1.05 C

“How did they appear?”

There’s chaos in the banquet hall. The Blighted King is questioning the guard who raised the alarm. Other soldiers are rushing for the doors, creating blockades in the corridors. But most of the guards and people are staying put. Waiting. Listening.

Fear is in the air. My stomach is churning. What can I do? What should I do?

He was right. I was right. But how did the Demons get here?

“Teleportation magic. A scroll—possibly artifacts. To teleport so many, the Demon King must have used every magical item in his possession.”

Nereshal is conferring with a group of [Mages]. His eyes are on the projection. And then I see movement from the courtyard.

The Demons are streaming into the castle, most through the main gates. But they’re also moving along the battlements. One group is clustered around the left wall. I see an explosion, and a different group appears.

Humans. Two Humans, a man and an old woman. A Gnoll, and a Selphid. They cut down the Demons and charge into the courtyard, running along the battlements. The Blighted King’s champions.

A cheer goes up through the room as the people see the four champions charging the Demons. But the Blighted King and his advisors don’t cheer. They watch, intently, as the four warriors rush a group in the center of the courtyard.

“There. Their leader is a mage.”

Nereshal points. A female Demon wearing robes is standing in the courtyard, staff aloft. By her side is a male Demon, holding a bow taller than he is. It must be seven feet tall. He wears no armor. One of the champions raises his own bow, draws an arrows, looses it in a moment.

The arrow vanishes before it reaches the Demon with the bow. He puts an arrow to his bow, draws, fires. The Gnoll who fired tries to dodge, but the arrow curves in the air and strikes him in the chest. He falls.

Lady Xersia, a man with a shortsword, and the Selphid holding two greatswords are left. They charge into a group of Demons coming up the stairs. The Selphid impales two on each sword; the Demons run into the blades. He disappears, covered by the Demons who don’t flinch as Xersia and the man with the short sword cut them down one by one.


Nerershal speaks the word like a curse. More of the Demons are flooding towards the two champions. The man with the shortsword dodges left—an arrow slashes his leg. The Demon with the bow puts another arrow in the air, and I see it pierce through the man’s armor as if it weren’t there.

“Magic-piercing arrows.”

The Blighted Queen speaks. Silence reigns. Xersia is last. The old woman dashes towards the Demon with the bow like lightning across the ground. The Demon puts an arrow to his bow and looses it. She curves around the arrow like lightning. She lunges with her spear—

And vanishes. Everyone stares at the image of the courtyard. The Blighted King turns to Nereshal.

“What happened?”

“The [Mage] is specialized in teleportation magic.”

The time mage speaks quietly. His eyes are fixed on the projection in the air. The Blighted Queen looks around the courtyard.

“Where was she sent?”


A shape, tumbling down through the air. Thousands of feet overhead, falling like a comet. Tiny, still clutching her spear.


She falls out of the sky. The Blighted King, the people in the banquet hall, everyone, watch in silence as Lady Xersia hits the ground. She threw her spear at the end—the Demon with the bow shoots it out of the sky.

The Blighted King watches it all, as the two, the teleportation [Mage] and the Demon [Archer] calmly turn back to their business. The [Mage] raises her staff and seems to chant. The [Archer] takes a position on the wall and begins shooting down towards the city.


The Blighted King’s voice is cold. Nereshal studies the projection, and I see more of the Demons, the Fearless, streaming into the castle. Hundreds of them. The time mage turns to his King, face grave.

“I know the archer, your Majesty. And the mage. They are both high-level, thought to be over Level 40 at the least. The Demon King has sent two of his best warriors to hold this ground. One to protect, the other to open a gate.”

“And let his army pour through. Nereshal, how long do we have?”

All eyes are on the [Chronomancer] as he thinks. He turns to confer with the Centaur [Mage], and then raises his voice.

“Teleportation spells are exceedingly complex. Assuming the mage knows where she wants to open a portal to, and her Skills are focused in that area…anywhere from two hours to forty minutes.”

“You are sure? Could they not speed up the spell if they were prepared? I have seen you teleport short distances within minutes.”

The Blighted Queen has a long mace, black like obsidian, in her hand. She rests the head on the ground as she looks at Nereshal. He nods.

“Any competent mage can teleport short distances relatively quickly, but a portal hundreds of miles or more away? Your Majesty, no [Mage] in the world could perform such calculations in ten minutes or less. Not even an Archmage. However, she should not be able to cast such spells at all! The anti-teleportation ward—”

“—Is clearly not working. We have less than an hour, then. We must repel the Fearless invading the palace. They surely seek the Blighted King’s head. And the [Mage] must die.”

The Blighted Queen is full of action, ready to move out. The King is deliberate. He looks at Nereshal.

“Why is the ward stone not working, Nereshal? Find me answers. Until then, if the teleportation spells is not working, is it possible to send a force to deal with the [Mage]? Ambush her?”

Nereshal hesitates.

“We lack warriors on the level of the two in the courtyard, your majesty. Lady Xersia was the highest-level warrior present. I could attempt to battle myself with her Majesty, but—”

“If we lose you, we step one moment closer to the end. As for our consort—no.”

The Blighted Queen turns to her husband.

“With respect, my lord. If we fail to repel the Demons, all is lost.”

“Then we shall consider it a matter of last resort.”

He nods. The Blighted King rises, and turns to a [Strategist] at his side. They confer out loud.

“It seems we must push back the Demons instead. I will use my Skills, but it falls to you and the other warriors present in the palace to push back their line.”

“It will be difficult, my King.”

A Dullahan with a scar down her face grimaces, her face set. She brings out a map and spreads it out on the table.

“Defensively, we could hold these halls and wear down a superior force over the course of days, or barricade ourselves in for weeks. But with a second force on the way, we must retake the castle and the courtyard within the hour. And the soldiers flooding the castle are elites. The Fearless have been sent in numbers. We will fight them to the death.”

The Blighted King curses.

“They struck us at our weakest moment! How did the Demon King know? If we must take the courtyard, it will be numbers against those two. Their levels will create a slaughter. For the army we need, we must rally the guards. Where are they stationed? Who in this room can fight? Act quickly; we have little time.”

The Blighted King turns, and like that the spell of paralysis on the room breaks. Men and women rush towards the doors, some dashing out of them, others barricading entrances. Richard and Emily are on their feet, and they rush towards the Blighted King with the other people with combat classes. The rest of the people in the room, noncombatants, talk, afraid. Some are weeping; I can see the Fool standing with Erille and Isodore, their faces pale.

At my table, the [Lords] and [Ladies] are speaking urgently. Yebior rises to his feet, unsheathing a dagger from his belt.

“Time to fight, my friends. If we can put but a single body between the Demons and our King—”

He strides towards the gathering warriors with a few [Lords]. Zekyria turns to the others and pulls something off her finger. A ring, the gem glowing with an inner light.

“We have artifacts. Let us gather them for the warriors. Come now, hold nothing back.”

A flurry of motion breaks out. I look around the table and feel lost. Afraid.

What can I do? Fight? I’m no warrior, but—everyone’s needed. I should volunteer. Or I could stay, keep them safe if it comes to the worst. Richard’s there, face grim, and so is Emily, Eddy, Vincent—they’re all ready to fight and die. I should be too.

I go to stand up. I put my hands on the table and stand.

My legs don’t move. I stare. Blink. I try again. My legs don’t move.

I look down. Or try to. My head doesn’t move. I’m telling it to look, to move, but it doesn’t. I try to raise my hands. Nothing happens.

Nothing works. I can’t even blink. What’s going on? I can’t—I’ve lost control of my body.

My hand rises. I stare at it as I pick up a fork. And then my head does turn. It stares left, towards a silver pitcher filled with wine. The metal is clear and polished, it reflects my face. A clown stares back at me, face painted, dressed in a ludicrous costume stained with blood. And then, to my horror, he grins at me.

“Well, it seems like everything’s going wrong, doesn’t it? My turn to come out, I think.”

No. No. Oh, no, no, no, no, no—not now. This can’t be happening. Slowly, the hand with the fork raises. In the mirror, Tom twirls it, as the people around him panic and more screams begin to echo through the hall.

“We had a lot of fun, didn’t we, Tom? When you thought I wasn’t real, when you were so sure that you’d beaten me? As if you could beat yourself.”

This isn’t real. This isn’t happening. I can’t be going insane. Not now! I tried so hard! I didn’t let you out!

I can’t speak. I’m only a voice in his head. In my head. Tom laughs, and it’s not my laughter. It’s darker, wilder, with an edge of madness in it.

“Let me out? You can’t let me out, you idiot! There’s nothing to let out! You and I are the same. How can you stop yourself? See?”

He lifts the fork and begins to pick at his teeth with it, casually. I try to stop him, to seize control of my hand.

You’re not me! You’re something else! Give me back my body—

“Tom, Tom!”

He raises his voice. I can sense Zekyria turning her head to stare at him. Me. Tom ignores the look. I ignore the look. I look into my reflection’s eyes, see the panicked look there. Hah. I hate him so much, that other me. I speak to him.

“It’s always been you, Tom. There’s no one in here but you. And me. Heh. Haha.”

I giggle. I hear his voice.

You can’t do this. The Demons are attacking. We need to help. We need—


I cut him off, harshly. I spin, pointing around the room. The Blighted King has lost control. His warriors are gathered around him as he, Nereshal, and a few advisors plot feverishly. The view of the courtyard has shifted. Now I see inside corridors of the castle. It’s a maze, but the Fearless are flooding down it, cutting down servants, fighting pockets of guards.

“Do you think they have a chance? Really, Tom? They’re doomed, unless someone helps them. And we both know you’re not the man for the job.”

Don’t. You can’t!

“Can’t I?”

I raise my voice, lift the delicate fork up. People are shouting, asking their King what they should do. He’s trying to get them to shut up. What a poor [King]! Can’t he see the truth?

Stop! I won’t let you cause a massacre again! I won’t! I’d rather die!

“Sir Tom? What are you doing?”

Now Lady Zekyria is looking at me. I grin at her. She likes me. I wonder if she’ll like me after this?

Don’t hurt her!

“Sir Tom? Are you going to fight? I believe you are needed.”

Yebior is calling out to the Blighted King. Idiot.

“My King, what should I—”

Stop! STOP!

Voices. So many voices! Too many. I raise the fork high overhead and bring it down. Onto my other hand.


The tines of the fork go through my hand and hit bone. The voice in my head shuts up. I hear it scream and fade. And the room goes silent. I stand, and yank the fork out of my hand. I stare at the bent tines and try to fix one. Disappointing.

“They don’t make them like they used to. Hey there!”

The Blighted King is looking at me! I stroll over, laughing as I see his guards raising their weapons and looking uncertainly at me. I raise my hands.

“Pardon me, your Majesty. Sorry for the interruption, but I needed your attention.”

“[Clown]. What do you want?”

He stares at me. I smile at him.

“Just a word, old man. By the way, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Tom. Pleased to meet you.”

I stick my hand in his face. He recoils. What? Oh, that’s the bloody one. How rude. The Blighted Queen hisses.

“How dare you?”

The Blighted King raises a hand, staring at me uncertainly.

“I know who you are.”

“No, you don’t.”

I wag a finger at the King and point to my chest.

“You see, you met Tom. I’m Tom. The same, but different. Better. I tell jokes. He’s one big, fat joke. And he’s taking a break so I can come out.”


