Winter Wonderland 18-08

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Please note that there was a commissioned mini-interlude focusing on Lincoln Chambers posted a couple days ago. If you haven’t seen that yet, feel free to give it a look with the Previous Chapter button. 

The aftermath of the werewolf attack made the mall that was Wonderland look like it had been hit by a tornado. Or even a bomb. There were holes in the walls, stands tipped over, glass from broken windows spread everywhere, and more debris than I could process. Worse, however, were the bodies lying on the floor. Some were being tended to by others, but far too many were lying still and empty with sightless gazes, their broken forms torn apart too much to even try to save. And… not all of them were adults.

I had heard of massacres before, had seen reports on the news about what happened in war or during terrorist attacks. I wasn’t that naive. I knew that innocent people died a lot, even children. I knew it, logically in my head. And finding out that not all Alters/Strangers were evil had made it clear that this kind of thing could happen even to them. Hell, hearing about what happened to the Meregan was heartbreaking. And yet… this… seeing it in person, seeing these innocent people who hadn’t done anything wrong lying there, broken or dead was… it made me want to throw up. Everywhere my eyes turned, another sight of blood, of ripped organs or exposed bone made my heart want to shrivel up and die. I saw a little girl, no older than five or so with a pair of small blue horns on her head sitting in a corner with her obviously dead mother’s head in her lap. The girl herself was covered in blood, and I couldn’t even tell if it was hers or not. She was just sitting there with dust and bodily fluids covering her, a shell-shocked look on her young face as she stared at nothing, stroking her dead mother’s face.

I must have stopped walking, my gaze centered on that little girl with the body of her mother, because Shiori squeezed my hand to get my attention. “Flick,” she whispered under her breath, “are you okay?”

I wasn’t. I really, really wasn’t. Because that little girl was just one of many sights that tore my heart out when I saw them. And I couldn’t just walk past. Releasing Shiori’s hand, I slowly moved that way, putting one foot in front of the other before I consciously realized what I was doing. In a moment, I was standing near the girl. My mouth opened to say something, but I had no idea what. I’m sorry? How stupid and trite was that? What could I possibly say that would make any of this even a little bit better?

In the end, I said nothing. No sound would come out of my mouth through the confusion in my brain and the lump in my throat. But I must have made some kind of sound, because the blankly staring girl turned her head. Her amber eyes found me, and I heard a squeak of wordless terror. Her arms went down, and I realized belatedly that the girl was covering her mother’s body as much as she could. All without ever taking her gaze off me, while big, thick tears of indescribable fear flooded her eyes.

Then Asenath was between us. Her hand found my shoulder and she gave me a brief sympathetic look before turning to the girl. “Ylena,” she whispered, kneeling for a moment to give the terrified, grieving girl a hug. Those terrified eyes stayed on me for another second before the girl let herself be embraced.

Turning away, I moved back to Shiori. “They know,” I murmured softly, my voice dull. “They know to be afraid of us. Even that girl, her mom was—and she was… even then, she was scared of us, of me.”

“They teach ’em young.” It was Seth, leaning against a nearby decorative pillar that had managed to remain standing. “Recognize the Heretics and run away. Hide. Run and hide, because the monsters are gonna get you.” Pausing, he took a cigarette out and stuck it between his lips before flicking open a lighter. Giving the lit cigarette a couple puffs, he finished with, “In this case, you’re the monsters.”

The words were harsh, but they were nothing I hadn’t already been thinking before he said anything. Heretics were the monsters to Alters. They had us and the actual evil Alters to worry about, the Nocen.

For a few moments, Shiori and I stood there in silence. Eventually, Asenath joined us once more. From the corner of my eye, I saw another adult Alter kneeling with the little girl, Ylena. Senny looked to me, her expression soft. “She didn’t mean it like that. She’s just—her aunt was the only family she had left.”

I winced, but it was Shiori who spoke. “Aunt?” she asked, her voice making it clear that she was afraid of the response even though she couldn’t stop herself from continuing. “I thought that was her mother.”

Shaking her head, Senny explained, “Her parents were killed about a year ago, by–” In the midst of her sentence, she stopped abruptly. Her eyes flicked over to us and I saw the truth in her brief hesitation.

“Heretics,” I finished for her. “Her parents were killed by Heretics.” I wanted to ask if it was Crossroads or Eden’s Garden Heretics, or even natural ones. But in the end, it didn’t really matter at all.

