aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 40: In Terrible Majesty

In a large and complicated system there might be various things that are pleasing in His eyes.
kingjamesprogramming.tumblr.com

Evening, May 13, 2017
Las Vegas

Holy Scripture only mentions vampires once, but once is enough.

The context is Isiaiah 34. God is doing His usual thing where He talks about all of the horrible curses that will befall someone who pissed Him off – in this case the Edomites. He starts with standard fare; everyone will die, the stink of their carcasses shall fill the land, the mountains will be melted with their blood. The stars will fall from the sky like withered leaves on a grapevine, the skies will dissolve, the streams will be filled with burning oil.

Then He gets creative. He starts naming all the horrible animals that will come to dwell in Edom. Exactly which ones depends on your preferred translation. The King James Version translates these as unicorns, satyrs, and screech-owls.

The original Hebrew word translated “screech-owls” is “lilit”, and we may question King James’ judgment. If God starts by promising unicorns and satyrs, screech-owls are going to be something of a let-down. What is being hidden from our tender sensibilities?

We turn to the New International Version, which glosses “lilit” as the more promising “night creatures”. A couple more translations along these lines and we get to the New Revised Standard Version. It translates the same word as “Lilith the Night Monster”, which you have to admit is more interesting than “screech owls”.

For the next reference to this figure, we have to go forward about a thousand years to the Talmud. Rabbi Hanina writes “One must never sleep in a house alone, for whoever sleeps in a house alone shall be seized by Lilith the Night Monster.” Have I mentioned that the Talmud is kind of crazy?

From there we go another thousand years, to a mysterious little tenth century text called the Alphabet of Ben Sira. One day King Nebuchadnezzar asks the saint Ben Sira to heal his infant son. The saint speaks a holy Name, curing the baby instantly, and the king asks him to tell the story of how that Name came to have such power. Ben Sira explains that when Adam was alone in the Garden of Eden, God created a female companion for him named Lilith. The two of them decided to have sex, but both of them wanted to be on top, and they got into a big argument, and finally Lilith spoke a Name that granted her the power of flight and flew away. God sent a bunch of angels to get Lilith back, and they confronted her over the Red Sea, telling her that her purpose was to serve as a helpmate for Adam and primordial mother of the human race. Lilith said that she had a better idea, which was to become a night monster and kill a hundred babies every day. The angels admitted that this sounded pretty awesome, so they let her go, but first of all they made her swear that she would desist from her baby-killing at the sound of a certain holy Name. Thus Nebuchadnezzar’s son’s sudden recovery.

Rabbi Isaac ben Jacob Cohen, who manages to have an unusually Jewish name even for a rabbi, continues the story by saying that Lilith married the demon Samael, seventh among Thamiel’s lieutenants. Together they birthed a race of accursed children, the lilit, who roam the night and suck men’s blood for sustenance.

Moffatt’s translation of the Bible just glosses “lilit” as “vampire”, and I don’t blame them.

But Jewish legend usually portrays the lilit as universally and visibly female, which meant the skeletal black-robed forms attacking me right now were probably something else.

I’d spotted them flying towards me right after waking up from my drug-induced haze. I’d spoken the Spectral Name, tried to hide. Then when they got closer I’d found they didn’t have eyes anyway and had no problem zeroing in on my location. I shouted the Tempestuous Name and blew two of them off the edge of Trump Tower, smashing them into the big gold T beneath. The other four kept coming. Legend says the merely human dead can speak Names – but whatever these things were, they were silent. Didn’t matter. One glance at their faces – not skulls per se, but human faces so gaunt and pale as to look skull-like – and I didn’t doubt their lethality. I had just enough time to shout another Tempestuous Name, but they were ready for it this time, kept coming…

Then Jane rocketed up from the street below. Fire flew from her fingers. She didn’t even speak; these weren’t the ordinary Names of mortals, this was the magic of Yetzirah, the higher level that only saints and prophets could even access. Saints, prophets, and Cometspawn. The undead withered and burnt.

“Thanks,” I said.

“You are such a moron and I am so angry,” she answered.

Jinxiang West. Daughter of the Comet King. I saw it now, the same face I had seen in the newspapers. The Drug Lord had said he didn’t recognize her because she wasn’t shouting. I didn’t have that excuse. She stood atop Trump Tower and surveyed the city of her arch-enemy, the man who had killed her father and was slowly besieging her people. She looked defiant. But then, she kind of always did.

Then it seemed like all over the city, black forms were rising into the sky and heading to Trump Tower. More than I could count. Swarms. Jane turned to me, grim but not afraid. “Tempestuous Names and Purifying Names,” she said. “Aimed at whoever’s closest. I can handle the rest.”

Dozens of them descended on us at once then, coming from all sides. Jinxiang answered with fire and light as I spoke Tempestuous Name after Tempestuous Name, trying to keep them from us long enough her to catch them with her flames. Dozens fell. None of them made a sound, not even the ones who were on fire.

I missed one of the dead. It landed on the roof, moved with more than human speed, and grabbed Jane’s right arm. The great sword Sigh appeared in Jane’s left hand and she cut off its head. But her hand had turned grey where the creature’s arm had touched it, and she was shaking it, as if willing away the pain.

While she was distracted, at least a dozen undead landed on the tower. Jane raised her hand, tried to fry them, but only small bursts of fire came out. I screamed Names at them, Purifying Names, Tempestous Names, even the Fulminant Name. A few stopped coming. The rest continued. “Jane!” I shouted. “Do something!”

Jane just glared at me. She was overwhelmed and she knew it.

Then someone else was on the roof, someone moving so fast I could see only a blaze of gold hair. One of the creatures fell, then another. A new voice sang Names clearly; a lithe body kicked and twirled with the precision of a martial artist.

The undead were gone. There, in the middle of Trump Tower, I saw the same face I had seen in movies and comic books a hundred times – mostly in situations just like this one. The same blonde hair. The same bronzed skin. The same beautiful blue eyes.

“Holy God,” I said. “Are you Buffy the Vampire Slayer?”

She blinked. “Don’t you recognize me?” she pled. “I’m your computer, Sarah. Did I do good?”

“I FEEL LIKE I AM BEING KEPT IN THE DARK ABOUT CERTAIN THINGS,” Jinxiang said menacingly.

We felt it before we saw it. A sense of something stirring. Of old power awakening. Then a form in a dark scarlet robe shot out of the Luxor pyramid, started flying towards us. The black-robed swarms stopped what they were doing and all flew towards him at once, a single red spark with an army at his flank.

I saw Jinxiang flinch in horror. “We’ve got to get out of here,” she said.

“How?” I asked.

