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File: drowned quest 7.jpg (125 KB, 564x846)
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You are usually Ellery Routh. You were sentenced to execution via drowning. Needless to say, it didn't take.
Right now, however, you are Arledge Graves. You are a lot of things, but most relevantly you are in a broom closet attempting to steer an interrogation that's gone off the rails in record speed. You have not been especially successful.

>72, 17, 6 vs. DC 50 - Failure rolled this personally for convenience

You're pinned between your simmering distaste for Gideon's glib moralizing and your loathing for Duncan's everything. You have little interest in goading either. Far better to wait it all out, if possible-- there certainly seems to be no rush.

"This is a bloody awful interrogation." Gideon echoes your thoughts. "There's just no motivation here for me to answer your questions, you getcha? No knife, no bright light, I'm not even restrained... This is just a chat in a closet, really. Are there plans to ramp it up, or am I just waiting for you to get tired so I can nick my eyes back?"

You ensure he feels the full weight of your disapproving stare.

"I'm being civilized." You can picture Duncan's face, though you can't see it; it's stretched taut with a smile that doesn't reach the eyes. "I don't know what dregs of society you've been hanging around, but most people don't just leap straight to torture. We'll have a chat, if you'd like to call it that, and if you continue to not cooperate-"

"You wouldn't know civilization if it bit you on the ass." Gideon shifts under your light grip-- you think he's bringing his arm up to adjust imaginary glasses. His statement is matter-of-fact. "Really, civilized... No, Dib, you're a coward."

You're pinned between your urge to act or react, to say something, to be more than a wooden bystander- and the uncomfortable knowledge that you're ineffective. You can't halt Gideon on the offensive. You can't express displeasure, lest Duncan turns on you. "Far better to wait it all out," maybe, but your patience is wearing away faster than you'd expected.

You grind your left thumb into the closest knuckle.

"Let's try this one more time. Your full name."

"Frankly, the entire Court is cowardly. You claim to be keeping the peace and enforcing the law... but you don't show up at Blossom Rock, do you? Forty dead by human hands. You're not at Solopsis. You're not at Pillar 8. You're all holed up in your little city, trying to reinvent something that can't exist anymore. And what do you have to show for it?"

"Full name... Charles... question mark." Scribbling sounds.

"15 years, and you have nothing to show for it except ethics violations and looking like a bird flew into your washing pile--"

"Age... late forties... question mark. You're wrong. Condition..."

"I'm not wrong. I have very good sources."

"...eyes found to be unreal. Result: irritable, insane... Your sources are wrong."
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"Back up." You didn't mean to say this. You meant to cough politely. You don't even like the phrase 'back up'. "What happened at Solopsis?"

You endured an earful about Blossom Rock at breakfast. Everybody knows Pillar 8. But you've barely heard of Solopsis, let alone any atrocities there.

"I suppose it must've been before your time--"

Duncan cuts him off. "Scott. That's not really... uh, I wouldn't call that a relevant question, yeah? I have this covered. You could probably step outside, even."

He's circled back to friendly, but you can read between the lines. You are no longer wanted.

>[1] That's perfect-- you don't want to be in this suffocating room and suffocating "chat". Gideon has demonstrated he doesn't want your presence. Leave entirely.
>[2] You'll acquiesce, but loiter around outside all the same. It's the right thing to do.
>[3] Bargain your way into staying. You aren't a smooth talker, but there's not a lot of options here.
>[4] That's it. You're done. Knock the lights out of Duncan and end this charade.
>[5] Write-in.

Hi guys! Welcome back. A couple of things:
- Against my usual policy, I left out a write-in for this option. I wasn't sure of its intent and had no way to ask, so figured it was best to just go without it.
- In the few days since the last thread, I've rejiggered a couple things plotwise. Any strange shifts in tone are likely a result of this. Pardon the dust.
- I'm subsuming the Disposition mechanic back into pure narration. I don't think it was a good idea.
>Previously on: Drowned Quest
You arrived at the crab place and attempted to sleep in a crab hotel before a mistake with your room was discovered: a guy named Charlie was already in it. He ended up letting you guys have it.

At breakfast the next morning, your food was spiked and That Guy was briefly possessed by an unknown force. Nothing happened, and then the force was dislodged, revealed to be kind of cute, and promptly murdered.

You continued on to the meeting chamber, where an attempt to introduce Charlie to Dib, the friendly Courtier, turned sour. Charlie turned out to have a small issue with his face and also turned out to be Gideon Wainwright, the missing guy you stole your tent from. He's being interrogated by Dib while Arledge looks on.

- Voting windows are 10-20 minutes. If only one vote comes in after ~20 minutes, I'll take it. If there's a tie, I'll roll for it. Writing typically takes anywhere from 20-60 minutes.
- Unless it's a choice strictly between offered options (ex: loot, chargen), write-ins are always open and acceptable. If compatable with other options and not widely disliked, they'll be included.
- Compatable votes will be combined.
- I'll always take questions, comments, critiques, requests for infodumps, etc. etc.


On most occasions, you’ll be tasked to roll 3 d100s, potentially with modifiers. The number of times the 3 rolls collectively pass the DC indicates the result, as follows:
No Passes: Critical Failure
One Pass: Failure
Two Passes: Success
Three Passes: Critical Success

>Archive: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest

>Twitter: https://twitter.com/BathicQM

>Pastebins: https://pastebin.com/u/bathicqm
>[4] That's it. You're done. Knock the lights out of Duncan and end this charade.

But like pretend to acquiesce and leave so his back is turned toward us before we hit him. If there is something with some mass that we can use as a bat use it.
>>[4] That's it. You're done. Knock the lights out of Duncan and end this charade.

Fuck dib 2019

We still have that mental channel open, so we can intervene if things get nasty.
>Knock Duncan out!

Please roll me 3d100s vs. DC 40 (-10 Surprised!) to do this!
Rolled 21 (1d100)

Rolled 17 (1d100)

Yeah that looks about right
Rolled 35 (1d100)

>Ask about Solopsis, start another argument to get Dib to try to justify or deny it.
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Good start, guys. Love it.

Taking a break for food and then continuing to write.
Cause I'm tired of his autistic ass.
Back and writing.
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>Knock the daylights out of Duncan.
>21, 17, 35 vs. DC 40 - Critical Failure

You aren't supposed to be like this.

You are composed. You are collected. You are a bastion of stability and calm, and any untoward emotions are safely bottled and disposed of.

So why are you nervy and tetchy? Why do you bubble up inside with fear and anger and-- mostly anger, really? You thought you had it CONTAINED, today, but here it is reddening your cheeks and flaring your nostrils.

Is it Lorne? You want to blame it on Lorne's awful self-satisfied face, but the timing doesn't match. You were uncharacteristically irritated before him. The first time you really blew up was...

Ellery BROKE YOUR NECK. You can still feel it crack, feel the seawater rush up through your fingers and face. Worse was being concious. Worst was the grind of bone as you twisted it back.

Did he break YOU?

You aren't even trying to conceal the look on your face. "Scott," Duncan says, warningly, pleadingly. "Don't make me--"

+"I'll be fine, Arledge. This'll take five minutes." You think Gideon's trying to be helpful.

You release your grip on Gideon and turn, slightly, as if to go for the door.

Hand, water, water, staff, and there's something in your had that wasn't. Your quarterstaff is too long for the closet, so a neat thwock marks the punching of extradimensional holes into walls on each side to make room. You pause for a split second to slide it out.

It is a split second too long. Duncan lashes forward at the sound and catches you by the wrist. "Arledge Graves," he hisses close to your ear, "you are under arrest--"

Your blood may not flow sticky with seawater, but it has etched its way into your bones and nerves and muscles. You move with inhuman fluidity: a twist of the wrist dislodges your staff and his nervous grip, a step back lines you up for the swift kick you deliver to his stomach. Duncan doubles over and you follow up with a downward wallop that's sent weaker men toppling.

Duncan spits wetly at your feet. He fumbles for something in his jacket. You don't let him find it. Your pole connects squarely with his chest, and he reels backwards-- you follow it up with a thwack to his head. He crumples.

You don't stop. You drop the staff (it melts into the water) and set upon him with your fists.

It's not composed and not collected. There is blood, you're faintly aware, because it runs hot against your fingers. +"Arledge," says Gideon, sharply, "Arledge--"

Gideon prying you off is the only reason you stop.

"Is he dead?"

"I don't... I don't think so."

Duncan breathes raspily against the silence.

>[A1] Leave. There's nothing for you here.
>[A2] Talk to him. (What?)
>[A3] Finish this. He knows too much. Gideon can't stop you.
>[A4] Drag him somewhere. (Where?) This isn't safe.
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] You need your vision. Shoot up.
>[B2] You need yourself. Don't.
Huh, I thought we had failed. Guess that was him recognizing us.

Get Gideon's face/eyes back. Ungrateful bastard. Then leave.

>[A4] Drag him somewhere. (Where?) This isn't safe.
Bind him and toss him a dark corner where he won't be found for awhile.

>[B2] You need yourself. Don't.
You have made an enemy.
I feel like he was already an enemy. He just didn't recognize us. Maybe now he's even more of an enemy? It's become personal?
Effectively. Even after it inevitably came out, Dib would've been neutral or slightly sympathetic. He likes Scott, maybe Arledge isn't so bad, etc.

This is totally shot. You now basically have the Courtiers out for your blood rather than just "moderately suspicious", with Dib foremost among them.
Rolled 1, 2 = 3 (2d2)

Alright! Rolling for both options and writing.
>Shoot up.
>Tie him up and drag him somewhere dark and quiet.

The darkness in your vision fizzes away as you release the plunger and slide your syringe back into its leg strap. You take stock of the situation.

You are in a dimly-lit closet lined with empty shelves. A half-hearted mop lies in the corner. Dib leaks scarlet blood on the floor and breathes. Gideon, behind you, manages to look pensive with no eyebrows. His black suit is rumpled. His unfamiliar features look slightly melted, like candlewax.

The currents are still. The sea is salt. The amphitheatre hums with distant speech. Your heart throbs with power that isn't yours.

Ellery crackles uncertainly in your ear. "Uh," he says. "Is everything okay? I heard some..."

"Yes." It always gets to your voice. "Nothing to worry about. It's been resolved."

"Oh." He doesn't believe you. "Uh, I'd just like to clarify that, um, I didn't actually break your neck, uh, that was That-- Blue Eyes. And it wasn't actually... real, so I don't-- I am sorry about that."

"It's fine." There's nothing that can be done.

"Oh. Well, uh, if it isn't fine, uh, let me know. Sorry."

