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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 serving as assistant to an intervention/interrogation of your target, Ellery, who really, really ought to be dead.

Your boss/client, Madrigal, has caught you on your way out the door. ""Where do you think you're going?" she hisses. "I need you for this! You're my witness!"

On one hand, you don't want to be here for this: the tension in the room's thick enough to slice. On the other hand, some vocal minority of you is gripped with the prospect of getting your hands dirty, of hiking waist-deep through slippery and yielding mud, of sluicing for some hard fine grains of reality—

«You've never gotten over your week on the flats, I see.»

Your week on the mud flats was enlightening, and that's all you'll say on the topic.

Madrigal takes your lack of resistance as assent and foists upon you a stack of papers. "Okay, good— take these, I thought they looked important. You're going to run interference, gotcha?"

You don't gotcha. "What?"

"Inter— look, this is gonna be a bitch and a half, okay? A bitch and a half. He—" Madrigal jerks a nod towards Ellery, who's collapsed into an armchair and is staring the two of you down— "isn't gonna yield an inch without a fight. It's like— I think I said this, it's like pinning an eel, talking to him."

"That doesn't answer the question—"

"You're gonna catch him off guard for me, one. Or not off guard— just get him something other than fucking calm. Surprised, excited, mad, I don't give a shit. I can't do it, because he knows me. Two, you've got the evidence, right?"

Your pockets (and hands) are full of miscellaneous papers. "Yeah?"

"Show him the evidence— when it comes up, or whatever. He can slip past everything but that." Madrigal squeezes your shoulder, her grudge apparently forgotten in the thrill of the hunt. "Hey, it's gonna be great. I'll go ahead and start—"

"Pardon, shouldn't I… read these?"

"'Pardon,'" she scoffs under her breath (lip-reading: an essential skill for any budding eavesdropper). "Yeah, sure, if you want. I guess. I'll— look, I'll go ahead and start—"

«It'd be prudent to inform her of his condition.»

Wow, look at Richard's thoughtfulness and compassion. An inspiration to us all.

«For the simple issue of time management, not out of concern for her well-being—»

You don't actually care, you were just pretending. "He doesn't remember anything, by the way."

Madrigal touches the bruise on her cheek. "Wait, what?"

"Or, not anything— the last day or two, at least. Maybe more. Very concerning." You wave the papers. "Have fun."
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Madrigal looks as if she's going to say something, but doesn't. Instead, you're treated to one more shoulder squeeze (considerably less affectionate) and she's off. You watch her stride over to and stop short in front of Ellery, who's got the LOG open and is scratching away inside it. He doesn't look up, but says aloud: "Done?"

"You've got fucking amnesia?"

"I tend to prefer 'temporal fuzziness'—"

"Do I look like I'm kidding with you?"

Ellery glances up and, for the first time, focuses on her face. "Gods, Maddie, that's a nasty bruise. Where'd you pick it up?"

She twitches. "Nowhere."

"I'm sure. Is it swelling? I think it's swelling. You should talk to Monty, I think he's got compression— practically giving them away, I mean-"

"I've got it handled!" Behind her back, Madrigal snaps at you to hurry up. "It's nothing, okay? My head's fine, too, which is better than yours—"

The first paper in the stack is stiff and white, sure signs of being newly-made. There's terse black mirror-writing lines at the top, and smudges of black something at the bottom. In the corner, Madrigal's drawn an arrow pointing to the other side.

You flip the paper over. She's provided a translation— but how? You pat your pocket for the mirror shard, but come up empty.

«Quick-fingered, that one.»

"[Fixed all the typos — Madrigal]

Unwelcome news: cough's back," the translation reads. "Black instead of silver, which strikes me as a bad sign. Already concluded it's not phlegm.
Will monitor. Samples below (check effect later):
11 MM
12 MM
13 MM
14 MM
15 MM
16 MM
17 MM
18 MM
19 MM"

There's identical black stuff for every day of the previous week, excepting 19, which is labeled but empty. Today is 20 MM.


Madrigal's still at it. "—you mean to tell me this doesn't concern you?"

"I've had worse, okay? As far as things go, uh, this is not all that—"


The second paper is a small card, not a paper. "ANTHEA AVES * PRESIDENT * SPEL-" hold on, you know this. Garvin/horse face gave one to you. You flip it over.

"For Mr. Routh - Just In Case," it says in cramped script, and next to it a strange face is drawn: (*u-)

«I believe it's winking.»

How bizarre.


You glance back over to Madrigal: "—'temporal fuzziness' my tits! How long-"

"A day. A day where nothing happened, uh, clearly, seeing how I'm right here—"

"In a bathrobe!"

"Yes, Maddie, the world is full of mysteries—"


The third, strangely, is written in alternating hands: first mirrored, then not, then mirrored again. Above her translation, Madrigal's made a note: "(M) for mirrored originally, (R) for right way around."

"(M) 34 SM - I am sitting here, writing nothing in particular, nothing of importance, not doing anything, just writing, just writ————~ (R) got it. 8 deliver me. Feel like I've broken something?/through something?/shoved something heavy off—but if I stop/let go it's done&—————~ (M) gone. Like that.
I'm being fucked with."
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You ought to hasten. Madrigal is sounding pugilistic. "—like lionfish?"

"What about them?"

"Charlotte!" You start at your name. "Get the— get the—" Madrigal makes a flippy motion with her hands you take to mean 'sheet of paper.' You retrieve the log of 23 Kitemaker and hand it to her. She presents it triumphantly to Ellery. "Remember this, you bastard?"

Ellery takes the sheet of paper. He scans the sheet of paper. He stands wordlessly, ducks over to the wall of the tent, and tacks 23 Kitemaker back onto it.

He then doubles over in a fit of coughing.

Madrigal looks ready to have a fit of her own. "For god's sake!"

"For God's sake," you repeat, a little horrified— he's really going at it, making a sort of thick sucking sound, spraying foam-white spittle flecks everywhere— and you begin to wonder if maybe something should be done. It's just when you do, though, that he stops, straightens, wipes something black from his face, and returns to the armchair.

He stares like he's daring you or Madrigal to say anything.

"You're not helping your case," she snaps after a little while.

He doesn't respond.

"That's it? We're here again?"


No response. You take the lull as a chance to review your final papers. There's not much to look at: the fourth has no writing except for the title ("DAYS SOBER") and a whole host of tally marks— a hundred or more, by your quick count, starting large and growing smaller and smaller as they descend down the page. The fifth paper has no writing at all, just symbols: twenty curlicue-circles, is the best way you can describe them.

«Closed spirals.»

Closed spirals. In any case, you can't make heads or tails of them, and Madrigal can't either: the only thing on the back is "???".


"For fuck's sake!" Madrigal's given up. "Say something!"

Ellery leans back, places one leg over the other, rests a thumb on his chin. "What would you like me to say?"

"You're— you're such a fucking bastard."

"Am I?"

"Are you a—" Madrigal draws herself up taut and, unexpectedly, turns to you. "Charlotte."


"Is Ellery a fucking bastard."

He kind of is, actually. You're impressed— you didn't know he had it in him. "Yes?"

"Thanks." She turns back. "You are a fucking bastard."

Ellery shrugs.

Back to you again, and there's murder in Madrigal's eyes. She points hard at you, and points hard at her. It's a command.

You walk over to her as slowly as you can get away with. She doesn't comment on your insubordination— there's more pressing issues at hand. "I told you. This is how he gets. Talk about anything, but the instant matters he's fucking dead."

"I'm right here," Ellery says, politely.

"Fuck you!" is Madrigal's handsign response before she resumes speaking to you (much quieter). "Look, Charlotte, would you… take over? For a little bit? Get him talking about something, I don't give a damn what. But he's got to talk."
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[Pick ONE topic. Others can be returned to later— but Ellery will only tolerate so many changes of topic.]

>[1] So, Ellery, er, don't you want to know how we got the note we gave you?
>[2] Don't you care why, er, we're in your tent?
>[3] So, erm, you wake up memoryless often, I take it?
>[4] How's the whole… manse thing going?
>[5] How's the whole… coughing up black goo thing going?
>[6] How's the whole… worshiping god corpses thing going?
>[7] I've got this mirror, and I put some blood on it… that's interesting, isn't it?
>[8] Write-in? [Still subject to the one topic rule!]
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-> third wheel madrigal/ellery spat
-> pay off tab
-> buy new clothes
-> get sword (real)
-> get/steal radio
-> get recommendation letters (???)
-> blackmail margo
-> weird business card? RSVP? tomorrow evening? ?
-> don't get shot by margo
-> illegal(?) courier thing?
-> get stolen model back
-> finish new model
-> tell monty he might get assassinated (maybe)
-> madrigal servant thing
-> figure out why ellery un-died
-> ???
-> Fill crown (?????)

>Last time on Drowned Quest Redux
You resolved the situation with the Gold-Masked Person, theorized, talked to Eloise, talked to the Horse-Faced Man, and talked to Madrigal. With Madrigal, you began your investigation of Ellery's tent before you were rudely interrupted.

Loose sessions today and tomorrow, daily from then on out unless I feel like doing multiple updates. Sorry about the late start to this thread.


>Twitter (I update this when I remember it exists)


This quest is a sort of sequel/reboot of the original Drowned Quest, which ran for eight threads last year. Reading the original isn't required.

>I have a question/comment/concern?
Tell me!

Effective immediately barring loud protests-- I'm scrapping a great deal of the mechanics. They weren't introduced well, I don't think they were working well, nobody seems especially engaged, and attempting to better integrate them at this point would be a little silly.
Big spendy is remaining, as is the ID stat. SV has been obseleted, as has all other alterations. Laws remain. Roll system remains.
Growing pains?

>Also important!
Between everything else I forgot to have you guys bring up the radio! Here's a quick retcon scene: https://pastebin.com/zhG15BaH
>Ask how his week has been?
>[3] So, erm, you wake up memoryless often, I take it?
Let's try to segue this into getting to how the fuck he un-died as quickly as possible, given how untalkative the guy is.

Good to have you back, and thanks for the radio pastebin. No worries about the mechanic drop, if you think it's best. Curious to see how it'll play out.
>[3] So, erm, you wake up memoryless often, I take it?
>[3] So, erm, you wake up memoryless often, I take it?
>So you wake up memoryless often?

You look at Madrigal, then at Ellery. "Uh…" you say, and affect your best casual stance.

«I— mmph.»

"…You, uh, you wake up memoryless often?"

Ellery doesn't say anything, and you think for a moment you're sunk. But after a second, the corners of his eyes quirk up. He's decided to humor you. "Well, not as much as I did when I was younger, but…"

Madrigal scowls. "Ell!"

"What? It's not like there was anything better to do. Trust me, uh, I don't have a unique problem."

You blink. "Y— not a unique problem? There's other people waking up amnes—"

"Well, I mean, yes. More alcohol than water down there—"

You stop short. "What?"

"Well, you know, it's about the only thing that grows in the shade, and it's salt-tolerant—"

"W—" You've completely lost the flow of this. "What?"

"Beachwort. It's dead simple to make moonshine of, it's practically already fermented—"

You look to Madrigal for help, but she's got her hands in her pockets and her eyes closed. "Sorry, pardon, uh… What has this got to do with no memory?"

Ellery leans his head against his fist. "Getting blackout drunk."

