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You are Charlotte Fawkins, noted heiress, heroine, adventuress, and detective, cruelly trapped underwater (in the sticks!) after the completion of your quest to find your long-lost family heirloom. Tragically, nobody here l̶i̶k̶e̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u appreciates your talents, even Richard- the snake who lives in your head. Right now, you're in a friend-of-a-frenemy's sitting room, having just told her about the difficulties involved in retrieving her snake. This was not, unfortunately, a euphemism.

You handle the cup in your hand gingerly. You have been vigorously assured that its contents are not foul, poisonous or psychoactive, but it smells so strongly you're forced to assume it's one of the three. It's also blue and moderately viscous, which… look, you're not going to drink this. Out of the question.

You don't even have polite obligation to drive you: Branwen is off having a private conversation with Madrigal. They are both in the other room. You are alone on Branwen's tattered settee.

«Poor Charlie.»

"Alone" was an overstatement: Richard is draped across the settee's back cushions. He is a snake, which under no circumstances should be odd: that's… him, that's his objective natural state. Any exception is (literally) just wishful thinking. You know this.

But it is odd, okay? You keep glancing behind you, expecting to see him looming over your shoulder, and all you get is a… thing. It's odd and unnerving and you wish… you don't know what you wish, okay? You wish all the feelings you don't understand would go away.

«Well, that's all very pathetic. Also rude.»
«Not quite the topic, though. I was just about to make the point that your good friend Madrigal has ditched you.»

"She's not my friend," you mumble.

«My apologies, I forgot you didn't have any friends.»
«Your acquaintance Madrigal has ditched you. I suppose you're wondering what she's talking about without the burden of your presence.»

You've been wondering about that almost nonstop. "No! Why would I—"

«Lucky you, I know for a fact what she's talking about.»
«It's very personal. Very tragic. She simply doesn't trust you enough to let you know.»
«Trusts you less than her criminal contact, even. Horrible.»

Figures. You cup your face with both hands. "Just tell me."

«There are certain kinds of insects that lay eggs in the bodies of other insects. When the eggs hatch, the children devour their host from the inside.»
«It is not at all like that. But it is the closest example I can provide.»

"That doesn't…" You wriggle around so you're actually facing Richard. "Madrigal had bug eggs laid—"

«Keep it down. No. You are willfully misinterpreting me.»
«It is a process in broadly the same vein. I will not bother with the details. The typical result of the process is physical death, with the consciousness retained in a deeply altered state.»
«She has chosen a more palatable alternative, that being survival with moderate, recoverable loss of function. No need to thank me.»

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Hmm. You scoop Richard off the cushions and hold him up to your face. "What altered state?"

«Keep it down. It's hardly important.»

Right. You thought so. "What altered state?"

«I suppose you're looking at it.»

You are looking into Richard's beady eyes. You squint. "What? No way."


"You're the altered state?"

«Me specifically, no. Me taxonomically, y-»

"Fuck you doing?" Madrigal, loud. You flinch, dropping both Richard (who floats) and your cup (which doesn't), pretend you didn't, and pretend harder that you were, in fact, doing nothing. This is tricky, owing to your positioning— turned around, propped on your knees, leaning over the back of the couch— but you try your best.

When you finally worm back to a normal seating arrangement, she's still leaning against the doorframe, looking like hell and back. "And who are you talking to?"

You cough discreetly. "Nobody."

"You know sound carries? You've got a distinctive voice? And you're a shit liar, anyways, your nervous tics are out the— oh, you were talking to him." Madrigal pinches her forehead. "I'm a little out of it. Ellery was never here, by the way."

"I wasn't talking to… him… who's him? Nobody's here." You pull at your collar. "What about Ellery?"

"Remember? He said he was over here. Total lie— Bran disagrees, hasn't seen him in months. And him, you know, your fucking— don't play stupid, Charlotte, my patience is— god."

Madrigal sighs heavily, emerges from the doorframe, and, to your surprise, hunches upon the far side of the settee. She retrieves an oblong white box from her pocket and turns it around in her hands. She doesn't say anything else.

After a significant amount of time, you clear your throat. "Are you okay?"


You're never seen her less okay, and you've seen her crying. "Are you sure?"

"Fuck off."

"Not sure I can." You inspect your fingernail. "So about the—"

"Where the hell are you going to get a snake?" Madrigal is looking at you sideways. "In three days? Bran says they don't live around here. Got hers special. Cost her firstborn, practically, took a month to arrive. Are you nuts?"

"Uh…" You didn't entirely think it through. "I'll figure something out."

"You're nuts. There's no reason to help them? You know that? You really want to lend a hand to thieving douchebags who rip people's faces off? Knew you were a fucking psycho, but—"

"You shouldn't lash out at other people just because you're stressed," you mumble.

"What? I can't hear you. You know what I'd do— I'd sic the Court on them. The douches get retribution, the Court idiots get to deal with some actual fuckery, both are out of regular people's hair, you don't have to fulfill a stupid impossible promise. Win-win-win-win."

What are you supposed to say? You can't defend yourself, because that'd mean telling her your actual reason. You can barely tell yourself your actual reason. It's stupid. It's embarrassing.

(Here's the reason: you'd like to be f- to be fr- you want Pat to like y-)

«I thought you'd outgrown your naked need for approval years ago. I'm disappointed in you.»

You're a little disappointed in yourself, frankly.

«Good to hear. That being said, I would be unhappier if Pat wasn't such a useful contact to make. You made the correct decision, color me surprised.»
«It is also not an impossible promise to make. You have a snake easily and readily available.»
«It will just require coaxing. I'm fairly sure you're capable of it.»

You steal a glance back at Madrigal, who has lapsed back into silence. You are unsure what Richard means, but you have a terrible feeling about the matter.

«With a case like hers, it typically takes weeks. Months, if she's forewarned. Years, if she is very, very good.»
«But it could take days, if you applied the right pressures. Three days, even. I do hope you catch my drift.»

You do. You wish you didn't. You rub the side of your face.

«It'd only take a day of actual work, I'd imagine. She would handle the rest on her own.»
«A quick, easy, definite, and safe solution.»
«I imagine you have no objections.»

>How on earth are you going to find a snake in three days, when there's… no snakes within a three days walk?
>[1] Follow Richard's gameplan: accelerate Madrigal's 'process.' It's not precisely ethical… but she'll recover (right?), and it was bound to happen eventually (right?). Also, she won't know it was you, if you're lucky. [Roll for stealth, but plan will succeed regardless of result.]
>[2] You've never had the most linear moral compass, but the idea of insidious psychological warfare for selfish gain doesn't sit quite right. Ask Madrigal directly if she'd do it for you. [Very difficult roll.]
>[3] Just threaten Madrigal (and/or Branwen?) with Richard's plan. Get them to pull some criminal strings for you if they don't want the unfortunate consequences. [No roll, but neither will appreciate this.]
>[4] To hell with this. Sell Pat down the river to the Wind Court, the local sanctimonious law enforcement. It's the right thing to do(???).
>[5] To hell with this. Give up entirely. Don't show up after 3 days. Hope you never see Pat again.
>[6] Write-in.
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>Wait… did I miss something? What happened to Madrigal?
You didn't miss anything— Charlotte just isn't privy to the relevant info. Richard provided all the need-to-know information, but for a more detailed rundown, check this new side-story pastebin: https://pastebin.com/UwFjt7tQ (embed)
tl;dr Asking for a snake's experiences-- bad move.

>Previously on Drowned Quest Redux
You found yourself trapped in a simulacrum of an old memory: a party back at your house on the surface. While there, you encountered Pat and Lester, a pair of hapless, face-changing rogues trapped with you; Martin, a man from your memory who looks exactly like Richard— but whom you don't remember; and your 14-year-old younger self. After retrieving the family sword, you, Pat, and your younger self set off to confront and destroy the snake who kept you there. You succeeded, choosing ultimately to spare the snake… but not before a fraught encounter with Martin, to which there was more than met the eye. Upon your return to (un)reality, you stole Branwen's snake back, leaving Pat and Lester up a creek… but you promised to return with another within three days.
As of now, you're left with a lot of questions and little closure.

Once a day. If the update is short and/or I feel inspired, two or three. If I miss a day, I'll try to compensate with two the next.


>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 in 2019. Reading the original isn't required. Check out the attached image instead.

>I have a question/comment/concern?
Tell me!
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>[3] Just threaten Madrigal (and/or Branwen?) with Richard's plan. Get them to pull some criminal strings for you if they don't want the unfortunate consequences. [No roll, but neither will appreciate this.]
I laughed.

Looking back at the wording of [3], I'm not sure how much the understatement carried through. To clarify: even more than the other options, it'll wreck your relationship with Madrigal, possibly to the point of no return. (You're outright extorting her!) This isn't to say that you can't pick it-- wouldn't give the option if you couldn't-- but I want to be upfront about the consequences.

Vote open until tomorrow unless I get a bunch in the next couple of hours.
>[3] Just threaten Madrigal (and/or Branwen?) with Richard's plan. Get them to pull some criminal strings for you if they don't want the unfortunate consequences. [No roll, but neither will appreciate this.]
>>[4] To hell with this. Sell Pat down the river to the Wind Court, the local sanctimonious law enforcement. It's the right thing to do(???).

I thought the offer of "giving them a snake" was a euphemism for siccing Richard on them.

I'll settle for

>[2] You've never had the most linear moral compass, but the idea of insidious psychological warfare for selfish gain doesn't sit quite right. Ask Madrigal directly if she'd do it for you. [Very difficult roll.]


> "Remember? He said he was over here. Total lie— Bran disagrees, hasn't seen him in months. And him, you know, your fucking— don't play stupid, Charlotte, my patience is— god."

Fucks sake, Maddy. What makes you think we're *playing* stupid. But hey, we had to stab our Not-Mom-But-Mom so it's not like she has a monopoly on "That was a terrible fucking experience".

Although, if Branwen can just fucking order a snake then I don't see why they couldn't just go that route.

But hey, they stole a snake and then they threatened afterwards even though we tried to be friends. Fuck Pat and Lester. We could have let Richard eliminate them, and then they tried negotiating at gunpoint instead of being reasonable people about it.

All this is IC by the way.
Why do you guys hate Maddy so much?

You did try to sic Richard on them with the second-to-last vote, which failed, because 1) he was pissy/uncooperative and 2) he can't do much if he's not acting through you, which you'd already rejected. I won't deny that you could've misinterpreted the last vote to mean trying that again(?), but I'm not sure how-- here's a direct copy/paste of the winning option.

>[1] Sure, what the hell. You don't know where or how to find a snake, but it can't be that hard, surely. And you'd stay in Pat's (...and Lester's) good graces. You're not, um, in many people's good graces.

It doesn't indicate anything about actually siccing Richard on them.

Madrigal assumes (correctly) that you're playing stupid because she knows that Richard exists and talks to you.

You (/Pat/Lester) could order a snake if you had more than three days and $0.

[2] and [4] are considerably different options. Are you proposing [2] and then [4] if it fails, or are you proposing [2] if other people don't want [4]?
Ignore this vote then. >>4264457
I really want to go with [3] in order to fuck em' over, but I feel that overall, [4] is the smarter option to go with.
>[3] Just threaten Madrigal (and/or Branwen?) with Richard's plan. Get them to pull some criminal strings for you if they don't want the unfortunate consequences. [No roll, but neither will appreciate this.]
Not Branwen unless we have to I guess.
>[1] Follow Richard's gameplan: accelerate Madrigal's 'process.' It's not precisely ethical… but she'll recover (right?), and it was bound to happen eventually (right?). Also, she won't know it was you, if you're lucky. [Roll for stealth, but plan will succeed regardless of result.]
>>[4] To hell with this. Sell Pat down the river to the Wind Court, the local sanctimonious law enforcement. It's the right thing to do(???).
>[4] To hell with this. Sell Pat down the river to the Wind Court, the local sanctimonious law enforcement. It's the right thing to do(???).

On one hand Pattycake. On the other, not giving Madrigal a chance to be correct.
I was proposing 2 if people didn't want 4, but it seems 4 picked up steam.

Pat pointed a gun at us, friends don't do that.



Writing for [4].
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>Be a narc

What Richard is saying sounds very pragmatic, you have to admit. But it just doesn't… you don't know, maybe this is stupid. Maybe this is stupid, and hysterical, and spineless, and effeminate, and you should just pack up and leave if you're not cut out for this, oh wait, you can't. Maybe it's those things.

But his plan doesn't seem quite right to you? Not quite… just. And it's not like— you have, admittedly, done bad things before. But your targets deserved it. Or you were mad, so it felt like they deserved it. Or it wasn't even your fault to begin with. Like, did you shoot Ellery? No. So you weren't doing a bad thing. Or at least not such a—

This feels too deliberate. There's your issue. It's too deliberate, and… you don't like Madrigal much, but you don't hate her, not really. Not enough to consign her to… being Richard? You'd never want to be Richard. You're not entirely sure Richard wants to be Richard, sometimes.

Does this all make sense?

«Oh, you were talking to me. Since you're incapable of sticking to a topic, I assumed it was a digression about the furniture.»

(Branwen's furniture, to put it politely, looks salvaged. She hasn't even scrubbed the barnacles off.)

But no, you were just… talking it through. To whoever was listening. That's all.


"Madrigal?" you say.

She rests her chin on her hands. "Huh? Fuck you. Don't look at me like that."

"I wasn't…" You tug at your collar. "No, I just wanted to say, um, I think you're right. I'll talk to the Wind Court."


Madrigal scoffs darkly. "No you won't."

"Yes I— hey!" You stand and march over towards her. "Yes I will! Look! Does it look like I'm lying? Since you're so good at telling—"

"Uh…" She seems genuinely surprised.

«We will discuss this later.»

"Does it?"

«If only you put this energy towards anything remotely productive. It's like you're allergic.»

"No? I guess—" Madrigal rubs her eye. "—I guess I'm not used to you, uh— I didn't think you'd go for it. That's all. Gee."

"Well, so there," you say.

"Yep. Uh…" Madrigal gestures meaninglessly. "Shit, uh… I don't know, do you need… backup? I've dealt with enough of those sanctimonious shitbags, I can— don't tell them it's under Bran's property, would you? They're trigger-happy, I don't want her mixed up with—"

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"Mixed up with what?" Branwen cuts a striking figure in the doorway, standing ramrod-straight— her hat at a jaunty angle, her arms swamped by elbow-length gloves, her blouse and long skirt spattered with mud and… is that bone?

"Bran!" Madrigal stands; you scoot out of the way. "That was quick. You said you'd be ages."

"I was wrong, obviously." Branwen pulls her gloves off, one by one, and tosses them onto some unseen counter. "She give you trouble?"

"What? No." Madrigal rubs the back of her head. "Why would Charlotte—"

"You're jus' always on about how much of a bitch she is, that's all." Branwen shrugs. "Might be a bitch, but she got my snake back, so I can't give her too much guff. Even if she is a princess, too."

"Regent-in-waiting," you mumble.

"All look the same on a pike, that's what I think. You're doing okay, princess? No death up in your head?"

Is this a foreign expression, or just your mistranslation of her handsign? Madrigal looks murderous. "Branwen."

"I'm… okay," you say.

"Good. Your cup's gone. I'll get you another." Branwen immediately bustles into the other room. You twiddle your thumbs. She returns, a minute later, with another cup of the same blue substance. "It's not poisonous," she reiterates.

"It's really not," Madrigal says. "Just treat it like a gelatin shot, that's how I manage. Have you ever— no, you're too prissy. Proper, I mean."

You snatch the cup from Branwen and swig it in response. You're relieved to find the liquid tastes better than it smells: it's grassy and bitter, an acquired taste you could find yourself acquiring. It stings as it goes down. You cough, but only once.

You look up to see Branwen almost(!) smiling. "Guess you're wrong, Patty."

"I never said she wouldn't drink this," Madrigal complains, "I just bet she'd never had a gelatin shot—"

"Sounds like nitpickin' to me." Branwen sits in your place on the settee. "So? You two gonna stand there like sacks of shit, or you gonna have fun? After all that— and specially with your thing, Patty—"

Madrigal rubs her back. "Uh… I didn't come here to visit, really, but after that fucking disaster… I can stick around. I'm not drinking, though."

"That's good, don't got booze to spare."

"Shit, no booze? Is Sixeyes gone? I thought you got care packages—"

"Sixeyes' still around, he just gone and jacked his prices up to the sun. Got it in his head he's 'irreplaceable'—"

"Um," you say. "Am I invited?"

Madrigal glances down. Branwen adjusts her hat. "You're here, aintcha?"

"…Yes, but, uh…" You're not sure how you're supposed to articulate this. "…only because Madrigal brought me, I guess. I don't have to be— if I'm interrupting, uh, I can— I mean, I didn't want to be here, anyways. That's what I meant." Of course that's what you meant. What are you doing?

"So go, then." Branwen shrugs. "None of my business. Hope you know the way back."

"Yeah, you're invited," Madrigal says suddenly. "In fact, um, you have to be invited. I'm making you stay. Remember? You have to do what I say?"

"Uh," you stutter. You'd forgotten.

"Yeah, see? Nothing you can do. Now stay. God, you're a piece of work."

"Uh." Are you happy about this? What's wrong with you? Why would you want to be here— with these people— for any amount of time? You're better off alone, and you know this. You've always known this.

«Oh, that's not all, Charlie.» Richard is tight around your neck. «You know why she's offering, don't you.»

You don't.

«It's pity.»
«She pities you.»

You swallow.

>[A1] But… you want this. [Stay and shoot the shit with Madrigal and Branwen.]
>[A2] You can't want this. [Head back on your own.]

Whenever you get back, what's the first thing you'll be doing (besides 'being yelled at by Richard')? PICK ONE, you can do the rest later
>[B1] Confronting Richard about the bizarre Martin situation. Preferably in person.
>[B2] Heading out to the Wind Court outpost to inform them about Namway Co.
>[B3] Informing Monty that your next-door neighbor is incredibly suspicious.
>[B4] Running errands (shopping, paying your tab) in town… if you can figure out how to do so without being booted out and/or shotgunned.
>[B5] Working on your unfinished scale model.
>[B6] Write-in.

>[A1] But… you want this. [Stay and shoot the shit with Madrigal and Branwen.]

>>[B1] Confronting Richard about the bizarre Martin situation. Preferably in person.

>> [write in] Confront Richard about his identity as apparently his manager said he wasn't supposed to have one? Also the fact that apparently he has a snake manager who dies quality control on customer satisfaction?

> Belabour the point that we met a snake as our Mom and she was way cooler than him. Much less of a dick, still confusing AF but at least she acted like she loved us.

> Wonder if a snake copy of Richard would be nicer, like copy snake mom was.

We probably need Richard. But us he actively trying to drive us to self-destruction? Because it feels like that's what he's doing.

Fucking Tsundere's https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8Eq8TUki44&list=PLJC9pKqlityKJiftrVQ8JuOI-q59_mV0Y&index=2&t=0s

(Watch with Canadian subtitles for even MORE inside jokes)
>[A2] You can't want this. [Head back on your own.]
I'll show you pity.

>[B3] Informing Monty that your next-door neighbor is incredibly suspicious.
Rolled 2, 2 = 4 (2d2)

Called. Rolling twice, once for [A] and once for [B].
Alright, looks like we're doing [A2] / [B3]. Called and writing sporadically.

I'll save this write-in for whenever you get around to [B1], no worries.
Is Charlie not an unreliable narrator, and was Maddy actually inviting her out of pity?
Charlotte is unequivocally an unreliable narrator. She downplays, justifies, spins, and misremembers (or doesn't remember!) things all the time, usually to make herself feel better. Similarly, Richard constantly lies about, omits, misrepresents, and manipulates things to serve his own ends.

That being said... Charlotte isn't always wrong, and Richard isn't always dishonest. It varies with the situation. Which is all a long-winded way to say that you'll have to find that out in the quest! ;^).
>Fun is for the weak

Pity? What would you need pity for? You're doing fine— better than fine. You're doing great. Fantastic. Madrigal's the one that needs pity, with her, her stupid job and stupid friends and stupid drama, and— why would you need pity? God! You're a, a, a regent-in-waiting, and what's she? A stupid washed-up hick. God! Pity?

"…Go to hell," you snarl, and storm directly out. You don't catch the looks on their faces, but they were undoubtedly idiotic. "Well, fuck me for trying to—" is the last thing you hear, and then you emerge squinting into the sunny afternoon, and the door slams behind you.

