In Sheep’s Clothing – 10.6

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“With formalities and opening statements out of the way, I’d like to set the tone for our conversation today.  Mr. Garey, we talked over the phone.  For the sake of our discussion here, would you tell us if you would strenuously object if Lillian Garey was taken off the accelerated path to professorship?”

“I would not strenuously object, Professor Hayle.  As  matter of fact, in our prior conversations, I’ve requested it.”

“Good.  Let’s give the record takers a second to finish- there.  Alright.  Why did you request this?”

“I’m aware of the climate, Professor, and I know my daughter.  In terms of politics, in what you’ve said about the cutthroat academic world, the recent war and outfighting and the continued unrest, I feel that it would be setting her up to fail.  She’s young, she’s a girl in a setting dominated by men… I notice that my wife and the stitched over there taking notes are the only women in this room… and things are uneasy everywhere.  My primary concern is that she would be targeted or used as a scapegoat, a fast ascent, a faster fall.”

“And your secondary concerns, Mr. Garey?”

“Every time I talk to her or get a letter, she tells me that she’s skipping ahead.  She didn’t have to take a course because she studied well.  She didn’t have to write a paper because the teacher or professor told her that her practical knowledge learned in the midst of her involvement in the special project would be sufficient.  She missed classes and traveled, and you pulled strings to ensure she wouldn’t be dropped from the course.”

“The ‘you’, for the records, is referring to Professor Hayle.”

“Yes.  Sorry about that.  I’m worried that she’s moving too fast, and she’s leaving behind the fundamentals.  My daughter is leading a whirlwind life, all movement, excitement, time with friends, time with boys, rushed completion of projects or clusters of tests because she was away or preoccupied.”

“The mention of boys is one thing we can come back to in a moment,” Hayle said.

“Ahem.  Yes.  For the purpose of the records, this is Professor Reid now speaking.  Those here should be reminded that, much as we stated at the outset of the meeting, that Lillian Garey’s grades have ranged from significantly above average to exemplary.”

“Thank you, Professor, but I think the thrust of Mr. Garey’s argument here isn’t about her grades or competence.  Mr. Garey?”

“I didn’t study as an Academy student or anything of the sort.  I went to an ordinary school and learned my maths, cursive writing, biology, and dry sciences.  There were stretches of it that were dreary, pedantic, and mind-numbing, but that dreariness and pedantry taught me skills, patience, and ways of thinking that made me a proper adult.  I won’t say that being a professor is dull, by any stretch of the imagination, but it strikes me as something ordered and quiet, disciplined and stately.  I don’t think she’s had an exposure to the environments or skills she needs in order to navigate this particular environment, to sit among you and maintain her place and your respect.”

“I see what you mean now, Mr. Garey,” Reid said.

“I envision her future, and I can’t help but see her rushing down this accelerated road to one of the highest positions an Academy scientist can hope for, and finding herself unprepared, struggling to find allies in a very political and cutthroat environment, and hitting a wall of sorts.  I had dinner with her tonight, and I worry about how she acted.  I almost didn’t recognize her.”

“Mrs. Garey?  You looked like you wanted to say something.”

“I wasn’t sure if I should speak.  I liked the Lillian I saw tonight.  As we had tea over dessert, I remember thinking that she really did seem like someone who could and should be a professor someday.  She was assertive, quick, passionate, and focused.”

“Headstrong, narcissistic.  There was something off about her mannerisms, around the eyes and the hands.”

“She’s taking after you, Jonathan, when it comes to the eyes, the hands, and her stubbornness.  There was none of the self-obsession either, she clearly cared about Sylvester, and she showed interest in me.  I think she is balancing schooling and life very well.”

“The manner Mr. Garey took note of may have been the result of chemicals.”

“Chemicals, professor?”

“Mind-altering drugs.  Or a mind altering drug.  Supplied by the boy she had dinner with.”

“Oh, lords.”

“Professor Hayle, do you meant to tell me-”

“Hold on.  Please.  As we stated at the outset of this meeting, there are certain realities and projects that we cannot elaborate on.  You’re welcome to stay, and we’re happy to have you participate in the discussion and represent your daughter, but please allow me to speak.  I’d like to think about my words so I may balance what you need to hear with our need to keep certain things confidential.  The alternative is to have to ask you to leave.”

“As you wish, Professor.”

“Thank you.  The substance she imbibed is one that students across the Academy take.  I’ve taken it myself, as have several of my colleagues here.  We strictly moderate the use of the drug, but we do provide it to students on a controlled basis.  Sylvester, by virtue of his particular focus, has access to a greater supply.”

“Poisons and, what was it?  The mind?”

“Yes.  We can’t know how long Lillian has been taking it, or how much she has been taking, but we have good reason to believe it’s well above the dosage that other students take.  This is concerning.”

“Especially,” another old man spoke, “Given a prior case, which Lillian Garey is fully aware of, where another young woman on track for a position as professor was found to be abusing the substance.”

“The less said about that, the better.  It’s possible or likely that she has been abusing the substance for some time, but her use of it has escalated to the point that she’s under its influence while meeting with her own parents in a casual setting.  Giving her access to the substance was a test, and it is one she appears to have failed.  We have to wonder about her performance up to this point, and whether she’s equipped to handle things, as Mrs. Garey seemed to think she was.”

“If what you’re saying is true, then- I’m appalled, professor.  I’m sorry to speak up.”

“Not at all, Mrs. Garey.  Speaking as the person managing the program and mentoring Lillian on her accelerated path, I remain both apologetic and disappointed.  Unfortunately, this is only one of the two big concerns I have about her conduct as of late.”

“There’s another?”  Mr. Garey asked.

“You already raised attention to it.  The boy, Sylvester.”

“You complimented him at dinner.”

“Much of what I said at dinner was accurate.  Sylvester is an asset.  He’s clever and resourceful.  He’s also something of a knave, and I have little doubt you were able to pick up on that aspect of his personality.”

“I was able to, yes.”

“If I were to tell you the whole truth in front of your face, then he would take offense and make himself a nuisance.  I’m sure you were able to pick up on that, as well?”

“I see your point, but I don’t see why you would go to that trouble to maintain a working relationship with a subordinate.”

“With the best professors, the best students, and the most promising projects, there are compromises and accommodations that must oftentimes be made,” Hayle said.  “Again, this fringes on the confidential.  For now, we’ll have to leave it at this: I held my tongue to keep him cooperative.”

“I’ll take your word, then, professor.”

“He’s smart, capable, and valuable to us, and Sylvester has benefited from his relationship to Lillian.  Lillian’s relationship with Sylvester has had its positive elements.  They collaborate well.  This sums up much of what I said when I spoke to you earlier tonight?”

