Study And Scrutiny 20-09

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Barely a few seconds after I activated the emergency alert stone that Hisao had given us, it crumbled into dust in my hand. Stopping short for just a moment in the middle of the sidewalk just outside of the school, I stared at the dust while a thousand thoughts went through my head. Most of them centered around wondering what the hell had gone wrong this time.

I looked toward Doug, about to tell the boy to try his own alert stone just in case, while I used my phone to call someone. Before I could get the words out, however, the dust in my hand swirled up into the air, forming a cloud that expanded and grew. The dust cloud reshaped itself over the next couple of seconds, turning into the shape of a man. A moment later, the cloud solidified and Hisao was standing there.

Oh. Well, that was a new kind of emergency response that I’ve never seen before. Maybe it was an Eden’s Garden thing? And the people passing by didn’t even glance that way. The Bystander Effect at work. I didn’t know if they didn’t see Hisao at all, thought he’d been standing there the whole time, or if their brains registered him walking up to us.

Either way, Doug and I were still standing there realizing what had just happened while Hisao glanced around as though looking for the threat. Then he focused on me, just as I remembered to shift back to my actual face. “You know, they said that you were really good at finding trouble, but I thought they were exaggerating just a little bit.”

Flushing despite myself, I shook my head. “It’s not me this time, it’s the others, Russell and Harper.”

I started to go on, but my item-sense abruptly poked me with the arrival of two more people. Turning that way, I saw Dare and Wyatt step out of an empty classroom. Or, at least they stepped through a classroom door. Before it shut behind them, I saw the inside of the Pathmaker building.

“You two responded fast,” Hisao remarked. I saw him give some kind of brief hand signal to Dare, though I didn’t know what it could mean. Maybe he was telling her that we didn’t seem to be in immediate danger? Which made sense, because Dare had looked awfully tense coming through that door.

“Wyatt found me,” Dare replied, her eyes scanning me up and down before she added, “He said there was a problem.”

The security measures that Wyatt had placed on me, I realized. Apparently my stress levels or something like that had alerted him, and he’d run to get Dare. Or maybe she’d been waiting. I mean, I did have that kind of reputation by that point.

“How’d he know about it?” Douglas cut into my thoughts while looking at Wyatt. Obviously, to him, the guy was still a goofy, borderline incompetent and paranoid security guard with no sense of boundaries.

“I sent him a message,” I put in while Wyatt was still opening his mouth to respond. “Thought we could use as much help as possible.”

Staring at me, Doug demanded, “When? When did you have a chance to do that?”

“Magic,” I replied before shrugging. “More important things to worry about, Doug.”

Hurriedly, I explained the situation in as few words as possible, with Doug interjecting now and then to add his own two cents. I showed him what we’d found, and explained how we thought the Strangers couldn’t be identified during the daytime, and that the whole thing seemed to be a trap for Heretics because these Aswang were pissed off about their family being killed.

With Doug around I had to sound less sympathetic about that part, which was easier when I thought about the fact that these guys had actually killed innocent children in order to set their trap. I still felt bad for the guy’s wife and child, but those other kids didn’t do anything either. No matter how much right he had to be pissed off and vengeful, there was no justification for that. None. A woman and child being killed just because of what they were was monstrous, no doubt about it. But these guys had crossed the line. My sympathy for them evaporated when they murdered innocent children.

Apparently Dare agreed, because there was anger in her eyes as she straightened up when I finished talking. “Wyatt,” she announced, “stay here with Flick and Douglas. Hisao and I will get the others.” Glancing to the other man, she added, “Their alert stones?”

“Still active,” he confirmed after tilting his head to focus for a moment. “They haven’t gone off, which means the kids haven’t called for help, their stress levels are still normal, and they haven’t taken any kind of damage. Proximity’s still within a few feet of them, so they haven’t lost the stones either. We can jump straight to them.”