He retreats back into silence. Gideon's brushed past you in the meantime and is sealing his eyes back on like one seals an envelope. He nudges your shoulder. "These on straight?"

You swallow the vibrato. "I think so."

He winks and slides the sunglasses back on over his glasses. "Well, then. How do you plan to lie in this charming bed you've made?"

Ellery's bucket is already in your hands. You have no idea why he had this, but you're glad you do. You remember seeing rope.

You let Gideon make the knots, but you're the one who hoists Duncan onto your shoulders. You're also the one who finds where to put him (Gideon is too busy blinking owlishly). Nobody will look down the darkened back stairs marked "Staff Only" for a long time, you're sure.

Now, what about you?

>[1] Clean up as best you can here and return to the ampitheatre. It's more suspicious if you vanish.
>[2] Try to sneak past the front desk and return to your room. It's quiet and private.
>[3] Hole up back in the broom closet. There's a reason Duncan brought you there in the first place, after all: it's clearly seldom-used.
>[4] Write-in.

I'm going to end right here, as pathetic as that is, as I have something that has to get done before midnight. I'll return tomorrow, Sunday, ...not Monday I'll be busy, but likely most of the week past that. Good night!

Get periodic sitreps from Ellery.

Thanks for running!
>"Oh." He doesn't believe you. "Uh, I'd just like to clarify that, um, I didn't actually break your neck, uh, that was That-- Blue Eyes. And it wasn't actually... real, so I don't-- I am sorry about that."
Who's talking? Blue Eyes or Hazel Eyes?

>[1] Clean up as best you can here and return to the ampitheatre. It's more suspicious if you vanish.
Were there more Courtiers back at the amphitheatre or was it just Dib?
Rolled 2 (1d2)

This is Ellery* speaking, switching from saying "That Guy" to saying "Blue Eyes" halfway through the word (because he realizes Arledge doesn't know wtf that means).
*Or, well, he thinks he's Ellery.
As far as anybody knows, it was only Dib. The whereabouts of the others is unknown.

Back and writing in a few. Rolling for outcome.
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Quick vote. Should've asked for this earlier but it didn't come to mind.
>[1] Take a sample of Duncan's blood before you go.
>[2] Do not.

Pros: If activated animal blood turns you into that animal, activated human blood...
Cons: Questionably moral. Feeds into stereotypes. Don't let anyone find out.
>[2] Do not.
Eww. Who would want to be Dibs?
>Clean up and return to the ampitheatre.
>Don't sample blood.

You lean against the corner by the "Staff Only" door.

Gideon watches you evenly as you peel the blood spatter off your shirt and face. "So," he says. "How do you think that went?"

"What?" You can't deal with him right now. (He's beneath you.)

"How did you think that went? Are you satisfied?"

Are you? You haven't formed an opinion. It happened, and now it's over.

You look up at Gideon and regret it. You're certain his face is flawless to ordinary eyes, but to your saltwater ones it's grotesque. It's been obviously molded and distorted from the original shape you know, and the plasticine sheen doesn't help. (He's imperfect.)

You change the subject. "That someone else's face? Original?"

"Charlie was a coworker. Fun guy. Rather wish he didn't wear a suit. Are you satisfied?"

He won't stop until he gets an answer. You dodge it anyways. "I'm done." Your shirt is spotless. "Let's head back to the auditorium."

"Really? Back into the public eye? Well, I suppose I can't argue with the man who bludgeoned our tormentor nearly to death. I'll have to follow you."

Is he being sarcastic? (He's right. You could crush him. You could do it right now, if you wanted. He is nothing but weakness. You are nothing but power.)

The dose was too large. You're getting the nasty thoughts.

"Yeah," you say, and search for a door back into the auditorium.


You are Ellery Routh.

"something something something KING," says a crab onstage. You can't even tell which one's talking, not that you're really putting in any effort. You've long since stopped paying attention. You're also slouched over two or three seats, which while comfortable also impairs your vision.

The best part, you've decided, was at the start. As soon as a crab came out (something like twenty minutes late), some guy shouted "TELL US WHAT WE'RE DOING HERE, YOUUU FUCKERS" and threw his shoe. That was fun! That was exciting!

But it's just been downhill from there. There's been a lot of talking. There's been occasional bursts of music. But it's unclear what's actually happening.

It's a coronation? Maybe? There's some sort of crab... king, you guess, who's... stepping down? And there has to be a new one? And they've brought people to... vote? Maybe? It's possible you fell asleep for some of it.

You might be falling asleep now. You shift your position until it's comfortable and lean back further.

What happens to me if you sleep? Is it the same or do I just... wink out of existence? Like, more than normal, I guess?

You've also been getting comments like that. You suspect the presence of the thing he stomped still lingers.

"Ellery." Arledge slides into the row of seats just above you. He looks terrible. Charlie(?), next to him, looks fine.

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You sit up and pepper them with whispered questions.

>What happened?
Charlie(?) smiles a close-lipped smile and says nothing. "It's been taken care of," Arledge says, and looks uncomfortable.

>Did you kill Duncan, or something?
Charlie's smile fades. Arledge looks more uncomfortable.

I called it, I just want to say that. Looks like a murderer. That's what I thought. I thought that.

>What the feck? You MURDERED--
"No," Arledge says, and scratches the corner of his eye. The reverb is gone again. "No, uh, he's alive."

>Did you torture--
"Do you think I'd torture--"

"No!" Arledge looks offended. Charlie(?) looks amused.

>Okay, well, whatever. So are you guys friends now, or what? Got your sunglasses back, that's good...
"Um..." Arledge rakes his fingers back through his hair and looks at Charlie(?). "Do you want to..." he mutters. You don't hear a reply.

Charlie(?) sticks a manicured hand over the back of your seat. You take it tentatively. "Gideon Wainwright, at your service," he says, and shakes it.

You're not sure how you're supposed to take this.

>Oh. So you're not actually Charlie--
"No, sorry. I hope I prove to be a pleasant alternative."

>Why does Arledge have blue eyes?
He freezes and hardens."Why do you have blue eyes?"


You've always had blue eyes.?
Why did you say Blue Eyes earlier? You have blue eyes.

>[1] Deflect. How is this relevant? What happened to Duncan?
>[2] Play it off. Your mother or father must've had blue eyes, and you're pretty sure that's how it happens...
>[3] Ignore. Arledge is clearly in a mood. Best not to encourage him.
>[4] Think. That Guy has been weird(er than usual). Does he know what's up?
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] Play it off. Your mother or father must've had blue eyes, and you're pretty sure that's how it happens...

>[5] Write-in.
"I think we are here to vote on the new crab king!"

Nah, obviously he's asking us directly for help because we're that important.
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You have a shaky grasp on biology, but you try your best. "Um," you say. "I guess one of my parents must have had blue eyes, right? Isn't that how it works? I don't really--"


A flicker of something passes over Arledge's face, too fast for you to identify. "The scar. Is that also from your parents?"

"I don't-- well, I don't know, actually. Is that something you can inherit? I never actually learned--"

"It's not."

"Oh. Well, I must've got it--"

You have to stop and think about it. Your first instinct is to say "when I hit the water," but that's nonsense.

"--in a fight. You know, bottle shards are pretty sharp, don't have much in the way of medical care. It looks pretty cool, though, right?"

Gideon lifts his sunglasses to see. "It does, actually. You have a sort of... debonair-pirate thing going on."

"Ellery." Arledge leans his head on one hand. "Let's go outside. I want to-"


A couple things happen.

The crowd rumbles. A mechanism somewhere behind you rumbles, too, and the doors click shut.

The phrase "altitude sickness" distantly comes to mind.

Arledge bolts to his feet behind you. His face reads panic. Gideon fiddles with his tie. They are identical shades of white.

There's an awful squelching sound.

The phrase "altitude sickness" acquires meaning. The crabs had come and brought air to the tent. You'd almost fainted.

"I should've expected this," Arledge says. "I should've expected this. I should've expected this."

The squelching increases in volume.

>Roll me 3 1d100s-5 (-5 Weak Blood) vs. DC 40 to withstand the Q&A session!
>[2] Write-in.
Rolled 62 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

Rolled 98 - 5 (1d100 - 5)


Quick, grab a cup and save what water we can!
Rolled 32 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 79, 56, 100, 77, 21, 74 = 407 (6d100)

>57, 93, 27 vs. DC 40 - Success!

You don't have a cup!
Make one!
Use our hands or something!
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Arledge is DC 70 Gideon is DC 50... two regular successes and a nat 100! Is this is right quest?

You will try your best!

>Arledge is DC 70 Gideon is DC 50... two regular successes and a nat 100! Is this is right quest?
We don't know any Arledges!
lmao Arledge sucks at surviving
He got a nat 100 there bro
That's just luck. DC gets lower based on skill, and his DC is double ours. He sucks.
W-what? Don't... don't we know an Arledge? I... I can't remember. Maybe not. There's no Arledge. There was never an Arledge.

Of course.

His name is Scott.

He got a regular success against a DC 70 and a nat 100 (which doesn't technically do anything, but still!). I think he's okay.
Rolls get higher or lower based on bonuses or maluses. DCs get higher or lower based on cirumstance.

He's currently on seawater.
>57, 93, 27 vs. DC 40 - Success!

A strong current begins to suck the water towards the walls. A scattered cheer goes up. You scramble to cup whatever you can between your hands.

You are left with a small puddle in your palms. It may be the only water left in the room.

You are stricken by several realizations so glaringly obvious you have no idea how they were overlooked.

You are wet.

You are cold.

You are hungry.

You can't breathe.

You need a drink.


You are wet because you're underwater. You are cold because you're wet. You're hungry because you haven't eaten. You can't breathe because your lungs don't work. You need a drink because you need a drink. YOUR CHEST IS MISSING

You should be DEAD

You should be DEAD

You should be DEAD

You feel woozy. Are you the only one that feels woozy? The small crowd below you sounds elated at this change. Their voices bounce and echo through the room. Snippets reach you: "thank gods" "worth it" "if only".

You want to vomit. You hold it in. Your knees buckle. You sit back down.

Gideon keeps a stranglehold on his sunglasses and massages his forehead. Arledge presses on his eyelids like his eyes are about to pop out of his skull.

A woman near the front screams. "aaaaaAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaAAAAAAAaaaaa," she screams. It's in a way you can only describe as "blue".

You can only see her back. She clutches her face. The people sitting around her scoot back in alarm.

With the way things have been going for you, you're only half-surprised.

