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/qst/ - Quests

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Your name is Charlotte Fawkins, and you are an excellent modeler, an amateur detective, and the one true regent-in-waiting. You are also trapped in Nowhere, Underwater, where you're forced to listen to the dubious whims of the snake that lives in your head. You've currently been booted out of someone else's head, and are- are- where are you?


A richly appointed room. A man clad all in white. A man clad all in red. They're lurid against the overriding shadow.

The man in white flicks open a brass lighter and holds its flame to the cigarette clenched between his teeth.

The man in red coughs. "For God's sake," he complains. "Why do you always smoke Shearwaters? They smell like burning asphalt, I'm sure they taste no better…"

"What?" The man in white takes a contemplative drag. "You don't like to flirt with death, Henry?"

"I'd like to offer death a better pack of coffin nails, is what I'd like to do. Why are we at your house on a weeknight? Aren't you worried about waking-"

"Nell? She's out. And the kid sleeps like a sack of rocks."

"If you say so." The man in red coughs again. "Ugh. How is she?"

"Nell? Or-"

"No, the kid. Haven't seen her in ages. Wish you'd bring her Uncle Henry around a little more often, huh?"

Another drag. "You're a liability, sorry. She's 5. I can't have her knowing-"

"Yeah. Too much blood." The man in red kicks mournfully at the tile. He coughs a third time. "What have we ever seen out of this, huh? Decades of heartache and hassle for nothing. Jackshit."

"Please, Henry, there's a child in the house." The man in white considers his cigarette, then strides to a nearby ashtray (full, already, of discarded Shearwaters) and stubs it out. He lights another. "And it's not for us. You know that. It's for… the future."

"Yeah, I know." The man in red sighs and pushes aside the hem of his jacket. A tortoiseshell-handled knife glistens at his belt. "The future. Are you ready?"

"As ever," says the man in white. He has pulled on white silk gloves, so clean and shining there seems to be nothing else in the room.
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There is almost nothing in the room. The room might be called white, but it would be an acrid, toxic kind of white, the white of bleached paper or drywall with the paint thinned off it. A white that could corrode stainless steel. All there is to break it: an ashen wraith of a woman, and a man in a blue teeshirt with black mist for a face.

The mist, having curled off the man as he walked, lingers in the white air like an afterimage. There are six faint rings of it. He is working briskly on a seventh.

"-so, you see, there is just absolutely no way I can compensate… I mean, what does it look like, I'm made of sterling platinum? It's extortment, is what it is, and any sane man... or broad, any sane, uh, person would agree-"

The woman, trapped in the center of the mist-rings, pushes her bangs aside with emaciated fingers. She whispers something inaudible.

"-prosecute the git- huh? Did you say something?" The man apparently did not expect a dialogue. He wheels towards her.

Her voice crackles like aged paper. "...who..'r..you..."

"Aw, criminy." The man turns away and begins again to pace— faster, this time. "It's always the same thing with you, Sophie, isn't it? 'Who're you...' 'Where am I...' 'What am I doing here...' You'd think a broad would learn a little more conversationing than that, but I guess you're the special type."


"Aw." The man examines the clipboard kept unconsciously clenched in his left hand. "Are you not... okay, Sophie's next up. Uh, lessee, Cora?"

The woman doesn't say anything.

"Probably right. Not like it makes any difference— none of you conversate worth a godsdamn. Criminy, it's all I do to keep you happy, and all I get is questions… 'ooh, who're you...' Does it matter? It doesn't matter. You oughta be happy I make the effort at all-"

A shrill ringing cuts him off. The man pulls a silver pocketwatch from his back pocket and checks the time, then crosschecks with his clipboard. "-See, look, it's Sophie's fifteen now. I'll be seeing you… maybe not next week, lots on the plate, but we'll see about week after, huh? Cheers."

He vanishes, all at once, except for the mist. It drifts silently upwards until out of sight.

The woman's bangs fall back into her face. She makes no move to correct them.
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"Energy is neither created nor destroyed, only transferred," Richard says. He sits across the little wrought-iron cafe table, hands folded. His expression is enigmatic. "Would you believe this applies to other things, Charlie?"

"I don't know." You do know, somewhere in the dull pit in your stomach, but you don't want to. "Sorry, why are we-"

"Nevermind the energy, then." He waves it off. "How do I put this… we're dead."

"Oh." You knew that too. "Permanently?"

"Exceedingly so. Would you like to know why?"

His eyes are all wrong. You would know: you've been staring at them for the better part of ten minutes. They're not the clear icy blue you've come to expect— they're aestival blue, more poolwater than meltwater, more like your eyes.

"Bureaucracy," you say.

"Bur… yes." He blinks. "We've been killed by the metaphysical bureaucracy, Lottie, which for my money has to be one of the worst ways to go. Would you care to explain why for us?"

"You've been eating away at me," you say matter-of-factly, "and replacing it with you."

"No hard feelings, I hope."

You can't muster the energy to care. "But you can't destroy me, only transfer me. You have to store it. And you've been storing so much for so long that you're split exactly down the middle. You're half me."

"As are you," he says. "We've eaten our own tail."

"So... we're a redundancy. There's no reason for two fundamentally identical people to exist at the same time— it's not efficient. There must be a merger."


"There has been a merger."


"We're… fucked. We're dead."

"Yes." His smile is tinged with regret. "There's no coming back from this one, Lottie. Would you like to toast to it?"

There are two flutes of champagne on the cafe table.

"Sure." You pick one up by the stem. "Oh, I don't know what…"

Richard picks up the other. "That's okay."

The champagne glitters in the sunlight. You swirl it idly about the glass. "I don't blame you," you say. "You were just trying to do your job."

"Thanks," he says. Then: "How's this. To oblivion."

"To oblivion."

You drink.
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You wake up with bubbles in your throat. You're on your cot. You've slept in your clothes again.

«Welcome back, sunshine.»

Richard— snake-Richard, frigid and dead-eyed, ribbon on— hovers lazily above you. «I hope you enjoyed yourself, because you just wasted an extraordinary amount of time.»

"What?" It's too bright in here. Ribbon on?

«Don't be petulant: you heard what I said. All those hours and not a drop of law. Pathetic.»

"But… you weren't…" You feel like you're missing something. It's too bright in here, and all the edges are too sharp. "You didn't even bring that up. You were fine with just- I thought you wanted to know what was going on, too."

«I could not care less about trifling human concerns.»

You brush your hair out of your face. "You did, though. And you were making jokes."

«Prove it.»

It's never worth it.

«You cannot prove it. And even if I *was* committing… frivolities, it was entirely your fault. You are a distraction and, frankly, a menace.»

"Sure." You've been called worse. "So what, you want a do-over? Go back in there?"

Richard twists unhappily. «It can't be done. He's locked down, Charlie, getting back in will be difficult at best. We must occupy ourselves until he becomes distracted.»

Locked down? You didn't think you left on awful terms… sure, you demanded to know if his pwecious wallpaper was more valuable than his life, and that sparked a little argument. You may have called him some names. But not horrible names. You were evicted, you must've dragged yourself back to your tent… But what about the white and the red? And the wrought-iron table?

«Yes, that means you can do your little pet investigation. Just don't draw too much attention to yourself. I know that's difficult for you.»

"Any suggestions where to start?"


>[1] Before you start on anything, you ought to figure out what you've already obtained. Sit down and go through the clues so far.
>[2] Report back to Madrigal. With all the stuff you have already, you might be able to negotiate for a raise.
>[3] Find someone who can help you with the mysterious coded letter. You didn't see anything like it in the manse, which makes it even stranger.
>[4] Hunt down "C". It might not be related, but Ellery's reaction is too interesting to pass up.
>[5] Ask Richard where the ribbon came from. You didn't think it was a permanent fixture.
>[6] Ask Richard if he's possibly been, uh, "eating away at you"?
>[7] Write-in.
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>Last time on Drowned Quest Redux
You broke into someone else's tent, then someone else's head, wherein you discovered a number of interesting things.

>Clue Dossier (UP TO DATE - recommended reading): https://pastebin.com/wRUPtQqL
>Current Objectives: https://pastebin.com/W6N0hdaT
>Character Sheet: https://pastebin.com/rYS6SkA2

Be nice, have fun, let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

Sessions for the first 1-2 days of the thread, once a day updates for the rest of it. There may be some other sessions in there too, who knows?

>Why is this so late?
I had no WiFi for three and a half days due to the Calfornia blackouts currently going on. Thanks PG&E!
well damn I named it Drowned Quest 3 rather than Drowned Quest Redux 3

guess we're back to February, folks :)
>[6] Ask Richard if he's possibly been, uh, "eating away at you"?
Not that he'll likely give a straight answer but it's worth asking
>[5] Ask Richard where the ribbon came from. You didn't think it was a permanent fixture.
>[6] Ask Richard if he's possibly been, uh, "eating away at you"?
Even if he doesn't talk back, we can at least prod him while collecting our thoughts

>[2] Report back to Madrigal. With all the stuff you have already, you might be able to negotiate for a raise.
She'll hunt us down if we don't. Might as well catch her on the back foot instead!

Writing. I may have to leave briefly in the middle of it, here's hoping not.
>Ask questions.
>Report in.

"Oh, okay," you say, and flop back onto the cot.

«No, you're not supposed to do that. You're supposed to…» Richard squirms. «Do something.»

"Well, gee, what if I don't want to? And it's not like I got any suggestions, so I'm just plumb out of ideas..." You close your eyes. "And besides, I had some real vivid dreams I probably ought to contemplate."

«Don't be stupid, that was probably the crystals. As usual, it's irrelevant nonsense. Get up this instant.»

"Hmm." You stretch your arms, eyes still closed. "One of the dreams was about us, I think."

«It doesn't matter.»

"I don't remember that much. It was outside in the sun, there was a table… You said 'we've eaten our own tail,' and I said, uh… 'you've eaten away at me.'" You open your eyes. "I don't suppose you know what that would mean?"

«How could I possibly, Charlotte.» You prefer to imagine that he sounds annoyed. «It's tommyrot.»

"So you're not doing that?"


He might as well have told you to pass the salt, for all the emotion he puts into it. You can't stand it. No emotion in the voice, and certainly none in the snake— it's just an animal. With, to be fair, a ribbon.

A ribbon.

"Hey," you say. (It got a rise out of him before— maybe it will again.) "I was wondering, uh, why the ribbon's still there."

«I don't know what you mean.»

"You know, the..." You mime tying a bow at your throat. "The ribbon."

«You bought it in town. For yourself originally, I believe, but then you got one of your flights of fancy. So here we are.»

Something twinges.

"Oh, right," you say, and sit up. "It's been a long couple of days. I thought it'd come off or something, though."

«Unfortunately, I did too.»

You manage a smile at that. "Look, I'll get up now. How 'bout that." You clamber to your feet, smooth out the front of your coat, and reconsider. You unbutton the coat instead and drape it over the side of the cot. (Maybe it's bad luck?)

Richard settles around your shoulders. «I don't know if I can approve, Charlie. The white makes you look younger. Prettier, you know.»

You stop, halfway out the door. He's right. What were you thinking? You turn on your heel, retrieve the coat, and button it back up.

«Good girl. Now, we were going…»

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If you don't hunt down Madrigal fast, she's going to bust through the flap of your tent and ruin your day once again. You emerge, squinting into the sunlight, and march past untidy "art installations" (you know what art looks like, and a pile of differently-sized rocks isn't it), unsteady card tables, and people you barely recognize. "Hey, princess!" hoots a man you don't recognize at all. "Whereya goin?"

You wheel on him, all ready to give him a piece of your mind, when the base of your spine flares white-hot. «You cannot afford to get distracted, Charlotte. You have wasted enough.»

The man's chuckles follow you all the way to Madrigal's tent, easily recognizable by the sign marked "MADRIGAL'S TENT". You try the flap, only to find it tied from the inside. Is she hiding…?

«Maybe it's possible that other people's schedules don't conform to your whims.»

"Mad's not here," says a voice from behind you. "Heard she's in town."

You cease trying to find a way to look inside and turn. It's another man you don't recognize, this one in a battered grey longcoat. He quirks an eyebrow. "You here about the False Gods, too?"


He crosses one leg over the other. "Guess not, then. I'd guess it'll be another 40 minutes before she's back. You're welcome to wait."

>[1] Wait it out for Madrigal.
>>[A] In silence. You're capable of making idle chitchat, but it doesn't mean you want to.
>>[B] Sorry, who is this guy?
>>[C] Sorry, False Gods?
>>[D] Sorry, does he know Madrigal?
>>[E] Write-in.
>[2] Head to town to find her first. You might be able to catch her off-guard— even better.
>[3] This is too much work. Do something else first instead. (See prior options.)
>[4] Write-in.
> [2] Continue the ambush! If nothing else, you'll get to see what the towndwellers classify as "wares" today
>[2] Head to town to find her first. You might be able to catch her off-guard— even better.
>Head into town.

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>Find her in town.

"Uh, that's alright," you say. You're not sure you want to be alone with this man, who's sizing you up with hawkish intensity. "Thank you anyways," you add, out of politeness. Old habits urge you to curtsey. You ignore them.

"Oh?" The man rubs his chin. "Do as you will. Delighted to make your acquaintance regardless, Miss…"

Would it look strange if you avoided the question? It would. "Charlotte," you say, and stick your hand out. "But Lottie's better."

He takes your hand, wholly unprepared for the trap you're about to spring. "A pleasurgrk-"

You have him siezed in an iron grip- now all the more iron, thanks to Richard's devilry with your hands. You smile broadly and pump once. "You too!"

He withdraws slower than you would've preferred, but you hope that's a new measure of respect in his eyes. "Be seeing you," he says.

Be seeing you? You're striding down the beaten trail to town in a funk. Be seeing you? Is it a threat? A flirtation? And why didn't you say anything? How come you've been lacking in comebacks recently? You're losing your touch-

«I'm telling you, it's the peacoat. I don't know what you were thinking, honestly, going out like this.»

Richard is not helping.

