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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 unsure about a lot of things: where you are, what day it is, why you're sprinting in a dress and heels…

One thing at a time. Where are you? Hallway. Dark hallway, wooden floor, by the sound of your pounding footsteps. That's all you know for now.

What day is it? You have no idea— the last thing you remember is Ellery with a knife. Were you stabbed? Are you dead? You're not dead, you're sprinting, so that's-

Why are you sprinting? There's inarticulate shouting and snarling from below you. There's a rhythmic banging against your back. Something is on your face. A javelin hurtles past your ear. You're fleeing, then? Fleeing. Not very honorable, even less dignified, but you're sure there's a good reason for it.

Is there a good reason for the dress, though? You brought none with you underwater, resolving that they weren't practical for adventuring; thusly you haven't worn one in years. The one you're wearing isn't awful— it's short and flowy— but it still catches on your legs. You stumble as you round the corner.

You catch yourself midfall on a balustrade: you have found the source of the commotion below you, evidently on the first floor. There is a thing like a shark with legs smashing through glass displays, and a woman in a hat, and a man with a club, and shouting, and…

Footsteps hot behind remind you not to linger: you push off the balustrade, turn, and freeze. A crab— armored, bipedal, claws the size of your chest— is blocking your path. You have seen its ilk before, but not down here. You thought they didn't live down here.

"SURRENDER," the crab says, in a voice like rusted metal.

You cycle between 'no thank you' and 'what for' and settle on a quick exhale. You will have to get around it, or through it, or—

You flinch at a piercing whistle from behind you. A fish-person has emerged from the ceiling. "Frances!"

Your middle name. Coincidence? But it's gesturing directly at you. "Jump!"

Does it realize you don't float? Or that you don't trust fish? That you've never seen it before? (Or have you? They all look the same.) "What?"

"Jump! Now! I'll catch you!"

You grimace. It's a long, hard fall, but the footsteps are closing in.


Richard? Is that him? He sounds exhausted. Look, you would hide, but everything nearby is wide open, and you don't have time to dash around and find cover. Lots of cover on the first floor, but you're not on the—

«Just do it.»


[Choices next.]
File: IF YOU'RE NEW READ THIS.png (5.66 MB, 3840x6524)
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All will require rolls. DC will vary based on the option.

>[1] Slide— if not around the crab, under it. It's brawny but slow-moving. But you're carrying something valuable on your back, and those claws hit hard…
>[2] Jump— the fish appears to recognize you, and admittedly there's a lot you don't remember. Best case you're entirely out of danger. Worst case…
>[3] Hide— trust Richard, you guess. You've got to trust him, because otherwise this option is ridiculous.
>[4] Write-in. (Asking questions is fine, but keep in mind you do have time pressure.)


>Previously on Drowned Quest Redux
You decided to renege on your agreement to procure a snake for some shady people, and refused to hang out with your frenemy Madrigal. Your landlord Monty laughed off both your attempts to both tell him your property was stolen and warn him of an assassination attempt. You paid off your bar tab and cried a significant amount.
The next day, you discovered that 1) the guy in your memory was probably your dead dad and 2) also Richard might be your dead dad. You took this poorly. You also learned about your crown, dropped off your blackmail letter, and discovered that your investigatee Ellery was blackmailing the same person- and he lied to you about a whole bunch of things, mostly because (he claimed) he didn't know the truth himself. He invited you to take notes as he tested what was wrong with him.
The day after that, you took him up on that offer, and took a bunch of notes as Ellery determined that he probably wasn't a real person. He took this poorly. You were stabbed in the chest.

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!

Richard we let you pilot and now we wake up to this mess. How can we trust you to get us out of it when you got us into it?
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Slow start, huh? That's alright.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s+5 (+5 Adrenaline Pumping) vs. DC 40 (-10 Acrobatic) to make the jump!

Additionally... here's some sketchy snapshots of what Richard might've been up to. Day 6 is your current outfit.
Rolled 48 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 43 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 75 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Alright, that's at least a success. Rolling the last for expediency and writing.
>Enhanced Success

While you can't be sure, you have a growing suspicion that Richard is, somehow, the reason you're here. You can't exactly trust him, then, can you?

«That's entirely backwards.»
«If I was the reason you were here, I would know what's happening.»
«I'd certainly be more trustworthy than some choker-wearing troglodyte, Charlie.»

You're not fond of your chances against the crab, and while you're not fond of the idea of dropping 20 feet into the gnashing maw of a shark-thing, either, it's at least a flashier kind of death. You are perched on the top of the balustrade.


It's not just that you're in abrupt and inexplicable danger, though admittedly that's a major factor. There's just something about the sound of his voice—


—There's something mushy about it, like the words are underdone. Like they're not quite words yet, and you're just hearing them properly because you're used to it. You've become used to it? You can't quite discern—

«Charlie, <move>.»

You flinch at the sudden volume, forgetting that you're twenty feet up, and immediately pinwheel off the edge. You have just enough time to regret every choice that led you to this moment before a webbed hand catches your collar. "Ow!" you manage.

"Shut up. Grab the rope. You're fucking heavy."

The end of a knit rope is shoved into your hands. Seeing little option, you take it. The fish lets go of your collar.

A week and a half ago you had ordinary hands. A week and a half ago, the rope would've slipped right through your ordinary hands, and you would've met a grisly (though flashy!) end. Today, you grip on for dear life as you swing — away from the balustrade — towards the center of the room. Above you, the fish triple-checks the knots, slices through the paper skylight, and only then thinks to stop the rope, which has continued to sway. You are exactly where you were before, clinging to its end like a limpet.

"Climb up!" the fish snaps.

You nod placatingly, because you'd rather it not change its mind about the rope, but look: years ago, in some all-encompassing heroism-flavored cloud of delusion, you'd obtained a set of makeshift weights. By the time the week was up, you were using them as bookends. You are not, per se, strong.

"Climb up! You're sabotaging this for everybody, ————!" (You don't understand the last word, but you suspect it translates to "jackass.")

"Uh…" You don't even have a free hand: you're still holding fast to the thing on your back. "Sorry, I… I mean, hey! I'm not sorry! Would it have killed you to bring a ladder?"

"20 minutes ago, you climbed this rope fine. Did you slam your fingers in the safe door? Fucking muties, I—"

Well, you can't remember 20 minutes ago, so that hardly seems relevant. God, you can't stand fish. Do they ever have useful things to say? Or is it just—

«I can get you up the rope.»

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Of course Richard can get you up the rope. Of course. He probably got up it in the first place, didn't he. He's the reason you're on the rope, isn't he. What day is it?


Ah. Five-and-a-half days gone. You'll unpack that when you aren't on a rope. It has begun to sway again, a little. You refuse to look down, but there's less noise. Your pursuer has made it to the balustrade: you can't make out the details from this distance, but it's a man with a lit torch. Lovely. The Wind Court does like to spit in the face of common sense. You wonder if he has good enough aim to hit you with a javelin.

«Again, I can get you up the rope. You're already inoculated, you won't feel a thing.»

Sensible, very sensible, but you're just not sure about giving Richard any leeway. Will he take another day? A week or two? Rip all the pages off the calendar, while he's at it. It'd be easy enough.

«I don't think you understand how complex the entire undertaking is, how delicate the balancing act. There is quite a hard cap on—»

Whatever. You are on a rope. You could ask for help from the fish, as abhorrent as that is, but you'd like to explore your options. Can you climb up? No. Can you let go? No. Can you swing to the other side? Possibly, but then you're more-or-less in the same position. Can you remember 20 minutes ago? Of course not. That would be normal. Can you—

Hold on. You have no images from the last five-and-a-half days, no sound, no lingering emotion… but, as you dig deeper, there is an impression. A physical one, like a footprint in sand, a handprint in plaster. A physical one, like a knife in the chest, or a cramp in the hands, or an ache in the shoulders. (From climbing a rope.)

Is this what you need? Can you cram yourself into 20-minutes-ago rope-climbing you? What on God's sunken earth are you on about? Are you going insane? Aunt Ruby always did insinuate you might head the way of your mother, bless her soul, but that can't be it. Are you drugged? This is a real place, isn't it? It seems real, but—

Or maybe (you can feel your thoughts list)— maybe you should just do it? You deserve it, you never get what you deserve, and look how simple it is. No skill necessary, just slipping in, like you always do, right past the defenses (they're down anyway), and… feel it!

Feel your pupils contract, your muscles tense, your back stiffen. Feel the patented microblasts up your spine. Feel like you've downed six cups of coffee, and it doesn't even taste like mud. Why don't you want this? What's wrong with you?

You climb the rope. It's nothing. You emerge blinking through the skylight and collapse face-first onto the flat of the roof.

«Never again.»

Boy, your head hurts. What was—

«It will be discussed at a later point.»

(2/3 jk)
—The fish kicks you. "Get up, Frances. Slam your head in the safe door?"

It's feeling very possible. You pry yourself off the roof and dust down your dress. "No, I, uh, just—"

"Cover's blown. Place is swarming with crabs and a handful of Court, all coincidentally already there. Morris is giving cover, but she won't hold out much longer. Toothless Earl is AWOL. Do you have the goods? What's the damn plan?"

>[1] Okay, look, listen. Maybe you did slam your head in the safe door, because you're not sure… what's happening. Can it give you a quick rundown, uh, jog your memory?
>[2] Hey, does it know what? It's team leader now, you're transferring the role. Congratulations! The fish gets to make the plan.
>[3] Shouldn't you… run? Get out of there with what you have? If things are so dangerous…
>[4] Shouldn't you… try and help? It's one thing if it's just 'Morris' (hat woman?), but with three of you, plus a shark, won't that change things? You're not sure about just leaving people. That seems wrong.
>[5] Are you… stealing things? You should return what you're stealing. Stealing is wrong.
>[6] Okay, whatever you're involved in, you're no longer involved in. You're out of here. Bye! Bye. Good luck with all this.
>[7] Write-in.
>[1] Okay, look, listen. Maybe you did slam your head in the safe door, because you're not sure… what's happening. Can it give you a quick rundown, uh, jog your memory?
Called and writing.
>ha ha ha ha… ok look

You wet your lips. "Suppose I did slam my head?"

"Now you're developing a sense of humor. Wonderful." The fish grimaces, exposing a whole thicket of teeth. "Sorry, you organize the heist, you're still in charge when shit goes down. That's the—"

"No, I mean it. Just suppose that I potentially don't remember what I'm doing here—"

It utters something in its primitive language, and drags its hand down the metal studs on its collar. It kicks the small pile of climbing tools that rests by its feet. It stares meaningfully into the near distance.

You tug at the thing on your face, and discover it to be a blank mask. You hastily fit it back on. "—and that I need a rundown to, uh, jog the ol'… noggin. Haha. How about it?"

"It's the curse."

You nod. "What?"

"The curse. The one you said wasn't real? 'Felicia, curses don't exist,' all fucking condescending. Well, har har har, here's your proof. You caught it."

"Oh." It's not the curse in this instance, you suppose, but you're not about to dismiss the concept out of hand. Why shouldn't it be cursed? "God, that really… sucks. Could I get the rundown, though?"

"I— sure, fuck it. You hired Morris, Morris got Earl, Earl got me, we're lifting something for your client, whoever that is, and picking up a few other goodies on the way to make it all worthwhile. Or we were, and then it went tits up, which— I'm not saying that's the curse either, but I'm not not saying it."

"Goodness." You mop your brow with your sleeve. "That's very… criminal of us."

The fish shrugs. "It's a living. Is your noggin jogged?"

It takes you a moment to process that. "I, uh… almost. Who are you?"


You wait. More is not forthcoming. "Ah."

"I'm taking 5% extra for the trouble, by the way. Now, look, if you ask me what—"

This is as far as she gets before the rooftop begins to bulge. You stumble backwards onto leveler ground, but hairline fissures are forming under your feet, and there is a persistent tremor. Something is about to break through.

You hate how your life has turned out.

>[1] ABORT! Back down the skylight! You'll be in a worse situation than before, but that's just how things are on this bitch of an earth.
>[2] ABORT! …Off the side of the roof! Surely there's handholds? Surely? [Roll.]
>[3] You were not raised a coward. Grab your weapon and back way, way up. [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
>[3] You were not raised a coward. Grab your weapon and back way, way up. [Roll.]
>>[3] You were not raised a coward. Grab your weapon and back way, way up. [Roll.]

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 65 (+15 ???) to stay safe and keep your footing.

>Spend 1 ID to gain a +10 to the result? You are at [6/12] at the moment.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 92 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Are we . . . Stealing a snake?
Can we also get Dick to give us a rundown on what's chasing us, if he knows?
Rolled 44 (1d100)

Doot doot?
Rolled 15 (1d100)

Deedle doot
You know what... that works! I'll take it.
>Mitigated Success
Figured I'd move things along, but I gotta sleep now.

No problem, man, I've been unfocused. Went to put dishes away. It'll be up in the morning per usual, and I hope to knock out a couple short ones tomorrow.

Good night!
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>Hold your ground

Are you armed? Surely you're armed: Richard is nothing if not prepared. You fumble at your waist and discover a leather sheath. Inside is—

You don't know why you expected The Sword. Maybe you had gotten used to its weight on your hip. It's still a sword, though, with a tortoiseshell hilt.

«Not my fault.»

It's not perfect, but it's certainly better than nothing, and you draw it with a satisfying schwing as you pace backwards. Felicia shoots you an incredulous glance. "I can't believe you brought that."

"Should be thanking me," you mumble. The fissures are widening: Felicia, in possession of a profane swim bladder, floats gently over them, while you are forced to hop, skip, and jump. The movement makes it difficult to concentrate, but you manage to form some scattered thoughts about what it is you're about to face. What has the strength to bend a rooftop. A monster like you tracked through the Fen? Someone on an incredible amount of drugs? A(nother) giant snake? It would help if you knew where you were…


…The mud flats. Just kidding, that doesn't help. Would—

An orange tentacle bursts through a fissure— then ten more, twenty more, looking for all the world like wildflowers in the pavement, weird-beautiful until one collides with your stomach. You are sent sprawling, while your mystery sack skids from your hand. Felicia's glance is hungrier this time, and it— she, you suppose— barely hesitates before diving after it.

