Teneral e.1

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

“I expect I’m not doing myself any favors,” the girl spoke.


“Remaining silent.  You’re here to judge me, and silence is damning.”

“I’m not so sure I like the word ‘judge’.  Evaluate is a better word.  Listen is better still.  I want to listen to you, because I can’t help you if I don’t understand you, and I want my understanding of you to come from your words,” Jessica Yamada spoke.

“Silence says a great deal, does it not?  I recently heard a man speak to the people in charge about the homeless, the masses of refugees we are still trying to find homes.  He spoke of needs, of women and children, and of families that have been broken because temporary shelters don’t allow the men within.  He proposed a plan, then justified it with a diatribe on humanity and pity, leadership and the threat of unrest, the threat of people manifesting powers, and he talked of faith.  He finished on that note.  Do you know what point the canniest people in the room are left paying attention to?”

“You were talking about silence.  Something the man didn’t say.”

“You are paying attention,” the girl said, sounding mildly surprised.

“It’s my job.”

“Then you’re already aware that what one leaves out is as telling as what they include.  The void in our speech, if you will.  The gaps.  The man said nothing of resources, of food supplies, because he does not want to raise the topic, and he has no answers there.  Silence can be louder than words.”

The therapist nodded.  “It’s an interesting thought, and it’s one we could talk at length about, but, please excuse me for saying so, I think you’re dodging the question.”


“Evading, avoiding-”

“I was not asking for clarification, doctor.  I was expressing indignation,” the girl said, stressing the last word.  There was a kind of vibration in the words as she said it.

“Whatever else you are, you’re still human.”

“There was a time I’d have swiftly responded to that,” the girl said.  “You would be dead, if you were fortunate enough.”

“…And you’re acting like I should be able to read something in your silence.  The problem is that speech needs periods of silence to be intelligible, to separate the words and keep it from being a steady drone of noise.  To frame it.  The opposite is true.  To find the meaning in what’s left unsaid, we need words to punctuate it.”

The girl opposite Jessica Yamada frowned just a little.  Her deep green eyes didn’t move a fraction as she met the therapist’s.  It held an intensity that suggested she could have faced down a stampeding elephant or an airborne missile.  Very reluctantly, she said, “…Fair.”

The therapist relaxed a touch, sitting back in her chair.  “What we do here is up to you.  I’ve had patients who enjoy this kind of verbal jousting.  Many walk into a first session with preconceived ideas, that they’ll be forced to lie on a couch and bare their vulnerabilities while I pry at them with questions.  A debate gives them their power back.”

“It’s the approach that makes sense.  The, er,” the girl stumbled uncharacteristically as she searched for a word, “parahumans… they tend towards conflict.”

“There is a lot of evidence to suggest that’s the case.  Do you?  Tend towards conflict?”

“No.  Which is a good thing, I imagine.  My other half was always more patient, more relaxed than most.  Its duty was always at the end.  For those who had duties at the beginning, it would be harder.”

“How do you define beginning and end, when it’s a cycle?”

“Beginnings and endings,” the girl mused.  She smiled a little.  “I’m tempted to say you just know.  That it’s instinctual, you know what you are.  But that’s something of a coward’s answer.  More correct to say that you can distinguish the two when there’s a long, long journey in the middle.”

The therapist shifted her position, taking a glass of water from the table beside her and sipping it.

No doubt inviting me to keep talking, the girl thought.  She turned her attention to her drink.  It was cold.  She exercised her power, reaching into the deep dark well within her, and withdrawing a single individual.

Põletama, the firesinger.

The individual emerged, coalescing from shadows.  A woman, dark skinned, with skin painted in wild colors that had once hidden her features as well as any mask.  Where it had once been paint and flesh, the barest minimum of cloth, the flesh ridged.  Her eyes burned as she stared out from the shadows of her deep-set eyes.

The girl didn’t take her eyes off the therapist as the firesinger reached out and put one glowing fingertip into the water.  It took a moment for the liquid to start steaming.

The other two shadows stood at different points in the room.  One stared at the bookshelf, its lips moving as it murmured in a voice only the girl could understand.  The other stood at the window, arms folded, his cape moving in a wind that wasn’t present, hood hiding his features.

The girl in the heavy leather chair, by contrast, wore only a sleeveless top and a knee-length skirt.  Both the collar of the top and the skirt had heavy lace at the edges.  Her blonde hair was braided.  It made her look far younger than she had in previous appearances, and she’d looked young then.

“You were tempted to say you instinctually know who you are,” the therapist said.

The girl tilted her head a fraction.

“To be blunt, I’d say the vast majority of my patients don’t know who they are.”

The girl lifted the steaming mug to her lips.  The smell of the heavily spiced mead flooded the room. The therapist didn’t comment, hadn’t commented.  She was technically legal, however young she might look.

The girl swallowed, then said, “What, not who.”

“It’s the same thing, isn’t it?”

“Perhaps,” the girl responded.

The therapist spoke a little slower, as if she were testing her words in her head before she spoke.  Exceedingly careful.  “You seemed to know who or what you were, before, and you changed your mind.”

“People are allowed to do that.  To change.”  The response was dismissive, cavalier.  All such a statement demanded.

“Do you consider yourself people, then?  Just a minute ago, you said you would have taken offense to the idea.”

“You harp on.  These are all variations on the same question,” the girl said.

“Yes.  Who are you?  How do you see yourself?  Has that changed?”

“I am very possibly the strongest being alive on this planet, short of the remaining Endbringers.”

“Very possibly.”

“A murderer.”

“In what sense?” the therapist asked.  “One who has murdered, or one who murders?”

“Same thing, isn’t it?  You don’t leave that behind you.  Nobody lets you.”

“People can forgive and forget.”

“They might forget murder, they might forgive madness, but they won’t be so ready to make peace with a lunatic murderer,” the girl said.  She sniffed a little, as if scoffing at the thought.  “You wanted to know who I am?  I was perhaps Scion’s greatest ally, until… I wasn’t.”

“Why weren’t you?”

When the girl spoke, an echo had creeped into her voice.  A chorus.  “You know, I could kill everyone, if I so chose?  If I decided to stand, right here and right now, and kill you all, it would be fully within my power?”

The therapist didn’t flinch.

“Do you doubt me?”  The chorus was there in full.  A hundred voices from one mouth.

“To be honest, I don’t know enough about the combat side of things to say,” Ms. Yamada said.

“It’s cause for any sane person to worry for their welfare, and for the welfare of their loved ones.  You pretend indifference.”

“I’m anything but indifferent.  I’m genuinely more interested in the fact that you seem to be avoiding the subject.  A subject you raised.”

“I grow irritated with this pedantry,” the girl said.  She stood abruptly from the chair.  Two of the shadows dissipated into smoke.

Prolapse, torturer’s son.

P̄hū̂ comtī, rider in daylight.

The two new shadows took their place on either side of her.  Big individuals.  Villains, once upon a time.

The therapist continued, “You’ve stopped calling yourself the Faerie Queen.  When I asked for a name, you stayed silent, and you sat there for nearly twenty minutes before talking.  You could have helped Scion and destroyed us all then.  You didn’t.  I’m asking you what happened.  It’s clearly important to you.”

The girl’s eyes didn’t waver, but she lowered her chin a touch, and the angle of her head cast her features in deeper shadow.  When she spoke, the choir of voices that came from her mouth was calm.  “Do you have a preference, in how you’d like to die?  I have a range of powers at my disposal.  There are swift methods, but perhaps you’d like to go out more dramatically?  If you beg for mercy, I could spare others.”

“You’re allowed to say you don’t know the answer, Ciara.  If it comes down to that, then I can suggest an answer and we can explore it together.”

The girl had gone still.  Her shadows were flexing, one cracking knuckles on a hand roughly the size of the therapist’s entire upper body.

The girl considered the visuals of crushing the therapist, the way flesh would pulp and seep between the shadow’s great fingers.  It was a good alternative to dwelling on the feelings that had just stirred.

“Nobody has called me by that name in a very long time,” the words were more a threat than anything.

“It was in the records,”  Ms. Yamada said, “I need to hear the answer from your lips first, before I can offer you my thoughts.  But let me warn you, I’m only offering a suggestion.  Food for thought.  I read the transcripts from the debriefing you gave Chevalier.  You talked about anchors.  I don’t want you to… ‘anchor’ to anything I say.  Use it to find your own answer, instead.”

“You claim to know me better than I know myself.”

“We’ll discuss that point if and when we get that far.  For now, I need to know your thoughts on what happened.”


“But please sit down, first,” the therapist said.  “We both know you could kill me at any moment, here.  Having them here doesn’t change that, but it’s…”

“It is admittedly vulgar,” the girl supplied.

The therapist nodded.  “We’ll go with that.”

The shadows dissipated.

Ampelos, the ill-fated.  I was the ill fate.

Daimones, the lost.

The ones who replaced them were children.  One, young enough to be androgynous, wore a long-sleeved shirt that hung down to its knees.  It spun in place, skipping, then spinning again, a toddler at play.  The other explored the room.  The man with the hood and cape remained by the window, arms folded, staring out at the world beyond.

Ciara spoke.  “He broke.  He was strong, he was noble, proud.  He was a monster, alien.  They brought out the humanity in him, and then they broke him.  I could have stepped in, but I didn’t.  I don’t know why.”

The words were a challenge more than an admission.  A demand for a better answer.

“Would you like to hear my theory, then?”

“As you wish,” Ciara replied.  She didn’t quite manage to feign the indifference she was going for.

“You’re exactly what you appear to be.”

“What do I appear to be, doctor?”

“An adolescent.”

Ciara frowned.  “I had hoped for a good answer.  I’m older than you.”

“Only just.  Chronologically, I think we’re the same age, nine months apart.”

“You miss my point,” Ciara said, clearly annoyed.

“No.  I got it.  Chronologically, you’re older, and by those measures, your youth is only a mask you wear.  By other measures, you’re still a child.  You triggered at a very young age, you were no doubt isolated, as masters tend to be.  No doubt surviving purely by your own methods.  Somewhere along the way, something happened.  You stole the wrong power, you fought someone and lost, or you found yourself in a bad situation.  In the course of that event or in the wake of it, you unlocked stronger powers, and they eclipsed you as a person.  Am I too far off track, here?”

Ciara didn’t respond.  Her hard stare was a challenging one, now, a hard stare.

“You were still a child, and you needed rules and a foundation to define yourself by, as any child does.  Your chose your anchor, chose Scion, and you formed your view of capes as faerie to distance yourself from a world you barely felt in touch with.  You built up your persona as Glaistig Uaine, a name others gave you.  It might have even played a role in why you turned yourself in and took up residence in the Birdcage.  You craved structure.”

“You’re calling me a child?”

“I’m suggesting you were functionally a child until a very short time ago.  You’re now an adolescent.  Scion was a powerful figure in your life, owing at least partially to your power’s involvement in your day to day, minute-to-minute existence.  Virtually every child goes through a phase where their parents are invulnerable, incapable of failure, strong, and beautiful.  They grow out of that phase when reality challenges that assumption.  If what I’m suggesting was true, well, reality never challenged the assumption because it was true, in Scion’s case.”

“Up until the moment he began to lose,” Ciara said.

“Many begin to rebel against their parental figures around the time they enter adolescence, around the time they start seeing their parent as flawed humans.  In your case, it was a faster process.  A moment’s decision.  Whether I’m right or not, you were thrust into a new mode of thinking, a new mode of being, and it has to be bewildering.”

“Your theory, then, is that the most powerful cell block leader of the Birdcage was a mere child, however old she might have appeared?  That the answer to my present crisis in identity is that I am a mere teenager?”

“For the adolescent, the greatest, most defining challenge is to find themselves.  To seek out identity.  For the unpowered youth, it’s often a question of what clique they fit in, what clothes they wear, how they express themselves, and what path they want to step forward on, in terms of possible careers.  For powered youth, it’s about all of the things I just mentioned, as well as the villain and hero labels, their place on the team, their place in family, the bonds they form.  These are questions you’re now asking yourself.  Am I wrong?”

“I dislike being painted with such broad strokes, doctor,” Ciara spoke.

“There are always variations,” Ms. Yamada said.  “I’d never approach a patient with the idea that it comes down to this and this alone.  It’s a starting point.  You need to find yourself, and you need to do it with the burdens of the strongest human being on the planet.  I’m telling you, here and now, that this is something everyone faces at some juncture.  It’s perfectly alright to define yourself as ‘someone who is looking for definition’.”

The girl smiled a little.  She lifted her mug to her lips, then wiped her mouth with her thumb.

The therapist took another drink of water.  “You’re smiling?  I suppose I don’t need to worry about my impending death, then?”

When Ciara spoke again, her voice was normal.  “What you said is… a thought.  I was smiling because I was wondering what your superiors would think if they knew what you’d told me.  A powerful parahuman, free to find herself?  Perhaps I’ll follow in the footsteps of my ‘parent’.”

“I don’t have any superiors,” the therapist said.  “The PRT is done.  There are groups trying to cobble together a replacement, but it’s looking shaky at best.  I’m here because I was invited, and because I want to help people.  I’d like to help you.  I think everyone would be much happier if we found you a path that isn’t following in his footsteps.”

“Did I ask for your help?”

“You’re still here,” Jessica Yamada said.  “Y-”

She didn’t get further.  There was a knock on the door.

The concern on the woman’s face, Ciara noted, was more than it had been when she’d been threatened with her own imminent death.

“Please excuse me.”  The woman stood from her chair and crossed the room.  She opened the door.

Ciara watched as the figure unfolded before her.  A giant armored in the skin of a monster, a knight, a wisp of a figure, all at once.  She could see his very presence tearing through the doorframe, the slightest movement tearing whole sections of the building to rubble.  She could feel the vibrations, taste the dust in the air.

But that was only one version of the building, out of sight, out of mind.

As if she was squinting without moving her eyelids, she refined her vision, saw him as the therapist saw him.  A man in gold and black armor.

His voice was barely audible.  “Ms. Yamada.  I’m sorry to int-”

“I’m in a session, Chevalier.  An exceedingly important session.”

“I know.  I’m really very sorry.  I had a small opening in my schedule.  I was hoping for just one minute to talk with you.”

“I’m in a session.  You agreed to abide by any rules I set.  This was a pretty big one.”

“If I didn’t talk to you now, I’d have to wait three days to get another chance.  My hands are full.”

“I can imagine.  But I’m in a session.”

“One minute.  Trust me when I say I know how important it is that you stick to your rules.  But this is important enough that I have to ask.  Can I have one minute of your time?”

The woman hesitated.


The therapist turned, meeting Ciara’s eyes.  “No, Chevalier, I-”

“I’ll manage on my own,” Ciara said.  “In fact, I would appreciate having a minute or two in private to think over what we talked about earlier.”

Ms. Yamada frowned.  “I’ll be back shortly.”

The door closed.

Roucouler, the Liar.

The little girl that was exploring the room dissipated.  A man appeared behind Ciara’s seat, his leering grin stretched into a caricature, a mockery of what he’d worn in life.  His teeth had no divides between them, making them one bony shelf, and his eyes were stretched into slants by the too-wide grin.  A cartoonish appearance.

Roucouler leaned over the top of the chair, and she could hear his whispers, in a French accent.  He pitched his voice to distinguish between the two.

-cohol in there?”

She had her shadow make it for her.  She’s not the type to get drunk, and it’s more of a comfort thing than anything else.

A bear walks into your restaurant.  What do you serve him?  Anything he damn well wants.”

There is that.  What do you want, Chevalier?  This is nerve-wracking enough, without interruptions.

“Did something happen?”

I can’t talk about my sessions with my patients.  If we’re going to talk, let’s talk about your business.

I’m running out of time.  Three days from now is too long to wait, because things take time to set in motion.  I’m going to have to start making decisions, about amnesty for everyone who participated in the fight, about the hero teams, how we’re going to administrate a city that has more sheer depth than anything we’ve ever conceived of.  That woman, in there, she’s at the crux of this.  Choices I make in regards to her affect everything else.  If I forego amnesty for her, if I have to forego amnesty for her, then I’m drawing a line in the sand, and others are going to wonder if they fall too close to that line.

I can’t tell you how the session is going, Chevalier.

I hate that you even have to say that.  I’m not going to ask you to violate any confidentiality.  I’m saying I could really do with you making your evaluation and then sending her on her way.  There’s apartments here, we can set her up very comfortably.  As comfortably as a queen might want.  If she needs further therapy, you can send her there.  If she’s stable enough to discuss business, be it amnesty or something else entirely, you could send her to me.

I understand what you’re saying.  If she’s dangerous enough to warrant violating confidentiality, it doesn’t matter.  If she isn’t, then I can let you know how the therapy went without explicitly telling you.  I’m not entirely comfortable with this.”

There have been more overt communications on this front in other situations.  Situations that weren’t so grave.  We can’t afford not to know.

I can’t afford to tell you, Chevalier.  I just… let me think on it.

That’s all I ask.  We need help, Jessica.  I know you can’t make a full judgement in three days, not with someone as… complex… as she is.  But a starting point could make all the difference.

I understand.

We’re putting the pieces back together.  The scale of it is the biggest issue.  All these worlds.  There’s room for people to start piecing their cultures and their cities back together, there’s wilderness.  Everything old is still there.  Sometimes multiplied many times over.  But there’s a lot of new, with more every day.  It’s all exaggerated.  We don’t have clout, and there are a lot of powerful people throwing their weight around.  Scary people.”

Speaking of…

Your patient, I’ve kept you too long.  I’m sorry.”

No.  I’m wondering about someone who was a patient some time ago.  Can I ask about this ‘Khepri’?

You can ask, but you won’t like the answer.  I wouldn’t want you to be distracted for the remainder of your session in there.

Ciara heard the Liar sigh, mimicking the woman on the other side of the door.  “I’ll take your word on that.  I should get back to Ciara.