You've been down this way so many times in six months that you could probably do it with your eyes closed. You don't, though, for what the Corcass lacks in civility or basic urban amenities it makes up for in a strange sort of charm. This time of year, limp straggles of seagrass bow under the weight of spiked flowers. Tiny crustaceans buzz between them, eels lurk within them. It's not beautiful, but it has interest.

It's when the mud and grass fades to cobblestone that you know you're close to town. Lindew's Landing was built upon the ruins of some ancient city, and as a result is rife with obelisks and catacombs and untranslatable runes. It's not altogether to your taste, but you still enjoy your weekly trips: though scarcely a hundred fifty rustics live there, it's better than the utter backwater of camp. There is a general store, a speakeasy (the accurately named "Better Than Nothing"), a newspaper, and the offices of a half-dozen lapsed professionals. Really, it's practically bustling.

The question is: where is Madrigal? You failed to ask what she was actually doing in town, and you have little knowledge of what she does in general. You suppose you could ask around, but do you want people to know you're looking for her? Maybe you just ought to loiter, but you don't want to miss her, either…

>[1] Ask the locals if they've seen her. Better get to the point.
>[2] Kill time by looking around in a building. You'll either find her there, or you'll catch her when she leaves. (General store, speakeasy, newspaper, offices?)
>[3] Wait by the trailhead out of town. There's technically ways out that don't go past it, but you doubt she'd want to wade through the Fen for no reason.
>[4] Write-in.
>[3] Wait by the trailhead out of town. There's technically ways out that don't go past it, but you doubt she'd want to wade through the Fen for no reason.
>[1] Ask the locals if they've seen her. Better get to the point.
Don't start halfassing now!
Ran into something unexpected. I'll attempt to get one more update out tonight, sorry guys.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

You just can't get rid of me. Rolling.
You can actually get rid of me, via me very nearly falling asleep at my laptop. Sorry for the garbage session, guys, this wasn't a great day for my schedule but I wanted to rush it after the blackout ruined my weekend plans.

Vote is re-opened should anybody wish to break the tie, if not I'll continue with [1] tomorrow afternoon when I'm not passing out. Have a good night.

Halfass everything
It'll all work out fine.

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>Loiter by the signpost.

You wouldn't know where to begin, really, by asking around. You could try sliding into the Better Than Nothing, but the incident a couple weeks back may or may not have scuttled your good reputation there. And it's not like there's a crowd milling around outside, either— mid-afternoon like this, everyone's out on the mud flats. What is Madrigal doing?

It's probably something excruciatingly boring, you rationalize, as you wait by the signpost. Paying a tab. Purchasing a gallon of paint. Meeting a friend. Not worth your time. You'd be better off watching grass grow, really. Why are you even here?

«Remain focused.»

You shouldn't be waiting here. You should be out there, doing anything at all. Whatever other people do to occupy their time. Was it ever about the crown, or was it just something to keep yourself distracted? Why are you overcome with ennui? It'd be the waiting. It prompts introspection, and you've long since decided that introspection is an appalling poison to the noble spirit.

«Charlotte, please.»

How long has it been? Five minutes? Twenty? Too long, in any case. You shift restlessly against the signpost, which presses into your back and neck. It's a fifteen-minute walk to town, the same back, leaving Madrigal just ten minutes to finish and start to leave. If the man was accurate, anyways. Be seeing you? God. You hope you broke his fingerbones.

«Highly unlikely, unless he has an exceptionally high tolerance for pain. You would have been able to tell.»

Thanks, Richard, for that. You can never tell if he's being dense or just annoyingly obtuse. You can never tell anything with him, really…

"Hello? Charlotte?"

The world snaps back into focus. Madrigal has her hands on her hips (what ones she has, anyways) in front of you. She is wearing a bomber jacket two sizes too big over her tank top— clearly borrowed, or possibly stolen. She looks more annoyed than concerned.

"Hello? What are you doing here?"

There is a clipboard under her arm. You attempt to arch an eyebrow, fail, and raise both instead. "I could ask the same thing, really—"

"We're not fucking doing this. You're not supposed to be in town, you realize? You're blacklisted? You're way too lucky nobody's here right now…"

"Okay," you say, and count on your fingers. "One, I was not blacklisted from town… I wasn't even blacklisted from the Nothing, okay? I was greylisted. It's a trial period, not a full ban. Two… that's it, actually."

"You got banned from the Nothing?" She guffaws. "Gods, the guy lets fish in there! Did you spike the drinks? Steal someone's gal?"

"No!" You're flushing again. "It was a misunderstanding. And not the point, anyways."

"You're right, the point was that you're blacklisted."

"I'm not—"

"From town. Margo doesn't want you anywhere, and she's got everyone in her palm, too. Did Monty leave that out?"

You don't say anything.

"Guess so. So how about we not stay here, and you can— sorry, did you say what you wanted again?"

>[1] Give her the bare minimum. Ellery says he'll stop being freakish. Problem solved. Can you get a raise?
>[2] Tell her everything. You want her perspective on what you found, assuming she believes you.
>[3] Do some kind of balance. (What parts do you want to tell Madrigal?)
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Tell her everything. You want her perspective on what you found, assuming she believes you.
Keep talking until it's obvious we're starting to lose her. Try to flip it back on her if we can, work out why this is so important to her
>[1] Give her the bare minimum. Ellery says he'll stop being freakish. Problem solved. Can you get a raise?
Rolled 3 (1d3)

>Tell her everything, no matter what

>Tell her as much as she'll believe

>Get straight to the point

Rolling and then writing.
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>Tell her the bare minimum.

"Yes," you say. "Ellery said he'd stop being weird."

Madrigal folds her arms. "What?"

"No need to thank me," you add, pointedly. Madrigal does not look like she wants to give you a raise. She looks like she wants to deck you. For once, you're not sure why.

She's considering her words hard. "Did he… say that? What did he say, exactly?"

It's funny— in the harsh light of day, the entire Ellery escapade doesn't quite seem like it actually happened. All your memories of it have a fuzzy, dreamy tinge to them. You think. "Something like... 'she doesn't need to worry about me, I'll talk to her'?"

Did she always look quite so purple?

"So…" She is grinding her foot into the cobblestone. "Either you're lying through your teeth… or you told him it was me?"

"Hey," you say. "Hey. You never said it was supposed to be a secret—"

"I thought it was implied! By… everything!"

You refuse to be blamed for this. "Well, that's your fault, isn't it?"

"No, it's not my fault that you—" Madrigal realizes she's on the verge of yelling and lowers her voice. "—that your common sense has been rotted away by years of unremitted hedonism, you bitch. You have just ruined the entire point, don't you realize?"

You are standing on your tiptoes in a futile attempt to match her height. "Excuse me?! I delivered exactly what you wanted less than a day after you asked. Do you want his head on a platter, too? Should I lick your boots?"

She leans towards you. "You don't!" she breathes. "You know what's going to happen? He is going to talk at me."


"No. At me. For hours, probably, and in all that time he's not going to say a single thing. Do you know how good he is at dodging questions? He's a fucking acrobat. And then he will go back to not talking at all."

"He sounded sincere," you protest. "He got all sad-eyed, okay? I know what sad eyes look like."

"Yeah! That's just how he looks! And sounds! He's very good at this!" Madrigal throws up her hands. "You got played, and therefore I got played. Congratulations. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"

>[1] In your defense, he was literally openly threatening you, okay? Would she rather you were never seen again?
>[2] Excuse you? Would it have killed her to tell you all this *before* you went to talk to him? Are you supposed to read minds?
>[3] Yeah! Is she aware he has a freaky mind tower full of freaky mind stuff? It seems kind of relevant, doesn't it?
>[4] She never actually said how this ruined everything! What's so bad about him knowing?
>[5] Just how long has this been going on? What has *she* been trying?
>[6] Write-in.
>[2] Excuse you? Would it have killed her to tell you all this *before* you went to talk to him? Are you supposed to read minds?
>"Congratulations, you played yourself."
>"Congratulations, you played yourself."

Writing! I love it when random other things come up in the middle of a session!
5, then attempt 3, in a try for a good gloat.
Alright, fine, I'll take this too. But try to get your votes in on time!
>Congrats, she played herself.
>Why didn't she *tell you*?
>So what has she been doing?
>Is she aware of the whole weird mind… thing?

"Hey!" You smile. "Congratulations are due to you, too. From the sounds of it, by not telling me anything… you played yourself? I think that's how it goes?"

Madrigal fumes. "I…"

"Just another in a long string of failures, huh? What's that… fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me… Four, five, six times is still shame on me, I believe."

"Oh, for fuck's sake, it's not like that! We can—" Madrigal cranes to look behind you. "Look, let's get out of the open, okay?"

You keep the smile on as you lead the way down the trail and into the underbrush. "Oh, so what is it like?"

She crosses her arms defensively. "I'm not getting yanked around, okay? It's not malice. He's just… I don't know, he's skittish."

"Uh huh," you say.

"You know, you try to sit down and talk about one thing, and he's off rambling about… gods, I don't know. It was blood for a long time, but he's probably onto something else now."

You nod.

"It's cute, you know, until you have something serious. Then it's…" She puts one hand to her cheek. "Why am I telling you this? Look at you. You're eating it up."

Just a little bit. You tone your smile down to polite levels. "I wouldn't have to if you'd told me this before, you realize? It's relevant?"

"Yeah, well…" Madrigal gestures with the clipboard. "I didn't expect you to go ask him to his face, okay? I wrongly assumed there would be a little more subterfuge involved. So fuckin' sue me, I guess."

"Oh, that won't be needed. I'd just like to know, uh, anything else you've conveniently omitted? Preferably something interesting."

"You're an awful person, you know that?" Your smile must've widened again. Darn. "Your enjoyment is just radiating off you in, like, waves. Fuck. Do I have to give you the Ellery crash course? Seriously?"

"Only if you want an effective investigation!"

"You're despicable. Fine. Fine. Do you want diagrams? A flow chart, maybe?"

You stick your hands in your pockets. "Words ought to be fine."

"Gods, I don't…" She leans back against a tree and plays with the zipper of her jacket. "Look, it's not really that complicated. He's— he was a live wire. Always moving, always talking, always on. But gods, good luck getting close."

"Did you get close?"

"I think— I don't know. I think so. But it's like trying to catch an eel barehanded, yeah?"

You nod. You feel like you've been doing a lot of nodding.

"He cares, though. Cared, I guess, I don't know. Way down. I think he cares a lot."


"He's not a bad person."

"Never said he was," you say. "So, you're not together, clearly."

"Hah." It's more of a sharp exhale. "It was mutual."


"I couldn't stand it, in the end. The… everything. I don't know what he thought."

Eureka. There it is. You pounce. "You don't know why he wanted to break up with you? How is that possible?"

She shrugs limply. "You know, it's… Ell. He gets that way. And by the time I really wanted to know, he was already…"

"Shut down?"

"Yeah. So it's still a mystery."

This is the one. "So… you didn't send me because you were worried. You sent me to find out why he broke up with you."

"You're a bitch." Madrigal narrows her eyes, but there's no real joy in it. "I am worried about him."


"Okay, a little. You can't blame me, though. You'd want to know."

You pump your fist. She scowls. "Be mature."

Ha! So that's 'real motive' crossed off the list. Richard ought to be celebrating this with you, but he's asleep, or something. You can't win them all.

"Just so I don't retread any ground," you continue jovially, "what have you done to investigate this?"

She shrugs again. "I tried asking around, but it was kind of a delicate topic, you know? And then I mostly gave up, except for trying to corner him every so often."

"Okay…" It occurs to you that something may be missing from this picture. "Say, would you happen to know anything about a… a manse? You know, a sort of mind, uh, house—"

"I know what a manse is, godsdamn. I don't live under a rock. What of it?"


>[1] You've well and truly softened her up. Time to dump your entire list of findings on her and see what she thinks.
>[2] Test the waters first. Does she know if Ellery, say, has one? Has she ever possibly been in it? Maybe seen anything weird?
>[3] No, nothing, just a question, ha ha. Change the topic. You'd be happy to investigate this stupid breakup thing, but you're going to have to adjust your rate based on new information…
>[4] Write-in.
>Test the waters first. Does she know if Ellery, say, has one? Has she ever possibly been in it? Maybe seen anything weird?
>[1] Crush her spirit under a mountain of new and interesting information!

Ask if he has penpals


>Also ask about penpals

D&D is over. Writing!
>Ease into it.
>Is she aware of any penpals?

You swiftly recover. "Uh, it's possible it could be relevant. Do you think Ellery might have one?"

"I don't know, probably. Doesn't everyone?"

Richard had said something to that effect. "Uh, yes. But he never talked about one? You never visited?"

"Visited? No, of course not. I've heard it's possible, but…" She sticks her hands in her pockets. "It strikes me as pretty fucking skeevy, yeah?"

Ah, the vulgar patois of the lower classes. You'll try to be polite. "Skeevy?"

"You know. Gross? Creepy? You'd have to be both to want to mess with someone else's head?"


"So yeah, no. I never visited. Now, did he ever talk about… gods, I don't know, maybe? Maybe indirectly, but I didn't take any special note of it if he did. Does that answer the question?"

"Yeah," you hasten on, "sure. Are you aware of his having any communications with anyone? Writing letters… on walls, maybe…"

"On walls? What?" Madrigal squints. "Sorry, did you say how this was relevant? Did Ellery talk about a manse, or…"

God blessed.

>[1] Yep, that's right, he did. Good guess. About those communications?
>[2] Yep, that's right, he did. Good guess. About a potential renegotiation?
>[3] She can't get mad at you— she did say she didn't care how you did this, right? Walk her through it. (If you want to leave anything out, specify.)
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Yep, that's right, he did. Good guess. About a potential renegotiation?
>[1] Yep, that's right, he did. Good guess. About those communications?
>[1] Yep, that's right, he did. Good guess. About those communications?


>Hahahahaha yes of course
>So what I was saying

"Uh, bang on," you say. "Right. Yes. Good job."

