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, your new acquaintance BK is gearing up to pry a mysterious portrait of you off the wall of a dilapidated, beetle-infested mind palace."Um," you say carefully, "why?""Why?" BK sounds surprised, like nobody's cared to ask that before. His painted fingernails click on the painting's frame. "Oh, we're gonna need it. We're gonna need it, or there's something behind it, or it's fucking evil and we don't want it staring at us. Pretty simple. Can your beast get you a crowbar, or—""What? How do you know?""How do I…" (You slouch. He's not trying to be condescending, you think, but it still feels that way.) "Well, I mean, that's just how it works— that's how it always works. You just kinda get a sense for—"«He's not wrong, per se. Places like this run on their own brand of logic. I'd describe it as 'heightened'.»He's saying you're on story logic, right? Heightened. Like a book, or a, a radio play, where everything has a purpose, everything fits together— «You're insufferable.»You're 100% vindicated, is what you are. Hadn't you always believed the world had a secret underpinning? That subtle meanings were to be found in, e.g., dreams? Or tea leaves? And everything you learned only solidified the knowledge that…«Stop.»…you're the protagonist of it all. Just think about it, really. A plucky heroine— check. Down on her luck— check. Still possessing a noble, shining spirit— check. Plagued by malignant whispers—«Sorry, not just insufferable, genuinely delusional. I forgot.»>[+1 ID: 9/12]—Check again. It's all so obvious you're entirely unsure how nobody else has noticed. All you're really lacking is hard proof, and this right here seems just the thing. If you're functioning on story logic, who's the protagonist of the story? It's not BK. It's not Ellery. (Could you imagine?) It's—«A drop of positive attention and your ego balloons. It's sad. You might actually be more bearable sulking.»«I hope at some level you know you're grasping at straws. I'm unsure if it's to spite me or to make yourself feel better. Let me know.»—Shut up. He's just mad you're right. "No need to take it off the wall," you say brightly. "I'll just commune with it.""You'll commune…" BK looks sideways at you. "How will that help?"You're not totally sure, except that there's a probably-magyck painting of you, and you like the way the word "commune" sounds. Mystical. Important. "I'll be able to find out the arcane symbolism of it? And I don't have a crowbar, so. How about you go… look at the body? Not a body, I mean." You'd remembered Richard's comment. "The… whatever."«I think it's a husk.»(1/2)
"The husk. Whatever. Go look, I'll commune, we can decide what to do about it after."You sound less credible than you intended, but you still unhinged your jaw 20 minutes ago. BK retreats from the portrait, while you shoulder your way in front of it. You lean in close. How do you commune with things? You've done it before— you communed with those alligators, probably, and you commune with Richard every 30 seconds—«No.»You definitely do. The point was, despite all that practical experience, you have no method to speak of. You resort to staring at the portrait until your eye starts to water, hoping to find something hidden in the brushstrokes. A code? A message? Maybe there's a latch. Maybe brushstrokes was the wrong word: they're less 'strokes,' now that you look, and more little dots of color. How unusual. How modern. It lies on the cusp of offending your traditional sensibilities, but— oh. Oh.It's beetles. The "painting" consists of beetles. It'd be somewhat ingenious if it weren't disgusting, and it wouldn't be as disgusting if it weren't you in the frame, faintly wriggling. You wrinkle your nose and open your mouth, intending to call BK over. Instead, a beetle crawls out of your throat. You gag, claw it out of your mouth, and stamp it into a smudge on the faux-wood floor. You inhale shakily.Two more beetles, green and gold, crawl out of your throat. The skin on your hands roils. You wonder if the beetles are multiplying as you watch, or if there were always that many burrowed in your fat and muscle. You wonder if your bones are pockmarked with tunnels. You wonder if you're doing any thinking, or if all you have is a thick knot of chitin and nerves. They're starting to burst through the skin of your hands, their shells streaked with blood. They're pouring out of your mouth in a steady stream. Their wings buzz in your throat. Their l->[-1 ID: 8/12]You jerk forward, inhaling sharply. BK pulls the vial out from under your nose and screws the cap back on. "Is that better?""Yeah," you say hoarsely. Your throat is clear. "Yeah, that, uh… yes.""What was it? Don't say nothing, I know glassy eyes when I see them."You wipe your mouth. "Beetles, uh, in me, I guess. That's not a painting, by the way, that's— wait." It's paint again. "I don't know. Nevermind. Sorry."BK claps you on the shoulder. "Shit, hon, it's nothing to worry about. We've all been there, and worse, usually. I thought I was a—"You're not listening: you're too busy kicking yourself. What the hell are you apologizing for? Are you that out of sorts? Have you grown soft? He's going to get all sorts of wrong ideas about your relative status— next thing you'll be thanking him. How are you ever going to—>[-1 ID: 7/12]"—can see why Ellery invited you, at least. Lots in common." This grabs your attention. You scoff. "In common? No way. Why would you—"(jk 2/3)
"You both like to get into scrapes, that's all I meant. Oh, and you both talk a lot, you're both a little abnormal… I can tell how you're friends, is all. I think we can just cut the canvas out, now that I look at it. Would you hold the frame—?"You hardly know how to react.> Decisively. That's patently absurd: none of those things apply to you, not even a little. He'll do well to not compare you further.> Defensively.*You're* abnormal? You're perfectly normal. BK's the one with metal spikes sticking out of his back. > Dismissively. You have no time for ridiculous assertions. You're heading to the next room, and he can follow if he chooses.> Deflectively. Ellery's abnormal, huh? Really? Hmm? You don't say? How so?> Write-in.
>Where were you?Sorry! I know I said 5-7 days last thread, but it didn't work out. I do have some good news…- I have written up a pastebin from the POV of Ellery, right after the end of Thread 9 (ie right after you got stabbed). It's entirely optional and may be slightly more enjoyable if you've read some of the original Drowned Quest. https://pastebin.com/ahmENCuT- Have you ever wanted to see the main cast of Redux if they were actual human people? No? You want them to stay fictional and cartoonish, the way they clearly belong? I agree, but nevertheless I've AI generated a folder of weird realistic pictures. Check them out(?): https://pastebin.com/hy7jzGpc- The "Who's Who" pastebin and your character sheet have been updated, the latter for the first time since thread 3 or so.- I am continuing to receive a lot of incredibly cool art and will be posting it throughout the thread. Artists are in the filenames, all credit to them. >Last time on Drowned Quest ReduxYou awoke from possession at the tail end of a museum heist. As you escaped the clutches of both the Wind Court guards and a giant taxidermied squid, you learned several things: 1) you (ie Richard) orchestrated this heist, 2) you'd been out for over 5 days, and 3) somehow, things went terribly wrong— the plan was leaked. Despite this, you made it out unscathed and promised to distribute the loot in two days.Back at camp, you surveyed the mess Richard left in your tent and decided to deal with it in the morning. You didn't expect to wake up late to a meeting of a private adventurers' club, nor did you expect to find Ellery the member who invited you. You impressed the club with your demonstration of the Dread and Terrible Beast in your head (still Richard), and are now on a "delve" into an anonymous manse, accompanied by Ellery and club member BK, somewhat against your will.>ScheduleOnce 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. There may be sporadic half-updates (no choices) if I start writing too late in the evening, sorry in advance.>DiceWe run on a 3d100 degrees of success system. A DC is set, and the number of rolls that pass the DC determine the result. Modifiers may be added as appropriate.>Archivehttp://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux>Twitter (I update this when I remember it exists)https://twitter.com/BathicQM>Pastebinshttps://pastebin.com/u/BathicQM>"Redux"?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!
