Interlude 27

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June 24th, 2013, now

“He returns,” Glaistig Uaine spoke in her chorus of voices.  Were there less voices in there than there had been?  She was dripping wet, having just ascended from beneath the water’s surface, but a spirit was attending to her, drawing the moisture forth, coiling it into wreaths and ribbons that trailed around the Faerie Queen and the other spirits.

Eidolon stared out at the horizon.  He could sense the shift in air pressure, see the movements in clouds and water alike.  Scion wasn’t any bigger than an ordinary man, but the world seemed to react to his existence.

“I know,” Eidolon answered, belatedly.

Something crumbled beneath them.  The oil platform wasn’t designed to stand on two legs, and it was deteriorating under the stresses.  Eidolon could feel his pulse quicken, excited despite everything.

Excited, despairing, hopeful, hopeless.  He had no idea what to do.

He had a mission.

He’d never been one for drumming his fingers, for pacing or biting his nails.  He had never gotten in the habit.

Eidolon closed his eyes for a moment, releasing his hold on the sensory power.  Like something swelling within him, filling every available space, another ability took hold.  Something defensive.  An invisible bubble surrounded him, linked to another power.  Teleportation.

It was a strong defense against aimed attacks, but it wouldn’t help against something indiscriminate enough.  He had a matter creation ability that was perhaps worth trying, and he had a density warping ability that could perhaps deflect blasts while letting him stand on the air.

He was reluctant to give up either of them.  Both were options, possibilities.  Warping of time and space tended to have an effect, so the offensive power was a good one to have on hand.  The density warping ability was key to his staying airborne.

Flight was too important, but it was an ability he had in shorter and shorter supply.

“Can I assist you, High Priest?”

He opened his eyes.  High Priest.  “I need more abilities than I have.  There is a hole in my defenses.  To cover it, I’d need to give up my flight, or give up my offensive power.”

“Not a concern.  I’ll carry you.”

He hesitated.

“Let go of the flight,” she said.  “I’ll catch you.”

He glanced down, and he couldn’t make out the individual waves.  That wasn’t because of the fog that still lingered after Scion’s disintegrating glow, but because of distance.  The occupants of the platform weren’t visible either.  A drop from this height would be fatal.

He could survive it if he manifested the right ability.  He might not have given it a second thought if it was only a question of his power’s reliability or only a question of Glaistig Uaine’s allegiance, but the two together gave him doubts.

He looked at her.  Her clothing was dry now, animated by the wind around her, like the limbs of an octopus, green where the light caught it and black otherwise.  Thin streams of moisture surrounded the garment, complementing her form, enhancing the unnatural appearance.  A human face in the midst of an alien, abstract form, her eyes far older than the flawless, childlike face.

Her stare transfixed him.  He couldn’t even guess at her motivations.

Scion, the Endbringers, they were the others who typically came up in the same breath as Eidolon.  He was the only one of them that was human.  He had less power than they did, but more power than most.

Glaistig Uaine was one of the others, a contender for the title, though not necessarily in the public’s perception.  The PRT had controlled how much information the public had about her, to keep people from getting too scared.  She was a nonfactor, a captive in the Birdcage.  She’d taken down Gray Boy, had attacked the King’s Men and slain Athrwys, and then she’d turned herself in.

Easy enough for the average Joe to dismiss her as a lunatic.

Except Glaistig Uaine had been amassing power during her time in the Birdcage, and he had been losing it.

Had he been supplanted in his role as the most powerful person in the world?

“A leap of faith,” Glaistig Uaine spoke.  “Give up your power and I will be able to lift you.”

He glanced at her.  She was smiling a little, as though she’d said something amusing.

“Can you tell me why you call me the High Priest, before I put my life in your hands?”

“I could say it’s because you rely on a higher power for your strength,” she said.

“You could.  But will you say so?  Because when you talked about the others, you were speaking about their faerie, their passengers, their agents, not the individual.”

“Yes,” she said.

He remained still, inviting her to elaborate.

“Some lead by logic, by law, by order and organization.  Others lead by the abstract.  By faith and the imagination of the public.  Yes?”

“You’re talking about leading… the passengers, the agents?”

“Naturally so.  Plotting, raising the faerie up as objects for worship.  They are chosen, cultivated, as the situation demands, to suit the world outside, to best manipulate it.  The pantheon in the temple.”

“Me.  I’m this temple?”

She nodded.  “Mmm.”

He frowned behind his mask.  His voice was just a touch harder than it had been.  “This ‘High Priest’ you speak of doesn’t sound like any priest I know.”

“I have little love for gods or the godly, High Priest.  I may have to apologize for choosing such an unflattering title to describe you, but it fit as described, fit on other levels.”

“Other levels?”

“I would continue, but then we’d run out of time.  A minute, perhaps less.

“You seem to know a dangerous amount, Glaistig Uaine.”

“And you know dangerously little,” she responded.  “We’re out of time.”

The statement was ominous.

New powers took time to take hold and build up to full strength.  As of late, it was taking longer, one of the areas where he was growing weaker.  Could he trust her to catch him?  Or would she let him fall to his death, attacking him if his powers saved him, just to collect his abilities and add them to her own?

Was it maybe better to die?  Perhaps she could make better use of his remaining power.  Or perhaps passing his power on to another individual would fix things, reset the gradual losses.  The Eidolon-clone that had been created in the Echidna attack in Brockton Bay hadn’t seemed as restricted.

He released his hold on the flight power, thinking of the broad-target attack that had eliminated Granka’s spirit, scalding everything in sight, disintegrating the spirit’s branches as they reached across the sky.  He could only hope he got something suitable.

Eidolon fell, tumbling head over heels.

Perhaps High Priest is fitting.

My life, always in the hands of greater powers.

December 5th, 2012, six months ago

He stood from his seat, fists clenched.

His powers were adapting.  He’d been holding on to them, but the anger and circumstances were apparently enough to force a shift.  A perception ability, an offensive ability that would let him move objects violently along strict paths that were dancing across his field of vision, and a future-sight ability that was making the world change colors, identifying points of high future stress and danger with colored blotches.

Doctor Mother was so unthreatening that she might as well have been absent.  A shadow in the midst of the lines that continued spiraling out in every direction from every inorganic object in the room, each flaring with color.

Contessa remained still, but she was highlighted in danger.  Her breath fogged in the air as though it were winter, but it was merely the abstract representation of danger.  Her lips, her eyes, her hands.

The Custodian, as well, loomed.  There but not there, filling every space in the complex, moving not her physical body, because she had none, but her focus, as if that were a concrete object.

The telekinetic smash would let him move her aside.  Contessa… he couldn’t beat Contessa.  The precognitive power he’d gained wasn’t one he’d used before, but he knew.

The precognitive power, apparently useless in this circumstance, disappeared.  Another began manifesting.  Something abstract, offensive enough to level the entire complex if he needed to.

Equally useless.  She had an answer to that as well.  The ability to see danger as colors still lingered, disappearing as the other power grew.  Any fading in the color around her was solely because he was losing the ability, not because she was any less dangerous.

Idle thoughts.  He was angry, the desire to harm them in retaliation was one his agent responded to, but not one he would act on.  Frustrating, that the distinction was lost on the agent.

“Say it again,” he spoke.  He let his voice tremor with the power that surged through his body.

“I can’t, in good conscience, give you another booster shot.  They’re getting less and less effective in terms of how long they last and how robust the effects are.”

“It’s still having an effect,” he answered.  “Small or otherwise.  The Endbringers are attacking every two months.  Paris was just two weeks ago.  You can’t deny I helped.”

“Scion won that fight, Eidolon,” the Doctor responded.  Her voice was gentle, patronizing.

He clenched and unclenched his fists.  “You can’t do this.  The number of lives I save…”

“It’s substantial.”

“You’re asking me to leave them to die, Doctor,” he said, and the words had a bite to them.  “You don’t want to look me in the eye and tell me that.  Don’t betray me by telling me you’re now going against everything we’ve been working towards.”

“I’m asking you to leave it to others.  Each dose we give you is a formula we’re not giving another person.”

“Nothing you ever said suggested that quantity was limited,” he said.  I know it isn’t.  I used a power to put the numbers together.

“It isn’t limited.  Not to the point that we’d run out in the foreseeable future.”

“Then I don’t see the problem,” he said.  He leaned forward, gripping the table’s edge.

“The formulas take some time to create.  Gathering the raw materials, getting the balance right, twelve minutes on a good day, thirty on a bad, only to provide a booster shot that doesn’t last two days?  That gives you a ten percent boost to your abilities and manifestation times?  At best?”

“It’s meaningful,” he growled the last word.

“It has to stop at some point, Eidolon.  I have to draw a line in the sand and say that, at some point, you’re going to have to adjust.  That giving a formula to someone else for that one-in-a-thousand chance we get something we can use is better than having you be marginally stronger.”

“You can’t-” Eidolon shook his head, changed tacks.  “Doctor.  I’ve always been on board.  You told me about the true goals, about the experimentation, I was loyal, I understood.   I know what we’re up against.  The rate of parahuman growth, the number of villains, the Endbringers, the end of the world…”

“I’m not debating that,” the Doctor said.  “I’m saying it’s more efficient, and we have to be efficient now.”

“More efficient.  Says who?”


Fuck Contessa!”  He leveraged the telekinetic power, slashing his hand out to one side. The desk moved like a bullet-

-And stopped, no more than a hair from the wall.

The Custodian, invisible but to his other senses, gently set it down.

Eidolon hung his head.

Once upon a time, she wouldn’t have been able to stop him.  If it came down to it, he could attack her, drive the Custodian away.  He could see the lines.  But that wasn’t the important thing here.  It was another reminder of how he was getting weaker.

The Doctor spoke, “I should have listened to her sooner, but there are too many blind spots around this situation.  The Endbringers, the End of the World, the formulas.  Things she can’t see.  I held on, told myself I wouldn’t cut you off until we had another Simurgh attack, to ensure you could minimize the damage, that you’d be able to recuperate and adjust for at least a few months before she showed up again.”

He shook his head slowly.

“The Guild found the mass-production tinker.  All signs point to them becoming a force in their own right.  We won’t be helpless.”

“No,” he said.

“This is for the best, Eidolon.”

“If it’s a question of labor, can we divide the task?  Get more hands on the job, for making the formula?”

“It’s not worth the risk.  We’d be risking another Manton situation.”

“With Contessa’s ability, though?”

“It didn’t allow us to know about or prevent the Siberian from coming into existence.  It’s a blind spotIf we must take risks, then we need to be smart about it, ensure we limit it to the risks we need to take.  Gambling on creating deviances, outside cases or others.”

“You asked me for my trust, I gave it.  You asked me for loyalty, I gave that to you as well.  You asked me for sacrifice, and I gave that.  I was content to be second place in the Protectorate, because it’s what you needed.”

“What Alexandria needed.”

Eidolon shook his head.  “Let’s not pretend.”

The Doctor paused, then nodded slowly.  “Fair enough.”

“When the shit hit the fan, when my clone divulged the ugly details to the public, I made sacrifices there too.  I walked away, so the Protectorate could stand.  Gave up everything.”

“And I’m afraid I must ask you to give up this as well.”

This is all I have,” he said, his voice quiet.  “It’s my career, my life.  It’s my legacy.  Some have children, flesh and blood to carry on their name and their memories.  I went without, for your sake, for the world‘s sake.  I didn’t have children because I wanted to save lives more than anything else, and if I made peace with that, it was because I told myself this would be my legacy.”

He realized he was staring at the floor, raised his head to meet the Doctor’s eyes.  She was managing to look sympathetic.  It pained him.

“I’m not- being famous was never a focus.  I never begrudged Legend his status in the Protectorate, never put my status or any of that above saving lives.  Understand that.”

“Oh, I understand,” the Doctor said.  “It hasn’t always been pretty, but you’ve never wavered.”

He pulled off his mask, letting his hood fall down around his shoulders.  His face was briefly reflected in the reinforced mask.  Homely, balding, with heavy cheeks, lines in his face from stress.  A nose and ears that were too large.

“Maybe I’m not a good man, but I hope the people I’ve saved can do enough good to make up for that.  Does that make sense?”

“Yes,” the Doctor said.

“So I hope you don’t mistake me.  I hope others don’t mistake me, when I say that it does matter, still.  The legacy.  That I want people to remember me at my best, not as someone withered.”

“Do you need to sit, Eidolon?”  The Doctor asked.  “David?”

He shook his head slowly, but he took the seat, using his telekinesis to move it left, then forward, until it was right behind him.  He collapsed into the chair.

The Doctor took her seat at the chair that had been behind her desk.  Confident, prim, proper.  The one with the answers, even if he didn’t like those answers.

Priest and confessor.

A silence lingered.

“With the table gone, all this empty space between us, I’m put in mind of a psychiatrist and her patient,” the Doctor said, echoing his thoughts.  “I’m not that kind of doctor, though.  I’m not equipped to give you that sort of answer, David.”

“No.  No, I know that.”

“When all of this started, we made an agreement.  I made only one promise.  I can’t betray that promise for the sake of your legacy, for anything.  Not even if it means saving you, saving any of us.”

“I know.”

“I can hear you out if you need to talk.  As a friend, as an impromptu therapist, whatever you need.”

He met her eyes.  There weren’t tears in his eyes, but that fact was more surprising than not.  He felt like he wanted to cry.  When he spoke, he almost wished the words would bring the tears.  His voice was tight as he said, “I’d rather die in a blaze of glory than go out ingloriously.  I just-  It feels like it’s something I need to do.  I can’t put my finger on why.”

“We need you, David.  We can’t lose you, gloriously or otherwise.”

“I know.”

“You’re still among the strongest.  Only those who’ve watched from the beginning would know you’re not at full strength.  There’s some time before the changes become so pronounced the public notices.”

“They’ve already noticed.  The problem of being in the public eye.  Everyone’s watching as I fail.”

She had no response to that, and he didn’t volunteer anything further.  Staring down at the floor, he could see Contessa’s legs in his peripheral vision.  She was leaning against the wall, watching.

He’d come to see her as a fixture.  Harder, now.  She couldn’t give him the answer he wanted.  For better or worse, he was another of her blind spots.

The desk slowly slid back into place.  The Custodian was nowhere nearby, but she could move the furniture.

It made faint scraping sounds as it crossed the room, before it stopped in front of the Doctor.  The dust on the surface was whisked away in a swirl.

“You understand that this is necessary?”  the Doctor asked, the instant the dust was gone.

David nodded slowly.

“I’m going to go check on the latest recruits.  Let me know if you need to talk, or if you have any questions.”

He nodded again.

She stood from her chair, pushed it in beneath her desk, and then stepped out of the room.

His eyes followed Contessa as she stepped away from the wall and followed the Doctor out.

She hadn’t said a word, but she usually didn’t.  It had taken him some time to understand why.

Had the Doctor chosen, Contessa could have handled the entire discussion.  She would have won the argument.  Had she so chosen, she could well have framed it so that he walked away happy, content with the situation.

Yes, he was a blind spot for her, but she knew him well enough to construct a sufficiently ‘David-like’ model in her head, to come up with the right answers for every question and statement.  But he would have known.  He knew what she did and how she operated, and it would have colored everything.

With the blind spot surrounding him, she couldn’t refine her path to victory enough that she could make him walk away happy and content with the situation, to the point that he stayed happy, stayed oblivious to what she’d done.

So he would come to resent her.

Doctor Mother handled the talking, instead, whenever she talked to anyone who she thought she might work with.  She took no overt cues from Contessa.

