[a / b / c / d / e / f / g / gif / h / hr / k / m / o / p / r / s / t / u / v / vg / w / wg] [i / ic] [r9k] [cm / hm / y] [3 / adv / an / cgl / ck / co / diy / fa / fit / hc / int / jp / lit / mlp / mu / n / po / pol / sci / soc / sp / tg / toy / trv / tv / vp / x] [rs] [status / ? / @] [Settings] [Home]
Settings   Home
/qst/ - Quests

File: 2.0 4.jpg (200 KB, 445x678)
200 KB
200 KB JPG
Your name is Charlotte Fawkins, and you are an excellent modeler, a sort-of 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're currently facing down a masked, axe-wielding stranger who is all-too-casual about having invaded your head and cut your arm off. (It's better now.) You have semi-accidentally opened a portal to somewhere in their chest.

They have ordered you to stand on the opposite end of the road, to better murder you from. Or something. You don't entirely see the wisdom of this.

You fold your arms awkwardly-- your left sleeve remains stiff with blood. "I don't listen to people who dismember me. That's just-- why am I part of the 'you lot'? You're the murderer."

"For the last time," the person rasps, "it's not murder, it's sanctioned assault for an excellent cause. And you're a bad sport. Just because you've got a dirty little shortcut doesn't entitle you to--"

"To what?"

"To cheat!" They throw up their gloved hands. "Damn, you're a thick one. Are you going to move?" They pause. "No, of course not. Goddamn. I guess I'll have to, out of, you know, basic decency..."

You watch in bemusement as the person turns on their heel(?) and begins strolling back down the street.

<<Charlotte, now.>>
<<Charlotte, <move>.>>

It takes an insistent jolt to the small of your back before you're kicked into action. You sink into a crouch, fumbling for the hilt of your sword all the while, and begin to trail the person up the street. They have begun to whistle.

You make a studious effort to avoid pools of shadow, sticking instead to the last remnants of sunlight or to the green phosphorescence of the streetlamps beginning to flicker on. It pays off. You have made it within sword-thrust distance with them nary the wiser.

Now it just remains to do it. This is the tricky bit.

<<Charlotte, you know how.>>

You've never sworded anybody before. You've knifed people, but never sworded.

<<Just do it, Charlotte, don't undermine yourself. And kindly never use 'sworded' again.>>

If it goes wrong, it's entirely Richard's fault. You drum out a little prayer onto the hilt, fix an eye on the person's indistinct rags, stand-- bringing your sword up with you. It makes a neat and satisfying arc as you plunge it into the person's ribs.

File: gold-masked person.png (280 KB, 607x612)
280 KB
280 KB PNG
Wow! You did know how. Look at that. Only—

Some things happen in rough sequence.

You keep plunging. There are no ribs. There is nothing underneath the rags but more rags.
The person's head rotates 180° to watch you attempt to stab them.
"Damn," they say, blithely. "You are a thick one."
Something shadowy and hand-shaped grips you by the shoulder. Something else shadowy and hand-shaped grips you by the wrist. You squirm, briefly, to no avail.
You make a sound approximating "agck."
The person casually produces their double-bladed axe. It is matte black, except for your blood on it.
«Shit,» Richard says.

And it's the last that jolts you out of your clinical stupor. Richard doesn't curse unless he's feeling homicidal, or unless you're going to die.

All the blood has drained from your cheeks.

The person doesn't seem in any particular rush to cut your limbs off. They have turned slightly away and are wiping down the axe with a black cloth. They figure they have you caught.

You have your left arm free.

[ID: 3/11]
[SV: 0/11]

>[1] Flail. Try to escape the grip or, at least, knock the mask off. [Roll.]
>[2] Beg. Plead. Tell them what they want to hear. [Roll.]
>[3] Do the unexpected. Duck directly into the rags. What's in there? Who knows?
>[4] Sit still. Resign yourself. If you know it's coming, it may not hurt so much.
>[5] Write-in. [This is your head. Feel free to get creative.]
>[3] Do the unexpected. Duck directly into the rags. What's in there? Who knows?
File: ref sheet.png (334 KB, 774x620)
334 KB
334 KB PNG
>Last time on Drowned Quest Redux
You attempted to have a civil conversation with Madrigal, failed, got punched, punched her back, dragged her unconscious body into the wilderness, and left to find a drink. You did not find a drink and instead had a public meltdown in the middle of the street. You found Ellery in a precarious situation and let him die for your own benefit. It got kind of weird.
You GTFO, got back to camp, and discovered that some guy stole your unfinished cathedral model. Monty popped in to tell you Madrigal's pissed about the whole "punched and dragged into wilderness situation," so in order to save your ass from eviction he's making you do what she tells you. You attempted to redo your stolen model, but was interrupted by Richard claiming someone's invaded your head. This ends up being a ruse to lure you into a surprise party (about the murder). Both of you get drunk. It gets kind of weird again. And then someone invades your head for real.

>Clue Dossier: https://pastebin.com/wRUPtQqL
>Current Objectives: https://pastebin.com/W6N0hdaT
>Character Sheet: https://pastebin.com/rYS6SkA2
>Setting Summary (new? confused? read this): https://pastebin.com/q6fdvmck
>Other Bins: https://pastebin.com/u/bathicqm

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

Session today, session tomorrow, maybe session on the 24th if anyone is around. Daily posts on 25th, 26th, 27th. Sessions resuming the 28th.
>>[3] Do the unexpected. Duck directly into the rags. What's in there? Who knows?
Here we go boys.
>>[5] Can't we just phase through his grip? His hands aren't real, they're dream hands, so why not slip through them?
>Attempt to phase through the grip.
>Failing that, duck into the rags.

File: gold mask.jpg (18 KB, 300x446)
18 KB

You fidget. You swallow. You glance around in the hopes you'll light on something to save you. It's to little avail. In the end, you're reduced to glaring at the shadow-hands holding you hostage in the hopes they'll up and vanish.

«Inviable. You can't affect the other person directly like that.»

They're polishing the second axe-head.

You scuff at the cobblestones with your boot and half-wonder about the logistics involved. If there's no body, where do the arms come from? What's under the cloak, really? Some kind of shadow dimension? Nothing? Is it just rags all the way down?

What if you went in there?


Yes. This is exactly the kind of terrible idea you like best. God, wouldn't it be interesting, though? What would you have to lose? Your limbs? You've got that covered. You're liking this better all the time.

«Okay, for starters, your life. Uh, your sanity. Your identity. My signal. Charlie, you have no idea what this might entail—»

Right! You won't know until you try, and you're supposed to try everything once, right? Right. Yes.

«No. No. No.»

The person has finished. The axe is nigh-invisible once again. They cradle it lovingly.

"Just as a formality—" they say.

You don't wait to hear the rest. You duck your head and charge them shoulder-on, like you're breaking down a door. Like before, there's no resistance: the rags part to your assault, and you stumble into them.

It is impossibly dark. The air smells, strangely, of wood polish. The grip on your wrist and shoulder is released.

The gold mask is in front of you, no body attached. "Well," it says. "I suppose this also works."

Two identical masks flank it, then two more, then two more, until they ring you entirely. Something pushes you down onto a chair (hard, uncomfortable), something binds your hands and legs. More shadow-hands? You can't tell. It's too da—

A spotlight flicks onto you. One of the masks have stepped forward. "Like I said, I didn't want to maim you— it was just, you know, efficient. But if you're choosing to eschew your home turf privileges…"

There's a different quality to the voice. It's still raspy, still androgynous, but there's something warmer around the edges. You're not sure what it reminds you of.

"—Well, I'd be happy to just do the old-fashioned enhanced interrogation."

The mask gleams. There is a radio buzz in the back of your skull, but Richard hasn't quite gotten through yet. You clutch the sword in one sweaty hand, but your wrists are bound.

"Before we get too ahead of ourselves, though, let me ask. Where's the crown?"

>[1] Lie. [Roll.]
>[2] Tell the truth. You do actually have no idea. But you'll have to mention Richard.
>[3] Say nothing. They'll have to enhance this interrogation if they want anything from you.
>[4] Perform some kind of daring escape. [How?]
>[5] Write-in.
No way we'll cave immediately!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s+-15 (-10 Bad Liar -5 Frightened) vs. DC 60 (+10 ???) to pull this off.
Rolled 7 - 15 (1d100 - 15)

Rolled 76 - 15 (1d100 - 15)

Rolled 26 - 15 (1d100 - 15)

Rolling the last for expediency.
>-8, 61, 11 vs. DC 60 - Mitigated Success
Rolled 74 (1d100)

File: monty.jpg (20 KB, 327x414)
20 KB
>-8, 61, 11 vs. DC 60 - Mitigated Success.

How do you lie? You pluck something out of thin air then say it so confidently you start believing it yourself. That works, sometimes. Occasionally.

You look the principle mask straight in its eyeholes and say "I don't know. Monty took it."

It recoils. "What?"

"M…" Picking a random name is seeming less like a good idea, suddenly. What if this thing shows up in Monty's head? It wouldn't be fair. The man's already missing an arm.
Somehow, though, you don't care enough. "…Monty?"

"Monty as in, uh, Montgomery Gewecke?" The mask bobs nervously.

You haven't the faintest idea what Monty's last name is. "Probably? Yeah, he, uh, he confiscated it. Something about contraband, or, uh, quarantine, or something."

"Montgomery Gewecke? Lost his arm to a squid-type thing? Yea tall?" If it's indicating a height, it's impossible to tell. "That one?"

You nod a little.

"God-fucking-dammit. The two-faced bastard." The mask turns skyward. "The absolute nerve of the bastard. You know what— don't trust him, hear me? Not as far as you can throw him. He can wear as many goddamn sweaters as he wants, it's not gonna hide the nasty— God."

You nod more.

"You know what? Thanks. You're a good kid, even if you're a fucking cheater. Sorry about the arm and such, though it's still kinda your fault, yeah? Why didn't you start off with this?"

It takes you a second before you realize you're being asked a question. "Uh," you say. "You were trying to murder me."

"Assault. Assault. I don't murder people anymore." The mask shakes. "Well, I might Monty."

"Oh," you say.

"What can I say? I don't like liars. Don't worry—" it must notice the sweat glistening on your brow— "I'll talk to him about it first. But he can join Constance in hell after, yeah?"

"Uh," you say.

"Thank again, kid. I'll get out of your hair."

And with that, the darkness is once again pulled out from under you. You spill out onto the street— your sword clatters out after you. Your wrists are raw, but you're unbound.

The gold-masked person gives you a two-fingered salute and vanishes.

File: richard p3.jpg (61 KB, 617x800)
61 KB
You lay there breathing on the cobblestone for a while. It feels a little dangerous— on a normal day, you'd be overrun by pedestrians and safety-bicyclists— but you're confident none exist, and anyways, it's night. You kind of want to take a nap right here on the street.

"Come on, Charlie, you can't nap on the street." Richard's back. Of course he is. He is standing over you, looking a little out-of-sorts— his bow tie is crooked, his eyes are rheumy. "Stand up. That's a good girl."

He offers you a hand. You hesitate, then take it— there's no chance he'll take no for an answer. He hauls you up.

"So," you say. "They're gone."

"That they are, Charlie! I have to congratulate you—"

("Please don't throw another party," you mutter, too low for him to hear.)

"—on that very efficient resolution. Throwing Monty under the idiomatic bus? Brilliant. Wonderful." He claps you on the back. "You're making big steps, Charlie."

You stick your hands in your pockets and don't say anything.

"Now listen, listen. Interrogation? Amazing. Your fighting? That, uh, that could use some fine-tuning." He squeezes your shoulder. "No offense, but you did get your arm cut off. Room for improvement, huh?"

He's not totally wrong. You flash back to the polishing of the axe.

"But that's okay, Charlie! No problem. Just a couple alterations and you'll be patched right up, huh? How about it?"

>[1] That's Scute — Skin is so flimsy, isn't it? Scales are such an improvement. Reserve ID in return for automatic scale-armor when a blow comes your way.
>[2] Sense Weaknesses — You'll spot every chink in the armor. The issue is getting to it. [Passive.]
>[3] Ophidian Charm — Your natural charm, only moreso. Spend 1 SV for every 10 DC of a social check to automatically succeed. Unlocks social tree.
>[4] Ophidian Grace — Your natural grace, only moreso. Spend 1 SV for every 10 DC of an agility check to automatically succeed. Unlocks agility tree.
>[5] You're being manipulated! a tiny part of you screams. You can't let this happen! And then the rest of you screams I GOT MY ARM CUT OFF. Try to reject this offer. [Roll a flat 1d100, DC 50. Success gives +1 ID. Failure gives a random alteration, plus self-loathing.]
>>[2] Sense Weaknesses — You'll spot every chink in the armor. The issue is getting to it. [Passive.]
Richard being proud of us makes me uncomfortable
>>[3] Ophidian Charm — Your natural charm, only moreso. Spend 1 SV for every 10 DC of a social check to automatically succeed. Unlocks social tree.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Rolling, then writing.
File: serpentfire sea.jpg (104 KB, 520x704)
104 KB
104 KB JPG
>Ophidian Charm

You'd normally be against this, but in the light of your previous circumstances you're warming up to the idea. "I mean..." you say. "As long as it's not weird, I guess."

"Oh, naturally, Charlie, naturally." Richard gives your shoulder a good-natured rub. "Temporary, too, of course. Excellent choice."

You wait to feel different. It never comes. You swallow. "Uh, did it happen, or..."

"Already done, Charlie! I knew you'd be reasonable, so I just went ahead with it. No muss, you know."

Scratch that, you do feel different-- now vaguely nauseated. "So I've been altered this whole time? And I didn't know it?"

"More or less! Now, hold on, give me a hot sec--"

"A what?"

He's vanished. You resolve, then and there, to ignore him. He can talk all he wants-- you'll just sit here until you go home.

You wait.

From behind you, a pop and a vexed rustle. Your jaw is set. You do not turn to look. If you engage with Richard in any way, you lose.

You hate Richard. You hate losing.

If only there were something else to look at. The night air is unwelcoming and sticky, the street— excepting your blood— empty, the buildings sludgy. Everything has an oil-slick look about it. You don't think you were supposed to be here so long. (Or maybe you're still a little drunk.)

From behind you, some kind of infernal caterwaul— like a hobnail on slate, or (you have traumatic memories of biscuit-making) the feeling of cornstarch on dry fingers. It comes in starts and stops, which is far worse than it going all at once. You are ashamed to report you flinch, not just once, but multiple times— but you don't turn around, which is the important thing.

Ever since the "eye incident," your peripheral vision has been chopped neatly in half; Richard has been circling around to your left, so you don't see him until he's nearly in front of you. He has been hauling an enormous standing blackboard across the cobbles. He leans sweatily against it. The telescopic pointer protrudes from his pant pocket.

"Hello, Charlie," he remarks.

"Hello," you respond, out of good breeding. Your face drops.

"I'm back!"

You cross your arms. "So?"

"Welcome back?" He raises his eyebrows. "Did your mommy dearest not teach you how to properly great someone, Charlie? I know she wasn't around much, but— it goes 'hullo,' or 'salutations,' then 'welcome back,' then 'how are you, how was your day…'"

You drum your fingers against the side of your chest. "I assure you, nobody in the past 20 years has ever said 'salutations.' Or 'hullo.' Who taught you to properly greet—"
File: ellery.jpg (436 KB, 1000x988)
436 KB
436 KB JPG
"Thanks, Charlie, it's good to be back. Not pleasant, though, it's never pleasant!" He makes a motion as if to light a cigarette, but pauses. "I'm doing fine, thanks for asking, though if I were properly greeted it certainly would've been better. It may also have been polite to have been asked about this blackboard…"

He reaches for the pointer. You narrow your eye.

He retrieves the pointer, extends it to its full length, and braces it at his chest.

"Fine," you say. "Fine. Gosh, Richard, what's with the blackboard. May I please leave—"

"Charlie! I'm glad you asked." Richard transfers the pointer to his left hand and, with the right, takes hold of the blackboard— you notice, too late, the pivots on either end. With a theatrical sweep, he spins the board to reveal the other side.

"Oh God." You place your hands on your hips. "This?"

You should've known from the pointer. It's his investigation board from earlier today, strings and thumbtacks and all, only transferred to a much larger surface. You've already seen this. It has already been gone through in exhaustive detail. And you no longer have a drink or three to suffer through it with.

"Yes, Charlie, this. You're probably wondering when I had the time to redo all of it—"

"I guess I am now."

"The answer is multitasking, which you would do well to learn. You can't multitask worth a damn, Charlie."

You dig your hands harder into your hips. "I don't know what that means."

"It's not rocket science, Charlie, it's—"

"Or what that means."

Richard pinches the brow of his nose. "It's— this is a new low, even for you. Multitask. Doing multiple things— tasks— at once."

"Oh." You could have guessed that, but that's not something you'd care to admit. "It could have meant a task that has multiple parts, you know."

"That's not the point. The point is you should do it. And I did it. Now, look, I think we should review this…"

"We did review it. Also, I was there when it all happened. If you forgot."

"You were paying attention in neither case, Charlotte, and furthermore I've added considerably to it. Come, sit down— I'll stand."

You press anyways. "Do we have to do it now?"

"I won't be interested later." He waggles the pointer. "Sit."

You sit begrudgingly in an olive-green settee, made all the more atrocious by its solidity— it's a bastion of bad taste against your liquid surroundings. Richard straightens his bow tie, clears his throat, and begins:

"Who is Ellery to you?"

"What?" You are already slumped half-over onto the settee. "He's not anyone to me. He's just the local crazy guy, Richard. And now he's dead, so…"

File: telescopic pointer.jpg (21 KB, 600x600)
21 KB
"I don't care to catch your meaning, Charlie," Richard says breezily. With the pointer, he jabs at a loose piece of paper cellu-taped to the blackboard; it takes several tries before the paper flutters to the ground, revealing another beneath it. "CRAZY GUY" is written on it in Richard's distinctive loose cursive.

"I believe this proves my point," you say after a long pause, "of why this isn't necessary…"

"Pish." Richard retrieves the paper from the ground. "It's establishing. So you don't know him?"

"No, he's… Can we skip this? Please? You know the answers."

"Charlotte, there's a- there's a process." He sounds agitated.

You bury your face in your hands. "It's a terrible process."

"Do you have a better one?"

"Yes." You slide your hands up through your hair and stand up. "Gimme the- may I have the pointer? You can sit."

Richard's eyes flick from you to the blackboard. He pushes the pointer in and out. "Charlotte, I actually put, ah, quite a lot of time into this..."

"What, did you practice? Get off your high horse— you've been interested in this for, God, an hour? Hand me the pointer and I'll do it."

He silently proffers the pointer. You reach forward and take it: it's cool in your hand, with a surprising amount of heft. It makes you feel very official.

Richard sits, pissily, on the settee.

"Right," you say. "Nine days ago, I was having some limited difficulty obtaining an expedition partner."

"Nobody wants to be around you." He rests his face on one fist. One leg lies across the couch; the other dangles off the side.

You jab the pointer towards him. "Untrue. Now, my last resort was Ellery, because it's not like he had anything else going on. I pay him a visit, and find him…"


You can't tell if he's making fun of you: he's got his sunglasses back on. "Uh, yes. Didn't remember my name, didn't remember what he was doing, looked appalling— not that's not normal. He was in the middle of the floor, I think. And he was believing anything I told him. So, you know, I thought I'd seize this opportunity, and I told him he was asking me to come with."

"Very ethical of you."

"You know very well the ends justify the means. Anyways, success— I also told him to clean up the place, which he did too, so, success— I leave. I prep for a week…"

"Charlie, you didn't prep at all."

"I prep for a week, the day rolls around, and… I don't know, he didn't seem especially strange? No more than usual, I mean. We went in, got the crown, got out somehow. Next day, uh, he comes to the tent midday. Says Monty wants to talk, also heard Madrigal wanted to talk, leaves. Also seemed normal, if a little nervous."

Richard is inspecting his fingernails. "One might imagine."
File: mind games.gif (1024 KB, 500x500)
1024 KB
1024 KB GIF
"One mightn't imagine— all I know is I blacked out, okay? And now I'm ambidextrous." You wave the pointer in your left hand. "I ought to be right-handed, you realize? Yes? What happened, Richard?"

"If it were relevant, you would know what happened." He gestures nonchalantly. "Isn't this an improvement, Charlie? One of your petty limitations removed? We shall hope for more to come."

"We shan't! Look. I go talk to Madrigal. She practically begs me to figure out what's wrong with Ellery, on account of me bringing him along. Says he hasn't really talked to anyone in months. Conveniently leaves out the fact they're exes. I accept in return for the invitation I'm owed to Game Night—"

"You accepted because you're nosy."