Richard. He pales as I swing around, grinning at him. Emily backs up.

Richard! Hey, we never got a chance to talk. I’d love to chat, but I’m a bit busy. If you could just hold on—”

“We are wasting time. Remove him. Guards.”

Nereshal looks at me. Ooh, he’s not bothered by me at all, I can tell. I trip up the first guard who comes towards me and throw my arm around the time mage. He stiffens, but doesn’t throw me off. Maybe because of the dagger I have pressed against his throat? Now I have everyone’s attention.

“Good! I don’t want to be a bother, Mister Important Blighted Guy, but I just wanted to point something out. You’re all hot and bothered about this Demon army that appeared, but did anyone think to ask how they got here?”

Nereshal shifts. I push the dagger into his throat and he stops moving his hand oh-so-stealthily up.

“Teleportation magic—”

“Yeah, yeah. We got that the first time, old man. What I mean is, how’d they get past your special teleportation blocker? You were talking about it all day.”

“I do not know. It is here, but it isn’t working.”

Nereshal turns his head and I stare at a younger [Mage] holding a stone in his hands. I grin. All the pieces are falling into place! Just like that.

“Well, well. That makes sense. Hey, your Majesty. Wanna know something funny?”

The Blighted King stares at me.

“Release Nereshal, [Clown].”

“No, no, that’s not the important bit. The knife is—whoops, sorry, scratched you there, didn’t I? Ignore me. Focus on the big picture. I know who let the Demons in.”

Everyone stares at me, an audience of suckers waiting for the punch line. I grin. The Blighted Queen leans forward.



I let go of Nereshal to point across the room. It’s obvious, of course. Everything pointed to him, but Tom was too stupid to put the pieces together. Good thing I’m as smart as he is. Just as ugly, though.

The Fool stops in his tracks, one hand on the door, the other holding Princess Erille’s hand. He turns. I laugh at him.

“Where are you going, Fool? Don’t you want to meet your buddies?”

He looks at me. I wink. The Fool looks around the room. What’s he going to do? He could probably pass it off, pretend he was trying to get Erille to safety, call me mad (which is totally fair), but—oh, no, he’s running!

He nearly makes it out of the door. I think he would have, and with Erille too, if good old Neres didn’t get up and point at the Fool. He freezes in place, one hand flinging the door wide. Time stopped.

“See? Only the guilty run. And idiots. And joggers. The worst of all.”

I laugh as soldiers charge at the Fool. The Blighted King stares at him as the Fool is dragged over.


“Aw, don’t look so surprised. It was bound to happen. Bad parenting, poor leadership, probably some evil crime the Fool found out about, maybe he thinks he’s her real father. You certainly do a bad job of it, don’t you?”

I sling an arm around the Blighted King and watch him tense up. Hah! I laugh and plant a kiss on his cheek, and spin away. Someone puts a sword to my throat. The Blighted King stares at me.

“How did you know?”

“I’m smart. Hey, nice sword.”

I grab it from the guard and watch as he recoils. Aha! The Blighted Queen lifts her mace. I toss the sword down.

“Oh hush, it was only a kiss. Don’t get all jealous on me now. Anyways, your Majesty, that explains it all. The Fool marked the spot in the courtyard for his buddies to come through, tried to abduct the [Princesses] beforehand—”

“But how did he disable the teleportation ward? It’s right here—”

Nereshal strides over to a glowing stone. I stare at it.

“Pretty. Also: fake.”


I kick him in the groin. What? He was asking for it and it’s funny. Nereshal goes white. I pick up the stone from where he dropped it and lift the glowing thing into the air. Sparkly. It’s like a glowing purple…stone. You know what? I’m not good with pictures. I drop the stone and stomp on it.

It breaks. Again, there’s the entire ‘bladed weapons raised’, but I decide to ignore it. The Blighted King stares down at the stone. The fragments disappear as he watches.

“What is this?”

“It’s fake. The [Fool] made it. It’s a Skill of his. Try to keep up. I don’t know how he got it, but I suppose that’s your fault, hmm?”

I glance at Nereshal as he bends over, clutching at his unmentionables. You would have thought his fancy robes would have been spelled to protect him against that. The [Mage] glares at me.

“I should kill you—”

“Nereshal. Enough. This—Tom has given us the answers. Restrain the Fool. I wish to question him afterwards. But we must repel the Demons. Now.

The Blighted King whirls away from me. I laugh. He turns back. Oh, now he’s getting upset. I’d kiss him again, but he’s too far away.


I stroll towards him and a big mace blocks my way. I stare at the Blighted Queen and then lick her arm. She backhands me.


I think she knocked a tooth out! Wait—yes she did. I get up, laughing, and see the faces. Oh, the faces. They’re all staring at me. Some shocked, others horrified—the way I like it.

Who says I’m not a people person?

“Sorry. Pardon me, your Majesty. I just think it’s funny. That’s all. You people talk about war and ‘tactics’ when you’re missing the point. If you want these—heh—Demons gone, just ask me. I told you how they got in, didn’t I? I’ve got tons of good ideas on how to get rid of them, too.”

“Speak, then.”

The Blighted King looks at me. I stand, clear my throat.

“Okay, have you thought about asking them nicely?

He stares. The Blighted Queen raises her mace. I roll my eyes.

Fine. It’s nighttime. They’re rushing through the corridors, probably right here if the Fool told you where they are.”


So…make it harder? Your hallways are nice and bright. There’s too much light! I say…douse the lights. Make it dark.”

The Blighted King looks at Nereshal. The [Mage] hesitates, nods.

“That could slow their progress, confuse them. The palace is labyrinthian.”

I tap my foot on the ground. Wait a second, I forgot my big shoes! I’d better go get them—well, maybe later.

“Now might be nice.”

Nereshal stares at me, and then raises his hand. I see flashing symbols, bright lights as he commands the castle’s magic—I edge over to where Isodore is standing, pale-faced.

“Shove over a bit, will you? I never got a chance at the bread basket.”

She stares at me and flees. I munch down on a loaf as Nereshal does something magical. Bloody. And toothy. That’s going to hurt coming out.

“The lights have been extinguished. Now. [Heart of Darkness].”

He intones a spell or something and the other mages join in. Darkness spins from his fingertips, flooding out the corridors, turning the hallways pitch black. I grin.

“Lights out.”

Now the Demons are obscured from view. But I’ll just bet they’re having a bad time finding their way. The Blighted King stares at me. I grin.

“Well? Time to get a sword and start chopping.”

“We cannot see the enemy. Should we not barricade ourselves?”

I roll my eyes. He’s really not good at this, is he?

“If you want to wait for the Demon King to show up with an army, sure. Otherwise, I’d go corridor by corridor and cut up everything you see with those shiny swords you give out. By the way, where’s mine?”

He ignores that. Skinflint. The Blighted King looks at the projection of his palace in the air. Nereshal’s changed it to a map of the castle. I stare at it. Lots of corridors, rooms…hey, is that my room I see?

“There are servants in the halls. Guests of the crown. If we cannot see our enemy, we may cut them down by mistake.”

I look at him, tilting my head to one side and the other.

“So? They’re dead anyways. If you want, send in your pretty little [Knights] and have them die. But then you’ll lose valuable warriors as opposed to, well, people. If I were you, I’d just blast each corridor with magic. One by one.”

He stares at me. I grin. The Blighted King looks around and realizes he has an audience. He shakes his head.

“Nereshal. Go. Take six of the eight [Mages] here and every warrior that may be spared. Blast the corridors only as a last resort. My lady—”

“I will go.”

The Blighted Queen walks past me, mace in hand. I laugh. And turn.

“Ooh, you’re joining in on the fun? In that case, let’s have a competition, Queen lady. Who can kill more?”

She glares at me.

“I do not compete with peasants.”

“And I don’t compete with Queens. But I’ll make an exception for you.

She doesn’t reply. She strides towards a door, and the warriors follow. I sigh. The Blighted King looks at me.

“That may not be enough. The mage attempting to create a portal is the real threat.”

“You think? And here I thought you were stupid. Leave the mage to me.

I grin at him. The King looks uncertain.

“You think you can defeat two of the Demon King’s champions?”

“Eh…it looks like fun?”

I scratch my head and shrug. He stares at me.

“If you are able, I will shower you with wealth and whatever you desire.”


Blank look. No one else laughs either. Tough crowd. I turn. The little voice in my head is back. Oh no, what have you done, what are you doing, so on and so forth. I ignore him. Now, I had a good idea. What was it?

I snap my fingers. The Blighted King blinks.  Nereshal raises a hand. Touchy. You’d think I nailed him in the balls or something.

“I’ve got it! I’ll take care of your mage. I just need a few things. Time, for one.”

“Whatever you need, within reason I will give it to you.”

“A map, a [Mage] who can cast a few spells for me, and a few shiny knives, your Majesty. Give me that and I’ll solve your problems for you. Oh, and I want your sword.”

He stares at me. I scratch my head.

“Oh, and some healing potions. I’m going to have to kill some people as well. You said those Demons are all fearless? Sounds like fun.

I grin. And my smile is bloody. Missing tooth. The Blighted King looks at me as if I’m crazy.

Which I completely am.




The Demons run through the palace of the Blighted King in Rhir. They are armed for war, prepared for this day. Enchanted swords in hand, they slaughter anyone they come across. They have a target.

But they cannot find him. The darkness is all-consuming. The lights that had illuminated their way have vanished. Now a magical darkness steals through the castle, so that those without powerful Skills or magic are unable to see. And those who can see—

Are fighting.

Humans, Drakes, Selphids, creatures of every species hold corridors, fighting. Some are [Lords], others [Merchants] or simple [Warriors]. Some aren’t even meant to fight. But they hold the line as the Blighted King’s orders fill them with strength. Their flesh is like iron, and they do not break.

But their enemies do not fall back. They are Fearless, elite. Chosen. And they push their way further and further into the palace, killing, searching.

A group of sixteen warriors runs down a narrow corridor, weapons at the ready. They are ready for an ambush. They are not ready to hear the sound echoing down the corridor ahead of them.

Humming. A voice in the darkness. The Fearless pause, and their leader holds up a hand. One of them has a shortbow and he fires it ahead. They hear a thunk, an impact.

The humming stops. The Demons move ahead, cautiously. Then they see him.

A Human. He’s large, heavy, shorter than average. His face is dead white, his nose and mouth red. An arrow sticks out of his shoulder. He’s standing in the hallway.

And he’s laughing.

Giggling, as if the arrow sticking out of his shoulder is funny. The Fearless stare at him for a second. They are without fear. Their leader points, they charge.

“Hi there. My name is Tom!”

Shadows in the night. The [Clown] laughs as he tears the sword away from the first Demon and runs the second through. The warriors stab into his stomach. One nearly cuts his arm off. The [Clown] laughs. He grabs one of the warriors, ignoring the blade in his stomach.


He vanishes along with the warrior he’s holding. The Demons turn. They search for their comrade as one of their number bleeds and dies on the ground. The Human is nowhere to be seen. They continue onwards. They go for ten feet when they hear a voice.

“Hey. Miss me?”

Someone steps out from the shadows behind them. The [Clown] grins. His wounds on his stomach are closed. His arm is intact. He raises two knives and throws them as the Fearless turn. One strikes just above an ear; the other Demon dodges.

“That’s one. Two, if you count the guy I killed. And the girl I grabbed. That was a girl, right?”

