Tooth and Nail – 7.5

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An impact shook the city of Brechwell, dull and low, reverberating through the ground and up to the rooftops.  In the wake of it, windows and doors continued to rattle and bang in their frames, adding an eerie note to the tail end of it.

The entire city seemed to go still.  Birds taking shelter from the rain and the handful of soldiers on the street were all frozen.  Our group and the rainwater were the only things moving in a still tableau.

Then the warning bells started tolling, muffled, all through the city, the birds took off from roosts, and soldiers ran.  Where each of the towers had lone spotlights, additional lights were lit, the beams becoming diffuse, aimed at the city streets.  Stretches of light and dark.

State of emergency.

A second impact cut into the bass tolling of the bells.  As it rippled across a segment of Brechwell, the bells were jarred midway through their motions.  Some sounded early, others were delayed.

I gripped Lillian’s wrist harder as the rooftop shook with the strike.

The Brechwell Beast roared, and the sound carried.  It was a lowing noise, and I imagined I imagined it sounded frustrated.  An actual observation, gleaned from small details and intuition, or just what I wanted to think?

Wish they hadn’t warned people, but I guess they had to.  Someone in charge probably promised citizens there would be notice, to pacify them.

Down a side street, without a man or guard touching it, a portcullis gate slammed down, the blunted metal teeth of it striking the stone of the road.  The lights from the towers shifted, leaving that street dark, illuminating the path that remained.

I’d imagined this part.

Release the local weapon, send it out into the streets, and use the gates to control its movements.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

Helen, ahead of us, raised a hand, then gestured twice.

“Screams,” Catcher said, echoing the same sentiment.  “Your Ghosts.”

Here we were.

I’d never had the impression the Ghosts were particularly intelligent.  They could talk, recite from script, and they had residual behaviors and movement from the manner of their manufacture.  I wondered if the scenario of the Brechwell Beast had even come up, if the Firebrands had taken the time to explain to their inaudible children just what to expect and what to do if the weapon was let loose from its dwelling.

I heard the Beast roar, and this time it was moving.

They’d opened the gate it had been banging against.

“Cross!” Gordon shouted, pointing.  It was a set of rooftops above a gate that still yawned open.

“If it passes beneath us-” Petey had to raise her voice to be heard over the din.

“Cross!” Gordon called out.

Helen ran across, hunched over, one hand extended straight toward the ground, ready to drop and hug the peaked roof at a moment’s notice.  Gordon and Mary were next, followed by Lillian and me.

Dog, Catcher and the Engineer had gone ahead, and Dog had been kind enough to place his claws against sections further down the roof.  I could see patches where he’d leaped and where he’d landed, and shingles had been torn or scraped away by the violence and the weight of each of his movements.

Petey was lagging behind.  I made sure to keep an eye on her.  By all rights, Helen should have gone with her, but Petey and Helen were diametric opposites, Helen was our scout, capable of hearing the Ghosts, and Petey was far from being fast enough to help with scouting.

We could have and should have reshuffled the group, perhaps sending Mary forward with Helen, but it was too late to decide on that now, and we were almost there.  So long as Petey didn’t slip and slide off to one side and over the brink, we were fine.

Dog and Catcher stopped, and Catcher extended an arm, signaling.  Catcher remembered the signals for alert, and for direction.  Easy to make out in the gloom, as he was a dark silhouette against the glare of a tower’s lights.

I squeezed Lillian’s wrist, tugging her a bit as I willed her to move faster.

We were so close.

Over one house, past another, past an ‘x’ shaped intersection of rooftops and buildings, a park to one side and roads to another, and we could see what Catcher was indicating.

A trio of Ghosts and a quartet of others in civilian garb were all gathered, talking.  Some had rifles.  Infiltrators.

One Ghost was staring up at us.

I could feel the tramp of the Brechwell Beast’s feet, see the shift of the lighting as some lights moved to follow it.  It was loud, and the sound went beyond the heavy footfalls.  A grinding sound, like something heavy rolling over crushed stones.

The civilians were at a door, working to open it.

“Catcher!” I shouted, and my voice was nearly drowned out.

He said something, but I couldn’t make out the individual sounds.  He was reaching into his coat, withdrawing something that was about the same size and shape as a wine bottle, but black with fluid inside.

He tossed it out over the edge of the roof.  Ghosts scattered, backing up, while the other enemies in civilian clothing were oblivious.

The bottle struck hard ground, there was a flare of orange in the center, and then thick smoke filled the area.

He said something else that I couldn’t make out.

Each tromp of the Beast’s feet made my teeth clack together.  He was one street over, rounding the corner behind us, turning, approaching the corner that turned onto this street.