Every time Contessa was silent, she was holding back.  A weapon, held in reserve, an answer to every dilemma, from the most trivial to the most major.

She brimmed with potential power.

It was uncharitable, Eidolon knew, but he resented her a little for it.

For all of his loyalty, his devotion to the mission, he found it ominous, in a way he couldn’t place.

Staggering a little, as if he were wounded, he made his way to a standing position.

Obeying, being a good soldier.  Acknowledging the greater good.

June 24th, 2013, now

Glaistig Uaine caught him.  He had the ability to fly.

His other power was manifesting.  His skin prickled, and that prickling soon extended to his costume.  In moments, he could feel it as an extension of himself.

His vision changed, shifting to an aquamarine color as the pane of his helmet took on another texture.  Crystalline.

The crystal continued to grow, forming more layers of crystalline cloth, ornamentation and more.

Something that would withstand a broad attack that his other defensive ability couldn’t dodge.

He exhaled slowly.

“Thank you,”

“I am glad to be of assistance, High Priest.”

He stared out at the horizon.  There was a golden light at the edge, and it wasn’t the sun.  Scion, approaching with a surprising deliberateness.

Testing.  Testing.”  It was a young woman.

“I’m here, Tattletale,” he spoke, letting his power alter his voice.

Lines went dead.  We just got camera and audio.”

“You’re going to lose it again soon.  He’s coming back.”

“The test is done.  It went about as bad as we could have hoped against, but it’s done.  There’s no need to fight.”

Eidolon thought back to that conversation he’d had with Doctor Mother, six months ago.

Going out in a blaze of glory.

“I have more things to try.  I’m reasonably confident I can survive.  Glaistig Uaine is here too, but I don’t know how committed she is to the fight.”

“You’re talking to the negotiator,” Glaistig Uaine observed.  Eidolon nodded.

Whoops.  My bad.  I do not get this system at all.  Got you on the line, magnificent Faerie Queen.

Glaistig Uaine nodded once, confirming.

We’re not going to second guess you two.  If you think you can try some stuff that might maybe possibly theoretically work, I’m thrilled.  We’re reeling.  Lots of dead, morale’s rock bottom.  Just going by what I’m getting from my power, more than half the people who were on board before this are running scared.  You want to buy us time?  I’m not complaining.”

The light was fast approaching.

I’m guessing we’re going to go dead.  If you guys want to kick some ass, put on a show, it’d do a hell of a lot for people’s confidence, keep more soldiers on the battlefield. We’ve got a lot of ground troops who wouldn’t have been so good in this last test run, Lung and a few others.  If you do well here, might mean we can keep them from changing their minds, yeah?

Eidolon could feel his power shift in response.  Same power, but different application.  “Perhaps something more dramatic, if the opportunity allows?”

“Make it dramatic enough that they can see from a distance, or stay alive so we can get the logs off the cameras you’re wearing.”

“I’ll try to oblige,” Eidolon said, his voice dry.  His eyes were fixed on the growing golden light.  His power was already obliging, had been before he asked the question.


The line went dead.

A moment later, Scion attacked.  A flash of light.

The light penetrated the bubble, and Eidolon was gone, a quarter-mile away.

Reactive teleporting.  He felt the bubble form around him.

Eidolon focused on Glaistig Uaine.  She responded by creating a spirit that formed a construct of metal, like a dragon the size of a small island flowing from a point the size of a grapefruit.

The metal construct grew faster than the laser tore through it.  It slammed into Scion.

He physically tore through it, and Glaistig Uaine maintained the assault until the last second, before teleporting to join Eidolon once more.

Still cloaked in the shifting garments, Glaistig Uaine was breathing just a little harder.

“Just you and me left,” he commented.

“No, High Priest,” she said.  She composed herself.  “There are others.”


“The wounded, who could not walk through the portal of their own will.  Some down there.  A meager few.”

“I see.”

Glaistig Uaine formed her garments into a shell around her.  Eidolon followed suit, drawing his arms in front of his face.

“And there are the dead as well,” the Faerie Queen’s voice echoed from within her cocoon.  “We mustn’t forget the dead, High Priest.”

Eidolon thought of Alexandria.

Scion struck.  An indistinct attack, striking everything he could see at once.

Eidolon reeled, flying through the air, momentarily berift of his flight.  The remains of the structure toppled before he even reached the apex of his trajectory.

Glaistig Uaine caught him once again.

The explosion had afforded Scion a chance to close the distance.  It would be harder to dodge, harder to time defenses.

Eidolon, for just a moment, imagined he could sense Scion’s distaste.  The Faerie Queen was between the two of them, but Scion ignored her in favor of him.

Eidolon used his matter creation power.  As with the Faerie Queen’s monster of steel, this was derived from a single point, an expanding creation of matter.  In this case, however, it was an explosion.  Carbon unfolded from a single point.  Eidolon chose Scion’s right ear canal as the center point.

The carbon expanded as a sphere, and there was a glimmer of Scion’s reaction as the orb expanded until it was a hundred feet across.  A distortion, golden flesh stretching.


The sphere dropped towards the ocean like a comically large cannonball, and Scion advanced.  Intact, unhurt.

Does he heal, or was my mind playing tricks on me?

Scion lashed out, fifty-foot blades of golden light extending from his wrists, and the bubble was once again penetrated.  Eidolon teleported a distance away.

His pulse was pounding, his attention focused.

This is my focus, this is what I’m here for, he thought.

A repetition of the last attack.  A charge, another laser prepped.

He moved to create the same sphere of carbon.  A crevice was best.  Scion’s mouth was closed, but his nose-

Eidolon didn’t choreograph his attack, didn’t move his hand, didn’t act, but he placed the next sphere of carbon in Scion’s left nostril.

Scion shifted direction at the last second.

He’s adapting, learning.

Smug, superior.  The feelings mingled with the faint sense of disgust that Scion seemed to radiate.  Confident.  Amused.

Another attempt, another miss.  Scion’s reaction was faster.

The bubble was breached by a narrow golden beam, and Eidolon reactively teleported again.

Scion followed up with a blast of golden light, again, radiating in every direction.

The bubble hadn’t reformed, and it wasn’t strong enough.  Eidolon’s crystal exterior cracked and wore away.  The attack wasn’t letting up, the crystal wearing down.

He could drop a power, but which?  To lose the crystal exterior would end his life before another power was on board.  The teleportation?  He’d be a sitting duck.  Losing the offense, when it was something that almost worked, no.

He held tight to each of them, grit his teeth as the light dug into flesh.

He felt his flight leave him.  An effect of the golden light?

No.  Something else had caught him.

Scion let up, leaving Eidolon to desperately cast aside the crystal exterior and pray for regeneration.

His flesh began to heal, forming bone ridges where flesh met flesh.  It would take him some time before the bone fell off, but it was the fastest regeneration he had available.

A trio of objects moved towards the alien from the fallen rig.  Spheres.

They detonated, each one exploding a fraction of a second after the one before.

Glaistig Uaine.  She had four spirits with her, and three were working in concert. One to form raw materials, two to fashion them into objects, a telekinetic to manage it all by holding Eidolon immobile in the sky while launching the bombs in Scion’s direction.

One bomb was creating spaces of alternately accelerated and decelerated time.  Another was distorting space to the point it was painful to look at.

Eidolon banished his powers, keeping only the offensive one.  Could he afford to draw Scion’s attention?


But he did anyways.  He focused on the other ear canal.

Scion shifted to one side, whirling around to face Eidolon.

I’m not strong enough.

June 21st, 2011, two years ago

They gathered where they had met innumerable times in the past, but they were quiet.  There was no confidence, no assurance.

Legend stayed by the door, not taking a seat at the table.

“Bound to happen eventually,” the Number Man spoke.  “The odds-“

“Don’t,” Alexandria said.

The Number Man shut his mouth, turning his attention to his laptop.

Eidolon pulled off his mask, brushed at it to clean it of the slime from when he’d been swallowed and then vomited back up.

He stared down at the opaque pane.

“We’ll need to think,” Doctor Mother said.  “What does this impact?  The next Endbringer attack, at the very least.  We can’t afford to lose a fight at this juncture.”

“The Protectorate,” Alexandria said.  “We’ll lose members.  Critical members, no less.  We’ll retain others, but the tone of things will change.  I’ll need to step down, but I can effect some change before I do.”

“It changes a great deal,” Legend said.  “Forgive me for asking, but are you sorry?”

“Not in the slightest,” the Doctor said.  “What we’ve done, it’s always been with a singular goal in mind.  We knew it would be ugly, but-“

“You created the Siberian,” Legend said.  “The Siberian killed Hero.  Every action has effects.  Stupid, mindless arrogance, and look at what it cost you.  Hero’s death spelled the end of our best years, countless members of the Wards and Protectorate were disillusioned.”

“One could argue,” the Number Man said, “that his death spurred others forward.  He was a martyr.”

“I’m sure he’d be comforted by that argument,” Legend said.  His voice was hard.  Days of pent-up anger were now being given a voice.  “You told us this would be a net gain for the good in the world, more heroes.”

“It has,” the Number Man said.  “Less than we hoped, but a net gain nonetheless.”

Gray BoySiberianHuman experimentation?”

“Yes to all of the above,” Doctor Mother said.  “I won’t lie to you at this juncture.”

“I’d ask to see this testing facility, but I’m not sure my conscience could withstand it,” Legend said.  “My god.  What have I done?”

“You unknowingly participated in our greater scheme,” the Doctor spoke.  “If it’s any consolation, your conscience was strong enough that there wasn’t a good way to bring you fully on board.  Whether we’re branded as the heroes or the villains of history will depend on the outcome of this war.”

“I’m not sure I can believe that,” Legend said.  He ran his hands through his wavy brown hair.  Beads of sweat stuck to the strands.  “I have to go home.  Look my husband and child in the eyes.  Are they- will they know?

Contessa spoke, stepping forward.  “Alexandria handled the situation masterfully.  We can curtail this information with some swift action and discouragement.  A few weeks of activity and people will stop trying so eagerly to spread the word.”

Legend stared at her, uncomprehending.  When he spoke, his voice was level, out of alignment with his expression, his narrowing eyes.  “Two questions.”

“Please,” she responded.

“First of all, who the fuck are you, to decide?  You’d go after heroes who’d want to spread the word, why?  To try and silence them?”

“I would succeed.”

He shook his head.  “And my second question… who the fuck are you?  All this time, you’ve been lurking around the Doctor.  You’re more than just a bodyguard.”

“I’m the person who would succeed,” she said.  She glanced at the Doctor.  “At whatever she needs me to do.”

Legend shook his head again.  “You’re all so cavalier about this, so mechanical.  It means nothing to you?”

“It means a great deal,” Alexandria said.  “We lost a great deal of power, leverage, trust.  The heroic organizations are going to be sundered by this knowledge.  Try as we might, we can’t erase their memories.”

“No,” Doctor Mother said.

“Unless you wanted to use the slug?”  Alexandria mused.

Doctor Mother shook her head.

“The slug,” Legend spoke.  “I was wondering how the case fifty-threes came to lose their memories.  Not something of Manton’s, because he wasn’t involved in making them.  It’s yours.”

“It and others,” the Doctor said.

“Aren’t you ashamed?” Legend asked, his voice rising.

“I’m ashamed,” Eidolon murmured.

Heads turned.

“I failed.  On many levels.  We lost this fight.”

“We’ve lost before,” Alexandria spoke.

Eidolon looked up at her.  “Can you look at me and tell me we wouldn’t have won this, years ago?  When I was new to the game?”

She met his eyes.

He let go of all of the powers he held, waited for others to take root.  “I’ll know if you lie to me.  You can control your body language, but I’ll know.”

She lowered her gaze.

“Yes.  I’m getting weaker.  We’re slowly approaching the moments where we need to be strongest, the most critical battles, where any one Endbringer attack could mean a chain reaction of loses, the world being too weak at the end… and I’m getting weaker.”

“And you worry you’ll be too weak to contribute in the final days,” Alexandria said.


“Final days?” Legend asked.

“We know who ends the world,” Alexandria said.  She met her old leader’s eyes.  “We know what ends the world.  Scion.”

Legend’s eyes widened.  “And you haven’t told anyone?”

“It would be disastrous,” Doctor Mother said.  “Disastrous and premature.  Especially now, with morale already critically low.  We’d hoped to wait, to time things.  Everything we’ve done this far has lead to this eventuality, but we need all of the organizations across the world on board, we need assets, ones we’ve developed thus far and ones we’re going to work on shortly, and… we need Eidolon.”

Legend glanced at him.  “For his strength?”

“He’s an anomaly.  We can only guess, but he’s an outside case.  A deviant case that isn’t deviant in anything but execution.  He breaks rules, and that’s something we can use against the enemy who decided the rules this game would be played by.”

“But I’m weaker,” Eidolon said.  “Too weak. My powers are slower to arrive.  I use one power too much, and I lose it.  I can’t tap it again.  I can’t choose what powers I get, so my agent reaches for those which serve double uses, and when they get spent, I’m left less versatile.  Even then, the powers aren’t quite what they were.  Fire doesn’t burn as hot, lasers aren’t as focused, ranges aren’t as great.  If I couldn’t beat Echidna-”

“Then we have to find others.  More experimentation,” Doctor Mother said.  “We’ll have to hope for another Eidolon.”

Eidolon set his lips in a grim line.

“More experimentation,” Legend said, stunned.

“Contessa will explain,” the Doctor said.  “If you’re willing to hear her out?”

Legend hesitated.

“Fine,” he said.

Being replaced, Eidolon thought, a tool to be used by others.  I agreed to it, but…

Scion cast out another shaft of golden light, and Eidolon was flung across the sky by Glaistig Uaine, his powers still taking hold.

Not strong enough.

He created more matter.  Scion avoided it for the third time.

Despite Eidolon’s desires, the matter-generation power began to recede.  His agent had apparently decided it wasn’t sufficient.

It hurt Scion once, hadn’t it?  Or had he wanted it to so badly he’d seen it?

He began to glow, a brilliant azure.

Eidolon took on the form of a living field of distorted space.  Air ignited on contact with him.

Scion lashed out, and he danced around the edges of the blast, closing the distance to swamp Scion.

There were abrasions where Legend’s finest lasers had cut.  He drove his new body into them, expanded.

It was working.

Up until Scion radiated golden light.  Nine tenths of Eidolon’s body was destroyed.  The remainder was cast out across the sky.

Too far apart to pull himself together.

The Faerie Queen did it instead, using the long-ranged telekinesis, bundling him together.

His senses became a haze as he traveled, indistinct and incorporeal.  He found other powers, and he painstakingly rematerialized.

He was beside Glaistig Uaine, and the world around them was gray, shrouded in thick mist.  Scion’s beam pummeled some unseen barrier.

“A reprieve,” Glaistig Uaine spoke.  “I thought you’d need one.”

“You’re more powerful than I am,” he said.  The words broke him a little.

She shook her head.

“No?” he asked.  “Or is this a faerie riddle?  It’s not really your power?”

“It’s mine.  Ours.  But you’re stronger than I am.  I can see it.  The issue, High Priest, is that you need to open your eyes.”

“My issue is that the well has run dry.  I can’t tap it for power anymore.  My best abilities are gone, and I’m spending the remainder with every minute I fight.”

“Refill the well, then,” she said.

“It’s not so simple, but I’ll take any suggestions.”

“I’ve given it to you several times.  I’ll tell you again, open your eyes, High Priest.  You weren’t given your role on purpose.  You took it, understand?  Now you need to wrap your head around your duties.”

“What are my duties?”

“Those of the High Priest.”