“Do it.” Looking to me, Dare added, “Stay with Wyatt. Don’t go anywhere unless you have to. We’ll get the others. Be safe. Be smart. Got it?” When I nodded, she glanced to Douglas. “Same for you.”

Hisao offered his hand to her then. A second after she took it, both of them turned into dust and then disappeared.

Exhaling, I slumped over to put my hands on my knees, muttering, “God, I hope they make it in time. They’re going to make it in time, they’re going to make it.” Muttering those reassurances to myself, I glanced up to see Doug squinting at me thoughtfully. Meanwhile, Wyatt had taken up what was clearly a protective position nearby and was busily scowling at everyone who walked past.

“Pretty smart, for monsters,” Doug remarked thoughtfully while looking away for a moment. “Luring Heretics out here, setting up an ambush like that. Seems like they know what they’re doing.”

Wyatt snorted in disbelief, head-shaking. “Not that smart,” he muttered. “If it was me, I’d pretend to be a different kind of Stranger. I’d kill the victims some other way, make it look like a vampire or something. That way, the Heretics wouldn’t know I could be out in the daylight, so their guard would be down. See, you both figured out that your Stranger-Sense wouldn’t work on them in the daytime, but they could identify you. So you were careful. But if they’d just pretended to be a different kind of Stranger, you wouldn’t have had that warning. They threw away an advantage like that for no reason. Stupid. Never give an enemy more information that he needs to have, especially if you can give him fake information.”

Well, Doug had stopped staring at me, and was now staring at Wyatt instead. His mouth open and shut, and it was obvious that he was trying to come up with the right words to say to the man that up until a couple of seconds ago, he had obviously dismissed as a goofy little nobody, just like the rest of the school.

Finally, he started with a weak, “You’re really not–”

Then it was my turn to interrupt. My roaming gaze had spotted something, and my eyes widened before I blurted in a quick half-whisper, “Hey, hey, over there!” I was pointing clear across the lawn of the school toward the far parking lot where the teacher’s cars were obviously kept.

It was Hyde. The pseudo-teacher was walking away from a jeep. Actually, he was half-running. It was obvious that he was trying to rush, without attracting too much attention or questions. A couple of people who were walking past called out greetings to him, and he gave them a distracted wave before hurrying on through the nearby door into the school.

“What the hell is he doing here?” Doug demanded. “He’s supposed to be off getting himself killed by Professor Dare and the Garden guy. What’s going on?”

My head shook. “I don’t know, but he’s definitely up to something. You saw the look on his face. Something’s wrong. Maybe he escaped, or…” I was already moving, my hands digging my phone out of my pocket so I could send a text to Dare. But somehow, I knew we couldn’t wait for them to catch up. And for all we knew, they were busy with the other guy. No, whatever Hyde was up to, it couldn’t’ wait. We had to see what was going on in there.

As I hit send on the text, Wyatt caught my arm. “It could be dangerous,” he pointed out tensely, his eyes staring through me. Obviously, there were things he wanted to say, that he couldn’t actually get out with Douglas standing right there.

“I know,” I replied. “But whatever is going on in there might be more dangerous than that. We can’t just wait out here. What if he’s got more victims in there? What if he’s trying to go out with some kind of big statement? He could be desperate, we don’t know what’s going on. We don’t know anything about what’s happening in there. Or who he’s about to kill.”

Wyatt look like he wanted to argue with that for a minute, but in the end all he could do with sigh. “Fine, but both of you stay with me, and take these.” He handed us each what looked like a couple of arrowheads. Pressing them into our palms, he touched a finger against each and activated the spell on them. As soon as he did, I felt a tingle and my hand turned partially transparent, like I was a ghost. Not just my hand either, I realized belatedly, but my whole body. Looking up, I saw set the same thing had happened to Doug and Wyatt.

“We’re invisible,” my half-brother announced carefully. “Just don’t touch anybody else or get too close, or it’ll break the effect.”