Ciara?  Her civilian name.  I’m going to walk away feeling optimistic about that.

My lips are sealed, Chevalier.

There was no goodbye.  The door handle moved, and the door swung open.  Roucouler disappeared.

Pime Abtiss, mother of the blind.

Another shadow appeared as the therapist entered the room.  A blindfolded woman with a small, deformed baby in her arms, umbilical cord stretching into a gap in the robe.

Ciara could see a glimpse of the giant in the hallway, retreating, before the door shut.

“I’m very sorry.  That took longer than I expected,” Ms. Yamada said, as she took her seat.

“No matter,” Ciara said.  She ran her hand over the baby’s misshapen head.  It dissipated into shadow, along with Pime Abtiss.  She didn’t replace it with another shadow.  “Forgive me, I overheard.”

The therapist reacted a little to that.  There was a moment’s pause, as if she was recalling everything that was said, searching for any damning detail.

“I’ll spare you the dilemma, doctor.  When we are done, tell me where I should go.  I relieve you of any confidentiality, tell the Destroyer what you must.”

“I don’t think that’s what we should aim for,” the therapist said.  “If we go with my theory from before, then you’ve only just started making strides on your own.  You’re growing up, belatedly, and you need to start making choices for yourself.”

“You’d let me choose?”

“I think a better place to start would be figuring out who you want to be.  That equips you to choose, if you feel you’re ready.”

“And what if I were to say you’re being presumptuous, that I don’t need your help?  I know who I am?”  There was a threatening note to the girl’s voice, a return of that echo.

“Then we can talk about something else.  Or you can go, if that’s what you really want.”

Ciara didn’t move, and her shadows remained in place, poised like animals ready to pounce.

While the girl remained still, the three shadows resumed their ordinary business.

“Let’s begin, then,” Ms. Yamada said.

The rooftop was lined with crenelations and a wrought metal railing in a metal darker and stronger than iron.  Some capes rested in the spaces between the twists of metal, while others sat with their backs to the shorter wall beneath it.  The crowd had gathered around.

But the moment she relaxed, it became something else.  Phantom images, a man on fire, a woman who stood half again as tall as others.  Images like her own shadows, caricatures, exaggerations, powers manifested physical.  Except these were undoubtedly alive.  They shifted from moment to moment.

“Legend?” the Destroyer- Chevalier spoke.  His voice echoed, but despite the massive size of his one suit of armor, or the slight form of his other suit, mangling the body within, the three voices were the same, only coming from different places.

A man who blazed with light stepped forward.  He was a living bonfire, blue-white in color, with living etchings solid in the midst of it, white hot, a stylized mixture of flame and lightning in one shape, floating in the storm of energy.  They marked the position of his head, of his chest, his hands and feet.

When the Coruscant Knave spoke, though, his voice was normal.  Legend, she reminded herself.

“I was there at the beginning.  I suppose it’s fitting that I’m here at the end.  Maybe not right, there’s a hell of a lot I’m sorry for, but it’s fitting.”

He took a deep breath, the flame swelling.  “They say a picture’s worth a thousand words.  Let’s shorten this speech, then and take a second to look.”

He gestured, and heads turned.

New York, in the process of being rebuilt.  Dust and ominous clouds were being held at bay by a thin forcefield, and the city stood in the center of a brilliant sunlight.  Where glass had broken and where oils had risen to the tops of city streets, things almost glittered.  A shining city.

For every damaged area, there were people, fixing things, scavenging and hauling things away.  Tents and tarps were erected, barriers raised.  Already, buildings were going up where portals had been torn between realities.

Chevalier had called it a city with depth.  It was true.  Most cities existed on a two dimensional level, spreading along the four cardinal directions.  Buildings extended above and below ground, but even the tallest building was but a fraction of a distance compared to the breadth of the city.

Here, in this city, one could travel to one area and make a turn into another world.  There, they would find the fledgling beginnings of an expansion, sprawling from that central point.

It was too much to manage.  Even the smallest villains had elbow room to maneuver and manipulate.

“I’ve never been one to couch my words.  I’m direct, like my lasers,” Legend said.  “It’s beautiful and it’s frankly terrifying.  The Endbringers are, we’re praying, dormant.  The major players are busy recovering and rebuilding, giving us six straight months of peace for the first time in twenty years.  If you count non-parahuman conflict on a global scale, well, I don’t know how long it’s been.  It’s been a hell of a while, if ever.”

Ciara closed her eyes briefly.  When she reopened them, Legend was his human self.

Tiring, to maintain focus.

“The peace will end.  It always ends.  When things go bad, it’ll be worse because we’ve had the break, because it’s had time to stew, and because we’re still reeling from last time.  But I know you, I’ve fought alongside a number of you.  The badges you wear are signs of that.”

Ciara glanced around.  Like her, many of the capes wore a simple symbol on their upper arms, a golden circle with a golden dot in the middle.  For some, it was a loop of cloth, for others, it was engraved on armor.

A simple symbol testifying that they’d been there.

“There’s no more oversight, for better or for worse.  That means it’s our job to keep our eyes open, to watch each other’s backs, and to watch each other.  I can tell you right now it’s not going to be perfect.  Maybe I’m a living reminder of the fact that we can’t trust anyone.  For those of you who were paying attention, the circumstances of Alexandria’s demise in Brockton Bay are a testament to what happens when the corruption runs too deep.  Nobody benefits.”

Legend sighed.  “Some are still angry at me.  At Alexandria, Eidolon, and others, who played parts.  But you haven’t spoken up, you haven’t interrupted me.  I’d like to think it’s because we’re all recognizing the same fact.  This?  It’s our second chance.  Something we’ve all dreamed about from time to time.  A chance to cut out the rot and start anew, to fix things that were broken before.”

There were one or two nods around the group.”And it’s going to be hard,” Legend said.  “Those who know how badly we fucked it up on the last try, who know the full story, they get why this is so frightening a prospect.  We still have to clean up the messes from last time, and we have to be doubly, triply sure we move ahead properly this time.  Already, there are people plotting to take advantage of present circumstances.  Already, there are things going wrong.  It’s an uphill battle.”

“But,” Chevalier cut in, “Like those badges we wear show, we’ve all fought in at least one bitch of a battle, and we came out ahead.”

“I’ll be damned if we’re not ready for this one,” Legend agreed.

Cheers rose from the group.  Fists pumped in the air, boots stomped.

“And,” Legend said, while the cheering was present but dying down, “With all that said, we’re moving forward with our second chances.  I’d like to introduce you to the newest member of our Wardens.  Valkyrie.”

He gestured, and the crowd parted.  All eyes fell on her.  When she stepped forward, she had to be careful, her longer legs unfamiliar.  Staying young had come with benefits.  The Crone, Schwarze Tante, had been able to give Ciara some of the time she’d stored away.  The ghost of a hero called Thane had fashioned her armor, shield and sickle.

The crowd parted as she approached.

The body of a nineteen year old was an unfamiliar one, the costume even more so.  Gold and sky blue.  The cloth that dangled from her belt traced the insides of her thighs to her knees, the skirt stopped mid-thigh, silent even with the gold chains that traced its edges.  The mask didn’t block any of her vision, but it pressed against her cheekbones and forehead, reminding her of its presence.  Even her hair was longer, tied back in a thick braid.

She liked the wings, though.  The wings were good.  The rest would take getting used to, after thirty years as the childlike Faerie Queen, but the wings were a natural fit from the start.

“You’ve formed a new Triumvirate,” a cape in the crowd said.

It might have sounded accusatory.

“Valkyrie will be starting on the bottom,” Legend said.  “She’ll earn her way to whatever rank is most fitting.”

There were murmurs in the crowd.  For many, the sentiment was the same.  I think we know what rank that will be.

For every two people that thought the strength she brought to the table was a good thing, there was one who was suspicious, doubting, or discouraged. They knew who she was.  The figures that accompanied her made it clear enough.  She couldn’t think of them as shadows anymore.

She liked debating words, the power of words, of titles.  It had been her favorite part of the sessions with the therapist.  The subject of renaming them had come up in the recent past, along with the discussion of what her new identity meant, and her new name.

Valkyrie, warrior women who guided the souls of dead warriors to the afterlife.  These spirits were her warriors, not mere shadows.

No, perhaps two people in her camp to one person against was optimistic.  There were others harboring doubts, a little slower to offer their congratulations.  Given time and a night to think about it, they would start to think about what her presence meant, that they might fall in battle and that she would claim them for herself, adding to her own power.

Her vision flashed.  For a moment, she might as well have been in hell.  The capes here on the rooftop were inhuman, even monstrous, distorted and exaggerated.  The city glowed with the distant presence of other capes, as though it were on fire.

Valkyrie resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of her nose or shake her head.  Her heart pounded long after the image had faded.

Nobody had said this would be easy.  Just the opposite.

The speech was done, and the city around them demanded attention.  Slowly, capes began peeling away from the group.

“Hey, Valkyrie?” Miss Militia asked.

Valkyrie turned her head.

Miss Militia jerked one thumb in the direction of a man with a massive round shield and spear.  “Want to join us for a meal?  We’re leaving on patrol soon, so we were going to grab an early dinner.  You’re welcome to come with.”

Valkyrie opened her mouth to speak, then thought twice about it.

She was still learning to talk normally, to stop affecting the faerie noble’s manner of speech.  She was getting lessons, and it wasn’t perfect yet.  If she spoke, it would turn heads.

Except here, now, she almost missed the familiarity of it.  The power of her old voice.

“No obligation,” Miss Militia said.  “Honest.  I get it.”

Miss Militia had been the one to invite Ms. Yamada in, to connect them, and give her a chance.  She knew, perhaps better than Chevalier or Legend.

Valkyrie offered her a tight smile, then turned to leave.

When she walked down the hall, flanked by her three chosen warriors, her heels struck the floor.  There were Wardens in the hall, talking.

“Where’s Defiant?”

“Complete radio silence.”

She was half again as tall as she had been, fit, glittering in armor, carrying a weapon and shield, and she felt more fragile than she had in a long time.


Her vision flickered again, like lightning before a crash of thunder.

As the Faerie Queen, she’d had a mission.  She’d been a part of something vast, a powerful engine that had reshaped whole civilizations, then erased worlds from the universe.

“We’ve got muscle now.  Might be we can make headway.  Retake the Eastern Queens portal.”

“Shh.”  Eyes turned towards her.  They talked about her like she was a secret.

Too many people.  She needed to talk to the therapist, but Ms. Yamada wasn’t here.  She’d come at a moment’s notice, with only one phone call, but it somehow felt like that would only compound the feeling of fragility.

I wanted to be more human.

Never human, per se.  Only more human.  Parahuman, instead of inhuman.

She’d spent so much time in therapy, figuring out what Scion had been to her, coming to terms with the loss of the pillar he’d become in her psyche.

In trying to distance herself from him, had she set herself on the exact same path?

Seeing the flickers in the crowd wasn’t helping.  She avoided them, making her way downstairs, into an adjoining structure.  Once upon a time, she’d used that other sight exclusively.  In this, in the here and now, she was warring with the keeper of the dead.  A part of why she felt incomplete, fragile.  They craved purpose.  It took a special kind of willpower to avoid using abilities altogether.  Some did, but they were rare.

Using her power meant killing, it meant being around the dead, immersing herself in the gravest kinds of conflict.

Would her experiment in humanity be so short lived?

She found an empty hallway and took it.  Things were under construction here, hidden behind plastic.  She ignored it, taking the paths that were available to her.

Finally, she came to a large room, a cafeteria, apparently, unfinished.  Only half of the tables were present, the kitchen unoccupied and unstocked.  The serving area had two tracks where trays could slide.  One of the two racks was behind a thick plexiglass barrier.

She sat down on a table, her feet on the bench, lost in thought.

Not five seconds in, her official phone rang.

She ignored it.  I only want some peace.

This wasn’t her.  Had it been madness?  Arrogance?  Joining the side of the angels?

Her vision was distorting.  Even this far away from other parahumans, her other sight was showing their presence as a glow, as ripples.  She turned her eyes skyward, but one figure streaked through the sky, well above her.

She heard voices, and turned.

“We meet again, Faerie Queen,” the voice echoed through the chamber.

She turned to see a thin man accompanied by a brutish caveman of a figure, walking on the other side of the thick plexiglass.  A child was on this side, petite, blonde, wearing a sweatshirt and jeans with pink sneakers.

Valkyrie felt a pang of jealousy.  She missed her old body, and the girl resembled her, superficially.

“Goblin King,” Valkyrie responded. “I don’t go by that name anymore.”

“A pity, a pity.  This is my Alice, visiting our not-so-wondrous Wonderland.”

“Riley,” the girl said.  “I keep telling you, it’s not Alice, Riley.”

“A mere title, not a name,” the man tittered some.  It was an eerie sound, coming from someone his age and gender.  Not that Valkyrie minded.  She’d dealt with worse in the Birdcage.

“Nevermind,” Riley said.  “Alice it is.  Whatev.”

Valkyrie looked between the two.  “Are you allowed to be here?”

“I’m incarcerated,” the Goblin King said.  “She’s visiting.”

“Officially visiting.  They’re watching me.  Probably watching you, too.  We’ve played nice for the last stretch, and the illustrious Nilbog gets visits as a reward, so long as he’s good.  We each keep our distance from the barrier, and they don’t use the cameras to fill us full of darts.”

Valkyrie followed the girl’s eye to a camera mounted in the corner.

“As you can tell, I keep friends of the highest caliber,” Riley said.

“Yes, yes,” the man said, seeming very pleased with himself.  The sarcasm appeared to be lost on him.  “A fallen king is still a king, yes?”

“If he can hold his head high, then he’s more kingly than a man who relies on the crown and silks,” Valkyrie said.

“Yes!  Yes!  Quite right!” Nilbog agreed.

Riley was smiling, as if despite herself.

The phone was ringing again.  Valkyrie canceled the call.  She knew why they were calling, now.  They were less than comfortable with this trio in one room together.

No matter.

“I came for my weekly dose of sanity, if you know what I mean,” Riley said.  “Spend enough time with them, you need a break from it all.”

“I do believe I know what you mean,” Valkyrie said.  You mean just the opposite.  A weekly dose of madnessA return to the familiar.  Both for comfort, and to serve as a reminder of how far they’d come.

Dangerous, perhaps.  She wondered if she’d share this with Ms. Yamada.

Probably.  People would pass on word.  They were all being tracked, no doubt.

But would she share what this meant to her?  That she felt more secure than she had, leaving the rooftop meeting and speech?

“Shall we share stories of long ago?”  Nilbog asked.  “Of our kingdoms, as they were?”

“We could,” Valkyrie said.  “Tragedies?  Comedies?”

“In my stories,” Riley said, “The line between tragedy and comedy is awfully thin.”

“I suspect my stories are mostly tragedies,” Valkyrie said.  “Everyone worth talking about dies in the end.”

“Just the opposite for me,” the Goblin King said.  He ran one hand along the cheek of the neanderthal figure beside him.  When he turned to face the barrier, he limped, and the brutish man helped him stay balanced.  “My favorites persist, they keep coming back to start the adventure anew, a little different every time.  This is my helper.  They allow me him, only him.”

For a man talking about comedies, he looked sad.

The amnesty still hasn’t gone through in entirety.  There are snarls, like this king without a crown or a kingdom.

There were distant running footsteps, growing in volume as they drew closer, suggesting that capes were en route to intercept her.

Valkyrie glanced over her shoulder.

“I suspect this visit will be cut short.”

Fuck,” Riley said.  “Not that the goblin king isn’t awesome, but…”

She trailed off.

“Maybe another time,” Valkyrie said.  She raised her hands as the capes entered the room from the far corner.  She had to pick her words carefully, so she wouldn’t sound strange.  “I’m being good.”

“We’d like to play it safe,” one of the capes said.  “If you don’t mind.”

“I understand.”

“Another day, Faerie Queen,” Nilbog said.  He smiled, bowing a little.

Valkyrie returned the bow.  When she rose to her full height, she was smiling a little in turn.  It surprised her.

Flip sides of the same coin.


The act was an idle one, like one might move a hand inside a pocket to double check there was nothing inside it.  She used her power.  Bringing one of her warriors through, on the other side of the barrier.

The neanderthal reacted.  Valkyrie’s warrior didn’t manifest in full, but it flowed through the neanderthal’s body before rejecting the host.

Almost.  Close.

Shepherd of the dead, Valkyrie thought, as she walked away.  The Goblin King was shushing his creation.

They were all parts of a whole.  The Chirurgeon, the Maker, the Keeper of the Dead.  It only made sense that there would be synergies between such abilities.

A way to bring her dead back, perhaps?

She could see them, in the dark recesses, waiting, loyal, obedient.  The ones she’d collected, some still mending from the great fight six months ago.

She felt better now.  Less incomplete.  Her other half was content with this line of thinking.

She just wasn’t sure where she’d take it.

Last Chapter                                                                                               Next Chapter

531 thoughts on “Teneral e.1

    • Blurg. Have had that happen before, but usually at a point in time where I had time to fix it. Not last minute.

      That suckkked. Should be fixed, but there’s liable to be sentences ending without a break before the next.

    • Uh this might be faulty fridge logic on my part but why did Taylor end up in New York for the last fight? I thought she was in the Chicago wards.

      • She went to New York as a staging ground.

        “It hadn’t been a conscious choice. An impulse, really. Maybe there were cities that were more fitting, but this was a city at the center of modern civilization. Or it had been. If this was going to be our final staging ground, then it was as fitting a choice as any. It was heavy with resources that every parahuman could use, unoccupied. Intact enough to still look like a city, damaged enough to remind us of what was at stake.”

    • Wildbow,
      I think there’s a chance you’ll check these comments before starting on a possible sequel, so I’ll leave this here.