“Yes, Professor.”

“Lillian’s relationship with Sylvester has its negative elements, and those elements likely outweigh the positive.  That it happened in the first place and that it’s ongoing is a mark against her in her long-term prospects.  The group received a lot of freedom, and they used that freedom to fraternize.”

“Fraternize?  You mean-”

“I can’t say anything for certain.  But questions have been raised, and the individual in charge of looking after the bulk of the group has obliquely remarked that the young adults have not always been sleeping in their own beds in the morning.”

There was a fair amount of murmuring, where nothing was said to address the room.

“I am gravely sorry for the conduct of my daughter.”

“Universally, parents seem to blame themselves when trouble arises, and take it on themselves to levy punishment.  In this case, however, I don’t think it’s fair.  The Academy has raised her as much as you have.”

“That’s true, but it doesn’t feel right to place the responsibility at your feet.  She’s our daughter and our responsibility.”

“I appreciate that, Mr. Garey.”

“Is all of this a prelude to your dropping her from the special project?”

“Dropping her from the special project would be costly, I think.  We recently added two other students to the project, and recent months have taught us just how much there is to learn.  Lillian is extraordinarily capable and arguably irreplaceable.  A better idea, I think, to restructure the special project.”

“This is Professor Sexton speaking.  How are you thinking of restructuring the group?”

“We already split it into two groups.  It’s a question of light juggling to separate Lillian from Sylvester, and to keep one group away while the other is home.  They’ll maintain things in a long-distance fashion for a time, and we can observe carefully to ensure they cannot reconnect.  With luck, the relationship will die on its own.”

“I would hope my daughter terminates the relationship on her own and focuses on her studies.”

“As would I, Mr. Garey.  We’ll watch stocks of the drug she has been taking and perhaps test her now and again to see if she continues relying on it.  She is a promising student, and the project is steadily running its course.  Around the time she’s due to graduate and don her gray coat, the project should be finished.  If you have no objection, if the relationship is terminated, and if she has then weaned herself off the drug while showing consistent academic progress, then I would like to return her to the accelerated path.”

“Putting an eighteen year old on that path is much different from putting a girl in her adolescent years on that path.  I’m… uncomfortable having heard what I’ve heard tonight.  We both are, judging by the look on my wife’s face.  A part of me wants to pull her out of classes.  Another part of me wants her to see success… but of the slow and steady kind.  She hopes to be the youngest woman professor in the Academies, but I worry that is a star that would shine brightly and for a tragically short time.  I would rather she wear the title of Doctor only and wear it for the rest of her life, or until she married.”

“I understand.  I would like to suggest a compromise, then.  In two years’ time, you and I will have another meeting.  It won’t necessarily have to involve the other professors and her teachers.  We can discuss if she should wear a black coat or a gray one.”

“I have no trouble making the trip, Professor Hayle.  Can I ask you to keep me updated?”

“Do you have a telephone?”

“At my workplace.”

Professor Hayle moved some papers.  I could hear them rustling.  “We have that number.  A phone call once every two months, then?  A letter if the phone call can’t be arranged?  Good.  The accelerated path will become an accelerated path in name only, then.  She’ll be a candidate for professorship if and when she reaches an appropriate age and meets the criteria.  For now, as we’re still years too early for that point, Lillian Garey will present her special project to this room tomorrow morning, and we will turn her idea down regardless of merit.  We can cite a lack of resources post-wartime.  As she enters more difficult classes and faces more difficult classes, we will give her less leeway.  Far less.  Knowing her, she’ll be liable to blame herself.”

“I can imagine that treatment breaking a lesser student.”  Sexton.

“It will be a test of character, one she might well need.  Any objections, Mr. Garey?”

“No, Professor.  I am far more comfortable with this proposal than I was with things as they stood.  So long as my daughter gets the quality education we’re paying for and isn’t set up to fail, then I’m in agreement.  I think she needs that test of character, to become what she wants to become.”

“Mrs. Garey?”

“…No objection.  You’ll look after her?  Keep a closer eye on her activities?  With the boys, and the substance abuse?”

“Without question.”

A pause.  Pen scratches on paper.

“Then I think we’ve reached a resolution, and we’ve made good time.  Mr. Garey, Mrs. Garey, thank you for coming.  I hope you enjoy your time with your daughter while you’re still here.  I suspect she will be distraught after the meeting tomorrow, and I’m sorry it had to come to that.  Let us know if you need anything.”

“Thank you for involving us in this.  I know you didn’t have to.”

“It was, I think, somewhat inevitable that this would happen.  I wanted the two of you to know what we were doing and why.  I’ve dealt with enough angry and indignant parents to not want to deal with any more.  Cases like this are rare, where a student is raised up and doing so well, and we have to be so hard on them.”

“Thank you, professor.”

Chairs scraped.

I watched as Mr. and Mrs. Garey passed through the relatively narrow slice of the room that I could make out, making their way to the door, nice shoes tapping against the floor.

The door banged as it shut.

“Will the Baron of Richmond be satisfied with only this?” Sexton asked.

“I’ll talk to him myself.  If framed in the right way, I think it should be fine.  It needed to be done, all the same, with how unwieldy the Lambs have been getting.  This feels like a good initial step in bringing things under control.”

“I know I was very vocal about my reservations when the Lambs were in early stages, but they have proved their value, Hayle.  I no longer have a project to look after, so let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

“We can discuss over tea, Sexton.  Tomorrow perhaps?  I need more lab space, I think.”

“Arright, that’s enough backpatting, you two.  I’m tired, and the list of students gets longer every year.  Next student we need to discuss is Dan Garret.  No parents.  We can talk among ourselves.  Which one is this, again?”

“A bad sign, if we can’t quite remember.  What are his grades?”

I had barely moved a muscle as I lay prostrate in the duct.  I barely wanted to move, as the conversation moved on from Lillian so very easily.

My emotions were all over the place, but that ‘place’ wasn’t where my emotions ought to have been.  Not in my heart, my throat, the pit of my stomach, nor my brain.  My hands were trembling, my fingertips tingling and my breathing was funny.  My eyes were wet, but I wasn’t crying.  I could have blamed the dust and I wasn’t sure I would have been lying.

Yet, when I reached for an emotion, I couldn’t feel much of anything.  I wanted to feel angry and indignant, but it was a want without any heat or muscle behind it.  I wanted to be sad, or something.

I twisted myself around and began reversing course, going back through the ducts, faster and more carelessly than was necessary.  A finger scraped against the side of a rusty nail that was sticking up through the floor of the duct, and it bled freely.  The pain felt like it had happened to someone else.  The dust on the floor of the duct clotted the wound before natural processes did.