The Vanishing Name would just go back to UNSONG or somewhere equally horrible. They could see through invisibility, they could fly through the air. Our options were shrinking down to zero. Jane said nothing.

“Okay,” I said. “Wait a second. Um. Jane, I know this sounds stupid, and I’m really sorry, but, in theory, if I had your seventh Beanie Baby, would that mean that there was – ”

“GIVE IT TO ME,” said Jinxiang, and she tore the backpack off my back. When all she saw in it was dirty clothes and the Apple-Aid, she unscrewed the top of the bottle, took out the seventh sparkling purple dragon, gave me a glare that could have frozen Hell, and then took the other six out of her own pack. She arranged them on the ground in the shape of a heptagram, started tracing invisible lines between them with her fingers.

“Whatever you’re doing, it better be fast!” I said. I hate to use a cliche like “blotted out the sky”, but there was no other way to describe the legions of the dead. They rushed towards us, a huge black sheet settling over Las Vegas Strip, and at their head the Other King, who as far as I knew hadn’t left his pyramid since that fateful day at Never Summer. Until now.

“Step in the heptagram!” Jinxiang ordered. Sarah and I joined her inside the ring of purple dragons. Sarah looked at me pleadingly for guidance. I had nothing to say, so didn’t say it.

“Vanishing Name!” said Jinxiang. “Now!”

“But won’t it just – ”

“NOW!”

Jinxiang, Sarah and I all spoke the Vanishing Name. DASAT-ZAM-RUSH-SHAN-SEVER-LAS-KYON-

The other two were faster than I. She, a Cometspawn. She, something new, something I didn’t understand, but built to be the fastest Name-speaking system in the world. They vanished before I did. I stood there, alone, chanting, as the black-robed forms split in two sides, parted like the Red Sea to let their ruler pass. Through the opening came the Other King, dressed in scarlet. I couldn’t see any hint of his body, no hands, no face, just that robe.

“-DAL-ATHEN-TRY…”

It was so close to me now.

[AARON SMITH-TELLER] spoke the Other King, directly into my mind.

I freaked out. How could it do that without a kabbalistic marriage? Also, was there anyone who didn’t know my true name anymore?

[Go away go away go away go away go away go away…] I thought, and I panicked, my tongue tripping over itself, almost flubbed the last part of the Vanishing Name.

“-KOPHU-” I said as quickly as I could. “-LI-MAR-”

[AARON SMITH-TELLER] it said again.

This was the thing that had killed the Comet King. This was the thing even the Drug Lord was afraid of. This thing could raise the dead, maybe was dead itself. This was the thing that ruled over a city named after the fallen ones, the thing that had toppled empires and broken the back of the free West. Somehow I knew, even then, that it wasn’t over between us, that whatever I had been given the Vital Name for, whatever divine plan had saved me from the Drug Lord and my own idiocy, this thing was a part of it.

But I had only one syllable left in the Vanishing Name. Whatever reckoning was going to happen wouldn’t happen today. The thought of impending safety filled me with a wild recklessness, a freedom bordering on rage.

[Go away,] I thought at the thing, [or, as God is my witness, I’ll do what my father did! You hear me? I WILL DO WHAT MY FATHER DID!]

The monstrosity stopped, and I thought I detected in the vast mind abutting mine something interrogative, almost a touch of curiosity.

“-TAN!” I concluded, and as the power of the Vanishing Name swirled around me, I sent a final thought to the Other King:

[I will disappear somewhere far away, and spend the rest of my life trying not to think about the fact that you exist.]

Then I felt space snap and resigned myself to whatever awaited me on the other side.


End of Book 2
Happy new year!

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214 Responses to Chapter 40: In Terrible Majesty

  1. Pickle says:

    May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year, and also not eaten by vampires.

  2. DarkRose says:

    Rosh Hashanah starts on my birthday this year (today) and I’m pretty happy about this whole situation 🙂

  3. The coment king says:

    This one is AMAZING. If not the best one so far, definitely the best quality/length ratio.

    In detail:
    1) Starting a description of being attacked by vampires with a long kabbalistic ramble about their biblical origins may be the most Aaron thing ever.
    2) Sarah’s appearance. We all saw it coming, and that was a really good way to do it (Of course I’m your computer, get a move on!). Plus working up to Buffy fighting vampires.
    3)That “I’ll do what my father did” line. Just… wow.

  4. Lux Sola says:

    So, book 2 has ended. Sarah has a body now. Things are going to get very interesting from here.

    Also, you said fifth dragon in the apple-aid. I think you meant seventh.

  5. LHC says:

    Well, this chapter was a hell of a thing.

  6. R Flaum says:

    Somehow I knew, even then, that it wasn’t over between us, that whatever I had been given the Vital Name for, whatever divine plan had saved me from the Drug Lord and my own idiocy, this thing was a part of it.

    I think Aaron’s got an exaggerated idea of his own importance here. Here’s my theory: The Biblical Aaron had the had the Shem HaMephorash on his forehead, yes? Now look at that through the lens of Sohu’s theory about God’s left being our right because he’s facing us. Well, if the Name’s on Aaron’s forehead, that means that he’s the only person in the world who can’t see it. He might end up providing the world with the Truth (most likely through Sarah, by being the tool Raziel used to make Moschiach 2.0), but he’s not going to get it himself.

  7. The coment king says:

    So Scott seems to be doing book ends on Jewish Holidays. I’m guessing book 4 starts on Hannukah and Book 5 next Passover (Succot or Shsvuot are traditionally more important than Hannukah, but don’t fit as well in the schedule, so I’m guessing Hannukah).

    • Brian says:

      Hanukkah also fits better into stories. Harry Turtledove wrote a short story about a Jewish family trying to escape the Nazis across the Baltic Sea to Scandinavia in a boat with nowhere near enough fuel…

  8. Sniffnoy says:

    So. 32 chapters left. Averaging to 10 2/3 per book. I guess we’re in for one hell of a ride!

    • R Flaum says:

      Where does this thing about there being 72 chapters come from? Is this something Scott has said, or is it just something the readership decided?

      • The coment king says:

        It’s based on two parts:
        a) It’s been strongly conjectured that the Shem hamephorash has 72 letters. We’ve noticed that the letters given in the book-start poems match the first letters of the first few chapters, giving rise to the conjecture that the shem hamephorash is composed of the first letter of every chapter (it’s been conjectured that it might be the initials of something).

        b) If there are exactly 72 chapters, the book ends on May 14th, which is looking like the day the story will end on. TINAC, etc.