      I recommend reading the Long Earth by Terry Pratchet and… another author whose name I can’t remember right now. The setting’s basic premise is that someone invents a device that allows (almost) anyone to step into parallel dimensions. Maybe there are better takes on the subject, but this is one I know has some useful ideas for a multidimensional society.

      That almost-multiverse is (mostly) devoid of sentient life, but lots of the effects on society will be comparable to the Wormverse’s, if rather more pronounced because that setting basically lets everyone step between dimensions.

      • Far better, and more disturbing, than that series (Pratchett & Baxter, and very definitely neither Pratchett’s best nor Baxter’s): Robert Reed’s _Down the Bright Way_. That multiverse is very definitely not devoid of sentient life, but the access method for those universes is extremely linear (you can only get to each universe from the ones “on either side”), which has, ah, interesting consequences.

        • Agreed on it not being Pratchet’s best, I’ll take your word on Baxter.

          I’ve noted down the name, I’ll look it up. If it’s a better treatment of the same setting concept I should really like it. Thank you.

          And it having sentient life, it sounds like a better source of inspiration for the Wormverse’s society.

  1. So, a Glaistig interlude/epilogue chapter. I was wondering if we’d get one. Hoping, too. Also, was that a hint that Taylor was still alive, when Ms. Yamada was talking with Chevalier?

    • I think it was more a hint that Ms. Yamada had an inkling as to who “Khepri” actually was, and Chevalier was telling her that she really didn’t want to know what happened to Taylor in her final hours.

        • Yeah, generally a psychiatrist has no interest in corpses as “patients”. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Taylor somehow lived.

          • I think it’s a case where she’s gotten the request for therapy with a name only, and is trying to gather information before treatment. I get the feeling that the first part of the chapter took place within a day or so of Scion’s defeat.

            • Disregard my comment. In my fatigue, I completely misread it. It said she met her already some time ago? Now I’m confused.

              • Taylor was one of her patients when she was Weaver.
                Yamada was saying she already knows that Taylor and Khepri are one and the same. And that she wanted to know what happened to her.

              • You didn’t misread it. It said “another patient” to begin with, then Wildbow found that it was misleading and changed it to the present-form “someone who was a patient.”

                (Lest anyone think I’m even crazier than they should rightly believe, this edit was mentioned as such by Wildbow on RPG.net’s Worm thread).

              • Thanks for letting me know about that change. I thought I was going crazy for a second…

      • Well maybe you can ask wildbow about the gun and bullet specification.

        Was the round any bigger than .22LR caliber (round point)?
        Was the round hollow point?
        Was the target tissue unprotected by layer(s) of ballistic resistance?

        If any of the answer was “Yes”. There’s no way mortal could escape death, unless Khepri phased out to be mortal and being something else entirely.

        • There are several recorded instances of people surviving with a rather big hole punched through their brain. It’s too rare and too unpredictable to be a useful consideration in the real world, but Contessa could pull it off easily. Nothing is absolute when it comes to brain damage and the path to victory makes any possibility into a certainty when used properly.

          Of course given what we learned this chapter, the first stage of the ‘path to restoring Taylor’ might be ‘kill her, in a way that prevents any possibility of conventional repair.’

        • Yeah but this is Contessa we are talking about. She could easily ask, “How do I fire this bullet to take out the part of her brain that links to the passenger without doing permanent harm to Taylor Hebert?” and then use her power to fire in exactly the right way.

          At least that’s what I’m hoping for…

    • “Her eyes burned as she stared out from the shadows of her deep-set eyes.”

      Two problems here: repetition of eyes, and given that her powers are fire, do you mean literally burned?

    • “approached.The” Missing spaces.
      “had faded.Nobody” Ditto.
      “thought.Not five seconds”
      “above her.She heard”
      “intercept her.Valkyrie glanced”
      ““I’m being good.” Missing end quote.

    • No, perhaps two people in her camp to one person against was optimistic.

      Awkward construction; sounds as if the two people are optimistic. “Perhaps it was too optimistic to say…” or something.

    • While the girl remained still, the three shadows resumed their ordinary business.
      She only had 2 shadows at this point, unless she added one without mentioning it

      not sure but this seems spelled wrong

    • I’m a little confuzzled by the following paragraph:

      “…And you’re acting like I should be able to read something in your silence. The problem is that speech needs periods of silence to be intelligible, to separate the words and keep it from being a steady drone of noise. To frame it. The opposite is true. To find the meaning in what’s left unsaid, we need words to punctuate it.”

      I *think* it should read as if everything before “The opposite is true.” should be qualified by “you’re acting like [such and such holds]”. Otherwise, I don’t quite know what to make of it. What is she trying to say here?

      • I thought that part was brilliant, actually.

        Check my logic:

        Ciara is expecting understanding, in a way… testing others to see if they’re worthy of her communication, by seeing if they can figure out where she’s coming from. Testing Jessica Yamada, specifically, by holding her silence and being obscure about things.

        In response, Ms. Yamada is basically saying “You have to talk to be understood.” BUT she’s starting from universal principles – how silence and speech need and define one another – to make this point. She made it in a way that’s surprising enough to break Ciara out of her defensiveness, while at the same time honoring Ciara’s level of thoughtfulness.

        It was the absolute perfect thing to say to a Faerie Queen who’s growing up. I got chills.

        But that’s me. Did this scan for you?

        • Oh, I get the general thrust of her argument. I’m not really sure though about how the sentences in the paragraph I quoted are logically connected. Basically, the part “The problem is […] To frame it.” throws a little wrench in it for me. It makes sense on its own and the sentences framing it make sense on their own, but putting it in there just before “The opposite is true.” without clarifying the connection… I don’t know. Does anyone else have a problem parsing this?

          (Btw. Don, could it be that I know you under the same name from a certain “explosive” forum?)

        • Yeah, Yamada is magnificent like that. Remember how a couple months with her brought Sveta from ‘triple digit body count’ to ‘I’m so sorry I squeezed your arm but you’re fine now and I’ll be over here?’ She understands people as well as Tattletale and can get through to them more effectively than anybody out there, and then simply being in her presence gives you SAN points back.

            • Yeah, but there’s a big difference between reflexively killing someone and feeling bad afterwards versus restraining yourself and apologizing to them while they’re still alive. My impression is that it was her therapy that got her that far and let her leave people alive after touching them.

          • Yes, but I think the operative part of that phrase was the “I’ll be over here” rather than the “I’m so sorry”. She couldn’t pull off the “I’ll be over here” before she met Mrs. Yamada. She dearly wanted to, but she couldn’t.

    • While the girl remained still, the three shadows resumed their ordinary business.

      It mentions just before that she dismissed a shadow and didn’t replace it; there should be two shadows.

    • Bit late, but this was found in IRC:

      “Her hard stare was a challenging one, now, a hard stare.”

      First hard should be removed, stare could be shifting for gaze for flow purposes.

    • > […]doubting, or discouraged. They knew who[…]

      There is only one space between these two sentences.

      > “Fuck,” Riley said.  “Not that the goblin king isn’t awesome, but…”

      Goblin King is capitalized in every other instance in this chapter.

      > Shepherd of the dead

      I suspect that this one is not an error, but perhaps the ‘dead’ was supposed begin with a capital ‘D’?

  2. Finally, something from a Glastig Uaine’s Perspective. OR Valkerie, I guess I should call her now. She is another creepy villain character who, with their interlude/epilouge, you have made human, and some one we can empathize with. Honestly, she seems to also be going through a struggle to define herself apart from her passenger. Your writing ablities never cease to amaze me.

    Also, Clockblocker can come back! Yay!

    Use the typo thread to find all the typos. All of them.

    • Yeah, here’s hoping for that one. Clockblocker was always my favorite character out of the whole bunch. The most sane and decent one too, probably, although he has some competition there from Weld.

    • No, another person can get Clockblocker’s *passenger*’s power, plus whatever aspects of Clockblocker it has picked up (not many if Khepri is any indication as to how good the passengers are at that sort of thing). The actual person is, I fear, gone.

      • Well it all really depends on how the resurrection is written. In addition it plays to what GU actually steals: a part of the shard, the soul of the person, a combo of both, etc. It also deals with what you consider to be a person and whether you consider clones to be the same person and gets even murkier if the clone has the same memories and powers as the original. There really are tons of ways that the resurrection plot can go. I for one like to believe that a full on resurrection is possible. Not sure I ACTUALLY believe that but I want to.

      • Yup that it does. Lung can attest. Coil is a good reference as well. Heck Sveta can chip in her two cents too concerning the whole issue with her arm.

    • “Already, there are people plotting to take advantage of present circumstances.”

      Are they already preparing to condemn Condessa for setting up a situation where she had to judge and shoot Khepri or risk being swarmed by bugs.

  3. Miss Yamada! YESSS!!!!

    Wildbow, feel free to put her in as many interludes as you like! She’s the most badass normal in the series, after all.

    And so a faerie queen becomes a Valkyrie. I approve!

    One down, five to go…

          • Oh her and Shepard must have had the same parents or gone to the same School of Badass. In the immortal words of Garrus: “They killed you once and all it did was piss you off.” Taylor obviously took careful notes during this class.

      • Clearly we need to start making Doctor Yamada Facts now.
        – Doctor Yamada is a reverse eldritch horror. Exposure to her gives sanity points.
        – Doctor Yamada has never triggered, because she possesses perfect mental equilibrium. If she did, the Shard would immediately give up on influencing her.
        – Doctor Yamada is not impressed.
        – Doctor Yamada could make Jack settle down and become a barber.

    • …I don’t suppose anybody else started crossing this over with Durarara when the fairy soul-collector was reinterpreted as a valkyrie? Now I’m stuck with a mental image of Ciara on a black motorcycle, wearing a helmet with cat ears.

  4. Ms. Yamada for most badass character in Worm.
    She has my vote. It takes serious guts and unimpeachable morals to tell off CHEVALIER.

        • Pretty sure she was single on account of having no free time, even getting called in for emergencies on her day off because every crazy parahuman loves her and becomes less crazy in her presence.

          But now I’m totally shipping those two.

          • In her interlude she is consistently called ( and calls herself) Mrs.

            So she may be indeed married to the PRTagent that foamed Jack who was actually Forrest who once did some part-time as a hired mercenary for Coil and managed to nail Oni Lee after breaking his leg. Oh and the university professor who found a solution for trigger events in 5 minutes with Crusader threatening to kill him is his brother. There, I think we have linked all the badass normals in the story together.

            • Pretty sure that the TA at the university was a different person. Because Forrest or the sniper would have just taken Crusader apart. Probably couldn’t deal with Purity alone, but her blasting isn’t the subtle or precise kind and she needed the (currently unpowered) Theo alive, so there was good cover.

            • You forgot Glenn! He is probably their older fatter brother. And Sierra is the rebel younger sister who initially wore dreads to separate herself from the rest of family going as far as to say that her littlest brother is the only remaining family since she wanted to make her own name for herself.

              I can’t work Char into this story though…

    • GLAISTIG [flanked by two giant shadows]: How do you wish to die?
      YAMADA [not even looking at the shadows]: So, we were talking about how you projected your need for a father figure in Scion…

  5. So New York is now a multidimensional melting pot full of capes? You’ve managed to make Valkyrie emotionally engaging as a character instead of just threatening and cool. Overall a great start to the epilogues, I’m really curious about this setting and would love to see more of the day to day as this new world that’s survived its end starts to come into being.

  6. I’m feeling very disappointed. I was expecting this chapter to actually elaborate on Taylor’s fate and whether or not she really died. I’m not going to be able to “take in” any chapters in the mean time.

    If I’m going to have to wait until the very last epilogue chapter, or heaven forbid a sequel to find out, please tell me now so I can avoid being disappointed again.

    • There’re likely to be hints in each of them. The fact that Khepri is such a BLATANT HINT to what she’s become known as is likely the best indication that she’s still alive.

      After all, only Valkyrie gets to rename the dead. They’ve still purpose to her.

      • The carrot and the stick routine is just going to make me feel worse.

        I just want some closure for Taylor’s story after the wringer of the previous chapter, not “endless speculation” as to what her fate was.

        • I agree. I’m starting to get rather numb with regards to it. I know it wouldn’t be as painful if I were reading the story after completion, but knowing that you won’t get any sort of closure for… probably 2 more weeks… is irritating. And you know that if we do get a definitive answer, it will be on the very last of the chapters.

          • There’s a balance to be struck with the serial aspect of the work and the possible ‘people binging’/’people reading it as a book’ aspect. It’s a tricky thing, and on issues this major, there’s liable to be friction.

            Given the choice, I favor pacing things for the latter group over the former. The vast majority seem to be okay with reading the story as is.

            I certainly don’t want to make you unhappy, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t please everyone. In the end, I’ve got to go with what serves the story best, not necessarily what pleases the most people – if I was doing the latter, then I’d have written a much different work.

            • and you released this bit on All souls’ day right after Halloween/Samhain on purpose didn’t you you sly canine?

              for myself I thoroughly enjoyed this chapter and as tribute to your writing and the fact that sometime people strongly dislike stuff other’s love, i’m off to get an artist friend of mine to do some fanart… Be seeing you.

              and hey, thanks for reinspiring me for nano.

            • Very much agree here possibly more than anywhere the needs of the story as a completed whole are more important than the people reading this week. These chapter will be the ones that set the final tone for the story as a whole and the message they leave will be important for the overall impression of the series.

            • If this is going the way I think it is, I fully approve and support the notion of delaying the closure.

              If this is not going the way I think it is, that’s probably because you’re doing something distinctly more brilliant.

              • I know wildbow is Pig, not dog… but you sly pig didn’t’ have the same ring. Will need new words…

      • Contessa referred to her as Khepri too. People came up with the name shortly after she made a break for it. It took her time to recover after breaking with the clairvoyant, before meeting Contessa, and the name spread as a means of referring to the being that was no longer Taylor, no longer Weaver and no longer Skitter.

          • Not really. Wildbow is being intentionally ambiguous. He’s done similar things before where he won’t directly address a question, just some point tangent to the subject. Trying to get any sort of spoilers out of him is like trying to squeeze blood from a stone. I’d say Wildbow clarifying a point doesn’t mean a thing one way or another… and it’s frustrating. I would never, ever play poker with the guy because you just can’t get a read on his intentions.

            • Well doing that through writing is one thing doesn’t necessarily means he has a poker face though it does make it likely.

            • And don’t ever, I mean ever, give two choices about a spoiler, where one of them is a and the other isn’t “not a.” See also: his response to questions regarding Grey Boy’s power.

            • The name having been “common” knowledge from before Taylor met Contessa means it isn’t necessary for Taylor to have survived for the name to be known.

              As this is Ciara’s third session with Ms. Yamada this conversation must have taken place no earlier than three days after Taylor took the portal Ciara opened. In reality it took place slightly later than even that.

              Chev’s answer is fairly final, it doesn’t imply a continuing condition.

              So either Contessa hasn’t actually told anyone what happened with “Khepri”, or Taylor is dead.

              Reading the conversation between Contessa and Taylor from 30.7 makes it seem like Contessa might have chosen not to share any information, but that possibility doesn’t really feel “right” to me, or when compared to Chev’s answer to Ms. Yamada.

              So she’s dead, put down like a rabid dog. In the end Humanity couldn’t safe itself at all, it had to be saved by a monster it created through it’s own abuse, a monster that, after the poor confused thing gives it’s all to save Humanity, apparently doesn’t even rate as being worth saving, or even trying to save.

              • Quite the opposite: Humanity was worth sacrificing EVERYTHING to save. She died- in heart, in mind, and perhaps in body. Each, she knew the cost, she understood what it would take- but for us, she thought it was worth it.

              • Except humanity cannot even save a single lonely abused girl. While Taylor might have believed that to be true, humanity has done a really shit job of proving it true.

              • WordPress stacks up comments to the unreadable stage of narrow on my phone but this episode with the “won’t like it” sure implies that instead of therapy they just killed Taylor without giving her a chance.

              • Chevalier’s reply here applies equally well if she’s believed dead, missing, in custody, or in permanent isolation. All this chapter confirms about her fate is that she’s not walking around as of six months later.

              • See it like this. Thanks to her Sacrifice, there is still a chance to learn from it, to save other “Monsters”, “Little Girls” and “Poor confused Things”. Like Ciara here.

            • To be totally fair, I really didn’t intend that, but I can see why Wildbow would refuse to answer it.

            • That expression is appropriate in a funny way; if you squeeze enough, you’ll definitely get blood flowing from a stone. Just… not the stone’s.
              In this situation, pressuring wildbow into giving spoilers (which he won’t), readers will eventually hurt their brain enough to get a conclusion of their own.

              Which happened every damn chapter lately.

              • Well Wildbow did once give out one spoiler about the sequel. Taylor’s not in it. Course the author was more coy about wether or not that meant she died at the end.

            • These days, poker is more about math than about people skills. Think about all the tournament champions that are coming from online poker backgrounds, instead of rising up the tables.

              Some very clever statisticians have analyzed poker to death, then inserted electrodes and brought it back to life; if you’re a math nerd and have the right kind of otaku for it, then you start seeing things like ‘pot odds’ in a whole different way.

        • So what demarcates Khepri from the rest in time? I’d be inclined to think somewhere around the moment when Panacea messed with her corona pollentia…

          • When does a name start to apply to the person it’s given to? Did she become Skitter when she joined the Undersiders, when she robbed the bank, when the Wards did their debriefing and thought of it, or when they gave the name to the press? When did she become Weaver, when she turned herself in, when she killed Alexandria, when she decided on the name with Dragon and Defiant, or when she announced it at the end of the speech?

            The name Khepri came up after she killed Scion, to describe the girl who became a god, killed another, gave humanity a new day, and disappeared. I don’t think that the transition would be when her power was tweaked any more than she suddenly became Skitter or Weaver when she triggered. But you could put it when she first controlled somebody, when she assembled her swarm and confronted Scion, when she killed him, when she disappeared, or when they came up with the word for it.

