aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 60: O Rose, Thou Art Sick

There is free memory available into which we can design our programs, to increase the trespass of Israel.

September 3, 1999
Magdalena, New Mexico

It could have been that she was pretty once. Now her face was sunken, her head hairless. Her arm was hung in a cast, and she looked terribly frail.

“You’re the ritual magician?” she asked. “But you look so…”

“So young? Twenty. And that’s ‘apprentice ritual magician’ to you. Technically I’m not even allowed to do consultations on my own. And yet here we are.”

“I asked a friend for the best ritualist in Greater Colorado who was, you know…”

“Unencumbered by ethics? Well, like I said, here we are.”

“Yes, that.” The young lady wrinkled her nostrils. Typical stuck-up rich girl, he thought to himself, wanting his decidedly black-market services but still holding him in contempt for providing them. “What’s your name?”

“Lola Rivers.”

It sounded fake, but he didn’t care. Anyone who gave their real name in a business like this was either a fool, or else so arrogant as to defy belief.

“And I’m Dylan Alvarez. Nice to meet you, Ms. Rivers. What can I do for you?”

Not that he didn’t know. Head as smooth as an apple, frame that looked like she could stand to gain forty pounds or so, desperate look in her eyes. And here she was, seeking illicit magical help. Cancer, that was what it was. He could see it from a mile away.

“I want you to teach me to summon demons.”

Well, that was unexpected. He always liked a change of pace.

“Which demon, exactly, are we talking about?”

“Thamiel. The Lord of Demons.”

“Hoo boy, lady, you go all the way to the top. Or bottom, as the case may be. Look, I’m as unencumbered by ethics as the next guy, but I gotta ask you – you sure you want to do that?”


She looked familiar. Alvarez squinted. If she had a little more flesh on her bones, a bit more hair, then…he still wouldn’t be able to place her. Damn.

“I understand a summoning doesn’t really bring him here, right? Not in a way where he could destroy anything later, or infiltrate the city?”

“That’s mostly true.” He took a copy of the Greater Key Of Solomon off his shelf. Then a few other grimoires. The Goetia. The Sacred Magic of Abramelin The Mage. The Antichrist’s Cookbook. None were relevant to the issue at hand, but he was a ritualist; he played to an audience. Opening a grimoire was a way of saying hey, I’m serious about this demonology thing.

“Demons of that caliber are in Yetzirah or Briah already; for all we know Thamiel projects into Atziluth. Hell, they say he’s a facet of God. When you’re at that level, space is just a big game. They’ll play by the rules, but a summoning changes those rules a little. You get an aspect. You could think of it as a shade. It’s not like Thamiel starts off in Siberia or Hell and then you summon him and he’s in Colorado. You allow the parts of him that are everywhere to take on a little more shape.”

“And how dangerous is that?”

“The good news is that technically he has no power except that which you give him. The bad news is that there’s a crack in everything. Just like there’s no unpickable lock, there’s no flawless soul. If you’re escalating all the way up to Thamiel himself, there will be holes in you big enough to let him in, and from there he’ll do what he wants.”

“But other people, bystanders, they’ll be safe?”

“God no. They’ll be safe from Thamiel. They won’t be safe from you when he’s done with you.”

“I appreciate your candor.”

“At your service. Dylan Alvarez, the West’s greatest expert in demonology, demononomy, and demonography. Tell all your friends.”

She didn’t smile. The two word phrase he would have used was “steely resolve”. Someone who seemed like she always knew what she was doing. And yet someone thinking about summoning Thamiel. Very curious.

“Can you give me a ritual that will work?”

“Lady, I can give you twenty. The bottleneck to summoning Thamiel isn’t that it’s difficult, it’s that you would have to be a freaking moron to try.”

He watched for a reaction. She didn’t give him one.

“Look, Ms. Rivers, I’m not blind. You’ve got cancer. People with cancer do some desperate things. So go see the quack who says he can cure you with mushrooms and dried beetle legs. Drink a homeopathic solution or two. But don’t summon Thamiel.”