He almost swore out loud.  “Less riddles, more answers, please.  Unless you’re interested in dying here.”

“Death is inevitable.  Life is too.  Even if Scion succeeds, there will be some who remain, because they hid well enough, because they aren’t interesting or different enough to kill.  Life, death, a binary.”

“This isn’t constructive.”

“It can be, but I won’t repeat myself a third time.  Binaries.  Everything represented on the other side of the mirror.  Not perfect reflections, but reflections nonetheless.

“What’s my reflection, then?”

“You should know,” she said.


“Mm.  No.  But I could be, in a small way.  Like I said, the reflections are distorted.”

“Your power is death, my power is life?”

“Not so overt, but you’re thinking along the right lines.  I am alive as the faerie queen, I collect the dead, I tap them for my strength, to better shepherd them.  You are the High Priest of the stillborn faerie, but you could tap the living for strength.”


Glaistig Uaine pursed her lips.  “I told you twice and alluded to it a third time.  I do like threes as numbers go.  There’s a significance in threes.  Triads, triumvirates…”

He thought back.  “Open my eyes.”

“Yes.  I was starting to worry you’d injured your head in the fighting.  I would hurry.  The next demonstration will occur soon.”

Open my eyes.

His powers were defensive and offensive ones.  Possibilities, still growing to full strength.

Scion was knocking down the barrier.  To relinquish those defenses in the face of Scion’s imminent attack…

He did it, cast them all aside.

A leap of faith was nothing if he didn’t take it with nothing held back.

He felt powers stirring, manifesting.  Three powers lost, he could only hope that one of the three new powers would be sufficient.

He prayed.

God, let me see.  The agent never listens, but please, for all that is right and just in the world, let it give me the ability to see.

He felt the powers begin to take hold.

Something affecting his body.  He cast it aside.

The barrier around them flickered.  For an instant, the water and the sky around them were blue.

Another power, something offensive, in his fingertips.  He banished it.

Flight, the ability to run.  No.

Six powers lost and gained.

He’d dug deep while fighting Endbringers, while fighting Echidna, the Blasphemies, and other great threats, but it had been for something offensive.  Something safe in its own way.

To dig so deep for something mental, it was scary.

Something he’d explored, but not like this.

He took a deep breath, murmured an indistinct prayer, and tried to empty his mind of all of the other needs and wishes and fears.

With the seventh power, he felt a sensory change.

He could see the passengers light up, taking form.  Glimmers of images, shadows, scenes both Earthly and alien.

Glaistig Uaine was a mosaic, a stained glass window of three interlocking scenes, flowing into and through one another.  Three spirits.

He could see how she reached out to them, how they flowed into and through her.

This was her.

What was he?  What was his dream?

Now,” she said, as if from very far away.

Nearby, a cape who had been wounded in the rig’s collapse died.  He could see the images start to fade, to degrade, consumed from the edges like darkness might creep in around one’s peripheral vision as they lost consciousness.

He saw Glaistig Uaine claim them, banishing her creations and leaving only the framework around the images.

The framework took in the other cape, and it bloomed with a new life.

He felt his own power stir.

It emulated, copied.  Grasping tendrils, reaching for Glaistig Uaine.

He saw her expression change, repressed anger.


The living.

There weren’t many.  Four that had been left behind, for whatever reason.

He used hydrokinesis to bring them closer.

The tendrils connected to the images surrounding them, abstract ideas, as though the agents had no identity or concept of their own beyond the memories they stored.

He felt his power grow, hurried to allow new powers to fall into place so he could fill them with reserves, tap them for energy.  Tendrils connecting agents here and elsewhere.

They’d lose their abilities, be rendered weaker.  They were dying anyways.

New powers fell quickly into place.  They reached a greater capacity in less time.

Still standing at the edge of the ruined platform, Eidolon’s took in a deep breath for what felt like the first time in a decade.  A weight had fallen from his shoulders.

Two powers, a third for this extra perception, the ability to tap others for energy.

He tapped into an erasure power he hadn’t had since he had fought Behemoth the first time.  Destroying matter.  No defense to penetrate, nothing to attack or avoid.  Merely a vast area cut away.

Scion moved, but the affected area was as broad as a tennis court.  The golden man lost a hand.

Thunder crashed as air rushed in to fill a space where even the oxygen molecules had been cut away.

Something to keep him still.

Another power was needed.

The power was a familiar one.  One he’d used to curtail Leviathan’s movements in the Kyushu fight.  He reached into another Earth and pulled the cliff faces into this world.

Scion blasted the cliff faces, but his golden light only affected the cliff on this earth.  The moment he stopped, more emerged.

He stopped to strike again, this time obliterating the cliff faces on this Earth and the one in the other reality.

Eidolon struck out with the erasure power while Scion was still.

Thunder clapped.

Scion was gone.

No.  Not gone.  He had slipped into another Earth, avoiding the affected area as easily as someone might avoid a thrown stone by stepping to the right.

Glaistig Uaine approached Eidolon.  She granted him the ability to fly.

He banished one power, felt another come back to him.  He fed off two more of the injured capes.

He used the new power to shove himself and Glaistig Uaine into the next reality.  He fixed his eyes on Scion, then lashed out, shoving part of the golden man into one reality.  Scion reeled, then retaliated.

Glaistig Uaine created an obstruction, the tornado-mass of swirling blades and iron that emerged fast enough to absorb the beam’s impact.

Eidolon slashed with another reality push, and Scion disappeared.


Nearly as strong as I was in the beginning.

He nearly felt like himself.

May 1986, twenty-seven years ago

A strange place for this discussion.

The woman looked supremely at ease as she took a seat opposite David.  The teenage girl who accompanied her was just as confident.  Here and there in the little cafe, people gave them dirty looks.

The woman was black, dressed all in white, the girl wore a private school uniform and held a notebook and fountain pen.

They were tidy, prim.  David felt underdressed, small.

“I admit to being a little confused,” David said.

“Understandable.  You can call me Doctor.”

“No last name?”

“No need.”

He frowned.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“I’m kind of bothered by the lack of a last name,” he said, “If you’ll pardon my saying so.”

“Pardon granted,” the Doctor said, smiling slightly.  “Very polite.”

David frowned a little at that.  “Somehow, I get the feeling you know everything about me, and I don’t know anything about you.”

“At this stage, very likely.  But I’d still like to talk as if I didn’t know all of the details.  You applied to the army, and you were turned down.”

David chewed his lip, looking across the cafe.  It wasn’t a big town.  How many of his father’s friends or acquaintances were here, possibly listening in?

“You aren’t surprised, but… you were still clearly disappointed, crushed.”

“Don’t,” he said.  He stared down at the table, his lips pressed into a firm line.

“They aren’t listening, not really.  They’re busier looking at a black woman in a town where black women are rare,” the Doctor said.

“Sorry,” David said, suddenly feeling embarrassed.

“Your town isn’t under your control.  What is under your control is what happened last week.”

David clenched his jaw.  Lines stood out on his throat as he looked out the window.

“You tried to take your life.  The army, it was something you wanted?”

“I just- I know I’m not in any condition to fight, to do drills or any of that.  But there’s other stuff I can do.  Desk jobs.”

She nodded.  “I can offer you better than a desk job.”

“Part of me thinks you stole a look at my records,” he said.  “And now you’re here to make fun of me.”

“I don’t intend to make jokes at your expense, David.  What does the other part of you think, if not that I’m an unscrupulous medical doctor with a bad sense of humor?”

“That if you told me your name, it’d be something sinister.  Fire and brimstone.  This sounds an awful lot like a deal with the devil.”

“I suppose it does.  I’m only mortal, I confess.”

David frowned.

“I can’t make promises, David.  Infernal, divine or otherwise.  I can’t tell you that you’d be joining the army.  Just the opposite.  It would raise a number of questions.”

He glanced out the window again.  He felt so ashamed of himself he couldn’t meet her eyes.  “The army wasn’t the thing.”


“I wanted to go do something of my own will.  Take charge, take action.  Stop living a life where everything is decided for me.”

“By joining the army?” the Doctor raised an eyebrow.

He laughed a little.  “I know.  Stupid.”

“You wanted independence.  I can’t promise it.  In fact, if this deal with the devil goes through, it might be something I demand from you.  Your assistance, your aid.  I need a soldier.”

He took his time thinking about it.

“I’ve thought it over, I get that there would be obligations.  Yes.  Please.  I’ll do it.”

“I did outline the risks?  The chances are slim at best.”

“Yes.  Well, I obviously don’t put much stake in my own life, do I?”

“Apparently not.  Good, come,” she said.  “We’ll do this now.”

He nodded.

His hands were stiff to move as he brought them to his sides and unlocked the wheelchair’s wheels.  The scars on his wrists were only part of it.  The nerve damage from the seizures he’d had several times a day since birth were the rest.

He avoided the eyes of the people around him as the Doctor took hold of the wheelchair’s handles, guiding him to his destination.

June 24th, 2013, now

He was catching up.  Scion continued to run.

A world without air.  He held his breath.

A world of magma and smoke.  Glaistig Uaine provided the protective shield.

More and more remote Earths, less habitable, less familiar.  Earth Bet was a long, long way behind them.

A glimpse here, of Scion with his back turned.  A glimpse of Scion, hand raised to attack.

Eidolon counterattacked with a distortion in space, while Glaistig Uaine provided a defense, moving them a distance away.

“Almost,” he said.

“Almost,” she said.

He remembered Weavers warning.  He couldn’t trust this girl.

But he had to.

Every step of the way, his life had been decided for him.  He’d been the disabled kid, carted everywhere by his mother and father, barely able to wipe his own ass.  Careers denied him.  Superheroics chosen for him.  Then predestined events, the dissolution of his career in the triumvirate, the looming end of the world.

This was the closest he’d ever felt to being free, but still, there were obligations.  He had a mission, he knew what to do.

Another attack.  Glaistig Uaine coordinated with him on this one.  Another attack, rending Scion.  An attack that would have killed an ordinary man.

He could sense a degree of distress.  Of concern.  Not as dramatic as the disgust he’d felt from Scion before, but noticeable.

If Glaistig Uaine was going to betray him, it would be now.

“Are you going to stab me in the back, Faerie Queen?”

“Every time-” Glaistig Uaine spoke, stopping as they stepped into a lush Earth, “he uses his power, it costs him time.”


“He experiments, he plays, but he doesn’t yet abandon hope.  I don’t abandon hope.  The cycle could yet complete, by luck alone.  He needs to find his reflection in the mirror.  He lost his, like Peter lost his shadow, but another could appear.”

“This doesn’t answer my question.”

“You are so blind, High Priest.  Deaf.  He will not let himself run out of time.  If he runs out, then he will stop playing, stop experimenting, and simply wait, bide his time in the hopes that another will come to act as his reflection.”

“That’s your goal?”

“It is.”

I believe you.

He redoubled his efforts, no longer worried about defending against a possible attack from just to his right.  They passed from world to world as quickly as he could make portals between them.  They drew closer… closer still.

And came face to face with Scion, mere inches in front of them.

He’d stopped, turned around.

Glaistig Uaine distanced herself from Eidolon, until she was to Scion’s left.  Her body was tense, ready for an attack.  Eidolon raised his hand, ready to attack.

Had Scion decided on a tactic that would cost him less time than he was losing by taking Eidolon’s repeated attacks?

He had.

Scion spoke for the second time.

Four words, barely audible.

It took time to sink in.

Eidolon let his hand drop to his side.

He turned the sounds around in his head, trying to convince himself of a different configuration, convince himself he had heard wrong.

But he hadn’t.  It dawned on Eidolon.  He has Contessa’s power.

How many years did it cost Scion to use it?

Not enough, he was convinced.  Scion had defeated him.

Scion raised a hand, and Eidolon didn’t move.  Glaistig Uaine was fleeing.

Scion fired the lethal blast.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

421 thoughts on “Interlude 27

  1. These last second submissions, damn it. They’re tough on my sanity, typing the last line as the clock hits midnight.

    Thanks for reading. Here’s one of your irregular (possibly too-frequent) reminders to vote on Topwebfiction.

        • “Candy,” whispers Simurgh, as if to slay both Psycho Gecko and Eidolon with the same four words: “rots your teeth.”

          In that moment it became obvious, if it had not been obvious before:

          There is no hope for the world. There is no path to victory. There is only sugary defeat.

          • *finishes chomping down the candy, then locks his helmet back into place* You say something? Sorry, that was delicious. It’s the baby’s tears that add just that special saltiness, you know? Whew, at least I don’t have to worry about my teeth. Nanites. I abuse the hell out of these little guys. Like when I go “Nanites, change my face,” or “Nanites, penis enhancement time,” or maybe even “Nanites, dance for my amusement! I am your master! Mwahahaha!” Though I might lose some to a disco inferno. Burn, baby, buuuurn! Hahahaha!

            Problem is, I have two victory conditions and they’re the opposite of each other and I don’t particularly care one way or another about either one.

            Ahem…four words time, *pulls out a rubber chicken grenade* “Why’d the chicken cross?”

    • From your keyboard, to the edges of our seats.
      Another damn fine chapter. He has Contessa’s power? Contessa is the third worms avatar?
      Oh! And one final question…

      WTF did he SAY?????

      • I don’t think Scion’s power choice makes any implications about Contessa one way or the other. As the granter of all powers, he presumably has access to any cape’s power that he wants. The only limiter is how much power/time he’s willing to expend in order to use it…

    • > David chewed his lip, looking across the cafe. It wasn’t a big down. How many of his father’s friends or acquaintances were here, possibly listening in?

      Down should probably be town.

      • Legend’s been gay for a long time. Well, all his life, probably, but I mean we’ve known he was gay for a long time. At least since his interlude.

      • Legend was established as homosexual and married to another man in the interlude from his perspective. I believe it was just after the Slaughterhouse Nine attacked Brockton Bay.

    • “Still standing at the edge of the ruined platform, Eidolon’s took in a deep breath”

      Eidolon’s –> Eidolon

      “momentarily berift of his flight”

      berift –> bereft

    • “Thank you,”
      “I am glad to be of assistance, High Priest.”

      The comma following Eidolon’s ‘Thank you’ should be a period.

    • “momentarily berift of his flight”

      That’s not a word, from what I can tell. I’m guessing you meant “bereft”.

      “Everything we’ve done this far has lead to this eventuality”

      I’m pretty sure “this far” was intended to be either “so far” or “thus far”.

    • a chain reaction of loses –> losses
      Are we ever gonna find out just what he said? TvTropes spoiled me, but I’d love to read it in-story :p

    • Eidolon didn’t choreograph his attack, didn’t move his hand, didn’t act, but he placed the next sphere of carbon in Scion’s left nostril.

      I think you mean “telegraph”, not “choreograph”.

    • “Scion lashed out, and he danced around the edges of the blast, closing the distance to swamp Scion.”
      There was another one where they say “Weaver’s advice” without the apostrophe. Command + f should find that.

  2. So… If I understand correctly… Eidolon has the same type of shard as Taylor. Literally the same – an administrative shard of the dead entity. Am I wrong, and by how much?

    • My theory is that he has a shard from the third entity, the one that killed Zion’s Thinker twin. I’m also pretty sure that Contessa has a power from that entity (which I’ve been calling the Outsider whenever I think of it, so as to avoid overusing the word “entity”).

      • I call it the mugger. I didn’t come up with the name, but I like it.

        It’s a delightfully mundane way to refer to something so weird and powerful.

        • Dunno, seems awful priesty to me, I think Glaistig has it right – he can increase his own influence and power by absorbing the influence and power of those around him.