You feel pretty cool.

>[+2 ID: 7/12]


The hike back to camp is peaceful, but not quiet— Richard makes sure of that. You're scarcely a minute out the door when he launches into a steady recitation of your every flaw and fault and moment of weakness. You don't agree with much of it, but you've given up arguing when he's in this mood: every time you try you end up stammering, or he talks directly over you, or your thoughts seem to warm and stick and run together, and you can't say anything at all. But you can't just tune him out, either: if you let your mind drift, an emphatic shock to your spine kicks you back to focus. You just have to stick it out.

You've heard it all before. Of course you have. But it still hurts, and by the time you trudge into camp you're in a ghastly mood.

>[-3 ID: 4/12]

It doesn't help, of course, that you're now covered head-to-toe in mud and brambles. You skirt the edges of camp to avoid untoward attention, find none, and— finally!— duck into your tent. You unbutton and untie your mucky coat, fling it onto your cot, and collapse face-first next to it.


Richard's tired himself out, or he's preparing more ammunition; you're not sure which. You're just happy to have your head to yourself for a second. God! What an awful, awful day. You're not dead, or crippled, or maimed— you were maimed, but it's all fixed now, so that doesn't count— you're not maimed, but that's about all you can say for it. God. It feels like it ought to be night, right about now, but it's still broad daylight outside. There's no way you can sleep. You still have to… do things.

You're profoundly resentful about your continued existence.

God! This isn't even a comfortable position, face-down on your cot: it puts awkward pressure on your chin, and your torn knees grate against the sprinkling of sand on the ground. You should stand. You stand. You should do something. But what? It seems like you have everything to do and nothing at all, at the same time.

«This is why I suggested you make a list, Charlotte.»

Right, your to-do list. Wherever you left it. Is it on your desk? In your desk? Under your bed? Searching for it is a cosmic-level task. You would rather die than search for it. You really would.

«I believe I mentioned 'incapable of simple tasks' back there, yes.»

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Shut up. You'll just make a new one. So there. You'll even put some damn effort into it. So there. Look, you'll just scratch it out on the back of your sewer map, still crumpled deep in your pocket. Here. Here. Is he happy?


-> Pay off tab
-> Buy new clothes
-> Blackmail M.L.
-> Don't get kicked out (letters?)
-> Do horse face's illegal courier job :-(
-> RSVP to business card?
-> Talk to Monty ab. Horse Face / getting dream murdered?
-> Finish the model
-> Figure out how to get Richard "normal" @ will — talk ab. me & M

-> Don't get shot…
-> Get stolen model back
-> Get radio (Ellery's?)
-> Recover The Sword
-> Recharge crown [0/16???]

-> Ellery's actual deal?
-> W.T.H. is Lester/Pat working for?? What does it want??
-> Whole deal w/ sword training... fake memory?? What/when/why/real??


«That is one hundred percent more question marks than necessary.»
«I do not understand what W.T.H. means.»

What The Hell, clearly.

«That is stupid.»
«I certainly do not understand your last arrow under the first column. It is nonsense.»

"Figure out how to get Richard "normal" @ will - talk ab. me & M"… well, yeah, it's… you know Richard's right there, winding around your wrist… but that doesn't mean he has to… it's a secret, okay?

«I see. The answer's just hanging there.»
«You want to impress upon me an addled state so I'll be more receptive to inane questions.»

…Well, not an addled state, that's not what you mean. Just… look, he seems different when he has a face. Not nicer, exactly, but warmer. More reasonable. More relatable. Is it wrong to-

«You wrote 'normal.' That is factually wrong. This, right now, is normal.»
«<That> is the unfortunate product of my nature, my location, and your ridiculous opinions. You are giving an absurd amount of notice to a freak of circumstance and I advise you cease before that leads you awry.»
«Moreover, I dislike it. It is bad for my functioning, and thus yours. It is like being drugged.»

You pause, smoothing the creases of the paper down. "Drugged with what?"


That is something you absolutely do not want to unpack, so you don't. You scan your list briefly, decide that prioritizing would deserve an arrow unto itself, and blindly pick a line instead. You open your eyes to discover your finger on "-> Talk to Monty…"

This is why you find yourself, moderately more groomed and marginally more chipper, in front of Monty's tent. You've just got to tell him about Horse Face, you remind yourself. That's it. My neighbor is a thief, please kick him out, sure I'll sign this form, thanks Monty, done. Easy. You enter without knocking.

"…idols, given sufficient, er, highly concentrated—" Green-sweater'd Monty is here, but he's not the one talking. Someone else here is talking. Someone tall, balding, in a grey longcoat.


"Charlotte?" Monty lifts his feet off his desk. "Uh, hi? I wish you'd… nevermind. Have you met Cameron?"

"Cameron?" you say incredulously. "I thought it was 'C.M.S.'."

"…The 'C' stands for that, yes." Horse Face has turned. "Hello, Charlotte. Following me? I'm flattered."

Monty scratches his neck. "Oh, I guess you guys have. Well, just in case, this is Mr. Cameron Garvin, transient, uh, what did you—"

"Cryptotheologist," Horse Face says pleasantly.

"Transient cryptotheologist— studies religions and whatnot. Very interesting. Say, Charlotte, has he given you the questionnaire? 'Is this hell'—"

"Uh, yeah. I said it wasn't. Excuse me, um…"

"Really? I think so." There's a hard set to Monty's close-lipped smile. "But maybe it's just for me. Have to make the most of it, in any case. Sorry, did you need something?"

Horse Face's gaze is burning holes in your skull.

>[A1] Yeah, could you speak to him… privately? It's kind of important.
>[A2] As above, but more imperious, to look better. You *will* speak to him privately.
>[A3] Maybe it's better to do this right to Horse Face's horse face. Stay here.

>[B1] Tell him about your stolen model and Horse Face's shiftiness.
>[B2] Mention the INCREDIBLY SUSPICIOUS courier deal. Which you accepted only as a front, uh, clearly. Yes. Haha.
>[B3] Let Monty know that you may have sicced a masked assassin person on him. By accident! Mostly by accident.
>[B4] Wonder pointedly why Monty would believe crackpot theories like the hell thing.
>[B5] Compliment Monty's green sweater.
>[B6] Subtly diss Monty's green sweater.
>[B7] Write-in.
>[A3] Maybe it's better to do this right to Horse Face's horse face. Stay here.
>[B1] Tell him about your stolen model and Horse Face's shiftiness.
>[B3] Let Monty know that you may have sicced a masked assassin person on him. By accident! Mostly by accident.
>[B4] Wonder pointedly why Monty would believe crackpot theories like the hell thing.
>[B5] Compliment Monty's green sweater.
>[A3] Maybe it's better to do this right to Horse Face's horse face. Stay here.

>[B4] Wonder pointedly why Monty would believe crackpot theories like the hell thing.
>[B5] Compliment Monty's green sweater.
This seems good.

Maybe we can discretely inform Monty that an assassin is looking for him?
>Make small talk

>Also accomplish current task(s)

Er... alright, you guys do you. Writing.

Trying to do that under the radar discreetly would need a roll, so I'll leave that to a different vote.
>Nice sweater

"Uh," you say. Horse Face is right there. You can't— you'll talk about other people behind their back all you like, but this is just uncomfortable. "I just— you really think this is hell? Like, the actual, literal—"

"It's all about how you define it, isn't it?" Monty toys with a desk ornament. "I don't know about 'the' hell, but as far as, uh, planes of punishment for the reprehensible… I'd say so, wouldn't you?"

Is he joking? His expression hasn't wavered. Horse Face is jotting something down in his little notepad. You fold your arms. "No? Nothing you just said is right."

He shrugs. "Don't like to dwell much on it, Charlotte. Puts a damper on things, yeah? Anyways, I assume you didn't come here to talk—"

You're half stalling, half genuinely curious. "No, really, what would give you that impression? I don't think— I mean, other people, sure, but I'm not reprehensible."

"…No, of course not," Monty says, after a long pause. "I suppose the requirements are rather lax, then. Still, uh—"

"I like your sweater," you say irritably. (It was a long pause.) "It's good with your complexion. The color."

"Thank you?" He glances down. "Oh, thanks! I try. Funny story, I used to wear nothing but suit jackets. It was only a few years ago that I—"

"You started wearing sweaters when you went to hell."

"Sure, if that's how you'd like to put it?" Monty leans back in his chair. "Did you come here to talk about this? I'm sorry, I really don't—"

Horse Face is still scribbling. You fold your arms. "I'm just saying that sounds pretty stupid. That and the 'planes of punishment'— what punishment, Monty? Where's all the torture? If this is hell, this is the worst— I want a refund. Where's the burning alive?"

"I think it veers more psychological, that's all." He looks pained, just for a second, before his eyes swallow it.

You drum your fingers. "Psychological."

"I'm hearing you object—"

"Is this about your dead wife?" Look at him! Look at his face! It's about his dead wife. He's remarkably good at the recovery, he's already back and smiling like nothing happened, but there was no mistaking the shadow that fell across him. It's about his dead wife, and it's still firmly on his mind. Woo! God, you're good.

>[+1 ID: 6/12]

"She had a name, you know," Monty says mildly.

"Whatever. So, what, dead wife died, you had a quarter-life crisis? Guilt? Crushing guilt? Am I getting warm? Hello?"

"Constance, not that you asked." He scratches the corner of his eye. "I know you didn't come here to talk about my wife, Charlotte. Is everything okay? You look kind of banged up. Do you need medical—?"

Damn. Did you not clean yourself up enough? "No, I'm fine. You're dodging the—"

"You went out with Madrigal, didn't you? Is she back yet?"

You scowl. "No."

"What? Is everything okay?" Monty knits his brow. "She's not hurt, is she?"

Can he not take a hint? "No, she's just… with a friend, that's all. I went back on my own."

"Hm. Alright." He fumbles for a writing utensil, finds one, and scratches out a note in the margins of a document. "As long as she's home by dusk, no reason to worry. Did everything go alright with her? I know you've had your… differences. And she can be difficult."

>[A] How did your trip with Madrigal go? (Write-in.)

>[B1] Monty is absolutely dodging the question. Press him about his personal life/weird complex, even if it bothers (or angers) him.
>[B2] Get to your point: the entire Horse Face situation. (In private or with Garvin there?)
>[B3] Get to your other point: the entire assassin situation. Lay it out. (In private or with Garvin there?)
>[B4] Just hint obliquely that Monty might be a target. No privacy required. You're definitely capable of this. [Roll.]
>[B5] The time isn't right. You can come back later. Retreat to your tent.
>[B6] Write-in.
>[B4] Just hint obliquely that Monty might be a target. No privacy required. You're definitely capable of this. [Roll.]
>[B2] Get to your point: the entire Horse Face situation. (In private or with Garvin there?)
With him there.
>[A] How did your trip with Madrigal go? (Write-in.)
Better than it could have gone, worse than it might have gone. Madrigal would probably be more illuminating.
It was eventful

>[B1] Monty is absolutely dodging the question. Press him about his personal life/weird complex, even if it bothers (or angers) him.

You know your wife would still be dead even if you were above the surface right? Does that make all of life hell for you?

>[B3] Get to your other point: the entire assassin situation. Lay it out. (In private or with Garvin there?)
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling between laying it out and hinting obliquely. I'll compromise between [B1] and letting it drop.
>But that's wrong
>Hey BTW he's a thief and you might get assassinated

"…I suppose it could've gone worse," you say. "Could've gone better, but could've gone worse. It was, um, eventful."

"Oh?" Monty raises his eyebrows. "You were only gone for a few hours, weren't you? What could you possibly have—"

You don't want to get into it. "Better to ask Madrigal."

"Alright, will do." He jots something else down. "Will that be all?"


"No? I'm sorry, it's just that—"

You stuff your hands in your pockets. "Your reasoning makes no damn sense. You know your wife would still be dead if you weren't here, right? Those aren't remotely related. Unless you'd like to cop out and say it was all metaphorical—"

"Charlotte…" Monty rubs his forehead. "What will it take for you to start acting like—"

You square your shoulders. "Like what? All I see is you subscribing to crackpot— no offense, Horse Face. Crackpot theories about—"

"Oh, no, none taken. I don't have a personal stake in the matter." Horse Face waves his crayon reassuringly.

"Constance died here." Monty has dropped his smile completely. "Charlotte."

This does blow a minor hole in your assertion. "Oh. Well, how was I supposed to know—"

"It's not uncommon knowledge, but I suppose nobody told you. In either case…" He shrugs. "It'd be best if you dropped the subject. If you don't have any business, the door's open."

Dammit. It's now or never. "He stole my… thing, and you might get assassinated. That's my business. Okay?"

"…" He closes his eyes. "Sorry, what? Are these related?"

"No! They're just— that's my business. You wanted it."

"Alright. 'Him' as in… Cameron? Mr. Garvin? Here?"

"Yeah! He stole my— and he snuck into my tent! I'm not kidding! So can you please, I don't know, kick him out? Or whatever?"

"…Cameron, do you know what she's…"

"Afraid so." Horse Face finally looks up from his notepad. "Colossal misunderstanding. I was looking about for my tent, inadvertently picked the wrong one, and wound up in hers. Paused for a second to examine her beautiful collection of sculptures, and in she came. I cleared out immediately."

"More like he snuck into my tent, looked around like a weirdo, and stole my— they're not sculptures, they're… models. Or miniatures. And he stole the one I was… doing."

Monty sighs deeply. "Do you have evidence?"

"He was sneaking around in my tent, and then I found it missing? And then he acted super suspicious? What the hell else do you—"

"I can't evict people based on coincidence, Charlotte. Did you steal the whatever, Cameron?"

"Garvin, please," Horse Face says awkwardly. "But of course not."

"Okay, so it's he said, she said. Great. I'll file a report, but I can't do anything without evidence or at least a pattern of behavior. System's ripe for abuse otherwise. Mr. Garvin, please don't mess with other people's stuff— we try to be civilized. Everything clear?"

Horse Face nods. You frown. "Seriously? You can't even search his things?"

"Is it a valuable?"

"Well, not exactly but—"

"I have one arm and limited patience, Charlotte. If something else goes missing, or you catch him again, or you find evidence, don't hesitate to let me know."

This is what you get for trusting authority, huh.

>[TO-DO COMPLETED: Talk to Monty ab. Horse Face]

"As for your other issue— I'm sorry, Mr. Garvin, I hate to wholly cut short our conversation, but—"

"Not to worry, not to worry. I can always bore you some other time." Horse Face laughs genially at his own un-joke. "I'll clear out."

And he does, leaving you and Monty alone. Monty puts his feet back up on his desk. "Assassinated, huh?"

You cough nervously. "Um, yes. Not— not by me. I wasn't threatening you."

"Well, that's good, Charlotte. I was fearing for my life for a second." He idly runs his finger under his collar. "If not you, who?"

"Uh… a person." He opens his mouth. "Like, a disguised— big black cloak thing, gold mask, giant axe. He or she just sort of showed up… in my head, I guess, and they— I mean, they were gonna kill me if I didn't give them, um… a thing."

More note-taking. "Hm. You're alive, clearly. Did you give the thing over?"

"No, I, uh…" You purse your lips. "…I said you had the thing. On accident! On accident. I just panicked, and I said the first thing I thought of to make it stop, and— I mean, it was you, so— you might get assassinated— sorry."

>[TO-DO COMPLETED: Talk to Monty ab. assassination]

You prepare for withering disappointment, but Monty just chuckles and shakes his head. "There's worse tactics. I'll be fine, but thanks for letting me know. That's very nice of you."

What? You scoff. "It wasn't 'nice'— it was— I was saving your life!"

"I would've been able to handle myself, but I commend your good intentions. Advance warning always helps. How about that?"

"But you're… I mean, you have one arm! And you're… well…" He's too nice, is the issue, too nice and too bland. He'd get cleaved in half. "…you know?"

"Huh." Monty glances past you. "Would you like to sit down? There's a chair in the corner— you can drag it over."

"What?" you say. "I'm fine."

"Please sit down."

Oh, a classic non-question-question. You love when people pull that. You drag the chair over and sit down.

"Believe it or not, I used to be your age. I know how it feels. You're young, you've got everything to prove, you think you know all there is to know— and you're the only one to know it."

You stuff your hands in your pockets. "Are you lecturing me?"

"You also hate people lecturing at you. Here, I'll cut to the point, Charlotte. You've got to learn to be a suck-up."

Whatever you were expecting, it wasn't that. You slide back in confusion. "What?"

"It's going to feel like hell, and you're going to find lots of excuses not to. It's beneath you. It's not your true, authentic self. You don't even like these people. Am I getting warm?"

"None of your business?"

"Are you current methods working? The one-upsmanship. The constant, uh, needling. Barreling past all sane boundaries. Are these producing a lot of healthy relationships?"

You stare balefully at him.

"You don't exist in a vacuum, Charlotte, and it's been three-quarters of a year. People pick up on certain things, even if you try to avoid speaking to them. I showed you your folder?"

You stare balefully at the wall behind him.

"You can consider this a wake-up call if you want, but this is, what— the third in three days? Then again, I'm not sure the others inspired much. Let me know if I'm wrong."

You stare balefully at the ground.

"Not wrong, then. Uh, you have a week to get five letters of recommendation or you're evicted."

This gets your attention. "What?" you sputter.

"I don't recall if I set a date on that, and I just got another notice from Margo, so there you go. You get a week from today. Go be a suck-up." He pauses. "Don't try to threaten anyone into it, or I'll hear about it. Bribes are fine. Deal?"

Another non-question-question. If you refuse, you're evicted anyhow. You scowl.

>[-1 ID: 5/12]

"Alright, then."

>[A] Anything to add or retort with? (Optional write-in.)

Pick ONE thing to accomplish before you enter a week of timeskip*. (You'll be able to do the others during the week.)

>[B1] Confronting Richard about the bizarre Martin situation. Preferably in person.
>[B2] Heading out to the Wind Court outpost to inform them about Namway Co.
>[B3] Writing and delivering the blackmail letter to Margo.
>[B4] Running errands (shopping, paying your tab) in town… if you can figure out how to do so without being booted out and/or shotgunned.
>[B5] Working on your unfinished scale model.
>[B6] Write-in.

*Meaning it won't be hour-by-hour like it has been, and less important actions will be summarized. More important actions will be played through as usual. More details when you enter it.
No comeback, except knocking something over in the way out the door
>>[B4] Running errands (shopping, paying your tab) in town… if you can figure out how to do so without being booted out and/or shotgunned.
might as well be vaguely responsible.
how can we have a week of timeskip if we have a week till eviction? you can't give us one day to get 5 letters! that's impossible!

Also Constance died down here? I didn't think it was possible to die down here.
> Telling someone trying to be friends to fuck off went well, I see.
Read the *-- it's less "skip to the end of the week" and more "accelerated timeflow for that week." I just don't have a catchy way of saying that. You'll have opportunity to get the letters, as well as to go through the rest of your list and start investigating good ways to fill your crown.

People don't seem to age, and wounds heal a lot faster than normal, but head injury, organ trauma or poison still kill. Blood loss... kills the person, if not their body. Going nuts and wandering off in the night, never to be seen again, is also fairly common.

Most people who survive drowning end up dying in a month or less due to some combination of shock/stress/isolation/mauled by wild animals. The surest way to make it is to find a companion, settlement, or traveling camp, as safety (and sanity) in numbers is a huge deal. This is all a major reason why you don't want to be evicted-- you've hacked it on your own before, but it was deeply unpleasant, and Richard is the about the only reason you made it through.

As we know, Charlotte is a master of social interaction.
I'll also note that you saw Ellery getting his chest blown open with a shotgun. (Sure, it didn't stick, but that was explicitly bizarre.) You also found a corpse on your way to Branwen's and a metric ton of bones in the alligator cave.
Yeah but in this weird underwater realm those could just as easily have been imaginary bones.
Sure, but that'd mean someone spent a ton of time and energy reality-proofing their fake cave bones. In either case, the corpse was certainly real. (It was a brief encounter sandwiched between two higher-stake events, so I don't blame it not coming to mind.)
>Be responsible

There's nothing left to say. You stand huffily, knocking your chair over in the process, and storm out. "Have a nice evening," Monty calls behind you.

«You handled that poorly.»

You brush Richard off your shoulder. "Like you were helping."