>>4368296> Dismissively. You have no time for ridiculous assertions. You're heading to the next room, and he can follow if he chooses.He said that portrait of us was evil. No portrait of us could be anything but perfect.Also I made the first reply last thread and then my computer broke and I missed the rest of the thread. Sorry. RIP thread 10.
>>4368694My plot to redirect the QM curse succeeded! :^) Sorry about your computer, but no worries-- nothing suffered last thread but my feefees.Called and writing, with the caveat that Charlotte isn't quite that cartoonishly vain-- I'll tone it down a little.
>Pshaw!You open your mouth to say something insulting ("abnormal"? "friends"?), but you're interrupted by a sting at the base of your neck.«Don't ruin this.»Don't— fine. Whatever. Ruin anything else, but not Richard's favorite dork club. You see how it is.«Yes.»Figures. You scowl, stuff your hands into your pockets and scowl deeper— you'd forgotten you don't have pockets. You make do with clasping your hands at your waist, like you'd always meant to. "I'm going to head off, actually.""Huh?" BK looks at you, then the portrait. "Hey, it's better if we—""The DREAD VOICE is telling me to venture forth from this place," you add helpfully. "I'll catch you later.""Did I say something? Oh." You're already beating beetles off the handle of the door. "Be careful, alright? Maybe don't commune with anything?""I'll commune whatever I want," you mumble. "What?""Nothing! Bye!" You swing the door open and squint against another cloud of beetles. "Oh, uh, don't damage that too much? It's a nice portrait."BK juggles a wicked-looking scalpel in his hand. (One of his spine studs is missing, you notice.) "…Hon, it just fucked with you.""Yeah, but, eeeenhh…" It's a nice portrait. You're not sure you've ever owned one of yourself— and you deserve it, you think. It's commemorative, even if it is— it's probably not evil. It's nice. "Be careful, right? I'll be careful, you'll be careful.""Uh, o—"You're out the door and not looking back. The room to the north is of similar square footage to the previous two rooms, but the ceiling is high and vaulted, making it seem much larger. You wonder about the intended usage: oddly airy parlor? Oddly cramped ballroom? A few beetles buzz among the rafters, but the vast majority seethe in clumps on the west wall, where another door is located. There's still no real furniture, but there is another cluster of portraits on the far wall, these running all the way up to the crown molding. To your right, by the east wall, you're reminded of the condition of the exterior: a thicket of ice plant is creeping up through the floorboards and over an elaborate setup of blinking… equipment, similar to that in the previous room.Huh. Where's the drama? Where's the mystery? Where's the— at minimum— revelations about the contents of this person's psyche? You can't even tell if the beetles are metaphorical. People do this for fun? "Spelunking" seems to you like just an excuse to socialize— like lawn bowling, basically. «You're not here to enjoy yourself. You're here to obtain 1/16th of <your> goal.»To be accurate, you're here so Richard can make friends. (You are not letting that go.)«It's called networking, Charlotte.»«It's not like you could relate.»«In any case, this carries considerably more risk than lawn bowling.»Lawn bowling with a chance of death. Fantastic. You're just going to leave this room, you think. There's only one door out, BK will still be able to find you…
You march past the junk to the right and over to the door. You tug the handle, but find it locked.«Not an obstacle. Close the other door and I'll pick it.» «No, don't bother. I'll close it. Here.»Richard, in the corner of your eye, appears and slams the door shut in one motion. As he does, you flinch: half the beetles on the west wall pour off it, mostly into your face. You're still blinking away stray antennae when you realize they've coalesced: not onto a solid surface, but into a floating mass. You turn and squint. If you applied a great deal of imagination, it could approach humanoid."He-llo." Richard, still grim, pale, and curly-headed, releases the door handle. He's using the tone a surgeon might use on an unusual sort of growth. "Who's this?""It's not who," you gripe. (You do not like that tone on Richard.) "It's a lot of beetles.""There's no need to be rude, Charlotte." You sigh. He prowls around the mass, joining you at its front(?). "Hello? Do you speak?"The mass erupts in chittering. "In language?"If you continued to apply imagination, the beetles gesture to their "throat." You nudge Richard. "I'm, like, 99% sure they can't—"He treads on your boot. "You don't have the parts? Is that the issue? You can use mine, if you have to— I assure you, my vocal cords are decorative. I won't miss anything."For a second, nothing happens, and you breathe a private sigh of relief. Thank God, right? The world could've gone topsy-turvy, and it didn't. Hurrah for the status quo, you say, hurrah and huzzah. The status quo: it never hurt anyone!Then an exploratory beetle loosens from the "chest," and your good cheer evaporates. Richard opens his mouth— are his teeth all pointed? No, they're ordinary, but they looked that way for a second. The beetle flies in. Richard closes his mouth. You hope this is all a devious scheme, or at least a bizarre act of coleoptophagy: it's the only way you can make it work in your head. Richard's neck jerks. He twitches, once, all over."Hello? Oh. Shit. It works."It's not Richard's voice, which either makes it better or worse— you can't decide. It's nasally, twangy, and masculine. There's no trace of beetle to it, though admittedly you wouldn't be able to name a beetle-type voice if you were put at knifepoint. Richard, outside the workings of his throat, seems relaxed, maybe faintly amused. You hate it.«There's no need to be crabby, Charlotte.» Oh, now he's looking at you. «I'm honestly unsure what's driving you up the wall, except latent neuroticism—»"It does work, right? You can hear—?"Richard raises a thumbs up. You do too, reflexively, and lower it in distaste. What's driving you up the wall? He's weird. He's acting weird. If you tried this, he'd scold you for recklessness. Why is this the—«Unlike you at any point, I know what I'm doing.» He winks(!) and turns back to the mass. "It's working fine, yes. Who are you?"(2/3)
"Uh, Gil," he answers himself. No last name follows. The beetle-mass looks shifty."Gil! Interesting." You wonder how anybody could possibly find that interesting. "Now, Gil, what are you?""Beetles," you hiss. Richard removes his dress shoe from your foot, shakes it, and treads harder, right on your toes. "Uh, beetles, I think," beetle-man Gil utters, and you smirk in pain. "At the moment, I think. I mean, I don't know if I'm possessing a lot of beetles, or if I'm a lot of beetles that happen to think I'm me. If that helps.""Very philosophical." Richard nods encouragingly. "No, it does— it's a little of both, I suspect. That's your skin back there?""Uh, I think so, yeah—"Bored of the novelty, you busy yourself with the locked door. Could you pick it? Your hair's pinned back, which requires an armada of bobby pins— you should be set, there. You bend slightly to examine the lock——and are nigh-blinded by a pair of beetles in your eyes. "Sorry," Gil says. "I can't let you leave— please, noone else has been here— ever—"You're equal parts pleased and concerned to see Richard's face drop, just a fraction.> Well, you can't just let Richard do the talking. You have things to say, too. (Write-in.)> Busy yourself with trying to pick the lock, beetles or no beetles. If you can escape, that's all you need. [Roll.]> Busy yourself with guarding the south door, where BK is. It's not actually locked— and you'd rather not him barge in on this. [Roll.]> Busy yourself with circling Gil. You're finding it difficult to imagine stabbing a mass of beetles, but maybe there's a weak spot—? [Roll.]> Write-in.
