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File: drowned quest redux 2.jpg (200 KB, 445x678)
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Your name is Charlotte Fawkins, and due to a series of calamities you're trapped in Nowhere, Underwater. Unless you follow the dubious whims of the snake that lives in your head. It has not been a good day.

You are a poor lurker and a worse skulker, you've discovered. Your boots aren't balanced for stealthy crouches, but you absolutely refuse to ruin your socks. You dislike the idea of taking the long way to your destination. And, moreover, the stress is getting to you.

“Why,” you hiss under your breath, “why are we doing this!”

«I told you,» Richard hisses back. «Three fish, one hook, etcetera.»

He doesn't hiss it. He says it neutrally— how he says everything else. But given the circumstances, you feel entitled to describe it that way.

"Two hooks." You shimmy, perhaps unnecessarily, past a warped limestone outcropping.

«I know you have the memory span of an eyebrow mite, Charlie, but I did say three hooks. We want to extract some unfiltered law, we want to convince him to like you—»

"That's still two."

«—and you promised to dig up dirt on him for the girl. Madrigal. As much as you're keen on reneging on promises, it's hardly a good look to cultivate.»

There it is! Ellery's tent never seemed so far in the friendly light of day, but you're here and practically perspiring. "I wasn't planning on reneging," you protest. "I just think…"

«That it's strange to 'muck around' inside of other people's heads. Impractical. Improbable. Dangerous. Morally ambiguous, perhaps.»

"Well, yes." You think about it. "Maybe less the last one. But yes. And—"

«You'll get used to it. Regular people do this too, you realize, and only a handful have died. Maybe two handfuls.»

You bite your lip and slide open the tent flap with as little rustle as possible.

«Oh, you know, a medium amount. But you'll be fine. You have me.»


Everything inside is tinted blue in the half-light, including Ellery's unconscious body. You hover above it like a sweat bee on a sticky day, glancing back at the entrance every few seconds. It's empty. Nobody's noticed your trespass.

You, however, are noticing all sorts of things. The tent? Actually rather spacious, now that everything's pushed to the sides, and t— you can't bring yourself to call it tasteful, but the decoration is thought-provoking. Which is the next best thing, anyways. The bizarre little tchotchkes on the hanging shelves to the right could be conversation pieces with the right display case, and the chaise longue pushed off below the shelves is upholstered beautifully in green tufted velvet. You have no idea how that's stayed so pristine. Clear those stacks of boxes off, move it more towards the center— why is he sleeping on the ground, and not the perfectly good chair?— regardless, move it—

Richard drapes about you like an irritated stole. «Prolonging this isn't useful,» he grouses. «Or efficient.»

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Hmm, wow, what's this? You're not listening. What is in these boxes, anyways? What's on all the papers?


>[1] You're just gonna look at these boxes. There might be useful information in them, after all. And you won't even need to do anything… weird.
>[2] That, but papers. Quieter, but you'll have to decipher Ellery's handwriting.
>[3] Okay, fine. Fine. Fine. It's not like he'll let you leave, anyways. Just do… whatever. You can search his tent later.
>[4] Write-in


>Last time on Drowned Quest Redux
You braved a cave full of spooky bones, spooky alligators, and jerks to retrieve your family's long-lost heirloom, the Second Crown. Upon your return to the base camp where you live, you were met with a request to investigate your expedition partner and a notice that you had to "build personal connections" or be evicted. You were also told that, contrary to your expectations, it was impossible to return to the surface with the crown. That is, unless the sixteen crystals atop the crown were filled. Or something. You didn't entirely follow.

I'll run 1-2 sessions to kick off the thread, then post approx. daily (or tell you guys if not). Other sessions may follow in the weeks to come if I can manage it.

If you have questions, comments, or criticism, tell me!

>Character Sheet: https://pastebin.com/rYS6SkA2
>Current Quests: https://pastebin.com/W6N0hdaT
>Other Pastebins: https://pastebin.com/u/bathicqm
>Twitter: https://twitter.com/BathicQM
>Archive: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux
>>[3] Okay, fine. Fine. Fine. It's not like he'll let you leave, anyways. Just do… whatever. You can search his tent later.
>[2] That, but papers. Quieter, but you'll have to decipher Ellery's handwriting.
Move onto the boxes if his handwriting will take too long to read properly.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling for it then writing.
>>3847413 #
>>3847470 #

I'm amused by the idea of Charlotte having no choice but to rearrange Ellery's furniture. OCD strikes!

Rereading a bit, and this was such a great paragraph, Bathic.
You've always been a talker. You'd talk to your neighbors, which is probably why they hated you. You'd talk to passersby, which is probably why passersby eventually stopped coming your way. You talked your way out of trouble, when trouble inevitably came: not because you were particularly charming or compelling, but because you did it so much trouble got annoyed and went home. And then you talked to yourself.
Alright, alright. Since I got distracted and it's not horribly contradictory, I'll take it. But try and get your stuff in on time.

Oh no, you're rereading?
But thank you. I recall that getting special praise back when it was written, too. Are you that same guy?
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>Rifle through the papers.

They're everywhere: thumbtacked to the wall, lining the floor, bristling out of folders and notebooks. You make an anxious loop around the far edges of the tent to see if anything looks legible. But it's all the same: blackened with heavy chickenscratch or irregular diagrams, filled with spirals in the margins. And you don't know what any of it says.

«I never would have guessed this is a waste of time.»

In nervy desperation, you slide a big stack off the nearest… surface (is it a table? is it a chair?) and slump down to shuffle through it. Chickenscratch, chickenscratch, chickenscratch— a middling sketch of Madrigal, smiling— chickenscratch— wait.

Though you're surrounded by a small snowdrift of discarded papers, you've finally found something… well, you're not sure you'd call it legible, but it seems to be comprised of actual words. "Dear C… I'd be happy to enter a partnership… please contact me…" and so on, whatever. The paper below it is a drawing of an outstretched arm, but labels on it read "Cephalic… Basilic… Median ante-[smudged] BEST". Which aren't words you know, but are words, you think.

You gingerly extract one of the discarded papers to compare. You thought it was just hasty handwriting, but you can't read any of it. What happened?

«Code. Or different language, I suppose.»

Oh, so now it's not a waste of time. Now it's a valuable clue, huh? Code, or a different language. But why? And why so consistently?


You slide the letter to C and one of the chickenscratch papers into your coat.

>[OBTAINED: Letter to C, Coded(?) Paper]

Ellery is out cold. You're not sure you've seen him twitch.

>[1] You're on a roll! You don't even need to do anything weird, surely. What's in these boxes?
>[2] Richard is giving you the death stare, you're pretty sure (he generally looks like that). And you've already claimed your little victory for the night. Just do what he says.
>[3] Write-in.
>>[2] Richard is giving you the death stare, you're pretty sure (he generally looks like that). And you've already claimed your little victory for the night. Just do what he says.
>[1] You're on a roll! You don't even need to do anything weird, surely. What's in these boxes?
Press the (suspicious) advantage. Strike an unassuming pose or something if he wakes up. He definitely won't wake up while we dig through his shit, right?
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling! (For real!)
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>Just do it!

«Well, I hope you're happy with that. My heart is swelling with pride. Wow. Awesome. Way to go.»

"'Good job' would have been fine," you murmur, and inch back towards the boxes.



«I know how you do things, Charlie. You act out in little, petty, childish ways, because it's the only way you feel you can retain your independence. You feel you have independence to retain, which is a massive misconception I've been unable to shake you of.»

You cast a look towards the entrance and towards Ellery. You take another step towards the boxes.

«I don't want to stop you, Charlie. It makes me sad when you make me stop you. But we're not looking through those boxes.»

Why? What if there's a smoking revolver in those boxes? What if there's an actual skeleton? Clearly there's useful things to be found in the tent, and you're right here, anyways, so it's not inefficient

«We did not come to look at boxes. Anything other than doing what we came here for is inefficient. You know this.»

You take another step towards the boxes—

«Like I said, I have no desire to do this.»

—and stumble reflexively backwards, towards Ellery. Your leg is stiff and wooden-feeling. You spine is aflame.

«It's really, frankly, a pain in the ass. You have so many parts. I had to add some joints, last time, just to get you remotely managable…»

Richard walks you jerkily backwards, away from the boxes. You do everything you can to avoid crying out and waking Ellery, who shifts a little.

«There, see, that's better. Right there. Let's just have you bend down.»

You have little choice.

«Good, good. Now, be a darling and open his eyelid. I really can't— there's so many tendons and little muscles, I can't be so precise. Please do.»

His eyelid? But he'll wake up. But— you know that tone.

The heat at your spine boils off, though a knot of it remains at the nape of your neck. You scowl, press the papers close to your chest (a petty victory, maybe, but still a victory), and peel open Ellery's eyelid.

It's glassy and unseeing but otherwise ordinary (ily ugly). "Oh good," you snipe. "WOuld you like my other hand down his throat, or..."


Richard unravels off your neck and swishes towards the open eye. He doesn't say anything at all, but coils himself into a precise spiral, and something indistinct but imperious rattles the back of your head.

Ellery doesn't move, but the pupil of his eye gapes open until it's consumed the iris and much of the white. "Oh," you say, with less bravado. "Okay, that's funny, but…"

«Hold on to me.»

You hold on to him. He's cold and slick in your grasp. (You try to let go, which doesn't seem to work.) There is a method to get rid of him, isn't there? You'll find, after this, and then maybe your life can be normal…

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Richard slides into the eye. This is fine, you think. This will work out well. I am definitely not going to be dragged behind him into the eye, because that's physically impossible, and also not what I want to do with my life.

Your vision mercifully blurs as you are dragged behind him into the eye.

You are falling. Your surroundings are dark, humid, and smell vaguely of cinnamon. You can't tell if you're still holding the snake; indeed, you can't tell if you still have arms or legs. You are, by and large, nauseated.

The sickening crunch with your landing tells you exactly where your limbs are: under you, probably broken. God-blessed. Good job, Charlotte. Way to go, Charlotte. This is what you get for listening to a snake you found in a box. Why hadn't anyone ever told you never to listen to snakes? In boxes? It's not your fault if nobody told you…

"Wallowing in self-pity never helped anyone. Get up."

You roll over instead, defiantly. Richard still looks like a watch salesman. He has dark sunglasses, now, and a distinct lack of wrinkles. And there's something else, too, that you can't pinpoint.

"Give yourself a facelift?" you say. "And sunglasses? Are they to hide your secret snake eyes, or what?"

He smirks (you don't) and lifts the sunglasses. His eyes are icy blue. "Sorry, Charlie, I can only afford so many liberties. Do get up. You're not injured."

He's right, to your mild disappointment. But your head throbs. Something about where you are isn't quite right, like you've developed sudden-onset astygmatism. The sand beneath your feet is black. The sky is olivine green, which tints the placid ocean teal. There is a gentle cliff face behind you, with stairs leading up, and on it— some kind of towering building, or regular tower, but not one built with any structural stability or good sense.

All of it is wrong. "Probably the texture," Richard offers. "Do you want sunglasses? They cut some of it."

"I don't own sunglasses," you say instinctively.


You sift a handful of sand through your fingers. "So… well, what's a texture?"

"Right here—" Richard gestures, broadly. The rings on his fingers glint in the light. "This is a manse, right? We're not actually in Ellery's entire mind, that would be bad. That would shred you up, probably. No, this is a nice, groomed, touristy section, like—"

"Little Saroh?" Desalinated parks and charming boulevards.

"Little Saroh, yeah. This is the Little Saroh of the mind. But it's still permeated with some of the local flavor. The texture. A different worldview."

He's getting quite excited, you notice. He likes explaining. "But what is it!" you cut in.

He holds his hand quite close to your face, which only seems to make it blurrier. Are you farsighted? "Look!"

You strain quite hard. You blink a couple times, and then rapidly. You close your eyes one at a time.


And then it snaps, suddenly, into razor focus. Richard's hand is a collage of tiny scraps of paper, varied slightly in size and color but at a distance a cohesive whole. As is your hand. As is the sky, and the sea, and the cliffside.

You sway. Richard grasps fast your arm. "It's not real. You're still— well, you're still the concept of flesh and blood. The water is still wet. It's just how it looks, here."

"Okay," you say shakily. "Okay, that's… fine, then."

"Yes. It is fine. Take my sunglasses."

He presses them upon you, and you're too busy fumbling with their arms to notice the pair still on his face.

They make things darker— which, you will admit, helps. You can pretend things look normal in the dark. "Thanks," you say suspiciously. "Now what?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know." This is even more suspicious. Richard always, always, always has a plan— usually four or five. Is he trying to trick you? Is this his evil (therefore good) twin? Did someone steal his body?