            • I would say a name would start to apply when it begins to shape the person wearing it. In this way, Taylor became Skitter when she robbed the bank, she became Weaver when she took out Topsy & co., and she became Khepri when she began to lose her anchors.

              You see this all over the place. Jacob isn’t Jack Slash until he forms the Nine. Riley wasn’t Bonesaw until she started indulging her artistic talent, Bonesaw isn’t Riley until she realizes that her redemption is going to be much tougher than she thinks. Amy wasn’t Panacea until she started indulging her Samaritan Syndrome (the “I Must Save Them All” complex endemic to moral superheroes.) Sphere wasn’t Mannequin until he started to lash out against people who were trying to better the world. And on, and on, and on.

              • Well said and I agree on most points. I would probably back up Khepri to starting right about when she confronts Tattletale just before going to join the fight and actively seeking drones for her swarm. Taking Canary at first could be considered a necessary state to get back into action and avoid being stranded which is reasonable but once she is free to do what she wants she chose to go after controlling others. Not that this was a wrong choice or that there were many other options but to me that was the turning point. As Tattle had put it, there really wasn’t a going back once she started that path. The bank was the turning point for Skitter and Topsy was the turning point for Weaver. That short section with Tattle was the turning point for Khepri.

  7. Huh. That wasn’t nearly depressing as I thought it would be. Humanity hasn’t torn itself apart within a month of Scions defeat. Hell, they’ve made it six months (I think).

    Now I want to see what happens with the Undersiders.

    • Humanity’s still in shock after having the bulk of every human civilization in existence across the multiverse obliterated. Give it a few more months and people will start acting like people again.

      • I don’t think Scion’s rampage was that destructive. There are canonically countless trillions of universes, and, well, he was only absent rampaging across other universes for a few days, spending at least seconds in every world (long enough to identify a target and fire at it): so he can’t have hit more than a few hundred thousand universes. Unless nearly every multiverse is empty of human life, and even if he spent only a microsecond in each world, most human civilizations will still be untouched.

        • It was mentioned in the story that the action occurred in only a small subset of all possible realities and that Scion had blocked off access to the rest for some unknown reason. (Presumably he didn’t want humanity damaging or depleting them because he needed them for fuel 300 years hence).

          It can be reasonably assumed that Scion limited his rampages to this subset also.

          • In his interlude though he mentions grouping the universes into subsets of similar ones since looking too close at too many that were too similar got confusing and took too much effort so he made it easier by throwing some together. I was thinking that maybe when he started going around destroying different clusters of people he was striking at the groupings in each subset at once so that while there may be technically trillions of possible universes he was hitting hundreds of thousands with each attack. It got a little confusing to understand both on page and in my head. I tend to love thinking about the potential aspects of parallel universes but Scion and his ilk make my head hurt. Even the simplest aspect of being able to spread, consume and destroy EVERY possible iteration of a world boggles my mind since by the many worlds interpretation there had to be a world where they miscalculate and we win. Which of course we see but that should happen on every world if they truly destroy every instance which means that they never should’ve made it past the first planet really but that obviously doesn’t happen so do they destroy every iteration or just a small subset but if it’s just a small subset then…you know what I’m going to stop now so I can keep reading the comments and avoid another headache…

            • Also,since we are talking about clusters,different Scions might exist that desttroy these worlds,if the Worm too is affected by multiple worlds.

              • Hence why I stopped trying to interpret it and just went with it. I am far too interested in parallel world theories to actively try and decipher the exact physics of how the Worms function. One of the few times being a science geek works against me in reading scifi stories…

            • The parallel worlds might not cover every possibility: my guess is that we’re not be dealing with a full scale multiverse.

              Even in a true multiverse, I think you might start to lose the “covering every possibility” once you start crossing between them universes. I suppose you could cover that via some kind of second layer of multiverses, but that just seems like stretching the idea till it fits again.

              • I dunno. Adding higher-order flows can lead to fairly cool results. The ultimate treatment of this is probably Greg Egan’s short story _The Infinite Assassin_. And, yes, the set of multiverses in that story is actually infinite, which leads to, ah, interesting things you can do if you can control which universes people can access — which of course Scion can. This probably provides evidence that the Wormverse does not have an infinite multiverse, or Scion could just have eaten an infinitely small subset of all parallel Earths (still infinite in size: a set of measure zero) and still got an infinite amount of energy, which is clearly not happening.

  8. Good chapter, and a HUGE New York is born. That last thought is ominous. To bring back the dead. What can go wrong?

    • To bring back the dead inside the bodies of NILBOG’s creation. Though if they manage to pull it off, it would be great for NILBOG’s PR.

    • Bring back the dead? probably people thinking on the spirits. Clockblocker and Taylor may be outright dead but thanks to Valkyrie, this might not stop that ship from sailing.

      Or they might just sail on the Titanic.

    • Nilbog’s creations might not last for more than a few months (unless Riley played around with them), but Valkyrie could just re-harvest the shard and Nilbog could make another body. Although that does leave the question of how much of the host’s personality a shard takes. It’s possible the recycled heroes might not be much more than actual zombies, or just fragments of what they once were. Crazy power combination though, probably the strongest in the series to date. Valkyrie might be able to get around her three ghost limit that way.

      Good name for her, too. Valkyrie.

      It’s almost too bad Glastig didn’t nab Taylor, although if she did there might be no saving either of them.

      • I also like the idea that their new bodies could be made to order, or at least made to work better with their powers.

      • Nilbog makes bodies; Riley repairs them so they work for more than a month; Ciara populates them with her fallen spirits. Everyone (including Taylor) lives happily ever after.

        • I’d frankly think that Amy doing the tweaking on the bodies might be more appropriate, but I guess she’s going to be busy reparing Victoria. At least those two are back together. Of sorts…

        • Agreed. She already has Eidolon. There is no way they’d let her run around with Khepri as well. It’s like having a pet Endbringer takes you straight into don’t fuck with me but having five pet Endbringers would take you into kill in case you snap territory.

          • The book frankly made chills run down my spine a few times. Especially the description of the Wendigo walking through the woods. Stephen King at his best.

            • Part of the reason that book was so creepy to me was how the main guy was so obviously being controlled/influenced by someone so much more incredibly powerful than him and how so many things tried to stop him but the evil overthing just kept putting everything back on track to tragedy. Louis never had a chance at all.

              • Lots of parallels to Worm then. I haven’t read or watched this, but just from what Slider214 said:

                A protagonist who is influenced increasingly by an unknown being (even before Khepri) with only the audience really seeing it.

                A world that seems to return to a similar, largely negative, state regardless of increasingly desperate attempts to change it.

                And, of course, at least one seemingly invincible antagonist.

                I’m probably reading too much into these similarities.

  9. Interesting that you started with Ciara. I liked this. A good interlude, with a few interesting points.

    -Khepri mentioned. Even if Taylor’s dead, at least there’s a bit more of her story to hear about.
    -Part of Legend’s speech sounded a LOT like stuff Skitter said once. He has been taking notes. 🙂
    -Solid character development here. Always thought of GU as kind of annoying and overpowered, but now I like her…more than I like Chevalier. Yeah, good measuring says them there.

    And of course, Yamada. Oh Yamada, as badass normals never showed up or died, you are a precious resource in worm. Continue to be awesome, I hope she’s in more epilogues!

    • Legend was always the charismatic one, making speeches and presenting a friendly face for the Triumvirate while Alexandria and Eidolon were being dicks in the background and Chevalier and Miss Militia focussed on getting shit done. And Taylor read up on capes while she was planning to become a hero. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they sound similar because she was basing her speeches on *his*.

      • Don’t buy it. It’s possible Taylor picked up some of Legend’s mannerisms in her reading (and probably from seeing him on TV all the time as a kid), and they share some ideology, but she never gave the impression of someone who actually prepares her speeches in advance. She’s always been a quick thinker and she gives the impression of someone who works out what she’s saying as she’s saying it.

  10. I love this chapter. it feels like the best written one so far. Also your naming skills rock. Valkyrie is a perfect name. how far back did you plan this?

  11. Well, looks like we know what straw people are going to grasp at now.

    And we get Wildbow teasing us with Yamada and Khepri.

    And even giving Glaistig a second chance? Oddly enough, the story is now being far too optimistic about people. Same with trying to make people sympathetic all the time.

    I’m guessing the bit of Behemoth in Chevalier’s armor is influencing how Glaistig looks at him. The Destroyer.

    • It fits. Still think they should have tried and killed the complete monsters. So Nilbog should have at least been killed.

      • If you can lock them up safely, there’s pretty much no reason to kill them. Nilbog is one of the least threatening because of how insane he is. He’s easy to manipulate and persuade.

        • Still murdered thousands of men, women, and children. Curse my lack of historical knowledge, but what is the place where they tried nazi war criminals? That might still exist in the wormverse.

          • He can plead insanity. Hell, he is completely insane. He is also still a human life. Only reasons to punish people are to either deter them or others. I don’t think others need any more deterrent to not be bad, and think it will only stop them from helping with huge threats. Nilbog helped, and if he is killed, that sends the wrong message. But mostly he’s batshit crazy and shouldn’t be killed for it.

            Its useless to kill people just because they did bad things in the past. The future is all that matters. How killing or keeping them alive impacts the future.

            Its Nuremburg.

              • Done solely for that reason it isn’t a punishment, though. It just happens to be functionally equivalent in this instance. There are ways to punish without protecting others, and there are ways to protect others without punishing.

              • I said that, if it will dissuade him from doing it again. I think he can be controlled though.

          • Nuremberg. And not all the Nazis were executioned. Some were simply imprisoned. Even pretty high placed ones. And some were even released early for health reason. Nilbog is getting something like that.

          • The thing about Nuremberg is that it got a lot of criticism even at the time for dodgy interpretations of the law and pretty much being a kangaroo court. The same would probably be true for guys like Nilbog, who pretty much have no real hope of a fair trial.

            I mean, if you want to punish the monsters, then whatever, just shoot them outright. But they shouldn’t pretend it’s justice.

            • Now I know why Chev is under stress. See I think we should kill Nilbog while AMR/flame think he should be imprisoned. It’s probably much worse for everyone in the wormverse since he did help save the multiverse. Then there are the whole moral issues. I mean letting acid bath go means someone down the line gets scarred or killed, and then there is the evil power ranger who killed tens of thousands. Chevalier has to worry about crap like that. Taylor didn’t destroy the birdcage, so maybe they can just put them back.

              • Unless Dragon is still maintaining things, the Birdcage is pretty much an oubliette where they’ll be throwing people in to die. I mean moreso than usual. If Chevalier wants a second chance to win people over, he probably shouldn’t be using the old Protectorate’s baggage.

                The problem with punishing guys like Acidbath after all this is that he’s small time enough that jailing him would make a lot of other people real antsy about their own chances for amnesty.

                The best thing he could do in my opinion is only jail the ones too dangerous and let the rest of the chips fall where they may. If some scumbag villain kills someone, that’s unfortunate, but then they’ll have a reason to jail them.

              • Oh, yes amnesties are a complicated matter (look what happened in Athens after the 30 Tyrants). I don’t think anyone is arguing that Acidbath shouldn’t be allowed free reign. But as Chevalier said if you start drawing a line then others will get worried that they aren’t safe too and complications arise. Killing Nilbog will just make matters worse. It could very well spark a second war. Nilbog’s creatures were fighting to the bitter end while most capes were fleeing. He was important in the defence of humanity. But if even someone who contributed that much can be executed, well…people start thinking.

                He seems to be threaten like someone in a psychiatric ward which was probably how they can keep him under surveillance while still acknowledging the amnesty.

              • Most of these people need therapy and not to be stuck in a deep dark hole in the ground anyway.

                The whole idea of the birdcage is a very backwards regressive method of addressing these “criminals” anyway.

              • I’m pretty sure Acidbath is dead though, Didn’t Taylor left him behind as a way to earn a littel bit more time against Scion? I remember that happening. Nevertheless, if Acidbath tried something again he deserves the full strength of the law over his head (I’m calling the nano-thorn lance the law). Attacking the capes that fought with Scion is just asking for trouble, though. Especially now, when the Wardens should be consolidating themselves in preparation for future conflict

              • No. She was debating using Acidbath, but in the end she opted for some unnamed shapeshifter.

              • Really, this is the Endbringer truce on a much larger scale. Every time a class S threat shows up, you don’t take advantage of it. Yes, you could save dozens, maybe thousands of lives sometimes by locking away a villain who came to help. But then not only are they out of the fight, but every other villain hangs back too. You lose the next big fight because you wanted to avoid a few little ones, and tens of millions die because you couldn’t let one monster go free.

                The only circumstance under which killing Nilbog here is even an option is if you think that there will NEVER be another class S threat now that Scion is gone, and that’s just false on the face of it. So you give him comfortable quarters, you let him talk with his friends, and you limit his use of his power but never try to take it away completely. That way anybody who’s less terrible than the goblin king feels safe, slinks back into the shadows, and comes running back next time the multiverse needs saving.

      • Humanity had been pretty thoroughly devastated though. Regardless of what they had done in the past, the fact is that, especially for the powerfully insane parahumans, humanity needs their talents. They are the hardest people to kill and stop, they have wide ranging powers. All that goes towards keeping them alive unless they went back to their old habits.

        Judge them by what they are NOW, because you can’t afford to do otherwise. This is as big a clean slate as can be achieved here. Scion has destroyed all previous order, everyone still alive owe their lives to these monsters. Note that the speech implied that there ARE others still out there, who don’t WANT to be redeemed. Those will be eliminated.

        • Redemption means more than just getting out of jail. Most people don’t want redemption because they don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. It’s like saying most people in the KKK want to live in harmony with people of all colors and creeds and just need to be given a chance.

          • There are also practical, political concerns. Those currently helping with the reconstruction efforts would be much more leery of the situation if it looks like there is going to be a witch hunt. Here and now they have a rare moment of limited trust and collaboration. It’s a delicate situation, revenge and punishment alike can only make things worse.

            Here in the Wormverse, everything has gone to hell. Would you let the KKK and other terrorist groups rejoin society if they’d help rebuild it? They were all who were standing between the world and total destruction at the end. And now they are a large part of what is left at all.

            Execute Nilbog, and the ex-Cauldron members may leave. The Slaughterhouse clones, Glaistig Uaine, Riley, Yangban, Lung, Marquis, the Blasphemies, the Undersiders, the Thanda, etc. At BEST they’d just up and leave, fearing they’d be next. At worst they’d decide to strike first before they’re up against the wall themselves, and prove Administrator right in her assumption that humanity would turn against itself after their common foe is gone.

            Instead, let them work together, supervised of course, A temporary truce may yet become the norm. Some of the unstable individuals who couldn’t fit into a modern world are not the same when they have been forced back to a frontier state.

    • She’s always called people by their shard names, see also the indian cape “Astrologer” the chatty Undersider “Negotiator” and our protagonist “Queen Administrator”. I’d be willing to bet that “Destroyer” is simply Chevalier’s shard’s name.

      • She made up those names. Yes, she was referring to their shards/passengers/parahuman identities, since that’s what she saw, but it’s not like the alien power batteries came with convenient English labels. She and Scion came up with rather similar labels for Taylor, since there aren’t many appropriate English words, but even there they had important differences. Scion called her/her shard Administrator, because it was the bit he delegated all of the minute control and coordination to. GU called her Queen Administrator because she saw her as a faerie noble of the highest order who ruled through control and coordination.

        I don’t think it’s improbable that some of GU’s faerie names for capes have changed over time. I’m too lazy to look it up, but I’m pretty sure she referred to Chevalier when she had that conversation with Taylor right after she was released from the Birdcage, and she didn’t call him Destroyer. But since then, he’s beaten seven kinds of shit out of her god/father and played a central role in killing him. That seems like something that might cause her to reevaluate him.

        • Agreed. I’m pretty sure that if Scion/Eden saw legend they wouldn’t call the shard the Coruscant Knave. In fact, I must say that I found that name particularly corny, especially if compared to some of the totally awesome titles Valkyrie gave. Mother of the blind would be a great name for a rock band, IMO 🙂 .

          As for Chevalier, while the “monster suit” may be a reason for a new moniker, I don’t think he was ever the “champion” (I assume that’s what you’re referring). I always thought the Champion was Contessa: someone else sends her to fight on her behalf and she’s always victorious. I think it fits.

        • Looking back at that interlude, knowing the events starting from Venom,up to this point, explains much about Glaistig’s strange metaphors. For instance, calling Doctor Mother a “living prop” makes much more sense now.

          • While it did end up being semi-prophetical on GU’s part, I think it was mostly accidental. She was just being racist (is that even the correct term in this context?) in regards of non-powered humans.

            • Bigoted is a nice catch-all term for this kind of speculative discrimination. I see the argument. However, I’m arguing more that it’s very neat foreshadowing, than any conscious effort to be right on GU’s part.

    • Wildbow need everyone to just get along long enough to let things build back up to the point where losing it all again will hurt more, for the sequel, is my guess.

      For all we know, Chevalier’s armor might eventually turn him into an Endbringer, and Valkyrie certainly doesn’t seem to be the most sane person.

    • Also, remember his blade did shear into the core of Behemoth. He quite likely has some fragment of the shard inside him now.

      • I thought Chevalier’s power shorted as soon as his triune blade touched the core. No nicks, no actual penetration.

    • Too… optimistic? Really?

      Please tell me that was sarcasm I missed. Because if it weren’t for Wildbow’s habit of redeeming the unredeemable, this story would have had me suicidal by now. Grimdark was left behind a few months ago, we’re into, uh, grimdarker territory. Or maybe horribleakistark awebitterlygrimdark. er.

    • Eh. They had pretty much two options: (a) Give Glaistig amnesty or (b) Pick a fight with perhaps the single most powerful remaining cape in all existence. Option A isn’t optimism, it’s practicality. Remember that they only contained her in the first place because she *chose* to walk into the Birdcage.