“Again, I appreciate your candor.”

“You’ve already paid me. I get the same amount either way.”

“Send me the ritual by Monday. I’ll give you a PO box you can use. In fact, if there are twenty, send me extras, in case the first doesn’t work. I can pay you more.”

“I’ll send you the paperwork. But Ms. Rivers. I’m serious. Don’t do this. Your health, your life, whatever it is you want from him – it’s not worth it.”

“I think it will be,” said Ms. Rivers. “Thank you for your time, Mr. Alvarez.”

Before he could respond, the lady was gone.

“Well, that was the least boring thing to happen to me today,” said Dylan, and he started copying summoning rituals.

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143 Responses to Chapter 60: O Rose, Thou Art Sick

  1. B_Epstein says:

    Chapter 56 was 1 August 1999. Could it be that the lady is a disguised Robin?
    Some further speculation (not original) – could present-day Dylan be the aspect of Thamiel summoned by the ritual? It was suggested many times, now we may be looking at the way it happened. It certainly seems like this Dylan is not the same as Dylan-2017.

    • Kolya says:

      But Sohu seemed to know all about him, treated him in an offhand way, and easily wiped 2017 Dylan’s memory in the last chapter.

      • nipi says:

        Why would Sohu be able to tell if Dylan was corrupted? Also “The good news is that technically he has no power except that which you give him.”

    • Evan Þ says:

      This was also back when Dylan was working off the respectable aura of ritual magic, rather than the irreverent aura of placebomancy. I’m willing to chalk all the differences in his character that we could see in this short passage up to that.

      • Gazeboist says:

        Anyone who gave their real name in a business like this was either a fool, or else so arrogant as to defy belief.

        “And I’m Dylan Alvarez….”

        He’s not *that* different.

        • Anonymous says:

          Who’s to say this is actually Dylan? He acts almost nothing like him. Maybe the character who appears here is just an impersonator.

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      It certainly seems like this Dylan is not the same as Dylan-2017.

      They don’t seem to me much more unlike that one would expect given that the former is 20 and the latter is 38.

      • Quixote says:

        Yeah I feel a deep sameness between the two. I don’t get where the “they are so different” vibe is coming from. both are cocky and irreverent with similar senses of humor.

    • gradus says:

      yes. she is clearly trying to find a way into hell as part of a larger plan to get the comet king in – either to rescue her, or as a corrupted fallen version of himself, or some other plot.

    • Me says:

      I binge-read this entire thing in a week. THIS IS WHERE IT STOPS?!

  2. Dindane says:

    with the jester on the sidelines in a cast?

    • Tina C. Beniac says:

      As before, I continue to predict the Jester is the Minstrell. The comment “A Minstrell is a Singer in a courtly context” is clever, and quite possibly intended, but you don’t name your character that for a pun that small.

      If we don’t think this is Robin, then we’re predicting that the small, boyish woman in a cast, famous enough that Dylan would recognize her in 1999, prophesied as the Jester, in Colorado, trying to infect a soul with evil, is a completely different person from the Queen of Royal Colorado, trying to send her husband to hell, named Minstrell. Even in a story where names don’t usually mean things, where coincidences can just be coincidences, that would beggar belief.

      • teucer says:

        When you’re Scott, I can totally believe you name a character for a pun that small, especially when you get a bonus pun about Robin’s minstrels.

  3. Shoefish says:

    Crackpot theory: Robin created Obama for reasons.
    Wait, at what year does TOK pop up?

  4. Mikko Rauhala says:

    I forget, since when was Malia Ngo around?

    • Mikko Rauhala says:

      (If she is Ngo, though, Dylan would now be fixing his old mistake – and this would also explain the indifference of Cometspawn to the rehearsal.)

    • Ninmesara says:

      If she’s Ngo, why would Dylan recognize her? In 1999 she would be a nobody. Unless he knew her from school or something she shouldn’t be familiar.