He has the decency to dip his head a little. "It's an art, Charlie, not a science. We need a way down. Could be a door, could be a ladder, could be, I don't know, falling a long distance. But the next layer is always down, and we extract law on the next layer."

"So we find that," you say. "What about clues? Like, will there be symbolic representations of his trauma, or whatever, floating around?"

"Maybe! Just look around, I don't know. We'll figure it out."

He must be trying to trick you, you decide. What with the whole spiel about no independence. It's a trick. He knows exactly what he's doing.

But if he's not going to tell you, then…

>[1] Write-in
You may find bolded words to be useful.
>Go up the stairs and explore that tower

Unless we want to dig through sand it's the only thing around
>Try to fly in through a window.
It is in his head, yeah.
>Fly up.
>Or just, you know, walk up.

You stare vigorously at the top of the building and wait. Nothing in particular happens.

Richard scratches his chin in your peripheral vision. "What are you doing?"

"I'm trying to fly up there." You furrow your brow. "Obviously."

"You look like you're going to pop an artery. Why don't you explain why you think that would work, and I'll explain why you're wrong?"

You thought it was too obvious to have to explain. "I mean, logically, this isn't a place that exists. I haven't… I don't think I've moved, right? I'm- the physical me, uh, is still in the tent."

"How perspicacious," he drawls. "None of that is wrong."

You power onwards. "So that means it's like… what's it called when you know you're dreaming? L-something. It's like that. Which means I can do whatever I want. Right?"

"No." You'd expected that. "You go deeper when you dream, and it's lighter-weight. And that's all in your head, too, so the rules are set on the fly. Manses? Very internally consistent, usually very reality-esque. You might not know it if you stumbled in by accident."

You've kept your eyes open so long they're starting to water. Which has enabled you to notice some things. "Then why hasn't the building toppled?"

There's no supports on it, not even an attempt at keeping it vertical. The bulk of it lists inexorably to the left, while an offshoot, like a drooping branch, leans right. The two sides are connected by fading green pennants. It looks unsafe to be within a hundred yards of, let alone inside.

"I don't— it's possible that's a universal exception. Quirk of the strings, you know. Not sure how we'd test that."

A smile creeps over your face. You pivot towards the seashore. "Got a spade?"

"Like a playing card? I suppose, but…"

"Like a shovel. But pointier, you know. Mother had a whole rack of them for her houseplants."

"Isn't that interesting. Give me a second."

"Yes! And I'd—" you lick your lips— "I'd steal the biggest one, and sneak over to the artificial beach, and I'd make castles. I'd spend hours. It wasn't as if anybody noticed me missing—"

"I really could not care less about your issues with your parents, Charlotte. Catch."

You try and fail to catch the cast-iron hand spade that Richard throws you, though in your defense it was not a good throw. It clanks onto your foot. "Ow," you say, more out of annoyance than anything. "Why'd that hurt?"

"You didn't expect it."

"Oh." You pick it up off the ground and test it in your hands. It's a hand spade, all right. You're hardly an expert. "Okay, uh, I'm going to build a sand castle like that. If it stays up, I guess that's just how things work. If not… I don't know, that's weird. Okay?"

He purses his lips. "Once you have an idea in your head, there's no stopping you."


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Before you can build a sand castle, you're met with another challenge: the sand. It's coarse and angular, nothing like the ordinary kind you had at home. Worse, it gets coarser the closer it is to the water. You force Richard to produce a bucket so you can wet some very close to the cliffside.

He shows you a handful of sand. "Does this look crystalline to you?"

"I guess so," you say, one arm on your hips. "Will you give me the bucket? Did you really have to make the bucket of iron? I don't suppose you know it's meant to be carried—"

"Shh. Do you see any texture to them?"

"Do they look papery… no. Does it matter?"

"Oh, maybe." He funnels the handful from his palm into a pant pocket, then grasps the bucket with two hands. The sun gleams wickedly off his glasses. "Catch."


He didn't throw it, you realize, as you peel yourself off the ground.

Everything else goes smoothly, though you're forced to enlist Richard in hauling the bucket. He does it in one hand, just, you think, to show off.

You build it precisely. To scale, even, though of course you'd need a closer look. Which is why you're surprised when it keeps crumbling to nothing.

"Are we doing something wrong? Maybe it needs to be wetter."

Richard's hands, like yours, are coated in black sand. He stands against the cliffside, out of the way of the latest collapse. "I think, maybe, it's just not supposed to exist. It's a crime against nature."

You tend to agree, having spent 30 minutes trying to build it. "So you think it's not universal?"

He smears his hands against the cliff. "Clearly not. Which is more interesting, I think, because it means special effort's been put into making it exist. More effort than I'd expect from a casual user. Are you quite done?"

You've been making a proper castle out of the wet sand, a spade in each fist. (You're ambidextrous now. You weren't before last night. You wonder about Richard's definition of 'temporary'.) "Yes," you say.

"Good. We should take the stairs- did you consider why the stairs existed, if it were possible to fly?"

"Not really," you admit.


You leave the spades and bucket behind (assured they'll cease to be if you stop looking at them) and follow Richard up the stairs. "I was expecting, at best, someone quite ordinary in their frequency," he's saying. "Got in during the hype, used it quite a lot when it was popular, gradually tapered off. But that kind of person doesn't painstakingly dive in and alter a structure to make it tenable."

"So what, you're saying he spends a lot of time…"

"Yes. Even with an extended spanner, it still adds up to hours and hours spent- well, spent comatose, effectively. It would explain the isolation."

"But why?"

"Isn't that the question of the hour."

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The top of the cliff is furry with red fescue and feathergrass. You push some aside to search. "Could be a trapdoor," you explain. "I doubt we can just go in through the door."

"I'm not sure about that." He taps the half-open door. "No need to chase down rabbits, Charlie."

You abandon the grass, brush your hands off on your coat, and duck into the tower.

Unexpectedly, the room you encounter… isn't bad. The wallpaper is suspect, to be sure, and the light fixture crosses the line from "avant-garde" to "ugly". But the unlit brick fireplace is quite nice, and the two armchairs are tasteful. And familiar. They're the armchair Ellery pulled up out of nowhere in his tent.

Isn't that interesting.

There's some papers pinned to the wall (of course), but it's not as bad as you expected. In the corner lies something vertical, covered by a sheet and tied with cord. A clock? A thin bookshelf?

A wooden door lies to the left, and another to the right.

You touch the top of the doorframe for good luck. Simultaneously, the right door swings open. You jump.

"We've talked about this," says a man. "You can't just drop in on me, Oscar. Not that company isn't appreciated, but…"

You're exactly as surprised to see Ellery as Ellery is to see you. He gapes in raw disbelief. You gape back towards him, then towards Richard, who looks creditably startled. "This isn't supposed to happen," he mutters.

You think it's Ellery, at least. It looks like him, excepting an unbuttoned coat (you were not expecting a teal shirt, but you have to admit it looks good) and a mysterious smidgeon of gravitas. It sounds like him, almost, except you think deeper. He has the same stricken posture.

"Hi, uh…" He searches your face for something. "…Charlotte."

"Lottie," you say. If you have the memory of an eyebrow mite…

"Lottie. Uh, I like your sunglasses. And your snake. I didn't know you had a snake."

Is he being ironic? He doesn't sound ironic. He sounds uncomfortable. You look again towards Richard, who shrugs, baffled. "Uh, yeah," you say. "Thanks."

"What are you doing here?"

You chuckle too heartily and lean against the doorframe. "Ah. Ahahaha. Uh—"

"Look, you should… you ought to sit down. Come sit down. I have, uh, chairs…"

It's not worth trying to negotiate. You sit in a chair. You watch as Ellery sits in the other in the oddest manner you've ever seen. It's not the sitting, which is normal— it's the motion, which you can only describe as inhumanly fluid. A praxinoscope with a thousand different images, or something like it. It's wrong.

"Right," he says, and stands again immediately. "Can I get you a drink? Uh, anything. Beer, jujube… water…"

"I'll have some water," you say politely. "Rainwater, please. Not filtered."

He looks incredulous, which makes sense, as he wouldn't know the difference if it hit him across the face. "Rainwater," you say, again, as if he didn't hear.

"Okay, then."

Ellery leaves— fluidly— through the left door. As soon as it closes, there's the unmistakable chunk-chunk-chunk of three deadbolts slotting into place. You're locked in.

"Oh, good," you sign to Richard, who leans on the back of your chair. "We're locked in."

"Where's your positivity now, Charlie? I don't know about you, but I'm not staying for a water and an interrogation. There's bound to be other ways out."

"And if not?"

"And if not, we'll open the doors. Don't get your panties in a twist. What do you see?"

>[1] Write-in

And sorry for the wait. I'll see you guys tomorrow.
Could be! It was a while ago!

Okay, so. We found Ellery, who is more adept at dreaming than we thought. And he's locked us in instead of talking to or fighting us.

I'm going to assume the doors on the left and right correspond to the main left tower and the offshoot right tower.

>We should unwrap the thin vertical thing, see what it is. Check out the papers. And then we'll go check out the unlocked right tower. It should be connected to Ellery's equivalent to Richard, since it fits metaphorically.
Seconding >>3848763's idea.
>Pound on the door and shout at Ellery through it
Here, I'll try to put this in coherent order.

>Try all the doors.
>Yell at Ellery through the left door.
>Check the papers.
>Check the covered thing.
>Go through the right door, if possible.

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>Try all the doors.
>Yell at Ellery through the left door.
>Check the papers.
>Check the covered thing.
>Go through the right door, if possible.

What do you see? Far too much. The room is almost oppressively busy, and even through the tint of the sunglasses the texture is distracting. You try to focus on the obvious.

"I mean, we should probably make sure all the doors are actually locked."

Richard slides into the now-vacant opposite armchair and props his head against one fist. "They are."

You flounce out of your seat. "You haven't even checked! I'm going to go try them."

"I don't need to check." He adjusts his glasses. "I know it. But if it makes you happy, go ahead and waste the time."

"Fine, then." You make a clockwise circle to try each gold knob in turn. The right door, despite your best shoving, will not open. The entrance door will not open. The left door will not open.

You bang on its glossy wooden surface with an open palm. "HEY!" you caterwaul. "HEY! WHY'D YOU LOCK US… WHY'D YOU LOCK ME IN?!"

The response comes delayed. "Look, I'll be back in a… minute. Just sit tight. It's for your own good."

You pull a face at the door before turning to Richard, who's busy stretching each arm in turn. "Hey!" you say. "He said to wait."

"I could hear, Charlie. Are you just going to stand there?"

No, of course not. You dart, like a moth to moonlight, over to the papers pinned to the wall. You're pleased to find them not only legible, but written in a neater hand than those in the tent.

"8 KITEMAKER," reads one. "Spoke to Maddie ab. helping w/ shipping. Furthered collab. w/ E. Tested Lfish — inconclusive."

"9 KITEMAKER" is the title for the very next one. "Wt. to Fen 1st thing — deep. Hir dose Lfish. Success."

There's two empty spaces before another note. "12 KITEMAKER - Don't do again."

All of the papers are like that: terse, cryptic, and daily. "You think he'd notice if I took one?" you ask.

"Do one with a lot of gaps nearby and it's fine."

You pilfer a note marked 20 STRANGER and tuck it into your pocket. The other papers are gone. Which is fine, you reason. It makes sense. You still have them, probably, outside


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"What's the point of covering up something?" Richard rolls a small metal object idly between his fingers. "If you like it, display it. If you don't, destroy it."

You stand, hands on hips, in front of the sheeted thing. It's bound by a daunting amount of complex knots.

"Well," you say, kneeling down to look at the knots. "Maybe you liked it, but it's too painful to look at anymore. Or maybe you're just too lazy to get rid of it. Or maybe you just like bedsheets. There could be lots of reasons."

"So you think Ellery just likes the look of bedsheets? You're not going to need help with that, are you?"

"No, and no, I don't think so." You've had quite a lot of experience untying knots, having… well, having done something. It was a long time ago. But your fingers were never deft enough to really be good at it.

That has changed. You consider a new career as an escape artist.

The cord falls away, and you pull the sheet off with all the flourish of a stage magician. "Abracadabra!"

"I don't think that's right," Richard says half-heartedly. He's far too fixated on the object under the sheet to come up with a more original retort. You're far too fixated to react.

It's a floor-length mirror, rimmed with a thick coat of gold paint. But not a legal mirror, made of polished stone or bronze. The clarity indicates unmistakable glass.