>[1] You're a good person. Clutch the handrail and hobble down there to help... or gawk, at least.
>[2] You're a scared person. You need to get out of here. The doors can't be that secure, right?
>[3] You're an ambivalent person. Stay right where you are.
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] You're a good person. Clutch the handrail and hobble down there to help... or gawk, at least.

inb4 we somehow make everything worse
>[1] You're a good person. Clutch the handrail and hobble down there to help... or gawk, at least.

If we can't help we can at least gawk.
>>[1] You're a good person. Clutch the handrail and hobble down there to help... or gawk, at least.
We're gonna help!
Though admittedly, I'd prefer if it was Hazel looking to help while Blue was more ambivalent. It'd give Hazel something useful to do, being a moral grasshopper.
Could play if off as Hazel pestering Blue to help with Blue reluctantly doing so
I don't think Blue would be reluctant. They aren't that different.
>I don't think Blue would be reluctant. They aren't that different.
That's true, but he is more cautious, and I think cares about fewer people. He's not as Interested! as Hazel is.
We could pitch it as educational, so we know what to do if it happens to us.

Love the discussion! Blue is more cautious and thoughtful... but he's still fundamentally you. The impulse to do the right thing / at least see what's going on is still very much present.

You'll just do it carefully instead of pitching yourself headlong into danger!

I am going to be heading out for optimistically the next 1.5 hours and realistically the next 2, so while I don't expect the vote to change it will remain open. We'll pick up right after I return and carry on for the rest of the evening.
yay the optimistic wait time won
It won, but Realistic Wait Time is coming back to take its revenge! I have to vanish for a bit longer and then will return to writing.
Top ten anime betrayals
I return.
>Check it out!

Why aren't you moving?

The woman screamed thirty seconds ago. You remain in your seat. Gideon is striding down the stairs two at a time. Arledge cradles his head in his hands and doesn't respond to your mental prodding.

Seriously. What are you doing? This is... do I have to walk you through the basics? Something happens, you check it out! You don't just sit here--

It's not as if you won't. You're just thinking about it first, which you assumed he'd prefer. It could be dangerous. It could be contagious. It could just be a waste of time.

Or it could NOT be. You're such a bummer, you know that? You're a bummer.

You stand and nearly collapse on the spot. You should be DEAD, you're reminded. Your CHEST is gone. You're missing over HALF the blood in your body. You can't be alive, let alone conscious, let alone standing.

And really, you're beginning to feel that the effects should be. You're so cold. Your heartbeat flutters lightly in your ears.

>|Blood: 3/10|

You grit your teeth and grip onto the seats in front of you. You stumble out of the isle and lean heavily onto the stair railing on the opposite wall. The water sloshes in your empty palm.

Hey, that's the spirit.

You take it by halfsteps, little baby shuffles, and grip onto the railing like your life depends on it. It might.

It takes you several minutes to descend all the way to ground level. That Guy alternately cajoles and jibes you down. Your tolerance wears through by halfway down. "I'm sorry I have to deal with a physical body," you snap. "Not like you have much experience in that department."

He falls silent and remains that way until you reach the bottom.

Almost everyone's out of their seats by now, either huddled around the woman or backed as far away as possible. The crabs have vanished from the stage.

You try your best to jostle your way into the crowd, but nobody notices or cares enough to let you through. You're left to crane your neck for a glance.

It's not pretty. Her face runs with thin, crimson blood. It streams from her mouth and sockets and tentacles that've forced their way through them. They are smooth, shining, and translucent. They are the source of the screaming, you assume.

The woman herself lies catatonic against her seat. The gently-undulating tentacles are her only source of movement.

Gideon jots down notes a little ways away.

Okay, this is above our pay grade. Which is zero. We are not being paid for this. Please remember that.

(Votes next post)
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>[1] This is horrible. It's the least you could do to get the blood off her face, right?
>[2] Is she alive? You're pretty sure she's alive, even if she can't... talk. But hey, neither can you. Does the blood-connection thing work in air?
>[3] Gideon looks unfazed, though you suppose it's hard to tell behind the sunglasses. Talk to him.
>[4] Where the hell did the crabs go? They're in charge of this whole operation. You need to find one.
>[5] Write-in.
>[3] Gideon looks unfazed, though you suppose it's hard to tell behind the sunglasses. Talk to him.

Ask if he knows whats up with her. Don't touch the blood. Even if it's a nice gesture blood contact has power here.
>[5] Write-in.
Also note her resemblance to the octopus thing we crushed in our mind when we ate breakfast.

Are the crabs deliberately changing people who are MALLEABLE with octopus shit?
>Talk to Gideon.

Gideon arches a sculpted eyebrow as you inch towards him. "How are you faring?"

You CAN'T BREATHE, you're reminded as you try to respond. You lean bodily against the wall of the stage instead.

He retches, suddenly, and seawater dribbles out of his mouth. "Ahem. Excuse me."

It's funny. He looks exactly the same as last night, but there's something very obviously different. He's stopped pretending, you guess, though it's still unclear why he was pretending in the first place. "W-H-A-," you start to sign, but he cuts you off.

"Not here," he says. "Later."

Maybe it's his attitude. From your limited interactions with him, you're not sure Charlie would be back here blandly taking notes. Has he seen this before? Or is he just inured to garden-variety strangeness?

Is this garden-variety, really? I mean, I guess. I don't know.

"H-A-V-E," you start again, and this time Gideon sets down his pen and sighs. "I appreciate the effort," he says very quietly, "but it's not all that necessary. I can hear you."

Oh, shit. I was busy for a while. Did you stab him?

What? No.

He can hear this?

"Don't panic."

How can you not panic? You were okay with the blood thing, kind of, because at least that could be some sort of natural law you didn't know about. This is just full-on sorcery. This isn't good. You're not okay with this.

"Seriously. Here's the scoop, kiddo." Gideon twiddles the pen between his fingers. You're affronted: he looks maybe ten years older at best. "It's not a whole production. It's not a dress rehearsal, even. I get the very surface, and I get it all at once. It's white noise. You're just loud."

You think loud? Do other people think quietly? How do you define volume when there's no actual sound? That doesn't make any sense. You're kind of offended--

Holy shit. I'm hopeless! I- I put the... the deluxe version in charge and it's not even different, it's just the same fucking rambling! It's the same... I can't even pretend to be a whole other person-- it's the exact same. I can't change anything. I'm just going to be this forever, and I don't even get a say in the matter. I literally can do nothing about this.

"See, I don't know if you thought anything right then. It's just static."

It might as well be static to you, too. You have no idea what he's talking about.

Godsdammit. Ask Gideon about the, the tentacle thing going on. Please. Have you even looked over there? No, you haven't. This fucking lady got her eyes punched out, or whatever, and you're over here trying to get this guy's life story! For no reason! You're so fucking... I'm so fucking selfish. Holy shit. Ask!

"See, that was kind of... that was kind of staticky, too. It helps if you try and direct it, I'd suppose."

You're wet and cold and hungry and now you're being berated by your head. This is not a fantastic day.

Um, you were wondering about... well, it looks like Gideon might know what's going on, um, with the woman. You don't.

"...Not specifically." He sucks on the end of the pen and thinks. "But I suspected something like this would happen. I really can't discuss it here, either."


"But suffice it to say... I doubt there's much that can be done right now."

He jots something else down.

It's the... it's the thing with all the tentacles. I smashed it.

What? What does that--

Uh, I don't think linear time really exists in here, so I did ten minutes of thinking in the... twenty seconds, or whatever. I have a chalkboard. It's... I do think that part is helpful. I'd be okay with keeping that.
...Um, anyways, uh, yeah. The thing with the tentacles I smashed looks like the tentacles in the face. Maybe it's the same thing.

So what, you need to go stomp it out of her head?

No. Please don't.

Okay, then. What was the point--


There's no need to stand by. It rushes in like a sudden rainstorm and is gone just as quickly. You know you're still wet, intellectually, and still cold and hungry, but it somehow seems less urgent. You'll be okay.

But you're not sure everyone else will be. What the hell happened to Arledge? What the hell happened to Duncan? What the hell happened to That Guy? What the hell happened to that lady? What the hell happened to Gideon's eyes? What is going on?

You're troubled by an idea: are you somehow the least-troubled person you know?

got distracted :( apologies for the wait
back tomorrow
good night
>You're troubled by an idea: are you somehow the least-troubled person you know?

That's a scary thought and probably true at this point in time
Sorry, folks: I've been staring at my laptop for two hours but I'm really not feeling it today. I'm gonna have to postpone to Tuesday (Monday is busy!). We'll pick up there.
Bathic come baaaack
It's still Tuesday, buddy!
I'm eating lunch and will continue writing the update after I finish. ETA 2 PM PST and... sometime today if that doesn't work out.
What are you doing?

You've been staring blankly ahead and thinking. Is that a crime? Frankly, you're sick and tired of how erratic he's been acting. It'd do him some good to sit and think.

You don't understand. His desparation is palpable. That's all I CAN do. You have to-- you have to know on some level, right? What it's like? You have to... I- I don't know if you CAN know. I don't... it's so fucking alien I'm not sure it's even comprehensible. I can't tell anybody.

Like that! That erratic! You don't understand why he's come down with a bad case of the existential crisis now, of all times, but it's annoying and distracting. You have bigger fish to fry, like the horribly-delayed entrance of two crabs through a pair of doors to your left. They're bulkier and spikier than the type of generic crab you've been seeing. Security?

There's nobody I can tell, anyways. It's just you in here, everywhere. All the people are you. All the stuff is you. I'M you. And you're the person I can't tell anything, for, for, for multiple reasons.

They're hustling over to the tentacled lady. One picks her up; she lolls in his massive claws. "KEEP CLEAR," the other rumbles. "KEEP CLEAR."

You can't say you're surprised he won't tell you. You're wholly used to the idea that he'll be circuitous and vague and that you're just going to be in the dark about everything. It is what it is.

Okay. I know you're just repeating my, my thoughts from an hour ago, but I have the curse of perspective now and so I can tell you it is for a good reason. It is. You don't want to know anything, I promise. It's... if you wanted to know it, you would already. Promise.

Sounds like excuses to you.

The crab holding the woman walks stiffly back through the doors, while the other parks itself in front of them. A small gaggle of women (her friends?) start barraging it with questions. Gideon flips his notebook shut with a tidy thwap and clips his pen to the arm of his sunglasses. "Everything running smoothly?" he asks. "Doing a lot of thinking over there. Didn't get the half of it."

You struggle for an appropriate response (ruling out "it wasn't me, it was the part of me who lives in my head who's freaking out for no reason") and come up short. Luckily, your attention is pulled away by Arledge, still far up in his seat but now staring directly down at you.