I felt like I hadn’t had Wyvern in a while, but it hadn’t been long at all.  Disconnected, unfocused, confused.

Hearing a noise, I stopped, one hand raised, ready to come down on the floor of the duct and assist me in crawling forward.  It trembled where it hung in the air.

I started moving again, going through the motions.  Everything I was doing involved a strange sort of effort, but it didn’t require thinking, and I couldn’t think at all.  I couldn’t imagine a pristine white rectangle, that technique Hayle had taught me, because my thoughts were washed away before I was halfway to even starting.

It was so difficult to move, to remind myself to try to breathe slowly and steadily, to put one hand in front of the other, move my knees, and avoid the nails, that it seemed like I failed at one or the other.  Yet somehow, I lost track of time and found myself in the chute that led up from the adjunct chamber of the boiler to the vents.  I fumbled around for full minutes before I felt like my feet and hands were in the right place to let me slide down.

I brushed the worst of the dust off me, and out of my hair, my actions methodical, careful.

As if my mind and body had switched places.  While my body was very much in my control, taking up all of my attention, it was as my thoughts normally were, affected by impulses and things pushing in from outside.  Something that I steered to the right courses rather than something that did exactly as I wanted.  My thoughts, meanwhile, were wild and unpredictable, subject to the whim and madness of my emotions.  I couldn’t think at all, my head filled with a kaleidoscope of soundless noise, smoke, and poison.

Once dressed, I stepped out of the room.  Moving forward was the impulse, now.  Getting out of Claret Hall.

It was as though I was moving through a series of portraits hanging on a wall, not one continuous building.  Moments where nothing registered or seemed to exist, then a scene, a new environment, a crowd of people I had to walk around, who were just finishing their tea.  Another blank space.  I covered distance and didn’t recall any of it.

In that manner, I found myself standing outside without a coat or a jacket.  Snow was falling and I was surprised at the snow.  I spent a long time trying to figure out where my coat was.  Had I left a clue behind, in the vents or in the boiler room?

It took far too long to connect my thoughts to Lillian.  She had my coat.

It was impulse more than thought, that she needed to know.  That I couldn’t let her go to that meeting tomorrow and face that treatment blind.

I couldn’t let her go to that meeting.

I couldn’t let her go.

My recollection of the approach to the girl’s dormitory was just as scattered as my exit from Claret Hall.  I stumbled through the snow, tripping over patches that I shouldn’t have.  It wasn’t that cold, but the shakes became shivers.

I wasn’t as discreet as I needed to be, and it was sheer chance that I wasn’t spotted as I walked alongside the dormitory, circling around to the back path.  With numb, uncooperative fingers, I scaled the outside.  I made my way up to the window, and slid it open.

In a kind of mechanical, automatic way, I noted that Lillian had probably lubricated the trenches in the frame that the window slid up and down.  It was nearly silent.

I sat on the windowsill, legs hanging inside her room, before making myself lean forward, feet touching ground.  The window slid closed, almost without a noise.

Standing by the window, I watched Lillian, who sat at her desk.  She was wearing a nightgown and a cardigan.  Her hair was short, the entire back of her neck exposed, but the sides were longer and stuck out to either side, blocking my view of her face and ears.  She was writing, pen scratching against paper, periodically looking up to check one of the four tomes that she had sitting in book holders or left open on her desk.  Write, write, write, move over to another piece of paper, to make a note or write down a calculation.

Mid-sentence, she turned to look in my direction, and she jumped so much she nearly fell out of her chair.

“Sy!” she hissed the words, a raised whisper.  “I nearly peed myself!”

Then she smiled.  That smile she’d had on her face as she talked to her mother, which had stirred feelings of wanting inside of me, but it was a reaction to me, this time.  Five times more intense, ten times.  Without bounds, because things were flipped around and the checks and cautions that I normally had just weren’t there.

I couldn’t let her go.

I closed the distance between us, moving right into her personal space, until I could feel her breath on my face and she could feel my breath on hers.  I kissed her like I hadn’t kissed her before.  Before, it was calculated, always with thinking behind it.  To leave her wanting more, to give her a taste of the deeper, more intense kiss she liked the most, without quite giving her enough of it.  This time, I gave her everything she wanted.  No teases, no fluttery barely-there touches of my lips to hers.

When she broke away for air, her breathing was hard, her face flushed, her eyes animated with emotion, a smile on her lips that she was fighting to keep at bay.

“Mary’s going to show up,” she said.

I kissed her again, my chest pressing against hers.  She backed up a bit, to keep her balance, and ended up with her rear end pressing against the edge of the desk.

I had to lean against her more to reach past her to the desk and snuff the candles on top of it with fingers that only had the wet on them from the snow and my climb up the wall.  I dimly registered that my fingertips stung, that they were sensitive to the touch of air on them, but all I really felt was Lillian.  Those same sensitive, stinging fingertips ran up the small of her back, then pulled her closer to me in the now-dark room.

I couldn’t get her close enough.  I wanted her closer, then even closer, until there was overlap.  I wanted Lillian inside that void in my chest, my stomach, and my throat, where there was only grasping want and a kind of despairing, hopeless sort of feeling over how cute she was and how nice it was to be with her.  I wanted to be inside Lillian, to reach inside her heart and throat and stomach and move thoughts and feelings around until she understood how I felt and what needed to be done.

She broke the kiss again, moving her head so her ear was near mine, her panting breaths against my shoulder.  “Sy.”

She kissed the side of my neck, once, and I felt a painful, sharp sadness at just how beautiful that one little touch was.  With it came a terrible, ominous feeling, like all of the emotions and sensations that I hadn’t been feeling since I heard those two different voices in the vents might come crashing back into place.

I didn’t want to feel that.  Only this.  My hands crept further up the small of her back, until I touched the dark green cardigan she wore.  Scratchy wool, the sort that was only comfortable worn over other clothes.  There were big, knobby, rounded buttons on the front, digging into my sternum and my stomach.

I took hold of the cardigan and lifted it up without unbuttoning it, over her chest and head, past her shoulders.  When it was at her forearms and hands, I seized the middle in one hand, and twisted, winding it around my hand, winding it around both of her hands, trapping it there, both of her hands and wrists bound by one of mine.  Her head pulled back, dark brown eyes stared into mine, barely lit by the moonlight bouncing in off the snow outside.

I waited for her to speak, to dash this moment, to mention Mary.  She gave me a shy peck on the lips instead.

Using the cardigan to move her arms and move her, I pulled her in the direction of the bed, one movement to push, pull, twist her over, so she would topple, her rear end and small of her back off the bed, her upper back, shoulders and head on it.  She scooted back in the same moment I crawled forward, above her, straddling her stomach.  My hand, both of her hands, and her cardigan were over her head, locked into place.  The shoulder of that arm was sore, throbbing in a way that suggested I would feel it tomorrow, but I barely cared.