Glass! Should you even be near it? No wonder the thing was covered — the extrareality should punch holes through the room like it were wet paper. (And isn't it, sort of?) How does Ellery have it? How does Ellery know what it is? Knowledge of it is strictly banned for the lesser sorts…

You look as you remember, mostly. More disheveled (but that's not your fault, not really). The sunglasses suit your face. You could do with a change of clothes, but your options are limited in that department.

Richard stands behind you— you didn't hear him get up, but his "Interesting" is directly in your ear. "Can you see me?" he asks, and you turn.

"Uh, yes."

He takes your shoulder and turns you back around. "In the mirror. Can you see me?"

You squint. "…No."

"Interesting. What if I—" and he steps to your right.

You choke on soundless giggles. Mirror-Richard is… a snake, nothing more than that. If you felt generous you'd call it cute.

"Don't laugh." He sounds put-out. "It's not funny."

"Okay, it's not funny." But you still giggle. "Is this the- is this the 'true self' mirror? So I'm me, and you're a snake."

"There's nothing wrong with that." He pauses, huffily. "Take your sunglasses off."


He makes the motion of putting something in his pocket, and the sunglasses vanish. "Hey!" you say, and make the mistake of glancing towards the mirror.

Mirror-Charlotte has no eyes underneath her sunglasses.

You choke, again, but not on laughter. "Not so chipper now," Richard purrs, and twirls your sunglasses between his fingers. "I'm sure it's symbolic, or something."

File: mirrors.gif (4.61 MB, 540x788)
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The spots in your vision subside as you cease prodding at the eye you definitely still have. "You don't know?"

"When does it ever matter? It's fripperies and woo. It's trying to read tea leaves, is what it is."

"My tea told my I had destiny," you declare. "It had a trident in."

"It told you your tea bag ripped open. In fact, I think I told you your teabag ripped open. WOuld you step out of the way? There's more here."

You do, begrudgingly. Richard's face brightens. "Oh," he says. "Yes there is."

He pulls you back. "I know it's hard for you to stop looking at yourself, but what do you think of the room?"

You look. And then you turn to look back over your shoulder, then back at the mirror.

"It's different," you say.

"Yes. I'm not sure it's a, what, a 'true self' mirror? Or not exactly. I think it's a door."

You tap skeptically on the surface of the mirror. It clicks. "Nice door you have there."

"Not now. But it can be— it just has to be opened. Charlie, I need you to say… I need you to say OPEN."

He says it casually, but a little urge to slice yourself clear from navel to neck and peel yourself open still arises and is summarily dismissed. (You don't even have a knife with you. And it would be so messy.)

"Open? To what— to the mirror?"

"Only to the mirror. And not like that, please, that's atrocious. OPEN. Put muscle behind it."

"Open," you say nervously. Does the surface of the mirror riffle, as to a gentle breeze? It's gone now.

"That's…" Richard crosses his arms. The mirror-snake loops and unloops in midair. "I suppose that's closer. But it's still terrible. Should I just do it, or…"

>[1] No! No. You're not sure what it is, exactly (when do you ever?), but you felt its potency. You want to do that. [Roll.]
>[2] Well, it would be easier. And less dangerous. It would prove Richard right, but then he usually is, anyways. Let him.
>[3] Is this worth the trouble? Really? There's three whole doors and… you don't know, probably a secret exit somewhere. (You hope there's a secret exit. That would be exciting.) All of them seem like less hassle. [Where else?]
>[4] Write-in.
Rolled 84 (1d100)


If this works we need to dojyan richard into the mirror
Hold your horses there, bucko. It's not your fault since I really haven't explained it, but [Roll] just means the option will require a dice roll- the actual roll will be called for after it wins.
Sorry for being mega retard
>[1] No! No. You're not sure what it is, exactly (when do you ever?), but you felt its potency. You want to do that. [Roll.]
>Really, the only possible answer

Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 60...

And with your roll, please vote:
>Spend 1 SV [you're at 0/10, you'd expend 1 ID] to add a +10 bonus to the result?

>[1] Yes
>[2] No
Rolled 3 (1d100)

No spendy
Rolled 37 (1d100)

> [2] No
Rolled 25 (1d100)

>>[2] No
Drowned dice return
How hard can we possibly fail at opening a door

Guess we'll find out!
Oh wow Lottie is just a retard. Just like Ellery.
>Don't spend

>3, 37, 25 vs. DC 60

It's like I never left! Writing.
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>Do it yourself!
>3, 37, 25 vs. DC 60 - Failure!

"No!" you say brightly. "I'm good! I don't need you!"

"No assistance at all?"


He returns to the armchair and folds his hands. "All right, then. Show me."

'Open' ceases to sound like a word around try #10. You've tried every way you can think of to pronounce it ('ahhhh-pEN' 'OP-ennn' 'o-PEN') and what seems like a hundred different volumes and intensities. You are getting more than a little frustrated.

"Open. Open. Open." The mirror remains still. You turn to Richard, who has switched sunglasses for half-moon reading glasses and is perusing the Corcass Courier. The headline: CHARLIE DOESN'T DO ANYTHING RIGHT. There is a black-and-white picture of you.

"That's not a real newspaper," you say.

Richard doesn't look up. "I don't know what you're talking about. Need something?"

You pause. "No."

He flips the page.

"Maybe. A little."

"I'm sorry for the terrible inconvenience," he says. "But I'm busy at the present. Would you like to take a card and we can work this out later?"

You don't say anything.

Maintaining eye contact, with you, Richard folds the newspaper into a square, places it to the side of the armchair, takes a sip from a foul-smelling mug, places the mug onto the ground, rests his reading glasses on his forehead, and finally fishes around in his breast pocket for a good twenty seconds. He pulls out a white card and and hands it to you.

"RICHARD," it says, in brassy ink across the top. "Professional." is the entirety of the next line. "Your Head." is the last.

"Turn it over," he says, warmly.

You turn it over. On the back, in flowing cursive, somebody has written "Know your limits :)"

You feel justified in ripping the card into little bits, collecting the bits in your palm, and sprinkling them into the fireplace like confetti.

"It seems to me," Richard continues, "like you're a little upset about something."

"Upset?" You compulsively brush stray curls out of your face. "Sure, let's go with that. Will you just tell me—"

"What's making you upset?"

"Richard! How do I get the damn mirror OPEN—"

The mirror shatters from the inside out, peppering the wall, floor, and furniture with glass shrapnel. Were you not behind an armchair, you'd be cut to ribbons. As it is, you'll be picking shards out of your hair for weeks. Your ears ring.

"Like that," he says. The sunglasses have returned. "Very nice job. It's wide open."

"Oh God," you say. "Did Ellery hear—"

"D'jaknow, I don't think he's actually getting water."

"Oh," you say, and kick some glass dust off your boot. "Well. Now what?"

"I suppose we leave through a door. Unless you have a better idea."

>[A1] Make an attempt to hide the damage.
>[A2] It's far too obvious. Just leave as-is.

>[B1] Try to bust down the left door.
>[B2] Try to bust down the right door.
>[B3] Search for a different way out. (Where?)
>A2 & B1

At least we know Ellery also failed his get water check.

Also that failure wasn't near as bad as I thought.
>[A2] It's far too obvious. Just leave as-is.
>[B1] Try to bust down the left door.

>Bust down the left door.
>Don't clean up the glass.

"I don't suppose you have any method of cleaning all this up, do you?" You kick a pathway through the glass to the left door, whose structural integrity you assess.

There's a withering stare on your back. "Do I look like a maid, Charlie?"

"No, but you can, I don't know, poof up stuff. It's not a stretch." The left door: sturdy. Maybe if you employed something as a battering ram?

"Yes, but I can't 'poof'- I refuse to use that term. I can't arbitrarily vanish anything I want, no matter how convenient that might be."

Nothing in here is battering ram-shaped. You're not strong enough to lift an entire armchair by yourself. "So... we're just going to leave this?"

"It does seem that way, doesn't it."

You squat in place, square your shoulders, and kick sharply up at the door handle with the heel of your boot. The metallic thock it produces is satisfying. You jog in place to get your heart revved up, then go in for another kick.

Richard stands from the armchair to hover behind you. "Open a lot of locked doors?" he asks.

"Oh, sure, when I had to. You know how it goes."

"I don't, actually… whoa." He lurches backwards as you kick a third time. "I'm sure it's a charming neglect anecdote, but there's faster methods of opening doors."

"This is fast," you say. "It takes ten kicks, tops."

"And breaks the door. Move, please."

He brushes past you crunchily, having ignored the path you cleared, and puts his hands on his hips. He stares at the door. He cocks his head at the door. He jiggles the handle.

There's a click.

"That should do it," he announces, and pushes the door open.

You duck past him in an effort to not be upstaged. Would you have gotten it open if he'd let you? Absolutely! There was no reason for it not to work. Maybe the deadbolt. But it would've been fine.

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The new room is much sparser than the last, though the different wallpaper makes every effort to distract from that fact: splashy gold damask on rich crimson lines all four walls and even, bizarrely, the ceiling. The only thing breaking it up is the velvet curtains that hide most of the right wall. An unvarnished wooden dining table takes most of the floor space; a pack of playing cards and a ceramic cup rests at the seat closest to the door. A rug softens the hardwood floor.

Ellery is nowhere to be seen.

"There's no water in here," Richard says behind you. "Or a door out. I don't think he expected us to get in here."

You're already checking the cup. "No, here's the water." You taste it. "Eugh, that's filtered. He thought I wouldn't notice the difference!"

"There sure is a lot of underestimation going on." Richard walks past you, towards the curtains, and flings them open. A mirror hangs underneath. "And a lot of patterns. Look at that."

"Is he vain?" You idly deal yourself a hand: blue shell, blue kite, black claw, black knife. You don't actually know how to play card games, but you like the cards. "I wouldn't see why."

"I suppose that's possible. This one's a door, too, by the way."

You're fairly certain this is a bad set of cards. You deal yourself a better one. Shell, shell, shell, king. "So that's where he went? And what's with you and doors, anyways? Speaking of patterns."

"I don't 'have' anything with doors," he huffs. "And maybe, maybe not. I doubt he's bound to the geography like you are."

Do knives beat shells? You're not sure. Maybe knives beat kites, and kites beat claws. Does that even make sense? "You have something. Were you a locksmith in a past life and got turned into a lowly snake for your sins?"

"I'm not dignifying that with a response. Are we going to explode this mirror, too, or try the other way?"

>[1] Explode this mirror. (But not really. You'll let Richard do it.)
>[2] This room, excepting the wallpaper, is uninteresting. You're not entirely sure why is exists, nor do you entirely care. Try the other door in the entrance room.
>[3] Satiate your deep-seated urge to look for hidden passageways where they may or may not exist. (Behind the wallpaper. Under the table. Etc.)
>[4] Write-in.
>[4] Write-in.
If the wallpaper is the only interesting thing in the room, what's behind the wallpaper?
Wait, what was the point of opening the mirror if we're not going through it?
Ah, no, I get it. We bombastically failed to open it.

>Check for hidden passages, then go through the right door. Why let Richard show off, he'll get a big head.
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>What's under the wallpaper?

"Uh…" you say. "Neither. How do you do the 'poof' thing?"

Richard turns. "Pardon?"

"Remember? The 'poof' thing." You mime it with your hands. "'Poof', uh, here's a- here's a playing card." You slip a card off the table for emphasis. "But it didn't exist before."

"Ah." Richard smiles mirthlessly. "Legerdemain."

"Leger… yeah, same thing. How do you do it?"

He sits wearily near you at the table and takes his sunglasses off. He massages the bridge of his nose. "It's not the same thing, because I'll be forced to do things I'll regret if you continue to use the word 'poof'. Why does it matter?"

"Because…" You show him the card: two of knives. "I need a knife. But I want to do it myself."

He slumps back in the chair. "Good. We needed more explosions."

You wave the card in the air. "Nobody got hurt! It was fine. And what am I going to do, explode a knife…"

"It's very much possible, Charlie, with your track record. Anyways, you can't do it. Too complicated."

"It won't hurt if you just tell me," you press. "I can decide that for myself. I'm a grown woman—"

"Hold on," he says, and reaches across the table. You shiver at the expectation of his hand being cold: it is not. He brushes some stray hairs behind your ear and withdraws.

He drops an envelope onto the table. "This was behind your ear."

Is he making a joke? Is he making fun of you? You look from the envelope, to him, back to the envelope. Neither hold any clues. Finally, you open it ("A wax seal? Was that necessary?") and unfold the letter inside— it's written on extremely nice stationary, as you expected, in the same loopy script as before.