+"Ellery. Blue Eyes is..."

+"Hazel Eyes." Would it kill him to get it right?

+"...Hazel Eyes is, uh-- quoting you-- 'down with a bad case of the existential crisis'?"

+"Yeah?" You don't think it's any of Arledge's business.

+"And your eyes... okay. Uh, one minute."

He falls silent. Shit. He's onto...

+"...Ellery," he continues after a brief pause. "I think we should head back to the room. There's... potentially things to talk about."

You heavily dislike the way he words this. +"There's nothing wrong with me," you say.

The lack of response is telling.

>[1] Don't we have bigger issues? Like Duncan? What does "take care of him" even mean? Shouldn't he be, uh, checked on, or something? That's way more important than you, because nothing's wrong with you.
>[2] Hold on. Shouldn't we go... follow the tentacle lady and find out what's going on? That's way more important than you, because nothing's wrong with you.
>[3] Fine. Fine. You'll go back to the hotel just to prove it. Nothing's wrong. And then we can get on with it.
>[4] Write-in.
>[3] Fine. Fine. You'll go back to the hotel just to prove it. Nothing's wrong. And then we can get on with it.
>[4] Write-in.
"Alredge why are we here? That's not an existential question. I mean why are we literally at this crab place? No one has explained anything."
>[2] Hold on. Shouldn't we go... follow the tentacle lady and find out what's going on? That's way more important than you, because nothing's wrong with you.
I'm pretty sure Arledge doesn't know either.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling + writing.
>Head back to the hotel.
>"What are we doing here?"

Truth be told, you're still feeling lightheaded from the sudden introduction of air. Having a lie-down would probably do you some good, and you're confident in your ability to stand up to Arledge's questioning.

"...Fine," you say, after an appropriate amount of time. "Is Gideon coming along, or..."

"Yes. He's... trustworthy."

Except for the lying about who he is and everything.

Ascending the stairs is even worse than descending them, and the long walk back is less than pleasant. Arledge has the good manners to lend you his quarterstaff again, though you note the bloodstains on the tips with a great deal of concern.

"Um," you say after a while. "What are we doing here? Not as a... not like, 'why do we exist', but like... here?"

His voice is flinty. "Crabs wanted us. Still not sure why. Had to go."

The receptionist crab is missing from the lobby, you're pleased to discover, and so there's no trouble in getting to your room. Gideon, who'd been walking briskly ahead of you, is already leaning by the bed. You collapse onto the bottom bunk. Arledge enters last and shuts the door behind him.

"Thank god," Gideon drawls. "Finally. This is so stiff-- give me a second, will you?"

He removes his sunglasses and stows them in his pocket. He removes his glasses...

He makes as if to remove his glasses, but twists a little at the earpiece. The skin splits off cleanly there from the rest of his face. He tears laterally, as if ripping off a bandage, and once again lacks anything around the eye area.

"Pardon," he says, unconcerned.

You'd seen this before. It at least registered as a thing that was a possibility. It could happen.

Arledge mumbles something unintelligible when Gideon begins to dig into his cheeks with his fingers. The flesh there doesn't behave as it ought to, but is more like a soft clay: he sculpts into it and it holds fast. When the cheekbones (high) are completed, he turns his attention to his chin. It's pulled downward, and the entire face lengthens in response: it's now less Charlie's oval and more a thin rectangle. Something similar happens to the nose: it is narrowed at the bridge and broadened at the apex.

You'd feel sick enough just watching this, but Gideon begins to add detail: deep laugh lines, pockmarks. He scratches a reddish scar just below an ear. No change is made to the hair-- "Keeping the hair," he says in response. "It's a lot of muss to get it back."

He seals his glasses back on, and quickly hollows out the space below his new eyes. And then he blinks, and it's as if nothing had happened at all.

Except he looks completely different.

>|Mind: 8/10|

"That was nice," Arledge says, and uncrosses his arms. He puts them in his pockets instead. "Can I test for blood?"

"I'm real, I assure you." Gideon winks, though you're not sure who at. It may have been a spasm.

"That's fine. Still testing after that little show. I need to test you too, Ellery, and then I need something else from you."

You eye him with suspicion as he pricks Gideon's outstretched finger with a knife (blood), and then yours (also blood). He does his just for show (still blood) and relaxes visibly.

"In that case," he says, "um, you're having... issues with your eidolon. Yes?"


"I think the best thing to do would be for me-- us, I suppose, to talk to... him directly. If you're capable of switching off..."

>[1] Actually, that sounds like a good idea. The faster you deal with this, the faster you can move on to better things. And he was just complaining that he couldn't talk to anybody.
>[2] Refuse. There's a pit in your stomach you can't describe.
>[3] Write-in.
File: 20190409_163234.jpg (2.62 MB, 2093x3105)
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Reference for Gideon's actual face.
>>[1] Actually, that sounds like a good idea. The faster you deal with this, the faster you can move on to better things. And he was just complaining that he couldn't talk to anybody.
Writing! Special circumstances remove a need for a roll.
>Go for it.

"Uh," you say. "If you think it will help, sure, I guess. Nothing to lose."

"That's the spirit," Gideon crows. Arledge glares. You take a deep breath and relinquish your grip on reality.

You topple backwards immediately.


Holy shit. I'm back. I'm back. I'm--

You are not Ellery Routh. You're positive you used to be.

--wait, this isn't it. This is different.

You sit up with more force than strictly necessary. Arledge, standing above you, flinches.

"Hi, Ell--," he says, and freezes on the first syllable. "Ell-- Ell-- what the feck."

"Um," you say, and also freeze. Oh, that's weird. That's... I forgot what words were like. "Um, I don't... I don't think you can call me that. It's taken."

Arledge looks at you like you just sprouted another head. "What? Ell-- Gideon, come here. Try it."

Gideon steps over and joins Arledge in staring at you. Oh, good. "Is that it? I thought you said it was someone else. That's still Ell-- oh."


"Ell-iptical. Ell-iot. -Lery. Oh, dear."


This is not how I wanted to be welcomed.

"Well." Arledge clears his throat. "Ahem. Um, I think-- Elliot is probably best for now. Hi, Elliot."

What does he mean, 'Hi Elliot'?
Is he doing the patronizing thing? I can take responsibility for my own actions; I don't need his whole ""disappointed dad"" thing. He's either not old enough or way too old to be my dad. And also he'd suck.

"Don't *say* that," you snap.

"I- what?" He recoils in confusion. "I- that wasn't- that was, like 'I have you found out', not-- how did you take it? It loses its effect when it's not Ell-- when it's not your-- well, yes."

("Stellar start. Next thing you know you'll be bludgeoning him with a quarterstaff and tossing him into a dark stairwell.")

("I appreciate the assistance, Gideon.")

You rub your temples. "What does 'I have you found out' mean? What is that supposed to be implying?"

"Cut it out." Arledge's eye flash a brighter blue. "What did you do? What are you doing here?"

I can't tell him. I can't-- he won't understand. He can't possibly understand.

>[1] Deflect. Why does he care about this? About you?
>[2] Evade. Does he know what it's been like? How hard it is?
>[3] Parry. What's wrong with being here? Your body hasn't burned anything down, has it?
>[4] Write-in.
>[LOCKED] Answer the questions.
>>[3] Parry. What's wrong with being here? Your body hasn't burned anything down, has it?
>[3] Parry. What's wrong with being here? Your body hasn't burned anything down, has it?
Breaking for dinner and then continuing to write. I'd apologize for my speed today, but I think at this point it's pretty much expected.
>What's wrong with that?

You plaster on a smirk. "What does it matter? Nothing *bad's* happened. He's probably doing better than I would, really."

I'm lying: he is doing better. I'm less emotionally mature than a, a fictional person I invented. I can't even answer two simple fucking questions because they might hurt my feelings. Talk about pathetic.

Arledge's pinched, placating half-smile slips into what might be concern. Gideon raises an eyebrow. "This isn't an interrogation, kiddo. No need to get defensive, unless Arledge here pulls out his quarterstaff--"

Man. What happened with them?

"Gideon! This is serious." Arledge folds his hands at the waist. "Ell--...iot, this isn't a... well, it isn't an interrogation. I'm not trying to extract this out of you. But the fact that you're avoiding the question worries me, is all."


"Is he doing better?"

He's hesitating. Gotcha.

"Well-- at breakfast, was that you? I don't think it was, but--"


"Okay." He sighs. "Then yes, because I think I'm right in saying you'd never say all that. Which is a shame. I don't bite, you know--"


"He bites, but only when you try and kick him out of the broom closet." Gideon is clearly very proud of himself.

"I will strangle you with my bare hands if you don't keep quiet, okay? Okay. Ell--...iot, you have to talk to someone. It doesn't have to be me, but... tell Gideon it's off the record first, at least. But it's not safe to keep everything bottled up, and if you didn't know that Blue Eyes wouldn't be talking. He does actually know better than you. It's how it works."

So there really is no point to me. "So what's the point of me, then?"

"Why does there-- there doesn't have to be a point. You just do the best you can with what you have, like everyone else. Maybe listen to him once in a while. But don't be him."

You pick relentlessly at one cuticle. If you pick hard enough, you figure, you can rip a hole clean through your hollow finger and expose yourself as a fraud.

"So there IS something wrong with it," you rejoind. The words still feel thick and odd in your mouth, sluggish compared to raw thought.

Gideon looks up from the corner he's retreated into. His shoulders are dappled with the odd flower petal from the garlands on the wall. "Yes. It's freaky as shit."

"I swear to-- it's not wrong, I guess, but I don't see how it can be healthy. What am I going to tell Madrigal when we get back? 'Yes, I do see that there's a gaping hole in his chest. Also, that's not actually him anymore.' Do you want that? I don't want that."

(Choices next.)
>[1] Aver. You don't buy "it's not healthy" for a second. Arledge doesn't care about you.
>[2] Deny. You're doing just fine. Really, it's been educational.
>[3] Duck. Say, while we're here, doesn't he want to hear about what it's like? He doesn't know, of course. He can't.
>[4] Write-in.
>[5] Confess. Of course it's not healthy. You knew it wouldn't be. (Difficult roll!)
>[5] Confess. Of course it's not healthy. You knew it wouldn't be. (Difficult roll!)

>Drowned Quest
>Any roll above a 10 DC

I'm game
Alright! Let's discover if you're ready to show any ounce of vulnerability by choice.

I need 3 1d100s vs. DC 70 to pull this off.

Best of luck.
Rolled 51 (1d100)

Rolled 40 (1d100)

Rolled 93 (1d100)

>Regular Failure
You are not ready! But it could've been worse.