      And I don’t find her redemption implausible. She was left purposeless with Scion’s death, after all.

      I don’t know that Wildbow is actually *making* people sympathetic, by the way. I believe that most people are sympathetic if you look closely enough. And what Wildbow is good at is at looking closely enough at characters who, in other fictions, would never be explored beneath the surface.

      • For a more realistic take, look at the series Leverage. Those villains there are so over the top and unrepentant. No chance of redemption because, in almost cartoonish fashion, they are greedy sociopaths. The writers based every one of those off a real person. Those same over the top actions and speeches had to be toned down in order to make them seem more believable.

        Reality Is Unrealistic, eh?

        • The difference between Leverage and Worm (and between visual and written media in general – though Wildbow is particularly masterful at it) is that Worm gives you a thorough look inside the antagonists’ heads while Leverage only gives you a look at their actions.

          I grant that there are genuine sociopaths out there but most people do what they do for reasons that are understandable if you can just appreciate what they were going through when they made them. Not necessarily agree, but at least understand (I think Saint made a TERRIBLE call, but I can see how he got there, for example).

          • Disciplines like politics, economics, and philosophy often base courses of action on the notion that every human being is a rational actor. You assume that if someone’s making an argument, then they mean the strongest form of that argument. You assume someone’s doing something because to them it is in their self interest.

            There’s a reason why those fields get filled with a lot of BS that doesn’t seem to work and leaves people more mystified than ever. Even the people reading from that website that’s all about logic and reason have fallen into that trap by apparently being terrified of a thought experiment of a possible AI that could create a copy of someone and punish them. Reminds me of a philosophical atheist blogger reminiscing about college philosophy courses where they argued about if a person who comes out the other end of a Star Trek teleporter is the same person.

            It’s a copy. The original is dead and gone. Either buried in the ground, ashes, or tiny molecules torn apart in the teleporter room depending on if we’re talking about Roko’s Basilisk or the Star Trek question.

            Because “What if?” is not as handy for determining the truth about the current state of the world as “What is?”

            So what is the main motivational force for most people?

            Hanlon’s Razoe states: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

            Conspiracy theorists, bad drivers, nuclear build up…it works far better than the notion that someone is a rational actor whose actions merely appear evil to another rational actor on the other side of things.

            Then you combine this with a little thing called the Dunning-Kruger effect and you find out why what we might call evil perpetuates. This effect is a cognitive bias where people are too unskilled or incompetent to know that they are unskilled or incompetent. They overestimate their skill, fail to recognize skill in others, fail to recognize the extremity of their inadequacy, and (the part that seems to work more on academic subjects than on everyday life) if they are exposed to training, can recognize their own previous lack of skill.

            Most people are, I think, too self-important to let themselves be corrected on many things for that last point, but aside from that, you’ve got the psychology of any given person right there. Every single person on earth is subject to that little combo.

            The reason I think that last point is disputed is because I’ve also come across several individuals who are willfully ignorant and will ignore any attempt to correct them. The sorts who will use “Well that’s just your opinion” in a discussion about facts, if that means anything to you. People who feel so entitled to the notion that they can think whatever they want that you have no right to correct them.

            And you can’t correct them. Nobody can. It gets to the point where their prior neglectful incompetence becomes purposeful incompetence. The kind of incompetent thinking that says “This person’s life is less important to me than this amount of money.”

            I can be sympathetic toward many people, but some people are so set against what is right that there is reason to feel that way.

            • Totally agree that humans are not rational agents. I wasn’t saying that human beings are able to understand each other because we make *sense*. Perish the thought! 😀 We have an ability to understand each other (empathy) because, as humans, we share the same irrational emotions and, because it’s hella useful evolutionarily to be able to anticipate how someone else will behave (mirror neurons etc.). I don’t think we assume that other people are rational, but we *are* better able to empathise and comprehend their actions if we have a deep enough understanding of their situation and how they got there. Nuclear buildup isn’t rational but it *is* understandable.

              Oddly you are the second person today to raise the destructiveness of Star Trek transporters with me. You don’t draw webcomics under a different name do you?

              In my opinion the transporter question really comes down to how you define “the same person”. It’s pretty hard to say that a perfectly identical copy of anything *isn’t* the same thing. It’s also pretty hard to say that “who I am” comes down to the specific atoms I’m made of, especially when all those individual atoms will be swapped out by the end of the year. If I lost my arms and legs I’d also still be *me* (albeit a very unhappy me! O_O). So “me” pretty much has to come down to my mind and my thoughts and feelings – my identity. So long as that is recreated perfectly, then the person continuing on is me.

              This leads to some pretty uncomfortable and unintuitive results – not least of which is that when technology is able to copy you like an MP3 there can be dozens of people running around who are *all* you (though they’d diverge from each other over time, of course). Being uncomfortable and unintuitive doesn’t mean they aren’t true, of course.

              Note that this all assumes there’s no such a thing as an immaterial soul. If there is then by definition the soul is the person and the person stepping out of the transporter is just a soulless replicant (unless the soul just magically transfers to the new body).

              Incidentally, I have a feeling Star Trek ended up clarifying that no no, it’s your own personal molecules that are being transported and reassembled anyway (in “First Contact”, I think?).

              I’m embarrassed to say I never managed to wrap my head fully around Roko’s Basilisk.

            • PS. I meant to say: There probably would be early fear of the new technology. However, once people have actually used it (or their soulless doppelganger have, if you prefer) and they still feel like the same person they always were, then they’re likely to accept that the technology works and dismiss the rest as a matter of semantics for philosophers. Knowing in your gut that you’re *you* trumps vast amounts of philosophical argument for the average person.

              I can definitely see it being a divisive technology and discrimination issues springing up around it, though – worse once the religious folks get involved. That would make an interesting premise for a series of stories, actually…

              • I think Outer Limits(or maybe some other sci fi thing) had a story on it, or something like that. Everyone thought this transportation technology worked like out of Star Trek, but in reality it created a copy on the other end and left the original back in the first area. Which was then killed because the people behind the technology didn’t want a bunch of copies running around. I think it may have undermined trust in the technology, to an extent.

                I think there was a webcomic which had a similar situation, but the aliens who ran the network would interrogate every original copy to learn all they knew before killing them.

              • That sounds like “Think like a dinosaur” (‘cos the aliens who provided the teleport technology looked like dinosaurs). Normally the technology recreated the person at the other end, verified that had gone okay, then vapourised the original. In this case, they were unable to receive confirmation and the local copy had to hang around while they figured out if they’d been successfully created at the other end. Turns out they had, so the attendant had the responsibility of murdering the local copy. Fun fun.

                That’s because the “dinos” firmly required “balancing the equation” as part of granting humanity use of the technology. It was unclear whether there were actual side-effects of having two lots of the same person running around, or if the dinos had just found that to be a bad idea.

                And yup, people replicating you, torturing the other you for your PIN then killing them is a definite possibility. How big a risk that is would depend on how all-pervasive the technology was, and how accountable.

                Would have interesting side-effects on war too, when you can just take your best soldiers and instaclone them. And business for that matter – you can expect to see entire departments staffed by the same applicant.

                Maybe I can use that as a premise if I get around to writing stories in your comments section. 😛

              • With teleporter technology, you wouldn’t necessarily need soldiers. You’d never need a bomber ever again. Just teleport whatever chemical or nuclear weapon wherever it needed to end up. The flip side being that if the other side has that technology, there’s no safe side for you either.

                And if it can be used create stuff like that, then you’d see a huge economic problem. After all, you’d only need enough staff for R and D, building/refining the prototype, and then teleporting one out to wherever it needed to go.

              • Star Trek is a little weird in that it’s effectively made teleportation a special case of replication but retained the ability to somehow rematerialise people thousands of kilometres from the replication apparatus. If we’re talking that style of teleport, I totally agree. Unless there’s some way to block it (which Star Trek has, but need not be the case) then Star Trek style transporters are immediate mutually-assured destruction technology (and a terrorist’s wet dream).

                Things become a bit more challenging if you require a rematerialisation platform. They presumably could just be programmed to not materialise anything that’s going to explode in your face.

                And yup, it’d wreak absolute havok on the economy. Star Trek: The Next Generation had essentially a post-scarcity society but the path to that would *not* have been smooth.

              • It helps that Earth is supposed to be a socialist/communist utopia in the Star Trek stuff. Though currency is still used in border areas and when dealing with other races, like the Ferengi. I like the fact that Ferengi find gold to be absolutely worthless, though.

                I believe Next Generation had an episode where some people were woken from cryogenic storage. Some guy from the 80s or 90s found it weird that Earth was communist then (in his way of thinking). I think they eventually made him part of the staff for the ambassador to the Ferengis.

                Still, it’s funny that the whole discussion about teleports comes up because they didn’t want to have to show shots of shuttles going down to the planets all the time. So they decided that transporters existed.

  12. That Khepri is referred to as a patient should indicate that Taylor is alive but in some Glory girl esque situation.

    Or wildblow be trolling

    • Of course Wildbow be trolling.

      “Roucouler, the Liar.

      The little girl that was exploring the room dissipated. A man appeared behind Ciara’s seat, his leering grin stretched into a caricature, a mockery of what he’d worn in life. His teeth had no divides between them, making them one bony shelf, and his eyes were stretched into slants by the too-wide grin. A cartoonish appearance.”

      Aside from the “no divide” thing, he’s got a Trollface.

    • That works better as Ms. Yamada making it know to Chev that she knows who Khepri was.

      Chev’s answer is meanwhile pretty vague. Could mean she’s dead, could mean her recovery isn’t going well.

      Thought the name having gotten out at all is something of a clue, Contessa wouldn’t exactly have needed to spread the name around if she had just put Taylor down. Of course this is mediated by the fact that Taylor could have well been renamed Khepri during the battle with Zion, and we wouldn’t know, because Taylor couldn’t exactly understand it if someone called her that.

      And both options (Taylor dead, or Taylor alive) can fit the overall theme of the story, though they do affect the final “message” of the work in very different ways.

  13. A great start to the epilogues. 😀

    I’m gonna assume from this point on that Tay- Khepri is dead until proven living. 😦
    Which is sad but it’s nice to see that humanity is rebuilding itself.

    New New York sounds like a cool place.
    The ultimate melting pot. It would be awesome to see it in any potential sequels to
    hmmmm…. The wormverse?

      • Not to be confused with New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York, which was rebuilt from the ruins of New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York after the great Devastation.

        • I think at some point it wraps back around to just ‘York’. Maybe when the Steampunk Contingent assumes command, after the New New New Devastation of ’67.

          Ah, the 60’s of the 2000’s. What a time, what a time.

  14. Most of the immediately relevant stuff has been said already, so I’m just going to make two points:
    first, where the Hell is Defiant?! Radio silence, what? I need to know what happened to my favorite Tinker couple, dammit. Second, notice the name they picked. If they’re the Wardens, are we going to see the Shepherds, too? Eden’s future might not be entire impossible after all…

  15. Somewhat interesting chapter and nice to see Ms. Yamada here but I can’t help but feel disappointed considering the conclusion of the previous one. I will re-read this when each of the next chapters are released so I can get the proper feel for it.

  16. Teneral
    1. Of, pertaining to, or designating, a condition assumed by the imago of certain Neuroptera, after exclusion from the pupa. In this state the insect is soft, and has not fully attained its mature coloring. – TheFreeDictionary.com

    “Lacewing” redirects here. For other uses, see “Lacewing (disambiguation)”. – Wikipedia.

    Fittingly, the title of the last “arc” relates to a transformative state, after the tight shell of the pupa but before full maturation. An intriguing metaphor for the humanity of the Earths Bet, no longer confined to a single world but still soft, still not… quite… ready… to face the problems that will face them in future. Of these problems: The Endbringers are still dormant, with no indication of their possible resurgence. The centralized cape authority died with Cauldron and the PRT, and those capes cobbling one together from the remains of the Scion War have information that is woefully lacking. Chevalier’s insistence that Dr. Yamada give him some sort of answer, anything, please, is a major sign, as is the Khepri situation (Given that Taylor was only out for a day or so before the meeting with Contessa, I would be willing to bet that Chevalier has even less information on her last scene than we do), as is Defiant’s radio silence. Teacher remains at large/alive.

    • Huh, I was wondering what teneral meant. The conversation Ciara and Dr. Yamada had about her being in an adolescent phase just builds on the theme set by the arc title. As expected of Wildbow.

    • I’m a bit worried about the Butterfly state.

      As we all know, butterflies, and other adult insects, tend to have much shorter lives than their, well, worms.

  17. Really, really like where the world is going- the multidomensional supercity is really awesome. Also, seeing Glastig Ulane (Valkyrie) becomng more human is really cool to watch; it resolves her story.

    • And we start with someone I missed. Just barely missed. A new commentator named Lya. https://parahumans.wordpress.com/2013/10/29/30-7/#comment-50894

      I found you late and got this finished too close to the wire, so I was forced to get to you this update, Lya. *puts on tights and has a cage lower down around himself and Lya* Oh yeah, now I got ya and I ain’t gonna let you out of here without having a nice warm welcome.

      Worm the TV show. I guess we’ll have no other option than to show up on reviewer sites with all our stuff. “Imp and Taylor, forever together!” “What are you talking about? Who is Imp? This was only the pilot episode!” “Screw you like Weld getting a hard on in a hardware store!” “Who is Weld?!” “Your momma’s Weld. I gave her my powers last night.”

      I don’t think you can manage antagonist of the week, though, unless that’s during the timeskip. And the chapters involve too compressed a timeline for something quite as spread out as Babylon 5. It’d have to be a long miniseries, or possibly a miniseries punctuated by made-for-TV-movies that focus on major events, like the fight against the Slaughterhouse, then the second fight against the Slaughterhouse, and then the fight against Scion. “From the makers of the hit miniseries “S(kitter)” and S(uper) comes the complete set of movies of the series: S(9), S(9:2), and S(cion)” Need to work on a better naming convention, though.

      I’d be much more inclined to take part in Worm Science Theater 3000 personally. Or maybe a huge screening of it, like Rocky Horror Worm Show, with people riffing on it all together and getting dressed up. I can be there as a transvestite, even if there aren’t any in that particular episode.

      And you can join us now that you’ve been welcomed, Lya, to the comments.

      • Smeh, 24 has been going for seven seasons while only seven (admittedly non-consecutive) days have passed in the setting.

        Pretty sure Worm could get away with using a couple of seasons to cover the first three months.

        Five seasons seems about right to me.
        Season 1: The ABB + Leviathan
        Season 2: S9
        Season 3: Coil
        Season 4: Weaver (the Chicago Wards and S9k arc)
        Season 5: Khepri (the Scion arc)

        But visual media pace quite differently to written media, so it’s hard to say.

      • TV, moxie, Web video… It doesn’t matter much which, the lines between them blur more every year. Case in point of this being a good thing: Sherlock.

  18. Pretty neat that Ciara is either intentionally or unintentionally following in Taylor’s footsteps by joining the angels and trying to reinvent herself. Riley, Nibog, and Ciara should all sneak off to have tea parties every week.

    I’m also choosing to be optimistic about Defiant’s radio silence. He and Dragon are probably on a beach somewhere, sipping drinks while their legs rest on Sain’ts skeleton.

    • I too noticed a lot of callbacks to when Taylor first joined the Protectorate.

      I find Riley and Nilbog’s friendship to be both heartwarming, and really fucking creepy.

      Dragon and Defiant are just having really great glad to be alive sex and have lost track of time. On top of Saint and Teachers corpses.

  19. Hey! The superheroes are not pissing off the faerie queen that could probably wipe out entire armies, they’re smarter than I thought! Having her around gives them more power than they probably know what to do with. It better not turn them fucking lazy.

    Since the other Undersiders aren’t mentioned I’m going to just assume that Tattletale is the unquestionable lord and master of all this and the heroes aren’t mentioning that out of embarrassment.

    Huh. So “Khepri” is “another patient”. Really late I had this idea that Contessa didn’t shoot Taylor twice in the head, but shot her once in the head and once in the spine or something to put her in a coma. But paranoid as I am I assumed it was to deliver Taylor to Teacher for whatever crazy-ass purpose.

    But it’s a small thing, probably best to assume she’s gone until there’s more info.

  20. The way Yamada referred to Khepri seems to imply two things.
    One. It’s not common knowledge (at least at large) that Taylor Hebert and Khepri are one and the same. Yamada both referred to her as an “ex-patient” (Weaver) and as Khepri. She didn’t just come out and say Taylor. Like it was a secret.
    Two. If Khepri IS dead, it’s not common knowledge. Otherwise Yamada wouldn’t have needed to ask.

    On Valkyrie and the Wardens. She is awesome. wildbow, I love how quickly you’ve rebuilt your comic book world. Infinite Crisis and its ilk can eat their collective hearts out.
    Finally, I bet dollars to donuts that Khepri was killed and Valkyrie has managed to gain possession of her spirit. The talk of bringing back the dead was foreshadowing. Valkyrie means to eventually bring Taylor back to life. Note that I said Taylor and not Khepri. Though I might be wrong on that last detail.

    • So as far as all the other people are concerned, some random badass just stepped out of a portal somewhere, mind controlled the entire multiverse, pushed Scion’s shit in, then walked through another portal and disappeared just as quickly as she had come. Awesome.

      • Wow when you put it like that…Khepri really does sound a bit like a minigod doesn’t she? Shows up just in time to save them from an unstoppable alien god? Check. Controls everyone around her, either literally or figuratively? Check. Disappears before the dust is done settling? Check. She really does hit most blocks…

    • Kill Khepri, but tell people she is still alive to have another threat still lurking out there, a reason for the new new Proctorate and for people to still band together.

      Maybe even Khepri as new “Birdcage”.