«I was preoccupied. Admittedly, it was absurd to think you could handle the slightest thing alone when you've consistently proven otherwise. I believe I told you some of the other occasions earlier.»
«Speaking of which, here's your reminder that you broke my trust and failed to accomplish the idiot-proof task of capturing the law.»
«You will never leave. You will have to live here, with these people, until you decompose.»

Here's the truth: you had thought, for a day or two, that that wouldn't be so bad. That as long as you has the assurance of leaving— someday— you could find some meaning in the hand you'd been dealt. You could make yourself be useful. You could even tolerate other people.

No longer. Madrigal knows your secret, and pities you for it. Monty… you don't understand Monty. Branwen is strange. Eloise is untrustworthy. Ellery is more enigma than person. Horse Face is Horse Face. Margo wants to kill you. The Court wants to arrest you. You have given up on Pat. You have burned bridges with Jacques and Hedy and God knows who else.

You just want to go home. You could stand the indignities, the loneliness, the boredom. You could stand not being queen— you're not even sure they'd accept the crown as legitimate. (They would. They probably would. But still.) Hell, you could stand Richard. You just need to be back, is all.

«There's only one way to accomplish that.»


«I am glad you're newly opened to the possibility, though it has taken a stunning amount of time.»
«Tragically, there is still the matter of the execution. We will discuss your options when I have prepared them.»


You stumble into your tent in a fugue. You feel vaguely judged by the half-finished model shoved into the drawer, by the disastrous condition of your coat on the bed, by just how God-damn empty the place is— minimalist. You mean minimalist. Why don't you purchase something to spruce the place up, Charlotte? You would, if you weren't broke.

Wait, you're not broke. You have Horse Face's entire advance, which is actually a substantial amount of money. (Is cryptotheologist a lucrative vocation?) It's enough to purchase an entire nice set of clothes, or commission a painting, or… to pay off your bar tab. If that was something you needed to do. Hypothetically.

«Quick reminder that you're blacklisted from the entirety of Lindew's Landing.»

So you are. Dammit! It'll have to wait until everything's resolved. Or… you could figure something else out.


(Choices next.)
How are you going to be able to purchase things without being shot?
>[A1] You'll disguise yourself, somehow. You do have extra ratty clothes under your bed, but… that's about it. You'll have to innovate. (How do you disguise yourself? Write-in.)
>[A2] You'll send a surrogate in your stead. Someone willing to shop for you. Like… you don't know, someone. (Who do you ask? Write-in.)
>[A3] You'll wait until the dead of night. Of course, the businesses will probably be closed, but… you know? Maybe?
>[A4] You'll have a hand-written letter sent in. It's theoretically safest, but you won't be able to do the shopping (or paying) in person— you might be misunderstood, or scammed. And you'll pay extra for delivery.
>[A5] Write-in.

What are you actually going to do with your money? (Pick one.)
>[B1] Purchase a functional, fashionable set of clothes. (Nobody here meets the second requirement, but surely there's something.) You only have one outfit that isn't falling apart, and parts of it are… impractical for your needs. [Check off your list. Feel good. Wearing the new outfit may provide situational bonuses.]
>[B2] Purchase a fancy objet d'art for your tent. The place really does need something, and the skimmers over in the mud flats are always dredging up fascinating little artifacts. [Feel good. Possible ambient ID gain. ???]
>[B3] Pay off your entire tab. It won't mend things with Jacques, but possibly he won't scream at you. And you miss the Better Than Nothing. [Check off your list. Bar reopens. Jacques will be available for a letter of rec, but will need further convincing.]
>[B4] Write-in.

>[A1] You'll disguise yourself, somehow. You do have extra ratty clothes under your bed, but… that's about it. You'll have to innovate. (How do you disguise yourself? Write-in.)

Dress up like we're Eloise. Is she not also blonde and short? Just make sure to cover our face.

Eloise has dark brown hair and is of average height, but the former doesn't matter much: it's usually covered by her omnipresent cloak. You don't own anything that looks like it.

You could:
>Ask Eloise if she'd let you borrow it (she has a sense of humor and would probably go for it, but she'd want something in return)
>Try to steal it from Eloise's tent (you're pretty sure she has multiple)
>Wear something vaguely cloak-ish and try to pass it off as her mixing it up

Up to you.
A1: Don the ratty clotthing, ripping up a sleeve and wrapping it around the head. They cover story will be: tragic victim of leprosy.

>Ask Eloise if she'd let you borrow it (she has a sense of humor and would probably go for it, but she'd want something in return)

If she has multiple she won't want too much in return right?

Now to find elevator shoes.

So weird that she isn't blond though, I could have sworn she was.
seconding all of this
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>A1 (eloise) / B2

>A2 (leprosy) / B3

Called for B3.

Yeah, I'm not sure. You and Richard are the only major blonde characters. Pat's real(?) face, Martin, and Winifred Givens were also blonde, but it'll be a while before you see them again, if ever. I could autistically list everybody's exact hair color, but I don't think anybody actually cares.

While I'm here, here's some updated references for people you probably will see again soon-- spent last night sketching these up. Pic related.
>Disguise yourself (fashionably)
>Pay your tab

No, you will. You know exactly how to take care of this, in fact.


«This is ludicrous.»

You are staring at yourself in the mirror shard. You look like a bound corpse. You look like a scrap heap. You look like someone viciously attacked by their own laundry. You've managed to clean out your entire portmanteau. It's perfect.

Ignoring Richard, you tuck a lock of hair under a pant leg and shift a sleeve so only your bad eye is exposed. (The dramatic effect is worth the blurriness.) Yes. Perfect.

«How do you possibly hope to justify this.»

You've been horribly burned by a steam vent. Your face was torn off in a primitive swamp ritual. You have leprosy. Easy.

Could Richard make your fingers fall off if you needed to prove the leprosy?


Killjoy. Well, whatever. You won't have to prove it. It's good enough as is.


Stepping outside in the late Corcass afternoon feels like you're being steamed alive, and that's when you're not covered five layers of clothing. Within two minutes, you're sweating. Your only saving grace is that everybody else is, sensibly, indoors: you are alone on your way to town.

Lindew's Landing is similarly deserted, though there's a low ruckus trickling in from either side of its main (only) street. From the sounds of it, there's several parties happening at once. Nobody else might be shopping, which would be ideal. But…

Your gaze lands on the Better Than Nothing's hand-painted sign. You sigh. Clothes aren't going anywhere. (That, and you may never want to wear clothes again. You'd assume the sweat slides off into the water, but it sticks..)

You sidle over to its swinging door and tentatively push it open. You immediately regret your decision. Jam-packed into the tiny space are 30 mud-skimmers (dirt, overalls, brawny forearms) in varying stages of inebriation. You can just barely spot Jacques behind the bar, and his wife (Phoebe?) frantically serving drinks. Was there a big find?

It's only after you wade over to the bartop that anybody pays you notice. Jacques glances over his shoulder, once, then does a double-take. He hastens over. "…Can I help you, uh… ma'am?"

He doesn't recognize you! Or he does, and is pretending not to, but you'll stick with the first option. The world is your oyster.

>[1] Just do what you came here to do. Dislodge your disguise and pay up.
>[2] Order a drink.
>>[A] A pink… whatever it is. With umbrella.
>>[B] A martini. (With umbrella? Do they come with umbrellas?)
>[3] Inquire about the business with the skimmers.
>[4] Ask, suavely, about the whole silly business with the "letters of recommendation," and so on.
>[5] Write-in.
>[1] Just do what you came here to do. Dislodge your disguise and pay up.
>[3] Inquire about the business with the skimmers.
>[3] Inquire about the business with the skimmers.

We just got this disguise! I want to use it for more than one post.
In the interest of moving the story forward, I'm going to personally tiebreak this option in favor of >>4276127. I'll make sure you have other opportunities to disguise yourself in the future. (You're not blowing your cover to anybody but Jacques, who is reliable.)

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>Yeah, what's going on?
>Dramatic reveal

You extend one hand out of your cocoon and silently sign "What's going on?"

Jacques wipes his forehead with a rag. "Not entirely clear, ma'am. Whole lot swept in here at once, practically cleaned out the top shelf. If you ask me, I think someone struck it big."

"Big, as in…"

"Can't get a word in edgewise to ask, but I'm not sure they'd tell. Big vein of chit? Of crystal? Whole preserved city, under the mud? Word'll get out soon enough, whatever it is, and then the real storm will come. That's what I think. Can I get you something?"

Two martinis was enough for you, and anyways, you're technically here on business. You shake your head and tug some of your head wrapping down, enough to show your good eye and a sliver of your skin. Jacques frowns deeply. "Charlotte?"

You rummage around in your pockets for the bag of chit. By the time you look up, Jacques is already across the bar, studiously making a drink that involves a lot of noisy shaking. His back is turned to you. Undeterred, you follow him over and line yourself up squarely in his peripheral vision.

He finishes the drink, slides it onto the counter, and finally returns to you. "I thought it might be you," he says testily. "Not too many one-eyed girls around here. Not too many duplicitous midgets, either. You need to go."

You start to respond (something along the lines of 'my height is perfectly normal' with shades of 'you're not tall, either'), then think better of it. You drop the bag of chit on the bartop.

Jacques picks it up suspiciously. He weighs it in his hands. He pours a little out onto his hand and rolls the granules around in his palm. He glances up. "This is genuine."

"Yeah?" It's impossible to counterfeit chit, though that doesn't stop people from trying. "I wouldn't give you fake stuff, Jacques."

"Coulda fooled me. Did you steal it?"

You scoff. "No."

"Scammed someone outta it?"

"No! I—" you glance over your shoulder. "—I worked for it. God."

"Earned this in a day. I bet. Couldn't work for all your drinks, though? Six months?"

Still resolutely antagonistic. No surprise there. You tuck a wrapping back over your eye. "Well, I just did, didn't I? Take it. It's for the tab."

The bag vanishes into Jacques' apron pocket. He wipes his forehead again. "Fine. We're square. You should still go."

"Jacques!" you protest.

He leans over the bartop. "I've told you, a dive bar's no place for ladies. Especially not when ladies have been blacklisted, disguise or no disguise. You looking to be lynched? Shot? Eaten?"

"I'm not going to—!" you protest. "I'm being careful!"

"Be more careful. Go. Don't speak to anyone."

(Choices next.)
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>[A1] But… you need to know the latest hearsay! How will you stay up-to-date otherwise?
>[A2] But… you need him to sign a piece of paper for you! Your housing is at stake!
>[A3] Just go.

Whenever you get back, you'll be sweltering, exhausted, and emotionally spent. It'll be barely dusk. You're going to call it an early night (especially since you're mentally ~4 hours ahead). This'll initiate the ""timeskip.""
>[B1] You'd like to do something before you sleep. [Write-in. Must be contained to your tent + not take too long.]
>[B2] You're done.
A2, because dignity is still on the table.
B1, Pray to whoever's out there, not like there's much left to lose
>[A2] But… you need him to sign a piece of paper for you! Your housing is at stake!
>[B2] You're done.
>A1 AND A2

>Both A1/A2

Called and writing. You'll do a smidge of [B1] when you have the chance.
>But uh Jacques I need uh this uh thing

You lean obsequiously over the bartop. "But Jacques, I…"

He shakes his head, mutters something inaudible ("I've got drinks to make," maybe), and turns away again.

«For once, you've been offered some useful advice. This place is beneath your station. There is nothing for you here.»

You drum your fingers. It might be below your station, but you don't have a wealth of alternatives— it's not called the "Better Than Nothing" for nothing. Anyhow, you're not here for a drink, honest. You're just trying to not get evicted.

«It wouldn't be so bad.»
«You were only here for the crown. You have it. You can go anywhere.»

You thought you were going to be with these people until you decomposed.

«Yes. That's the outcome of your plan.»
«In which you attempt to cozy up to people whom you hate, and who hate you.»
«Despite you being incapable of friendliness or, indeed, normal social functioning.»
«But I'm sure it will go well.»

It's better than eviction. (The cold of it. The wet of it. The terror.) That's all there is to it.

«Don't come crying to me, then.»

You drum harder. Jacques is zesting something that might be an orange, if you squinted. He glances up at you. "Go."

"I— look." You slide a folded piece of paper onto the bartop. "I just need you to write something really quick. Super quick."

Jacques shakes his head.

"It's really important."

He shakes his head harder.

"I— listen, okay? All you have to do is write something about how great I am and how you'd really, really miss me if I was, say, forced out. Into exile. In the wilderness. And then sign it. Just a real quick note. Jacques, come on."

This (or the fact he grated his knuckle open) finally gets him to stop zesting. "Maybe I don't want to do that."

"Yes you do," you sign firmly.

"Paying your tab means things are square. Doesn't mean they're good."

This is ridiculous. You barely did anything. And the thing you did do— well— that got resolved, didn't it? Look at all the traffic he's getting.

>[1] God. Does he want an *apology*? Fine. You can do that. You're good at that. You're great at that. Apologize (insincerely).
>[2] So you're not sorry about what you did. You're sorry he's mad about it, at least. You can apologize for that part, probably. Right? Apologize (sincerely, kind of). [Roll.]
>[3] Aim for the pity points. Look at you. Look at *you*. He wants to send you off to die?
>[4] Look, is there anything you can do for him? Can you, like, pay him? More?
>[5] Can he just sign the paper? You can write the rest of the message in yourself.
>[6] Write-in.
>[6] Write-in
Richard is right. We served our purpose here, the only thing we need is a snake, and we'll have a snake before we get evicted.
I assume by this you mean obtaining a snake for Pat, like you voted on earlier in the thread?
If so, I'm not 100% sure what you intend by this write-in. You could reverse your decision on that, sure, but it wouldn't have much effect on the possibility of eviction-- unless you were trying to get evicted then crash at Pat's place, I guess, but you only just met the woman, and you don't know where she lives.

Is there something I'm missing?

>[2] So you're not sorry about what you did. You're sorry he's mad about it, at least. You can apologize for that part, probably. Right? Apologize (sincerely, kind of). [Roll.]

>"For once I've been offered some useful advice? But Richard, you offer me advice constantly. Ohoho. Ohohohohohohoho."
All we need here is a snake, Richard is right that there's nothing else in this settlement for us.

What does it matter for the eviction?
Why do we need a snake again?
Are you saying that all you need is Richard?
While this is true, in that you wouldn't die if you got kicked out, Charlotte has other reasons to fight the eviction-- namely, being on her own, with Richard, sucks. She's done it before, for multiple months at a time, and it sucks to such an extent that she'd sacrifice her pride over doing it again. She is absolutely in hard denial about being "better off alone."

If you're firmly against getting the letters, you can vote to attempt negotiation with Monty or to tackle the root of the problem instead (going after Margo)-- if your blackmail works, you may not even have to complete this. But throwing up your hands and going "nvm I'm outta here" doesn't work.

If I'm still misunderstanding, let me know.
Kay. Let's go with this.

>Roll me 3 1d100s vs DC 45 (-5 Soft Spot) to produce a legitimate and convincing apology.
Rolled 90 (1d100)

Rolled 100 (1d100)

Rolled 21 (1d100)

>Crit success
Oh, boy. Rolling the last for expediency, just in case it's a 1.
>90, 100, 21 vs. DC 45 - Crit Success

>Apologize (semi-genuinely)
>90, 100, 21 vs. DC 45 - CRIT SUCCESS

…But while you might be correct, you do need his help. And you know what? You are sorry. You're sorry he's mad at you, because it's making this a massive pain.

So that's what you say, albiet a smidgen more delicately. You're rather proud: you did the decent thing— you apologized— but at no cost to yourself. You can leave with your head held high, your pride intact, and a stupid letter in your hand. Richard is so wrong about you. You're great at handling—

Jacques is looking less enthused than you are, for some reason. Shaking his head, he slides the piece of paper back towards you. He's muttering again, but you're a good lip-reader: "Girl was... not brought up right."

"What?" you say. (You're all clammy, all of a sudden.) "I was brought up right. I was brought up great. Better than- better than you, probably. You're a- I mean, you're just a- a bartender, and I'm a—"

"I've heard," Jacques says dryly. He slings his towel over his shoulder. "Try not to broadcast it to the crowd, will you? They're gonna notice drinks aren't being made any minute now. And no, I was brought up well."

"You have a towel."

"I was taught how to keep my damn mouth shut, for example. How to apologize properly. How not to start vile rumors. Take your paper and go."

You don't take the paper. "I was brought up great," you say, a little hysterically.

"Sure? Seems you were raised by dead sharks, you ask me. Who did such a bad job with you?"

Your aunt, you'd say, though it wasn't her fault. She had an entire household riding on her shoulders, what with your mother indisposed half the time and frantic the other. There were savings, but not enough to hire help: the doctors ate into it, as did the house falling apart. And there was a certain reputation to maintain, even improve. She did teach you things— important things, things about respect, and status, and certain kinds of people— but largely you were left alone.

You didn't say this. You were searching for a way to say this that made you sound well-raised, at first. And then you started to cry.

Why? Great question. You wish you knew. You had settled on providing a pithy example, to really rub in Jacques' face how great things were, but as you combed your childhood memories you kept turning up… fragments.

Picking pills off a woolen suit.
Ink and cologne and wet earth.
'Red Do The Roses Grow.'
A rickety iron table. Two chairs.
"*Before* the before, there was no water at all—"

Nothing of relevance, much less use, but nevertheless lodged in your memory. The mind works in mysterious ways, you rationalize. Nothing to be concerned about.

Except you're crying.

And it's not even— you're not even sad. It's pure reflex. What the hell?

«Did I—»
«No, it wasn't me.»

Great. That doesn't change much: you're still just standing here, dumbly, tears welling up in your good eye. Jacques is stirring something. He stops. "Are you crying?"

You shake your head vigorously, more glad than ever for your disguise. He can't prove you're crying.

He squints. He fishes reading glasses from his apron pocket and squints again. "You're crying."

It's concern disguised as curt statement of fact, which is to say business as usual with Jacques. You shouldn't bat an eyelash at it. But your guard is already down, and it has been a long and complicated day. And, after everything you've done, and been, he's still concerned—

You fall to pieces.

Jacques does not believe that you aren't crying, seriously, does he see tears?, you just have the hiccups, it's nothing, you'll be fine in a second. He believes that it's been a long day, but you're not even drunk, Charlotte, so what is it this time? Boy troubles? You are struck by threefold horror at this inquiry, as 1) you have not had "boy troubles" ever; 2) unless he counts Richard as a boy; 3) you would have to explain all of this to a man older than your father— so you just stammer out something about a difficult excursion and hope he leaves it there.

He shouts some profanities at a rowdy couple of skimmers, then doesn't leave it there… and, somehow, you end up telling him about your day. The important parts: not the specifics, and nothing too strange (or incriminating), but the deserved victories, and the undeserved defeats, and the injustices, grand and petty. Jacques frequently cuts you off to take orders, so you spend a full hour off-and-on nursing a seltzer. At some point, you work in a teary apology. It's worse than your first attempt, on account of being genuine. Jacques quirks an eyebrow.

You leave more conflicted than you came. You are deeply concerned about multiple factors: what are you doing, crying in front of others? Why'd you have to go and say all that? (It was actually good to get things off your— shut up!) And why, oh, why, did Jacques change his mind? He said he'd send the letter in tomorrow. Because "you're just a girl."

"You're just a girl"! The worst thing you could've imagined, and barely an answer. Not only is it untrue (you're 23), it also smacks strongly of pity. Pity! You'd prefer to choke.

But what could you do? You couldn't reject what you'd explicitly asked for, and furthermore need. And maybe it wasn't pity. Maybe it's just because Jacques is 60-something, and you also masterfully plucked his heartstrings, or whatever. Yeah. Yeah, that sounds right.

God, you'll be happy to put this all behind you.

When it isn't 3 AM, etc. Second half will consist of the end of the day.
oh no, not more pity. at least we got mysterious flashbacks
Thanks for running.

So. Uh. Do you personally, as the writer, dislike Charlie?
As a character? Of course not. I enjoy writing her and her interactions, or I wouldn't be writing her at all.

As a person? She's a really bad mix of bitchy, delusional, and at times viciously and unexpectedly cruel. Spending time around her reveals she's actually rather emotional and socially awkward, but she fends off attempts to relate to her through that. Add to that her grating elitism and all-around bad attitude, and, from an outside perspective, she's really just not pleasant to be around.