        • R Flaum says:

          This actually seems unlikely to me; Scott said on Tumblr that Unsong would be “a little bit shorter than HPMOR, but not much”. And in another post, he clarified that he meant this in terms of chapter count, not wordcount. Even with twenty-two interludes, that would still be less than a hundred chapters, or about 80% as long as HPMoR.

          • 75th says:

            80% is not entirely unreasonable for that statement? More reasonable would be if for some reason we suddenly started getting more Interludes and went through the Hebrew alphabet a second time. I remember finding a piece of pretty weak justification for that idea in one chapter but I’ve already forgotten what it was.

          • 75th says:

            Oh it was this thread and I already mostly no longer believe the other stuff there, so yeah, grain of salt

            (Although, if you take some people’s idea that the story will occur over the span of one week, analogize it to Creation Week, and add it to the “seventy weeks of Daniel” from Chapter 1 real-world publication date to Chapter 1 in-universe start date, then you might still be able to eke out a correlation there….)

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            20% is not “a little bit”?

          • anon says:

            I wouldn’t consider 20% a “little bit”, no.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        It’s not something Scott has said, to my knowledge. It’s largely just inference from the significance of the number 72. However, we do have one strong piece of evidence for this: TR and Daniel’s observation that the first letters of the chapters (not their titles!) seem to spell out the 72-letter Explicit Name.

        (Of course, there’s a prologue, so there might also be an epilogue.)

  9. 11 says:

    Wow.

    Deus ex machina much?

    • Brendan says:

      “God in the machine?”

      Too easy. Somebody else take this one.

      • Deus Flex says:

        Well, not so much Deus ex machina, but Nephesh ex machina, since Sarah is an ensouled machine? But in story telling terms, so much of this was implicit or foreshadowed you really can’t call is a deus ex by that measure either. It was pretty clear that Sarah was the being who asked Gadiriel for a golem-body, and that she was the one who supplied Ana with the three new names (spectral, airwalker, mistral) in order to go rescue Aaron, so she was clearly interested in saving him. And it makes sense that her power level is pretty bananas since as Aaron said she’s literally designed to be speak names far faster than any other living thing. And come on, who didn’t think she wanted a Sarah Michelle Gellar body? XD

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        God out of the machine, literally.

    • I mean, the whole story up to now has been a giant machina ex deo.

  10. Aegeus says:

    Oh, that’s clever. I think she’s using the dragons to create a correspondence for the Vanishing Name. She sets up seven dragon beanie-babies in a heptagram in a safe location, say, Cometspawn HQ. Then she sets up a matching pattern, speaks the Name, and you get sent to the only other location on the planet that has seven purple dragons in a heptagram. Reliable teleportation.

    …Except if you could do that, it would probably make more sense for your “recall point” to be made from something that’s cheaper and easier to find than purple dragon beanie-babies, just in case you lose one of them. Maybe there’s a placebomantic reason why it has to be a heptagram of dragons, and not, say, a pentagram drawn in magic marker? Maybe it’s just for security reasons, making sure nobody can possibly come across your “teleporter code” by accident?

    • The coment king says:

      I’m going with the teleporter code accident – it has to be meaningfully different than anything similar, and using rare (but not expensive) materials is probably necessary for that. Beanie babies are the perfect solution to this problem.

      • Ninmesara says:

        I always thought that the homology of the situation would be determined by the danger itself, not by the incidental features of the scenery. I had one idea for one teleport system based on having for example a person dressed as a pirate or something equally estupid and unique shoot you, so that you’d be teleported somewhere else (where another pirate would be waiting to shoot you). The pirate would have to shoot for real, otherwise the menace would be fake, but you’d carry a scroll with the bulletproof name on it so that you’d be safe from the bullet.

        • 75th says:

          I always thought that the homology of the situation would be determined by the danger itself, not by the incidental features of the scenery.

          We already have evidence against that, though. When Aaron klipahfied the Vanishing Name to get away from Malia Ngo, the homology was “Very secret, forbidden, heavily guarded place that a girl is just now breaking into”, nothing to do with the (alleged) threat to Aaron.

          • Ninmesara says:

            Ok, you might be right. But still, Aaron is in danger at the Angel Reserve (he is surrounded by hostile Angels who will kill him on sight). Useing the Vanishing Name to teleport out of danger is a bit weird given what has been established so far. Unless the Cometspawn have avery good way to establish very strong homologies.

        • LPSP says:

          That’s an interesting twist on Sawbuck’s powers from Homestuck, one more protagonist-friendly than enemy henchman in terms of plot service.

          The converse would be one that teleports the shooter so that they’re shooting someone else that matches your profile. So dress like a vampire and anyone who shoots you ends up ruining a halloween party!

    • Grort says:

      Maybe the beanie babies are proxies for something larger on the receiving end — actual dragon statues which the Cometspawn painted purple, perhaps.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      If that’s what’s going on, they’ll need to destroy the correspondence as soon as they arrive, or they’ll be followed.

    • Jack V says:

      Huh. Very good point.

      There may also be some other relevant element that makes it work as well, or it may be specifically the pattern of dragons, it’s hard to judge what works for the vanishing name and what doesn’t.

      • Ben Cass says:

        The seven dragons immediately made me think of Revelation 12:3

        “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads.”

        I mean, this is the story of the apocalypse…

    • LPSP says:

      Dragons are typically pretty threatening. The Vanishing Name is probably programmed to recognise dragons as Threat Priority Numero Uno, and so overrides any other concerns into the exit locus – “start with dragons? end with dragons.”

      Of course, real dragons either don’t exist or are pretty rare these days, while fake dragons weren’t so much a thing back then but are trivially easy to assemble these days. The code hasn’t been updated for the same reason the world’s gone to shit, leaving dragons as a neat exploitable in the Vanishing name logic.

      Of course, the real issue here is:
      a) What’s stopping TOK from using the same portal of dragons to reach Comespawn HQ? Obviously Jane and co will disrupt the dragon ring on their side the moment they arrive, but anytime they construct another one they risk granting him an entrance to their inner sanctum.

      b) What’s stopping TOK from telling people to build dragonrings – if not for trying to infiltrate Comespawn central, then at the least to baffle and undermine their own teleportation? With seven-strong purple dragon rings across the Untied States, Jane could end up anywhere.

      So either the purple seven-ness of it has some deeper significance (I’m trying to remember which sfira is the purple one, I think Tiferet? Which we now know is the kabbalistic heart of miracles) or this is a once-in-a-while only gimmick, a gamble to use repeatedly.

      • Decius says:

        CometHQ has hundreds of polygons, polygrams, and polyhedra made out of Beanie Babies.

        Most of them are traps.

        • LPSP says:

          I suppose you could just make all of them traps, and then have someone there going “yes, it’s Jianxiang, let her in” or “no, it’s our mortal nemesis, activate the death blades”.