  21. I’ll completely ignore the reference to Khepri, except to say: curse youuuuuu wildbow.

    So, Glaistig Interlude. Or shall we say Valkyrie.

    Seems we were right when we said that Scion/the faerie schtick was Ciara’s anchor. She saw Scion as a parent and so she never grew up and was then catapulted into adolescence.

    And so a new Triumvirate/Trinity/Power trio is formed. New York is a multidimensional city who could theoretically become as big as a planet. Cool. Valkyrie is seeing if combined with Nilbog she can bring back the dead.

    Obviously the amnesty was not one of those sweeping general kind of amnesties. But really Nilbog needs help. He probably will be always delusional but as long it’s a harmless delusion it’s fine.

    Am I the only one who finds it sad that Bonesaw seeks Nilbog and Valkyrie’s company because it reminds her of the old days? And it seems Nilbog forgot that Bonesaw crucified him on a wall. Oh well, as long as he’s happy.

      • Technically it looks like Chev and Legend are the leaders and Valkyrie is supposed to just be one among many. But in facts yeah.

        • Crowd Member: “You’ve formed a new Triumvirate.”
          Legend: “Valkyrie will be starting on the bottom. She’ll earn her way to whatever rank is most fitting.”
          Everyone (thinking): “Gee, I wonder what rank that will be.”

    • Riley, not Bonesaw. Although, the “Riley was smiling, as if despite herself.” makes me think she still hasn’t removed her glasgow-grinner apparatus.
      Either she’s prevented from operating on herself due to the potential risk, or she’s waiting until she’s 16 to update her whole bodyframe in one shot.

      Which means another couple years, iirc.

      • Why don’t we split the difference in the middle and call her the Chirurgeon? :).

        Seriously Ciara’s titles are way cooler than most capes’ callsigns

      • It reads like more of a wry smile, IMO. Her quip about having the greatest of friends wooshed blithely by Nilbog’s head, and Valkyrie decided to play along and feed his ego. Riley was laughing at the show.

  22. What is it with three’s? Eidolon controls three powers, Valkyrie controls three “warriors,” that Endbringer copied three capes. The are three Triumvirates. The first with Alexandria, Eidolon, and Legend. The new one with Legend, Chevalier, and Valkyrie. And one that was hinted at with Riley, Nilbog, and Valkyrie. Taylor had three different names Skitter, Weaver, and Khepri. There are three entities in the story. I don’t know maybe its a coincidence.

    • Three is a natural number for storytelling, it lets you set two points and a something else to catalyze their relationship.

    • Something else: there were three leaders to the Undersiders originally.

      Yeah, been a theme for a while. 3 I guess refers to the ideal number for a team. Optimal communication, coordination, and instability taking it from Dune.

      Wildbow probably has his own reasons for the number, but hell if I can guess at the word of god.

    • Threes are an important number in general. Greek mythology has the three major brothers, Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades, who rule the earth, the sky, and the sea. There’s also the three virgin goddesses, the three graces, and the three furies, and the three fates, and the three gorgons. There are nine muses as well, so that’s three x three.

      Shows up in other religions as well. The Norn and the Morrigan, for example. It’s kind of a big theme. Perhaps you’ve heard of the holy trinity, even though nobody knows who the hell the holy ghost is supposed to be? One of the parts of that trinity was welcomed at birth by a group sometimes thought to be made up of three wise men, but at the very least they brought three gifts.

      • Not to derail this into a discussion of religion or anything, but let’s not confuse “nobody knows” with “nobody can, or is willing to, publicly prove” and “lots of people insist on disagreeing, for various reasons”, eh? Not at all the same thing, and fairly (extremely) insulting to mix up: whether or not anyone actually does know something, it isn’t appropriate to deny what’s in their head just because it’s unsubstantiated unless you, personally, have contradictory knowledge.

        I can just see you, looking at a woman who says she was raped and a man who says she wasn’t, and saying, “Welp, I guess you guys don’t really know what happened here.”

        Proof is not the same thing as knowledge.

        • I think PG was just making a joke on how confusing the role of the Holy Ghost in the Trinity is. Let’s face it most laymen may have a good idea on the Father and the Son but would probably stumble on the Holy Ghost. Heck, the theological reason (as opposed to the political reason of papal supremacy) of the Oriental schism was a diatribe on wether the Holy Ghost came forth only from the Father or from father and Son both (the infamous Filioque).

          • And yes, at first it was a joke, but then somebody tried to insult me like that. Do I look like Michael Shermer, Brian Keith Dalton, Thunderf00t, The Amazing Atheist, or Justicar to you? No. Then don’t assume I think a claim of rape shouldn’t be investigated.

            • Don’t worry, I undersood. And sorry if I stepped in, but I thought that after the, rather tasteless, rape analogy, it was better if someone said something as soon as possible.

        • Now you’re the one doing the insulting. In the case of rape, there are ways to determine if a rape occurred. A rape kit can find vaginal bruising or tearing associated with non consensual penetration. Bruises around the woman’s wrists provides evidence to show she was held down. Blood or skin under her fingernails that matches that of the person she claims did it shows that she struggled against him.

          See, you can fill in your knowledge with proof, or observable evidence.

          See, here’s the thing. I could claim the Holy Ghost is a giant moth monster that eats rainbows right now and you’d just have to accept it. My definition holds just as much validity as any of the others because it’s so ill-defined. And this thing has been discussed for a long time.

          If something can be proven, you’d expect that over time people would come to a consensus about it. That classic story about blind people feeling different parts of an elephant and coming up with different things? Eventually, they and their perverted roaming hands would wander all over the thing and realize what they were dealing with as they put the pieces of evidence together and assembled the truth.

          Instead, we’ve seen further splintering over the idea of the Holy Ghost. Nobody ever stood up and said, “Ok, I have proof that shows unambiguously that my view is correct, so all these competing ideas will no longer be held except by cranks and conspiracy theorists!”

          You even have whole denominations that don’t include the Trinity in their beliefs. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Christian Scientists to name the more well-known ones.

          If they were looking at something about which there was evidence to show it exists and that it has a certain set of characteristics, then the number of interpretations would have been minimized to fit the evidence. The amount of interpretations has expanded instead.

          • I looked at Catholicism (my former religion) then looked at Wicca and came to the conclusion that Maiden Mother and crone had simply been patriarchialies to father son and holy ghost by aggressive evangelism by the Catholic church and that the female/male mirrors there could even work o Liberal enough Catholics and consertative enough wiccans merged religions so to speak,,

            God as Mother, Jesus as Virgin and the Holgy Ghost as crone.

            Hadn’t thought about this in same time. Cracks may be all over this hypothesis.
            P.G might very well be too…

              • Eh, that’s still up to debate, Psycho Gecko. While presence of worship of a goddess called Asherah in the Middle East is disputed, most experts believe that when the name is mentioned alongside Yawheh’s it’s referring to a cultic/ritual object of some kind.

                There’s no doubt, though, that up until the Babilonian captivity Jews acknowledged the existence of other gods. Genesis and Exodus, at the very least, were written by a henotheistic ( they worship onne god but believe in the existence of many gods) population not a strictly monotheistic one.

              • Definitely, though apologists reconcile this as claiming that other beings Yahweh is talking to are angels.

                “Now they have become like us,” to paraphrase. Plus, with the Book of Job, there’s the phrase meaning “the accuser” that tends to be left untranslated as something like “Ha-Satan”. It’s like if future societies cursed those who have been possessed by the wicked Plaintiff or one of his demons.

              • Argh, that disputed there should be UNDISPUTED. Stupid typos and stupid no edit function.

    • The rule of three!

      Finally an opportunity to drop a Planescape Torment reference!

      Anyway, delicious chapter wildbow, thank you.

  23. Well, that was a change of pace. It’s certainly more uplifting than the last chapter. Why, you might even feel like everything is not going to hell in the next chapter. Seeing Ms. Yamada and Ciara talking was a really good way to flesh out Valkyrie’s character. And Legend and Chevalier are the new heads of the Wardens! The Wardens sound considerably more kickass than the protectorate. Also, new New York reminds me of Sigil, the city of doors. Can’t wait to read the rest of the interludes.

  24. You gotta explain the Simurgh’s Gun at some point, it seems like it had way too much attention given to it for it to have no significance.

    • Guessing time: Its the air gun, always was. Its pretty much a useless weapon in anyone else’s hands as the real power is caused by the butterfly effect.

        • Direct author response! o_O
          Think its funny now, just wait until everyone in the world has a simultaneous heart attack because scion ricocheted the shot off his hair.

          • >Ah, someone guessed it. Butterfly effect gun, yep.

            (No, not really, but that’s fucking hilarious).<

            Butterflies. The type of insect Glenn insisted Taylor use when she joined the Wards. Glenn who worked as a Public Relations agent. Public Relations, which is also known a PR. PR can also stand for Personal Relationships. As in ones the readers might think exist. My god, it's a weaponized shipping gun.

          • Considering the Bullet-brainsurgery question, perhaps running more than one massive troll at a time is too much for Wildbow.


        • The Simurgh’s whole shtick is one butterfly effect gun. A flap of the wings and a well-meaning tinker goes a bit loopy in the head, a shake of the buttocks and an extradimensional traveller becomes a bit more jerkish, a crunch of the nose and a global satellite network system becomes a bit more buggy…

  25. So my take on the timeline is that the epologue started just before, or just after Contessa met Taylor (perhaps even at the same time), after which a timeskip of 6 months takes place. In this light the allusion to khepri could refer to a couple things, but it doesn’t matter. Wildbow is aware of the community, so I’m pretty sure (s)he’ll offer something game changing in respect to Khepri over the course of the next few chapters.

    So the question should be what would leave the greatest impact? The story’s been casted with a few restrictions: Chavelier and the others were aware of Taylor’s and Contessa’s circumstances in some fashion, and Taylor doesn’t make a reappearance in New York for at least 6 months.

    • “Chavelier and the others were aware of Taylor’s and Contessa’s circumstances in some fashion …”

      Not necessarily: The Taylorstrator disappears and is never heard from again, Dragon sends out a message “btw, official name for that one is Khepri”, Contessa secretly sneaks after her.

      “Taylor doesn’t make a reappearance in New York for at least 6 months …”

      She doesn’t make an appearance in *public*. She could be staying in Tt’s be^W^W Chevalier’s spare room or something for all we know.

      • Not to derail, I was going to extrapolate and make a prediction, but I ran out of time so had to post what I had. Maybe I’ll go back to that…

        “Not necessarily: The Taylorstrator disappears and is never heard from again, Dragon sends out a message “btw, official name for that one is Khepri”, Contessa secretly sneaks after her.”

        To be more concise, perhaps she was just inquiring into the circumstances surrounding Khepri/Taylor. I agree, I was working so reading the chapter was sketchy at first.

        “She doesn’t make an appearance in *public*. She could be staying in Tt’s be^W^W Chevalier’s spare room or something for all we know.”

        That’s basically what I meant. More specifically though she hasn’t made her presence known in New York. There’s always Brockton Bay, it being a large world afterall.


        I think that if Taylor’s dead, somethings going to built out of it, and I think if she’s alive it’ll be in a way that adds depth to the universe as a whole. By way of being silent, it emphasizes Khepri’s existence (poetic ain’t it – wonder if that was the intended message).

        By way of guesswork, I’d say Taylor could undergoe a transformation via Valkerie and Niilbog; maybe she regains her skitter powers, maybe not. Anyway you want to work it however, the manner in which Wildbow is blowing his story up implies Taylor Herbert still has a few ripples left for her universe. This isn’t simply going to be a monument arc to post-Khepri new york/world.

        • >“No. I’m wondering about someone who was a patient some time ago. Can I ask about this ‘Khepri’?“

          “You can ask, but you won’t like the answer. I wouldn’t want you to be distracted for the remainder of your session in there.“<

          The thing I find odd is that even Miss Yamada refers to her as Khepri. Miss Yamada has always been presented as wanting to use actual names. Like calling Garrote Sveta. This leads me to think of two possibilities.
          1. She doesn't know what Khepri is, and has heard buzz about it. Unlikely from the context of the situation.
          2. She wants to know what happened to Khepri.

          Chevailier's telling her she won't like the answer is telling.

          • What this suggests to me is that Khepri’s true identity as Taylor Hebert is not common knowledge, and might even have been covered up. By using the name given to the administrator entity that defeated Scion to refer to her old patient, Jessica Yamada is telling Chevalier that she knows they are the same person.

  26. Well, this seemed to bring a happy ending to many stories. Humanity has survived. Humanity is protected.
    But in Worm, it always gets worse…

    • You’ve got the effect of burning Russia, and all the ash and gasses in the atmosphere, the destruction of oil rigs, the sinking of a huge island into the water, the loss of other species that humans use for food, the loss of industry, clean water, a stable medical base, accumulated scientific knowledge and the ability for widespread advancement of knowledge, the loss of huge amounts of knowledge stored on the internet, and if Scion got to space we might even have Kessler syndrome going on.

      • Well presumably a lot of that stuff is the reason for the force fields and the portals. Force fields keep the broader atmosphere issues from taking the greater New York, while the portals give access to worlds that aren’t messed up for food and water. Worlds that aren’t ravaged by Scion+Tinkers most likely provide close copies of the information we lost, as would archives Cauldron prepared in case something like this happened. They had plans for Scion ending the world, so there’s a very good chance that science is not lost. Earth Aleph and the Blue Woman (Goddess) should have the population of scientists to continue scientific advancement outside of and in addition to Tinker related tech.

  27. I feel a bit dumb taking this long to realize Nilbog is just Goblin backwards. And his name being constructed that way fits the character perfectly.

  28. I noticed something. Miss Militia was hanging out with a person wielding a spear and shield. Is that Dauntless? Did they somehow get him out of the time bubble?

        • Well, Bakuda is no longer what she was but has Teacher operating her as well as being out of the Birdcage so maybe she created a neutralising agent as part of her parole?

          she may even have been healed up. who knows how many people The Amy/Riley combo has brought back to full health.

    • Ah, Dauntless. First he was killed by Leviathan, then he was dropped into a Bakuda-bomb. I was wondering how that would be resolved.

      Also, I think it’s Menja.

    • Good chances it’s Dauntless. Those time bubbles, and Grey Boy’s time loops, are almost certainly breakable with the right power, or simply with Khonsu’s aid.

      When you’ve got a bunch of reality breaking powers, assuming there is anything that cannot be done or undone would be a big damn mistake.

        • Technically he was just trapped in one of Bakuda’s “slow time to the point it practically stops” bombs along with Alabaster of E88 and another redshirt. Theoretically, they could have found a way to free him. Personally, I think it’s just some extra, there with Miss Militia.

          • Ah. For some reason I thought that particular Bakuda-bomb was used when the Nine were in BB and there was some confusion/retcon. Speaking of confusion, just use Legend’s lasers to knock those guys out. Lasers get shit done.

            • Not so sure they’d work on that. On the other hand Valkyrie might be able to do the combination of powers to get them out. I mean we know she has at least two time manipulating capes, and she must have had some way of dealing with Gray Boy’s loops if she killed him.

              That reminds me. Miss Yamada seems to think Ciara had a second trigger. We know she got Gray Boy. Being stuck in one of his loops is plenty truamatic enough. Might there be a connection?

              • Just imagine Dauntless’ reaction when he gets out.

                Dauntless: “Wow, I was in there for a few seconds and suddenly everything is wrecked. Was this the aftermath of Leviathan?”
                *Defiant hands over a paper with a detailed timeline*
                Dauntless: “Dafuq did I just read?”

              • Considering that you can still see into the time bubble, I imagine that relativity still applies, which means that a light-based massless push would actually work.

                Which raises the question of, ‘Are the light streams massless?’

                Time for some Harry Potter and the Methods Of Rationality up ins.

              • Regardless of whether or not you can impart energy, you’d need to accelerate them to relativistic speeds to get them out. They’d be torn to pieces by friction if nothing else. You might able to overcome that through other things (Citrine could apparently modify friction just as part of her generic ability) but even if you get it to frictionless … what happens at the boundary of the time-sphere? Is half their body moving a quadrillion times faster than the rest, both temporally and spatially? Those kind of forces would tear a body apart on their own.

      • That is a possibility. I can’t remember if he used a shield or not, but I’m still leaning toward Dauntless based on the description of the shield being a round one. I can’t find the exact passage where he’s described, but I recall his gear being made in the style of a Greek hoplite, which used a large, round shield called an Aspis. Dauntless was also a member of the Brockton Bay Protectorate, which would give him good reason to hang around Miss Militia. I also seem to recall something about Califa de Perro being unable to speak English? I could be totally wrong about that though.

        At any rate, I’m fairly confident that GU/Valkyrie could concoct some combination of powers that could either dispel the time distortion or otherwise pull the people inside it out of there. And there would also be motivation for her to do it, seeing as it would be one heck of a good faith gesture towards the powers that be. Having trouble building up a positive rapport with Chevalier and the others? Rescue a well-respected colleague of theirs that they had written off as dead. It would simultaneously endear her to them and provide some much-needed muscle. Seeing as the later parts of this chapter take place about 6 months after the death of Scion, I could imagine this as being one of the acts she does that earns her enough trust to be made a member of the Wards.

        • Wardens. The new Protectorate is called the Wardens. Also, Khonsu the Time Master Endbringer could help a lot with that.

          I’m guessing that she (Valkyrie) told the Bakuda-ghost to make a “normal-bomb” to get rid of the time distortion.

        • Hmm, surely some teleporter could get him out. Come to think of it, why didn’t Trickster free him straight away?

  29. A long overdue thought on Taylor’s end, and whether she was ever anything special.

    What defined Taylor, before she got the shard? What about her remarked itself as special, beyond being a reasonably intelligent, potentially lovely young woman?

    This is a very melancholy thought. We like to think that there is something special to humans, that heroes are heroes, not simply because they have powers, but because of a certain worthiness. A genetic lottery win, at the very least, and a determination that makes them special. But with Taylor, perhaps it was always the shard.