Learning more about her (her family situation, her actual social standing, and especially Richard) brings a lot of perspective to why she behaves like she does, and why she can't just... act... like a normal person. A lot of it is still inbuilt, and a lot of her actions remain inexcusable-- it's unclear if she'd ever be nice, or good-- but if you're able to see her as a lonely, immature, emotionally abused young adult, it's a lot easier to be sympathetic.

So no, I don't hate her as a person, either-- but there's good reasons why other characters might. Yeah?
'Cause I *kinda* do. She acts like a 13yo lol.

Might as well lean into it and play an evil character.
She's certainly emotionally underdeveloped, yeah. I don't write her to be likable as a person, but if her motives are understandable, and her narration is more entertaining than irritating, I don't take issue with anybody hating her. If she's actively impeding readers' enjoyment of the quest, though, I'll have to reevaluate how I go about things. That's what's most important!
I mean, it was good to see some character progression.

Hey, I played Valen Quest where the only person the players dislike more than the MC is themselvesthe Thot who brainwashed their cousin.

Also a Whisp Adept.

And this guy named Raid.

Also an entire town of people, replacing the old town of people (Carona).

I'm actually pretty impressed with how well you write an unlikable character.

You discard your disguise off the side of the trail, resolving to carry the clothes in your arms the rest of the way. You're pleased about going undiscovered, but displeased about the amount of time you spent in the open— rumors are bound to fly. Well, whatever. As long as it's not traced back to you.

Your tent is blessedly cool. You putter about, packing your clothes away and straightening papers and attempting, in general, to compose yourself. You scoop the strange business card on the floor and put in on your desk, only to reconsider. Wasn't the invitation for… today? Or tomorrow, maybe? You flip the card over to double-check.

The message has changed. "Due To Scheduling Conflicts * Meeting Postponed to NEXT Thirdsday * Thank you."

A week from now, then. Huh. (Didn't Ellery have one of these cards, back in his tent? What was up with that?)

You'll deal with it when it comes. For now, you return to tidying up.

«What are you doing.»

What does it look like?

«There is still daylight. You have plenty of things to accomplish. Accomplish them.»

You'd prefer not to. You feel like they'd all go wrong, somehow. Get all twisted up. You're going to tidy up, and then you're going to bed, daylight or no.

«You will ravage your sleep schedule.»

Your sleep schedule can go to hell. What had Richard said? "For once you've been offered some useful advice?" At least he acknowledges his doesn't count.

«That was excluding myself, clearly. Don't be stupid.»

Hey, but you're right. Heh heh.

>[+1 ID: 7/12]

After getting everything appropriately settled, you triple-check that the door is tied, and that Richard isn't watching, then undress. You shimmy on the blouse you use as nightclothes. You sit on the side of your cot.

How was today? Less complicated than yesterday, at least, except for the… Martin thing. You'd just about adjusted to Richard being a person, for some reason, and then you had to go and find out he was a… specific person. That you don't remember. That mattered. God! You'll figure it out in the morning. You shouldn't dissect things. It doesn't make you happy. Today wasn't better, but largely it was less complicated, and you didn't kill anybody. You're leaving it at that.

Sleep doesn't come fast. You toss, you turn, you block out the dwindling sunlight with a pair of old slacks. But it does, eventually, come.

You dream.

File: richard polo.jpg (23 KB, 279x400)
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The man in white is here, in the dark, at the tapestry. You know him. He is Richard. He is not Richard. The eyes are different. The man in white is Martin, years- maybe a decade- younger.

"Why?" you say, though your voice is too high, too raspy. "Why are you here? Why is he-" The man in red, Henry, is gone. "-oh. He doesn't matter."

"He matters to me, Ramona," Martin says. "Not to you. You've only met him once or twice."


"Is that wrong?"

You look at yourself. You are bony and leggy and wearing blue. Your hair is dark and bobbed. "No," you say. It's not wrong.

"It is your mind. But it is her blood." Martin pauses. "It's easy to be what you are. And it's difficult to be what you aren't."


"But not impossible."

"Oh." You understand. You run a sharp fingernail around the skin of your neck. It loosens, and you wriggle it off. It falls to the floor.

You are not Ramona anymore. But you aren't you, either.

Martin is smoking. "Try again."

This skin is thinner, drier. It sloughs off in great sheets and rolls. You can see your veins. You can see your heart. But you still aren't you.

"One more time. It doesn't hurt, does it."

Your third skin is translucent, gummy, and fixed to your muscle. You scrape, to no avail, and tug, and slice. In the end, you resort to working from the inside. You writhe, and thrash, and shake yourself free- and finally it is you.

Were you always a snake?

"Excellent," Martin says. "It's the only thing that makes sense. Now y-"

He disperses like mist. Someone has stepped out of the tapestry and right through him. He's stepped through- no. It's Richard. Richard is here.

He's in a pink polo shirt and khakis. His sunglasses are perched on his head. He looks at you groggily. "Charlie. Get out of there."

"I can't," you say, your voice coming from somewhere other than your mouth. "This is me."

"It's the middle of the damn night, Charlie. This is my break. Get out of there."

"...I don't know how."

Richard pushes his sunglasses down, grabs your un-wrist, and yanks. You stumble forward, breathing heavily. You are in your proper body. "O-oh. That was- that was-"

"Unrealistic tripe? Yes. That's not how it works." He releases your wrist. "Aren't you lucky I'm here."

"I thought..." You rub your wrist. "I thought you were mad at me."

He grins, sharklike. "Oh, I am."

"Then why would you-"

"Best not to let this kind of nonsense take root, or you get all sorts of complications. You can wake up now."


You wake up. It's still dark. You can barely make out Richard, who hovers before your nose.

«Now go back to sleep.»
«It's 1 AM.»
«Don't dream this time.»

You go back to sleep, after a while. You don't dream.


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You bolt upwards, wide awake. It remains dark. Ravage your sleep schedule, indeed— what time is it?

«5:27.» Richard, coiled on your desk, cracks open a beady eye. «I believe this is a 'I told you so.'»

Urgh. You stare up at the ceiling, then kick your covers off and stand. You can see easily— no need to turn on a light. Richard is laying on something. A book? But all your books are in your shelf.

You venture over and shove him off the book. (He hisses.) It's slim, leather-bound, brand new. There are brassy letters across the spine. "DAY PLANNER."

Richard twitches indignantly. «Don't handle it so harshly. It'll melt.»

"Huh?" It's a book. Not a real book, clearly, but even those aren't prone to—

«It is… not strictly supposed to exist.»
«By some standards it doesn't.»
«Just don't dogear it. Or drop it. Surely you're capable of that.»

"Wasn't counting on it," you mumble. You flip gingerly through the pages. "What is it actually supposed to—"

«Plan your day.»
«Your incessant tangents and distractions stem from a simple lack of a schedule. You are sticking to one from here on out. You will write it here.»

What? That's horrible. You hate schedules.

«I'm deeply aware. It matters little.»
«Here is yours.»


(Choices next)
You're entering a "timeskip" of six days, where unimportant travel time/banter/chores/dawdling will be passed over or summarized in favor of major events, which will be played out in full.

Spring cleaning. You're racking up things to do, like, 5x faster than it's possible to do them OOC. And Richard, after receiving a talking-to, is newly concerned with efficiency.

>Wat do?
Plan a schedule for each of the six days, one day each vote. If you remember the planning vote from last thread, it's like that: pick any amount of activities from any categories that add to 6 or less. Unused activities, unless time-sensitive, will be available to pick the next time.

>[A1] Figure out some way to get Richard "in person." Then ask him point-blank about Martin. (3)
>>[A2] While you're there, also ask about the… thing. With the… customer service. (1)

>[B1] Write and stealthily deliver Margo's blackmail letter. (2)
>[B2] Trek up to Wind Court HQ and narc on Pat. And that corpse you found in the Fen. (4)
>[B3] Finish your model. (2)

[LETTERS] - (1/5)
>[C1] Trek all the way out to Branwen's and ask her for a letter. She genuinely owes you. (4)
>Try and persuade _______ to write you a letter… or at least find out what you need to do to get it, which may take time later.
>>[C2] Madrigal (1)
>>[C3] Ellery (2)
>>[C4] Eloise (2)
>>[C5] Horse Face (1)
>>[C6] Some random stranger (3)

>[D1] Work out how, exactly, to get your hands on a radio. (1)
>[D2] Contemplate where on earth The Sword might've gone. (2)
>[D3] Hang around Horse Face for a while. It's possible you'll find your stolen model— or at least make him feel guilty enough to return it. And maybe you'll figure out what his deal is. (3)

>[E1] Force Richard to explain how *exactly* he intends this to work. He left out the disemboweling, for instance. (1)
>[E2] Sit down and research suitable sources of law. You need to know where you're going before anything else. (3) [Repeatable]

>[F1] Track Ellery down and inform him that Branwen confirmed he was never there. And without Madrigal, see if he'll admit to getting shot. (3)
>[F2] Lay all your evidence* out on the desk— God knows you have plenty. Attempt to draw some conclusions. (1 for OOC conclusions OR 4 for IC conclusions — ie write-ins vs. Charlotte piecing things together herself)

>[G1] Write-in. (?)

Hey, man, that's good to hear. Maybe I should develop a tagline? Drowned Quest Redux: Where You Hate the MC in, Like, a Good Way :^)
>[A1] Figure out some way to get Richard "in person." Then ask him point-blank about Martin. (3)
>[B1] Write and stealthily deliver Margo's blackmail letter. (2)
>[E1] Force Richard to explain how *exactly* he intends this to work. He left out the disemboweling, for instance. (1)
These all seem good support.

A lot of Valen players would like this.
Called and writing, starting with [A1]. Finally. I'll put [E1] after [A1] chronologically, since you'll be right there.

You think so? Hey, the more the merrier.
>[5:41 AM]
>[ID: 12/12]

You finish begrudgingly planning your Fourthsday. Richard is less than enthused about some of your choices.

«Absolutely not. I told you absolutely not.»

You underline "MARTIN" a couple more times for emphasis.

«It's a waste of time. More than a waste of time. It's actively disrespectful.»

Well, fine. If he'd like to have a nice conversation with you about what the hell is going on—

«It'd be easier to have a nice conversation with your planner, frankly. It might actually listen.»


>[6:03 AM]
You are sitting cross-legged on your cot, eyelids screwed shut. Absolutely nothing has happened.

«If only you were actually capable of this.»

>[6:14 AM]
You decide it might go better if you were wearing actual clothing.

«It makes no difference.»

>[6:16 AM]
There are snails in your actual clothing.

>[6:32 AM]
You have resolved the snail situation, but it has ruined your concentration. You begin again.

>[6:33 AM]
This is hopeless.


Shut up.


>[6:48 AM]
You have gone and retrieved your unfinished model. You hold it up to the morning light. This place is in your head? It doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem real. Wouldn't you notice? Wouldn't it be back behind your eyes?

You had felt it, when you sculpted this little thing from raw clay. The shape of it. The scale of it. The marble and rosewater. Where is it now? Can you find it?

>[7:00 AM]
You cannot.

God blessed. Twice blessed. Richard was right: what a waste of damn time. You open your eyes and kick out your legs. You stand. You teeter, from a sudden flare of vertigo. Ah! Your bad eye, the metal eye, is throbbing. Thrice blessed. Did you screw something up?

You lunge for the desk chair, in an attempt to regain some stability, but it only makes things worse. Your knees buckle, and you sink to the ground, still clinging to the back of the chair. Is this it? Are you dying? Your fingers are stiff—

«Yes, Charlotte. Congratulations. You've convinced your body to shut down.»
«You'll be unconscious for about an hour. It'll be embarrassing for everybody, but mostly you.»

What? Dammit. You blink hard. You feel kind of floaty, kind of loose, even as your legs are growing progressively leaden. It's like you could walk on out of—

«Don't you dare.»

Oh. Maybe you can. You can't just leave your body, though, you've grown too attached. And what would that accomplish, anyways? Squat. No, you have to go in— down—


File: richard p2.jpg (151 KB, 818x944)
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[??? ??]

You feel approximately like you've been spat from a funnel. The world is white and roses. You are splayed against the steps of your manse.

"Shit," someone spits. Richard, in the marble stairwell, is examining his hands in disgust. He spots you over the tops of his fingernails as you clamber to your feet, and promptly vanishes.

"Richard!" You cross your arms. Your voice echoes. "Richard! Hey! Hello? You can't just leave— I know you can hear me—"

«It appears that I can just leave, actually.»

That's not what you meant, obviously, and he— but hold on, he can't leave. This is your head, isn't it? It's where he lives, or whatever. And… this is your head, isn't it? Can't you just…

You pivot, concentrate, and Richard reappears; more harshly than you had expected. He stumbles sideways into a column. "Charlie," he croaks, "you don't know what you're doing."

He vanishes again. It takes two more tries before he's convinced to stay put, and even then he's restless, pacing. He refuses point-blank to speak with you. I hope you wanted this, he says.

You're not leaving without at least an unproductive conversation, so you busy yourself with taking copious notes on the architecture for later reproduction. How are you going to do the windows? Paper? But what to dye it with—

Richard clears his throat. "Charlotte."

"Huh? Oh." He's stopped sulking. "Oh, hi. Glad you've decided to be a mature, rational ad- how old are you?"

"I don't age."

"…Okay." Doesn't answer the question, but with the icy mood he's in you're loath to press. "Are you okay? You, uh— I haven't really seen you… this way."

"You'd frankly be incapable of comprehension, much less genuine interest, so I wouldn't bother." Richard pushes his sunglasses up. "I also have no idea what you're talking about."

Worth a shot. You scratch your temple. "About the man," you say. "Who looked like you. Martin."

"Ah, my unfortunate dream double. Still, as long as he stays there, there's nothing much to worry about. Unless you're that insecure?"

"Yes! No, I mean-" You shake the hair from your face. "He- well, A), he's been in my dreams before, and B) I saw him again, the first time, and he-"

He straightens. "You saw him again?"

"Yeah, and he... I mean, it's very complicated, you had to be there. You should've been there. But he, uh... he knew me."

"I'd certainly expect as much, wouldn't-"

"Knew me. But I don't remember him at all, swear to God, and I just- I don't know how that's possible. Are you sure you don't-"


File: mirror.jpg (30 KB, 349x523)
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"...Okay, I'll just go through my ideas, then. Tell me if anything seems right. One, um, estranged uncle. Horribly disgraced, so nobody's ever talked about him, but I'm the sole family member who doesn't shun him on sight, so he cherishes me as his last link to- no?"

Richard is shaking his head slightly.

"Mmm. But why would he be at the party, then. Two, estranged godparent. Same thing, just not- but that's the same issue. Okay. Three, secret benefactor. He's watched me all my life, but not in a weird way, in a good way, and- I don't know, I feel like it's an option. Four-"

"Your father," Richard says calmly.

You pull a face. "Ha ha. I bet. How do you propose that worked? My mother saved his ashes and stuck them back together with cellu-tape and spit?"

"Don't jest, Charlotte, you're not clever enough for it."

"And you're not funny. My father couldn't be at that party. He was dead. How clear do I have to make-"

"But it makes the most sense, doesn't it?" He loosens his collar. "A man of the right age and appearance, who holds an intimate knowledge of your house, its guests, its inhabitants, and you-"

"Correct appearance?" You scoff. "Maybe the other things, but he looked nothing like me. You look nothing like me."

"Hmm. Let's put a pin in that. What's your father's name?"

You scoff again. "What are trying to imply? That I don't know-"

"Don't dodge the question, Charlotte. What's your father's name?"

You know this is some kind of trap, but you don't know how. Of course you know his name. It's- "Richard," you say confidently.

...You dissolve into a fit of coughing in vain attempt to hide that disaster of a slip, but Richard already has a wolfish sort of smile, and you know it's too late for you. "I think we both know that's not right," he says-

"It was- I was just thinking about- and I said the wrong-"

"I'm sure you did, Charlotte." He tucks his sunglasses into his breast pocket. "We're all prone to mistakes. Would you like to tell me his first name?"

"I, uh..." You're not functioning at your best after that. "Just give me a second, I'll-"

"What did he look like?"

You wipe your nose. "I've never seen him, for obvious reasons."

"Never photographs? Portraits? He was never described?"

"No? It was a sensitive subject..."

"That seems unlikely, but I suppose it's your life. What did he die from?"

This you can say with confidence. "Fever."

"From what illness?"

You grimace. "...I don't- I mean, I was very young..."

"Have you thought of his name yet?"

"..." You don't want to say 'no.' How could you say no? It's your father. Certainly he had a name. Certainly you know it. Why wouldn't you?

"No? Interesting." Richard peels himself off the column and stares deliberately over your shoulder. "Shall we take that pin out? I spy a mirror."

You turn your head. There's a large, brass-framed steel mirror sitting prettily in the middle of the floor. "That was not there before," you say.

"It hardly matters. Come here." He breezes past you and plants himself in front of the mirror.

"Why?" you say dubiously. "Is my reflection going to come to life and-"


You traipse over next to him. Nothing happens. Your reflection is ordinary, though you appear to have an inordinate amount of split ends. You touch your hair self-consciously. "Yeah, I'm here."

"I'd just like to confirm." Richard gestures at the mirror. "I look nothing like you."

"I mean, not nothing," you amend. "I'm not saying there's not superficial similarities, but it's not... familial... what are you doing?"

Richard is blowing on his fingers. "Hold still."

"What are you going to do?"

"Hold still and close your eyes."

"I- ack!" You blink instinctively as Richard grabs your shoulder and jabs his thumb into your eyelid. He wipes once, like removing a stain, then does the same to your other eyelid. You squinch your eyes open only after you're satisfied he's finished. "God, would you mind-"

(You'd followed Richard's gaze back to the mirror.)


>[-4 ID: 8/12]

Your head throbs. Your throat is dry, and the bitter tea cupped in your hands isn't helping much. You are sitting cross-legged on a pert settee. Richard sits across from you, though you're looking anywhere else. "Tell me again what..."

"You passed out."

"Got that." You rub your nose. "Why?"

"You know perfectly well why, you're just ignoring it." Richard sips noisily at his own cup of tea. "It's embarrassing, Charlie. You're at least capable of eye contact."

No, you're not capable of eye contact. You could've tolerated the awful, awful recognition (those are your cheekbones and that's your nose and-) were it not for the eye contact- were it not for glancing into Richard's creased cold eyes- were it not for seeing a mirror-shard of yourself in them. That's why you fainted. You know perfectly well why.

You take a another sip of tea and gag.

"No? Very well." Richard inhales through his teeth. "If nothing else, I suppose we can conclusively determine that you met, ah, Martin Fawkins. Funny how things work out."

Funny how things work out. You tap around the rim of your teacup. "But I didn't know it."


"I don't remember-"

"No, I don't think you would."

"He loved me," you mumble. "I mean, I think he... I don't know. Nevermind."

"...I'm sure he did," Richard says, in a studied tone of voice. "You'll only hurt yourself by dwelling on it."

You muster a cynical smirk. You tap harder around the rim. "I'm not supposed to dwell."


"Not supposed to dwell on the fact that I had a father for- minimum fourteen years. And I, what, forgot? I just forgot. Whoops."

"...I doubt you 'just' forgot-"

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"Why do you look like him?"

"...You know I can't answer this conclusively, Charlie. The previous theory is still perfectly valid, but in conjunction with the total loss, erm..." He crosses one leg over the other. "There is an alternative..."

You don't like the way he says this. "What."

"You won't like it."


"A typical side-effect of a typical maturation— uh, that's Madrigal's issue— is localized memory loss for those who may have... known it. So there isn't a big fuss about… the end result."

"Okay? I guess that's logical." You shift your position. "Can't have loads of missing persons- wait. No. No."

Richard clears his throat.

"No, you're not implying that."

"Believe me, Charlotte, I can't say I like the idea much either, but you have to admit it matches the-"

You stand indignantly, your tea sloshing in your grip. "No! What the hell!"

"If it helps, I wouldn't claim to be your father. I couldn't possibly. I don't believe anything remains of the man. But there's a distinct possibility, uhm..." Richard hesitates. "I may have been him, before. I don't remember."

He sounds tired.

>[A] Oh God. Oh God. How do you deal with this? [Write-in.]