          In some ways similar to Lung.

          Did you notice Glaistig’s reaction when he tried to access her power? Definitely not a follower of the church of Eidolon.

        • We’re all going to feel silly when it turns out the Mugger entity was actually a Missionary entity who converted the second entity to pacificism or something. xD

      • Nope, GU told him his power comes from the dead counterpart:

        You are the High Priest of the stillborn faerie, but you could tap the living for strength.”

        GU calls the entities faeries and the only one that fits the description of being stillborn is the counterpart since it was undergoing the same chrysalis procedure as Scion did and chrysalis is a form of birth. She also tells him that he wasn’t picked for that power, that he took it instead. That is further confirmation that the formula’s are being derived from the dead counterpart and by “taking” the formula he took the “High Priest” shard.

        • Actually, she calls the shards faeries. She seems to be at a bit of a loss when describing the Worms themselves. But you’re still on target; the “dead” shards of the Counterpart would be the only ones that fit the “stillborn” description. They arrived in the world dead, thus stillborn.

    • Yeah, the reason for Scion’s disgust was Eidolon failing to act out his role in the cycle & stealing the shard from the rightful place.

      • He wasn’t disgusted by Jack’s subversion of his role, though. I suppose if Eidolon’s shard was supposed to have a really central role in the cycle, like G.U.’s presumably does, that might account for the different reaction. And I’m not sure how he could’ve stolen his shard any more than any of the other serum-made capes, though again it may be a matter of context. It doesn’t matter if someone steals some toughness powers or lasers, in the grand scheme of things, but if he “stole” a shard that was meant to reclaim the shards at the end of the cycle, that’d matter.

        Alternately, maybe Eidolon has a shard that was never meant to be given out, one of the core shards that made up the Counterpart’s consciousness/vital organs/genitals. The Warrior clearly still has a large number of shards that didn’t get sent out because they’re too central to what makes him “him.” If Eidolon was running around with the Counterpart’s face as his shard, that’d be pretty disgusting to Scion, I’d think.

        • given that he can take powers from the living it suggests that he has the power that they’d use to suck the shards back up after they were down.

          • Likely, yes. Oh, and that’d make G.U.’s comment about mirrors make some sense. She says she’s not his mirror, not exactly… hm. Actually, this makes less sense the more I think about it. If he does have the Counterpart’s collection shard, which certainly seems to be the “role” she’s alluding to (High Priest gathering the congregation, growing powerful from doing so), then why ISN’T she his mirror, since she clearly has a shard meant for collection as well? By mirrors, does she mean pairs of shards from the Warrior and Counterpart that directly correspond in function? If so, is she not the Warrior’s collection shard and instead the Third Worm’s? Thus the talk about threes and triumvirates? Maybe the Third Worm operates by gathering up shards from other Worms while they’re in the hosting and growth part of the cycle, and it give G.U. a shard to do so. As far as we know, Scion’s never seen G.U. before today, and his disgust at seeing Eidolon wasting his vital-to-the-cycle shard may just be way stronger than his puzzlement at seeing another Third Worm shard.

            • Seens to me Eidolon wasn’t taking the specific powers from the specific cape, but taking their shards to refill the energy stores of empty power slots. A better analogy might be him using the energy of the tithed* shards like cookie dough for his pre-existing pastry molds.

              *u c wut I did there? Because High Priest. It’s the funny.

              • True. So maybe GU’s shard’s role is as data collector, absorbing and processing all the shards that have lived long and learnt much, while Eidolon’s shard’s role is to collect energy from the remaining shards to fuel their leap to the next planet?

      • It was thrown around, but her proximity to Tattletale (after her block removal too) makes this difficult.

        It’s still possible that Dr. Mother is some kind of sock puppet of either the consort whale or the mugger whale, and that she’s convinced that she’s human however.

        • It’s also possible that she has some specific Trump power that makes her immune to certain qualities of powers without it being obvious. I doubt it for a number of reasons, but unfair powers like that exist.

    • I don’t believe it’s an Administration shard. Or a Broadcast shard, for that matter.

      Glastig (who seems to know more than anyone about this stuff) designated the High Priest as a separate role to Queen Administrator which probably indicates a different type of shard.

      Seems like there’s about a dozen types of ‘royal’ shards overall.

        • I know. God damn Wildbow has me in suspense for where the story will go. Will he kill Taylor? Destroy the world? I don’t think he’ll completely destroy the world because of the possibility of a future sequel. So I’m picturing a post apocalyptic story, a prequel, or the story taking place in new Brockton Bay if he saves it. You just know that the new dimension has giant super predators, a zombie virus, or gets visited by hostile aliens if it takes place there.

          • Well we have the possibilty of another Worm or pair showing up, and the cycle getting completed that way. That could be the sequel right there.

            • Contessa said something like “I win” to Taylor, so I assume Scion said “I win this fight”, which would indicate he had contessa’s power.

              • I think Eidolon would need something more substantial than that to assume Scion had Contessa’s power. He does seem to understand the concept of lying, after all.

    • “I have Contessa’s power”? “I see the path to victory”?

      I mean, if Scion has Contessa’s power, Contessa’s power would tell him that if Eidolon knew that he’d give up hope so Scion should tell him that he has Contessa’s power in order to win, right?

    • The more important part I got from that is that contessa’s power must be the core of the dead/3rd entity, if its the same or similar enough to scion’s.

      • The third entity from Scion’s interlude is not dead, it left after “talking” to the counterpart (2nd Entity) stronger than when it started. It was that talk that weakened the counterpart and eventually led to it’s death and when it died all of the shards it shed on all the Earths died as well, that is where the dead shards came from. Now we also know Contessa didn’t get her shard from the dead 2nd entity because in Scion’s interlude he saw that her’s was alive. We also know it didn’t come from him since he didn’t recognize it. That tells us her shard comes from either the third entity (living) or even another entity that has shown up.

            • “Glaistig Uaine needs you.”

              If it’s something like that, he’s dying so Glaistig can get her power, and become Scion’s mirror.

              Of course, that normally results in a different Doomsday scenario down the line, but it still gives Humanity time to figure out a way to survive that scenario.

              • It doesn’t seem to me like Eidolon’s thinking about the situation on that level or that he’d be instantly convinced to go along with such a plan. But… maybe the words weren’t directed at him? Maybe he was talking to G.U. and said “Together we can prevail” or something, and Eidolon was paralyzed by the realization that there was nothing he could do against both of them? Or “Thanks for bringing him,” revealing her complicity in spurring Eidolon into a trap? Eh, neither of those seems like something that’d make him quit so suddenly. He’d still probably go down swinging or shift into another world to escape.

    • Something that would constitute “The path to victory”. Eidolon recognized the tactic as Contessa’s power. What I’m wondering, though, is how Scion found Contessa’s power within himself. He didn’t recognize Contessa’s shard as his or his counterpart’s, and presumably he only had the shards that originated from him. So where’d Contessa’s power come from?

        • They might have the same baseline shards, sure. But it would be up to each particular entity to handicap them personally, and therefore the end result powers would be different. I’m of the opinion that Scion’s faking Contessa’s power with Dinah’s power.

      • No that was Eidolon’s guess. I believe that Eidolon doesn’t realize that Dinah’s precog power came from Scion and is mistaking the true form of that power for Contessa’s. They are both precog powers but work differently.

    • I would say it was something that Eidolon would believe, so it’s somehting he already suspected, but couldn’t quite accept.


      You have no legacy.
      You made it worse.
      This is not enough.

      • Next stop, Earth Gimel!
        I love you’s guys!
        Got any weed man?
        Who art thou daddy?
        I am your mother!
        Where’s the loo mate?
        Your argument is invalid!
        Are you single cupcake?

    • “You can take her”
      “This statement is false”
      “Your shoe is untied”
      “I am a banana”
      “Don’t drop dat duh-nuh-nuh”
      “What would Jesus do”

    • “Your kung-fu is weak.”

      “I just had sex.”

      “I am the walrus.”

      “I shot Bambi’s mom.”

      “Main screen turn on.”

      “You’re just an NPC.”

      “Buy more pork futures.”

    • I’m voting for “You aren’t strong enough” since it plays off the theme that Eidolon was thinking himself repeatedly. Other thoughts are “This won’t be seen” or “You’re legacy is gone”. Possibly “I am your power”.

    • I have a few guesses to what he might have said…

      “I was expecting better”

      “That wasnt very interesting”

      “You were never chosen”

      “Your duty is death”

      The last two I feel could have the power to stop Eidolon dead in his tracks because it would mean Scion knows he got his powers from Cauldron. Also Glastig had said “I’ll tell you again, open your eyes, High Priest. You weren’t given your role on purpose. You took it, understand? Now you need to wrap your head around your duties.”

    • It might be best that we never actually know. If Scion has Contessa’s power, it would be something so perfectly tuned to Eidolon’s psyche that it would bring him to his knees, but wouldn’t necessarily mean anything to anybody else.

      “Remember the kitten, Dave?” or something…

  3. less clif hangers would be nice it feels like im living for tuesdays, saturdays and occasional thursdays. things are loseing meaning becuase there only things to pass the time before another chapter.

  4. This chapter of Worm brought to you by the word of the day; Irony.

    I mean, shit, that is some serious irony. You want to live your life free from other people controlling you, you end up a pawn anyway. You want to go out in a blaze of glory, and in the end you just stand there like a dope and get vaped. You resent Contessa, and Contessa’s power kills you, or is that just appropriate.

    I can’t think of anything more depressing than a life shadowed by irony. Sorry Dave, that really, really sucks.

    Well, I guess directly fighting Scion is now completely out of the question, of course the heroes don’t know that.

    And no new news of who lived and died. Maddening!

    • I get the feeling Wildbow likes giving his characters the worst possible outcomes for their greatest desires like what Gen Urobuchi did to Kariya Matou, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne & Kiritsugu Emiya in Fate/Zero.

    • I dunno about that. He really did go out in a blaze of glory, draining Zion’s battery meaningfully.

      And I don’t think fighting directly is out of the question. Eidolon and Legend did actual damage, even if Legend did very little of it. And Glaistig outlined a way that Zion could be beaten.

      So yeah, I feel more hopeful than I did before reading this.

      • I’m a little surprised by the fact that there were score marks from Legend’s lasers. Everything we’ve seen so far made me feel like he was constantly using power to restore his body and the outfit Kevin gave him to ideal condition. Even if Legend did hurt him, why didn’t he just fix it?

        • The body is an investment of energy. What Glaistig said about time is correct. He only has so much energy. It’s still a huge amount, but he doesn’t recover it. Every bit of healing uses some up, even if it’s a tiny amount.

          • I suppose so, but wouldn’t it cost him an equivalent amount of energy to increase his defenses that little bit in order to cover for the weakness of those wounds? I’m imagining it like he’s got HP and MP. He’s got vast amounts of MP, obviously. Thousands of years worth. But he has to spend it to heal and to shield himself from attacks. So if he’s only at 99 out of 100 HP due to not healing those score marks, that means he has to spend MP to shield himself when he takes a 99-damage hit, which he wouldn’t have to do if he had full HP. He could take the hit, then heal up after. Of course, that assumes it takes him the same amount of MP to cure a point of damage as it does to block it. If blocking is more efficient, then I suppose I could see him only healing damage that manages to bypass his defenses and threaten to drop him to zero.

            That probably made no sense and I was only really arguing with myself, but yeah.

            • The difference between spending a little bit of MP every once in awhile to cast Regen or spending MP all the time to maintain a forcefield, enhanced durability, enhanced reflexes, superspeed, super strength, and so on.

      • Good try, but no, at least the first point is irony. One expects someone who strives for freedom to be free; Eidolon’s status as a pawn is therefore ironic. The second one, where Eidolon expects to go out in a blaze of glory yet goes down like a slack-jawed chump, is at least ironic from Eidolon’s point of view.

        Of course, all irony is subjective, since “the opposite of what is expected” is entirely dependent on your expectations. Those who are familiar with the Wormverse and the sorts of fates Wildbow serves up to his characters were doubtless expecting Eidolon’s struggles for freedom to be futile and his moment of heroism to be stolen from him, but Eidolon, at least, expected the opposite of what happened.

        See also: the huge changes to the way the word “ironic” has been used in the past decade or two and therefore its definition. Words only mean what people mean when they use them, after all. There is no inherent link between signifier and signified.

  5. So now we’re at the beyonder level of power here. Things we learned:
    1. The formula’s act like a booster, and we now have a window of time it takes to make a formula. I don’t really want to do the math but you could give a rough estimate about how many formula’s were created taking into account time spent on everything else over a period of 30 odd years. We can also figure out based on the number man interlude how many people they’ve pretty much killed or turned into case 53’s, and the number seems scary high.
    2. Eidolon is the high priest and is an anomaly that Contessa can’t predict similar to Scion and the Endbringers. I found him kind of whiny, pathetic, and self centered. After Eidolon he shows he only cares about how he feels responsible but only because he was weak. While Legend reacted with horror. Man, Dr. Mother really is the biggest monster of the series considering how uncaring she is.
    3. More hints about their source and mention of a “slug”. Manton helped originally and wasn’t a parahuman originally, which seems to suggest that their source won’t let parahumans near them. This implies that Dr. Mother is a regular human, and they are worried that anyone else they get to help make formulas will decide to take one and become a problem like Siberian.
    4. Contessa becomes more mysterious with Scion getting her power, and her blind spots. I still buy into the theory that they are too reliant on Contessa’s power and this is a weakness they have not acknowledged. I can’t think of way that it is a weakness to Scion though.
    5. Fridge Horror at its finest: Even if they stop Scion, or he decided to stop it doesn’t matter. At all. The fairy queen said it herself. A new “worm/worms” can show up to complete the cycle with Scion or start a new one. The fairy queen wants the world to end and is hoping for a new member of to become Scion’s twin.

        • I was just playing ME2 Again on project overlord and by force of habit probed for minerals, then i did a double take when I spotted the planet’s name was Echidna (since i’d just punched up worm to read the comments…

    • The dead shards probably can’t adapt and find new power sources, whereas the live shards can. Eidolon is one hell of a power hog, and is probably able to access a huge ton of the dead shards. He was slowly emptying their reserves, and they weren’t able to recharge. But he finally figured out how to tap the energy from live shards and dump it into the ones he uses. The boosters may have been basically doing the same thing and he didn’t realize it; they were just dumping whatever dead shard would come with the formula into his reserve, and he got whatever unsustainable power was left in it. They’re less and less effective because he’s been draining the shards he can access across the board, so each new dribble of power only tops them up a little bit.

        • I’m pretty sure that the boosters only worked for Eidolon because of the nature of his power. Also, the Thanda are a group of capes. The guy who fixes spatial positions is a member of the Thanda. You maybe meant Phir Se?

          • No I meant every member of their group considering the abilities they’ve shown, I just forgot to add a “the” in front of Thanda. You bring up a good point about the boosters. Considering the shit the Endbringers were capable of, there is no reason to not give boosters to powerful capes. There has to be a reason they didn’t do it.

              • Yeah, which I suspect is just because he’s using a bunch of the dead shards that aren’t able to recharge themselves. The natural capes have active shards that can adapt to resource limitations and find new power sources in the reality they’re attached to. Eidolon’s shards (and presumably most of the dead shards) can’t adapt, so they’re using up their batteries and then they’re gone.

                So other Cauldron capes might be able to benefit from a booster (in the same way, by basically just stealing the juice left in the shard they’re injected with), or it may be something unique to Eidolon, but natural capes it wouldn’t do much for: they already have topped off batteries.