    The shard of the Queen Administrator, commanding and baying and uniting disparate abilities, networking its intelligence through every creature it controlled. A human mind would only get in the way, interfere. Perhaps what truly made Taylor special was not what she had, but what she was willing to sacrifice.

    As Taylor sacrificed more and more parts of herself, she became more efficient. Every time she threw herself into conflict, acting on instinct and preparing and planning and fighting wildly, she became deadlier, and stronger. Finally, she allowed herself to be consumed entirely by her shard, and she was executed like a mad dog, without a chance to redeem herself for saving the world, because she could no longer be of it.

    Dinah, the Simurgh, all of them set her up to lose more and more of the things that held her together, because she was the only one who could kill Scion. Ultimately, she was not the greatest hero. She was just a good-natured young woman who had nothing to hold onto in her life, who had been victimized to the point where she would give in to the queen administrator, while remaining just stable enough to try to keep focused on destroying Scion.

    In the end, Taylor is just a civilian casualty. She ended up committing suicide by degrees, sacrificing herself to one mad alien god in the interests of defeating another, and then dying when she had nothing left to do.

    I am glad we have the epilogues, to remind us. We cannot call this a sad ending- A melancholy ending, but humanity has a chance. There’s an opportunity, here, for humanity to rebound, greater than before. Many have died, but many have also lived through it, and maybe, just maybe, the human race will be stronger and wiser for it. Glaistig Uaine, Riley, Nilbog, they’re getting their chance at redemption, more or less. We cannot call it a tragic ending because of Taylor’s death, no more than we can call it a tragic ending for Ash Beast’s death, or Revel’s, or any of a thousand other living, vibrant human beings, because they sacrificed themselves to save all the rest, and they went out, at the least, fighting the greatest threat they had ever met, and it was done, through human brilliance, and a great understanding of what it means to be vulnerable. There’s probably an entire spiel that can be done on the parallels to War of the Worlds, where a seemingly invincible foe is defeated by something humans take for granted and deal with all the time, but whose very nature circumvents the invulnerability that keeps the foe safe.

    But we can be sorry for Taylor. For all the good people who never got a chance to be good people because of Scion. We can hope that she gets a second chance. We can see that her work was good, that she redeemed people through her actions. We can hope that her death is remembered not as the death of the sad, horribly alone girl who could not keep hold of connection to others, but as the death of someone who willingly sacrificed everything she ever had, to save the world. It feels better to remember it, not as the last sacrifice of someone who simply never had enough to hold onto, who never thought she deserved to be treated as an ends, not a means, but as the willing choice of someone who was willing to sacrifice everything she was, for the sake of everyone else.

    She fucking well deserves it, either way.

    I remember, with extraordinary clarity, the Demon Path of Soul Nomad. If you haven’t played the game, you should, because it’s got one of the most intense stories I’ve ever seen in a game, but the gist of it is, by the end, you have become such a figure of horror and loathing, that the world has united against you. Disparate enemies, former allies, all have united as one, preparing to fight you. Even some of the most heinous villains in the normal path end up finding their redemption if you are defeated in the final battle, and in some ways, it’s even happier than the normal path’s good ending. Even your character has a chance for redemption. In such circumstances, perhaps the noblest deed is to submit to your execution, in the knowledge that if you’re to continue fighting, you’ll destroy all the things that used to matter to you, like a mad beast.

    It’s not fair that she had to die, that she didn’t get the chance for redemption that she, more than anyone else, deserved. But that’s the nature of things, sometimes. She at least deserves to be remembered as a hero.

      • The ‘I’m Sorry’ thing, that’s the thing that really gets to me. That little ‘I’m Sorry’, the hinting at a dark fate, that hints that Taylor’s going to have to die, that she’s going to have to embrace death. That’s what really gets to me. Taylor, at the end, died because she didn’t think she deserved the opportunity to live after what she’d done, and I think she thought that in part because she didn’t believe she could recover from that, and I think that’s because of the little ‘I’m sorry’s.

        I’m sure they had a reason. I’m just not sure their reason would satisfy me, any more than the Contessa’s would.

        • I disagree with this, I think that in the end Taylor died because a war criminal unilaterally decided to murder her because Contessa thought she had to right to make a judgment whether Taylor was salvageable or not, and that Taylor herself was capable of coming to a clearheaded conclusion to that question in the span of five seconds.

          I don’t really but that Taylor was unsalvageable or so completely uncontainable that it wasn’t worth it. It was just how it worked out that Contessa showed up first before anyone else could arrive, and though she says she wants to change, she couldn’t resist the urge to decide the fate of someone else.

          I dunno, Taylor dying as the ending is fine. But the idea of her murder by Contessa being validated leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

          • Oh, I sure as hell don’t think the Contessa should have killed her. But I think that if Taylor hadn’t been prepared to sacrifice everything she had to the shard, she wouldn’t have succeeded, and it’s easier to sacrifice everything if you think it’s the only option you have. So they played her to the point where she thought of herself as nothing but a monster, and the Contessa, acting with her usual level of forethought and care, ended up shooting her in the back of the head. Was it valid? I don’t think I’ll ever know, and I’d be very surprised if I did by the end of this story. I’m just preparing myself for Taylor to be dead, and doing my best to think of her as a hero, even if I suspect she was just an innocent young woman. I think she would have hated to be pitied.

            The Contessa probably saw it as being just like what she did before. If she’d moved faster with Eden, her power would still be absolute, without the blocks put in place, and she might have averted all of this- So instead, kill her immediately.

    • Your comment reminded me to go spam WordPress with emails requesting some sort of spoiler bubble to mitigate text walls like that.

      In case you haven’t realized, this is Worm. Nobody gets a happy ending because Wildbow is nihilistic like that.

          • Are you kidding me? A ton of people got happy endings. They’re not completely happy, but they’re bittersweet. Humanity survived. We’ll face a new day. Taylor died, which sucks, but she died in about the most noble way a person can die, doing their best to stop something horrible. Maybe she didn’t have to die, but that’s not something we can speculate very effectively on for now.

            • 1. I was (mostly) exaggerating.
              2. There’s very little sweet in the ending when you think about it. It took Scion annihilating the vast majority (90+%?) of a dimension, not counting the others, to make humanity temporarily suck less.
              Besides, WB’s nihilism was waaay off the charts even before the apocalypse became a thing.

      • Worm is darker than some nihilistic stories,but its not nihilistic,because ,unlike what happens in nihilistic stories,actions matter

        It is also darker than some grimdark stories,but not grimdark because it is possible for people to be good and not fools (chevalier,Weld,Tecton etc)

    • You know, another way to look at that is, if we can’t put our finger on what made Taylor so special, maybe that just means that everyone has the potential for specialness in them. Maybe that’s not an indictment on Taylor but a testament to humanity in general.

      I’d go so far as to say that’s a recurring theme of Worm. Taylor’s the most dramatic example, but Bitch, Defiant, Riley and Golem all made impressive transformations of their own. And lest it seem like solely a Cape thing, Coil’s soldier(s) and the Dragon Teeth showed that baseline humans are just as capable of digging in and pulling off awe-inspiring feats when it matters.

      Worm is a very dark setting and it acknowledges that humanity is often flawed, but overall it’s actually quite uplifting in its view of what humans are capable of achieving.

  30. Interesting that Glaistg/Ciara/Valkyrie was drinking mead. I don’t know enough about the folklore to know what the Fey drank, but mead gets pretty associated with the norse these days.

    And does anyone know just how you pronuonce “Ciara”?

    • I thought it was “See-are-ah”, but I’m not sure about that. I suppose it could be “Kee-are-ah” or “Chee-are-ah”, but those seem less likely than the first pronunciation.

      • According to the Internet it’s an Irish name ( which makes sense, The Glaistig or Green (uaine) maiden is a creature from Irish folklore) and it’s pronounced with a hard K sound.

          • In Italian it’s Chiara. And it does mean fair (skinned).

            But the Irish Ciara has nothing to do with the Italian/Spanish/Portuguese. Still going by Wikipedia it means dark haired beauty and Keira is the Anglicised version.

  31. Okay. Thoughts:

    – Eastern Queen?
    – I love how you’ve neatly created a new setting out of the shards* of the old. The Nested New Yorks are evocative as all get out
    Glastig Valkyrie downloads her shades into custom-crafted Nilbog bodies (with Riley presumably removing the weaknesses inherent to his creations) that they may live again? Sweet! Clockblocker LIVES maybe!
    – Yamada is a boss. I would do bad bad things for that woman.
    – the new Triumvirate is going to be something, eh?
    Wardens!?!!!! Fucking Eden better really really really be dead.
    – Blue Feudal Lord cape survived, right? Wonder what she’s up to. Maybe she’s the Eastern Queen?

    *why yes, i DO see what i did there

    • QueenS not Queen. It’s one of New York’s five boroughs. Presumably there are still fights for control of the city. Maybe against the…Shepherds. Dun dun dun.

    • The Blue Woman is almost certainly called The Goddess and is a character wildbow mentioned in comments discussion involving other possible Worm stories.

  32. I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t learn anything else about Taylor’s fate before the final epilouge chapter. And not then if Wildbow is feeling really sadistic.

    Now we still don’t know the status of quite a few major players.
    -Dragon and Defiant. Hopefully Dragon rebooted okay from Taylor’s taking her out. It’d really suck if this ended up being the time that was actually fatal. But if they are alive, it’d be hard to see them not being a part of the Wardens.
    -The Undersiders. They are trickier to figure out. On the one hand, although they are criminals, they aren’t all bad sorts. They also have experience piecing society back together after a disaster. On the other hand they aren’t the sorts to play nicely by the Wardens rules. Esspecially if they think they did anything to Taylor. So maybe allied maybe not. Of course there really aren’t that many Undersiders either, so they likely have to be allied with someone. Unless they did some recruiting.
    -Marquis, Amy, and Lung. Not sure where these three are either. But I can see at least the first two allied with the Undertakers. Though Amy and Lisa might not want to spend too much time in the same room.
    -Faultlines Crew. This group has two things going for them. First they have one of the few means of opening portals, so if you want a permanent portal, and don’t think you can ask Valkyrie for it, they are who you need to find. Second, Dinah. She is one of the two best Precogs out there, so of course her services would be in high demand.

    • It’s kinda weird to me how Faultline’s crew is just known as… Faultline’s Crew. It always seems out of place with the great names all the other groups have, but I guess it’s also a show of their utilitarian style.

      It’s funny, reading back through the old chapter comments, how Wildbow said back then that he was possibly considering writing Faultline’s Crew out in a published/rewritten version (or rather, writing the characters into other organizations) considering how important they are now (though they still remain outside of the limelight for the most part). I really like them all, though.

      • I like it. Like you said, it’s utilitarian, it’s descriptive, it’s simple, and it’s completely different from every other cape group out there.

        They aren’t heroes, they aren’t villains, they’re mercenaries through and through. When you hire Faultline’s Crew, you don’t get fancy, you don’t get ego problems, you don’t get somebody trying to make a big splash or fit some theme or take power for themselves. What you get is efficiency, professionalism, and the job done.

        It also says a lot that they use the leader’s name; being ‘somebody who ran with Faultine for a while’ carries very different connotations from being ‘an Undersider’ or ‘a Ward’. Being in Faultline’s Crew isn’t part of who you are, it’s a job. Any one of them except for Faultline herself could retire and seek a new line of work, and anybody can join as long as they’re competent and professional (ranging all the way from Matryoshka to Dinah).

  33. Yay! Interlude for one of my favorite characters (up there with Taylor and Tattletale). I also think Valkyrie has the coolest power, at least out of the ones that have been revealed so far.

    And finally something I’ve been wondering about since 27.5:

    “Above us, Glaistig Uaine had created a spirit that was spreading across the sky like circuits on a circuitboard, extending itself across a plane.”

    What exactly was this power supposed to do besides distract Zion?

      • I thought it was a weapon of some sort. Later Taylor uses clockblocker to stop scion and buy her enough time to gather the clouds and pull the trigger.

        I think*

        • Something along the lines of taking control of an area, like one of the Twins perhaps? (Tohu or Bohu, I can’t remember which is which).
          Something powerful enough for Scion to stop, and which takes a while to set up.

  34. So, a little late to the party here but my thoughts:

    Teneral – a freshly-molted arthropod, especially an imago (adult insect) freshly-emerged from the pupa.
    Khepri – egyptian god of, among other things, rebirth and creation.
    Nilbog can make custom bodies, Bonesaw can make them immortal, and it was strongly implied that Valkyrie’s warriors could possess an appropriate host body (but reject anything too foreign).
    Everybody involved has listened to the Simurgh’s song.

    With this, I am now almost certain that Taylor is dead. And very nearly as certain that she will not stay that way for very long.

    Also, I get the distinct impression that Defiant’s “radio silence” is a euphemism for murdering the fuck out of Saint and Teacher. Or transhuman sexytimes. Or both.

      • One would think that Defiant, of all people, would refrain from judging someone who is looking for redemption and a new purpose in life after making morally questionable choices…

        • One would also think he’d realize that someone trying to run off to find redemption immediately after murdering one of his colleagues is a load of crap.

        • One doesn’t stop making morally questionable choices after giving a broken, nigh suicidal young woman all of five seconds to convince that they’re still human. Fuck Contessa.

          • That didn’t come out very clearly.

            Contessa’s desire to stop making morally questionable choices is irrelevant when her actions counter her words. She seems to be too used to having all of the answers. As another person said …

            “Just saying, an uncontrollable alien monster inhabiting a teenage girls body does not answer the question “do you deserve to live.” with “I honestly don’t know.”

            That sort of answer is not something you respond to with a bullet.

            • To be perfectly honest, I’m getting kind of creeped out by the amount of times the question “Should you shoot a mentally shattered, suicidal woman if she asks for it?” is answered with “Yes, you should!”

              Putting aside the argument on whether Taylor is too dangerous to live, that’s not how it works! You don’t shoot the mentally ill just because they seem to want it. They don’t know what they’re talking about, they’re mentally ill!

              • That’s what I saw. At the end of the chapter were human emotions displayed by Taylor, regret, guilt, introspection. All she really needed was therapy.

              • The problem with Taylor being mentally ill and suicidal is that it leaves her in no position to overcome the Administrator shard.

                As Contessa said, even her path to victory power could only go so far in getting her out of the problem. Hell, letting Taylor live if she can’t muster up the will to stop being oppressed by her own powers is a dumb, dumb idea.

                As people have mentioned before, not using her path to victory power to shoot Taylor would have been stupid. I’ll expand by saying that her not using her path to victory power to check if Taylor was capable of returning to sanity as she was then would be even more stupid.

                If the path to victory can’t help Taylor when she’s still somewhat lucid and in control, it’s not going to help her when her personality gets buried 60 feet deep by Khepri. You can’t just say “Contessa shot a mentally ill woman” without adding in “that was incredibly powerful and was slowly losing her grip on reality to the point where she could descend into irrecoverable insanity”. Given the context of her decision, I find Contessa’s actions to be justifiable.

                BUT justifiable does not equate to good. No, what she did was pretty shitty. She had good reasons for shooting Taylor, but she’s still a terrible person for doing that. That is her role, after all. Contessa is one of those people who have “hard X making hard decisions” syndrome, just like Saint. They’re bullheaded people who think their way is the best way, much to the detriment of others.

              • First of all, I include Taylor’s killing as one of Contessa’s morally questionable actions. It was her last black ops before turning the page (wether she deservs to walk away after everything she did is something we can discuss at another time).

                Secondly, I agree with Irregular. The question Contessa asked wasn’t “do you think you deserve to die?”. It was “do you think you can manage your shard?” .

              • Okay, about the path to victory stuff. We do know Contessa’s power isn’t infallible right? We’ve already seen several ways in which it is faulty. She might not ask the right questions, she might run into blind spots, she simply might not even know enough about Taylor’s situation. And I suspect that the path to victory has another limitation in that it can only give solutions involving Contessa herself and the resources available. Throughout the entire serial her power never told her “Go find Dinah and Tattletale for help, you fucking idiot” because they aren’t within her sphere of influence.

                Second, whether Taylor can fight off the administrator on her own doesn’t matter. That’s what therapy is for, she has people who can and will help her through it to atleast reclaim part of herself. And I don’t think Contessa can comprehend that with her completely individualistic attitude.

                Lastly, I should say that I don’t buy the “too dangerous to live” shit in the slightest. That status is questionable for just about every single character that holds it. Nilbog was content to keep to himself and is under control now. Glaistig is being turned to a hero, the reason Echidna went out of control is because Coil never actually bothered to help her. And compared to all these Taylor is seriously easy to contain. Just shoot her with animal tranquilizers and set up a barricade twenty feet around her for god’s sakes and go from there.

                Seriously, I don’t get how Contessa can possibly be justified when her and no one else even tried another option.

              • The problem with therapy is that at a fundamental level, the patient must want to be helped. How was Contessa going to capture a Taylor who was slowly being reburied by the shard and unwilling to return?

                And even if she did somehow succeed in capturing her, what then? Taylor completely gave up on being fixed, so the most basic premise behind therapy isn’t fulfilled in this case. Her mind is also crumbling at a visible rate, even with Contessa helping to get her somewhat coherent.

                Of course, even that’s no obstacle, if Khepri wasn’t around. But Khepri is taking over. It’s not being slow about it, either. The shard’s burying Taylor’s personality, which is already close to breaking apart into little pieces. So what then?

                Break out the shovels of therapy and pharmaceuticals, when the ground itself is hostile and the best you’ll get is bits of Taylor that’ll get reburied quickly? Heck, give it a few days and those Taylor chunks won’t even be there anymore.

                At least with Nilbog and Glastig Ulaine, they weren’t rapidly being taken over by their shards. They were stable and open to reason, even if it was to a limited extent. They could probably (and in one case, did) respond positively to therapy.

