svyyf gur ebyr bs gur Ovt Thl va 5-zna onaq grezf.
    Yvy: Gur Pbzong Zrqvp Fur trgf nybat jvgu rirelbar ohg vf ‘gur puvpx’ abg orpnhfr fur vf srznyr ohg orpnhfr fur vf gur bayl hanygrerq, “cher” uhzna. Ab gnzcrevat, ab rkcb qngr, abguvat. Ng yrnfg, nf sne nf jr xabj…
    Znel: Fur vf gur 6gu Enatre, guebhtu naq guebhtu.

    Bccbfvgrf naq Pbzcyvzragnel Punenpgref:
    Fl & Tbeqba ner bccbfvgrf; Tbeqba vf gur punevfzngvp yrnqre, fgebat, unaqfbzr, abg fhcre fhogyr, rgp. juvyr Fl vf gur fpurzvat ebthr, culfvpnyyl jrnx, znavchyngvir, phaavat, rgp. Gurl ner pbzcyvzragnel orpnhfr Tbeqba pna punez naq chapu uvf jnl guebhtu ceboyrzf, juvyr Fl pna znxr lbh dhnenagvar n fpubby ol fvtavat n abgr va oybbq naq yrnivat vg va lbhe ybpxrq bssvpr.
    Fl naq Wnzvr: Nzarfvn naq arire sbetrgf n guvat. Dhvpx jvggrq naq n zragny fcbatr. Vs V arrq gb rkcynva ubj gurl ner pbzcyvzragnel, lbh unira’g orra ernqvat Gjvt.

    Gurer ner cyragl bs bgure cnvef gung jbex jryy, ohg fvapr guvf vf trggvat sne gbb ybat, V’yy yrnir vg ng gung.

    • Generally, rot13 is only needed when talking about Worm or Pact spoilers. No need to use it if all you’re talking about is Twig.

    • Christ, everything doesn’t have to be compared to a video game/RPG. The characters in this story do not need to have classes and elements. I’m honest to god baffled as to why some people inelegantly force gaming-related ideas into works in another medium.

  10. Wildbow, I noticed Twig is following a very specific route: even though there is plot progression and character development across the entire serial, each arc is very self-contained, pretty much in a “monster of the week” way. In addition, each arc is getting approximatelly the same number of chapters. You are obviously doing this on purpose, so my question is… are you structuring Twig this way to be easier to adapt into a potential book series?

  11. Hmm… this might be their first true evil act, ie the first time they kill a sympathetic non dangerous person while not being under considerable duress (their mentions of incompotency seem like excuses)

  12. I like the Brigadier, even if he might be overlooking some important details. (Though to be fair, Sy is, too—they’re in a well-fortified location, and it’s not like attacking would stop the Senses.) He seems to genuinely care about other people, thinks ahead, and is perfectly willing to grant reasonable requests made by loyal people, even children—even Sy. And I definitely agree with leaders explaining their rationale.
    He’s doomed, isn’t he?

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