(Here Richard is supposed to say something nasty. The absence of this worries you. Sure, the snake's right here around your shoulders— but you're becoming increasingly convinced that he's not in it at the moment.)

Madrigal looks confused, and it's transparent why: she likes being right, but she doesn't like you agreeing with her. "…Uh," she says finally. "Yes."

"Excellent. So about potential communications…"

"It's possible? I'm not aware of anything, but I also didn't pry."

You stroke your chin knowingly. "This appears to be a pattern."

"Look, it's his life, okay? I wasn't about to go snoop through his mail for no reason—"

"So he did have mail!"

"…Yes?" Madrigal has given up on holding the clipboard and sets it down by her feet. "I guess so? Just local stuff, though, we're not on any kind of mail route. And I didn't read it." She pauses. "Gods, you're annoying. Has anyone ever bothered to tell you that?"

You're unconcerned. "No."

"Yeah, see, I thought so—"

"No, I'm just thorough, which you don't like. It exposes your complete failure at accomplishing anything yourself!" Your smile had slipped, probably due to your face beginning to ache. You prop it back up. "But it's okay, Maddie, I'm here to help you out. Are you aware of any recent moves Ellery may have undertaken? If so, when, and from where to where…"

"Okay, how is this relevant? What the fuck have you been doing today? I can buy Ellery talking about stupid mind stuff, that's one thing, but I don't believe you got him on about his mail. Or moving."

"I," you say haughtily, "have been investigating. Like you asked."

"That doesn't answer the question, though? You're giving me vapor to try and grab onto. If I had some context, I might be able to…"

She sees your face.

"Look, unless you tortured it out of him I really don't give a shit. Spill."

>[1] That might be what she claims, but it sure sounded like she cared. Keep your cards close to your chest about what you did.
>[2] That might be what she claims, but it sure sounded like she cared. Just tell her you went through his papers, and show her the ones you found for good measure.
>[3] Okay, now she extra can't blame you. Tell her about last night, and specifically the correspondence you found on the walls.
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] That might be what she claims, but it sure sounded like she cared. Keep your cards close to your chest about what you did.
I'm willing to bet we can trust her about as far as we can throw her.
Just the regular violations of privacy instead of the egregious
I agree with >>3901941
Even so better safe than sorry
>[1] That might be what she claims, but it sure sounded like she cared. Keep your cards close to your chest about what you did.
Never give info on someone else's terms.
>Loose lips sink ships

>It's fineeee

This is incredible so far.
>Hell naw.

"I'd rather not," you say primly, and fold your arms. "It's not really any of your business."

Madrigal sputters. "Not any of my— Charlotte, I am your fucking client! It's more my business than yours!"

"Okay, well, firstly…" You examine your fingernails in great detail. "You're not my client. You're my charity case."

"Yooou bitch—"

"I took this on out of the goodness of my heart, and you want to spit on that with 'transactions?' I simply can't allow it. Besides, my work is practically over, I don't see any reason to string things out…"

"Over? You- you- all you did was make things worse! Can you get that through your dainty fucking ear holes? You made things worse."

You're going to have to purchase a nail file. It escapes you how you've gone so long without one. "Hmm?"

"You made things worse! He's gonna make an insulting attempt to placate me, yeah, that's normal. But he's gonna do it knowing I asked someone to…" She drags both hands down her face. "Do you know how fucking embarrassing that is?"

"Maybe he'll appreciate it," you say mildly. "You know, it means you care? Doubt you showed too much of that, really…"

Madrigal, shaking, socks you in the jaw.

Is it supposed to hurt? You thought it was supposed to hurt. But it's just gone numb and staticky, like a leg you've sat on for hours. Your heart and head are pounding.

She looks almost as surprised as you are. "Sorry…" she mutters. "Sorry… Sorry…"

You don't say anything, only clutch your jaw.

"Fuck... sorry. Are you going to die? You look like you're going to topple over—"

«Oh, Charlie, Charlie. You're not going to die.»

Richard has shaken himself from his torpor, right on time.

«Punch her back.»

You've never punched anyone before.

«That's not a concern. You will be recieving guidance. If you do not punch her back, you are weak.»

You don't want to be weak, but…

«Then listen to me.»

>[1] Punch her back, with «guidance.» [Roll.]
>[2] Punch her back, without «guidance.» [Difficult roll.]
>[3] Shank her. You have a knife. [Roll.]
>[4] What does this make you? This makes you the victim, and she's (or is pretending to be) *guilty*. Milk this for everything it's worth.
>[5] Write-in.
File: 1 post ID anon.gif (856 KB, 448x223)
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Thank you! New reader? Just catching up?
>[1] Punch her back, with «guidance.» [Roll.]
>Do it.

[ID: 6/10]
[SV: 0/10]

3 1d100s-10 (+10 ANGRY! -20 You have no idea what you're doing!) vs. DC 40

>UNLOCKED: [Ophidian Force]: Spend 1 SV for every effective 10 DC of a strength check to automatically succeed. EX: DC 60 = 6 SV ["Swallow your pride, Charlie. You can't do everything yourself."]

>[Lex Talionis]: 5 ID -> 5 SV

[ID: 1/10]
[SV: 5/10]

>[Ophidian Force]: EDC 50 costs 5 SV. Check automatically succeeded. No roll required.

[ID: 1/10]
[SV: 0/10]

Rolled 77 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

Whoo catfight
Rolled 67 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

let's fuck her up, big bucks no whammies
Rolled 3 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

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>Falcon punch!
>Artificial Success [67, 57, 0 vs. DC 40]!

>[ID: 6/10]
>[SV: 0/10]

You know what? You're not going to stand here, gaping like a dead fish, clutching your bruised jaw, powerless while some uppity little harlot lies at you through crooked teeth. You are royalty, God-damnit, and you do not get punched!

(You do not punch, either, your good breeding cries, but you will not hear of it.)

The obstacle is, and at the moment it appears insurmountable, you really do not know how to go about it. You have never been in a scrap, fistfight, or dustup— never so much as a scuffle. Your knuckles are virgin white and your nose is straight and symmetrical. You have read about it, certainly, but the idea of putting words into action is wholly daunting. Do you go up with your arm? Or down?

«Listen, that's what I'm telling you.» The tinny radio-crackle of Richard's voice is oddly soothing. He is winding up your neck. «You don't have to worry about any of that, Charlotte. It would be my pleasure to take care of it.»

>[ID: 4/10]

God, that's nice of him. He does care about you, even if he doesn't show it sometimes. Well, most of the time. But it just makes you value this kind of thing more, doesn't it?

«I'm glad you've come around, Charlie. Now, do relax. It lessens complications.»

>[ID: 3/10]

Aside from the core of white-hot fury you're reserving solely for Madrigal (she's talking right now, like she thinks it will matter), you're already relaxed. Or something. Mostly, your head feels stuffed full of candy floss. Did the blow to your jaw knock something vital loose, something cold, sharp, rational? It doesn't bear thinking about.

>[ID: 2/10]

So you don't. And you don't think about the pinhole-camera black seeping into your vision. And you don't think about the tang of iron in your throat, or the bite of bitter smoke in your sinuses, or the inexplicable crushing sense that everything's just gone flat— though this is admittedly difficult.

>[ID: 1/10]

You just wait, because everything is going to be fine.

>[SV: 5/10]

«I appreciate your patience.» There is new gravel to Richard's voice. «The time is now.»

Madrigal's still talking! She must have taken your silence as tacit acceptance, which'll make this all the better. Should you say something along with the punch? Something cool? You think that's what's supposed to happen.

«What- no. Don't.»

Maybe. Yes. Just as soon as… are you waiting for something? If this drags on for too long, it'll look weird. Who punches someone back two minutes later? Not you. You're a girl of action.

Which is why you're punching her right now.

Right now.

Right… now.

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>[SV: 0/10]

There! You go rigid as invisible fire scorches up your spine and down your arm. Your hand flexes involuntarily. Madrigal sees it, pauses…

It's too late for her. You uncoil in a single languid, liquid motion— so casual an onlooker might believe it was serendipity your fist connected with her face. "SUCK IT!" you scream in extremely cool fashion, immediately disabusing any onlookers of this notion.

«Damn it.»

Madrigal sways for a second— there is startled betrayal in her eyes— and topples sideways, unconscious.

The fire in your arm dies out, and you feel like swaying, too. All of it- the candy floss, the smoke and iron, the pinhole vision- is gone, but you don't have anything to replace it. You just feel woozy and empty.

And Madrigal's out cold in front of you. God- God- God bless the King and all the ships at sea! Now what? What are you supposed to do, leave her here? Drag her back? What were you thinking? Oh, good job, Charlotte, where's Game Night now! You've gone and done it now, haven't you!

>[1] Write-in!
Well I've got no idea what to do. Victory dance, then punch out all witnesses?
>Look around to make sure there were no witnesses, then drag her into some shade and wander away guilty
> You really need a fucking drink after that.
>Check for witnesses
>Punch out all witnesses (if applicable)
>Drag Madrigal into shade
>Victory dance
>Find a drink

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>Check for witnesses
>Punch out all witnesses (if applicable)
>Drag Madrigal into shade
>Victory dance?
>Find a drink

Oh God, look at her! Her mouth hangs agape, her arms and legs are bent at odd angles, her chest rises and falls shallowly. Did you really do this? You didn't mean to hit with so hard, you didn't think you could…

«No, you meant every second of it. It wouldn't have happened if you didn't.»

Richard's lying to you. Like how he lies about everything.

«Not everything. Not when the truth is just as convenient. You wanted to hurt her badly. Maybe even kill her.»

You stare mutely at Madrigal's prone form.

«We'll make something of you yet, Charlie. Now, look, you can't just stand here. Someone could've seen that.»

Oh God, someone could've seen that! You whip around, clutching your jaw in one hand (it is really beginning to throb), and scan the treeline. It is empty. If someone did see it, they're long gone.

«There's nothing that can be done, then. Drag her out of sight.»

You don't see what's wrong with leaving her where she is. You're already off the trail and in the brush.

«It's good practice.»

Fine! You pick up Madrigal by the ankles and drag her behind an obliging tree. Her clothing is now totally smeared with mud and debris, but that's also fine. You don't care anymore.

«Now dance.»

"What?" you mutter. There is a hard limit to what you'll do without question. "Why?"

There is a short pause.

«You are supposed to want to. You're happy.»

You cradle your jaw. Madrigal is limp at your feet.


You don't move.

«We will have to work on this later, Charlotte. Now…»

You want a drink. It's the only idea in your head. You want a drink, preferably pink, preferably with an umbrella, also pink. A drink would fill the empty. A drink would let you forget this even happened. A drink would make Richard shut up.

But you've been (unjustly!) greylisted from the only establishment in town, and Monty is a moralistic prick who keeps alcohol banned from camp. So now what?

>[1] Wheedle your way back into the Better Than Nothing. So what if you're in exile? (And have an unpaid tab a fathom long?) You're also clearly in terrible need.
>[2] The guys out on the mudflats are sure to have a crate of something. It won't have umbrellas, and it's a considerable hike, but it's worth it, right?
>[3] You've heard *Madrigal* keeps a cache hidden somewhere in camp. And she won't even be awake to catch you! Pros: convenient location, extra up-yours. Cons: you don't know where it is, no umbrellas.
>[4] Oh, God, can't you just settle for the fake stuff? It's not like your body will know the difference. Find Eloise back at camp and convince her to make you a cocktail. She'll ask for something in return, but she won't screw you over too badly, probably.
>[5] Write-in.
>[1] Wheedle your way back into the Better Than Nothing. So what if you're in exile? (And have an unpaid tab a fathom long?) You're also clearly in terrible need.

Give us pink umbrellas or give us death.
>High standards.

>Settle for less.

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>Obtain something pink and umbrella'd at any cost.

You know what? A greylist doesn't mean anything, not really. It's just a suggestion. And you deserve it, anyhow. You've been through a difficult occasion. A trying occasion. And you're royalty! Jacques couldn't ban you if he tried. It'd be illegal, you think.

And anyways, you don't know anywhere else with cocktail umbrellas.

After a final check to ensure that Madrigal's still breathing (she is), you sidle back towards the trail— and nearly trip over the clipboard you failed to pick up earlier. For the sake of completeness, you give it a glance.

The handwriting is large and blocky, characteristic of someone with a thumb tuck grip or something similarly inefficient. "Headspace," it says across the top, then "ask Monty" underneath, underlined four times. "Ethical??" Finally, underneath it all, seven or eight completed tic-tac-toe boards.

You place the clipboard back where you found it.

Though you're a stone's throw from town, the trek back seems much longer than it had taken the first time. When you finally emerge from the underbrush, you're pleased (and concerned) to find nobody around, again. Is something afoot?

Well, whatever it is, it's probably none of your concern. You locate the Nothing immediately— it's one of a scant few buildings with a sign out front, and the only one with a real sign. The wood was hand-chopped, sawed, sanded, and painted, Jacques has told you proudly (multiple times), and the chain holding it up was scavenged off an ancient anchor. It shows, you think: the sign has a certain solid, dependable quality to it. It will still be there when everyone is dead and gone. It is Better Than Nothing.

«Remind me to lower the dose next time, please.»

You are brimming with- not confidence, exactly, but definitely something brittle and manic that could be mistaken for confidence in the wrong light. You want a drink, that is pink, and has an umbrella in it, and God save anyone or anything who stands in your path. You might just punch them, or something. (Your jaw really hurts now.)

There is the door to the Nothing standing in your way. You consider punching it, and then just open it, like how you're supposed to.

It's crowded for this hour. You count eight patrons: the fish in the corner, two Courtiers at a table, some body mod freak at the bar (is the glowing necessary?), a couple of identical burly types by the entrance, and… a city slicker? It must be. No one else would wear a skirt so high (it's just asking for leeches).

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And Jacques behind the counter, glaring at you like you'd just spread some vile rumors about him and/or his wife. (Which you did. But it was an accident, and anyways he did kind of deserve it.) "Out!" he barks, and gestures roughly outside. "Out! Out!"

"Hi Jacques," you sign, in a very moderate and reasonable fashion. "I need a drink."