She is agile, for all her bulky clothing, but it's not enough: a meaty thwack, and she sails over your head. You wince.

The bulge in the roof bursts, all of a sudden, showering you with chunks of rubble. The mantle of a squid rises through.

«I am not responsible for this.»

It is a large squid, a colossal squid, a squid with eyes the size of punch bowls. This no longer impresses you. What does strike you about it is the sheer quantity of its tentacles: in addition to the twenty or so thrashing about at random, twenty more rise with it through the bulge-turned-crater. Did someone staple four squids together? Why is it so leathery?

And what is a quadruple squid doing here, now? You have no answer, but a hasty inspection provides a clue. There are people on it, at least three. The woman in the hat (is that Branwen?) clings desperately to the base of a tentacle, while your pursuer- the one with the lit torch, now clutched between his teeth- hacks with a javelin at one coiled around his legs. Meanwhile, a hulking, hysterically-laughing man dangles from the squid's top fins.

You realize after a moment that you should do something about all this, and on cue a tentacle sweeps under your legs. You tumble forward, landing you in the perfect position to see your mystery sack swept far out of reach— and close to where your pursuer is pinned. He is soggy and sad-looking in the torchlight. He stares at at the sack. He stares at you. He stares at the sack, and narrows his eyes, and thrashes against his restraint.

You have the terrible feeling you need the mystery sack back.

>[A1] There's no use for it. Hack your way through before your pursuer hacks his way out. [Roll.]
>[A2] Bail. No sack? Whatever, it'll, uh, probably be fine. And look, you didn't sign up for literally any of this. Get out as best you can.
>[A3] Write-in.

IF [A1] (or appropriate write-in)
>[B1] Take a detour to help Branwen out. God knows what she's doing here, but you need extra hands, and you'll take what you can get. [Malus to [A1] roll, help later.]
>[B2] Pause to catch the attention of the laughing man. God knows what's wrong with him, but he's built like something you can't repeat, and some brute strength is exactly what you need. [Smaller malus to [A1], help????]
>[B3] Is Felicia…………… okay? Where is she? Take a look around to check. [Tiny malus.]
>[B4] Just head directly to your target.
>[B5] Write-in.

>[C] Write-in.
>[A2] Bail. No sack? Whatever, it'll, uh, probably be fine. And look, you didn't sign up for literally any of this. Get out as best you can.

>[A1] There's no use for it. Hack your way through before your pursuer hacks his way out. [Roll.]

We have a sword. We have Anger to work out. And we're apparently already committed to this, so damned if we're gonna runa away first thing *like a coward*.

Finally. A problem we can stab.
>[A1] There's no use for it. Hack your way through before your pursuer hacks his way out. [Roll.]

>[B5] Write-in.

GO FOR THE EYES, BOO! Those tasty big octopus eyeballs. The tentacles are a distraction!
FWIW, your immediate goal isn't to incapacitate the squid-- it's to get your loot back. Gunning for the eyes would be effective for the former but not the latter.

If there's an alternate reason for it (eg trying to get the squid to throw your pursuer around, something like that) let me know.
I mean. Incapacitating the squid would make it easier to get the loot, no?

Maybe we can

>[B3] Is Felicia…………… okay? Where is she? Take a look around to check. [Tiny malus.]

And get her to grab the sack while we stab?

But I wanna blind a giant squid.
I didn't write anything in for mine, sorry.

>[B3] Is Felicia…………… okay? Where is she? Take a look around to check. [Tiny malus.]

But we should just get the sack and get out. Maybe ask Richard about what is in it?
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Alright, let's see here.




[A1] and [B3] take it.

I'm going to flip between aiming for the eyes (1) or not (2), since that's a fairly significant change in strategy. Roll next.
Rolled 5, 68, 32, 57 = 162 (4d100)

No eyes this time, but the option will remain open. The squid's not going anywhere.

>Please roll me 4 1d100s + 5 (+10 Good At Sword, -5 Felicia??) vs. DC 60 (+10 Damn That's A Lot Of Tentacles) to successfully grab the sack. (Someone can roll two d100s.)


>Spend 1 ID for a +10 bonus to the results of the first three rolls? [You are at 6/12 ID.]
>[1] Y
>[2] N

(My rolls are for your opponent-- they are against a DC, not roll against. The extra d100 for each is a tiebreaker.)
Rolled 25 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 37 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 50 (1d100)

Rolled 8 (1d100)

>[2] N
>30, 42, 55 vs. DC 60 - Failure

Ouch. Writing.
Whew lads
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>*smirks* sword time
>30, 42, 55 vs. DC 60 - Failure
>5, 68, 32 vs. DC 50 - Failure

If you wanted, you could try to get fancy with this— you could bob and weave, duck and leap and somersault. Unfortunately, your patience for elaborate showmanship vanished somewhere within the five-and-a-half days you were knocked out. All you really want to do is kill the damn thing, grab your stuff, and never hear a word of this again.

So you are choppy and utilitarian with your hack-and-slashing. It does you very little good: the tentacles are far tougher than you expected, and you're too often forced back to avoid a wild swing. When you're finally able to slice one open, you're startled to find— not rubbery white flesh— but a sludgy mix of wet sawdust and woollen fibers.

«Taxidermy, I'd imagine.»

What? You're forced out of any attempt at comprehension by a hearty blow to your skull. It's not enough to stun you, but it sets your ears ringing. You are hardly any closer to the sack from where you started.

«Well, it is a museum, Charlie. It's only logical.»

'Logical' is not a word you're feeling up to at the moment. Your only consolation is that your pursuer is faring no better: a javelin is not designed for slashing, much less through preserved, thickened octopus skin, and you suppose the thing feels no pain. Elsewhere, Branwen clings on with one arm and whistles frantically with two free fingers. The man on top is having the time of his life. And Felicia—

Where did she go? You stave off a tentacle attempting to coil around your ankle and scan your surroundings. Squid, squid, inky water, squid, squid, squid… have you looked up? There she is, gills flexing, silhouetted against distant moonlight. "Felicia!" you yell. "Could use a little— ow!" The sword skitters onto the rooftop, while hot blood begins to ooze from your palm. The offending tentacle rears to strike again.

You barely dive out of the way, scuffing your knees in the process— case in point why you didn't bring a dress, Richard— and scrape your wrist retrieving the hilt of the sword. When you're able to look back up at Felicia, she's in the middle of signing something borderline incomprehensible. When all you have is the sihoulette, distinct signs begin to run together, which is why she might be saying either "…like I'm a squid hunter?" or "…have a fur glove?"

"I'm not paying you if you don't help!" you shriek back.

This wins her interest. She descends behind you, though she's still well out of tentacle range. "You're a cold bitch, you know that?"

"I've heard." You have no patience for insults, either. "Can you just go get the—"

The sack is gone. No, not gone, relocated: a tentacle has coiled around it, picked it up. Also relocated: your pursuer, finally broken free of his restraints, now attempting to fend off tentacles with the lit torch and a sword. A sword? What the hell? You're almost offended. It must've been strapped to his back, out of reach. The javelin is discarded on the ground.

He's half-facing your direction, and as you watch carefully you notice he's watching you back— shooting tiny glances your way, then refocusing. Is he waiting for you to make a move?

You grimace.

[Rolls required for all, of varying DCs.]
>[A1] Attempt to climb the offending tentacle and grab your sack back.
>[A2] Attempt to rush down your pursuer while he's distracted. Get one nuisance handled, then focus on the sack.
>[A3] Attempt to make it past the tentacles and reach the squid's eyes. Whether it can feel pain or not, stabbing those out is bound to make it drop the sack.
>[A4] Attempt to help Branwen before all else. Strength in numbers.
>[A5] Attempt to talk down the laughing man before all else. Strength in numbers.
>[A6] Write-in.

[She will roll for all. Alternately, if she does the same action as you, she'll boost your roll.]
>[B1] Send Felicia to grab the sack back. She's the obvious pick, not having to climb, but can you trust her alone with it?
>[B2] Send Felicia to distract your pursuer. You have no idea how good she is in combat, though.
>[B3] Send Felicia to take out the eyes. Same issue.
>[B4] Send Felicia to free Branwen. Same issue. Is she even armed?
>[B5] Send Felicia to talk down the laughing man.
>[B6] Write-in.

***Quick error: that's a Mitigated Success for your opponent breaking free, no sack, not a Failure as written. Don't want to have to delete.
> Grab the Javelin and chuck it into the Squid eyes. Shout out "Eye've had it with this squid"! While doing so.

Shouldn't take much time and regardless if it works proceed to

>[A4] Attempt to help Branwen before all else. Strength in numbers.

>[B1] Send Felicia to grab the sack back. She's the obvious pick, not having to climb, but can you trust her alone with it?

We don't know what has been happening, but we know that Richard has been running things, and I don't think anyone who hangs out with him for 5 days is going to casually think of fucking with him. He's got that, how do I say, sociopathic menace? Down to an art.


And I'm not opposed to >>4318547 quickly chucking the Javelin
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Okay, I was occupied today until 3 PM, but I had plenty of time afterwards to call for a roll and still forgot. I apologize. That being said, I'm going to roll it myself, ignoring all crits and not spending ID, just so I can get an update out tonight.

Rolling between [A4] and [A1] first. You will throw the javelin for free.
Rolled 6, 91, 24, 35, 60, 54, 7, 46 = 323 (8d100)

>FOR YOU: Rolling 3 1d100s + 20 (+15 Aid, +5 Firm Grip) vs. DC 60 (+10 Thrashing)
>FOR PURSUER: Rolling 3 1d100s + 15 (+10 Court Training, +5 Torchlight) vs. DC 50
>FOR BOTH: One tiebreaker each.

And then writing.
Rolled 22 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Rolled 81, 14, 43, 14, 19, 53, 86, 85, 13, 53 = 461 (10d100)

Sheeeit. Cursed dice. Let's refresh them.
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>Chuck a javelin, get the sack
>YOU / FELICIA: Mitigated Success
>PURSUER: Enhanced Success

Well, there's nothing for it. You catch Felicia's attention and jerk your head upwards. She rolls her eyes— visibly— but kicks off towards the sack, leaving a trail of bubbles in her wake. The pursuer freezes, distracted, and you make your move: you sprint forward, trailing your hand across the ground, and scoop up his discarded javelin. He lunges, but it's a beat too late. You are already escaped, twining around an undamaged tentacle— you are already rearing— "I HAVE"— and chucking— "HAD IT"— the javelin at the squid's massive unblinking eye— "WITH THIS SQUID!"

The javelin bounces off the eye with an unassuming clink, but you were tittering well before it hit. Maybe the man's laughter was infectious, or maybe you are heady from adrenaline, or maybe your mind is fragile from disuse, or maybe that was just a horrible, awful pun. In any case, it stops quick: you whirl around, catch a blurry glimpse of Felicia, and recall the eye roll from thirty seconds prior. Your mood drops instantly. The impertinence! The gall! Does she know what she is? Does she know who you are? How could—

«It's obvious.»
«From me to you— that's quite a downgrade, and it can't help but show in your... everything. Naturally, others can't help but sense it. They 'act out.'»
«But then, this one was always difficult. I needed more time. Dodge that.»

You don't dodge that: the tip of a tentacle coils around your ankle. You were in the process of beelining to Felicia, who seems to be handling herself, but whom you trust precisely nil. You wanted to be there when she finally wrestled the sack away—

But now you are tripping, and falling, and embedding grit into your palms and knees and chin. "God blessed," you hiss, as you are dragged forward, and up, and finally upside down. You cling to your sword in one hand and the hem of your dress in the other.

Your pursuer walks towards you, kicking away any leg-grabbing attempts that come his way. He is a young man, your age or a little older, whose nervous features are betrayed by a cocky smirk. You find him decidedly plain, so your mark the unusual gait of your heart up to dangling upside-down by your ankle.

"Okay, lady, you're under arrest, this area is under Wind Court jurisdiction, you've violated the— how about we take this off, huh? Don't get feisty. Actually, eh—" He juggles his sword to his other hand and thrusts his torch into your face. "That should do it. Mask off."

You haven't seen real fire for years, and you were frankly hoping it would stay that way. You distrust the mechanism it's made by (some witchery with prisms), but that isn't the half of it— that's not what makes you rear back, curling your lip. It's the way it throws everything unpleasant into stark relief. How wet you are. How shivering-cold you are. The weight of the water crushing your body, the thickness of the water slodging through your lungs. That type of thing. Your sole relief is that it's localized— your breathing is easy. Your mouth tastes of nothing but salt.

>[-2 ID: 4/12]

Richard isn't on your shoulder, your arm, your wrist, but he retains a comforting pressure in the back of your head. You are glad you have someone here for you, even if it has to be him. You need it. God, your mouth. And your lips, too, crusted in the stuff— you tuck your hem in the crook of your knee and pry your mask off to rub furiously at them—

Your pursuer's smirk slides right off at the sight of your face. He opens his mouth, and closes it. His hand goes to his sword, and away, and his pocket, and away again. He brushes the bundle of feathers pinned to his breast. Eventually, he settles on a course of action: he brings the torch down (your mouth no longer tastes of anything) and stalks away without another word. Men, you decide. That, or you're just that good.

«At what.»


>[+1 ID: 5/12]

But you are still held by a squid, and you can only dangle as Felicia scrabbles for control of the sack. There are concerning sounds, too, of the sort you can only describe as "large animal scaling the side of a building." You attempt to slash your way out, but you are held too far out for it to do any good. You yell at the man on the squid, who does not respond. You yell at Branwen, but Branwen is behind you, and you have no idea if it'll do any good. After a while, you resort to feeling the blood rush to your head, and waiting.

Felicia finally succeeds, but she takes her time before coming to you. You can't see much, but when she returns with Branwen, Branwen's shark-thing, and the hulking man, you can pretty well guess at the chain of events. Felicia stares up at you. "Now, Frances, what are we going to do about you?"

"Um," you say. "Get me down?"

"When opportunity has come knocking? Let's see... we have the goods, and you are upside down. There's not much in the way of—"

You never read much in this genre, but you're pleased to locate a touchstone. "Oh! You're double-crossing me."