You put your hands on your hips. "Nosiness isn't ladylike. I have an intellectual curiosity in—"


"—other people's lives. The point is I accept. I check in with Ellery next, to see if he knows what happened. But he doesn't talk about that at all, except that I had gold eyes…"

"Brass, would've been. I don't brook with gold. You know this."

Of course Ellery gets that wrong. Men. "Brass, either way. What he actually talks about is you. Says he thinks I'm talking to someone in my head, says he knows because he used to have someone in his head, too, until he got him out. And he wanted to give me advice on it, except he wouldn't tell me how he got the someone out— so what's the point, then?"

"Oh, Charlie, how you wound me." Richard does not appear wounded. He is fiddling, for some reason, with an expensive-looking fountain pen. "I told you, even if he did say, it wouldn't work. But this is intriguing. What kind of someone, I wonder?"

"Are there kinds?"

"The psyche fractures in fascinating ways when it hits seawater— I'm surprised there aren't more cases around here, in fact. People, animals, uh, abstract representations. Yourself, sometimes. Imagine that— you think I'm bad?"

"Uh," you say.
"Anyway, yes, none of that is relevant. What's relevant is what you left out."

You frown. "I didn't—"

"Charlie, he didn't tell you how because it went wrong." Richard tips his pen towards you. "Wasn't it obvious? It was a botch job, he said as much himself. It potentially explains the isolation, uh, the frequenting of the manse…"

"Wait. So you had the answer to all this—" you smack the board— "the entire time? It's because his head's gotten all screwy?"

"We'll have to verify the dates, but, yes, potentially. It's not the answer, though, it's— at best— a partial explanation. It doesn't speak to the code, the crystal, uh, the lab equipment, the dated notes… It doesn't even explain your principle question, which is the break-up. The scar one, she-"

"Madrigal," you provide.

"Madrigal, whatever. She seems fairly sharp— if the break-up and the procedure directly coincided, I believe she would have noticed. It's other things."
Your legs are beginning to ache from the standing (curiously, not from all the earlier running). You shift uncomfortably. "Maybe she just got too obnoxious."

"We don't know, Charlie, that's the point. Keep up. What was after all this?"

You scratch your head. "I talked to Monty, uh, I broke into his tent— Ellery's tent. Whole lot of paper in there, none of which I could read. Totally illegible. But the weird thing was, stacked underneath the illegible sutff were some thatwere totally readable. Not good handwriting, but readable. So…"

Richard stretches like a cat. "So either he's been afflicted with some rapid-onset neurodegenerative disease-"


"Or," he says, "he's switched to writing in some kind of code. I suspect the latter. We ought to find some kind of expert on it, see if it's crackable."

"Wait." You tap the board. "What if it's because he got all screwy, like you said? Could that make someone—"

"Possibly. But let's wait on that until we have it deciphered, yes? Move on. The manse." Richard pushes up his sleeve to check a battered wristwatch. "Make it quick, though. We've got about 40 until you start falling apart."

"Uh," you say. "Wh-"

"Oh, you're useless." He stands. A telescopic pointer gleams in his pant pocket— and there is nothing, you realize, in your fist. "I'd have to explain it very slowly to you, anyway. Have a seat."

Lacking real options, you sit primly in the corner of the settee. Richard flips the board back over. It remains blank.

"Charlie," he says, and you know immediately this is some kind of recitation: his voice has settled into a rich narrator-cadence. "Your little halfpenny relationship drama? It's boring."

You rest your chin on your hand.

"I's orderly, it's predictable, it's happened a hundred thousand times over already-- and will again. There's no [i]brio[/i] to it. So let us forget it entirely, and turn instead to what holds genuine intrigue—" he scratches something downwith a stick of chalk—

"The [i]metaphysical anomalies[/i]." (He has written the same on the blackboard.) You open your mouth. "In small words for you, Charlie? Things bad with Ellery. Things wrong. Things *broken*. Things- look, you've called him weird."

"Uh, yes."

"That doesn't begin to cover it. First thing: he should not have *been* there." He is writing this, too. "You're not in the manse when you're asleep: and certainly he was asleep, not vacant. If you [i]did[/i] stumble into it by accident,you would not be articulate, and, well— he was. Clearly."

(Blackboard: 1. WAS THERE.)

"Second thing: He should not have been *there*. Did you notice what he said about me?"

You think back. "Nice bow?"
Richard touches his bow tie self-consciously. "Yes, but… no. No. He saw me as a snake, Charlie, when I was otherwise. And this has a fairly rational explanation." He draws a circle and divides it into horizontal thirds. "A manse has threelayers, each straying progressively farther from reality. On the first, I look as I am now." He tugs at his lapel. "Because you still wield enough influence to make it so. On the second— it's a snake."
"Hold on," you say. "Are you saying he saw through to the second layer?"

"Charlie, I'm saying he was [i]on[/i] the second layer. Maybe the third. The Ellery you first saw would've been a sort of… mimeograph, projected upwards. You saw how he moved?"

Too fast, too fluid. "Sure."

"Time's different when you get deeper, so it translates strangely. Charlie: if I wasn't clear, this is at [i]best[/i] unorthodox. Most people never make it a layer down, let alone stay for extended periods of time— it gets to be dangerous."

(2. TOO DEEP.)

"Third thing: he [i]jammed my signal[/i]. That's why I wasn't there through the mirror, yes? I couldn't get through to you. It's possible this was accidental, but- still. Still illegal."

"I mean, you couldn't get through just now, either--"

"Interference, not jamming, Charlie. I would've gotten through if you'd given me longer."

You're forced to accept this.


"Which brings us around to the fourth and largest anomaly, Charlie: he's too [i]good.[/i] He's been too good from the start. He pulled up an armchair, no thought, no hesitation-"

You are examining your fingernails. "You do that sort of thing all the time."

"Yes, Charlie, [i]I[/i] do that sort of thing all the time. Humans don't take to legislature, no matter how much practice you do or god-stuff you ingest— you're just too real for it. If you practice making a chair, and specifically thatchair, you can pull it in maybe a couple minutes. Not instantly. And then there's the smarmy little notes he was leaving, which is either precognition or such a casual abuse of power— and the white room, Charlie, the white room!"
Richard's eyes are gleaming. As ebullient punctuation, he has been jabbing at the (now chalk-pockmarked) blackboard. He is breathing heavily. You are less impressed. "Your signal was jammed during that, I thought."

"Charlie. I don't know how to explain the white room to you. It's [i]doable[/i], it's just… antithetical to the entire human experience. You live and breathe and thrive on artifice…"

"Hey," you say, a little offended. "I'm genuine."

He laughs hoarsely. "Whatever you say, Charlie. To be human is to believe your own bullshit. Stripping it away like that— well, it's an anomaly."

(4. TOO GOOD.)

"All this made me begin to suspect something. But then he 'died,' Charlie, and—"

"Are you doing air quotation marks around 'died'?"

He stops doing air quotation marks around 'died.' "No. Charlie, the blood. You know that isn't human. I know that isn't human. Let us confront the matter, instead of dancing around it…"

You stand in an instant. "[i]What?[/i]"

"Ellery is not human, or anyhow not entirely. He's outside human parameters. He was standing after a flechette shell to the heart, Charlie. Don't be delusional."
"You- you-" You stamp your foot. "You tricked me! You didn't recapitulate anything! I don't— I just wanted to hear about all his weird notes, and weird tools, and the writing under the wallpaper, and so on! Safe, you know, uh, detective-y…this is… I'm not comfortable with this."

Richard is smiling. "I never said I'd recap anything."

"It was implied!"

"It was not. Listen, Charlie, you can still have your notes and your insipid breakup. They haven't gone anywhere— they're probably entirely unrelated. All I'm doing is opening up a far more interesting line of questioning. Don't you liketo be nosy?"

He's got you there. "Intellectually curious," you mutter, but there's no heart in it.

"Exactly. Don't you want to know [i]what[/i] he is? What he's been hiding from everybody? His dark, tragic secret?"

"I…" You suck at your teeth. "Yes."

"Excellent, let us dissect some of the possibilities. One: we have never met the real Ellery, if he ever existed."

You boggle. This had never occurred to you. "What? Really??"

"Certainly. Some foul chaos-being taking the skin of a man is far from unheard of. I admit I'm not sure which would have silver blood— but think about it, Charlie, he didn't even remember your name."

You nod eagerly. "That *is* foul and chaotic."

"Right. Two, uh—"

"He's a *robot*." You've been thinking very hard about this. "Consider it. Silver blood— it's like metal, right? And it's definitely not human."

"Uh," Richard says. "I suppose so, yes. Robot. Automaton. However you'd like to put it. I was going to say that, returning to the botched procedure from earlier, it's possible it forced some kind of merge between, uh, the real and unrealaspects. This'd enable all the fine control of the manse, but I don't know how he'd keep it stable. And it doesn't explain the blood at all."

"Maybe," you say, "he's a robot, and also there was a merge."

"I… maybe." Richard appears conflicted. "I have one more theory, but I can't tell you it."

You fold your arms. "That's dumb."

He shrugs.
>Pick a hypothesis to focus your investigation on. (You can combine #4 and other options.)

>[A1] This is not the real Ellery.
>[A2] Ellery is artificial.
>[A3] Ellery is a hybrid.
>[A4] Seriously, that's dumb. Wheedle Richard into telling you his secret theory. [Roll.]
>[A5] All of these are terrible! You've got all the facts at your fingertips-- you should be able to construct a much better hypothesis. Write-in your theory. [Check below for resources.]

>[B] Optional — Richard's in the best mood you've seen in a while. If you have any unrelated questions for him (about himself, about you, about reality...), now's your best shot to get an answer. [Write-in.]


You don't have all the facts, but it should be possible to assemble a coherent narrative from what you know, including possibilities not brought up by Lottie or Richard. You may be as limited or as broad as you wish.

A better hypothesis may aid you later on.

The Case File pastebin lists all clues you've encountered so far, and links to where they're located in the previous threads. Everything in it, contrary to Richard's opinion, is in some way relevant. Find it here:https://pastebin.com/wRUPtQqL

Knowledge of the original Drowned Quest is not required to theorize here, but neither is it totally irrelevant. (Ellery is still Ellery.) Think of previous-quest info as a "shortcut" to information you'd learn via asking around in Redux.Ask Drowned veterans to summarize, or ask me if you have particular questions.

The epilogue to Drowned Quest was the segue into Redux. It's not entirely canon, especially in terms of Richard and Lottie's character, but the events of it are factual. Parts may also prove useful. Find it starting here: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/3449345/#p3470430

Good luck and have fun! (Or just pick a default option if you prefer.) Ask me if you need clarification. Be nice to each other.

Drowned Quest Redux will return tomorrow.
>>[A4] Seriously, that's dumb. Wheedle Richard into telling you his secret theory. [Roll.]
Give me a little while, I'll work on a theory
The crushed black crystal, washed up by the ocean, is a drug that enables the movement between different layers of the manse.

The company produced, manufactured or otherwise was involved with the crystal.

Ellery had been abusing it, and losing more and more control of his behavior due to it.

Our best clues:

Basilic: (Vein in the upper arm, drains parts of hand and forearm)
Cephalic: (In reference to the head typically, but in the arm is a superficial vein used commonly FOR INTRAVENOUS INJECTIONS.)
Median ante-[smudged] BEST: (Likely referring to the median antebrachial vein, which joins the basilic and cephalic veins.)

He was acting more distant towards Madrigal, despite being a good man. He was ready to welcome death. He asked for Margo to go for the head.

His head is the architecture. The glass was coated in the black goop when it was shattered. It all had to be shattered to destroy him.

I speculate that metabolizing the crystal turned his blood silver. It's a physical product.

The glass is a literal representation of his mind. So is everything else inside his mental architecture. The black goop was on the bookshelf, the broken glass. He could instantly move items between the space because they were ALWAYS there. The chairs are inside his mind, so they can move freely between them. The narrow space and white room were a part of it. Richard is constrained to portions of the manse, and/or doesn't have this substance, so he doesn't understand why it was so easy for Ellery to move between them.

But Ellery was losing his grip on moving between the layers. He could not control the passage between them. His movement was weird.

C could be in reference to the Company. Richard has referred to the manse with religious subtext multiple times, and in our world, a manse is often a religious building. We are a regent-in-waiting, and have made mention of religious significance with ability in our own weird psyche, but I don't believe I have enough awareness of the metaphysics here (or haven't connected enough dots) to realize the significance of all this yet.

But a manse can also be any structure attached to an estate. A psyche.

I'm not positive on the significance of higher levels, or what function the black crystal serves in terms of manipulating the boundary between each level.

I think that this all seems more reasonable than Ellery being a machine. He felt it was prudent to mention how old the substance, and we tasted it without any severe effects. I believe that if the effect is dependent on a physical material, and that HE was dependent on a physical material.

tl;dr Ellery was a drug addict involved with the black goop we've been carrying with us for some time. He was losing himself, distanced himself from Madrigal, and died after he pushed her away.

Everyone PLEASE feel free to disagree entirely with me, but this seemed like the first and most plausible explanation. Omitted all quotations to save on the character limit.
To hell with it. Quick OG Drowned summary for the newbies (or forgetful vets).

Regarding Ellery:
- The events of OG Drowned take place approx. 3 years prior to Drowned Redux, and span about a week.
- Ellery's not lying: he did have something like (he thought) you have, and like Richard described. In his case, it was a doppelgänger of himself, dubbed "That Guy" because he was generally irritating and no-fun-allowed. (Alternately, "mature" and "responsible.") That Guy spoke in italics.
- You can find Ellery and That Guy's physical descriptions in the old character sheet: https://pastebin.com/vugu4geW Unnmentioned: Ellery was 6', That Guy was 6'1".
- There were some escapades regarding Ellery and That Guy switching places, so that That Guy gained control of a physical form. This was generally noticable via eye color-- That Guy had blue eyes.

Regarding setting stuff Charlotte mostly doesn't know (so be careful) / Ellery's notes:
- On the surface, seawater is considered a drug, and access to it is heavily restricted. Injecting it intravenously leads to euphoria, delusions of grandeur, and enhanced physical capabilities. Certain groups, dubbed Magicians, claim to inject it not for the high, but for religious reasons-- to worship the dead Seas [pagan gods].
- Underwater, for obvious reasons there's no restrictions... but limited access to real syringes and needles cuts down on more casual users. Magicians remain marginalized, especially by the former middle/upper-class (who had little prior interaction and are taught the Seas are idolatric). They generally keep worship on the down-low.
- In general, blood and seawater react in interesting ways. Exposure of the two congeals the blood into a pinkish semi-solid which heals wounds quickly.
- Blood is an interesting substance all by itself. It is thought to contain the "spirit" or "essence" of a person, such that draining someone of blood also drains them of personality and identity, and injecting the blood of someone (or something) else literally imparts some of them onto the injector.
- It is also, innately, a real substance; as a result, crystals can be extracted from it.

And a note for everybody: everything in the bin is relevant to the broader mystery, but not all of it is currently solvable. If something doesn't fit, you might not have the context yet. Don't feel like you have to force anything.

I'm slowly working on adding the most recent update to the bin. If something sounds like it's already been answered, it likely has.


Double cheers.
The black goop as mind drug is interesting, and I think we definitely should keep investigating it. There are a couple more points to keep in mind:

There's a difference between an Ellery who recognizes us, and an Ellery who does not.

Ellery admits he has experience with having someone else in his head.

As Richard explained here, by being able to see Richard as a snake, Ellery is one a higher or more complex plane of mental whatsit than regular people. Richard doesn't need a physical body, so perhaps Ellery doesn't either?

The experiments with making unreality more real could be a means of A) Freeing Ellery's self from physical constraints, B) Exploring further into the metaphysics of this world, and C) ???

The endgoal is uncertain, but it's something he both needs assistance from others to achieve and wants to keep shrouded in secrecy. The best next step is to investigate the people around Ellery, E being Eloise is our next lead to decipher Ellery's notes and attempt to uncover what exactly he's trying to achieve.

Ellery is using the black goop and other experiments to have some sort of effect, or perhaps control, over his psyche. It has currently expanded past regular human consciousness/awareness, and might be striving to something past what Richard is right now. Ellery acted subtly different towards us in the Manse, as if at times he had an entirely different series of memories.

It implies Ellery's psyche is fractured, and the regular and mirror realms of his manse tower supports that there are different versions of Ellery's head.

Ellery is real, or was real, but with experimentation with his psyche and this mirror self, it appears he's attempted to reach beyond reality for... something, and *make* it real. Something he wants no one else to know about, fully. Something he's willing to push away Madrigal for to achieve.
It's not not the real Ellery, but it's also not the real Ellery. It's a reflection of the real Ellery that came from being separated from the real Ellery. Or maybe what was left over after that separation.
Bump for a solid quest with a original story.
>Combining these. Nice going.

>Seekrit theory?

[4] isn't exclusive, so...
>Roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 40 (-10 Good Mood) to drag Richard's theory out of him for completeness.
Hey, appreciate it. What brought you here?
Rolled 7 (1d100)

Drowned dice time
Rolled 29 (1d100)

Rolled 25 (1d100)

Rolling the last for expediency, then writing.
File: charlotte.png (912 KB, 564x843)
912 KB
912 KB PNG
>Wheedle Richard's theory out of him.
>7, 29, 25 vs. DC 40 - Failure!
>Propose your own theory.

"Seriously," you say. "What would you have to lose? Just tell me." You are slumped back onto the settee, arms thrown out to either side. Richard has begun to pace again.

He stops in place. "What do I have to lose?"

"Yeah." It seems like a valid question to you. "You're a... you know, a snake, mostly. I don't suppose you've got much in the way of material attachments."

"Hmm." You sit up as Richard meanders over to you. When he squats down in front of you, so his face is level with your own, you fold your hands.

He takes off his sunglasses. He is staring you square in the eyes. "Charlie," he says levelly.

You glance towards your escape: the other side of the couch. "Ye-es?"

"No, Charlie, look me in the eyes." You snap back to his face. It's disconcerting: his eyes are so blue they're almost white. "Good girl. Now listen to me. You have no concept of object permanence."

"Of- of what?" What did you say wrong?

Richard is smiling. His teeth are straight and a little too white and it creates the general feeling he wants to eat you. "Object permanence. Anything you can't see, to you, doesn't exist. It can't exist, because you're the one to make the sun go and the stars shine."

You squirm. "I don't think th-"

"Well, you wouldn't admit it, would you? Not to me, not to yourself— but that doesn't make it less true, Charlie. Deep down, you—" he jabs a finger into your leg— "consider yourself the protagonist."

"I do not!"

"But you do. You absolutely do. You're the protagonist of the universe, and you cannot comprehend the idea of anyone else having a life outside yours. It's your anathema."

There's something about his voice that's troubling you, too. He's aiming for his implacable snake-tone, but something keeps creeping in around the edges. You think you've just hit upon it. "Hold on," you say. "Are you— are you offended?"

"What?" Richard stands abruptly. "No."

And there goes the implacability altogether. You were bang on. "Ha! You're just pissy I said you didn't have material attachments. Or called you a snake. I'm not sure which."

"Charlotte, I am not—" He's stuffing his sunglasses back on. "I am not pissy. I don't know where you picked up that term—"

"So do you have material attachments?"

"I fail to see how that's relevant!"

"Because if you don't, you ought to tell me your theory, right? You've got nothing to lose."

"You are not hearing the theory."

That's not good enough for you. "But have you or have you not got attachments?"

"Yes!" It comes out a little too vehemently. He swallows. "I have— I have attachments. That's all you're knowing."

"Nice, nice." You don't actually care: you're just happy to have the upper hand for once. "Now, look, I have a proper theory. Uh, a couple, actually—"

File: richard s6.jpg (121 KB, 550x362)
121 KB
121 KB JPG
"Well," Richard says. He is seated a decorous distance away from you on the settee. He is massaging his forehead. "The complexity of your theories has certainly, uh, increased."

"You think so?"


You rub a stray curl between your fingers. "So were they any good?"

Richard considers his answer to this in silence for what seems like a full 30 seconds. "Uh…" he says finally. "They were fine."

"Are you still pissy—"


He's absolutely still pissy, so you translate "fine" to "excellent" in your head. You think they're pretty excellent, too, especially without much practice. You'll consider the "robot" thing a warm-up (but still, the blood!).

Another little silence passes before Richard checks his watch again. "Charlie, it's time to go—"

"Is it?" You're feeling a little spiteful. "Really? I just loved being dragged here under false pretenses and then listening to you talk about keys for four hours…"

"Yes, it is. Up." He's already standing. You do the same, slowly. "Turn around."