"Get out!" he says, in a very (you think) non-moderate and non-reasonable fashion. Everybody is looking at you.

"Can we talk about this outside?" you continue, in an admirable show of patience. "It's very important. Do you still have the umbrellas?"

Jacques doesn't say anything.

«I think you broke something.»

After a long, long silence (you feel the heat of nine pairs of eyes on your neck), Jacques slams his towel onto the bar and stomps out to meet you. He looks you up and down with far less sympathy than you consider required.

"Your daddy better have gotten eaten by a shark," he snarls. "And he better have been loaded. You are paying all your tab."

(You briefly consider the amount of chit you carry on your person, which is zero, and tally that amount up with the amount of chit you own in general, which is also currently zero. You are flat broke.)

>[1] Don't be unreasonable, man. You don't even need the drink. You'll just take an umbrella and go.
>[2] Come on, Jacques, we're buddies. Buddies-buddies. Buddies-buddies-buddies. He makes a killing, anyways, what's one more drink?
>[3] Look at your jaw! (There's probably something, there, right?) Can't he see you've been through a lot? You're desperate! You're raving!
>[4] You will trade him some dirty gossip (not about himself) in return for one (one!) drink. Well, a pink drink. With an umbrella. How about that for a deal?
>[5] Write-in.
4 is probably a bad idea, he doesn't need to be reminded of the vile gossip we spread.

Do we have any income stream? Any way to make money?
>[1] Don't be unreasonable, man. You don't even need the drink. You'll just take an umbrella and go.
Give us
pink umbrellas
or give us

But really, maybe we could double back and get Madrigal's cache from the camp? Shouldn't be hard to find, with the morale boost from those umbrellas. Assuming we aren't going to be able to pay off that tab anytime soon.
> [4] You will trade him some dirty gossip (not about himself) in return for one (one!) drink. Well, a pink drink. With an umbrella. How about that for a deal?
Just call me mister bad decisions.

We almost died
You've never had a steady income stream in your life-- you consider jobs for "other people".
Up until now, you've subsisted off of savings you brought with you, as well as very occasional sales of figurines (though the cost of time and supplies generally outweighs the going price).

You've actually been broke for a while-- it just hasn't been relevant. Monty doesn't charge anything for a tent, and strictly you don't need to eat, so chit is just for """unnecessary""" things like modeling clay or cocktail umbrellas.

If you absolutely had to, you could make an active effort to sell your collection, or worse work odd jobs for people. But you have your pride to think about.
We need to collect taxes from our subjects
>3 and tell him about the alligators.
>Sob story. (With alligators.)

>Tit for tat.

>Please, sir, I want some more (umbrellas).


>Please roll me 3 1d100s +15 (+10 Visibly Bruised, +5 Alligator Tall Tale) vs. DC 80 (+20 "Greylisted", +10 Margo, +10 Unpaid Tab, -10 Soft Spot) to wheedle Jacques into giving you a drink.
Rolled 57 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Rolled 44 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Rolled 11 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>72, 59, 26 vs. DC 80

You're my QM not my dad...
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>Play for sympathy.
>72, 59, 26 vs. DC 80 - Failure!

"Come on, Jacques, we both know that's not going to happen." You prod your jaw gingerly. "Have a heart. Can't you see what kind of day I've been having?"

He purses his lips. "That's a bruise."

"It is. And do you know why I have a bruise?"

"I don't know," he says. "Maybe you claimed someone else was using their business as a front for an elaborate criminal empire, and they punched you for it? Wouldn't that be funny?"

You hold up both hands placatingly. "I see you have some unresolved resentments—"

He slams the door.

He slammed the door! On you! In your hour of need! Before you even started your list of tribulations! Before you could even ask for an umbrella! You pound wildly on the door, you holler "JACQUES!!" though it only heightens the pain to eyepopping levels— "JACQUES!! THAT'S NOT- THERE WERE ALLIGATORS TOO—"

The door opens a smidge. "Shut up!" Jacques hisses through it. "You are going to get yourself killed! Or worse!" He slams it shut again.

"Jacques…" you moan desperately. You are on the verge of tears, and it's only half because of the jaw. "Jacques… what's worse than… why is that going to…"

«This is a <disgrace>.» Richard, and the staccato burst of feedback that accompanies his words, stuns you into silence. «You are a <disgrace>. You are a <child>.»

He is tight, too tight, around your neck.

«That is all you are, Charlotte, underneath everything. You're not mature enough to tie your own shoes, let alone run a nation, and oh, you know it. You know it, Charlotte. But anything to make your <dead daddy> proud, isn't that right.»

Your father died before you were born.

«Whatever you like, Charlotte. You still know what he <wanted> for you. For the family. You'd do anything at all to live up to it. You'd jump to your death.»

He is pulsing with warmth.

«Too bad you can't do anything alone. You can barely do anything <with> assistance. 3 years to find it, how many more for it to work- a decade, maybe, at your rate. A decade of nothing but crushing water and people who hate you.»

You don't want that at all.

«Good. I don't want that for you, Charlotte. I want you to see the sunshine. I want you to see your family. But there's only so much I can do when you are chasing delusions every time I look away.»

You are crying softly. It's hard to tell, given you're wet, and everything else is wet. But you are.

«Since we're agreed. Give up on the stupid fucking <cocktail umbrella> and do as I say, now.»

If he had said anything else, anything at all, you would have done it. You would have agreed, immediately. But not the umbrella. The thought of the umbrella is probably the only thing keeping you from flying into a million glittery pieces. You WANT one. A PINK one.


Well, he's right.

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>[1] Give up on the umbrella. [+1 max Severalty. Richard will be pleased. You'll pull yourself together.]
>[2] Keep the umbrella. [+1 max Identity. Richard will be MEGA pissed. You'll remain a mess today.]

>[2] Keep the umbrella. [+1 max Identity. Richard will be MEGA pissed. You'll remain a mess today.]
Fuck dick
>[2] Keep the umbrella. [+1 max Identity. Richard will be MEGA pissed. You'll remain a mess today.]
Don't make me say it
Have you only been called a failure by your dad before? So lucky. Everyone calls me that.
fuk u snek. I could have trapped you forever in the recesses of Ellery's mind. FOREVER.
>[1] Give up on the umbrella. [+1 max Severalty. Richard will be pleased. You'll pull yourself together.]
>Fuck off!!


Rolled 81, 68, 52 = 201 (3d100)

Rolling for grip on reality
I'll be absolutely clear about the situation: I've been staring at a blank screen for most of today. I stared at it for a while when I announced I was writing, left, came back, and have now been staring at it for about another two hours. Extremely little writing has occurred.

I'll aim for two updates tomorrow and see if I can get over this hump. Massive apologies.
You didn't even write "the" with an extremely ornate T?
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>Keep the umbrella.

But nothing.

"No," you mumble.

«Sure, we can do it this way. <Again>. That's fine. That's good, Charlotte. Let us have a dialogue, because that always works. That's always fun and useful and productive. Let us choose to understand why you must cling to an all-consuming cloud of delusion. Let us <converse>. You'd like to start, I'd assume.»

"No," you mumble again. You barely registered any of that. Your jaw is throbbing quite hard. "What?"

«Explain why not.»

This you understand fully. He says "explain," but what he always means is "try to explain"— while he calmly points out every flaw in your reasoning, and all the reasons you're wrong, and also stupid. It never fails to convince you.

But though you may be wrong, and also stupid, it's not something you want to be convinced of right now. You don't want to try to explain. You just want an unbelievably pink umbrella, and maybe a drink to put it in. You just want to have something small and beautiful you didn't make yourself. It's not- it shouldn't be- a crime. Right? It shouldn't be. It's not. You can want things, if you want.


>[ID: 3/11]

You're crying a little less now.

«Phenomenal. You take what I do— you always do this, you realize— you take what I do, what I try to do for you, and then you twist it so I'm somehow in the wrong.» Richard sounds as if he's leaning very close to the microphone. He might be angry. «Damnant quod non intellegunt. Absolutely phenomenal.»

He is angry: the gibberish is the tell.

«It's not about the <umbrella>. I don't know why you're making it about the umbrella. It's about <you>, Charlotte, and the fact that you are sobbing in the middle of the public street <about> an umbrella, id est for no reason whatsoever.»

You're not sobbing. (It has subsided to a low sniffle.) It's not for no reason. And you think maybe people should see you cry in the middle of the street. Maybe they'll feel sorry for you. Maybe they'll give you an umbrella.

«You are completely off the reservation. You have a reputation to consider, Charlotte, despite your own best efforts to shred it. We are <leaving>.»

(Choices next.)
>[1] No we aren't. We are staying right here, and crying, until somebody notices us and cares about us. And that is that. [Roll.]
>[2] Okay, well, maybe we are leaving. The matter is how:
>>[A] The main trail. It's the least hassle. God forbid you run into Madrigal, though, and if you have attracted attention they'll know exactly where to find you. But that's just your nervous streak, probably. You have a very strong nervous streak, Richard tells you.
>>[B] The back way, past Tom's Cave. Less dangerous than cutting straight through the Fen, less conspicuous than the main trail. But Margo is probably there. Margo does not like you.
>>[C] Straight through the Fen. It's adventure! And nobody will follow you. But that might be for good reason.
>[3] Now that you've stood out here and cried rather loudly, maybe Jacques will pity you enough? And he'll get you a free drink? And he won't be mad at you?
>[4] Write-in.

No, I mostly wrote and rewrote the first few lines in between staring at the wall. Is this a good enough substitute?
Desperate times call for desperate muses. Blank walls get the job done.

>[2] Okay, well, maybe we are leaving. The matter is how:
>>[B] The back way, past Tom's Cave. Less dangerous than cutting straight through the Fen, less conspicuous than the main trail. But Margo is probably there. Margo does not like you.
Margo might be the lesser evil here. Less fuss, more energy for arguments.
>>[3] Now that you've stood out here and cried rather loudly, maybe Jacques will pity you enough? And he'll get you a free drink? And he won't be mad at you?

I mean, sure. Negotiation for more drink instead of umbrella is one of the steps of Grief.
>Back to the cave.

>Back to the bar (nice trips).

File: margo lindew.jpg (56 KB, 564x731)
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>Take the back way, past Tom's Cave.

Maybe you decided you've pushed things enough for one day. Maybe you were just too worn-out to argue. In any case, you're currently limping out of town; you're not using the main trail you came in on, but the rinky-dink side "trail" (it's little more than trampled mud) that meanders past Tom's Cave. You don't want to risk seeing Madrigal again, mostly.

It may not be worth it. The side "trail" doesn't seem at all designed for human use— its rocky switchbacks and thickets of mangrove roots would suit a persistent crab, maybe. Or a snake. Richard has relaxed his chokehold on your neck and sits instead in smug silence. You hope you won't find any leeches in your boots after this.

It takes maybe ten minutes to reach Tom's Cave, but it feels considerably longer. The water has turned sticky with warmth, and you keep finding yourself attempting to wipe sweat off your brow. Hell's steam vents must be raging today.

The cave is as nondescript as ever— little more than a drab hole in the ground. It's not important. You've moved on past the cave in your head. No, you're too busy staring at the two people outside it.

The first is Margo Lindew, who of everyone (unjustly) angry at you is possibly the angriest, probably the most powerful, and definitely the most vengeful. The old bag has enough spite in her to power a waterwheel.

The second is unmistakably Ellery. (You don't care what Ellery's last name is.) Why is Ellery here? He's not supposed to be here. He's supposed to be… you don't know, you just assumed he never left base camp. But here he is anyways, towering gawkily over Margo and gesticulating. Handsign.

Are they plotting against you? You want to know. You have to know. But imagine the earful if you got caught—!

>[1] Sidle as close as you can to see what they're talking about. Attempt stealth. [Roll.]
>[2] You know what? This is definitely your business! Walk straight up and interrupt them.
>[3] It's not worth the risk. Continue on back to camp.
>>[1] Sidle as close as you can to see what they're talking about. Attempt stealth. [Roll.]
>Sneak and spy

Richard loves sneaking and spying
>Stealth mode activate!

Please roll me 3 1d100s-15 (-10 Kind Of A Mess, -5 Distinctive Peacoat) vs. DC 40 (-10 Distracted) to attempt to sneak up on them.
Rolled 16 - 15 (1d100 - 15)

Rolled 80 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

like this?
Rolled 67 - 15 (1d100 - 15)

If this fails it's everyone else's fault
You've got to do 1d100+-15. It's funky that way.

>1, 65, 52 vs. DC 40

Not writing, yet-- I'm out and about. Will post later in the afternoon.
File: flechettes.jpg (150 KB, 1000x1000)
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>Sneak up.
>1, 65, 52 vs. DC 40 - Success!

Well, you have to know, don't you? It's just going to gnaw away at you if you don't. And how hard could just sneaking up be?

Not hard. It's not hard, actually— Margo and Ellery both seem pretty distracted by whatever they're discussing. You just avoid stepping on anything too noisy, slide between the least-dirty trees, and find yourself in comfortable line-of-sight to the conversation.

You were looking straight-on before. You're now at a bit of an angle, which lends you some additional information: Margo has a flechette shotgun to Ellery's chest.

«Looks like a surface brand. Probably Oxeye. It has the little doohickey on the top.»

Margo has an Oxeye flechette shotgun to Ellery's chest. God. The important part is that there's a shotgun to Ellery's chest, and Margo's finger lightly on the trigger.

«Safety's off, too, looks like.»

Between the pain and the last wet remnants of tears and the shotgun, you find it difficult to concentrate on what's actually being said. Worse, Ellery is difficult to understand: his signing is the killer combination of rapid and sloppy. (You'd like to criticize this, but don't have the heart for it.)

You try your best. "Uh," he's saying. "I don't think there's— there's really no call for this, uh, all this hostility— Margo—"

Her fingers barely twitch off the grip. "That's Mrs. Lindew or 'ma'am,' to you, boy."