The Fearless are without fear. They charge at him, trying to maneuver in the tight corridor. The [Clown] laughs as he cuts into them. Without fear. They cut each other. He grabs another and vanishes. They turn and run.

“Do you want to know how I got these scars? Wait a second—”

He appears down the next corridor, laughing. His wounds are closed. He smiles at the Fearless.

“Have we met before?”

They pause. They stare at him. The Fearless feel no fear. They cannot. Unease, trepidation, terror—all are emotions they have forgotten. But they still feel. And what they feel is—

Disturbed. The [Clown] strolls towards them. They back up. This time they loose arrows at him. They burn his body with magic. He vanishes, laughing.

He appears again minutes later. The Fearless split up. They feel no fear. But they do not understand. He’s laughing. As they cut him, he laughs, as he bleeds, he laughs. And each time they grow fewer in number.

The next time the [Clown] appears, the Fearless retreat. They do not feel fear. But that means they do not understand it either. All they feel is confusion. Uncertainty. They break and run against an enemy they cannot kill. And the [Clown] laughs. He turns.

And vanishes.




I love a good show. So when I appear in the banquet hall, I twirl. The [Mage] who teleported me steps back. I pat his cheek.

“Thanks for the pickup! Beam me up…uh, your name isn’t Scotty, is it?”

He’s panting too hard to speak. Nereshal walks towards me. He has a gash on a cheek. I saw him freeze a corridor full of Demons. All I had to do was walk up and stab them. He takes all the fun out of life.

“Are the Demons still present in that corridor?”

I shrug.

“They ran.”

“The Fearless?”

“Yeah. False advertising, I call that. Anyways, how are things?”

He ignores me and walks over to a map. The Blighted King is standing over it, plotting the Demon’s advance. Nereshal flicks his fingers, and a corridor clears. One corridor. Most are red, showing Demon-controlled territory, or contested. I lean on the [Mage] who teleported me until he falls down.

“Hey King, what’s up? Are we losing? I bet we are.”

The Blighted King stares at me as I bounce over. Isodore, standing at his side, stares at me. At my stomach.

“You’re bleeding.”

“Am I? I barely noticed. Wait a second, how bad is it?”

I turn, and the people at the table gasp. I look at my back.

“Huh. I could have sworn I had flesh there. Is my spine supposed to look like that?”

Healing potion!

There’s already one coming this way. I grab it. The [Healer] babbles something about using it slowly, not straining my body, and so on. I wrestle with her for the bottle.

“Come on, come on, I’m wasting time here. Give me that!”

Potion, meet back. Back…so that’s what it’s supposed to look like. I giggle and turn back to the Blighted King. And the map.

“Let me see. There’s a clear corridor here, an empty one here…and I just cleared that one.”

I trace a line down the map. The Blighted King stares at me.

“Do you have what is needed to complete this plan you refuse to speak of?”

“Just a minute, needy! I think…yes! Now I just need some things from you, my good pal Nereshal here, and…the Fool.”

I glance sideways. The banquet hall has been transformed. Tables have been upended, places made ready for people too wounded to fight to rest, and guards are standing at all the entrances. But hey, some things never change.

The Fool’s face has definitely changed. I think someone stepped on it. Or kicked it. Repeatedly. Princess Erille is standing in front of him, tears in her eyes, trying to defend him from further abuse. Touching. I grin and walk over to her.

“Stand back.”

Isodore pushes past me. She drags Erille away; the girl kicks at her, fighting, shouting for the Fool. I bend down. The Fool barely looks at me. He’s still under a spell. I think he can’t move.

“Hey buddy. Want to go for a walk?”

“I must know what you intend.”

The Blighted King stares at me as I drag the Fool with me. Nereshal has a wand in his hand. He looks so grim! I shrug.

“I’m going to do the hostage negotiations thing.”

“With the Fool?

The Blighted King looks incredulous.

“Just wait and see! Nereshal thinks it’ll work, don’t you, buddy?”

The mage glares at me, but nods.

“I am aware of what he wants. I believe it may work, your majesty. I will teleport myself back in case of trouble. But we are running out of time.”

The King stares at me and his mage. He nods shortly.

“Go, then.”

He stares at the Fool. The Fool glares back. I sigh.

“Get a room, you two.”

They stare at me. I scowl.

“What? It’s hard to be funny. You want to make a better joke? You try coming up with it on the spot.”

“What do you call a King who slaughters his own people?”

The Fool mutters, spitting blood. Nereshal hits him. I grin.

“Not bad.”




“This way. Down this corridor, left here…you know, this would be a lot easier if I didn’t have to drag you.”

“I know.”

The Fool and I move down the corridors I’ve cleared, me pushing and carrying him. He seems determined not to move. Not that he can. Paralysis spell or something Nereshal used on him. I laugh.

“I wonder where Nereshal went? I guess he’s busy killing Demons. He’s cool like that.”

“There is nothing noble about it. There is nothing about this war that’s worth admiring.”

The Fool mumbles around swollen lips. I laugh at him. I do that a lot.

“What, you think the Demons are right? Is that why you did all this?”

The Fool is silent. I round a corridor. Now, was it left, or right? Wait a second, up. I drag him up the stairs. He speaks as I reach the top.

“The Demons are willing to kill for their survival. I don’t think they’re right. But they aren’t wrong either. They fight to live. While the Blighted King—do you know what he has done? All the horrors he has committed in the name of defeating the Demons?”

“Nope. Want to tell me? I could take notes.”

The Fool glares at me as I drag him by his feet down an empty corridor. You know, for variety.

“Why didn’t you walk away? If you had, I could have gotten Erille to safety, and Isodore! Now they’ll both die, more likely than not. You’re on the wrong side, Tom.”

“Side? Side?

I kick him. The Fool groans through gritted teeth. I pick him up by the feet and glare at his knees.

“You’re an idiot, Fool. The Demons, the Blighted King—they’re just sides. There’s no right or wrong! I didn’t choose to help these idiots because I thought they were right. I just thought both sides deserved a funny man helping them. It makes things more entertaining that way.”

He doesn’t respond. I drag on. Okay, now I’m up another flight of stairs. I go up, listening to the Fools’ face smack on every step.

He’s barely conscious by the time I get to the top. He mumbles and I have to lean down to listen.

“It could have ended all today. It could have. Why did you have to speak? Why…?”

I blink at him. Shrug.

“Because, Fool, it’s in my nature. It’s in yours as well. Why do you think people stare at us? We, the two sad idiots who dance around for them. It’s because this war is like a performance, Fool.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Of course you don’t. So I’ll make it simple for you, Fool. Here’s why.”

I pat him on the head and lean down. I whisper in his ear.

“I want to see what comes next.

He looks up at me.

“That’s all?”

“Pretty much.”

“Damn you.”

“So they say. But here I am. And here…we are.”

I drag him the rest of the way down the corridor. There’s a man waiting for us there. Nereshal’s got some cuts down one arm, but he looks pretty good considering he took an alternate route here.


I wave at him. Nereshal stares at me.

“Are you ready?”

“Sort of. Hold on—can I go to the bathroom first? No? Fine, I’ll just go off the edge.”

Nereshal drags the Fool upright. I push him towards the end of the corridor, and then out. Out, through a door, and into the battlements of a tower. High up. I stare down at the courtyard below. At the Demons standing down there, fighting with people at the gates, protecting the [Mage].

They haven’t spotted me. Oh wait. No, they have. One of them, the [Archer] with the big frickin’ bow, is pointing. The Demons look up. I wave.


Nereshal’s voice thunders down at them. He stands back, away from the battlements, hands raised as he concentrates on a spell. I edge over, using the Fool as a shield. My voice, made incredibly large by magic, echoes down at them.

“Hi! How are you all doing tonight? Good? May you drink from the blood of a thousand Human skulls and all that. Hey, what’s with all the soldiers these days? It’s like you can’t even assassinate a Blighted King without tripping over them.”

They stare up at me. I grumble.

“No one likes observational humor. Okay, see this guy? This is your friend. The Fool. Wait, what’s your real name?”

I stare at him. The Fool holds still. He’s staring down at the [Mage] specializing in teleportation magic, far below. Now I finally get a good look at her and…

“That’s a lot of tentacles.”

“That’s her hair.”

“What’s with her arms?”

“She was hurt in war.”

“She’s looking right at us. Hey you. Mage lady! Hi! Do you know this guy?”

I point to the Fool, balancing him on the edge of the battlements. The [Mage] does seem to know him. She’s staring up at him. And what a stare. I look at the Fool. He’s doing the same kind of stare back at her. Another piece of the puzzles snaps into place.

“Hey, wait a second…you like her! And she likes you! You said you were talking to your true love back in the courtyard—fancy that!”

I slap my hand to my forehead and nearly drop the Fool. Nereshal hisses at me and I grab him just in time before he goes over the edge and falls a few hundred feet below.

“Whoops. Sorry. Now, that makes me feel awful about what’s going to happen next.”

“Kill me. She won’t betray her mission for me.”

The Fool looks calmly at me. I shake my head.

“Don’t be so negative. I believe in true love. And you see—”

I call down at them. The Demon [Archer] is aiming at us, but the Fool’s in the way. I laugh down at them.

“Give up! Surrender or the Fool gets it!”

“You’re an idiot. Do you really think that they would all give up their lives for a single Human? For me?”

That really hurts, coming from the Fool himself. I glare at him.

“No? Maybe I should throw you off. Well? See, she doesn’t like that, does she?”

The [Mage] is pointing at me, arguing with the [Archer]. He’s aiming at us. I see her raising her mangled arms to strike at him, shoulders tensing up, and then sagging. She turns away, and then looks at the Fool. The Demon [Archer] draws back on his bow.

“Uh oh. I think she’s giving up on you. Don’t do it! Stop! In the naaaaaaaaaaaame of love!

The Fool ignores me. So do the Demons below. The [Archer] looks like he’s lining up for a good shot. I scowl at him. He’s whispering to her.


“You suck. I came here for true love, and what do I get? Sacrifice. Heartbreak! Who ever heard of a love story like that?”

The Fool doesn’t answer. He closes his eyes, waiting. I turn to Nereshal. The [Mage]’s brow is creased in concentration. He nods at me. I scowl at him.

“You suck. I just wanted to say that to you. You suck, and your kingdom sucks, and you—”

I turn to the Fool.

“—Suck. And all you Demons suck. You hear me? I’m done with you all! Let’s end it now! Goodbye, cruel world! This is it!

I see the Demon pulling back the arrow, ready to loose. I grab the Fool. He looks into my eyes, unafraid to die. I grin, push him—

And jump.




This is what they see. The Demons, looking high overhead. The Blighted King, watching from the banquet hall. The people of Rhir, staring up at the palace below. They see a body falling from the tower, a laughing man. A fool.

But not the Fool. A [Clown] falls through the air, laughing, his voice echoing. He laughs and laughs as the ground rises to meet him, laughs at the disbelief on the Demon’s faces, laughs at the cry of surprise from the Fool.

And high above him in the tower, the great mage Nereshal casts his spell. As the ground rushes up to reach Tom, he blurs. He doesn’t stop falling, but a shield of magic appears around him, a bubble of energy. And he teleports.

Not far. Not to the ground, or vast distances like the [Mage] below him is attempting to do. Nereshal’s spell is simple. It teleports Tom a few hundred feet forwards and to the right. He falls and lands on top of the Demon with the bow.