The three of us hurried inside then, and Doug and I led Wyatt to Hyde’s classroom. We got to the closed-door just in time to hear a crash from inside that was followed by a muffled curse. Clearly, the man had figured out that we had been in there. He was probably pissed off that we’d taken his stuff.

After glancing toward Wyatt, I stepped to the door and through it with my wood-walking power, emerging into the classroom on the other side. Coming out of the door, I saw Hyde on the other side of the room, next to his desk. Or rather, where his desk had been. At the moment, it was several feet away and turned askew, as if he had kicked it in anger. One of the drawers that I had set aside earlier was laying on the floor, with it contents spilled all over. Meanwhile, the man himself was muttering something out loud in a language that I didn’t understand while he scribbled something on the whiteboard. But he wasn’t using a marker. Instead, he was dipping a small paintbrush in a bucket of what looked suspiciously like be blood, and using that to scrawl runes on the board.

Magic, I realized immediately. He was doing some kind of magic. Which meant we probably didn’t want him to finish the job. Before I could really think about what I was doing, I was already across the room. My hands grabbed the guy’s arm and shoulder, and I bodily hurled him away from the board before he could scrawl more runes. I would have drawn my weapon, or done anything else to put the guy down, but I had no idea how much time I had before he would’ve finished that spell. All I could think about at the time was to stop him from writing anything else as fast as possible.

At the sound of the guy cursing as he crashed into the far wall, the door came off its hinges. Wyatt and Doug were right inside. All three of our invisibility spells had faded.

Hyde was already back on his feet. He glared, first at the other two in the doorway, and then at me as I stood between him and his spell. “More of you,” he snarled, hate and loathing filling his voice. “I don’t care. I don’t care how many of you ignorant, vile freaks there are. You won’t take this away from me. Not this time. You. Will. Lose.”

Wyatt took a step forward, but Hyde made a tutting sound while holding up a finger. “I wouldn’t do that,” he warned flatly. “The spell might not be complete, but it’s far enough to do some damage.”

I didn’t know what he was talking about, but Wyatt looked to the spell on the board and grimaced before shaking his head. “Heretic magic. How did you learn–” He stopped then, focusing on the man. “It’s not enough, you don’t have the energy built up for the spell to get anywhere.”

“Don’t I?” Hyde snarled the words. Then he spoke a single other word, and all around the room, The various posters advertising lab safety, or whatnot fell to the floor, revealing more runes scrawled on the walls in long-dried blood.

“Uhh,” Doug started turning in a circle while pulling a pen out of his pocket. “What the hell do those mean? What’s going on?”

Wyatt answered without looking at him. His attention was focused on Hyde. “The spell on the board targets a small object and makes it burn up. It makes a small, really hot fire for about ten seconds. About this big,” he held his hands together in the shape of a ball about half a foot across. “It’ll melt through steel.”

“Small fire,” Doug muttered. “Could be worse, right?”

“That,” Wyatt replied while pointing to the last part of the board that the man had gotten to, “That’s a multiplier. It means the spell will affect more than one object, probably dozens.”

“Six hundred and twenty one, actually,” Hyde interjected. “Give or take a few. Can’t guarantee that all the students ate their special treats.”

My eyes widened at that. “You got every student in this school to swallow something that’s gonna blow up?”

“Not blow up,” the crazed man retorted. “Just make a little fire this big in their stomachs. Just enough to give them a bit of a tummy ache. Or, you know, burn them from the inside out.”

My staff was out of my belt and in my hand as the man went on quickly. “And those,” he indicated the spellforms that had been hidden behind the posters, “are battery spells needed to make sure that each and every one of those kids gets a real nasty surprise.”

“You’re insane,” I blurted. “Those kids didn’t do anything. They didn’t kill your family, Hyde. Or whatever your real name is.”