Helen dropped, hugging the roof’s peak.

I tugged Lillian’s arm, hauling her down.  I dug fingers beneath thick, wet, freezing shingles for a grip.  Others were doing the same.

The superweapon of Brechwell Academy lunged ’round the corner, not slowing, heedless of potential obstacles in its way.

Had someone taken a toad, a mammoth, a bull and a rhino and kept the most brutish features of each, they would have been in the right ballpark for the Brechwell Beast.  It was wide, muscular, and built to plow forward, with no sign that it was built to stop.  Its chest was triangular and deep enough to scrape the ground, even as powerful limbs carried it forward.  Tusks extending from the corner of its mouth scraped against the road and the sides of buildings, the curve of them keeping them from catching on anything, and horns extended around the top, doing much the same.  At the shoulder -the shoulders and upper parts of its forelimbs were perhaps its largest feature, I noted- it stood three and a half stories tall.

It was armored, something grown rather than hewn from metal, the plates white-gray in color, edges sharpened, layered over one another.  The plates at the chest scraped the ground like the horns and tusks did, and the plates across its back gave it a serrated appearance.  What I could see between and beneath armor plates suggested that the Beast had no lack of protection – it alternated from layers of heavy scale that was probably armor unto itself and skin that looked like it was nothing but callus and scar tissue.

The street rumbled, windows threatening to rattle out of panes as the Beast made its approach, and I found the vibration of its movement threatening to tear my fingers from the shingles.

I knew I wasn’t going to be able to hang on before it was halfway down the street to us.

It reached the ‘u’ bend in the road, with us at the middle of the bend.  Its full weight slammed against the building faces, and momentum carried the shock of the impact straight through to us.

I wasn’t even sure what happened.  In one moment, I was on the rooftop.  Then it was like I’d been hit across face, neck, chest and stomach with a physical blow.  In the next, I wasn’t touching anything solid.

A full second passed before my right shoulder scraped roof.  My right foot and ass touched the roof next, and I had my bearings.  A moment later, my backpack caught on the roof, and I started spiraling out, head going more down, feet more up.

I was halfway down the roof, sliding down faster than I could’ve run, and there was only an abyss below me, darker than the sky above.

My arms went out for traction, heels of my hand scraping against the rough texture of the shingles, and as I started to correct the spin, I brought one leg out, my pants leg and the flesh nearest the bone of my shin tearing on contact with the roof.

Belly down, more points of contact.  I was hugging the roof, trying not to do anything that would make me spin and keep the momentum going through another venue.  Three quarters of the way down.

In the engulfing darkness below, I could see a vague shape in gray, lit indirectly by the fire around a distant burning building, bounced off a cloud and down into the shadows beneath me.

A tree, but one too distant to reach with a timely leap, let alone a skid and fall.

The flare of hope died, but in its place I managed rage and fury.

I will not die here!

‘Oh, I knew Sy would do himself in eventually.’

I will not let them make remarks about how I was hoist by my own petard!

I shifted my weight.  Seconds away from going over the edge, I raised both feet and stuck one arm out, no longer trying to slow my descent.  I’d slowed, but it would never be enough, even if the roof was dry, if I wasn’t wearing a damn raincoat.

There was no light here, nothing to hint or illuminate my situation as I reached the end.  I reached into darkness, slamming my feet down at an angle.

My feet found the gutter, wedging into the space.  My tired, cold fingers found the edge of it, too.  Momentum carried me down and forward, and my shoes popped out of the gutter, kicking shingle on the way up and out.  A flap caught the meager light as it flew through the air, joined by one of my shoes.

I grit my teeth, bracing myself, as my lower body swung down, all of my weight jerking hard my fingers hard against the edge of the gutter, a wooden trough nailed to the eaves.  I heard wood and metal cry out in their individual ways, threatening to pull free of where it had been secured to the wall.

My other hand went up, punching skyward in an effort to reach high enough, and found a grip.

Panting, hurting in a dozen places, I stayed right where I was, and found enough breath to whistle.

I could feel the Brechwell Beast continuing on its way, rounding a corner, then passing somewhere to my right.  Each movement jarred me, and made the water that sat at the bottom of the gutter splash out, spattering me.

Catcher appeared in my view, mancatcher in one hand, touching the roof, the other extended out for balance, feet spread wide.  He eased his way down to me.

“You could have lost the pack,” he said.  “Shrug your shoulders, let it fall.  That has to be a solid stone of weight weighing you down.”

“Heavier.  It’s all books.”

“Point stands.”

“I’m okay,” I said.  “If it really came down to it, I’d let him fall.”