Oof. Hey, that actually hurt. I almost…oh, hi there buddy.”

The [Clown] bounds to his feet. The Demon beneath him twitches. His body is broken. Tom stabs him in the head and he stops moving. He turns to the escort of Demons surrounding the [Mage]. And grins.

“Hey there. Want to play catch?”

One runs at him. Tom throws something. A sword. It hums through the air and slashes through the Demon, and the one behind him. The other Demons move, a second sword slices into one’s chest, cutting through magical armor like paper. Tom flicks his hand, and a sword shining with bright light appears.

“They call this one Blightbane. Or something. I borrowed it from the Blighted King. And now you get it! Catch!”

He throws it. The sword whirls through the air, cuts through a Demon’s head and another’s arm without slowing. Tom pulls another artifact out of the air. Grins.

“It’s all in the wrist. Who wants a scimitar? You? Here!”

The Demons fall. The elite guard drop, and the [Mage] backs up. She raises her staff, points at Tom, cries out. One of his knives sticks from her shoulder, another in her arm. Tom kicks her before she can move.

“Ah, ah. I don’t want to learn how to fly today. Turns out I’m no good at it. Now, what shall we do with you?”

He grins at her. The [Mage] gasps. Tom raises a hand.

“Wanna see a magic trick?”

He reaches for her face, ignoring the scream from above. He touches her face, reaches behind her ear and pulls out…a gold coin. She stares at it.

“See? You should always wash! Now, let me see. Do I have a hat? No I do not. And a bunny? No I do not. But I can pull a knife out! How about a slightly rotten apple? No?”

She stares at him and utters a word. It sounds like despair. Her body vanishes underneath Tom and he sits down.

“No one’s a fan of my tricks. Oh well.”

He gets up, brushes himself off, and looks around. The Demons remaining in the courtyard stare at him. Tom looks up, and grins as Nereshal floats down. The [Chronomancer]’s eyes burn like fire, and magic crackles from his fingertips in the form of lightning.

“Well, it looks like I have an assistant for today. Ladies and gentlemen, Demons all.”

He bows as the soldiers of the Demon King ready their weapons, hearing their comrades falling from the palace. They rush towards him, and Tom straightens. A sword appears in his hand, a dagger in the other. He laughs.

“Let’s begin the show.




This is how it ends. Boring. I sit on a Demon’s body and hum. Nereshal turns and stares at me. I raise my hands.

“If you don’t like the song, you pick a better one.”

“Do you enjoy acting insane, or is this madness genuine?”

I pause, stare at him. The [Mage] is pretty undamaged for a guy who just killed a few hundred Demons. I shrug.

“Wouldn’t you like to know?”

He grunts and turns away. I get up as I see people streaming out of the palace.

“Hey! I think I win!”

The Blighted Queen ignores me as she walks out of the courtyard, her beloved Blighted King by her side. Her mace is drenched with gore, and the soldiers around her look wounded and bloody. I see Richard helping Emily out.

“Aw. No one important died.”

Hundreds lie dead within the castle and thousands more in the city!”

Nereshal snaps at me. I raise my hands.

“Yeah, but no one important died. Let’s be honest.”

He turns away from me. I whistle a tune as the Blighted King approaches. He stares at me.

“You let her go.”

“Correction: she didn’t like my magic tricks.”

I’m offended, really I am. The Blighted King stares at me, and looks at the crushed Demon archer guy I landed on. He looks satisfied as he stands over his corpse.

“One more of the Demon King’s limbs taken away. It will suffice.”

“We will claim vengeance for this.”

The Blighted Queen’s eyes blaze with battle fury. Nereshal nods. I yawn.

“Maybe. Or maybe we all let bygones be bygones?”

They stare at me. I raise my hands.

“Fine. Fine. I guess we do it your way.”

“We must begin to reconstruct. Find the wounded—and whatever Demon soldiers remain in hiding. It will not be safe in the palace, your Majesty. I recommend caution and staying under guard until—”

Nereshal is speaking to the Blighted King as the people stream into the courtyard, and the King is staring around when it happens. I hear the scream. Erille’s voice. She’s pointing. I look up.

“Huh. I didn’t see that coming.”

A body falls from the tower. The same tower Nereshal and I fell from. This time, it’s the Fool. He tumbles through the air, only there’s no magic to slow his fall or break it. He lands on the ground, headfirst.

Thump. The impact makes people run back. I see the Fool’s neck twist, and then his body spring upwards. He tumbles forwards, mows down two of the people closest to him, and then comes to a stop, legs comically dangling in the air. I blink as the Fool flips onto his feet. He looks unsteady, but grim. And he’s no longer held by magic.

I begin applauding.

“That was probably the best pratfall I’ve ever seen in my life. Bravo! Do it again!”


The Blighted King snarls. He points, and Nereshal moves, quick as lightning.


He never gets to finish the spell. The Fool flips backwards into the air, doing a double backflip and throws something. A ball bounces off Nereshal’s face and he staggers. I hear a crack and see his nose bend out of shape.

“Hail to the Blighted King, the murderer of innocents! Your Majesty, you and I have unfinished business. I am the world’s greatest [Fool], and a fool deserving of the title! And today I seek your life, my King. For your sins. And mine, for letting you continue. No more. I will put an end to it today.”

The Fool’s voice booms throughout the courtyard. He lands on his feet and points at the King. I sit back.

“Oh man, this is going to be so good.”

The Blighted King looks down at the Fool. His eyes are cold, distant. He turns his head.

“Kill the traitor.”

The soldiers rush at the Fool. And the Fool— fights. He cartwheels into the first man, sending the man in armor tumbling comically to the ground. He spins, and two blades appear in his hands. He slashes a [Knight] in armor across his helmetless face, bumps Emily over with his hip, and tosses the second dagger through the heart of a [Mage] fifty feet away.

“Ooh, he’s good.”

The Fool spins into the air, flicking daggers at people rushing at him. He rolls under Richard’s sword and trips him up. The [Knight] goes down and the Fool kicks Richard in the head. He bounces about, too fast to be caught.

The Blighted Queen rushes at him. The Fool dances away from her, tossing daggers. She blocks each one with her mace. He throws something. She trips.

A juggling ball. The Blighted Queen is on her feet in a moment, but too late. The Fool races towards the Blighted King. A fireball flies towards him from the left, too fast to dodge—

He turns, grabs for the fire. It disappears. He makes it vanish. I sit up.

“Whoa. Can I do that?”

I should take notes! Then I see an angry [Mage] standing in front of the Blighted King. Nereshal’s nose is bloody, but his hands crackle with magic. I carefully lean back.

“[Lightning Storm].”

Bolts of lightning blast from his fingertips, the same ones that emptied the courtyard of life minutes ago. The Fool stands in the center of the electrical storm.

Time slows as the lightning begins to strike the Fool. I see him twist. His hands rise. One bolt of lightning is stretching towards his chest. His hand blocks the bolt, and then the lightning collects in it. The Fool spins, tosses it, and then catches another bolt. He throws it back at Nereshal.

He juggles the lightning.

Explosions. I feel one blast me off my feet. I roll, and see the lightning storm reverse course. Countless bolts strike Nereshal. I see him throw up his hands, and then it’s over. In the blink of an eye. Nereshal collapses, a shield of magic disintegrating around him as his eyes roll up in his head.

The Fool stands in front of him, breathing heavily. His hands are blackened, the skin smoking. But he still moves. He races towards the Blighted King and before anyone can stop him, has a knife to his throat.

“Now we come to it, your Majesty! Now we put an end to this pathetic performance. I should have done this years ago!”

He shouts. The courtyard is still. There are a hundred bows trained on the Fool, [Mages] ready with spells, warriors with blades. None of them dare move. Because the knife at the Blighted King’s throat is faster than them all.

The Blighted King stands still. His voice is calm.

“Do it, then, traitor. But tell me why, first. You pledged your loyalty to me, to this nation. Why betray it?”

“Why? Why?

The Fool is trembling. His hands still smoke. There are tears in his voice, but none in his eyes. I can see Erille, standing with her hands on her mouth next to Isodore. The Fool can’t look at her. A tableau.

“Why do you think? All you’ve done, all the horrors you’ve committed, the crimes—I could understand. That, for war. But the ritual? The cost? Never.”

“What I do, I do for my people. So that they may live.”

The Fool shakes his head. His dagger presses into the King’s throat, drawing blood. I hear a sound from the Blighted Queen. Pain.

“You do not deserve to be a King. Tell them what you did. Tell them!

“No. Kill me. But I will die first.”

The Fool hesitates. The Blighted King is ready to impale himself on the dagger before either one speaks. I can see him looking, staring at Erille, hand tensing on the hilt—

“My turn.”

Everyone turns as I stand, brushing myself off. The Fool looks at me. I’m not sure if he hates me, even now.

“There’s nothing you can do, Tom. Step away. The Blighted King dies, and I die too. Let that be an end to it.”

“Oh, come on. It’s not over. You’re here, Fool, and so am I. We can’t let it end with you dying just like that. We need a final grudge match, a proper end. [Fool] vs [Clown]. A battle for the ages. What do you say?”

He stares at me. I grin at him. He looks away.

“You truly are mad, aren’t you? You…I’m sorry. Sorry you ever came here, Tom.”

“Don’t say that. Tell you what; I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.”

There are two knives in my hand. I have three left. The Fool stares at me.

“You can’t scare me with death. I’m ready for it.”

I roll my eyes.

“Not your death, obviously. I’m thinking more poetically.”

I look past the Blighted King, past the Fool. At a girl staring with wide eyes. The Fool’s mouth opens. He screams.


The knife flies past the Blighted King, through the air, towards Erille. Too fast for anyone to block. Anyone, but a Fool.

He lets the Blighted King go and dives for the knife. I’ve never seen a man move that fast. The Fool catches the blade in midair, right in front of Erille’s face. Of course, I knew he’d do that.

That’s why I threw three.

The Fool’s hands blur as he throws all three knives. Two fly towards the Blighted King, striking him in the chest, and in the shoulder. The next one strikes me in the stomach. It doesn’t slow me down as I tackle the [Fool]. We roll around on the ground, hands flashing, fighting for daggers, pulling them out of the air, out of each other’s trick spaces.

You idiot! You mad monster!

He screams at me as he slashes my face, my arms and front. I laugh, stabbing back. He dodges, even locked together as we are. He kicks me away and we stand. I throw a dagger, his dagger, and he throws it right back. I snatch it out of the air and we cut at each other, dodging, weaving, too close for anyone to interfere.

“Why do you do it? Why!?”

He’s shouting, stumbling. His hands don’t grasp the knives properly. I laugh.

“Do you want to know why? Do you know what separates the two of us? Clown and fool? It’s easy!”

I grab his arm. He stabs me, but I don’t let go. I draw him closer as he stabs, looking for my heart.

“You’re a fool. People laugh at you. You make them laugh. But I? I’m a clown. I laugh at the world.”

He stares at me. My free hand reaches out. I grin.

“And guess what I just found?”

His eyes widen. I pull the fireball out of the air, out of the space he kept it in. He tries to back away—

And there’s fire.




The Fool’s body lies on the ground, blackened. One of his eyelids is burnt away, exposing an eye. His right hand—gone. The rest of his body is destroyed.

But he is still alive. I walk towards him and pick him up in my arms. I don’t feel my body anymore.