Bros, what would his baby batter taste like?
>51, 40, 93 vs. DC 70 - Regular Failure.

I should tell him.

This feels awful. I feel awful. There's this, this roiling ball of guilt and fear and self-hatred in my chest and I need to get it out. I can't live like this.

But I'm not alive.

And what if it's the only thing keeping me going? What if it's the one part that's me? If I get rid of it, will I collapse like some sort of a, a stringless puppet?

I shouldn't tell him.

But your mouth has already said "Arledge, uh, I," and Arledge is already looking at you with the expectant eyes of someone who thinks he's prompted a breakthrough.

"I," you lamely backpedal, "uh, just think that was, uh, nice of you. Good advice."

He studies your face. "What were you going to say?"


I can't tell him. It's embarrassing, is what it is. It'll invite more questions. It's not safe.

"Lay off. You can't fix people by talking to them for five minutes." Gideon hovers over Arledge's shoulder like some manner of flightless bird. Is he really tall, or is Arledge just short? There must be, what, half a foot--

"Nobody's being fixed."

"Yeah huh. Elliot, what you see here is called a god complex. Arledge thinks he's better than you, and smarter, and so it's his job to fix all your problems. Unfortunately, people are more complicated than that, but he keeps getting surprised when it doesn't work. How about that?"

"That's not-"

"His boyfriend's worse. Same thing, but he pretends not to care. Imagine that."

"Lorne's not my--"

You frown. "That seems a little harsh, I mean..."

"Of course, that's not to say you don't need fixing; it's just not mine to pass judgement on. That generally gets reserved for society as a whole."


"Alright, that's it." Arledge turns and pulls Gideon with him into a huddle. "I swear, if you don't leave this instant I will actually beat you senseless and toss you down a dark stairwell. You know I'm capable--"

Gideon leaves.

Arledge swivels back to you. "Finally. Sorry. Were you going to say something?"

He looks so hopeful. ...I don't know.

>[1] Maybe you were going to say something. [Confess: DC 50]
>[2] No. You can't. [Move on.]
>[3] Write-in.

Picking this back up tomorrow. Good night!
Whose baby batter? Gotta be specific with your pronouns here, pal. The answer varies.
>[3] Write-in.
"Alredge I've been here for just over a week. I can't talk, I've been stabbed, transformed into a monster, seen things I hadn't thought possible, had my chest blown up, and been gang pressed into this business with crabs who I am getting more and more worried about the longer we stay here. How do you deal with all that? How did you deal with all this when you first got here? I nearly got us both killed in that canyon too. If the 'other guy' can handle this better than I can, shouldn't he?"

Trying to lower the DC I guess. A coin flip isn't good odds, specially in this quest.

Hell even if he doesn't confess I'd be ok with just mentally acknowledging what happened. Especially if he spells it out nice and simple so I can understand.
Alright! With the write-in taken into account, I'm going to need 3 rolls of 1d100 vs. DC 30 for the Confess. Write-in doesn't need a roll.

If you haven't read the optional* Vignette pastebins, those provide more of a window into (not) Ellery's particular emotional state. I'll go over it more here regardless!

*intended to be optional when I started but it turns out I'm bad at that. they are canon
Rolled 10 (1d100)

Rolled 62 (1d100)

Final roll and then writing.
Rolled 13 (1d100)

Good start.
Rolled 54 (1d100)

Would it have mattered?
Yup. Curse my tardiness
Rolled 66 (1d100)

No cmon no I was eating
>"Alredge I've been here for just over a week. I can't talk, I've been stabbed, transformed into a monster, seen things I hadn't thought possible, had my chest blown up, and been gang pressed into this business with crabs who I am getting more and more worried about the longer we stay here. How do you deal with all that? How did you deal with all this when you first got here? I nearly got us both killed in that canyon too. If the 'other guy' can handle this better than I can, shouldn't he?"
>Confess - 10, 63, 13 vs. DC 30 - Failure

You don't meet his eyes. You don't say what you were going to say.

You do say something else, though.

"How long have you been down here?"

"What?" Arledge tugs at the thin cord around his neck. "10 years. Maybe 11."

That's all? "Oh. Well, I was just... I don't know, I was wondering if... I don't know. If this is normal. Because it's been a little over a week and I've--"

"You don't have to list everything--"

"--I don't know, I've been stabbed, I've, I've been eaten by a fakeass snake thing, I've been--" Does he know about the thing with Lorne? I don't remember. "--and then there's all the mind stuff you only know, like, half of. And if that's normal, how do people live like that? How do they--"

"It's not, um." He tugs further, making a white line where the cord bites into his skin. "I wouldn't call it normal. Most people try to avoid that level of... excitement, I guess. But it's not unheard of."

So I only have myself to blame.

"So what do you do about it? What's a better way to--"

He switches from the cord to his wrist, twisting and twisting the dark sleeve of his jacket. "Well," he says, "it's different for me. I spent half my life preparing. I mostly knew what to expect. You didn't."

"So I'm handicapped."

"Well, as are most people, I guess--"

"So why shouldn't I lessen that handicap? Why not let someone who knows what he's doing--"

"Because that's not living! That's giving up. That's throwing up your hands and saying 'oh, well, not my problem' and it's not okay, okay? You can't just hand over the reins because things get tough--"

You don't have blood. Your face heats up anyways. "Okay, you know what? Feck you. I knew you wouldn't understand."

He blanches. "...I- okay. Let me put it this way. Was it an accident?"

Was it an accident?

Not really. It was spur-of-the-moment, but it wasn't as if you tripped and fell into this. You were expecting the result you got.

"No," you say.

Arledge looks worried, and scared, and-- That's the face I didn't want. Godsdammit. "Tell me if I'm wrong. At breakfast, you intentionally--"


"--killed yourself."


"What? No. No. I'm right here. I'm not dead."

"Well, you sure as hell aren't alive, Ell-- you don't have a name! You don't have a body, you don't have agency, I'm guessing... right now I'm speaking to a concept of a person. What would you like me to call it?"
You're smiling completely against your will. "...Not dead. I'm not--"

"Why? What could've possessed you to--"

You were scared. You were sad. You were missing three-fifths of the blood in your body. Your grip on reality is unstable at the best of times and it wasn't the best. Your rock of stability had been yanked out from under you. You couldn't handle it anymore.

You narrate in second-person because it feels better to pretend someone else is saying this.

And there's no way you can say it out loud.

"Please. You'll feel better."

>[1] Write-in.
Lol, Bathic, I have no idea. I don't know what makes our protagonist tick! Why is he smiling!?
Okay, I do have an idea.
>"I am, and always have been, the worst parts of me."
(No, I don't know what this means, nor do I know if he really really means it. (Also, I'm pretty sure he wasn't always this self-hating.))
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I think I need a minute to think.

He's asking why we did this? Didn't we lose control cause we got poisoned by malleable crab cunts and their mini octopus and then critfailed?
No what?
You smile when you're really stressed-- it's shown up when you first fall down, when you're blinded, and when you're with Madrigal in the tent. It's more typically a "half-smile", but I get self-conscious about using "half" as a description too often. Quoth Ellery:

"You can feel that hot half-smile twitch and lock firmly into place. Is it just your default reaction, now? From what deep wellspring had it... sprung? How must it look-- not great, you're guessing, considering how it feels..."

Don't fret too much about staying in-character. Unless it's completely wack, I'll edit it or justify it.

He wasn't. This is kind of a couple of layers of callbacks that I remember but it's unclear if anyone else does-- so this is great that I can clarify.

Layer one: fake-Madrigal chews Ellery out for being reckless-- but not just reckless, deliberately reckless for the sake of keeping up a persona. She informs him "you're the worst part of you" and takes it back a second later, but it's too late. It sticks.

Layer two: You interrogate That Guy about what he knows and what he's keeping from you. As it turns out, he knows exactly as much as you do... only you're keeping things from yourself, as people are wont to do.

Layer three: You are That Guy in all ways but memory, and so you have full knowledge of everything he does. You're able to see yourself objectively, past whatever delusions and justifications and layers you've built up over the years.

You don't like it.

Layer four: Also, you remember everything fake Madrigal told you and you're convinced she's right. (Is she actually right, or are you just mired in self-loathing? That's up in the air.)

And that's how you get to where we are!
Well yeah. We just figured it was a good idea. I think, though, that we're mushing together with whatever self-hate we have and muddying our memories, attributing logical or emotional rationalizations for whatever we did.

Thanks for the clarifications.
>[3] He's you. You've accepted that. But by that logic... are you him? Can you be him, and can he stop this if you were? Should you find out?

Was the choice to led to this crap. I think we (well I didn't vote for it so I can be a little smug) did it because we thought utilizing Blue Eyes's smarter side he can figure out this Malleable crap we got poisoned with.

But in reality it seems to have been Ellery just fucking giving up everything to Blue Eyes.

So now we have to work our way back to normal, but Ellery's self hate is getting in the way.

So how do we get around that? Lean into it for right now? That is a character trait that makes a part of a real person. But it's also the shit that got us into this mess.
I would like to note: there is no right (or wrong) answer here. It's not a puzzle to be solved, and it's not going to lock you into anything serious.

It's just "what do you think the character would say to that?"

Any questions, let me know. I'll leave this open for a while longer.
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>[1] Write-in.
"Because I'm a fucking idiot who is terrified my entire identity is tied to how much blood I have in my body, which was very low by the way, and ate some fucked up breakfast that had Blue Eyes acting crazy talking about MALLEABLE this and CHANGE that and then I thought 'Hey I'm not doing too well at this underwater business, maybe this guy who acts more like a regular person is the real Ellery and I'm the one that isn't real'. Probably the blood loss and the fact that my mind is barely holding itself together but Hey! here we are!"
Alright! Let me try and formulate a consensus from these votes.

>Total shutdown!


>Self-loathing in more detail!

I'm combining >>3423073 and >>3423288. Writing.
>Total shutdown!
>Self-loathing in more detail!
Oiiii, wasn't this a comedy?!
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Was it?
It's a dramady probably
jokes aren't the focus they just... happen constantly
>"I am, and always have been, the worst parts of me."
>"Because I'm a fucking idiot who is terrified my entire identity is tied to how much blood I have in my body, which was very low by the way, and ate some fucked up breakfast that had Blue Eyes acting crazy talking about MALLEABLE this and CHANGE that and then I thought 'Hey I'm not doing too well at this underwater business, maybe this guy who acts more like a regular person is the real Ellery and I'm the one that isn't real'. Probably the blood loss and the fact that my mind is barely holding itself together but Hey! here we are!"