>[B] Once you calm down, what's your long-term reaction?
>>[1] Denial. So maybe Richard is the literal scooped-out remains of your father. Well, maybe he isn't, and you see no reason to change anything based on sheer possibility.
>>[2] Begrudging acceptance. This is just another strange and awful twist in your strange and awful life. You will just have to make the most of it.
>>[3] Enthusiasm. It is staggeringly clear to you: this is no terrible coincidence. This is Destiny, specifically yours, and by God- it shall henceforth be your sacrèd duty to rescue your accursèd father from the wretchèd clutches of... er, himself. Nobody's ever *gone*.

>[C] Have you anything else to say or ask about? [Write-in. Optional.]

>[D] Write-in.
oh wow Richard has saggy cheeks

>A: Denial right from the start. It's wrong and you refuse to accept it.

>B2, eventually

wow so it's his fault our childhood was so miserable. he owes us
>[A] Oh God. Oh God. How do you deal with this? [Write-in.]

You know what's better than feeling bad? Feeling mad! Let's yell at Richard for a while. Did he know this before? It explains why our dream dad was such a prick to us. Does this mean if we ever have a kid, we'll be her Charlie Snake? What else have we forgotten?

> B2 eventually.

> C - what about our performance review? Is he supposed to be our "dad" or is he doing something shady?

> D - did our dad hate us like how Richard does?
I'll cover all of this.

I'm not 100% sure what's meant by [D] here-- do you just want Charlotte to consider it, not actually ask about it, or is it a question to me? I'll do both, just in case. OOC answer: you can't really know, because you... don't remember, but assuming last thread contained an accurate depiction of his behavior: he certainly didn't seem hateful towards young!Charlotte. He seemed pretty damn concerned about her well-being, spoke kindly towards her, and went out of his way to "rescue" her/keep her out of the way of danger. That being said, Richard also goes out of his way to keep you safe. He's just not nice about it.
That was young Charlie though. Not us.
Yeah, that's true. The only evidence you have re: present-(you) is his parting words: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/4199530/#p4227436

Take them as you will: I'd argue they're not Richard-tier, at least. Theoretically, though, loving or hating you wouldn't make a difference. It'd all be drained out regardless.

You shake your head. Your teacup is trembling. "No."

"No? Charlie, that's not exactly an appropriate response—"

"No," you say. You like the word. You like how decisive it feels. Hard to be wrong with one syllable. "No. You're not my dad."

"I understand," Richard says tactfully, "this might be difficult for you— believe me, it's not easy for me, eith-"

"You can't be. If he were alive, my dad would love me."

Crushing silence, except for the patter of rain. Richard stands and paces out of your field of view. A lighter clicks.

"I'm right." You work up the courage to look at Richard. His back is towards you, and his posture is rigid. One hand is folded behind him. The other is holding a lit cigarette.

"Mmm," he says. He is doing something complicated with his empty hand, bending and unbending his fingers. A nervous tic, maybe. And then he stops, and he throws the cigarette to the floor, and stamps it out, and turns back to you. You don't look away in time. It's your dad.

>[-1 ID: 7/12]

You seize on a distraction. "Did you just light that then immediately throw it out?"

"Again, I wouldn't expect you to comprehend." He sits back down.

"I would comprehend, if you just bothered to—" You rub your eyes. "Whatever. I'm glad we can agree you're not my father. Look like him… sure. I guess. But being—"

"I do love you."

He says it how he says anything. You laugh: quietly, at first, but as you keep laughing it swells, and your shoulders shake and your eyes water. "Richard-" you manage, "y- you can't possibly expect— oh!" You wipe your face with your sleeve. "Oh, man. Oh. On God, that's worst lie you've ever— you're such a snake."


You titter. "Go to hell."


"There was never a point where I would've believed that. God, Richard. Not even at the start. You think I would—"

"Charlie, look at me."

So you can see his feigned look of vulnerability? Sure. Why not. Good for another—


Richard has helpfully provided a pillow to scream into.

So he's your dad! Fine! Fine! So you had looked at him, and discovered he'd done something with his face— something bad with it, something wrong with it. It was always pale and ordinary, on the low cusp of handsome. It was still that. But there had always been… variegation, before, little juts and tenses, and those had confirmed to your satisfaction that it wasn't a natural fit. And that allowed you to sleep at night.

Those were the halcyon days of just over two minutes ago. Two minutes ago, you discovered Richard wearing your father's face like it was made for him. Was his. Was always his. (This was not the bad part.)

You blinked, and then there was no "wearing"— it was just your father, seamlessly substituted for Richard, as if by trapdoor. In retrospect, this made no sense. At the time, you were being swamped by unplaced recognition— (This was not the bad part.)

—and you knew. You knew, against all odds, that he loved you. Loved you deeply, loved you to death. Strip your memories, but you'd always know it. But you didn't have to, because here he w-

Richard was back, or always there. He laughed. You screamed, and hurled the teacup at his face.

>[-1 ID: 6/12]

So here you are. (You scream again into the pillow.)

"You've wanted to hear that for a long time," Richard is saying. He is miraculously undrenched with tea. "I did you a favor."


"No, I mean it. Once you sift out the irritating talking bits, it's just this throbbing morass of— hey, this is interesting. Don't you want to hear about your subconscious, Charlie? Most people never get to know."

(Long scream.)

"Let's be frank, it's also entirely your fault. You wanted, what, warmer? More relatable? And you're pissy over just that. Next thing you'll be begging for-"

You hurl the pillow in his face.

"Oh, let's not be uncivil." Richard catches the pillow and sets it down. "There's no need to-"

You stand and hurl your boot in his face. This time he blinks out of existence, and the boot shatters a pot somewhere behind him. You scream, unmuffled, raw, as loud and long as you can, until your turncoat throat falters and you fall back in exhaustion and defiance.

Richard reappears. "Glad you worked that all out. Would you like to use your words, now, or shall we—"

"Y-yeah." Your voice is newly hoarse, but you hork up a little phlegm and feel better. You wipe your lips with your sleeve (no handkerchief…) and go as loud as you can manage. "You RUINED my LIFE. TWICE."

He squints. He counts on his fingers. "Twice?"

"Turning into an asshole and wiping out my entire life doesn't—?!"

"Well, you can hardly blame me for that, can you?" Richard raises his eyebrows. "I can't pretend to know, but the process is generally involuntary. Even if it wasn't, earth forbid it, it's still not my fault. Blame him, will you? Or just blame the progenitor."

"You ARE him!"

"Again, only from a technical standpoint. Would you ever be able to tell, had you not forced me back into this corpse? No. The consciousness is the nigh-only thing retained, and it's processed so heavily you can't in good conscience call it the same being."

"…Nothing remains of the man," you repeat.

"Oh, actual listening. Impressive. Yes, that's exactly—"

"Then what the HELL was that?! With the- the-" You gesture furiously to your face. "I KNOW you! That wasn't you! That was—"

"Oh, maybe I should've been more specific." Richard rubs the corner of his eye. "Nothing remains in me. There is— pardon the expression— a shit-ton in you."

"…" You stare down at your hands. "Am I gonna— turn into—"

"What? No. No, absolutely not. Eugh." Richard makes a face. "Is this about the dream? Dream interpretation is bunk, Charlie; dreams are meaningless drabble."

"Had my dad in them," you mumble.

"So? Oh, that brings me to my point, actually. I meant more, er, mental bits. Man's gone, but everything else is so interwoven it's impossible to scrub all the peripherals— trust me. Things like habits, mannerisms, demeanor get buried instead." He pauses. "And then screamed at yours truly."

You have a burgeoning headache. "I'm not going to apologize for something I didn't actually choose to—"

"Really? You're not?" He cocks his head. "How interesting, considering you want the same from me— but it hardly matters. The point is, I'm actually very good, so I keep your... influence at, ah, tolerable levels. But it would be easy to cave."

You can't contain yourself. "Cave to what. The awful pressures of… being a nice person? A normal human being? Which you probably used to be?"

"Ah, doesn't it sound seductive?" There is a clink. Richard is filling shot glasses with whiskey. You boggle. "You'd certainly prefer it, wouldn't you— don't open your mouth, I've already heard it. I'll be honest, Charlie, I'd prefer it too. But that's no reason for it, isn't it?"

"What?" you say. "Why are you making shots? Aren't you too old for shots? Where'd the whiskey come from?"

"Shh." Richard lifts a finger and downs a shot. He snorts, wiping his nose. "Fastest way to drown you out. Okay. As I was saying, doing something for the sheer pleasure of it is called hedonism, Charlie, and is frowned upon by civilized societies. Additionally, it'd rather interfere with doing my job."

"…Your job," you say, slowly.

"Advising you, naturally. It's to be done from an elevated place, not… down in the weeds." He gestures vaguely. "I'd lose perspective."

"…Your…" Your headache is worsening. "…Did I… take a survey?"

"What?" Richard slides his sunglasses back on. "What are you talking about?"

"A… survey. Rate something from 1 to 10. And there was a… the big snake asked me. About your job."

"I can't say that helps?" He adjusts his collar. "I meant 'job' more metaphorically— duty, you know. Not a literal job. No idea where you're getting that from."

You're not quite sure, either. "…Is being my dad your job?"

"What? Charlie, listen to yourself. Being your… that's an extremely unfortunate coincidence, not a job."

"…" You rub your forehead. "God, maybe I need a shot."

"Maybe so."

There's something that's been bothering you. For all that Richard professed he didn't like this much, either, he's been surprisingly nonchalant. You smell a rat. "Yeah. Uh, did you know before? The dad thing. Did you know?"

"The dad thing? Oh, yes. I didn't know, no. My earliest temporal memory is being woken up by you— extraordinarily inconsiderate, by the way."

You pause. "Did you guess, though?"

"Ah…" Richard contemplates a shotglass. "Well, that's complicated. The winds of your subconscious have tended to blow in certain—"

"You guessed."

"…I pattern analyzed, but sure, Charlie, I guessed. Sue me for not wanting to disrupt ordinary goings-on with an irrelevant and entirely circumstantial bombshell, will you? What if I was wrong?"

This is a frustratingly reasonable argument, so you throw your other boot at his face. It hits! (The shot must be kicking in.)

>[+1 ID: 7/12]

Richard blinks. His sunglasses are askew. "Interesting. Any other points to make?"

"Yeah. What if I've forgotten other things?"

"Huh? Oh, I mean, it's entirely possible." He shrugs. "Memory is fragile, and you wouldn't believe the amount of things that like to feed off it. I'd wager most people are missing a couple chunks. That's it?"

[Some options are redundant with each other, just combine at your discretion.]
>[1] Anything else? (Write-in.)
>[2] Drinking at 7-something in the morning? Oh, what the hell, it's not going to stick. Take a shot.
>[3] Encourage Richard to drink more. From what you can remember from the last time (very little), he's significantly less circumspect with a few in him. (Any sensitive subjects?)
>>[A] By attempting to verbally convince him. (Roll.)
>>[B] By attempting to… ramp up your brainwaves, or whatever has him so hot and bothered. (Roll.)
>>[C] By drinking with him.
>[4] You'd actually prefer to move on from this general subject ASAP. About your crown…
>[5] Write-in.
>[4] You'd actually prefer to move on from this general subject ASAP. About your crown…
>[3] Encourage Richard to drink more. From what you can remember from the last time (very little), he's significantly less circumspect with a few in him. (Any sensitive subjects?)

What exactly is his job and why us. What is he trying to "advise" us to do.
>[4] You'd actually prefer to move on from this general subject ASAP. About your crown…


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An hour ago, you'd put something on your schedule. An hour ago, when you didn't know— what you know. (God, but you're calm. Maybe "calm" isn't right. You just ran out of feelings to have.) It seems stupid now, a little petty, but… maybe Richard was right about having a schedule, you know? Maybe order is valuable when things are falling to pieces.

"About the crown," you say.

Maybe it's your imagination, but Richard seems just as relieved to return to familiar territory. He's unexpectedly forthcoming, even overly so, peppering his lecture with useless factoids, incomprehensible jargon, and one tortured extended metaphor. Uncharacteristically, you take notes— you might need them later, but mostly it gives you somewhere to look and something to do with your hands. God.

Something like half an hour later, you stare back at your sheafs of paper:


-> About the disemboweling: yes, necessary, no, organs not needed — just LOTS of fresh lifeblood, ez way is to slice open, crystal in chest cavity (ew)
—> Why blood? 'Why wouldn't it be,' won't explain— NVM (1 more shot) — blood contains v. v. v. tiny crystals itself, contains 'more intangible'(??) laws — blah blah blah — blood has the gunk needed to power crystal to enable leaving basically, not taking notes on the other G.S.
—> But what do I actually stab: 'good question,' typical manse has 3 layers: 1st is intentionally constructed, (usually) most normal — 2nd "distorted" "hostile," slips farther from reality (or w/e) — 3rd 'intense,' 'barely structured,' v. v. close to subconcious, houses 'ID'(?)
—> ID: making a manse 'fundamentally an act of ego,' requires (literal+figurative) investment of self — end result is all of them contain core aspect of person ('ID'), AKA the target. May look like anything. Will have to get close somehow. Will bleed, don't worry.
-> I'm killing it? Yes. Manse will collapse.
—> Will that kill the actual person? NO. Won't kill. May… weaken. (Won't elaborate.) But 'everything takes sacrifice, Charlie.'
—> ANY way otherwise? Well… might be naturally occurring 'pockets' of strong law, and/or powerful creatures [e.g. snake dupe], but rare/unreliable/highly dangerous — manse is much quicker+easier
->Can I just go find some random people: Yes, but no — actually difficult to get into manses, even for [word scribbled out] Richard, Ellery was 'unusual case,' already 'unlocked' — helps considerably if it's someone you know, even better if they like you — makes the entire thing easier, not just getting in. Should try and get to know any target before attempt
—> Why is this so *complicated*: 'Thus is the way of the world, Charlie'"

All in all, it paints an unhappy picture of your next weeks. You wish, per usual, that you never had the misfortune of finding Richard. (Yes. Dad or not.) You're also finding yourself increasingly uncomfortable at his presence: it's too warm, too, relatable, and the whiskey isn't helping one bit. You want the snake back. Honestly.

You can't leave your manse too soon, but you're just as discomfited upon your return to your tent. Firstly, it's noon, or thereabouts: time has passed faster than it did in your head. (Richard snidely attributes it to your lacking skill.) Secondly, your scare-quotes "calm" vanished the second you saw Richard, the snake. The dead-eyes snake. The length-of-your-arm snake. The your-dad snake.

You heaved screams into a faceful of clothing, and hoped the sound didn't carry.

>[-1 ID: 6/12]

When you ran out of lung, Richard summarily informed you that, while he acknowledged the veracity of his prior statements, he would not acknowledge their effect, and thus if you were expecting special treatment you were <sorely> mistaken. It would be business as usual from here on out. Forever.

You wondered if he had a hangover. He ignored you.

So you are returning to your schedule. Third bullet point: blackmail. You hunch over your desk and contemplate the logistics, which in retrospect seem rather daunting. How are you going to conceal your penmanship? How are you going to deliver the letter without being caught? How are you going to demand what you need— a reprieve from Margo— when it's obvious it's you who needs it? You've never blackmailed anybody before.

(Will Margo even care that someone saw her shoot Ellery in cold blood? She shot him in the first place. But you can't just not blackmail her, else you… let a man die [as far as you knew] for no reason.)


>[A1] You have it: the way to phrase your blackmail that won't leave you obviously culpable. [Write-in.]
>[A2] No, you don't have it. Just try your damndest. What's Margo going to do, murder you harder?

>[B1] Sneak out at night, wearing your disguise, and attempt to deliver it to her house in town. Unintended readers are less likely, and she'll definitely find it, but it would be easier to be caught.
>[B2] Deliver it to Tom's Cave, instead, and hope Margo reads it. Nobody will see you, but there's no strict guarantee a passersby won't spot it first.

>[C] Write-in.
It's probably impossible to ask for anything specifically about ourselves without tipping her off, so maybe ask for everyone? Tell her to hole up in her cave and stop making any unnecessary contact with anyone.

>[B2] Deliver it to Tom's Cave, instead, and hope Margo reads it. Nobody will see you, but there's no strict guarantee a passersby won't spot it first.
>A1 / B1


Called for the former and writing.
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>General threats
>House delivery

You ultimately decide to write from the perspective of a concerned bystander, informing Margo that, if she didn't keep to herself, you'd expose her as a murderer and general crazy bint. You print your demand in dark, uniform block letters, and hope this is enough to conceal your identity.

And then you wait. For hours. You don't leave your tent— outside is where other people are, and they might ask questions about the screaming, or your red-rimmed eyes. You spend your time making tiny figures out of clay and subsequently smashing them flat. Richard makes fun of your craftsmanship. You can't respond. You attempt to construct a cross-word, and fail. Richard makes fun of your vocabulary. You can't respond. You carve shapes into your desk with your pocketknife. Richard suggests there are more productive things to do. You suggest that it'd be better if your father were dead. Richard can't respond.

You have no visitors.

It is night, or close enough to it— you can't wait longer. You are again smothered in your disguise. You clasp the blackmail letter to your breast, and hurry out of camp.

Night is less intimidating when you can see well enough in the dark, and you make good time. Lindew's Landing is aglow when you arrive; the runes on the walls are lit in green, the obelisks in yellow. Lanterns at doorways shine in shades of electric blue: there must've been a recent haul of plankton. There are a few townsfolk milling about, but this doesn't concern you— you're not going the main way. You circle around the sides of the buildings, skirting the treeline, and head west. Margo's actual house is just outside town.

You've seen it before, but it never fails to astound you: it's a bona-fide relic, a beautiful antediluvian mansion now slowly-but-surely rotting to pieces. You have no idea how it got here, whether it was swept off its foundations or transported to the Fen bit by bit. You've never been inside.

You're not likely to get inside after this, frankly, but better that than shot. Margo has no mailbox, so you're forced to wade through clinging underbrush to near her doorstep. If you thought your clothes were ruined before— hold on. Hold on. Is someone—

Damn! You dive behind a algae-covered outcropping. There's someone here, at Margo's doorstep, delivering… something. A package? A message? You can't tell: your vision is limited, and the person is oddly difficult to focus on. They're… tall. Masked. Masked?

What is this?

>[1] Wait until they leave, then examine their delivery.
>[2] Wait until they leave, then follow them.
>[3] Call out. Confront them.
>[4] It's none of your business. Just wait, then drop your own letter off.
>[5] Write-in.
>[1] Wait until they leave, then examine their delivery.
Rolled 85, 74, 31 = 190 (3d100)

>Stealth mode

It's fine. It's fine! They haven't seen you, right? You assume they haven't seen you. All you have to do is bide your time.

The person glances around surreptitiously, slides their delivery under Margo's mat, and pauses to stare in your direction. You duck. By the time you peek back out, they're already gone. See? Easy. Nothing to worry about.

Margo's windows are all lined with paper, so you're confident you can't be directly spotted from within. Still, you remain discreet in your final approach. Before you leave your letter anywhere, you lift the mat. You should know what you're dealing with.

The person's delivery is another letter, the words composed of cut-outs from… books, it seems like. (A classic. You can appreciate that, even if there's some misspellings.) You squat down on the porch to read it.

It's a blackmail letter. A different blackmail letter. It informs Margo that the person is aware of "the incident outside the cave," not to mention "the yearly tradition" and "what happened to Tom." It postulates that certain people may be interested about hearing all this. It notes that they won't hear, if Margo would just leave people damn well enough alone.

It is unsigned.

A second witness? You never saw anybody, but that doesn't rule it out. Damn! And it's a better letter than yours, too. You've been here a long time. Feels like a long time. Is anybody watching—

There's a figure there, all the way down the lane. Their arms are crossed. Watching you. Waiting for you?

Damn. Damn!

>[A1] Swap your letter out for the person's.
>[A2] Leave the person's. Don't deliver yours.
>[A3] Leave both.

>[B1] Waiting for you? Well, you're not waiting for them. Head back a different way.
>[B2] Well, that's great, because you have some questions. Meet them.
>[B3] Mysterious figures? Stealing your good ideas? You want none of it. Make to leave, but actually prepare an ambush.

>[C] Write-in.
>[A1] Swap your letter out for the person's.
>[B2] Well, that's great, because you have some questions. Meet them.
A3, B3
Rolled 1, 1 = 2 (2d2)

Rolling, then writing.
>Swap it out
>Have a chat

You switch the person's blackmail letter out for yours. It's only fair— you thought of it first. Probably. That's something you may want to discuss, actually.

