Death’s Reserve

  • Death’s own gift, which allows her to form connections with the gift of other Ultras by bodily contact and the victim submitting to her.  It holds these other gifts in a reserve for her use, and also has a variety of other minor effects.

Gifts maintained for long periods of time, which she has grown fluent in and is comfortable with.

  • An ultra strength gift that rises the longer she remains in an area, topping out at three after several hours of remaining in the same general location.
  • An ultra toughness gift that sits right on the cusp between two and three.  It also allows her to reflect a percentage of the damage she would have otherwise taken.  It is weak(er) to repeated strikes than to single attacks.
  • An ultra speed gift which is normally inoperative, but puts her at a very high two if she plans out her maneuvers ahead of time.  (That is, she maintains a course of action in her mind, and on command her form will execute that plan far faster than she can perceive or sense)
  • A gift which allows her to drag anyone within her line or sight towards her at Ultra Strength one.  This gift can be used on multiple people at once, but cannot drag lifeless forms, or drag her towards others.
  • A gift which allows her to return instantly to any location where she has killed.  This gift can be used offensively with planning, as she compares her toughness with anyone occupying the space she arrives in, with the tougher one surviving the juxtaposition and the other being torn asunder.
  • A gift which allows her to attack with an energy blast from her hands or eyes, which impacts only on living forms.  It strikes with roughly Ultra Strength two, and is sustainable for long periods.  Essentially a plasma firehouse that only hurts people, plants and animals and goes through other stuff like they are holograms.
  • A gift which permits her to enhance the emotional reaction of another individual or group of them.  It does not grant any innate insight into what that emotion presently is, or allow her to change or create one that does not already exist.  It basically just turns whatever they are feeling way up.

Gifts obtained recently, which she is not terribly attached to, and which she doesn’t mind replacing.  She is far less skilled in the use of these gifts. and is still learning their ins and outs.

  • A gift which allows her to see through and manipulate smoke.  She’s also noticed that if she forms the smoke into shapes that indicate function it seems to actually perform that function.  That is, a smoke gun would fire smoke bullets, a smoke clock would tell the time, etc.
  • A gift which allows her to summon to her presence the most recent person she has had sex with.  The person she stole it from indicated that it filled them with the desire to defend her, but Death has not verified whether or not this is true.
  • A gift which allows her to kill by eye contact, but which does not work on anyone with an Ultra gift.  Death has tested that it does not work on images of her eyes or the targets, and seems to need genuine eye contact.  The form is not harmed by this method of death.

Beyond this, Death retains another dozen individuals who she has her hook in, whose gifts can be stolen if need be.  She has left her last two slots open, in case she gets her hands on someone with a gift worth stealing.

27 thoughts on “Death’s Reserve

  1. This is a very strange chapter. It tells the reader some rather secretive stuff in the third person that directly impacts the protagonists (and in fact directly opposes them…).

    I mean, we’ve had chapters from Prevailer’s point of view, but this one is just a little jarring, I guess. Maybe because the tome is so different? It would be more powerful if the chapter was written from Death’s point of view or from interviews carried by Jane’s shades among the Host or some other device.

    1. I couldn’t figure out a good framing device. It wouldn’t be reasonable for anyone else to know her reserve, but I wanted the readers to know it. I thought about a Death POV where she takes stock of her current reserve, but want to keep the other details of her current situation concealed for now.

      1. Well, Ingave no idea what the current situation is, but having her think about her reserve and ignoring the rest of the world doesn’t sound too hard to get right…

        If I were Death, I’d be standing very still in Barad-Dur, in disguise, waiting for ultra strength to accumulate. That way, she might have a chance against Preventer (ultra toughness 2 alone is probably not enough to avoid her Refined gun).

        Alternatively, she might be seducing and having sex with Indulger or something like that to turn him into her slave.

      2. Out of curiosity, Why did you feel the need to reveal her powers in detail to us readers instead of keeping them (semi-secret) till they reveal themselves in a more natural fashion?

      3. It is hard to put into words. I guess it comes down to my preferences as a reader/writer. I like to know what all the characters can do, and it didn’t seem harmful to story stuff to oblige hypothetical-reader-me at this time.