"Um," you say, unsteadily. "I would say-- normally I'd say this wasn't my fault. Right? Like, 'it's not my fault'. But I can't say that."

"Why not?" His voice is suddenly coaxing. When will this be over?

"I-- it's cowardly. It's just a way to skip out on thinking about my actions. Which is all that ever happens, by the way, like... I do something stupid and then act surprised when it comes back to bite me in the ass. It's horrible."

"Well, that's... You can change that, you know."

Your strangled laugh sounds more like a cough. "Ha! Can I? Can I, Arledge? Because the way you say it--"

"Oh gods."

"--I can't! There's not even a me, really, not just now but ever. It's just my fucking blood--"

"That's not how..." Arledge sits, heavily, on the opposite end of the bed. "You misunderstood. I mean... are you the same person as you were a year ago? Or five years? I'm guessing no."

I'm not sure I existed a year ago. It doesn't really feel like I did, compared to all this.

"I... no, I guess."

"Okay, then. I don't think it's possible to stay exactly the same. You change, and your blood changes too, okay? It's not-- it doesn't lock you into behaving exactly the same forever. That's not how it works." He pauses. "Weren't you worried about changing too much?"

"I'm worried about both, I guess. The only thing that stays constant is, is how much of a fucking idiot I am, and that's--"

Arledge scoots a little closer. "Who told you that? Is Gideon-- I will knock that gangly motherfucker from here to kingdom come, I swear to--"


"Um, no. It's nobody. It's just true, is all."

"That you're a... I mean, yeah, but that's not the-- it's not a bad thing. It's like, uh, you're a smart dog. Or my kid brother. It's usually kind of charming."

Oh good! I'm a dog.

"But you know that, right? It's pretty clear you play things up for... I don't know, exactly. But I think you're smarter than you act."

Not on... not on purpose. It's because--

"I'm exactly as smart as I act," you say with grim resolve. "Maybe you're seeing... the rest of me, I guess. But everybody's stuck with the part who's talking, and that's the worst of the bunch."

"What?" Arledge frowns. "I don't think that's how..."

"That's how I told me it works, okay? I am my own worst impulses. I am the worst part of me."

You watch with growing bemusement as Arledge cradles his head in his hands. After you grow certain he's finished with you, you stand. "Okay," you announce. "If we're done here--"

"Sit the fuck down," he hisses without looking up.

You sit down.

"That's the biggest load of gullshit I've heard for a long time. I don't-- maybe it's true. I don't know. But it's fucking stupid if it is, okay? You don't-- people aren't segregated like that."

"Blue Eyes--"

"--is a metaphysical phenomenon. He's different. What that other tripe sounds to me is you lying to yourself."

You don't say anything.

"You said it, right? 'It's not your fault', which is... something we can talk about later. But the point is-- you've made it so it's never your fault."

"That's not-- that's backwards. It's always my fault."

"Oh, sure. It's your fault. But it's mostly not-- the rest of you is smart! And besides, you can't help your actions. You were made that way. Do you see how fucked up this is, Ell--." He swallows. "Ell-- hold on. Ellery?"

"That's... I would know if I were."

"Would you? Maybe now you're the one lying instead of... the one being lied to, I guess. I don't know. But it's still a lie."

You drag your hands down your face. "And what's the end result? I'm not the--"

"You're a-- ahem. You're a person with flaws. Welcome to the club. Maybe think about addressing them instead of pretending they don't exist, huh?"


This is going to be a long one. Still writing. Have to first half to tide you over.
Double post. Check the checkbox by your tripname, then press the Delete button at the bottom right.
You may need to refresh your page-- I only see one of each part? Had to delete the second one twice because of broken and tags, but it should've been working by the time you made that.
"I... yeah." You scratch morosely at your pant leg. "...Sorry."

"It's no skin off my back. I just think you could be doing better things with your time, is all. It must be lonely enough in there without you beating youself up over everything."

"It's not lonely," you say, and examine the back of your hand. It's not quite right. "I'm busy talking to... myself. I have a chalkboard." Did I forget pores?

"Okay, well, regardless. It's no way to live. Not live. I don't know how long you plan to keep this up, but--"

"I don't know." I don't know how to stop it.

"...Okay. That's... as long as you're okay, I guess. But I expect check-ins." He drums on his leg in thought. "Uh, how'd you-- what made you do this? I have a broad picture, but..."

It was an hour and a half ago, but it feels like years. "I was-- I was on edge, I guess, from the whole... the thing at the Gape. And then at breakfast, uh, something weird happened."

"Your food got spiked."

"Yeah. Uh, it screwed up Blue Eyes. He went kinda haywire, like, all talking about 'MALLEABILITY', uh, 'CHANGE', all... blue. I don't know if I can do it. Uh, maybe like this... oh, that's weird."

There's no way a normal mouth can handle that. It's like rolling your r's, except distinctly not like that. The words feel loose and slippery in your throat.

"But... yeah. So I-- I panicked. I wasn't thinking straight. I thought maybe... I wasn't really doing too hot at this whole living thing, right? I was kind of... failing, actually. I mean, I just busted open my chest, I ruined your eyes--"

"I can handle myself."

"--okay, but yeah. I wasn't even positive what was real, or, or not, right? So I thought... maybe it'd be better if Blue Eyes were... me. And then it goes kind of fuzzy. And then the next thing I know, it's all dark and I know for a fact what happened."

"Why didn't you ask me for help? I was right there."

You don't like me.

"In the spirit of honesty... uh, I didn't... I don't really trust you. You don't have a good track record."

Arledge looks down and away.

The door cracks open a smidge, dislodging the neat carpet of petals that'd started to grow around it. Gideon's voice comes out. "All done with the puff piece? Am I allowed back--"

"You were listening, anyways. It doesn't matter."

Gideon slides in and shuts the door back behind him. "The professional term is eavesdropping, I'll have you know."

"Mmm. I think we're finishing up. I have some academic questions, but... they can probably wait if you have more important news."

"That's not the half of it." Gideon undoes the knot of his tie. "I have the long version, the short version, or the no version. No version is I get a move on and you follow me. Shoot."

(Choices next!)
>[1] You want the long version of the scoop.
>[2] You want the short version of the scoop.
>[3] You want the no version of the scoop.
>[4] Write-in.

That's all for today, I'm afraid! Possibly one update tomorrow, but I'll be busy. Full session on Sunday. The days inbetween are up in the air.
>>[2] You want the short version of the scoop.

The no version is what we always get
>The short version.

You stare at your feet. Arledge stands. "I think the..." he says.

"S-short version," you say at the same time.

"...short version would be ideal, yeah. If you give us the long version, we'll be here the whole day."

"Very well. I'll sweep past that thinly-veiled jibe, Arledge, and give the short version." Gideon finishes undoing his tie, which now drapes loosely around his neck, and moves on to unbuttoning the slim suit jacket. "Some manner of conspiracy going on. I've been investigating for three weeks."

You wait for a continuation and scrunch up your face when none comes. "That's all?"

He doesn't look up. "Asked for short, gave you economical. Other questions?"

"Yeah, u-uh..." Your voice is a little shaky. It's doubtless from some psychological phenomenon: you don't have anything physical to cause it. (Oh gods.) "...I don't... more detail? An actual explanation? I don't..."

"Oh!" You recieve a single arched eyebrow. "You'd like the medium version. Why didn't you just say so?"

"Cut the shit, Gideon." He's back to tense. "If there's lives at stake..."

"Believe me, there's always lives at stake. But let me see."

>Gideon gives you the lowdown.

>He skipped out three weeks ago to investigate a tip-off on some newsworthy happenings: a potential coup brewing among the crabs.
>There does appear to be a coup, though it's been at a standstill. All three major families of crabs seem to agree the boss has to go, but can't agree on who's going to replace them.
>This "Incursion" business is an attempt to resolve this: rope a bunch of uninvolved parties in and have them vote on the next leader.
>But the whole tentacles thing is... different. That wasn't part of the plan. It seems to fit the MO of one of the Pagarus family, what with the whole "change" thing, but this certainly wouldn't win them any votes. No, it smells like a frame job or something deeper.

"But believe me," he finishes. "I will be using all the resources at my disposal to dig into this. It's just a matter of where to start. Questions?"

(Choices next!)
>[A1] Questions? [Write-in. Answers will be in short form.]
>[A2] You're good for now.

You also receive a briefing on your options.
>[B1] Seek out Gideon's contact in the Pagarus crab family. This might be a frame-up, but you'd rather not jump to conclusions.
>[B2] Seek out the tentacled woman. You'd like to know what happened, and what's being done to her.
>[B3] Head back to the mess hall. That's where you were spiked, after all, and that's apparently where this started.
>[B4] Your personal little tentacled thing may have been stomped to bits, but it seems unlikely that that's the end of it. Use your newfound self-omniscience to ensure it's dealt with.
>[B5] Sit tight. There's "recreational activities" planned soon, Gideon tells you with an air of disgust, and if something's going on that seems like the most obvious place to strike next.
>[B6] Write-in.

You reach up to scratch your nose and discover that a strip of skin has begun to peel away, as if from a strong sunburn. This won't last forever.
>[C1] Stay as you are. You'll savor reality as long as you can.
>[C2] Switch back. You feel better, for now, and you don't want anything inopportune happening.
"Why bother? Wtf does all this crab shit have to do with us?"


Skin peeling off is icky and worrying.
>[A1] Questions? [Write-in. Answers will be in short form.]
"So why was I specifically chosen for this vote? Malleable?"

"Is the king crab about to be replaced still alive?"

>[B3] Head back to the mess hall. That's where you were spiked, after all, and that's apparently where this started.

>[B4] Your personal little tentacled thing may have been stomped to bits, but it seems unlikely that that's the end of it. Use your newfound self-omniscience to ensure it's dealt with.
Ask for Alredge's opinion on this before we 'dive in'

>[C2] Switch back afterwards. You feel better, for now, and you don't want anything inopportune happening.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling between the [B] options and then writing.
"That's probably not good," says Gideon. "Very interesting, though. I suppose..."

"Yeah." You flick the skin away and lean resignedly back on your elbows. "It's probably time to... go. Good luck with all this."

"Ell-..." Arledge nearly chokes on your name. "Ell-... damn, lost it. You don't have to go. I'm not finished--"

"You're not getting paid by the hour." Gideon pushes his glasses closer to his face. "Lay off. I assume he'll be back..."

I'd like to be.

"If I'm not, uh, totally subsumed by a different, uh, personality."

"...If he's not totally subsumed or whatnot. Besides, I'd like to lend... wossisname, the other one. Lend him a shirt."