Now is neither the time nor the place. Do not waste your breath. Do not attempt it unassisted. (I know how much you enjoy that.) Absolutely do not begin with something sharp.

We may discuss this later.

Yours, always,


P.S. Shake the envelope."

The envelope lies flat and empty on the tabletop. Richard arches his eyebrows. You arch yours back.

He wins. You shake the envelope. A turtleshell-handled knife falls out.


"Here's the plan," you say. You point exuberantly, knife in fist. "We cut the wallpaper off."

"…Oh." Richard drums the tabletop. "I thought it would be more elaborate than that. What do you expect to find, other than wall?"

"Secrets! That's the only reason for wallpaper to exist, really. Anyone with taste paints."

"Maybe Ellery just doesn't…"

His words are lost amidst your furious slicing.

It looks like a crime scene. Red swathes of paper curl, like dead skin, away from bone-white wall underneath. Also, there's a thin spatter of blood everywhere (you nicked yourself at a difficult juncture).

The only place unpeeled is the ceiling, which you can't reach, and Richard refuses to let you stand on his shoulders. You are certain something must be on the ceiling. Firstly: why would someone wallpaper the ceiling? Secondly: where's all the secret doors? You haven't found a single one, which is not how it's supposed to work.

At least there's something to show for all your effort. Strip by strip, you've uncovered messages: by two people, judging by the handwriting, writing back and forth for… months? Years? They circle this room, you know that much: they might extend out into the other.

You just wish they weren't quite so boring.

"What'd you hear?"
"We're moving, I think. Somewhere less isolated. Less chance of going stir crazy. Speaking of which, how are you?"
"Could be better, could be worse. Started on a second floor. Might stop at three or four. How's the weather?"
"Chilly. Lots of sharp currents. Is it right to call it weather, with no air? Is there a better word for it?"
"Probably, but you don't know it. I think weather's fine…"

And on, and on. You can't make heads or tails of the significance. Are one of these Ellery? But you've seen Ellery's handwriting— far too much of it, really— and while both of these resemble it, neither are exactly the same. But who else? And why?

>[1] Clearly, the solution to this riddle lies on the ceiling. Figure out a way of getting up there and cut the rest of the wallpaper off.
>[2] Clearly, the solution to this riddle lies… behind the mirror, or something. You're not sure how it works. But it won't be boring.
>[3] Clearly, the solution to this riddle lies behind the other door. That's what you pick to win the game show, or something.
>[4] Write-in.

Sorry, dude-- my internet died for a while, so I just started writing without being able to call. Let's call this an extended "check for hidden passages".
Forgot to mention: I'm going to sleep. Regular 1-2 updates/day starts tomorrow*.

*Kind of. I'm leaving from Wednesday to Saturday, so while I'll try my hardest to update I can't guarantee it. Actual regular updates start after that.

Have a good night (or day), guys, and as always if you have questions, comments, or criticism drop me a line!

We'll find a way out of this pizza tower.

Slow day. Writing.
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>Check out the other room.

You briefly consider the logistics of stacking four chairs on top of the table and standing on that to peel wallpaper off the ceiling, but it doesn't seem worth the trouble. Or the possible humiliation.

Instead, you make a final check for anything suspicious— no luck. "It's useless," you declare. "Let's try the other door."

Richard stretches outwards, like a cat. "That's good. The mirror was making me itch."

You touch the doorframe as you exit for good luck. The entrance room is nearly how you left it: a mess. Glass still litters the floor. Only now it's mixed with…

"Eugh!" You hop on one foot to examine the sole of your boot. You've stepped in something nasty. "What- tar?"

It's black and viscous, you know that much. It puddles among the glass and oozes (you follow its trail) from… the broken mirror.

Careful not to cut yourself on the glass, you take a sample with your fingertip. You hold it to your nose: it smells overwhelmingly of burnt toast. You put your tongue to it, just to be thorough.

It tastes, strangely, of nothing at all. But it numbs your tongue. You wipe it back onto the mirror.

"Not my first move, but suit yourself." says Richard, very close to your ear. You yelp. He leans over you to collect some of the liquid in a jar. "I'd be careful."

"You know what it is?"

"I didn't say that. But it's a mysterious black substance, Charlie. I don't know what else you'd expect. Maybe don't touch it… more."

You don't touch it more, but you do watch it drip-drip-drip from absolutely nowhere as Richard does whatever he does to the other door. "You think it's blood? Like, mirror blood?"

He pauses. "I hope not."

The door clicks open. The new room is cavernous, easily twice the size of the others combined, and seems uncannily to bulge outwards. Shiny, waist-high counters ring its perimeter; burbling tanks of water take up most of the center. (They're glass. They make you nervous.) The back of the room is mostly obscured, but you think you see a stairwell.

Bookcases, set into the wall behind the counters, extend all the way to the ceiling. You can't see how that's possibly practical, especially since there appear to be all manner of delicate and pointy implements beneath them. A row of clear dishes, for example, that extends all the way to the back wall. Some kind of tubing. Cunning little knives. Lots and lots of needles. The kinds of things you've seen doctors with… but surely Ellery isn't a doctor?

And that's just the left side. The counters to the right are entirely filled with… junk, as best you can tell. It looks like the set of a hidden object book: there, a sunhat, a croquet mallet, a perfect orb of polished stone. There, a badly-taxidermied seagull, a walking stick, a lace handkerchief. They're laid out neatly, but in no apparent order.

"Oh, dear." Richard is already leaning over an array of vials. "Crystals."

>[1] Write-in.
>Ask what's so bad about crystals

>Check out the bookcases. Since when is Ellery literate? Maybe they're coloring books.
Yeah do this >>3852055
Actually no, go up the stairs. >>3852483
don't look at the bookcases.
This sounds good. Supporting.


Writing! We're gonna lack formatting for a couple days, guys, sorry.
Oh no our bolded words
Guess you're gonna have to use your critical thinking skills!

Sorry guys, got significantly held up. I should probably stop saying "writing" unless I know for sure I'm going to be free.

Update will still come today, no worries, just not... now.
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"Oh yeah?" You sidle up behind him. "Are they pretty?"

"Are they… what? No. Maybe? How am I supposed to know—"

They're fine, you suppose, but just that. Lots of inclusions, generally dull… you'd need better lighting to apprise the fire, but you're not expecting anything special. It's the kind that gets ground to pebble for currency.

"Yes!" You pump your fist exuberantly. "Finally! Something!"

"It's *something*, all right. It's…"

"Forgery!" you say.

"…a terrible omen. Sorry, what? No."

"Forgery! He's…" Your words are wilting under Richard's black look. "…he's, uh, growing— you're not supposed to do that. I didn't know you could do that. I mean, if you did do that it'd crash the whole… the whole economy. And… that's bad."

"Well. That does make sense, doesn't it?"

You weren't expecting that response. You don't like that response. "Uh, yes," you say, and lower your arm.

Richard polishes one lens of his sunglasses. "It's the only logical conclusion, really. As we know, the only value of crystal is monetary. Completely metaphysically inert. Tragic."

Oh, this. You don't know why he does it.

"Certainly isn't the only natural substance that absorbs, stores, and refracts law. You know why that's not!?" He polishes the other lens so thoroughly you fear it'll wear through. "It's not because it's little chunks of distilled reality! That would be silly!"

It would be so much faster if he just told you straight.

"And you know what those crystals don't do? They do not force *everything else in their vicinity* to also become realer, damn the consequences! But that's fine, right, Charlie? Because it doesn't happen!"

"What if I licked it?" you say, more out of spite than anything.

"What if you— nothing. Nothing would happen. It's a passive effect, Charlie, not— now, if *I* licked- if I touched it, that would be entirely different."

"Touch it, then."

He produces a grim little half-smile, slides his sunglasses back on (one lens is merely clean, the other is gleaming), and touches one of the vials of crystal. Except that's wrong: his fingertip disappears first, before it makes contact, and then the finger, and then the entire hand before he pulls away.

"I don't get realer," he says.

You eye the vials with newfound respect. "So why is he growing them, then? If it's so dangerous, and whatever."

"I understand it's pleasant for people to be around it, if they happen to be ignorant. Maybe it's that. I suppose it could be an accident, somehow. Or it could be a concerted effort to make this place closer to outside."

"Or maybe he read about it," you offer.

"In here? No, unless he wrote the book first, or memorized it. How could you possibly read a book you've never read?"

You look from Richard to the bookshelves. "What's in there, then?"

It looks like books to you: dozens, with identical black spines. Most are unlabeled. The few that are have titles like "FM 1.1 - 1.25 - Construction," which dangles mockingly just out of your reach.

In fact, you haven't been able to dislodge a single book. All you've gotten for your troubles is a fistful of dust bunnies and a black smudge on your palm. Ink? No— it smells of burnt toast.

Did you track some of the ooze in from the other room? Unlikely. You would have noticed. "Richard," you say, "uh, be a dear— would you mind terribly, uh, to—"

"I'm leagues ahead of you." He deposits a handkerchief onto the counter unceremoniously. It may have been white, once, but it's so sodden with ooze it's impossible to tell. "Third shelf up. I don't suppose you broke another mirror?"

"…No," you say, although you're not quite sure yourself.

The ooze is beginning to leach out from the handkerchief onto the white counter. It has a vaguely malevolent look about it.

"Even a small one?"


"Well." Richard prods the handkerchief delicately. "What *did* you do, then?"

>[1] Nothing! It's probably springing from the wall behind the bookcase. Get Richard to help you up there so you can find out.
>[2] Nothing! You don't even know what this stuff is. Could you run some tests on it with all this equipment?
>[3] Nothing! It doesn't matter, anyways: you have something else more pressing to look at. [What?]
>[4] Nothing! You ought to move on entirely. Head up (or down? you can't tell) the stairs.
>[5] Write-in.

Terribly sorry about the hold-up. I had this written last night except for the options, passed out before I wrote the options, and then spent most of today on the go unable to post.

Touch it with a crystal
>[2] Nothing! You don't even know what this stuff is. Could you run some tests on it with all this equipment?
Don't just touch it with a crystal, dump crystals on it. Like using sand to put out a fire.
Yea let's see what happens with a slight touch first
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Hi, folks! I'm not calling the vote tonight, I'm just here to deposit a new pastebin: https://pastebin.com/wRUPtQqL

It contains all of the clues you've discovered or encountered over the course of the quest thus far, as well as questions that may logically stem from those clues. It does not include things you may have skipped over by accident, as well as things that were mentioned in narration but never investigated, but there's still quite a few in there.

I figured you guys aren't here to pore over my writing for any scrap of meaning-- I'd much rather you enjoy yourselves. I'll try to keep this updated at least between threads, if not updates. Hope you find it useful!
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>Little touchy

>Big touchy

Let's roll for this.
>Big touchy
Rolled 40 (1d100)

Rollan' for... you know, something.
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>Dump all the crystals onto the black stuff!

"I mean," you say, "I haven't done anything, yet. You said I could pick these up?"

Richard scratches the back of his head. "Uh, yes. I can't go near it. You ought to be fine."

You try to maintain a neutral expression. Does he not realize where this is going? "I wouldn't need gloves, or…"

"You're real, they're real. I wouldn't try prolonged contact, but…"

Triumphantly, you snatch four of the vials out of their holders. "Thanks! I'll just—" You pop the lid off one and tip its glittering contents onto the pool of gunk. "Uh, I'll just go ahead and do that."

Richard has a strangled sort of look. "I… can't stop you," he says only.

"I know!" You tip another vial. The crystals tinkle out. "Look at all this autonomy happening, right before your eyes! Wow!"

You're not paying attention to what's happening with the crystals. (You're on vial #3, now.) All your focus is on Richard, whose hand flexes and unflexes with all the unconscious regularity of a clockwork wind-up. There is a faint sheen of sweat on his face.

"This isn't productive, Charlotte," he says. There are knives in his voice. You don't care.

You finish emptying the fourth and final vial of crystal and finally look down. Much to your disappointment, nothing appears to have happened. The ooze burbles.

"You see? Absolutely nothing of value was—"

And then, from the edges inwards, a thin rocky skin encases the ooze. Just as quickly, fractures split it into plates. The plates bulge and splinter further, spiking upwards in forms that resemble…

"Crystals! Except they're black. Does that matter?"

"Does that… wait." Richard ferrets through his breast pocket again and retrieves a handful of something. Of sand. He deposits it next to the newly-grown black crystal. "I dislike telling you I told it so, but… I did. I did tell you so."