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This provokes some uneasy shifting. "Well, I'm not…" Branwen mumbles thickly. The hulking man says nothing. "We're not double-crossing you," Felicia says. "You double-crossed us. So it's a…" "Triple-cross," the man says finally, in a voice that doesn't suit his face, much less his body. "Triple-cross."

You're about 75% sure you did no such thing. "Uh, what did I…"

"You put all the fucking Courtiers here! That one just fucking let you go! And, let it be said, we all thought—" Branwen is shaking her head. "—I thought you were suspicious as fuck, wearing sunglasses all the time— and it'd be just my luck, wouldn't it, to walk straight into a fucking trap—"

You sigh. "Okay, uh, what's the plan, then?"

"We're gonna kill—" Branwen is violently shaking her head. "— uh, we're gonna leave you here, see if your buddies find you before you start getting blood clots, and we're gonna dip out. Got it, ______? That's the plan."

>[1] Talk your way out of this, the normal way. [Write-in the argument. Potential roll based on quality.]
>[2] You barely know these people. You've dealt with them face-to-face for probably a combined 5 minutes, excluding Branwen. Who has dealt with them? Richard. Who is "persuasive"? Also Richard. Talk them down the easy way. [3 ID for autosuccess.]
>[3] Urrgh. Let them leave with the stuff. You should be able to talk Branwen into helping you down and getting out.
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] You barely know these people. You've dealt with them face-to-face for probably a combined 5 minutes, excluding Branwen. Who has dealt with them? Richard. Who is "persuasive"? Also Richard. Talk them down the easy way. [3 ID for autosuccess.]
Fancy art!
>[2] You barely know these people. You've dealt with them face-to-face for probably a combined 5 minutes, excluding Branwen. Who has dealt with them? Richard. Who is "persuasive"? Also Richard. Talk them down the easy way. [3 ID for autosuccess.]
>[1] Talk your way out of this, the normal way. [Write-in the argument. Potential roll based on quality.]

What the fuck. If our plan was to double-cross them, why the fuck are they all here and alive, not dead or in jail? Why were WE the one to get fucked up by a giant squid? How in the hells do they see this as some sort of genius plan. The pursuer didn't even know who we were until they took our mask off.

If we were double-crossing them, then how did they end up with the sack while the courtiers leave us to bleed out.

Easy. We aren't someone who can be easily arrested. Maybe they should think on what that *means*, before they decide that it was suspicious we always wore shades. Our identity is sensitive, and if they double-cross us then - well. Not only do they lose our ability to make Courtiers *go away*, but it might end up with some very upset people putting a lot more effort into finding them.

Alright, [2] takes it... but I don't want to let a good write-in go to waste, so I'm knocking 1 off the ID cost because of it (leaving you at 4/12). It'll be worked in.

>yes hello you can speak to my manager

"You can't do that," you say, as convincingly as you can muster. If you can get it just right, it might even be true.

You don't get it just right. Felicia scoffs. "Yeah? Says who? Seems we could do it right now— we better, really, before your buddies show up. Say bye to Frances, everyone—"

"Hey, okay, look." You'd compulsively brush your hair back, but your hands are full. "Don't leave yet, okay? Don't— hey, if I was double-crossing you, which I'm not, wouldn't I be really… bad at it? I mean, you're not… you guys are all fine, I th…"

Branwen pushes her skirt up, revealing a deep, gooey gash in her calf. You notice, too, that the brawny man is streaked with oozing cuts— though he doesn't seem to mind.

"…alive," you amend. "You're all alive, and, uh, not arrested, and— you have my stuff, don't you? So, if I were a double-crosser, I'd really just be, uh, an abject failure…"

You trail off. Felicia is nodding along to this. "Yeah," she says. "Never said you were competent, did I? But it's the thought that counts with this sort of thing."

"Oh," you say.

"Not big on brains, Court-types, so you fit right in. Innit, Earl? You remember the one fucker with the—"

"Don't got time," Branwen snaps. "We doing anything with the squid?"

"The squid? Ask Earl, he—"

You sway gently to and fro, which relaxes you not at all. Your face feels like it's swelling, Do you get blood clots from hanging upside-down? Is that true? Surely the squid will drop you before then, but you're not quite sure it's sentient. They're going on about it now, having forgotten you entirely. God! How embarrassing.

«Unfortunate. That's what I was about to say.»

Richard still sounds off. What's wrong with him? And what was the thing on the rope? He has yet to expl-

«Now continues to not be the time, Charlotte. We're not waiting around for this. Open up.»

Five-and-a-half days. Is he going for an even eleven? Absolutely not. You couldn't stand it. You'd die.

«Don't be melodramatic, it's unattractive. I have no intention of prolonging matters. I would prefer, in fact, to remain hands-off.»
«But you are incompetent. So here we are.»

Richard preferring to be hands-off? Seems unlikely. Impossible, even.

«You wouldn't comprehend, Charlotte.»
«Now, look, I'll pander to your baseless speculation and keep you conscious. Just don't come crying to me about the terror of existence, as I don't care.»
«Open up.»

But why? Why should you?

«You have so little gravitas it actually inverts. You have anti-gravitas. Anti-presence. Anti-charisma.»
«It's impressive in a pitiable kind of way, but not effective.»
«I would also like to finish what I started before I was rudely shunted out. Thank you.»

Your face is numbing, now, you think— you have to get out of this bind. And if this is the only way, and if it really will be temporary— and if you can see Felicia cowed— then—


The feeling starts up your spine, like usual, then flares like water on a grease fire. You are curtly raided, pillaged, and razed to ashes. It's not unpleasant— it's even a little exciting. You can't remember why this process bothered you so much before.

>[-2 ID: 4/12]

»Always a shock, the first time.«

That must be it. Gosh, but you feel foolish. You made a big ruckus over nothing— worse than nothing, something good, something desirable, something you could very much get used t-

»I need docile, not sycophantic, Charlotte. Tuning down the sedative.«

You can't remember what you were thinking. Your face is definitely numb— you can't feel a thing, touching it. You can't feel a thing anywhere, now that you think on it. Hanging upside-down: poor for the circulation? It makes sense. God, but you need to get out of here. You can't open y-

You open your mouth, just to refresh yourself of the mechanics. Simple hinge, up and down, let the tongue do as it will. Good. You know this, of course, you've had a mouth for a long time. Days.

Days? Years. Your entire life. You have never not had a mouth. Are you okay? Thinking clearly? It's because you're upside-down, isn't it? It's screwing with you. It's why you can't move your—

Ordinarily I'd pull a late nighter and finish this up, but I have to be awake at an ungodly hour of the morning and can't afford 3 hours of sleep. Remainder of update and choices tomorrow. Apologies, I was busy all day today.

We aren't witnessing Charlies slow break down into catatonic autism in a spiteful abandonment of self? Personally, I think we should start cutting ourself to force Richard to deal with our problems. Adter all, he has to rescue us if he dies.

Whenever he complains about it, we can just agree that we're terrible and therefore there's evem more reason for him to let us sleep or take over if he wants thjmings so bad.

Crowns and shit? Who cares.
The "spiteful abandonment of self" is more of a 0 ID thing, really. Above that, and she's a little too invested in things like "bodily autonomy" and "free will" and "not waking up in the middle of a museum heist" to legitimately want to be possessed. It's only when 0 ID hits that "I am not in control of my life" suddenly seems desirable, rather than a necessary evil like here / when you got stabbed.

What's happening here is Charlotte being drugged into a stupor so she doesn't freak out and/or throw a hissy fit. It's not a good representation of her typical feelings, so I wouldn't take that type of write-in under typical circumstances. If she's in a real funk, though, I'd consider it.

Anyhow, I'm writing again.
> If she's in a real funk, though, I'd consider it.

Only a matter of time.
*Good*. Then we can just repeat all the mean shit Richard constantly says to us back to him as justification for refusing to come out.

He wants to call us a garbage person, fine, we can show him that we're the most garbage person ever.

—Before you do anything else, there's the trouble with the eyes. They're conspicuous, to put it mildly, and your aviators have been waylaid. And what, go without? Create more work for yourself? The situation is bad enough as is.

Admittedly, there is an elegant solution. Admittedly, you have relied on it more than could be considered decent or healthy. It would go on your write-up, if anybody knew. But it's not a problem, no more than the hip flask is a problem. You have everything under control. You are very good.

It's just a matter of—

God, but you feel strange. Far stranger than the upside-down could possibly account for, unless gravity is causing your brain to leak out your ears. You would be glad if that were the cause: it's simple, it's physical, it's explainable. It doesn't elude attempts to pin it down, unlike, say, the queasy sensation of your edges blurring like ink on napkin-paper. That's right now, by the way. Right now, you are becoming increasingly unsure where you end, and where—

God, but you feel strange. Nothing unusual, of course, not for you, Charlotte Fawkins. Well- mostly Charlotte Fawkins. Outwardly indistinguishable from Charlotte Fawkins. Your eye is blue. Your voice is irritating. Your manner is bizarre. Your own mother wouldn't suspect a thing. You could live a life like this.

No, you couldn't: before long, it'd cease to be 'outwardly.' You have no time to stop and savor, as much as you'd like to. You speak up. "Felicia."

It has no real reason to respond. It almost doesn't. "Regretting your choices?"

"Not especially." You rub your chin. "I'd just like to make a suggestion."

No reason to hear you out, except the throbbing prey instinct. Your voice is Charlotte's, but you have a way of sounding like your teeth are pointed. Felicia wavers between fight and flight and settles on freeze.

"Could it be that you were a little off base? I understand the suspicion, certainly, but I feel it's rather— how do you put it— unwarranted? Ludicrous? Paranoia-ridden? Along those lines. I have no sympathies with the Court, and vice versa."

"Oh, I bet," Felicia says. You have to admire its nerve, even if its flexing gills betray it. "The fucker walked away because he hated you so much—"

"Well, I'm more trouble than I'm worth." You are upside-down, and in a dress. "That's all there is to it. You should try it, uh…"

"Felicia," Felicia says. It knows you know its name, but you leave no choice in the matter. "That's not—"

"Felicia, right, right. Now, if you consider that I made that man walk away, I think you'd like to question leaving me up here. You want to lose me? You want to lose my opportunities? My client? My contacts? And if I were lying, of course... you really want to hang that sword over your neck?"

You are, of course, improvising. Felicia doesn't seem to notice— it is twiddling unconsciously with the zipper of its jacket. Almost there. You smile, close-lipped. "The sunglasses, Felicia. Don't you know who I am?"

You? You are Charlotte Fawkins with an ophidian streak. Felicia doesn't know this. To it, you are Someone. Now, will it admit its ignorance and therefore its weakness? Or will it acknowledge your (invented) status? God, you love this kind of thing. Reminds you of—

"Oh," Felicia says finally. It has remembered— or pretended to remember— something. "Oh, shit."


"I'll, uh— uh, I don't know how to— Branwen!" Branwen, stroking the enormous mantle of the squid, turns. "Can you get it to drop her?"

Branwen says something to the squid, and strikes it firmly with the back of her hand. It uncoils. You land on your feet. Wow! Look how cool you are. Maybe you should've done a flip, or something, that would've—

Too long already: you haven't yet recovered from the previous attempt. You retreat once, and your eyes braze over. You take a deep breath. You retreat twice.

Ah! Ah! You're here, you're— well, you were always here, weren't you? Never left. But the situation with the blurring, etcetera, has resolved itself, and you've stopped— you're thinking in straight lines again. How about that? Your gums ache. You scoop your mask off the ground and put it on. Where's Richard? Still MIA? Oh well, it's not as if you ever need him for anything—

"Erm," Felicia says. "Sorry about that… Frances. Please don't…"

She doesn't finish her sentence, but you get the impression it ended, in its first drafts, with "eat me."

>[A1] Good! Okay, you're out of here, but you'll make plans to divvy up the spoils when you can, according to whatever the agreement was. (Felicia mentioned percentages.) Well, you might negotiate. Take off some shares for the attempted double-cross. So on.
>[A2] Are you kidding? You're out of here, and whatever you have is yours. You're not treating with a pack of thieves.

>[B] Any remaining questions? (Write-in.)

>[C] Write-in.
>[A1] Good! Okay, you're out of here, but you'll make plans to divvy up the spoils when you can, according to whatever the agreement was. (Felicia mentioned percentages.) Well, you might negotiate. Take off some shares for the attempted double-cross. So on.

Felicia can forgot about that extra 5%, instead it'll go to Branwen who at least wasn't willing to kill us.

>[B] Any remaining questions? (Write-in.)

So many, but they're for Richard.
If we're gonna sell this Powerful Person act, we should act as if we aren't terribly greedy nor surprised stupid thieves thought to double cross us.

I also think it would be fun to add

> Clearly, Branwen was led astray by some of the more unreliable members of the group. We like her, and we want her to know we think well of her and that we will likely look her up for future work. After all she wasn't willing to kill us herself, merely to leave our life to its fate.

Because that way Branwen will DEFINITELY avoid us in the future. Also I kinda want to bully her, and sow some discord in the team.
>[B] Any remaining questions? (Write-in.)

What the fuck does Smiley find so funny. How the Courtiers found us because we actually didn't betray them, so if betrayal is a possibility then it's one of them.

>[A1] Good! Okay, you're out of here, but you'll make plans to divvy up the spoils when you can, according to whatever the agreement was. (Felicia mentioned percentages.) Well, you might negotiate. Take off some shares for the attempted double-cross. So on.
Alright, look. I'm going to lock the vote here, but I got 5 hours of sleep last night and feel about ready to keel over. Going to set my alarm early and try and knock this out by early afternoon... no promises, though, you know how fast I write.

Good night (/day), guys.
No rush bruv.
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You scratch the back of your neck. "Uh, it's o-"

«No. Do <not> undo this.»
«At least <attempt> to fake it.»

"-not… it's not okay." You attempt to look sinister. "You have… look, um, I'm giving your 5% to Branwen." Felicia squints. "Uh, Morris, I mean."

Felicia unsquints. "Well, that's, I mean— fine. I guess."

It is? Damn. You square your shoulders. "And BRANWEN, um—" Branwen turns. "—well, she's clearly the only trustworthy— what is wrong with that guy?" Toothless Earl is still laughing his head off.

"Earl? He's high."