"Just turn around, Charlie." You do. He grips you by the shoulder and brushes the hair from your neck. "Good. Three, two, one-"

He yanks something invisible and cold from your neck. You wake up, gasping, in your desk chair.

"Oh God-" you say. "Oh God— Oh—" You touch your face, your chest, your arms and legs and feet, just to make sure they're there. You feel unshakably it should be dark outside, but it's just barely beginning to dim.

You are not entirely sure what just happened.

«Hello.» Richard gleams in the half-light in front of you. «Give it a minute. The time shift is always difficult.»

What was before this? You were sculpting (the model is still there, quarter-finished, on the desk), when Richard said— he said—

Oh, there it comes. You slump back in the chair. Your mouth tastes like an indiscriminate mix of fruit. "God, how long was that? What time is it?"

«Six hours to the dot. An hour later, to the dot. Early evening.»

The thought of another hour of daylight makes you sick to your stomach. "Oh."

«Far from an optimal spanner, but that will have to be improved—»

You're not listening. You're thinking about all the things you should do, but don't want to. Like going back to the cave. Like going through Ellery's tent while he's… not there.

«All a waste of time, you realize.» The snake is fixing you with a beady eye.

You throw your hands up in defeat. "You're sending me mixed messages, you realize? You just did a whole presentation on—"

If you squint at him from the right angle, Richard has the decency to appear embarrassed. «Yes. That was… ill-considered.»


>[1] Trudge out back towards Tom's Cave. Bring gloves. Take samples. Try not to vomit.
>[2] Sidle into Ellery's tent. Hope you don't get caught. Steal a lot of papers.
>[3] Go to sleep, for God's sake. Put something over your eyes for the light. Wake up at 4 AM.
>[4] Write-in.
Try not to get caught. It'll end badly.
We're definitely not going to not get caught.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling, then writing.

>[1] Trudge out back towards Tom's Cave. Bring gloves. Take samples. Try not to vomit.

I'm late but I'll give the winning option more legitimacy.
File: forest.png (359 KB, 564x376)
359 KB
359 KB PNG
>Trudge out to Tom's Cave.

Given Ellery's track record, they'll give it a week or two before they even think about touching his tent. His remains are a lot more ephemeral. And, whether Richard likes it or not, your interest has been piqued.

You fish the fettling knife out and slide it into the desk drawer. Scooting the chair back, you lean to grab your pocketknife from the shelf instead. Then thinking better of it, you stand, grip the chair in a momentary sway of vertigo— you haven't stood in an hour, or maybe six— and pick up the knife like a sane person. You duck under your cot and grope around in the portmanteau for your gloves (black, leather, expensive), slide them on, then pause. You don't have anything sterile to put samples in, and you are not keeping skull fragments in your pockets.

You stifle a gag with a gloved hand at the inadvertent phrase "skull fragments."

«Don't look at me,» Richard grouses. He's been tailing you as you've been digging around in the tent. «This is your cockamamie idea.»

"All I'm doing is opening a more interesting line of questioning," you mimic. "Oh God, Charlie, I'm soooo smart. I have a blackboard."

«I don't sound like that.» He pauses. «Surely I don't sound like that.»

He doesn't. You can do the general tone, but you can't begin to approximate all the smug little tics and nuances. "We'll split the difference. Got ideas?"

«No. Sleep. You're going to develop bags, Charlie.»

You slide open the desk drawer again and discover some woven mats you've used to wrap models in. It's good enough. You stick a couple in your pocket.

You're ready as you'll ever be. It's just a matter of slipping out unnoticed…

Easy. You slip out unnoticed. You just had to weave between the tents and dodge the hoots to the north (lizard-racing? sounds like lizard-racing), where you suspect most of the action is. The path to Tom's Cave is unmarked, but easily spotted by its proximity to one of Eloise's "installations"—a table with grass growing out the top, possibly symbolic, entitled "Fen VI." The trail is a tad more dangerous in the growing dusk, but you know it well enough. Still no large wildlife. Has there been a recent hunt?

You draw close to the cave. The water tastes metallic, you think. You round the bend—

File: eloise.jpg (44 KB, 480x617)
44 KB
Margo's gone, is the first thing you notice. Or still gone. Is she still in the cave? You don't like to think about it. Her rocking chair is empty, in any case.

The second thing you notice is Eloise bent over a patch of grass. You don't have to hesitate on the identification— it could not be more plainly her. She's got the cloak on.

You honestly don't know what to make of the cloak. It's bright blue, it seems well-made enough, if pressed you might call it beautiful. The trouble with it is she never takes it off. Six months you've seen her, and not once has she appeared without it. You've heard mentions of a betting pool. Is she grotesquely deformed in one way or another? Is it a political statement? Does she just really like the color blue? Nobody knows. (In your opinion, she just likes the attention.)

In any case, Eloise's cloak is here, and thus so is Eloise. And she is inspecting the location of the murder.

Why must things always be difficult?

>[1] It's not worth it. Go back to camp. Or… head into town. So you're "blacklisted." So what? You need some civilization. [Where do you go?]
>[2] Be rational, Lottie. There's no way Eloise knows you were involved. Or… not involved. Just walk up like a normal person. Say hello like a normal person. (Or "salutations," apparently.)
>[3] Wait it out in this copse until she leaves. She won't be here forever, surely. But then again, Margo won't be in the cave forever.
>[4] Write-in.

Needless to say, this was an absolute bust of a "session." Sorry. I'll write as many updates as I have votes for tomorrow, but I won't set a dedicated time for it. Daily update 25th-27th.

Oh Eloise, uh. Sup? Whatcha doin' out here all alone in front of a totally-not-murderer's hut?
Bad news: I have been recruited for Christmas prep. Worse news: it's going to take a while. I'll try to push out this update today, but I may have to play it by ear.

Sorry guys!

It's fine. It's fine. You're just got to act natural. It's not difficult.

«For most people, it isn't.»

Right. And you are most people. Which is why you step out of the trees calm, cool, and collected and not, say, like someone with a guilty conscience. Not that you did anything wrong. Because you didn't.

You use your forefinger and thumb to blow a hailing whistle— it's good courtesy if you're not in shoulder-tap range. Eloise looks up, then behind her, towards you.

"Charlotte?" she signs, unruffled. There's an extra flourish at the end of her words, which to you always makes it sound like she's speaking in cursive. "Out for a walk?"

You hesitate. You don't like answering questions. It feels like you're giving something away.

«Answer yes, you stupid bint.»

Richard's been all over the map today. It's his time of the month, apparently. "Yes," you say, a beat too late. "Say, uh, what have you got there?"

"Crime scene." She points downwards. "Seriously, right here. Check it out."

Skull fragments. You swallow, but trot forward at her request. She has hunched back over.

"Uh," you say out loud, once you're in the range of intelligibility. "A crime scene? Like— a murder— or—"

"Nah, lookit." Eloise's hands are rubber-gloved. She holds a fragment of something shiny. Something… silver. "Someone dropped a mirror."


"Oh," you say stiffly. Then: "Oh. A mirror?"

"Yeah, I came by and saw a glint in the weeds. It's a mirror, clearly, yeah? And it's all over here. Must've been, I don't know, a smuggler. Got spooked by something, dropped his cargo. You hear there's smugglers in the Fen? Whole nest of them. Must be real pissed the Wind Court's moved in, huh?"

You give this story about a twenty-percent chance of truthfulness. Eloise is known for the quantity, not quality, of her rumors. "Real pissed, yes. Incredibly pissed. Sorry, why'd you choose to call this a crime scene?"

"Why not? It's more exciting. And it's not wrong."

It's not wrong. Mirrors were highly illegal on the surface, on account of being made of glass. Glass was highly illegal because it had a tendency to make things so real they exploded, or, well, something like that. (You'd only heard of it through dedicated eavesdropping via hollow wallspaces.) But it's still a wild exaggeration.

"Maybe if you're histrionic," you mutter. Eloise doesn't blink. "Fine," you say, louder. "What are you doing with it?"

She waves a gloved hand. "Picking up the shards, obviously. Can't just leave them, don't want to mutate the crabs. That was a joke."

"Ah," you say. "Very funny. I laughed."

"Ha." Eloise seems pleased. She always seems vaguely pleased, like a cat with cream. "Hey, Charlotte, want to hear what I heard about you?"

[Choices next.]
>[A1] Ask for a mirror shard. Be polite. [Write-in why you want one?]
>[A2] Take one off the ground when Eloise isn't looking. [Roll.]
>[A3] Leave it be. You can always burgle one later, should it come to that.
>[A4] Write-in.

>[B1] You always want to hear what people say about you. Hopefully it's good. (It's hardly ever good.)
>[B2] You do want to hear something, but not about you. What has she heard about… [Write-in a rumor topic. Could be a person, could be an event, could be general goings-on, etc.]
>[B3] You don't want to hear anything at all, thanks.
>[A1] Ask for a mirror shard. Be polite. [Write-in why you want one?]
Glass that totally doesn't mutate into crabs sounds pretty neat.

>[B1] You always want to hear what people say about you. Hopefully it's good. (It's hardly ever good.)
If nothing else, we can gauge how bad and wrong her sources are
Seconding both options.

charlotte is of course B1
>I just think it's neat

What kind of question is that? You are perpetually, sweatily desperate to know what others say about you, so the answer is clearly "yes." Eloise knows full well it's yes. It's just a formality.

"Well," you say. "I'm not much of a gossip…"

«You did it. You topped yourself in the "worst lie ever" department. Astounding.»

Eloise dismisses the implication with a wave of her hand. "Oh, obviously, Charlotte— do I look like a gossipmonger?" (She tends to prefer 'quidnunc,' which you are fully convinced is a word she made up. You cannot approve.) "It's nothing like that. I just overheard some talk about you, and I'm passing it along. For, you know, charity."

"Well," you say doubtfully, "if that's all, I suppose it couldn't hurt."

She cocks her head. "Are you sure? You don't sound entirely convinced—"

This has been happening more and more— her dragging on the pantomime at your expense. If you roll over now, though, she'll snicker at you. A grown woman, snickering. It's awful. "Uh, yes. Quite sure."

There's no snickering, but there's still far too much mirth in her eyes. God, you can't stand Eloise. "Alright, alright, look. There's talk you've found something big. You went out two days ago, next thing you've got the boss and the second breathing down your neck— and word's in town you're blackballed. People notice these things."

Richard, wrapped snugly around your forearm, is conspicuously silent. You tug at your suddenly tight-fitting collar. "Well, that's— big how?"

"Valuable? Powerful?" She shrugs. "I don't deal in specifics."

You bob your head, not listening. You're attempting to contrive a way out of this subject of conversation. "Uh," you say, eyes alighting on the mirror shards, "were you planning on cleaning all this up? Is there any way I could grab one—"

"Huh?" Eloise looks down at her gloves, then up at you. "Charlotte, yes, I was cleaning all this up. No, you can't— weren't you taught the risks? You said you were a society type."

You can't help yourself. "Royalty, actually."

"All the same." She shakes her head. "It's restricted for a reason, you know? Why would you want any?"

'Because it's the remains(???) of my murder(???) victim(???)' doesn't sound appealing. You go with your next option. "I don't know, it's just… neat."

"Well, god, of course it's neat! It's too neat. It's break-universe neat, if you let it percolate, which is why I'm going to destroy the stuff." She plucks another couple shards out of the mud. "Citizen's duty, all that. So is it true?"


"Did you find something big?"

[Choices next.]
>[A1] Maybe. What does she care about it?
>[A2] Maybe. What does everyone else care about it?
>[A3] You found something, but "big" is blowing it out of proportion, as rumors are wont to do. Of course. Haha.
>[A4] No.
>[A5] Yes. So what?
>[A6] Write-in.

>[B1] Make another go at convincing Eloise you really need a shard. (Write-in.)
>[B2] There's still quite a few on the ground. Stealth one. [Roll.]
>[B3] Leave it till later. Surely she won't destroy them right away.

Yall crazy


Here's what we do. Step on TWO (2) fragments, drag your foot back, be like oh no I got one in my shoe and pick it out and give it back. But keep the secret second piece.
Supporting this!

I like Eloise. We should ask her about the codes soon
Actually, wait, changing.

>[A6] "Maybe? Still trying to figure it out, but it seems like you're involved in it somehow."
Bring her into the Ellery situation and claim it's the "big find," deflect away from the crown. Full on lying will be more suspicious.
Real talk: it's 1 AM and I can't find my laptop. I'll aim for a double-header tomorrow.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling for [A], then writing.
File: you and ellery.jpg (117 KB, 980x1167)
117 KB
117 KB JPG
>Filch a shard.

"What?" you say, affecting a befuddled expression (it isn't too difficult, given the day so far). "No, I didn't find anything."

Eloise toys with her hoop earrings. "Really? I'm not saying I don't believe you—" she doesn't believe you— "but there's some pretty strong circumstantial evidence, is all I'm saying. It's just a coincidence?"

You wish Richard were here telling you what to say. You're not good at this. "…Yes."

"Hmm." She turns away from you. "Must've gotten a bad source, then. Maybe I'll just check in with Madrigal, verify—"

Eye contact with handsign is vital. Turning away from someone: this conversation is over.

«Nice going.»

Nice going? You're not the one conveniently absent when you're actually necessary. This can't remotely be blamed on you.

You twitch as Richard spirals up your left arm. «I was otherwise occupied. Now, look, you have to provide her something. Charity does not exist. This is a transaction.»

Eloise has busied herself with picking up shards. You pick at your sleeve.

«Eye for an eye. Tit for tat. Lex talionis. Quid pro quo. No such thing as a free lunch, Charlie, so pay your-»

God, you get the idea. You can't remember why you wanted him back. "Eloise?" you say aloud.

She tosses her head.

"I didn't find anything, but there was something—"

She turns back. A lock of hair has fallen over her face. "What's that?"

"I don't suppose you keep tabs on relationships?"

A warm smile. "Charlotte, I keep tabs on everything."

Eloise is a dangerous woman to cross. "Yes. Madrigal and Ellery—"

"Quiet relationship, quiet split. I think it's always worse that way, you know? Things simmer instead of boil over, and then they, well, keep simmering. It's never quite done with."

"On that note," you say, straightening your posture, "it's not quite done with. Madrigal's been asking me to look into the breakup—"

"You?" Eloise is toying with her earrings again.

"Well, yes. I don't see why n— look, the point is she's still simmering, got it? She's all 'oh, Lottie, please find out why he broke up with me, I'm desperate'— practically on her hands and knees. So I say yes, out of the goodness of my h—"

"Aw, you can cut the gullshit, Charlotte." Her smile's broadened. "We both know your heart's black as sin, yeah? So move on with it."

"It's not…" You glance down at your chest. "I have a great heart! Better than yours, any-"

"Move on with it!"

You scowl. "I say yes, out of the goodness of my heart. So that's the deal."

Eloise shakes her head knowingly. "I don't know what she sees in the guy."

"You don't say."

"Yeah. Don't get me wrong, he's not- he's smart. Badly-educated, but damn smart. But trying to talk to him? I mean… listen, three years ago, he drops outta the sky, Madrigal drags him into camp, yeah? He walks straight into my tent. I try to go, you know, 'hi, sorry you're stuck here'… I swear to god, he doesn't blink, he just walks straight out."

"No." Your good breeding quavers at the thought.

"Yes. So I think, well, he's probably in shock, right? So a day after, or a couple days, maybe, I go find him, and I'm all, you know, 'hi there'— and he stammers something about starting fires and leaves again. Just walks away."

Your jaw hangs open. "No!"

«It's for the best he's dead, sounds like.»

"I'm telling you, this happened. So that's my dominant impression of him, right there, and I have to say— he's not done a whole lot to shake that. The man can't stay on one topic to save his life, you know that? Even if you get him talking, it's ridiculous. I can't tell if his mouth moves faster than his brain, or his brain than his mouth, but—" Eloise pauses, brushes the hair from her face. "What I'm saying is I wouldn't screw him."

Does she take off the cloak- you wonder, and then suffocate that thought in its infancy.
You compose yourself. "Yes, I— yes, I got that."

She strokes her chin, considers. "I take that back, actually. I might screw him. But I would not date him."

This conversation has gone to a strange and uncomfortable place. You busy yourself by squatting down to look at the mud. It's mucked up with bootprints, but no flechettes and no blood— just twinkling mirror shards.

"Would you?"

Eloise would notice if you picked a big one straight up, and you're not sure the tiny slivers would do you much good. "Would I what?"

"Screw him. Or date him, I guess."

You flush an unattractive crimson. "I, uh- I- uh- no."

"Harsh! Why's that?"

His head's blown clean off. He might've been a robot and/or on drugs and/or not real, maybe. You swallow. "Isn't he like… 30?"

Eloise has to think. "Oh, right, you're actually a kid. It gets hard to tell."

"23!" It seems ancient to you, compared to your bright-eyed teens.

"Well… I dunno. Could work out. But that plus everything… yeah, I gotcha." She chucks you on the shoulder. "Got any last shards?"

You've been working out a plan. You stand, placing your foot on two large pieces, and pour into the baggie Eloise has produced the handful of smaller ones you've collected. "Oh," you say, and pause, "hang on, I think I've stepped on one." You extricate one— and, while hunched over, slide the other into your sleeve.

It works beautifully: Richard's silence is proof enough of that fact.

«Remove it as soon as you can, Charlotte. You don't want your skin turning to paper.»

Good, you jinxed it.

"I think that's most of it," Eloise says. "I'll take this back and neutralize it. Hey, you're not so bad, huh?"

She doesn't seem to mean this as an insult. "No?" you agree.

"Right on."
>[A1] Say, she seems to know things about glass. Will she tell you about it? (What will you tell her in return?)
>[A2] Say, how does she know things about glass? It's secret and illegal, more or less. (What will you tell her in return?)
>[A3] Say, was she collaborating with Ellery on something at any point? He claimed she was the "E" in his notes.
>[A4] Say, does she know anything about codes or the decoding thereof? You've got these papers back in your tent…
>[A5] You've got nothing else to say to Eloise.
>[A6] Write-in.

>[B1] Start on back to camp with Eloise.
>[B2] Keep her here. You have other things in mind for Tom's Cave.
>[B3] Write-in.

"Shouldn't Margo have come out to hassle us by now?"

Also, is this what information gathing feels like? Actual detective work? No way
Writing. Session today, surprise!
File: margo lindew.jpg (56 KB, 564x731)
56 KB
>Stay here - where's Margo?
>Was she really the "E" mentioned?

"Wait a tick," you say. "Shouldn't Margo be back by now?"

Eloise glances towards the empty rocking chair. "Uh… maybe? She was gone when I got here. I assumed she stepped out to do… whatever she does."

"Mmm." You can't say Margo's been gone for over an hour. You're smart enough to know that much. "I don't know, it's just odd. She's normally here all day, right?"

"Yeah, I think so." Eloise scratches under her chin. "What's the issue, though? Even if she comes back, she's not gonna do anything about us clearing a biohazard, even if it is in front of her weird cave. Her bark's worse than her bite."

Two shotgun blasts. You bite your lip. "I suppose so."

"That's the spirit! So, c'mon, we should get going—"

"I don't… I'd rather stay. Uh, for a while." Eloise has put you on the back foot from the start of this. You have to gain some ground back somehow.

She raises her eyebrows. "Suit yourself, I guess."

Score. You stand a little straighter. "Right. Did you work with Ellery on something this Kitemaker?"

"Did I…" Eloise cocks her head. "Yes. Why?"

That wasn't a lie, then. "It's for the—" don't stammer!— "investigation."

Eloise's quizzical look increases.

"That Madrigal asked me to do…"

"Right! Right, gotcha. It's cute you're calling it that. I like it." Eloise waves a hand. "Carry on, carry on."

"It's not cute," you mutter.

«Pick your battles, Charlotte.»

Fine. "So, yes, the investigation. What was this collaboration about?"

"Oh, funny story." Eloise holds up her baggie of mirror shards. "Mirrors."


"Small world, right? Yeah, no, it was weird. He was convinced mirrors had some kind of special property. I kept telling him, you know, glass is glass, doesn't matter what kind of backing you put on it… but anyways, there was some joint experimentation there."

"What kind of results did you get?"

She smirks. "That's confidential."

>[1] What she means is: she wants reciprocation. Tell her something in exchange. [What?]
>[2] Try and find out without giving anything up. [Roll.]
>[3] That's fine, that's all you needed to know. Change the subject. [What?]
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Try and find out without giving anything up. [Roll.]

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 45 (-5 Not So Bad After All) to not give anything up for this.