      • The coment king says:

        Well that’s why you use beanie babies: There are so many types and unless your enemy knows exactly which you’re using, you’re safe.

        • LPSP says:

          Of course, brand exploitation! Nothing else could defeat the machinations of necromancers like obscure, pyramid scheme-esque fad collectibles.

  11. 11 says:

    Also, holy fuck:

    “Apple-aid” can be used to describe both the bottle holding the dragon, and Sarah.

  12. falenas108 says:

    From the bit we have, Sarah is acting like Buffy-bot.

    • Walter says:

      Possibly deliberately. If I’m Sarah, I’ve certainly downloaded and watched the series.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Video over internet? That’s not going to work…

        (Note, this comment is not intended to say “How can Sarah know about Buffy? What a plot hole!” Just that Walter’s suggestion isn’t consistent with the story.)

  13. The coment king says:

    Interestingly Ana, who named her computer after the captain of the Titanic, is currently on a sea voyage encountering a lot of hazards.

  14. teucer says:

    Of course saints get the magic Have uses on the vampires.

    Apparently, in the unsongverse, a sufficiently capable cleric can turn undead.

  15. Sniffnoy says:

    Now I’m wondering whether what the KJV meant by “screech owls” is the type of owl currently known as that, or something else. They’re restricted to the Americas, but the KJV is from the 1600s, so it could be referring to the same thing — necessarily incorrectly in that case, obviously, but the translators may have failed to realize that.

    • LPSP says:

      There’s certainly room for it, as there are owl demons in the Ars Goetia among other places. Stolos if I recall was a powerful owl-monster.

  16. Aran says:

    Lilith said that she had a better idea, which was to become a night monster and kill a hundred babies every day. The angels admitted that this sounded pretty awesome, so they let her go

    Lines like this are what I love about this story.

  17. Aran says:

    “Holy God,” I said. “Are you Buffy the Vampire Slayer?”

    She blinked. “Don’t you recognize me?” she pled. “I’m your computer, Sarah. Did I do good?”

    No freaking way

  18. Aran says:

    I WILL DO WHAT MY FATHER DID!

    [I will disappear somewhere far away, and spend the rest of my life trying not to think about the fact that you exist.]

    Daaaaaaaamn son.

  19. Ninmesara says:

    Some quick comments:

    1) Sarah appears to have lost the ability to speak names at inhuman speeds. Maybe this whole business of getting a body was not very smart…

    2) The Spectral name is not as useful as I thought it would be. Apparently it can only fool normal humans, which is not enough when you’re against inhuman monsters (and Malia, who might actually be one). Does it work on people using infrared goggles? This is a shame, as I was expecting some kind of clever plan to catch an invisible Aaron. It doesn’t happen that way when the enemy can just see you.

    That said, great chapter. One of the best so far!

    • Anonymous says:

      Has she actually lost it?

      The other two were faster than I. She, a Cometspawn. She, something new, something I didn’t understand, but built to be the fastest Name-speaking system in the world.

    • Simurgh says:

      There’s nothing in the chapter to suggest that the Spectral name only works on normal humans – just that being invisible doesn’t help against enemies who are blind and therefore don’t rely on seeing you anyways.

  20. Jared says:

    Aaron narrates, “A new voice sang Names clearly”. Is this a mistake in the first-person narration, or is Sarah using Names at humanly intelligible speeds for some reason?

    • vanillafog says:

      Maybe Sarah is trying to conceal her true nature from the Other King and his minions? Spewing Names so fast that they become a buzzing sound would be a pretty obvious tip-off that she’s not human. Then again, she outright tells Aaron “I’m your computer”…

    • The coment king says:

      Maybe becoming a Golem slowed her down some. (Still faster than a human, but she no longer has access to the mac’s sound system, which limits her).

    • Walter says:

      I think that she is using them at humanly intelligible speeds.

      My guess as to why is that she’s performing, same reason that she does martial arts instead of shoots them. She’s taken on the Buffy persona to some degree.

  21. David Xu says:

    Me, Jinxiang, and Sarah all spoke the Vanishing Name.

    Sorry, but I just have to point out that this should be “Jinxiang, Sarah and I”, both because it’s a pet peeve of mine and because it seems uncharacteristic of Scott to make such an elementary error. (Unless this is supposed to be Aaron’s mistake in-universe? But even then, it bugs me that such an intelligent character–whose primary field of study has to do with language, no less!–would make a grammatical mistake like this.)

    • anon says:

      Well actually it should be “Jinxiang, Sarah, and I” – serial comma is a good idea – but other than that, well spotted.

    • Jared says:

      Also, “Me and Sarah joined her…”

    • The coment king says:

      Maybe it refers to the order in which they did it? That is, he started saying it first and the other two followed.

      • Simurgh says:

        It’s still grammatically incorrect to use me instead of I.

        • teucer says:

          That depends on your idiolect. It’s definitely wrong for formal writing, because it’s not part of prestige varieties of GA, but Aaron’s narrative voice has been fairly casual the whole time. In my speech, it’s “I” at the end of a list and “me” at the beginning, even though “me” would be totally impossible if there were nobody else mentioned.

    • Sukil says:

      Why do you replace I for me?

  22. Jack V says:

    I love the bit with “so these were probably something else”.

    Also “the angels admitted”. I’ve stopped fact-checking these stories, I just assume they’re accurate (but varyingly-heavily paraphrased) accounts from Talmud.

    Oh! New Year. Right, that would be a natural time to end the book.

    Oh God, I hope Aaron and Sarah get a chance to compare notes before anything else goes wrong.

    • The coment king says:

      I love the bit with “so these were probably something else”.

      Yeah, I just stopped and cracked up for like five minutes straight when I got there.