«Keep up.»

"Oh." You hadn't thought of that. "And you do that… often?"

"I don't know about—" he glances towards Madrigal— "often. But it wouldn't be a shocking event, uh, you know? Not shocking. And given the rest of the stuff, I think it's a fairly obvious conclusion…"

Between the bathrobe and the writing on the palm, it is a fairly obvious conclusion, especially if he has a history of— such things. Except that's not what happened. That can't be what happened. That's not what you saw.

"Is there something wrong?"

>[1] That can't be what happened, and you can prove it. [Present evidence*.]
>[2] Press him on this. Does he remember *why* he would've gotten drunk? Or where he woke up?
>[3] Backpedal. Bring up something else. With Madrigal right here, you'd rather not go into the details of how 1) he got shot and 2) you let it happen.
>[4] Write-in.

*Evidence can be anything you've discovered, but it's more effective if it's physical. There are correct answers here, but if you explain and it makes sense I'll take it. If you get this wrong, this discussion topic is locked, and you'll have to find another way to ask. Change topics too much, and Ellery will kick you out.

Pressing him may help, but only evidence will produce major cracks in his armor.

Yes, it's a little like Ace Attorney.
This may prove useful. Some things that are in it aren't relevant, and some things that are relevant aren't in it, but still.

>Shout "OBJECTION" and present the sheet of paper with "Days Sober" on it with all the fucking tally marks
Got it posted faster than I did. Supporting
Was heating up lunch. Called and writing.

>Present the DAYS SOBER note. [Success.]

"'Is something wrong,'" you imitate, with a little sarcastic waggle. "'Is something wrong.'"

Ellery raises his eyebrows. "I sense something's wrong?"

Of course something's wrong. You're shocked Madrigal hasn't pointed it out, considering. You pluck the DAYS SOBER note out of your stack and present it to Ellery. "Yeah! I object!"

"You what?" But Ellery takes the note, and you take care to study his face as he reads it. You expected to spot a fragment of guilt or, at minimum, recognition. You hoped, well, for a teary confession.

Instead, Ellery bites the inside of his lip and, for a fraction of a second, looks deeply confused.

You'll take what you can get. "You sure that's what happened? Positive?"

Ellery stares firmly past you. He rubs his forehead. He looses a single miserable cough. "I guess," he signs finally, "it was a relapse."

"Caused by what?"

"Human weakness? …I'd tell you if I remembered."

There's too many things wrong here. You should start with one of them.

[Pick one.]
>[1] It's one thing to not remember the end of the evening, but surely he should remember why he started, right?
>[2] Monty keeps the camp strictly dry (all the puns have already been made), and Jacques is too conscientious. Where'd he get enough alcohol to black out?
>[3] Seriously, what is up with the cough! In no way is that a possible symptom of this.
>[4] Does he not *recognize* the note? He wrote it!
>[5] Write-in.
>>[2] Monty keeps the camp strictly dry (all the puns have already been made), and Jacques is too conscientious. Where'd he get enough alcohol to black out?
>Where'd you get the booze, Ellery?

"Okay," you say. You're trying very hard to avoid saying anything about human weakness. "Where'd you get it, though? I mean, there's not exactly a bustling—"

"The booze?" Ellery scratches the back of his neck. "Branwen."

Ah! You point. "Liar. I've never heard of any 'Branwen.'"

"Branwen, uh…" He snaps his fingers. "Shit. Maddie—" (he speaks aloud)— "what's Bran's last name?"

"Morris," Madrigal mumbles. Her eyes are still closed.

"Yeah, Morris. She's got a little cabin out in the Fen, uh— Maddie works with her, she knows her better. But she has a stockpile, you know, for emergencies."

"Hold on." Madrigal opens her eyes. They've gone all watery again. "Why do you ask?"

"Just wondering." You have to admire his audacity.

"Why does he ask, Charlotte?"

"He says that's who he got alcohol from, and I said I didn't believe—"

"What?" Madrigal grips your shoulder. "Ellery? You're drinking again?"

"I…" He gestures meaninglessly. "Apparently?"

"God dammit! Since— how long?"

"I—" Ellery's jaw is tensed. "You're not my mother."

"Maybe- maybe I am! It's not like you've got one—" Madrigal stops herself a whole sentence too late. Ellery raises his eyebrows.

You step forward, elbowing Madrigal out of the way. "What she means is that, uh, we're very concerned about your, uh, well-being—"

«I had no idea you were capable of saying that with a straight face.»

"—and the idea of you relapsing, is, uh… concerning. So I was just wondering, uh…"

"Listen. I feel like you've been trying to imply something," Ellery signs flatly, "and I'd appreciate if you told me what it was."

"Oh." Maybe your dancing around the topic of 'you're lying your ass off' has been less delicate than you'd hoped. "Uh…"

>[1] Write-in.
>"You've been bullshitting us this entire time. Madrigal is, uh, hurt too, and you're here pretending nothing matters! You show up saying you have no memory of where you've been. It's obvious *something* happened to you."

Might need to pull the "I watched you get fucking killed" card soon, but not yet
Let's second this. Better to be frank, right?
Go back to
>[2] Press him on this. Does he remember *why* he would've gotten drunk? Or where he woke up?
Oh man I read the google doc and we've found a whole bunch of shit. Too much shit. I feel like I was forgetting stuff from the beginning before I got to the end. Anyway he used to be coughing up silver but now he's coughing up black. Is that our fault? We messed with his mind mirrors and a whole bunch of black goop came out and now maybe he's coughing it up.
We'll start with this... >>4047705

And follow up with this.

You should be able to pin down a rough timeframe for when that started from what you have and have heard.
>Hold It!
>Don't lie to me,,, bitch

Well, you're not going to tell him. You can't tell him. What are you supposed to do, go 'oh, yeah, saw you got murdered?' Like that? With Madrigal right here? No, you're going to have to worm under his defenses, like a…


…Worm. Snakes don't worm under things. That would be silly.

«It wouldn't be silly.»
«Listen, Charlie, surely you've considered the possibility that-»

No, you don't care. You've got a plan. And your plan is to ignore everything Ellery says, because Ellery is, excuse you, a lying son of a bitch.

"Yeah. So do you remember why you went to Bryony, or whoever? Did you wake up near her, or did you conveniently wander off on your own—"

At some point, when you weren't looking, Ellery's calm went all frosty. "Lottie?"

"—There's no reason for you to not remember the entire day, you realize? That's not how it works—"

"Lottie." He interlaces his fingers. "Uh, listen. I'm not going to answer your fucking questions. Until you answer my fucking question. I think that's probably fair."

"Fair?! I'm— we're—" you shake Madrigal's wrist— "we're the one asking questions! You don't get a turn, that's not how this works—"


"Because that's—- it's the rules!"

«But not the law.»

"Oh, okay." Ellery purses his lips agreeably, nods. "What are the rules about not saying anything?"

("Here we go again," Madrigal mutters.)

"I—" You extract some hair from your collar. "I mean, they're not, uh— they're metaphorical, so—"

"I'm good with metaphors, no worries. So, if, for example, I were to sit here and, uh, not respond to anything you or Maddie said to me, for an indefinite period of time— how'd that be?"

You open your mouth. Madrigal, left alone to stew, interjects. "For god's sake, Ellery, are you going to be a fucking child about this—"

He doesn't look at her. "Maddie. I want to know what Charlotte thinks."

"I, uh…" You wet your lips. "That's also against the rules. You can't do that."

"Sorry to hear it. Well, I won't, then."

You straighten. "I— of course you won't! I've got—"

"If you answer my question. I'll even repeat it, if that might make it better? It was, uh, 'what are you trying to imply, Lottie.'"

«To be accurate, he never asked an explicit question. Don't say that. That won't help.»

The back of your neck seems to have grown hot. You give up the search for a polite way to phrase this as soon as you begin. "…I think you're a liar."

"That was easy, huh?" Ellery unlaces his fingers and leans forward, propping himself up on his elbows. "You're wrong, but we can get into that later. Why?"

"I mean, it's— it's obvious! Look at you! Look at your— papers! I mean, God, uh, look at Madrigal! She's beaten half to death—"

("It's just a bruise!")

"—she's beaten half to death, and you don't even care! I mean, she's been crying, and you don't even notice! You're a cold-hearted, heartless, bastard- and you should be—"

"I did notice," Ellery says. You've introduced a little edge of hurt into his voice. "I just didn't bring it up. I mean, she'd… snap at me. And we're not…"

Madrigal's throat flexes, but she says nothing.

"—Well, anyways! You pretended not to notice, just like you've been pretending this whole time? You seriously expect me to believe you just woke up? With no memory? That's the biggest pile of GS in the book, and you—"

"So what, uh, you think I carved words into my hand for… kicks? It still hurts."

("He did what?")

You ignore Madrigal. "They're not relevant! What's relevant is you're hiding something! I mean, very clearly!"


"You're hiding-"

"No, what am I hiding? What's my gullshit?" He pauses. "Don't fuck me here, Charlotte. Your questions are so leading they'd walk a blind on a slackline. You've got something in mind."

>[1] What is Ellery hiding? Write-in. [Evidence optional-- you can just state it, or you can attempt to prove it.]


>[2] Madrigal! You'd really like some backup right around now! This is supposed to be a team effort!


>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Madrigal! You'd really like some backup right around now! This is supposed to be a team effort!
We've been ignoring Madrigal but she clearly wants to say something, right?

He may have some memory issues on recent events, but he knows or has an idea of why he's having those issues. We've found a whole lot of notes that state he's been fucking with his body and mind regularly and severely, and this wouldn't be the only symptom.


>Madrigal help me :''(

You scratch at your neck.

"Really? You're gonna fuck me over? Okay then." Ellery leans his face on one fist. "We, uh, we can do like this, if that's what you want, I guess. Eye for an eye."

He looks significantly at your (lack of) eye. "No offense."

"Ellery. You can't just bring up someone's disability—" Madrigal looks as supercilious as you've ever seen her.

Ellery maintains his vow of silence for a good five seconds before throwing in the towel. "It was an accident! And I apologized—"

"'No offense' isn't an apology! An apology is, like, fuckin', oh, uh, 'dear Madrigal, I'm sorry for being, uh, a repressed fuckhead, and I've considered how never telling you a goddamn thing may stress you out, and from now on I'm going to stop holding you at arm's length, and, you know, let you help, like you've clearly been trying to do for months and months—'"

"Oh, come on." Ellery sighs. "Maddie. Why're you crying?"

Madrigal wipes her face. "I'm not."

"Why were you crying?"

"I… wasn't."

"Is it something I'd know about?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Okay. Where'd you get the bruise?"


"Okay! I think we've got a sort of, uh, pot-kettle situation here. Wouldn't you say, Lottie?"

"Um," you say, startled, "I… well, I mean, there's kind of different… magnitudes, uh, here. Madrigal's just being a dumb bitch, while you've got amnesia, uh, supposedly. And so on."

"Yeah!" Madrigal must have missed your comment. "You heard her! I manage to function like a well-adjusted—"

"Criminal," you supply.

«Very nice. You've been doing well.»

"—adult, while you can't put your boots on without tripping into some kind of shitty metaphysical anomaly— for god's sake, can you at least tell me what it is this time? Generalize? I know people, I- I can—" She's tearing up again. Horrible.