“Yes,” the vampire girl confirmed softly before letting out a low sigh. “That’s why this is important.”

“I know.” Swallowing hard, I forced myself to nod. “I get it. The war that my mom started, the rebellion, it was… it brought Heretics and Alters together. We can’t let that just be forgotten forever.”

With that clearly on all of our minds, we started back toward the Septs place once more. My eyes kept wandering, taking in even more of the destructive scene. I’d thought that the little girl, Ylena, with her dead aunt would be the worst thing that I saw. But that was just one of many examples that were all warring for the top position. Or, to be more accurate, the bottom position in this endless sea of tragedy.

Still, they all seemed to be pulling themselves together more quickly than I would have thought. Shiori clearly noticed that too, since she murmured, “It’s like they’re all…” She stopped talking for a second, and I saw realization dawn in her eyes even as the last few words escaped her weakly. “… used to it.”

Asenath hesitated before nodding. “They are. We are. This isn’t the first place Wonderland has been, and it won’t be the last. These people, they deal with potential attacks from Heretics and Nocen all the time. They grow up learning to watch out for Heretics, to keep their eyes open and avoid leading any of the hunters back to their homes. But it doesn’t always work. Attacks happen. They pick up the pieces and move on.” Her gaze found mine briefly. “Most of them have spent their whole lives like this.”

Their whole lives, spent dealing with one attack after another. The thought made me physically ill. That girl, Ylena, most of these Alters had grown up just like her. They’d lost parents, other family members, friends. All because of what they were born as, not anything they had actually done. The Heretics, we… we hunted them down and made their lives miserable, made them hide, because they weren’t human.

Of course, it was more complicated than that. There were a lot of bad Alters that did horrifying things to humans. Look at what happened to Koren’s father. And I knew that a lot of the Heretics, even the hardliner ones, genuinely thought they were doing the right thing. It wasn’t all black and white, and if I fell into the trap of assuming that all Alters were good and innocent and all Heretics were vicious killers, it would be no better than the hardliner Heretics who thought the opposite. There was nuance. Good Alters, bad Alters. Good Heretics, Bad Heretics. And somehow, Mom had been able to convince a large enough group of each of that fact to start a rebellion that had lasted more than half a century.

Walking back into the former Sears where the Septs were located, we found the group already waiting aside from the empty chair that Seth casually strolled over to and dropped himself in. None of the faces looked happy, though I couldn’t tell how much was directed at us and how much was at the situation.

Fennicus, the centaur, spoke first. “You’ll forgive us,” he began in a low voice, “if we hurry this along. We have things to do. People to take care of.” There was a brief pause before, “Loved ones to bury.”

Flinching, I nodded. “I’m sorry. We can come back another day if you… if you want. I just—I didn’t want to just walk away, not after…” Unable to find the right words, I finished with a weak, “I’m sorry we couldn’t stop them from killing anyone. I’m sorry that they were here, that they followed us to Wonderland. I tried to stop her. Pace. She’s a Heretic, but she’s also a werewolf, like the others. And she came to take me because… because she and her friends want to hurt my friend, someone I care about.”

“They fought another Heretic to save Alters,” the rock-man, Stav, pointed out. “That aids their claim.”

Unfortunately, the little gnome guy, Kimper, shook his head. “It does nothing of the sort. We already know the hybrid was of the ilk that call themselves Eden’s Garden, while these two are from their Crossroads. And those two groups fight and hate each other almost as much as they fight and hate us.”

Xi, the Rakshasa, inclined her head. “That is true. However, in any case I could think of, Heretics from both organizations will put aside their differences to focus on what they see as the much larger threat: us. They may hate each other quite a bit, but they hate us far more than that. Generally speaking.”

“I don’t hate any of you,” I interrupted in spite of myself. Then I hesitated before nodding toward Calvin. “Well, okay, I’m not his biggest fan. But to be fair, I didn’t like him back when I thought he was human, so that shouldn’t count. The point is, I know that Pace and her pack came here because of us, because of me. They were here for me, and I can’t—I’m sorry I couldn’t stop them from killing anyone.” It was repeating myself, I knew, but no other words would come to mind. I just felt… numb.

“How did they get past your security so easily?” Shiori put in. “I mean, shouldn’t it have been harder for them to get as far as they did? Or at least, shouldn’t there have been an alert sooner?”