    • Benquo says:

      Wikipedia claims to give a straight translation of the story:

      Soon afterward the young son of the king took ill. Said Nebuchadnezzar, “Heal my son. If you don’t, I will kill you.” Ben Sira immediately sat down and wrote an amulet with the Holy Name, and he inscribed on it the angels in charge of medicine by their names, forms, and images, and by their wings, hands, and feet. Nebuchadnezzar looked at the amulet. “Who are these?”
      “The angels who are in charge of medicine: Snvi, Snsnvi, and Smnglof [סנוי סנסנוי וסמנגלוף] (in English: Senoy, Sansenoy and Semangelof). While God created Adam, who was alone, He said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone’ (Genesis 2:18). He also created a woman, from the earth, as He had created Adam himself, and called her Lilith. Adam and Lilith immediately began to fight. She said, ‘I will not lie below,’ and he said, ‘I will not lie beneath you, but only on top. For you are fit only to be in the bottom position, while I am to be the superior one.’ Lilith responded, ‘We are equal to each other inasmuch as we were both created from the earth.’ But they would not listen to one another. When Lilith saw this, she pronounced the Ineffable Name and flew away into the air. Adam stood in prayer before his Creator: ‘Sovereign of the universe!’ he said, ‘the woman you gave me has run away.’ At once, the Holy One, blessed be He, sent these three angels to bring her back.
      “Said the Holy One to Adam, ‘If she agrees to come back, what is made is good. If not, she must permit one hundred of her children to die every day.’ The angels left God and pursued Lilith, whom they overtook in the midst of the sea, in the mighty waters wherein the Egyptians were destined to drown. They told her God’s word, but she did not wish to return. The angels said, ‘We shall drown you in the sea.’
      “‘Leave me!’ she said. ‘I was created only to cause sickness to infants. If the infant is male, I have dominion over him for eight days after his birth, and if female, for twenty days.’
      “When the angels heard Lilith’s words, they insisted she go back. But she swore to them by the name of the living and eternal God: ‘Whenever I see you or your names or your forms in an amulet, I will have no power over that infant.’ She also agreed to have one hundred of her children die every day. Accordingly, every day one hundred demons perish, and for the same reason, we write the angels names on the amulets of young children. When Lilith sees their names, she remembers her oath, and the child recovers.”

      • Dindane says:

        Having one hundred of her children die every day seems pretty different then her killing a hundred human children every day.

        • LPSP says:

          What can we say, Lilith really knows how to keep herself busy.

        • Decius says:

          Having one hundred of her children die each day is a subset of having one hundred human children die each day.

          • Dindane says:

            I was assuming “her children” = “vampire monsters”.

          • LPSP says:

            I’m not sure anything that can be birthed from one female fast enough to reach above replacement at a 100-per-day death rate could be called a human child. It’d be more of a stretch than calling the Comet King a man.

  23. Anon says:

    May 13th was original date for haloween/all saints day, many Marian miracles and fatima, assassination attempt of saint pope j p 2, what is kaballistic significance?

  24. 75th says:

    “Holy God,” I said. “Are you

    The evidence accumulates

  25. So… It’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer vs. the Two-Thousand-Year-Old Man?

  26. Ninmesara says:

    On rereading this chapter, it felt a little unrealistic that Aaron can have a telepathic conversation with The Other King while trying to say the Vanishing Name as fast as possible. To hold a conversation with Ana while telling a story that is one long klipah is plausible, but even paying attention to The Other King while saying a very short name (I tried it myself, it’s quite fast) as fast as possible is a bit too much, unless his brain is working much, much faster than his organs of speech.

  27. Sunday says:

    Great chapter. How did Sarah get to Vegas?

  28. Quixote says:

    Damn. This is a great chapter. Really good way to end book 2 with a bang.

    For accountability, I will note that I previously predicted book 2 would end in a flashback / history chapter that detailed the founding of Unsong. My prediction was not correct.

  29. SoftFlare says:

    (First time poster – Scott, you’re amazing and I’ve been reading SSC and this for years, every post in each brightens up my day. Thank you!)

    Fact checking a fictional story (UNSONG) against other fictional stories (Jewish Mythology) is a bit weird, and not totally relevant to the story, but here goes:
    The Lilith story in Alphabet of Ben Sira goes a little bit differently (in my reading) then is written in the chapter (note: this is a combination of the two, different, Alphabet of Ben Sira versions):
    God creates Lilith so Adam won’t be alone, and after they fight a lot about who “will be on top” (her point: We’re both from the earth so we’re equal) she uses Hashem Hameforash and flies away. Adam complains to God and asks him to bring her back, so God sends 3 angels to take her back. God also says, bring her back willingly, or otherwise, a hundred of her children will die every day. When the agents reach her, she says she can’t come back as she’s betrayed Adam with The Large Demon. And, anyways, she doesn’t want to come back. They threaten to drown her (esp. meaningful as its above the spot where the Egyptians will later drown, TINAC). She says no, and that her purpose is to weaken babies right after they are born – 8 days for boys, and 12 for girls. The angels don’t buy it and want to take her away so she swears to not hurt any babies if she sees the angels, their names or their image – at which point they leave her alone, but retain the 100-dead-demon-children a day punishment.

    And so, the magic words to heal the babies are the angel’s names: Sanvi, Sansevi, Samangalf.

    So, in general, Lilith is this demon-queen which also sucks on people’s blood, but in the Ben Sira story, its more about killing little infants – and she pays a price too!

    • dsotm says:

      Sanvi, Sansevi, Samangalf

      Apparently these are pronounced be ‘Snoy’ ‘Sansnoy’ and ‘Simangaluf’ and are one of the wierdest TILs of this book yet.

      God creates Lilith so Adam won’t be alone, and after they fight a lot about who “will be on top” (her point: We’re both from the earth so we’re equal) she uses Hashem Hameforash and flies away. Adam complains to God and asks him to bring her back

      God: ‘SO THE BAD NEWS IS THAT YOU’VE BEEN CUCKED BY A DEMON, THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT LESSONS WERE LEARNED AND I CAN PROBABLY FIX THIS AND THAT OFF-BY-ONE RIB BUG AT THE SAME TIME.’

    • All of this sounds right except what is “The Large Demon”?

      • dsotm says:

        where not Samael it would be this guy

      • SoftFlare says:

        After some follow up research:
        There are multiple versions of the story, in different accounts of the Ben Sira stories. In the “Alpha Bet of Ben Sira”, “The Large Demon” is not mentioned, and Lilith says she doesn’t want to come back because her purpose is to kill infants.
        In the “History of Ben Sira”, version 1, Lilith gives another reason for not coming- “וכבר בא אליי השד הגדול” – “The large demon has already come to me” and a wife can’t return to a husband after having laid with another.

        This explains why in the “Alpha Bet”, she has demon children.

        Regarding who is the large demon? It could very well be Samael, as Isaac ben Jacob Cohen thinks in his later text (But it could also be Ashmedai, as other versions claim).

        As the story mentions, Isaac Ben Jacob Cohen goes on to say that the Lilith-spawn demons attack men and women – however – it seems that “Lilin”, the spawn, can be both incubus and succubus.

        Further more, some sources claim (and I haven’t had the time to chase the sources) that Lilith and Samael’s union creates an entity known in medieval times as the “Other God”, which could be called the “Other King” – an entity which creates demon creatures who attack humans – and might very well be undead as 100 of them die every day.

        So Aaron might be mistaken when he assumes he isn’t being attacked by the spawn of Lilith.