Ellery gently shoves back the armchair and stands. (He really is quite tall. You have to look up, now, which is just infuriating.) "Maddie."


"You can't help, you won't help, and I don't want you to help." He pauses. "And you're my ex-girlfriend."

It was the wrong thing to say. Madrigal's hackles rise. "Yeah. You know why?"


"Because you broke up with me, fuckface! That's why! And you wouldn't give a reason!"

You can't stop your creeping smile. This— this is why you're here. This is why you signed up. This is personal business. "Madrigal, you said it was mutual."

"It- it was! I- he just did it first, okay? Someone's always gotta do it first—"

"I think," Ellery says, "you said something like, uh, 'you can't break up with me, you fucking asshole, I was supposed to break up with you'?"

"It doesn't— what matters, you fucking asshole, is you never fucking told me your fucking reasons for doing it! What kind of-"

"Excuse me," you say, "would we watch our language? Please?"

They both stare. You cough.

"Anyways," Madrigal signs, "it's been three-quarters of a year, Ellery! Would it kill you to tell me—"

"I didn't love you, Madrigal."

Deathly stillness.

"Well." Madrigal hugs her chest. "I didn't love you, either."

"And I don't."

"Well, I don't, either."

What? No. No. This is wrong. This isn't how it's supposed to be. This isn't exciting. This isn't dramatic. This isn't fun. This is just sad, and petty, and sad.

«I will say, Charlie, it's not often you're the most mature person in the room.»
«Normally you've got to be alone to be that.»

Hey, that's right. You've got to step up here. I mean, clearly they're not.

>[1] PRESENT something to prove that Ellery's lying. [What? Write-in. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1g1Df9WXD7w5F79oRQn4ZODUVsPZFasKQGmt94wHtKSw/edit?usp=sharing]
>[2] Optionally, EXPLAIN how Madrigal's lying. [Write-in.]
>[3] Just change the subject. Change the subject. This is terrible. [To what? >>4046888]
>[4] Write-in.

He was keeping that nice photo of her. Plus he wrote about confiding in her in his notes
This >>4050476

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>The LOG…
>And the photo.

"Oh, for crying out loud," you say. "Both of you shut up. You're both horrible."

"Maddie," Ellery starts, "remind me why she's here—"

"Hey! No. Uh-uh." You fold your arms. "Shut up. Shut up."

He pinches the brow of his nose, but shuts up. (You're a little relieved, and a lot smug.) He collapses back into the armchair, which is there. Was it gone? You feel like it may have vanished when he stood, but you weren't actually paying attention. The whole chair's remarkably slippery: you're looking straight at it, but you couldn't name its make or color if it'd bite your head off.

…The point was, he shut up.

>[+1 ID: 10/11]

"Charlotte!" It's Madrigal's turn. "We're having a- a private-!" And maybe she realizes the path that argument's taking, or maybe it's the force of your polyphemous glare (the eye does come in handy, sometimes), but she promptly shuts up, too.

"Right," you say, clapping your hands together. "Okay, good. Right. You're both horrible, and, on God, you're both horrible liars. I mean, I don't think Madrigal even needs to be spoken for. She's just transparent about it— I mean, it's kind of weird and desperate, honestly? It's a— I don't know if it's a biological clock thing, or what, because it'd be about the right age, but biology's all, uh, screwed, so—"

«It's called the Clarkman Effect, Charlie.»
«From Rudolph Clarkman, who kept extensive records after his personal drowning circa 22 AD—»

"—the Clarkman Effect— anyways! She's a hot mess and a bad liar. But you—" you gesture wildly at Ellery— "are an okay liar."

"Thanks," he says.

"You're welcome. I didn't say a good liar, and that's because, sir—" Too much flair! Backpedal. "—uh, because you made me read, like, 30 pages of really garbage poetry about her. And some so-so drawings. And you mean to say you weren't head over heels—"

"Okay," Ellery says, "it wasn't— it wasn't 30 pages. And nobody made you read that. You just did."

Madrigal rubs the side of her neck.

"And," he continues, "that was— before. So."


"You read the thing, didn't you?"

Before the Day of Reckoning.

«I implore you to stop calling it that.»

"Before the Day of Reckoning," you say aloud, primarily out of spite. Richard crackles. Madrigal mouths "what?". Ellery— you have to double-check this— Ellery cracks a real smile.

"Sure," he says. "Sure, that's, uh, that's a pretty good name for it. That. So it's not really my fault, then, it's just… how it happened."

"Not her fault," you correct.

His smile loses some luster. "That too."

"But anyhow, uh, that was— there was a whole three months earlier than the Incident—"

"The breakup," Madrigal mutters.

"You're saying you just stewed for, what, a third of a year afterwards? That doesn't add up."

"If there's one thing I'm good at…" Ellery's smile lingers, but you're unsure why: there's nothing at all behind it anymore. "…it's denial."

"Also lying." You cock your head. "But also not that. You carry a photo around of her, for heaven's sake. Looking at the wear on the thing, you've been carrying it around for months. Which, again— a little weird, uh, a little desperate. But I guess that makes you a match, right?"

"She went through my coat?" It's directed at Madrigal.

She shrugs. Her lips are pressed closely together.

Ellery doesn't say anything. His fingers beat out a steady tum-tum-TUM-tum on the arm of the armchair (could it be plaid, possibly? or are you just extrapolating from the bathrobe?).

"So," you prompt him, "why'd you really break up?"

"I can't tell you." Tum-tum-TUM-tum.

"Oh, please. Saying it can't be worse than dragging it out. It's almost been a year—"

"No," Ellery says. "I can't tell you."

"Did you kill a man? Because I think Madrigal would be fine with that— see, look." Madrigal's giving a thumbs up.

"No. Not I won't. Not I don't want to." Tum-tum-TUM-tum-tum-tum-TUM-tum. "I can't. Like how I don't remember yesterday, I can't."

"You don't remember—"

"No, I remember." Ellery looks away. "Of course I remember. But I can't tell you."

>[1] Write-in.
>[1] Write-in
He can't tell us because something bad will happen to him? Or something will happen to Madrigal?
Remember, yesterday he got shotgunned by Margo.
>"Well, do you remember what *we* did a few days back? If you can't tell me that, how am I supposed to trust if you can or can't remember anything?" (In reference to cave diving adventure. See how he responds to the vague question.)
>"Can you tell anyone, or are you physically incapable of saying the correct words in the correct sequence? If the second, why are you so fucked up?"
Called. We'll see about one more tonight.
>Uh, why?
>You remember a couple days ago, right?

"So," you start, "are we talking, uh, blackmail, or extortion, or…"

"Um," Ellery says, "no offense, but if it were, why would I tell you? You're— godsdamn, I don't even know, um, some girl? Here for the curio hunting, or whatever? Before last week I'd seen you maybe, shit, uh, twice. Two times." He leans back. "And you think that because you bust into my tent and read all my belongings you're, what— trustworthy? Reliable? That make sense to you?"

"Ell, come on. Fuck her." Madrigal steps forward. "I'll- I'll tell Charlotte to leave. To forget this. But you can— surely— you have to tell me."

He closes his eyes. "It's not that easy."

"You're a rat bastard, Ellery." Her tone is affectionate. "And an idiot. You think it's gonna put me in danger? Is that the issue? Because god knows, Ellery, I need some danger. I'm going nuts in this fucking place."

"What'd you call it," he murmurs. "Bucolic?"

"Yeah! It's bucolic. It's godawful. So if you broke up with me because you pissed off a witch doctor or something… please tell me, okay? Please? I want to skewer a witch doctor, Ellery."

He manages a grim little snort. "It's not a witch doctor."

"Well, I'll take anything. Is it the Court again? Because they have jackshit on you, Ell, we already dealt with that—"

"No, it's— nobody's threatening you, Maddie. Sorry. I'll let you know if they do."

Seizing the moment, you jump in: "Is it bribery, then? Racketeering?"

«Racketeering's the same thing as extortion.»

"No, it's… look, I didn't mean 'can't tell you' in a figurative sense, okay? Is that clear enough?"


It still takes you a moment. "You literally can't—"

"What did I say about the boots? Huh?" Madrigal's exhortation appears to be directed at the both of you. "What the fuck is it this time, Ellery? You sign a contract that takes 'binding' really seriously?"

«Not actually a bad guess.»

"If I knew, Maddie, I'd have dealt with it already." Ellery raises his hands. "But I don't! I don't know. It's just how it is. Would you like to watch me try to tell you?"


"Yes," you say, at the same time Madrigal says "oh, what the hell?"

"Alright, then." Ellery looks straight ahead, brow slightly furrowed. And then he coughs.

You have to make sure. "Did you start?"

"Yes, Lottie, I started. What did you expect not saying anything to look like?"

Some struggle, preferably. A single tear, optimistically. "Uh, nevermind."

"Okay then." Ellery folds his hands. "Is that all?"

You glance at Madrigal, who appears conflicted. "Uh," you say. "Is the whole amnesia thing related?"

He shrugs.

"Do you only not remember yesterday, or are there other— do you remember the whole, uh, expedition?" It might be better if he didn't, frankly.

He hesitates for a fraction of a second, then: "Yeah? There were alligators and skeletons and, uh, so on. Lots and lots of alligators. And Dib."


"Uh." He blinks hard. A little black dribbles from the corner of his mouth. "L— Lucky. The Wind Court guy. Sorry, I must be mixing up— Lucky."

It's not as if you remember the man's name, either, so you'll ignore the issue. "Okay, I guess you do remember. Huh."

"It was only a couple days ago."

It seemed like a fair enough question to you. Something is plainly wrong.

«You have to wonder about everything else, don't you, Charlie. If it's all part of the package.»

Yeah. What about…

[Pick ONE of 1-5, and as many as you want of the rest.]
>[1] His blood? It's silver. That's weird. Also, it turned into a mirror(?? or was that coincidence??)
>[2] His writing? It's backwards and upside down. And apparently he does it on accident.
>[3] His black goop? Seriously, what is that?
>[4] His manse? Also, his taste in wallpaper? What was he thinking?
>[5] His memory? Is he *sure* he remembers things? There was a little hesitation there.

>[6] Attempt to rules lawyer the mental block(?). [How?]
>[7] You've gotten all you need, for now. Leave.
>[8] Write-in.

Apologies: the spirit of >>4052803 was rather lost, though I promise the result is the same. The way this works is I start writing, an hour later I get to that specific prompt, and by that point I've forgotten the precise intent... whoops.
>[1] His blood? It's silver. That's weird. Also, it turned into a mirror(?? or was that coincidence??)


If it's a contract that specifies he can't tell anyone, can he say it to nobody? While we eavesdrop with him unaware? Can he write it? Charades? Can he lead us to a location with clues?
If it's a contract that specifies he can't tell anyone, can he say it to nobody? While we eavesdrop with him unaware? Can he write it? Charades? Can he lead us to a location with clues?

But >[4]



[3] takes it, along with [6]. Writing.
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>Attempt rules lawyering: say it to nobody? Write it? Charades? Location?
>Black goop?

«If it is a contract, there's bound to be loopholes. It's practically a law unto itself.»

You were thinking exactly the same thing. "You can't tell us."

"I can't tell Madrigal." Ellery raises his eyebrows. "I'm not telling you."