>>4371125>> Busy yourself with trying to pick the lock, beetles or no beetles. If you can escape, that's all you need. [Roll.]
>>4371125> Busy yourself with trying to pick the lock, beetles or no beetles. If you can escape, that's all you need. [Roll.]try and stop us beetle boiwe'll squash all of you if we have to
>>4368294Was this a commission?
>>4371965It was not a commission. It was effectively an art trade-- same goes for all the credited art I have been and will be posting. (Uncredited art is mine, or for generic reference pictures ripped off Pinterest-- though I'll be phasing those out for major characters with all the new stuff.)>>4371398>>4371680Called. >Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+10 High Confidence, +5 Bobby Pins, -5 Weirded Out) vs. DC 70 (+20 Oh God That's A Lot Of Beetles) to pick the lock while nothing goes wrong!You do not get an optional +10, Richard is occupied.
Rolled 15 (1d100)>>4372004damnit dick, stop lending out your voicebox and help
Rolled 97 (1d100)>>4372004
>>4372004I wonder if we'll find a painting of Gil somewhere.
Rolled 45 + 10 (1d100 + 10)>>4372004
>>4372011>>4372280>>4372493>25, 107, 55 vs. DC 70 -- Mitigated SuccessWriting.>>4372281I wonder...!
>[E] Pick Lock>25, 107, 55 vs. DC 70 -- Mitigated Success"We're not going anywhere," Richard says pointedly, "so there's no need for that nonsense. Especially when competent parties are present." You glower. He pushes his sunglasses down and continues like he didn't see you. "Regardless, let's talk about you, hmm, Gil? You've gone native, haven't you? It must be a complicated—"You'd like to believe that Richard is buying you undistracted time to pick the lock, but that doesn't seem to be the case: he sounds genuinely interested in the plight of Gil the beetle man, or at least in the specific mechanics behind it. Is this what your father was like? How embarrassing. (In his absence— well, his retroactive absence— you'd built a kind of mythology around the man who sired you. He'd be a man of action, you know. Strong and noble and, er, of few words. Not…)"—what exactly precipitated the, oh, how would you like to put it—"Oh, damn him. You have: a lock, hairpins, a burning desire to get out of this room, guts, spunk, spite, full-throttle optimism. What could go wrong? Absolutely nothing. Watch, you're going to tug this pin out, right here, and you're going to approach the door, right now, and you're going to pick the lock in ten seconds flat. Because you're that good. Watch."I'd, uh, I'd really prefer not to to talk about why I was—" Gil hedges, as his entire "torso" loosens and darts forward: you are lifted a quarter-inch off the ground by the force of a hundred-some beetles and deposited back where you started. Richard barely pays you a glance. "Gil, I'm not interested in the illegal squatting, I'm interested in why you hatched into sapient beetles. I assume that's a fairly non-controversial topic, yes? Would you care to—"You brush yourself down and try again, this time at full tilt: you make it to the door-handle before you're dragged over to and pinned against the near wall. Layers upon layers of beetles encrust your wrists and ankles like avant-garde manacles. You find comfort in the idea that you're a major threat: Gil is using most of his "body" to keep you in place, leaving only a couple straggler beetles in front of Richard.«I'll come get you in a minute,» Richard informs you. «I do feel this is somewhat deserved.»You attempt to send him rude images back, to no apparent effect, and struggle against your restraints, ditto. You stop only when the beetles start biting. This is just a temporary setback, you remind yourself, which will soon be dealt with. Challenge is important for personal development. There's no denouement without the setup. There's nothing to worry abou-(1/2)
The door to the south swings wide open. BK strides in, a rolled canvas in one hand. For a moment, you think— aha! my savior!— then you are split wide with terror. Richard! Richard's here! Visible! And he's not just loitering, he's actively— you look to Richard, whose lips are taut, whose face is flushed— and you wonder if the terror is entirely yours.Richard hesitates, too long: BK's scan of the room ends on him. "Oh, what the fuck?"«This is your fault.»How is this in any possible way your—«You were aware I was occupied. You were aware this man was coming through the door in short order. You did nothing to prevent it.»«What's the cover story.»The icy voice in your head is at odds with the brand-new look on Richard's face: a wide, white smile, disarming in the manner of a pipe bomb. You bite your lip. What the hell is he talking about? Isn't he the natural liar? You're a God-awful— deception is not a strong suit.«I am not accustomed to…»«…»«You are fond of the improbable and stupid.»You can't tell what that's intended as. Maybe it's just established fact.>Whoops! Pick the cover story! [Richard will play along to the best of his ability, though he may or may not be pleased. You'll be expected to, too. You may use this in the future if it's applicable and relevant.]> Boy, what a coincidence you ran into this distinguished fellow spelunker…> Oh, yes, it's the beetle translator! That's literally all you know. He can talk to beetles.> Did you forget to mention your Dread And Terrible Beast occasionally took Forbidding and Sinister Human Form? How silly of you.> Uh, it's your dad. Yeah.> What? Just disappear! (This will work— but you'll lose the Gil translation, and BK has already gotten a good look.)> Write-in.Consider this "part one" of a two-part update— the success part of the mitigated success is still forthcoming, not to worry. This was too meaningful to continue on with no input.