        • LPSP says:

          Lilith and Samael’s union creates an entity known in medieval times as the “Other God”, which could be called the “Other King” – an entity which creates demon creatures who attack humans

          This aligns with the account of Gnostic account of evil. A misguided female entity, Sophia, flees a more natural or righteous union and flirts with the darkness outside of creation, making an evil child who thinks it is god. This child, calling itself Yaldabaoth, is a divine idiot who proceeds to instate himself as the ruler of creation, making an army of demon archons to help him “correct” reality.

          I’m sure the parrelels to Uriel and Thamiel are both obvious and probably well-known.

      • LPSP says:

        Ymir, Cronus, Cthulhu. The Primordial Titan. The nether-realm cloud-ofdarkness ultimate void evil, one that isn’t sneaky or seductive like the other ultimate evil, the serpent, the preener.

  30. dsotm says:

    On Heptagrams

    The heptagram was used in Christianity to symbolize the seven days of creation and became a traditional symbol for warding off evil.
    The heptagram is a symbol of perfection (or God) in many Christian sects.
    The heptagram is used in the symbol for Babalon in Thelema.
    The heptagram is known among neopagans as the Elven Star or Fairy Star. It is treated as a sacred symbol in various modern pagan and witchcraft traditions. Blue Star Wicca also uses the symbol, where it is referred to as a septegram. The second heptagram is a symbol of magical power in some pagan religions.
    The {7/3} heptagram is used by some members of the otherkin subculture as an identifier.

    Fun fact: the first Hebrew translation of LoTR translated the elves as ‘sons of Lilit’

    But Jewish legend usually portrays the lilit as universally and visibly female, which meant the skeletal black-robed forms attacking me right now were probably something else.

    Jewish legend also makes her mother of a special host of demons, so these could be her children – kinda like the demonic equivalent of the nephilim ?

    God is doing His usual thing where He talks about all of the horrible curses that will befall someone who pissed Him off – in this case the Edomites.

    With Colorado being cabalistically equivalent to Edom, this doesn’t sound like fun.

    Re Issaiah 34 looks like KJV does a really bad job here in general – an impressively detailed and biodiverse list that includes: porcupines, crows, jackals, ostriches, regular owls and he-goats (being just male goats, not human-goat hybrids) becomes dragons and satyrs and screech-owls, oh my.
    Also no unicorns – those are oryxes ffs, they live there, it’s cool.

    Great chapter and bookend!
    Shana Tova, may your fish (or marine mammals of choice) be plentiful like the seeds of a pomegranate.

    • The coment king says:

      So could Malia be one of her daughters? (Implying, if she’s based on Malia Obama, that in this universe Obama actually is some kind of demon?)

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Hm, Scott never specified whether the heptagram is {7/2} or {7/3}! I wonder whether that will turn out to be important! 😛

      • dsotm says:

        We can deduce it via a midrash – it had to fit three people, assuming they all needed to be within the heptagon for the protection to work a {7/3} would have Jane scrambling from corner to corner to inscribe it whereas a {7/2} would be a lot easier.

        • Anders Sandberg says:

          In the Golden Dawn school of ceremonial magic the heptagram denotes (of course) Netzach, the planets, and the seven Palaces of Assiah.

          Regardie’s the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic says: [{7/2} image] “The Heptagram, second form; reflected from every third point. The Heptagram reflected from every third point, yieldeth Seven Triangles at the apices thereof; fitly representing the Triad operating in each Planet; and the Planets themselves in the week and in the year. The weekly order of the Planets is formed from their natural order by following the lines. Of this Heptagram; as hath been already shown in the 2nd point of the Grade of Zelator. It is not so consonant to the nature of Venus as the next form.

          [{7/3} image]
          The Heptagram, third form; reflected from every fourth point. This Heptagram is the Star of Venus and is especially applicable to her nature. As the Heptagram is the lineal figure of the Seven Planets, so is Venus, as it were, their Gate or Entrance, the fitting symbol of the Isis of nature, and of the 7 lower Sephiroth of the Bride. Study this reference in connection with the Venus door of the Vault of the Adepts, described in the Adeptus Minor grade. ”

          So from a hermetic standpoint, the question is whether the situation is planetary or linked to the seventh sephiroth.

          My guess is that since we are talking about a “door” opened by “Venus” leading to (a small) victory it would be the second form, {7/3}.

  31. SilasLock says:

    “Then someone else was on the roof, someone moving so fast I could see only blaze of gold hair. One of the creatures fell, then another. A new voice sang Names clearly; a lithe body kicked and twirled with the precision of a martial artist.”

    I think

    I could see only blaze of gold hair

    should be

    I could see only a blaze of gold hair

    Love the chapter, keep up the good work, Scott!

  32. Gymnosperm says:

    I hate to use a cliche like “blotted out the sky”, but there was no other way to describe the legions of the dead.

    The proper way to describe legions of undead is as in Ishtar’s threat: “I will bring up the dead to eat the living. And the dead will outnumbered the living.”

  33. R Flaum says:

    I wonder if there’s some sort of magical effect on Jinxiang that prevents people from recognizing her so she can stay incognito. That seems like something that placebomancy could do.

  34. Peter D says:

    Amazing chapter! Some notes:
    1) After saving the day by singing the names, Sarah could not protect them from TOK – they had to use the Vanishing Name to escape. Names must be not too effective against TOK…
    2) Sarah really wants to please Aaron (“Did I do good?”, “looked at me pleadingly for guidance”) ? So she comes across as craving validation from him. That’s an interesting outcome – I expected her to be more like a Golem that turns on his/her creator (in Hebrew: “golem she-kam al yotzro”).
    3) Anybody managed to decipher the few names we have so far in Unsong – beyond the great attempts at the Shem-Hamephorash acrostic?

    • The coment king says:

      I found (1) reassuring – it means Sarah probably isn’t going to be a game-breaker.

      • Jack V says:

        Not necessarily — if she still had an infinite supply of new names, surely some of them would help anyway, eg. “create bazooka” or “create holy water” or whatever (if anything) is effective on TOK.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Nitpicks:

          The supply of Names is not infinite, it is a highly restricted subset of a (22^72)-long list of character strings. Moreover, every Name we’ve seen so far has a function which can be defined in terms of the way the universe worked before Uriel modified it to “run on math.” The Names don’t directly do anything that can’t be described without reference to math- i.e. they don’t directly create technological artifacts, though they can be used to ‘animate’ them.

          There are Names for making things fly, move, explode, for finding the Moon, for knowing when other people speak Names, and so on… but there’s no Name that summons a bazooka. Because there’s no such thing as a bazooka in a universe that doesn’t run on math.