“It.  The bag.  Let me up, will you?”

“Hm.  Take this,” he said, “and don’t haul me down over the edge.”

He extended his poke, the spiked mancatcher end, and I shifted my grip to one arm, the entire arm and hand trembling as I reached up and through the closed metal ring to grip the pole just beyond.

I had to passively let him haul me up and over, because planting a foot on the edge and pulling myself up threatened to pull him down at the same time.  Once I was high enough, I found a foothold in the gutter.  A moment later I had one hand and both feet on the roof.

“Everyone okay?”

“Yes.  I had to save Lillian before I saved you.  I got her before she fell as far as you did, and she fell the other way.  Dog got Petey.”

“Good,” I said.  “Thank you.”

He gave me a simple nod.

I kept one hand on the mancatcher as we made our way to the peak.

The bells continued to toll as we rejoined the others.  I reached out with my less-sore left hand and took Lillian’s, noting how her hair was sticking up on one side.  She had a bit of a scrape too, and it looked like her ear was bleeding.

I looked down at the street where Catcher had created the cloud of smoke.  It didn’t look like they’d gotten the door open.  There was carnage, a body severed in half, no doubt sandwiched between wall and a sweeping tusk, and the lower body wasn’t visible or distinguishable.  There were meaty bits amid the streak of flesh and blood, too ruined for me to tell what it was supposed to be.

“Next time,” Gordon said, “We position better.”

I nodded, then I smiled, “It has to have reached them by now.”


“Good to walk?” he asked, glancing at one of my legs.

I nodded.

We made our way in the direction we’d estimated Fray’s meeting spot to be.  As we walked, I pulled my raincoat off, freeing one arm from sleeve and strap of backpack before letting go of Lillian’s hand and doing the same with the other.  I let the raincoat fall to the roof before pulling the pack on again.

There was a crash a few streets over.  A plume of dust or smoke rose from the impact site.

Dog huffed.

“Going ahead,” Catcher said, as he increased his pace.  “Don’t fall again.”

The streets below us were getting wider, and I realized we were approaching the city center.  There were a few more patches of gore where the Beast had torn past bystanders, but less than I might have liked.

We crossed a bridge and another section of rooftops, and reached the base of another tower, overlooking a plaza.  It was an open area like we’d seen in the Academy, broken up by patterns in how the road was drawn out, with gardens in the spaces between the individual footpaths and a fountain in the center, set low to the ground.  The Beast’s tusk had already torn through two opposing walls of the fountain, and a foot might have crushed another.  Destroyed wagons and stalls littered the area already.

There was a building that might have been a town hall, a hospital, and another set of larger buildings I couldn’t label.  The Beast was here, with freedom to move as it pleased.   The white of the thing’s tusks was stained with mud, debris and gore.  Its eyes were dark compared to the mask it had been fitted with.

Objectively, it was beautiful.  Now that it wasn’t charging right for me, I could see the patterns on the armor, a mingling of old damage that had been left alone rather than repaired, and decorative etchings.  Rainwater ran down the armor, pausing and helping catch the light amid the etchings.  It looked like the lines of a maze.

Rifles fired from windows, and I suspected they might have been exorcists.  The Beast was too far away, and the rifles, as powerful as they were, were far too little to stop the Beast, even if they got past the armor.

But the noise and the patter of bullets against armor did get the creature’s attention.  It turned, focused on the source, and then charged from across the plaza.

I imagined the people inside the building were doing much what we were.  Though we weren’t the target, we scrambled to put distance between ourselves and the impact site.

The Beast’s tusks retracted.  Horns didn’t, but it lowered its head so the points of the horns were aimed almost straight down.  It didn’t have a neck, only muscle and shoulder, and thus served as a massive battering ram, nearly as tall and far stronger than the building it assaulted.

We had a fair distance, but I still lowered myself, pulling off the pack, and braced for impact.

The crack of it made my thoughts skip, and the impact resounded, distorting the regular rhythm of bells.  My vision jolted, and the fact that people manning nearby lights at the towers were jarred as well made the entire scene seem to wobble.  The stone could have taken cannon fire and withstood it.  The Beast didn’t care.  It slammed through a foot of stone blocks with as much ease as Dog might a wooden door, plunging head and shoulders into the building.

Forelimbs reached up, scrabbling for purchase, and its shoulders heaved upwards against yet-unbroken stone, splitting it and sending it sliding down either side of the Beast’s back.  The feet were reaching up to the first floor, straining to reach the second, and tore the floors down and away instead.

Huffing, puffing, the superweapon bucked, horns spearing up, striking at the floor above and the exterior wall, bringing more debris down.