I touched the side of her face, and I saw her smile.

I kissed her the way she liked most, my one hand free to roam.  My mind wasn’t able to hold onto things as well as the typical mind might be.  I had to pick and choose what I kept and why, and I had to remind my brain regularly of things, or skills and things would slip away.  A tricky balance, one that I didn’t always keep, with one skill or another swiftly rusting as I forgot about.

But Lillian… I made a point of remembering the little details, gleaned over nights we’d shared a bed, doing little else besides kissing and cuddling.  I brushed her stomach, halfway between her belly button and her side, and her back arched to press into my hand, because she responded to tickling sensations not by pulling way, but moving closer.  I kissed and lightly bit her collarbone, because touching it always got a surprised reaction out of her, and because my weight on her stomach was pulling the nightgown down just enough to expose it.

She squirmed, and she couldn’t move with her hands in the cardigan or my weight on her stomach.  She could have freed herself if she tried, but she wasn’t trying very hard.  She leaned her head forward, and kissed me on top of my head.

I bit her collarbone harder.  Impulse: I couldn’t let her go.

My hand was at her side, fingers falling into the indents between ribs, fingertips digging in, and I didn’t want to move it.  I pulled my head away from her collarbone, moved to the top of her nightgown, and undid the top button with my mouth.  I kissed the space between button and the hole, then moved my head down, to do the same with the next button.

The buttons went all of the way down, I thought, as I undid it.  My thoughts were still noise and smoke and sadness, but it was at least a warm, animal sort of noise, smoke, and sadness.

Her voice interrupted me on the third button.  “Sy?”

I stopped, cloth in my teeth.  My hand at her side relaxed, and I gave slack at the cardigan.  Not enough to free her, but enough for her to move some, if she needed to.  I looked only at the cloth.  I drew in breath and smelled only her.

“Sy,” she whispered.  She sounded almost afraid.  “You’re crying.”

Tears were falling onto the nightgown and skin I’d bared.  Blotting out into the former.  Lingering on the latter.

She pulled one hand free of the cardigan without undue effort, then the other.  My hand remained wound in the prickly wool.  Both of her arms wrapped around my head, hugging me tight against her chest.

“What’s going on?” she whispered.  “What’s wrong?”

The tears were flowing more freely now.  Stupid.  Boys weren’t supposed to cry.

“I-” I started, and my voice was ragged, as if I hadn’t talked in a very long time.  “I’m breaking up with you.”

My head against her chest, I could feel that she was no longer breathing. I could feel her heartbeat, fast for all the wrong reasons now.

“Not funny,” she said.

It wasn’t funny at all.  We were on the same page on that.

“I’m sorry,” I said.  I tried to pull away and she didn’t let my head go, hugging it where it was.  “I shouldn’t have done this.  I wasn’t thinking straight.”

The words all came out too fast.  I wasn’t sure if she understood me.

“We’re not breaking up,” she said.  “That’s not your decision.  It’s not my parent’s decision, it’s-”

“The school.”

There was only silence, the human, girly, perfumey smell of her, the pleasant sulphur smell of the extinguished candles, and then the sudden, out-of-place laugh of a student in the hallway.

“They know about us.  As long as we’re together, then you can’t ever get your black coat.”

I felt the intake of breath that came with putting the pieces together.  Where I’d been, what I’d heard.

“They know about you taking Wyvern and they don’t like it, but if you’re good then that won’t hold you back.  But us?  They’re going to tear us apart anyway.  Ending this now is best.”

“That’s not your decision to make.”

“It damn well is!” I hissed the words.

Ah, there it was.  The anger I’d dug for in the vents and the boiler, yet was unable to find, then.

“I’d rather be with you, Sy.  I’d rather have the freedom to choose than to have a black coat.”

I can’t let you, I thought.

“Would you?” I asked.  I lifted myself up.  My hands found places on either side of her head, as I loomed over her, staring down into her eyes.  “Would you leave the Academy?  Your parents?  Your friends?

“What?  Sy, leave?  I don’t understand.”

I tried to find the words, and I couldn’t.  I just continued to stare down at her.

“You can’t make me make that choice,” she said.  “Especially not if you won’t explain.”

She was crying, now.  The light from one of the windows gleamed as it caught the track one tear had left on the side of her face.  It wasn’t the sort of reaction I liked provoking from her.

“The Baron wants revenge on me, and Hayle is trying to sell him this.  Us.  So long as I’m here, there will be no happiness for the Lambs.  I’m going to go kill that noble, but with the tools and weapons they have, they will have my scent.  I can draw the Crown’s focus and ire.  I can cover my tracks and I think I can protect any Lambs who don’t come, protect you.  But I would much rather if everyone would come with me.”

“Sy, you can’t.  My parents-”

“Your parents care.  But they want to stifle you.  They asked Hayle to postpone your black coat.  Your dad would rather you never got one, I think.  Hayle agreed.  If you stay, that is what you’re staying for.  You might still get a black coat, and you could even get a black coat early, if the stars align right and the Baron dies.  But you cannot have the black coat and have me.”

She opened her mouth to speak, but only a squeak came out.  She was crying, and it was a messy, beautiful sort of crying, with tears streaming out.  Her hands went to her face, trying to wipe at her eyes, but the tears came at a rate that blinded her.

I spoke around the lump in my throat.  “I can’t stay anyway, Lil.  Jamie, the old Jamie, broke when the memories and burdens got to be too much.  Only an empty shell left.  I’m just about at that point.  I can’t keep doing this.  I can’t be their puppet.  I can’t see another Lamb die.”

“No,” she said, her voice too high.  The heels of each palm pressed into her eyes.

“If I stay, and if we stay together, I will see you fade away the same way Jamie did.  The body will still be there, the eyes, the hair, the voice… but you and I both know it’ll be an empty shell.  You without the passion or ambition is… not you.”

“No,” she said, in that same, high, awful voice.

But she nodded as she said it.

“Yes,” she said, her words now in accord with her actions.

I pulled my weight off the bed without jarring it, climbed off of her without too much movement, stepped back and away.  She remained where she was, hands at her eyes.

I wanted to hug her, and to make this alright, to console and kiss the tears away.

“I broke up with you.  Or you broke up with me, when I asked you to leave.  That’s better than the first one,” I said, finding myself unable to look at her.  “I was acting irrational.  I scared you.  You tried to get me to stay.  I didn’t.  You have no idea where I went, or why.  But a lot of things I said in the last few days suddenly make sense.”

I found my coat and pulled it on.  I opened the window, without a sound.