      She is either someone from his life or someone who is famous in 1999

      • Marvy says:

        On the other hand, you can bet your bank account that she would have no trouble recognizing him.

      • Jeltz says:

        The hypothesis is that Malia Ngo is the aspect of Thamiel that was summoned by this ritual.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Hm, I thought it was Ngo based on the “slipperiness” of her appearance.

        Based on Chapter 14, Ngo seems to have taken over Unsong around 2007. So, this is well before that.

      • Mikko Rauhala says:

        I was unclear, didn’t mean that Dylan would necessarily be aware of this aspect of his Malia-murdering machinations.

  5. Ninmesara says:

    So, Dylan is either a fool, or else so arrogant as to defy belief, right? We kind of knew it already, though.

    • Mikko Rauhala says:

      I read that as “either it’s not his real name or he’s so arrogant as to defy belief”. It’s been implied before that that might not actually be his real name…

      • Ninmesara says:

        Yes, that’s a possibility. But when he tells everyone he deals with he’s Dylan (he enrolled in the Magician’s academy under that name, after all), then for all intents and purposes, it’s his “real name” now. Unless he is protecting his family by hiding his surname or something like that. Which is actually pretty likely.

        • Daniel H says:

          Of course he enrolled under the name he uses. Everybody at the academy was enrolled under a fake name probably.

          • Ninmesara says:

            The business that requires fake names is the illegal stuff Dylan is doing, not Ritual Magic itself.

          • Daniel H says:

            We’ve seen that kabbalists don’t like to give away names even when there’s no real reason not to. I feel like the same would apply to ritual mages.

  6. Sukil says:

    Is the gender right? His name is Lola Rivers? (Or at least, that’s what I gather from counting).

  7. Ninmesara says:

    With the gesture, in the sidelines, in a cast. What gesture is the cast hiding?

  8. PedroS says:

    I think the lady is Robin, SHE becomes TOK after the summoning and that is part of her utility-macizing plan to destroy Hell: that would tie “the fall of a bird” with “bystanders won’t be safe from you” and her assurance that it would all be worthy regardless of the price

  9. Rand says:


  10. Rand says:

    So is Robin the thorny crown?

    “Robin Allison Minstrell” has nothing about crowns in it. On the other hand Roses have thorns. (Also, Minstrel makes me think “Jester”. But Dylan remains the Jester until proven otherwise.)

    • Ninmesara says:

      Robin Allison Minstrell – Maybe we could sacrifice some RAM?

      Minstrell is similar to jester, but the jester should be able to sing to the king and queen. That’s hard to do if you’re the queen. What if Lola is just a disgruntled employee of the West kings (a dancer and singer with osteolytic lesions from multiple mieloma, who’s broken an arm during an act, for example)? She wants to tell Thamiel she will betray TCK/Robin in exchange for a nice villa in the nice parts of hell.

    • Cniz says:

      “Robin Allison Minstrell” contains an anagram for “Lola Ribers”, which is close enough to Rivers – b/v can be represented by the same latter in Hebrew. Can’t make much sense out of the remaining letters ( onisnmintll ), though… posting in hope someone else has a breakthrough 🙂

    • As if there was only one way to map different aspects of Adam Kadmon to each other.

    • Tina C. Beniac says:

      No. Robin is the Jester. She is going to steal the thorny crown (purity of soul, metonymic sine qua non of being the messiah) from the king.

    • Deiseach says:

      As noted below, Robin’s initials are RAM.

      Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac, but the angel stayed his hand and instead he sacrificed the ram he found, caught in a thicket by its horns.

      We don’t know what the thicket was, but if it were made of briars, the briars wrapped around the horns would be the thorny crown – and the ram substituted for the sacrifice instead of Isaac is used as typology of Christ, who was the atoning victim and who, during the Passion, was crowned with thorns by the mocking soldiers.