>>4372918> Write-in.Introduce Gil and Richard, then point out that Gil is made of Beetles but Richard seems to be a perfectly normal person.Seems to be, but he's actually our dread and terrible beast and he's not particularly fond of socializing but he can let the beetleman talk to us by lending Gil his vocal chords so perhaps BK could just politely wait until we're done here, unless he has some sort of insight on why Gil is trapped here and made out of beetles.
>>4372918> Boy, what a coincidence you ran into this distinguished fellow spelunker…i mean it is his nerd club, he'd probably like this excuse
> Write inHe's... you know. That guy. Come on, you know him. Everyone knows this guy. He's uhhh... you know.
>>4373641The plan is to throw a bunch of weirdness at BK so he ends up with too many questions at once to interrupt.Oooh, I bet this is also a chance to tease Richard a bit. We can greatly over dramaticize how he has D E E P E S T L O R E knowledge of psychic exploring and that's why we were so confident in heading off by ourselves.
>>4373131>>4373641>Everything but the kitchen sink>>4373625>Gaslighting>>4373150>Whoa, What A CoincidenceCalled and writing.
>>4373907Ah, Maddie. You tried be Charlies friend, but instead you ended up learning that a snake bites because that's it's nature, reason doesn't enter into it.
>Best policyYou're a little smug and a little flattered and a little irritated, but mostly you're still not convinced it has to be you. Or that there has to be a cover story. Sure, it'd be flashy (always a plus), but it just doesn't— wouldn't telling the truth be easier? At least in the long run? (You'll tell someone the truth sometime, right?)«Oh, absolutely, Charlotte. I'll just go right ahead and scuttle years of excruciating work because I'm being leered at by an aging adrenaline junkie.»«You're a genius. Your input is truly invaluable.»He's reaching to shake BK's hand— BK accepts, befuddled and wary. You lean your head back against the wall. Fine. Whatever. You'll think of something. You'll think of— but what if there's nothing about snakes or crowns or… nefarious objectives? Just 'yes, here's that Dread and Terrible Beast I was discussing, say hello'? What would be wrong with that? Is Richard still listening? He's pumping the life out of BK's hand. "Hello! Hello! What a pleasure.""Who are you?" BK manages, his face reddened. "Complicated question! No good answer to that one. I'd need diagrams. You've lost a lot of water weight since we last met, haven't you?""Oh." This seems to clarify something in BK's mind, though you're unsure how. "Listen, if this is about a night job, I don't remember those. I don't remember the people, I don't remember the places, I just wake up with dry mouth and a baggie of chit. Even if I wanted to, I couldn't help— hi, Thirdsday." You lift your head. "You've been real fucking careful, I see. Do you know anything else about—?"You clear your throat. "Me? Uh, yes. Yeah. He's the— you know, the Beast."«...»"Oh, fuck." BK withdraws from the handshake as if stung. "Fuck. I thought there was a pinnacle of turpitude?""Precipice," you say. "And, er, yes, there is, but in my… throes of despair, I've enabled him to claw up from the vertiginous abyss of my, um, seething core. Sorry.""I'm here to wreak my malign influence upon this wretched locale," Richard adds warmly. "Hope you don't mind.""I mean, as long as you don't wreak it on me, uh…" BK chews his bottom lip. "Go for it, I guess? I've got to be honest, I expected a lot more outward—""Believe me, Earl, I'd be thrilled to erupt in eyeballs and teeth and whatnot, but there's such a thing as—"Gil breaks in. "—uh, sorry, what in the goddamn are you guys talking about?"By 'Gil breaks in,' of course, you mean 'Richard's voice rises, and he gains an accent, and apropos of nothing he changes topics.' Context means you're unphased, but BK's face sort of collapses in on itself, and you're forced to wonder how many subsequent surprises one man can take. Richard continues, blithely, in his normal voice. "My turbid iniquity, Gil. My sepulchrous malevolence. I'm letting beetles borrow my larynx, by the way."(1/3)
"Wow. Shit. I vastly underestimated the amount I'd have to drink for this." BK rubs the bridge of his nose. "Thirdsday?""Er, that's right, I think," you say. "It's kind of a guy… made of beetles. Or he turned into beetles, or something. That's him in the last room? Probably?""Oh! The husk!" This seems to cheer BK up. "Oh, shit! That's kind of badass, actually. Was it a physical thing— like, was it just parasites— or did the whole COS get converted? Because that would have implications— can I look? Is he in here?""Been here for months," Gil says dryly. "Guess it's not obvious, though— it's okay." Beetles stream off your body and into the center of the room, where they reassemble themselves back into that roughly-human shape. "Hope this is close enough for you.""Yeah, I— that's good. That's interesting. Are you doing that off of memory, or do you still have an innate concept of—?""Hey, um, BK?" You raise your voice. "The Beast was actually in the middle of a—""Huh? No, it's fine." Richard is fishing out another cigarette. "He can go right ahead. I'll interject as— inevitably— required." You sigh. Everyone's ignoring you? Fine. Good. This is good. (Wait, it is good. The lock.) The lock! You hasten over, as stealthily as you can muster, and crouch down. No beetles get in your eyes: Gil, with an audience of two, must be preoccupied. It doesn't look too tricky, just a simple door lock—It's not tricky: you pick the lock. You feel accomplished. Possibly plucky.>[+1 ID: 8/12]The door swings forward with a light push, and you're greeted by intense, high-pitched buzzing. The conversation behind you grinds to a halt. "Oh, goddamn," someone says: you can't hear who through the din, but you think it might be Gil. "Goddamn. Don't go in— don't go. Don't leave. Please."He's already a subject of weird fascination, you figure— he doesn't need you for anything. You step through the door.The room to the west is the same square footage as the others, but feels smaller, owing to the fact that one single enormous beetle is blocking off the north wall. It's the size of a horse, probably. Horses are large. (You have never seen a horse.) Smaller beetles circle around it, climb across it, are occasionally birthed from it: every so often its shell opens with a noise like a clapboard, revealing a dark space underneath, and hundreds buzz out. On the third cycle, you catch a glimpse of stairs. Is this the… exit? Why? How? (2/3)
The only other thing of note is the door set in the far wall, and that's because Ellery swans through it, 30 seconds after you enter. He's in a good mood, or at least a high-energy mood. "Charlotte! Glad to see you, glad to see you. Stairs are behind that beetle.""Uh, I know," you say, nonplussed. "Didn't you just—""Yeah, but there's only certain places they show up in, and it's conspicuous, and that's what the hivemind's telling me." He takes a swig from his bottle. "Only slightly kidding about the last one. Where's BK? You push him into a spike pit?""Um, no…" You tuck a strand of hair behind your ear. "No, uh, he's back there. He's talking. There weren't any spike pits.""No, I figured. I was still kidding, mostly." Ellery pauses to appraise you. "Didn't you have a snake? What'd you do with it?""He's not here," you say delicately. "Interesting. Interesting. Hold that thought." He holds up a pointer finger in your direction, doubles over, coughs. A single beetle flies from his mouth. "Okay, sorry about that— pretty sure my quote-unquote 'internal organs' are being, and I am coining this now, 'beetlefied.' I have ten minutes, tops, maybe. It's not an issue. What were you saying about the snake?">[A1] Ten minutes is not a lot of time, when you get right down to it. You need to prioritize getting him to look at the exit-beetle. Can he figure out how to, what, stabilize it? You kind of need it to leave.>[A2] You need to prioritize getting him over to Gil (and BK). This seems, uh, personally relevant.>[A3] You need to prioritize unbeetlefication. Less beetlefying, more time for everything else… but you don't have a method… [Roll.]>[A4] Other actions? [Write-in.]>[B1] No, what was he saying about the beetlefication? How did this happen? >[B2] Okay, why is 'internal organs' in quotes?>[B3] Whoa, whoa, he can't just *coin words*. That's not proper. That's not how it's supposed to work. (He would know this if he were literate...)>[B4] How exactly is this not an issue?>[B5] Actually deign to repeat yourself about the snake.>[B6] Other dialogue options? [Write-in.]