>[ID: 3/10]
>[1] Intercession: Spend 1 ID to add +10 to the results.
>[2] Do not.
Rolled 75 (1d100)


also neat surprise session
Rolled 47 (1d100)

Rolled 43 (1d100)

Here we go
>85, 57, 53 vs. DC 45 - Enhanced Success.

>85, 57, 53 vs. DC 45 - Enhanced Success.

You're not giving this up so easily. "Eloise, nothing's confidential."

"No, you're right, it's not." She holds your gaze. "But I'm not sure it's entirely related, hmm? Believe me, there wasn't a breakup because of mirrors."

"I think you'd be surprised." You place your hands in your pockets. "Trust me."

She glances down at her cloak, adjusts the clasp. You stand stock-still. "Alright, alright," she says finally. "But keep it to yourself, yeah?"

"Who'd I tell?"

"Er…" She scratches her chin. "Good point. Come on, my legs are killing me— let's find somewhere to sit."

Smugly, you trail behind Eloise, who ends up finding a rocky outcropping around the side of the cave entrance. You kick a couple inquisitive crabs off it, then sit.

"How much do you know about glass?" she starts. "I know it has to be some. You're off Pillar 6, and those guys were super into it, you're from way high up, I think your daddy was in politics… you picked up a little, yeah?"

You sidestep the obvious question of 'how do you know all this' (obvious answer: it's Eloise) and play along instead. "It's illegal. You're not supposed to know about it. It's extrareal, which means it does… bad things, uh, to reality."

"About what I expected, then. Alright. Yes, glass is extrareal— as in it's actually realer than reality. It accomplishes this by sort of… sucking out the reality in its surroundings. Which is not great for the surroundings, naturally."

This kind of makes sense. "Right. So what does this have to do with—"

"I'm just making sure you've got the appropriate background. Anyways, he comes to me in a tizz, and he goes 'Eloise, have you got any mirrors.' And I go, 'uhh, yeah, here's my steel one.' And he says 'no, no, a proper mirror, a glass one.'"

"This was three months ago?"

"Yeah, something like that. Anyways, I go 'well, I don't have a glass one, I'm not suicidal, are you crazy?' And he says, and he's got this kind of wild look in his eye— not that he doesn't always, but you know, a wilder one— 'Am I?' Like he doesn't know, himself." Eloise stops to gather the hair out of her cloak, and looks at you sharply. "Exactly like that, I swear. So I go 'uh, are you okay?' And he says— I mean it, exactly like this— 'I don't know. I don't know. I think I might not be.' And he's kind of stalking back and forth, with his coat kind of billowing behind him. I'm just sitting here at my workbench. And I go, 'god, uh, am I the best person to talk to about this?' And he goes—"

It's growing somewhat dark. "Uh," you say, "could you get to the point?"

"I'm telling you a story, Charlotte. For free. No complaining. He goes, 'I thought you might have a mirror.' And I think, because I'm interested, now, and I say 'I mean, I can probably get one.' So that's how it started."

"Did you get a mirror?"

"Naturally. I have contacts. So a couple days later, I bring him it, and he sort of looks at it, then looks at me, then looks around his tent— it's full of paper, you know, the man writes like a madman. And he plucks a note off the wall and gives it to me, kind of drops it in my hands. And he says 'Can you read this?' I can't read it. And he says 'I can't either.' So I'm thinking, do I know any handwriting tutors? But then he goes 'I woke up the other day and I realized I couldn't read a single godsdamn thing I'd been writing for weeks. But I could when I was writing them, is the thing. Give me the mirror and the note.' So I give him the mirror and the note. He holds the note up to the mirror, and he says 'can you read it now?' And I look in the mirror, and it's totally normal, it looks like a diary page or something."

Trying to keep up with all this is proving difficult. "Wait, so that's not a code? It's… mirror writing?"

Eloise nods. "Backwards and upside down. If you haven't been around a lot of mirrors, I guess you wouldn't recognize it. Anyways, so, I tell him I can read it. And, swear to god, it looks like I just shot his dog. 'Shit. Are you sure?' is I think what he said, and I'm all 'yeah, want me to read it to you?'. And he says 'no,' and just kind of stares at the ground. I'm making to leave when he says 'how could I not notice?' So I stop, and I go, 'that you've been writing mirrored for weeks?' and he nods. And I say 'that's a damn good question.' Just like that. 'That's a damn good question.'"


"So what?"

You can't help like feel she's avoiding the actual question. "What were the results? Do mirrors have special properties?"

You have extracted from her a fidget. "That's… confidential."



«Charlotte, listen.»

You've been handling this.

«No, you've been suckered into listening to a shaggy dog story. You're trying to untie the Gordian knot, Charlie, she can go on like this all night.»

The what knot?

«The Gordian knot. Once upon a time, there was a king, and he had his servants tie him the greatest knot there had ever been. No man could loosen it— ten men couldn't loosen it. And the king said whoever could untie the knot would be king in his stead.»
«Many try, but none can untie the knot. Until one day, a man with a sword comes along. And he looks at the Gordian knot, and he takes his sword, and he slices the knot in half. And he becomes king.»

File: cosmic serpentfire.jpg (43 KB, 564x705)
43 KB
Eloise has continued talking, you think. You don't really care. You think the man with the sword was a cheater.

«He was pragmatic. You ought to be pragmatic, Charlie. Let me get to the point.»

Fine, you think, and the instant you do there's fire in your throat and— you blink hard— your eyes. «Good. Try again.»

"Eloise," you say aloud, with a tenor and richness that certainly doesn't belong to you. She pauses mid-sign. "Just tell me the God-damn results like you said you would, okay?"

It's clear she can tell something's different, but can't identify precisely what. She seems to vanish back into her cloak. "Well, you should've just said so."

"I tried—!" You stop yourself short. "Please."

She sighs. "There's no physical difference— it's just glass with a backing. There's probably a psychological difference, depending on the person."

«You're welcome.»

The fire recedes, leaving your throat dry and achey. "Wh— that's it? What kind of psychological—"

She places a finger to her lips.

>[1] Write-in.
>Eloise seems to either have something she wants to say, or something is up. Go quiet. You are hanging out next to the shack of a woman who killed Ellery for sneaking into her dumb crocodile cave, after all.
>Fall silent.

You furrow your brow and turn to look behind you. The cave mouth is empty. You turn back, confused.

"Oh," Eloise says, "oh, sorry, that was a 'I'm not telling you,' not a… aw, don't worry about it. We should go before it gets dark."

You should. Just because you haven't run into any panthers recently doesn't mean they're not out there, as evinced by the maulings people whisper about in town. And you haven't brought a light.

What if Margo left the cave and you didn't even notice? It's a troubling thought, but not one you can give practical voice to. And going with Eloise is likely the best way to avoid panthers and Margos— if nothing else, you can hope she trips over the cloak.

>[1] Head back.
>>[A] How does she know all these things about glass?
>>[B] What kind of "source" provides mirrors?
>>[C] What's her opinion on Ellery's behavior?
>>[D] Don't converse— just keep an eye out.
>>[E] Write-in.

>[2] Stay here until Margo comes out, just to be safe.
>>Same options as above.

>[3] Write-in.
>[3] Ask Eloise about the best way to work with Madrigal-- you and her don't exactly see eye to eye, and some advice could make working with her easier

obviously so we know to avoid such unsavory characters
Writing. I expect to stop for dinner somewhere in the middle of this, so this may take longer than usual (if that even means anything, given my typical speed!). Apologies.
File: night ocean.jpg (92 KB, 852x480)
92 KB
>What source?
>How to deal with Madrigal?
>What does she think about Ellery's behavior?
>Head back.

"I don't suppose you have a light?" You dislike relying on her for this, but you have little choice.

She rustles around in her cloak, eventually producing an unassuming paper cube the size of your palm. She tosses it to you. "Shake it."

You do so. It flickers, then begins to glow a hot white. You clutch it gingerly. "Is it safe to hold?"

"Safer and brighter than foxfire. Doesn't last too long, though, so let's get a move on."

You lead the way back to the trail, keeping a wide berth around the mouth of the cave. Margo has yet to reappear. Maybe an alligator got her?

«Wondering is useless. Move.»

Eloise clambers after you, surprisingly agile given the cloak. You turn the cube over in your hand. "Is this real?"

"Why would it be?"

This is a good question. "Well, you pulled it out so fast."

"Paper's the easiest thing in the world to make, and light was already the topic of conversation." Eloise tosses another cube into the air. "It's just quick thinking."

«And practice. But she's not wrong. Paper is the base state of the unreal.»

"Huh." You scratch a fingernail against the side of the cube. "Interesting."


You walk at a steady clip, but the trail still dissolves into sameness. Haven't you been around this bend before? Didn't you see this mangrove with the X in its bark five, or ten, or fifteen minutes? Or are you remembering dozens of prior trips, is all? You have to trust yourself— the trail doesn't loop, and you'd be able to tell if you were off it by the fact of being waist-deep in sludge. But, by God, the dark makes it difficult to.

Overthinking is the death of the night traveler, it's been said, so you busy yourself instead with badgering Eloise. "Hey," you say. "What kind of source got you a mirror?"

Eloise raises her eyebrows.

"For safety reasons," you hasten on. "I don't want to meet the kind of guy who, uh, who deals in… that."

"Sure, sure." She seems amused. "You know, it'd be fine even if that weren't the case. Not that it isn't, of course."

"Safety reasons," you repeat.

"Gotcha. Uh, Madrigal's a smuggler."

You stop dead in your tracks. "What?"

"Well, middleman— smuggler middleman? Just a middleman? She used to be a smuggler, anyhow, and now she manages a trading business on the side. She knew a guy, I cashed in a favor."

You're aghast. You cup your face with your hand. "She's a… God, does Monty know? Shouldn't she be arrested?"

"By whom?"

"By… the authorities? The Wind Court, I guess. I— seriously, does Monty know? Do I have to tell Monty that the quartermaster's a criminal? She— God, I should've known this the second I saw her. The scar— the sluttish—"

File: madrigal.png (762 KB, 483x648)
762 KB
762 KB PNG
"Hey, hey, it's okay." Eloise takes you by the wrist. "'Course Monty knows— she told him. I mean, she tells everybody. 'Hi, I'm Madrigal, did you know I smuggled things? I got a scar from it, look at my scar, it's so cool…' Did you not get the speech?"

"Uh…" You can't recall. "I don't think she likes me very much."

"Oh, well, shocking." Eloise persists in her benign assessment of your unlikability. "If it helps, I don't think she likes me much either."

It doesn't help. "She probably likes you more, though, right? I mean, she called me a bitch."

"We-ell," Eloise says. "I mean, she's not wrong. You're just not very good at it." She knocks you on the shoulder. "You go for it, then you backpedal. You gotta commit to being a bitch, catch my drift? Nobody'll like you, but at least they'll respect you."

«This is what I've been saying.»

You rub your shoulder. "I'm not a bitch."

"Whatever you say, Charlotte." She's grinning again. God-damnit. "And I'm not a snoop, right?"

You ignore the question. "Now, I don't want this. But if I did want to interact with Madrigal, uh, civilly… how might I go about that?"

"Oh, you punched her, right? Nice."

You stick your hands in your pockets. "That may or may not have occurred. Would you answer the—?"

"Oh, no, you're asking the wrong person. Like I said, she doesn't like me." Eloise shifts her posture. "It's some combination of the architecture and the rumors, I think. And I make fun of her scar. Don't make fun of her scar, that's good."

"Okay, don't…"

"Be direct, I guess. She likes it when you get to the point. Don't do the thing where you pretend to care about ethics, she hates that." She thinks. "Oh, uh, because she doesn't care about them either. If she claims she does, that's total gull, got it? It's the results that matter, not how you got them."

"And she'll like me, then?"

"Who said anything about liking you? No, she's still gonna hate your guts. I mean…" Eloise gestures broadly at your clothes. "…you're prissy. But she won't punch you, probably."

You smooth down your coat. "I'm not prissy. I'm fastidious."

"Yeah, don't say that to her."

«I like this woman. She has a good head on her shoulders.»

You walk, and walk, and walk, and walk. It's hotly debated whether distances underwater actually grow in the dark, or whether it's just imagination. Hotly debated between newcomers, usually. Anyone who's been down here any length of time will readily tell you: well, of course it's your imagination. That's what makes the distances grow. Dumbass. And then they set to debating: well, is it the distance that grows, or is it the time? And is it the world that changes, or your perception of it?

Miles (yards) later, or possibly hours (minutes), you pipe up again. "So, about the mirror writing thing. Did you ever figure that out? Like, what could've caused that—"

"It's not really my area of expertise," Eloise says. "I don't like to speculate about people's-"

She's still evasive. You change tack. "Fine, whatever. What'd you think of him, though? Like, how he was acting."

"Well, I mean…" She rubs her forehead. "The first and second times I met him, he spun on his heel and walked out on me, so it can't get a ton worse. He was pretty freaked, though."

"How so?"

"Well, I told you, right? Lots and lots of pacing, muttering, uh… he kept picking at his skin. I had to tell him that was gross. But none of that is the weird part, you get me? The weird part is, I go check in on him a week later, and he's absolutely fine."

"So he got over it?"

"I- I guess so? I'm serious, totally fine. He greets me, he thanks me for working with him, he tells me he's doing better. Not a single twitch. I think he trimmed his beard, even. It was creepy. Oh, hey, my table!"

Lo, your hiking has brought you back to camp. Eloise's "installation" squats in the reeds to your right. She pats its top.

You swivel your head in an attempt to find meaning in the table-with-grass-on-it. None arises. You go for your second bet. "Uh, does it mean something?"

You're not expecting the answer. "Probably? Yeah, probably, you know, nature overtaking mankind. I just made it because I had a dream about a table, though."

"Is that… art?" That can't be art.

"Why wouldn't it be? Anything's art if you hang a plaque on it." She strokes the table lovingly. "Besides, I like making people wonder."

>[1] That seems like a good place to leave things. Go to sleep.
>[2] That seems like a good place to leave things. Attempt to sneak into Ellery's tent.
>[3] Wait! You have more things to say to Eloise! [What?]
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] That seems like a good place to leave things. Attempt to sneak into Ellery's tent.

I assume we have the mirror shard we snuck with our boot. It's not much, but it might be useful in looking at his mirrored words with it.

Very weird that Margo is still gone, tho. Maybe something happened to her?...
You still have it up your sleeve, yes.

File: 500% curlier hair.jpg (381 KB, 1320x1616)
381 KB
381 KB JPG
>Ellery's tent.

You rub your sleeve. The mirror shard has lightly embedded itself into your arm, it feels like. "I, uh, I better be going."

"No! Commit! Say 'I'm leaving now, peon,' or whatever it is you're thinking. Come on."

"I, uh, I wasn't—"

"Oh, you're no fun. See you around, Charlotte." She waves you off.

You wander back to your tent in a fugue, untie the knot on the flap, and collapse onto your cot. The mirror shard takes this opportunity to bite into your flesh. "Ow," you say.

«Take your coat off, Charlotte. That exposure was too long for comfort.» You can just barely see Richard by the glint of moonlight off his underbelly.

In response, you lean off your cot and fish around blindly in your portmanteau. Triumphantly, you retrieve the portable lantern (easy: it's smooth and round, not clothes-feeling) and knock on its surface. It phosphoresces in response.

Now able to see properly, you unbutton and shrug off your coat. The mirror shard falls onto the mattress. You make to pick it up—

«Priorities. Was it in contact with your skin.»

Was it? You examine your shirt. It's mock-turtleneck style, an interlocking knit, modest black (coal black, they may have called it, not that there was real coal for reference), made of some ungodly synthesized chemical fabric. Though you've worn it since your other shirt got sliced open a couple months ago, it shows no signs of dirt or tatter (though salt is beginning to collect on the neckline).

God, you should really buy a different shirt, shouldn't you? Or at least sew the other one back together. You probably remember how.

«P r i o r i t i e s.»

There's a nick in your left sleeve, right about where the shard would've settled. You consider sticking a finger through it, then discard that thought and pull the shirt over your head.

You run a finger down the lacy strap of your brassiere in reflection, then check your arm. It's quite pale, excepting the rivulet of blood trickling down it. You bite your lip and prod the cut.

It's got an odd look and texture to it, sort of dead matte, with no fine hairs around it.

«Paper, as expected. Oh well. It'll mend.»

You squint up at Richard, who hovers placidly a foot in front of you. "Pardon?"

«It's turned that part of your skin to paper, Charlotte, because that's what glass does. It's not harmful, and it's likely just the first layer— do not pick at it. Treat it like a scab. It'll mend.»

You rub it lightly, but don't pick. This is fine, you think. This is fine. It's fine. It's just the first layer, that's paper. It'll mend. Positive thinking. Yes. Good.

It still gives you the shivers, and it's not just because you're half-undressed.

>[ID: 1/11]

You slide your shirt back on and sit breathing in the green light.

You want to sleep. Oh God, do you want to sleep. But you have obligations, and the bad part about obligations is you have to fulfill them whether you like them or not. You should see Ellery's tent— for completeness, if nothing else. For completeness.


Richard gleams. You stare at him. "What?"

«You're not going anywhere. Your mind's on the brink of snapping.»

Oh, he's being cranky. Good. "I am not going to die. It's called being tired, not that you'd… do you even sleep? I can't tell."

«I— it's complicated. That's not the point.» He loops in figure-eights. «You're not physically exhausted. You slept well, and it's not late. You're mentally exhausted.»

"Same thing, right?" You've wrapped the mirror shard in woven cloth and are sliding it into the desk. "Sounds better, actually. I'm not going to pass out."

«Charlotte, we talked about your issues with object permanance. Against all reason, if you cannot see something, it ceases to exist for you.»

You shut the drawer. "Not following."

«So because you have chosen to ignore your present mental instability—»

"I'm not— I'm stable as a table."

«—you have come under the illusion it's vanished. That you are, quote, 'stable as a table.' Nothing could be further from the truth.»

"I have to say, Richard, I'm not really— I'm not buying this. Are you still pissy? I really think you're— you sound pissy." You are trying and failing to locate some sort of bag or gunnysack to hold evidence in.

«Charlotte, you had a public meltdown today over pink fucking cocktail umbrellas. I'm not joking.»

"You're never joking, though?" You're just going to use your jacket as a makeshift sling, you think. "Unless you're in my head, where you're always joking. It's difficult to keep track of."

«You are on the brink of a cliff, Charlotte, and anything could be the light shove to your back. Reading something you don't like. Finding something you don't like. Getting <caught>. I don't think you understand the strain you're under, the—»

You're walking out the door. Look at you, walking, and he can't do a damn thing about it. Isn't this fun?

«I said <no>.» Your legs lock up exactly midstep, sending you crashing to the ground. You moan. Richard has followed you out, and swims imperiously just over your head. «You're going back inside, and you are going to sleep. This is for your own good, Charlotte.»

You seethe.

«Ellery is <dead.> His tent is going nowhere.»

>[1] Shut up Richard, shut up, you stupid idiot, you (Lottie) are going to drag yourself to Ellery's tent if it's on your hands and knees, for all you care, and you are going to investigate it, God-damnit. So you (Richard) can suck it.
>[2] Maybe you do sound a little unstable. But only a little. You should sleep, but not because Richard told you to, obviously.
>[3] Write-in.
And that's all for tonight, folks. I'll be back tomorrow in a half-hearted kinda-session (I expect to be interrupted a lot).

Archive: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BathicQM

As always, drop your comments, questions, or concerns here and I'll respond. Have a good night!
>[3] "Fuck you."
>[3] Write-in
Fine. If he doesn't want us pursuing Ellery, we'll find a distraction instead. Let's leave some blood on the mirror amd go to sleep see what happens in the morning.
"What about the fact that you're fat and stupid?"
File: brassieres.jpg (1.02 MB, 1726x1082)
1.02 MB
1.02 MB JPG
>Fuck you, Richard. You're fat and stupid and I hate you.
>Put some blood on the mirror shard.
>Go to sleep.

You grip the sodden weeds and glower up at Richard. You're trying your best to express your feelings. "F… fu… fff…"

«You're not capable of telling me to fuck myself, Charlotte. You're too well-bred.» He's drifted so close to your face you have to go cross-eyed to focus on him. «And you wouldn't really mean it, anyhow, so I fail to see the point.»

"Fff…rick you," you conclude. "Frick you. You're… you're fat, and…" You prop yourself up off the ground with your arms. "…stupid, and… ugly. There's mud on my slacks. I hate you."

«I'm sorry you feel that way, but you're wrong.» His eyes are blank and yellow. «You don't hate me, and you know you don't hate me. That's what scares you.»

"Frick you." You prop yourself on one elbow and jab roughly at his abdomen. "Make my legs work."