"—Mrs. Lindew, if you'd just— please drop the gun, uh, and we can get back to those questions—"

"I didn't hear questions-"

"—Okay, well, I did ask them, so, uh— is there any chance you can explain the bones? The big fuck-off massive piles of bones? How many people's worth of bones is that? Have you noticed people going missing over the years? Have people been fed to the alligator tower? Did you know there's an alligator tower? Why do you sit here every day? Are you hiding something, Mrs. Lindew? Are you—"

"—All I heard was the guilty conscience of a criminal. Do you know what crime in these parts is punishable with, boy? I know you're one of them camp people."

"…Execution? I feel like it's probably execution."

"Hm." Margo narrows her eyes. "I prefer 'justice'."

>[1] Oh God! You're leaving. You're leaving right now. You can't be complicit in this. This never happened. You were never here.
>[2] Oh God! You can't just let someone else shoot Ellery. That's *your* job. Do- do, uh, do something. [What?]
>[3] If Ellery gets shot and dies, and you watch, you can blackmail Margo into dropping the whole "eviction" deal later. It's only reasonable.
>[4] Just wait. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe this will be fine.
>[5] Write-in.
> [2] Oh God! You can't just let someone else shoot Ellery. That's *your* job. Do- do, uh, do something. [What?]
Continuing my trend of bad decisions, try to get Margo's attention. Also try to avoid getting shot in the process.
> [2]
tell her to stop. also get a handful of sand to throw in her face in case she decides to try and shoot us instead

But if two wins, throwing sand in her face is silly and will startle her into actually shooting us if anything. Just call out from a treeline, so she knows there's a witness. We're too far away for her to hit with a shotgun, we've got trees for cover, and she's fat and old so we can outrun her.
Yeah call out from the treeline. Maybe throw something at her heavy enough to throw her off kilter.
>[3] If Ellery gets shot and dies, and you watch, you can blackmail Margo into dropping the whole "eviction" deal later. It's only reasonable.
>Do something!

>Do... something.

Writing for blackmail.
File: BANG.jpg (16 KB, 564x564)
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>Turn this situation to your advantage.

You don't have to do anything.

The thought sends a cold prickle down your back. You don't have to do anything. Nobody's watching you. Nobody's making you. It's entirely between you and your conscience.

«And me.» Richard twitches. «But I have no stake in the matter.»

The question is not what you ought to do. The question is what you ought to get out of it. If Ellery lives: well, he's indebted to you. But is that something you even want? And do you want to be chased by a crazy bint with a shotgun? No and no. If Ellery dies: that's leverage, isn't it? All it requires is a little application.

Ellery is worth more to you dead than alive, you realize dispassionately.

So you watch.

"I- I mean," Ellery is saying, "I guess you can call it anything you want. You can call it, gods, I don't know, 'somersault,' but that doesn't make it tr—"

You clap your hands to your head a fraction too late. The BANG is muffled by the flesh and fabric and the big chunky suppressor at the end of the barrel, but it's still enough to send you reeling backwards, your ears ringing horribly. But it's nothing- nothing- nothing compared to Ellery, who is

BLURRY with motion, clutching and hacking and wiping his stained hands on his front, though it only stains them more, and he has no front to speak of—it is gone, spattered on the ground, you could stick a hand in the hole, you could stick a head—he is waterfall-gushing blood, as could only be expected, but it's the wrong kind of blood, it's neither thin bright scarlet velvet red nor is it gloopy antacid pink, it's silver, a little rusty around the edges, and it's thick like syrup—

>[ID: 2/11]

—He's standing, he's still standing, he's almost steadier on his feet than he was before the shot, like all the jumpiness was contained in his chest, or something, and has now been blown to pieces—he seems amused by some private secret inside joke—his hands are moving—

"Try the head," he says.

Margo, to her credit, is more surprised than shocked, she wasn't expecting this but could've assumed… she mutters something to herself you can't hear and pumps the shotgun once—

You cover your ears this time.

The BANG is less loud, maybe because your hearing's already dulled, but it's accompanied by the unmistakable splintering of broken glass— you don't know, you don't want to know, you hope Ellery's skull isn't made of glass— you shouldn't think in the present tense. Ellery's gone, Ellery's all across the sedge, Ellery's pooling out of the thing toppling to the ground— it doesn't look like a person, it doesn't look like it ever was a person, it looks hard and waxen—

>[ID: 1/11]

You are crying again, and attempting to vomit, though of course you haven't eaten anything in several months, so all it is is sickly acid. Margo doesn't hear you. Either she can't hear you, from two gunshots, or she has earplugs in. Margo is standing from her rocking chair and taking the body by its feet. Margo is dragging the body into the cave.

«You'd think she'd just go for the head in the first place.»

You don't feel good.

>[1] Sit here for a long time.
>[2] Limp back to camp.
>>[A] Tell Madrigal.
>>[B] Tell Monty.
>>[C] Don't tell anybody.
>[3] You need a drink about a hundred times more badly than previous. Jacques might understand.
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Limp back to camp.
>>[C] Don't tell anybody.
We need to get away from the scene. Better to keep this in our back pocket until it's relevant. Don't want to get implicated.

Oh damn she actually did it
She called it like an hour ago mate
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>Go straight home, do not pass go, do not collect $200

It wasn't supposed to be like that. It wasn't. It was supposed to be how they write it in the penny novels: witty repartee, and a tasteful, minimal amount of blood, and only one shot necessary. One shot is civilized. One shot is putting down a lame dog, more or less. Two is—

You don't like to think about it.

Richard needs to do the thinking for you, or the talking, or something. You wish he'd say something, even if it were something mean about your dry-heaving. It makes you feel better to know he's with you. More secure. You're sorry you made him angry before.

«I appreciate it.» He's wrapped around your shoulders. «I'm proud of you.»

He's proud of you? He's never been proud of you before, even in the good old days. You've just never been good enough to be proud of. He's proud of you!

«You made the rational choice, which I understand you've struggled with in the past. Of course I'm proud. Start walking.»

You start walking. It's a little unsteady.

«I wish we could have a look at the body, but you are in no condition to follow that woman. We should consider coming back here tonight to obtain some samples, at least. That's not natural blood.»

You make it back to the side trail, but not before dodging some idiot's pitfall trap. What native game can't swim?

«We'll have to consider how to break the news. It's the faster the better, in my opinion. You look guilty if you sit too long.»

(But you're not guilty! You didn't do anything!)

«Look guilty, Charlie. Look. Of course you're not guilty. Blackmail, however, is an actual crime, so we'll have to be delicate about that.»

You are grateful to find that the trail has leveled out considerably.

«Wouldn't want to jump the gun on it, and all. 'Jump the gun' was not a pun, it was merely a figure of speech. I can't tell if you're listening or not. Charlie. Charlie—»

You've got a dull ache in your jaw, and the sting of stomach acid in your throat, and a ringing in your ears, and you really don't want to start crying for the third time today. So you're not really listening.

Finally: camp. If anyone notices the state you're in, they're polite enough to not say anything. You locate your tent almost solely through muscle memory, reach to untie the knot—

There's no knot. The door is untied.

God, you're stupid, leaving your tent open like this. There's probably crabs and things all over your bed. People have probably been looking inside. But there's nothing to do about it now. You push open the tent flap.

There is a strange man inside.

No, not strange, but very nearly so. It's the man in the grey longcoat. The "be seeing you" one. Be seeing you indeed! He's leaning over your desk, looking at your miniatures. He starts at your entrance— but only very quickly, before covering it up.

"Sorry," he says glibly, and stands up straight. "It was open, and I was so fascinated by these! Be seeing you, Lottie."

You are stunned into silence as be brushes past you and is gone.

«Well. You have to admire his confidence.»

>[1] Be seeing you?! Storm right back out and give the man a piece of your mind.
>[2] Make sure nothing is displaced or stolen. Your interior is minimalist, it shouldn't take too long.
>[3] Oh, damn him. Just do something to distract yourself from… everything. Finish the model you were working on.
>[4] Take a catnap. You're not tired, exactly, and it is broad daylight, but unconsciousness sounds very appealing.
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] Make sure nothing is displaced or stolen. Your interior is minimalist, it shouldn't take too long.
I hope Ellery isn't really dead.
>Check for damages.

>Get back to it.


File: mechanical bank.jpg (120 KB, 634x750)
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>Scan the tent.

"So fascinated by these?" They're just stupid models you do in your free time, not some kind of art exhibit. His explanation reeks.

You're going to have to do a thorough examination of everything, now. Luckily, you keep things very neat, very decluttered, very minimalist…

«Yes. Because you're in debt, Charlie.»

Because you're ascetic. And you like the color white. The amount of time you spend scrubbing mud and sand and bits of algae off everything to keep it white is frankly obscene.

First: the right bookshelf. The top two shelves are knickknacks, most of which you have no memory of ever obtaining. Why is there a key fob in the shape of a starfish? Why is there a— you don't even know what this thing is. It's small and metal and has little grooves along the edge.


But they're all in an orderly grid with no gaps between them, meaning they're exactly as you put them there. Both books ("Cross-words for Young Minds" and "Wyzards Munificent") are still there, too, wrapped in cloth in hopes they won't disintegrate totally.

On the next shelf down is your mechanical bank: if you put a coin in, the girl on top is supposed to skip rope. She has not skipped rope in years— not only do you have no coins, but it's rusting practically to pieces.

There's nothing below her in the bookcase. You do not like to stoop.

Above your cot is an aged photograph of yourself, your mother, and your Auntie Ruby. It is torn a bit on the left, and is very water-stained. You look at it for a while.

>[ID: 2/11]

Underneath your cot (sometimes you must stoop, whether you like to or not) is a sharkskin portmanteau containing the rest of your clothing. There's not much left of it— it's mostly been lost or tattered— but nothing seems stolen.

You turn to your desk, where the man had been looking. The clay is still under it. Your research has been moved, but only slightly— was he reading it, or just shoving it aside to look at the models? The models themselves, all twenty or thirty, are still in order.

You slide open the desk drawer. Your tools are all still here. Your unfinished model—

Your unfinished model is gone! Stolen! It was barely sculpted, let alone hardened or painted. Why it, and not anything else? Did he break in to steal it, or was it a crime of opportunity?

Mother of a whore.

He's probably long-gone by now, too. You bite your sleeve in an attempt to keep from crying again. (It tastes like salt.) Now what? Is it even worth trying to get it back?

You nearly jump out of your skin at a knock at the door. Monty pokes his head in.

"Hi, Charlotte," he says, and then takes in your bloodshot eyes and bruise. "Oh. Sorry, ah, the door was open. Should I come back later…?"

You're not in much of a state to talk to Monty. But you'll look weak if you don't. And you might have things to ask him about.

>[1] Write-in.
>"Did you see a guy running away from my tent just now? Know anything about him?"
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"Uh," you say. "Did you happen to see a man leaving this tent? Just now?"

You've always found it difficult to get a read on Monty. He only looks a couple of years older than you, but between the patronization and the knit pullovers (dusty orange today) there's no way that can be right. There's middle manager rolling off him in waves.

He steps all the way in. He is carrying a thick stack of folders under one arm, and nothing under his other arm, because he doesn't have another arm. You've gotten very good at not staring. "A man? Any sort of man, or just…"

You sit on the edge of your cot. "I don't know. Grey longcoat, kind of drab… oh, horsey-looking. Very horsey-looking."

"But you don't know his name?" Monty has propped a folder against his leg and is scribbling something down on it.

"Uh, no. Does he stay here?"

"If he is, he isn't authorized to. Sorry, no, I didn't see him leave. You're saying he was in your tent without permission…"

"And he stole something."

"Oh!" Monty underlines something. "Do you know what?"

Telling Monty about your hobby? You'd rather die. "It's none of your business."

"Was it something personal?"

"It's none of your business!"

"I'll put it down as personal." He does. "Thanks for the report, Charlotte, I'll look into it. Now, while I'm here, there was something else—"

"You can go now," you say.

"—It shouldn't take very long, it's just… Look, did you punch Madrigal today?"

«Stay calm.»

>[1] Deny it. Deny everything.
>[2] Okay, look, she punched you first. Surely there's a self-defense provision in the Rules and Procedures.
>[3] Maybe you did, but it wasn't on camp property, was it? It was out in the woods. There's nothing he can do about it.
>[4] She deserved it.
>[5] To be clear, you didn't just punch her— you knocked her out cold. And it was awesome.
>[6] Write-in.
>[2] Okay, look, she punched you first. Surely there's a self-defense provision in the Rules and Procedures.
We've had a really rough day. Hopefully he can be understanding. If he can't, then mention it was out in the woods. ...and that she deserved it.
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>It was self-defense!

You touch your bruise reflexively. "What's it to you?"

"I don't feel like I need to answer that question, Charlotte."

He doesn't. You capitulate. "Okay. But. But— did you know it was in self-defense? Because it was in self-defense. She punched me first. I am— in fact, I'm the victim here."

>[ID: 3/11]

Monty raises his eyebrows.

You point vigorously at your jaw. "Look at this! This was Madrigal's weird bony knuckles. Really, I think she should be getting the lecture, not me—"

"She has, actually. I knew all this already." Monty cracks an awkward smile. "I'm also under the impression it was mutually deserved—"

"She punched me! How is that mutual?"

"I'm not saying she didn't deserve it, Charlotte. God knows she needs a whack sometimes."

You fold your hands and let that information simmer.

Monty coughs. "Uh, yes. I was impressed you managed to coldcock her, actually— I didn't take you for a pugilist. No offense."

You don't say anything.

"I have a lot of knuckle tape if you'd like it. It's gone unused ever since… well…" The loose arm of his pullover dangles. "You know."

You tug at your collar.

"Uh, okay, then. The point was, uh, the issue is not exactly you punching Madrigal. That's fine. The issue is that she's pissed, and she's on my case about it." He displays the folders. One is very thin. One is not. "And you have not left yourself a lot of wiggle room."

Despite not knowing what this means, you're still offended. "I have— I have lots of wiggle room. I have loads. Scads."

"It would be a lot easier on me if you did. But— look, I trust you're familiar with our three strikes system?"

You are not.