I doubted anyone inside had survived that.  Tough luck to anyone who lived upstairs or downstairs from that particular group.

It tried to retreat out, and its horns snagged on the stone masonry.  It was a hair away from breaking the stone, but it didn’t haul itself free.  Instead, the Beast remained where it was, huffing, puffing.  Then it yawned, with no air entering or leaving its mouth.

“Cover your nose and mouth!” Lillian shrieked.   Then, in her haste to follow through with her own action, she got out another incomplete phrase, “Eyes!”

I allowed myself a peek as I tucked nose and mouth into the crook of my elbow, lowering myself.

The Beast was letting a dark fog creep out of its mouth, filling the cavity of the ruined building in front of it.

The fog wasn’t reaching us.

I started to lower my arm.  Lillian reached over and jerked it back up into place.

Something flickered.  Like tentacles snaking through the dark fog, fire reached out.  I brought my other arm up to protect my eyes as the fire expanded to find other pockets that would ignite, then others, swelling-

Our position on the far side of the roof, with the roof’s peak between us and the Beast prevented the worst of the detonation from reaching us.  Everything else was silenced by the crack, even Beast and warning bells, and then, as if all of the sound had been caught up and thrown our way, it rushed at us, a violent wind and torrent of noise.  I could hear glass breaking.

“Don’t breathe!” Lillian called out, voice muffled.  It sounded like her voice was strained, as if she was digging for the last scraps of air in her lungs to give the order.

I remained where I was, face buried in the crooks of my elbows, hunched over the peak of the roof.

I felt my thoughts start to waver, my vision going dark at the edges, as my lungs burned of a need for more oxygen.  The bells were resuming, and the deep thuds of the Beast’s footsteps shook the building and vibrated in the core of me, straining my already tenuous control over my struggling lungs and throat.

But when a doctor-in-training said not to breathe, one listened.  When they ran, one ran.  When they said ‘oh shit’, one ran and held their breath at the same time.

I was so focused on the singular act of fighting every bodily impulse that I didn’t fully understand what I was hearing as someone heaved in a breath.  I registered, and chanced opening my eyes.  Lillian had her mouth covered, but her eyes were open.  She stared into my eyes.

Three seconds passed.

Then she took in a breath.

I allowed myself to breathe, joined by others.  We got our wind, and watched as the Beast assaulted another, shorter building, trampling it to the ground.

I looked over my shoulder at the building it had already attacked.  The back end had blown out, and parts had collapsed.  Absolutely nothing still lived there.

“Everyone okay?” Lillian asked.

There were nods all around.

“The gas,” Petey said.  “What is it?  I might have breathed some in.”

“Probably a nerve gas,” Lillian said.  “If he’s about twenty years old, then he’s part of the Wynn generation of warbeasts.  A lot of them made their own from internal waste and byproducts.  I’ve read up on it, a little extra because Ibott said he was thinking about giving Helen a reserve.”

“That was a no,” Helen said.

“You’re probably immune, by the way.”


“What would happen if we breathed it in?” Gordon asked.

“At this distance, that concentration, carried by the explosion?  Probably nothing.”


“Only probably.  But if you were unlucky, your throat might stop working, or it wouldn’t work as well, or you’d lose some function in your eyes.  If we weren’t wearing clothes, we might lose sphincter control.  Maybe bladder control, for the girls.”

“Not the guys?”

“I’m not going to get into anatomy 101, Sy,” Lillian said.  “Doesn’t matter anyway, unless you’re taking your pants off.”

“Don’t tempt him,” Mary said.

“Hey!” I protested, to Mary.  Then to Lillian, I said, “And it does too matter, I like my sphincter control.”

“We’re all glad for your sphincter control,” Gordon said.  “You’d be more unpleasant to be around if you didn’t have any.”

More unpleasant?”

“Enough,” Mary said.  “Look.”

The Brechwell Beast was taking a side road.  The lights were leading it on its way.

I raised myself up and pulled my clammy shirt away from my chest, trying to make heads or tails of the runny lines there.

“It’s headed in the right direction,” Gordon said.

“Oh, good,” I said.

“You got the distraction you wanted.  They’re probably quaking in their boots,” he said.


“Now what?”

“We follow.”

“Okay,” he said.  “While we’re doing that, let’s keep an eye out for one of those rifles.  If it can hurt the Brechwell Beast, I wouldn’t mind having one for myself.”

I nodded.  The wreckage of the building would be too much trouble to go through.

The Engineer and Petey stared.  Petey was especially quiet right now.

“They open and close the gates, to control which routes the Beast can and will travel. It prefers lit area, I guess?” I asked.