“That’s funny. Are you…crying, Tom?”

He looks at me. I stare down at him. Me. The laughing man in my head is gone.

“I guess I am, Fool. I’m sorry. It was me. I did all this.”

“You don’t say?”

We stand alone in a blackened crater in the courtyard. Alone, but for all the witnesses. The Blighted King lies on the ground, breathing heavily. But he is alive. And the rest, the citizens of Rhir who pour through the gates, the battered Drake company led by Cirille, gather. To see a dying Fool, and the clown who killed him. One, a beloved face turned traitor. The other a monster. A hero.

“I’m so sorry, Fool. I don’t know what I would have done. But—I couldn’t let you. I knew that.”

“I suppose not. You’re not a funny fellow, Tom. Not funny. But you don’t want to be, I think. But do you know what’s funny?”

His voice is hoarse. A whisper. No one else can hear him. I have to put my ear to his lips.

“What? What is it?”

“The Blighted King. Why do you think I turned on him? It was the day after the ritual that I knew. When you were summoned, I learned the cost.”

“What cost?”



“They wear it. Crimson for the lost. Miscarriages, they said. A curse. But it wasn’t. And the price was—high.”

I raise my head. Standing in a group across from me are the ladies of the Blighted King’s court. Lady Zekyria stares at me, her face pale. Her gown is torn and scorched. But light red, closer to pink, and white.

For her dead child.


The Fool’s whisper is pitiful. He looks up at me, pain in his eyes.

“Ten thousand unborn souls. For you sixty. Isn’t that—that—”

His remaining eyelid flickers. His other eye strays before snapping back on me. He’s dying.

“A funny joke, Tom. A terrible joke.”

“But it’s over, Fool. It’s over and done.”


The Fool reaches up. His hand—flakes away at the touch. But he looks me in the eye.

“A hundred thousand. He wants an army this time. An army. He’d sacrifice so many for any edge. And if a hundred thousand doesn’t work, he’ll sacrifice a million. Every unborn child, to kill Demons. To kill people just like you and me.”

I stare at him. Of course. I can’t be surprised. It makes sense, in the horrible way of this world. I’m almost…numb? But the Fool cares. He cares so much, and the pain in his eyes—he whispers his last words to me.

“I cannot stop him. I couldn’t end it. Or save her. But you can. Protect her. Take her away.”

I look up and see Erille. She stares at me. Me, the man who killed her beloved Fool. He grasps my arm.

“Please. I wished—”

I wait for the rest. It never comes. The Fool’s hand grips my arm, tight, stiff. He doesn’t let go. Even in death.




The foolish clown sits in the broken courtyard as the people gather on the balconies, flood through the gates. Royals, knights and mages and dignitaries, common folk and people from another world. He weeps, holding the body of the Fool in his hands.

No one else sheds a tear. No one. They wipe them away, hiding them, like shame. The [Princess] has to hide them. But the clown wears his tears on his face. And then, his sobs turn into laughter.

He laughs at them, at him, at this broken world. And he holds the broken Fool in his body, the hero who tried to put an end to a bad joke.

It should be raining. But the night is cool and still. Yet there is liquid of a kind. Blood flows through the courtyard, pooling. It reflects poorly, but someone watches in that crimson mirror. The devil himself laughs and bows to the audience only he can see. His voice can only be heard by the clown.

Next time, dear Tom. Next time. They’ll be coming, the lost and afraid. From our world.

He points, mockingly, to the Blighted King, whose eyes are on the clown, the [Hero] of the day. He laughs, as the clown levels up. As a [Clown] and [Hero] both.

You can’t escape it. Not this. And now, more will come. More, to dance and laugh along with this joke. Can you stop it? You can’t. But I can. And I’ll be with you, each step of the way. Whenever you call—and when you don’t.

He bows and fades. But his voice remains, echoing, reminding the clown of all he lost. And promising him, telling him of the future.

I’ll be waiting.


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107 thoughts on “1.05 C

  1. And now we end it. For now. A sad tale, one I meant to write for a while. It changed from what it was going to be in some ways, but the ending was the same.

    And I hope it was good. Tom’s madness, for all I built it up, isn’t the deep insanity of a Hannibal character or the over-the-top craziness you might see from other characters. He’s just…Tom. Tom, but different. Some might say wrong. Others might say he’s just missing something. Or has something else.

    I worry. I worry that I wrote it wrong, but of course, it’s too late to not post. This is the latest I’ve written until, because I didn’t expect this chapter to be a double chapter. And…well, let’s just see if this chapter is good, or needs editing. Let me know.

    I hope you like the story. That’s all there is to say. Sad tales, happy tales…it should be engaging either way. Thanks for reading.

    • It was beautiful, it was terrible, it was heart-rending and so breathtakingly savage. But it was good.

    • I liked it! My only criticism is that I’d love to see how much he leveled up on his classes, and the new skills he got. It’s like a progression addiction. I bet Tom would laugh at it

    • I’d love to read a Toren chapter again. Quite intriguingly I havr grown quite attached to it… him… her… them. And it is interesting how he develops his feelings and mentality.
      They are the opposite of this [Clown], but Erin’s influence is healing

    • This is so freakn awesome in so many ways, i cant even handle how awesome this was!!!!! @_@ Tom is Definitely one of my fav characters, cant wait to see what comes next!!

    • I may have to read it sometime. For now… I am glad I was using my computer instead of my phone… because scrolling past side stories is difficult on my phone

    • I started reading your story on January 18th, when my mother tested positive for Covid and all the family had to go into isolation. And I’m already here: Volume 4.
      I usually don’t comment, because I also don’t check other other comments. (Furthermore, english is not my first language and I dislike setting myself up to arguments that I can loose because of… grammar.)
      But for this chapter, I decided to, because I wanted to see praise showered upon you, for this remarkable, astounding piece of grim/dark fantasy.

      I was shocked to find criticism. At all.
      It is apparent that Tom chapters are polarizing among your readers. Some love it, others hate it.
      It’s true, I love this type of dark and twisted storytelling, and this is why I must defend all your Tom chapters. However, I would never criticize your other chapters just because they don’t fascinate me as much.
      I can’t help but feel that much of your reader base takes the sad, wretched feelings that these chapters induce and mistake those feelings as an indicator that your storytelling is “bad”, “even if your writing is great”.
      Well, I think they are fools.

      Your Tom is my favourite character from the very first moment you introduce him. I think it is believable that if people from Earth land on a brutal new environment, some live, others die and a few, unluckily survive and… break.
      Tom was damaged before he was even transported to a new universe. If he had chosen another class, like [Warrior], he would have died when Wilen did. But he chose something that complemented his needs, something that could coexist with what he felt he was becoming: mad.
      In this way, he is similar to Laken, who chose the only class he could think of that would give him a modicum of power, since he was blind.

      Since he chose something that matched up well with himself, he strives. He got the [Devil’s Luck] which allows him to get away with A LOT of things regarding physical combat. Furthermore, he his lucky to be in an environment/position with healing potions readily available.
      A lot of other things he gets away with are explained by his condition [Lesser Insanity], which I believe is the reason he is not particularly affected in the presence of the Blighted King. It’s hard to control and/or hide things from the insane, because their minds can not be tricked in usual ways.

      So all those comments saying things along the lines that this chapter has “plotholes” or is “weird”, are utter tripe. What you wrote is beautiful and it made perfect sense, considering that we are reading from the point of view of a character that is socially awkward (I’d go as far as saying socially inept), is currently isolated (no friends) and is extremely concerned with his own sanity. Naturally, he is a very limited narrator, because he exists consumed with his own faults and does not examine the world around him. Therefore, he can not provide the explanations that would make certain events/occurrences more palatable to those readers that need to be handheld through every step of the plot and are not as apt at using their imagination and insight into people’s nature in order to fill in the gaps. It’s fine to be a reader like that, or to have such preferences, but it’s important to realize that just because something is not to your taste, it certainly does not mean that there is a limitation/mistake on the side of the writer.

      Also, I must point out something to those that denigrate this chapter and defend the consistency and evolution of your story telling. Anything that Tom got away with this chapter, so have Erin and Ryoka in previous ones. Those girls started both with some realism, each in their own style, but have now evolved into some characters that get away with a lot, Erin with the power of friendship and Ryoka with the power of Fairy and Dragon friends. This evolution makes a certain amount of sense as they abandon their earthly ways and start embracing the good things about the world they find themselves on.

      Thus I end what I now see is little more than a rant but I will post the comment anyway. I do apologize if the text reads harsher than I intended it to be.
      Finally, I just want to say: you are really great. You are a solid writer with minimal variation in quality of chapters, you have a story that is compelling and rich.
      The problem of having many aspects (many POVs, many plot lines, many styles) is that you are not going to please everybody every time but, believe me, each one has value and is proof of what a remarkable writer you are. So bring on more, Miss Writer! More of everything!
      (All your chapters are candy, but Tom’s are my favorite cherry flavor. I will probably eat the whole bag and rejoice whenever there is more Tom).

      • And for all those still wondering why the fairies think it’s a bad idea to let the class system control you: this is why, right here. Tom entered the story bipolar and his class levels added full-blown multiple personality disorder. With a side order of hallucinations. Against his will.

        That’s by far the most objectively horrifying thing since the poor florist in Esthelm – who was also a victim of the class system.

        Never let gods or game designers tell you who you are.

    • This is why re-reads exist. What an awful AWFUL person to know the Blighted Kings horrific secret; Tom the Clown would start a civil war for fun, the more savage, the better — but that is just Rhir… .

    • Rags, rags is my favorite but the clown, he is something else. I really like him and his uniqueness. I like the real jim who is smart, cunning and dangerous. And also tom who cries for the fool, who struggle against his inner self, he is wonderful. Though i am not much fan of the too anxious-him. But all in all i really like the story. Its is really good overall, i just really wish that the demons would be the real thing instead. Not the common novel like demons who are always presented as if a race or another nationality. Wouldn’t it be best if it is the legit type of demons who are full of madness, corruption, vengeance and unreasonable personality and thinking. Just like how the clown is when he unleash his otherself. Well its just me, whose getting tired of the same version of such characters. But for everything else, it’s thumbs up, standing ovation. And lastly i wish torem is a mal at least or chosen to be male but she being female is more reasonable i guess

    • Let me get this straight… So this is taking a step back, towards the beginning of the story.
      And the rest of the transported humans are across the world, arriving only 60 at the site of the summon.

      • No, that can’t be right. One of the ladies was talking about the assassination attempt on Lady Reinhart. Which was a fairly recent event that Ryoka witnessed

      • 60 arived at the blighted kings palace, 940 arived araound the world most where killed. One of those thqt lived was Erin.

    • “One of the champions raises his own bow, draws an {arrows}, looses it in a moment.”
      {arrows} -> {arrow}

      “Until then, if the teleportation {spells is} not working, is it possible to send a force to deal with the [Mage]?”
      {spells is} -> {spell is} or maybe {spells are}

    • 1.00C
      me and around fifty people

      We sent over sixty of you to do battle against the Demons. Now less than a third remain.”

      “One thousand unborn souls. For you sixty. Isn’t that—that—”

      The fifty people in 1.00C should be sixty, i didn’t post it there, because of the spoilers in the other 2 quotes.