«My pleasure.»

Your muscles relax. "Frick you," you mumble, as you pull yourself to your feet. "God damn you." The thought of making a break for Ellery's tent crosses your mind, but a stiffening shock up your back puts that to rest. You stagger back inside.

Your eyes flick from the cot to the desk. Triumphantly, you yank open the drawer, retrieve the mirror shard, and drop it into a pant pocket. You shimmy your shirt off (it's wet— it's not as easy as it sounds) and fling it onto your mattress.

«Charlotte, what—»

Your arm has continued to bleed lightly. You fetch the shard, consider it, then smear a little of your blood onto its silver surface. Nothing happens.

«Charlotte, you're lucky your blood's been neutralized.»

Damn. You'd hoped something would happen— preferably something big and explosive, just to stick it to Richard. You'll have to leave it overnight.

Your peacoat is still discarded on the cot, alongside your shirt. You pick up both, shake them out, and drape them over the cot's railing. (You glance towards the door. Good, you did retie the knot.) You sit down on the mattress to slide your boots off, then your socks. You unbuckle your brassiere (and breathe a sigh of relief). You unbutton your slacks. You reach under your bed to find one of the worn blouses you've been using as nightclothes, and slide it on. It's cool against your bare skin.

Richard is coiled decorously in the corner. He used to argue that what did him being there matter — he's in your head already, and, anyway, you've not got a cloaca (this forced you to look up "cloaca" in the dictionary, which you have since regretted). But you insisted, and he hasn't said a word about it since.

You still hate him, though, whatever he says.

Oh, the lantern. You stand from the mattress, grab it, and toss it under the cot. It'll shut off on its own.

File: BANG.jpg (16 KB, 564x564)
16 KB
In the dark, you sink onto the mattress and stare up at the ceiling. You think: God, I thought things would've gotten less complicated, not more. But they've all gotten more complicated, even the simple things. Richard used to be a simple thing. He was a snake, and he called you a bitch sometimes, and that was that. And you liked that. It was familiar. It was normal. And now it's gotten all… not normal, all weird, and now he's a person now, you guess, and somehow it's your fault. How is it your fault? You were fine with him being a snake, but you don't think you should tell him that. He seems so pleased to have a face and body and proper voice. And feelings, you guess, apparently, but that's— that's in the realm of the complicated.

You wonder if you have a sort of hangover. It sure feels that way.

God. You watched a man die today.


Maybe if you shut your eyes, it'll all…

You sleep.

You dream.


A man clad in red. A man clad in white. A lit cigarette and a tortoiseshell knife. Darkness.

The knife is slipped into the man in red's chelsea boot. He holds a shotgun to the chest of the man in white, who smokes quietly.

"I'm sorry," says the man in red. "I'm sorry." He pulls the trigger. His ears are plugged with wool.

There is no bang. The man in white stumbles backwards, a scarlet stab wound at his heart. His white silk vest is stained. The cigarette collects ash.

The man in red is gone.

The man in white looks at you. Blood trickles from his mouth. "It's okay," he says. "I love you. I forgive you. It's not your fault, Charlie. It's okay."


You wake up feeling sick. Someone is whistling as loud as possible outside— you can hear it through the wall of the tent. They are not on-key.

>[ID: 11/11]

So much for a better day. Well.

>[1] Check on the bloody mirror shard.
>[2] Attempt to read one or more of your filched papers.
>[3] Attempt to break into Ellery's tent.
>[4] Go give the whistler a piece of your mind.
>[5] Find Madrigal. Get your servitude over with. Or whatever Monty called it.
>[6] Write-in.
>>[1] Check on the bloody mirror shard.
has it exploded yet?

then >4

good to see we're fully away from mental breakdown
Madrigal will find us in time. Not sure what to do about Ellery tho
File: some guy.png (107 KB, 234x300)
107 KB
107 KB PNG
>Check on the shard.
>Check on the whistler.

«Morning, sunshine. I assume you feel better.» Richard drapes loosely over the railing. His bow is gaily askew.

"I— not really." You push a mass of curls off your face. "I think I feel worse. Had a nightmare."

«Tell me about it.»

"No, I'd—" Only one person calls you 'Charlie.' "I'd rather not, thanks. Would you get off my shirt?"

«Certainly.» He unwinds with a flick of his tail. «You do feel better, whether you notice or not.»

You discard the night-blouse, snag your brassiere off the floor, buckle it on backwards (you have to keep stopping to brush your hair away), and slide it around so it's facing the proper way. "You know, I think I'm really a better judge of this than you are."

«You have a stunning lack of self-awareness. You are not.»

"Okay, that's not true." Shirt, then coat, then slacks (on the ground). "You're just saying things."

«Aren't we ever.»

Slacks, then… oh, the shard. You guess it didn't explode overnight— it's still sitting pretty on the desk. You pick it up. Your blood remains smeared across its surface, with no apparent change to either it or the glass underneath.

Damn, you really thought it would do something. What a bust. You wipe it against the side of the desk and set it back on the—

The blood's still on it. But the blood's not still on it, it's smeared on the wood. Did some dry on? No— it's perfectly smooth. It's like the blood's sunken into the surface of the shard.

«It's not porous, Charlie, that seems unlikely. I'd wager that's the reflection.»

"The reflection of the blood?"


"Does it do anything?"


Better than nothing, but not as good as anything explosive. Oh well. You place the shard in the drawer and walk barefoot to your socks and boots. The socks are simple enough, the boots require a good shake (to remove sand deposits, slugs, etc). Just accoutrements remain: your pocketknife, the portable lantern, the woven baggies. You wish you had sunglasses, or mints, or bobby pins, or anything, but sadly you have committed to minimalism.

«You used all your bobby pins in failed attempts to pick locks, I believe.»

It worked sometimes. Right. Time to face the glorious day, to blaze a trail, to, uhh, something dawn. You'll work on it. You untie the knot, push the door aside—

God, the whistling's louder out here— and you'd almost managed to ignore it. From how it sounds, it's coming from the tent next to yours. This is troubling. Nobody lives in that tent.

Possibly it's haunted? It's as good an explanation as any. You stride over to the whistler's tent, make to bust in annnounced, and hestitate. What if it is haunted? You don't want to offend the spirits.

You knock instead.

A man promptly sticks his head out. You recognize him immediately: it's the horse-faced man, the man in the grey longcoat, the man who stole your model. You gasp; he smiles. "Charlotte! Hello."

[Choices next.]
>[1] What are you doing here, horse-faced man???
>[2] You stole my model, horse-faced man!!!
>[3] Your whistling sucks, horse-faced man!!!
>[4] Get out of here, horse-faced man!!!
>[5] Write-in!!
>[1] What are you doing here, horse-faced man???
>[2] You stole my model, horse-faced man!!!
>[3] Your whistling sucks, horse-faced man!!!
>[4] Get out of here, horse-faced man!!!

The only acceptable answer.
This, and kicking him in the ankle

We don't like you!
Sounds intresting that there's a *shattered* mirror, and that the blod is now on the other side of the mirror, and that Ellery is overly real, writing on mirror reflections (note to self use mirror shard to read the illegible notes, or write them reversed), and that his brain is working on a different time than his mouth.

Like if he went to the mirror world and something else came back. Like the snake dude in our head, one or which Ellery may have had.

Breaking the mirror sounds like closing a door.

Wonder what happens if we further break our blood shard.
Oh, and can we call him horse-faced man with each point. Really drive it home.

File: radio.png (401 KB, 532x400)
401 KB
401 KB PNG
>All of the above!!!

"You!" You stamp the ground. "What are you doing here!"

"Um," the man says mildly. "I live here?"

"You do not."

He pushes open the tent flap. Inside— hand-drawn maps across the walls and ceiling. Crude models of foreign creatures across the floor. A camp-provided cot. Opened boxes, unopened boxes.

"Moving in doesn't- that doesn't count!"

He shrugs. "I don't live here, then."

"I- you-" You ball your fists. "I thought you were visiting Madrigal, or whatever! What are you doing here!"

"Oh, uh, it was decided I should stick around for a while. I suppose this tent was empty. Why?"

"Because I live there!" You point roughly at your tent. "And you're— here!"

His gaze follows your finger. "Oh, lovely!"

"No, not—" You put your hand down. "Not lovely! I don't to be next to you and your— your horse face!"

He raises his eyebrows. "My what?"

What did Eloise tell you? She told you to commit. "Your horse face!"

He doesn't say anything, and for a second you think you've gotten somewhere. Then he chuckles. "Hey, that's pretty good. I haven't heard that before."

"Really? Because you- you've got one! You've got horse eyes and a horse nose and horse cheekbones, and— God, just look at you!"

"Horses aren't a major frame of reference for most, it would seem." He scratches his chin. "Is that all you came to say?"

"I— no!" You are discovering your well of hatred for the horse-faced man runs deeper than you expected. "You stole my model!"

"No I didn't," he says.

"Huh?" You were not expecting such a flat answer. "Yes you- yes you did. You were in my tent, you were looking at my models, and then I come in and my model's missing! It's not- it's not rocket science!"


"It's not r… It's not difficult, you mean?" He shrugs again. "I don't know what to tell you. I didn't steal anything."

"But you… took something?"

"No? I didn't steal anything or take anything, sorry. Hope you find it."

You stare blankly at his horse face. Here you are, with facts, actual incontrovertible facts, and he's just— denying them? That's not how facts work. He's supposed to be tearily confessing. "I- so how do you suppose it went missing, huh? It's just a mysterious coincidence?"

"Someone else took it? You just misplaced it? I'm not a detective. But coincidence does sound about right, sure."

You're already in inch-and-a-half heels, but you stand on your tiptoes to eke out every bit of height you can get. You grab hard at the tent flap. "You stole my model, horse face!"

"Like I said, hope you find it. Is that all?"

"No! Your whistling is awful, too!"

He chuckles. "Hey, that's why I'm practicing. Did you catch the tune? It's the theme for Pickering Hour— you know, the radio—"

"I know what Pickering Hour is!" you spit. "You were just so off-key I couldn't tell!"

He sucks his teeth. "I'll keep working on it. Thanks for letting me know, Charlotte."

"You're welcome, horse face! Could you leave now?"


"Could you— could you leave! I don't like seeing…" You are growing aware of how ridiculous your stance may be. "Leave."

"I do live here, sorry." He shrugs. Why does he keep shrugging? "Might be a couple months. Would you like to come in?"

"Would I what?"

He gestures inside. "I've got tea. You like tea? It's kind of a mess in here, but—"

>[1] You're— just a little— morbidly curious. And you do like tea. Barge in like he didn't just ask you to. (Tread on his foot with your heel.)
>[2] People don't invite *you* places, you invite *people* places. You'll accept his tea, but you choose the location. (Tread on his foot with your heel.)
>[3] Is he insane? You are not going to have tea with the horse-faced man. You are heading straight back to your tent.
>[4] Write-in. [Questions for the horse-faced man, etc]
Sorry, ended up being busier than expected. I'm visiting family for New Year's, so back to ~one post/day for a little while. Have a good night, guys.

Only because I'm thirsty

>[1] You're— just a little— morbidly curious. And you do like tea. Barge in like he didn't just ask you to. (Tread on his foot with your heel.)

We shall drink one models worth of tea. He's more suspicious now because normal people would be quite upset with someone who insulted them so much, like he's trying to put us at ease. Which is impossible, because we dislike horses.
>>[1] You're— just a little— morbidly curious. And you do like tea. Barge in like he didn't just ask you to. (Tread on his foot with your heel.)
File: next.png (114 KB, 372x134)
114 KB
114 KB PNG
There's no way to put it other than I managed time very poorly today and am now too bone-tired to update. I'm sorry.

I suspect [1] is gonna win but I'll leave things open just in case. As many updates as I can swing it tomorrow (still visiting family). Happy early Drownedversary-- Jan 2nd!
What an ominous picture
Seconding [1].

Happy early drownedversary, bathic.
>[1] You're— just a little— morbidly curious. And you do like tea. Barge in like he didn't just ask you to. (Tread on his foot with your heel.)
File: china cup.jpg (26 KB, 564x564)
26 KB

>Yes. But on your prerogative, not his, obviously.

This is a, admittedly, a convincing offer. You don't have any strong feelings towards tea in specific, but you're baldly desperate for surface amenities. If it is surface amenities, anyways.

"*Proper* tea?" you probe. "Not made from— kelp, or whatever?"

"…Proper tea, yes."

That does it. Without another word, you elbow past him (treading hard on his foot as you do— he mouths "ow!", you are filled with warm satisfaction) into the tent. It's just as you saw in your brief glimpse: like an eccentric-but-wealthy uncle had begun to decorate it, but was struck down by fits before he could finish. It smells of potpourri.

There are, however, rather more boxes than you expected. They're of dry, dented cardboard, and they're marked with masking-tape labels like "DOSSIERS K-P" and "FALSE MOON ARTIFACTS" and "CARPETS," and they are stacked in piles to the ceiling. How many piles? You keep count as you weave between them— two, ten, twenty. How many boxes in each pile? Five or six, at least. How long have you been walking? How *big* is this tent?

You whip back around to the horse-faced man, a few steps away— but he's on the other end of a dark tunnel. He is saying something faintly. "Hold on… you didn't give me a *chance* to…"

He is fiddling with a device in his palm. He flicks a switch. You are rent clean from your navel to your crown, and twisted in opposite directions.

You are in the tent again, two steps from the entrance. It is half-decorated with maps and large models and what appears to be an alligator-skin ottoman. There are about five cardboard boxes.

The horse-faced man looks shellshocked. "Sorry," he says. "Sorry, you didn't— you came in too fast, I left the auks in— I'll find the tea, okay? How about I—"

He hurries past you, longcoat fluttering. You wet your lips. "Um," you say. "The auks?"

«AUX. Auxil-»

"-iary, uh, space." The man has retrieved a kettle from one of the boxes. "Don't worry about it, it's not important. You like green or black?"

«Read, pocket dimension. But that's now considered a loaded term.»

"Bergamot?" you try. The man shakes his head. "Fine, black tea. You trapped me in a *pocket dimension,* horse face?"

He winces. You've never been happier. "Uh, no, auxiliary space."

«It's exactly the same thing.»

"You trapped me in an *auxiliary space,* horse face?" If this is what pushes his buttons, you're not letting up so easy.

"Uh, no, it was attached to the entr— can we move on?" The horse-faced man pads back over to you, a teacup in either hand. He offers you one. "Here's your cup. Watch the teabag."

Retorts flee your lips as you eye the cup. It's not the hammered tin or rough ceramic you've grown used to— it's white, delicate, fluted. You're reverent. "Bone china?"

"Whalebone." He presses the cup into your hands. "Off a scrivener out west. Careful."

"I'll be *careful.* What do you take me for, some kind of-"
You flinch at the kettle's whistle. The man doesn't— he's already over by it, switching off its heating element. "Here we are," he mutters.

"What do you take me for?" you reiterate. "Some kind of non-careful, uh…"

«Very smooth.»

"Well, I don't really know." Horse face pours the hot water for his tea. You have no idea how it stays in the cup— density? But shouldn't it be less dense? You can only handle so many mysteries at a time. "I can't say I take you for anything, Charlotte. How do you take yourself?"

He pours the hot water for your tea. You perch yourself on the ottoman and stare up at him. "What?"

"Well, I'm curious. How do you see yourself?"

>[1] Respond to that. [What do you say?]
>[2] Give him the silent treatment until he changes the subject.
>[3] Why is he talking about you? You don't even know this guy's name! Tell him you don't speak to people who haven't introduced themselves. (Not that you'll not call him horse face.)
>[4] Harp about the auxiliary space.
>[5] Harp about your stolen model.
>[6] Write-in.

>[B1] Drink your tea once it's steeped.
>[B2] Don't drink your tea.
>[B3] Write-in.
>[1] "I'm great, why do you ask?" Why is this guy so curious about you? See if you can't suss out what he expects from you!

Tea is nice, at least.

>A1 "I am ROYALTY"

maybe we should stop calling him horse face
Let's actually increase the name calling, please
>A1 (I'm great why)
>Consider and discard the idea of not calling horse face horse face

Writing. Happy New Years to East Coast folks!
I was abducted for New Years shenanigans before I could actually start and do not have an update at hand. Happy 2020, I'll catch up for all my missing updates.... someday.
Drownedversary tomorrow
File: drownedversary pic (2).jpg (186 KB, 1288x889)
186 KB
186 KB JPG
Happy Drownedversary. I drew this instead of writing an update.

I couldn't do this without you, guys. Thanks for sticking around through thick and (very) thin. Here's to another year, huh?
Richard looks far more enthusiastic and jovial than I ever pictured him.

Also thank you for running this very unique and interesting quest!
Happy Drownedversay, Bathic, and thank you for running it!
>uhhhh doing great
>Harp on the AUX space.
>Drink your tea.

You finger the edge of your cup uncomfortably. "Uh, I— fine. Great."

"You see yourself as fine?"


«Yes. Why. Don't cede ground.»

"-Yes. Yeah." You compulsively pluck a stray hair from your collar. "Uh, why?"

The horse-faced man balances his tea with one hand and retrieves a small spiral-bound notepad from his coat in the other. He flicks the notepad open with his thumb and pauses. "You ever wish you had three arms?" he asks colloquially.


"I do. Excuse me." He sets his tea down next to you and, with the newly free hand, slides a wax crayon out from the binding of the notepad. "How do you see… fine," he murmurs as he scribbles on the paper.

"You're writing this down," you say dryly.

"Yes. Do you believe you are currently in some form of afterlife?"

He has his crayon poised. You fold your arms. "No. Why would I?"

"Prior stated reasons include…" He flips back a couple pages in his notes. "…Logically should've died, loss of biological functions, supernatural phenomena inc. rapid healing factor and responsive environment, inability to leave, quote 'everyone here deserves to go to hell, so'…"

You consider saying something like 'yes, horse face, hell is here with you,' but you don't want that ending up in his list. "I'm not going to hell, so it's not that. And it sure isn't heaven, so… that's all the options."

"Have you considered this is an intermediary state? Neither punitive nor rewarding, say, but either a 'waiting room' or simply a permanent plane for mediocre souls—"

Your tea has steeped. Eager for a pause, you sip it. It's— it's tea, all right. Salty tea. You're not as happy as you expected to be.

The man's tea lies forgotten next to you on the ottoman. "—parallels to the beliefs of the people of Xalta, who thought the good were reborn as silver fish, and the bad as brown fish— sorry, did you say you were monotheistic?"

This conversation has gone wildly off-track. You need to steer it back to safe territory. "Horse face."


"Remember when you trapped me in a parallel dimension?"

«Pocket dimension.»

He picks unconsciously at the end of the crayon. "Pocket— auxilliary space. I thought we were past—"

"Right! Yes." You sit upright. "That was pretty messed up, horse face. Don't you need permits to have that sort of—"

«You do, actually. Sign some kind of contract with the manufacturer.»

He sighs. "I have permits, they're just, you know, in a box in the AUX. Do you really need me to show you—"

[Choices next.]
>[A1] Yes. Absolutely. It's not that you care— you just want to make him do a runaround. And maybe you can poke around while he's gone.
>[A2] That's going a little too far. You've got questions to ask.

>[B1] Okay, but seriously, why did he ask you the first thing? Why's he so interested in you?
>[B2] Why's he so interested in the afterlife? What's that got to do with anything?
>[B3] Why's he writing things down like a freak?
>[B4] What's his *name*?
>[B5] Write-in.

Thanks, guys!

Richard is a study in contrasts. He's nasty and dour except for sometimes, when he's nasty but wildly enthusiastic about it. He's still setting a party popper off in your face, after all.
We must know
>N-no, that's okay
>But, like, seriously

"Uh," you say, "that's… I'm not a health and safety inspector, horse face. You dodged the question."

His jaw tenses— and relaxes just as quickly. "Which question?"

"I only asked one— why do you care how I see myself? You're not my shrink. You're a guy who broke into my tent and stole—"

"Oh, well, I ask everybody it. It's not very popular, as far as questions go, uh—" He flips to yet another page. "Let's see. 'Fuck off,' 'Not answering,' 'Better off not here'… you get the gist, yeah?"

This strikes you as off, but you don't have actual grounds to contest it. "So it's not me—"

"Oh, no, no. This isn't the only notebook, either. I'm just, ah— call me inquisitive."

"You…" You take another sip of tea. "You broke into my tent."

"It didn't have a sign outside, did it? I didn't know it was yours until you came in. Oh, speaking of—" The horse-faced man grips the crayon between his teeth (this makes him look more like a horse, somehow) and works a small white card out from the middle of the notebook. "I found this in here. I think it's for you."