      If this “Lola Rivers” is Robin, she may be attempting to make a deal with Thamiel/sacrifice herself (this takes place a month after the failed crusade against Hell) in order to get herself into Hell so that the Comet King can use her to get into Hell and overthrow it from the inside, or that she can bring a Name in with her, or something of that nature.

      If “Lola” is Robin, that might account for why Dylan thinks she looks familiar, but something must have gone very wrong in a month to reduce her to this state (unless she’s been trying rituals herself or ways around the getting into Hell part, and these are the effects on her).

  11. Ryan says:

    Yeah, Minstrell = Jester seems likely. Her name wouldn’t have to refer to the crown; her being the jester is enough, and makes sense with her taking on her husband’s quest, as “while the king was lookinh down, the jester stole his thorny crown.”

    • AnthonyC says:

      I assume the thorny crown is because Thaumiel is the shadow of keter, and also because the thorny crown was used to mock Jesus during his crucifixion (after which he died, descended to Hell, and opened the gates of Heaven to some).

      If this is all a role in ritual magic and in TCK’s plans, then the jester is in a cast in that sense too.

      And if the fall of a Robin affects TCK like Acher, that also might be a way into Hell.

  12. The coment king says:

    I’ve finally finished* mailing the shirts. Important notes:

    People who’s shirts haven’t been mailed yet:

    *There were two people who only gave a street address, and who also either had no paypal addresses or had one that didn’t match the given address. I haven’t sent these out yet – if you think this might be you, please email me (I don’t want to put identifying personal information on here).
    there was also someone who wrote “medium” on the size, but didn’t specify which shirt he wanted. The only medium I have left is the unsong logo (big aleph) shirt, I can send you that one if that’s ok.
    People who still want shirts:

    I have two large shirts of each type that are currently unspoken for, as well as an XL theodicy shirt. email me if you’re interested.
    The images used for the shirt designs, as well as links to the customink designs, are available here, if you want to order on your own:
    Thanks for participating, everyone! it’s been great.

    Edit: My email’s the rot13 of funxrq.xbcyrjvgm at gmail com.

  13. teucer says:

    TOK = Acher, which seems to imply not Robin. But given that he rebelled because of harm to birds, and a Robin is a bird…

  14. Wait a moment… He’s 20 in 1999 but in 2001 his college roommate was Archmage of the West?

    • Patrick says:

      It’s possible he’s lying about his age.

      • The coment king says:

        Or he’s still in college, and this is how he makes money in his time off.

        • Patrick says:

          I don’t think that’s likely. Here’s why:

          1. In a previous chapter, it was mentioned that you have to spend 8 years as an apprentice magician.

          2. Since Mark is an archmage in 2001, I assume that at that point he had already completed these 8 years, plus some extra.

          3. I assume that means Mark is at least a few years out of college, even if he started his apprenticeship in his teens.

          4. In addition, Mark has multiple children in 2001. Not impossible, but unlikely then that he is in college in 1999.

          5. It is possible that Mark and Dylan are several years apart in college and it’s possible that Dylan went to college at a very young age, but even so, it seems unlikely that they would have any overlap if Dylan is 20 in 1999.

    • dsotm says:

      this, Also in Dylan says Mark has been in Sing Sing for 10 years, so should probably to be changed to happen in 2007 which would still be a pretty rapid career climb and have happened after the Bush Assassination.

      • I assumed that meant a six-year trial.

      • dsotm says:

        Perhaps but with the narration of how tight all the evidence was actually favors a quick trial which would let Mark a somewhat plausible amount of time to become Archmage of the West after graduating.
        The other option would be that Dylan is lying about his age while appearing unusually young.

