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March 14th, 2014

March 14th, 2014 published on 76 Comments on March 14th, 2014

So when I said I wasn’t into twists that came out of nowhere I guess I kinda lied?

Hey, if you’re in London this weekend, come along to London Super Comic Con and say hi! I’ll have all three Widdershins books, Darken Vol 1, and Cautionary Fables and Fairy Tales Europe AND Africa!

  • Jer

    … What ?
    They sent a guy to record an event in the past he was already a part of ? Hm… *brain gears painfully grind to a halt”

    • Consider The Terminator – John Connor sends a soldier back in time to protect his mother from the Terminator – a soldier who becomes his father.

      Or Heinlein’s “…all you zombies…”

      • Jer

        I would not use the Terminator as an example of robust use of time-travelling ;)

        • I would; Cameron knows what he’s doing.

          And it’s less illogical than either of Heinlein’s well-regarded stories mentioned above “…all you zombies” and “By His Bootstraps”), or the story David Gerrold called The Man Who Folded Himself after he filed the serial numbers off and fed it steroids and published it as his own. (Both of Gerrold’s two first professional sales were lifted from Heinlein – “The Trouble with Tribbles” is basically the chapter “Flat Cats Factorial” from The Rolling Stones, and Man Who Folded Himself from “Zombies” and “Bootstraps”.)

          • =Tamar

            And Heinlein was fine with that.

    • I call this sort of scenario a closed-loop paradox: he had to go and participate in the Gluttony incident, because he was already there and had participated. The loop begins with his presence in the past, and must be closed with his return there. If the loop is not closed, reality diverges: you end up with multiple timelines in which events happen differently. His return to the future/the timeframe he’s actually from, however, is not guaranteed: as long as he did everything he was supposed to do in the past, the timeline would have been preserved (unless he was supposed to do things in the future, in which case the loop wasn’t finished yet). The best example I can give to illustrate this sort of thing is a short story called “By His Bootstraps”

      • Jer

        The fundamental problem of these paradox is that they cannot have happened in the first place, unless you have parallel dimensions. A more likely scenario is that they knew the baker that was taken initially and sent this guy back in time to replace him, therefore creating a new instance of the Gluttony Debacle that ran more or less like the original one.

        • Nessus

          Not necessarily. My thought was the same as Oarboar’s above: there was no medieval Sam; secret agent Sam trained up as a baker specifically to lure the hotel into taking him. So he was actually part of it the whole time, just not a truthful or historically quantifiable one.

          • Jer

            Well then why the need for the deception ? Why pose as a medieval baker at all ?

            • Oarboar

              Sam needed to infiltrate himself into the scene. Hence, he trained as a baker. It’s not a whole lot different then training as a chef to be hired as a private chef by someone who’s been targeted for some serious spying.

              • Jer

                I am talking about the medieval part of the deception, not the baker one.

                • Oarboar

                  OK. Good question. My answer would be that it’s part of the cover. By posing as not the sharpest knife in the kitchen and pretending to be from medieval times, he could deflect unwanted questions and attention. “What’s a movie?” “Yeah, uh … nevermind.”

                  (Feel free to scroll down to see my comment where I fell for Sam’s cover. Well played, Ms. Ashwin.)

                • Nessus

                  He comes from a time where the incident is publicly known history to some degree. If he so much as accidentally implies he already knows the outcome, questions would fly and things could go off the rails fast no matter how he responded. So while he can’t avoid participating entirely, he adopts an identity that keeps him as inconspicuously out of the discussions as much as possible.

                  The real question would be, I guess, how did they (Sam’s people) know to send him in the first place? If it’s a closed loop, how did they know medieval Sam wasn’t medieval Sam, much less specifically their Sam, before they sent him (they’d pretty much have to know, but there’s pretty much no way they could)? The best answer I can think of is that medieval Sam isn’t mentioned in the historical accounts at all (as far as their pre-time travel accounts go, he wasn’t there), so they sent secret agent Sam back with instructions to be as forgettable as possible to the people involved. That, or they know X number of people were involved, but details on some are nonexistent: they know there was another guy, but they don’t know what his name was, where/when he was from, etc.

                  Both of those would be playing with fire though. A variable’s set value being unknown is not the same as a variable not having a set value. I’ve seen time travel stories that forget that before, with characters assuming that if part of an event is unseen by them, then that part can be safely swapped out without changing history. Not knowing who medeval Sam was wouldn’t change whether or not medieval Sam was a originally a different person that secret agent Sam, and not knowing the exact details of his interactions with the other “guests” wouldn’t preclude outcome-changing differences from happening. In fact, not knowing would make things far more risky, not less. Which is why they’d have to know medieval Sam’s real identity before they chose to send secret agent Sam back.