Lillian spoke, her volume such that it seemed like she thought I was still there, just in front of her.  As it was, I barely heard her.

“Now?” she asked.

I climbed through the window and closed it behind me.

Now, I thought.  I couldn’t stay, not like this.  Too much would be given away.

I didn’t stumble as I walked through the snow.  My path was clear, and my mind turned to the prescient.  The next few steps were too important.

When I passed through the gate and saw Mary there, getting her bag of belongings, it felt as though I’d expected to see her.  I hadn’t, but I’d been wondering where she was, considering her as a factor, and it was a fine line between seeming fitting as a thing and seeming to fit in the bigger picture.

“Sy,” she said.  She smiled as she saw me, and the smile dropped away as I got closer and she saw my face.

I was angry.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

Follow, I gestured.

She gave the man at the gate a second glance as I walked past her.  I was halfway to Lambsbridge before she caught up with me.

“We’re going,” I said.  “The train should arrive within thirty minutes.  Not sure where it goes, but it gets us out of here.  That’s the most important thing.”


The one-word question stung.

Contingencies needed covering.  “We need to get a message to Jamie.  I’ll handle that, I promised, and he needs to help Lil.  You buy a ticket, separate from me.  I’ll find my own way on.  We make our way to Warrick.”

“What happened to Lillian?  I’m going to need an explanation.”

“You’ll get it.  I promise.  But for now, can we please, –please– just focus on getting to where we need to be, so the Baron can die like the maggot he is?”

It was like a switch had flicked in Mary’s voice, her tone of voice and degree of conviction changing.  No more questions or confusion.  Only a hungry, “Yes.”

Previous                                                                                                                    Next


70 thoughts on “In Sheep’s Clothing – 10.6

  1. oh. So not a Helen/sy story. I’m so bad at guessing these things. Mary on a rampage should be fun too though.

    • I was hoping Sy/Helen too.
      Up to now, so much teasing about Helen without giving us a whole lot of insight ro her mind.

    • Also, if you combine Hayle making it clear to Sy where the meeting would be and the professors making it completely clear that the Baron is responsible directly after the parents left… I almost wonder if they’re trying to arrange an extremely deniable assassination. And a Wyvern stress test at the same time.

      On the other hand, if Sy fails I’m not sure the Baron would care about extremely deniable. Sy is trying to set up all of this stuff so that the others won’t be blamed if he’s caught, and never thinking that if the Baron survives he won’t care in the slightest whether they have an alibi or anything.

      • Well they all agree that the Baron has to die. If they fail then they’re all fucked so Sy’s just making sure that they make it out of the situation if they succeed in killing him.

      • Don’t forget the bit where Hayle blocks the idea of Sy escorting them up – which would mean he’d miss at least part of the conversation. Clearly ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ doesn’t refer solely to Sy…

  2. How is it that the aristocracy of our time was allowed to become so twisted as to result in things like the Baron? How is it there wasn’t a revolution against the madness? How did it take this long, with nonsense like the Duke flippantly sentencing the former headmaster to death, and the Baron’s…. everything, to get a revolution among the masses going? Damn.

    On a related note, nice going Hayle. Seriously. The outcome may be pretty crappy, but he’s seriously a hero for being able to spin the situation that’s acceptable to the Baron without loss of life. I know it probably registers as a type of mental torture, but Sy is bound to “expire”. All Hayle was doing was playing with time, delaying Lillian’s coat and speeding up Sy’s separation.

    • “How is it there wasn’t a revolution against the madness?”
      Revolutions don’t happen when the lower class cannot hope to scratch the upper class even in their wildest dreams. The until-recently invincible nobles with their Academic and military support make them formidable foes you cannot hope to defeat. It snuffs thoughts of rebellion in the egg.

      “The outcome may be pretty crappy, but he’s seriously a hero for being able to spin the situation that’s acceptable to the Baron without loss of life.”
      Crushing Lillian’s projects regardless how good they are isn’t worth this kind of praise. They will thoroughly break her the next day. Any objection will be rejected or ignored. Her whole life’s work will be treated as child’s babblings.
      I really hope we don’t see that scene. Not again.

        • He still shot himself in both feet, though. He got the whole group gunning for his blood by going for the obvious and easy target far too soon. The idiot: the Duke wouldn’t have been so ham-fisted… Even if he probably would have got a kick at the thought of fighting the Lambs, too. Different reasons, though: just as bonkers. 😛

          • We still dunno if thats what really happened. It may have been a genuine complication. Its never stated and I am pretty sure that, if Jamie was killed, Sy would hold it against the Duke, which he did not.

          • Without making it painfully obvious by yelling it from the rooftops, jumping up and down and deciding that fireworks are a good idea, yes. 😛 Well, maybe. It’s still a big maybe, even though he did a few pushes. :\

      • I’ll be honest and say I don’t buy it.

        Here’s the problem. Every Noble in the setting is entirely at the mercy of his doctors. Completely, utterly at their mercy; if they decided to do so and didn’t care about the consequences, any Noble in the setting could be effortlessly killed.

        The Nobles avoid this danger, presumably, by the threat of overwhelming retaliation. But against upper classes, that threat is fundamentally hollow. If I’m a doctor to a noble, I am someone of incredibly high status among non-Nobles… and my loved ones and friends are going to either be of similarly high status, or have friends and allies of similar status aside fro me. If I hit the breaking point and kill a noble, and they respond by lashing out at everyone I loved, all they’re going to do is push a bunch of other people who (in some form or another) have their fingers on a Noble’s pulse to the breaking point in turn.

        And this is before you get to the fact that the setting contains Primordials as a nuclear option, one that can apparently be invoked in a garage by anyone with the right book. Pretty much everyone high-ranking in any academy has their fingers on that button.

        The story acts like the Nobles are impossibly far above everyone around them, but in actual practice, what we’ve seen from them are very slight advantages — in personal combat, the Duke (who was supposed to be one of the best) was perhaps as good as, what? Twenty men? A hundred men? Definitely not more than a few hundred (and I think that is pushing it by a lot. From what we saw, I doubt he could reliably fight more than a few dozen unaugmented humans alone and live. He had good muscles, strong bones, amazing reflexes, and probably several tricks up his sleeve, but from what we saw, if you knock him on his back and light him on fire or hit his head with heavy stones, he dies.) They can make up for the limitations of their physical enhancements through institutional power… but that requires depending on other people; it involves compromises, balances — it involves a recognition that the Academies in particular have significant power in the relationship that the Nobles can’t really ignore.