«Having conversations alone, in the dark, with masked blackmailers.»
«Great idea. I love it.»

…Well, not alone: you have Richard, don't you? Just like always. (Just like your entire— no! Shut up!) Worst case you'll knee 'em in the groin and run.

«Worst case you're greviously injured, forcing me to handle things indefinitely.»

…Or that. But that won't happen.


Great! Isn't it nice to be in agreement. You strike out towards the person, who jerks their head to the side. Head off the path, you take it to mean. Out of the open.

«Yes, Charlie. Follow the masked blackmailer off the path.»
«Your powers of intuition are staggering.»

Okay, look, you're also a masked blackmailer— you don't have a lot of ethical wiggle room, not that you've ever needed it. The groin-and-run strategy is still perfectly workable, too. It's fine. You've got this.

You head off the path, and discover the person huddled in a copse of mangroves. You're much closer to them, now, but you still can't quite look at them— your gaze slips right off. In the corner of your eye, though, they beckon you closer. You note the likely location of the groin.

"____________," they say, when you get close enough. The words slide right off, too, though the mask can't help. "____________?"

"What?" you sign, guardedly.

"_____________…" They shake their head. You inch a little closer. Too close, you realize too late, when a gloved hand brushes your face. They're trying to dislodge your disguise! You yelp, and bat the hand away, and nigh-instinctively drive your knee into the person's groin: they crumple. You turn tail, and make to sprint—

"________of a bitch!" The man's voice breaks through. It's muffled by the mask and the water, but you'd recognize the reedy tone anywhere. It's—

You turn around. "Ellery?"

Ellery is either crouching or kneeling, and that's the only thing you can tell for sure. You linger in half-hearted sympathy as he remains that way for several minutes. Finally, he stands, and does something blurry, and— oh.

It's definitely Ellery: a crude balaclava hides most of his face, and he's discarded his usual bulky coat in favor of a (n equally unflattering) windbreaker, but he retains his distinctive… presence. There is a syringe lodged in his left forearm. He withdraws it, after he sees you saw, and stuffs it in a pocket. He blinks. "Charlotte?"

You narrow your eyes. Ellery widens his, and tugs off his balaclava. He looks worse than usual underneath, his hair sticking up, his face all pale and kind of nauseated.

«That would be your doing.»



You straighten your shoulders at Ellery. "Maybe."

"Nobody else is that short."

>[-1 ID: 5/12]

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"Everybody— everybody here is tall," you explain. "Like you, right? You're, like, freakish. So I just seem— from a distorted— I'm a normal height."

"Nobody else is that normal, then." Ellery hugs his arms to his chest. "Can I get an apology? First up?"

You scoff. "You were asking for it."

"I was asking to be kicked in the balls? Was I- was I wearing a big sign? 'Please Kick Me In The Balls?' in red letters? Did I set, uh, a time and occasion? Charlotte? Did you RSVP to kick me in the balls? Is that it? Please, explain your rationale, I'd sure as shit like to hear—"

>[A1] Okay, okay, fine, whatever. You're sorry he got *kneed* in the balls, even though you didn't know who he was, and thought he might murder/greviously injure you. Happy?
>[A2] No way. Stick to your guns. No apology.

>[B1] What the hell is he doing blackmailing Margo? That's your gig.
>[B2] What the hell is he doing in that windbreaker? The proportions are atrocious: it manages to make him more skeletal than usual, no mean feat. He can do better.
>[B3] What the hell is he doing with that syringe? Hello?
>[B4] What the hell is he doing lying to your face? He said he went to see Branwen. Never happened.
>[B5] What the hell is the rest of the stuff in his blackmail letter? Traditions? Tom? What has he been up to?
>[B6] Write-in.
"You were a masked blackmailer who lured me into the woods and grabbed for me. Shouldn'ta done that."


"Also you misspelled some words in your letter."
>[A1] Okay, okay, fine, whatever. You're sorry he got *kneed* in the balls, even though you didn't know who he was, and thought he might murder/greviously injure you. Happy?
>[B1] What the hell is he doing blackmailing Margo? That's your gig.
>[B3] What the hell is he doing with that syringe? Hello?
>[B4] What the hell is he doing lying to your face? He said he went to see Branwen. Never happened.
>[B5] What the hell is the rest of the stuff in his blackmail letter? Traditions? Tom? What has he been up to?
All the questions.
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Rolled 1 (1d2)

I'll go with everything that has 2+ votes, meaning everything but [B2]. Rolling between [A1] and [A2], and writing. Also, here's a super sketchy Ellery-- both meanings intended?
>Okay, God, fine, whatever
>What the hell?

«You have a creditable excuse. An apology is not required.»

Right! Yeah, that's right. You owe nothing to this- this gawky, ill-dressed nobody, up to his (considerable) ears in God only knows what. There's nothing he can do to sway you: you are cool and collected, you are implacable, you are superior. You are in control.

("Are those producing a lot of healthy relationships?")

What? Why are you thinking about Monty, at a time like this? Monty doesn't know anything. Monty has the personality of a smiley dishrag. Monty keeps houseplants.

(People like Monty.)

Okay, firstly, that's— you don't even know that. They appear to like Monty, certainly, but that's hardly an indicator: there's plenty to gain from appearing to like the man in charge of your housing. Hell, who says nobody's out for his position? The classic backstab. How stupid of him to trust in so-called good intentions. Secondly, that's— what does that matter? You're still not apologizing. You're in control. You're in control. Positive thinking.

"Sorry-" you sign.

Ellery looks just as surprised as you feel. "It's, uh- it's okay, I don't really— I'm pretty sure it's not lasting, it just really… I know you don't, uh, get it, being a… not having… well, you know—"

You're not listening. What the hell was that, Charlotte? What the hell was that? You weren't going to apologize— you didn't even want to apologize! (You didn't want to, but maybe it was just the best course of-) Shut up! You know whose fault this is? It's Richard's fault! He put you out of sorts, with his horrible- his horrible- his horrible-

"—Are you okay?" Ellery signs. "Allergies? Uh, just because your eye's kinda… uh…"

You wipe your traitor eye. "It's none of your business," you snap— "and dump the sorry, you deserved it. What the hell did you expect? You're 7 feet tall, you're in a stupid mask, you're luring- luring girls into the woods— I couldn't even see you properly, you realize?"

"…" Ellery stares at the ground. "I actually didn't- I forgot I had that going, so—"

"Had what going?!"

"It doesn't- if I explained, you wouldn't care, okay? It's not as interesting as it seems. Honestly. It'd be too technical, and, I, uh- you've traditionally been bored by—"

You throw your head back. "You injected a weird invisibility chemical."

"…Okay, uh, not a chemical, unless you're going to be reductive and call any godsdamn thing chemicals, and not invisibility, that's not even in the right ballpark, just—"

"Wow, you were right: I don't care! What the hell are you doing blackmailing Margo?"

Ellery grins fiercely. "I have no idea what—"

You wave his letter.

You might expect the grin to drop away, but it just shows more teeth. "That's stealing."

"That's blackmail! And look at you! You're a- a- you're dressed specially for blackmail! It's premeditated blackmail!"
"Okay," Ellery says, "when is blackmail not premeditated? I mean, think about it. Nobody ever commits blackmail in a heat of passion, do they? How would that even work? You catch your wife with another man, and you grab a pen and paper? Or a pair of scissors? 'Hey guys, just wait right there, I've got to jot this—'"

Place your bets, people. Ellery's rambling: hasty defense mechanism or maddening speech pattern? A little of both? You wish it wasn't effective. "Right, um… still blackmail. And you didn't even spell things correctly. You'd think the least you could do—"

"Oh, gods, oh fuck, I should've hired a proofreader for my blackmail letter." Ellery throws his hands up. "Shit, I forgot. Last damn thing I needed. What am I gonna do now, Charlotte? I can't let my blackmail letter be published with misspellings—"

"That's right," you say reproachfully. "It's unprofessional. You could've tried a little harder to—"

"Oh, excuse me. Excuse me for not having, uh, let's see, fancy fucking books, or schools, or—"


"Great, yes, thank you. Or fancy fucking tutors. Excuse me for clawing my own way to literacy. How dare I not spell to the snot-nosed standards of a-" Ellery draws a deep breath. "I'm not gonna talk about my fucking letter. You read it, didn't you? What else do you want?"

You don't see why that makes him incapable of spelling things properly, but whatever. "Everything! None of it makes any sense! What's with the—"

"Nevermind. I can't go any longer. What are you doing? Charlotte? You're also skulking around the Lindew place? At night? In a disguise? And Margo is giving you shit right now?"

"I'm not…" You snort. "I'm not doing anything."

"Wow, that was bad." Ellery raises his eyebrows. "That's the best you have? Did you not prep a cover story, or…"

You're grateful he can't see your expression. "No! I just… I'm not…"

"I mean, we can go down the list, if you want. Robbery? Assault? I'd say arson, but… you know. Really shitty kidnapping? Threatening packages? Threatening letters? Murder? Are you even armed?"

This is rigged: all those things are worse. You fold your arms. "You stole my idea, okay?"

"I stole your… holy shit, you're trying to blackmail her?" He laughs once. "Amazing. That's amazing."

"It's not amazing, it's theft!" You're not sure why you feel so strongly about this, but you're sure there's a good reason. "I was the one who told you you got murdered, and what do you do? You steal that, you throw in a bunch of random GS… how is that sporting?!"

Ellery looks more stricken than you expected. He's smiling again. (More betting. Ellery's freaky smiling: nervous tic or deliberately disarming? Years of the latter morphing into the former?) "Yeah, I, uh— yep."

"That doesn't answer the—" You squint. Yesterday morning is coming back to you. "You said you didn't believe me about being shot."

He rubs the back of his neck. "…Yeah."
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"So that was a lie. Okay. You also said you were getting alcohol from Branwen's, which is, like, a double lie. She hasn't seen you and she's out."

"That was before you said I got shot, though."


"So I didn't have any other explanation for the, you know, uh, waking up with no clothes or short-term memory? In the middle of the swamp? Does it matter I gullshitted the specifics when I didn't have specifics?"

You find Ellery's moral code disappointing. "Yeah! It's dishonest."

"…Um, alright." He rakes his fingers through his hair. "Can you imagine something for me? Imagine you've woken up, and you have a fucking- a shitty headache. Also you're on the ground, and you're not, uh, wearing anything, and you have no idea what happened. You'd want to get home, right? Get home and take some painkillers and figure out what possessed you to carve a girl's name into your palm. So you get home, and you push open the door, and inside is your ex-girlfriend— plus said girl. They both broke in and were going through every inch of your shit. And then they ask you a bunch of invasive questions about you, your shit, and your 6-months-dead relationship. Are you imagining this?"

"No?" After years with Richard, you've made it a rule to never agree to visualization exercises. "And they weren't invasive questions. They were totally reasonable."

"………Yeah." Ellery doesn't seem convinced. "Well, that's me. I think I'm gonna head out."

He tugs the balaclava back on and begins walking off. You jog over. "Hey! That's rude!"

"Godsdammit." He hunches his shoulders. "What is with you? I mean, really?"

"We're not done yet! I still have— did you lie about all the other stuff in your letter, too? The tradition, or whatever?"

"I did some independent research."

Is he walking faster? You hasten to keep pace. "So? What'd you find?"

"Uh… remember that cavern with all the human bones?"

You nod.

"Probably sacrifices to the big alligator thing."

"Oh." You've read this before. "The bucolic small town... worshiping a twisted monstrosity as a god-king... offering it hideous sacrifice of outsiders in exchange for dark magicks..."

"I think it was just to feed it, actually." Ellery shrugs. "Thought it was Tom."

"Tom Lindew?"


"But it's not Tom Lindew?"

"It's just a bunch of alligators stuck together by your crown, I'm pretty sure. Tom Lindew is just a normal alligator."


"I mean, a big normal alligator, but still a… I, uh, went back in the cave today to check things out. Went down the path we didn't go the other day. Big alligator, just like the sign said. Sign didn't say it was possessed by the old dead guy it ate."

You're dumbstruck. "You did this without me? You didn't even ask! I would've— I totally would've gone and talked to an alligator! I wasn't even busy!"

"…Uh, it was kinda… my thing. My side project. You know." Ellery glances conspicuously away. "Didn't think you were interested. Also, didn't want to talk to you."


"Yeah. So that's- that's the deal with the letter, which would be nice if you put back. Saw the bones, went 'what the fuck is up with these,' did some digging, found some—"

"…Did some digging," you say. There is something picking at you. What was Ellery doing before he got shot?

"Yeah? What, do you need a detailed methodology? A point-by-point list? A—"

"You believe that Margo shot you? Just say yes."

"…Yes," Ellery signs.

"Before she shot you, you were asking her about the cave and the alligators and the bones and all that. You were pretty aggressive about it. Not a lot of regard for your safety." You pause. "Did you get the blackmail idea from me?"

"Why do I talk to you."

"Hey, hey, listen. I'm just spitballing. Say you thought something fishy was up, and Margo was in the middle of it. Say you knew she was trigger-happy. Say you knew… you'd come back." Is this a stretch? It feels like a stretch, but Ellery won't look you in the eye. "So you go to her, you get in her face. She shoots you. You come back. You write a blackmail letter, using your own death as leverage, getting Margo to— explain herself— hmm." You scratch your chin. "I guess you found out enough today, so you pivoted so the whole thing wouldn't go to waste? Is that right?"

Ellery has stopped dead in his tracks. His balaclava dangles in his hand. "What is with you?"


"You're like a fucking idiot savant! Sorry, that's a dick assessment, but— yeah! It's true! How is it possible to be so fucking clueless about people, then turn around and deliver— what the fuck!"

"Wait, am I right?"

Ellery stares you down, white-eyed in the dusk.

"About all of it?"


"You knew you'd come back."

He twitches. "Please don't tell Maddie."

>[1] Write-in
>"Tell me everything and I won't tell her anything."

yes give us the secrets of immortality
This, but also what's in it for us? We got blackmail fever now, all the kids are doing it these days. If he wants us to keep quiet, *rub fingers together*.

We can accept that we're both already blackmailers so no crying about the moral highground.
I figured him telling us how is what's in it for us
Yeah, but I want to prove we're a better blackmailer by making it clear we're also blackmailing him.

Suck, Ellery, we win
Called and writing.
>But why?

It feels good to have the advantage. You straighten your collar. "Oh, of course. Wouldn't dream of it. Who do I look like? Eloise?"

"You're- oh. Oh, thank the gods. Thank you." Ellery exhales, holding his head. "She'd- she'd worry, you know? She wouldn't let anyone see her, but, uh, she'd worry. I don't want—"

"You know, Eloise has no restraints. She'll just pass anything on. Kind of tacky, if you ask me." You stick your hands in your pockets. "While I have loads of restraints. Very strict morals. You know how it is."

"…Charlotte? What are you—" He's catching on. (So is Richard: the furious crackle-hiss in the back of your skull is subsiding.) Good.

"I won't tell her if you tell me."

It's not quite as brutal as you'd like it, but it's still a sizable gut punch. (Or nut punch, if you'll be so crass.) Ellery closes his eyes, then opens them again, one at a time. "You're a bitch."

>[+2 ID: 7/12]

"Oh, come on. I get it in one, and you think I'm gonna, what— keep it to myself? What would I gain from that? What the hell did you expect?"

"Gratification? From doing the right- the decent— I don't know what the hell I expected." He shakes his head. "You saw a murder of someone you knew and you went, gee, what can I gain from this? That's fucked up, by the way."

"Hey, you're fine, aren't you?" You're not sure why people are so hung up on that. "And if you'd like to tell me why you're fine, we can call this even. Easy."

Ellery's lips are tight. "Do you think this is funny? Do you get a kick out of meddling in people's personal shit? A little fucking private thrill—"

"It's not that late," you muse. "I'm sure Madrigal's still up—"

"I don't know, okay?!"


"I don't know how I survived. I'm not sure I knew the other day, either. There's- it's just- you piece things together. You look at your daily notes, and there's gaps. You can't remember the gaps, and you can't remember the day before them, either, but in your notes you're usually doing some pretty fucking dangerous stuff. You piece things together. Then you wake up right after— always right after— and you don't fucking remember! Any of it! You don't learn! You just die and die and die and— watch me. I'm gonna walk right off a fucking cliff tomorrow, and I'm gonna be back in 48 hours, and I'm gonna have no godsdamn idea what happened. Watch me."

You fold your arms. "Could've left it at the first sentence. But seriously. You don't even have an idea? You just keep reviving for no reason? I don't think that's possible."

"Well, gee, sorry, Charlotte! It's a little hard to run experiments when you keep forgetting what the experiment's about!"

"You don't leave notes? GS."

"I'm not saying I don't, but I have no memory of finding any."


"Go fuck yourself, Charlotte. I told you what I know." Ellery's face is stormy. "You're the one who remembers the thing with Margo, and you're the big fucking genius. Can you not tell me?"

>[A1] Be a big fucking genius. [You have enough information (here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1g1Df9WXD7w5F79oRQn4ZODUVsPZFasKQGmt94wHtKSw/edit?usp=sharing) to construct a broadly accurate theory of Ellery's survival. Write it in.]
>[A2] Be a… moderate genius. [Roll. Success will result in Charlotte accurately putting the pieces together. Failure will be very awkward.]

>[B1] Okay, he did tell you what he knew. Plan not to tell Madrigal.
>[B2] Haha. Sucker. Plan to tell Madrigal.

>[C] Write-in.
After reading through the whole pastebin I definitely have no clue. Pulling his own reflections out of a mirror? The goop he coughs up are little Ellery seeds? Could be anything.

Really I don't think we get anything out of telling her anyway. We lose out actually since she'd just be mad at us.
>[A2] Be a… moderate genius. [Roll. Success will result in Charlotte accurately putting the pieces together. Failure will be very awkward.]
>[B1] Okay, he did tell you what he knew. Plan not to tell Madrigal.

>Roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 75 (+25 Detectiving) to work this out.

Spending ID isn't available: Richard would prefer you to not waste your time on this.
Rolled 68 (1d100)

>DC 75 with no ID

awkwardness it is
Rolled 62 (1d100)

What does it matter what Richard thinks? He's not our real!

Oh right...
Rolled 66 (1d100)

Although, what I think has happened is that his "main" body is on a different layer, and his current body is a dupe or a clone mixed up with parts from someone else to make an Ellery "puppet".

Hence the mirror writing, and the shattering into glass.

Since where his main body/consciousness i, since he might not even have a body in the sense we know it, is on a separate layer that could account for the lost time since he might lose the reference point to the time rate in reality until the body can be reconstituted.

The blendin may also have been spiritual, resulting in him possibly either being parasitized by something, or possibly he is the parasite, or the two identities have merged into a gestalt conscious/unconscious hence his eyes not turning muddy until he looked in the mirror and the subconscious identity influenced his body to change.

Remember, he was shorter originally.

Something or someone is trapped or mixed in his psyche, and he's being influenced to change to represent his mental contamination when he dies and his body is reconstituted, or when he does something fucky like look in a mirror

Mirrors show the truth, right? But like, too much of it?
I think I lean towards the theory that something is striving to push through into the world by substituting it into his place in existence, like how the dupe snake wasn't *our* mom really, but was a pattern of our mother and for all measures of qualia was our mother at the same time as being a discrete existence separate from her.
>68, 62, 66 vs. DC 75 - Failure
Close, but no cigar!

I laughed.

Very good stuff, but a little too late to qualify. Keep it in your back pocket.

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>Put the full measure of your incredible deduction skills behind this challenge
>68, 62, 66 vs. DC 75 - Failure

You snort. "Of course I can tell you."

Of course you can tell him. You've talked to a lot of people. You've dug through his stuff, like, three times. These are all the things you're supposed to do. Of course you can tell him.

But… you don't have your evidence! You just have to sit down and look at it properly. That's why you're drawing a blank— it's not your fault. Ellery's the one who put you on the spot. Richard— it's him too, right? Him too. He had to go and tell you things you didn't even want to know. It's his fault. Why isn't he helping you?

«Because this is an abominable waste of time.»

What? No it's not. It's… it's… you like finding stuff out, okay? You like knowing secrets. And who says it won't come in handy? Nobody. He's jut being a stick-in-the-mud for no reason, just to— wasn't he interested in this? Yesterday? Hello?