“Of course he’s insane,” Doug interjected. “He’s a monster. Why are you acting surprised?” Even as he spoke, the boy clicked the pen in his hand. In front of him, a glowing sword made out of energy appeared, hovering in the air. He clicked it again, and a shield appeared beside the weapon. He took both, one for each hand. 

Ignoring his words, I focused on Hyde himself. “What is this going to prove?”

“Prove?” he echoed before giving a harsh laugh. “You wanna know what it’s gonna prove? It’s gonna prove that you cocksuckers can’t just kill us with impunity anymore. You kill one of us, we’ll find a hundred humans and kill them in retaliation. You murder our families, we’ll wipe out twenty of yours. It’s war, you bitch. We win by making it cost too much for you to keep fighting. You fucks have gotta learn your lesson.”

Raising my staff, I shook my head. “You’re not setting that thing off. I’m sorry your wife and kid died–”

“Murdered!” he interrupted, a crazed look in his eyes. “They didn’t just die, they were murdered, by you motherfuckers!”

Ignoring the look from Doug, I pressed on. “But you’re not going to kill any more innocent people. That won’t prove anything. It won’t help anything.”

“Help? I don’t care about helping,” he snapped. “I care about revenge. And you can’t do anything about it.” His hand angrily gestured to the board. “The only thing you managed to stop me from putting in was the amplify effect. Turns the little fires into big ones. Ten feet instead of half a foot. They’d take out a hell of a lot more people that way. Anyone standing by my little walking bombs… poof. Ashes. Think that’ll be enough to teach you assholes to mind your own business?”

There are so many things I wanted to say to that, but I said none of them. It wouldn’t have done any good.

Meanwhile, the man himself sneered a little when there was no response to his question. “The spell’s automatic now. You can’t stop it. Either it goes off and kills all those kids with the little fires, or I get past you and make one last mark so the bigger fires kill a hell of a lot more.”

“Wyatt,” I quickly asked, “can you stop it?”

He spun on his heel, running to the board while calling back, “Stop him from getting to the board.”

“Oh, we’ll stop him,” I replied while glancing to Doug. “You heard the man. Keep him away from the board.”

“My spell,” Hyde snarled angrily. “You think you can undo my spell? You can’t. No one can. Not this spell. Either it kills six hundred, or it kills a lot more than that, but you can’t stop it.”

“You don’t know Wyatt,” I replied flatly. “And you don’t know us.”

From his pocket, the Aswang produced a small black stone. Grimacing as he held the stone up, he glared at us before crushing the thing in his hand.

My Stranger-Sense immediately kicked on and started shouting at me. But… it wasn’t night yet. Well, not late enough for Hyde to change, anyway. He should still be a normal human for a couple hours, unless that… stone… did something to make his body think it was late enough to change.

As those thoughts ran through my mind, the man’s body shifted. He grew half a foot immediately, hair sprouting on his body. His hands formed long, dangerous looking claws. At the same time, his mouth contorted, expanding a bit before opening both horizontally and vertically, almost like one of those movie Predators. Worse, a thin, tube-shaped proboscis with teeth on the end shot out a foot or so from the open mouth.

The thing the Aswang used to suck the unborn fetus out of a pregnant woman, I realized belatedly. The thought sobered me, and I narrowed my eyes. This fucker had killed innocent people. Whether or not he had good reason to hate Heretics, that was going too far. He had to be stopped. He had to be put down.

“Doug,” I muttered, “I hope you’re ready. Because we can’t let him interrupt Wyatt. Which means this just got a lot more–”

The monster lunged at us.

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26 comments

  1. Thanks for reading, guys! We’ve got one more chapter to get through for this arc before the interlude. After all, gotta see how the fight and aftermath goes. 😉

    We do have a commisioned mini-interlude focusing on Avalon seeking out Shiori after she kissed Flick and having that conversation. That will be coming up soon, as well as Monday’s chapter. So I hope to see you guys around for those! And while you’re waiting to read them, why not pay a quick little click to vote for this story on Top Web Fiction by using this link right here? Thanks!