Kimper nodded, arms folded over his tiny chest. “Yes. But we lowered a number of the security spells in order to allow your entrance.”

That hit me hard, and I paled. “So… it was our fault they were able to get in here.”

Limnoreia, the blue-skinned Nereid shook her head. “No, Heretic-child. It is not your fault. We had the choice of either lowering our defenses entirely, or adding both of you into their exceptions. We chose the former because we did not trust you enough to risk giving you specific access through those spells. The thought was that if you caused trouble, the defenses could easily be raised and they would target you immediately. It was our mistake. Unfortunately, it is not one that we have paid for.”

Cringing, I thought about Ylena’s dead aunt. “I know. The… the people who died, the ones who were hurt, I’m sorry there’s nothing we can… nothing we can do…”

To my surprise, it was Calvin who spoke. “Oh gods, would you just tell her the truth? She’s either not falling for your little test, or she didn’t have anything to do with it. Probably the latter. I don’t like the little self-righteous snoop, but she’s too much of a damn goody good to be into the whole abducting children thing.

Confused by that, I stared at the man before looking toward the others. “Wait, what’s he talking about?”

“Yes,” Senny agreed with a voice that sounded just as confused as I felt. “What is he talking about?”

The rest of the Septs looked at each other, but it was Seth who spoke after linking his arms behind his head. “Turns out, the fleabags weren’t just here for you after all. Well, maybe they came for that and just took advantage of the situation. Whatever it was, they didn’t end up taking off empty-handed.”

Limnoreia explained in a pained voice. “While we were distracted by the primary attack, several other wolves, accompanied by another Heretic, infiltrated the areas where our nursery and daycare are located. They took several of the children there before they could be stopped.”

More of Pace’s pack—Lemuel’s pack, I reminded myself. Twelve attacked directly. Three more had been keeping the back clear until Seth killed them. And others, apparently, had gone after the children.

A hard, heavy weight seemed to slam itself deep into the pit of my stomach at that. “W-wait,” I blurted, eyes wide. “What do you mean, they took several children? Why—why would they take… take kids?”

“Weres,” Asenath said quietly, sounding pained. “They took were-children, didn’t they?” When the group of Septs nodded, she cursed. “Damn it! Of course they did.” To Shiori and me, she explained, “That’s how a lot of Nocen were-packs expand their numbers. They either turn humans that they think have potential, which has its own risk of failure if the subject doesn’t survive the first change. Or they take the children of weres. Those have… a much higher survival rate because the change is natural.”

While I was reeling from that, something else struck me, and I looked back to the Septs. “Wait, you said there was another Heretic with them. Do you have a picture of them, or a description or anything?”

“He was tall,” Xi explained after exchanging looks with the rest of them. “And he was of the Moors.”

I started to ask what ‘of the Moors’ meant, but Asenath quietly murmured, “She means he was black.”

“Doxer,” I muttered aloud. “It had to be Doxer. Pace, she said something about him helping them find us—me, but I didn’t think he was actually here. Why would he help the pack abduct were-children?”

Senny shrugged a bit. “Maybe he was trying to impress Pace, or owed her. Whichever, the point is-”

“The point,” Fennicus interrupted with a heavy and obviously irritated stomp of his hoof against the floor, “is that we shouldn’t be sitting around in here. We should be working to find those children.”

Kimper was standing in his seat, head bobbing up and down. “We need to send teams out after them!”

“We do that,” Seth pointed out idly from his place, “and we leave Wonderland vulnerable. We already lost enough as it is. If we send enough to challenge this other pack and get the kids back, we leave the people that are left here vulnerable to another attack.” He glanced to me while flicking a switchblade open and shut. “And if we don’t send enough, we’re just handing the pack more victims to play with.”

“What would you have us do, then?” Fennicus demanded. “If we do nothing, the parents and guardians of the were-children will go off on their own. Some of them might do that anyway, regardless. They’ll spread out and get themselves killed, or taken. We must be seen to take action on this, immediately.”

That started a whole new round of arguments between them, some arguing for rescue teams while others continued to point out that lowering their numbers more was going to leave Wonderland weak.

In the midst of all of that, I interrupted. “Hey! Hey, I think we can help. Let us help find the kids.”

All of their eyes turned to me, and Stav spoke in a rumble. “I think you underestimate how long such as search will take. This is not a short or small endeavor, and from what you have said, there is more than enough on your… how do humans say… bowl already.” Beside him, Xi leaned closer to whisper, and the rock-man corrected himself. “Plate. Enough on your plate. How will you spend the time to search for the children, particularly without arousing the confusion and suspicion of your school teachers?”