"Okay, same thing. But can you tell…" You waggle your hands. "…nobody? Say, if we were to leave the room, but just happened to be lurking outside—"

"Would you be able to hear, though? I mean— you'd probably hear something, but that far away I'm not sure you'd be able to understand? The intelligibility kind of drops like a rock past a few feet, and I assume in this scenario I wouldn't be projecting, so that's even worse— it doesn't seem practical?"

"Um," you say.

"And discounting that, I'd still know I was actually speaking to you, so I doubt I'd fool it-slash-myself— I just really get the feeling it wouldn't-"

"Okay, I get it. God." You're a little put out. "What if you wrote it down? I've got, uh—" You shuffle through your stack of papers. "You can do it on the back of—"

Ellery's already got a 10B pencil and a slim nondescript notebook in his hands. (You're a little more put out.) He wavers over the open page before committing, writing fluently— in the wrong direction, right to left. He presents the page to you.

It's illegible. It's mirrored.

"Uh," you say delicately, before Madrigal can interject, "can you— would you read that for us?"

"Oh." Ellery turns the notebook back around and scratches his cheek. "Sorry, I know my handwriting's kind of shit. Heard it often enough. Uh— 'Doesn't work. Same issue.'"

"Ell—" Madrigal interjects anyways, and you stamp on her foot. "Agh!"

"Could you… mime it, say? Charades?"


"You didn't even try," you protest.

"I'm not miming."

You're officially out of your own ideas. But there's one more, which you are certainly not stealing from an antediluvian children's novel. Because it's not a children's novel. That's just what your aunt says. The Splendid Adventures of Josey Hatchcock #14: The Gulch Mystery1 (Salford BD -70) is literature for all ages, and totally valid to steal from. "Well… okay, how's this. You've got something you want to say, but can't say it. So to lead Jos— uh, to lead us to the right conclusion, you construct an elaborate, multistage treasure hunt that leads us to a significant location (say, a gulch), whereupon we read the final clue and discover—"

Well, Josey discovered it was her childhood friend-cum-admirer, and not, as she'd suspected, a ghost, but this doesn't seem entirely accurate. "—well, you know, whatever it is."

"No," Ellery says.

"What?" Madrigal says. "What the hell are you talking about?"

You're officially a lot put out. "I think it would be fun."

«You're really putting me through the wringer here, Charlie.»

Nothing. No response. Ellery closes his eyes.

You've got to say, it does sting.

>[-1 ID: 9/11]

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"…I don't think— well, I'm not doing that. But I don't think anything's gonna work, uh, Lottie. It's not— uh, how do I put it." Ellery resumes his finger-drumming. "There's a big glass wall between me and the— thing. I can see through it just fine, but I can't access it. Does that make…"

"Where the fuck are you getting enough glass to make a wall of?" Madrigal shakes her head. "Could buy a whole Pillar with that kind of spending—"

It's a weak analogy, for sure. "Can't you just break it? Like, with a rock? Or by saying the wrong thing at it?"

«That much glass in one place would be fatal. You'd be flattened like an oxeye in a dictionary. Never would have existed in proper.»

"It's a metaphor! Godsdamn!" Ellery crosses his arms. "No, I can't break it with a rock. I don't have a rock. If you'd like to find me a-" He cough-retches. A tablespoon of black goop drips into his hand. (The notebook is gone, if it ever was there.) "Urgh."

"Oh, for god's sake." Madrigal undoes her bandana and shoves it into his hand. "Take this. Are you sick, on top of everything?"

"S… yeah, I think so." He wipes his face, then his palm. "Thanks, Maddie."

"You've got to take care of yourself!"

"I—" He rubs his eye. "I'm working on it."

Madrigal smiles wanly.

"Uh," you say, "are we just going to— I mean, you're not sick, right? You're not sick. Nobody coughs up black gunk when they're sick. They don't even get sick. Have you seen anyone be sick here? Ever? It's the Harper Effect—"

«Clarkman Effect.»

"—Clarkman Effect— it's that, you know? So what's actually up with the gunk, huh? Why are you lying again, Ellery—"

Nothing. Two stares from four eyes. Madrigal breaks the silence this time. "Charlotte… has anyone told you you're kind of a bitch?"

"I—" You scowl. "I'm right!"

"Okay…" Ellery pauses. "So what if you are? I mean— whether I'm sick or not, it doesn't hurt, it's not poison— it's just kind of irritating, is all. So who gives a shit? What does it matter?"

<1> Salford, Harold W. The Splendid Adventures of Josie Hatchcock #14: The Gulch Mystery. Vol. 2, Wyrmblood Books, -70. <2>
<2> «You've got some strange things in here, Charlie.»

>[1] What does it matter? (Write-in.)
>[2] Write-in.

Superscript formatting totally failed me. reeeee
>"I take my investigations seriously, okay? Is that so bad? I watched Margo blow *two different* holes in you with her shotgun, and now you're waltzing back with nothing more that a weird cough. How am I *not* supposed to be worried about that?"

I think it's time boys
This >>4054892 but also add it *if* he really is that same Ellery!
Seconding all of this, if possible.
>"It's UNNATURAL! Aren't you worried it could ve a symptom of something far worse? "

Woah hey woah bad idea
No one can ever know
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>go for it

>don't go for it

Writing :)
>"I take my investigations seriously, okay? Is that so bad? I watched Margo blow *two different* holes in you with her shotgun, and now you're waltzing back with nothing more that a weird cough. How am I *not* supposed to be worried about that?"
>Well- if it is you!!!

What does it matter? Well, it doesn't. It's just a glob of something bigger, more… matter-ful, that's been squirming wet in your gut for the past ten-to-sixteen hours. You imagine the stupid fish gape Ellery'd get if you told him. If you told him about the sound. If you told him about the twitching. If you told him about the slithery silver oil-paint blood, how it glistened, and how you held it in your fingers.


What? You're fine. You're fine. You're all good, and here, and so on. Gosh. All you were thinking about was how great it'd be if you told Ellery you saw the murder. Not that you'd ever do that.

«Of course not.»


«No.» Richard is cool against your neck. «You're too smart for that, Charlie, aren't you. Of course you wouldn't.»

He's right, he's right. You wouldn't.


"Well?" You have taken a conspicuously long time to answer. Ellery taps his fingertips together. "Got anything?"

You smooth down the front of your coat. "I…" You fix your hair. "…take…" You square your posture. "…my investigation seriously, okay? I take it seriously. It's— surely you don't have an issue with that."

Madrigal sighs. Ellery raises his eyebrows. "I mean, when I'm the subject of it, uh-"

"Right, no issues. So when I see Margo blow two holes in you with her shotgun, and, uh, you come waltzing back with nary more than a cough— uh, a weird cough, but, uh— I'm worried, okay? I'm concerned about your well-being…"

"Uh," Madrigal says. "What?"

"Yeah," Ellery seconds. "What?"

«For goodness' sake.»

Were you not convincing enough? "I'm concerned about your well-being—"

Madrigal shakes her head. "No, about the shot…gun."

"Um." You lick your lips. "'So when I see Margo blow two holes in you with her shotgun…'"

"Yeah, I— I got that."

A whole storm front of emotion washes its way across her face. You watch in consternation as she squints, unsquints, works her lips up and forward and back wordlessly. And then the front passes, and she looks up at you, untroubled.

"Oh!" she says. "You're pissed I called you a bitch. I gotcha. That was pretty good— you almost got me. What'd you think, Ell…"

Ellery clutches his face in both hands.

"Okay," Madrigal intones. She is rabbit-still. "Okay. Charlotte?"

You have little choice. "…Yes?"

"WHAT THE FUCK? WHAT-" She seizes her hair, holds it at right angles from her scalp. "I— you're shitting me."

You give a nervous shake of your head.

"You're not shitting me. Oh, god. God fucking dammit. Wh- h- I- god." She blinks rapidly and very hard. "I— GOD! When was this!"

"Eh- ah-" Madrigal is not all that much taller than you, but she looks every inch of it, and her face is an intimidating shade of purple. "I—"


"Yesterday!" What do you do with your hands? You don't know what to do with your hands.

Madrigal's hand goes to her bruise. "Before," she asks perilously, "or after?"

"A- after! Right— I was going back from—"

"Okay. Okay." Madrigal takes a deep, shaky breath. "And what happened?"

"I was walking— uh, Tom's Cave— Ellery was talking to Margo, uh—"


"She shot— it was the chest, and then the head, when that didn't— it was loud, and there was so much—"

"Okay. And…" Another deep breath. "…did you do anything about this? Did you tell anybody that you saw Ellery die? You didn't tell me, that's for sure."

You don't say anything.

"Did you tell Monty?"

You don't say anything.

"Did you tell someone in town?"

You don't say anything.

"For fuck's sake. Did you tell the Courtiers? I mean, they're trigger-happy, but this is something they can actually deal with—"

You tug at your collar.

"God." Madrigal rubs her forehead. "So— theoretically, this— you thought he was dead, right? I mean— fuck, shot in the head, that's— you must've. You thought you witnessed a murder. And thinking this, you… you sat on this information for, what, a day? A full day? And you bring it out now to what— one-up me? Or him? Is that it?"

You can't say anything.

"You're an actual fucking psychopath, Charlotte."

>[-2 ID: 7/11]

«I wish you were, frankly. It'd make things so much easier.»

You swallow. "I'm- I'm not—"

"Oh? You're not?" Madrigal grins a shark grin. "Then what the fuck were you doing, Charlotte?"

>[1] Write-in! [May require roll!]

"If it *is* the same Ellery" will be included when applicable-- ie, when you're not so in a corner/when Ellery speaks up.
>[1] Write-in! [May require roll!]
Being a stupid flighty kid like always, of course.
>"Margo was pissed at me as well for going into her stupid cave. She shot Ellery over it, what was I supposed to do? It was completely reasonable for her to come after *me*, so I didn't want to start making waves by telling you lot. It's not like you authority figures are the most *welcoming* towards me, anyway."

>Try not to admit you were fucking scared. That you didn't want to believe that Ellery fucking died. That you were going to take some time to process what the fuck just happened. In a "she said she said" versus Margo, you would've lost, no question.

>Seeing Ellery come back from the dead was a shock, but it's still important!
>You were shocked! And by the time that wore off Margo had cleaned all the Ellery away and it would have been her word against yours and though you should win that easily you're too new around here and Margo has a gun.

Why do you exist
Yeah, why are you backing down like a nerd?
>Combination of all this

This doesn't seem popular and it's not formatted like dialogue, so I'm leaving it out.

Since you're lying, and you're not a good liar, I'm going to need some rolls.
>Roll me 3 1d100s-5 (+5 Desperate -10 Bad Liar) vs. DC 65 (+15 You Fucking Psychopath) to have Madrigal believe you!

>[ID: 7/11]
>[1] Spend 1 ID for +10 on the results
>[2] Do not
Rolled 8 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

Rolled 20 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

Rolled 49 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>13, 25, 54 vs. DC 65

Drowned dice never cease to impress. Writing.
I'll go easy on you guys based on the quality write-ins.
>Very long write-ins
>13, 25, 54 vs. DC 65 - Failure!

You can't tell the whole truth, obviously. Firstly, because you think Madrigal might actually kill you for it. Secondly, because you can't just roll over like that. Let her win? With that look on her face? Unthinkable.

So instead, you just take some minor sub-truths, and… extrapolate.