  2. Yeah, it’s a tittle strange that this chapter completely lacks a framing device (Union reporn, KEM report, etc).

    What I find most jarring, however, is re-reading https://thefifthdefiance.com/2017/09/14/strongboat-13/. On that chapter Death is “focusing her gift on Linker’s legacy, the great golden chain that bound the Fist together. […] She tore through it like a bullet fired through tissue paper. […] She seized it with the hook of her gift and tore it apart”

    This doesn’t really square with the description in this chapter: “Death’s own gift, which allows her to form connections with the gift of other Ultras by bodily contact and the victim submitting to her. […] also has a variety of other minor effects.” The Link is not, I think, part of the gift of other Ultras, but an effect of Linker’s gift. Plus Charger had not submitted to Death yet (he did it shortly thereafter, does that count?). And “breaking the effect of one of the most powerful gifts in the world” seems a little more than a “minor effect”.

      1. The tone of that did not come across to me at all, especially as the rest seems quite neutral.

      2. Absolutely right, Lucid Horizon. Me too.

        Plus, without a framing device we have no “unreliable narrator” to get us out of this. It’s said as word-of-god, this-is-what-it-is. How could we infer that “minor” really means “very VERY large side-effects”?

  3. Also, the matter of Death’s Reserve having a fixed number of slots doesn’t really square with https://thefifthdefiance.com/2017/09/07/strongboat-12/: “Death had consulted her reserve, selecting a gift which allowed her to see the omens” (a gift which is currently out, despite obvious usefulness). Also: “She was using a gift that let her see the souls of her foes, visualizing them as threads of various sizes and color stretching out from their forms. It was one of her favorites.” Plus, on the end of that chapter, Death wanted Haunter’s gift.

    1. She let her prophetic gift lapse when she moved into enemy territory, more concerned with holding onto fighting gifts.

      The other is an error. Her own gift is what allows her to see the souls of her foes, it helps her insert the hook. I’ll correct.

      # of slots being fixed is a simplification. It’s like saying you can lift a fixed number of pounds. It’s true, but exercise can increase it over time, and a convulsive effort might well see it rise temporarily.

  4. Of course she has 13 slots.

    Possibly she can’t just steal plain old Strength/Toughness/Speed or she’d have done so by now, especially with Strength 3.

    What happens to a gift she releases? Does it go back to its previous wielder?

    Wonder why she wants Haunter’s gift. Maybe she would replace the smoke gift with it?

      1. Unless that was stated somewhere, I don’t believe it’s correct. Consider the case of the girl who “reverses the Process” – if that killed, her gift would simply be described as deadly.

  5. Maybe I have not properly expressed myself. This was not meant to be a nitpick, but a general critique of the chapter, and the character concept expressed in it.

    Through the Strongboat arc, you had presented Death as the true stuff of nighmares. Like Haunter, but for Ultra gifts, no known limit on the number and kind of stored powers, could be thousands, and same for the “hooks”. And yet, though she doesn’t directly absorbs memories and personalities, she absorbed “something”, for her speak was a polyglot’s hiss.

    The only reason Death wasn’t the #1 Ultra on the world was that she (still) hadn’t absorbed somebody still greater, like Zeus, some of the Fists’s leaders or even some of the Regime’s Inner Circle (Substracter, Adder, Copier, Linker, maybe even Torturer). And yet, though Haunter’s actions we have seen the possible power uses of even a “weak” power like hers. Something like that but for Ultra gifts was to be epic. Death herself was *unsure* if she could take, all alone, on 9 Fist-level Ultras, plus Adder!. I was possible but not sure, so she passed.

    In summary, you’ve diminished a great, terrifyng foe. Yes, she’s still very powerful, not no longer literally-god, just-pray-Prevailer-kills-her territory.

    Also, she doesn’t currently hold Moses’ power. A member of the Golden Host, powerful enough by itself to make Death explain his loss before her peers. And then casually tossed away? You’ve already characterized Death as not a very bright tactician, but this is direcly dumb. In line with “you’ve diminished the foe”. I understand you’re trying to foreshadow Death’s weak spots so she can be defeated. But in this case, Death will habe been defeated by the author, not any other character.