Wincing at that, I admitted, “Not us, exactly. You’re right, we already have a lot to deal with. And it’s not like we can just wander all over the place searching the country for wherever the pack is holed up. But we do know others that can search. And they’d have sort of a… sort of personal stake in the matter.”

Clearly surprised, Shiori glanced to me. “Wait,” she blurted quickly. “You’re talking about asking–”

I nodded. “There’s another werewolf pack. A smaller one, but… capable. One of them was another Heretic until she was turned by Lemuel, the leader of the pack that attacked you. He didn’t do it to recruit her, he did it to make her die. But she survived, and she was taken in by this other pack. And they want to deal with Pace and the rest of them as much as you do. When they hear that Lemuel’s pack took were-children, I think they’ll want to be involved.”

“A pack of werewolves…” Limnoreia murmured thoughtfully. “Their senses would give them a better chance of tracking the abductors, assuming they could arrive soon enough…”

They conferred quietly for a moment before Xi spoke up for them. “Contact them, Miss Chambers. See what they can do. And for the time being, you may consider us… not quite allied. Not yet. That is something we will have to explore further, preferably without interruptions. But we are not enemies either. We shall see where this goes. Particularly if your contact is able to save the children.”

Taking a breath, I nodded and turned to take the phone from my pocket. Going through the contacts briefly, I hit one of them and brought the phone to my ear.

“Sean? Yeah. Um, listen… is Mateo there?

“I have a really, really big favor to ask.”

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23 comments

  1. Aaaaand there’s the last regular chapter in this arc! Next arc, we’ll see some actual Christmas stuff back at Flick’s place including the visit from Professor Dare. So that should be interesting. 😉

    Before that, however, we’ll have two interludes. The first will be determined, as usual, by a vote from our lovely donators. And the second will be focused on getting a look at the Crossroads Committee, so that we can see what everyone else in that group is like aside from Ruthers. So there’s that to look forward to, if you’ve been waiting for more details on Crossroads Inner Leadership.

    And hey, if you do find any of this interesting, feel free to make my week by tossing up a quick vote on Top Web Fiction by clicking here. Thanks!

    Tags for this chapter are: Asenath, Calvin, Felicity Chambers, Fennicus, Flick, Jeeze Seth – There’s Not Sugarcoating It And Then There’s Covering The Whole Thing In Salt And Shotputting It Down Their Throat., Kidnapping Children – When Killing Civilians And Turning A Girl Into A Werewolf Just To Torture Her Wasn’t Making The ‘I’m Evil’ Point Clear Enough., Kimper, Limnoreia, Seth, Shiori Porter, Stav, Xi

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  2. So, they kidnapped kids outright. Alright, time to fuck Lemuel’s pack up!

    … I actually feel slightly bad about saying that, now that I know a fair chunk of them were probably abducted the same way.

    At the same time, I’m not sure that’s what happened to Pace anymore if that really was Doxer working with the pack. I somehow missed that Doxer is black.

    And Calvin continues to surprise me. Damn it, if he keeps doing that he’s going to start being interesting.

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    1. If any of the freshly abducted kids have been turned by the time they’re found, there are worse fates than getting adopted by Mateo’s pack — particularly if they remain linked to the Wonderland social network. And, any older, abducted kids still able to get rehabilitated need a pack to call home…

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    2. At the same time, I’m not sure that’s what happened to Pace anymore if that really was Doxer working with the pack. I somehow missed that Doxer is black.

      I believe it was only mentioned once back in their first appearances during the first hunt.

      And Calvin continues to surprise me. Damn it, if he keeps doing that he’s going to start being interesting.

      The horror.

      Like

  3. “More of Pace’s pack—Lemuel’s pack, I reminded myself. Twelve attacked directly. Three more had been keeping the back clear until Seth killed them. And others, apparently, had gone after the children.

    A hard, heavy weight seemed to slam itself deep into the pit of my stomach at that. “W-wait,” I blurted, eyes wide. “What do you mean, they took several children? Why—why would they take… take kids?”