>>4374415>[A2] You need to prioritize getting him over to Gil (and BK). This seems, uh, personally relevant.>[B2] Okay, why is 'internal organs' in quotes?
>>4374415>[A2] You need to prioritize getting him over to Gil (and BK). This seems, uh, personally relevant.>[B3] Whoa, whoa, he can't just *coin words*. That's not proper. That's not how it's supposed to work. (He would know this if he were literate...)man ellery too bad you lost that sun in your chest or those beetles would be pretty crispy
>>4374749>>4374821>>4374895>A2>B2>B3Called and writing.>>4374895No sun, no That Guy, single, actually a fake copy of himself stuck in an endless existential loop... the last three years haven't treated him well, huh.
>Okay uh hold on"No," you say. "No. No. You can't just say things. Why is 'internal organs' in quotes?"Ellery has taken his goggles off and is polishing them with a spit-stained corner of his shirt. "Good to be precise, right? Especially with a subject that's so, eh, elliptical. In this instance, I both do and don't have organs, so it's—""Yes! That." You gesture broadly. "That doesn't— that's actually worse? That makes less sense, which is impressive. I'm impressed."He holds the goggles up towards the ceiling. "Thanks." "No! That's not a compliment!" You despair at this wild misunderstanding. "Don't- I didn't mean that, okay? I didn't mean that. I just— are you capable of explaining things in a logical way? I'm not kidding, is that another thing you're programmed not to do?""What?" Oh, damn! He doesn't remember! You smile, irritably, with teeth. "You know? Metaphorically?""…" Ellery straps his goggles back on. When he looks back up, he seems older, drained. "You could just ask me for a full explanation, Charlotte. No need to tack on insults."You scoff. "That's—""For what it's worth, it's, uh, less complex than- than it sounds. You're aware that you're not real, right? With a capital R. Not Real. You're a product of your self-conception? Not in a gullshit philosophical self-help way, I mean, but literally—""…I've been told, yeah." You can't bring yourself to entirely believe it. You feel the same."Alright. So, look, as a creature of thought— not pure thought, but thought— you don't need organs. Arguably, you shouldn't have any, right? Most people do, though, because they assume they should, or because the thought of not having any bothers them. Makes them feel less human, I guess, which is—""Huh." That makes sense, actually. You'd never thought you had strong opinions on your organs, but you'd very much rather you had some. "So they're in quotes because they're just for show?" Like Richard's larynx. "That's… actually, that is less complex than it sounds. I guess you're—""What? No, no, no." Ellery waves off the obvious conclusion. "They're in quotes because I don't have organs, but I had to have organs, because how can they be beetlefied if they don't exist? But also, how can you do organs properly if you're a large swarm of beetles? You can't. They're just flesh lumps, basically.""And that's why you put 'internal organs' in quotes," you say."Yes."(1/3)
The worst thing about Ellery, you decide, is his ability to string together sentences that make grammatical sense. They are calm. They are self-consistent. They convey ideas. He doesn't sound like an insane person— so you listen to him say things like 'I don't have organs,' and 'beetlefied,' and 'flesh lumps,' and you start feeling like you're the crazy one, like maybe you've been hit on the head, and actually he's talking about the weather, or the crowd at the Nothing, and you're hearing it wrong. Like that. Like the ground is crumbling out from under your feet.>[-1 ID: 7/12]It's like listening to Richard, but Richard does that kind of thing on purpose— or if not on purpose, at least with a dose of self-awareness. You look at Ellery (coughing up another beetle), and he doesn't seem to have any idea. This is just his normal life. He's just like this. For the first time ever, possibly, you feel sorry for Madrigal."Sorry about that," Ellery says, scraping the roof of his mouth with his finger. "That'll get more frequent as the beetlef-""That's not a word," you say. You have decided to reclaim some control over your life. "'Beetlefication.' That's not a word.""Oh, I know. I coined it." Ellery shrugs. "If there's an existing word for 'turning into beetles,' let me know. I'll switch.""You can't just… you know dictionaries exist, right? And they- they list all the words that exist. And you pick from those. You can't just coin new— it's not allowed.""Why not?""Because it's the rules!" You wish Richard were here. Richard would back you up on this. "Seriously, it— look. Look. If you were literate, you'd know th—"His jaw sets. "Where's BK?""—at by heart— what?""Well, you didn't throw him to the alligators, right? Where'd you leave him?""Over—" You don't even have time to point: Ellery follows your gaze and slips past you, heading for the door. You turn and follow. "Hey! Hey, wait!"You'd left Richard, BK, and Gil in the middle of a friendly conversation: you return to an argument. BK is jabbing wildly at the air; Richard, self-amused, is leaning against the wall; Gil is, as best you can tell, diffused around the room. It's BK who's leading the charge, it seems. "Fucking jackers! Give the rest of us a bad—""50th time you've said that," mutters Gil."That's cause it's— Ellery! Hi! Check out this fucked-up jacker! Went and turned himself into beetles—""Hi," Gil says.Ellery scratches his neck. "Beetles? Looks like an old guy to me. Hi.""No! That's—" and BK launches into an explanation of the Gil-Richard and Richard-you connections. Ellery's eyes keep flicking between Richard, and you, and Richard, and you. Finally, during a pause, he interjects. "Don't you think they look alike?""Yeah," Gil says."Huh?" Now BK looks back and forth. "Kinda? I guess? I mean, the hair matches." (2/3)
"Thanks. Just checking it wasn't all us." He coughs violently, letting three beetles fly. "Er, 'me,' sorry, not 'us.' Pronouns aren't doing great."BK: "Oh?" Gil: "Oh." Richard: "Oh!" He peels himself off the wall. "Interesting! You too! And you're close.""…Yeah." Ellery coughs again. "Five minutes, give or take two, then we're— I'm beetles. And roommates with this guy, I guess. You shouldn't give him shit, BK, it's not like he can do anything about his career choice nowadays.""Right," Gil says smugly. "See?""Deserved what he got, Ell! He deserved it! Now, uh, you don't—"Ellery shrugs. "Debatable.""—but you don't look too worried, so this is for the docubook? Yeah? Tell me it's for the docubook.""I mean, I didn't go into it for the docubook, but that's the plan, yeah. You think I can take notes as beetles? Gil?""What? Goddamn. What do you—"You marvel at the speed and ease you were cut out of the conversation. You could leave, now, and it's take minutes for anyone to notice. Well, maybe not Richard.«Yes.»«Come over here. You don't have anything better to do.»You can't argue with that, unfortunately. You traipse over to Richard, who points his (second? third?) cigarette squarely at Ellery. «He's not real.»What? No way. You had no idea that could possibly be the case.