You take the card. "ANTHEA AVES * PRESIDENT * SPELUNKERS ASSOCIATED * CORCASS CHAPTER," says the front, in clean black typewriter ink. You turn it over. On the back, in tiny, cramped handwriting— "Charlotte F. Fawkins. - You Are Sincerely Invited To. - The 17th Monthly Meeting Of Spelunkers Associated. - By Recommendation. - Thirdsday Evening. - Please Consume Card to R. S. V. P. - Thank You."

"Cellu-taped to the door," the man says, by way of explanation. He's pulled the crayon from his teeth. "Confused the tents, maybe."

"Oh," you say. "Thanks? I—"

"By any chance, are you in need of work?"

>[1] This is getting weird. You should down the rest of your tea and leave.
>[2] Nnnnnnnnnnnnno. Of course not. You're very busy.
>[3] Well, you wouldn't say "in need," exactly… you're very wealthy… what work?
>[4] Hey, jerk, what's your name?
>[5] Hey, jerk, seriously? "Inquisitive?" Is he for real? You're inquisitive, but you don't go around asking people weird… well, you don't do it systematically.
>[6] Write-in.

Come on, man, twenty minutes after call? No.

I NEVER refresh before voting. I barely ever refresh at all actually. It's a bad policy. I miss votes sometimes. Wouldn't recommend.
Taking work while on a job is a good way to get distracted. Then again, Madrigal never really indicated we'd get paid...

You had the option to request payment, and later to renegotiate payment. Both fell through.
File: chit.jpg (15 KB, 250x250)
15 KB

You need money badly, but that's not something you're interested in letting slip. "I don't— I don't take work from strangers I don't know the name of—"

"Simple enough. C.M.S. Garvin, at your acquaintance." He picks up his (lukewarm) teacup off the ottoman and raises it. "Pleasure."

"You have two middle names?"

C.M.S. Garvin grins. "One must do one's best when one's mother has airs of grandeur. Is that enough?"

"I…" You have no retort. "I guess, horse face. What's the work?"

"Nothing complicated— I just need someone to play courier for me, and you seem spry enough. I have some hip issues—"

«He was walking fine.»

You have a different angle. "You expect me to believe that? Hip issues are for grandmothers. You're physically, what—"

He thinks. He counts on his fingers. He riffles back to the front of his notepad. "25? But it's not— it's hereditary, anyways, so it doesn't matter. Are you interested?"

The little question mark on the "25" irks you to no end. You're not altogether pleased that people tend older than they look— you've been trapped at barely 20 for three years— but it's a fact of life. It's expected, though, that one remembers how old they were. "Yeah— maybe. You're paying?"

"Of course." He withdraws a leather pouch from the interior of his coat. You don't need to look inside— you can feel the chit from here. "Per delivery, I was thinking. And a down payment for your services—"

He retrieves a small handful of chit. He looks at you. He— hatefully— winks. "—If you don't ask questions."

The handful would pay off your whole tab, or purchase a small trunkload of bobby pins.

>[1] Yeah, okay, you're fairly desperate. Is C.M.S. Garvin doing something illegal? Possibly? Do you care? No? Accept the down payment.
>[2] You're not getting involved in this. Thank him for the tea (brusquely) and leave.
>[3] Forfeit the down payment and ask questions. [What?]
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] Yeah, okay, you're fairly desperate. Is C.M.S. Garvin doing something illegal? Possibly? Do you care? No? Accept the down payment.
>[1] Yeah, okay, you're fairly desperate. Is C.M.S. Garvin doing something illegal? Possibly? Do you care? No? Accept the down payment.
Just because we'll ask a lot of questions doesn't mean we have anyone to actually tell. Plus, might get us in closer to Madrigal's smuggling racket
we can get the info we need without questions. With subtlety!

"Sure," you say. "Sounds good to me. Couriering things. Excellent."

The horse-faced— Garvin scans your face for sincerity and apparently finds it. "Excellent indeed. Have you got a pouch or container—"

You do, actually. You pull a woven mat from your pocket and fashion it into a sort of cup shape. The chit clatters against the sides as Garvin drops it in.

"I'll be in contact," he says casually, as if he had not just paid you a considerable sum of money for no clear reason. "I don't quite have everything sorted at the moment, Charlotte. Was the tea alright?"

Too salty— but then, it was made with saltwater. "It was fine, uh, thanks."

"Excellent." He smiles for a final time. "I'll be seeing you, yes?"

You're too rich to be mad. "Yeah."

You stumble out of C.M.S. Garvin's tent as if in a dream, clutching the chit in one hand. It's undoubtedly genuine— just holding it makes you feel steadier, more solid. You need it.

Who is this guy? You hadn't meant eccentric-but-wealthy uncle as a serious descriptor, but it's seeming more accurate all the time. He was Madrigal's friend, right? You should ask her— but no, she hates you—

And the card! Do you have it? Yes, it's in your pant pocket. Who's Anthea Aves? What's a spelunker? Who recommended you? And was it really in the wrong tent, or did Garvin filch that, too—

You make it back to your tent— it's as you left it— and flop onto your cot.

You are in possession of a moderate amount of money.

>[1] Head over to the Nothing and pay off your tab. You don't like Jacques mad at you.
>[2] Aw, screw Jacques. Go on a shopping spree. You haven't bought anything nice for yourself in— too long. (Minimalism? What minimalism?)
>[3] Hide the chit for now and attempt to translate Ellery's mirror writing. The shard should remain in your desk drawer.
>[4] Find Madrigal. She might be more forgiving if you're proactive.
>[5] Write-in.

>[3] Hide the chit for now and attempt to translate Ellery's mirror writing. The shard should remain in your desk drawer.
>[4] Find Madrigal. She might be more forgiving if you're proactive.
We can be proactive, AND we can show off something we found. That should probably maybe make punching her okay
Seconding both of these. If at all possible. Otherwise, Madrigal first, shards later.
Leaving the vote open until tomorrow. I've been occupied with something else Drowned-related.
Waiting warmly
File: what're you looking at.jpg (613 KB, 3024x2878)
613 KB
613 KB JPG
Hey, I'm here, with the seekrit Drowned content. (Not an update. That would be too easy.)

Namely, a crossover with Alaric's Catalyst Quest. If you're reading that: great! If you're not reading that: it's still 5000 words of Lottie insulting somebody, which is the kind of content we need, right?

Here's my half, from Lottie's perspective: https://pastebin.com/2ULrYCzX
and here's Alaric's half, from her MC Richard's perspective: https://pastebin.com/iyG6BK2L

Enjoy. Proper update after DND tonight, so after 21:00 PST.
I come here to get away from my guilt of needing to catch up to catalyst quest. You have taken my refuge away.
File: richard s4.jpg (62 KB, 1280x720)
62 KB

>Attempt to translate your pilfered letter.
>Find Madrigal.

The issue with life, you decide, is that it just keeps going. There's no break, no respite— just things that need doing. And, horrifically, you've got to do them.

And, quite contrary to your expectations, the list has only vastly multiplied. Pre-crown, your life was keenly simple: Find The Crown. It was a goal, a clear, defined end-point, and you liked it that way. Now you've got— choices. Mess. You hate mess.

«As do I, so I suppose that's a commonality.» You've given up hope trying to track when Richard's paying attention: it appears to be entirely random. He's draped comfortably over your legs. «You still need to blackmail Margo, you realize.»

God, you forgot about the blackmail. That was the point, wasn't it? It seems very distant.

«This is not a tenable situation, Charlotte. Imagine if you forgot an appointment—»

You sit up at the thought. He's right: this is not a tenable situation. But you don't have a tenable solution, eit-

«Day planner.»

The answer comes too fast for coincidence. "How long have you been—"

«Irrelevant. You need a day planner.»

You slump back down. "Look, Richard, I don't have a day planner. I don't know what to tell you."

A short silence. You scratch your chin.

«Make a list, then.»

That's not something you can actually argue with, so you don't. You kick Richard off your legs (he hisses half-heartedly) and walk the couple steps over to the desk. You sit down at it.

All your research is rather pointless, isn't it? It doesn't matter if you reuse the paper. You find a red crayon stub in the stack (it never ceases to feel childish, but the wax doesn't fade or run) and get to scribbling.

-> investigate ellery's tent
-> pay off tab
-> buy new clothes
-> get sword (real)
-> get recommendation letters (???)
-> blackmail margo
-> weird business card? RSVP? tomorrow evening? ?
-> read ellery's backwards letter
-> don't get shot by margo
-> illegal(?) courier thing?
-> get stolen model back
-> finish new model
-> madrigal servant thing
-> ask madrigal a/b horse face
-> solve ellery thing before body is discovered
-> ???"

You feel like you're missing one.


You can't put your finger on it.

«The crown—»

Oh. Yes.

"-> Fill crown (?????)"

17 items. It's daunting, you'll admit, but it does actually make you feel better to look at it all. And one's immediately achievable, even. You've got a mirror. You've got a paper with mirror writing. It's not rocket science.

«Do not overuse the expression.»
Where is the paper, though? You stuck it in your coat, you think, but that was over a day ago. Did it fall out? Out of a hunch, you stoop (slightly) to peek under the cot— and there it is, clear as day.

Returning to the chair, you give the paper a glance-over. Now that you look at it, it does begin to resemble a flipped version of the alphabet— but considering the handwriting, you choose to cut yourself some slack. Anyhow, you've got the key. The mirror shard glints crimson on the desk.

It's difficult to get it to an angle where you can see the text in the mirror, but you just about manage. You mouth the words aloud as you read.


Woke up again. Coughed up more silver. Not a good sign. Not sure what I did to me -

— Thought it might be the 10th, but went and checked notice board. Maddie wasn't there like last time. Two days gone - also not a good sign, but better than three —

— Lionfish toxin gone from system. Probably for best —

— Verdict: Don't do again."

The last line seems terribly familiar, as does the date. It's an extended version of one of the notes in the manse.


Madrigal + choices first thing tomorrow. DND ran long and it's almost 3 AM. Apologies for my disorganization this whole thread.

You set the mirror shard down on top of your to-do list and stare down at both. You decisively scratch out "-> read ellery's backwards letter." And then, begrudgingly, you add another line: "-> show madrigal backwards letter?"

Still 17 items. You were right: it never stops. You're going to have to pick something more decisive to make any headway.

Madrigal's in three different items- if you could deal with all three at once, it'd certainly be-


Damn. You suppose it would be efficient, as loath you are to admit it. Three fish with one hook, etc. Of course, this is all rather predicated on if she'll even talk to you- but of course she will, right? You only punched her. In self-defense!

It's settled, then: you will find Madrigal, you will show her the letter, and maybe she'll call off the whole servant thing. It's only reasonable.

You wrap the mirror shard back up and drop it in your pocket; you fold the paper and stick it on the inside of your coat. You set off.

"MADRIGAL'S TENT," says the sign for Madrigal's tent. You stand outside its flap, reconsidering your decisions. If you just avoid her, she can't tell her to do anything, right—

«Do it, Charlie.»

Fine. You suppose you must.

>[1] Knock and let Madrigal answer. You're trying to be an upright citizen, right?
>[2] Barge in. You can't show weakness, she'll pounce. You're already under her thumb.
>[3] Press your ear to the side of the tent. You ought to check if she's in there.
>[4] Practice what you plan to tell her. So you're prepared. It's not weird.
>[5] Write-in.
>[3] Press your ear to the side of the tent. You ought to check if she's in there.

Knocking is for suckers who can't take a hint


>Bust in

Knocking is for simps. If you get the jump on Madrigal, you've got the advantage. With this in mind, you bob in place a couple times to prepare, then shove open the tent flap— it's tied from the inside, but only very weakly.

Madrigal's tent is about the blandest you've seen— it's vaguely cluttered, but that's all you can find to think about it. You sense she doesn't spend a lot of time here. Madrigal herself is sitting on the very edge of her cot, turned away from the entrance. She's clutching some kind of picture. She's… crying, you think. She still has the oversize bomber jacket on.

«Bad time. Bad time. Get o-»

It's too late: she heard your dramatic entrance! She shoves the picture under her leg and turns around just as you're about to slink out. "What," she says thickly.

Yeah, she was crying. Her eyes are red. The bruise on her cheek is a nasty purple. You don't say anything.

"Well, fuck you too." She's rubbing furiously at her face. "Tell me… tell me what you want, or fuck off, okay? I'm— busy."

"Busy with what?" you say innocently. Your hands are in your pockets. "You're just sitting here."

It's not a question she can answer, and you know it, and she knows it. "Fuck off, Charlotte."

"Are you distressed? Do you—" you have to compose yourself to say this, or else you'll start smiling— "need help? Is there something I can do, Madrigal?"

«This is entertaining, but recall you're trying to suck up to her.»

"Fuck off. Like I said."

"Well… I don't…" You pull your hands out of your pockets for the sole purpose of twiddling your thumbs. "…I don't think I can. I've got to do what you say, remem…"

Foot: mouth.

"Ah!" Madrigal's eyebrows shoot up. "Yes! You do! I forgot! Now fuck off, and that's an order!"

>[1] But Maaaaaaadrigal I decoded this paper for you come look [Roll]
>[2] But Maaaaaaadrigal what about your weirdo smuggler(???) friend horse face (do not call him horse face) [Roll]
>[3] Hey Madrigal watcha crying about? What's the picture? I'm a trustworthy person [Difficult roll]
>[4] Will you stop being mad at me if I tell you that I broke into your ex-bf's head and found a bunch of stuff
>[5] Sorry I punched you (don't mean it)
>[6] Fuck off. (Optional: where to? If not, you'll get a list of possibilities)
>[7] Write-in.
And then

This order is of utmost importance

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 60 (+10 Found Her Crying!) to convince her to talk to you.

>[ID: 11/11]
Spend 1 ID to boost the results by +10?
>[A1] Yes.
>[A2] No.

>[B1] Spend 6 ID to automatically succeed this roll. [Ophidian Charm]
>[B2] Do not.
Rolled 31 (1d100)

>spend one

I like to live on the edge
Rolled 94 (1d100)

Rolled 6 (1d100)

With our luck? Spend one.
>41, 104, 16 vs. DC 60 - Mitigated Success

>But Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaadrigal x2
>41, 104, 16 vs DC 60
>Mitigated Success

You've got a to-do list, God-damnit, and you don't intend to budge until you see it fulfilled. Madrigal's face is locked in a sort of rictus. "You're not fucking off!"

"It does appear that way."

"I swear to god, I will—" She makes a strangling motion. Her tears are forgotten. "You are the worst. The absolute— do you understand why Monty has such an incredible hard-on for you? Because I try, and I try, and I cannot wrap my head around it! You're awful in so many exciting ways!"

"Um," you say thoughtfully. "I reminded him of his younger self, I think."

"Gullshit. That's fucking gullshit. Fuck you." Madrigal looks like she wants to stand, but doesn't— she's got a picture to badly conceal. "That's— fuck you. Monty's a hardass, but he's nice. You're-"

"He's the one who said it."

"He's delusional, then!" She throws up her hands. "If it were up to me, you'd never have got a tent, you realize? I take one look, and I think 'this bitch is psycho.' And you know what? I was right!"

You're trying to keep your voice in the safe zone between 'placating' and 'patronizing.' "Is this about the whole-" (you gesture to your cheek) "-situation?"

"Gee, I don't know, is it about the fact you knocked my lights out, dragged me into the woods to die, and wandered off? Maybe?"

«Charlie, I really don't know why you had to go do all that. Look where it got you.»

"I didn't drag you in to die, that's just melodramatic. I just—"

"Oh! Sorry, Charlotte! Guess I couldn't come up with any other reasons to drag my unconcious body into the underbrush where it couldn't be seen! Why don't you tell me your fantastic reason why!"

"I'm not sure why you have to take that tone," you say. "It's a little childish, you know what I'm saying? Especially for an agèd woman like yourself."

It's a little bit of a stretch (she's 30-ish, you think), but it's effective. The rest of Madrigal's face is turning the color of her bruise.

"Anyhow, I dragged you into the underbrush because—" And this is where you stop, because you don't entirely remember. You've got a vague recollection of 'it's good practice,' but this does not seem plausible or appealing. "…It seemed like a good idea at the time, I suppose."

"Yesterday. At the time I was unconscious."

"That'd be the one, yes."

Madrigal closes her eyes. She doesn't seem to have anything to say to this.

You scratch your neck. You feel like there was perhaps a point to this, but it's been lost in the tussle. "So…"

She cracks one eye open. It's still bloodshot. "Hoped you were fucked off."

You'd hoped you'd remember in the space between the "so" and the rest of the sentence, but this has not come to pass. "Guess not."


Damn indeed. You return your hands to your pockets.

"Are you gonna?"

"Gonna what?"

"Fuck off—"

«This is asinine. It's your to-do list. You forgot the to-do list. I'd say to ask her about the things on your to-do list, but you've gone and shot that well to pieces."

You tug at the sleeve of your coat. God, he's right. Extracting information from Madrigal now is bound to be excruciating, but what are you going to do— leave? Absurd.

«Just start talking.»

Oh, like it's easy. Fine. Whatever. "No, I'm not going to— look, I did come here for a reason. Two— three— two reasons. Which are, uh, as follows. By any case, do- you-" Your voice hitches (your spine is hot), and when it restarts it's oleaginous. You want to buy whatever you're selling. "-are you friends with C.M.S. Garvin?"

Madrigal looks suspicious. "I… not 'friends.' I've met the guy, like, twice."

"Really? He claims you're good friends."

"That's Garvin for you, I guess. He's very, eh, familiar-" Madrigal stops herself, shakes her head, holds up a hand. "You're supposed to be fucking off."

"I've also made a major discovery regarding the Ellery situation," you(?) continue smoothly. "I thought you might be interested in it."

For a moment, you think Madrigal might cry again. She affects nonchalance instead. "I don't… maybe. It might depend on the type— what discovery?"

The paper and mirror shard are already in your hand. You hand Madrigal the paper. She scans it and looks back up to you. "Is this Ellery's? How'd you-"

"It is, and my methods are immaterial." ('Immaterial' was not a you-word. It fit oddly in your throat.) "Have you any idea what sort of writing this is?"

She returns to the paper. "Oh. Shit. Is this mirror writing?"

You can feel Richard's disappointment compounding your own. "Er… yes."

"God dammit. Where'd he get his grubby fucking hands on a mirror? It wasn't me, I keep that locked down. God, I bet he's been… snorting ground mirror bits, just to see what happens. Or whatever. Because he does that."

"I found no evidence of him owning a mirror…" you attempt.

"It's mirror writing, dumbass, you need a mirror to do it. I bet it's Keith."


"Keith. I bet Keith sold him the mirror. I fucking hate Keith."

>[1] Enough about Keith. Show her the translated version— dated three months ago.
>[2] Try to tactfully bring up Eloise's story of the mirror writing being… unintentional, however that works.
>[3] Inquire in about mirrors. She clearly knows of them in a business sense— anything else?
>[4] Madrigal's guard is down, kind of. Luckily, you've got more case questions for her. (Which? Various suggestions can be found throughout the clue bin linked early in the thread.)
>[5] Write-in.

and maybe 2 if we can fit it naturally?
>[2] if it can be slipped in
>Translate the letter.
>Relate Eloise's story. (If it's a good time.)

"Er," you say, "yes. So, at considerable personal expense, I managed to translate it into regular-"

"Oh man. Did you go letter by letter? You didn't have to do that, I could've—"

You show her the shard in her palm.

"Oh, shit." Madrigal furrows her brow. "Why's it red?"

"…It came that way."

"Huh." She's already slid on thin gloves. You suppose they must've been in the pocket of the jacket. "That's— give me the mirror? No, wait." She slides the mystery picture out from under her leg and tucks it in her waistband, then ducks under the cot. She comes out wielding a loupe in her left eye. "Now give me the mirror."

She takes it from your palm and holds it up to the loupe. "Huh," she says, then "hmm," then "that's interesting." She removes the loupe and waggles the shard. "It's genuine, all right, but it's a weird one. Discounting the whole red thing, even. The edges aren't uniform. It came this way?"


"You got a hand-cast one, not a mass-produced. Far less valuable. How much did you pay—"

"I didn't ask for an appraisal." You'd rather keep 'I picked this up off the ground from a corpse' to yourself. "Just translate it, would you?"

"You got scammed, gotcha. You're welcome. Hold on—"

She holds the mirror to the paper. "'Log of 12 Kite—'" She closes her eyes. "Charlotte. This is from 12 Kitemaker."

"I'm glad you can read—"

"That's three months ago, yeah? Three months after the Incident? Which was Fifthsday, 23 Netmaker?"