"He's—" You can't maintain the sinister look. "—He's what? Why is he here? Who inv—"

"On seawater. Doesn't matter much when you need a door taken off its hinges." Felicia shrugs. "Sometimes you need to go loud. I'd think you'd—"

"It's unprofessional," you grouse. (It's your best Richard impression.) "What kind of self-respecting, er, criminal operation has… Branwen! Hey!" She turns back begrudgingly. "As I was saying, she's clearly the most trustworthy of the sorry lot of you, so I'll be looking at her for future work. Understand? She didn't attempt to kill me."

Branwen gives you a silent thumbs up. Felicia seems more bewildered than anything else. "What? Whatever, that's fine too. We really need to—"

A roof-access door slams open, and a small pack of people bursts out. Feathered, torch-wielding people. Your pursuer is not among them.

"—go!" Felicia grabs your wrist and practically tugs you off your feet— she bolts ungainly towards the edge of the roof, while you stumble behind. Somewhere to your right, Branwen is muttering to the squid; Toothless Earl has already, improbably, dived off the edge. You fume. This is how she treats a criminal mastermind?

«You're not a criminal mastermind.»
«There is only so much I can do to alter that fact. It just won't stick.»

You could be a criminal mastermind if you wanted t- Felicia is diving off the roof. Felicia is holding your wrist. You can't swim! Does she remember that you can't—

You have a jarring flashback to the last time you fell from a height, three years ago—

Then you land. It wasn't that high, all considered (two, three stories?), and Felicia's drag slowed you enough to land safely, albeit roughly, on bent knees. She pulls you forward, and as she does the shark-thing lopes around the corner, Branwen mounted on its back, Toothless Earl keeping pace behind. You accept the hand Branwen offers you without thinking, and before you know it you're astride the shark-thing, wishing desperately you were in slacks.

Branwen keeps one hand on her hat and the other on the shark's flank. She steers you out over the Flats, past the tents of the skimming crews; past the ribcage, half-sunken, the size of a house; past one- two- three- four- you lose count of the sinkholes. Though it must be the middle of the night, a phosphorescent red haze hangs overhead. Currents from Hell, you assume.

You come to a screeching halt in front of a nondescript crevice, miles out from any life besides mud worms, stick worms, bone-eating worms, mind worms, and clams. It's easy to forget how empty the ocean is, you muse, when you live with so many people. You hate living with people. You hate people. But alone out here is… worse.

The crevice turns out to be less nondescript than expected— there is a red-painted stake in the mud in front of it. A smuggler den? Branwen disembarks, and you slide after her.

A few minutes later, Felicia plunges down to meet you. A few minutes later, Earl shows up, drenched in sweat. His eyes are very blue. He has no teeth. (You don't know what you expected.) Everyone is staring at you.

«You wanted to be the criminal mastermind.»

Right. You clap your hands together and instantly regret it. "Um… good heist, guys."

Branwen coughs.

"…It could've gone… there were some roadblocks, but we all got out, right? And we got, uh…" You don't know what you were trying to get. "…the objective. Which belongs to me, I think, since it's my client—"

You stick your hand out. Felicia drops the sack into it with only a full second of hesitation.

"—Good! Good. So, uh, I guess I'll go… fence this, and deliver the payment…"


"…here. Day after tomorrow. Don't stab each other over it, or…" You gesture fruitlessly. "…You know, whatever. Got it? Everybody g-"

"If you didn't do the double-crossing," Felicia says dubiously, "who did?"

"What?" You glance around.

"Someone had to, innit? It wasn't me." Felicia stares at Branwen. Branwen raises her eyebrows incredulously, and points back at Felicia. Toothless Earl seems unconcerned with the whole business.

You rub your forehead. "We'll… we'll figure that out when we… reconvene. I guess. Deal? Everybody?"

There are faint murmurs and suggestions of handsign. Branwen rubs at her injured calf.

"Okay! Deal. So I guess I'll just… go." You hoist the sack over your shoulder. "Have a good night?"

«You are the worst at this.»

You're polite. You're being polite. Is there a rule against masterminds being—

As you were walking away, Branwen was limping up behind you. "You don't gotta walk back."

"I have my methods," you say airily. "No need to trifle yourself with—"

"Yeah, that's gullshit. Patty's complained about you buckets— never mentioned you being a hotshot. And you ain't."

"I am." You are beginning to dislike Branwen. "Didn't you hear me t-"

"Very fancy, but that proves jack shit. But don't worry." Branwen nudges you right in a bruise. "I ain't telling. Fish ain't my friend, and Earl won't remember shit, anyhow. So take the ride."

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How far out are you? Miles? Over an hour's walk, surely. What time is it? Past midnight, from the color of the water. How tired are you? You're little more than shaken up physically, though your gums still ache, but mentally… you suppose it's the kind of thing where you sleep through the afternoon and wake up tired. There's a noticeable lag in your thoughts. And Richard is still gone.

You produce a couple more token evasions and justifications. You complain about no saddle. You make noise about enjoying the night air. You attempt again to look sinister, to absolutely no success. Eventually, you take the ride.

Branwen and her shark-thing (which you learn is named "Scud," or maybe "Scood") drop you off where the Flats meet the Fen. On your trek back to camp, you add thorn scratches and stray burrs to your laundry list of bumps, scrapes, and rashes. You regret for the billionth time not wearing slacks. What were you thinking? Or rather, what was Richard thinking?

«Minor inconveniences for you are irrelevant to me.»
«It is a nice dress.»

It is a nice dress, even if it is red, and even if it has no pockets. Where are you supposed to keep your stuff?

«Legerdemain is a practical skill.»

Right, you're supposed to summon it from thin air. You forgot.

There are scattered lights on back at camp, including that of your neighbor Horse Face, but you spot nobody milling outside. Convenient. You push open the flap of your tent to the clatter of a bell—

Your tent is not minimalist. You would describe it, hatefully, as 'cluttered.' There are books everywhere, most of them dogeared, some of them open to random pages in the middle. There are battered photographs pinned to the wall, all of locations, none you recognize. Next to the photographs hangs a sheet of white paper, upon which somebody has drawn a kitten hanging from a tree. "HANG IN THERE" is scrawled above it. It suspiciously resembles your handwriting. And the bell? It lies above the flap, hooked to wire which runs down and across the the bottom of the door. An alarm system? God. You go to sit on your cot, but it's covered in books. How did Richard sleep? Did Richard sleep? The photograph above the cot is still there. It is different. The torn side is restored. It is a photograph of yourself, your mother, your Aunt Ruby, and your father. Your dead father. Predeceased father. Your father, who—

>[-1 ID: 3/12]

Richard. Where is Richard? You need a thing to channel this toxic sludge into, not just a white-noise buzz and occasional disembodied commentary. You need a stupid unblinking reptile face to yell at. Is that so much to ask?

«Desk drawer.»

Desk drawer. Desk drawer. You tug open your desk drawer and pull out the two-foot snake sleeping on top of your modeling tools. It hisses at the interruption and sinks its fangs into your thumb. You yelp, reflexively biting your bottom lip. You drop it. It falls to the ground.

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«Careful. It's cranky.»

He's cranky. God, your lip hurts. How hard did you bite it? Is that blood? Your gums are positively throbbing.

«It's cranky. Probably hungry, too. Been shut up in a drawer for half a week.»
«Don't blame me, you're the one who picked it up.»

And he's the one who bit you! You're also the one who bit you. Yes, that's blood. Ow. And your teeth—

«No, I'm here. That's the body.»

Your teeth appear to be sharp. Not a lot sharp, not curved, not fangs. But they come to definite points. No wonder about your gums.

«Enamel is so difficult. It's a work in progress.»

Ah. What?

«Nobody should notice unless you point it out. And they're useful.»


«Biting, usually.»

You will make a mental note. You guess.

>[1] Questions for Richard????? (Write-in.)
>[2] Girl go to bed
>[3] Write-in. (You can skim the junk in your tent and check out the stuff in the sack, but you're too overwhelmed to look at much in detail. That can/will happen the next day.)

fun fact Branwen's shark-thing is named Sgwd

[man in green shirt mopping his face with a handkerchief]
>[1] Questions for Richard????? (Write-in.)

A lot, but mostly a run down of who everyone is, how and why we got into a heist, what's in the bag, what's in the snake if he isn't, where are some pants, should we feed the snake.
>[2] Girl go to bed

Everything can wait until morning.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

And writing.
Can't win them all.

> Branwens shark is Welsh

I missed that.
As is Branwen. (Or as Welsh as you can get in a place without Wales.)
>A run down of who everyone is, how and why we got into a heist, what's in the bag, what's in the snake if he isn't, where are some pants, should we feed the snake.

Now that you've noticed the teeth, it's the only thing you can think about. You run your tongue along the back teeth, then the front; the top teeth, then the bottom; again and again until it feels like you've sawn a groove into your flesh. You touch your tongue. You haven't, though it's raw and irritated. You stop.

The black-and-yellow snake is winding its way up the leg of your desk. You shove three books off your cot, sit, and watch it. It certainly seems to have a methodical Richard-esque precision, but its eyes are black and feral. But its eyes are always black and feral. Is it actually hungry? You can't tell. Should you feed it? Should you let it out to… what, hunt?

«Don't enable it.»

Well, you just don't want to have a snake corpse in your—

«It's been extensively altered. It doesn't need to eat.»
«Much like you, it is merely petulant.»

Like half of Richard's pronouncements, that raises more questions than it answers. You slump onto your back and stay there until the snake, in your peripheral vision, slides onto the top of the desk. Then you sit up, stand up, and step over to watch it. It wouldn't make any sense even if you were thinking properly. If it's not Richard, what is it? What's in it?

«Instinct. A marginal amount of animal cunning. Nothing much to speak of.»
«It's only a snake, Charlotte, I don't know what you expect of it.»

It is only a snake. It is attempting to fit its jaws around a model of a dilapadated chapel. You shoo it away with another book.

«It's unfortunate you must witness this, though. I expected to have time to make a clean transition. Not to mention time to resolve... other matters.»
«But you opted to get restless. So.»

God, it always loops around to being your fault.

«It is always your fault.»
«You decided it was an excellent idea to grapple your way back to consciousness mid-operation. Not me. You.»

Well, okay, but you didn't consciously— he can't blame you when you weren't even—

«Of course I can. Don't be ridiculous.»
«Regardless, the matter is resolved, so how about we—»

The matter is resolved? You have scraped knees and sharp teeth. Your tent is a wreck. You don't know where your slacks are. You were just on a museum heist, and you can't remember the last five-and-a-half days of your—

«I am sensing some resentment.»

Sure! That's a good word for it.

«I would expect no less from you, but you're leaving out a crucial detail.»
«How is your chest.»

What? What did he do to it? You stick your hand down your neckline and prod around. It feels fine, you guess. Normal. Fleshy.

«Not stabbed.»


«I appreciate your unqualified gratitude.»
«Now, that ought to resolve your outstanding disagreements. If there's anything—»

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You glower down at the snake, which has found a hiding spot behind the largest of your models (it took two weeks, broke a chisel, and still looks terrible). Resolve? It— that doesn't— why were you on a heist, Richard? Why were you associating with those—

«No need to get heated, Charlotte. It wasn't my idea.»
«It was the tall one, with the AUX space, and the whistling. Who hired you to—»

Horse Face?

«That one, yes. He had changed his mind about the job. Wanted something obtained, not delivered.»
«A religious artifact, I believe.»
«And with the Delisle Collection moving in, on account of the big discovery out on the Flats— no method was specified, but a heist was clearly in order.»

Was it.

«I only selected the hat woman, as she owed you a debt, and was experienced in the subject. She brought the man. The man brought the thing.»

And he allowed this.

«Both were competent. The man was entirely corrupted, but served in place of a crowbar. The thing was unreliable and superstitious, but acrobatic.»
«You picked locks. And one safe, which is just a stubborn lock.»

Shocking. You have no idea what it is with Richard and locks.

«We know each other.»

Fantastic. You are not functioning enough for this. Any of this. You need to go to sleep. Does the snake have to go back in the drawer?

«It makes no difference. It will regain higher functioning by the morning.»

i.e. Richard will be back inside it by the morning.

«If you prefer.»

You prefer. You prefer less when you attempt to stalk back over to your cot and end up tripping over the sack. The sack. You never did establish what was inside, did you?

You dump its contents onto the cot. It's a lot of… things. An elaborate, hand-crafted pinwheel. A boxy machine attached to a clear pot. Oh! And a radio! You have a radio!

>[TO-DO COMPLETE: Get a radio]

The other two, you have no idea.

«The pinwheel is the artifact. I suppose you will have to ask the AUX-space man.»
«The other thing is a coffee maker.»

A what?

«It makes coffee.»
«Which is a drink.»
«Don't worry about it.»

You will worry about it, but you will worry later. You tug off your boots and place them at the foot of your cot. You indiscriminately shove the rest of the books off its surface. You lie down.

You rub your tongue against your teeth until you sleep, which comes swiftly.

You sleep. You dream?

>[+2 ID: 5/12]

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The woman in front of you is missing half her face. It's not that it's torn off, or scarred— it's that it's drifting lazily off, like a multicolored plume of smoke. The woman seems unconcerned with this state of affairs.

"Hello," she says, half the word, too, drifting off. "Don't tell me your name, it's safer if I don't know. Mine is Anthea, but the others have pseudonyms. It used to be months, but we ran out. So now it's days of the week. Onesday, Twosday, so on. Are you doing okay?"

Are you doing… you blink against the harsh light. 'Okay' always seems like a stretch in dreams, which always seem to be chock-full of dead fathers and snakes and whatnot. Rich in symbolism, to be sure, but unpleasant in the—

You become aware that Anthea is actually waiting for a response. "Um," you say, your voice sounding hollow to your ear, "…Yeah. Yeah, sorry, I'm— what's wrong with your face?" You see no reason to exercise tact with fake people.

She takes it well. "Oh, sure. Years back— sorry, s-years, it's all the same to me— I made some dumb decisions, went too deep on a dive. Came out abstract. Anyhow, days of the week. We're up to Thirdsday. That sound fine?"

>[1] Write-in
Yeah this is a BS option but it's late and this is enough of a stopping point to avoid a straight "to be continued"— if nobody bites by whenever I sit down to write I'll treat it as a TBC and keep going until a proper choice is hit. My apologies.
> Thirdsday is fine.