  2. i find it a bit, idunno, unrealistic? unlikely? that a [clown] and someone from another world, would understand defending the castle that much better than people born to war. i find it strange as well, that the [fool] and the [clown] would be better warriors than people who have truly spend their lives in constant war. i find it weird, that a level 40 minimum mage and archer are some of the highest level in the demon lords army. niers astrogon is 80 something if i remember correctly, obviously he is an extra extraordinary, but wouldn’t a kingdom of demons that have to fight for survival have truly high level combatants that thrived in the constant chaos of it all?

    don’t get me wrong, the writing was great. i just feel like there are inconsistencies with the realism the rest of the story usually is based in. like here it turned into “the main characters is strong because he is the main character” instead of there being a sort of underlying logic.

    i hope that makes sense, love you work, but this chapter had me loose the immersion or sense of the world you’ve created a little bit :3

    • It worked for me, because I felt that Tom’s castle defense tactics were not so much better than the Blighted King’s, but rather, more ruthless. I can see how mileage could vary on that, though.

    • You seem to have a misunderstanding about the relative strength of levels in this world. Niers is the greatest strategist in the world and is only lvl 64 or so. It was said by the courier that at lvl 30+ you are one of a thousand on a continent. According to Selys someone level 40+ in their primary class is one of the 100 strongest in the world. At his strongest Klbch was only level 44 in his primary class. It was mentioned that Kryshia doesn’t believe there is anyone alive at level 70 and such an individual would solo Krakens or slaughter entire armies single handedly.

      I believe that the King would have come to a similar conclusion to Tom after a few minutes. The [Clown] was just quicker on the uptake and more ruthless with regards to the servants. There was a bit of plot armor but Tom’s success against the demons was mostly due to a nonstandard strategy and being backed up by the strongest [Chronomancer] on the continent while wielding an entire king’s armory worth of artifacts.

      • ah, it does indeed appear i have a skewed view of levels ^^ i was definitely wrong on that account :3 i still find the other things to be a bit strange tho :3

      • It’s also worth keeping in mind that level 40 was Nereshal’s absolute minimum estimate. It may be they were level 50 or even higher. They don’t have exact numbers.

    • The downside to importing people from another world into yours where imagination + magic = real effects… is that sooner or later, you will get somebody who knows part of their own culture backwards. And, can therefore channel an iconic touchstone, e.g Mark Hamill’s version of the Joker, in an attempt to cope.

      The King didn’t stop to ask where these so-called heroes were coming from, and what cultural monsters could be found there.

    • Way late on this. Not all classes are created equally. A level 1 commander is the same as a level 1 warrior and tactician rolled into one. One level of that class is equal to two. It’s directly mentioned it’s a consolidation of the two. But, some are just better, full stop. There’s also some huge downsides to Tom’s class. Insanity for one. There’s always someone sitting in his head waiting to come out, and while for now he may seem on the side of angels, there’s no guarantee that will continue to be true. It’s the Doctor Jeckyll and Mr Hyde issue. At first Jeckyll liked Hyde, he was useful, exhilarating to be. Then it changed into a curse as Hyde did more and more outside of Jeckyll’s control. It’s kind of a Trope for this type of character. Tom gets power, so much power at the price of control. One day that lack of control will make him pay something he can’t live with. The other Tom will do something truly monstrous if the story goes on long enough.

  3. I wonder… is it too much of a leap to guess that all the people from our world, from across all of the Innverse, would all together come to a total of a thousand people summoned? Seventeen people in the original iPhone chat, times the number of people who didn’t have a charged iPhone for one reason or another, multiplied again by however many people died before or arrived after the call… one thousand people doesn’t seem like an unreasonable estimate.

    • A full hundred were summoned together in the second set of Doctor chapters. I could see a thousand lives for 60 heroes, but the additional 940 souls missing from the world had to be balanced out somehow. The arrival of those after Erin was referred to as, “Rain falls upon the world. Just for a brief moment. A passing shower of souls.” in the first interlude.

      I personally am of the headcannon that Erin and a few others were summoned first as a plot by the dead gods but then the connection between worlds was torn wider by the summoning of heroes. This connection has lead to a continued trickle of a few important individuals such as an emperor or a doctor, but the tearing leads to larger and larger groups of random people from airports just like the Americans.

      • It seems to me something tore the veil between worlds. Badly. And it’s getting worse. I’m assuming it’s a result of the God trying to resurrect itself, but it could also be the world trying to prevent said resurrection.

        All the summoning ritual did was sacrifice 1,000 souls to ensure that the people already about to arrive showed up in their circle. That’s why it was only 60 people that showed up in the circle – they caught those in transition at that moment. And only them. I suspect no matter how many they sacrifice that is all they will ever accomplish – catching those that were going to cross the boundary while the ritual took place.

  4. Well this explains some of my aversion to chapters 2 & 3. Fun Tom was the voice in the head. I must say he is far less antagonistic once he is let loose upon the world. As a voice he was chaotic evil, as a person he becomes chaotic neutral.

  5. Alright, first of all, which sane [King] would give a mad level 28 [Clown] access to his legendary sword? And how strong is the [Fool] anyway? Level 60? Does the [King] lack an entourage?

    Former Named Adventurer got soloed by a [Lesser Teleport] or something. Seems legit. While Tom, the most powerful warrior in Rhir, solo kills an entire squad of Fearless. What?

    How did the Blighted King get held hostage by the Fool? Why did Nereshal not instakill Tom? Who made the Teleportation Wardstone open for public access? Actually, why would a teleportation ward not have wards to prevent it from being moved? Wait, if it were moved wouldn’t it still work regardless? And if it were destroyed . . . [Fool] must have some damn good magic skills.

    . . . but wait a second. Why were the two level 40 fighters and said former Named Adventurer were both in the courtyard of all places? Whaaat?

    I love TWI, I really do. It’s possibly my favorite thing to read at the moment. I get an adrenaline rush every time a chapter releases. It’s, for this reason, I’m wondering what happened to this chapter.

    Writing is good, and I mean that, but just waaaay too many plotholes for a single chapter. I can say without a doubt that this has been the overall *weirdest* TWI chapter thus far.

    Don’t take this criticism the wrong way. I’m only stating flaws here because those can be counted numerically; I can’t say the same regarding the seemingly infinite pros.

    Good luck to you in the future. Maybe take a break, skip a chapter? I know, I know, consistency is key and all, but sometimes we just need a little breather to drink some brain juice.

    Aaand this isn’t coming out as I was thinking it in my head. Apologies.

    • I agree with several of your points, but I need to clarify for you that Tom didn’t solo anyone. The whole time he was backed up by mages.

    • One thing I was thinking in this chapter, and the ones before, is that [Devil’s Luck] seemed to be very much in play here. A lot of rather unlikely things happened, leaving us with a finale where Tom (and his devil) become a Hero to everyone. And that positive outcome for him was the result of terrible outcomes for a lot of other people… [Devil’s Luck] indeed.

      (As for the Fool and the Wardstone… I imagined that it was left out so that anyone who tried to grab it would be zapped by powerful defenses. But the Fool can just put it in his trick space without ever having to touch it. Or possibly his [Mage] lover told him how to deal with it.)

      • [Devil’s Luck], aka the plothole skill, is OP, please nerf.

        And I feel like the palace wardstone would have better defenses than that. I mean, come ON. Of course it should.

        • Well yeah, probably. The wardstone should be one of the best guarded things in the kingdom, really. And it probably is, normally– rereading, I got the impression that the wardstone wasn’t just floating about in the throne room (as I first thought), but that it had been somewhere else and a [Mage] went to go grab it for examination when the Demons teleported in. So under normal circumstances, the wardstone is probably under guard and behind enchanted defenses.

          The problem is just that the Fool has the perfect combination of assets to take the wardstone. He’s trusted enough to have the run of the castle, he (presumably) has attention-diverting Skills as well as Skills useful for theft, he has a very skilled [Mage] he can consult freely with who can tell him how to deal with the enchantments… And most importantly, he’s had a lot of time to work at the problem. Time to befriend the guards and [Mages] responsible for the wardstone, get them drunk, get them talking.

          • its ultimately just that his skills break the world’s common sense, using loopholes. Kind of like Erin’s sense of knowing what her customers will like to eat as an advanced cook, being what reveals the disguises of the prized creations of a legendary necromancer, for all the magic and wards and illusions. Of course its also about will and motive to do so in the first place, to speak the words, to steal the lodestone in a pocket space.

    • @RadiantLegacy#7789 I’m taking your post and trying to answer it one by one
      “which sane [King] would give a mad level 28 [Clown] access to his legendary sword? ”
      a desperate one who is about to lose everything so he trust the only person who seems to have a plan

      “And how strong is the [Fool] anyway? Level 60?” we don’t know but pretty damn high, most likely higher then our level 28 clown

      “Does the [King] lack an entourage? “he has a entourage, he has guards, a lot of the guards were down already and the clown delayed those still standing fighters, the main bulk of the kings army is away preparing for action on another plan which is why the clown chose to move in the first place, they didn’t leave the place without protection, but not enough to fend of a teleportation from a traitor for the entire enemy army

      “Former Named Adventurer got soloed by a [Lesser Teleport] or something. Seems legit.”the mage and the archer are aproximatly also named adventurer rank, at level 40 atleast, she was focusing on the archer so she was open for the mage to teleport really high, don’t know what is weird about that

      “While Tom, the most powerful warrior in Rhir, solo kills an entire squad of Fearless. What?”we discussed that this is wrong

      “How did the Blighted King get held hostage by the Fool?”I don’t think the king was armed since he gave tom his sword, so what is weird about the armed fool who is very fast and was delaying all his guards holding him hostage, we know he isn’t the best fighter and doesn’t fight often

      ” Why did Nereshal not instakill Tom?” you mean when he was held by tom? casting time, Nereshal needs to make movement to use his spell, the moment he tried something tom pressed his knife more into his throat so he couldn’t try anything without risking being killed

      “Who made the Teleportation Wardstone open for public access? Actually, why would a teleportation ward not have wards to prevent it from being moved? Wait, if it were moved wouldn’t it still work regardless? And if it were destroyed . . . [Fool] must have some damn good magic skills.” we don’t know the wardstone was open to public access, it was taken out so they can check what is wrong with it, but the [fool] is the perfect person to get near it when there’s a opening and replace it, no one suspects a fool thats his entire purpose, even if there is a magical ward on it and its usually guarded, the fool was there for very long and this was long planned and he had help from the demons, in the form of a tool similar to the scroll that can remove wards, this is a long planned action so how the wardstone was protected is kinda of a moot point.

      “. . . but wait a second. Why were the two level 40 fighters and said former Named Adventurer were both in the courtyard of all places? Whaaat?|

      a quote from last chapter after the demons were announced in the courtyard:

      “I hear screams now, but the Blighted King is on his feet and another man with a greatsword leaps up and roars for silence. He and four other warriors including Xersia the Scorpion race out of the hall, their forms a blur.”
      thats why they were there

      • correction for this:

        “And how strong is the [Fool] anyway? Level 60?” we don’t know but pretty damn high, most likely higher then our level 28 clown

        there are many advantages for the [fool] that are possible from being prepare, like knowing how your enemies fight and move to them not knowing how he fights and what is he capable of, there are plenty of reasons that could accumulate to his advantage but we don’t know

      • Another weird thing. We have Rhir, country of constant war.

        Sudden attack on the King’s palace happens… And best [Strategist] they have to generate creative ideas is [Clown] 28th level?

        Something is wrong with Rhir.