        • I don’t agree with the part of a noble being at the mercy of his doctors. They shouldn’t have to ever go through a procedure where they are incapable of taking action (at least after they go through the whole nobleing procedure). Their bodies should be able to fight against any substance that would incapacitate them (that’s what the doctors are paid for; it’d take all the doctors working for a noble to agree on leaving a weak spot), and I’m sure the doctors are thoroughly screened and controlled to avoid them going rogue. Sure, they know their creation’s weak spots and could capitalise on them, but it certainly isn’t an easy task. Finally, most have no reason to do so. If they are working for nobles, it’s because they wanted to at some point, and most probably continue to want to, due to the many benefits it brings them.

          • The whole system is designed so that all the prestige falls on the exceptional doctors who play ball. Those who don’t… get their reputation destroyed before they disappear with nobody enquiring to loudly as to what happened to the has-beens who messed up.

            It’s a neat thing: have teams of doctors working to keep you going and get rid of any individual who looks to be either not up to snuff, trying to start something or whose hairstyle annoys you after they have spent years building their career and have so much time and energy invested — make it entirely their fault, so others who have invested just as much climbing the morally dubious pole don’t ask too many questions about what it would be like if they were in the shoes of the person whose life just turned to mud, as they don’t want to join them. 😛

            The teams aren’t really made of team players. Look at how the entire educational system for this biomed version of uni encourages the students to be basically out for themselves from the start… 😐

        • You make a point that the nobles aren’t as strong as they say they are. The thing is, even if they weren’t, they don’t need to be. This is because of the image the nobles have build up and (presumably) been cultivating for decades. If everyone thinks you are invincible, then you essentially are invincible.

          Think about how nobles force everyone to kneel, speak only when spoken to and kill directly or indirectly without the slightest hesitation. Every word they speak could be a death sentence, just being around a noble makes everyone uncomfortable. The shell that protects nobles from normal guns and knives is hidden because it promotes a certain image. That they are so durable that even after multiple gunshots and stab wounds at what should be vital areas, they are up and laughing. If everyone is too afraid too speak out or even to place an accurate shot to the head, then revolution would be quite difficult.

          This is why Mauer’s guns are so important. It shatters the image that protects the nobles from any retaliation.

        • Traditionally, a revolution is rarely initiated by the upper-middle class, which is arguably what the doctors who work on the nobles are. They don’t have the incentives to gain from a revolution. They have wealth and status they could lose in a war. If the nobles kill too many of the doctors in an obvious manner the doctors may revolt. However, it would be hard to organize all the doctors to do so at the same time. There’s a reason the lower classes typically start a revolution. They have less to lose.

          • “There’s a reason the lower classes typically start a revolution. They have less to lose.” – And far more to gain.

          • This is historically untrue. The lowest classes rarely directly start a revolution; they’re too busy just trying to scrape together enough money to eat in order to have time to think about politics and power; and organizing is difficult when you’re trying to feed your family. They do become a key power base once the revolution kicks off, because there are a lot of them, but it’s rarely initiated at that level. You do sometimes read about “peasant rebellions” but they are rarely successful because they are usually poorly organized and poorly equipped, and get crushed by the local military in short order.

            Instead, revolutions are usually the product of the middle class, especially middle class intellectuals-professors, teachers, lawyers. They have the time to think about the injustices they perceive and what to do about them, the education in management, leadership, etc needed to mobilize large groups, and the money and connections needed to get things moving. Examples of these kind of revolutions include the American Revolution, the French Revolution, the Vietnam War (Ho Chi Minh was a schoolteacher) and as much as the USSR liked to deny it, the Russian Revolution.

            So here… there is a balancing act. The Nobles do indeed need to keep the Academies happy, because of their potential military and social power in the event of a schism. The civil war we just saw is a pretty good example of what happens when you get disaffected middle class citizens; in fact, the Nobles got lucky that the primary ideological thrust of the rebels so far hasn’t been anti-Crown as much as anti-Academy, because it severely limited the amount of high-tech support the rebels have.

          • the Nobles got lucky that the primary ideological thrust of the rebels so far hasn’t been anti-Crown as much as anti-Academy, because it severely limited the amount of high-tech support the rebels have.

            Hardly. The Rebellion is positively overflowing with superior technology. The Plague Men, the pain guns, the primordials, the drug-enhanced soldiers, the Ghosts. What they lack is large warbeasts and production of new department-level projects. But their humanoid mass-production troops are vastly superior to anything the Academy deploys in large numbers.

      • Perhaps hero is too strong a word for Hayle, but I still believe he does an impressive job with handling the situation. They aren’t going to treat her work as child’s babbling; if anything, they are giving her due respect by attempting to reject her while grounding it in believable reasons related to low resources. Not to mention all the discussion about her future, which the professors are still invested in. It’s a bad situation, but Hayle’s maneuvering definitely salvaged it.

        The revolution point just reminds me of the frog in slow boiling water. Complacency until it’s too late.

        • Long, possibly boring rant incoming. Let me apologise in advance. It got a tl;dr at the end though. 😉

          Lenin once said that a “revolutionary situation” arises if and when the ones on top cannot continue to reign as they did before and the masses don’t want to be governed like that either. I think this to be quite apt. It does not matter how rotten a system is, as long as the ones running it are able to somehow enforce it OR nobody really wants it gone, this rotten system won’t falter or fall, no matter what.
          Can the nobles enforce their reign on the masses? Certainly they can. They got stitched soldiers, guaranteeing them the edge in numbers in every battle, they got plagues and beasts at their beck and call and they themselves tend to be one-person-armies. And it stands to reason whether the common folks even WANT them gone. They offer savety from outer enemies, from anarchy and conflict. I could imagine them to keep just enough avenues open for rising through the ranks to a meaningful position that most people stay put and try to capitalize on the system instead of overthrowing it. Just look at the Gareys. The parents are ordinary people who made a bit of money through hard work and effort (probably) and now they’re working on positioning their daughter, so that Lillian can take a better position for herself one day. Would they want the system gone? Probably not. “It’s bad for a lot of people, sure, but are those slackers our concern? Can’t care for the whole world, got a family, yadda yadda. Plus, we’re well-to-do, so it’s not all bad, why do you even complain?”
          Which brings me to the next possible heralds of change, the doctors. Those guys sit in between the two aforementioned “classes”, so they are participating in ruling the thing. They are part of the reason why the crown can continue their reign. Do they want that? Oh they certainly want. They are basically upper middle class people. Those tend to have a desire to climb up the social ladder while they share a terrible fear of falling down. The very top they seem to be so close to appears to be quite tantalizing… Plus, to get to a position that high you have to walk a certain path. That path shapes you. Lillian right now is being shaped by her parents and her professors. Imagine her without Sy’s rebellious influence… And I’m not saying that shaping is bad. EVERY society does it. They have to, if they want to continue to exist. It just makes revolutions sooo unlikely. After the docs dedicated their lives to get that high they would never jeopardize their achievements by working against the nobles. It would involve horrible risks, their colleagues might be too loyal to follow, maybe they’d rather use that to eliminate competition and… what would they gain? Freedom? From what? By being a noble’s Doc you’re as free and priviledged as you’re going to get! They have no reason to play the hero… Even the fate of former headmaster Briggs won’t be enough. There are people who are glad that a position got vacant, there are people who are afraid to share his fate and there are people who do not care. Between those groups, there are awfully few people left who’d want to change the course of things because what happened to Briggs was horrifying.
          And even Fray isn’t working against the system. Is she working against crown and academy? Certainly. But she does it by trying to establish a competing system. Might be that in the long run that competition weakens the whole thing enough to make a revolution possible, but right now? Not happening, I’m afraid.
          Again, sorry for ranting randomly. D;

          Tl; dr: Twig-Verse revolution ain’t happening any time soon. Too much power in one place, too much hope in another place and the people who WOULD do something are in neither of these places.