You're not sure which is more pathetic— 'the Incident' or the precise dating of it. "What time?"

"Mid-morning." You smirk. "But that's not— the point is, how the shit is this relevant? Did you just pick a random one from the stack and—"

«As I recall, you did.» Richard's back, loose around your shoulders. You were wondering where your unction had gone. «Excellent work, detective.»

"Just- you haven't even read it!"

"For god's sake." But Madrigal keeps reading. "'Woke up again. Coughed up more silver'— what did I say? He's been snorting the stuff, I'd bet my eye on it. 'Not sure what I did to me'— oh, good. Cryptic."

Like it's a bad word.

"'Thought it might be the 10th, but went and checked the notice board. M—'" Madrigal's voice cracks. "'Maddie wasn't there like last time.'"

She covers her eyes with her hands, drops her head to her lap. You don't have the heart to say anything.

Finally, she raises her head, wipes her nose, resumes. "'Two days gone'— what does that mean? 'Lionfish toxin'…"

Again, to the lap. Her voice is again thick when she rises. She speaks to the paper. "Fucking moron."

"Uh," you say. "What?"

"Lionfish toxin is fatal." Back to you. "It fucks up your heart. And everything else, but— the heart's the important part."

You hadn't known that. "Oh."

"'Oh.' 'Oh.' Fuck you, Charlotte." Madrigal wipes her nose again.

You're not sure how to handle this. "Maybe he didn't know it was…"

"Fucking moron. Of course he knew."

"Well…" You tug at your neckline. "I mean, it wasn't fatal, right? He's… still…"

You can't finish the sentence.

"He knew, and he did it anyways." It doesn't matter whether you finish. You might as well be wallpaper. "He knew. It's not carelessness. It's not— it's recklessness, but it's not— he usually—" Her bottom lip trembles. "It's all my fault."

Every instinct in your body is telling you to get out before a Scene happens— it's only a curdled mix of disgust and pity that keeps you rooted to the spot. "What's all your fault?"

You might as well have asked why things fall down, she says it like it's so obvious. "Everything!"

"Oh. Well, I'm sure that's not, uh, true…"

"He's chugging venom! He's- he's coughing up gunk! He's- do you think this'd be happening if I were—"

"Well," you say apologetically, "I mean, it is Ellery—"

"Fuck you! He's impulsive, he's not supposed to be sui—"

It's the breaking point. Madrigal takes a great heaving sob-breath. Your lizard brain is telling you to run for the hills.

«I'll give you some credit. You could only have predicted a good 75% of this.»

"I don't think," you say a little desperately, "I don't think he was suicidal, was he? That's no kind of suicide— he said not to do it again, I mean."

"Not— he wouldn't- he wouldn't see it that way." She's well and truly crying again. "He'd— ask him. Ask him. He'd be all 'I'm not shooting myself, am I?' But that's not— dodging in front of bullets is still—"

"Or not trying to dodge the bullets. Say." Your lips feel very dry. You're not sure what to do with your hands.

"Y- yeah." Madrigal takes another breath/sob.

You would not like to think about the unpleasant thing you just thought about. "Maybe," you say a lot desperately, "maybe you've got it sort of backwards. Maybe he just thought he'd— survive."

"Why would he…" Madrigal wipes tears from her eyes. "That's stupid."

Is it stupid? Maybe it's stupid. It's probably stupid. You expect Richard to tell you how stupid it is any second.

«It's not that stupid.»

"It's not," you protest. "That stupid."

"Fuck you. Yes it— he's not a fucking goo, Charlotte. He's not immortal, Charlotte. Fuck you— why did you give me this?"

"The… paper?"

"Yes! You knew what was on it, didn't you! You gave it to me so you could- so you could laugh at me. Because you're a psycho. Look at you—!"

But that's wrong! Is your bemusement reading as amusement? Are you cursed forever to look attractively smug? "I'm-" you fumble, "I'm not-"

"Then why did you give me this? Do possibly expect me to believe it's relevant?"

>[1] Tell the embarrassing truth: you didn't think the implications through. No more, no less.
>[2] Is it relevant to the breakup angle? No? But that wasn't the original question. The original question is 'what's wrong with Ellery,' and this provides some excellent answers.
>[3] You think she's being a little ungrateful here, really. Doesn't this capture her attention? Doesn't she want to know *why*? So it doesn't answer everything at once— so what? You're working hard out here.
>[4] To be fair: she's missing quite a lot of context regarding this note… and where you originally found it. You're going to have to tell her about the manse. [Specify how much. Specify if you want to let her in on your various theories.]
>[5] She's focusing way too much on one part of the note. The cryptic "what did I do to me" — that seems to link up with Eloise's story of Ellery's confusion, right? Relate that to her.
>[6] Listen to your lizard brain and GTFO.
>[7] Write-in.

We absolutely thought the implications through. We're just not familiar with the thought processes of peasants.
But also
>[7] "I know this isn't what you want to hear, but there's something going on what probably ties to why he dumped you."
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling between [5] with an attitude and nice [5], then writing.
>Wait, compassion is for suckers!
>Relate Eloise's story.

What's wrong with you? Why are you standing here, unthorned, declawed? You should be kicking her when she's down. She's a, she's a peasant, and you're queen! You're queen! You'd forgotten. You should be bossing her around, not— isn't it illegal to tell you what to do? You feel like it should be, and if it's not, well— you'll make it illegal. That's right. Because you have that power. Will have that power. Just as soon as you—

"Well?" Madrigal demands. "Got an answer? Or are you just gonna have that stupid look on your face—"

Stupid look on your face? She's the one with the puffy eyes, and snot, and, and, tears…

The pity rises again in your throat, like stomach acid. You swallow it down.

«Good girl.»

"Of course it's related," you snap. "He dumped you for a reason, didn't he? There's-"

"This is after that!"

"Who says it didn't start before! Who says there wasn't something wrong all along, and you just didn't notice!"

She's quiet.

"You think he's coughing up gak because of you? You're that egocentric? I bet— I bet a hundred to one it's been happening for months. Think of him and you on—" You can't picture Ellery in any kind of romantic situation. He's got too much blood on him.

«A walk.»

"—a walk," you continue, relieved. "And you're yammering away. And he's just looking at you, and in his nasty-looking eyes—"

"They're hazel," Madrigal mumbles. "Hazel."

"—he's screaming for help. And it just goes right on past you. And you're wondering why you got dumped?"

This is about the point where you got punched, last time, but Madrigal just sits there and cries. It kind of sucks the fun out. It's not sporting.

She says something you don't understand.


"…Proof." She wipes her nose with vigor. "Have you got proof."

You have not got proof. That speech was wholly extemporaneous— though it has the whiff of truth about it, you think, or else she wouldn't be crying so much. "For pre-dumping? Not at present, no. For his condition a scant three months ago? A bevy. Not just this note, but Eloise told me—"


"Eloise told me that she had Ellery come in three months back, asking for a mirror. He said he'd been writing mirrored."

"Great proof."

"Without knowing. Said he'd only just realized it. Said he didn't even own a mirror."

Madrigal puts her face in her hands.

"So there you have it, I suppose. He's sick, or he's gone mad, or someone's messing with him—"

"'Not sure what I did to me.'"


She raises her head. "What the note said. You said it was the same timeframe."

"Er, yes—"

"He did it. Maybe— I don't know, maybe on accident. Maybe he did snort mirror dust, so he went all— mirror. It said he was coughing up silver."

This is disgustingly plausible. "I… guess."

"Fuck me, I don't— whatever it was, I caused it. Or, or, made it worse. Either way. I—" Face back to hands. "I need to talk to him."


«Ooh. Ouch.»

She sees and misinterprets your look of horror. "It's— it won't be like other times. I have evidence, I have— you're coming with. I'm taking you with."

It just keeps getting worse. "I— that can't be necessary."

"It's not a big deal. He knows you're investigating him— you fucking told him. And you've got all the info, so I've got to."

"I told you the—"

"He won't believe just me. I've—" She stands shakily. "Come on."

You quaver. "I really— I really— don't—"

"It's an order."

>[1] It's fine, right? This is fine. All that will happen is she can't find Ellery, because you killed him. He's gone all the time. She won't suspect anything. Just go and promptly return.
>[2] This could be an opportunity, actually. If Ellery's not in his tent (and he won't be), you can convince Madrigal to help you dig through it. She'll have more of a perspective on what's important.
>[3] Logically, you should be fine. Emotionally, you're panicking. You can't do this. Convince Madrigal to leave you behind, despite her order. [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.

Oh dang wow that turned out way meaner than I thought. At least Richard is proud.
Let's finally have a sidekick while investigating
>[2] This could be an opportunity, actually. If Ellery's not in his tent (and he won't be), you can convince Madrigal to help you dig through it. She'll have more of a perspective on what's important.
Meaner than I expected, too! Sometimes updates take on a life of their own.
>Acquire sidekick.

One does what one must, even if it makes one feel sick. You tip your head in assent.

"Right. Good." Madrigal undoes her bandana and wipes her face and nose with it. She looks up at you. "Do I- do I look okay?"

She looks like she's just been crying. "No."

"Well— maybe he'll pay more attention." She stuffs the bandana into her shorts pocket and slides off her bomber jacket, leaving just the scanty tank top.

"More attention, hm?" you snipe.

It's the first smile she's managed since you got here. "Can't hurt."

And with that, you're off. You attempt to trail far enough behind Madrigal that it doesn't look like you're trailing her at all, but she's walking so fast you have no choice but to hurry. Defiantly, she cuts through the heart of camp. You're lucky it's a sunny day: you suspect the usual crowd is off mudskipping, skylarking, or expeditioning in the Fen, not hanging around watching you.

Not there's nobody watching you. Eloise is there, chatting up some red-haired woman with a jaw like a brick. She gives the both of you a wave. Meaning everyone will know by evening, anyways.

«Start thinking of a spin. I suggest: you've turned over a new leaf and are aiding even those who openly despise you. Voluntarily.»

It'll have to be something like that. But here you are, finally, in front of Ellery's tent. Madrigal rubs one last time at her face, then knocks on the tentpole.

Nobody answers. You release the breath you didn't realize you were holding.

"I guess he's not in," Madrigal mumbles. "Figures."

"Is it tied?"

She tries the flap. It opens. "Oh, huh. Hold on." She pokes her head in, then recoils. "He cleaned."

Thanks to you. "I know. So am I free, or—" Inspiration hits. "—would you want to do a quick search of his things? For— evidence, you know. Since you'd know it better—"

Madrigal wavers. "He could come back."

"He won't," you say.

"I—" She screws up her face. "Yes. Sure. Just a— because I'm worried, not because I'm some kind of— crazy— you know."

You've already pushed inside. The interior is very close to how you left it the other day, excepting what might be a new layer of papers. And Ellery's brown coat, intact, tossed casually over the chaise longue.

Madrigal's followed you in. "Of course he left his coat," she scoffs.

In the late morning light, a great deal more detail is revealed to you. There's a green chaise lounge covered entirely with open boxes— and one coat— to your immediate right, and varied keepsakes on the hanging shelves above it.

To your immediate left, there is a worn wooden coathanger (you spend a moment brooding on the irony) with no coats on it, but one pair of scratched safety goggles. Farther to the left, along the wall, lies what might be a table— it's covered entirely with paper, among other things. Soft-lead pencils. Whale-wax black crayons. A small box of rubber bands and salvaged thumbtacks. A clay bowl of unshelled tapegrass nuts, and another of their shells. An empty nautilus-shell, evidently as a paperweight.

Past the maybe-table is a small upholstered chair, shoved into the far left corner. Unlike every other surface in the room, there is nothing on it.

On the floor: haphazard stacks of paper, everywhere, except in the center. And other things. Stacks of thinner boxes under the maybe-table, each hand-labeled "FRETSAW PZL," then a descriptive term of choice: "LEAFIRE AT DUSK," "PANTHER ATTACK." A broken, discarded knife.

«A jackknife, Charlie. For wood.»

A steadily-rusting iron mirror (none of the properties of glass). A— you turn up your nose— little shrine to one of his dead gods, with wilted flowers. A radio.

A radio? Surely not. The expense! The luxury! That sort of thing can't be made, by hand or by architecture: it's too complicated, and there isn't the material for it. It must be salvaged and repaired, or else brought down specially, or else bought or bartered from someone who did either. But the squat wooden box at your feet is a radio, sure as the day you're born, and you are filled with dark and screaming envy.

«Not yet, Charlie.»

On the ceiling: a glow-orb, on a string.

On the walls: paper. Paper paper paper paper. Mostly written on, some drawn on, all illegible, mirrored-- that you can see, at least.

Even Madrigal seems daunted. ("A lot of this is new," she says. "Most of the paper.") You've got a lot of work ahead.

>[1] Look at something. (What?)
>[2] Look for something in particular. (What?)
>[3] Just kind of shuffle through until something strikes your interest or fancy.
>[4] Follow Madrigal's lead. She's been in here, you assume, quite a lot.
>[5] Write-in.
> [1] Check his coat and the boxes nearby
>> That shrine looks horrendously pagan, let's poke at it
> [5] "Hey Madrigal, does this radio work?" Totally don't ask because you want to sneak off with it later.
Seconding all of this, and let's look at the mirrored paper as well.
All of it? There's got to be hundreds of scribbled notes pinned to the walls.
Assuming it's difficult for us to tell what's pertinent, if possible:

Coat > boxes > radio > as much of the paper as we have time for
Go through the coat's pockets and read some notes
It's not difficult, exactly, but it's time-consuming-- you have to sit down and use the mirror shard to translate each one.

Vote seems pretty set, but it'll be open until tomorrow if anyone wants to contribute still. We're going back to the one update-ish/day schedule for the rest of the thread, most likely.

Also confirming that this ID >>4009333 is me phoneposting. Not sure why the trip is different.
File: hopsack coat.jpg (42 KB, 300x300)
42 KB

Without comment, Madrigal has begun to sift through the things on the maybe-table. You begin instead with the coat. It seems like a bad omen, though of what kind you're unsure. A premonition? A warning? Or Ellery just has two identical coats. But no, that's absurd.

You examine it from a distance, just to be sure. It's a standard men's thigh-length collared topcoat, one-size-fits-all: there's straps on the wrists and shoulders to adjust, currently let out all the way. Not economical to account for different measurements anymore. Fabric: mud-colored cloth, thick, rough, cheap— you'd say hopsack, but you'd need to feel to be sure. Dull black buttons down the front. Overall, beaten up to hell and back: the elbows worn, the sides scraped, the collar nicked and torn.

How your mother would put it, were it one of her good days: "it's seen some love."

You're burying the lede, though, which is: the last time you saw this coat, it was shot to pieces in front of Tom's Cave, along with— well. But excepting the hell-and-back, the coat in front of you is whole.

You purse your lips.

«Bad omens do not exist, Charlie.» Says Richard, the talking snake. You have tried many times to convince him of the irony, but he refuses to acknowledge it (or the bad omens). «It's just a coat, I'm afraid. Albeit an unusual one.»

You purse your lips harder. "Madrigal," you call.


"Would you look at this coat?"

She comes over and looks at the coat. "It's his coat."

You look at her expectantly.

"I— it's his coat. He wears it all the time."

You nod towards it.

"For god's sake. Get me if you find anything." Madrigal returns to her sifting.

Damn! Your plot, foiled. Fine. You touch the coat. Yes, hopsack. No, no evil energy (at least the detectable kind).


Omen or not, touching the fabric still gives you a quick, jumpy, hare-scared feeling. It's too much of a personal thing, the coat. It's too constant, too present, too— you can't say you've ever seen Ellery without it. Lying here, it seems molted, or shed. Like a cicada shell. Like a snakeskin.

Which is to say you spend about twenty seconds staring at the coat before you work up the courage to go through its pockets. The outside two are busted, which you didn't predict, but could've. Undaunted, you check inside.

You get more than you bargained for. Eight pockets in total, none of which were built into the coat— every one of them was crudely sown in later. You go clockwise.

First pocket: empty.

Second pocket: sand, fine and pale. You run it through your fingers. Nothing else.

Third pocket: empty.

Fourth pocket: empty.

Fifth pocket, guarded with a button: A folded photograph. Madrigal, half-smiling, not looking at the camera.

File: legerdemain.png (217 KB, 470x403)
217 KB
217 KB PNG
Sixth pocket: A note. Two notes, one inside the other. Ellery's handwriting, mirrored. You translate.

"Your fine. Don't panic. Don't jump to conclusions. Lay low. It has been 1 or 2 days out."
"Also you've been to the cave already which is what this is about. B̶l̶o̶n̶d̶e̶ C̶h̶a̶r̶l̶ Lottie fucked in the head. Maybe other places. Be careful."

You cannot crumple the notes up fast enough. You stuff them into your own pocket.

Seventh pocket: empty.

Eighth pocket: empty.

It's bathetic, to say the least. Why weren't there eight sets of notes? Or eight things, at least? What's the point of sowing in pockets if you're not going to make use of them—

«Legerdemain, I'm guessing.»

You don't remember what that is, but it sounds stupid.

«It's not stupid, Charlie, it's an elevated art. It's the finding of loopholes and ambiguities in the rules and it's the exploiting of them in such a masterful and silent way that the rules don't notice. It's—»

Wait, you take that back, you do remember. It's what Richard called the poof thing. Poof, there's a glass. Poof, there's a bucket. And so on. Things out of nowhere.

«It's not called the 'poof thing,' Charlie, it's called legerdemain. The more pockets you have, the more probable it is to have any given pocket-sized object. The more probable it is, the more likely you are to pull that object out of a pocket. Even an empty one.»

Briefly, you picture the inside of Richard's suit. Yellow silk. Thirty or so pockets.

He brushes against your neck. «I have no need. And the suit has no inside.»

>[1] Show Madrigal something of what you've found so far. (What?)
>[2] Check in with her findings.
>[3] Inquire about Ellery and legerdemain. (Or pockets.)
>[4] Just keep searching.
>[5] Write-in.
Is this a filler vote? More or less. Please humor me, I'm waking up in 6 hours and need to stop writing, especially when this is already normal-update length. Rest of voted-for things will be investigated in a post (hopefully) tomorrow.
>[1] Show Madrigal something of what you've found so far. (What?)
The photo of her.
>[2] Check in with her findings.

Why would he have 30 pockets if he doesn't need them? Lick his face and tell him he tastes like a liar.
>Show Madrigal the picture of herself.

And Richard's over here claiming bad omens don't exist when his suit's got no inside. It just doesn't follow. You can either believe in neither, or both, and you are going with both.

So there.

«You're very witty. Speaking of lies, Charlie, there is a <shrine>.» Did Richard just notice it? He's coiling midair in quite high dander, you think, though of course it's impossible to tell. «Do not go near it. It abounds with foul hematic vibrations.»

Oh? Foul vibrations, huh? Sounds pretty evil to you. Sounds pretty cursed. Sounds pretty omen-y. Forgetting the coat, you march over to the shrine and bend to look.

«Charlie. Charlotte.»

It's kind of small and sad-looking, primarily. Befits the subject. You're not well-versed on the religions of the lower classes, but there's not much to know— their gods are dead, quite verifiably, with filed eyewitness accounts. There's nowhere and nothing left to worship. Why anyone persists is a mystery.

«Charlotte. Do not examine the pretender-gods.»

There might've been eight, possibly, named Sea this and Sea that. The shrine is certainly themed as such: it centers around a wooden statuette a foot high, hand-carved (by jackknife?) to look like waves, or somesuch. Around the statuette is strewn small shells and stones and some wilted swamp orchids. Everything is salt-crusted to the floor. This clearly hasn't been touched in a long while.

«Listen to me, Charlotte.» You have no intention of listening to such a blatant hypocrite / possible demon. (Richard has lingered back a couple feet from the shrine. This will be an arrow on your 'what is he actually?' mental list.)

Seeing no other option but to stoop down, you do. The shrine reveals no more of its mysteries, except that the statuette is stained a little orange-reddish at its top.

«Don't touch that.»

You touch it. You get a quick, jumpy, hopscotchy, hare-scared feeling— in your bones, maybe, or bone marrow. Same as the coat, only you can't attribute this to the "too personal" garbage.

«Stop touching that.»

You were going to stop— it's not an unpleasant sensation, but it's not a pleasant one, either, reminding you of a minor electric shock. Now you won't stop. You stare Richard in his dead eyes and continuing holding the statuette.

«Charlotte, you sor-» Richard stops himself. You suppose he's been trying to be nice, recently, not insulting you directly. Maybe he feels bad about the incident in town. «Stop.»

Spite keeps you held fast. You ignore the feeling. You ignore the steady tremors in your hands and wrists. You ignore the half-smile you have involuntarily twitched into.