              • If Dr Mother knew what went into the booster shots and that they only worked for Eidolon, that implies she quite possibly *knew* that Eidolon could potentially recharge himself directly. And never told him. Hmm.

    • Yes, but all of the failures could have been healed by his draining their powers. Just before the end he gained the ability to neutralize capes — and maybe Endbringers.

      Of all times to die rather than run.

          • That doesn’t really mean that what Eidolon does will remove their Case 53ness. Sure, that would be a great outcome, but it’s easy to imagine ways that his power draining interacts where it does not. For example, the powers alter the body, but the alterations have an ontological inertia that does not require being sustained by their powers. Like, the power includes “shape shift into a monster, once.” The changes are done, and removing the powers wouldn’t undo it anymore than removing Taylor’s would bring back Alexandria’s higher brain functions.

            I do agree that the Case 53s have powers strongly linked to their alterations. I remember one problem I had with Witness in the deleted interlude was that she didn’t really seem like a Case 53. All the known Case 53s seem to have some kind of almost elemental theme, such as “octopus” or “metal” or “giant.”

            It also could depend on the Case 53 in question.

            • Worse, it could keep their monstrous forms whilst removing the ability for those forms to properly function. For example, Sveta requires superhuman coordination to work all those tentacles. If that comes from her shard then she could end up either completely out of control or unable to move.

              Ward is animated metal. What if the ‘animated’ part of that comes from his shard? etc.

    • >So now we’re at the beyonder level of power here.<

      Paging Dr. Doom, Paging Dr. Doom. Could you please come to the Wormverse?

  6. I guess I should feel for Eidolon now, after learning how he sacrificed everything, but really despite everything we learned he still seems like an extremely self-centred, self pitying wannabe. If that was the intention, then congratulations.

    Regarding the strategy that Glastig Uaine proposed:

    We know from Scion’s interlude that it cost him part of his remaining life expectancy to use his power. The Fairy Queen seems to think that their best bet is to spam him with attacks and capes and force Scion to use up his remaining ‘time’ as much as possible in the hopes that once he has little left he will become inactive and stop attacking and use his remaining reserves to wait for a counterpart to arrive and complete the cycle.

    This tactic is somewhat reminiscent of Zapp Brannigan fighting the killbots. It also has two major issues. What happens if Scion looses hope and decides to go out with a bang after his reserves have run low? And of course the thing that the Fairy Queen wouldn’t see as a problem: What happens if scion’s hope turns out to be justified?

    • For what it’s worth, this chapter made me like Eidolon. Sure, he’s self-centred and self-pitying. But those are minor flaws, and I think his virtues outweigh them.

      • I’m with Loki on this one. This is one instance where the interlude didn’t make me empathize much with the character. I pity Eidolon, and maybe I would’ve done the same thing in his situation, but I don’t feel for him. When WIldbow used the pull-back-and-reveal to show his MS or whatever, I was just like, “Of course he’s sick. That trick worked with Alexandria, so why wouldn’t Doctor Mother pull it again?” It didn’t really make me sympathetic for him, since we already know so much about his actions and personality and justifications later on. For that matter, Alexandria’s interlude didn’t make me too sympathetic for her, either, and would almost certainly be even less effective in that vein if I read it now, after seeing her terrorize Taylor.

        This isn’t to say that I don’t think the chapter was effective. It was. It just wasn’t really about creating sympathy the way Riley’s was, for instance. It was about showing the Scion fight from a perspective that understood much more of what was going on. It was about revealing a bit more of the inside story on Cauldron, one of few big mysteries left. One of the parts I liked the most was giving a better insider’s perspective on Contessa. The idea that Doctor Mother carried her around silent and still like a holstered gun that could be drawn to convince anyone of anything, kick any squeaky wheel, and solve any problem… that’s a bad-ass image right there.

      • I’m with Loki & Asmora on this one. Eidolon is a pitiful dreck of a wannabe with a psycological profile of those cop/fireman wannabes who did’nt make the cut and are about to become serial killers/arsonists only thanks to the Doctor and Cauldron’s super-serum, he’s stuck forever in that state making it all the easier to manipulate him into sacrificing his heart for his hearts’ desire and still not obtain it anyway.

        I have to say that the most dangerous person in Cauldron is not Contessa but the Doctor simply for being willfully blind to ignore and dismiss the unexpected consequences of her actions

        • I actually did feel some sympathy for Alexandria reading her interlude. I commented on it in the previous chapters comments. She actually did start out caring about people and wanting to do good. It just got eroded down as she kept doing worse and worse things “for the greater good”. Eidolon’s problem is that he is weak willed, and easily manipulated. Just compare him to the most famous physically weak kid turned superhero by medical experimentation, Captian America.

        • Not sure I agree… you actually make him sound sorta like Captian America. Do we judge his intentions or the outcomes of his actions? Which carries more weight….

          • If you remember, Erskine chose Steve Rogers because of his intentions. The outcome would have been about the same. Some enhanced soldier would have fought the Nazis. But Erskine chose someone who wanted to take down bullies/gangsters. Someone who wanted to protect the weak against the oppressive. Any of them could have been chosen to be a super soldier. It took the right kind of person to become a super hero.

            We see a lot of people compromised by their intentions here, don’t we? Jack’s intentions, Lung’s intentions, Saint’s intentions, Alexandria’s intentions, Eidolon’s intentions. There is some overlap there with Golem’s intentions or Taylor’s intentions, but last I checked, Golem and Taylor’s intentions were to do the right thing in their situations. Save the girl, save the world. Protect people. Cauldron’s intentions? They say it’s to save the world, but they sure got a funny way of doing it. They could have nipped it all in the bud by going public or bringing in world leaders and implementing a worldwide testing program. If they wanted to save the world, Scion could be facing down a million capes at this battle. They could have saved the parahumans on that oil rig easily too. But they care too much about covering their own asses for a group of people who want to give everything to save the world.

            • You make a good point, but I wasn’t even thinking about that for Cap. Rather I was thinking about how when some well intentioned extremist tries converting Cap, Cap shoots them down, and tells them why what they are doing is wrong. Like with “Superheroes need to register so we don’t get another Stamford.”

              • Hehehe, I love that page. Really encapsulated what we were all thinking. I remember reading about that comic when it came out, and being shocked that A: Sally Floyd could be that much of a dumb bitch. and B: That they honestly seemed to thing she was right? I figured Cap should have responeded with “I’m sorry Ms. Floyd. I really don’t have time to go online, since I am so busy doing things like preventing HYDRA from poisoning New York City’s water supply. And I missed the last Nascar season because the Red Skull had used the cosmic cube to re-write history so he ruled earth. But I’ll be sure to tweet about it next time I have to infiltrate A.I.M. headquarters to stop the from deorbiting the moon.

                And then Norman Osborn ended up in charge of the whole Registration deal, and I realized that the common people in the MU are total idiots with no gratitude whatsoever.

              • Well, I think all we need to know about the MU is that when the Avengers entered the DC Universe and found that the public was cheering for them, they immediately decided that the local superheroes were totalitarian brainwashers.

  7. So. Eidlididididio is a dark Captain America. Did not see that coming.
    Annnd cliffhanger.
    What were the four words????
    “You are already dead”
    “Spoilers! Snape kills Dumbledore”
    “No update this Thursday”
    “I ship ContessaXTaylor”
    “Nobody likes you. Nobody.”

    • “I…I must succeed.”
      “Let’s annoy the fans!”
      “I’ve always loved you.”
      “I will destroy you.”
      “You will not succeed.”
      “You are still weak.”
      “Why’re you following me?”
      “One two three chicken.”

  8. He kind of reminded me of Grue there.

    Damn shame about Scrub and Labyrinth.

    By the way, this right here is why you don’t keep shit secret. The way Cauldron acts, you figure they probably knew those four words. Wouldn’t be surprised if they had an idea about how his powers worked either. But noooo, we have to protect the secret. Not like we can just tell everyone that Scion’s going to go bad and we need to give people the world over superpowers to combat him. What would that do, eh, only bring them a few more million people with powers?

    Now we get to worry about those four words.

    Discounted possibilities:

    “*I* am your father!”

    “It was his sled.”

    “My name is Earl.”

    “One, two, three, four.”

    “Who is your daddy?”

    “Eat shit and die.”

    • Scrub and Labyrinth?

      Oh, I get it. You think he drained their powers.

      Not sure whether you’re right. Sure, the matter erasure was rather Scrub-like. But he had that power long before Scrub ever existed.

      I guess we’ll find out soon.

      • If my theory (see below) is right, he used Scrub’s power before Scrub ever got it, because the default setting of his power is to use the dead shards that don’t yet have hosts. Once Scrub got his formula (or maybe once the formula was created), Eidolon lost access to the power. Now he learned how to steal the powers from specific dead shards after they’ve been connected to parahumans, and those powers are stronger than ever because the shard has had all that juicy conflict to grow on since gaining a host.

        And he was, according to PG’s guess, using Labyrinth’s power to jump from world to world to follow Scion.

          • Did he? I thought he survived the Merchants bloodbath thing and got rewarded with a serum. Hm. If he triggered, that messes with my theory. Doesn’t hurt it, but takes away some support.

              • Right. Just reread the relevant passage. It also reminded me that there’s a white flash associated with Scrub’s use of his powers, which wasn’t mentioned here. Could just be a cosmetic difference due to how Eidolon uses the power, or it could be an example of WIldbow’s tendency to leave out visual details, but it’s seeming unlikely.

                Well… come to think of it, this doesn’t necessarily invalidate the idea that he hijacks dead shards and stole Scrub’s power. We know there was at least one dead shard that got a host without Cauldron’s assistance: the first cape, the one Scion healed on the boat. “V” name. Scrub just could’ve had one of the dead shards and triggered naturally. We don’t know for certain that Cauldron’s methods make that impossible.

                Also, didn’t we find out that Scrub’s power actually shunts matter into other realities, rather than disintegrating it? That’s what it sounded like Eidolon was doing to Scion after the first few broad attacks. I suppose he could’ve been using Labyrinth’s power for that, though? Just not in a way she can use it.

              • More likely, there is more than one matter-annihilation power. Just like there’s more than one flying power, or super-strength power, or laser power, or tinker power.

            • He triggered, which let him win the bloodbath and earn the serum, and he was going to hand the serum to a friend. But Faultline’s Crew snagged the serum and the associated documents before any could be used.

    • “Damn, you are stupid!”

      “I think I’m pregnant.”

      “Wrestling really is fake.”

      “Did you gain weight?”

  9. Trying to wrap my head around Eidolon’s power. So after his discussion with GU, he cycled through powers until he got something that allowed him enough self-introspective insight to realize he leeches power from living capes? I think? I don’t know how that correlates to his strength; I thought the cape population was growing and the last Behemoth fight had record attendance. I have no idea if his power connects at all with Scion’s dislike of him or anything else.

    Just temporarily confused I’m sure I’ll get it in time. Until then:


    It’s not active at all but I prefer subreddits to wordpress’ format.

    • G.U. said that he taps into the “stillborn” faerie. That sounds like the Counterpart’s shards, the ones Scion called “dead” shards. If, as PG suggested, that was Scrub and Labyrinth he yanked powers from, it suggests to me that previously he’d only been tapping powers from the dead shards that didn’t yet have hosts. Thus, as Cauldron created more capes, his options narrowed. Once he gained a power that let him sense passengers, though, he figured out how to yoink the powers away from shards that did have hosts, which were strong and vibrant due to the conflict-driven growth they experienced.

      AND! When he yoinks powers from hosted shards in living parahumans, he doesn’t have any of their programmed limitations or the limitations imposed on them by the minds of their hosts. So he didn’t have Scrub’s small area (probably programmed in by Scion) or random targeting (seems more likely to have been a random side-effect of the poor boy’s mind trying to cope with suddenly having the power to obliterate people). Likewise, he didn’t have Labyrinth’s schizophrenia/autism/whatever or the programmed limitation on what worlds he can go to (which Scion mentioned he put into every shard that gave access to other worlds). Because obviously Scion would’ve jumped to a world that he’d programmed the shards not to go to once he decided he was serious about getting away from Eidolon.

      • It’s not Scrub’s power – Scrub swaps things between dimensions – him erasing stuff except for the ground under him was what clued Tattletale in shortly before the first portal was built.

        Eidolon’s power leaves vacumn behind – unless he’s swapping with an ‘Earth’ in a universe where the Earth was destroyed or something…

  10. Just some thoughts.

    Eidolon is one of Contessa’s holes, but despite that she can model him well enough to gain temporary victories. Interesting. Contessa yet again displays more powers. Not just one path to victory, but many, with choosable parameters. Even precog-holes can be worked around if she understands the situation well enough. Incredibly scary. But the fact that Eidolon is a hole at all raises questions – what constitutes a precog-hole?

    “Carbon unfolded from a single point … the orb expanded until it was a hundred feet across.” So, there is a 100-foot diameter diamond in that world now? Yes, there are many other forms of carbon, but it would be amusing.

    “One bomb was creating spaces of alternately accelerated and decelerated time. Another was distorting space to the point it was painful to look at.” Hello, Bakuda.

    “The slug.” Presumably a Case 53 with the useful power of memory erasure.

    Eidolon hurt Scion several times, even when weakened. Then hurt him some more when he found new strength. Holy cow, he was powerful.

    “Deaf. He will not let himself run out of time. If he runs out, then he will stop playing, stop experimenting, and simply wait, bide his time in the hopes that another will come to act as his reflection.” So, the desire endgame is to get Scion to hole up somewhere and wait for another Worm.

    “You are the High Priest of the stillborn faerie.” His power is to command the dead Worm’s other powers?

    “Four words, barely audible.” You know, Wildbow, sometimes there is such a thing as too much mystery.

    • And one note I just thought of – GU ran. Either she can collect Eidolon’s shade from a distance, or she was truly afraid of Scion’s attack (or Scion’s use of Contessa’s powers).

    • — “Four words, barely audible.” You know, Wildbow, sometimes there is such a thing as too much mystery. —

      I second that

      • Yeah, I know.

        But I’m an introvert, and it’s been more than a month of having people around IRL.

        I need to recharge, and just like Krouse, I can refill my batteries by being a bit of a jerk.

        So this is my recharging.

      • Personally I disagree with this. I think it works well for the words to be for Eidolon’s ears alone. They were perfectly tailored to his psyche rather than ours – seeing their impact is effective and has us intrigued. Actually hearing them would undermine that, IMO.

        A bit like when they made the mistake of actually putting bits of the Time War onscreen in Doctor Who. Until then, they’d made do with tantalising hints such as telling us it involved the ‘Nightmare Child’ and ‘the army of meanwhiles and neverweres’. *Nothing* could possibly live up to individual audience imagination of what it could be like – or the space in their mind they’d labelled ‘incomprehensible’.

        Sometimes less is more.

        • Lets see if you will keep that opinion when you read the next chapter (please,no spoilers on this thread,think of the others)

          • I’ve read the whole thing (and finished Pact now, too. :P).

            I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say, while I still hold my point to be generally true, I was wrong in this particular case.

  11. So Eidolon ascends to godhood and is on the verge of claiming the title of “Most powerful being in the multiverse” just in time to get killed? No, surely we’re being bamboozled. I refuse to believe he’s dead. I’m not finished drawing him yet…

    • Eidolon’s only weakness was himself. Being a god doesn’t matter when you can be defeated.

      Pretty fuckin’ sad. Just when he’d shown himself to be a hero.

    • See, THIS is why I didn’t want you to draw me. You did a great job, but your models keep dying off. Maybe you should take up the fiddle instead.