    Tags for this chapter are: At Some Point The Word Will Get Around That It’s A Bad Idea To Say ‘You Can’t Do X With Magic’ While Wyatt Is Within Earshot., Douglas Frey, Felicity Chambers, Flick, Truman Hyde, Virginia Dare, Wyatt Isn’t Turning Out To Be Nearly As Inspector Clouseau-ish As Doug Was Expecting. You Know – If He Had The Faintest Idea Who Clouseau Was., Wyatt Rendell, Yeah Sure – Kill Off A Few Hundred Innocent Children. That’ll Convince The Heretics To Stop Hunting Your Kind – Genius.

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    1. What he wants is to cause fear and start a war of attrition. By binding the Heretics resources into protecting civillians he and people like him can strike more freely at other targets. Since he sees this fight as a war for the survivel of his species, he sees no reason to involve morality in his tactics. What he wants is to break their will to fight. The problem is, that the heretics do not acknoledge Strangers as more than smart biests and thus do not understand this as a strategic attack or an escalation of the conflict. But rather more as the flailing and mindless attacks of a ruthless enemie.
      Also I still think magic is here not necessarily too powerfull, but it still is way too versatile. I mean, wipe specific memories of a specific person completly out of thousends, if not millions of minds and then continue to do so for decades without degrading in any way whatsoever. A small but competent groupe of people could easily use miniscule amounts of precisly targetet magic to covertly rule the entiery of the worlds gouverments from the shadows without the heretics ever knowing about it. This or thousends of other things. The magic system the Herretics and others in this world use is way too overpowered to be used the way it is.

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      1. If he however wants to reduce the heretics recruitment stock by killing of humans, than he is doing a pisspoor job of it. There are seven billion of us. Even a million students would only represent 0,014% if the population. He could do that way easier by studieing a bit of viriology and then travell to another world, like one of those the aswang or one of the other stranger species immegrated from, fin something the human immiune system does not deal well with an bring it back. It wold not necessarily help strangers, because they then would have way fewer people to hide amongst but the ensuring chaos could be very easily used to attack the heretics while they flail to protect as many of their own human families and descandants.

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      2. If he however wants to reduce the heretics recruitment stock by killing of humans,

        He doesn’t.

        “Prove?” He echoed before giving a harsh laugh. “You wanna know what it’s gonna prove? It’s gonna prove that you cocksuckers can’t just kill us with impunity anymore. You kill one of us, we’ll find a hundred humans and kill them in retaliation. You murder our families, we’ll wipe out twenty of yours. It’s war, you bitch. We win by making it cost too much for you to keep fighting. You fucks have gotta learn your lesson.”

        They’re not trying to reduce the Heretic recruitment pool, they’re trying to use terroristic threats to stop Heretics from killing Strangers. “You kill one of our people, we’ll kill a hundred of yours.”

        As for the memory magic stuff…

        I mean, wipe specific memories of a specific person completly out of thousends, if not millions of minds and then continue to do so for decades without degrading in any way whatsoever.

        The spell on Joselyn does degrade. We’ve seen it degrade with Asenath and Twister in Interlude 7B. It’s not breaking, but just hearing about Joselyn and/or meeting her daughter is enough for it to start cracking.

        We’ve seen some other flaws in the spell. Avalon described some of them in 12-02. Firsthand accounts of Joselyn are censored, but secondhand sources are not. If someone who actually cast the spell tells you about Joselyn, you won’t remember. But if someone like Flick who put the pieces together on her own tells you, you will. That’s why Flick’s friend Miranda can remember what she heard about Joselyn’s rebellion in interlude 7A. And the spell doesn’t work on unknown worlds, which is why Flick could tell Shiori about Joselyn while on the Meregan world. That’s a pretty big oversight for an organization that regularly travels to new planets.