    “Weres,” Asenath said quietly, sounding pained. “They took were-children, didn’t they?” When the group of Septs nodded, she cursed. “Damn it! Of course they did.” To Shiori and me, she explained, “That’s how a lot of Nocen were-packs expand their numbers. They either turn humans that they think have potential, which has its own risk of failure if the subject doesn’t survive the first change. Or they take the children of weres. Those have… a much higher survival rate because the change is natural.””
    Me: …Playing all the angles, I see. This damned wolf-pack is cunning and ambitious, I’ll give them that much at least. All the more satisfying to see them taken down permanently then, imo.

    “To my surprise, it was Calvin who spoke. “Oh gods, would you just tell her the truth? She’s either not falling for your little test, or she didn’t have anything to do with it. Probably the latter. I don’t like the little self-righteous snoop, but she’s too much of a damn goody good to be into the whole abducting children thing.”
    Me: *rolls eyes* Such a ringing endorsement, eh? Though, he does have Flick pegged right.

    “Taking a breath, I nodded and turned to take the phone from my pocket. Going through the contacts briefly, I hit one of them and brought the phone to my ear.

    “Sean? Yeah. Um, listen… is Mateo there?

    “I have a really, really big favor to ask.””
    Me: It is indeed a large favor. She’s effectively asking them to go to war against another wolf-pack, though the shared interest may make the sell a little easier.

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    1. Me: It is indeed a large favor. She’s effectively asking them to go to war against another wolf-pack, though the shared interest may make the sell a little easier.

      Indeed. To be fair, they already wanted to get the necklace away from Pace anyway, so that helps.

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  4. I’m surprised that Flick hasn’t called Baroness “Hijack the any piece of tech she wants” Sinclaire if she can direct them at least in the direction of Lemuel’s pack. Come to think of it, won’t Flick have to ask her for help to get Mateo’s pack to Wonderland anyway, given that I doubt they have access to long range teleport tech?

    Not relevant to this chapter, but I was doing a reread and was wondering. In Deveron’s Interlude he mentions that he was whistling a tune that he couldn’t place. Was that ‘Pop goes the weasel’, by any chance?

    I was actually half-wondering if Calvin would speak on Flick’s behalf, given that he does know her best. On a semi-related note, I’m guessing that Quing (If he survived, and I hope he did) will be part of the rescue party.

    I’m still a bit surprised that the Septs were even blaming Flick and Shiori as much as they were, given that we know, from Wyatt, that the surveillance system had a good view of all that happened. And, given that getting revenge on her was only one of their objectives, they can’t fully blame her for bringing the pack down on them either. Still, they have every reason to be paranoid at the moment.

    And, I only just thought of it now, but Calvin could probably ‘taste’/’smell’ how horrified Flick was, couldn’t he?

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    1. Not relevant to this chapter, but I was doing a reread and was wondering. In Deveron’s Interlude he mentions that he was whistling a tune that he couldn’t place. Was that ‘Pop goes the weasel’, by any chance?

      Oh, man. That makes sense. I feel a little sad now.

      And, I only just thought of it now, but Calvin could probably ‘taste’/’smell’ how horrified Flick was, couldn’t he?

      Damn it tearless. If you keeping meaning these sensible observations you’re going to make Calvin interesting.

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      1. What? Nothing’s bad about it. It was a song that meant a lot to Deveron and Joselyn. It’s just that the thought that Deveron was humming it to himself out of some subconscious memory makes me a little sad.

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    2. Come to think of it, won’t Flick have to ask her for help to get Mateo’s pack to Wonderland anyway, given that I doubt they have access to long range teleport tech?

      Don’t forget that when they were driving to Wonderland, it was mentioned that Asenath was using magical short-cuts to travel a long distance in a short time. They aren’t anywhere near Wyoming at the moment.

      Not relevant to this chapter, but I was doing a reread and was wondering. In Deveron’s Interlude he mentions that he was whistling a tune that he couldn’t place. Was that ‘Pop goes the weasel’, by any chance?

      It was. Part of his memory being erased prevented him from remembering the song title, because it was so close to them.

      On a semi-related note, I’m guessing that Quing (If he survived, and I hope he did) will be part of the rescue party.

      Indeed.

      I’m still a bit surprised that the Septs were even blaming Flick and Shiori as much as they were, given that we know, from Wyatt, that the surveillance system had a good view of all that happened. And, given that getting revenge on her was only one of their objectives, they can’t fully blame her for bringing the pack down on them either. Still, they have every reason to be paranoid at the moment.