Arledge supports himself with one hand and massages his eyes with the other. "Whatever. Please don't do anything stupid, Ell-... Ellery."

"That's like telling a fish not to swim--" is the last thing you hear as you dissolve back into uncomfortable darkness.


You are Ellery Routh, unfortunately. Your life is a lie.

"My life is a lie," you attempt to croak, and quickly come to realize you lack working lungs or a strangely clear voice to compensate. You were heard anyways. Arledge frowns. Gideon nods. "Happens all the time. You get used to it."


Despite all evidence to the contrary, you weren't always Ellery Routh. You were lied to. You are less than happy about this, but you have more pressing issues.

You were asked for questions. Here's a big one: "Why should I be here? Why can't I just leave?"

What? You can't just... don't say that. You're just proving--

Arledge's frown deepens, but he says nothing. Gideon doesn't have nearly as much restraint. His accent thickens, if possible. "Because it's the right thing to do, son. I thought you had a good head on your shoulders."

Yeah, look! I have a good head on my shoulders. I'm supposed to care about... bad stuff, not just waltz off and--

You won't be cowed. "Well, sure. But it could be dangerous, and I'm not qualified... uh, at all, really. I don't have any special skills, I know nothing about--"

Okay, remind me why I just let you back out, because this is--

"I prefer tabula rasa." His clipped pronunciation bypasses the fact you have no idea what this means. "And I believe you're selling yourself short. There's capability for greatness in you..."


"...but hell's bells, get over yourself. Do the right thing."

Oh. Yeah, still.

"What he said," says Arledge.

You're still doubtful, but you suspect you'll be strongarmed into participating regardless of your feelings on the matter. Such is your lot in life.

You continue to have questions.

>Is the boss crab still alive?
Gideon thinks so, but hasn't been able to confirm for sure. His best guess is that it's being captured and held somewhere, likely underground where the majority of the crabs are living. Unfortunately, he's not allowed in.

>Why was I chosen for this?
His brow furrows at the word "malleable". "Yes," he says, "that'd make sense. I doubt they'd lie." You suspect he knows more that he's not divulging, but you don't press for answers right now.

Finally, you advocate for checking out the woman from the meeting chamber. The way she was marched off doesn't sit entirely right with you. It's agreed upon, and you stand from the bed with muscle memory that isn't yours.

"The only question is," Gideon says, "what's been done with her? There is a medical bay, but it's unclear if this'd be considered a medical issue. She might've been taken behind the barn and shot, for all I know--"

"Why don't we ask someone?" Arledge says.

"Or... yes, that's an option. Or we could just do some old-fashioned gumshoe work. Mr. Rasa, I'm curious to know what you think..."

Pretty sure that's us.

>[1] The medical bay seems like an obvious place to start. Too obvious?
>[2] You're pretty good at talking, but will anyone answer?
>[3] "Gumshoe" (what?) work may provide the clearest path forward, but are there any clues?
>[4] Write-in.
>Wouldn't the Malleable faction have nabbed her? Either they're being framed and they want to disappear her and figure out who did it, or they did it and they're interested in what happened. Of course, the framers would want to keep this as loud and public as possible.
>[3] "Gumshoe" (what?) work may provide the clearest path forward, but are there any clues?

Correct me if I'm wrong but we can't actually talk to people without 'connecting' first right? That might make things difficult.
That's correct. This option would require translation.
Alright, I'd normally call it here, but 1) I need to break for organized religion and 2) >>3434769, while insightful, doesn't propose an obvious path forward. Clarification would be appreciated.

See you in an hour or so.
>[3] "Gumshoe" (what?) work may provide the clearest path forward, but are there any clues?
Maybe check for other spiky security crabs, or the kitchen where the food was prepared, or we can check in on the remains of our own tentacle headmate, or the Malleable clan's quarters.
That ran long and now I have to grab food. Writing after. Apologies.
>Investigation ~ Opening https://youtu.be/NIhOhbXg7aw
>Wouldn't the Malleable faction have nabbed her? Either they're being framed and they want to disappear her and figure out who did it, or they did it and they're interested in what happened. Of course, the framers would want to keep this as loud and public as possible.

You chew your bottom lip and consider. You'd never admit it, but Gideon intimidates you. You'd much prefer it if he went back to folksily contracting his words. Arledge isn't nearly as bad, but you can still feel his eyes boring into your skull.

"Um," you say. "Wouldn't it be... if whatever crabs are really into the whole, uh, blue-slash-malleable thing--"


"Whatever, the Pagarus. Even if they didn't do it, I guess, maybe they're the one who took the woman. To study her, or whatever, or, I don't know... figure out what happened. And whoever did it would want to make this all big and public, right? So we should look at any accusations that come out."

Wow. Maybe I am actually smart.

You really hope the look in both of their eyes is respect, and that the glance Arledge casts towards Gideon is him saying "wow, that was intelligent" instead of "wow, that was dumb". You chew your lip further.

"Excellent deduction," says Gideon, and the glow of pride warms your face. "No skills, hm?"

"That's... probably along the right lines," Arledge says a little less enthusiastically, but you don't even care. "Do you have Pagarus contacts? If we could get in their base, or whatever--"

"Not, ah, as such. They're not interested in normal people, and Charlie is emphatically that. They're kind of a fringe group, anyways, not nearly as heavy a hitter as the other two, so I haven't looked into them all too much."

"Makes sense," you say. "Fair enough," Arledge says. "So what's the best way to--"

"Oh, well, you two should have no issue getting in. Just volunteer one of you for testing. Or both, if you'd like to be safe." Gideon picks at his ear.

You attempt to stick your hands in your pockets before realizing 1) you have no pockets and 2) you have no coat. You fold them instead like that's what you meant to do. "What about you?"

"I can't," Gideon says, as he begins to re-rearrange his face. "I'm normal."

Arledge visibly rolls his eyes.

"No. The issue here is finding one in the first place, especially after the incident. Sure they're not too willing to show their faces."

>Roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+10 Arledge's Keen Eyes) vs. DC 40 to find a crab willing to escort you into the Pagarus base!
Rolled 17 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Rolled 42 (1d100)

Stand back losers
I'm about to roll a perfect 3 digits
Rolled 69 (1d100)

Rolling. You guys won't fail a DC 30, r-right?
We didn't, but it's like 30% chance right? So not that unlikely.
21% chance. Definitely possible, but I hold out hope regardless.

I am currently writing.
>27, 52, 79 vs. DC 40 - Success!

The corridor and reception desk are still empty, and the scent of moldering flowers is so strong you can smell it through the water. Clearly these garlands and bouquets don't keep well. While you're glad your party doesn't have to face questions or stares (you're bandaged and shirtless, Arledge is twitchy with seawater, Gideon-as-Charlie remains 6'3" and sunglasses'd), the utter stillness still makes you uneasy. Where has everybody gone?

Outside, apparently. Probably 20 people loiter in small groups, scattered around and against the hewn stone buildings. They mutter and gossip and look around nervously. Your first instinct is to retreat back into the dorms.

That would look really stupid. Don't do that.

You know what was really stupid? This. You being... this. If there were a pillar made of every single dumb thing he's ever done in order, this would be teetering at the exact top. It is the apex of pants-on-head decisions. It is the summit.

But that's not the point. You don't do that, anyways. You do cross your arms against your chest and hope Gideon remembers to get you a shirt. You're glad Arledge offhandedly summoned you his quarterstaff to walk with, at least.

Gideon is distracted. His strides are far too long for you to keep pace with, so you end up walking next to Arledge. You're not sure you like this.

Arledge isn't doing that weird bob-and-weave thing, but looks very much like he wants to. You have to wonder what the side-effects are for seawater. Or effects, really, though you have a better grasp on that (you've listened to enough addicts). How does it work? How does it feel-- well, you got a taste of that, but you're not sure it worked properly.

I hate this. Are you paying attention? Is this... this is my entire existence. I exist to tell myself to stop going on random tangents. I "exist", quotation marks. Holy shit. This is-- Arledge can't talk me out of *not being an actual person*. That's not fixable.

Actually, you note with irritation, you were considering. Like, why are we just hoping to find a crab? Weren't they "always watching," or something creepy like that? Why don't we just ask--

"Okay," Arledge says. "One, it's not weird. It works. And two, ...yeah. Okay. One minute."

He coughs and mumbles something you can't make out. "SALUTATIONS, ARLEDGE GRAVES," says a crab voice. "WHAT DO YOU NEED THIS-"



Aha. The third one. You nudge Arledge to respond.

"Uh," he says, and glances towards the nearest group of people. They show no signs of hearing. "Actually, uh, I'd like to tell you... in person. I was interested in seeing your... base."

"DO NOT GO THERE," the first crab says. "THEY ARE TRAITOROUS..."
"THEY ARE WEAK," counters the second crab.

>[A1] Just you and Arledge should be fine for this. No need to blow Gideon's cover, and he can go check out other places.
>[A2] Screw that. He knows what's going on: he's going in.
>[A3] Write-in.

IF [A1]
>[B1] Yeah, but you don't want to be "examined". You'll poke around while he deals with that.
>[B2] You're doubtful of your investigative credentials. You, however, have a lot to examine. Let Arledge poke around while you deal with the thing.
>[B3] Safety in numbers. Why don't you both get "examined"? If it goes south, it'll be a lot easier to deal with.

IF [A2]
>[C1] Just you "examined", Gideon and Arledge free. They're the experts.
>[C2] Just Gideon "examined", you and Arledge free. He gets you into this, he gets you out of this.
>[C3] Just Arledge "examined", you and Gideon free. Arledge can handle himself.
>[C4] You and Arledge "examined", Gideon free. It's Gideon's job to investigate, you guess, but you still want company you trust(ish).
>[C5] You and Gideon "examined", Arledge free. You want someone who probably knows what he's doing(?).
>[C6] Gideon and Arledge "examined", you free. You want no part in something this potentially dangerous.

IF [A3]
>[D1] Write-in.
Alright! I'm going to let everyone parse this overnight while I catch my 40 winks. (In sum: pick who you want to get experimented on and who you want to investigate, which I should've just asked instead of spending 15 minutes writing out like 10 options oh well)

See you tomorrow!

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I'm sure nothing will go wrong getting experimented on by crabs.

Mind Loss in 3...2...1

Testing. Hope this IP works.
One more try :(
>Arledge investigates, you get tested.
>Nothing can possibly go wrong.

It's risky. It's foolhardy. You have no idea what you're getting yourself into.

[i]Wait, what are you...[/i]

But frankly, you're not in the greatest of moods. If you're to be consigned to existence, you're going to make the damn most of it.