>[ID: 9/11]

"Hey," Madrigal says. She stands above you, looking suspicious. "What are you doing?"

You half-smile up at her. She frowns down at you. Realization dawns. "Oh, shit. Your eye. Stop touching—"

Richard stays wisely silent. Grateful, you release. The feeling stops.

"—Shit. Okay. Okay." Madrigal presses her thumb and forefinger to her face. "Yeah, that thing's got a shit ton of his blood on it, so that's— careful."

«Hematic vibrations. As I said.»

"I would've been fine," you protest. "I'm not scared of—"

"Your eye was turning hazel."

You touch the eye. "Oh."

Blood: it carries the stuff of a person, the essentia and effluvium (these aren't you-words, again— has Richard left debris behind?) alike. In more radical interpretations, it is the person, the brain a dumb and deaf interpreter, the body a plumbing system only. In either case, you just came in contact with a lot of undiluted Ellery.

In what is becoming a recurring theme, you feel sick.

«Coat must've absorbed quite a lot at one point, too. Anyway, Charlotte, I told you you're not to tangle with that. You're falling apart with one influence in your head. You do not need more.»

"Yeah," Madrigal says. "Trust me, it's not worth it. It's not worth trying to dig. Shrine's not even relevant. Look, he hasn't touched it in— what, five, six months?" She gestures to the salt buildup.

"Since after he dumped you, then?"

She fidgets. "…Guess so."

"You'd think that'd be even more of a time to turn to your …cannibal gods, or whatever?"

«Usurpers. Thieves.»

"…He was never that devout, so I don't— he did a lot of bloodletting for other things, so I think the shrine got the extra. Like watering flowers."

"So he didn't do bloodletting after he dumped you?"

Madrigal folds her arms. "You keep insinuating— it was mutual, Charlotte-"

"Which is why he's crying at the mention of you."

«Keep it civil.»

"I wasn't crying," Madrigal says blithely, and it's really kind of a pain to update your 'worst lies ever' mental list, but you do it anyways. "I don't know if he did or not. I didn't see him."

«Actually, back up. You skipped the important part. His blood is normal for some length of time before the split, or else has the same properties as regular blood. Likely the former, from color.»

Not something you can bring up to Madrigal. You scratch your neck.

"Anyways," she says, "did you ever find anything in the coat?"

Notes you're not showing her, ordinary sand, and a photograph. Which you never picked up. You lead Madrigal back to the coat (Richard follows behind) and retrieve the photo. (On the topic of the eight pockets: "Yeah, front two have been busted long as I've known him. Guess he got damn fed up.") You hand her it.

Madrigal cries again. That's what happens. You should've expected this, but somehow you'd projected a scrap of decorum onto her. It's irritating, and a waste of time besides. You search the boxes while you wait for her to get over it.

They're full of wood. Box one: some variety of wood. Box two: some other variety of wood. Box three: wood, but with the bark scraped off. Box four: some half-carved logs, and some very bad fully carved logs. Box five: some better-carved logs. And so on. You keep opening boxes in the hopes they'll be anything but wood, but you never fail to be disappointed. (Except one, which contains woodcarving tools, but it's too close for you not to count it.)

"Madrigal," you say, in your best withering tone, "these boxes are full of wood."

She sniffles. "He- he picked up a hobby. He likes trees. It got out of hand."

«Why did you bother asking.»

Fourteen boxes, and they're all just wood and wood paraphernalia. Out of sheer desperation, you begin to dig through the boxes in random order. You get a splinter. You stop digging through the boxes to suck on your finger. You begin again.

Box two ("some other variety of wood") is where you hit pay dirt. In the midst of a neat cabin-stack of logs, you retrieve a slim leather-bound book.

"LOG," the front says, and you could've about blasted the tent to pieces with the force of your sheer incandescent unfathomable rage just then.

Madrigal has gotten over the photograph (she has refolded it and tucked it tenderly into its pocket) and is now in an infuriatingly good mood. She laughs, probably at the cover, but it feels like at you. You seethe.

You've basically forgotten that you just found Ellery's— diary? He wouldn't call it that, as a man, but his diary. It's only Richard that brings you down to reality: «Open the book, Charlotte.»

Is he invested? You thought you were frittering away your life, or whatever it is.

«You're frittering away your life by not opening the book, Charlotte.»

The LOG is locked with a simple gold latch— evidently Ellery relied more on the hiding spot for security. The first entry is dated to 10 months ago, and reads (in Ellery's handwriting, looking especially shaky): "Was told it might be usefull to record own thoughts on the prosedure, before and after, and the reasons behind it. So I am.
Reasons: "a house divided against itself can not stand," that guy said, and I don't know where he got that from, but I guess I'm the house. Decided among ourselves (myselfs) it would be best shot at normal. And Maddy's always supported.
Thoughts: Kind of second guessing this, but backing out is worse, I/we think. Still got a couple weeks. It'll be for the best."

Pay dirt indeed. You found the procedure. To stitch his brain back together, or whatever Richard said.

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Stuff this in your coat pocket (it fits, barely) and read it at a later date. You've got higher priorities.
>[A2] Just skip to the meat of the thing: the procedure and right after. That's all you need.
>[A3] Read it straight through (it's not all that long). You never know what you'll find, but— well, you may be frittering your life away. But you suppose you have no time limit. Nobody lives here.
>[A4] Write-in.

>[B1] Have Madrigal read over your shoulder.
>[B2] Read by yourself. (As possible.)
>[B3] Write-in.

Notes (and what Madrigal found) tomorrow, along with the results of this. Sorry! Sorry!

>Box two ("some other variety of wood") is where you hit pay dirt. In the midst of a neat cabin-stack of logs, you retrieve a slim leather-bound book.

>"LOG," the front says, and you could've about blasted the tent to pieces with the force of your sheer incandescent unfathomable rage just then.

No reason to refuse Madrigal reading with us
I'm smart and knows what numbers are
I dunno she might freak out or start crying again
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Called for A3 and rolling between the Bs.
>Read the whole thing.
>Without Madrigal.

Do you want Madrigal to see this? You'd like to avoid more waterworks, if possible, so maybe it's best if not. "I'll take a look at this," you say. "Why don't you get back to— whatever you were doing?"

"Suit yourself," she says, and gets back to whatever she was doing. Looking at the papers, you think.

Satisfied, you seat yourself on the sole uncluttered chair and continue on to the next entry in the LOG. It's a couple days later, still Ellery's handwriting, still shaky.

"Forgot to update this, but I don't think it matters much. Got more info on the prosedure. Doc said it won't hurt & w̶o̶n̶'̶t̶ will take a second only. 'Exactly a second?' I said, 'or just a short amount of time?' Never mesured, apparently, but if not an exact second close to it. Not sure how to feel about this. Feel like if it's so short why am I getting someone else to do it. Doc said it's a load of work, actually, it's just the loose spanner, etc, and explained to me like I didn't make that term up myself. Regreting this."

Richard's dropped it a couple times, but you continue to not know what "spanner" means.

«Charlotte, it's the ratio of time dilation between depth l—»

You didn't say you cared. You turn the page.

Curiously, the next entry has the same date. More curiously, it's printed quite neatly— maybe even using a proper grip. It's in blue colored pencil.

"Please ignore the previous entry. Was not in right mindset (literally). This has long sense been decided on.
I feel I have been unduely concerned with the prospect of 'death' or 'loss,' despite neither taking place, as in fact I do not exist to die or be lost. Please be aware of this fact.

Same day, again. Back to shaky, back to ordinary pencil.

"I told that guy not to write in my fucking logbook, and look what he does. Don't ask me why I want to be part of this, because I jenuinly do not know. Was I a prick before?"

And so on. Over the following three weeks, normal-pencil Ellery goes on to worry about everything he can think to worry about, to wander down dense, spiraling digressions (you skim an entire page about turtles), to write quite awful love poetry for Madrigal, to worry about the poetry, to worry about Madrigal, to worry about the love. ("What if a second passes — and I no longer care?" God, do you not care.) Thrice the blue pencil returns, each time insistent: Calm down. I'm not even real. I don't matter. You're going back to normal, is all. It'll be fine.

You are beginning to think there might be such thing as too personal of a matter.

File: blue.jpg (237 KB, 736x1472)
237 KB
237 KB JPG
«Your own fault, Charlotte, for tunneling in on the fripperies. This man is circling around two questions. He will not state the identity of the doctor, and he will not state what the procedure consists of, despite having clear knowledge of both.»

Maybe he doesn't find it relevant. You're interested in the blue writing— you've seen that shade somewhere before, or a glimmer of it, or something. That neat print, too. If only your mind wasn't a sieve—

«That's pathetically simple, Charlotte. That's the-» Richard does a strange jerk of his head- «me.»

You stop idly flipping through the pages. "The what?"

«I have no obvious way to convey sarcasm. The 'me'. The psyche-fracture. It's doing the blue writing.»

"That guy," Ellery called it, which is about as terrible a name as you could expect. 'Richard' beats the pants off it.


But look at you— you're the one going down a spiraling digression. You'll be here all day if you discuss instead of reading. (Madrigal's already amassed a small mountain of notes off the wall.) You've made it to the day before the procedure, about nine months ago— three before the break-up.

Really, the circumstances deserve a better title than piddly "break-up." Henceforth you'll call it the Incident.

«That's worse.»

Shut up. Three months and change before the Incident. Night before the procedure— sorry. Procedure.

Ellery: "I've written a hundred times there's no turning back now but there's really no turning back now, not after I'm down a pint and a gill of blood. The gill's for personal use— if I'm lucky I won't need it, I'll just produce more of the same— but I'm never lucky. Lost every game of dice I've ever played. Remains to be seen if I'll lose this one.

Maddy kissed me and told me that she's put up with half-crazy me for so long she's not sure what she'll do about the sane one. Think she was joking. Still ached.

I'll report in after. That guy's handling the talking.

A little of the gill."

A bloody thumbprint as signature. You turn the page.

40 KM, it's labeled. (Not the Kitemaker of the lionfish toxin— the one prior.) The Day of Reckoning.

«You have got to stop.»

"It's morning," the entry begins. "I'll be dead in 15 minutes. Which is a selfish way to put it, because of course I've been claiming the opposite: I can't die, I never lived at all. That was either a half-truth or a lie, I'm unsure which— depends on the definition of life at hand. But I feel alive, and I don't want to stop, anyways.

That's all for the pity party. Because the fact of it is that this is for the best, and the whole p͟o͟i͟n͟t͟of me is for the best. And I'll still be there, somewhere, even if that's cold comfort. We had a good run, Ellery. Keep out of trouble for me.

The opposing page is undated. It's blank except for a terse line in a heavy hand: "Feel like shit."

Next page is also undated. "Still feel like shit, but I can write. Got two dozen ideas nocking around like ball bearings in here. Click clack click clack. Going to try and get them down before I forget.
- Legs hurt. Torso hurts. Pants show an inch of ankle (will need to rehem). 90% sure I am taller than I used to be. That guy was taller than me by a little.
- It's quiet.
- I have a headake.
- I don't feel any different & at the same time I feel like I'm missing something & at the same time I feel like there's something brand new and I don't know what any of it is. I don't feel normal though.
- Was I ever normal? Was that even an achevable state?
- Damn it's quiet.
- It felt like a second but I don't believe for a second (ha ha) it actualy was. You don't get that kind of spanner. Think they tinkered with my sense of time while in there. Probably more like 10 min— should've set up sundial but didn't think ———

Hold on here comes Maddy"

A gap down the page, then: "Maddy came to see how I was doing & I told her pretty good, could be worse. She looked worried and said 'you say that when you're not doing well' which I had not considered. Also went 'god Ell what happened to your eyes.' Told her I don't know, I haven't looked in a mirror or anything, are they okay? She bends down and takes my chin in her hands (I'm sitting) and looks, as I look in her green eyes, and goes 'they're okay, they've just gone kind of dark and muddy, I guess, not really hazel. Can you see okay?' all worried how she gets

And at that I go: shit. Not to her, to her I say I can see okay. But shit. Because that really worried me, kind of voiced a fear I was knocking around with the rest of everything else— that this wasn't like fixing a broken pot, or finishing a fretsaw puzzle. That there never was an empty space where that guy used to be, or if there was it's long since healed over. So what happened instead was they reduced me to a slurry, and him to a slurry, and combined the two and pressed all the water out and called it a day.

Or in other words instead of being 90% + 10% = 100% of a person I am (might be) 100% + 100% = 200% of a person and while that sounds funny it's not at all. It'd also be why I feel like shit.

The reason I'm thinking this is that I've always had hazel eyes. Whole life. So if I were '''normal''' I'd still have hazel eyes. But I'm thinking if you take hazel eyes, and blue eyes (that guy), and you slurry those, you probably get something dark and muddy.

And some of this probably shows on my face, so Maddy hugs me and says it'll take some getting used to, which (I'm thinking) by the fucking gods it will, and she understands if I need a little time / space, just come find her. And she leaves. She didn't notice I was taller, but I was sitting down, so."

File: ellery....jpg (178 KB, 1000x1218)
178 KB
178 KB JPG
So I'm back now trying to remember what I was thinking the first time.

- Everything that isn't aking feels kind of numb and floaty. Not sure if drugged or if just how this feels.
- Should probably test blood.
- Tested blood. Seems ordinary (coagulates, etc). Some worst-case senarios ruled out.
- Kind of feels like I'm dreaming, honestly. Just a kind of pervasive this-isn't-real type thing, even though it very is (see blood).
- Upon reflection being slurried with someone/thing two rungs down on the realness ladder — probably why. Fuck.
- Need to take a walk."

And that's where the entry ends, leaving you also numb and floaty, though that may be the result of you sitting in the same position unmoving for 30 minutes. And there's still more! You posit that the diary is slim for the sole reason that Ellery liked to cram all his words close together. At least Madrigal isn't waiting on you: she has busied herself with reading and jotting down the contents of the papers.

Richard, for his part, seems to be enjoying this. «Astounding,» he keeps saying. «Astounding. Astounding.»

"Is it?"


You sigh and flip the page.

"Walk cleared things up, as it does usually. I can cope with this. No worse than execution, and about the same level of unexpected, and I coped with that, kind of.

Was looking for something to do with twitching hands, so checked pants pockets for string. Held a resolute hope to find string despite knowing I had no string. Found ordinary white string, see sample [there is cellu-tape, but no string under it]. Again, did not actually have string.

This was nothing to do with the magician's unvanishing— I have no string bound to me (obviously). Must [double underlined] investigate.

Played catch cradle on way back."

«Spontaneous legerdemain,» Richard muses over your shoulder. «Fascinating.»

The next pages of the diary are filled with tables and diagrams and tiny, tiny handwriting and you admit it, your eyes are glazing over. You should put it away and read the rest later. You would've put it away and read the rest later, had the tent flap not just then opened.

Ellery walks in.

You're kidding. Ellery doesn't walk in. Ellery's very, very dead. It's only a pale and weedy and mud-eyed man wearing a flannel bathrobe. "…Hello," says E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y̶.

You gape.

Madrigal gapes as well, for two seconds, before rising furiously from her mountain and striding over to E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y̶ like she caught him breaking and entering. "You bastard!"

You gape.


"You bastard! What the fuck do you think you're doing to- to-" The speech Madrigal clearly had in her head is not going as planned. "Why do you have a bathrobe?"

"Long story. Just a-" E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y̶ cranes his head to look directly at you. You stare dumbly back. "That's the— that one's Lottie, right?"

"Look at me, you fucking—"

"Hold on just a tic, Maddie, please." E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y̶ darts past her (she turns in indignation) and, to your utter horror, walks over to you.

"Lottie?" he says nervously, and you fully and completely expect him to take you by the wrist and drag you through the floor into Hell, and/or start spewing blood from all orifices.

«Get a grip, Charlotte. This wasn't all that surprising.»

You nod imperceptibly.

«I mean, really. Given the circumstances of the so-called death—»

E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y̶ casts a quick glance towards Madrigal, then leans in too close to you. "…Is it possible, uh, that we f— we ʰᵃᵈ ˢᵉˣˀ …ˡᵃˢᵗ nᶦᵍʰᵗˀ"

He dragged you through the floor and you are in Hell right now.

>[1] Write-in.
Oh damn, I want so badly to play along and call Madrigal a cuck, but Charlotte wouldn't tak her own reputation just to do that.

>"I can't think of any event or even sequence of events less possible, you perverted freak!"

~~can I do strikethroughs if I'm not OP~~
You can, but you have to use an offsite generator like I did.
Supporting. We just went over with Eloise how not okay Lottie is with the thought of that.

We're on page 10, so this update or next update may be the last of the thread. ~Week until the next thread, as usual.
File: bathrobe.jpg (87 KB, 570x570)
87 KB
>What the fuck did you just fucking say about me, you little bitch?

Higher reasoning flees you. All you can do is emit a kind of guttural moan: "ueuuuuuuuu…"

E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y raises his hands in deference. "No? That's— no problem. Just thought, uh, you might be able to clarify—"

And with a reverberating snap you're back. Clarify? He thinks you can clarify? Your life was in perfect order until four days ago until for no apparent reason the entire world lost its collective marbles and now snakes are people and people are not people and people are trying to kill you and people are dying and people are not dying and you are just about at the end of your rope. He thinks you can clarify?

You rise from your chair, clutching the LOG with white trembling knuckles. "'Just thought?' I cannot think of an event— or a sequence of events— or anything— less possible, you perverted freak!"

("What the fuck is he saying!" Madrigal signs from across the tent.)

E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y's posture tightens. "It wasn't a- I just have limited- look, I can't remember last night, and I woke up without—"

«Hence the bathrobe.»

"And you think I'd willingly participate in some kind of, what, wham- wham bam thank you ma'am—?!"

By way of response E̶l̶l̶e̶r̶y raises his left hand. Five words are scrawled into the palm:

"Needless to say," he says apologetically, "I don't remember this either."

(Madrigal across the tent: "He's using you to avoid *me*! Get out and let me corner—")

"Uh," you say wisely. "Yes."

"So, sorry, uh, is there something else I should be dealing with?"

>[1] Write-in.
>"Probably your missing memory? Maddy can help you with that, I for one am through with this after your shameful insinuations."
Also seconding.
>"Probably your missing memory? Maddy can help you with that, I for one am through with this after your shameful insinuations."

You have no earthly idea why your name is carved into his hand. Surely he did it to himself, but before or after the— what, attempted murder? Shooting? Is this a matter of regeneration or of resurrection? Or more esoteric: an Ellery (it is Ellery) from a different time? Different dimension? (Under your bitter fear lies a thrilled little undercurrent. The possibilities!) And 'deal with you?' Are you a threat?

You have no intentions on helping him figure this out. "Your broke brain, probably—"

This provokes a stilted laugh. "No, trust me, you've got nothing to do with that."

"Well, whatever." It was a softball. "Can't you ask, uh, Maddie? She's right there—"

"Ask her about you?"

"N…" You cross your arms. "Yeah. Yes. Sure. Just talk to her." (Madrigal gives you two thumbs up.) "I- I, for one, am through with this— this debacle— after your shameful insinuations—"

Success. A smooth passing of the baton. You have little interest in an actual face-to-face with Ellery— he's too tall («More of a face-to-chest, really»), and strange, and alive— so if Madrigal so desperately wants to patch up her sorry relationship you're more than willing to let her. You nod decisively and begin to inch past Ellery, LOG in the crook of your elbow.

Ellery grabs you firmly by the shoulder— you squirm, but he's unexpectedly strong. Maintaining silent eye contact, he grasps and prises the LOG from you.

He nods decisively back.

«Embarrassing. At least make a dignified exit.»

You try your damnedest: you hasten towards the entrance like your heels are on fire. You almost made it out, too, only you made the mistake of coming too near to Madrigal. For the second time, you're caught by the shoulder.

"Where do you think you're going?" she hisses. "I need you for this! You're my witness!"

It seems this'll be your problem, whether you like it or not.

That's all for this one, folks-- I don't want to risk another vote with us teetering on the abyss like this. Sorry this was kind of a slow thread (there was a whole encounter I didn't plan on)-- hopefully it'll pick up next time.

Thanks as always for sticking around: you have no clue how much I appreciate you guys. Let me know if you have questions/comments/criticism and I'll give it a look and response.

Next thread either 1/19 or 1/25, depending on how prepared I'm feeling. I'll announce on Twitter.

Said Twitter: https://twitter.com/BathicQM
Archive: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux

Delete Post: [File Only] Style:
[Disable Mobile View / Use Desktop Site]

[Enable Mobile View / Use Mobile Site]

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective parties. Images uploaded are the responsibility of the Poster. Comments are owned by the Poster.