      I don’t know what Eidolon said to him to make him give up, but if it was supposed to be some secret truth about everything that made Eidolon lose all hope, then Eidolon should have remembered something very important: People lie.

      That simple. Contessa and Scion can say the four special words to make Eidolon give up, but at the end of the day, those are just words put into their heads by power. They don’t know if they’re true. They’re just saying whatever they think will win. Maybe there are still four words that can get to Eidolon like that, but the guy should have buried his resentment by realizing that they’re just saying words without any real understanding of what they’re saying. Might as well have been gibberish.

      • In fairness, if he were going to turn around and bury his resentment by realizing that Scion was just saying words without any real understanding of what Scion was saying, then Scion would probably have said something else.

        Mind, I do think it’s probably possible to mold oneself into someone who needs more than four words to go into a despair spiral. (Although it obviously depends on the language. I can’t possibly test myself or anyone else against all four-word English arguments, but I’m pretty sure I can handle all possible length-four bitstrings without going into a spiral of despair. Although 1101 usually kicks off a positive feedback cycle that gives me ever-greater power, effectiveness, and joy!) It’s ironically kind of anti-protagonistic, though: the more like a story protagonist you are, the more likely you are to have a short shutdown phrase. ^_^

        • Then he could just realize those other four words are just Scion saying something. He could probably hold Scion off for a long time just trying to get Scion to think around that enough with the power.

          It’d be hard to do what I do if someone could say a few words to make me lose it. Then again, I’m an antagonist as far as the heroes are concerned. Good luck shutting me down with a sentence. And thanks to my sense of humor, good luck keeping me down for more than 30 seconds. By the way, that IS what she said.

  12. I wonder if Glaistig will harvest Eidolon’s power.

    She has every reason to try, but Scion has every reason to try and stop her.

    • It’s shown that Scion has been destroying any shade he actively attacks, weakening Glaistig. Presumably if Eidolon is destroyed by a direct hit, Scion can destroy his shade with the same blow.

    • EXCEPT that she has the same goal as he does. She wants the cycle to finish and the world to end. She wants for him to find a new partner. It’s unclear just how crazy she is considering all of her knowledge colored through her psychosis. I don’t think there are actual fairies around, hopefully, so I’m curious about her mental state. From a scale of 1 to 10, how delusional/batshit is she?

      • She might want the world to end, but not like this. She’s fighting, and she didn’t backstab Eidolon. So I’m pretty sure she’s genuinely on Team Human in this game.

        As for her craziness…4, I’d say.

        I think mostly she’s just socially awkward, and that combined with her powers-related knowledge made her seem nuts. I suspect the Faerie Queen stuff is just a mask, like Skitter and Weaver for Taylor.

        But she seems to be a trigger cape, with all of the issues involved in that.

        • I think she does want the world to end, but can’t convey that idea to the Golden Idiot God. She wants to live to see the end of the world. I’d rate her craziness much higher, say….7 or 8. She does want to kill every parahuman and collect them after all.

          • She wants to see the performance of the Play reach it’s end. But if Scion keeps destroying everything, then it won’t have a final act she likes.

        • Glaistig is a Fatalist. That is to say she believes everything is fated. Everyone plays their role. The Cycle should continue, like it always has before. But she’s wrong. This cycle needs to be broken. Both for humanity’s sake, and the worms. Because when the Worms evolved before, and blew up their homeworld, they didn’t really change. they just moved into a bigger pond. And now they devour all the potential of all the worlds they visit, just getting fatter, but never truly changing.

  13. hey yo okay,
    that last bit
    when eidolon didn’t move as scion was about to blast him
    that just feels like a nasty parallel his apparent attempted suicide
    like the same hopelessness and exasperation
    just, it would be more “natural” to have the sort of reaction that Taylor did in the last chapter, particularly for a soldier
    but uh, he just stood there, almost as if what Scion said was so bad that living was useless anyway
    like anything he had previously hoped for was dashed in realising that scion had contessa’s power, etc, etc
    and the fact that it took a bit to sink in means that it probably reveals contessa’s origin more clearly (maybe)
    but four words! what a limitation!
    maybe “this is more efficient”
    that’s all I have

  14. So Eidolon could draw power from the living.
    Glais can draw power from the dead and absorb passengers.

    Would this mean that Glais can now potentially gobble up every other passenger and become Scions partner 2.0?

    • That possibility has been on my mind since the Scion interlude, but I doubt it. If she has one of Scion’s shards, she’s designed to collect all those shards /for him/. She’s not forming a new Counterpart, she’s gathering his power back up so that he can reabsorb it when the cycle completes.

      But… this sparks another idea. What if the four words were “You are like me” or something to that effect? Or, worse, “All according to plan” or a more succinct version of “Now I have you where I want you, bwahaha.” “You give me hope.” Maybe somehow Eidolon is key to jumpstarting the cycle. Possibly he’s somehow obstructing it, which is why Scion’s always so disgusted by him, and his death will somehow pave the way for the cycle to continue and the world to blow up and everyone will be happy. Y’know, everyone who’s still alive. I.e. Scion and his new/resurrected Counterpart.

  15. Interesting.

    Confirmation that Glaistig Uaine’s nobility list includes both Cauldron and Scion capes. Four left to be named: (Glaistig, Eidolon, and Taylor confirmed; Grue is probable.)

    Four words? That compelled Eidolon to stop? His defining obsession has been saving lives. “Your power eats souls”? Some other four-word implication that Eidolon’s further actions would cost more lives than they’d save? “I can revive everyone”?

    Some revelation about Cauldron, or Doctor Mother? “Her promise was false”? “Manton never left Cauldron”?

    • Sorry, is it confirmed that Glaistig Uaine’s nobility list includes both? It’s possible that there were High Priests of both shards present — and Eidolon stealing powers from the living makes me think of Grue. And Glaistig Uaine would definitely know that Weaver knew Grue.

    • Presumably there are pairs of each role – one from each ‘Court’. So there’s probably a ‘natural’ Queen Administrator shard and a Cauldron one. Which raises the question: Who on team natural has the Scion-based High Priest shard?

      My guess for the four words is something like “You die a failure”. More than saving lives, Eidolon’s key drive is to *matter*.

      That said, I still think it’s best if the exact phrase is left to the imagination.

    • I was wondering about that. I mean, she IS a very good negotiator, or would be if she wasn’t all… snark and angst and pride, y’know? So her shard would make a good negotiator. But it’d make a good lots of other things, too. Scout. Researcher. Overseer. I suppose it could be a case like Jack, where Scion used the shard to negotiate, but Lisa has put it to a different use. That’s the sort of thing that’d figure into G.U.’s worldview, like calling Taylor the Queen /Administrator/ when Scion thought of her shard as the Administrator shard.

    • Or why the entities even *need* a negotiator shard when their communications consist of simple one-word sentences like “Destination?” and “Agreed”.

      I assume that it’s as simple as “Because she has the shard that was intended for negotiating”.

      Like, there are lots of descriptions/titles that fit Jack Slash as a person: “The Anarchist”, “King of Fiends”, “Arrogant twit”. But he bears the Broadcast shard so, as far as the court of Faerie is concerned, he’s whatever title is associated with that. “The Herald”, maybe?

  16. Now then, I think this is accurate, but if not he’ll just have to pop in and tell me.

    Sometimes when I lack time and it’s almost an update anyway, I’ll go ahead and hold off on a formal welcome until the update has occurred. This is one of those times. Those fabled times, when good men wear pink and the saxophone eats marmots. And mome raths outgrabe, that kind of thing.

    This is for WalksWith Fire, not to be confused with WilksWith Fire who is best known for commentary that came out of nowhere toward HonestAbe and reportedly blew the President’s mind in the waning days of the mid-1800s social network CivilWr.

    WalksWith Fire thought he was finished. If only that pronoun had applied to Eidolon instead. Nope. Catching up was the easy part. Now you get to sit around and suffer through Wildbow’s damn cliffhangers with the rest of us. You may have noticed Scion tried to get rid of the cliffhangers, but it’s no use. Eidolon held out until they got through anyway.

    Welcome to the comments, we’ve got fun and games. The Wild Mass Guess. Ship happens. The Hall of Mirrors, which we converted into a giant debate about who counts as heroic. You can even sit down at the giant water pun and we can see who fills the balloon the fastest, causing Wildbow’s head to asplode.

    So welcome, WalksWith Fire, to our little corner of Scion’s Destroy-O-Rama.

    Scion’s Destroy-O-Rama Fun Park! The Remainingest Place on Earth!

  17. Perhaps Doctor Mother programmed in a stop phrase. Weren’t such things mentioned in previous episodes about Cauldron capes? Then Scion uses the stop phrase for Eidolon and he just freezes.

    Thank you, Wildbow, for so many late night glee-sprees of delightful fiction. Be well.

  18. On a serious note, I suspect that the four words were something hurtful from Eidolon’s past, before he was a cape, which caused so much mental pain that he’s never recovered from it. Any number of family dysfunctional scenarios from mental abuse to vindictive deathbed statements. It might not have been a direct quote either.

    We don’t know enough to piece together the whole phrase, but I’d bet it was something from David’s childhood, before he became a cape. David’s live was quite a wreck from what we see in the interlude.

    Something like “You killed your mother”, which would bring back memories of Eidolon’s mother on her deathbed blaming him for her death (no evidence of that occurring, just an example)

    • Possibly something to do with his disability? I wouldn’t expect it to be something that ties into facts we don’t already know. That’d be unusually awkward storytelling.

    • I bet it has something to do with his mission, his purpose in life. What would be the ultimate disillusionment for him? What would disarm him completely? I’d bet it’s something along those lines.

  19. I’m still looking forward to what’s to come. We still haven’t seen what Panacea and Bonesaw have been doing that’s so much more important than putting biological failsafes in everybody’s body’s like what was done to the S9 to make them harder to kill. We also haven’t gotten to see what Teacher will bring to the table, and we haven’t gotten a payoff from Sophia’s release from prison or Lung’s two years of power building. Whatever happens next is gonna kick ass.

      • Yes, Tinker work is usually slow. But Bonesaw is, to quote String Theory, “not like other Tinkers.” Bonesaw has been shown to do very quick work, and that’s even with minimal materials, tools, and without the non-tinker version of her power assisting her, as well as all the materials and tools that can be afforded.

        God, can you imagine if they still had Blasto’s tech? They could make a Panacea/Bonesaw/Nilbog/Eidolon; theoretically a one-person Eldrich Army factory.

  20. Did Legend gain his abilities from Cauldron? He appears the most free of the Triumvirate. The man actually got a family which isn’t useful to Cauldron’s purposes. Alexandria & Eidolon were picked and programmed to be the perfect obedient puppets. The strongest Capes in the world are the most pitiful.

    I liked Legend calling Cauldron out on things they do. And even him questioning Contessa’s ability to succeed rings true. Her path to victory looks a bit too twisted and thorny to me.

    P.S. Heh. I remember reading about a GURPS Character, Old Lady who thought her ability was ”solving crimes”, while her true ability was ”convincing everybody of her suspect’s guilt”. She was a terrible detective.

    • I think a very basic question to ask her is “What is victory?”

      Sit down a bunch of people and ask them what is their personal victory that they’re hoping to attain and you’ll get at least one different answer per person. If she’s got so many blind spots around, how can she know if the victory she’s seeing a path to isn’t Scion’s victory?

      • It’d be pretty weird if it was Scion’s victory, since she doesn’t have one of his shards, but it’s pretty likely that all of her paths to victory work toward the Third Worm’s goals as much as possible, possibly with a mental block in place so she doesn’t notice any recurring patterns in the side-effects of her victories that she could use to piece together said goals.

    • I don’t remember it being explicitly mentioned in Legend’s interlude that he got his powers from the serum, but it was at least very heavily implied. They gave him the means to be a hero and all that. Still, you’re right that his leash was much longer than anyone else’s, and the reason for that is clear: they kept him in the dark because they knew he’d flip out once he found out what the real program was all about. So his morality resulted in more freedom… because the evil people thought he’d be more useful if they gave him more illusion of freedom.

      • Legend’s past is a little thing that’s bugging me as I prepare to write a fanfic of Worm, because I tend to obsess over details and the details matter more than usual for this fanfic concept. So I’ll just guess that his past is more or less like Alexandria’s and Eidolon’s.

        • Probably the same thing. Dr. Mother gets a bunch of formula’s together and looks for volunteers instead of kidnapping people. Possibly because they didn’t have the door maker yet and kidnapping people in the Wormverse would have brought too much attention. So they went to sick/dying kids with a chip on their shoulder to make them easier to control, gave them the formula, and waited to see what happened. Those that died or became case 53’s they either killed, erased their memory, or faked their death. Legend and the others were the lucky few that got great powers, most likely because those old formulas didn’t’ have the balancing agent to make it safer. But they goofed with Legend, who had a much stronger backbone that the other two. Alexandria was taken in by Dr. Mother, and Eidolon was a pathetic follower, but Legend obviously didn’t trust them from the get go during Alexandria’s interlude. Since he was so powerful that they couldn’t take him to have his memory erased easily, and was too big a help against the Endbringers, they decided to keep him in the dark instead.

          • Don’t forget Hero, who was part of the initial crop of huge successes as well. We know even less about him, of course, but given his choice of name I think we can assume he was in a similar position to Legend. Maybe he was even more inquisitive about Cauldron’s methods and intolerant of wrongdoing, so Dr. Mother arranged to have Manton kill him? Or did Behemoth kill him? Damn enormous world with decades of relevant history! Curse your worldbuilding prowess, Wildbow!

            Also, searching for chapters that mention “Hero” is a rather frustrating endeavor. I give up.

    • David specifically said he didn’t need *active* duty. He had a really good point that there’s a *lot* of deskwork to be done in the military. Does an army clerk stationed a continent away from the fighting *really* need to be combat-ready?

      Either he was just ahead of his time, or the Wormverse is different because a quick google shows that there’s a Federal mandate that 10% of the civilian workforce of US Military bases consist of individual with disabilities.

      The US Navy is the #5 highest employer of people with disabilities, for example.

  21. I think the four words have something to do with the Endbringers.
    Maybe “I made the Endbringers” or “She made the Endbringers”
    Or it might be related to the idea of the path to victory “You can not win”? or something similar.

    • ”Doctor made the Endbringers…” Yeah that could work. All those lives you’ve saved are on top of a mountain of corpses you helped Cauldron create.

  22. The four words made Eidolon realize Scion had the Contessa’s power and that his defeat was inevitable. Since the Contessa couldn’t predict Eidolon with any accuracy (since he’s a blindspot), it makes sense that Scion’s words were something along the lines of “I can see you” or “I understand you now.”

    Anyone with any familiarity with the Contessa’s power would feel the same. They’re so exploitable. So very hax. She could sit in front of a computer and determine the path to becoming an award-winning writer, and then her power would tell her which words to type. She could probably fake Tinker-powers this way too.

  23. The writing felt a little rough, but just a little, and since it’s all action it’s good anyway. It adds to the rush.

    I am feeling a bit put off by Glaistig Uane however. The girl is way too cryptic and it’s reached the point that whenever she speaks my brain substitutes whatever she says with the love bugs theme, since it makes the same amount of sense.

    That said, I guess you’re feeling that the eventual reveals will be lessened if we got some kind of hint about them. I can go with that.

    four words… bah, I’m not even pretending to make actual guesses

    – It’s over nine thousand!!!!!!!!
    – Wildbow is trolling you
    – I found teh bukkit
    – I can take her
    – Krustacean is drawing you
    – love bug love hug!