> What does Anthea mean?

> Where are the others?

> Can we get a new snake? Ours is likely a criminal.
I wanna feed the snake out of spite and sympathy. Poor bastard also had to have Richard rattling around in its head.

He probably thinks the same abohmut us as he did our snake.

Hell, the best argument for him not being our Dad any more is that our dream dad actually gave a fuck when we got hurt. Yeah, Richard fixed us but he then immediately used it as a transaction for doing this Heist shit.

That's like someone bragging about how they feed their kid, you're already supposed to do that.

His next review is gonna be *scathing*.
Writing. Thanks for cooperating.

>Not being our dad anymore
To be fair, Richard has been very open about this-- he retains nothing of your father except that they're technically the same consciousness also he retains the same speech pattern but that's not relevant. Anything that indicates otherwise is Charlotte (very literally) projecting.
All good thoughts, though!
> Thirdsday is fine.
> What does Anthea mean?
> Where are the others?
> Can we get a new snake? Ours is likely a criminal.

"Sure?" You find it difficult to care. "Yeah, that's fine, I guess. 'Anthea' isn't a month."

"Oh, no, sorry! That's my real name. Not much of a reason to stay undercover with—" When Anthea's gesturing hand passes through the color wafting off her face, it vanishes entirely. "I'm just Anthea."

There has to be some underlying meaning. You cross your arms suspiciously. "Does it mean something, or—"

"Does it mean anything. Huh. I'm sure it does, but…" She shrugs. "My mother liked alliteration, I suppose. Anthea Aves. My twin was Allen. That answer—?"

Aves? Anthea Aves. It sounds horribly familiar, but you can't put your finger on it. Aves. Did you see it written…

«Oh, yes. I RVSPed you for that business card.»

You wince at the image slapped into your head. What happened to subtlety? Tact?

«I have a headache.»

An impressive accomplishment without a head.

«Don't get smart with me. I am translating into equivalent terms for your, and solely your, benefit.»

You shut your eyes. So what's the situation, then? It's not a dream. Or it is a dream, but nonstandard. Communal? And this is a real person? At least possibly a real person. Damn.

"Sorry," Anthea Aves, President, Spelunkers Associated, Corcass Chapter, says. "Are you okay? I know this all can be overwhelming— if you need to process for a moment— or ask any questions—"

You blink your eyes back open, jut your chin, square your shoulders. "What? I'm fine— This is not much of a meeting, I have to say. One other person? That's just a— one person is a dinner date, or a- a confessional. A tête-à-tête. I'm really, uh, quite disappointed—"

"Oh!" Anthea's smoke turns a shade redder. "Oh, no, this isn't the meeting! Sorry, I didn't make that clear. This is, just, uh- hmm- he said you were new, so I'll simplify- it's just a 'dead zone' between, ah—"

Miraculously, you recall a fragment of a Richard lecture. "It's the interim."

"Yes! Okay, so you do— I mean, that's not the Corkie term for it, that's more of a northern— but yes. Sorry, I may have jumped to conclusions—"

"Sure." You're not in the mood to press the advantage: it's no fun if she apologizes every other sentence. "So can we get to the meeting, or am I just stuck here—"

"Yes! Yes, of course, I just wanted to hold a quick briefing, but if you're— yes. Give me a moment?"

You fold your arms tighter. Anthea turns past you, reaches out, and pulls, forcing the nothing around you to resolve itself, gradually, into something.

«Sloppy form.»

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'Something' is a forest clearing in the dead of night. The trees are ordinary, on cursory inspection, but someone has draped red string between their branches. There is a thin cover of mist. The only lighting is from candles, which cast stark-back, angular shadows.

It would all be rather ominous if the atmosphere wasn't so convivial. It's not quite a party— there's no music; people are drinking, but not obviously drunk— but it's clearly a gathering of people who know and like each other quite well. Hairs are pricking up on the back of your neck.

«Relax. All you have to do is function in a normal social context.»
«Oh wait.»

Thanks. Thanks. Is there somewhere you can replace Richard? Trade him out like a swap meet?


Oh, good. Where is Anthea? She seems… nice, even if it makes your eyes water to look at her too long. You scan the gathering: there's a man in long-outdated fancy dress, conversing with a man with metal studs down the back of his neck; a woman in a long white dress; Ellery; Anthea; a man smoking a pipe—

Ellery? You refuse to believe it. There's good reason not to believe it: he is cleaner, better-shaven, he is wearing paisley. Paisley. (But then, recall his wallpaper. Maybe that's a point in favor.) Unfortunately, you also refuse to believe there exists another person that singularly gawky, so you split it down the middle.

Ellery(?) is engaged in heated conversation with Anthea. You have no explanation for how she traveled to the other side of the clearing, except that she's already a spit in the face of reality. They are using handsign to keep it private, ironically enabling you to eavesdrop from a distance.

Anthea: "You can't unrecommend—"
Ellery(?): "I can do whatever the fuck I want, Anthea, I can— just don't stick me in the group, okay? I don't care if she's in general—"
Anthea: "You can't ditch your sponsee, either. I'm sorry, but I don't know why—"
Ellery(?): is not responding. Is staring directly at you. Damn. Damn! You glance away hastily, but now Anthea's looking at you, too, and she's climbing onto a stump, and she's tapping a fork against a bottle— "Everyone! Hi. Hi. Thanks for showing up despite the change of schedule. Er, thank you to the Stranger for hosting…" The man in the fancy dress takes an exaggerated bow. "And lastly, we have a provisional member! Say hello to Thirdsday!"

Seven pairs of eyes turn to stare in your direction. You feel very hot, all of a sudden.

"Now, I trust you'll all be welcoming to the uninitiated— no leaving her in causeways, kay? I don't care how funny you think it is, we were all new once. Oh, let's see. Would you like to say a few words?"

She is talking to you. You wilt. "What?"

"You know— introduce yourself? General background, how you got started spelunking—"

"Psy-lunking," someone corrects.

"Two years and that still hasn't caught on— we're not arguing about this. Thirdsday?"

>[1] String together a couple of coherent sentences. [Write-in.]
>[2] Stare frantically back at Anthea until she realizes you weren't prepared for this.
>[3] Stare questioningly/accusingly over at Ellery(?), who, if you're connecting the dots right, put you here.
>[4] Make Richard tell you what to say. It has worked before and it will work again. But he gets so *smug* about it.
>[5] Write-in.
>[3] Stare questioningly/accusingly over at Ellery(?), who, if you're connecting the dots right, put you here.

> "What a pleasure to meet all of you, sans the Meat I guess. So are we able to control our appearance here? Or are you all who I see you are? Because the secret name thing is kinda silly if I can just see who you all look like.

> What's the worst thing you ever found doing this?
> Mentally ask Richard if you can switch him out with the actual snake. Pretty sure it bites less often.
> Well, I'm a runaway Nobility looking for her lost Crown. More or less. I have a dread and terrible beast at my beck and call, although he's mostly terrible to me. I guess I got into spelunking because I just like to poke and prod at things, they never seem to really work they should. People. I mean people never seem to really work the way they should, so I want to confirm they really exist. You know. As. Um. Themselves.

> Maybe we all have a dread and terrible beast inside us and wouldn't that be terrible.

Technically we're telling the truth.

We can also stare at Ellery the whole time while saying this.
This is me.
I'll combine all these.

No problem. I haven't had an issue with samefags, so I don't care about 1 Post By This IDs.

Just learned that I have a low-grade fever in addition to mysterious chest pain, so I'm definitely down with something. Will still do my best to update, and I'll let you guys know if I feel bad enough to end the thread early.
Oh no don't die
>Thinking death will stop me
No worries, anon.

Still writing, 1000 words in thus far.
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> Long write-ins

You were once drilled, for several months, in Elocution and Rhetoric. You found the subject dreadful and tended to read under the table rather than listen to the tutor, but you recall… scraps. Okay, a scrap, but it's one you're clinging to like your life depends on it. 'Start with a joke.' Simple enough. Except…

«You're not funny.»

…You weren't going to put it like that, but… well. You cough. "Er, it's a pleasure to meet all of you—"

It's not a pleasure. Why did you say that? It's the opposite of a pleasure, it's a- a- not pleasure, to have to— it's a disgrace, really. To you. These people are all weird, and plainly below your station, besides. You're not supposed to- you don't want to meet them. You are not spinning your wheels attempting to think of a joke.

«Don't look at me. Humor is puerile.»

But he just— and he always—

«I don't know what you mean.»

You run your tongue along your teeth. Are you imagining the quizzical glances in the crowd? Are you imagining the trickle of flop sweat down your neck? Is it worse if you are or aren't? "It's a pleasure to meet all of you," you repeat. "Um." Joke. Joke. Joke. "Except the meat."

>[-1 ID: 5/12]

Nobody laughs. Understandably. You'd titter to fill the silence, but you're frightened of opening your mouth too wide, lest anyone spot the…

«I'm getting first-hand embarrassment.»
«Change the subject.»

You would like not to, out of spite, but it seems the only reasonable course of action. The flop sweat is definitely real, if it wasn't before. "…Er… sorry, I was just wondering… why there are code names… if the faces are uncovered? In my experience with secret societies, um… I mean, traditionally, they're masked…"

There's a small pause. Ellery is the first to speak. "It's not a secret society, I mean, it's a hobbyist club."

"Chapter," the woman in white corrects. "Of a larger—"

"Does it matter? I mean, honestly, En, is there a tangible difference between—"

"Sorry," Anthea says, above the din. Her good eye is looking at you. (Her bad eye is particulate.) "To answer the question, it's really just convenience— it's a lot easier for a bad actor to distribute a list of names, and that kind of list would spread faster. Not that we've had that happen, but just as a precaution…"

"A precaution." This does not bode well. "Um, why would you need to worry about that?"

Half the room sizes you up, the other half looks shifty. Anthea turns meaningfully towards Ellery. Ellery takes a swig of his bottle. "…Look," he says. "Some people find the idea of fucking around in other people's unconsenting minds to be, how might you put it— 'unethical.' They may, how might you put it, 'not appreciate' a club around the concept—"

"But we are," Anthea hastens to add. "Ethical. We have strict rules— 'no taking, no breaking—'"

"No fucking," says the man with the studs. Almost everyone laughs.

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Anthea is not among that number. "Er, so there's no harm incurred to the— it's purely recreational."

This is a test, you realize. Show a flicker of moral outrage now, you're distrusted forever. For once, though, you're not outraged— you're not even bothered. It had previously occurred to you that you'd been doing exactly what Ellery was describing, only with added taking and breaking, which if anything that made you… worse. Er, not worse. More adventurous? That sounds better.

"Okay," you say. "Um, cool." (Everyone relaxes.) "What's the worst thing y'all have ever seen? Doing this?"

No pause this time, just a wash of murmurs. "Excuse me," the woman in white says. "What do you mean? The most depraved thing, or the poorest constructed, or the most personally damaging? There's a large difference between—"

"Flesh house," the man with the studs intones. "All three."

"That wasn't poorly constructed," a dark-haired woman says, off to the side. (Ellery nods.) "It wasn't well-constructed, but as far as standards for flesh houses…"

"When it wasn't sucking people into the walls, it just fucking sucked. Admit it, Kite. It was one of those customs where the owner sucks shit, doesn't maintain—"

"Seems safe to bet the owner was insane," the man with the pipe notes. "Or at least on the upper end of disturbed. Given that it was a flesh house."

"That's not a fucking excuse not to—"

Anthea, still up on the stump, taps on her bottle. Her smoke is predominately dark pink. "Excuse me, sorry. I hope that answers Thirdsday's question?" You sense this is rhetorical: she wants to end the conversation before it scares you off. Still, you nod. Anthea nods back. "Okay, great. Er, sorry, I'm not sure you ever quite introduced yourself? Would you like to—"

Would you like to? Of course not— but the knot in your stomach has loosened, and you're no longer feel the urge to semi-compulsively straighten your collar. You might even be able to respond. "Right," you say. "Er, I'll keep this concise. I'm… Thirdsday, I'm from Pillar 6, I've been underwater three-and-a-half years—"

"How'd it happen?" says the man with the pipe.

"Wh— oh. I, uh…" You haven't told many people the reason. Any people? Surely you've told someone, but you don't remember who. "I, er, threw caution to the wind and… lept. Er, not because— I was in pursuit of a family heirloom. A crown. As I am nobility."

You keep your gaze steady on Ellery when you say this, partly because he's making you say this, partly because he's a familiar face. He's arching his eyebrows.

"Oh, what a coincidence! So is our host." Anthea points with the fork towards the man in fancy dress. "Maybe you two can commiserate. Well, thank you very-"

You're not about to be stopped now, not when you've built up a head of steam. "And I have a dread and terrible beast! At my beck and call! Who speaks to my whims, and—"

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«Excellent move. Revealing yourself as a freak to eight people in one fell swoop.»
«Normally that takes you a couple days, at least.»

Is there really no way to swap Richard out? Or can he, like… leave forever, and give you the ordinary snake? Sure, it bites, but at least there's no talking—

«Frequently I wish to not be burdened with you, as you are useless, whiny, and present a troubling conflict of interest.»
«It doesn't work that way. If I cannot extricate myself, you cannot extricate me, though of course you're welcome to fail in the attempt.»

Urgh. "—and, uh, is terrible." (You omit the 'to me' at the last moment. These are strangers.) "Yep. So that's that. Oh, right, I got started spelunking… to…" Ellery is right there. "…I just like to poke and prod at, um, things. That don't really work. Also, um, people that don't really work." He's not really looking at you, but he never really seems to look at anybody, just slightly past them. His face is blank. "I just want to confirm they, um, exist. As themselves?"

You're not sure how to make it more obvious: you're effectively smacking Ellery with a cinderblock of implications. It's to no avail. He looks slightly past you, and arches his eyebrows, and takes a small swig from his bottle.

"And MAYBE," you say, louder. "We all have a dread and terrible beast… INSIDE OURSELVES…"

He finally looks at you, but all you get is mild confusion, or a very good pretension of it.

«Oh yes. He wouldn't remember.»
«Died right after he stabbed me.»
«(Asked some unfortunate questions.)»
«Stabbed you, I mean.»
«All quite tragic.»

Oh. Good.