          • Just realised I forgot one major player. Mauer. He’s a tricky one but what he does seems to be a riot, not a revolution. The difference: A revolution is widespread and aims to replace some kind of order with a whole new system. A riot tends to be more local and aims to make a system better by removing or replacing one of it’s components like a tax or a person or group in power. In hindsight, riots sometimes start as riots and grow into revolutions later and appear to have been a revolution all along, though. I think what Mauer does right now is closer to a riot than a revolution, but it might become one, even by accident. The Red Plague might become the catalyst for that kind of change.

      • Yep, that’s true. I’m really just wondering how the nobles were allowed to build up such a reputation for cruelty (and their godlike power/worship) over the 100 years or so that the Twig-verse has existed, and not have been brought low by the disgruntled masses. But Sethur makes a good point above, about the mix of personal gain/complacency.

  3. I’m really glad this chapter got through both the meeting and Sy and Lillian’s reactions to it. Sy’s behavior after he left the meeting really conveyed the emotional state he was in, with the vulnerability and impulsiveness and reaching out for closeness to deal with stress. I just hope he doesn’t start something with Mary that’s unhealthy to help cope with everything. I feel like either of them might reach for something that wouldn’t be good considering the losses they have both suffered.

  4. Sy/Lillian wasn’t even my OTP (Helen/Cake forever), and I wasn’t even that big of a fan, just a casual one, but you MADE ME HAVE FEELINGS! And it’s worse that they were really taking the time to actually know each other, and spend time together… Sy’s doing the letting her go because he cares for her, and he even explained why he was doing it and it was still heartwrenching though I didn’t think I even cared this much about them being together. But you can really tell how it’s gradually sort of grown over all this time. He’s obviously going to miss her, but he will have a difficult time keeping his memories of her… 😦 And how’s Lillian going to deal with that in the meeting next morning? Will she even show up? Then again, she might have quite a bit of an advantage in Wyvern.
    However, at the very least they are after the Baron!

    But seriously…
    Now? 😦

  5. As much as I’m giddy at the thought of Mary and Sylvester murdering the most hateful bastardnoble in the current setting, I can’t help but be afraid of what they’ll have to endure to pull it.

    No tears. Yet.

  6. Who wee. What a chapter, so much to get through, to process.

    First things first, even know I know the motivation behind the lie, I’m angry at Hayle for lying about Wyvern. Lillian took it under extreme circumstances /once/. She hasn’t taken it before, someone would have taken notice. Just don’t like that he lied about that. Also, that whole test of character thing is bull. :V

    I wonder what it is the Baron told the Academy to do with the Lambs. I very much doubt he told them about their treason, because even if he had ordered to not have them harmed, the Academy wouldn’t feel quite as comfortable working with experiments that may rebel any day. I’m very surprised, though, at the Baron’s restraint (and Hayle’s ability to find a reasonable solution, like ahdefault noted).

    SO… I am feeling conflicted with myself right now, and I fucking love this story for it. See, I love Sy, Lillian, and all the Lambs. I only hope for them to stick together, to be happy, to succeed. I want the best, and I know they deserve the best, even if they’ve done terrible things. I really care for them. And that comes as no surprise; we’ve already spent a whole year with them. But the world doesn’t revolve around them, and won’t bend to fit their whims. Lillian has such a long, successful life ahead, and were he to sacrifice it all to leave with her first love, to wage a war against the strongest empire there is, would be foolish. An idealist might say that that would be a better spent life; and hopefully with Lillian’s help the Crown can be overturned. But I don’t think it’s fair to expect anybody to willingly give up success, happiness and comfort for a just cause.

    While I also very much hate the rhetoric during the meeting with Lillian’s parents, and the lies, it’s also true that Lillian might be unprepared for the Academic world. Don’t get me wrong; she has a stronger character, yet far more caring, than probably most of her peers. But there’s indeed a lot of networking to be done. It’s not that I think it’s reasonable to stifle her development, but it’s reasonable to worry about whether she is lacking in some areas. We do not want her to burn out.

    I also hate (love) how the story puts into perspective that, even if the Crown is bad, it’s what people are used to. Were Sy to succeed in killing the Baron, he’s going to cause so much trouble for Hayle and everyone who just wants to live their life. There will be a political hole in Radham and whoever fills it will probably be just as bad as the Baron.

    Also, I’m not comfortable with Sy stringing Mary along without telling her anything she needs to know. It is so manipulative :/ And I feel bad for Lillian. She probably really needs Mary about now.

    Ugh, I almost want to cry at Sy and Lillian breaking up :/

    Onto less sad topics, perhaps Sy doesn’t really deal with the issues the asexual youth deals with, and is just young 😛 Or perhaps Wyvern blocks any kind of sexual desire (or he chooses to block them), and such was only fired up when his mind got so clouded Wyvern had no effect. Or perhaps Sy’s actions weren’t sexual in nature, even if it would have ended with them naked?

    Finally, I’m not quite sure Sy hadn’t been replaced with Helen as he thought “to reach inside her heart and throat and stomach and move thoughts and feelings”.

    • On the plus-side (if there is one), Lillian now has increased motivation to become a Professor, not just to spite the Baron, but to kick a system that would bend to accommodate the whims of a flawed experiment like him. (And, proving their father wrong is always a fire under somebody.)

      When all is said and done, that’s what the Nobles are: projects — ones which might not be objectively delivering on the whole “rule wisely” part of the experiment in several cases. She’s had front row seats to both the bottom and top of the way things are barely working. :/

  7. Despite being portrayed in a negative light in the previous chapter, it looks like Lillian’s father genuinely cares for Lillian and has put a lot of thought into her education. Just goes to show that our narrator can be unreliable at times.