“Don’t most of us?” Helen asked.

“Point.  It reaches the area we mentioned to the Wry Man, and then, what, they shut the gates and trap it and our enemies in the same space?  They hide indoors and…”

Gordon said, “Presumably, the Brechwell Beast pulls the same trick it just did.  Fills the area with gas, then ignites it.  Nerve gas finishes off those the fire doesn’t.”

I thought of how the horns had caught.  “If it’s trapped.”

Gordon nodded.

I looked at Mary.  “Is that okay?  Percy might be with them.”

She flinched visibly at the mention of the name.  “I’d rather get him alive.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because if we didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to believe he wasn’t a clone, that this wasn’t a trick.”

I nodded slowly.

“I’ve thought about it a lot.  The Percy thing,” she said, her voice quiet.  “I know how it looks and sounds.”

“We trust you,” Lillian jumped in.  “Or I do, at least.”

“I do too,” I said.  “I believe you.  I think you’re right.  Though you just put a nasty thought in my head.  I’d really hate to find out that the corpse of Fray was a clone, and that the real her was running around somewhere.”

“You might be getting ahead of yourself a little,” Gordon said.

“More than a little,” I admitted. “Let’s go.”

We rounded the perimeter of the oval plaza, picking our way carefully over the portion of roof that was still intact over the ruined, fire-charred stonework.  Helen, Mary and I went first, verifying that the ground was steady, before the others.  Petey was heavy and the Engineer was heavier still.  The dense, hefty body of the machine man was on the most precarious point of a stretch with nothing but thick wooden beams when a somewhat distant impact rocked the city.  He wobbled, found his balance, and hopped to safer ground.

“He’s there,” Gordon said.  “Fray’s area.”

“You sure?”  Petey asked.

“Sure as dammit,” he said.

A moment after he’d finished speaking, there was a flicker of fire.  It took a full second for the rumble of the shockwave to sweep past us.

“So soon?” I asked.

“No,” Gordon said, under his breath.

“No?  Fray’s doing?  She’s blowing it up?”

“No,” Gordon said.  He pointed.  “If I’m right… then the Beast is there…”

He moved his finger.  “The explosion-”

Another explosion occurred, this one close enough that I could get a sense of the particulars, that it was more than one thing detonating in close succession, in two very close-by locations.  There was another.

Gordon’s finger moved each time.

“Screams,” Helen said, “Some nearby.  It’s a signal.”

“Down!” he shouted.

We got down.

The remainder of the explosions sounded.  There was one at the north end of the plaza.

They were hiding indoors.  They had access to buildingsFray’s people are scattered around the area, some on watch, waiting in windows with rifles in hand… but they’re also guarding something.


I could see the damage at the north end.  The front and back faces of the building were ruined.  The floor was intact, but light did shine through.

“Fray’s making her move,” I said.

“I don’t understand,” Petey said.

“She’s freed the Beast of Brechwell,” I said.  “No, not free, but-”

“Unleashed,” Helen said.

They can’t use the gates to steer it anymore.  It won’t be trapped.  Fray has an escape route, and the Beast…

…Brechwell belongs to the Beast, for now.

I smiled.

“Come on, and hurry,” I said, talking through the grin.  “She’s given her response, and we’re still ahead.  We’ve just got to take advantage before she gets away.  We can get her.”

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63 thoughts on “Tooth and Nail – 7.5

  1. I have to say, I love how excited Sy gets whenever he interacts with fray. He seems happy that the warbeast is out of control… he loves a challenge.

  2. “There were a few more patches of gore where the Beast had torn past bystanders, but less than I might have liked.”

    Why are you rooting for bystanders to die now, Sy?? I wonder if this is due to the Wyvern… I actually don’t see a benefit to more bystanders being hurt, this doesn’t make much sense to me.

    • Prediction: Sy’s going to blame the Beast’s release on the infiltrators who get revealed in the chaos. The Academy did what it could to run damage control of the rebel action, but once the beast got into an area the rebels had prepared, they were able to unleash the beast on the civilian population as they’d intended all along for their efforts to demonize the Academy and terrorize the populace into joining their subversive efforts. If it weren’t for the decisive actions of those loyal to the Crown and Academy, the rebels would have brought disaster and ruin upon the city.

    • Well, they unleashed the beast to attack Fray and other enemy leaders, so it’s possible that “bystanders” could refer to anyone who’s not an enemy leader, at this point. We’ve seen that there’s a fairly large concentration of enemies out in the area, and because it’s night it’s unlikely there are many civilians out. As such, perhaps the “bystanders” are almost entirely enemy grunts. (ghosts, plague men, etc.)