«That's what I thought, too.»

"…Well," Anthea says, nonplussed, "thank you, Thirdsday, for that colorful introduction. Everyone, we'll be embarking in about ten minutes, so debate your last theory, gossip your last gossip, whatever. We're down two tonight, so it'll be three groups of three, with myself, your VP—" (Ellery waggles his bottle)"—and Mav taking point. Clear? OK." She climbs down from the stump.

Conversation springs back up immediately, some of it, to your surprise, involving you. "So!" the man with the studs says. "A dread and terrible beast?"

It was a mistake to bring it up. Oh, god. You quail under his peculiar smile, full of teeth so straight and white they look almost fake. "Y-es?"

"Fucking badass. What does it do?"

What? What does Richard do? Bother you, mostly. You've never really thought about it. "Um…"

(Choices next.)
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>[A1] Go all out. Describe everything in as cool and mystic terms as you can manage. If you can stand it, maybe even show the guy your teeth. (He has metal studs down his back. He might appreciate it.) [Gain ID?]
>[A2] Er, listen, it's not really… you may have made it sound better than it is. It's not that great. Pretty dread and terrible, actually.
>[A3] …You are Forbydden by Dread and Terrible Magycks to Dyscuss the Matter, sorry…
>[A4] Write-in.

For the rest of the 10 minutes…
>[B1] Carry on talking to this guy. (Very secretly, you have always wanted to be called effing badass.) [Gain ID.]
>[B2] Hunt down Ellery. You're going to need to talk. [Any particular questions? If not, it'll be QM discretion.]
>[B3] Ask this guy, or whoever else you find, about Ellery. He's the vice president? How? What's he like?
>[B4] Ask this guy, or whoever else you find, about another topic. (Write-in.)
>[B5] Write-in.
Forgot to note this in the last post, but the meaning of (the last half of) this write-in didn't click for me until I started to write it in. And then I laughed. Good stuff.
>[A1] Go all out. Describe everything in as cool and mystic terms as you can manage. If you can stand it, maybe even show the guy your teeth. (He has metal studs down his back. He might appreciate it.) [Gain ID?]
>[B1] Carry on talking to this guy. (Very secretly, you have always wanted to be called effing badass.) [Gain ID.]

Stroke our ego, yes.
It also occurs to me that a lot of our interactions with people get ruined by Richard interrupting us and cutting us down during them.

Can we start making a conscious effort to ignore him?
Called. I feel nauseous, so hopefully that doesn't interfere with the writing process.

You can certainly give it a shot, but ignoring Richard is tricky. He's in your head, mainly, but he'll also turn to increasingly-painful electric shocks* to grab your attention. You could probably sacrifice some ID up front to tune him out on a specific occasion, or you could make it a goal to find a reliable method of doing so.

*not literal electric shocks but it feels like that
> or you could make it a goal to find a reliable method of doing so.

That's what I'm talking about. Or finding a way to "shock" him back to shut him up. Is it compulsive for him to interrupt us constantly? Because no wonder we have trouble talking to people with him constantly interrupting.

Can't we just tell him to shut up? Isn't he supposed to do what we say?
«Oh yes. He wouldn't remember.»
«Died right after he stabbed me.»
«(Asked some unfortunate questions.)»
«Stabbed you, I mean.»
«All quite tragic.»

Also, did Richard kill him to hide something? Because that's what this sounds like.
>Is it compulsive
You don't (subconsciously) compel Richard into things while he's a snake/invisible (but still a snake), and what you do compel him into are things reminiscent of your late father, so the short answer here is no.

>Isn't he supposed to do what we say
Maybe that's what he's supposed to do, but it doesn't tend to work like that. He has no magical compulsion to follow your orders, and he thinks he knows better than you. (You've also told him to shut up many, many times, usually to no effect.)

Maybe! You'd have to ask Richard, who........ would probably refuse to elaborate.

Yes. Of course. It could be done with near-total impunity, as Ellery 1) was gearing up to die at his own hands right then, 2) would [and did] come back after, and 3) just stabbed you. Unfortunate but necessary, in Richard's opinion, lest Ellery write anything down.

Might do an Ellery POV pastebin, if only for old times' sake? We'll see if I remember or care.

The unfortunate questions were along the lines of 'gee uhhh how'd you stop bleeding like that'.
I mean, it's hard to be upset about it since he (?) would come back and he had just stabbed us.

You are of two minds. The first, the loudest, is telling you to shut your stupid mouth and get out of there. What are you thinking? You don't talk about Richard, ever, to anybody, because you're not a freak— you're not! And you don't want people mixing you up with, for example, actual freaks. Like Ellery, or this guy. You're not like them at all. You're a normal person. Better than a normal person. Yeah. And, listen, if you did talk about it, suppose this guy changed his mind about it? Suppose he looked at you and curled his lip and went… you don't know how he'd go. 'That is weird and I hate you now.' (Not that. But along those lines.) Suppose that. Or worse— suppose he didn't? Suppose he listens to you, and he goes, 'Wow, that is so cool. I see you are a freak just like me and I accept you for it.' (Placeholder dialogue.) To be mistaken! To be welcomed into such awful company! You couldn't—

The second is quiet, insidious, poisonous. It is the voice of weakness and self-sabotage. It whispers you lies, like 'maybe that second part wouldn't be all that bad, really.' Like 'maybe it would be good to tell someone else, even if it's just the badass parts.' Like 'you've always wanted someone to recognize your obvious greatness, and here's your shot.' Which, okay, might be true, but at what cost? At what—

«Poor Charlie.»

(It stings every time Richard uses that awful nickname, and you'd always assumed that was the point. Until now, you'd never considered it could be an endearment… or at least instinctual. It's what your father used. Is that why it stings? Why are you thinking of this, now?)

«So indecisive, so torn. It breaks my heart.»
«It breaks my heart more to tell you it's too late. Thanks to that showstopper, you will never not be a freak to these people.»


«You will have to take your disgusting shriveled lemons and make lemon juice. Tell him about me, since you're so eager. Skip the unsavory parts. Play it way, way up. I know how grandiloquent you want to be, so be that.»
«When he starts disbelieving you, I'll take care of it.»

Oh. That's remarkably… lenient.

«Intimidation is the best you can hope for.»

Oh. Well. You cough. The man with the studs (Stud Man?) had lost patience with your taut silence and is now chatting with someone else, availing you a good look at the studs. What would possess someone to hammer metal nails into their spine? There are holes in his shirt to accommodate them. Is there an unknown metaphysical purpose, or is it simply to look cool? Admittedly, it does look cool. Painful, hedonistic, disgusting, but cool.

You cough again, louder, and he turns. "Damn, you got a hairball?"

"Er," you say. "I finished communing."

"You what?"

"With the dread and terrible beast. One of its, uh, few drawbacks: at random intervals, my mind is dragged into the Spirit Zone to… converse. So if it seems like I'm not saying anything…"

Stud Man scratches his chin. (It's strange: he seems familiar. You can't place it.) "That's funny, because your real body's back home— shit, hope you knew that. Now you do, huh? Anyways, current theory is that you're just mind and COS right now, which is—"


"Fuck. I forget what it stands for." Stud Man jogs over to the dark-haired woman, exchanges a few words, and jogs back. "COS, cee oh ess. Conceptualization-Of-Self— it's the current term for the third bit. Mind, body, third bit. You know? So if your mind's being dragged, what's left is just COS, and a little bit of skin. Badass. Do you get warning?"

"N-oo." You'll go with that. "Nope. It's just, uh, WHAM, and I'm in the Spirit Zone—"

"Its mind, I bet. Okay, no warning, that sucks shit. Guess someone'll have to be quick on the draw, yeah? How long does it last? The conversing."

"Days." Feels like it, in any case. "Long, dark days, where the sun is a pale gilded orb, and the trees are gossamer, er, threads, and I neither thirst nor hunger, and—"

"Sounds like its mind, yeah— multiplicative dilation is a bitch. Meant more for the rest of us, though. Seconds? Minutes?"

"…Maybe one minute…"

"Yeah, that's rough. Still, getting a look at pure COS would be— I mean, that's mindblowing. That'd be gigantic. Shit, aren't you a wonder child? What else is there?"

2 AM.............. I'm sick………… bls forgive………… finish tomorrow………

That's the idea, yeah.
I hope you feel better soon! Take your time to get healthy.
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"Er," you say, "I can channel its dread power into my… limpid… essence, allowing for eats of speed, strength, and, uh, phenomenal skill. The most baneful of wounds close with, um, a thought. It manifests itself as a dread flame that licks across my very spine, and it is only through untold willpower that I—"

"Literal flame?"


"Does your spine catch on fire?"

"Well, um, no." You brush some hair out of your face. "Um, that was more metaphorical— I mean, you know, it'd be impossible to describe to a… layman. The sheer intensity would be enough to curdle your… brains."

"Oh, my brains are long past curdled, hon." Stud Man's smile is crooked but handsome, if you can get past the teeth. "Shame about the fire, that would've been something. It's nervous, not venous, right? Up the spinal cord?"

«It varies. Sedation is venous.»

"Um, yes. Nervous. And my fingers crackle with black shadows of darkest night, and I am hanging onto the eternal precipice between righteousness and all-consuming, er, turpitude. Though it may be at my beck and call, when I am weak my fortifications crumble to its mephetic… vapors, and it is rebornith without, and my heart grows, um, scabbed and icy, and I— I mean, if I ever act weird for no reason, that's why."

"Shit." Stud Man strokes his chin. (What's so familiar? Is it his voice? He's remarkably soft-spoken…) "That's rough. You're sure it's external?"


"Well, you know, is it definitely something else you picked up? It's not drugs, or drugs I know of, but is it a manifestation of, shit, guilt? Fear? I don't want to downplay— still badass— but more often than not this kind of stuff you're describing is mental—"

«I am not a manifestation.»

"What? No." You scoff. "It's a terrible beast, not a metaphor for—"

"You're that sure? Can I see it? It's not hard to—"

"No!" Oh, that was too loud. A couple people are glancing at you. "No. What part of 'precipice of turpitude' wasn't clear?"

"Shit, uh, all of it. Could you demonstrate real quick, if you won't bring it out? Give it a—"

"No!" Letting Richard off his leash just calls for disaster. "No, I'm, um, bound to secrecy. Dark secrecy."

"…Huh." Stud Man rubs the corner of his eye. "Well. It was nice meeting you, I guess, Th-"

«Good timing. Disclaimer, this may hurt.»


You wait a fraction, but nothing happens. Typical. Can't rely on Richard for anything. "Hey!" you protest. "It's true! I realghrkkkkkk-"

During the "hey": a brief sucking feeling, like you'd placed your cheek against the hatch of a pneumatic tube.
During the "it's true": Nothing else.
During the "I really": Smooth sailing, up until the point where your lips froze, and your breath stopped in your throat, and your jaw hinged open until your chin pressed against your throat. Your lips are curled back. Your teeth glisten with spittle.

>[-2 ID: 3/12]

It does hurt, but not as much as it should: the skin around your mouth is stretching, not tearing, and your heart is hammering so loudly you can't process much else. It's almost enough to drown out the primordial noise gurgling up and out of your throat. It's not a noise you've ever made; it might not be a noise a human has made. It approximates a hiss.

People are staring.

And then it ends, and your jaw swings back into its normal dimensions, and you're launched into a violent coughing fit. You can only catch snatches of people's reactions: Ellery taking a deeper swig of his bottle, the man with a pipe watching with barely-contained interest, Stud Man cramming his dentures back into his…

Dentures? Wait a second. You blink back automatic tears to study his face. Huh. If Stud Man mussed his hair up, and gained thirty pounds of muscle, and had no teeth… he would be the spitting image of Toothless Earl, from the aborted heist. Clones? Twins?

Focus. People are still looking at you. You feel your jaw gingerly. "Uh, I'm— sorry about that, I didn't mean to—"

"Shit," Stud Man says.

"Huh?" You were expecting vulgarities, but not in a tone approaching awe.

"How'd you do that?" Anthea speaks for everybody. There's not an angry face in the crowd— wary, maybe, at worst. Well, Ellery is unreadable. You're not sure how to feel.

«I suppose they'd be relatively inured to—»

"Um," you say. "I told y'all. Dread and terrible beast."

"Well, sure, but how'd it do that? It's—"

"Quotient is too high," the dark-haired woman says matter-of-factly. "Normally."

You fix your collar. "Um, I don't—"

"What's the biggest thing you can fit down there?" It's Stud Man. Everyone who laughed at the "fucking" joke laughs again, excepting Ellery.

You blush scarlet. "Well, I- I- don't- it's not-"

"Leave her alone, BK." You've evidently moved Ellery to speak. "She's a kid."

"Yeah? She could bite my arm off, I think she can take a—"

Ellery looks at Stud Man. Stud Man falters. "—okay, shit, who pissed in your boots? Sorry. That was very impressive."

'Very impressive' seems to be the consensus of the room, though you've started an argument over the exact mechanism of the unhinging.Someone compares you to Ellery, which seems to be a high compliment. You are asked several more times to demonstrate, but you demur: you do not want to slip into the claws/tentacles/shadow tendrils of the beast. Instead, you regale Stud Man (Earl? BK?) and Pipe Man with deeply exaggerated stories of your exploits. You steal a couple plots wholesale from penny novels, but neither seem to notice. You are the celebrity of the moment.

>[+4 ID: 7/12]

«You're welcome. I suppose.»

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Finally, Anthea clatters the fork against the bottle. "Hi, sorry, we're still embarking. I hope everyone knows their groups—"

"We have two missing," the woman in white points out.

"Yes, En, I know. We're just doing three groups of three. Could we please arrange ourselves?"

There's some sighing and some shuffling around and eventually three groups emerge. You are next to Ellery, who won't look you in the eyes, and Stud Man, who seems thrilled. He slaps you on the back. "Hey! Look at us!"

You nod. His enthusiasm is unnerving.

"Alright," Anthea says. "You all know the drill. No breaking, no taking, no leaving things, try not to touch. Do not go down any stairs. For god's sake, don't kill anything. Okay? I want a 'yes.'"

There's a chorus of mumbled yes's. Anthea gets off the stump and goes to review some kind of checklist.

"I didn't know you could do that," Ellery says coolly. It takes you a moment before you realize he's talking to you.