    Also, was anyone else really scared that Sy was going to do that thing where the main character withholds details from his friend/girlfriend, to purposefully get them to hate him and so avoid a terrible fate? I was very relieved to see Sy actually tell Lillian what was going on and why exactly he is doing what he is doing.

    Sy isn’t even going to try to recruit Jamie, Helen or Ashton? I guess Jamie needs to comfort Lillian and the other two aren’t reliable enough?

    • I think that this chapter just reinforced the negative light from the previous chapter. He sees any deviation from her previous submissive stance as being madness or degeneracy brought on by an outside influence. He is, literally, a textbook abusive parent.

      Her mom’s adorable, though.

      • I kinda agree with both of you. He cares, you can’t call him ill intentioned but… his way of care is highly toxic and authoritative. There are lots of parents like that, and they do not deserve a child, but you can’t actually say theydo not care, no matter how toxic they are to both the society and their child.

        Sy wasn’t wrongthough, he is exactly the kind of jerk he knew he was, he never thought that he didn’t care about Lilian.

      • How is he ‘textbook abusive’? We haven’t had any where near enough time with his character to generate that kind of labelling. I don’t think that a father not wanting his child to grow up and become independent is abusive at all. Besides, his disagreements with her character is just one thing he brings up. His concerns over her career are all valid, and it shows that he cares for Lillian’s present and future wellbeing.

        He’s also not wrong right to say that her deviation is not natural. She is on Wyvern after all, and Sy does have an influence over her. Everything he has done so far, from not approving of a devious, unknown, one-eyed, covered in perfume boyfriend to thinking her studies are going to be too much for her, can be explained as him being a caring but over-protective father.

  8. Typo thread…

    As matter of fact,
    -As a matter of fact,

    “Arright, that’s
    -“Alright, that’s
    Not sure if that is an actual phrase though, as it has been used before?

    Professor is not capitalized in a few places where it may have been meant to be capitalized:
    “Chemicals, professor?”
    I’m appalled, professor.
    word, then, professor.”
    “Thank you, professor.”

  9. I’m liking how they assumed Lil was taking Wyvern for a while. I think she’ll be fine.

    No I’m not numb right now why do you ask.

  10. I feel bad for Lillian. She’s now aware that she can’t possibly pass right now, and she’s lost her boyfriend. Considering how dangerous things are, Sy might not survive, and even if he does, he can never return. But the Baron is a big threat. Simply put he is a cruel bastard. Eventually he wouldn’t be content with this. He’d torture and destroy the Lambs and all they love because he *can*. There are two ways to expand ones power. Outward, the conquest of new territories, new peoples, to have more to have power over. The other is inward. Have more power, more control over what you already have. Control the people under you utterly, even their thoughts. The Baron might want number one, but he will always be going for number two.

    One of the biggest problems with the Nobles is there are no checks on them. Outside of them quietly deciding someones too much of a problem, like the Duke tried, nothing can bring one down. They have absolute power and it corrupts absolutly.

    Also I loved the work on Sy and Lillian’s emotions and relationship this chapter.


    This chapter probably hits as the most emotionally gut-punching chapter yet, and its up there with Worm towards the end. I’m sad about everything. Maybe I’ll write something longer once I calm down a little. Blegh.

  12. Lillian’s parents continue to score low-marks in decency and respect. Granted, Hayle was forced to word it in such a way that it would shock them the most due to Baron, but Papa Lil was always seeming like the kind who was creepily over-protective.

    Oh poor Lilian. My heart goes out to you and you didn’t even get the full-story of what’s going on. Just found out your parents purposely hold you back, your favorite professor has to sabotage you, the Baron is somehow involved, and your boyfriend has to leave you or you’d never achieve your dream.

  13. Well, this was incredibly sad. I understand why the academy was doing that but I wish Lillian would go with Sy. It doesn’t seem like she has much of a chance there. Just so sad though, because even though they’re pretty young you can see how much they care for each other. I just want them to be happy. Maybe Lillian will leave at some point in the future but I doubt it. Also wondering how much longer the s story will go on because I feel like they’ll all die in the end

    • As far as I can tell, success at the Academy means gaining the attention of the Nobles, which is about as safe as an average game of Russian Roulette. Lillian already has the attention of the Nobles. Continuing down that road does not seem particularly advisable.

  14. Sy mentioned earlier, if Lillian’s not coming with, he can’t take Mary along because she’ll likely stop him. But this chapter he recruits Mary anyway…setting himself up for failure, I think. Maybe he doesn’t even realize he’s doing it, but Jamie was right, he’s sabotaging himself.

  15. Guvf jubyr nep erzvaqf zr bs gur Vzntb nep bs Jbez. Ubcr vg qbrfa’g unir gur fnzr erfhyg, jurer gur cebgntbavfg arire cebcreyl erpbarpgf jvgu gurve grnz, naq rfcrpvnyyl jvgu gurve ybir.

    On another note, funny how the experiment created by a rebellion doctor (ok, subversive outlaw at first, rebellion doctor later, dead man now, but still…)is the one that will help Sy kill a noble,

  16. If you pull Vzntb on us, I’ll be furious. And you probably could, in brilliant, excruciating detail.

    But dammit, Lillian and Sy deserve better than Vzntb.

    And if you actively make them enemies…I swear…

  17. I want, so badly, for Sy to end up in a room alone with Lillian’s dad so he has complete plausable deniability so he can verbally strip him down and tear him to shreds. And then just walk away and give Lillian a peck on the cheek infront of him.

    Man, my blood his boiling Wildbow…asjfkekj

    • I beg you, please do not post actual gibberish in the comment section of a Wilbow’s work… I actually rot13ed asjfkekj -_-

      • Why do you think it is gibberish? Maybe it just isn’t rot13? Could it be rot14, say?

        Nope, it’s gibberish all the way down, or up.
        Could it be Vigenère cipher? Or something more sophisticated?

        • Either way, its not an accepted code of communication in the society of Wilbow comments, and , without a decoder, it’ll never be.

  18. Typo near the end?

    “I didn’t stumble as I walked through the snow. My path was clear, and my mind turned to the prescient. The next few steps were too important.”

    Surely Sy’s mind turned to the present? Or is this some play on words about his cleverness?

  19. What a powerful chapter; somehow, seeing Sy really lose control is one of the scariest things I’ve read in Twig. Beautiful writing, thank you.

  20. I’m surprised the Academy doesn’t have drug tests. Or if they do, I’m surprised they lied about the length of Lillian’s Wyvern use and nothing else.

    I’m yet again impressed by how Lillian and Sy’s relationship is full of things Wildbow hasn’t really done before, and yet it turns out almost as good as the stuff that’s old hat to him. For what is likely the last time…

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