    • Really? I don’t think she was particularly obscure in this chapter. Heck, she even clearly explained the only semi-viable way to defeat Scion!

    • Almost every chapter of Worm makes at least 20% more sense if you go back and read it 1 or 2 weeks (or sometimes months) later. I’m willing to bet this all makes PAINFULLY obvious sense once we “get it”, which I suppose implies we’ve got a big reveal coming soon? Worm has got amazing reread value because of it.

      “- Krustacean is drawing you”

  24. I just hope that whatever happens we don’t get a “Taylor ascends to a higher plane of existence” ending. Or a Taylor dies ending. Both just feel so played out to me these days.

    Anyways I think everyone in the universe that isn’t a Worm or Glaistig is getting tired of this play. Lets see someone put on Cats instead.

  25. “No update this Thursday.”

    That is what really defeated him.

    Rather than something like “you have no legacy” or something similar.

    FYI, if you are in the same situation, remember that if he had attacked rather than mulling over the words he probably would have really scorched Scion … and then could have run and gotten distance while he digested the words.


  26. “Surrender and I leave”

    Eidolon lives to save people, he wants a legacy and with that comes something of a thanatotic urge, of all the things Zion could have said to him that would get him to stand down while he’s just found out how to return to the peak of his power I think that would do it.

    • Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.

      I was thinking more about “mother didn’t make you” or something like that, but I cannot find an elegant 4-word phrase. “mother is my counterpart” could work, maybe.

      But your idea works better, we already have seen a situation when Contessa just bluffs her way through things because she already knows the bluff will be successful (fight against the wards in Dheli), and even if Scion is just parroting words it should still work.

    • This is the first four-word phrase I like. A mild variation: “Surrender and I stop.” It makes sense the Scion would not like Eidolon using his mate’s corpse to fight. The only problem is that Contessa’s power does not oblige her to tell the truth, so I think that, even if those are the right words, it won’t be that simple.

    • However his mood was that of a loss not only to himself, but to others. He believes that the use of ”Path to Victory” power didn’t burn away enough time from Scion – so he think Scion is still danger to others.

      How about:

      ”I will destroy Cauldron” 🙂

  27. Hm.

    “You have no legacy.”

    “You are a pawn.”

    “This is a projection.”

    “I am wholly unharmed.”

    “You killed my wife.”

    “All according to plan.”

    “That’s far enough away.”

    Dunno. Probably the specifics are less important than the outcome: Eidolon loses a straight-up fight with Scion.

    Which is hardly a big surprise.

    Here’s a chilling thought: what if the Endbringers are there to cause Scion to spend energy/time?

    Doctor Mother continues to be mysterious. She disappears in Eidolon’s “threat-vision.” And according to GU she’s a “prop.” Makes me wonder if *she* is a projection, or drone, or something similar.

    Part of me is afraid that Wildbow is going to somehow end up implying that Cauldron’s whole “we had to destroy the world in order to save it!” approach was somehow justified in the end. That can work in fiction, but it’s also how you end up with crap like the War On Terror (“we had to destroy your privacy to save your freedom!”) and the nazis.

    Here’s hoping Cauldron gets treated as harshly as all the rest of Wildbow’s characters…

    • I’ve seen this a lot now in comments (here and elsewhere) and I kinda don’t get it. Why should Cauldron be held responsible for the War on Terror?

      • He wasn’t saying Cauldron is responsible for the War on Terror. He’s just using it as an example of how in the end doing aweful things in an attempt to stop some other aweful thing just doesn’t work, and makes things worse.

        • That kind of narrative seems like a “hard truth” that people “don’t want to accept” but I think it’s actually a kind of attractive one to a lot of people.

          Saving the world while doing the right thing is hard. Cooperating with people to improve things is hard. So maybe if we throw away conventional morality we can save the world by making people do what we want, and kill ’em if we don’t.

          It’s part of the reason why stuff like 24 get’s popular. Some people want to think that there’s a lone wolf badass or manipulator out there doing bad things for the greater good so we don’t have to.

        • While I agree with you, I’m not sure the parallel to the War on Terror really works. If the premise that failure in this conflict really will result in the extinction of all humanity is correct, then perhaps anything that genuinely improves the odds of survival no matter how horrific is morally justified. It’s a hard, hard argument to dismiss.

        • Negadarkwing is right. Basically, the war on terror is a parallel.

          WoT: “To keep Terrorists(tm) from doing horrible things to you, we’re going to do horrible things to you.”

          Cauldron: “To keep Scion from destroying the world, we’re going to do a bunch of stuff which is morally equivalent to destroying the world.”

          Obviously, this is a simplification — but both things boil down to Ends Justify Means. “It’s justified to murder a billion people in order to save any part of the world, even if that part of the world is 100 people living in a tent.”

          Also… “He?”

          I figured having ‘Lass’ in my username was a dead giveaway 😛

        • The “global war on terror” is about facing threats from non-nation actors who don’t have even a ten-thousanth of the numbers or resources that western nations do. In contrast Scion, the threat Cauldron faces, has already killed an estimated five hundred million humans and has demonstrated the ability to kill the rest effortlessly, and perhaps kill every human on every earth should he be so inclined.

          Bringing the “HARD MEN HARD CHOICES HURR” thing into it doesn’t make sense, the meme is rooted in a conflict where the side making “hard choices” is largely overreacting when they do so. Cauldron’s situation is very different, their species is up against the wall right now.

  28. Remember when I said that I was pretty sure Eidolon wan’t the High Priest? Well, how embarrassing.

    I do, however, remember also saying that Eidolon never appeared to outright copy someone else’s power, and it seems I was on the right track there. Unless I completely failed to understand this chapter, which is possible, it seems Eidolon’s power is to reach towards untapped powers (apparently Scion’s even though he’s one of the stillborn fairies) and the reasons he grew weaker over time is because more and more parahumans appeared over the years and those powers were no longer unclaimed. Until Glaistig hinted he could reclaim(?)/steal(?) living capes’ powers. Still, if those powers he used were indeed Scrub’s (eradication of matter from this dimension) and Labyrinth’s (shifting landscapes from one dimension to the other) then the powers can’t become unusable when they’re triggered, since Eidolon couldn’t use the erasure power after the first Behemoth fight. Maybe when the potential parahuman is born?

    I have always liked Eidolon and even defended him a few times, and I liked this chapter but I must say that it’s hard to feel sorry for him while Legend is going all “my god I have been helping you monsters for decades, how am I going to sleep at night?”. Well, at least he didn’t become a knight templar like Alexandria.

    Still, I must say that Alexandria may have turned in a cold bitch by the end, but I thought that the part where Glaistig says that even the dead can be players (obviously referring to her power) and Eidolon thinks of Alexandria was a poignant little scene. Maybe it’s just me.

    I wonder how Scion can have Contessa’s power. I thought she got it from the Third Entity? I also wonder how many years he burned off to use it and to travel through dimensions. I believe in his interlude it’s mentioned that the last one is particularly tasking.

    Speaking of Contessa, i think Legend asked one of the most important questions of all: who the FUCK is she? Seriously why does she follow Doctor Mother around? Could it actually be the other way around? I think she’s a big a mystery as Cauldron as a whole.

    Oh and apparently the Custodian isn’t just a girl made of air but actually exist everywhere at once and can decide where to focus her presence. Yet another uberpowerful cape Cauldron never used! Yippie! Although, to be hones, it seems to be implied she cannot exist outside the facility.

    Oh and we can strike Tattletale from Glaistig list. She’s not the observer (who seems to be Dinah, at this point), but the negotiator.

    • >>Until Glaistig hinted he could reclaim(?)/steal(?) living capes’ powers

      I don’t think he steals powers from living capes, the stillborn comment makes me think he takes the remainder of a shard that is about to split off. Like if he used it on Kaiser 4 years ago he would of got Theo’s shard, and if he used it on Taylors he would of got bird boys shard.

      • A close reading of the moment he yoinks the powers of the capes in the water makes it pretty clear that they won’t have their powers after said yoinking. It doesn’t even sound temporary, either. “They’d lose their abilities,” it says. There’s no mention of them getting them back once he’s done with them, though they are dying at the time and unlikely to live that long, making it a moot point in that situation. I’m pretty sure he’s stealing the powers of parahumans who have “dead” Counterpart shards. It’s also possible he’s doing so in a “gather them all back together to complete the cycle” sort of way, but there’s not quite as much evidence for that yet. (Yes, yet. I rather doubt that Wildbow’s going to kill him off right after revealing all this cool stuff about his power and implying all kinds of stuff about his role in the big picture. G.U. blocks the blast or something.)

  29. Well then. What a neat little chapter. Interlude. Whatever. It taught us more about Cauldron, Scion, and Eidolon.
    One wonders just how many sick kids Cauldron gave the formula to in hopes one of them would win the superpower lottery.

    I can’t wait until Saturday to see what happens to Taylor.

    Let’s annoy the fans.

  30. Who weeps for Eidolon?

    The wheel-chair may come off as a touch pat. But think about what a wheelchair means to someone. Is there anything more indicative of a lack of freedom? When your very ability to move and be able to walk is impaired from birth?

    Eidolon spent his entire life seeking two things: Freedom, and a legacy. It’s not an unreasonable wish- seeking out something better. Fuck it, Worm didn’t have it as bad as he did- She had a father who loved her, and was at the very least not completely crippled. So, he gets given a chance, to become the greatest hero who’ll ever live. And it’s fantastic. And he’s great.

    And he’s getting weaker.

    As more and more horrifying foes show up, he’s getting weaker. As everyone around him grows stronger, he grows weaker, and less flexible. He’s still the most powerful, but he knows he’s growing less able.

    He sacrifices. His good name. His friend. All the good will and heroism he’s built up. He agrees to be the one who’ll sacrifice it all, because he wants to make things better. And he’s being discarded.

    They need a new Eidolon. Can you imagine what it’s like to hear someone say that, to dismiss you like a spent shell. Eidolon sacrificed everything to protect humanity, and now he’s being discarded because he’s too weak.

    Which makes this all the more tragic. Scion was running, fleeing. Eidolon was growing more powerful. He could’ve been the greatest there ever was once again. He could’ve gone on.

    But he’s still, at his heart, someone who’s never been free. Even at his strongest, the Contessa trapped him. What a fucking life. And so four words is enough- just for a little while- to make him give up. Give him a few minutes and he’d realize what Scion was trying to do, just like he would realize what Contessa was doing if she gave him the perfect answer, but it worked just long enough.

    • By “Worm,” do you mean “Skitter”?

      And yeah, Eidolon’s situation sucks. But so does the situation of the Wormverse in general. When the world has been doomed for several arcs, when it’s easier to count major characters with pleasant childhoods than to count those with PTSD, each individual who has a tragic tale means a bit less.
      We’ve been desensitized to their tragedy.

      • But the wornverse is still very well written and consistent. If the guys that get powers are the traumatized ones, it is logical that happy childhoods will be few among them.

        • I never argued that. In fact, I’d argue that the reader becoming desensitized to tragedy that happens in the story is probably intentional (and if not, a very excellent coincidence), as a major theme of the earlier arcs was Taylor going through a very similar process.

          • I think that what’s very interesting to consider is that the idea that Cauldron was selling was that they’re giving powers to well-adjusted people, rather than the ticking time-bombs who trigger naturally- And yet, it seems that by and large, they’re at least as nutballs.

  31. Waitaminnit. Interlude today, Interlude Thursday, then story resumes? Today is Eidolon’s interlude. By that logic, is Glaistig Uaine the Thursday interlude?

  32. Welp, Eidolon took off one of Scion hands, and it’s kinda sad that only Glaistig Uaine was the only one to see that. I’m pretty sure that it would do wonders for morale.

    Maybe they should throw the blasphemies at Scion, if only ’cause I’m reaaally wanting to know what can they do.
    Wonderfull chapter as always! I like how Cauldron status as a villain is more and more blurry every passing chapter.

    • Really? I see Cauldron’s status as villains as being more and more confirmed with each chapter with their “humanity’s survival will vindicate me” attitude.

      • We got pretty much the biggest verbal takedown of Cauldron since Gregor from Legend here, so yeah, I don’t see how this is supposed to make them more gray.

        I guess you could say the “heart to heart” between Doctor and Eidolon is meant to be humanizing, but we have no reason to think her words are sincere. For almost thirty years she’s been feeding him lines to get him to toe their line. Cauldron’s treatment of Eidolon is pretty scummy actually, imo.

        • One way to make a good villain is to have it almost seem like they might be right. Almost. Look at Magneto. He has a point in that humans will fear and hate and try to exterminate mutants. But this is offset by the fact that his actions are only confirming that humans have reason to fear mutants.

          I do not believe that the ends justify the means. The ends will be sum of the means, not what you actually intended.

          • Well, if they have perfect knowledge of future through path of victory, then they can justify pretty much any atrocity as necessary for the greater good. It’s a grim math, but weighting millions vs. billions or even fate of Earth and species, it’s possible to see them as darkly heroic. The issue of course is how perfect their knowledge of the future is and whether they are following the path of the least sacrifice for it. Contessa has got ”blind spots” around Endbringers & Scion, so how exactly can she lead them to better outcomes? I assume they they would be following the path that gives them the most firepower, which might not be the right one.

            And then there is an issue of whether Contessa is leading them in the right direction at all.

            • Of course there are debates on just what this victory would mean. And there are times were winning is a bad thing in the long run.

              Besides as Sun Tzu said and David Xanatos proved, it’s better make it so you win no matter the outcome rather than sticking on a singular victory.

              And i’m sure at some point we’ll get to see Contessa fail or outright be wrong.

              • Well, one of the issues of winning by any means is having the people who are prepared to do anything to win in peace time. They are a bit too detached about all the massacres, which is one of the factors that makes me think that Cauldron was indeed created artificially.

                Scion isn’t going to kill all of the humanity. He still has hope that cycle can be salvaged and he needs humans for that. Dinah has said that five major groups and about 20-30% of the population will survive, which is at least billion.

            • A choice to kill x amount of people to save y like the (arguable) Hiroshima bombing is one thing, but this Cauldron’s entire methodology. They don’t consider any other avenues or anyone else’s plans. Their actions towards some far away victory result in innumerable situations which themselves result in harsh choices, and at the end of everything there are more people dead than there would be if they tried a different solution.

              I just don’t think it’s a defensible attitude whatsoever.

              • Cauldron can’t justify all the horrible actions they have done, of course, but every time we learn more about the Cauldron capes we can see that they were people that wanted to help the world.
                While Cauldron is certainly not made of good guys, I wouldn’t call them villains. It says a lot about the wormverse when a conspiracy that gives people powers and kidnaps humans to experiment on them is still better than the alternative, which is extinction at the hands of a god-like Scion. We just don’t know if Cauldron had acted differently more people would have been alive, and they had strong reasons to think that was the best course of action (they DO have the number man with them after all, is not like they only had Contessa). There is also the fact that we obviously still lack a lot of information about Cauldron and Contessa, but for now (and Dinah seemed to agree) everything that Cauldron has done was in order to give humanitya chance against Scion.
                The thing with Scion is that it is a relentless killing machine, and it won’t stop destroying humanity because it thinks there is nothing else to do, it is simply to alien to care about humans.

              • The thing with Cauldron is… To me it seems like the hard choices aren’t hard for them. They go right to them, and have no regrets.

              • Considering the scale of the problem, reducing your chances of victory for the moral high ground is pretty bad. Like it’s been said, evil isn’t stronger, it’s easier. But that makes all the difference. You don’t purposely handicap yourself when fighting for Humanity’s future. The moral high ground is not worth letting all of those people die.