                  Bill Soo’s ideas above would make sense. If they already had the recording, but couldn’t make it public until the opportunity to send Sam back in time to make/fulfill that recording came ’round, that would tie everything up neatly.

  • Nuuni Nuunani

    What? What? Whaaaaaa?!?! o.o
    Gaaah~! You trollish diabolical genius of trickery and deceit! Now I wll be terribly curious about this for an age~!

  • Sortelli


  • IronSun254

    Brilliant! I’m guessing this is meant to be even further in the future than Ethan Booth’s time and the tech we see there is the best they can get to work in Widdershins without breaking down.

    • RK

      It looks like they have a generator, battery, or some other power source inside a protective magic circle, in the second-to-last frame. Which perhaps implies that there’s no magic interference with electronic devices as such, just with sources of electricity.

  • Sanjay Merchant

    Well, looks like those of us who thought he might be from the future were right about that much at least. Though we were completely wrong about everything else. Did Thackery’s Malform Busters become a genuine government office, and Sam’s a member?

    • Rolan7

      I was expecting him to be from a post-apocalypse low tech time… this makes more sense in several ways!

  • Sarah Thomas

    Is she meant to be Mallory Archer? Well played.

  • Cursor90

    I had a prediction that all of the characters were related or had something to do with Alexa but this guy did not fit into the theory until now. The rest of the theory goes like this Rosie gives the cook book to Alexa’s grand mom the snobbish woman in the previous page. The sisters put the stolen money into reviving the hotel. Someone had to fix it up from what it was in the 1930’s. Harry or one of her sisters is Alexa’s 4x great grandparent thus the reluctance to say too much to Harry’s sister.

    • Tikatu

      I don’t think the cowbag was Alexis’s grandmother. I figure the book was purchased after publication by her grandmother, perhaps as a new bride. It could even have been given to her as a shower gift. Remember, Margey, like Rosie herself, is American. A book is far more likely to cross the pond. Besides, Margey certainly has no respect for Rosie; so why would she accept and USE Rosie’s book?

  • BillSoo

    This actually makes way more sense than having him come from the medieval period.

    I’ve mentioned this before but:
    1) sleeper holds were not known in medieval times
    2) flour explosions were known, but not well understood. Certainly not such that he could tell Alexa how to create one big enough to knock down the door but small enough not to knock down the hotel.
    3) Hotel Gula was built in 1801. Well past the medieval time period.

    Also, now that I think about it, he was reading when Alexa visited his room. Literacy would have been rare in a baker.

    All in all, a satisfactory resolution.

    • D. Schwartz

      Well yes and no.
      1) Sleeper/choke holds are known from earlier with some evidence found outside of Europe but within europe no grappling manual from that era exists so we cannot tell for certain.

      The rest, fair.

    • Sanjay Merchant

      If he had been a monk or somesuch, he might’ve been. Though that’d be at odds with the outfit.

      • JWLM

        Surprisingly few monks were literate — most of them copied by rote.

        • okapi

          that’s so tragic!!!

        • It must suck to be the monk that can read, and had to spell check for everyone else!

          • CK

            Actually, set spelling came in long after the rise of common literacy, so I’m pretty sure there was no “one correct way” to spell in the medieval period. So long as the letters made the same sounds as the word you were trying to spell, it was all good.

            • The Occupant

              This is actually quite wonderful, from a historical perspective, as it helps us find out what the words actually would have sounded to them back then. For example, loins and lines were found to be pronounced the same in Shakespeare’s day, and there’s a heretofore unknown added plethora of dirty puns found as a result.

    • David Argall

      All suggestive, but not overwhelming. These could have been false clues pretty easily.