"Well, I mean, Margo— Margo's mad at me, right? She's— I mean, I'm blacklisted from town, now she's murdering— surely I'm next, right? I mean, she's after me! I didn't—"

"You thought you'd have better odds not telling anyone?"

"I— well, I mean, frankly, would you have believed me? Especially if it were a 'he-said she-said'— well, 'she-said she-said'— well, you know! That. She's— you know, uh, unnamed authority figures haven't been the most welcoming towards me…"

Madrigal's face puckers, but she doesn't respond. You raise your eyebrows. "I'll— just say all of it, huh? I'll wait until the end—"

"Okay. Most authority figures haven't been too welcoming, so, you know, I feel like it would've just been more trouble than it's worth— also, I was in shock! I was in shock. I mean, God, his head went— it was like a melon, there was just bone, and— I almost vomited. Twice!"

"Is that all, or—"

"I— I don't know why you're going on about this, personally. I mean, you're just overlooking the fact that, gee, I don't know, we've got Clarence Waites over here—"

«Clayton Wayes. Clarence Waites was a sculptor. Clayton Wayes survived his cremation.»

"Clayton— whoever! I mean, isn't this important? Doesn't it matter just a teeny bit more than me waiting a teeny bit to—"

Madrigal exercises her jaw. "Okay, I'm just gonna assume you're done."

You basically were. "Er, more or less—"

"Okay. Cool." She steps forward so she's right in your face. "You're a fucking psychopath."

It doesn't sting as much the second time, but it still stings.

>[-1 ID: 6/11]

You cross your arms in defense. "What? But I just-"

"Not welcoming? Are you fucking kidding me? Are you yanking my leg, Charlotte? Is that it? Because how I see it, you've gotten infinitely more the welcome you deserve, because the welcome you deserve is zero. God, I— do you really lack any comprehension of how lucky you are?"

Oh, now she's just making things up. "'Lucky?' Hah. I-"

"You don't! Goddamn. That's frankly spectacular, that's—" She brushes hair back from her forehead, glances sideways toward Ellery. "Ell, are you—"

(1/3 or 4?)
He's still got his head in his hands.

"…I'll tell him later… Goddamn! You realize— you read the newspaper a couple weeks ago? Headline, uh, 'IUIWEI SIGHTINGS CONTINUE — PANTHER FOUND MAULED' or something?"

You read the newspaper every week, but you skip all the parts that look boring. This is generally most of it. "Yes?"

"Okay! Then you saw the stats on the survival chances, yeah? It's something like an 85% mortality rate if you go it solo. Eighty-five percent. You go nuts, or you get eaten. Find a group, and you're down to 20%, just like that."


"Shut up. And because of this, people will set requirements. Or they'll make you cough up an induction fee. Or they'll make you swear a fucking blood oath. There's eighty million strings attached, because, you know, you can't just pick up any mongrel you find squatting in the mud. Some people are here for a reason."

She pauses. "Like you. But anyways, you ungrateful little shit, Monty's only got one string. One! It's called, 'don't be a fuckhead.' Got it? 'Don't be a fuckhead.'"

"I, uh." You lick your lips. "I don't think it's called that."

«It's called Section 1.1. in the Rules and Procedures. Which, incidentally, contains a great number of strings.»

"It's called whatever I want it to be called, numbnuts, because he informally let me name them. 'Don't be a fuckhead.' Okay? And guess what, Charlotte?"

You can guess what. "This is really entirely uncalled for…"

"You're a fuckhead. Objectively. You should've been out five months ago. You've been treated with nothing but politeness and respect—"


"You punched me!"

"Outside of my capacity as quartermaster, yes. Also, you knocked me out and dragged me into the brush, like a psycho."

Ellery raises his head slightly. "What?"

"Nothing but politeness and respect— and you have the gall to say we haven't been 'welcoming?'"

You decide to sidestep this question. "Have you got anything else?"

"Yeah. 'More trouble than it's worth?' More trouble than— to report a murder? A murder? That is legitimately the most selfish—"

"Um, anything other than that?"

"Yeah. Couldn't you, I don't know, bring Monty or I or whoever to the corpse? Why did there have to be a she-said she-said—"

"Oh," you say. "Margo dragged it into the cave. I mean, what was left. Um. There was a lot on the grass."

"Could we not?" Ellery's waxen.

"Just—" Madrigal makes a general shoving motion. "Go back to your crisis for a little bit, Ell. Get it over with. I'm occupied."

He sighs, slumps, rubs his eye in silence.

"Cool. Okay, so couldn't you take someone to see the gore? Or the bullets—"


You decide not to share this factoid with Madrigal.

"—Or, I don't know, the blood, the bone fragments… surely she couldn't clean up the whole place in half an hour? And surely she wouldn't shoot multiple people—"

(2/3 or 4)
"So what?" you say. "How does this make me a psychopath?"

"It doesn't." Madrigal squares her shoulders. "You lying does."

You heart plummets. "I'm not—"

"Fuck off, Charlotte." Madrigal shakes her head. "You've got too many answers."

You're actually offended. "What? That's not— how is that a tell?"

"Gut. But you are, aren't you? It's all over your face." She purses her lips. "So what is it? Some kind of desire to have secrets? Just an utter lack of empathy? Did you enjoy it, Charlotte? Did it excite you—"

"No!" Your face is hot. "It wasn't— it was horrible, okay? It was—"

«You're not handling this very well.»
«Actually, it's going fairly, how do you put it, 'godawful.'»
«So why don't you just step aside and— good girl.»

>[-1 ID: 5/11]

You hadn't done anything, but there comes the prickle up your back anyways. Your heartbeat slows. Madrigal narrows her eyes. "Wha—"

"What's the issue?" You (you?) raise your eyebrows artfully.

"Y—" Madrigal appears lost for words. "Did you— did you do something?"


"Really?" She surveys your face, then glances towards Ellery. "Ell, does she look different?"

"No." Ellery rubs his forehead.

"Sound different?"

"She sounds exactly the same, Maddie."

"I think you're grasping for straws," you add helpfully. "Anger's not good for the heart. Stresses it out, you know."

Madrigal scowls. "I can manage my own fucking heart. The issue is you, reminder, hiding a murder. And then lying about hiding a murder."

"Also, the murderee being—" You wince as your tongue is wrenched from your control. "—the victim being alive? I understand you've got a vendetta after I clocked you, Madrigal, but surely we can work it out another time. You haven't even asked Ellery how he feels about this."

"Ellery's a big boy who can handle his own feelings—"

"Ellery?" you say. (You don't want to. You don't care about his feelings, either. But you can respect Richard's one-upmanship.) "Are you okay?"

"Fine," he says shortly. He doesn't look especially fine.

"Do you remember anything—"

Without responding, Ellery stands and walks past you and Madrigal. He stops at the maybe-table, shoves half the papers to one side and half to the other, and uncovers a little drawer built into its surface. He feels along the front of it, then sticks one hand in a pocket and retrieves a small metal object.

«I really need to remember to reverse that.»

He sticks the metal object into a keyhole, turns it, and opens the drawer. From it he takes out a syringe.

You clutch your ears as Richard issues a blare of »«»«feedback»«»«.

In your peripheral vision, Ellery shrugs down his left sleeve, finds a vein, and inserts the syringe. He draws the plunger up. He withdraws.

He pushes the plunger down and releases an ordinary red cloud of blood into the water. Then he coughs.

("Ordinary" might be a strong word. For unknown [but variously-theorized] reasons, blood ought to congeal in saltwater to create a sort of gelatinous pinkish substance. For it not to is moderately strange. But anything's ordinary in the face of silver.)

"Um," you say.

"Could be worse," Ellery says, and wipes the needle on his thumb and forefinger. He then re-stores, re—locks, and re-covers it. "So."

"Have you considered the possibility," you smoothly interject, to Madrigal— "that this is not the same Ellery?"

She furrows her eyebrows. "What?"

"Sorry," Ellery says. "It's the same Ellery."

>[1] Write-in.
>Looks like our job here is done! It's not like you're making anymore progress on what's Ellery's deal here. Leave in an exasperated huff.
>"Is that not exactly what a different Ellery would say? How can you prove you're the original ? How did you survive getting shotgunned?"
This one >>4059366
Nevermind, I've been coerced into doing something for the next 2.5 hours. Kill me.

Update tonight still, whenever I can.
>"Is that not exactly what a different Ellery would say? How can you prove you're the original ? How did you survive getting shotgunned?"

You fold your arms. "That's exactly what a different Ellery would say."

"Well," Ellery says, "I mean, yes. But it's also what the same Ellery would say, so I'm not really sure what to tell you." He pauses. "How exactly are you defining 'same?'"

"Is there… more than one definition?"

"Oh yeah. I mean— are you talking same body? Same consciousness? Same ineffable strain of being? And for that matter—"

You fold your arms a little tighter. "You know, the real one. The original."

"The real one!" He snorts. "The real one's dead."

Victory! You surreptitiously pump your fist.

>[+1 ID: 6/11]

"Yes," you say. "He is."

"Three times over."

Madrigal rolls her eyes. You twist a lock of hair. "…What?"

"Real Lottie's dead too," he adds casually.


«Don't panic. He doesn't know it, but he's wrong.»

"Oh yeah. Super dead. 'S been dead for— how long have you been down here?"

"Three years."

"—Three years. No, yeah, you're not real, Maddie's not real, I'm sure as fuck not real." Ellery draws his handsign in close to his chest, so you have to lean to see it. "The real ones are dead."

«Again, theoretically sound, wrong in practice.»

"Are you—" You swap curls— "are you sure?"

There's a strange look on Ellery's face. "Absolutely."

"Oh, for god's sake." Madrigal throws her hands up. "Metaphorically. Metaphorically dead. He likes to do this to scare people, Charlotte, he thinks it's funny—"

"It is funny," Ellery says, and raises his eyebrows. "But okay, yeah— well, I don't know about 'metaphorically'. And you're not real. Nothing is. It's all semi-real…"

Madrigal shoots you an exasperated look. She's heard this before. You can sympathize. (You'd rather not sympathize with Madrigal, but, as they say, 'them's the breaks.')

«Ignoring that.»

"…which is to say, an intermediate state between the kind of reality you would've experienced on the surface, and the unreality of a dream or trance setting. Think of it being the liquid to the respective, uh, solid and gas. It's flexible, kind of stretchy, malleable, but it retains enough of its shape to make it, you know, not an abstract hellhole."

«A crude and inelegant way to put it, but mostly correct.»

"You, and me, and everyone else— everyone else from the surface, I mean, I don't know about the fish—"

«Hateful troglodytes.»

"—…we all got altered, see. Sort of— I mean, I won't go into the details. Unless you want me to. But basically, uh, in a manner of speaking, the real Ellery's dead as dirt— you're stuck with the semi— actually, scratch that." He tallies something on his fingers. "…Actually, no, yeah, that's fine. No need to introduce confusion. You're stuck with the semi-real—colloquially, 'real-ish', sometimes just 'ish'—one."

You nod like you understood all that. "Interesting."

(Madrigal shakes her head at you. "NO!" she mouths. "DON'T ENCOURAGE—!")

"Isn't it? Sorry, what was the question?"

"Um." You fight to remember. "Uh, okay, you're not the real one, whatever. I didn't really mean 'real' like that, but whatever. Are you the original?"