                And consider that Cauldron has the closest thing to perfect intel. Even if it was to be called shoddy, it’s considerably less shoddy than what anybody else has. While it’s cost more lives than other solutions, it’s all for the purpose of maximum results. Morality doesn’t even factor into their M.O.

                In that sense, I can sort of understand why they did what they did. It’s my hope that Cauldron has the balls to accept punishment for the horrors they’ve committed in service of the cause, if they do manage to save Humanity’s bacon. That would be proof enough of their sincerity, by accepting the consequences of their actions and paying for it (most likely with their lives).

              • Since when did the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombing safed anyone? Very bad example. I get what you say but this comparison hurt my eyes.

              • >>In that sense, I can sort of understand why they did what they did. It’s my hope that Cauldron has the balls to accept punishment for the horrors they’ve committed in service of the cause, if they do manage to save Humanity’s bacon. That would be proof enough of their sincerity, by accepting the consequences of their actions and paying for it (most likely with their lives).<<

                Not going to happen. Ever. Sure, Doctor Mother is selling the image of someone who is only doing what's necessary and that would step down and let herself be tried once this is all over (your choice if to believe this or not). But can you really see someone like Number Man actually turning himself over? Please.

              • DasNiveau,

                I don’t like Cauldron and I don’t necessarily like this idea of them being a necessary evil, but there’s a statement you bring up that I’m going to address.

                The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were considered one of the less deadly courses of action. Otherwise, a full-scale invasion of Japan was likely with Japanese, Russians, and Americans dying in droves. Japanese resistance, further bombing, urban warfare, crop destruction on the Japanese islands. Millions would have died and the rest of Japan would have been in even worse state after the war.

                One way to put this in perspective: in anticipation of the plan to invade Japan, so many Purple Hearts were created that they have had enough for every war since WW2, and they still haven’t run out.

                There’s still a lot to argue about with the morality of the choice, but it was one they took to kill fewer people.

              • Psycho Gecko,

                dropping 2 A-Bombs on an allready defeated country as a simple weapon test does not ring my bells that way. Japan was held in the war by outrageous peace conditions like depose there emperor. It was simple mass murder, nothing else.
                BUT this is no plattform for RL political discussions.

              • DasNiveau, sorry about that. I was addressing the general point of Cauldron’s singlemindedness. Wasn’t paying attention to the Hiroshima analogy.

                And yeah, AMR. I know it’s very unlikely. But it’s pretty much one of the biggest things that’ll determine my final view of Cauldron. It’d make them a lot less grey if they tried to weasel their way out of punishment.

              • @Irregular “Like it’s been said, evil isn’t stronger, it’s easier. But that makes all the difference. You don’t purposely handicap yourself when fighting for Humanity’s future. The moral high ground is not worth letting all of those people die.”

                The problem there is that the evil route is *less* effective in the long run. Look at Cauldron – every ‘hard choice’ they’ve made ‘for the greater good’ has made things worse overall. Alienated heroes and villains alike? Check. Not telling the world about a impending threat so they lost decades to prepare? Check.

                Heck, if Scion’s interlude is to believed, there’s a decent chance this could’ve all been avoided if people had just been more *appreciative* of him. Spending the decades humanising Scion might’ve made a difference, no?

                The ‘easy way’ is low-hanging fruit. It gets you local optimisation, not the best overall solution.

  33. This has been a very interesting arc, Wildbow. I’m not sure how you keep raising the stakes like this while not losing the plot, but I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen. Kudos.

  34. Ok, I ended up liking Eidolon even more. I’ve never disliked him, and was sad to think that he could have solved all of his problems just by liberating the shards on the imprisoned as too dangerous case 53s, freeing them from their living hells and regenerating himself.

  35. Whatever Sion told Eidolon, it would have to be more than just make things hopeless. Even if things were hopeless, Eidolon might well still fight. At least take time before he accepted defeat.

    To get him to give up so completely, so quickly, Sion would have to somehow convince Eidolon of something that both made so much sense he couldn’t deny its truth once he heard it, and forced Eidolon to conclude that the only way to save the most lives was to allow Sion to kill him.

    So here’s my suggestion:

    “You eat them all.”

    • I’m guessing that it’s either something that induced either terrible guilt or made him feel completely worthless. Either one would have probably been something about his goals, almost certainly something that helped him reach a conclusion rather than just information.

      Although a last-second brainwave makes me consider your statement. It’s a clunky way of putting it, but somehow reminding Eidolon of the consequences of his new discovery…

  36. – oh Glastig you so crazy
    – crazy *awesome*!
    – Eidolon is a sad sad man. I alternate between sympathy, rooting for him and contempt
    – ooh, in retrospect, now we know why he’s called Eidolon. Fuck, I bet Doctor Mother picked that name
    – I’m beginning to think Contessa is the real head of Cauldron and Doctor Mother is her front-man cat’s-paw Judas Goat

      • An Eidolon is either an idealized version of something/someone or a ghostly spirit-image. He embodies both; the former as the most powerful living parahuman (or so folks thought) and the latter (as we now know) because his power harvests the shades much as Glastig Ulaine’s does. The spirits she carts around could accurately be referred to as lowercase-e eidolons.

  37. so last night my phone (named Skitter) fell from my arms onto the ground of my garage and the LCD was shot. I went to a repair shop and they said the replacement parts should be in by saturday and it will have a white battery cover instead of black
    so, assuming my life foreshadows the future, I’m thinking there’s another interlude thursday and we get back to Taylor on saturday, and she has a white battery cover somewhere

  38. In starting my quest to find all the little characters not listed on either character page, I realized that Butcher had killed a bunch of capes beforehand. Checking Imago-6, I compiled a list of known Butchers and their powers:

    I: Butcher Curse; Ranged Agony; Super Strength
    II: Sees circulatory systems through walls. Likely other powers.
    III: Danger Sense; Super Strength
    IV: Worsening Wounds
    V: ???
    VI: Explosive Teleporting; Super Strength
    VII: ???
    IIX: Stone? Shaping.
    IX: Rage-Inducing Thingy; Super Strength
    X: ???
    XI: Super Strength. Likely other powers.
    XII: No Pain. Likely other powers.
    XIII: Super Strength. Likely other powers.
    XIV: Quarrel. Accuracy??
    XV: Cherish. Emotion Sense and Manipulation.
    Unknown, Likely Multiple: Super Toughness; Possibly sand-shaping, unless that falls under #8’s power

    I was wondering if wildbow would be so kind as to fill in the gaps in our knowledge so I don’t leave out capes in my considerations.

    • The way I understood Quarrel’s power, as long as something is in range she’ll always hit her target. So let’s say that her bow can hit someone up to 100 metres (I have no idea if this is realistic) and her target is 90 metros away but there’s someone/something in-between. Her power will let her warp space so that the arrow goes around the obstacle and hit the target.

  39. This explains why Eidolon was getting booster shots but nobody else was. If a core part of his power is draining power from other shards, an extra dose of the formula could have been partially linking him to another shard to draw power from.

  40. Am I the only one thinking Scion said something about Glastig being his girlfriend ?

    Also, a “This is a dream” would be fun. Next chapter, David wakes up, his mom saying that he’s late for school 😀

  41. Building off of my efforts to assemble a list of all minor capes mentioned in Worm, I have a list of all the capes mentioned in the Leviathan arc who were mentioned by name that we don’t know the powers of. Good benchmark, I thought.
    Acoustic, Adamant, Alabaster, Apotheosis, Bastion, Brigandine, Carapacitator, Chubster, Cloister; Erudite, The; Escutcheon, Fierceling, Frentic, Good Neighbor, Hallow, Harsh Mistress, Herald, Hew, Intrepid, Iron Falcon, Impel, Jotun, Krieg, Myrddin (?), Penitent, Resolute, Saurian, Scalder, Sham, Smackdown, Strider, WCM, and Woebegone.
    I was wondering if wildbow could give a brief summary of these capes, until I was about halfway through assembling the list and realized HOLY CARP THIS IS A LOT OF CAPES!

    …So. Looks like I need a Plan B. One that involves getting a lot of capes’ background, powers, etc, without needing to bug wildbow a lot.

    …I don’t suppose he has a convenient spoiler-free Google doc full of plans?

    • Alabaster’s an E88 member with the power to restore himself to pristine condition every five seconds or so, and he has literally white skin.

    • Bastion had forcefields, Strider mass teleportation, Erudite I believe reappears in the Echidna fight and has the power to make copies of others that repeat their last action, Myrrdin power involved other dimensions where he could put stuff or draw energy from but the specifics were never made clear, Krieg had some sort of telekinetic push effect but I believe this is mentioned only in the cast page.

    • Thanks to Glassware and AMR for helping with some of the heroes. Thanks to Glassware for correcting AMR’s mistake. Sorry to Glassware for being humiliated by his lack of knowledge about Erudite and Chronicler. Thanks for AMR for making me aware of another cape.

  42. Sudden realizations!
    If powers that weaken over time are from the dying shards, then Leet becomes a slightly more interesting character. Actually, Uber and Leet become a sort of down scaled crappy versions of Contessa and Eilodon.
    Also, if Scion ends the world, Taylor still killed a baby. That one is less a realization so much as it only just sunk in.
    Lastly: Eilodon just needs a personality warping power so that the predictions are wrong. The “path to victory” power is blind against him so changing how you act will throw it off. A risky move sure but at least it gives a possibility of survival.

    • Arguably. Their powers actually aren’t much alike, and their personalities are even less so.


      Precognitive powers seem to account for everything like that to some extent, except of course other precogs and such. Unless Contessa/Dinah/etc advised him otherwise, he’d be SOL. And that’s assuming that Scion didn’t intend for that to happen–potentially god-level precognition means you can easily pull one of Tzeentch’s gambits.

  43. It suddenly makes sense why do many capes have a sense of dislike of Eidolon. It comes from their passengers. They don’t like the idea of him eating them to fuel his powers.

  44. I was under the impression that Scion’s powers and build were rather unknown. However, Cauldron and Eidolon apparently know he burns years to use certain gifts.
    “How many years did it cost Scion to use it?”

    This seems to imply at least some knowledge of a functional Worm entity.

    Four words:
    The only reason I can imagine Eidolon giving up, is if he’s somehow deterioration his own goals. His only goals we know are saving the world, freedom and a leaving a legacy, we can’t really predict those four words. Going by saving the world, it could be something like: “You are killing everyone”, “You caused the end”, “You die, I stop” or even “You created the Endbringers”
    Even if that’s what Scion tells him, he probably wouldn’t just accept that. It’s told to him by an enemy, while in battle. He’d want to verify it.

    For it to still affect him. It has to be something that he intimately knows and maybe suspected. We don’t know him well enough to guess that.

    • While it’s not unthinkable that Cauldron has deep knowledge of Scion’s inner working ( they have obviously hijacked the dead entity, after all), I believe that Eidolon thinking about how much years Scion spent is because Glaistig Uaine just told him that making him spend energy is the only way to stalemate or even beat him.

  45. Damn, that reactive teleportation would have been a trump card against Echidna.

    “Something abstract, offensive enough to level the entire complex if he needed to.

    Equally useless. She had an answer to that as well.”
    Does Contessa have a copy of Taylor’s Mary Sue abilities or something?

  46. Scion lashed out, and he danced around the edges of the blast, closing the distance to swamp Scion.

    Not sure why Scion is closing the distance towards himself

    • “Eidolon took on the form of a living field of distorted space. Air ignited on contact with him.

      Scion lashed out, and he danced around the edges of the blast, closing the distance to swamp Scion.”
      He references to Eidolon here, probably would have worked better as a single paragraph.

  47. Okay so I feel really bad for Eidolon. Still a completely self centered holier than thou dick but now he’s a sad dick. (That sounds way dirtier than I it should…) I have issues with him feeding on living people but at least he isn’t killing them. And dear lord the dude’s Shard manifested in a way that it broke through loopholes and can directly damage Scion. That’s pretty cool! He freaking forced and Eldritch Abomination giant MDE to run away! That is so impressive. He gets a 3.0 at the Taylor Hebert School of Badassery. Lots of marks taken away but sheer determination and results does give some extra credit I think.

    Hmm so Scion got annoyed and decided to see the path huh? It’s kind of sad that Eidolon just gives up. I mean at least try to take the asshole with you if you can’t live with yourself after a soul crushing realization.

    It’s interesting how Eidolon and Glaistig are basically the exact opposites of each other.

    You know with what GU does and with how she knows pretty much exactly what the hell is going on I am extremely surprised that she hasn’t tried to become Scion’s counterpart. I mean, she takes the shards, she knows about the cycle, how he is desperately lost and looking for purpose, how the counterpart is dead, she knows the role that individual shards perform and yet she doesn’t try to become the new second? It’s a little weird. Kind of fits her personality as shown I guess but still odd.

    Now I would comment about being mean with the cliffhanger but seeing as I am rather late to the party and can just continue on immediately…

  48. Hmmm….
    I have already won. Would be too easy.
    I will not wait?
    I am done running?

    And even if he has C.s Power, Eidolon could have run too….

  49. Daaaaaaamn. Reading this chapter and it’s ending was so difficult for me. Of all the characters I’ve read so far, I couldn’t help but feel how relatable this guy’s situation was to my own. For a second I thought Eidolen stood a chance…

  50. I love that you brought Bakuda back. We knew from Dragon’s interlude that Glaistig Uaine collected her, and from Shell that she could do some shit that was truly scary, and remained so even when playing at this level. It would have been easy to just keep inventing dead capes for Glaistig Uaine’s arsenal (who is the metal construct one? Power’s similar to Kaiser, but Kaiser needed a solid material to start with, and he died while GU was incarcerated…) but doing stuff like this is part of what makes Worm feel so cohesive as a setting, even when most elements from previous arcs have been left way behind.

  51. There’s just one (I think) error in this chapter that’s confusing me greatly… In the flashback to December 5, 2012, Eidolon says that the Paris attack was two weeks ago, but the list of Endbringer attacks from Scarab 25.6 it says that the Paris attack was on December 19th.

  52. No. I liked Eidolon. : (

    I hope the Faerie Queen gets to collect him at least. But it’s probably too dangerous to be close enough while Zion has Contessa’s power.

  53. I read this chapter last night, and I’ve been thinking about it all night. xD

    But I reached the conclusion that I think Taylor is having the same issue as Eidolon. She’s not using her power to its full potential. We know that Scion crippled her shard since it was a powerful one. I’m starting to think that maybe this crippling effect is the Manton Effect. It was established early on that powerful abilities aren’t allowed to affect other humans, but that it can be overcome.

    What if Taylor can overcome the Manton Effect and affect other humans. We know her power isn’t just to control bugs, but rather any lesser creature with simple minds. But to the Intergalactic Spaceworm Gods, humans ARE lesser creatures. If Taylor can open her eyes and break the shard crippling, maybe she can control humans like bugs. We do know her shard is supposed to be one of the essential shards, since Glastig calls her the Administrator.

    • There’s also been some conflict between her and Regent’s power. We know she doesn’t like the way Regent used his mind control. So it could also be that her mind subconsciously blocks out that part of her power.

  54. This is so good. You are best at leading me into the unknowns. The humanly chapters touched me perfectly. Quite amount of emphaty you put in them. (a word you seem to avoid, tho)

    I had so much fun up to this chapter and can no long just read. Have to express something (not eternally love).

  55. The chapter was a little bit badly written. The parts at the beginning at the fight with Eidolon where he used the powers were not clear.
    And what did Weaver warn him about?
    Otherwise great chapter.

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