«No, listen to me. There's degrees. You, for example, are clinging so white-knuckled to reality you may as well be real, body or no. The stud man is a little looser, but still relatively close. He'd bleed if you sliced him open.»«Ellery… no. There's no pretense to him. He knows he's made of paper.»«You don't see that very often.»You nod sagely. Yes. You're drawing so many conclusions from that confusing, useless factoid. You're glad you came over here.«You should smile more, Charlotte.»You slump against the wall.> Wait quietly for 5 minutes until Ellery melts into beetles, or whatever. And then make that involve you, whether they like it or not.> Wait loudly for 5 minutes, interjecting and generally being a nuisance.> Wait loudly for 5 minutes, actually asking real questions. (Write-in.)> Oh, screw it, you don't have to be there for that. Check out the giant exit-beetle in the other room. Receive adulation for your single-handed solving of how to open it properly. (Right? Won't that happen?)> Write-in.
>>4375824> Oh, screw it, you don't have to be there for that. Check out the giant exit-beetle in the other room. Receive adulation for your single-handed solving of how to open it properly. (Right? Won't that happen?)guys have we considered maybe letting Ellery become beetles isn't a good idea
>>4375824> Oh, screw it, you don't have to be there for that. Check out the giant exit-beetle in the other room. Receive adulation for your single-handed solving of how to open it properly. (Right? Won't that happen?)
>>4375824So is all this new stuff the comissioned art? I like it.
>>4376164>>4376365Writing.>>4376368Well, not commissioned, (>>4372004) but essentially yes.
>>4377230Nigga your time and labor ain't free. If you exchanged art for it, you still paid for it.I'm curious what you traded in return, tho.
> ):<On one hand, you rationalize, it's natural for you to be overlooked. Your talents are subtle, your demeanor controlled, your appearance drab and understated— «You're in lipstick and a red dress, Charlie.»—Often— often understated. By choice, naturally. As an embattled princess trapped in dangerous, exotic lands, it behooves you to travel incognito, such that—«You're also not a princess.»«You are, at best, a minor noble.»Well, Richard is, at best, a pedantic ass. So there. You raise your eyebrows meaningfully towards him— he says nothing, only drags on his cigarette. …On the other hand, you reason, the good sense of the men in this room combined could fill a thimble. It's impossible to apply reason to their actions of ignoring you, because they're simply acting without reason. What an awful way to live! You're doing them a charity, being here. A charity you could, of course, revoke. You stand from the wall. Nobody notices. (Richard doesn't count.) They're still talking, mostly Ellery, who's dictating something to BK. Gil offers quiet corrections. You edge towards the door. Nobody notices. Clicking noises are starting to mar Ellery's voice: this is treated with amusement, like a whistle from a chipped tooth. You duck into the next room.The giant beetle is still there, which you suppose doesn't surprise you. Its shell is metallic, green-gold. It's half-sunk into the wall— no prying it off, then. You approach it gingerly, hoping to get a better look at the inside. Could you duck through, during those short windows the shell opens? Possibly, but you'd have to fight against the swarm in your face, and the way it snaps closed after— well, you don't want to lose a leg. Could you feed a metal rod in there, prop it open? You don't have a rod, and what if that damaged the—There's a hollow pop from the other room, like a firecracker in a locked closet. You suppress your pang of curiosity and continue speculating. It's an animal. Maybe you have to feed it? Feed it what? (What do beetles eat? Garbage?) Maybe it requires blood sacrifice? Not very thematic, but based on 'particular logic,' it—The door thunks shut: Richard, you presume, here to stomp all over your theories. "What?" you snipe. "Crawling back to me already?"No response. "Richard?"Nothing. You turn, finally, and pale. Ellery's there. Well…(1/2)
Well, you'd like to wax poetic about it, or cloak it in ambiguity, or at least fluff the concept up a little, but there's no real material to be had. Two gold beetles nestle in his eye sockets. He's missing several fingers. He may as well be wearing a sign labeled "I am several hundred beetles piloting the shredded remains of Ellery's corpse."Whether those several hundred beetles are Ellery is still in question, you suppose. Ignoring the insistent knocking at the door, you go for the obvious response. "Ellery?"He opens his mouth jerkily, but no sound issues forth."Can you, like, nod once for yes, nod twice for no?"You receive no nods. Beetle-Ellery stumbles towards you, arm partially outstretched. You step away, and he continues past you, stopping just in from of the giant beetle. He rests his head against its shell. "Ellery?" You're starting to get nervous. "Are you alive?"The beetles populating his corpse flex outwards in unison. All over, his skin distends into uniform boils, then snaps back. You feel slightly nauseated. The giant beetle's shell opens, in its routine— no, not in its routine cycle. It opens wide and stays that way as Beetle-Ellery steps through it. (Something gleams in his hand.) Only after he's vanished does it snap shut.You realize the knocking has stopped: in its place is the scritching of metal on metal. It's a good 30 seconds before the door pops open. Richard, behind it, has several lockpicks clenched in his teeth. BK clutches a pipe iron in his hand. Gil hovers."Um, hi," you say."Hi." BK rubs his forehead. "Is he in there?""N…o." You feel as though you should've done something, possibly, but what was there to do? "He went down the stairs.""…Alright. Did you get the key from him?""Hmm?""The key. The key. The fucking back-door key. That lets us out? He was about to— he was about to hand it over, then he fucking exploded. Do you have it?""Okay," you say, "I didn't know I was supposed to—""No. You didn't. He wandered off with our exit ticket." BK is impressively agitated. "Wonderful. Fucking awesome. I didn't pack for a deep dive. What exit?" He's glancing into the room. "The beetle.""Oh, shit, really? How'd he get—""He…" You try to make an expanding motion with your hands, but give up. "I don't know. I think it only lets beetles through.""Ah." BK twirls the pipe iron. "So we're up shit creek.""Yep." You don't have the words for much else. "We are. We'll have to… trick it, I guess, or, um, er, well—""No," Gil says wearily. "You don't want this."> Concoct a plan to trick the exit-beetle? (Write-in.)> Write-in.>>4377260Oh, well, sure, but "commissioned" still implies a control over the result. I basically provide references and see what comes out.I won't post any non-quest art here, but I've been doing anything from headshot sketches to multiple lined fullbodies, depending on my mood and motivation.