«Certainly not.»

There was the thing with the blackboard?

«Not my fault in the slightest. Yours, if anything.»

It's your fault he did a- what, a presentation? What the hell was—

"You're talking to your thing," Ellery says. "You've got the rapid eye movements. Just, uh, wanted to let you know."

You refocus. "I am not."

"Yeah, you- you stopped. Eidelon have any comments, or are you just—?"

«He really has no idea what he's dealing with.»

"Okay, A), what? And B), it'd be really hard to get comments from something I don't have, so no." (You were very convincing, you think.)

Ellery clasps his hands. "Eidolon. It's the specific term for— you know what? If you don't want to talk about it, I can't help you. You have no ideas about me?"

"I have ideas," you say.

"Which are…?"

You don't say anything.

Ellery ducks his head. "Great. Great. It was dumb luck after all. Well, uh, glad I'm not alone, I guess. Let me know if you go through my stolen shit and find anything. Or— gods, who knows if it'll even do any good. Wasn't kidding about the cliff."

"About the…" You cross your arms. "About walking off it?"

"I mean, I don't know it'll happen. And I'm not— don't get me wrong— I'm not suicidal, so don't go spreading that around, okay? But the notes all go— I went through them yesterday, after you left. They all go 1-2-3. 1, I write some obnoxious cryptic gullshit: IE, I figure it out. 2, a few days after, I spontaneously decide to do something fucking stupid. Which is not... it's not atypical, but there's a pattern here. 3, there's a gap. One to three days. I died. Yeah?"

There must've been a faster way to say that. "So you're going to do something stupid?"

"Fucking stupid. Yeah. And it wasn't today— I mean, going back to the cave was kind of stupid, but it wasn't fucking stupid. So tomorrow, I think. Tomorrow." He rubs his forehead. "It'd be nice to have an observer."

It takes you a moment. "Me? I thought I was— you called me a bitch." You pause. "And I… you know… I'm very busy."

"You are a bitch, but you're the only…" Ellery works his bottom lip. "Nobody else has attempted to dig through my shit, so you're the only one who knows. And look, I don't— it might not take that long. Just hang out, I can test a couple things in the meantime, and if I- if I bolt, just... I don't know, follow? Take notes? Maybe your notes won't vanish."

You cross your arms a little tighter. "I, uh…"

"You don't have to agree right now… just show up first thing tomorrow, I guess. Don't bring anyone."

«I do not approve of this.»

"…Okay," you say. "Maybe. I'm very, very busy."

"Yeah." Ellery shifts. "So, are you gonna give my letter back, or…?"

>[1] Return Ellery's blackmail letter to Margo's doorstep.
>[2] Replace your letter with Ellery's letter. (It *is* more detailed.)
>[3] Remove your letter. You'll update it with Ellery's new information. Heh heh heh.
>[4] Just keep it where it is.
>[5] Write-in.


See instructions here: >>4280672 In short, pick options with a maximum total of 6.

>[A1] Spend your day observing/running experiments on Ellery. Likely to produce interesting results. But, you know, it's… spending all day with Ellery. (6)

>[B1] Trek up to Wind Court HQ and narc on Pat. And that corpse you found in the Fen. (4)
>[B3] Finish your model. (2)

[LETTERS] - (1/5)
>[C1] Trek all the way out to Branwen's and ask her for a letter. She genuinely owes you. (4)
>Try and persuade _______ to write you a letter… or at least find out what you need to do to get it, which may take time later.
>>[C2] Madrigal (1)
>>[C3] Ellery (2 -- 0 with [A1])
>>[C4] Eloise (2)
>>[C5] Horse Face (1)
>>[C6] Some random stranger (3)

>[D1] Work out how, exactly, to get your hands on a radio. (1)
>[D2] Contemplate where on earth The Sword might've gone. (2)
>[D3] Hang around Horse Face for a while. It's possible you'll find your stolen model- or at least make him feel guilty enough to return it. And maybe you'll figure out what his deal is. (3)

>[E1] Sit down and research suitable sources of MANSE law: far easier to get, but morally questionable. (3) [Repeatable]
>[E2] Sit down and research suitable sources of NATURAL law: rare, dangerous, entailing an expedition. (4) [Repeatable]
>[E2] Sit down and research suitable sources of MONSTER law: rare, dangerous, entailing an expedition. (4) [Repeatable]

>[F1] Of course you can tell him! Get your thoughts straight, again, and work out what's up with Ellery. (1 for the same write-in option as the previous update.)

>[G1] Write-in. (?)
>[1] Return Ellery's blackmail letter to Margo's doorstep.

>[D1] Work out how, exactly, to get your hands on a radio. (1)
>[D2] Contemplate where on earth The Sword might've gone. (2)
>[E1] Sit down and research suitable sources of MANSE law: far easier to get, but morally questionable. (3) [Repeatable]

Time to be a fucking nerd

Immortality will be ours
also since we're gonna be around Ellery all day make him spend 5 minutes of it writing us an endorsement letter
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>D1, D2, E1

Called and writing for A1. You'll have plenty of time to be a fucking nerd, not to worry.

In other news, drew another thing: younger designs for a couple characters. I've had these kicking around privately for a while (there's a lot of Drowned sketches that never see the light of day) so I'd thought I'd do a little compilation of the ones that haven't gotten proper images. Just in case, it's clockwise Monty, Madrigal, Richard/Martin [as the Man in White], and Ellery.
Oh AND I got an evacuation warning due to fires in my area. So if I vanish unexpectedly, I probably evacuated. I'll do my best to keep you guys posted.
>Yeah, yeah, fine
>For science?

You glance down at the letter in your hand. "Oh, uh… I'll just… go put it back."

"Okay, you better, because I'm out of… stuff. That, and I spent a lot of time putting that together. Couldn't find a damn book that wasn't backwards."

"…Right." It's not the time. You tug at a lock of hair. "Guess I better go, then."

"Yeah. Yeah. Better not to leave together. I'll see you tomorrow, okay? My place. No offense, I don't think you have testing stuff. Uh… don't tell Madrigal— I mean, don't tell anybody, but not her. And not Eloise, for… you know? You've been— you've talked to Eloise, right? She likes to… talk."

"I know," you say. "Gee."

"Okay, okay, good. I'll, uh…" Ellery tugs his balaclava on for the last time. "Uh, bye. Cheers."

And he's gone, vanished into the undergrowth. Was that the true purpose of the awful windbreaker? You may never know. You have no intention of seeing him tomorrow.


You mean, what, is he crazy? (That's not up for debate.) But is he crazy? You? Spending time with him? Hours? Maybe he got the wrong idea with the cave thing. Got uppity. Thought you picked him because you wanted to, rather than you doing him a favor. God! How embarrassing.

«The surest way to put the man in his place is to ignore him. Effective, and no effort is expended.»
«Your return to the subject that <brought> you here is appreciated. Let us hope these last few days prove anomalous.»

Certainly they will. You march off back to Margo's with a renewed sense of purpose.

It's in tatters by the time you drag yourself back to camp. You discovered you did, maybe, want to spend the day with Ellery: not for him, clearly, but for— curiosity. The spirit of adventure. Um. Not being alone with Richard. This point triggered a barrage of logical counterpoints— you were currently alone with Richard, as you have been for a sixth of your life; if this is about the unfortunate revelations from earlier, he already <told> you that made no difference, he was not inclined to act differently; you were a bad listener, and rude, and overemotional, and irrational, for being swayed by something neither you nor he had control over, and furthermore had no relevance or bearing. On anything.

But of course it has bearing. How could it not? It bears on you, if nothing else: every time you focus on Richard, something revolting starts boiling up within you, some toxic sludge of grief and revulsion and loathing and yearning. And rage. Mostly rage. Rage against yourself, for forgetting, and Richard, for quietly letting you forget. Rage for yourself, and your shabby carved-away life, and for Richard, and his shabby carved-away self. Your father had always abandoned you, but you'd known in your heart that he couldn't help it. Now even that seems suspect. He could've known. Made preparations. He could've fixed everything, save himself, save you, but he ran. Ran and stranded you with his unfeeling shell. How dare he! And how dare you forget!

You think about this, which is why you can't sleep. You alternate staring at the ceiling, shutting your eyes, and dragging your sodden blanket over your face, none of which prove effective. You toss. You turn. You flip onto your stomach. Finally, hatefully, you reach to the end of your cot and poke Richard.

He cracks open a yellow eye. «Sleep promotes healthy functioning. I recommend it.»

"Doing my best," you hiss. "Can you, like, sedate me?"


"Sedate me. Like…" You throw your hands around. "You know, when you… take over. And I don't remember anything? That. But without the taking over."

«You never cease to surprise.»

"Is that a…? Oh." You hold your forehead: something thick and woolen is inside, from the feel of it. "Isssh thish the— whoa." You fall over.

«Good night, Charlie.»

Sleep floods your veins.


>[11:43 AM]
>[ID: 12/12]

You awaken stiffly. You feel like you've been clobbered by a brick. Or a sack of bricks.

«Physiologically, you have.»

Oh, good. Well, you didn't dream, which is nice. Not nice: soreness, cotton mouth, the direct light streaming through your tent walls. What time is it? You don't want to know.

«Quarter before noon.»

Oh, good. Ellery is probably off a cliff by now. Did Richard not wake you up on purpose? Bastard.

«I thought it best to let your system purge naturally.»
«You would be considerably unhappier if I were to accelerate the process.»

That sounds like an excuse, or possibly a lie. Urgh. Nothing you can do now but get dressed and double-check.

«Or stay on task.»

Look, you'll probably end up doing that anyways, right? So you might as well double-check. Isn't that logical? Doesn't he like logic?

«When used for noble purposes.»

That's stupid. You're double-checking.

You've memorized the location of Ellery's tent by now— no need to check the map on the notice board. Knocking? No need to embarrass yourself further. You barge in with—

"Charlotte?" Madrigal's voice stops you mid-barge. Awkwardly, you turn to meet her.

She looks like garbage, is the politest way you can think to put it. Wan and disheveled, like she hasn't slept for two days straight— which, thinking on it, might be accurate. You force a chipper smile. "Oh, hi! What a coincidence."

"Yeah, whatever, cut the shit. What are you doing?"

"Uh…" Your hand is on the doorflap. You look at it.

"Holy shit. What are you doing here?"

("Don't tell Madrigal.") "N…oth… what are you doing here?"


You cross your arms. "I already took that. You can't take that."

"Goddammit! I'm talking to Ellery, okay? About something private and none of your business. Are you, what, trying to poke around again? You know he's in there, right?"

>[A] What *are* you doing here? (Write-in.)

>[B1] Attempt to eavesdrop on the private/noneofyourbusiness conversation. None of your business? Sounds like personal business! [Roll.]
>[B2] Play it safe.

>[C] Write-in.
B1, huehuehue
>"He can't stop me."

>[B1] Attempt to eavesdrop on the private/noneofyourbusiness conversation. None of your business? Sounds like personal business! [Roll.]
Quick note on voting procedure, since I know it's not explained anywhere. When options are like this:


it means you can pick one (or more, if not specified/they're not exclusive to each other).

When options are like this:



It means you have to pick one from each group: either [A1] or [A2], and also [B] (which is presumably a write-in option). If everyone leaves out [B]-- or [A], in this case-- I'm forced to write it like you did nothing, and Charlotte doesn't need more help with being socially awkward. If you can't think of anything, write that instead of nothing so I know what's going on. Yeah?

Luckily, >>4295186 this guy wrote something in, so I'll be going with that + [B1] in this instance.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+10 Skilled Eavesdropper) vs. DC 50 to successfully eavesdrop.
>Spend 1 ID [12/12] to add a +10 to the result?
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 74 (1d100)

>[2] N
Rolled 47 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

yea I forgot to put the >A before that line

we're full of ID, capped out. Best time for big spendy
Rolled 37, 74 = 111 (2d100)

Rolling the last, as well as flipping between spendy and no spendy: 1-50 for spendy, 51-100 for not. Then writing.

Nah, you were fine: I could tell from context. That was directed towards the posts with no response to [A] at all.
File: drinky bird.jpg (13 KB, 395x395)
13 KB
>"He can't stop me."
>84, 57, 47 vs. DC 40 - Enhanced Success

Always better to take the explanation given. "So what if he's in there? It's not like he could stop me, right?"

"What?" Madrigal squints. "Like, physically? Because physically, I think he could… I don't know if he'd want to, but he— it's not important. You remember I wanted to keep this on the down-low?"

"Yeah? And then he found us, so—" You shrug. "That's out the window, right?"

"There's a difference between…" She shakes her head.


"Between fucking up on accident and fucking up on purpose, okay? We're not trying to— this is not to bother him, or scare him, or whatever, it's just— don't go in there and mess shit up while he's there. Good fucking god."

You open your mouth.

"And that's an order."

You close your mouth.

«Even the whore is against this idea. It just goes to show.»

Well, that's not going to— what? This was a hypothetical, not a…

«I don't know what you mean.»

You can't tell if he's yanking your chain. Whatever. "Fine," you say, to Madrigal. "I'll wait. But only because I wanted to." It's not even wrong.

Madrigal looks as if she wants to say something. She pushes past you, instead, and disappears into the tent.

Phew! That mostly worked. You hover in place for a second, waiting to see if any shouting trickles out, but all is quiet. Handsign, maybe? Damn. Worst thing that ever happened to you, handsign, ruining all your attempts at an easy eavesdrop.

«That is not the worst thing that ever happened to you.»

Yeah, it's called hyper- yes, he's right. He's the worst thing that ever happened to you, multiple times over. (Your stomach churns.) But anyways—

Anyways, you can still make do. You glance around, then duck off the path, circling around the side of Ellery's tent. These things are never perfectly constructed, there's always gaps in the canvas where the sand and critters and cold water come in— aha. It's even nicely placed, no stooping required, no notes blocking it, even. You peer through.

"—fuck are you doing?!"

It's a valid question. Ellery has shoved his mounds of paper off his furniture and replaced them with a small array of… miscellanies. You spot a whalebone knife, a wooden drinky bird, a rack of fluids(?) in little jars. Madrigal seems more focused on Ellery, though, which makes sense: he's sitting down, his sleeves rolled past his elbows, draining his own blood into a bag.

"What does it look like?" he signs.

"Like you're being fucking stupid, like usual. What- what even- you look like shit, by the way."

"Thanks. You do too." Ellery fiddles with the tube in his arm. "Something bothering you, Maddie?"

"No. No. You're not getting out of this. Why are you pumping— what are you gonna do with a pint of your blood? Is it even safe to—"

"Be safer if I could focus, honestly."

Madrigal's face sours. "Fuck you."

"Those were the days, weren't they." Ellery leans back. "Anyways, uh, I'm just a little busy. I sure hope this isn't about me. I mean, twice in a week? Little tacky, little des-"

"Well, I remember why we broke this off." Madrigal brushes her hair back. "Bye."


She stuffs her hands in her pockets and strides out of the tent. Outside it, she collapses onto a patch of seagrass and holds her head.

Inside it, Ellery stares listlessly at the ceiling. He grinds his heel into the floor. He touches his forehead, then rubs his eye. He throws his head back, and strikes his thigh, and stands. He hastens out, carrying the blood with him.

You can't risk stepping out to watch, so you huddle behind the tent. Finally, Ellery returns, with Madrigal trailing after him. "—sensitive," he's saying. "Okay, here. Now what's the matter?"

Madrigal wipes her mouth. "I got fucked up."

"…What sort of— when?"

"Day before last. Uh, it's a little… little of everything, I guess. You ever read about snakes? The animals."

"I'm not much of a naturalist, Maddie. Don't you have Branwen f-"

"They're not native, she knows shit all. Nothing? I thought you knew everything." (It's only half-sarcastic.)

"I've never claimed to— I don't know most things, Maddie. Have you talked to Eloise? I know you don't like her much, but she's actually—"

"I'm not fucking going to Eloise."

"Oh, uh… I don't know, then. I hear there's a kind-of library in town, you could see if— you know there's a new guy? He stopped in, said hello, I think he's from over east? If snakes aren't native, maybe he—"

"I'm not… goddammit! Fuck you."

"Maddie, you come in here asking for help, you can't get pissy when I—"

"I didn't ask for help."

Ellery strokes his chin. "Pretty sure you did."

"Well, you're fucking wrong, then. Surprise. Fuck you. All you had t- all you had to do was sit down and shut the fuck up for a- for a second of your miserable life! And at the end you go 'gee, Maddie, it sure is shitty that at any moment you might reach around and claw your own spine out.' And that would've been fine. Would've been great! But you're incapable of ever shutting the fuck up, or, say, considering the wants or needs of other people, so— wow. Thanks for being useless."

"…I have to say," Ellery says, "that was really good. Really succinct, uh, deconstruction of my— Maddie, it doesn't work like this."

"Like what."

"I mean, I know we live in close quarters, which is shitty. But you can't keep coming in here pretending that everything's all good, because it's— I mean, look, it's not. You have to find another shoulder to cry on."

Madrigal throws her head back. "What did I see in you?"

"My dashing good looks, my— fuck if I know, Maddie, that's more of your problem. Hope your whatever works out."

"…" She sucks in through her teeth. "Go to hell."

She leaves.

The second the flap swings shut, Ellery slumps. He stares at the wall for a long while, then stands. He pads over to his coat (flung onto the back of a chair) and searches its pockets. He pulls something out, hidden from your view, and stares at it. He puts it back. He returns to his workstation, and begins to disconnect the tubing from his arm.

You decide the time is right, and a minute later Ellery greets you at his entrance. Up close, Madrigal was right— he does look terrible, with a greyish pallor, though whether that's from blood loss or that conversation you can't tell.

"I slept late," you say, by way of explanation.

"…Oh." Ellery blinks, refocusing. "Oh, okay. Well, I'm still here, obviously, so no worries. Haven't done a whole lot, mostly just prep—"

"Cool." He turns; you head in behind him. "So were you planning on doing anything specific, or…"

"Oh, you know… it's a process. You know. Throw stuff together, see what happens, hope nobody melts. Hope you don't melt, I guess. I'd— you know."

"Mmhm." It's difficult keeping a straight face.

"Did you bring note-taking— guess not. Uh, no worries, you can just write on the backs of— I'll find something. Uh, then just… take notes, uh, do anything I ask you to. Pass me stuff. If you have ideas, I guess, shoot. It's a process. Uh… unrelated."

"Yeah?" you say, though you half-know what's coming.

"You were with Madrigal, right? The other day? Did anything… happen to her? At all? Or you," he appends, a little too slow.

>[A1] Oh, yeah. Yeah. You know she has, like, snake eggs in her brain now? Wack.
>[A2] Well… she got hella drunk. Does that work?
>[A3] You were separated for a good chunk of it, so you wouldn't rightly know, sorry.
>[A4] Nope. Nothing, actually. She came back feeling great. Why?
>[A5] Write-in.

[OPTIONAL]: Experimentation
Ellery will conduct his own stuff without your input, but if you want specific results you have to write-in your own testing. A summary is fine, no scientific method required.

Your resources are as follows:
- Pint of Ellery's blood
- Knives
- Syringes
- Tubes
- Drinky bird (nonfuctional)
- Beakers
- Unknown chemicals
- Paper
- Bloodied mirror shard
- Small amount of chit [low-grade crystal]
- Theoretically, your crown [extremely high-grade crystal]
- Most anything small enough to be palmed + no moving parts
- Other junk? Who knows what Ellery has?

>[B] Do anything specific with any of/all this? (Write-in.) [Optional.]

>[C] Write-in.

>[A1] Oh, yeah. Yeah. You know she has, like, snake eggs in her brain now? Wack

>[A1] Oh, yeah. Yeah. You know she has, like, snake eggs in her brain now? Wack.

yea definitely not a good idea to say this but I can't resist that phrasing

Also we should stop that process. We really don't want ANOTHER Richard slithering around.

mix half the pint of blood with the unknown chemicals, then pour half the resulting mixture into the drinky bird and a bit into a syringe that you sneakily pocket. use the rest to paint a model.
Called. Update partially written, but it's not enough to post. I'll try to get it done in the morning. Apologies.
>yeah ahaha. wack
>steal some blood to paint with, like the highly normal person you are

You have Ellery in the palm of your hand, and he doesn't even know it. How amazing! How fantastic! You could tell him anything in the world, and he'd believe you. Spectacular! Is this how Richard feels all the time? Knowing things you don't?