>[1] Yeah? Well, you didn't know he ran some kind of… freaky… interest club.
>[2] Yeah? Well, you didn't know he still drank. What happened to those 'days sober' tally marks?
>[3] Yeah? Well, maybe it's none of his business, huh?
>[4] Yeah? Well, maybe you're just full of hidden talents. Look at you go.
>[5] Yeah? Well— wait, he won't tell anybody you know, right? He wouldn't. Right? Please don't?
>[6] Yeah? Well— whatever. Hey, Stud Man, any chance you, uh, have a brother? A clone?
>[7] Write-in.
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Thanks man. I'll do my best, but I woke up at 3 AM last night shivering, so.... we'll see how it goes.

In other news: I should be receiving a whole bunch of Drowned art over the course of July, and I'll be posting it as I go. All credit to the artists-- I'll put their contacts at the bottom of the picture in the future (can't at this present moment). It's not commissions, it's an art trade-type thing. Hopefully this'll give a little variety in reference pictures for major characters. Here's Charlotte!
Aw she looks sad. Art is good, it draws in people.

>[1] Yeah? Well, you didn't know he ran some kind of… freaky… interest club.

> Ask if he read his notes before coming on this psylunking trip.
Called and writing.

I'm not too worried about our little playerbase, but of course the more the merrier (to an extent). We'll see what happens!
>no u

You wipe your mouth with the back of your hand. "Yeah? Well, I didn't know you ran a, a freaky interest group, so we're even."

"I don't run it," Ellery says. "Does it seem like I run it? Am I up on stumps, banging on bottles? Anthea runs it."

This seems to you a flimsy argument. "Anthea called you VP."

"So? It's a title, it doesn't— it's honorary, practically. It doesn't mean anything. There's no tasks attached— I don't sign paperwork, or-"

"Couldn't spell your name on it," you mumble.

"What? I can't… listen, I'm just a— I'm a normal member of a freaky interest group, an interest that, reminder, you share—"

"I do not share." You surreptitiously prod the bottom of your jaw. "Just because I do things doesn't mean I'm interested. I stub my toe on a rock, doesn't mean I'm interested in stubbing my toe on a—"

"What? That's- that's not-" Ellery scrapes his hair backwards. "Nobody forced you to come. I didn't think you would!"

Richard. You scowl. "Well, you can't just send me a creepy business card—"

"Again, that's Anthea. Whatever! I don't want to talk about it."

You consider another aside, something along the lines of 'when do you ever not want to talk, har har' but decide in favor of a double-check. "Okay, God, someone's pissy. Did you read the notes again?"

"What? What notes?"

"The… the notes." You glance sideways. "The important ones. I helped with them."

Ellery peers at you, then blinks. "Oh, um, yes. Those. No, I… haven't."

Makes sense. "Okay. Um, do that."

«He can't.»
«They've been misplaced.»

They've what?

«Been misplaced. Into your tent.»
«Quite an unfortunate coincidence.»

Ah. Richard stole the notes. Fantastic. Wonderful. You'll deal with that, along with the rest of the wreckage, when inside your physical body. Poor, unaware Ellery is nodding. "Sure thing. So, listen, that's the all-clear just now, so we're going to- um- just hold on." He reaches down and palms a gold key from the pocket of his paisley jacket.

«Yes. I fixed it. You're welcome.»

He pivots towards the nearest tree, braces one hand against it, and inserts the key into it. He taps an irregular rhythm out onto the bark, waits, and turns the key. A rectangle of space turns flat, like cardboard, and topples forward: behind is blue, whistling sky.

He returns the key to his pocket. "There it is. Ladies first?"

"Um," you say delicately. There is no ground in sight.

«Well, go on. For once you have a reputation to think of.»

Ah. Damn. He's right.

«I'm always right.»

You look at Ellery, who raises his eyebrows, and past him, all the way to Stud Man, who gives you a great big thumbs up. You look back to the rectangle. You have done worse, you suppose. And you can't die. Right? You're pretty sure you can't.


You'll take that as a yes. Okay. Okay, here goes nothing. You squint your eyes shut, step forward once, step forward twice, step forward thrice, find no footing, and fall.

And fall. And fall. You are prepared to not die, but you worry about how much this will hurt. Will you break bones? Can you break bones?

«If you try hard enough.»
«Oh, you can die, by the way. Well, not die, but mangle your mind beyond repair. Even for me. Do be careful.»

Oh. Wh-

You land on a sandy hillock, your life (and bones) intact. To your surprise, the only thing in pain is your eyes, which sting at this sudden incursion of harsh, flat sunlight. You're still blinking back tears when Stud Man lands, then Ellery. Ellery lands on his feet.

"Okay, gang," he says, striding past you down the hillock. He's putting on a voice. "Welcome to #51, House Model C, broken down as shit. I'm Ellery, and I'll be your tour guide on this lovely… eh, let's call it afternoon. Now, do we remember the rules?"

Your vision is still spotty, but you think he's looking at you. "Um," you say. "Don't break things, don't take things, don't…"

"Good!" He drops the voice. "We don't give a shit about those. Nothing here is affecting the host, believe me. Break, take… please don't fuck. I mean, really." He pauses. "Sorry. But no, um— we don't— I run this different from Anthea. We go more…"

"Swashbuckling," offers Stud Man.

"Oh, that's good. Yeah. Swashbuckling. Can't learn anything if you don't mess with it, that's the motto. Poke it with sticks. Um, I thought Anthea's tour approach might be better for your sensibilities, but…" He eyes your jaw. "…I don't know. It might still work. What do you think?"

>[1] Write-in.

sorry lots of weak choices this thread but also a lot of bad decisions made vis-a-vis writing times
Pride cometh before the fall?

That's alright, I'll treat this as a [TBC] and carry on from here. Writing.
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>QM fiat

Just what is Ellery implying? You straighten up. "What, you think I need to be coddled? You think I need the girls tour? You think I can't hack it with Mr. Big Important V.P. and his- his-" You have yet to develop a pejorative for Stud Man. "-friend? Wow. You'd think that, after everything I've—"

"I didn't mean it like that," Ellery says, mildly. "It's just that, from my, er, highly limited interactions with you, you came off prissy. That's all. Again, I didn't think you'd—"

"Prissy?" You narrow your eyes. "How is that remotely applicable? How is- I fought alligators! Bare-handed!" More or less. "I single-handedly unraveled your web of secrets!" Sort of. …Parts of it. "Not to mention, I—"

"Web of secrets?" He rubs the back of his neck. "Sorry… remind me what you unraveled? And could you keep your voice down?"

Oh, wonderful, the denial card. "Um, I unraveled loads? You're a freaky half-person, you had ulterior motives for breaking up with Madrigal, you—"

«I would advise not discussing the 'dying constantly' issue, unless you want the hassle of discussing it again two days later.»
«Time and place.»

Fine. "—know, lots of other things…"

"Hmm." Ellery scratches his chin. "I mean, it's more of a double-person thing, if you want to be specific. And I wouldn't call that a secret, it's just an uncommon fact. Freaky, sure. But yes, um, I have obviously underestimated you… you're part of the group… etcetera. Good job."

Did he come back wrong, this time? Are his brains a bit scrambled? Why else would he pingpong between attitudes like this? (You'd wonder if he's been coming back wrong from the start, and that's why he is the particular he way is, but you assume Madrigal would've said something.) You squint. "Good."

He nods stiffly. "Yep. So, since you're here, uh… yes. Better get going."

«It's possible I stabbed him too hard.»

Oh. What?


Oh, dear. Positive thinking, Charlotte. You're not a murderer if he comes back. You're not a murderer if he's already back, even if he's funny in the head, which isn't your fault. No corpse, no problem.

«That's the spirit.»

You pick your way through uniform scrub all the way down. By the time you make it to the bottom, Ellery has moved ahead: he's standing next to Stud Man, right in front of the house.

You assume the house is what you're here for. It's large, whitewashed, and rambling, built in a preflood style. Not actually preflood, though— you've pored over enough diagrams to be able to spot the difference. (You were highly dedicated to accurate miniatures.) It is also falling apart: the roof is caving in, the steps are already caved, there's moss and mildew, no windowpanes, no shutters…

It's still just a house, though. You're put out. Where's the drama? The grandeur? Could it at least be a proper preflood house, and not a hacky replica? Is that so much to-

«They're going inside.»

Hmm. So they are. You hasten to catch up, hiking up the sides of your dress so you don't trip. (God, you're still in the dress?)

"…never been used," Stud Man is saying. "Course, you're the expert."

"No, you're right— the structure's shot through. Give it another couple months, I think it's subsumed entirely. Makes you wonder what kind of floatsam— Charlotte!" Ellery turns, though you hadn't said anything. "There you are."

You cast a sidelong glance at Stud Man. "I thought we were doing codenames," you half-whisper.

"What's the point? I already know, BK's trustworthy." He trusts a man with no teeth? You could never bring yourself to that. "Hey, he is."

"Eeh…" Stud Man waves his hand. "50-50."

"Uh huh." Ellery shakes his head, hoists himself up the broken steps, and pushes open the door of the house. "Coming?"

The entry room is largely what you'd expect: white walls, faux-wood floor, a couple pieces of anodyne furniture, rotted clean through. It does seem like it's never been used, assuming the furniture was there when it was… bought? Built? Rented? Grown? How does one have an untouched mind house? What's the logistics there—

You are distracted by a beetle nearly flying up your nose.

Oh, yes, there's also beetles. Hundreds of beetles, if not thousands, swarming up the white walls and across the faux-wood floor. If you ignore that they're beetles, they're quite pretty, with their shiny, jewel-ish shells. You can't ignore it. It's disgusting.

Ellery snaps on his battered pair of goggles. "Could be worse. Forward unto the breach, huh?"

You'd always found the goggles mystifying, but by the fifth time you bat a beetle from your eyes you're regretting not having a pair. Ellery and Stud Man ("BK"?) bicker lightly over whether stepping on the beetles has any significance, but there's little alternative, so you end up leaving crunchy trails of guts in your wake.

The room is not large, but even making it to the middle is slow going, and once you're there it's tough to see out of the swarm. It's even harder to hear, what with all the buzzing. "FLOORPLAN'S ALWAYS THE SAME," Ellery says, somewhere near you. "SHOULD BE A DOOR TO THE LEFT, DOOR TO THE RIGHT. SPLIT UP, COVER OUR BASES— FIND THE EXIT FAST, THEN DICK AROUND. SAME AS USUAL. BK?"





>[A1] Go with BK, for now. He's nice, possibly. And he likes you. Even if he has no teeth and may or may not be (related to?) a professional criminal.
>[A2] Go with Ellery, for now. You like causing trouble, sometimes. But then you have to interact with Ellery. Urgh!
>[A3] Attempt to bargain to go alone. You have some questionably-ethical designs on this manse, or you just like the quiet. But it's kind of suspicious. [Roll. Writing-in an argument may add bonuses.]

>[B] Poke/dissect/lick/eat/whisper sweet nothings to the beetles? They're not real beetles, so what's weird about them? Something, surely? [Write-in, optional.]

>[C] Write-in.
Sorry. Unexpected death in the family. Too tired to read right now.
My condolences.
Oof, ow, my ego. Vote will remain open until I get a response (or until I give up and roll for it, whichever comes first.)

On the upside, more sickass art?
>[A3] Attempt to bargain to go alone. You have some questionably-ethical designs on this manse, or you just like the quiet. But it's kind of suspicious. [Roll. Writing-in an argument may add bonuses.]

Arguing? Nah. Just inform them of our plan and head through a door before they can whine and close it behind us.

That way if they insist on following us, it's not like we lost an argument or anything.
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Rolled 5, 75, 87 = 167 (3d100)


And hmm. Going to roll some d100s of my own to see if you realize something, and determine the result based off that.

>bye suckers
>75, 87 - oh wait a sec

You hunch your shoulders in indignation. What are you, incompetent? Do they think you're incompetent? You're not— you have a dread and terrible beast! And you proved it! That, and— Ellery doesn't want you? Ellery? Nobody taught him beggars can't be choosers? You should be the one rejecting him, not— you're affronted, frankly.

You should go off on your own, just to stick it to him. Find the exit all by yourself. Take the exit all by yourself, if you're feeling especially spiteful. Yeah! Yeah. Foolproof.

«So you spill your guts and then you go out of your way to offend the people you just unloaded your dreadful secret onto.»
«Foolproof, I agree.»

Well, you're not— you're not offending them! You are taking an alternative option. If you find the exit, they can hardly complain about it, right? Everything gets smoothed over.

That, or you can choose to never see them again. Well, except Ellery.

«I suppose you could just murder him.»

…You're not entirely against that. Which is to say of course you are. Yes. Murder is wrong and disgusting. Only bad people are murderers.

«Manslaughter him.»

There we go. Not your fault at all, then, and nobody could possibly hold you culpable, including yourself. Uh, still wrong. Still bad. Yes. You would never consider manslaughtering Ellery to erase his memory, as you are a good person who only does legal things.

«We'll play it by ear.»

That works. You shield your face with both hands and edge sideways through the beetle swarm, running on the idea that there's a door to your right. You narrowly avoid bumping into BK, who squints at you. "THIRDSDAY! HI! DID YOU HEAR THAT? FIRST THING IS THE EXIT— IT'S USUALLY STAIRS, OR AN ELEVATOR, OR—"

You shield your ears, too, and keep moving at a brisker pace. You wonder what kind of person fills their mind house with beetles. Is it on purpose? Do they just like beetles? Or is it possible for a person to have a… beetle-y soul?

«Don't use that word.»

Beetle-y? Is there a better one? You hunt through your vocabulary. Insectoid? Chitinous?

«'Soul.' It's imprecise.»
«I know no direct alternative to 'beetle-y,' as much as I wish I did.»

Oh. Well, you're not sure a soul is a very precise thing, so—

«Don't use 'soul.' It is precise, you're just not capable of measuring it.»
«COS is adequate, if lacking any mystique.»

Yes! That's the issue, it- oh, the door. You almost couldn't spot it under all the beetles— only the handle is relatively unmolested. Is it unlocked? It better be, since BK is slogging after you. You grab the handle, shiver at the brush of beetle feet, and pull. It opens smoothly. You duck in and slam it behind you.