    • dsotm says:

      this, Also in chapter 46 Dylan says Mark has been in Sing Sing for 10 years, so chapter 8 should probably to be changed to happen in 2007 which would still be a pretty rapid career climb and would have happened after the Bush assassination

  15. The Verbiage Ecstatic says:

    I haven’t seen an explication of the name “Lola Rivers” yet. I don’t have a good theory, but a couple observations:

    Lola could mean “whatever Lola wants, Lola gets”, which would be a straightforward reference to the chutzpah required to summon Thamiel. It could also be a reference to the Kinks song, which would imply she’s a transvestite, undermining the theory about her being Robin (a theory which I like…)

    I feel like there was a discussion of the Kabbalistic significance of rivers, at some point, but I can’t find it…

    • AnthonyC says:

      At a lower level of significance, I would guess Rivers–>RVRS, and Lola Rivers–> “LOL, a reverse.” Not sure what kind of reversal.

    • stavro375 says:

      Lola Rivers must have some ability to manipulate the flow of time.

      Her last name is a reference to River Song: the time traveler from Dr. Who, whose story interacts with his in a bizarre and complicated manner.

      Her last name, Lola, is a reference to the main character of “Run Lola Run.” In said movie she has twenty minutes to find 100,000 Deutsche Marks (#BeforeTheEuro); when she inevitably fails, time seems to rewind to twenty minutes earlier, and she gets another chance. She fails, time seems to rewind, and this process repeats until she succeeds through staggering luck.

      • The Verbiage Ecstatic says:

        Let’s say we accept that analysis… Then we’ve concatenated Lola (no last name), with River Song, to form “Lola River Song”. But there’s no Song, so it’s un-song, therefore Malia Ngo can manipulate time. I think.

        • Rand says:

          Of course there is a Song. It is the Comet King’s Prayer, also known as the Song of Jalaketu:

          Jalaketu, yetu uliye
          Mbinguni yetu, yetu amina!
          Jalaketu yetu uliye
          M jina lako e litukuzwe.

        • Simon_Jester says:

          Time travel would certainly explain how a person could pick a pseudonym in 1999 that’s inspired by a character that didn’t appear in Doctor Who until 2008…

          • holomanga says:

            It’s the kaballah. River Song was always up there as an expression of Adam Kadmon, and the Doctor Who character and Lola are just two manifestations of the same structure.

          • stavro375 says:

            It’s like how a 1950 novel can accurately predict the results of the 2016 election, and reference historical theory that wasn’t even created until 30 years later.

      • Possibly also a reference to River Tam, an ill, eerily-thin girl with a mysterious request (“Miranda*”) which ended up leading the requestee into a hell-world and invoking the devil (in the form of the reavers).

        *Miranda is a clear reference to the last chapter, since the famous person named Miranda is known for his successful broadway show.

      • Deiseach says:

        “Lola” is a diminutive/derivative of “Dolores” meaning “sorrows”, which is a female name associated with one of the titles of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows.

        A river of sorrows? Who wants to invoke the Lord of Hell?

        Who else thinks this will end badly?

    • Rand says:

      Her name is “not the rivers” or “not the reverse” in Hebrew, French and then English.

    • Burnt Vic says:

      Surprised no-one’s pointed out the etymology. Lola is a diminutive of the Spanish “Dolores”, or “Sorrows”. So River of Sorrows, or River of Tears.*

      This points me towards Robin, rather than Malia Ngo.

      *I don’t think the diminutive is relevant. It’s just because Dolores is too rare a name -> not a great pseudonym (from her POV) and would make the connection too obvious (from Scott’s POV).

    • Ogi says:

      Well, Kinks’ Lola is a male->female transvestite – so Lola Reverse could be a female->male transvestite, such as Robin turning into TOK

  16. pgbh says:

    Too short! D:

  17. dsotm says:

    From wikipedia: Lola is a female given name, and means Lady of Sorrows.

    “Our lady of sorrows” is one of the representations of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism.

    Lola Rivers also gives us “River of Sorrows” which is the Chinese nickname for the Yellow River named so after the color given to it by the sediments – the Colorado river was named by the spanish in a similar fashion.
    The Yellow River is also known as “Scourge of the Sons of Han” Han being the Han Chinese.
    Yellow in Mandarin is Huang whose Cantonese equivalent is Ng and the Vietnamese/Hakka equivalent is Ngô , note the appearance of the large seal script variant.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Lola Rivers also gives us “River of Sorrows” which is the Chinese nickname for the Yellow River named so after the color given to it by the sediments – the Colorado river was named by the spanish in a similar fashion.