«It's in the Rules and Guidelines handbook you threw away. Disputes are taken to the Overseer— that's him, I understand— and the party found to be in the wrong gets a strike. Three strikes gets you a review, where you're entitled to make a case for yourself as to why you're not an awful person. If you fail, you're evicted.»

"Y…es," you say. You don't want to know how Richard knows this.

«I know many things.»

"Excellent. I keep all records in folders per person. This—" Monty shows you the thin folder. "This is what a normal folder looks like."

You have a horrible feeling about this. "So what's in the giant folder?"

"That's yours, Charlotte. Those are the complaints filed against you."

"No they aren't." The horrible feeling has not dimmed. "I understand I might be controversial with certain…"

Monty flips the giant folder over. "CHARLOTTE FRANCES FAWKINS" is printed in shaky black letters across the top.


"You're on your twelfth review or so, I believe."

You don't like seeing this. It's just the garbage awful capstone to a wholly calamitous day. "Oh."

"You might be asking yourself why you're still here?"

"…No?" you manage, though of course you are.

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"I'll tell you anyways. It's because I've kept you around, Charlotte, despite my better judgment. You remind me of—"

The horrible feeling has gained so much mass it collapses in on itself all at once. You are left with a single diamond revelation. "Your wife?"


"Your wife. The dead one. I bet I have her eyes, or something, so you project all your grief and whatnot on me. Which, I mean, I'm flattered, but it's also a little pathetic—"

Monty looks mildly horrified. "No. What? No. Constance had brown eyes— that's not the point. I was going to say myself."


You search for the right thing to say to this and come up empty. "You?"

He chuckles, which only increases your revulsion. "Younger me. I was a go-getter, you know, and I saw other people as obstacles on my road to success. It didn't win me a lot of friends."

This is so grossly incongruous with the current Monty that you simply choose not to believe it. "Oh yeah? Why'd you stop?"

His smile fades. "I succeeded."

"Oh." You also choose to discard this. "That's nothing like me, though. I have friends."

"Maybe so. In either case, that's why you've gotten off light. But Madrigal, you know— she doesn't exactly agree with that philosophy, and she's interested in doing something about it."


"Like undergoing the review process, which you will fail. I'm not interested in that either. So you are going to agree to a compromise."

This is bad news. "What is it?"

"You're going to help Madrigal with whatever she wants you to help with, until I tell you to stop."

You flop back onto the cot. "Evict me."


"Evict me!"

"No. I'll stop her if she does anything too humiliating, Charlotte." Monty tucks the folders back under his arm. "That's all."


You're really in no mood to do much of anything, but concentrated spite has sat you down at your desk with a fettling knife and a lump of clay. You're not over the fact that your last attempt at a model got stolen— on top of everything else! Did you break a mirror or something?

Did you… okay, well, it doesn't matter. Superstition is for the feeble-minded, Richard would tell you, were he speaking. (He's draped idly over the legs of your cot.) You are going to make something, and it's not going to be a disaster, you swear.

>[1] Try to remake the model you were beginning before. It'll be difficult— your memory of the cathedral is fuzzy— but it sure will stick it to the man in the grey longcoat.
>[2] Model a different building. Like the weird tower in Ellery's— not like that. But somewhere.
>[3] Do something abstract. It's not in your usual repertoire, but you feel like you should probably be expressing yourself, or something like that.
>[4] Don't aim for anything in particular. Let your tools and fingers do the talking.
>[5] You give up. Put the knife back and take a surrender nap.
>[6] Write-in.
Make a vaguely abstract cathedral. We can express ourselves and sort of remake what got stolen at the same time, right?

I wanna see if it's even possible to recreate that in physical form
>Seconding this >>3918747
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>Do it again. But ABSTRACT.

You start four times, and four times smash the clay against the desk. In theory, this should not be difficult. You're just trying to recreate the model that got stolen.

In practice, it's awful. Your grip on your tools is unsteady, and twice you make a fatal slip and lop off half the nave. Worse, you're finding it difficult to picture the dimensions of the manse: in memory, it has softened into amorphous slush. (Much like your clay, which you've worked too much water into.)

It's not right. Even if you could execute it, it wouldn't be right. Your other models are all of real structures, real places, where the character of them are inherent in how they're constructed. If you reconstruct them properly, the character follows. It's top-down.

You need to go bottom-up. You need to sculpt the character, and the structure will follow. (You are momentarily pleased by your flash of brilliance.)

And then you realize: well, how in the God-damn are you supposed to do that?

Sculpt the character? What does that even mean? You don't know how that works. You can barely sculpt things you can see directly in front of you. Face it: this is a waste of time.

You knock your head against the desk in frustration. Something clatters loose in your skull. Buckshot. Buckshot? No, but that's what it feels like— felt like—

Buckshot? What are you thinking? It's been a long day. You should give up on this. It's late afternoon, almost evening, it's fine if you sleep. You should sleep. By the morning your ears will have stopped ringing.

Buckshot. No, it's there, plain as daylight, plain as the nose on your face, plain as anything you like. It's not literal. (It can't be literal.) But it's there anyways, defying all good sense, small and round and foreign. You prod it nervously, and receive WHITE and ROSEWATER and BRASS and GLASS and RAFTERS all in your head at once.

The cathedral. You're sure Richard would be happy to give you a detailed explanation, but without him you're forced to discard your questions of "why" and "how." It is what it is, and what it is is an entire building (a space? a concept?), crammed into something the size of a marble, lodged deep in your brain. But you've got it now— you can roll it between your fingers— (if someone were watching you, they'd see your head still on the desk, your hands clutching at empty water)— you can sculpt it.

>[ID: 7/11]

You have the character. You pick your head up. There is clay streaked across your forehead and cheek.

You wipe it off your face and onto the desk, then wipe all the clay off the desk. You take the fettling knife and slice a large chunk of clay off the block underneath. You set down the fettling knife, and pick up a ribbon cutter. You scoop—


Damn! Why now!

«Charlie. Listen to me. This is an emergency.»
«Somebody is in your head.»

You drop the ribbon cutter. "What? Who— how do you know?"

«Like how you were in Ellery's. I don't know. I'm also in your head, Charlie, I can tell these things.»

You forget the cathedral. You forget the clay. "Oh God. Why?"

«I don't know, and I'm unable to find out. I need you here. Now. I'll walk you through the process.»

Your heart is pounding. "Wouldn't it be better if you just pulled me? Like— like the first time? Faster, I mean."

There is a short, annoyed pause. «It would be faster. But that's a lot of work. I'll do it if you insist.»

>[1] Oh God! Let Richard walk you through it. You probably need to conserve your/his energy, or whatever.
>[2] Oh God! Make Richard pull you in. Time is of the essence.
>[3] Wait! You have another question. [Write-in.]
>[4] Write-in.
>>[1] Oh God! Let Richard walk you through it. You probably need to conserve your/his energy, or whatever.
I've got a bad feeling about this

yay learning experience
>Well, God, just do what he says!

"I don't- if you say so." You tug nervously at a lock of hair. "Will I fight him or her? With, like, a sword? Just as a hypothetical—"

«That remains to be seen, Charlie.»

"Are you sure? Because I feel like speed is of the essence, really— what if my memories all get stolen in the meantime? What if I wake up as, I don't know, evil?"

«It doesn't work that way.» Richard untwists himself from the cot. «Come on.»

You take the fettling knife in one hand as a precaution and step over. You don't remember what to do. You barely remember what you did.

«Then listen.»

You're made to mouth numbers backwards from 400, all the nonsense rhymes you can remember ("one and two / tide is blue / skipjack sets sail / wyrm eats its tail"), all the colors of the auxiliary rainbow. The tent is smearing into watercolor. You can't feel your lips anymore. You don't know if this is good or not.

You can't feel your arms or legs either. Is this good? Or is this the sabotage of your unseen assailant? Should you be panicking? You feel like you should be, but your lizard brain is already insensible.

«Behave, and this won't take so long. I don't understand your ridiculous affection for your material corpse.»

"Richard sure is tetchy," you think, before the last byssus between your body and your consciousness is unceremoniously pried away. You collapse.


I don't have a real excuse for this-- I just kept doing other things until it became too late to write comprehensibly. I did get this much done, and as it comes to a clear stopping place I'm posting it now. Come hell or high water, an actual full update where things happen and choices are provided will be published tomorrow. Maybe two updates. We'll see how it shakes out. Massive apologies (again).
You needed to drink the juice
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You're somewhere.

(Well. You're always somewhere. But you don't like semantics-- they feel like cheating.)

You're somewhere different. There. You're sitting at a table, in the bright and salty air, and there's a hat on your head. Your chair is uncomfortable.

Richard is perched across the table, looking like the cat that ate the canary. There is a glass of prosecco in his hand and something abnormally slack in his posture. He's unconcerned. He's--

"Are you drunk?" you demand. The bottle on the table is near-empty. And he's smiling.

"Well, hello to you too, sunshine." He's still smiling. You don't like this. "How are you doing?"

"How am I-- there's someone in my head, remember?" He's still smiling! It's uncanny. "And you're busy sitting here! Drinking! Shouldn't you be-- why do I have a hat?"

Richard examines his glass. "For fun? Look, Charlie, you're going to have to loosen up. It's your party."

"My what?"

"Your party." He sets the glass down and produces a striped noisemaker from his pocket. "Phwewwwww-- surprise! There was no invader."

You feel stupid. Of course there was no invader. Of course Richard lied to your face. Of course you fell for it, again, as always. You kick the chair back and stand up in frustration.

Richard, now frowning, stands up with you. "Oh, come on, it's not like that. You're just not good at listening, is all."

This is worse than if you had an honest-to-God cracksman in your head. This is embarrassing. You clutch both hands to your chest and storm away from the table, away from Richard, and down the increasingly indistinct pavement.

"That won't--"

You're sitting at a table, in the bright and salty air, and there's a hat on your head. "--work," Richard finishes. "Sorry. Would you like a drink?"

There is a drink in front of you. It's pink, and has a pink umbrella in it.

Another joke at your expense, even if it does look good. You push it gingerly away from you. "I wouldn't."

"Charlie, it's not poisoned."

It takes a moment before you realize he's serious. Poison is the only reason he can find for you rejecting it. "I said I didn't want a drink. Richard."

All the slackness is gone at once. "Typical," he snarls. (You like this Richard much better. This is known territory.) "I do something nice-- I pay attention-- and you throw it in my face. Typical, Charlotte. What crime did I commit, huh? I mislead you, briefly, so this could be a surprise? Lock me up and throw away the key, huh?"

"I- this isn't even a party! It's just you! What are you even celebrating? Today was awf--"

He's smiling again. Damn. It's like flipping a switch. "Oh! I didn't even tell you. Your first real kill, yes. Congratulations are in order."

Your stomach turns.

"Don't worry about not getting hands-on, there's no shame in that. I thought it was excellent anyway. Top 40% of firsts--"

"Wait," you said. "In the cave, I-- I stomped the guy's head in."

Richard waves it away cheerily. "Under duress, doesn't count. Your first real kill. How did it feel?"

How did it feel? You threw up, twice, and then tried to not think about it at all. You were successful until now. How did it feel?

>[A1] Terrible. You didn't think it would be like that. You weren't serious about wanting Ellery dead. Well, you were a little serious. But not dead like that.
>[A2] Terrible. But lie to Richard that it felt good. You don't want to disappoint him.
>[A3] Fine, you guess. You're neither guilt-wracked nor all that happy about it. It is what it is.
>[A4] Satisfying. You've got a glorious, blacklist-free future ahead of you. If you've got to break a couple eggs in the process, what does it matter to you? (You deny having thrown up.)
>[A5] You don't want to think about this. Try to change the subject.
>[A6] Write-in.

>[B1] Sneak a sip of the drink while Richard isn't looking. You need it. [Roll.]
>[B2] Stick to your principles.
>[B3] Write-in.

I did :'(
>[A1] Terrible. You didn't think it would be like that. You weren't serious about wanting Ellery dead. Well, you were a little serious. But not dead like that.

>[B1] Sneak a sip of the drink while Richard isn't looking. You need it. [Roll.]

We got the pink umbrella. Now is not the time to let it go to waste. Or to be dishonest when we were choked up about the murder all day.
Rolled 73, 27, 22 = 122 (3d100)

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>It felt terrible.
>Sneak a sip.

Your guts are all knotted up with disgust, and fear, and guilt. But Richard, bless his heart, doesn't care how you feel. He cares how it felt.

"Bad," you say shortly.

The muscles in his neck tense, and you steel yourself for another litany of abuse— you sit up, fold your arms. But it never comes. He just takes a deliberate swallow of wine. "I know."

Your defense triggers on automatic. "Look, it's just… I didn't expect it to be so… huh?"

"I know." Richard leans back. "Charlie, you're a dead duck and a lousy liar, even to yourself. It's patently obvious. Really, would you like a drink?"

The drink is still there. (You would like a drink.) "No," you say.

"Don't be a goddamned bitch, Charlie."

"No." The stupid drink is the only thing that's getting Richard properly angry, like how he's supposed to be. You're frightened by how decent he's being, moreso because it doesn't entirely feel like an act.

Richard downs the rest of the glass. "Then be a goddamned bitch, Charlie. I suppose nobody ever raised you differently."

Maybe decent is the wrong word. You don't say anything.

"…I'm not worried by how it felt. You'll come around." He never sets the glass down— it's been replaced by a lighter. "But the act itself is still worth celebrating," he mumbles around a cigarette clenched in his teeth.

"I guess." You unfold your arms a little. "Since when have you smoked?"

"Since I became compulsed to, so…" He lights the cigarette before checking his wristwatch. (You didn't think he was wearing a wristwatch.) "Now? It's your fault, by the way."

"I suppose you'll say I made you."

He smirks. "You did. I forgive you, though."

You can't think of anything to say to this. Richard can't either, apparently, because he contents himself with blowing smoke rings in your general direction. You shift restlessly.

"Is this it?" you say.

"Is what it."