  3. No, Sy. No wicked smile. The war beast being under no one’s control WILL be bad and you know it D:

    Books aren’t heavier than stone? Unless it was a metaphor. And how fucking long was the roof from which he was falling. Jeez.

    Anyone know some anatomy 101 willing to explain what Lillian wouldn’t?

    I want to see a drawing of the beast now.

    • “Books aren’t heavier than stone?”
      A stone of weight as in the british weight unit (~6.3kg), not a rock’s weight.

      Regarding anatomy, this specific gas seems to affect muscles through direct external contact – males have that extra flesh guarding their bladder’s sphincter, is all.

    • The term you’re looking for is female / urinary incontinence. In simple terms, the male urinary tract functions better than the female. Thus in the case of localized contact with some special nerve gas, it’d have a greater chance for causing loss of urinary control in female victims than male.

      However, if it’s causing enough damage to cause loss of control/function, I’m guessing both male and female victims would probably be up a creek already.

    • In the engulfing darkness below, I could see a vague shape in gray, lit indirectly by the fire around a distant burning building, bounced off a cloud and down into the shadows beneath me.
      -as the light bounced off a

      I reached into darkness, slamming my feet down at an angle.
      My feet found the gutter, wedging into the space. My tired, cold fingers found the edge of it, too.
      -It took me effort to visualize, figuring out if Sy was face-up, face down. Was he falling straight, or falling at an angle?

      all of my weight jerking hard my fingers hard against the edge of the gutter,
      -hard x2

  4. So, releasing the Beast didn’t do what it should have, and has now become a bigger problem for the Lambs.
    Surely no one saw that coming.

    If Wildbow really wants to pull a twist to us, he should have our protagonists escalate a situation, and not have that come back to bite them in the ass, for once.

    • What are you talking about? Didn’t you hear Sy? Everything goes according to plan.
      Well, yes, Brenchwell is doomed now, but the city’s survival was never a factor in that plan.

      • Hey, i called the “release superweapon on population” thing! Yay!

        So here’s some more wild guessing.

        I have this feeling that maybe Sy is playing into Fray’s hands not because he’s predictable and she outplanned him, but because he figured out the plan and is playing along.


        Either to catch her somewhere near her endspiel when she’s been expecting a few more turns of midgame – or just to see what she has planned. The entire beast release thing went way too fast, authorization too smooth.

        Notice how the previous time, his brain was full of Fray and “what would Fray do”. Here, we haven’t seen one line of thought going along that way. He’s not guessing, so he either plays pigeon chess all-out, or he just *knows*.

        Say, maybe he’s figured out what happened to Jamie and has been planning to double-cross the Academy this whole time, so *that*’s why he has rushed things to get done before Ashton arrives *and* accelerated the superbeast combination. Ashton’s fresh, so he’s loyal – and every other Lamb has reservations by now.

        I also have a feeling that maybe Fray’s not here at all and it’s all Avis. A person who was previously known to coordinate both Firebrands and Spears, who now has a very weird temporal perception thing – which, as shown, not only can make her super impatient if she has nothing to do, but can also make her super patient when she has a goal – like now, when Fray gave her one. And being a coordinator she doesn’t even have to shoot anyone.

          • Anu, Oynxr jnf gbb eryhpgnag; ybbxvat sbe sevraqf, crnpr naq dhvrg. Ur bayl chyyrq gur cvtrba gnpgvpf nsgre Ynveq chfurq uvz gbb sne.
            Sylvester, on the other hand, either actively causes chaos or schemes about the next time he will. That looks like pigeon dedication to me !

        • I’m not sure if Avis would be willing to participate in organizing for attacks like the Rebels have been doing, though. I didn’t just read her as upset about the idea of hurting people, but sick with guilt over being partly responsible for the Ghosts, which are pretty much singlehandedly worse than every actual Academy project we’ve seen.

  5. So the Beast is basically a standard charge warbeast, with some explosive nerve gas as a backup. I actually think Sy has the upper hand now. This is where he excels; in the midst of chaos, with everyone panicking and shitting their pants due to the crazy warbeast going out of control.

    • Except the crazy warbeast has been anticipated or maybe even planned.

      Here are the ways i think Sy can still hope to win:
      – Hope that warbeast is unpredictable enough to shit on Fray’s chessboard enough to catch her off guard.
      – He has hacked his mind to be more like Fray’s in order to play longer plans, and deliberately played along to catch her with some new trick later in the events.
      – Secretly has a different win condition.

  6. Sy’s glee at the beast getting out of control makes me think he’s betrayed the Academy. He took Jamie’s execution very hard, it isn’t out of the question. That might explain why he wants to get things done before Ashton arrives.