      Interesting. Taking a Greek approach, it could also be the Acheron or mythological Cocytus.

  18. hnau says:

    The setting for this chapter is Magdalana, New Mexico, named after Mary Magdalene– which given the legends makes me pretty confident that the woman is Robin.

    • Deiseach says:

      Since a few of us have pointed out the connection of Lola with sorrow, that also fits in with the Repentant Magdalene, the person for whom the location is named.

      So I think most of us agree Lola is Robin, and that this is not going to end well.

  19. Burnt Vic says:

    The title comes from The Sick Rose, by Blake:

    O Rose thou art sick.
    The invisible worm,
    That flies in the night
    In the howling storm:

    Has found out thy bed
    Of crimson joy:
    And his dark secret love
    Does thy life destroy.

    If Rose is Robin, the obvious “worm” is Jalaketu (flies as a thunderbolt, his love (though not quite a secret) destroyed her life). Uriel (storm) and Thamiel (worm) also kind-of fit, but not as much–neither love her, I don’t think either are capable of it. Though “his dark secret love” could be Thamiel’s sadism, I guess.)

    Rose = Robin, worm = Jalaketu makes sense if the chapter is about Robin becoming TOK in response to Jala’s failure (or death).

    Aaron glosses the “jester with his arm in a cast” part of American Pie as referring to Jesus/divine mercy being held back when divine judgment (the Flood) holds sway. We’ve heard several times (including in-chapter) that Thamiel might be a facet of God, Lola/Jester is someone overcoming pain to oppose him and establish divine mercy.

    Esp. with Minstrell = Jester, I think most of the probability goes to Robin = TOK continuing Jala’s work. TINAC BNIEAC and all that, and this is elegant where Malia Ngo wouldn’t be without some serious backstory coincidences. That we still haven’t heard about.

  20. Possible resolution for the Robin or Malia question: This chapter is about Robin becoming TOK, and Malia later (or earlier) went through a similar ritual to bond with Thamiel.

  21. Mengsk says:

    It’s almost certainly Robin– the fact that Dylan says she looks familiar is enough of a tell that it’s somebody famous or important.

    It also seems like the Other King’s necromancy could easily be some twisted version of “keep people out of hell by keeping their souls trapped in my service” kind of deal.

  22. LHC says:

    So what about her flips when all the rivers do?

    • Deiseach says:

      So what about her flips when all the rivers do?

      Lola being Dolores being sorrow, when the rivers flip, see Jeremiah 31:13 – “I will turn your mourning into joy”

      Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,
      and the young men and the old shall be merry.
      I will turn their mourning into joy;
      I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

  23. linkhyrule5 says:

    …. Hm.

    One theory I haven’t seen come up yet – Dylan is the one conjuring Thaumiel through this ritual, whether or not he’s actually present when Robin summons him. Rather than being a fake, I wonder if he hasn’t been “infected”/AI boxed.

    • Aegeus says:

      I don’t see why designing a ritual would count the same as actually performing it, especially since it’s a placebomantic ritual and that means that Dylan’s role is basically stringing together impressive-sounding gibberish.

      And I don’t see what motive Dylan would have to summon Thamiel or convince someone else to summon him. He’s pretty upfront about it being a bad idea, and he’s not the one who broaches the topic of summoning demons. He just doesn’t care enough to stop someone else’s bad idea.

      • JJR says:

        Normally designing a ritual would not count. But there is a crack in everything, and this is Thamiel. If it were me, I wouldn’t help because I’d be too worried that showing someone how to properly draw the summoning circle would count as actually drawing it. That, and summoning Thamiel seems like a fundamentally ill advised action.

        Though, if I knew more about what the rules were and why Lola wanted to summon Thamiel, maybe I could be convinced.