      The counter to them seeing the two fight Pace was mentioned: they know that Eden’s Garden and Crossroads Heretics fight each other all the time, so some raised the concern that just because they fought then, it doesn’t prove that Felicity/Shiori are trustworthy to Alters, only that they hate Eden’s Garden Heretics like most of their kind. And the counter to THAT was also mentioned: that the two Heretic groups may hate each other, but they tend to work together against Alters.

      And, I only just thought of it now, but Calvin could probably ‘taste’/’smell’ how horrified Flick was, couldn’t he?

      Yup.

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  5. Let’s see, 12 werewolves on the frontal assault (does that include Pace?), 3 guarding the door and ‘several’ that hit the nursery. so roughly 20 Wolves all told plus 2 heretics. I bet they weren’t expecting to lose (at least) 4 of them permanently though (How’d Buddy make out with the pair he was tangling with?)

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  6. Oh fuck THIS,
    The Wonderlanders just lost my vote for “Alters worth considering Good”…using their own casualties to “morally test” emotionally traumatized seventeen year old girls who fucking fought for them when they could EASILY have just Hit the Panic Button and been safe as houses while a team of Heretic Hunters rolled in to annihilate Pace’s Pack-fragment, before slaughtering the rest of Wonderland.

    If risking death by slow torture after being disarmed and would-have-been-abducted if not for a cool piece of tech a first-year Heretic wouldn’t have had if she hadn’t made nice with another first-year Developer student to avoid Hitting a Panic Button that would’ve kept Flick and Shiori safe, but cost all the Wonderlanders their lives doesn’t prove Flick’s intentions, NOTHING will!

    This is sheer arrogance on the Wonderlanders part. “Oh BOOHOO, we’re Good Alters that get preyed on by Heretics. That gives us the right to be just as judgmental and bigoted as our oppressors.” BULLSHIT!

    This is like Ivy League-educated African-Americans ten to twelve generations removed from the slavery their distant ancestors suffered seeking reparations against the distant ancestors of people whose own distant ancestors were the slaveholders who held their distant ancestors in bondage.

    Flick and Shiori proved their integrity by risking far more than their lives by not calling in the sort of Heretic Cavalry available on short notice that would’ve wiped out the Wonderlanders. If things went the way Lemuel wanted, they probably would’ve had the male Werewolves rape Shiori a few dozen times, rape Flick a few dozen times, then infect Shiori with lycanthropy and throw her back in a cell with Flick so that Flick could watch her friend suffer excruciating agony and likely die in said agony, before they either did the same to Flick, or simply tortured her to death even more slowly by conventional means.

    These Wonderlanders have security-feeds to confirm Pace was trying to abduct them rather than kill them. They KNOW for themselves what Nocen Werewolf Packs are like. They know from their security-feeds that the Werewolf Pack had a preexisting hate-on for Flick. Yet they’re playing the whole “Despite what you risked, we’re not allies yet…but by all means, we’ll accept YOUR allies risking their lives against a larger, more heavily-armed pack to recover our children. *IF* said smaller, outgunned Were-Pack manages to succeed in their uphill battle to recover our children we’ll revisit the issue of allying with you.”

    REALLY? After admitting the entire reason the Werewolf Pack was able to penetrate Wonderland so deeply without warning was because they distrusted Flick and Shiori too much to make them exceptions to their security/defense-spells?

    So let’s review: 1) Children get grabbed because Wonderlanders ostensibly agreed for Flick & Shiori to visit, but were so paranoid of the damage two first-year Heretic students might inflict if they went all mad-dog killer inside Wonderland that the Sept chose to “lower their defenses entirely” rather than make Flick & Shiori exceptions to the defense-spells. (Which was IDIOTIC, since they had a Vampire so frigging powerful he could annihilate three combat-trained Werewolves accustomed to working together as a cohesive combat-unit without *getting his clothes ripped*….I mean Jeez…why didn’t the super-distrustful Septers just have Seth be the one to escort Aseneth, Flick & Shiori about Wonderland? If they acted up, Seth could’ve wiped all three out in a heartbeat, problem solved.)

    2) Sept decides to use the slaughter of their own civilians to morally test the obviously emotionally-traumatized seventeen year old girls they allowed to visit to see if said first-year Heretics had anything to do with an abduction carried out by Werewolves that were OBVIOUSLY trying to fuck said first-years up. If the Sept was considering the possibility that was all an act on the part of Pace, the other Werewolves, Aseneth, Flick & Shiori…despite the fact Flick KILLED one of said Werewolves and Aseneth killed another, the Wonderlanders should all commit mass-suicide now, because the leaders they’ve chosen are too damned stupid to live!