"Which original?"

You hate this so much. "You know, the one who got—"

"The first one? He's been dead for three years. The second one? He's been dead for nine months."

You take a deep breath. "The one who went on the expedition with me?"

"Ah. Sure, I'm that one."

Finally. "Okay! Prove it."


You stare at Madrigal. She jerks her chin up at you. "…Okay," you say. "Why won't you prove it?"

"Because," Ellery says, "you're the one claiming I'm not the same one, aren't you? So you're the one who's got to prove it. That's how things work, I believe."

You'd almost prefer to be back arguing with Madrigal. "Come on. Seriously?"


"You mean to say you survived getting your skull shot to pieces? And I'm just supposed to take your word for it?"

"Hey, now. I never said I survived. I just said I was the same one."

There's a peculiar sort of gleam in his eye.

"…But I did survive."

"I— okay, see! You can't just say that—"

"I can say anything I want." Ellery scratches his neck. "Like this. I survived because I didn't get shot."

You reel back. "What? But you were there, I watched—"

"You didn't watch." And his voice. Something peculiar there, too. "Lottie, frankly, it never happened."

You swim in abject confusion for a couple of seconds before hitting upon the answer. "Ah—! So you aren't the same! You could've just said that, you know, save me the trouble—"

"No, Lottie." He raises his eyebrows. "Nothing like that. It just didn't happen. To anybody."

"I—" Back to the confusion. "I saw it, though! I vomited!"

"Well." He shrugs. "Clearly you didn't. Not sure what to tell you."

You beseech Madrigal. She gives you a curt half-shake, as if to say— it's not like I really believed you, in the first place. So fuck off.


>[1] But… you did see it. It did happen. And you can prove it… [with what?]
>[2] Change the subject. Get Ellery expositing again. You might be able to steer him into some answers without him realizing. Right? You can do that.
>[3] What? How does he propose to explain yesterday, then? What was he doing instead of getting shot?
>[4] Make more faces at Madrigal. Try to convince her you're being honest. [Roll.]
>[5] Just— just cut your losses. You may have hit a stone wall in this conversation. Leave.
>[6] Write-in.
>[2] Change the subject. Get Ellery expositing again. You might be able to steer him into some answers without him realizing. Right? You can do that.
We stole some of Ellery's mirrored blood stuff at the scene of the murder. Doesn't it look similar to what he's been coughing up?

>Eloise's analysis of crime scene (mirror talk), pilfered residue. If Ellery is willing to let Eloise analyze what he's been coughing up, then we can resolve this issue right away, can't we?
It doesn't. He's been coughing up black stuff, the mirror was silver (now red since you put the blood on it).
>[2] Change the subject. Get Ellery expositing again. You might be able to steer him into some answers without him realizing. Right? You can do that.
>[2] Change the subject. Get Ellery expositing again. You might be able to steer him into some answers without him realizing. Right? You can do that.

If it didn't happen you want an IMMEDIATE apology from Madrigal for unkindly calling you a psychopath and also throwing in some unnecessary and unladylike expletives.


Writing for [2] + >>4061291.
>Quick! Change the subject!

"Okay," you say. "Then Madrigal needs to apologize."

She scoff-laughs. "For what?"

For what? Isn't it obvious? "For impugning my good name!"

"What good name?"

"I— and for calling me a psychopath! If this '''didn't happen'''—" you approximate Richard's air quotation marks («You have to bend the fingers, Charlie.»)— "you have positively no grounds and no purchase to do so—"

"I mean," Madrigal says, "you still knocked me out and dragged me into the woods…"

"What?" says Ellery.

"…So I think I've got plenty of purchase, thanks. You fuckin' psycho."

"AND for using such crass a-and frankly unnecessary language—"

"What sort of language, Charlotte?"

You scratch at your neck. "You know, um, unladylike…"



"Oh, I see! Like 'fuck?'" Madrigal cocks her head. "Is that it, Charlotte? You don't like me saying 'fuck'?"


"Does it make your precious little fuckin' ears bleed?"

You touch your ear. "N-no…"

"What's the big fucking idea, then? What's got your little lacy panties in a twist?"

It's now or never. You stand as straight as you can and stick your chin in the air. "It's… it's not becoming."

"Oh! It's not becoming. Guess I'll prostrate myself, then."

You wait a couple seconds. She doesn't prostrate herself. "You're not…"

"Ha!" She laughs in your face. "You're so dumb!"

You bite your lip.

>[-1 ID: 5/11]

Ellery crosses one leg over the other. "Maddie, lay off. She's just a kid."

"Who gives a shit? She's a kid, and then, entirely separate from that, she's the worst kind of person. Entirely separate."

"I'm not a kid," you protest. "I'm 23."

"See? She's a kid, Maddie. How smart were you at 23?"

"Pretty damn smart! I had my own business!"

"Well, okay. But when I was 23, I know for sure I wasn't the sharpest knife in the boot, if you catch my drift."

"It's 'in the drawer,' Ell. 'Sharpest knife in the drawer.'"

"That's not where people keep knives, though?"

"It's where they keep them in civilized places—"

"Um," you say, uncomfortably. "Pardon me. Can we get back to the insults?"

Madrigal looks ready to oblige, but Ellery shoots her a warning look. "Maybe another time," he says. "So everyone can develop new material and, uh, so on?"

This sounds suspiciously like an attempt to drive you out. You can't leave, can you? You haven't actually got the answers you want. Leaving would be tantamount to losing.

"Um," you plead. "The details."

"Sorry, what?"

"The details. You said that if I wanted, you'd go into the details—"

"Oh," Ellery says. "Oh, okay. About…"

"You know, about the 'alterations,' or whatever."

«Do not use that term. That is the incorrect term.»

"Right. Well, uh, I don't— I may have been exaggerating the amount of detail available." Ellery scratches the back of his head. "Nobody knows that much, on account of not really having a control present. But it's induced by getting a lungful of seawater— I mean, you have to inhale it, not just touch it, or we'd have half the— anyways. I feel like you know this already. Density, respiration, vision, physical needs, uh, endurance, aging, mental processes—"

"Everyone's a fucking weirdo," Madrigal mumbles.

"Well, I mean, yeah, but there's a whole lot of selection bias there. I mean, you're executed, murdered, a suicide attempt, or you slip— you've got to be a little screwy already. But yeah, uh, mental processes. Are you cold right now?"

You hug your arms to your chest. "No."

"You should be. You are, actually, it's just you're blind to it. It's difficult or impossible to notice."

"Wow, Ellery," you say. "That's really interesting."

"Thanks. It's not even the best part, though. The best part is when you've got the mutations in the process— because, I mean, nothing's perfect. That's how you wind up with…" He gestures broadly at your forehead. "…stuff like that."

"Speak for yourself," you snap.

"Oh— I didn't mean it in a bad way. Just, you know, what you've got going on with the, uh, talking to someone. I'm not judging."

This is going in a bad direction. "I don't talk to someone."

"Talk to youself, then. You know what I mean, right?"

You stiffly adjust your sleeve. "No."

"Ellery," Madrigal says, "please stop trying to bond with her."

"I'm not trying to bond! I just feel like she's got a condition I've got some experience with, and if she'd like some kind of support, I'd be happy to—"

"That's bonding."

"It's not bonding! A personal element isn't necessarily involved!"

"Still positive, isn't it?"

"Um," you say. "I haven't got a condition."

Ellery raises his eyebrows. "Okay, then you just hold vocal one-sided conversations. You know, like a normal person."


"Well, say hi to whatever figment of your subconscious you won't acknowledge for me, I guess." He looks— dare you hope it?— hurt.


>[+1 ID: 6/11]

Richard encircles your throat like a tawdry choker. «You wish I were a figment of your subconscious, don't you, Charlie.»

Ellery clears his throat. "Khm. Uh, that's all there really is to say about that. I'm not an expert on this—"

"Are you an expert on anything?" The question's about 75% ingenuine.

Ellery seizes on the remaining 25%. "Uh, in a manner of speaking—"

You find it difficult to believe. "What?"

"Uh—" He hesitates. "I'd rather not… it's not important."


"It's not! Really, it's not. It's just shitty—"

"You suck at modesty. I have no idea what you're trying to be modest about, but it's sucking."

"Maddie! I don't— it's not—" Ellery runs his fingers backwards through his hair. "Honestly, it doesn't matter. I'm retired."

"Even more reason," you say. "Why not tell, then?"

Ellery gives you a hard look. "Come on."


He scowls. "The mental aux node state experience."


"The Mental Aux Node State Experience."


Ellery sighs. "The M.A.N.S.E.."


"Wow," you say, after a moment of thought. "That's the worst acronym I've ever heard. I mean, like, 3/5ths of it is the same thing. You came up with that?"

Ellery's jaw tenses. "I think you should go."


"You should go, Charlotte."

"Should I?"



>[1] You should go. You know, on your own prerogative.
>[2] You shouldn't go. Hold on. About the manse... er, M.A.N.S.E.… [Roll.]
>>[A] Who?
>>[B] What?
>>[C] When?
>>[D] Why?
>>[E] How?
>>[F] Retired?
>[3] Write-in.
>>[1] You should go. You know, on your own prerogative.
>"Screw these losers, I'm goin' to have a good time instead of standing around and watching these *ex*-lovers bicker all day!"
Seconding, this is embarrassing

why don't you come over here and make me leave? bitch
File: mangroves.png (833 KB, 564x846)
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833 KB PNG
>i-it's n-not like I wanted to be here anyways, b-baka

You scrunch up your face. Ellery doesn't move: he's returned to the sort of benign calm he held at the start, only with a steel thread through it. If there's any frantic ducklike paddling under the surface, it's impossible to tell.

This would be a great time for Richard to solve all your problems.

«It doesn't work like that, Charlie.» He's still around your neck. «I don't perform miracles. I've got to use what I have.»

Which is you.

«Correct. A craftsman's only as good as his tools, and you, darling, are soldered together from pig iron and rubber bands.»
«There's not a snowball's chance in hell of prying out I don't know what. You're missing half your fretsaw pieces here, Charlie.»
«Which is good, because it means you'll return to the business that's been at hand for—»

Yeah, yeah, whatever. You'll get to it. If you're not going to get any help: "Well," you say to Ellery, "it's not like I wanted to be here, anyways."



"Great," he says. "Everyone's happy."

"Right." You'd hoped for a better response (eg. "no, Charlotte, wait, I lied, please stay!"), but this isn't factually wrong. "So I'm not leaving because you told me to. I was already planning on it."

"Naturally," he says. "I could already tell. That you were planning to leave."

"Exactly." You nod. "So me walking out right now…" You pick your way backwards. "…nothing to do with you. Just me leaving. In an unrelated fashion. Of my own free will."

"Of course. Bye, Lottie."

"Goodbye," you say on instinct, and curse yourself for the slip. The last thing you see before you duck out is Madrigal's handsign: "Do you have to humor her?"

Ellery shrugs. "Who does it hurt?"

And then— the blank canvas of the tent flap, and blessed, beautiful silence. And the open water, and the sunshine, and freedom. Freedom! It was stifling in there, it really was. And so dark and cluttered. Why'd you stick around so long? Of course you wanted to leave. If Madrigal wants to stay, you have no intention of stopping her. Even if she does talk about you. But she won't talk about you, unless it's to say nice things, in which case she will, of course. Of course.