"Twenty seconds ago it was nothing of value," you mutter, but you have to admit: the sand and the black crystal share their color, luster, texture. Texture? The feel, you mean… but if you look at the two closely, they both too lack the visual texture.

Richard's hand is still. "This is crystal, I said, and you ignored me. You're too arrogant, you know— one of your myriad flaws. You're too arrogant, you're reckless, you don't listen…"

"Okay!" you say, a beat too quickly. "But what does it *do*?"

"It… hm." He pokes it. Nothing happens to either subject. "Not what it's supposed to, evidently. Might be inert."

"Oh," you say. (You don't entirely believe that. It looks too ominous.) "What's the black stuff, then, if it shorts out… reality? And why does it make more crystals?"

"Good questions." You recognize this immediately as euphemism for 'I don't know', and frown a little. You don't like not knowing, either, though at least you have the stones to admit it. Richard doesn't say anything else.

The black crystal glistens on the counter like an oil slick.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Well, alright. Stick it in your pocket, or whatever, and move on. You can't stand at this counter forever. (To do what?)
>[2] Just leave it where it is. It's probably unlucky or cursed or something. Bad aura. And so on.
>[3] Lick it! Or, you don't know, commune with it. Stare at it a lot. If you try hard enough, it's definitely going to divulge its secrets to you.
>[4] Write-in.
>Glance in a book.
>Empty a bookcase, and attemt to drag it into the wallpaper room to use as a ladder to reach the ceiling.
Okay, so here's the in-character hypothesis: Ellery and someone (Oscar?) share a head but can't meet. They used to write on walls to communicate, but now they can use books to communicate now that their fabrication works better. Or they just let each other read the books the other read.
The ocean is encroaching upon the tower. That's the ooze, that's the sand. I don't know why the ocean sand in a dreamscape would be real, though.
Thanks for the paste.

Need them anti snek countermeasures
How is leaving the crystal an anti-snek measure?
Probably by having fat fingers and hitting the wrong number. Thanks for that catch.
Seconding this.

Interesting hypothesis about their communication. The sand could be a go-between for the surreal elements of the world under the water and above?
>Take the crystal
>Look at a book
>Attempt to drag the bookcase into the wallpaper room so you can climb it and reach the ceiling

Alright! Writing. I am now back for good, so updates will be more regular and possibly earlier in the day from here on out.
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>Take the black crystal.
>Look at a book.
>Attempt to drag the bookcase into the wallpaper room.

It's only a moment's hesitation before you pick up the crystal-laden handkerchief. If it's unlucky, you can weather that just fine. (Positive thinking!) If it's cursed, that ought to be excellent motivation. If it has designs on your pure maidenly soul, and aims to corrupt you into a black and midnight hag…

Well, black is a good color for you, anyways.

"Wrap it up." Richard presses a new, clean handkerchief upon you. "You don't want it to stain, Charlie. You need to stay presentable."

"My slacks are dark-colored. It won't show." But you nevertheless wrap up the crystal. "Hey, would you like to put those big spindly arms to use? Get a book."

"My arms are in normal proportion to my body," he says seriously. "Yours are stubby. Oh, we'll have to add that to the list."

"The list?!"

"Of all your subpar attributes. 'Needs improvement', you know. 'U for U-nsatisfactory.' Uh, your upper body strength, your voice, your eyesight…"

You touch your eye instinctively. "My eyesight's just fine."

"Your depth perception? Low-light vision? Quite mediocre. Respectable at distinguishing color, though. You know, I never knew there were… reds."

"I'm going to see red if you don't get a book," you say tensely. Your face is already hot. "Would you know why my depth perception is 'mediocre'?"

"I wouldn't, no." He places a book onto the counter where the handkerchief laid previously.

You hadn't planned anything to say to that. Your mistake, you know. The awkward (on your part) / smug (on his part) silence is broken by the wet plash of the cover being opened.

It's not a book, actually: it's a folder. (You point this out to Richard. He claims they're all like that.) It's black, though you're not sure if it was originally— after all, it's completely soaked in goop.

"1 MA" is the only writing still visible on the first handwritten page. You flip soggily to the next. A diagram? All you have is a single pencilled curve and a stray label: "mcr.needle (sutl) —>." The next: the top has managed to survive in full. "2 MADMAN". A date! If only everything else weren't ruined.

You schlorp from page to page in much the same manner. Dated pages ("5" "11 M" "17 MADM") are interspersed with… not-dated pages, all in what looks like Ellery's handwriting. "Looks like," because apparently no sample longer than a couple words survives.

Richard dutifully hands you another couple of binders. A whole laboratory's worth of mirrors must have shattered inside the bookshelf, you're left to assume, because these are somehow stained even worse. It's an outright miracle you're able to find a single corner unblackened: "21 B," it says, which probably dates it to last Barkeep. Or not. You haven't seen a year on any of them.

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You give up about the time your fingertips turn the color of charcoal. It's not as if Richard's been helping at all. "I wonder," he muses, "if we could drag this into the other room…"

Of all the things he's said, this strikes you as one of the very oddest. "Uh," you say carefully. "The bookcase is set into the wall."

"Is it?" he says mildly.

"Huh?" You look up at it. It is very squarely set into the wall. The counter is flush against it. "Yes! Unless you wanted to, what, cut it out of there…"

"Is it?"

"Do you… do you know what set into the wall means? It means it can't be moved. Because it's part of the wall itself, not a freestanding object like, say, a table."

"I know what it means, Charlie." You'd be hard-pressed to describe his expression as anything other than serpentine. "And I really do think you're wrong about this bookcase in particular. Don't you?"

Don't you? You sneak another glance at the bookshelf, which seems as uncertain as you are. It flickers.

But all the other bookcases are clearly set into the wall. So why wouldn't this one be?

"Forget all the others. Ellery's not an interior designer. He must've made a mistake. You know how it goes with him."

That's true. That's all very true. But still… it's in the wall. Right now.

"Your eye difficulty, remember. Depth perception. It's all flat to you. You can't see how it's clearly, well, not in the wall. It's freestanding, Charlie."

That would certainly explain it. Damn your eye. "Okay," you say. The bookcase shuffles bashfully out from the wall, creating a gap in the counter. You fail to notice. "Don't know why you didn't say that in the first place. How do you plan to move it, though? I mean, it's big."

Whatever strange humor Richard was in has evaporated. "Oh, that's no issue, Charlie. It's not heavy."

It's built of wood and burnished rivets. It reaches nearly to the concave ceiling. You give a shelf an experimental tug; it fails to budge.

"I suppose my upper body strength isn't quite on the level of magic," you snipe.

Richard examines his cufflinks. (They're snakes, because an ounce of discernment would be beyond him.) "I'm hardly athletic, you realize— thanks for that. You just assign a weight that's simply nonexistent. These things aren't real."

"Thanks for that," you scoff. That's all? "Next you'll tell me the sky is blue."

"Green. And it's true. This-" he knocks on the side of the shelf— "isn't real wood, exactly how this—" he holds up a hand— "isn't real flesh. The only properties it ever holds is those of convenience."

You try the shelf again. It's as big and wood as ever. "Convenience."

"Nobody ever takes the time to apply the correct laws, I promise. They just let average expectations fill in the blanks. And if you have those expectations, it's a perfectly viable shortcut."

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He hefts the entire bookcase under his arm. "I lack them. Be a darling, get the back."

You do. It isn't difficult: the case has the weight and feel of cardboard. You have plenty of time to notice the massive hole where the bookcase used to be.

"God blessed. Look at all that!"

The interior of the massive hole is thick with cascading black ooze. It's formed a sort of crust around the sides where the bookcase edges used to be.

"Hm." Richard has unwisely opened the door back into the entrance room, which smells like a lit stove. A full foot of ooze is busy ruining his loafers. "This may prove an issue."

You set your half down and stroll closer. "Having some— oh." The entrance room is thoroughly flooded, coming up almost to your shins. "That was the only way through, right?"

"Yes. …Well, it depends."


"If there's a mirror in this room, and what's behind it."

>[1] Just wade through the ooze to the wallpaper room. It's harmless (to the extent of your knowledge). Even if it will ruin your boots.
>[2] See if you can sort of float the bookcase on top of the ooze and clamber across untouched. It ought to be tall enough, though the efficacy is a little unclear.
>[3] Through The Looking Glass - And What Lottie Found There, By You
>[4] Write-in.
I would vote to be stubborn about bringing the bookcase into the wallpaper room, but as it's Richard's idea I'll discard it without a second thought.

Ooze surfing
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>"First, there’s the room you can see through the glass— that’s just the same as our drawing room, only the things go the other way. "

>First Gatorball, next...?

Mirror wins. Writing.
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>Seek an alternative route.

There's a significant pause.

"Well. Tally ho, then." Richard begins to wade forward.

You almost follow him. You almost do. But then you think: do I want to go in there, really? I'll ruin my boots forever. And I don't like being told what to do. Why is he in the front, anyways? I ought to be in the front. Because I'm an actual person with, with feelings, and so on, and he's a snake. (Probably.)

What did Auntie say to do with snakes? 'Pick 'em up by the tail, quick, and bash 'em 'gainst the ground 'til no more blood came out.' Damn it. Damn me.

And that's generally why you drop the bookcase with a thunk, stick both hands in your bulging coat pockets, and march off without a word in the opposite direction of the door.

"Don't scowl," Richard calls after you. "It'll stick that way, and then where are you?"

The mirror. Where's the mirror? There wouldn't be a mirror in two rooms and none in the third, that would be ridiculous. There's always an order to things.

You weave around the tanks of water to discover the back half of the room: stairs leading upwards, the back wall shrouded with curtain, framed pictures on the wall…

The back wall. You undo the complex knot of the ribbon tie dexterously, silkily. (Damn it!) You push back the curtain. There's a mirror behind it, the biggest you've ever seen.

"Open! Open. Ohhhhpen. God-" You rap on the surface of it impatiently. "Knock knock. Open up. Open. OpEN."

"You're looking for OPEN," Richard says coolly behind you. There is a snake in the reflection, briefly, before the entire mirror spasms once. When it settles, it's different— wobbly, gelatinous. You could cut it with a spoon, you think. You could push through it easily.

You would, if Richard weren't right there. The bookcase sits uncomfortably just behind him. "Do you have to follow me?" you ask, a little hysterically. "I mean, really? Would it be so terrible if I just did this myself?"

He shrugs. "We're a package deal, Charlie. Even if I tried not to follow you, I couldn't."

"Try, then," you spit.

"Sure thing. Are we bringing the bookcase, or…" He flashes a crooked smile.

You flash him a vulgar sign back and step backwards into the mirror.

...nwob llɒʇ Ɉon ,HϱυoɿHɈ Hƨυq oɈ ϱniγɿɈ Ɉƨυį ɘɿɘw υoγ Ɉqɘɔxɘ ,bɘɈɔɘqxɘ υoγ ɈɒHw ƨ'ɈI .γɿɘvliƨ bnɒ ,bloɔ bɒ ,ʞɔiHɈ ƨ'ɈI

The world flips on itself as you spill out of the mirror and onto the… floor. (You think it's the floor. You have silver in your eyes and try as you might you can't blink it away.) Your head throbs in rhythm with your heartbeat. It's very quiet.

You don't move. You're waiting for something. You're not sure what, though.

It doesn't come. You sit up, instead, and rub your eyes with one sleeve. The silver comes away, a little.

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Are you in the same room? It looks like it could be, possibly. Same size. The mirror is still here on the back wall, exactly where you left it. The wallpaper is the same color.


It's dark in the room. You can still see, but it's dusky outside, maybe. Or there's a light from another room.

The pristine tile of the former floor now lines the ceiling. In fact, the pristine counters of the former floor now encircle the ceiling, and the pristine tanks of water (shattered and empty, here) are instead bolted to the ceiling. You are nearly certain the former floor is now the ceiling.

Which makes the current floor the former ceiling. It's pockmarked with pyramidal recesses, each filled with liquid… but, curiously, not the same liquid. There's a pool of water, of black ooze (of course), of maybe blood, but hopefully not. Of something molten. Of something popping softly. More you can't see, though you crane your neck. You count twelve in all.

Why is it so quiet? What were you waiting for?

The stairs are to your right, just touching the ceiling. They're couched in shadow, but you think they lead down, not up. That's good. You were supposed to go down, you think. You were told by…

All of it pales next to the fish. There are fish. They're clearly not real fish, and make no attempt to be: they glow in shades of pale pink and peach and saffron, and you can see the grout of the ceiling tile through their translucent bodies. There are hundreds, maybe a thousand, and they swirl in synchronized dance up and through the air. They swish, they dart, they glide, they scatter— there is a predator in their midst.