  7. The Brechwell Beast is surprisingly nasty for something so simple. The explosive nerve gas is really just icing comparing to being big and tough and unstoppable.

    • Issue of /scale/, I guess. Being smart is good. Being super smart and able to manipulate the battlefield is great.

      But….past a certain point, just being enough of an unstoppable immune-to-everything brute basically forces the game to change shape around you, and no amount of cleverness or smart positioning or manipulation abilities can really offset that. Steer it, maybe.

      • I also had that picture in mind – Helen’s elder sibling is totally a mutant mini-Tarrasque.

        Wonder if they could bond in any way. Call her Snowball and scratch her behind the horns.

  8. I’m starting to wonder if the Wyvvern gives Sy a lot of “out of sight, out of mind” where caring about people is concerend. We’ve seen him get upset on occasion about collatoral, like the mice being taken by the ghosts, but here, he doesn’t seem at all concerned a lot of guys on his side are gonna get killed by the Beast.

    Yeah, the Crown can try blaming the Beast getting loose on the rebels, but the rebels can blame the beast being loosed on the crown.

    • The Crown as an institution seems to have essentially zero credibility with the common people. At best, they figure it’s in charge because it’s strong.

      You know what sucks when you’re a power basing your legitimacy on strength and spend a year getting the shit kicked out of you by a rebellion?

  9. I wanted to comment last week but forgot: why is Brechwell keeping maps of the city secret? How is that practical when there are plenty of civilians living in the city who presumably know at least a fraction of it?
    I can understand a twisty and irregular design to make any enemies trapped inside with the beast feel more claustrophobic, and also make it less easy to know without looking at the map which way to run. But an embargo on the maps is a very stupid security measure. The lambs should have been given a map of the city before even arriving.

    OTOH, it’s been mentioned that the person in charge of Brechwell is an idiot.

    • Because the civilians know their way around but can’t give an attacker an accurate map of the entire city. One map can do the work of dozens of local guides. It’s not just for the Beast; the layout was designed when it was a military base without an academy at all. No maps means that any unit of attackers without an attached local guide will get hopelessly lost and confused and waste a lot of time backtracking.

  10. I wonder what plans the rebels have for taking the superweapons down. They can’t rely on the Academy not being willing to use them, not if they’re aiming for a full victory. It’s possible their plan is to set them on a rampage and let the Academy figure out how to kill them, but I’d expect them to have at least a backup plan.

    For my money, the best plan for this guy is exploiting his own gas. That armor won’t stop an internal explosion.

  11. Ok, the Brechwell beast was powerful, sure, but as a superweapon/last resort it was kinda…. underhelming. The Duke seemed scarier, and it can be outgunned, though not easily. It is essentially like having tank warfare and instead of having an airplane as a trump, you have a supertank: useful for a good general, but not nearly unbeatable

    • There’s virtue in simplicity. I always expected that they Academy superweapons would mainly be along these lines; nothing complicated, just a house-sized mass of armor and muscle. There’s not much you can do about it unless you have enough guns.

      Though I do have serious reservations about the Academy’s superweapon design philosophy. They’re powerful, but also useless except for kicking the board over. It’s months into the war, and they were all still inactive, because they attack both sides. Even worse, they can’t even be effectively employed offensively; they’re stored in major settlements and can’t be transported. If they were designed so the Lambs could ride on their shoulders and tell them what to kill, the Academy could’ve won within weeks.

      • It’s pretty obvious that in twig-verse “superweapon” doesn’t mean the same thing it means in our world. For us, a superweapon is a weapon that just wins the whole war by itself, but in Twig, Radham Beast, Brechwell Beast, Lambs, Humors, and even the Dog are all “superweapons”. I think it just means “an efficient military prototype”.

        A note about the Brechwell beast though is that it’s designed to be released when the city is really invaded and whenever it runs, there are enemies, plus it’s hard to use guns against it because of how the city is built, and it’s hard to run from it because there’s nowhere to run.

        • Eh, it’s all right in this particular context, but it’s apparently not the only superweapon on this pattern. Radham has some mysterious primary superweapon buried underneath it that seems to be similar.

        • Not just win the war, just…. changes the rules of the game.

          A good tactician was a superweapon in ancient China. Iron weapons were a superweapon vs bronze weapons. Firearms were superweapons vs older weapons. Tanks were superweapons vs normal combatants. Airplanes were superweapons vs tanks. And nukes are the biggest superweapons we have created.