  24. Arancaytar says:

    So… I now have two independent hypotheses, which are that Lola Rivers is Robin Minstrell and/or Malia Ngo.

    Admittedly, the first one is chronologically questionable. This is a month after the Comet King’s return, so she’s either disguised or suffering from some incredibly fast-acting disease.

    • Ninmesara says:

      Chemo makes you lose your hair pretty quickly, but cancer takes months to years to make you thin and frail, so I guess you’re right.

  25. Éowyn says:

    What if this is where Robin becomes *Malia*?

    • Legendary says:

      “Malia” means “bad”, but is also a Hawaiian variant of the name “Mary” (note that this chapter is set in Magdalena – in the madonna/whore duality, Magdalene is the bad Mary – but note as well that both Virgin and Magdalene are good figures), “Ngo” is either non-government organization or a Vietnamese pop album by artist Quang Ha – in Vietnamese, “Ngo” means “look”. We might thus take her name to mean “Behold the evil one!”, or perhaps “A whore for an NGO.”

      Malia Ngo is an anagram of “Magnolia”, which ultimately derives from “magnus”, meaning “great”. It gets there via Pierra Magnol, the French botanist most famous for setting the categorization of plants still in use today. In 1720, he published in one paper a pair of treatises that each focused on two divisions of plants, a duality that echoes God’s two major plants in the Garden; life and knowledge. The magnolia plant symbolizes feminine beauty and is believed to be medicinal in Asian cultures (which, per Ngo, are assuredly relevant). Note that “shrub” is one of the categories Magnol used – and that the rose plant is also a shrub. “Oh rose, you are sick”? Or perhaps “Oh magnolia, you are sick”?

      Factor in the name “Lola Rivers” as well – Lola is short for “Dolores”, meaning sad, and “Rivers” is kabbalistically equivalent to “Reverse” (see chapter 3, among others) – thus we may understand her fake name to be “Reverse sadness”, but nominative determinism suggests this to be a poor name to choose indeed – if Malia is Lola is Robin, then we may understand this pseudonym to be a foretelling: Robin is attempting to reverse the course of heaven and earth – and her own husband – to end suffering and the sorrow it brings, but in doing so has reversed her own moral arc and is set on a path of despair. However, this reversal may allow Malia Ngo’s name to be inverted as well, which would produce something like “do not see goodness”, a useful warning when none may look on the face of God and live.

      We only have the question of Dylan. If he enabled this horrific set of events, then the fact that he’s aiming to take down Malia now may be why the universe is letting him count as a good guy: his moral arc is towards mitigating the damage of his greatest mistake. However, it may also be setting him up as a fall guy (which is appropriate – note his similarity to Herod and other villains in killing all of his enemies except one, and the hubris in then taking this person into his own ranks) and the slaying of Malia Ngo may be a terrible mistake, an evil only allowed to happen because Dylan refuses to doubt himself.

      Thus, we can conclude that Malia Ngo summoned Thamiel, became tainted and radiates evil, but is nonetheless a force for goodness and her impending assassination may be part of the cause of the apocalypse, or we can conclude that Malia Ngo summoned Thamiel, became “sick” and surrendered to evil, and that her impending assassination is one of the ways that justice will be done through the end of the world.

    • If Robin==Malia then someone with a PhD in 1984 is still menstruating in 2017. That’s not out of the question but it’s unlikely.

  26. Feels like an origin story for Malia Ngo. She got what she wanted, but Thamiel gave her the aura of evil, which means that no one will ever trust her and allow her to make use of it.

    • Simon_Jester says:

      That would then invite the question, how did Ngo end up in charge of such a vastly powerful organization as UNSONG? Her personally unnerving characteristics can’t be the entire story.

  27. R Flaum says:

    Summoning demons doesn’t really seem like the sort of thing ritual magic should be able to do. Isn’t it only supposed to make natural things happen in a more providential way, not do actual undeniably supernatural things?

    • Aranea Serket says:

      My impression of the devil in fiction is that the only real requirement for bargaining with him is that one have the endorsed intention do so so.