                And Echidna, at the very end, had degenerated too far for her to be saved. Hell, Taylor was in an even worse state than Echidna by the time Contessa showed up.

                The problem is that Taylor probably could have been saved if they had treated her earlier. An iffy prospect, but possible. But at the time Contessa and her bullets caught up with Taylor, there was pretty much no chance of bringing her back from her sacrifice.

              • Yeah, Contessa was probably the only one qualified to judge if Taylor could return at all. It’s a straightforward situation without the precognition blinds applying, only one subject and one desired outcome. Find the path to Taylor’s recovery. Perhaps there isn’t a path, not one she could reach while there is any hope(e.g. there might be a cape out there with the right powers to fix Taylor, but who could not be brought to the right place in time).

                Her power can and does make use of external agents, as long as she can influence them somehow. Just look at the crazy elaborate chain of dominoes that led to the present day. The formation of the Protectorate and the Wards system via Cauldron established the basis for Taylor’s trigger by condoning bullying by a Ward. Lung’s trigger and the events that ultimately led him to Brockton Bay. Coil developing the Undersiders, and later, his own demise.

                Too many coincidences for it to be entirely coincidental.

              • While I agree with the sentiment…what would you have wanted done? Taylor is a therapist’s nightmare; she can’t talk, you can’t talk to her, she is probably depressed, oh and you have to do your therapizing from 20 feet away.

    • While I would love to see Teacher and Contessa end up with their heads on spears, I’ve got mixed feeling about Saint. He strikes me as more of a misguided jerk, where the other two are outright villains. He royally screwed up, and some punishment ought to come his way, but I’d be disappointed in Defiant if he outright murders Saint.

      I don’t think I’ll get to be disappointed, though. I suspect Dragon has Defiant trained well enough that all three have little need to fear for their lives. At least from them.

      • Except The first thing Dragon told to Defiant after she was resurrected was that Saint and Teacher will suffer. She was understandably pissed.

        • Note that suffering and death are different things. I think she’s still bound by the whole ‘Thou shalt not kill’ thing too, and that kinda limits them both to nonlethal means. She has a right to be pissed, but I still can’t see her turning a blind eye to Defiant murdering people. Likewise, I think Defiant values Dragon enough to keep vengeance within Dragon’s boundaries.

          We just don’t know what exactly those boundaries are.

          • I believe she mentioned shutting them both in the Birdcage as the two only inmates. I wouldn’t be surprised if they went mad.

          • This is why you get other, less scrupulous people to do this sort of thing for you. If you want to ask me, India knew what they were doing a lot more than America.

            • Heck, I think it might be worse than death for the two of them.

              And when you can’t kill them, two words. Humiliation Conga.

      • What has Contessa ever done to be a villain?
        Everything she did was to save humanity from extinction. She is no different from Saint.
        Nothing she had ever done was because of selfish motives or anything like that.

  35. Sadly I’m starting to worry a bit that Taylor is only going to be remembered for the bad. That she’ll just be remembered as someone who got taken over by their shard and became a mind controlling monster, rather than the girl who sacrificed everything to open the path to defeating Scion and saving the human race.

    • Nah. I worried about that at first, but the connotation of Khepri are pretty much all good ones. People are scared sure, and some of the Swarm will carry grudges, but humanity as a whole sees her as the bright goddess who saved everybody and gave them a fresh start.

      • While I also believe that Taylor will be remembered mostly positively, the fact that the name has benevolent connotations means little. In, mythology, the Simurgh was a benevolent creature, too.

        • IIRC they named the Simurgh back when they thought she was another Scion-like parahuman. She waited until nearly everyone in Lausanne was gathered around her to reveal her true colours.

          Then again, a power like Khepri’s is inherently easy for people to fear and distrust.

          • Yeah, you’re right. I forgot about that. In fact, now that you mentioned it, I think they tried to change the name to the more appropriate Ziz, but Simurgh had already stuck on.

    • I’m sure Tattletale will be on hand to fight the information fight, releasing her entire life story with proper emphasis on how the past administrations failures led to her moral downfall would help matters.

      If that fails, tell the story of what happened to the other earths and let it spread. Eventually the negativity of the super-idiots would be drowned in the legends of countless earths

    • Makes me really bummed for you since Worm is ending now. I wish you had this many viewers in the Slaughterhouse 9 arc or Noelle arc at least.

      Oh well, at least you got this many eventually.

      • Wow. bloody well done and something tells me that your next project will start with a larger number of readers. Wonders what wildbow is doing next.

        High Fantasy?
        Low Fantasy?
        Dystopian sci
        Utopian sci fi

        Well my money is one… a long kip!

        • I generally vote against high fantasy or horror, but Wildbow could totally pull them off. Dystopian Sci-fi is overdone, and the fun generally comes with things like post-cyberpunk (yeah people are replacing their bodies with chrome and the megacorps rule the world and everything is monitored, but that’s no reason you can’t have any fun). Wildbow would do magnificent urban fantasy, but that might be too close to superheroes…

            • Well, I am looking forward to the sample chapters for possible sequels myself. I have been since you first started hinting about them.

              Speaking from a position of near ignorance, I think the biopunk or fantasy stories might be best for the “pallet cleanser” post Worm, with the longer post-Worm work being the urban fantasy one, based on the FAQ. Given how you have talked about the urban fantasy being structured that seems likely to be best.

              Of course I will be able to say more once we start seeing sample chapters.

            • I could offer you a lot of help on the biopunk if you go that way. From a “maintaining the scientific purity” angle. Coulds. Woulds. How soon could we see each stage compared to the others. Help you avoid the “did not do the research” corner of TVTropes.

              On an entirely separate note, I have a friend who wants to do an audioread of Worm. She’s not ready yet, and probably won’t be for at least another month or two, but she wants to.

            • Well, since we know shards can run out of power, AKA Doormaker, I could see Wurm developing into Cyber/Bio punk as the shards ran out. When people first start seeing it happen, all the tinkers are encouraged to begin collating data, doing controlled experiments, working with thinkers like the number man to actually figure out how the tech they use actually works.

              This would lead to a technological revolution, and from there into Cyber/Bio tech as replacements for cape powers.

              Perhaps minor cape powers that use very little power would be around for a very, very long time. Perhaps the powers recharge over time, but very slowly.

              All kinds of different ways to makage it. It might even be possible, in time, for the Cyber/Bio tech universe to figure out how to recharge shards, leading to a cape + cyber/bio tech universe for a third arc… 🙂

            • Can’t really sound off on what I want, because I can’t really separate those genres from my kneejerk visions of them until I see more. If I we’re to choose I’d go with biopunk since my mental image of that isn’t as concrete.

              Though I did like seeing Gothic Fantasy as an option, I’m a sucker for the grandiosity and sexy black capes.

  36. I’m really digging this insight into the post-scion world. I’ve been running out of steam on my fanfic idea, but now I’m tempted to start over and set it after the ending.

    I’m also very glad that Mr Yamada survived. I remember having the sobering thought during the last few arcs that many of the non-powered characters we’d met over the years were quite likely dead.

  37. Finally finished reading this. Started yesterday, reading bits and pieces since.
    Looking good.

    Hm…Riley, Nilbog, and Valkyrie are going to be very interesting indeed. And if Nilbog can indeed help bring Valkyrie’s ghosts back to life…Riley might be needed to help…what a shame she didn’t collect Taylor.
    Or maybe it’s for the best, since it probably would have been screwed-up-Taylor she collected.

    • Actually, I think this is more of a setup for a sequel than a uniformly good thing. Valkyrie collects shards, not souls. What usually keeps those human are their human body and brain. If those are created by Nilbog and… well, fine, call her Riley, but still, I don’t exactly trust her to instill sanity… then the result could be as unstable as it is powerful, needing only a trigger to become another Echidna.

      • There are suggestions that some amount of the human’s psyche is included.

        Riley is getting better. And she would be needed more for the integration than the “sanity”.

        If they already have passengers, they can’t trigger.

  38. Chapter briefly went up, because WordPress apparently had a different time than I did, with DST. Fixing a middle part. Sorry for anyone who got the incomplete version. Chapter due in 1 hour, midnight EST.

  39. I noticed quite a few estonian words used as names, Pime Abtiss, Põletama. Intentional on your part? How did you stumble upon those words?

  40. “Põletama” means “to burn”, which does not really sound like a name in estonian. Someone who burns would be “Põletaja”.

    • Yes, please fix “Põletama” to “Põletaja” or Worm will be unreadable when it comes out as a book. I’m also kidding bug seriously it should be Põletaja. 🙂

    • To elaborate on this a bit:

      “Põletama” is the basic form of a verb that means literally “to burn.” “Hi, what’s your name?” – “My name is To Burn.” Nope, does not quite sound correct.

      The English version, I’m guessing something like “Burner,” could mean two things.

      Could be “someone who makes things burn”. That would, as the commenter “eestlane” said, be “Põletaja” in Estonian language.

      Or possibly “someone who is burning” / “someone who is on fire”. That’s “Põleja”.

      (Between the two of these, “Põleja” I think is a more “cape-ish” name. The other one can just as well apply to any random unpowered wacko with a gas canister and a box of matches.)

  41. “I’m direct, like my lasers”, Legend says. That would be the lasers that can turn corners and are exactly as direct, or not, as Legend wants them to be?

  42. “If I’m going to be as awesome as Regent and Imp would have been as a pair.” …Dang. Just …dang. One of the most powerful, or at least sad lines in here, somehow. May be the closest I’ve come to tearing up. Goodbye, Regent. We still miss you.

  43. Man, I liked Chevalier, but he is being a DICK right now. Powers or no powers, PRT or no PRT, Glaistig Uaine or no Glaistig Uaine… you DO NOT interrupt a therapy session. (And more generally, if you agree to follow someone else’s rule, you don’t just unilaterally throw it out when things get tough.)

  44. And once again just when things are winding down Yamada proves how amazingly badass and awesome and totally epic she is. Talking the lost lunatic murderer who had dearly wanted to wipe out the human race/Earth and usher in the next cycle of the giant evil aliens into becoming a hero? Damn. *Slow clap.* Okay so Yamada has now played therapist to three of the most dangerous and powerful individuals that the world had ever seen, Ciara, Taylor, and Eidolon. Not to mention countless other villains and heroes and crazies. Holy mother of god. This woman has nerves so strong and skills so good they could cut through dimensions!

    Chev is the Destroyer huh? That’s…mildly disturbing. Especially considering how freaking awesomely heroic he is. Like second only to Weld in the boy scout department. Soooo happy that he survived and for the confirmation that he was the dude who stepped up to take lead after Taylor started losing it again towards the end.

    Yay! Legend survived! I still like that guy and I’m really glad he made it. Though really “I’m direct, like my lasers”? In what universe are lasers that turn 90 degrees and scoff at the known laws of physics considered “direct”? The dude may be cool but he needs some science lessons…

    I have to comment on the extreme appropriateness of GU’s new name. Soooooooooooo fitting! It’s cool that she can grow up whenever she wants. Honestly the fact that she looks 19 now instead of a pubescent girl coupled with talking without an echo would do wonders to put me on her side. It’s like a visual and deliberate personification of the change in her thinking which speaks louder than anything else that she could possibly say to be convincing. Taken with the fact that she is far too powerful to bother lying/manipulating and that she had never really done so before…well I for one can say I’d welcome her into the hero rank with someone extended arms even if they wouldn’t wrap her into a hug. I’d be the guy next to Miss Militia (who again shows her awesomeness too) going to dinner with her but probably not MM actually inviting her out.

    Okay so I AM amazingly enough willing to give Riley a second chance against all my better judgment but she really doesn’t make it easy to do so. I mean really…Nilbog? She has to be friends with Nilbog? Why couldn’t that crazy bastard have been taken out by Scion? We lose so many great people and he survives? The world is not fair. (On that note please please please tell me Hoyden made it out okay?! Please! I really love my cowgirl!) And okay sure I get that she goes to see him to remind herself of how psycho she used to be and how much better she is now but seriously. Not doing yourself any favors Riley.

    The ending…HOLY SHIT!!!! EXCELLENT!! Dude, those last four paragraphs just spawned like a gazillion fanfics I’m sure. You just left things open for either bringing back to life heroes/villains she collected (including Clockblocker!!!!) or conversely giving life to a sort of human/shard hybrid. SOOO FRIGGING SWEET!!

    • Legend’s subtext: “I might not be terribly direct, but if you start heckling, I have lasers.”

      I think Chevalier’s being the Destroyer isn’t necessarily at odds with his being an excellent hero. In his first meeting with the Wards, he weakened one clique to support the people outside it. Before that, he doggedly pursued and dismantled the organization that took his brother. His trigger event was being trapped in a wrecked car- something that had to be broken before he could be safe. He was there for the death of the original Wards paradigm (keeping kids with powers out of dangerous and violent situations) and its transition to the form we saw later on, where Wards helped stop crime and save lives. In the New Protectorate/PRT initiative, he led the charge against the corruption and infiltration and obfuscation that were already so widespread. And of course, he was a major asset in the battle that put an end to Behemoth, and then the one that put an end to Scion.
      Destruction can be a noble act. Chevalier can be the hero who cuts out the rot to save the tree, or to make room for something new to grow.

  45. Another point for Worm not being nihilistic and grimdark:redemption happens and,unlike the case in most other works,it happens even to monstrous characters,not merely to misguided ones or well intentioned extremists.

    Seriously,what I would reccomend (though maybe it is just that I hate the whole concept of punishment as justice,rather than as protection or rehabilation)is this:give amnesty to everyone,and if they commit a crime,try to arrest them as befitting their new crimes.If someone says “but it may be harder to catch them then,as they will be less willing to give themselves up”,I would say that,if they are willing to give themselves ,they do not deserve punishment.Heck,give Nilbog an empty world andstart trade with it,it will speed up reconstruction,make him happy,and happens at no moral cost,the only thing making them go so hard on poor Riley,GU and Nilbog is the antiqquated punishment as justice logic,and the fact they treat them as harshly is more likely to make them slip again.Though I do agree that they need observation,even if it translates to them being a little more harsh to them,just…just not unreasonable forbidences,like giving Riley a normal body,or getting fussy when the 3 redeemed have a meeting.

    • I may not dislike Riley anymore but there are legitimate reasons these guys are getting harsher treatments. Riley hung around with Jack Slash, the guy who went all out in a bona fide effort to bring about the end of the world and succeeded. There are precious few ways to make sure someone like that didn’t rub off too much on her. Nilbog is so far beyond cracked he made Jack look like Joe Schmo and from what was show he didn’t seem to making much of an effort to help in his own recovery or anything. I have to say though, I like the idea of giving him his own world to play with. That truly might help his sanity and fulfill the idea of letting people have a clean slate. GU didn’t really seem to have harsh treatment…

      • Unnecesarily harsh does not equate to harsh,just unecesary.And I did admit the need for watching over them.But it sems they are underultilised and underappreciated….though I cannot really blame the heroes for that.

        On another note,Nilbog doesn’t make Jack look like Joe Schmo ,his power is just damn terrifying,but you can see,from their interaction together,who stays at the top.A man is not only powers,there are more important things,like creativity and motives and charisma,all of which make Jack more powerful and scary(and,I need to add,his secret power also makes him stronger than Nilbog.)Nilbog might have a scary and powerful power,and he might also be a mass murderer (note:I think the very nature of trigger events should forgive actions done immediately afterwards,even mass murder,on the condition of intense psyhological treatment)but all his kills were on one event,and his motives are actually simple:to be king of his utopia.Just the fact he mellowed out of that,too,is a point for his repentance,but,really,he is more selfish that he is evil or dangerous,give him his toy,treat him with respect,and he is harmless as a kitten…or ,rather,harmless as a person having a nuclear button which he would only push as retaliation to another’s nuclear attack,completely harmless if left alone.

        • I don’t think I stated what I meant well enough. I was going more for GU isn’t really being treated any harsher than anyone other former villain at this point and actually seems a lot cozier than would realistically be expected from a badass who scares everyone shitless. Concerning Nilbog I agree with your comments and put forth that again I didn’t state what I meant. Nilbog made Jack look sane. Though I suppose there could be an argument that Jack was never insane just thought along different lines and discounted right and wrong. I didn’t mean to say they should keep Nilbog caged because he was scary powerwise (which he is but really he’s not that bad compared to some heavy hitters) they should keep him caged because he hasn’t really shown any urge to actively keep playing by the new rules. I agree he is like kid with a nuke and that was why I thought your option of providing him with his own world is a perfectly excellent compromise for everyone involved including him.

          I can’t believe I’m saying this but…yes, I also think Riley could be let off her leash a bit and given more utilization. (Though I stand by my earlier justification with them making sure she’s not polluted by Jack.)

  46. On behalf of cyrix…

    “Ciara didn’t respond. Her hard stare was a challenging one, now, a hard stare.”

    It sounds like that first ‘hard’ shouldn’t be there? It makes more sense without it.

  47. Valkyrie Profile. Cute.
    Maybe you should have gone the extra mile and called the collected spirits Einherjar instead of warriors.

  48. Spectacular ending to a spectacular story. Well I still have several epilogue chapters, a sequel teaser arc and whatever you’ve written since to go but…still.
    And even if I am late to the game, I skimmed through the comments and I’m surprised to find little to none on the Sheperds. We have the Wardens as a confirmed new thing, with some of their members from Eden’s vision. Now we have the most powerful living parahuman referring to herself as Shepherd of the dead after considering the interactions of her power with those of another S rank…It occur to no one else that Valkyrie, Riley and Nilbog may become the Shepherds?
    Also Khepri. Guessing name for Taylor in the final days. Though did see some good points to her having survived so…guess I’ll see!
    Thanks again for the fantastic story! Even if it does make me feel really insecure about the Superhero novel I’ve been writing. Just…completely different scale!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s