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The new room is— well, there's less beetles, and you're leaving it at that until you work things out. For having walked 10 feet, your heart is pounding unreasonably hard. What now? Wait, is BK just going to follow you through the door? It is unlocked. Damn! What was the point of this, then? Why didn't Richard—

"Don't pin this on me. I didn't recommend it."

Oh, he's here, looking the same as— were you going to think 'same as always'? What's 'always'? He's been a person for, like, a week. He's been your d- oh, you know where it came from. Same as always. Same as your whole life. You wish it were ladylike to curse.

He's not the same, though, so even that's wrong. No suit: he's in the khakis, again, and the pink shirt. (And sandals? Are those sandals?) He's translucent at the edges. Most strangely, his hair is different— same color, still thin and greying, but curly.

"You know, Charlie, I'm not much for profanity, but it has its place." He's leaning against the wall on the left, miraculously untouched by beetles. "You're too high-strung. It's bad for the heart."

"You'll fix my heart," you say. You pause. He's lighting a cigarette. "What happened to your hair?"

"You." The lighter is failing to cooperate: he shakes it and tries again. "It's rude to stare. Are you just going to stand there?"

You're still leaning in front of the door, hoping that maybe BK will forget or turn around or choke on beetles and die so you don't have to deal with him. It is not to be: a knock sounds, nearly startling you out of your skin. "THIRDSDAY?"

"Or are you going to lock it?"

"What?" you say. This hadn't occurred to you. "Um, I don't… I don't have the key. Right? Or is this the kind of thing where it's all 'you had the key all along' and it was, I don't know, around my neck? Is it—"

"Shh." Richard stands up from the wall, lit cigarette in mouth, and paces over to the door. "Move, will you?"

You consider putting up an argument, then move. Richard crouches to examine the handle. He squints at the keyhole, and you half-expect him to pull his stupid key ring out from nowhere. Instead, he starts to whisper, low and soft and with the kind of emotion typically reserved for lovers or newborn children. You stare in abject confusion. The lock clicks shut.

"Um," you say. Richard stands, implacable, amidst a cloud of cigarette smoke. "Okay, what—"

"I said it was rude to stare, Charlotte." He is looking past you. "They won't get past that anytime soon, so your foolproof plan to engender hatred remains foolproof. My, is that a corpse?"

Oh, boy. What is in this room? You take a full look around for the first time. There are still a number of beetles, though they mostly congregate on the west and north walls, around the doors— yours, plus another door that leads north. Next to the north door, and lining the adjacent wall, are gold-framed portraits, each of similar size and quality. The view of the portraits it marred, though, by the bundles of wire that loop down from the ceiling and trail onto the… body slumped against the far wall. Surrounding the body is a mess of trash— food wrappers, canisters— as well as strange, blinking equipment.

No 'exit,' though, as far as you can tell. Of course, it's unclear how straightforward the exit might actually be…

Your concentration is broken by a pounding on the door behind you. BK has discovered it has locked. Ha! Look at you, solo adventuring.

>[+1 ID: 8/12]

(As a reminder, since it's been RL months since your last dive: things marked in bold are interactable. There is no obligation to examine all [or any] of them— it's up to you guys.)

>[A] Examine…? (Write-in. This does include 'leaving through the north door,' if desired.)

>[B1] …Unlock the door. It was Richard's idea, anyhow.
>[B2] Make plans to unlock the door after you've finished examining this room.
>[B3] Yell something at BK through the door. (What?)
>[B4] What? You're comfortable with how things are. Keep the door locked.

>[C] Write-in.
>[A] Examine…? (Write-in. This does include 'leaving through the north door,' if desired.)

Examine the beetles. See if they're avoiding anything specific in the room, or just trying to get out. Maybe see if we can summon our sword to poke things with, vigorously if neccessary. We're all soul-ished up right now, yeah? So things are a little more real, yeah? So the sword should be with us, we have the pattern and all so it should just fall into place? God I hope I'm not getting this wrong. Let's ask Richard if we can do it before we try, it'll be less embarassing than if we try and fail.

>[B3] Yell something at BK through the door. (What?)

"If you would like to explore WITH me, all you have to do is ask politely and I'll unlock the door. You don't have to beg or plead or anything, that'll be Ellery's job later. We are a gracious Queen."

Then ask Richard about what CAN we do in this place? Like the thing with the lock, surely if he can't explain it he can at least try. It would be nice to go into something at least a little prepared for once instead of flailing around blindly.

He loves giving advice unsolicited, he should be thrilled we're asking him about it.

Also, what exactly does be expect us to accomplish here? Why are we here?

I presume BK will be either asking us politely to let him in during this, if so ignore him until we're done talking. Then we can inform him we were busy communing with our Dread Beast, terribly sorry to make him wait we'll get right on unlocking the door.

Because we actually ARE the kind of noble that would be petty about someone assuming we needed a babysitter and not being around to take it out on them directly.

He shouldn't be too upset though, we are letting him accompany us if he ask, afterall.
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Called and writing. Appreciate your reliable votes, man, not sure where everyone else dried up to.
Eh, I'm having fun exploring the setting.

Thanks for taking part in the Exquisite Corpse Quest last year.
>Examine/poke the beetles with sword (if possible)
>Let BK in if he asks politely, out of the infinite goodness of your heart
>Figure out what's actually going on, for once

"I wouldn't call it solo adventuring, Charlotte." Richard examines his fingernails. "Not when I have to lug you around like deadweight. You know, I'm not sure you've ever solo-adventured—"

You resent it when he reads your mind. Also, shut up: he doesn't count.

"I don't read your mind, Charlotte, that's absurd. If anything, I'm forced to stand by while you spew the most asinine— and I don't count? Your own father doesn't—"

With the hair, he looks even more like you. You grimace slightly and turn away, towards the door. Maybe it would be good to have company.

"Hello," you say through the keyhole. "Terribly sorry. It seems to have locked."


Richard's gaze is hot on your neck. You don't feel like proving him right, not all at once. "…Um. Only if you ask nicely. Not… not beg, or plead, or anything, just use your manners."


"Manners are important," you say primly. (Your ego has to be soothed somehow.) "I think I'm being rather gracious, really—"


"What? No. No." Richard is smirking slightly. "No. Just ask politely, will you?"


You'll let him do that for a little bit. The way you figure is, the second BK enters, Richard exits— and it's no use asking questions when he's gone, you may as well ask them to a brick wall. It's only now when he gets chatty…

"Plotting how to take advantage of my compromised state, Charlotte? How bold." He doesn't seem bothered. "More questions, then? Do you ever run out?"

"Do I… no! I don't!" You pace into the center of the room. "I wish I did, because that would mean things made sense! But they don't! And they haven't— you know, for three years, I don't think anything has ever made complete sense. Three years! Do you know how—"

"What is this?"


"Is it complaining? We don't have all day, Charlie, you can do that on your own time. Do you have questions or don't you?"

You might've been hoping the 'compromised state' extended to showing you a little sympathy. It was not to be. You sigh. "Yeah. What the hell was that? With the door?"

Richard taps ash onto the floor. "I convinced it to lock itself."

You could've pieced that together yourself. "Yeah, okay, but… wait, are doors alive?"


"Not in real life, I mean, but here."

"Still no."

"Then…" You hold your forehead. "Okay, is this something I can do? What can I do? Here? That's something you'd know, right? I just don't want to… can I get my sword back?"

"Would it kill you to go one at a time?" Richard cocks his head. "No, you can't. Very little. Yes. Most likely."

don't feel too bad about this w/ one voter atm... check back later pal/spoiler]
That's fine.

Gib sword.

"Would it kill you to go one at a time?" Richard cocks his head. "No, you can't. Very little. Yes. Most likely."

You tick the responses off on your fingers. "Alright. Why can't I do that? The lock… thing."

"You just can't."

"Can I learn how to do that?"

"It's not teachable." Richard pries himself up from the wall and walks over towards the body. "Mm, yes, that is a corpse. Or was a corpse, to be more—"

"Hey!" You cross your arms. "I'm not done! What is 'very little' supposed to mean? Can I do magic things, or can't I? If this isn't real, then—"

"That has nothing to do with it. There's still rules, Charlie, and these ones happen to hew rather close to reality. No, you can't fly. No, you can't shoot… what is that? Pink fire? You can't shoot that from your hands, and if you did it would hurt. At most, you have more leeway for sleights of hand—"

"Like my sword!" you say.

"Like my sword, which you stole, but yes. Normally I'd say it were too large, but you're… unusually attached. It's already on your belt, though."

You didn't think you had a belt, but there it is, with a waist pouch and all. On the other hip is— yes!— The Sword, in all its silver glory. You unsheath it with a flourish. "Wow! How long has that been there?"

"Eh… ten seconds." Richard isn't really paying attention. "I think something crawled out of here."

"Ten— oh." You deflate a little. "It wasn't really on my belt."

"Nope. You know, I think this was a real person—"

You turn The Sword around in your hand. "God. What am I doing here? I mean, really, Richard, what am I doing here? What's the master plan?"

"Master plan?" He looks at you over his shoulder. "Charlie, there doesn't always have to be a plan— sometimes it's just good to get out of the house, as it were. Meet people."

"Meet a bunch of freaks, with no faces, who—"

"Whose interests coincide with yours? Yes. Who offer convenient access to your goals? Yes. You don't have to like them, Charlotte, but you could stand to be civil—"

"They don't coincide with my interests," you scoff. "I'm not interested in stupid esoteric— they coincide with your interests, if anythi…" You draw conclusions. "Oh. You wanted to be here."

Richard doesn't say anything.

"You wanted to go spew dumb magic jargon at a bunch of—"


"God! I don't care! You wanted to spew metaphysics jargon at a bunch of likeminded freaks. God, that's pathetic."

"It's hardly my fault," he says archly, "that you refuse to comprehend even basic concepts. I fail to see how seeking out—"

"I was right? Figures." You're rather pleased with yourself. "So, what, I'm crashing your party? Ruining your reputation? Gosh, that's awful."


"Maybe if this wasn't boring, I wouldn't be forced to be such a terrible nuisance, eh?" You swish the sword around. "Maybe if I knew what I was supposed to do—"

Richard grinds the remnants of his cigarette under his heel. "Well, you heard the man, didn't you? Find the stairs. He'll want to use them to leave. You can take them to the second level, and we'll see about finally accomplishing something."

"Accomplishing… what, the crown?"

He looks at you.

"Oh. Yeah, okay." You're not sure how you feel about this. "Well, okay. I don't think the stairs are in here, so…"

You lapse into silence, whereupon you remember BK at the door. From the sounds of it, his polite requests have turned rather less polite. Richard sighs, crosses the room, and grabs the door handle. He pulls the locked door open.

Any chance of BK spotting him is lost amid the swarm: beetles from the other room pour through the doorway. Richard vanishes. BK stumbles forward, coughing. "Holy shit!"

"Sorry," you say. "Um, I was communing."

"Again? That thing's a needy bitch, isn't it?"

"…Yes." Surprisingly accurate. "Er, sacrifices for power, and all that. I don't think the exit's in here, but… I haven't looked around too much."

"Boy, there's a lot going on, isn't there? You suppose the owner is a painter?"


"The paintings. Those aren't standard knickknacks, you know? Oh, nice sword."

"…Thanks." You hold it tighter to your side. "You can look at the paintings, if you want, uh, I guess. I was just going to…" What? "…Look at the beetles, I guess."

"Oh, sure, go for it. They're a lot nicer when they're not in your face, right?"

They're still beetles, but you don't put up an argument. You back up and squint, hoping to pick out a pattern in the swarming masses. As far as you can tell, there's nothing on the walls of this room that is attracting the beetles. Instead, they congregate the most just around the doorframes— they're trying to get out, you think. Is there something in here driving them away, or is there something in an adjourning room they want?

"Hey, come over here." BK waves you over. "Look at this."

He's pointing to one of the gold-framed portraits. You boggle. It depicts a young woman in a red dress, curls spilling down her shoulders, a snake around her shoulders. It's very clearly you. You boggle.

«Don't I look handsome.»
«You look fine, too, I suppose.»

"This is you, right? You want to help me pry it off the wall?"

>[A1] Well… he's the experienced one… help BK pry it off the wall.
>[A2] That seems like a dubious plan. Request he leave the spooky portrait alone, please.
>[A3] Er… hmm. Can you concentrate? Is this just a portrait, or does it have a magic- metaphysical connection with you? Would it be better or worse if it did? [Roll.]

>[B1] You want to examine something else. (Write-in. Refer to >>4341919.)
>[B2] Follow the beetles: head through the door to the north.

>[C] Write-in.
Rolled 71 (1d100)

>[A3] Er… hmm. Can you concentrate? Is this just a portrait, or does it have a magic- metaphysical connection with you? Would it be better or worse if it did? [Roll.]

Why does he want to take it off the wall anyways? Also, deflect him from the painting to what *used to be* a corpse. Yes. We're going to steal Richards credit to look good and like we're exceptionally observant.
Called. Under normal circumstances I'd say something about rolling ahead of time, but we're in troubled waters, so no issue.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 50 to check out the portrait.
Rolled 15 (1d100)

Rolled 52 (1d100)

>71, 15, 52 vs. DC 50 -- Success
Cool, okay. I have some bad news, though: I'm ending the thread early. I'll pick up with this then.

Because this thread is molasses. I love and appreciate your efforts, Pink ID, but going from 2-4 voters to a consistent 1 is fairly demoralizing, and a break would let people catch up (if need be). That, and I think taking the time to plan out this little dungeon more thoroughly would be to everybody's benefit.

>So Drowned Quest Redux is dead forever?
Thread 11 will be up in ETA 5-7 days, and I'll return to my regular schedule of absurd early morning daily updates then. I'll probably have a bunch more art to post by then, too. Maybe an Ellery pastebin! Maybe an updated character pastebin! Maybe I'll finally explain dice procedure in the info section of the OP! We'll see how productive I feel.

Sorry! I don't feel all that good about this, but I think it's necessary.

See you guys in a week or so. I'll post the link to the new thread in here if it's still up, on my Twitter, in the quest discord... maybe the QTG, but I don't like advertising there much. Just keep an eye out.
Fair enough.

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