You feel like you should sit down somewhere, but there's nowhere at all to sit down. That's fine. You'll just stand here. Good exercise. Good for the legs.

This is good. You've really accomplished a lot today.

«Like what.»

Well, like smashing your way through a veritable bubble-nest of lies, right? 'Slippery' nothing. You went in there, took hold of Ellery like a champion noodler, and wrung all his secrets out. You left only when there was nothing more to tell.

«What secrets.»

You know, secrets. Just secrets. It's not your job to scale and bone every little thing you think about. How would you get anything done?

«Charlie, you didn't even figure out if this was the same Ellery.»

He said he was.

«Yes. Because he never got shot. He did get shot, Charlie, I threw you a party about it. You also never determined how or why, where he woke up, anything about his presence in the manse, anything about the broken mirror.»

Well, maybe you didn't want to know those things, anyways. Anyway. You found out he literally couldn't talk about the Incident («<break-up>»), right? That's new. That's strange.

«You presume he wasn't just lying. He's clearly capable of it.»
«Can't prove a negative.»

You sag.

«This was a waste of time, just as I said it would be. Now, would you cease chasing cockamamie dreams of-»

Madrigal jabs your shoulder. You jump near out of your skin.

"Charlotte!" she says, once you've stopped quaking. "Look sharp! We're leaving."


"We're leaving," she reiterates. "I have business in the Fen."

"I—" You gesture uselessly. "Weren't you just talking to Ellery?"

"Yeah, then I stopped." She tugs her bandana out of her pocket and begins to position it back on her head. "So what?"

"Don't you have more to—"

"Why would I? It's always the same with him. You got more done in 35 minutes than I've got in five months, so." She jabs you again. "You've got your uses."

"Um," you say. "Thank you. I didn't actually get anything done, th-"

"You kidding? You got him to say he cared, kid, that's—" She pauses. "I mean, not that it matters. Anyhow, we're leaving soon as I get my Fitz."


Madrigal knots her bandana. "Uh, the spear. My spear."

"I see." You do actually see. Naming weapons has a long, heroic tradition. "Nice."

She narrows her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, whatever."

You hadn't meant it like that, but you'll call it an honest try and move on. "So, why am I going?"

"I'm making you." Madrigal points at her bruise. "'Member?"

"But do you need me for something?"

"Not at all. You're going to get in the way."

"So why—"

"Because," she says, "I want to. Meet me at the Lindew trailhead in 10 with whatever you bring on hikes."


"Or else."

>[1] You've been made to do whatever Madrigal wants you to. You have little choice. Grab "hiking gear" (your knife— that's about it) and meet her at the trailhead.
>[2] You're not budging until she tells you exactly where you're going and why. I mean, really.
>[3] Acquiesce, but don't actually meet Madrigal. You'll be doing something else instead.
>>[A] Going to town to pay off your tab.
>>[B] Going to town to spend frivolously. Er, because you earned it.
>>[C] Finishing your model in your tent.
>>[D] Reporting the presence of your model thief to Monty.
>>[E] Write-in.
>[4] Nope. Refuse point-blank. She can "make" you, but she can't *make* you.
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] You're not budging until she tells you exactly where you're going and why. I mean, really.

If she doesn't come clean, then

>[3] Acquiesce, but don't actually meet Madrigal. You'll be doing something else instead.
>>[A] Going to town to pay off your tab.
I can back >>4066923

Also Ellery refused to answer all that, so unless Richard could make him magically confess everything he should stuff it.
>[1] You've been made to do whatever Madrigal wants you to. You have little choice. Grab "hiking gear" (your knife— that's about it) and meet her at the trailhead.
If things go south we can just murder her and bury her in the mud.

Is how Richard would think...?
>[1] You've been made to do whatever Madrigal wants you to. You have little choice. Grab "hiking gear" (your knife— that's about it) and meet her at the trailhead

Better than getting thrown out of the camp. Imagine what they'll do with our figurine crafting station? The barbarians.
>Ask what this is all about
>Go along with it anyhow
>Also piss off, Richard


Is it the most direct path from Point A to Point B?
>Is it the most direct path from Point A to Point B?
No, it snakes around a little bit before getting there.
File: laughing snake.jpg (32 KB, 427x640)
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>Excuse me—

"You don't have to threaten me," you say. "You could just tell me where we're going."

Madrigal rubs the corner of her eye. "It's not a secret, Charlotte, I just didn't mention it. I'm going to go see Branwen."

A familiar name. "Morris."

"Yeah, her. You know her? Yea high—" Madrigal indicates about an inch above you— "bangs, hat, funny accent— maybe? No?"

You shake your head.

"Well, the long and short of it is, she lives a mile or two into the Fen. Best place to find wild animals and so on— she breeds them, see. She breeds them, I broker them, rich weirdos from over west buy them. Everyone wins."

This tangle of words takes you a moment to work through. "You smuggle exotic animals?"

"I broke exotic animals. Branwen breeds exotic animals. Other people buy exotic animals. Nowhere is there any smuggling—"

"Are they illegal, though?"

Madrigal scoffs. "By whose law!"

"Wind Court's, I suppose." You're a smidge defensive over this, though you're unsure why. The Court's too dogmatic for you, personally.

"Do they have exotic animal smuggling laws?"


"Y-es," you say.

Madrigal's brow furrows. "Really? Huh."


"…Might be smuggling, then. Ah well. So anyhow, I'm trying to set something up, Branwen's been ignoring my semaphore, so to speak, so I'm stopping by."

"Also," you note, "Ellery said he visited there."

She crosses her arms. "So he did."

"And it's unrelated?"


She has a sort of I-dare-you jut to her chin. You decide challenging the current arbiter of your lifestyle isn't the best plan. "Okay, that's fine. I'll, uh, meet you at the trailhead?"

"Or else."

"Sure thing."

You part ways. Not having much in the way to gather, you make a point of meandering back to your tent. Richard has wound his way down your sleeve.

«Ahem. As I was saying, your cockamamie—»

Actually, you've been thinking about it since Madrigal danced around thanking you. And upon review, you mostly tried to ask about those things. It's just he wouldn't answer, or changed the subject, or flat-out denied it. And what can you do about that? You're not a mind-reader, are you?

«Be that as it may, if you noticed he didn't answer, you ought to have said something.»
«And if you didn't notice, you're frankly dense, Charlie.»

What? No. It's not as if he pointed anything out.

«I function poorly in groups. You know this.»
«Cogent communication requires a great deal of effort on my part, and having three or more—»

Excuses, excuses.

You enter your tent, confirm everything's as you left it (yes), deposit your stack of papers, attempt to deposit the mirror shard before realizing Madrigal still has it, retrieve your pocketknife, retrieve a pinch of chit (you never know), straighten your linens, and leave again.

File: hand dagger.jpg (16 KB, 474x317)
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You meet Madrigal by the trailhead. She's got a full rucksack on, a crude spear lashed to her back, and the bomber jacket tied to her waist. She's wearing close-toed shoes.

She frowns at you. "Where's your stuff? Don't you have any other shoes?"

"I travel light," you say haughtily. "It's a lifestyle. And no."

"Have you got a weapon, at least?"

You flash your pocketknife. She curls her lip. "That? Charlotte, that couldn't cut fishing line. How are you alive?"

«Me. And never forget it.»

You curl your lip back. "I've done perfectly well so far, thank you."

"Somehow. Good fucking god. Here."

Madrigal reaches back into the front zip of her rucksack and pulls out a wicked-looking blade. You brace for her to toss it at you, but mercifully she only dangles it. "Hand dagger," she says. "You're good at punching, right?"

"Um," you say.

"It's like punching, but you've got a knife on your hand. Or you can just use it as a knife, I guess. Better than that."

>[1] Take the hand dagger and get moving.
>[2] Refuse out of principle and get moving.
>[3] Hey, uh, Madrigal. You don't suppose you've got any, um, swords? [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
>[3] Hey, uh, Madrigal. You don't suppose you've got any, um, swords? [Roll.]

Called. Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 45 (+15 You Fucking Psychopath, -20 You've Got Your Uses) to bargain for a sword.

>[ID: 6/11]
>[1] Yes.
>[2] No.
Rolled 85 (1d100)

Eternal big spendy
Rolled 90 (1d100)

Spend, just to be safe.
Rolled 24 (1d100)

>95, 100, 34 vs. DC 45 - Success
You get a sword.

One more roll with this in mind.
>Roll me 3 1d100s+15 (+5 A Sword +5 Positive Thinking +5 Buddy System) vs. DC 60 (+10 Fenpelok Mire) to navigate uneventfully.
>[ID: 5/11]
>[1] Spend for +10.
>[2] Don't.
Rolled 68 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>[1] Spend for +10.
Rolled 61 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Don't spend.
Rolled 71 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

No spend since we already passed. ;p
>Obtain sword — Success.
>Navigate — Enhanced Success.

"Um," you say. The hand dagger isn't bad, you guess. It seems well-made. It's metal, even. Could be an antediluvian relic. You, channeling the ways of those long dead, that'd be something. That'd be worthy of note.

It's not a sword, though. That's the problem here.

Madrigal shakes the dagger. "Hello?"

"Um," you say again. "Might you have a sword?"

"A sword? Does it look like I have a sword? You see any swords?"

"Could have one strapped to your back," you say. "Where I couldn't see."

"Oh, to my back? To my back where I've got a backpack? To my back where I've got F- my spear? That back?"

This seems patently obvious. "Yes."

Madrigal puts a hand to her forehead. "Okay, then. Okay. Let's— why would I have a sword? I don't use a sword. I didn't know you wanted a sword. I don't haul around large sharp objects for no goddamn reason, Charlotte—"

"Seems like something you'd do," you say mildly. "Also, you could go back and get one. Like a normal person."

"I don't have any swords to get! Well—" Madrigal closes her eyes. "I have a hilt. Is that what you want? You want to hold this whole thing up so I can run and get you a useless fucking sword hilt?"

"I mean…" You vacillate. "It might be better than nothing…"


An attempt to raise one eyebrow just makes you look like you have a tic. "Suit yours-"


Something happens in your head. Some kettle whistle blows, some spring goes sprong, some long-neglected flywheel is set awhir. The corner of your good eye tightens. The corners of your vision grey.

>[-1 ID: 5/11]

"You gonna die?" Madrigal says, a little worried. "What happened?"

You shake your head no to both.

«Sh- no, here, you're fine.» Richard darts in diagonals. «It's fine. Nothing happened. Just talk.»

"You're sure? Coz you looked a little funny for a second."

"Like your face," you mumble inaudibly. "Yes," you say. "Yeah. I'm all here."

As best you can tell, it's true. You don't feel or sound or think any different, you think. It was just a thing.

Madrigal sighs. "You're the boss. But if you are gonna die, you've got to tell me. Are you taking the hand dagger or not?"

"I'm not," you say. "It's sword or nothing."

"Cool. Nothing." Madrigal shuffles the rucksack around and drops the dagger back in its pocket. "Ready?"

You fold your arms. "No."

"Son of a bitch." Madrigal pinches her temples. "What?"

"You've got a sword," you say. "On your back."

"You're a nutcase. You want to look at my back? Look at the sword not on it? We can do that, Charlotte, we can waste everyone's time—"

"No." You gesture. "You've got to pull it out."