It's dark and slender, hard to see in the half-light. It has snuck up from below. It lunges at an unlucky fish, holds it in its jaws until it stops flopping, and scarfs it down whole. And then it looks at you with dead yellow eyes.

It is about that point that you realize: oh. Richard.

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"Very nice," you say, and gather yourself fully off the floor. "Impressive. Very good."

The snake's throat glows faintly pink. It doesn't say anything. It only looks at you.

"Are you mad I wanted you to stay back? Is that what this is?" You point knowingly at it. "You say I'm petty, but the silent treatment, that is…"

It doesn't blink. Are snakes supposed to blink? You're not sure.

"…And, you know, I liked it better when you had a face, actually. Not that you used it for nice things. But it gave me someone to blame, you know."


"Because you're an ass."

Nothing! No retort, no rejoinder, not a grain of sprightly repartee. By God, is it really just a snake? Is Richard back behind those eyes, watching, or is all of him past the mirror? You're not sure what to do with yourself. 3 years, and all it took was this?

The bookcase plops out of the mirror with excellent timing. The door across to the entrance room is tightly shut (and attached to the ceiling, but you'll deal with that later).

The world is your crustacean, and you hold the crabhammer!

>[1] Write-in.
Try the stairs.
>Say something to the snake so insulting/wrong that Richard would have no choice but to reply

>Use bookcase as ramp to reach door
>catch a fish, see if it doesn't lead you somewhere useful
Rolled 1 (1d3)

I'm tired and don't really want to be here, but I said one update a day (ish) and by the almighty Lord in heaven I am sticking to my guns.

These (excluding further insulting Richard[?]) are all mutually exclusive. Rolling.
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>Try to rile up Richard.
>Take the stairs.

You are going to sieze the metaphorical crabhammer in your fist and use it to...

Use it to...

Well, what? What is there to do? There are a lot of very pretty fish, and so on, but no clear goal and no clear end in sight. And here you are with a snake.

All it does is look at you blankly. You have tried talking to it softly, as if it's shy and needs coaxing. You have tried threats, except they don't seem very effective, somehow. (What stakes are there, for a snake? What does a snake hold dear to its heart? If Richard's there -- and if he is, he is doing an excellent job of pretending -- well, that doesn't make any difference. You can hardly hold a knife up to your own throat. And he'd laugh, anyway.) You have spat the vilest invectives you can summon up.

But it doesn't respond. There's not even the ghost of a fanged smile on its frankly ugly little poe-faced snout.

It mocks you. It glows.

"Did you hear that?" you complain. "I think you're tacky."

("Tacky?" you mimic back in your closest approximation of his even voice. It sounds like you're being choked. You find this adds to the character acting. "Charlie, tacky isn't a matter of style. It's grace. For example: not blundering, oxenlike, into situations you're unprepared for.")

Charlie. It's a nickname you've never used and never liked. Is it any wonder Richard latched on?

You pace near the edge of the room, far from the pools. "That's not the point," you say. "The point is-- you have snake cufflinks. They're not even subtle snake cufflinks, it's just-- it's just brass snakes."

("You can't expect me to have any sophistication. I probably-" You cough. This is grating on the throat. "-uh, I probably have no actual sense of what cufflinks are. I'm just a snake. So it's actually 100% your fault I have these, and..." You're losing the plot. "It's all your fault, not mine.")

There we go, back on track. But you don't like that he's right.

("You never like it" you rasp. "But it's always true. You can't do this by yourself. You can't do this without me. For God's sake, the minute I leave you're pretending to be me. Did you consider how pathetic that is? What if somebody sees you?"")

You stop walking.

("What are you doing? Honestly? Did you have a plan when you arrived, or were you hoping for the answer to be delivered by courier? Carrier gull? That's not how things work, Charlie. Go down the stairs.")

The stairs are on the ceiling. "I can't," you mutter to the snake, to yourself.

("If you can't..." You don't even attempt the voice, anymore. "...what's the point of you?")

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That does it. You storm back past the mirror and collect the bookcase as you go. It's featherweight in your grip. The snake follows behind. You drag the case all the way to below the stairs, give yourself a running start, and smack face-first against a row of binders.

Less enthusiastically, you step up onto the first shelf and pick your way up. The wood under your fingers has a new, strange quality: it's waxy, almost slimy. You look down and the floor swims.

But there's nowhere to go but up. By the time you perch precariously at the top, your arms ache.

The stairwell is dark.

That's your first and only impression: it's dark. The stairs are narrow and concrete and lead steeply into darkness.

You cast a regretful glance behind you, at the gentle fish, and the charming pools of blood, and so on. But now there's nowhere to go but down.

So that's where you go. You clutch to the handrail, at first, until there is no more handrail. The snake's throat provides a faint and unsettling light, until it's gone-- has been digested (you assume; you do not ask). You're not exactly tired, nor are you scared. All there is to do is walk down.

And then there is a door.

It's large and squareish and oak. There's a keyhole and a peephole. There is a handwritten note tied to the handle in red ribbon.




Ah. The second most ridiculous thing you've heard all day.

>[1] Write-in.

Fervent apologies to uz6Zp1J4, whose write-in I liked very much but got considerably warped in my sleep-deprived writing process. And now it's 2 AM, so the odds of me editing this are nil. Let's say it happened in the tiny little timeskip, huh?
> Acquire Ribbon, Ignore Note, Look Through Keyhole, Open Door
Who does he think he is, telling us what to do
Oh no
We played ourselves

>Try the peephole, and then try the door unless you see scary monsters or something.

No need to apologize I like how it turned out
>Acquire ribbon
>Look through keyhole / peephole
>Open door (if safe)

Writing. Might be able to push another update out after this today if I get the votes for it.
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>Acquire ribbon
>Look through keyhole / peephole
>Open door (if safe)

The ribbon's the nice kind. It's an aggressive brand of vermillion. It has wires in. If you can just finangle it off (it twists once, where the note is attached, and otherwise forms a perfect loop tight to the handle), you'll own it.

(Is this all you are? A petty loiterer and part-time ribbon thief?)

You end up using your pocketknife, which cuts like butter through the ribbon and ribbon wire and part of the handle. (You slipped.) What pocketknife? The one you keep in your pocket, you'd rationalized. It's in the name. And apparently that was just logical enough to get by.

You fidget the newly-amputated ribbon between your thumb and forefinger. You like it when everything just falls into place, but you've never quite worked out what to do afterwards. Tie up your hair, you suppose. Or... you eye the snake with sudden feral malice. It would go nicely.

There is a decision to be made.

>[A1] Tie up your hair. Finders keepers!
>[A2] Dress up Richard(?). Carpe diem!
>[A3] This is slander. You didn't collect the ribbon because you liked it, you collected it because... evidence. Right? Pocket it (for now).

Good job! You've successfully set a goal for yourself, and accomplished it, and if there's a little nick in the handle that's just how it goes these days. You don't need help, obviously, no matter what somebody says. You're good!

("There's still a door," you say, almost on accident. It's just so quiet here. "All you did was get a ribbon.")

Well, it's-- it's one step at a time, right? So there is a door, and nothing else around the door, but that's okay. You just open it, that's all.

Well, you should look first.

Should you knock?

No. No. And you shouldn't try to bust it down, either, because... you don't know. You can only bust down so many doors in a day, else it gets too predictable.

Try the handle first? No, you haven't looked yet. You kneel by the keyhole and stare through it.

It's nothing. It's just darkness, like everything else.

The peephole, instead? It's drilled straight into the wood-- there's still shavings around it. You have to squint to see.

It's... it's the entrance room. It's just the entrance room, except a fire crackles in the fireplace behind the empty armchairs. You can't see the mirror, if it's there. There's no sign of hellish mind-beasts, or Richard, or anybody.

You would have perhaps liked to see hellish mind-beasts. This whole business has been lacking some fizz, some pop, some-- well, it's been just a little boring. Probably informative. But if not hellish mind-beasts, maybe some alligators?

But regardless. You try the handle.

It clicks unhappily. The door is locked.

(Choices next.)
>[B1] Just kind of wave the snake at it. That's basically what worked the last times, right?
>[B2] Well, OPEN it, obviously. If a door shatters... it's not locked anymore, is it?
>[B3] GOOD THING you have a KEY right HERE, as it can see, RIGHT HERE IN YOUR POCKET (You don't. But you ought to be convincing.)
>[B4] Knock?
>[B5] Bust it down? (Maybe with your shoulder, to keep up the variety.)
>[B6] Write-in.
>[A2] Dress up Richard(?). Carpe diem!
>[B2] Well, OPEN it, obviously. If a door shatters... it's not locked anymore, is it?

Stab it with the dark crystal and hope it dissolves.
Rolled 1 (1d3)


Rolling for B.
>OPEN it.

Alright, I'm going to need 3 1d100s+15 (+10 ?????, +5 Malleable Surroundings) vs. DC 55 for this.
Rolled 62 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Rolled 47 (1d100)

Rolled 5 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>77, 62

That's at least a Success. Rolling the last one in interest of expediency and my sleep schedule, then writing after.
>"Give" Richard the ribbon.

As you expected, the snake doesn't appreciate your generous donation of ribbon. After several ill-fated wrangling attempts, both of you are in high dudgeon.

"It's not polite to bite people!" you admonish. (You are nursing several pinprick wounds on your hand.) "You ought to know better!"

It hisses from a spot just out of your reach.

"I could die, you know. Your venom could course through my bloodstream and stop my heart, killing me instantly. And how would you like that?"

From the murder in its eyes, it would like that very much.

"Okay, well, I won't die. I'm probably immune. Because if you killed me, where'd you be, huh?"

It doesn't answer. It undulates warily.

"Sent back to eternal torment in the 16 Coils, I wager. Or at least eternal nothing at all. Same thing."

It also doesn't seem to notice the hand at your side inching out steadily.

"So really, we're both stuck with each other. I'm sure there's a word for it- AHA, GOTCHA!!"

Once you judged yourself in range, you whipped out, quick as a... well, a snake, and pincered it in your left hand. It now hisses and wriggles indignantly in your grip.

With your free hand, you loop the ribbon around the snake's neck and tie it in a dashing bow. The amplitude of its wriggles vastly increases, so you do your best to dodge the powerful tail and primp the bow as best you can. You think it looks rather handsome, actually.

You're not certain it agrees, but with the absence of thumbs there's not a whole lot it can do.

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>OPEN the door - 77, 62, 20 vs. DC 55 - Success.

"OPEN," you say casually, and are greeted with the welcome surprise of the door creaking ajar. You are also greeted with a wave of powerful nausea and an angry prickle up your spine. You slump, pale and wan, onto the ground.

>[ID: 6/10]

The snake is trying to hide in the shadow of the stairs. This was already ineffective when its underbelly was reflective and off-yellow, but the bright scarlet bow makes the effort completely meaningless. It's a nice distraction from the question ransacking your head: damn it, what did you do this time? Because surely something went wrong-- the only thing you felt when you OPENED the mirror was mild anxiety. Is this a bad door? A bad pronunciation? Is there just a physical or metaphysical limit on how much you can handle?

And for that matter, what did you do right? This was the first (not the last, you hope) time you've ever gotten it on the first try. It had a different mouthfeel, this time-- smoother, more natural. Like rainwater versus filtered. Are you just that good, or is there foul play at--

("The door is open. It doesn't matter how you feel. Go in it.")

Fine. Fine. If it wasn't so quiet, you wouldn't be forced to to talk to yourself. How does Ellery cope? He should install a gramophone or something.

There's a hallway behind the door, so short and nondescript you wonder why it bothers to exist at all. There is a room behind the hallway.

It's the entrance room near-exactly as you first saw it: fireplace, armchairs, light fixture, two doors, papers littering the walls. But there's no longer a mirror in the corner-- instead, spiderwebby hairline cracks center on where it used to be and extend through the wallpaper the length of the room. The whole place smells moderately burnt: there's a fire raging in the fireplace. You close the door to discover another note tied to the handle in red ribbon.





"Why?" you say aloud. The snake twines begrudgingly around your neck. Its bow tickles.

You get your answer two seconds later, when the door hits you in the face. "--chasing rabbits, Charlie," a man says, as he steps into the room. You step in after him.

No, you're here, cradling your swelling cheek. (You didn't realize how hard Richard opened doors.) But you-- a hours-younger you, a you in sunglasses, with a lighter heart and lighter pockets-- are surveying the entrance room. You haven't noticed a thing.

You have, you calculate rapidly, another couple of seconds before Ellery bursts in to the right.