"This." You wave your hands in circles. "Did you just want to waste my time? What did you expect to happen— that I'd just forget you lied to me, and we'd talk and, what, have a good time? I don't believe that's possible—"

He handles the cigarette like he's been doing it for decades, rather than five minutes. "…I did expect a greater level of cooperation—"

"You did! You expected me to be complacent! Ha!" You run your hand through your hair. "How is that even possible? Did you not think this through even a little?"

He works his jaw. "Charlie—"

"You just thought 'lie to her about life-threatening danger, that'll do it. Positive atmosphere.'"

"Please stop."

You do, out of surprise. Richard sounds tired. He seems tired, too, and kind of haggard. His neck is rubbed raw from where he's been tugging at the bow tie. He's greying awful bad. There are shaving nicks on his chin, still raw. He's baldly, sweatily human, and so much so that you're having a difficult time seeing anything past it.

Is he drunk? What did you do to him?

"I thought this would be nice," he says. "You did something right, for once, so I thought that warranted something nice. Less hostility."

This sounds vaguely wrong. "You just called me a— sorry— a goddamned bitch."

"That's because you were being one, Charlie. That's just a fact. You came in here and you screwed everything up. It was supposed to be nice."

He rubs his eyes. You take the opportunity to lean over the table and suck down a little of the pink drink. It's fruity, but tastes of no fruit of particular; the aftertaste is fiery with unmasked alcohol. It is extraordinarily pink. It's perfect, in other words.

"That's all," Richard says. "That's it."

He's serious (or is doing a good job of pretending to be). He thought this would be nice, for whatever sideways of definition of nice he possesses. How about that.

Quite against your will, you are feeling a measure of compassion.

>[1] It's a sorry excuse for a party, but that doesn't mean you can't work to salvage it? You're going to have fun, because you deserve to, and it will be God-damn spectacular.
>[2] Can you actually muster the will to enjoy yourself? Not under these circumstances. But you can fake it, for Richard's sake, and a few of these pink drinks (do they have a name? you're not good at remembering that sort of thing) will probably help.
>[3] Are you out of your ever-loving mind?! Richard shows one drop of something other than concentrated self-interest and you're falling all over yourself to assist?! You're pathetic. Make no concessions. Sit here in awkward, semi-antagonistic silence.
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Can you actually muster the will to enjoy yourself? Not under these circumstances. But you can fake it, for Richard's sake, and a few of these pink drinks (do they have a name? you're not good at remembering that sort of thing) will probably help.
The pink umbrella is the only reason you're just on thin ice, Richard
Rolled 95 (1d100)

Writing! Rolling for how much fun you actually end up having
>"I don't know if I feel comfortable when this party is about murder."
bro refresh your browser before voting, QM called it hours ago
>Fake it for at least a little while.
>95 - Never mind, you're capable of enjoying yourself quite a lot!

The air smells of smoke and springtime: magnolias, rotting driftwood, the faint citrusy spritz of cleaning fluid. You run your finger over the ridged edge of the table.

You should be happy. You're being thrown a party. So it's a party about you indirectly murdering someone, and so Richard doesn't really understand what a party is… none of that ought to matter. It's selfish of you not to be happy, isn't it? You're being selfish. He's trying so hard not to be a jerk, and you're just stomping all over it.

You should at least fake it for him. It's the right thing to do.

"Okay, I'll try the drink."

Richard brightens. "Really?"

Actually, you've already tried it, but you ignore this fact entirely. Instead, you make a great show of taking a mouthful, swishing it around, thinking hard about it, and swallowing. It burns as it goes down.

Richard stubs out the cigarette on the table's ashtray. "How is it?"

"It's really good," you say honestly, and rub at your watering eyes. "Uh, what's the alcohol content, though—"

He waves off the question. "I don't know these things, Charlie. It's not a science."

"A what?" You take another mouthful. You are developing a plan. "Nevermind, it doesn't matter. Does it work? Can I get potted off this?"

If you get drunk, it'll be easier to pretend you're having fun. It'll also be easier to ignore the awful feelings in your gut.

"Sure, if you expect you'll be." Richard pauses. "I'd go slow, though. Altering your mental state when you're inside that mental state…"
The rest of the glass goes down easy. Richard seems mollified by your cooperation, and is neither his usual sociopathic nor uncomfortably affable; he has settled into a glossy passive-aggressiveness you much prefer. He has another glass of prosecco in his left hand, a telescopic pointer in his right, and a cigarette clenched between his teeth. He is gesturing at a board with strings on it.

"Look, Charlie," he's saying. "I don't think— I'm telling you, this is still relevant."

"He's dead!"

"Okay, look, yes. Maybe." He points hard with the pointer. "But this isn't natural! It's worth looking into, if just for closure—"

"He's dead! It can't get more closed than that! And anyways—" you rub your face. "—Why do you care? You yelled at me today for wasting time investigating!—"

"That's all on you, Charlie," he says airily. "Why do you trust a single thing I say when I'm that way? You'd think you'd have learned, but you're like… I don't know, something that never learns. A poor person."

"I'm not like a poor person. What are you talking about? That's your normal way. That's what you're… that's how you are."

Richard tugs at his bow tie. "Yes."

"So why would it be any, uh, any different…"

"You're right, it wouldn't be. Back to this. You realize he wasn't supposed to be there? He couldn't be there. He was sleeping, Charlie, he wasn't vacant like you are now— even if he did wind up in the manse, it wouldn't be lucid. It's all wrong."

This is too many words for you right now. "Okay. So why, uh, do you care about this?"

"It's fascinating. It breaks the rules. And anyways, I'm telling you, it's relevant—"

I have a "social occasion" to go to. The other parts of the update will be published after it's over and done with. Sorry!

Also please don't vote after I call it if it's been longer than like 10 minutes!
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You are two-thirds through your second glass. Your mouth tastes like fruit. Your head feels like nothing. You are giggling uncontrollably. "It- it- it does what?"

"It penetrates… the… body." Richard has his hands to his temples. "This is the third time, Charlie. I don't know how much clearer I can make it. It enters the body. It goes into the body."

"What does. What pen— what does that."

"The shaft." He blinks. "Of the key. Charlie."

"Right. Right. The key." You take a sip in an attempt to stifle your giggles. "The shaft of the key."

"The main length, yes. The part that sticks out is the bit, or tooth. The part you hold is the bow. Look, do I need to show you again?"

"Yes, Richard, I'd love to see your dumb key collection again…"

"Excellent." He pulls out his dumb key collection again. It clatters onto the table. "Now, look, there's skeleton keys and there's flat keys. Skeleton keys have a single tooth at the end of the blade. Flat keys have multiple sets of teeth, making the locks that much more secure."


"Unfortunately, also that much less interesting. It's the skeleton keys that get all the sorts of decoration on them, so they comprise most of the collection."

"I, uh, I see that." You're losing grip on reality, probably. "Why do you know so much about keys? I mean, I don't know anything about keys, so…"

"You're not the center of the universe, Charlie. I have interests too."

You scratch the back of your head. "Uh, yeah, I— I just feel like there's a logistics issue? You don't have hands, I mean, in-in real life, so I don't know how you even use these."

He picks up a key. "Look, this one is antediluvian. Nickel silver, looks like, nice detailing on the bow…"
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You feel like you've ascended to a dimension where everything is the color pink. You have four paper umbrellas stuck in your hair. Richard has obligingly placed the fifth so it sticks out of his breast pocket. The table has become crowded with wine and cocktail glasses.

"Oh… God," you say blearily. "Oh- oh God. Rich- Ricky. I'm gonna… die here."

"You can't die here, Charlie. You're not even real." Richard has one pair of sunglasses sliding off the bridge of his nose and an identical pair on his head. He's drunk and is trying to hide it, you've concluded.

"No. Well… maybe. Maybe. But not, not, uh, not here. I mean… underwater. I'm gonna die underwater."

Richard reaches across the table and clasps your arm. You want to recoil, but his hand is warm and surprisingly reassuring. "We're not going to let that happen."

"I don't… I still think…" You're having trouble putting your thoughts into words. "God, why aren't you calling me stupid?"

"I don't think it's stupid."

"Well, that's… that's…" You stare at his hand on your arm. "That's stu… that's stupid. Why're you touching me?"

He stares at it too. "I don't know. I was also compulsed to do that."

"Do you get com- those a lot?"

"Compulsions? Sometimes." Richard pushes his first pair of sunglasses up his nose. "I told you, you're the source. You have a certain idea of how I ought to behave, and it just… ripples out."

"I can make you do things?"

>[ID: 8/11]

"You can't do it on purpose, Charlie. I know what you're thinking."

You deflate a little. "Oh. So if I wasn't com- if I wasn't doing that, you'd just be… normal. Snake, you know."

He appears conflicted. "Not exactly."


"You have to understand, Charlie. What it's like." There's real, sudden desperation in his voice, enough to cut through your daze. You sit up. "It's like being in a box. It's— look, snakes are the most efficient vertebrae to exist. You understand? They're just a head and tail."

"I'm, I'm not, uh, following…"

"Just listen. They're efficient, as a fundamental part of their being."

"Of… your being."

"Do I look like a snake now, Charlie? And I mean fundamental— deeper than biology. Any kind of superfluity? Cut out."

You're beginning to twig on. "Like…"

"Empathy. Personality. Certainly a sense of humor. Positive emotion of any kind, really." Underneath the glasses, his eyes are glazed and bloodshot. He is drunk. He just doesn't sound it. "It's awful, Charlie. It's so cold in there, being that. I hate it."

You don't know what to say. You're not sober enough for this. "Is that… that's why I shouldn't trust…"

"You can't trust me. I'm efficient." He downs the last of the wine. "The only thing I care about is the objective, Charlie, I don't have room for anything else. And I will trample on you again and again and again to get there."
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You're really not sober enough for this. "But I can trust you."

"That's your decision. But after you come back, ask me if I like being that way. I'll say I like it."

"You'll lie."

"No. No, Charlie, I won't lie. I do like it. Capacity for dissent is excised. Charlie- at least I have feelings."

You have steadily grown to hate the taste of fruit. You just want to wake up and not be drunk anymore. You want Richard to get some inhibitions back. You think he needed them. "But you're an… you're an asshole still."

"Mmm. An asshole with feelings."

You have to admit, he has a point.


The sun is slipping over the horizon. You are staring off into the misty recesses of the street. Richard is pacing a couple feet away: he claimed he needed to "expel poison build-up." You think this means alcohol. You're not exactly sure how all of this happened.

You did enjoy yourself, a little, you think. Before Richard got all weird.

There's really not that much to look at: the street is uniformly shadowy. You wonder where it came from. You wonder where your nagging sense of déjà vu comes from. You wonder if "expelling poison build-up" just means to puke. (Not so far.)

A glint of gold. It's gone. You're drunk, Lottie. You're imagining things. It's the setting sun off metal, is all.

No, there it is, closer. It's moving. It's— you can see it properly now. It's a gold mask.

It's a person in a gold mask. Inside your head. You try to focus. "Richard- there's someone-"

Richard's not a couple feet away. He's gone. «I know,» he says in your ear. «I told you so.»

"That's great," you hiss. "What do I do?"

«You brought a knife in your pocket.»

"A clay knife."

«Pull it out, Charlie. You're not sober enough for it to be a clay knife.»

"Oh, and you are—" Anything else dies in your throat. You've pulled the fettling knife from your pocket. Only it's not.

It's a longsword, orange in the dusk.

«I told you so, again. I know you have a thing for swords.»

You do have a thing for swords. You've always wanted a sword. That being said, you have never actually owned a sword, or swung a sword, so it seems to you like you've just produced a very sharp paperweight from your pocket.

The gold-masked person is rapidly closing the distance.

«Just hold onto that, Charlie. We will see. Now, look, you have some options…»

>[ID: 8/11]
>[SV: 0/10]
>[AVAILABLE ALTERATIONS: Possession - Swap ID / SV, Richard controls next turn
Ophidian Force - Spend 1 SV per 10 DC to automatically pass a strength-based check]

>[1] Stand your ground. You don't know what he or she wants from you yet.
>[2] Don't know what he or she wants?! They're invading! Rush in and immediately go on the attack.
>[3] You're exposed right here. Find- or create- cover, just in case.
>[4] Bail out. Leave the person in your head. Bad news: he or she might trash it. Good news: he or she can't thrash you.
>[5] Write-in. Reminder that this is your head, and you're soused: ie, derealized. Get as creative as you like. I'll vet if need be.
>If you can turn your knife into a sword, maybe you can turn your sword (or something else) into a gun? Pew pew.
>How do guns even work, underwater? Swords are cooler anyway, but, what if you could throw the sword and have it come back to you?
>[5] Call out. This is your head. No one's allowed to be fiddling around in here without your permission. If they're uppity, you'll teach them how much better swords are than not having a sword.
hey, margo used a shotgun so clearly it is possible to shoot guns underwater

and we're not even underwater, we're inside charlottes head.
Correct on both counts. Also, guns do work underwater, they just don't shoot very far. It's not an issue when it's point-blank.

I'll call in about 30. Get any last votes in.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Rolling between keeping the sword or not, then I'll see if a roll is needed.
>Sword kept.

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>Call out.

You make a couple of test swings. The sword is surprisingly wieldy— you'd kind of always expected it to be much heavier. And you really, really like the swooshing sound it makes. You're giggling again.

«Please, Charlie.»

Reluctantly, you drop the sword to your side and shield your eyes against the setting sun. The person is close enough for you to make out his or her body: they're shrouded in ash-grey gauze from head to toe. Freak.

"Hey!" you call out, a little slurred. "I've got a… sword. A sword." You show the person your sword. "Sho you should… you should not, uh, mess with me."

The person doesn't respond. They keep walking towards you.

"Who're you, anyways? How'd you get in my… in here, you know. You should really not, uh— you should go away? Yes."

«You're terrible at this.»

"Sure," says the person in the mask, in a raspy, androgynous voice. They have stopped ten yards in front of you.

You didn't expect a response, much less one in the affirmative. "Really?"

"Really. I'll go away, Charlotte Fawkins. I just need something from you first."