"Pull out the sword I don't have."


"On my back, where it isn't."


"You're a nutcase."

Something fragile slips. "I— come on, Madrigal. Do it to prove I'm crazy."

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"Good god." Madrigal shakes her head in disbelief, but with one hand she pushes her rucksack and her spear aside. She feels around on her back. She contains her shock very well.

She pulls out the general idea of a sword. It's sword-shaped and sword-sized and sword-colored and except for the fact you can't exactly look at it it's sword in all the other ways, too. It will probably cut things.

Madrigal holds the Sword like it's contagious. "What the fuck is this."

"It's a sword," you say.

"Yes. I can tell. What the fuck am I doing with it."

You shrug. "Giving it to me, I guess."

"If you want it…" She gives you the Sword.

"Thanks," you say. "Now we can go."

Madrigal glances at you slantwise. "…Yeah."

The Sword is sword-heavy in your hand. Your fingers find easy purchase on the sword-hilt. You've gripped something like it before— but not quite. You wanted a sword. And now that you have the Sword, you realize… no you didn't. You wanted The Sword.

What sword? The Sword. That sword. Your sword. You'll know it when you see it. You've never owned a sword in your life, unless you count the fettling knife, which you don't.

You're at sixes and sevens, you are. And that's without considering what the living hell just happened. Did you do that? Did Richard do that, and was just uncharacteristically subtle about it? Did— you're clinging to this possibility at the moment— did Madrigal just have a sword?

«No need to worry your pretty head about it.»

But what if you do worry your pretty head about it? You've got a Sword in your hand, for God's sake.

«You're impossible. It was a fluke accident, Charlie, that's all. Poor timing. A number of factors converged—»

What factors?

«Let's see. Among other things, you have a very strong idea of what a sword should be, and almost no knowledge of how a sword actually functions.»
«It could be considered impressive.»

Madrigal coughs. "Charlotte."

You blink. "What?"

"Uh, nothing. It's just, uh, we've been walking— well, not that. It's you've been mouthing a lot of words."

You close your lips. "Oh."

"Also, uh, that thing." Madrigal points at the Sword. "It makes me all fucking skittery."

"It's just a sword," you say defensively.

"My head hurts if I try to look at it, Charlotte."

"Nothing's perfect."

Madrigal rubs her forehead. "Yeah, but— are you gonna make more? Where'd it come from?"

>[1] How are you supposed to know? You're not even the one who touched it. Seems more likely she made it, or whatever.
>[2] Yeah, you made it. And you can make more, if you wanted to, which you don't. You're so cool.
>[3] What are you talking about, Madrigal? You were carrying a sword. You gave me a sword. [Roll.]
>[4] Smile mysteriously and refuse to answer any questions whatsoever.
>[5] Write-in.
Bonus for the navigation roll and getting to the destination next time.
>>[4] Smile mysteriously and refuse to answer any questions whatsoever.
>"What, a girl can't have her secrets?"

We're the best and in no way was this a fluke accident no matter what any stylish snake has to say.
>I didn't reload the page to see the second vote god save my sinner's soul

You smile.

Madrigal doesn't. "Really? That's what you're going with?"

You smile.

"Well— know this. If that thing comes within two feet of me, I'm stabbing you first."

You smile and nod.


And with that, you're back off. Navigating the Fen is a matter of two things: either dexterity and cunning, or an unshakable belief that, despite everything to the contrary, you're heading in the right direction. Madrigal possesses the former, you the latter, and between the both of you you make short work of:

- The immediate loss of the trail (mud has buried the marking-stones)
- Mud
- Unidentifiable hissing from behind you
- Unidentifiable hissing from in front of you
- Some fish's rudimentary web trap
- Clouds of biting sargo
- God there's so much mud
- Brine pool your foot, that thing's more like a brine lake, it's going to ruin your boots, what do you mean we've got to go through it
- Your boots are just fine for hiking, Madrigal, at least you have sleeves
- What do you mean around it there's massive bladderworts
- Can't we just go around those
- "Might as well go around Charybdis" honestly Richard just shut up if you're going to spout gibberish
- No you don't want to know what Charybdis is
- Mud
- Would you look at that, your boots are ruined, just like you said they'd be
- "Just rub them down with oilcloth" well maybe you don't want to, Madrigal
- A corpse.

The corpse is recent but not incredibly so— it's pinned at about a month old. It's well-preserved except for the worms that've colonized its mouth and eye sockets. It slumps against a tree inside a semicircle of its own blood. Cause of death? The flechette buried in its neck, the hives around the wound, and the greenish pallor of its skin all indicate a poisoning. Maybe accidental— some fish hunting down an alligator, say, and missing his target. Maybe intentional.

These are all things Madrigal and Richard say, anyhow. You're busy gagging.

Madrigal stands. "Hmm," she says. "Maybe an expeditioner, but I can't tell. You can't tell, right? No blood in the thing."

"Uuurh," you say.

"You think we should go through the pockets? Could have some good shit in there. Waste not want not, right?"

"Euggh," you say.

"I mean, I don't know. I don't want to catch anything." Madrigal scratches her chin. "But good shit."

>[1] Good shit.
>[2] Assert your obvious moral superiority. No good shit. MADRIGAL.
>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Assert your obvious moral superiority. No good shit. MADRIGAL.
>[2] Assert your obvious moral superiority. No good shit. MADRIGAL.
>[3[ SHE can go through the pockets if SHE wants to, WE will have no part in that.

Again, she calls us the psychopath? We dragged her into the forest to keep her safe from looters, now she wants to loot. She is the evil.
As I posted that update I had vivid flashbacks to that moment. It may haunt me forever.

It's actually a little nice because now I know I'm not alone in knowing how easy it is for that to happen
>You are a GOOD, MORALLY SOUND person who does not STEAL from CORPSES, MADRIGAL
>but like you can do it if you want idgaf

You cease gagging long enough to visit upon Madrigal the longest, haughtiest stare you can summon up. "I do not steal from the dead."

>[+2 ID: 7/11]

Madrigal raises her eyebrows. "Didn't you 'think' Ellery was dead?"

"That- that wasn't theft. That was evidence." You're glad you didn't make off with the radio yet. "Who's the psychopath now, huh? Petty robbery, not a drop of remorse—"

"Look, the guy's got his eyes eaten by worms. You think he's using the shit? He's not, it just happens to be sitting here on him. 'Robbery' implies someone's using it."

You shrug. "I'm just calling a spade a spade, Madrigal. And it's a psychopath spade."

"You dragged me into the woods to die!"

"I dragged you into the woods," you say, "to protect you from looters. Like yourself."

"Looters!" She scoffs. "Oh, yeah, those looters off to steal my shoes. And my clipboard. Those looters already searching through the brush— we were already in the goddamn woods, you realize?"

"Better safe than sorry."

"I—" Madrigal points at the corpse. "Okay, Miss Fancypants, are you gonna throw a shitfit if I search the pockets?"

"You can commit any knavery you choose," you sniff.

"'Knavery.' Were you born with a stick up your ass?" But Madrigal crouches to search the corpse's pockets. You refuse to watch.

"Oh, shit," she says. "Jacket's lined with feathers. I think this is a Court guy."

You ignore her.

"Yeah, okay, here's an ID. Lookit. 'DARWIN SCHWAB — NIGHTBIRD.' Oh, he was kinda cute, before the whole worm thing. Too bad he's a Court freak."

"Also dead," you can't help but add.

"Yeah, course." Madrigal rubs her nose. "Huh. Nothing else— oh, hold on. Hidden pocket." She fiddles around. "Aha. Okay, here's his chit pouch— keeping that. And— oh-ho. What's this." She withdraws a linen handkerchief and unwraps it. It's a crystal. Murky, impure, not like the ones on your crown— but a crystal nonetheless. "Oh, this guy must've been hopped up. He was not supposed to have this."

"Does it—" you say. A stirring has reawakened. "Is there anything in it?"

"Fuck if I know. Can you put anything in crystals? I mean, I thought they were kinda solid—"

"Not something physical. Just—" You make grabby hands. "Give it here. I'll look."

«I'll look, you mean.»

"Oh! Now Miss Fancypants is cool with knavery, huh?" Madrigal rewraps the crystal and places it in the chit pouch, which she places with the ID in her backpack. "Finders keepers."

"What do you want with the ID?"

She shrugs. "Never know when you'll need it. Besides, I've got to take what I find. This guy was totally cleaned."

You have to stop to translate this into correct speech. "He— nothing was on him?"

"Yeah. I think we were beat to the punch." She kicks the corpse's leg. "Oh well. 'Least they didn't find the chit."
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The two («three») of you carry on, keeping up the same clip as before. Which isn't fast, exactly, but nobody twists an ankle or loses a leg or dies, and you both agree that's the important thing.

It's when you hear the scream that you stop for the second time. "Oh good," Madrigal says. "We're close."

"We're what?"

"Oh, it's not human. It's one of her things. The— uh, I forget what it's called. Blue, lots of spindly bits. Not very popular, as far as they go."

Another scream.

"For obvious reasons."

"Yes," you say dryly.

"So we'll just keep going until we see the gate, and then we're there. Uh, stone, got some glowy runes on it, you can't m-"

"PATTY." From absolutely nowhere— well, from between the trees, but the visibility's so cruddy and the trees so thick together it might as well be nowhere— storms a short dark-haired woman in a hat. You marvel at the hat. You'd like to wear one, but even for you it's leagues too impractical— it just flies right off at any light current. To keep one on without a chinstrap represents an extraordinary force of will.

"Bran! Hi." Madrigal stiffens. "We were just talking about your gate."


You stiffen, too, like you've been shocked. Richard, around your wrist, constricts.

"I haven't seen your snake, Bran. No need to yell."

"SORRY." Branwen stops short. She's got some sort of black cape/sleeveless coat on, with a high collar of damp black fur. "IT'S ESCAPED."


>What? We're on page 6!
So we are, but I'm going to be occupied tomorrow, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and I suspect we'll be page 10 or off the board by the time I'm free again. Next thread, eh… the 15th? 16th? I'll update when we're closer.

In the meantime, please feel free to use the time to post your questions / comments / concerns / etc, and I'll be happy to respond! Additionally (if anyone's interested), I may post some of my pencil-and-paper character sketches over the downtime. There's a lot of them, and most have never been posted. bls no bully

Have a nice evening and rest of your week, guys.
Thanks for running!

Did we steal Richard from this woman? Are we a knave now?

Also art yes
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As far as you can remember, you discovered Richard in a box in your attic (above water) about three and a half years ago. So if you did steal him-- shenanigans are afoot. Or there's another snake?

I think you kind of started this quest as a knave (in denial).

And here, you asked for it. Apologies for the varying image quality, these have been taken over the span of the whole quest. Labels for anyone not immediately identifiable.
Oh, shoot. Bottom left is 1920s!Lottie.
Bottom middle is your homework ;p
They're all my homework :^)
Thanks for running, appreciate the art as always. 1920's Lottie was especially amusing, would be interested in seeing a few more takes like it.
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Ask and ye shall receive. Not super happy with Madrigal but what can you do
I didn't quote the post goddammit
Dig Branwen and Ellery's outfits especially but good shit all around. Looking forward to the next thread, but in the meantime definitely will be keeping an eye out.

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