>[1] Write-in
>Uh, hide! Paradox something-or-other, becoming your own grandmother?!
>Ellery probably got called away to talk to you. How neat. You don't like it.
>Get ready to close the door on Ellery so he can't run from our past self.
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> Avoid Paradox, Hide.
I've defeated the Curse in hand-to-hand combat! (Also, the power is back on.)

>Don't cause a paradox!

>Cause a paradox!

Scratch that. I need a roll.

Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 60 (+10 Two Seconds, +10 Expecting You) to hide!
Rolled 70 (1d100)

Rolled 10 (1d100)

Rolled 98 (1d100)

>70, 10, 98 vs. DC 60 - Success!

Nice. Writing for real.
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>70, 10, 98 vs. DC 60 - Success.

God, what'd happen if they saw you? You don't know, but you've read enough pulp novels to guess. Blood'd start coming out of your ears, or you'd wink out of existence, or something. Nothing good.

So rather than stand there like a moron, you half-skid half-roll behind an armchair like a moron. The noise of your desperate tumble was mostly covered, you think, by the sound of the door creaking open.

"We've talked about this," Ellery says. "You can't just drop in on me..."

Boring. Boring. You've heard this once, and once is all the times you want to listen to Ellery. You busy yourself instead with picking at the floorboards. There's a loose one here, right under your legs. He's still talking. How long did this go on?

"...Lottie. Uh, I like your snake. Cute bow."

You freeze. Two of your fingernails may be wedged between a plank and the wall trim, but you still ought to be completely hidden.

"Where'd you get it?" he continues blithely.

He knows! He knows, which-- well, there were the notes. But that's different, that's right now. This is *then*. So much for not winking out of existence. You're well and truly skunked, now. You've been overmatched. You might as well stand up right now to save a fraction of your pride--

"I bought it in town," past-you says. "Had it shipped in special from the City. I doubt you could afford it, honestly."

Oh. Most of that was a lie. A good lie-- smooth, plausible.

You don't tell good lies. You browbeat and palaver your way past inconvenient truths. You don't buy this for a second. Richard?

"Probably true," Ellery says, after a short pause. "Can I get you a water?"

Rainwater, you mouth. "Rainwater," past-you corrects. "Not filtered. If it's not terribly inconvenient."

This plank is definitely loose. So loose you can pry it up barehanded, as it turns out. There's a square of yellow paper inside.

"It's going to be water. It won't have dirt in it." You can hear Ellery clicking his fingers against the doorframe. "You don't have a lot of bargaining power, Lottie."

"WHATS THE FUCKING DIFFRENCE? ITS JUST WATER," says the paper. It's covered with dust. "TELL ME IN THE OTHER ROOM."

Past-you doesn't say anything, but you can feel the heat of her death glare from here.

"Cool. Don't break anything." Ellery strides across the room, less fluidly than you remember. He opens the right door, ducks through it, and shuts it.

There's no chunk-chunk-chunk of deadbolts. The doors are unlocked.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Follow Ellery to the room on the left, begrudgingly. If you're not being led by the nose one way, you're being led in the other.
>[2] He can (excuse you) go screw himself. Stay right here and keep an eye on past-you. Maybe strike up a conversation, since so far there's been no blood from your ears.
>[3] Go into the lab instead. What was Ellery doing in there to begin with?
>[4] Try the door to the stairs / to the outside. Richard isn't even here to explain the whole crown thing. What's the point of staying?
>[5] Write-in.
>[3] Go into the lab instead. What was Ellery doing in there to begin with?
>Show past Richard the snake with attached bow
>"This is your future"

>Show past-Richard his future.

Writing. We're on page 9, so expect maybe one or two more updates before the thread dies. Or maybe I'll run a session tomorrow. Who knows?
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>Spook Richard with his Ghost of Fashion Future.
>Head back into the lab.

You consider the paper, briefly, before tearing it into neat squares and shoving the debris under the armchair. You stand, careful to keep your weight balanced.

Past-you is occupied in examining the space where the mirror used to be. Past-Richard lounges in the opposing armchair-- one arm splayed out over the top, one leg bent awkwardly over the other, like he's not quite sure of the point of all these limbs. He is staring into the middle distance, doing nothing in particular.

You tread over to him on the balls of your feet. Which is difficult, given the heels on these boots, and it's not your fault if you creak a little. Or a lot. Oh, he's looking directly at you, isn't he.

"Your collar's flipped up," he says. "Haven't you noticed?"

"Haven't I…" It is. You smooth it down self-consciously.

"Ought to tie up your hair, too. It's getting all frizzy again. We both know that's never a good look, Charlotte."

"…We both know."

"That's what I said, yes. Are you- are you quite finished, or…"

"Am I quite… no!" Why had you ever wanted him to talk? What's wrong with you? "There's no 'we'! You're not an authority on- on collars, or hair, or looking good— you're a snake, okay? All you're supposed to do is eat fish and frighten people!"

He scratches his temple. "And how long were you waiting on that?"

"I— it doesn't matter. I'm right. And I'm from- I'm from the future, by the way, if you didn't notice—"

"Aren't you special." He adjusts his… you'd assumed it was his usual tie. You hadn't looked. It's not, it's a scarlet bowtie.

The snake—! But it's still there, behind you, decked to the nines in snake terms. It hovers nonchalantly. You're feeling just the opposite: did you do something wrong? Step on a butterfly? Fire the gun before it got hung on the wall?

"I can't change it," he says, by way of non-explanation. "So thanks for that, really. You've got me looking foppish."

"Good!" you say suddenly, and with a great deal more venom than you were expecting. "You're welcome! Can't wait for it to happen to you! You don't know how much I'll enjoy it—"

"I believe you've clarified that."

"Good!" You're being loud. You cast a cautious glance at past-you, who's paid no attention. "Or she'll enjoy it, at least. Can she hear this, or…"

Richard smiles, close-lipped, and switches the position of his legs. "Oh, no. She's in the past. It's a different country, they say. Very poor reception."

"Who's they?"

"Why ask me? All I know is how to eat fish and scare people, Charlie."

He might be offended! You couldn't be happier. The bowtie, too, is a masterpiece— it's garish in new and interesting ways, and it lacks any and all snake imagery. You walk off without the courtesy of a reply.

There's a note tacked to the right door. "WRONG DOOR," it says. And then, smaller: "PLEASE?"

You try the handle, just to make sure it's unlocked. It is. The door swings open without a whisper of resistance.

There's another note stuck with putty to the top of the doorframe. "WHY ARE YOU LIKE THIS?"

A third flutters down from the ceiling, where it was evidently lightly glued. "WHAT IF I WROTE THE OPPOSITE OF WHAT YOU SHOULD DO? WOULD THAT WORK? LOOK AROUND THIS ROOM."

Good idea.

It's the same, almost. Counters, counters, bookshelves (except for one smooth, familiar patch on the left wall), water tanks. The left side still hosts an armory of mysterious doctor-y things. The right still has junk.

So what if the junk is now variously glowing and humming and bobbing gently in the air? It's still junk. There's that, and there's the watery red spackle on the white white tile. Blood or paint. It drifts off behind a tank.

There's a note in your hand. It's not the same one. "I'D REALLY LIKE TO BE REASONABLE. I'M STILL IN THE OTHER ROOM."

>[1] You know veiled threats when you see them, but you refused to be cowed by *Ellery*. It just wouldn't do. Look at something in particular. [Junk? / Blood? / Write-in]
>[2] Blood? You were fine with nonspecific black goop, but blood isn't quite in your paygrade (of a Game Night invitation). You require a detectiving partner who speaks. Get Richard from the entrance and see what he thinks.
>[3] Oh good! You can go ask Ellery about the maybe-blood, and also the crystals, and goop, and mysterious writing, and ugly wallpaper. Find him in the other room.
>[4] Write-in.

>"If you didn't want me wandering around looking at your shit, maybe you shouldn't have locked me in your mind tower. Dummy."
>Jeez, it's not MY fault.
>But find him anyways.

Writing. There may be a handful more after this today if I get the votes.
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>"If you didn't want me wandering around looking at your shit, maybe you shouldn't have locked me in your mind tower. Dummy."
>Find Ellery, though.

You're not impressed in the slightest.

"Well, ja— moron, maybe you shouldn't've locked me inside your stupid mind tower. What did you want me to do, huh? Just sit there?"

There's an arrow drawn crudely on the bottom of the note, pointing down. You flip the note over. "YES!" is all it says.

"Not very bright, then. Though I suppose that's to be expected."

There's a second note stuck to the first. You peel it up. "YOU'RE A REAL CHARMER. HOW ABOUT YOU TELL ME THIS IN PERSON?"

…He has a point. You'll pop over, wow him with the force of your personality, extract how to get out of here, get back to it. No problem.

Past(?)-Richard watches you coolly from the armchair as you stride back into the entrance room and over to the door on the left. "Have fun," he says.

"What?" He hates fun.

"That's all, Charlotte. Why must you always look for meaning?" He spits the word like it offended him personally. "Is there some definition of 'have' and 'fun' I've been made unaware of?"

"Well, it's possible," you say— but you're not paying much attention. The door is ajar. You hesitate. Should you creep in, as to surprise him? He probably knows you're right here, though. Kick the door open? Confidence is essential. Kick it, yeah. "I am dangerous," the move says. "You can't scare me."

You bob a couple times, to ready yourself, and then the door opens. Via the force of your will alone? No, via Ellery, whose face is set and pensive. One hand is on his hip.

"Hi, Lottie," he says neutrally. "Good to see you again."

"Yeah, okay." You duck past him into the room. It's as you first remember it, wallpaper intact. There's no cards on the table or mirror on the wall. "I hope you have water, at least."

"Uh, yes." He gestures towards the table as he shuts the door behind you. "Would you grab it?"

The cup is undecorated ceramic, the water— you sniff it cautiously— filtered. Damn! You set it back down and turn to Ellery to inform him of this issue.

There's no door.

There's no door. It's a smooth stretch of wallpaper. The edges of Ellery's mouth are quirked upwards. "You have a history with doors," he says in the manner but not the tone of an apology.

(Have fun!)

"If you won't drink that water," he continues, "could you set it down on the table? Makes it easier."

"Could I…" You slam the cup down onto the table. It chips. "How's that, huh? You can't go and— you can't take the door out! That's cheating!"

He scratches his eye. "Is it? You're not going to like this much, then, sorry."

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The room skews, suddenly and violently, until everything around you is arranged on a single plane— then collapses like a cheaply-built stage set and disappears. You are left standing awkwardly in scorching-white empty space.

"Have to be extra-sure," Ellery says, and this time there's genuine apology. "You're very good at, uh, breaking out of places."

"I wouldn't have broken out," you lie indignantly.

"Right. Would you like to sit down?"

He already is, in an armchair that strikes you as extraordinarily familiar. He gestures behind you. There is a metal stool.

(Have fun!)

You weigh your pride against being trapped forever by a vindictive manchild, and your pride comes out the loser.

"Excellent. Now, why don't we chat. Who sent you?"

"What?" No! This is your interrogation!

"I have as long as this takes, Lottie. Who sent you?"

>[1] Nobody! Nobody sent you! You came here… for fun, or by accident, maybe. But you don't want that invitation revoked.
>[2] Madrigal. So you're throwing her under the carriage a little— she's not the one who has to deal with it, okay? It's not *reneging*.
>[3] It's precisely none of his business, thank you very much.
>[4] Huh? Who sent *you*? Why is there… [writing on his wall / places in his mirrors / goop on his bookshelf / crystals in his sand / etc— write-in!]
>[5] Write-in.
>[4] why is there EVERYTHING that's been going on here????? What did you do????
but also 4
>4 (literally everything)

Writing! It's possible I may have to stop for food in the middle of this, apologies.
>You? What's wrong with *him*?!

"Madrigal," you say.

The change is profound. His face is ashen, his eyes lightless, his posture slumped. You've let all the air out of him, somehow— or all the blood, it looks more like. There is a long silence, during which you simmer in unexpected victory, and he rubs alternately at his eye, his cheek, his temple.

"…Madrigal," he repeats, finally. And, softly: "Fuck."

You lean forward gleefully. You don't know why this matters, but you'll be damned if you won't milk it for all that's worth. "She asked me to come. Practically begged me. I didn't want to, you know— this is a little lowbrow for my sensibilities, you get me? But she was so desperate, I mean, my heart broke…"

"Fuck." You can't read Ellery's expression. Is he depressed? Disappointed? Defeated? "Why?"

You'd thought this was pretty straightforward. "Why what?"