        • The attack was planned while most of the forces were away, we saw it last time (when the clown talked with the princess after talking to the scroll). most of the actual forces are out there for a plan, or something, and thats exactly the sort of thing that the clown was waiting, most of the people that stayed are representative, some strong adventurers, and nobles and guards. the actual strategists and high end people of military ability and the sort I think aren’t there. they didn’t expect this attack and its exactly what the clown was waiting for to make this

        • Rhir, a country that has known the attrition of war for thousands of years, thinks it’s fine to abort the entire next generation of populace on a tactic that at best produced 5 capable fighters. Yeah, something is definitely wrong with Rhir.

  6. I was really impressed by the persona swap as Tom goes from arguing with the voice in his head to being the voice in his head in just 3 sentences.

  7. I have to say, I love the Tom Chapters. It is an amazing story arch and I hope get to see what comes next.

    • I haven’t read ahead, but I have looked to see how many ‘c’ chapters there are, and I must say I’m sad there’s so little of tom. His tragedy/comedy is one of the more interesting viewpoints for me.

  8. As I reread, it occurs to me that… the Blighted King isn’t all that great of a King. I’m sure he’s high-level, or whatever, but for as much as he gets praised, he’s definitely no Flos. He’s uncertain, slow to react, he can’t keep order… And Mad Tom can see it. He can look past the King’s power and reputation and see beneath that a man too small for the burden placed on him.

  9. I’m glad other people keep track of plot holes and contribute typos. I’m just completely in the enjoyment zone when I read Inn and don’t want to analyze anything. So from an enjoyment perspective:
    Different continent and new setting for this arc feels energizing and visually stimulating. Tom’s insane dialogue and the crowd reactions were amazing at getting him across. I was alternately afraid he’d murder everyone and then cavalierly cofident he’d get the job done in a spectacular mad skills way. His insane behavior seemed so natural and unforced as he was playing off the other character’s reactions and dialogue. He’s like the perfect depiction of the joker I’ve always wanted to see. The fight scenes were exciting and memorable. Of course none of that happens without spot on setup of the situations and his character development.

  10. If we return to regular chapters at this point, then I’m kinda lacking pay off.

    One of the things I love the most of major events is the day after. But here we ended without seeing the levels he got or people’s reaction and the treatment toward tom or afterwards explaination from him. There’s even less pay off then last time we had a clown chapter and I kinda miss it.

    I wanna see the day after

  11. Very good chapter(s)! I don’t think I voted for [Clown], but I’m always getting more than I anticipated. One could interpret the two sides of Tom as the Ego and the Observer, much like in the great Guy Ritchie epos ‘Revolver’, with which it shares similarities, down to some almost identical lines, like: ‘You don’t control me. I control you.’ – well, who have had seen This ending coming! Btw: I found the new IT also lacking, revisited the original and it holds up, luckily.

  12. Wow, Tom showing up in the clown costume last chapter was good horror.

    And I really felt for The Fool, but Earth does 50 million abortions per year.
    Can’t really see why he’s upset over a mere 1000 that brings in dozens of heros.
    Perhaps because the King did it without asking for permission?

    Also, his amazing showing just now might very well have locked in the king’s 2nd round of hero summonings, killing 10,000 more unborn children and ruining the lives of countless Earthlings.

    One of these chapters we will meet a named hero who isn’t a villian!

    • Greater Pain Tolerance and Devil’s Luck got a LOT of use this chapter.

      Jumping hundreds of feet off a building and relying on a guy you kicked in the nuts and pulled a knife on to shield and teleport you correctly?

      Crazy he landed on the Archer.
      Still had to stab him in the head to kill him though, tough dude.

      Why let the Mage lady go?
      Keep the Fool from going nuclear and instantly killing the King?
      Perhaps the coin joke was more important, silly insane people.

      Really feel bad for Tom.
      He does seem to perceive the truth of things more clearly when he’s a murder clown.

      I could speculate all day on the 2nd personality.
      Clearly nice Tom is the original and not the voice in the head of clown Tom.
      Is clown Tom something external added by the level system?
      Or is he Tom’s original personality, just duplicated and with the emotion of Fear surgically removed?
      No pain, no fear, good with knives, horrific laugh, lesser insanity, but still Tom.
      Mirrored with the Fearless demons, or maybe the rooms with mirrors.

      If clown Tom only comes out when nice Tom is feeling fearful, that is a vicious cycle.
      Losing control of your body doesn’t help, it just makes things worse!

      Tom needs to stay around completely harmless things like the Fool, kids, and puppies.
      Gradually master his fear and the voice should go away along with the insanity debuff.
      Rhir is the worst place in the world to attempt this.
      10/10 doomed.

      • They’re both the original. It’s a classic multiple-personalities plot, they have to reconcile their differences and become one to cure it.

    • TFW you accidentally scare bae by going full Joker. You NEVER go full Joker.

      Remember that birth control in Innworld is 100% effective and magical. They probably have never had abortions in a meaningful sense, so the mere idea is abhorrent. Meanwhile, us Earthworlders have had a few centuries to get used to it. And yeah, permission probably had something to do with it.

      Honestly, my bigger concern is losing 10k babies. That is NOT a small amount for a city of hundreds of thousands. Folk better start getting busy.

      Also, I’d offer that no one in Rhir is a villain. They aren’t heroes, that’s for sure, but the situation is so desperate and so far out of left field that I don’t think we can say they’re good or bad. Are they in the morally right? Nope. Are they in the morally wrong? It’s a desperate situation.

      Also, where’s my Clown level-up at? The “not bad” joke was actually exceptionally clever, and he just killed a LOT of badasses.

    • Involuntary miscarriages are emotionally quite different. Though they should also be quite common in a medieval world. And in this setting I think souls are probably real which changes things a bit too. Anyway it is not like we know what the Fool thinks about abortion.

  13. Man the Clown is my favorite side character! Wondering what he got for clowning around like that. Assuming a level up.

  14. Great chapters!
    Slight nitpick; I feel like the ending would have a lot more impact if you drop the “He laughs, as the clown levels up. As a [Clown] and [Hero] both.” part, and have the standard level-up announcement at the end instead. Just my opinion.

  15. I like how much this (surprisingly) actually advanced the main plot. We now know more about the mechanics of the summoning ritual.

  16. So Tom is now a Malkavian? Totally insane because he sees too much and just finds the world and the people in it hilarious?
    Insanity lets you get away with a lot, too. Like treating the king and queen like props and talking to them as if they were old friends.

    Malkavians were always my favourite vampires. ;)

  17. Resting is important. Without recovery, there is no strength.

    = = = = =

    Beware thee, poor reader, for I’m starting to rumble.

    All crap that follows next is my personal opinion and can be ignored. Otherwise your sanity is not guaranteed.

    = = = = =

    I didn’t like how this chapter positions the story. Tom as a final boss for Ryoka and Erin is very unsatisfying. He is too overpowered and too unrepelable to have interesting interaction with as opponent or ally or anything else.

    He is too much of wild card and too erratic. It’s not interesting to follow a story about a ball of random randomness. Necromancer is much more interesting – he is *consistent*. He plans, he thinks, he errs, he wins, but you can see how, and why. Tom’s plans are deus ex machina. They pop out of nowhere and just work. He is insane but there has to be a system in madness for it work and have an impact.

    Tom’s inner drama is weird. It’s not interesting to follow story of his compassionate side because it has no power over his loony side. This compacionate side will just stay there and suffer again and again and – It’s predictable. And I even if predictable things can be interesting, I can’t imagine what could be good about following this one.

    I might be wrong but maybe it would be at least better if Clown would be simpler and focused. One side wins completely. Tangible phylosophy, goal. No plot armor and deus ex machina help.

    He is too oddball of a character.

    I liked some of his plans and boldness, and could respect some of his immoral actions. But if he plays villain, for proper villain, he makes too much of villain-ball type mistakes – leaving avenger alive for example. It’s… lame. His alignment is Chaotic Stupid. -_-

    Maybe his snap from – what was advertised in previous chapter – stable state – to full evil mode was too fast and too sharp. In his starting chapters of Clown, there was not enough forshadowing that he is so dark and good at that.

    = = = = =

    I can’t relate to drama with price of sacrifices. Why is this price considered Horrible by Fool and by Tom? What exactly happens in their heads to trigger this reaction? More explanation in the book would be… appreciated.

    From what I see how it works…

    Kids have potential to become proper complex humans. But until they are not developed enough, they are less than human.

    By Christian religion when dying too young kids go to heaven.

    Kids don’t seem to be suffering much before dying.

    Yes, mothers spend nine months of life in messy, uncomfortable way, loose lots of their life force and get hormonal readjustment – I would not argue with that. Also – anticipating to see a young one, come through the pain of birth, then get a small dead body – this is a heavy blow. Worse even if mother dies. It could be bad that family looses a chance to get a free slave for farm/family business.

    But. Death is part of life and everything has a price. Neverending war with demons has lots of chances to take a life of mother, father and child. They all humans in Rhir scream that they hate demons and want them dead? Then, it is only proper that they must show their determination and will by action and sacrifices.

    Only problem is perhaps that king made this decision by himself and keeps it a secret?

    • So what you’re saying is you don’t like this chapter because you want the story to go a different way than how you are guessing its going to go?

      • No, not exactly. I don’t have any urges like making up a secret guess about how story would go, and throw tantrums when doesn’t go how I’d expected.

        Rather, when I think about this story I see what I can describe as “tools of GM” – factions, characters, events – which has potential to interact in certain ways, their own tools to do so. Each element has a spectrum of freedom, and restrictions. A ‘tool’ like organisation of Asassins has different impact and potential, than ‘tool’ Horns of Hammerad.

        I know it’s abstract, but huh. It has it’s uses.

        I’m worried that some things get more and more potential to develop into something that would be predictably not satisfying, or will most likely rob freedom to create interesting opportunities from other elements.

        I know that I’m just a limited human, so my predictions might be flawed or incomplete. Many and many times this book surprised me with unexpected but amazing ideas and events – and that’s beautiful.

        But my predictions are what I’ve got for good or ill. And it’s too hard not rant sometimes.

    • I disagree with A LOT of what you said but I’ll address the latter.

      tom didn’t react badly to the news of the sacrifice

      I stare at him. Of course. I can’t be surprised. It makes sense, in the horrible way of this world. I’m almost…numb? But the Fool cares. He cares so much, and the pain in his eyes—he whispers his last words to me.”

      his response was… numb at most, in the horrible way of the world is mostly there because of how how he’s seen horrors of the world from the killing and more, that he hasn’t seen in our world, but it makes sense to him, the fool care, but the clown cries more for the fool rather then the kids

      the fool took it hard, it was the cause of the betrayal, and all your logic about them not being human kinda fall when the ritual sacrificed unborn souls, that means they did count as people souls, they already have souls at that phase of the birth atleast in that world apparently, and can you go to heaven when your soul was sacrificed I wonder, I don’t think so.

      also the ritual was kept a secret, its why the kingrefuses to say what he did when the fool demanded it, he basically did a ritual the caused 1000 miscarriages across his city/country to everyone without their willingness, these are not soldiers, these are not people who volunteered, neither the mothers or the kids

      • Yeeeeah, I kinda missed that “thousand unborn souls”. My native language has tradition of using in certain sense interchangably ‘human’ and ‘soul’, so uh. Yes, I messed that up.