"Tell him," you tell Arledge, "that I'll submit to the... thing. The testing or whatever. You poke around and bail me out if you need to."

He looks incredulous. "I don't see how that could possibly be a good idea. Not with you in that... condition."

[i]He's actually right. Also, you were just all like 'oh I'm a dumb baby who doesn't want to do fun stuff'. Hypocrite.[/i]

You thought it was for the greater good.

[i]Also that. But I'd briefly forgotten how boring this was, so now that I'm back fun stuff has moved to priority #1.[/i]

"Doesn't matter," you say. "I'll be fine."

Arledge looks like he wants to say something, but sighs and again gazes skywards. "Yeah. Uh, I think my... friend right here is also, uh, interested."


"What? He's..." Arledge gestures broadly in your direction. "He's right here."


You glance down at yourself, just to be sure. You certainly appear to be here. Whether this is a good thing is... debatable (the body that'd felt natural now feels downright restrictive next to your original state), but yeah, you're here.

Arledge appears to come to the same conclusion. "I promise, he's... you must have a database of names. Is, ah, '[i]Ellery[/i] Routh' in there?"

The "Ellery" comes out a little too fast, as if the syllables were all jostling to be first. Or something. Arledge coughs.


"Okay, okay. He's, uh, he's right here." You wave. "Swear to it. He wants to be, uh, ...examined instead. Is that amenable--"


There is a great mechanical whirr and a small click. The ground drops out from under you.

You are falling.

[i]So, see, there is one good thing about this, which is-- well, two good. I like the blackboard. But, uh, I'm not actually... I'm not falling. I'm just kind of... here. So I don't get all the terror and whatnot.[/i]


[i]Sorry. Did you have a blackboard? I feel like you didn't have a blackboard.[/i]

Actually, you're not... you're not really falling. The ground is still firmly underneath your feet. Is this another elevator? Is anybody noticing your descent? You'd think the sudden disappearance of two whole people would be alarming, but the ground/ceiling is already sealing up above you. Maybe not.

And you did not have a blackboard.

My wifi decided to switch things up on me. Use imagination for formatting.
You're descending into some kind of massive cavern. If you were ever wondering where all the crabs were, you've found them: they stand out bright red against the darkness. Most of them stand stock-still, or move with mysterious purpose in and out of buildings built into the sides. You could buy the crabs manufacturing the hewn structures above, but these seem decidedly manmade: they're all sharp-edged, with gleaming metal scaffolding. A vein of gold pierces through a cavern wall and twists down, ending at a structure at the very bottom: something huge and turreted. A castle, if you had the word for it. It's similarly rimmed in gold.

"Roaches," Arledge says. "You know, I see marble..."

Your particular destination is not there. Instead, the moving platform comes to a screeching halt next to a crab-sized hole in the wall. It looks like it was bored into the stone. Blue paint streaks the edges.

"WELCOME," says the crab, even louder than before. Is it bashful? "ARLEDGE GRAVES................... ELLERY ROUTH."

Arledge steps off first with little hesitation. You follow.

Crude pictures line the interior of the hole, really a tunnel. They're all in blue. It's difficult to tell what they depict: is that a crab or an accidental smudge? Would it have killed them to use more than one color?

Narrower tunnels branch off from the main one. You don't enter any of them, until...

"...........ELLERY ROUTH, PLEASE GO HERE." A nondescript side tunnel is suddenly lit with a blue glow.

You glance towards Arledge, who nods. "This is it," he says. "Tell me if anything weird happens. I'll be here."

You peel off. He keeps walking.

[i]This feels like an insanely bad idea, but it's also exciting and totally what I'd do. Props.[/i]

Your plan to stick it to him may not be working.

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The tunnel ends in a little room. There is a wooden stool. There is a curtain hanging from the ceiling. There is a crab partially behind the curtain.

It looks exactly the same as every other crab you've ever seen (save the spiky ones), except it's painted streakily in blue. It doesn't turn when you arrive.

You knock on the wall.

Now it turns. Its eyestalks swivel wildly in search of the noise. You knock again, to be polite...

The chitinous arpeture of its eyes contract as it fixes upon you.

"ELLERY ROUTH," it says with more inflection than you were expecting. "GREETINGS. YOU ARE DIFFICULT TO FIND."

You stare mutely.


[i]Oh. Shit. Crabs don't... understand handsign, do they? Probably not?[/i]

Probably not.

[i]I don't know if... we aren't giving this thing blood, okay? Seriously. That's out. It probably wouldn't work, anyways. Shit.[/i]

You attempt to look apologetic to the crab. Foursarre the crab.

[i]Gods, and... you wouldn't really know, would you. It's my job to figure things out.[/i]

That feels like an overstatement. You're perfectly capable of-- "this is a test I guess," you say, out loud.

"Say" may also be an overstatement. It certainly wasn't you who came up with those words, and it wasn't exactly you who said them. They were stuffed into your throat and are bursting out of their own accord. What's more, they're perfectly clear through the water.

[i]Oh, shit--[/i] | "Oh, shit," says your head and your mouth at the same time. [i]I didn't expect that to work. Wow--[/i] | "I didn't expect that to work. Wow!"

You are annoyed at this latest invasion of privacy. You're also annoyed you never tried this.


>[1] Write-in! How* do you introduce yourself?

*Written dialogue or just the general gist is fine.
Uh I'm Ellery Routh and this is also Ellery Routh. I've been down here for just over a week and am still getting used to things. Still getting used to LOTS of things. I joined up with this group of nice-ish people before you guys came along and asked for me to be here.
>Uh I'm Ellery Routh and this is also Ellery Routh. I've been down here for just over a week and am still getting used to things. Still getting used to LOTS of things. I joined up with this group of nice-ish people before you guys came along and asked for me to be here.

The stool is too short. In order to sit in a stable manner, you have to bring your knees near to your chest. It doesn't help your distinct and growing sense of powerlessness.

"Uh," you say unwillingly, "I guess, uh, I'm Ell--"

The words cut off.

[i]Oh, I guess I can't... call myself that, even...through you. I think you might have to, uh, put some effort behind it. Sorry.[/i]

Ellery, you think, and something slots neatly into place. "--ery Routh. And, uh..."

[i]...I don't really know what to say.[/i]

It'd be best if he just outed the big stuff. You've never been one for keeping pointless secrets, and this is especially pointless: it's happening either now or one tedious exercise in evasion later.

[i]Godsdammit. Why do you have to be right all the time?[/i], says your head. "And, uh, there's... uh, well," says your mouth, and you wish it'd get on with it already. "I have, uh, a..."

"YOU HAVE CHANGED," Foursarre the crab says, in a tone of finality.

"Yeah, I... guess so. I mean, I didn't, have, uh, a... mind, um, thing... a mind thing going on. I don't think so, at least. I mean, not a- not a thing, a, uh, a person... I guess. I don't know."


"Is it..." You can't help but feel biased on this one, but it's not under your control. "It's not undesirable. I guess it's kind of... the bad parts are balanced by the good parts."


"What?" The tone of the words matches your furrowed brow exactly. "...Maybe? There's a lot of good change, and a lot of bad change, so it... evens out?"


You run a finger nervously around the edge of the stool. "What?"


"Uh, what do you mean?"


[i]I feel like that clears things up less, right? That's actually more confusing. Hold on.[/i]

"Oh," your mouth says. "So what do I have to do with..."


This worries you immensely.

"What? What does that--"


>[1] There is an air of inevitability to this situation. You've put yourself into it, and you'll see yourself out. [Begin.]
>[2] What kind of change is it talking, here? Physical? Mental? Emotional? Does it even know what it's talking about?
>[3] You can't just "change" at the drop of a hat, probably. What does it want you to do?
>[4] Are you safe? What is it planning on doing to you?
>[5] You don't want this. You can still get out of here.
>[6] Write-in.
>[2] What kind of change is it talking, here? Physical? Mental? Emotional? Does it even know what it's talking about?

Change can cover a lot of things. Are crabs the exact same from when they are born?
>What kind of change is it talking, here? Physical? Mental? Emotional? Does it even know what it's talking about?
>Why can't it change?

You are ready to get this over with despite your qualms. You head is not.

- Gods, what does that even mean? It's like the single vaguest thing I've heard in a while, and there's been... a lot of vague things. It could mean probably literally anything. Would it kill anybody just to clarify what they mean right after they say something-- are you listening?

You are. You're just hoping he'll stop.

- Okay, sorry. Geez. I know you're kind of pissy about this whole thing--

You're not... pissy. You're just kind of upset at the fact that he did something stupid--

- Okay, you know what my reasons were--

--and then LIED to you about it--

- Yes. Because you'd get like this--

--and now you are stuck here in reality, which is HORRIBLE, by the way, in this jank-ass body, having to deal with things you'd prefer to deal with never. And he will not stop talking.

- Okay. Welcome to the club, pal. It's not great in here either.

You hope Foursarre the crab is unable to interpret the body language of you rubbing your face in your hands. His response seems to indicate that he does not. "WE SHALL BEGIN."

Thank gods, you think. "Hold on," you say. "What-- what kind of change are you planning on watching? I'm not sure you know how that works..."

"ALL KINDS WILL BE OBSERVED," Foursarre says. (Okay, you do wish he would clarify that.) "PLEASE DO NOT BE CONCERNED OR SADDENED."

You are not soothed by that statement. "Uh, and why do you... what do you mean, you can't change? I don't understand..."

The crab's eyes dilate, and it holds itself even more rigid. It appears to have something prepared.


- Is that its... campaign speech?

You cough, or are made to cough, politely. It's strange. You can handle words not belonging to you: they have never belonged to you. Language has never been in your possession. But to make a coughing sound with no physical exertion strikes you as excessive. "Um, thank you."

"WE SHALL BEGIN." It's kind of a question.

>[1] We shall begin. [Begin.]
>[2] We shall not begin. You still (are forced to) have questions. (Write-in.)
>[3] We shall not begin. You are out of here.
>[4] Write-in.
>[4] Write-in.
"I'm not sure how much of this is going to help. I imagine Crab Nature and Human Nature are pretty different. Pretty sure we don't die and come back like you guys do. Unless I totally did when I was 'drowned'... nevermind."
>[1] We shall begin. [Begin.]
Calling the vote here.
I think this is an excellent stopping place, given we're on page 9 already. I'll see you guys with Thread 8 (wow!) in a few days and pick up where I left off.

If you have any remaining questions/comments/concerns, I'll certainly be around to address them. In the meantime, don't forget to follow my Twitter for updates.

Have a good night, folks.
Thanks for running!
Great job with the quest! Really like it so far.

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