          But all those things fundamendally changed the rules of the game, even though none of them were invisible

          A master tactician often would crush much greater numbers, and could only be countered by another tactician. A bronze weapon, now matter how good, was no match for an iron one.Firearms allowed one man with them to efficiently fight ten without, and allowed deployment of more soldiers due to lesser training times.A tank would basically need near an army to be defeated by people withut explosive weapons, and would be tough to defeat by people with. An airplane… well… just look at WW1 and WW2 to see how it changed war.And the Cold War for nukes.

          None of these was a game winner, at least not always, but it changed the very essence of the game, the oppoment would have to either use a similar weapon, overhelming resources, a totally new invention/tactic, or lose.

          By contrast, the Brechwell beast seems like a bigger army, a masterwork bronze weapon, a master footsoldier, a supertank. Efficient compared to everything else, but not gamechanging .

          • Actually, in terms of physical properties bronze weapons are mildly superior to iron weapons. However, making bronze required alloying metals often found in wildly separated regions, while iron only required one of the most common elements in the universe*. That meant iron weapons and armor could be produced in vastly greater numbers.

            *Because of fusion energy yields, stellar fusion ends at iron and heavier elements are generally only produced in supernovas. It’s also the end of the typical stellar fusion chain and is thus more common than many lighter elements that aren’t in the chain.

          • The Beast hasn’t been stopped by the exorcist rifles. It sends that there’s very little that could actually stop it.

          • I wouldn’t say that just on the basis of it withstanding the rifles. They’re light enough to be the rebel’s standard anti-infantry weapon, after all. They apparently aren’t powerful enough to be the main plan for a standard warbeast. Fixed artillery would be much more powerful; I doubt the Beast could simply bounce shells from the Paris Gun, for instance.

          • I am pretty sure one good poison gas or 2-3 gorgers or a more well equiped lamb team could stop it easily.

          • Thats why Isaid “good” and “2-3”. Nothing living is immune to ALL poisons, not even Sy, do not tell me an anti-Brechwell beast poison cannot be made. And 2-3 wolves easily beat a lion- gorger is smaller, but 3 gorgers can take him. If not 2-3 then 10.

          • In terms of things people might actually have on hand, if they get all the gunpowder they have in storage, put it in a big pile, get the Beast to charge directly into the pile, and blow it up, neither the Beast nor anything within several hundred meters is likely to remain combat-ready.

    • Remember how Sy said that Brechwell is basically the end of the line for many careers and that the citys setup breeds mediocre employees and results? A mediocre, predictable superweapon fits just fine, I think.

  12. I’m really hoping we see a grey goo superweapon at some point. Maybe have it eat people who don’t have a specific chemical tracer, so it just happens to also be extremely dangerous to the Lambs.
    It would be extremely effective if implemented properly, I’m surprised no one has seemingly been working on one already. High speed self replication is really hard to deal with, and requires a completely different set of countermeasures than the normal warbeasts.

    • The entire Academy tech is based on high-speed nano-replicators. But the gray goo scenario requires more than that: also a super minituarized energy source to fuel it, and ability to construct new goo elements out of “everything”. And it seems like evolution would have done it both irl and in twig already if this was possible with your off the shelf protein life.

      • Flesh-eating bacteria exist. It’s just that any organism that consumes available resources too quickly is going to die off fairly quickly, as it noms available biomass faster than new biomass can be brought in for it. Now, if the organism were to go dormant instead of dying off, that would work as well, but then you don’t have exponential replication because some fraction of the organism is no longer exponentiating.

        • It dying off would actually be an upside here; if it burns itself out after consuming an enemy army then the Academy doesn’t have to worry about it spreading back to their own cities or rendering the area impassible.

    • I’m inclined to suspect that the Academy could make a Grey Goo-ish replicator (probably just one analogus to the Life Eater virus rather than one that eats metal) but has deliberately opted not to because it’s far too uncontrollable and indiscriminate. They’ve already got enough superweapons that are too dangerous to use as it is, and a self-replicating one would be even worse.

      • I believe that the issue of self replicating experiments was brought up in the Sub Rosa arc. Basically the Academy likes weapons that can self replicate but only if they can be strictly controlled. Anything that breeds uncontrollably is utterly destroyed, for safety reasons.

        Makes sense really. They want to rule things once they’re done conquering them and you don’t really want your territory to be overrun with rapidly procreating indiscriminate hyperpredators. Unless you’re a Helen I suppose. That sounds like her idea of a good time.

        • Seems like the rebels would be all over that, though. A little mutually ensured destruction should go a long way towards ending the war, especially if they can figure out how to release it where some royals are. A new fear of death might get them to back off.

  13. Sy on low wyvern last arc is really reminiscent of blake, and sy once hes topped off reminds me more of taylors way of doing things.

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