          And as I mentioned, sure, Sarah may know Names of terrible offensive power… but what are the odds she knows any Names the Comet King didn’t?

      • Simon_Jester says:

        It is implied that through his supernatural knowledge, the Comet King knew *all* the Names. And yet this did not permit him to defeat the Other King. Unless (as speculated) the Other King IS the Comet King in some bizarre way. In either case, the Other King is an entity against whom “knowing all the Names” is not enough to ensure victory. Either he knows all of them, or he knows enough of them that knowing more of them won’t help.

        So yeah, Sarah’s knowledge will not allow her to defeat the Other King. Her speed somehow might permit it… but I wouldn’t bet on it, because the Other King strikes me as an entity whose existence is built into creation and prophecy on some important level.

        And running Llull doesn’t give Sarah the celestial kabbalah or anything that might enable her to be a mover or shaker on that level.

        • Decius says:

          Maybe there’s it’s literally that no one alive can defeat the Other King, and he didn’t think that was a loophole.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            One, the whole point of the Vital Name is that it makes unliving things ‘alive’ in a mystical sense. A golem is not alive, that’s why it cannot speak Names. It’s fairly probable that for prophetic/kabbalistic purposes, Sarah is already ‘alive’ and is the first computer to become so.

            Two, I wouldn’t trust the Other King to have abstained from reading the Lord of the Rings (or various other mythological sources) for twenty years.

            Three, the only ‘unbeatable because divine fiat’ entity in the story so far is Thamiel, and Thamiel’s immunities don’t have loopholes. If the Other King has loopholes, it’s either because he’s the ‘monster’ or whatever which is equivalent in gematria to ‘messiah,’ or because he’s the Christian Antichrist or something like him (yes I know we’re not running on Christianity, you know what I mean). Either way, his loopholes are presumably in prophecy we actually KNOW about, or could find if we looked. Do you know of anything like that?

          • Decius says:

            I though the point of the ensouling name was to ensoul the direct object. We’ve established already that lots of living people don’t have souls because there aren’t enough to go around, so souls aren’t necessary to create living humans. We’ve also establish that Sarah could use names even without biology.

            If there isn’t a kabbalistic interpretation somewhere that means “no living person” can harm the Other King, that would be a huge coincidence. The best coincidence.

        • Good Burning Plastic says:

          the Comet King knew *all* the Names.

          Didn’t Scott explicitly deny that?

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Maybe. I wouldn’t know. My apologies for wasting people’s time if that’s true.

            Then again, we *do* know the Comet King knew the single most powerful Name, and many that were extremely powerful. Simply collecting Names as fast as possible, even with Llull, wouldn’t necessarily give Sarah power equal to or greater than that of the Comet King in only a few days.

            Even if she can find Names as fast as (or faster than) the combined work of all the world’s kabbalistic sweatshops, the sweatshops have been working for thirty years or more, and they still haven’t found enough Names to duplicate all the Comet King’s feats.

            So what it comes down to is that we have no reason to assume that Sarah knows Names that make her as powerful as, or more powerful than, the Comet King. Her only advantage would (in principle) being able to speak Names at inhuman speed, and she may have had to give that up to take her golem form. Or she may be hiding that ability, as discussed.

    • Jack V says:

      #2 That makes sense and it seems likely. But there’s LOTS of stories where robots go into a murderous rampage BECAUSE they serve their creator too devotedly. I’d thought that was the story of the Golem of Prague, but now I think I misremembered?

    • 75th says:

      #2 is the most important thing we learned in this chapter. Sarah is a flawless kabbalistic martial artist. She’s the first being we’ve seen that could be an actual candidate to be a Comet King 2.0. And she looks to Aaron Smith-“I create living computers on a whim and sacrifice the whole world for my girlfriend”-Teller for guidance and approval. She needs to find some better role models, and fast.

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Well, she IS now working with the Comet King’s oldest daughter, who seems pretty sensible and ethical. So that’s good news.

        Also, while Aaron isn’t the brightest bulb in the box and doesn’t have a fully reliable moral compass, his big problem is bad judgment under pressure. Creating a living computer wasn’t just a whim, it was something he did for a logical reason (he wanted to research Names very, very quickly).

        Now, he could have thought through the potential implications of his actions better. Say, he could have realized that the megacorps would have brute-forced Llull far enough to find the Moon-Finding Name, and done his early testing of Sarah in a ‘disposable’ location. That might have broken the trail which led UNSONG to him.

        But Sarah isn’t learning to *think* from Aaron, so hopefully she’ll be smarter than that. She’s managed pretty well so far (successfully negotiating with Gadiriel for a body).

        So hopefully, on top of that, Sarah will learn to not listen to Aaron under pressure; that’s what really matters.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Nitpick: Nathanda is actually the eldest daughter (as mentioned in the Passover chapter).

        • LPSP says:

          I thought all the Cometspawn were concieved on the same day, and presumably born within hours of each other? Eldest probably doesn’t mean much in this context, besides the perpetually-8 Sohu.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I don’t think the length of a pregnancy is quite as consistent as that…

          • LPSP says:

            Funny, I was just having a chat about that earlier. Anyway, it’s not like at the most extreme a few days makes any difference either.

      • R Flaum says:

        I’ve been sort of wondering about the martial artist thing, actually. Where does a computer learn how to punch people?

      • R Flaum says:

        I actually think a lot of people have been overstating Aaron’s moral weakness. Yeah, he’s definitely not a hero, but the fact is if I were in his place I’m not sure I’d be doing much better.

        • 75th says:

          I feel reasonably confident that neither you nor anyone else commenting on a Scott Alexander novel would give a computer a soul at the very first opportunity after learning how to. I feel like even the median person on the street would think really seriously about bestowing a soul upon something, if not run away screaming from the person offering them the chance

          • R Flaum says:

            Well, yeah, I’m just talking about moral weakness here, not intellectual weakness.

          • Ninmesara says:

            When Aaron decided to bestow a soul upon his computer it was quite obvious in my mind that he had a deep kabbhalistic understanding about souls and that in the next chapter we would receive a lecture on how exactly souls work and why it’s totally safe and ethical to ensoul a computer, according to some famous rabbi. It never crossed my mind that he had no idea what he was doing. It’s the most unrealistic thing about the whole book so far.

          • anon says:

            To be honest, I feel like much of a normal person’s response would be based on how the question was put. “Soul” is a word that makes people think about religion and philosophy and all that. But if you pitched it as “hey dude do you wanna bring your [noun] to LIFE, how cool would that be?!” then less thought might go into it.