    3) The Sept, in their infinite wisdom, ::rolls eyes:: decides “We’re not allies, we’re not enemies…but please send YOUR Allies to get OUR children back…But Oh Yeah, we’ve got a convenient excuse why we won’t be sending any of our own warriors to help with this effort. Despite the fact the Sept’s entire debate about “We send enough to get the job done, we leave Wonderland defenseless. We send too few, they all get killed by Lemuel’s pack…but we have to be Seen Doing Something, or else the Parents of Abducted Children will go off after their children themselves” just got obliterated by the news that Flick’s Werewolf Acquaintances will likely be going after Lemuel’s Pack to get the Abducted Children back.

    Here’s a revolutionary idea. Why not send either a) The parents of the Abducted Children, or b) The smaller force of Wonderland warriors the Sept was convinced Lemuel’s Pack would wipe out WITH the Werewolf Pack that Flick knows?

    4) Flick & Shiori decline to save themselves from danger easily, because doing so would’ve gotten all the Wonderlanders killed. Security-Feeds record Flick on the phone with someone, telling them not to come, despite her being in grave danger, unless they can bring Heretics “Who know about everything” (Ie: Wonderland’s Alter inhabitants) Not a giant leap of inference that Flick was telling whoever she was talking to not to send any cavalry that would start killing Wonderland Alters after the immediate threat of Pace/Other Werewolves were dealt with.

    5) Sept knowledge of Nocen Werewolf Pack behavior tells them that if Flick/Aseneth/Shiori’s confrontation with Pace/Other Werewolves was not an act, that horrible, unspeakable things would’ve happened to Flick & Shiori if Pace/Other Werewolves had successfully kidnapped Flick & Shiori. Risking said Unspeakable Horrors fails to move Sept from their “We’re not Allies, we’re not Enemies, maybe Allies if your Allies get our children back” position.

    SMH…The selfish opportunism of the Sept revolts me. Their willingness to allow other Alters to die, possibly protracted unspeakable deaths (Try to imagine just how much suffering a motivated sadist-Werewolf of Lemuel’s Pack could inflict on a captured enemy Werewolf possessed of the same regenerative capacity as themselves. Based on the damage was saw Flick inflict on Valentine with her kinetic burst-staff that he kept getting up from, and what we saw Buddy inflict on the Werewolf with Pace, unless the torturer uses silver he can pulverize every single bone in a captive Werewolf’s body, rupture every organ including the brain, pretty much reduce his captive to a pile of bloody mush inside their skin, and the captive will simply regenerate from it all. A restored canvas for the torturer to start in on again. Such torture could conceivably go on for centuries.) to get their children back…Children they’ve come up with an ever-so-convenient excuse as to why they won’t be sending any of their own combat-assets to retrieve. While themselves offering nothing beyond abstaining for the time being from declaring their enmity to Flick & Shiori….

    If the Wonderland community and its political leadership is a representative sample as to what constitutes “Good Alters” I literally cannot imagine how Joselyn Atherby managed to convince herself to battle former friends and classmates for their sake.

    I wouldn’t change deliver a newspaper to a member of the Sept. Let alone risk the lives of good people at their behest. These folks are everything that’s wrong with politicians, be they human or otherwise.

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    1. Oh fuck THIS,
      The Wonderlanders just lost my vote for “Alters worth considering Good”…using their own casualties to “morally test” emotionally traumatized seventeen year old girls who fucking fought for them when they could EASILY have just Hit the Panic Button and been safe as houses while a team of Heretic Hunters rolled in to annihilate Pace’s Pack-fragment, before slaughtering the rest of Wonderland.

      Wait, wait, wait, hold on. Whoa, wait. Real quick, they weren’t doing a morality test by using their own casualities or anything.That’s not how that worked, sorry if there was confusion. They didn’t just throw their people’s lives away to test Flick at all. No…

      See, the WORRY was that the whole Flick and Shiori fighting Pace was a DISTRACTION to hold their attention while their children were kidnapped. They were trying to figure out if Flick already knew about the kidnapping before they told her about it, which would be evidence that she was in on it. That’s what they were testing. It had nothing to do with leaving their citizens to die. Again, it was… AFTER the attack they found out that the kids were abducted and some raised the concern that the fight with Pace was a deliberate distraction. They were testing THAT.