    1. > Yes, she’s still very powerful, not no longer literally-god, just-pray-Prevailer-kills-her territory.

      This is actually very consistent… Death looks like she is invincible because people don’t know about her limitations. But this is common to most Ultras. She makes others think she is literally god, of course, but how different is this from Preventer, which is only invincible as long as she doesn’t spend barriers offensively? Or Pursuer who is only strong as long as people are afraid of him?

      The problem here is that the Fist should be discovering her limitations by themselves.

      1. >Death looks like she is invincible because people don’t know about her limitations.
        I’m with you on this. But this is no matter of what the Fourth Fist know of Death. This is about what WE know. And we saw Death’s powers on the Strongboat arc, plus the explanations on having lost Moses, from Death’s POV

      2. My take from this chapter is that Death can choose to “wear” up to a limited number of gifts, but she never loses the old ones. She just has to bring them up to the foreground and let some of the older ones slip into the background..

        But maybe I’m reading this wrong…

    2. I’m sorry that I’ve disappointed you. I certainly set out to take some of the mystery out of Death’s capabilities (As a reader I prefer a dilemma to a nightmare, that is, I like to know what everyone’s capabilities are and try to game things out myself), but I guess I hadn’t considered that some readers might prefer not to know.

      Moses:

      Moses’ gift was exceptional, but not a great fit for Death. It was pretty well known, and if she used it to its full effect (moving Hosts around, pushing continents together) it might let people work out that she inherits the powers of her victims, and her own murderport is sufficient to her usual needs while on this safari.

      1. Walter: Your preferences are not unique, and in fact I empathize. I am also glad to know why Death hasn’t just beaten Prevailer already. Some readers prefer a mystery, and that’s fine, but catering to those who prefer a puzzle seems like a valid choice to me.

        However, I think informing the readers in this particular way has left some of them nonplussed and is the real primary problem here. We could have had this stuff worked out by an observant Union spy or Leadership Council rival, or even sleuthed out by our protagonists over time, but instead we got “tell, don’t show” and I think we’re seeing why writers are usually advised to do the opposite.

      2. > However, I think informing the readers in this particular way has left some of them nonplussed and is the real primary problem here.

        This is actually my only problem with this chapter. I’m very happy to kow about Death’s gifts (I’d like to know about how exactly Zeus’ gifts work, too).

        This chapter as witten is vey uncongruous with the rest of the story. It sticks lile a sore thumb. It’s the only chapter in this story I’d unambiguously characterize as very bad. I think it should be rewritten from Death’s POV or using another sutable framing device, no matter how hard you have o work to hide whatever you want to hide.

        Honestly, if you started the chapter with the words “The Fist had overrun my camp. Time to act. I went through my reserve…” and then just converted the text into the 1st person it would be an order of magnitude better than what you have now. No need to reveal anything else.

  6. Also, even now that we know about Death’s reserve, this is still not a very good puzzle… We are not the ones who nees to plan on how to kill Death, the Fist is. They are the ones who need to come up with a plan.

    That plan might be spamming her with attacks until she dies (and given her powers, that might just work), but they won’t be making use of this information.

    1. In a detective story, the one who needs to figure out the crime is the detective. That doesn’t mean it’s not also a good puzzle for the reader.

      1. > That doesn’t mean it’s not also a good puzzle for the reader

        A detective story in which the detective magically solves the crime with information that’s only available to the reader (but not the character) might be a good puzzle but is a bad detective story.

        This chapter helps me in solving the puzzle of “how would you kill Death with perfect information?” (or, who is the criminal?). It doesn’t help me solve the puzzle “how will the Fist kill Death?” (or, how will the detective solve the crime without this information he can’t know about?)

  7. One strategy that might work agains Death (and maybe against almost anything) is to recruit the help of Gann (Gonn’s sister, who probably holds a grudge against death for having left her brother blind). She can use the orb that “renders the victim immaterial an unable to move” and rematerialize her on top of Preventer. Things probably don’t like to materialize on top of Preventer, so that would be the end of Death.

  8. Can Death use all these Powers at once? Or is she limited to one gift per use at a time? Aside from her own innate abilities with soul hooking and such.

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