        Then, if king traded thousand souls as souls… not only their lives… That’s f*ked up. Depending on what soul is in this cosmology it might be really nasty for kids.

    • We know from previous chapters that a person can gain multiple levels from a single battle. I would think with the sheer number of demons Tom took out that he is going to gain multiple levels in [Clown]. I would think he is now [Hero] 3, since it was likely just his own view of shunning what made him a [Hero] that made him say he wasn’t one, that class seems to depend more on how others view you.

  18. Long-time lurker; first-time poster.

    Pirate, you have much keener writing instincts than you give yourself credit for. I mean, your chapters vary in quality, but I’m consistently surprised to get to the end of a good chapter, only to find you commenting about how tired you are, or how you’re in a difficult situation right now, or whatever other thing is going on. If it were me, I’m sure there would be a keener impact on the quality of the story than seems to happen with you.

    All that to say I thought these Tom chapters were entertaining! Not that the other commenters don’t make good points: you should definitely be careful with [Devil’s Luck] in the future, so you don’t end up relying on it as a crutch to excuse plot armour. However, that doesn’t strike me as what happened here.

    I feel like you were either really excited or really anxious to be done with this chapter. Once Mad Tom takes over, it feels like he just falls through the rest of the story at terminal velocity. Or maybe that was intended, to showcase his instability through his narration? If so, it worked superbly. But it’s difficult to write from the perspective of someone so wrapped up in themselves, so everything around Tom tends to get a little one-dimensional when you, as the author, stop paying attention to it. The other characters and the events that unfold around them all get muddled, and you can see from the comments the confusion that creates in your audience. So that’s another thing to watch out for when you bring Tom back. For example, I’d love to see future chapters about Tom from the perspective of one or more of his teammates, which would allow us to feel that wonderful tension while also getting a more rounded view of the party.

    I’m prattling on about this because Tom the Insane [Clown] was my favourite character from the moment you introduced him, and when he snapped, I was spellbound. I cackled madly as I watched him wade in blood and viscera. I still find myself thoroughly compelled by him, and I hope to see more of him in the future. It was probably quite difficult to live up to your own introduction of him, and I think you picked a great way to do it.

    Initially, I was almost bored, because Tom was so mundane. I liked that, because it was a good contrast to the last time we had seen him. Then, his internal monologue piqued my interest. When he “conquered” the voice, I was disappointed, because the central conceit of the character is that his lack of control creates tension and uncertainty for the audience. Tom hasn’t had enough development yet to be an interesting character beyond that. That’s why, when you brought him crashing down into himself again, I was elated. Now, you’ve ratcheted the tension back up again and set the stage for yourself to really start exploring Tom as a character. Or characters. I can’t wait to see which direction you decide to take him. Them.

  19. Deliciously creepy chapter. I’m guessing that a thousand people from Earth got summoned all over the place. If a hundred thousand get summoned next time…Earth won’t be able to fail to notice what’s going on anymore. I’m guessing that trying to stop that will be a major plot point.

  20. I had high hopes for the clown arc but it was extremely unfulfilling. We were introduced as tom being the mad clown a likely chaotic neutral character and finally after a continuation for so long he came back regressed. There was no character development from 1.01c to 1.05c. We barely know anything of toms friends and there is 20 of the original earth group left. The problem with that is it cheapens the uniqueness and individuality of being otherworlder from earth. From the doctor arc there is tens of otherworlders in the united nations that we know nothing about. I hope Magnolias captures have more characterization. Being from earth was suppose to be special and each on of them from laken to ryoka to erin has a purpose. But now it feels like being from earth you are only amounted to as a background npc character.

    • Why should being from earth make you special? Not everyone is clever or lucky enough to leverage their earth knowledge.

  21. Bravo!

    I’m confused what the fetus sacrifices were for. To summon the Americans? Or was it to extend the king’s life? Also unsure what the relationship of Erille with the Fool was. The Fool was her father, and the queen her mother?

    • The sacrifice was for the ritual to summon people from another world.

      The Fool was a father figure to Erille, in his eyes at least. Erille may have seen him differently, but she was fond of him either way. But I very much doubt they were related by blood.

      • A ritual that appears to have not actually worked. People were showing up in the world before the ritual, and have continued to show up since. I suspect all the ritual accomplished was grabbing all the people that were going to end up crossing over during the ritual and had them show up in the circle instead.

        • It was implied that the ritual had been performed multiple times, before this group came and that they were thinking about doing it again.

  22. Just had a thought, the level up system is Definitely from the dreaming god, right? So if that is the case he controls the system, which is one of the reasons that Ryoka choosing to not submit to it interests the fairies. The reason that Tom has [Devil’s Luck] could be the dreaming god placing more importance on Tom. Maybe even be the voice in his head? Spitballing this, but OP [Clown] avatar might be something that its placing on the board for the endagame.

    • The level up system is a leftover from all the gods; the dreaming good presumably did some part of it. Ivolethe expressly calls the level system a “plaything of dead god’s”, so not just the one who isn’t actually dead.

  23. I really really really liked this arc. Kept me up till 4AM is what it did lol. The clown costume reveal was horrific and amazing. The drastic change in tone was simply delightful. I really like that Tom’s manic side isn’t just some one dimensional murderering clown. The contrast of his two sides are really well done. ( two sides of the same coin trololol) Like when normal Tom became the voice in the head. Sooooo good. I had to reread that part several times to understand what was going on haha.

    The only real complaint I have is that no one in the America group was really developed (as in there wan’t pay off). All we know is that they’re all scared shitless of Tom. Richard seemed promising as an actual friend to Tom until the tone change of the arc of course. Cynthia also seems promising since she’s the one who made Tom’s clown outfit. Hopefully the next clown arc covers potential conflict in the America group, like them wanting to kick out Tom. Then again, it wasn’t the focus of this arc.

    The pay off at the end really paid off. The final fight with the Fool was really well done. The fighting style of the clown/fool reads very well and flows smoothly into my mind. And it’s badass! The Fool is such a good guy ahhhhhhh. And I really doubt that the little princess would want Tom anywhere near her after this. The foreshadowing in 1.03 C of Tom throwing a knife at Erille was really neat! And the big reveal at the end was huuuuge. I guess Rhir is the real end game hahaha. I really wonder how Tom would interact with Erin or the people in Liscor. Rhir seems so bad in contrast that Tom really just doesn’t fit in in Erin’s Inn. And although Ryoka already has the hard time making friends trait covered, Tom doesn’t have any friends haha, which makes the Fool’s death sadder!!! :: Seeing Erin’s success in surviving (like having friends and the jovial atmosphere of the Wandering Inn) might be too much for him.

    I really really want a scene where all the Planet Earthers meet and Erin makes cake/chesseburgers for everyone. Then everyone bonds over the food lol. Like Relc but times 10 haha. Maybe even a quip about someone getting mad because there’s no vegetarian options.

    Anyway, I really thought that this clown arc’s POV would be Eddy or something. Topping the Intro Clown story seemed like it would be difficult, especially since Tom’s general story arc has a pattern now. Seeing Tom from a different POV would have been interesting, since readers would be more scared by what they don’t know. But overall, I am extremely satisfied with the direction this side story took. I’m going to reread this now!

  24. I must admit, I did like the way the two voices started to get a little confusing in Tom’s head, until things switched and Insane Clown Tom became the side in control and Sane Tom became the voice in his head.

    Also, I do actually find Clown Tom kind of funny. In a disturbing and very well written way. He’s mad, he’s scary, and he is utterly *******ed up. But I couldn’t help but chuckle as well. Excellent writing. The parallels to the Joker are obvious, but more anti-hero than villain. Or maybe even [Anti-Hero]…

  25. The *writing* was great, and I did enjoy these chapters. But I don’t find Tom interesting. He’s too weird, too unrelatable, for me to care if he dies. (Also deus ex machina much.)

    I’d have derived far more enjoyment if the chapters had been about a character I’m more invested in, such as Erin or Ryoka.

    Also, very interesting that 60 souls had to be sacrificed for Tom to be teleported over. Since Erin is likely unwilling to sacrifice souls, that has consequences for her ability to get back to her own world..

    • *Thousands* have been brought over. Maybe more. The ritual seems like it didn’t actually do anything – it grabbed people that were already crossing between worlds while it was taking place and shoved them into the circle. But Erin arrived well before it took place – the tear in reality was already present.

      It is likely Erin matters because she was first – and thus is likely the *actual* hero.

  26. I usually read comments and see that this arc has drawn a lot of criticism. Many of it unfair, pointing out plotholes that weren’t there, or that were already explained, or that were based on reader assumptions (like how I often assume things and rant on about them). So even for the points that I think might be fair, I won’t dwell in it.
    Now, I have seen that the table of contents has no further “C” chapter. Please, PiraTeaba, don’t be discouraged by negative responses and lay out plans for the next clown arc. I will appreciate it. I loved these four chapters, like I love your entire series.

    What is most interesting in the comments is that people before this chapter thought that the summoning rituals CAUSED the abductions. Now, people assume they just mess up with them, but the cause lies elsewhere.

    On morality: The blighted king seems justified with his sacrifice. Levels seem to work like a logarithm scale, right? Around level 10 you are a special person that elevates you over 10 others. Around level 30 you are the special one in a thousand? Might be different on Rhir, though, where everyone gears for war. And it seems weird in another way, because I think that everyone can level to 10 quite easily while growing up. So you’re special in the late 10s? Which again shifts the scale so that the level 30s are in the top percentage, and level 40s the top permille.
    So the king sacrificed 1000 of a future generation, and got 3 people of level 30, right now. Which seem promising in leveling even higher, soon. While highly immoral (no consent from both the mothers and the abductees), he was ruthlessly effective, or so it seems.

    Now, the fool mentioned his atrocities against demons… but names none. Did he burn demon villages and killed demon babies? That’s horrible, but still within the medieval war codex, especially against ‘evil races’. Did he destroy the land of the demon side, thus worsening the blight? WHAT are these atrocities?

  27. Say im trying to find another story about a clown that has a pierrot in her head that helps her forget some kinda trauma, maybe someone in here can help? Its written like a conversation between the 2 and ends pretty hardcore as far as i can remember

  28. I do hope you come back to Tom, I really enjoy his character. Ruthless and bat crap crazy though be may be, he is still a bad a$$ hero! FYI this is coming from a person who can’t stand clowns. His clown half may be seriously lacking in some areas such as compassion, sense of self preservation, and morals-but I love that he still operates as a defender of the weak, it’s not like he completely loses his mind and starts killing indiscriminately. I would love to see more of Tom and look forward to finding out about his new levels & skills!

  29. I’m quite passionate about The Wandering Inn and Pirataba’s incredible skill. So why do I loathe Tom and the Clown chapters? Even with glimpses of what I like in Pirateaba’s work in this side story…I think it’s because I don’t consider The Wandering Inn to be horror, a genre I have zero interest in reading, and the Tom/Clown element is horror. Yes, other parts of the epic work are way too gruesome, and there is some horror, but this really encapsulates it. I was disappointed he wasn’t eliminated as I sped read the last chapter, as I have no wish for more. Looking at the Table of Contents, it seems he appears again in volume 7, if not sooner. Really dislike this character, his companions, the continent, the sick priorities, and feel it detracts from a stellar work. I’m only posting because, as I said at the start, I passionately love the overall story and characters and think Pirateaba is astounding.

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