      Knowledge is often forgotten and rediscovered. About any alert mugger/bouncer could have learned of sleeper holds pretty much by accident, and not told anyone.
      Flour explosions are not easy to pull off. Pretty much whether dealing with future or past, we are dealing with the routine story ethos that the hero is successful no matter how hard the task. He would have practically had to hold her hand to have much success due to more advanced technology.
      Hotel Gula was possibly built on a “well” of magic, [Actually the whole city seems to be] which would allow our sin to raid earlier buildings built on the same site. And I don’t think we have an actual “medieval date” for our agent. While we tend to think of his costume as ancient, it was common enough until machines started turning out tons of cloth, say about 1750, by which date literate bakers, if still on the unusual side, were not rare.
      So congratulations on successful guesses this time, but don’t be too such about future “clues”.
      As to some guesses of my own that are unlikely to be addressed…
      Our future date is no later than 2100, and likely much sooner. It’s hard enough to believe any cook is famous beyond her own time, much less far into the future.
      Our boss lady was able to constantly monitor her agent, tho whether she could do much is unclear. One way she might do this would be a 2nd timeless dimension linked to the main one. Using cameras and such, she could have pictures of the entire period [a year or so], spend a day or so getting the information she wanted, and be back as soon as she left.

      • BillSoo

        It’s simple enough to get the info without positing a second dimension. He simply carries miniature cameras with him while he bakes. When Gluttony takes him back to the past, he secretly places the cameras in the kitchen and other key locations. The cameras are small enough to avoid detection and are protected by spells so that they can work. One possibility is to disguise them as nails and drive them into walls. Then he simply leaves them there. Back in the future, his boss retrieves the cameras, possibly even before he is eaten although she keeps it to herself to avoid paradoxes.

        • Benedict

          Notice in the 5th panel there is a computer within a magic ring. I too was wondering about how they could record what happened in the past. Hidden cameras would work, and the boss lady comments on his expression upon meeting Alexa King as soon as the agent returns. I think cameras were placed around (and not just on the agent; need to be able to see his face), but then transmitted to the future in “real time”. The phrase “real time” doesn’t really work since it is time travel and all the information would come at once…

  • awhorl

    Ma’am looks like a Barber. I’ve been studying her profile and comparing it to other Barbers.

    • Sanjay Merchant

      To this fandom, every woman looks like a Barber. :-P

  • RazorD9

    Damn, think you gave me whiplash from how out of no where this twist came. Hmm, tech doesn’t seem that far long, yet it seems to be far enough in the future where Alexa became a baking legend. 20-50 years give or take.

  • awhorl

    Our spy could not have known what he did beforehand because, until he returned with his “recording,” the details of this event were not in the historical record–apparently such side trips out of time require documentation of a certain order before people can write PhD theses about them etc. That’s why he went in the first place.

  • Darkoneko Hellsing


  • Kinda thought there was something off about him – as someone pointed out, the hotel shouldn’t have existed in the time he claimed to come from.

  • I was hoping for a twist in the tail, but this is better than anything I imagined. Made me choke on my tea, but its OK – my monitor needed cleaning anyway. So many questions, especially who else in the 1834 timeline is actually an observer from the future.

  • Paul

    Assassin’s Creed: Widdershins?

  • ShadeTail

    OK, I’m pretty sure I understand the bigger picture of what’s going on here, but I’m really interested in the details that have been left out.

    Is it safe to say that he really was stuck in that time bubble, or was he (for lack of a better term) “projected” in there somehow?

    And either way, was he somehow sending back reports or recordings that this superior of his was able to access in real time? That would explain how she seems to already know everything that happened, but that opens questions of how. Considering how the other three we’ve seen so far popped right back to where they’d been, if he really was in there then from her perspective he should have been gone for no time at all. So how is she so well informed without any kind of report or debriefing from him?

    And the biggest question(s) of all, who exactly are they, how did they know about this, and what’s their angle?

    • Oarboar

      Here’s my guesses to answer some of your questions: Sam and his boss are part of some MI5-style agency charged with investigating and regulating magic. Judging from the what the characters say, its primary function is policing and investigation of some sort, but it’s also willing to share its research with magical historians.

      This agency would know about this episode with Gluttony because people talked. Remember, the front desk clerk talked about how Hotel Gula was haunted. And, of course, Ethan no doubt told his husband plenty of details. Even with a vow of secrecy, details would leak here and there, and the magical agency, in a time beyond even Ethan’s time, decided it needed a thorough investigation of the incident.

      Sam’s assignment was to go in as a deep cover agent. So he actually become a baker, going through actual baking lessons as if he were intending that to be his career, while still getting his paycheck from the agency. He had to immerse himself into baking enough so that Gluttony would pluck him out of the timeline from some point, which explains why he became awed by Alexa — he definitely got himself into the role that deep to be impressed by her. No doubt in his spare time from baking lessons, he learned his cover story as a guy “with a heid like a neep.” It was clever of Kate to lift the veil on that just a little bit by having Alexa surprise him while he’s reading a book, but not notice it at all.