        Also, casting a spell as powerful as the one used on Joselyn is not so easy that a “small but competent” group can do it whenever they want. Cerulean has revealed some more flaws on the SB thread (which you or anyone else obviously can’t be faulted for now knowing about, since no one should be expected to look stuff up outside the story itself).

        1. Casting the spell on Joselyn required a number of powerful Heretics to permanently sacrifice their powers and return to being ordinary humans.
        2. The Crossroads Heretics needed the help of their enemies at Eden’s Garden to cast it, which is why Seller still remembers Joselyn.
        3. Casting the spell required Joselyn’s Hunga Munga for some reason. Apparently it needs to be focused through something connected to the subject for it to work (hinted at in the comments of interlude 7A).
        4.

        Sure, Prosser’s group managed to cast one on Deveron, but that one is nowhere near as effective as the one the Heretics cast on Joselyn (it only erases his identity, not his actions, which is why Nevada and Gaia could still remember the things he did in interlude 8 before they found out it was him). The spell that erased Desoto was also easier to cast because it was only targeting bystanders, which is why Heretics and Alters can remember it with no issues.

        The memory spell is powerful, but it’s not quite that game-breaking. If it was that easy, the Committee would have resorted to it a lot sooner than 70+ years down the road.

        The Blood Plague, on the other hand… That I think is too powerful.

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  2. “Wyatt snorted in disbelief, head-shaking. “Not that smart,” he muttered. “If it was me, I’d pretend to be a different kind of Stranger. I’d kill the victims some other way, make it look like a vampire or something. That way, the Heretics wouldn’t know I could be out in the daylight, so their guard would be down. See, you both figured out that your Stranger-Sense wouldn’t work on them in the daytime, but they could identify you. So you were careful. But if they’d just pretended to be a different kind of stranger, you wouldn’t have had that warning. They threw away an advantage like that for no reason. Stupid. Never give an enemy more information that he needs to have, especially if you can give him fake information.””
    Me: Well, while he may have some valid points, Wyatt fails to realize that very few, be they Heretic or Alter, are as paranoid and/or suspicious as he is.

    ““Six hundred and twenty one, actually,” Hyde interjected. “Give or take a few. Can’t guarantee that all the students ate their special treats.”

    My eyes widened at that. “You got every student in this school to swallow something that’s gonna blow up?”

    “Not blow up,” the crazed man retorted. “Just make a little fire this big in their stomachs. Just enough to give them a bit of a tummy ache. Or, you know, burn them from the inside out.” ”
    Me: What. Dear God. This Alter’s truly lost it if he’s holding over six hundred minors hostage like this.
    *reads*
    As suspected, he’s lost his sense of reason in a sea of rage and insanity towards Heretics, and doesn’t care about how many he needs to murder in a fruitless effort to make them stop. Such actions are only going to have the opposite effect of course, only strengthening the Heretic’s anti-Stranger culture.

    “The thing the Aswang used to suck the unborn fetus out of a pregnant woman, I realized belatedly. The thought sobered me, and I narrowed my eyes. This fucker had killed innocent people. Whether or not he had good reason to hate Heretics, that was going too far. He had to be stopped. He had to be put down. ”
    Me: At this point, non-lethal against the Aswang is off the table I think.

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  3. There is a “hide” which should be “Hyde”.

    Also, Crossroads should use Flick as a trouble detector, really. Just send a couple of Runners wherever she wants to go to sniff out some nocens.

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  4. Well, Doug had stopped staring at me, and was now staring at Wyatt instead. His mouth open and shut, and it was obvious that he was trying to come up with the right words to say to the man that up until a couple of seconds ago, he had obviously dismissed as a goofy little nobody, just like the rest of the school.

    My favorite part of the chapter, hands down. Wyatt’s great.

    I have to say though, Hyde’s use of “we” worries me. He’s probably referring to himself and his brother, but I can’t help but wonder if there might be more to it…

    Oh well, he’ll be dead soon. Good riddance. Like I said last time, it sucks about his family, but intentionally targeting children who had nothing to do with it? On this scale? Fuck him.