"She gave… she gave a reason, right?"

"Oh, yes! Uh, you're not talking to her. Or anybody, really. I think she's worried about you."

"She's not," he says.

You give him a look.

"…She shouldn't be. Fuck. That's it? That's all she said?"

"That's right."

He sits up a little, giving you a better view of the crazed little half-smile he's been developing. "Okay, well— okay. Look, uh…" He snaps his fingers.

"Lottie," you provide.

"Lottie. How about you go back to, uh, Madrigal, tell her… I'm fine, no reason to worry, and I'll, uh, talk to her or whoever else. Pretend you wrung it out of me if you want, doesn't matter."

But that's not the point, you don't say. I don't give a damn if you talk to people or not. In fact, I wish you didn't. What I care about is the juicy stuff.

Instead, you say: "Yeah, uh, I'll do that. So why are there mirrors everywhere?"

Ellery coils back up. His voice is taut. "I like mirrors."

"What's the black goop? It came out of a mirror when I smashed it, it was in your bookshelf…"

"Why'd you smash my mirror?!"

"Unfortunate accident. Goop, hm?"

He has the eyes of a caged animal. "Don't know," he says shortly. "It's recent."

"Why are you growing crystals?"

"I'm not," he says, perplexed.

"Well, you are, but… uh, let's see." You run down your mental checklist of 'weird stuff'. "Why do you have a bunch of note with dates on them?"

"It's not relevant."

"Really? Why do you have binders full of notes with dates on them?"

"I like to keep them in order."

"Why is there writing under the wallpaper here? I mean, not here. But when there was a room."

His jaw tenses. "That's personal. Why are you ruining my wallpaper?"

You wave off the question. "Who's Oscar?"

"A friend."

"Who's… E?"

"Eloise, probably. You know her?"

"Who's C, then?"

Technically, the half-smile broadens into a smile. It fits the smile requirements— lips go up, teeth (crooked but surprisingly white) visible— but can you call it one when there's no mirth in it? It's a grimace, maybe. The grin of a corpse.

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"I really think you should stop," he says. "You have what you need, right? So what's the point?"

"Why is there blood in the other room?"

His eyes dart. The grimace stays exactly where it is. "I cut myself," he says. "It happens."

"Hm." You didn't actually look at the blood up close— you can't tell if that's true. "How do I leave?"

"How do you leave?" Perplexed again. "How'd you get here?"

"Uh…" Is 'through the eye' the normal way? Should you tell him you're inside his tent? "It's complicated."

"Is this your first… what the fuck? How could you not…" He stands, hands in pockets. "Do you not have an anchor?"


"Maybe it's a— you know, something to keep you grounded to reality? No? Fuck. There's other ways to jury-rig it, but nothing pretty. How do you feel about drowning?"

You stand, too. Your hands are planted on your hips. "Is that a threat?"

"…Uh, no. I mean, it won't be fun, it might get, uh, a little weird, but it ought to boot you out. It's that or… you said there were crystals?"

"In vials."

"That's another option, I guess. Dicier but less traumatic. Uh… I don't know. Everybody uses anchors."

"Maybe I have one and I just don't know it," you offer. "What's yours?"

"Uh." The grimace, previously fading, returns in full force. "I don't have one at the moment."


"It doesn't matter, anyways— it's always personal, there's no template. Sorry, did you say what sounded best for you?"

>[A1] Drowning— safer but more traumatic. Weird.
>[A2] Crystals— riskier but easier on you (when it works). Also probably weird.

>[B1] You're planning to get out of here right away.
>[B2] You'll tell Ellery you're planning to get out of here, but actually try to sneak off (once there's a door, and so on). What about the blood?
>[B3] You need to ask Richard before anything else. Didn't he want to do the crown thing? Whatever that is?
>[B4] You have more questions for Ellery first. (What?)
>[B5] Write-in.

Ask if he can just keep Richard trapped in here forever.
Supporting. What could possibly go wrong?
>B4 - So, uh, Richard...


"What could possibly go wrong?" - official secondary motto of Drowned Quest. (Primary motto: "What the fuck is happening?")
>Could he trap Richard here forever?

"Uh, no," you say distractedly. You're trying to remember what you thought earlier. Vindictive… oh, trapped forever. You know somebody who could do with a dose of that. "There's no way to get out of here, right? Unless you put it back?"

"I wouldn't say no way, but it'd certainly be difficult— impossible for you, I think, no offense." (Maybe a little offense. Ellery's satisfied, if not smug, with his skill.) "To be technical, though, there's no 'here'— there's no space left. Or time, for that matter. This is all contained at a single point, in a single point— it's only 'linear' due to the faulty perception you're shackled to—"

"That's interesting," you interject. You've never been gladder Richard's gone— if he were present, you'd have to sit through hours of this. "It's not the point, though. Any way you can trap, uh, someone else in here? Like, forever?"

Words are beached up in his throat and die floundering. He is foremost disgusted, that much is clear from his expression, but there's little whorls of surprise, anger… shame? That can't be right.

"Uh, he deserves it," you clarify.

It still takes him a minute. He collapses back into the armchair. "Nobody deserves forever, Lottie. Nobody. I don't care— shit, I hope he murdered your father in cold blood, or something. That'd be understandable. Maybe. But not forever. What'd he do?"

"Uh." What has he done? Be a twit? Send you down here, certainly— but that's more your fault for being worthless and all. No critical thinking. You can't come up with anything else. "It's okay, it doesn't matter—"

"No, look." His voice is knapped flint. "I just want to know why you'd consign someone to hell. Worse than hell, really, because at least there there's something to think about. It's a reasonable question. What'd he do?"

Where did you go wrong? What mistake did you make? You thought your convictions were true, your reasoning sound and convincing, but here you are being yelled at. Did you skip a step? You wish Richard were here. He knows what to say.

Ellery sees your wilted posture and backs down a little. "…Maybe you don't understand the implications of it."

You don't care about the implications, whatever they may be. You want, or wanted, the result. You'll try to find the step you missed. "I'm sure I don't. What if he were, say, a snake?"

You've knocked all the words out again. "What?" is all Ellery says.

"You know… a snake. Sometimes it talks? Does that affect it at all—"

"Your snake? The one you put the ribbon on?"

You're not sure Richard would appreciate being "yours", if he were here. You don't even see the dark shoestring of the snake with you. Strange. "That's the one," you say.

"Why would you… shit, that's… it talks?"


"And it's a snake? Eats fish and so on? Venomous?"

"Not a real snake. Real snakes don't talk." You levy the last word with all the condescension you can muster in your diminished state. He should know this. "But more or less."

"…No, I'm still not going to trap your talking snake in nothing forever. Is that clear?"

Damn. "If it must be."

"Right. You're leaving now, by the way. Tell me how."

You've drowned once already and it was not the best day of your life. "Crystals, I think."

"Suit yourself," he says.

>[1] You'll leave right now.
>[2] You'll leave… at some point, after you sneak off to look at the blood.
>[3] You'll leave… after you ask Ellery one more thing. [What?]
>[4] Write-in.

"If forever is off the table, maybe a couple weeks? Also where'd you learn to do all this?"

Huh, I had definitely been getting a lot more Richard was the BBEG we accidentally unleashed vibes than were actually present.

Maybe he's just a distraction from the real BBEG.
You don't like Richard and vacillate frequently between trusting him or not. He's certainly a colossal asshole with a loose grasp on the truth. But to your knowledge, he's never *done* anything.

I'll let you guys decide what that means about his potential BBEG status.
Ok, I thought he had invaded our head without permission and started exerting an unreasonable level of control over our body, life, and affairs, to the point that we'd be justified in doing this to be free of him.

Trapping him forever in absolute solitary confinement woulda been a pretty lit prank tho lmao
That's certainly true now, but originally there was no violent takeover. It was you who lept at the chance he offered for grand adventure. In your defense, though, he left out some key details: eg, "you can't go back afterwards".

It took months of no progress before your relationship began to curdle, during which he gradually ramped up the nastiness. You'd hoped your recent success would put things to rights, but it seems permanent.
So 2 weeks or so would be fair and justified, but forever would be a bit too much.
I suppose that's up to your discretion!

This takes it. Writing.

We've hit page 10, but I'll keep updating daily until the thread's dead. Redux #3 will be approx. 1-1.5 weeks after that point-- likely the weekend of the 25th. I'll keep you guys posted.
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>Gee whiz, how'd you learn all this stuff, mister?
>What about two weeks or so? That'd be fine, right?

The conversation is clearly at an end, and what have you received for your troubles? Non-answers and an earful to boot. There has to be some way to salvage things.

Ellery seems pleased he has this all handled. "Okay, okay. Just give me a second to reconstruct the room and we'll get you out—"

"Pardon me, reconstruct the room?" You don't care. God, do you not care. But he likes talking, and you like not leaving.

"Oh, it's not… It's less complicated than it sounds, really. It's just slotting everything back where it wants to go. It's deconstruction that's the hard part, because— Nature hates a vacuum? I think that's right. Yeah, Nature hates a vacuum. Or maybe the closer to reality the better, I'm not sure which. Anyways, uh, yes. Reconstruction. It's not as if the original room is gone, it's just… elsewhere. The subconscious, I guess you'd say, real deep—"

The content is stupefying, but you're riveted by his speech regardless. It's a great thunderous downpour of words, rapid and jumpy and punctuated with powerful (but unhelpful) hand gestures. It stands in great contrast to the laconic answers of a few minutes ago— he's comfortable talking about this, maybe excited. Does he not discuss the minutiae of this very often? You couldn't fathom why.

"Wow!" you say when he stops for breath (somewhere around "conceptualization"). You have your gigawatt smile on. "That's, um, fascinating. How'd you learn to do all this?"

"Oh, uh…" Another misstep. There's the caged-animal look again, along with a glimmer of something deeper-set. Something blue? But that's nonsensical: blue is neither an emotion nor the color of Ellery's eyes, which tend more pukey brownish. And stuperstition is the nemesis of sense, you're told daily.

But still. It's blue.

"…Uh, I don't… it's mostly intuition… and experimenting. Mostly experimenting. Self-taught. That's for me, though, I don't… I'm not sure if that's a good example to follow. Ask someone else."

"Maybe I will." You have also been considering something else. "What if what is just a temporary trapping-forever? You know, one week, two weeks. Super ethical and so on."

"For the snake?" Ellery rakes his hand backwards through his hair, which has the net effect of making him look electrically-charged. "Gods-fucking-damn, what did the thing do to you? Did you step on it and it bit you?"

"It's he," you say defensively. "And no, that's not it. But he does deserve it."


You can't tell him. You can't explain it, not to him or to anybody you know or don't know. They don't understand it. They'll mock you. He's already mocking you. Why didn't you sic the alligators on him? Then you wouldn't have to deal with this, and you'd already be home, and everything would've been okay.

You make a mental note to sic alligators on Ellery the next chance you get.

"Nothing, right? Anyways, no. I am not quarantining your snakein my head— for any period of time. Because I'm not animal control, firstly, and I don't even think it'd work. It's not real, you said."

"What about a day?" you push. "A day. That's not very long. It'd probably be a vacation for him, honestly, it'd be the right thing to do…"

"Lottie! For fuck's sake! You're some friend of my ex who broke into my head and ruined the wallpaper! I don't do favors for people I have no reason to trust!"

You'll admit it— you're a little wounded. "I mean, we did a whole expedition. Out of the goodness of my heart. I thought that counted for a little."

He doesn't say anything. And then he drops the pose he'd stiffened into (remarkably angular, like a Thallean portrait). "…Yes. Right. The expedition. I don't— I think this, uh, considerably outweighs it."

"I saved your life," you say with nary a tremor. It's true. You decided not to kill him.

"Yes, well." His neck is very tense. All the tendons are bulging out in a deeply unsightly (and surely uncomfortable) fashion. "Then this makes us even, okay?"

>[1] No, it's not okay! He ought to owe you a *life debt*. Which means you get favors, forever. That's how it traditionally works. You've read about this, for God's sake. [Roll.]
>[2] So, uh, who else should you talk to about freaky mind… stuff? Since he's clearly cagey for no good reason whatsoever.
>[3] Muster up the courage to explain your Richard situation and see if it'll convince him. Even if will be horrible and embarrassing and he's just going to say it's your fault. [Roll.]
>[4] Okay, okay. Yes. (You'll just force him into it later.) Get on with it.
>[5] Write-in.

As ever, [Roll] options indicate they'll require a roll if they win.

>"This makes us even because why, I came in here and messed with the wallpaper? Good to know you value your own life about as highly as imaginary wallpaper."


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