            None of this explains Aaron – my working theory is that Aaron is just kind of bad at considering the implications of stuff. He gets into a nerdy excitement about stuff and does it because he can without thinking of whether he should – many people say something similar about the development of atomic weapons, fairly or not.

          • Peter says:

            many people say something similar about the development of atomic weapons, fairly or not.

            Considering some of Aaron’s illustrious family members, the comparison is apt.

  35. ItsGiusto says:

    It’s Aaron’s story in every book going to end with him speaking the vanishing name and ending up in parts unknown?

    • Yossarian says:

      You got there ahead of me – I was just going to say “Seems like the Vanishing Name does, in fact, have two effects – teleportation and ending the book”.

      Sorta reminded me of a piece from Isam’s Wheel Of Time Summaries:

      Lan: This is the move called “Sheathing the blade”, also known as “Ending the book”. Use it in the epic confrontation with the big evil guy.

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      Much like many of the cantos in Dante’s Inferno end with Dante passing out and then waking up somewhere else at the beginning of the following canto.

    • teucer says:

      I like the idea that this means it will all end with Aaron vanishing toward yet more adventures.

      • The coment king says:

        “And the legend of Mad Aaron, who used to vanish with a flash and a bang and reappear with a long ramble about the kabbalistic significance of random children’s songs, was told long after the true events were forgotten”.

  36. R Flaum says:

    I presume that they will either end up surrounded by seven actual dragons, or that the dragon thing is going to be some sort of stupid pun.

  37. Cake&spoon says:

    A great chapter indeed, and at a great time. Shana tova!
    Creating a specific connection between 2 places to use the vanishing name as a controlled teleporter is so munchkin! I love it!

  38. Deiseach says:

    (1) M.R. James does a lot of ghost stories using Scriptural texts like the one quoted

    (2) Ha, ha! Building Egyptian pyramids and monuments in Las Vegas? SOMETHING APPROPRIATE IS GOING TO COME LIVE IN THEM!

    That was fantastic, Scott 🙂

  39. fl says:

    After missing most of the retconning that happened on HPMOR, I decided to set up a versioning scraper for Unsong shortly after it started. I haven’t yet seen anybody else publish something similar, so I put up the whole thing on GitHub now.

    @Scott: I hope you’re okay with this. Please say something if you’re not.

    • 75th says:

      You are amazing. I’ve been kicking myself for not doing this when Eliezer proved so thoroughly that it was needed. Thank you!

  40. LPSP says:

    + Pleasing kabbalistic talk about Vampires and Lilith, possibly a setup for a future encounter
    + Great introduction of Sarah, doesn’t try to milk the surprise but still builds anticipation
    – Wraiths are pretty boring for a major part of the chapter, another example of ambiguous-dark-floating-thing-swarm like Thamiel’s demon army. There were only 9 Ringwraiths, who acted notoriously conservatively and sinisterly rather than as a disposable rush; meanwhile Dementors had a distinctive and gruesome attack that gave the audience an object to build their fear around.

    One of the few areas Scott needs to work upon is designing interesting generic adversaries; his individual characters are all great (TOK is quite compelling in this chapter) but so far his best underlings are the UNSONG agents, who are totally generic.

    8/10

  41. Eric says:

    It would be very cool if one of the Cometspawn were none of than Kanye West. Make this happen.

  42. R Flaum says:

    Current theory: when TCK and TOK battled, TCK actually won and transferred his mind into TOK’s body. The current Other King is actually Jala wearing TOK’s body.

  43. Sonata Green says:

    This is totally inconsistent with the known fact that TCK and TOK had a big showdown battle, but I like to imagine that TCK became TOK when he sailed the All Your Heart through the Panama Canal.

    • LPSP says:

      Eh, with the Vital Name, perfectly life-like golems (and P-zombies for that matter) and who knows what in other kabbalistic terms, who says the Comet King really didn’t fight himself?

      One of my favourite superpowers is the ability to be in multiple locations at once – the duplication of prescence in other words, allowing for great strength and coordination but also increasing risk, both via greater surface area.

  44. hnau says:

    Don’t underestimate screech-owls. They’re also serious bad news in classical mythology / poetry / culture. (Though I don’t know if the Latin word ‘bubo’ refers specifically to a screech-owl; maybe the English translators were reading that part back into the Latin text because of the KJV’s influence.)

  45. yomikoma says:

    I wonder what the actual 40-year-old Sarah Michelle Gellar will think about there being a super-powered artificial version of her teen self running around.

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      Presumably the same thing happened to her as to the original Ronald Reagan when Gadiriel made her own costume.

  46. Singer says:

    I’m predicting that the lyric “purple mountain majesty” comes up next chapter. The “logic”: From seven dragons -> that dragon in revelation -> Rome -> seven hills -> seven falls or seven hills in Colorado. The lyric “purple mountain majesty” refers to the Colorado mountains, and now the law of conservation of detail is free to kick in. “Majesty” and the color purple could refer to the Comet *King.*

    For a similar analysis:

  47. Trump says:

    Did Sarah’s appearance remind you guys of someone else ?

  48. Publius Varinius says:

    SSC started going downhill after the SEPTEMBER 28, 2016 post, but “Log in to reply” is a new low. I quit.

  49. Naturalnuke says:

    I have no words. This entire series is amazing.

    • LPSP says:

      It’s a gift, isn’t it? Honestly I think Kabbalah is the grandfather of all good systemic fiction. I’m so glad the series introduced me to it.

  50. “I FEEL LIKE I AM BEING KEPT IN THE DARK ABOUT CERTAIN THINGS” was possibly the best moment among many good ones. Aaron’s got some explaining to do…

    The final thought seems a bit long for something to be zapped at the Other King right as he’s teleporting away though.

    • LPSP says:

      I don’t think the speed of mental communications has been imparted yet. It could be every conversation Ana and Aaron have shared occured in the space of 3 seconds tops. A package of word is sent that unfolds in the brain and is immediately understood, like how glancing at text on a page translates its meaning into thought far quicker than the act of saying it.

  51. Echochi says:

    I f*n loved this chapter!

  52. endoself says:

    No comments suggesting the Other King is Aaron’s father? I’m surprised; I was wondering if this was being suggested before the “do what my father did” line.

    • Ninmesara says:

      I believe everyone thought of that, but he can’t be:

      In March 2001, the necromancer seized control of Vegas in a spectacular coup.

      Aaron met his father when whe was 13:

      I met my father once when I was thirteen.

      In 2017 Aaron is 22, which means he was born in 1995. He was thirteen in 2008. His father was a known physicist, and unless The Other King lived a double life impersonating a physicist on odd-numbered days and reigning over Las Vegas on even numbered days, I doubt this is possible.

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