      Ritual magic proves you’re serious and not just trying to summon Thamiel as a passing fancy, because that would give him too much wiggle room and be unfair.

    • Mikko Rauhala says:

      “You allow the parts of him that are everywhere to take on a little more shape.”

      So it’s… natural for him to be there, now providentially in an unusual way allowing for interaction.

    • gradus says:

      of course it does supernatural things. it’s frickin’ magic. and summoning demons is one of the oldest and most well known ritual myths. why shouldn’t it work?

    • MugaSofer says:

      A couple of possibilities:

      – The “aspects” use plausibly-deniable means to communicate, like Ouija boards or paraedoilia. That’s why they can’t harm anything but the summoner – they’re not physically present.

      – We’ve seen ritual magic used as an attempt to block both Sohu’s kabbalistic powers and Malia Ngo’s aura, back during the rehearsal. (Because magic is inhernetly unreliable? Because it doesn’t obey the laws of physics?) Perhaps only the binding is placebomantic, and the summoning bit is obscenely easy – saying his name three times or something.

      – Demons are theoretically capable of manifesting anywhere at will, it’s just unusual for them to decide to. This could be what Dylan meant by “They’ll play by the rules, but a summoning changes those rules a little.” It also fits with Thamiel seemingly being able to visit peace summits, fidling contests and Uriel seemingly at will.

  28. GoForth says:

    I always find it funny that people keep trying to find secret hidden meaning in the name Malia Ngo when it’s easily read as:
    Malia NGO


    Bad Non-Governmental Organization , which is what UNSONG basically is.

    • Ninmesara says:

      Fool… Do you really think it wood be so simple?

      • GoForth says:

        Sure, there’s a thousand and one ways to interpret it more deeply, but everyone keeps missing the most obvious answer.

        Just because it’s there doesn’t necessarily mean its entirely true, after all, I’m pretty sure the author doesn’t try to include the meaning of every possible kabbalistic interpretation.

        • Ninmesara says:

          I’m sorry I sounded too serious with my reply. I was joking and it appears to be one of the most likely explanations 🙂 America will be killing the evil NGO. Long live The Land of the Free!

          • GoForth says:

            Dylan Alvarez.


            OR! District Attorney.

            This entire thing is a metaphor for suing a corrupt NGO!!!!!


    • NGO worker says:

      I work in an NGO and we never refer to the UN or UN agencies as NGOs; they’re called “international organisations,” “intergovernmental organisations,” or “treaty organisations,” because their constituent members are governments even though they themselves are not. Some people may use the acronym “IGO” (as in

      • Anonymous says:

        “NGO” doesn’t even refer to the class of non-government organizations in the first place, does it? Linguistic drift is hell of a drug.

  29. Gonzalez says:

    Going by gematria value, Lola Rivers does not have cancer, but rather survived “Phosgene Exposure.”

  30. Anonymous says:

    Off-topic for this chapter: hooray, HTTPS finally works on Except for the fact that the page background and the logo are referenced via plain HTTP URIs. (And why hotlink the logo from imgur instead of hosting it locally?)

  31. Anon says:

    Magdalena, Mary mahdalene, said by some to be the prostitute that Jesus healed. Claimed by others to be Jesus’ wife. Wife of the messiah.

  32. While I wait for today’s update, here’s a love song for Scott Alexander:

    ((…In my brain I rearrange the letters on the page to spell your name…))

  33. Yossarian says:

    The bad news is that there’s a crack in everything. … If you’re escalating all the way up to Thamiel himself, there will be holes in you big enough to let him in, and from there he’ll do what he wants
    Damn… I did expect that prediction to be true, but I didn’t expect it to be THAT literal.

  34. perlhaqr says:

    My friend Eli owns a house in Magdalena. He is neither Jewish nor a Kabbalist, so far as I am aware, but still.

  35. Pingback: Unsong, a fantasy novel where the universe is programmable with Hebrew by Banana699 -

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