«That would be unprofessional.»

Well, it's not unprofessional for you, is it? Gloating would be unprofessional, and look at you, not gloating. Not even a little. You're performing an objective analysis of your options. Lying: funny in the moment, but might bite you later. Downplaying: boring. Laying out the full truth and enjoying the barely-suppressed panic: brilliant. You're going with that.

You affect a concerned look. "Oh, goodness. Did she not tell you? I would've thought—"

"She— no, I didn't hear anything."

"Mmm." You nod sagely. "Guess I'll have to pass the bad news along, then. She's gonna die."

His jaw tenses, and his eyes flicker to the door, but that's all. "Is she."

"Oh, yeah. Yeah. Guess she mucked around with a snake and got all, uh, infected. With its eggs, or… yeah. Crazy, right?"

To the door, again, and back to you. Like he's actively denying you a reaction. Jerkass. "That's one way to put it."

"Yeah. So, see, as I understand it, they'll cook in her brain for… what, a few weeks? Month? Then they hatch, and— you know those bugs that lay eggs in other bugs?"

"…I'm not much of a naturalist…"

"Okay, well, they do. They lay eggs, the eggs hatch, the babies eat their way out of the host. Like that, see? Only she doesn't lose consciousness, I guess, it's like it's transferred to the snake…"

Ellery doesn't say anything.

"…I mean, apparently there's a workaround where she won't die from it… but it'll still, like, screw her up… I don't know, maybe permanently?"

He rubs his nose. He says something too quietly to understand.


"I'm gonna… step outside," he signs. "Back in a minute. Don't touch anything."

"What?" He can't do this to you! "You can't— I mean, what if your crazy brain stuff kicks in, and you go walking off into nowhere? Huh? What if—"

He raises a hand. "It's not that. It'll only be a minute."

He leaves.

Damn. Damn, damn, damn. Was this your fault? Were you just a little too hungry, or is Ellery just that wound-up? Maybe he thinks you'll make fun of him for getting emotional, which is— that's just offensive. You wouldn't. In public. Maybe a tiny bit in public—

Ellery returns a minute later, as promised. If you searched, could you detect a certain clench to his jaw, a certain sheen to his eyes, a certain hoarseness or quavery tenor to his voice? No, you couldn't: you searched hard for these things, and to your abject disappointment came up empty. For all the damn impact it made, you'd think you told him the weather report. Why? Has the blood loss blunted his affect? He's just that committed to playacting? Or to bottling everything—

"Thanks for the heads-up," Ellery says neutrally, "and sorry for the wait. We can get started."

'We,' as it turns out, is a misnomer: you are relegated to the sidelines for the first half-hour, forced to watch as a begoggled Ellery bustles around with tweezers and jars. Your notes are incoherent, as you don't know what's happening, and every time you try to ask you're met with shifty, overlong explanations. Your attempts at idle conversation, meanwhile, are outright ignored. Richard was right, wasn't he? This is a waste.


Oh, but he's worse. You'd forgotten.

«Avoiding the problem will only exacerbate it, Charlie.»

What? What's that? You can't hear him. You're too busy being super interested in—

"Charlotte?" Ellery is looking over his shoulder. "Could you come here? I need you for something."

You hurry over. "Yeah?"

"Yeah. It's pretty simple, but I can't— it's not something I can detect myself. Or I detect it all the time, rather, so it just blends in. Right here. Could you dip your finger in each of these, one at a time, and tell me how they feel?"

Ellery is gesturing to three dishes. Two are filled with a sludgy coral mass, translucent at the edges, faintly bubbling. The third is stark red. Blood.

«Hematic filth.»

You don't want to tell Ellery that you snuck into his tent and touched his nasty blood-soaked shrine and just that was weird and unpleasant. You also don't want to look like a coward. Still, you equivocate. "Isn't that… dangerous?"

"Dangerous? No, unless you absorb liquids through your skin."

"Like a frog," you feel compelled to say.

Ellery adjusts his goggles. "Maybe? Uh, but no, nothing should be permanent— the first two are old samples, too, so I doubt they're very strong, even if they are concentrated. Not to mention I'll be supervising."

"Wait, they're all your blood?"

"Oh, yeah, sorry. Left to right is pre-... what'd you call it? Pre-Day of Reckoning, post-Day of Reckoning, now. Uh, they're all congealed because of the seawater… you know, there's the reaction. Tried to get them more liquid, not sure it worked much."

"Day of… oh." The whole thing with his surgery. "If you're sure, I guess…"

Ellery nods, and you dip a pinky into the first sample. Involuntarily, you stand straighter. Your neck prickles.

"Would you mind describing aloud? Just so I can get this down…"

"Uh—" You wipe your nose with your free hand. "Uh, it's- electric… jumpy. Bitter? Tastes- singed, I guess, and kind of—"

"Good enough. Next one?"

You lift your pinky, which stops some of it; you wipe it on the table, which takes care of the rest. You place it in the next sample. "Oh."

Ellery sounds worried. "Oh?"

"No, it's just…" It's the same feeling as the last, only doubled; layered over itself in such a manner that it cancels itself out, and a signal is unearthed from the noise— but that's dumb, and weird. You can't say that. "…I don't know. It's richer, uh, more substantial. But less substance? And it tastes kind of- woody. Like pulp, or—"

"I know what you mean," Ellery says gently. "Okay. Last one?"

You wipe your pinky again and dip it in the red sample. You squint. "Is this one, like, a control?"


"It doesn't feel like anything."

"Hmm." It's not a good hmm. "Okay. Okay, thanks, Charlotte. Thank you. I'll, uh, keep working on it. You— oh, no, stay here." You'd attempted to return to your post across the tent. "Extra hands will help. Actually, could you grab a—"

Over the next couple of hours, both of you begin to loosen up. When he's not in pointed silence or off on a tangent, and once you learn to parse the frequent stops and starts and subject changes, Ellery proves to be a lively conversationalist: you learn more about woodcarving than you ever expected to, but miraculously you're not complaining. Meanwhile, you are a competent, if surly, lab assistant. (You're not sure about 'taking orders.') You even work in a request for a letter of recommendation somewhere, which he agrees to— he'd prefer to wait until this is cleaned up, though.

It all gets to the point where you have to sit down and remind yourself that you're not supposed to enjoy this. You are here out of necessity, not pleasure. You don't even like Ellery. How could you? He's- just look at him. And you? You're royalty, practically. It'd be absurd. That's why you're not enjoying this, in the slightest, and any evidence to the contrary is slander, or libel, if printed. You're using Ellery for your own gain. That's all there is to it. Richard.

«I have said nothing.»

(No, but he was going t-)

"Hey! Careful with those, Charlotte. They're expensive."

In attempt to salvage some pride, you have commandeered your own section of the table. You wanted the entire remainder of the pint; Ellery offered you half a cup, and insisted you wear gloves. ("Do you want your eyes turning shitty colors?") You wanted a syringe, and made a derogatory remark about the types that have these on hand; Ellery insisted he only had his, and that's a stereotype, and maybe if conditions weren't so fucking awful people wouldn't turn to shooting up seawater. But what did he know, he only got thrown into the ocean for attempting to organize.

He gave you a syringe anyways, from his pocket. A new one, he said.

Now you're trying to take a few weird chemicals from the rack, and he's stopping you. Figures, doesn't it? He just wants to keep you under his thumb. Like you can't do anything yourself. Like you're just here to help him out, and not to help yourself out. You scowl. "What's the point in having them out, then?"

"Didn't say they're not useful, but it only takes a few drops. And you go in from the top, you don't open the lid, or you'll contaminate the plasm. And the whole bottom row is antidotes, so they're just going to waste if you throw them in blind. Calm down."

You were all ready to calm down before the last thing. You scowl harder. "Maybe you just don't know how they're supposed to be used."

"Of course I know, I helped dev— whatever. You can use a drop from each. That's all you need for that much blood."

You could use more than that: Ellery's not going to remember today. You don't. After pocketing a tiny jar of fresh blood (never know when red will come in handy), you use a drop from each on the rest. It fizzes strangely at the first— by the time you get to the last, you're looking at a gelatinous red-black clump. There goes your plan for the drinky bird.

"Oof, yeah," Ellery says, leaning over to look at your progress. "That tends to happen if you use all of them at once. Too many conflicts. Can you imagine if you used more?"

"Hrm." You poke at the clump with the needle of the syringe. To your surprise, it falls apart, revealing a pool of red blood within. "Uh…"

"Oh, that's not… it's supposed to be solid… write that down."

To your irritation, Ellery refuses to pass a verdict on his testing until he's triple-checked everything, not to mention run separate tests on the old samples. It's early evening before he sits down, chin on hand. "It's fucking average."

"You've said that," you say, delicately. "I still don't get it."

"Everything's average, Charlotte. Turbidity is average. Viscosity is average. Reactivity is average. There's an average count of all the little bits in it. Not a normal count— an average count. Exactly at the hump of the bell curve."

"And that's… weird?"

"Yeah. It's… it's weird. It wouldn't be conclusively weird, though, except, uh, the old samples aren't average, even accounting for the coagulation. So it's new. And then… you didn't feel anything."

"And that's weird."

"…Yeah, uh, putting it lightly. It's like the water stopped being wet. It's…" He slides his goggles up, rubs his eyes. "You know about blood? Surely."

"What? Oh." You dimly remember prior lectures. "It carries the… soul?"

"Sure, okay, one way to put it. It's imprinted with the soul, the ego, the vital essence… whatever. Less of it, less of you. That's why blood loss fucks people up so hard. Are you following?"

"…There wasn't any in yours. The new one."

"Yeah." Ellery crosses one leg over the other. "I'm gone, gods know where to. And the averageness? It's not natural. It's fake blood, or mass-produced blood, or something."

"You're taking this very well," you say quietly.

"I'll take it worse later. Or maybe not." Ellery smiles— it doesn't reach his eyes. "Maybe I'm not designed to take it badly."

That's something you can't respond to. What are you supposed to say? 'Gee, Ellery, I'm sorry you're a fake version of yourself, probably'? 'Ha! I knew something was wrong with you'? You nod.

"I mean, I'd be lying if I said this wasn't typical for me. Usually I know when I've gotten into shit, but… exception makes the rule, I guess." Ellery is doing something strange with his chest— pressing and holding it, again and again. He slides his hand under his shirt, but it doesn't seem to help. "Can't feel my heartbeat."

"Are you on the right…" No, he's feeling his left. "Wait, never-"

Ellery looks at you darkly. He slides his hand to your left— his right. He closes his eyes. "Shit."

"It's on the wrong side?"

"Feels that way. Only one way to find out for sure." He stands, paces over to the table. He picks up the whalebone knife. "Sorry, this might be gory."

"Won't that- hurt?" is all you can think to say.

"Uh, probably. You're right." He sets the knife down. He pulls his syringe out. "I'll numb it first."

He's crazy. He's crazy. He's, uh… effing stupid.

Oh, God. Is this it?

>[1] Okay, you can't just… let Ellery stab himself, even if he'll come back after. Attempt to negotiate the knife out of his hand, and hope he's not unexpectedly stubborn or violent. [Roll.]
>[2] Okay, he might be in an altered, uh, state of mind. You'll let him stab himself, but you need to negotiate first. Can he write a note saying you didn't do it? What are you going to do with him afterwards? Etcetera.
>[3] Attempt to get him out of camp before anything happens. Live, die, whatever— you don't want people discovering his corpse, or you with it. Though you might be seen leaving with him...?
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Okay, he might be in an altered, uh, state of mind. You'll let him stab himself, but you need to negotiate first. Can he write a note saying you didn't do it? What are you going to do with him afterwards? Etcetera.
>[1] Okay, you can't just… let Ellery stab himself, even if he'll come back after. Attempt to negotiate the knife out of his hand, and hope he's not unexpectedly stubborn or violent. [Roll.]


Called for [1].

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 60 (+10 ???)


>[1] Spend 1 ID for +10 to the result.
>[2] Do not.
Rolled 1 (1d100)

Rolled 63 (1d100)


all is lost. call off the big spendy
Rolled 25 (1d100)

Hahahaha. Ouch. Rolling the last on the off chance you snag a 100, then writing.

"Ellery," you say decorously, "I think we better… talk this out, alright? I don't know if I'm on board with you, er, cutting your chest out— is that what you're doing? Planning to do?"

"More or less." Ellery is shrugging his shirt off, back to you. "Sorry, it will be gory— you don't have to look. At least nobody's getting hurt?"

"Um…" You rub the base of your chin. "You're… I think you'd get hurt, uh, rather badly. Fatally?"


"…Okay, not fatally, but- wait, yes fatally. You still die from it, don't you?"

"Well, sure, but I wasn't really objecting to that part. Moreso the 'you.'"

It takes you a moment. "Oh, come on. You're really going to nitpick—"

"Yeah!" Ellery spins around. "Yeah! I fucking am! Who's 'you,' Charlotte? Who'd get hurt? You wouldn't get hurt, and Ellery sure wouldn't— he's not here! He's on fucking vacation in, in, in, Little Saroh, for all I know! For all I— fuck."

"So this is the taking it worse?" you say.

"Yeah! Guess it is!" He rakes his fingers backwards through his hair, completing his sudden transformation (shirt, knife) into a deranged homeless man. You marvel. "I'm— I think you'd better go, Charlotte, honestly. Thanks for all the help, but, uh- catch up in a few days, okay? Few days. I just need some space to…"

"To kill yourself?" It's not your fault. You've never been able to leave well enough alone.

"To- I mean, that's lacking a lot of nuance, but sure! If you want to put it like that. I think that, in light of the facts, that's a decision I should be able to make, and that I have, apparently, made. Multiple times."

You shrug. "Maybe."

"Maybe? I find out, I die. I find out, I die. Like clockwork. Nine times. That's coincidence?"

"No, I mean— that wasn't what you said yesterday, was it? You seemed to think it was outside your control." You pause. "Have you considered that you're being… effing stupid? Right now?"

"Wow, that's rich. I'm being stupid for, what, reacting poorly? To the concept that I-"

"No, I mean…" You have no idea why you're attempting this. What are you gaining? "…that's what you called it. That's why I'm here. Because sometime today, you were going to do something so stupid it could get you killed. Remember?"

"Yeah? And I didn't quite have the motivation yesterday, did I? You're reaching."

"I'm not— listen, okay? I'm just thinking that…" You swallow. "There's someone else who would gain from you dying, right? Do you know who?" Ellery stares wildly at you. "…Um, okay, I'll just… whoever made you this way. Right? Because then you forget all about it, and you… look, are you sure you want to stab yourself? Hell, are you sure you're mad? It came on pretty suddenly…"

He doesn't say anything, just kind of shivers. He's not sure. You're going with that.

"…Would you like to give the knife over? Just cause you're not the real Ellery anymore, doesn't mean you have to be a puppet…"

You extend your hand, palm up. Ellery glances down at it, then up at you. He doesn't move.

"…Or, here, I'll just… I'll just come over and take it from you. How about that? Then it's not your fault. Watch, I'm coming over…"

You inch towards Ellery, trying neither to stare at his eyes (aggressive?) or his bare chest (he's just all bones, it's not attractive). You settle for the feet to gauge your distance, and shuffle forward until you're within reasonable grabbing distance. Finally, you look up.

It was far too late. You should've looked at the eyes all along. If you'd looked at the eyes, you might've seen how vacant they were, how glassy they were, and you might've kept your distance, or left. You should've left. You'd mistaken the silence for complaisance. When does Ellery— any Ellery— stop talking? When-

Ellery drives the whalebone knife into your heart with a dull thock.

The illusion shatters for both of you. You had already been priding yourself on how thoughtful you were, how intelligent, how diplomatic, a line of reasoning that vanishes quick when your vision swims and blood spreads down your coat— for real! Real blood, real coat, real stain that will never, ever get out. That, and you're going to die.

Simultaneously, Ellery teeters backwards, his knife hand shaking uncontrollably. "Oh, gods," he moans. "Oh, gods."

You'd like to correct him with the smugness born of 20 years of theological supremacy, because that would mean things were normal, and you weren't, all of a sudden, stabbed in the heart. "Auugh," you manage instead, and sink to your knees.

"Oh, gods." Ellery is scrambling to put his shirt back on. You wonder about his priorities. "I— fuck. Fuck. I'm sorry! I'm sorry, I didn't mean… oh, gods. Oh, gods. I— does it hurt?"

Does it hurt? You have a knife buried up to its hilt in your chest. The funny thing is, it doesn't hurt— it just throbs, like you've been punched, or something. You have the feeling that will change.

"I— godsdamn, that's a shit question. I'm sorry, I just… I'll get someone, okay? I'll get someone, I'll get help, you'll be fine. You'll be alright. Big healing factor. I mean, it's worse for organs, but… I'll get you help? It's not— don't panic, okay?"

You aren't. You have the feeling that will change, too, but at the moment you're just numb. Is this how it ends? The curtain goes down, the audience wants their money back? What a waste.

"I— I'm going. I'll be back. Don't panic, don't take the knife out—"

File: BANG.jpg (16 KB, 564x564)
16 KB
«Stop him.»

Richard lounges against the knife handle, stark against the red.

«'Help' will only get in the way. You're not going to die. You'll be fine before the adrenaline wears off.»

'But.' There's never not a but.

«Oh, Charlie, it's a bad time to get clever.»
«'But' I need access. It's as simple as that.»

Doesn't he have access to everything?

«Surface-level, yes. Ideally, I need consent to manipulate anything complicated, e.g. knitting organs back together.»


«It's a nice principle to pretend to hold, but consent is not strictly required.»
«I suppose this is more of a heads-up. Your heart is being put back together whether you like it or not. Now stop the man before he complicates things further.»

"Ellery," you choke out.

He stops in the doorway. "Shit! What?"

"Um…" You're slipping away, and not from pain or blood loss: your stranglehold on consciousness is being pried off. Your spine is pricking. "I- I don't—"

>[1] "—want you to get anybody." Let your heart get fixed. Hope Richard lets go of your body soon after. It won't be longer than a week, right?
>[2] "—know." Your physical and mental strength is waning, but the considerable force of your personality is intact. Attempt to fend Richard off. Success will leave you to recover naturally, albeit slowly — failure is bad. [Roll.]

let Richard know we could totally stop him
if we felt like it
>[1] "—want you to get anybody." Let your heart get fixed. Hope Richard lets go of your body soon after. It won't be longer than a week, right?
>[2] "—know." Your physical and mental strength is waning, but the considerable force of your personality is intact. Attempt to fend Richard off. Success will leave you to recover naturally, albeit slowly — failure is bad. [Roll.]
Rolled 8 (1d100)



Rolling, and then I'll go from there.
Oh, dammit, wrong dice. Same result, though, going off the 1-50 = [1] / 51-100 = [2] system I used earlier.

Writing for [1]. This will be the last update of the thread.

You could fight. You could thrash and scream and rain hellfire upon your intruder. You hear that, Richard? You have it in you, in theory.

In practice, you have a damn knife in your chest.

"…uh, want you to get anybody."

Ellery furrows his brows. "Charlotte, I'm not a— I'm not a doctor! You need someone— I'll explain, and, you know, it's not your fault, so you-"

You blink hard. "…I'll be… fine."

"You'll be fine? You're- you're- I'm going. I'm leaving. I—"



It's over. You are in freefall. Everything tastes like metal— your throat, teeth, gums, lips. "…Sorry in advance."


You black out.

Okay! That was an unexpected ending, but that's the dice for you, huh?

Hope you all enjoyed the thread. It was kind of a weird one, lots of stretches of lowkey between massive revelations, but I thought it made an interesting change from the last few. Thanks as ever for reading and voting-- quite literally couldn't do it without you.

I was planning to start a new thread shortly to continue the "timeskip," but with this I'm going to need the standard amount of time to plan/get some sleep. Timeskip ends early. New thread in 7-10 days, maybe the 16th? Just check the catalog and/or follow my Twitter.

We are archived here: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux
My Twitter is here: https://twitter.com/BathicQM

I will be hanging around until the thread falls off the board, so feel free to post your questions/comments/concerns here and I'll attempt to get back to you promptly. May post some drawings as well. Who knows?

Have a nice night, guys.
Thanks for running!

How big a powerlevel is Monty hiding?
Whatever his powerlevel was, he's mostly back to normal now.

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