    It’s like a preview of Ruthers’s eventual defeat!

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    1. Oh well, he’ll be dead soon. Good riddance. Like I said last time, it sucks about his family, but intentionally targeting children who had nothing to do with it? On this scale? Fuck him.

      As you’ve seen, Flick agrees with you.

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  5. It’s war, you bitch. We win by making it cost too much for you to keep fighting.

    As I recall, this was actually a legit strategy back in the day, when air power was new and apparently unstoppable, and capable of inflicting ridiculous damage on civilian populations. Theorists thought that war would essentially consist of a battle for air superiority, after which the loser would either surrender of their own accord or be forced to submit by their own citizenry who wouldn’t stand for wholesale civilian destruction. This is what led to, among other things, the firebombings of Dresden and Hamburg.

    It didn’t work then (no-one was going to rise up against the Gestapo), and won’t work here. Nocen are all but obliged to follow a more terroristic model thanks to their relatively small numbers and Bystander effect making it more efficient to blend in with the Bystanders, which carries different nuances than a hostile state carrying out attacks. Blowing up six hundred kids would be an effective terrorist attack… but might be more effective if it were actually Heretics being targeted and not a separate group. Real-world theories kind of break down at this point.

    Crucially, though, this kind of threat would only ever work as intended if it was sustained – if every time an Alter’s family was killed by Heretics, twenty Heretic families rally were killed in retaliation. That Hyde sees this as a possibility suggests a worrying growth in the potential of Nocen to carry out attacks, beyond what we’ve seen – or else the presence of someone with a lot of charisma who can convince Hyde that this is the case. Either way, worrying, especially since Hyde is using the word ‘war.’

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  6. What I’m worried about is how did he learn Heratic enchantments? It’s not exactly something just floating around or can be picked up by observing them. I’m pretty sure it means he has a “backer” of some kind that is giving him information (gonnna guess the Seostan).

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  7. As awful as this is, I can’t help but think that it’s sort of in some ways inevitable. Not specifically, but in general if you treat large groups of people as monsters incapable of thought or doing anything but killing, it’s kind of inevitable that some of them are going to snap and turn into terrorists after they’re left with nothing. I just feel really bad for the kids and students that were caught in the crossfire.

    Explaining all of this to Doug is going to be either very difficult or very interesting. If Flick hadn’t bothered talking to Hyde then he likely would have just solidified his image of Strangers as total monsters, but now he’s going to have questions. Which will either lead to him turning his views around, or turning Flick in. Or more likely, trying to turn Flick in and then running afoul of Wyatt (who takes protective older brother to new levels).

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    1. Not specifically, but in general if you treat large groups of people as monsters incapable of thought or doing anything but killing, it’s kind of inevitable that some of them are going to snap and turn into terrorists after they’re left with nothing.

      Indeed, that’s pretty much exactly what this is illustrating.

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    1. Wait, what? Strangers being able to use magic isn’t a secret. Is it?

      *rereads* No, Doug’s not surprised that Hyde can use magic. He asked what the runes were going to do, but there’s no indication that he didn’t know it was possible for Strangers to use magic.

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      1. I believe he’s referring to this:

        Wyatt looked to the spell on the board and grimaced before shaking his head. “Heretic magic. How did you learn–” He stopped then, focusing on the man. “It’s not enough, you don’t have the energy built up for the spell to get anywhere.”

        It was Wyatt that was surprised, not that they could use magic at all, but he specifically recognized it as *Heretic* magic.

        Obviously, since the guy could perform it, it’s not magic that can only be used by Heretics. It’s just magic that is taught/developed/kept among Heretics. Wyatt recognized the spell itself as being specifically a Heretic spell.

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      2. Ah, I shouldn’t have read the chapter so quickly. My bad.

        That does make me think my guess about Hyde and Uslan having backers is right though. Hmm…

        Like

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