      You’ve gotta remember, this is a group of people who have been hunted/attacked/massacred by Heretics for hundreds of years. It’s not just going to disappear inside of an hour. Yes, they said ‘we’re not allies YET’ because that was the diplomatic thing to say. If their people found out that they named themselves a Heretic’s ally within an hour of meeting her, they’d lose all credibility.

      BUT if they hold off on that and wait for her to help be responsible for bringing their children back, they can slide through that alliance MUCH more easily without so much resistance.

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  7. Cerulean: You did an absolutely MASTERFUL job of the nuance Flick was referencing. That it’s not just about Good Alter Vs. Evil Alter. That sometimes it’s about Good Alters Too Stupid and Self-Serving, Too Bigoted and Hypocritical to get out of their own way and do what’s best for the other Alters who trust them to do what’s in their best interests.

    It’s a beautiful scene of the Alter Community of Wonderland being profoundly betrayed by their own leadership due to the ingrained prejudices and distrust of their leadership. You captured the looming despair of the environment like a snapshot. Whatever Flick does for these poor people, they’ll be dead soon because their own leadership is just as inflexible as the Crossroads Committee.

    In the world without Joselyn’s Rebellion, more Alters are dying due to the kind of sheer inflexible STUPIDITY the Sept is guilty of than anything Heretics or Nocen can do to the innocent Alters.

    Hit me right in the feels, because these poor characters are screwed whatever Flick manages to do for them. (Though I hope Flick realizes at this point the Sept is a dry well when it comes to worthwhile allies. People who make mistakes this profound fundamentally cannot be relied on.)

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  8. Cerulean: I got that much. What I was referencing was the whole “We had the choice to lower our defense spells, or make Flick and Shiori exceptions to them” thing…THEN testing the girls about the abduction…*despite the fact Flick killed one Werewolf and Aseneth killed another.*

    If the whole reason for stealing the children of Weres was to grow their Nocen Werewolf Pack, sacrificing two adult, highly-trained Pack member combatants as part of some ruse to help persuade the Sept Flick and Shiori had nothing to do with the abduction *DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!*

    There’s also the fact that their security feeds should show that Flick took the time mid-battle to call someone on her cellphone. Even a moderately intelligent individual should be able to realize that phone call was about something life-or-death if Flick was willing to divert attention away from the ongoing battle.

    The other thing I have a problem with is the way the “we’ll have a discussion about allying with you after we see what the results of your Werewolf Allies trying to get our children back are.”

    When you couple that with the Sept not changing their plans about sending any of their own fighters after the children once they found out there was a significant chance these Good Werewolves that Flick knows would probably be going to try and rescue their Were children”…that fact would seem to negate their earlier problem about “We can’t send enough fighters to get the job done without leaving Wonderland defenseless, but if we send too few we’re just sending more of our people to get killed.”

    That makes it seem a LOT like the Sept doesn’t care about whatever casualties Mateo’s Pack might suffer during a rescue attempt. There’s also the fact that not telling Flick to tell Mateo “Hey, we can provide you guys with some reinforcements if you’re willing to try and rescue our children” seems to reinforce the idea that the Sept wants someone else to pay the butcher’s bill, while they reap the benefit of getting their abducted kids back.

    One might say “Hey, the Sept didn’t offer because they don’t know yet if Mateo’s Pack is willing to help.” However, NOT making the offer of reinforcements drastically lowers the chances of Mateo being able to talk his Pack into undertaking the rescue mission. See what I’m saying?

    Either way, it makes it seem like the Sept is trying to get the children back without risking anything on their end. Not risking a political backlash by allying with Flick now, rather than post-rescue. Not risking any of their own fighters, not even the parents of the abducted kids on the rescue…The holding off on Allying with a Heretic I totally get. The not telling Flick “Tell your Werewolf friends we’re willing to provide them with some reinforcements to help counter the numerical advantage Lemuel’s Pack has”….that I can’t find a moral justification for.

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  9. Ah ha! Finally found a typo.

    It was repeating myself,
    I was repeating myself,

    If it’s any consolation the amount of mistakes have really dropped, a lot. Plummeted even, off the face of the earth. So much so that I don’t think I could have found more than one or two more over the past several chapters, using a fine-toothed comb.

    Maybe someday i’ll even catch up to the latest releases.

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