      How they recorded Sam’s adventures in Gluttony’s limbo is an interesting question, as well as your last paragraph. I think we’ll find out down the road, and I’ll enjoy the journey there.

      • BillSoo

        I covered this above but to recap, he has minicams with him. He places them throughout the kitchen. He does NOT retrieve them. Instead his boss retrieves them, probably before he even leaves. She reviews them but doesn’t tell him the contents to avoid paradoxes. He goes back in time, then returns instantly, at which point she tells him what she saw.

  • Guest


  • RedMix

    Wow… that explains a lot

    • Tikatu

      Exactly the expression on my face! What a twist!

  • Michael Brewer

    Hmmm… I suppose the question I have now is, why didn’t Ethan recognize her as a famous baker?

    • Jedai

      Two possibilities :
      1) he really did know her but as a grump he was not willing to speak about it,
      2) he didn’t know her, either because by 2032 Alexa King legendary statue is not fully entrenched or because, not being a baker, he’s not really interested in baking legends.

      I think (2) is the most likely but I wouldn’t put it past Ethan to do (1).

      • Michael Brewer

        Alternately, 3) He never liked how smug his Mother in Law always was around him and saw this as an opportunity to get back at her. (I mean, we really don’t know anything about Ethan’s husband. He could be Alexia’s son.)

        • Del

          If Ethan’s boyfriend is related to Alexa, and if Ethan knew it and said nothing…. Then I will just have to stop reading this comic.

    • JWLM

      Oh, I think he did:

      “You are…moderately talented, after all.”

      Ri-ight, Ethan.

  • Del

    This makes me mad.

    But that’s okay. It’s a good kind of mad.

  • rainycity1

    Well, *that* was interesting…

  • awhorl

    OK so why was it a “debacle”? And not a triumph, as Rosie thinks it is? Or at least a liberation, for example? The term seems rather harsh. Is it a debacle every time a deadly gets away, since they are eventually going to get together, and then all hell will break loose? And could she have pulled him out at any time that things got too dangerous for him?

    • Brushtail

      I think the fact that the humans in charge of the summon were held captive and fed off of by the creature they had summoned, along with a whole lot of innocent bystanders makes it a debacle. summons are not supposed to work that way.

  • Tikatu

    Speaking of the butler, will we learn what happened to him and who/what he really was?

  • Nonesuch

    WHAAAAT~?! o_o

    VERY impressive, Ms. Ashwin! Kudos. ^^

  • Del

    FYI: The priceless look on Sam’s face upon his first encounter with Alexa:

  • HUNRonin


  • DanialArin

    Doesn’t matter if they came out of nowhere at the time, as long as they lead somewhere eventually.

  • What the hell?

  • jonquil alexia

    Ha! Awesome! :)

  • Stretch Longfellow

    What the what-ting what?

  • Sunbird


  • Oarboar

    All this time travel talk reminds me of this comic:

    (Warning: Spoilers if you’re not familiar with Love and Capes.)

  • CyberSkull

    Ok, this seems totally obvious now, but how did he get sucked into the hotel before it was even built? Answer: he’s from the deeper future!

  • Paul

    It was great to meet you there Kate – albeit my daughter had reached her quota and run out of attention span. Love to know if and when the other darken books get into print and was so tempted to get some Widdsershins ones … but little one had seen the ice cream van on the way in. If you can’t stuff a chocolate flake in it and eat it, well …

  • Nalyd

    There are no words

    Well done. As BillSoo said, this makes so much more sense. Good job inserting the “inconsistencies”.

  • An excellent ending for our mystery man. :)

  • ShakeJake

    I was wondering why he had one of the thinnest accents. I should have guessed.

  • l33tninja

    Ok that blew my mind. I was not expecting that at all. Serves me right for not being muchly more smarter, duh.

  • So… That small blue-ish green circle in the 5th panel with the box and wires attached must have been his way into the Gula Hotel.

  • Guest Who?

    I read the time travel theories below and some details were quite awful. But I have a theory that can answer some of the confusion.
    Alexa King became legendary. Sam is probably a baker. Why would Sam miss the chance to meet the legend and see how she freed different people from different time periods with intertwining stories?
    The Gula Incident became a case shrouded in mystery. The staff were returned in the middle of a job and their families probably thought their stories were just tall tales, and the a lot of people their were mostly stressed out and sleeping.

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