There's the catch. "I don't really think that will—"

"The crown."

The crown? You'd forgotten about it, almost, between everything. You haven't even seen it since the cave. "Oh. Why?"

"Why?" The person was evidently not expecting conversation. "Gods, you're really just— are you even doing anything with it?"

"I own it."

"I got that." The person has crossed their arms, you think, beneath their gauze. "But are you going to, like, end all suffering with it? Anything along those lines?"

That possibility had not occurred to you. "Uh…"

"It's for a good cause, okay? Now, look, it's a lot of hassle to beat you up. I'd rather not. Can you just tell me where it is?"

«Don't you dare, you bitch.»

Even if you wanted to, you don't know. You finger the grip of the sword. "Sorry, I, uh, I can't—"

"Fair enough." The person extracts two black-gloved hands and holds them, rigid, at their side. "I can't kill you here, you know. But it will hurt."

The sun sinks a little lower, and the light shifts. You blink. There is no more person— their ash-grey mantle is the color and consistency of the shadows. Only their mask remains, and it's changed too: it's not reflecting the light, but producing it, and it's such a brilliant gold you can't see anything else.

It hangs in place. It's the shadows that move. They're rushing towards you, down the street.

>[1] This is— this is fine. You have the *light of righteousness* burning in your soul. Stand your ground and wait for the person to show back up.
>[2] Ditto, but rush into it, towards the mask. Swing your sword lots.
>[3] Summon some light to get rid of the shadow. (You can do that, right? Probably.)
>[4] Retreat backwards, staying out of the shadow. Try to reach some kind of defensible position.
>[5] Write-in.
>[4] Retreat backwards, staying out of the shadow. Try to reach some kind of defensible position.
Try and observe their attempts to attack before we run in swinging.

I've seen enough hentai to know how running from shadow tentacles turns out.
>He is in your head. His mask is in your head. His gleaming mask holds your gleam. Since it's yours, you can take it and put it in your sword.
>The blinding gleam on your sword tears apart all shadows!
Also light the sword up, if we can do that.
>Retreat, light up sword



>Please roll me 3 1d100s+15 (+15 Loose Grip on Reality) vs. DC 80 (+30 ?????) to draw the light from the mask into your sword.
>Also, vote:
>[1] Spend 1 SV [8/11] to add +10 to the rolls.
>[2] Do not.
Rolled 80 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>[1] Spend 1 SV [8/11] to add +10 to the rolls.
Don't want to fuck this up.
Rolled 36 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>[2] Do not.
Rolled 93 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Big spendy, since this guy gets +30 inside our head. Scary
>Big spendy!
>105, 61, 118 vs. DC 80 - Success.

>Light up your sword (with righteousness?) - Success!
>Retreat away from the shadows.

You've never done this, you don't know what to do— what happens if you lose? What if they're lying, and it does kill you? What then? How awful that would be, how awful and pointless—

A shiver down your spine. Your eye twitches.

Ha! (Positive thinking. Positive thinking.) A little darkness means nothing to you! It's all in your head, anyways, all you have to do is imagine it away. You're doing that right now (you're staring it down), you're imagining— it's broad daylight—

«That won't work.»

Of course it will work! You are in control. You are the queen of this petty fiefdom, and by God you're going to, uh, bring the hammer of justice, uh…

«Charlie, this is all good, but it won't work. This isn't your petty fiefdom. You need to move.»

(The shadows are twenty feet away.) You're petulant. You don't want to move. You want to banish the darkness with your light of righteousness.

«I hate every second of being with you. Fine. Fine. Keep it <small scale> and it might be okay. And move while you do it.»

…Yes. Small scale. You won't banish the darkness, you'll only, uh, you'll, you know, pierce through it. With your sword… Yes, that's a good one! Glowing sword. That's classic. You just need to do it, infuse it with inner light, or whatnot, or…

«Just take it from the mask. Start walking. Hurry.»

(The shadows are ten feet away.) That's also an option! You point the sword straight at the mask and begin to pace backwards, unsteadily— your balance is shot. Glowing sword, you think. Glowing sword.

«You need more conviction. You're the one making this true.»

Glowing sword.

«You're useless. Look, just let me—» Your vision goes grey at the edges. You wince.

>[ID: 7/11]
>[SV: 1/10]

«—Here. Okay. And let's just—»

It's a cold glass of water to the face. Your muscles tense, your heart throbs. You're more stable on your feet.

>[SV: 0/10]

«Now do it.»

You squint at the mask, now little more than a dot in the distance. (The shadows are five feet away. You can't see most of the street.) It's vaguely mocking. You twist your sword arm 90 degrees, and pull…

The mask winks out. The darkness, like a low tide, retreats. Your sword is glowing.

You say the only rational thing you can. "Awesome."

Is it done? The mask is gone, the street is empty. You release the tension you didn't know you were keeping. God, you're cool—

«<Behind you>.»

The extra burst of radio feedback jolts you back into action. You spin, sword in hand— its light is already flickering, being drawn to— the person, mask on face— they're behind you, over you, both hands on the hilt of a massive matte black axe. They're swinging.

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Dodge! Roll out of the way. [Roll.]
>[A2] Parry! It sure will surprise them. [Roll.]
>[A3] Blind them! Hold the sword up— make it brighter, if you can. They can't hit you if they can't see!
>[A4] Write-in.

If you succeed:

>[B1] Well, God, stab them! In the chest! Isn't it obvious? Give them the ol, you know, stabby stab.
>[B2] Try to knock or grab the mask off their face. It's probably important.
>[B3] Book it! You need to make some space between you and a giant axe.
>[B4] Use OPEN. So it can open doors— but can it do anything else? [What do you use it on, specifically?] [1/1 use remaining]
>[B5] Write-in.

Blindness won't do any good if they're already swinging

The ol stabby stab is a timeless classic

Fuck yeah, we're cool.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 5 (-10 Dulled Reflexes, +5 Adrenaline) vs. DC 40 (-10 Already Midswing) to dodge! (If you succeed, you'll also succeed on the stab.)

>[1] Spend 1 SV to gain a +10 to the result. [7/11]
>[2] Do not.
Rolled 43 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

Rolled 14 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

[2] Do not.
Rolled 11 - 5 (1d100 - 5)


Oh no
>38, 9, 6 vs. DC 40 - Failure!

Never change, Drowned RNG.
Writing :)
At least we would have failed even with the power of big spendy
Big Spendy would've squeaked you by with a Mitigated Success, actually! 38 -> 48.

>Dodge! - FAILURE

Your feet are rooted to the cobblestone. You may as well have grown here. You watch numbly as the blade whistles down- down- down-

Your left arm explodes.

>[ID: 3/11!]

In pain, in gore. The axe bites down, through your coat, through your skin, your flesh, your bone. Your body offers no resistance.

You scream, and time speeds up.

You are bleeding all over your white coat. And your left arm— not your sword arm, that's the right arm, but you're quivering so badly it's also useless— your left arm is attached to your body. So that's good. It's dangling by a horrible, useless shred of skin. So that's bad.

You can still flex the fingers on it. One, two, three, four times. You giggle shrilly.

«Charlie. It's not real. It's not real. Listen. It's not real. You still have an arm. You have to focus. Charlie.»

You don't have an arm. God, how it bleeds. It's proper red velvet blood, too, none of the silver claptrap.

«You do have an arm. This isn't real, Charlie. Listen. Listen. If you believe you've really lost an arm, than you will have, and then where are we, Charlie—»

The person in the mask seems, you think, surprised. The axe is by their side. "Okay, uh, I think that's pretty good. Would you like to tell me where the crown is? I'll go for the other arm, else."

>[1] God-damnit. Just tell them something. Anything. It doesn't have to be true.
>[2] Surprise attack with one arm. (One arm!) Go for the chest.
>[3] Surprise attack with one arm. (One arm!) Go for the mask.
>[4] Can you- can you- just shove it back on? It's still attached, that's probably good, right? You don't like having one arm.
>[5] Write-in.

Clean cut right? It's doable.
>[1] God-damnit. Just tell them something. Anything. It doesn't have to be true.
The only thing worse than one arm is no arms.
meant to quote my b>>3931165
Rolled 1 (1d2)

File: less sexy than this.jpg (67 KB, 564x374)
67 KB
>Shove your arm back on.

You don't say anything. The person in the mask doesn't say anything. Blood pools under you.

The person in the mask is beginning to rustle uncomfortably. "I don't like this very much either," they start. "If you'd just work with me—"

You can't work with them. They cut off your arm.

«But not for real. I need you to acknowledge that. This is important.»

—But you can put it back on. You can put it back on, surely. Right? Absolutely. It's a clean cut… and anyways, it's still on you, it's just loose. You can fix this! You just need to put it back on.


Your sword clatters to the ground. Delicately, you grip the limp left arm by its wrist. Less delicately, you shove it into your shoulder. It produces the worst squelch you've ever heard.

You release it. It stays in place. You move one, two, three, four fingers on your left arm.

"Awesome," you say.

You reach down to pick up your sword. It's gone.

You look up. The person in the mask grips their axe in their right hand, and your sword in their left. It's dim and silent; their mask is brimming with new stolen sunlight.

They toss your sword in front of you. Then they vanish, almost— their body is lost in the shadows, but the mask still hangs in place, raw and radiant, three feet in front of you. You can't stop looking at it. You want to touch it, to take it, to put it on.

You are surrounded by near-darkness. There's no sound.

>[1] Second verse, same as the first: take the light into your sword. Will it work again? Only one way to find out.
>[2] The mask is right there. Attack it.
>[3] Stay here, and stay vigilant. (Make sure your arm stays on you.) You'll be ready for if the person reappears.
>[4] You have to get out of this. You have to create an OPENing. [1/1]
>[5] Put on the mask.
>[5] Write-in.
I heard that squelch.

>[3] Stay here, and stay vigilant. (Make sure your arm stays on you.) You'll be ready for if the person reappears.
This could be a ruse. Don't trust that mask, either.
>>[4] You have to get out of this. You have to create an OPENing. [1/1]
Rolled 2 (1d2)

File: doorway.jpg (138 KB, 564x818)
138 KB
138 KB JPG
>OPEN a path out.

You're able to see, barely, via the light of the mask— but somehow you don't find this all that comforting. You clutch the sword with sweating palms, and look this way and that. Nothing happens.

Are they behind you? Bearing down on your other arm with a whetted axe? There's no way to tell.

You lick your lips.

You have to do something— but you don't want to draw the light a second time, not with the mask so close, and trying to attack or run seems like an equally bad idea. You're trapped, it seems. You're so stupid. Why didn't you just swing your sword at them? Why didn't you just dodge it, like was supposed to happen? Your arm's back on, but there's still blood all down your front. It's never going to come out, is it?

No, positive, positive. It is going to come out! You will use borax and a scrub brush and a lot of water! It will never be white again (you have experience with this), but it will be off-pink, and you can claim it's too advanced a fashion for anyone to understand. There you go. It'll be fine. Yes.

«Reminder: it's not a real coat, and you are surrounded.»

Reminder: he doesn't have feelings, so you shouldn't trust anything he says.

«So you believe that, I see.»

You shrug. He did tell you this, like, twenty minutes ago.

Richard does not like this answer.

«It's clear why you would, Charlie, though I don't think you've realized it. It's exactly what you want to hear. I'm not trustworthy. Better, I'm tragic. I'm suffering inside. I'm a dime-novel anti-hero.»
«Tell me, why would this be the case. It's not because it's true. It's because you're telling <yourself> this. You're only forcing me to do the talking.»
«Like me or not, but I'm the genuine article. I am experiencing no hidden depths of suffering. Go ahead and trust me when I've got a face to look at— I know you want to. But you're deluding yourself.»

You think he put a lot of effort into the dramatic pause. There's still no sign of the person. It's only gotten darker, if anything, and the mask brighter. It's claustrophobic.

You can't stay here a second longer. You need to leave— you need to decipher this urgent memory that's bobbing up, something useful, something important, but you can't quite reach it. You need to— break a mirror. Tap on a doorframe. No. No. You need to…

OPEN your way out. The word is on your lips before you know it's there. There's nowhere to look at, so you you just direct it ahead, into the darkness. "OPEN."

From nowhere, the raspy voice: "Oh, god. You're one of those."

Something stringlike quivers in response. Something peels open: not a door, but a doorway, a gateway. Inside: a red sky, a dark fortress. Lightning.

Abruptly, the shadows are snatched up, bundled, from under you— you stagger into the dusk of the road. The person has reformed around the mask. They gesture, rudely, at the doorway now lodged in their gauze. "Excuse me?! What the fuck?!"

"Uh," you say. You remain not sober enough for anything. "Good. Suck it."

"I'm just trying to maim you like a normal person, okay? I don't go around sticking doors in people's bodies. You lot are lunatics."

You scratch your chin. "Will you, uh, leave now?"

"No! I just want fair play! Would it kill you to follow the standards?"

"…Yes?" you wager.

"God. You are the absolute worst. Take your sword, or whatever, go down there. I'll go to the opposite end. Okay? We can try this again-- again, like normal people. No doors."

>[1] This seems like a good time to stab them, right? Chest.
>[2] Stabby stab. Mask.
>[3] You're a normal person, yes? Go down there and follow the standards. Whatever those are.
>[4] (Hey uhhh Richard what did I just do there with the door thing)
>[5] (Hey uhhh mask person what do you mean by "standards" and "those people" and so on)
>[6] Write-in.
Last update for the night-- we'll pick up tomorrow, maybe session maybe not. If we don't wrap up the fight this thread, we'll do it in the opening of the next. Usual timing.

We're archived: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/3898353/

Bitch you invaded my mind and tried to steal my crown. I'll stick a door in your face that connects to hell.
Information is good! But the second he starts "complaining" about how "weird" we are too much,
> 1

We're dangerously close to dropping off the board, so I'm going to end the thread here and pick up with this prompt. See you guys in 1-1.5 weeks, per usual. Hope you enjoyed.
Thanks for running, good stuff. I'll be looking forward to the next thread.
Thanks for running!

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