>>4377383>"What if we each grab a beetle and try going through while holding it?"
>>4377542>>4377383WHAT COULD GO WRONG?Alternatively, get Gil to cover us all with some beetles if one doesn't work.Gil-ly suits are for camoflauge after all.
>Single beetle>G(h)illie suit (hehehehehe)You sigh and step out of the doorframe, turning back towards the giant beetle. Richard and BK file in after you, while Gil stays just outside. BK snorts. "Went through this, huh? Did he say anything?""Nothing." You hesitate. "I'm not sure he was… sapient.""Huh." BK doesn't call this badass, but he's clearly thinking it. "That'll be a few pages in the docubook. What if we just grabbed a fistful of beetles? Would that open it, you think?""Fist those beetles to— to open the hole," Gil offers mildly. (Richard seems to regrets his decisions.) BK issues a startled guffaw and slaps the wall with an open palm, scaring off a dozen beetles. "Yeah! Thank you, Mr. Jacker. Let's try that." He pauses. "You're still a smear on the good name of—"You clear your throat. "I'll test that out, I suppose." Obtaining beetles is as easy as swiping across any given surface. You hold your closed fist out to the giant beetle like an offering, hoping it'll be enough to fool the beetle sensor(?). When next the shell opens, it holds fast for an extra half-second, enough for your hopes to lift— and then it slams shut. "What?" Richard says. "You thought that was going to overpower you? You're so human it's actively embarrassing.""It wasn't even—" You gesture fervently at BK. "It was his idea!""So?""More beetles," BK intones. "That's what I'm hearing. Way more beetles— like, a fuckton. A sack. Gods know there's enough—""How are you planning to ingest them?" Richard arches an unfriendly eyebrow. "One at a time, or a handful?""Uh, neit-""Ah, but you'd have to, wouldn't you? That's the only reasonable way to mask your—" Richard makes a face and waves in a circular motion. "If you could just hold it, surely the ambient beetles would keep it open? No, it's ingestion, or I suppose you could wear them…"You're the first one to look at Gil, but soon everybody's staring in his direction. "Um," he says. "I don't— I don't think I can—""You pinned me against the wall, didn't you?" You cock your head. "How is this any different?""It's not about the…" Gil's "body" is starting to scatter— he's mostly just a cloud of beetles, now. "I'm not going back in there. I can't. And I- I don't want— please don't leave. It's so quiet."You scoff. "You're scared of going in here? Seriously? It's just a big beetle, it doesn't even move—""It's really strong," he mutters. "I went in and I— I wasn't— it took a long time for me to come back. Or for me to think I'm this again. Whichever."BK holds his forehead. "So… we're still up shit creek.""Yep," you say."Could still eat the beetles," Richard offers. "Like you said, there's certainly no shortage—"(1/2)
"We're not—" You hug your arms to your chest and put on your best, saddest, most pitiable face. "Gil, please… do you really want us trapped forever? You want to do that to someone else? We have lives, we have- friends—" Richard coughs. You pay him a nasty glance. "—You don't seem like a selfish person, so…""He literally breaks into people's minds to steal shit," BK says. You pay him a nastier glance. "…But besides that, uh…"Gil squirms. "I- I mean, I'd help if I—"He's not budging for pathos, you sense. You change tacks. "Is there something you want? Something we could help w-""Get me out!" "Makes sense," Richard adds idly. "I wager I could've guessed that one.""Um," BK says. He's scratching the pipe iron on his neck. "It's policy not to bring foreign shit back with us, since it might be infectious, or cursed, or—""I'm not foreign shit, asshole! I'm a person!" The ambient buzzing is louder than ever. "Please! You don't understand— please. I'll do it if you come back for me. Please.">[A1] Promise to come back for Gil.>[A2] Promise falsely to come back for Gil.>[A3] Well… he is a criminal… and BK doesn't look too happy… and you'll figure something else out, right? Decline to promise.[If A1 or A2]Even with Gil's cooperation, there's a snag in the plan: he can only completely cover one person, and he's not confident he'll be able to come back through for another. BK immediately offers to be the one to descend— it'll be dangerous, he says. And you're brand new. >[B1] Convince him that it should be you instead. [Roll. Writing in sound arguments will improve your odds.]>[B2] Attempt it with both of you half-covered. The window of escape will be tight, and failure is bound to get someone injured, but everyone's happy. (Roll.)>[B3] Let him go through. You'll work out your own method.[If A3 or B3]>[C1] You have a plan for a different method… (Write-in.)>[C2] No, you don't have a plan, actually, but if you brood long enugh surely you'll figure something out. [Take ID damage to autoprogress.]>[D] Write-in.
>>4379002>[A1] Promise to come back for Gil.Eh. Lots of horrors out about in the world already.>[B1] Convince him that it should be you instead. [Roll. Writing in sound arguments will improve your odds.]Richard can come with us, he definitely isn't new and probably knows more than BK, Richard can *cheat*. Also BK is hostile to Gil, we're more trustworthy.
>>4379002>[A1] Promise to come back for Gil.>[B2] Attempt it with both of you half-covered. The window of escape will be tight, and failure is bound to get someone injured, but everyone's happy. (Roll.)
>>4379002>A1>B1bro I don't want to be stuck in this wasteland with beetle criminal. Ladies first!
A1 takes it, then...>>4379336>>4379734>B1>>4379481>B2Called.>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 25 (+15 Decent Arguments, +10 Richard Is Persuasive) vs. DC 60 (+5 Come On, Hon, +5 Away From The Action) to persuade BK.
Rolled 36, 70, 28 = 134 (3d100)>>4380056Come on, Lucky Shots.
>>4380081>61, 95, 53 vs. DC 60 -- SuccessNice. Writing.
>>4380085Whew. Glad we didn't decide to split the difference.
>Pinky promise>Um, achtchually>61, 95, 53 vs. DC 60 -- Success Does your heart stir with compassion? Perhaps. Or perhaps you just like to feel the weight of a life in your hand. Maybe you want to stick it to Richard, who's busying himself burning holes in your skull. Maybe you just see this as the best way to get out of here. It might be a combination of all four— in any case, it leads to you clearing your throat. "I'll come back, okay? Happy?"«I don't know why you make promises, Charlotte. They never end well.»«But I suppose that, just as there's nothing to gain from a relationship with a pure metaphysical curiosity, there's nothing to lose from breaking it off when convenient.»…Coming from Richard, you figure that's a glowing recommendation. Gil sounds tentative. "You will? You— be sure. Swear on something important."An oath! You feel better about this. You love oaths, even if upgrading it to a blood oath, in this case, would be impractical. (Do beetles bleed?) "I swear on my—"You were about to say 'family name' before BK grabbed your shoulder. "Watch your fucking mouth!" he hisses. "Don't make binding— and not to him!""He's just a normal guy," you protest. "Made of beetles. And non-blood oaths aren't binding, they're just—""Normal? He's not Real anymore. That doesn't make him a bad guy, being a fucking jacker does that— but he works on different rules, okay? Whether he wants to or not—""Do you have a way out?" BK's lips tighten: he doesn't. You nod decisively. "Well, then, I swear on my family name— Gil?""I guess that's…" Gil has regained enough form to shrug listlessly. "…If you really will, I'll do it. Once. I'll be- I'll be gone before the second, I think."BK sighs. "Guess it'll be me.""What?" You laugh scornfully. "No. No. It has to be— I'll do it.""Uh, I'll let you guys work it out," Gil says. "I need to force myself to go inside, anyway—""Come on, hon, you're new. Nothing wrong with kicking around on the surface, but deeper? Deeper's shit. Deeper's nasty. Everything's off, everything's hostile, you're dealing with—""I can handle myself." You cross your arms. "I have R- I have the Beast, remember? He'll—"A hand on your shoulder. Richard has drawn up behind you. "I assure you she'll be safe, Earl. I'm quite capable."What is he doing? There's a sticky menace to his voice— nothing new for him, of course, but BK fidgets. Is there something you're inured to? You straighten up. "Right. See?""…Look, safe or not, you still have to navigate, and get the key from him, and…" "Again, not a problem." Richard's grip tightens. "It'll all be faster than if you were to do it, as I understand. How'd you put it… I work on different rules? Yes. It's not fair, of course, but what is?"(1/3)
He's still fidgeting, but there's a defiant jut to BK's jaw. "It's my fucking friend.""And who knows him in person?" You drum your fingers against your arm. "It's ladies first. You're not going to leave me up here with a jacker, are you?"It might be you, or it might be Richard's looming presence: it's hard to say which makes BK relent. "Godsdamn, fine. I guess I'll wait around, jacking off, while the fucking new girl gets gored by beetles. Great story to bring to next meeting. 'Hey, what happened to Thirdsday?' 'Oh, you know, let her go down stairs…'""It'll be fine," you say. "I—""Can we get this over with?" BK— you assume it's BK, he blends in exactly with the other beetles— is drifting inexorably towards the wall. "Which one?"You raise your hand. "Oh," he says, disappointed. "That makes it weirder, but— okay. Are you ready? Do I need to get the guy we're in, too, or—?""We're a package deal," Richard says. "No need.""Alright, we guess we'll just— sorry. Sorry. Hold still." You resist the triple urges to yelp, flail, or bolt as you're engulfed with whirring beetles. You dutifully avoid thinking about how these are also a person as beetles clamber over your face, your arms, your chest… "Not a fan of this either," Gil says. "Just please hold still…"You're shortly covered head-to-toe with beetles, excepting your eyes, which Gil has thoughtfully left free. BK watches as you waddle towards the exit, beetles quivering with every step. You stop in front of it. It opens, and stays open. "Hey!" you say, dislodging a beetle. "Look at that! Gil, we—"Richard wipes spittle from his lips. A wet beetle is pinched between his fingers. "He went dead," he says. "Presumably got too close to the big one. Go quick, would you— before your accoutrement changes its collective minds.""Oh." Somewhat deflated, you turn towards BK. "See you soon, I guess?""10 minutes, then I'm heading down after you. I'll find a way." He points towards an imaginary wristwatch. "Go.""Oh," you say. "Um, alright, I'll just—""Wait, take this first." He passes you the rolled-up canvas. "Now go. For fuck's sake."You step past the shell of the beetle. It slams shut before you can think to say anything more.Inside is dark, and not the kind of dark you can newly see in. Pitch. You can feel the beetles leaving your skin. A click, a click, and a muttered curse. A small flame. Richard is with you."Why wouldn't I be?" His voice echoes. "Don't say stupid things like that, Charlie."But you didn't say—"Same thing entirely." He raises the lighter to his face. "Charlie, I want you to take my hand. It may be a long walk.""Yeah? I know." You've been between layers before, with Ellery. "I don't need to hold your hand. I'm 23." And he's not your father, not anymore, he doesn't count—"Would you prefer a leash? How else will you keep up? Do you propose to grow yourself longer legs?""N-"(2/3)
"Well, then, what's the matter? Do you have any non-trivial points of concern?""W-""I expected as much." He snaps shut the lighter and, in the sudden darkness, finds your hand. You hate yourself for not recoiling, but it's a warm and familiar and comforting grip, and you hate yourself for finding it those things. You don't let go. Richard (whose hands would be bony, ice-cold talons, if the world were not hellbent on punishing you in particular) squeezes. "Now we go."Now you go, down stairs you can't see, tugged at a walking pace that nearer approximates a run. You struggle to keep up, stumbling and sweating and pleading for Richard to slow down, but after some time you're startled to have found a groove. It's just as well, as shortly thereafter Richard's note of "we might be entering a rough patch" coincides with a weird swell of vertigo, and you don't want to think about being dragged along upside down. You don't want to think about being upside down period, but you can't prove that's absolutely what's happening, which must be the point of the darkness—"Charlie," Richard says, from somewhere ahead of you. "I should hope you're not expecting my traditional presence, when you make it down there. You'd be disappointed. I am not immune to the mind's desire to compress—"You squint. "What the hell are you talking about?" "Trust your gut, will you? That'll pull you through.""What?"He doesn't respond. Some time later, you become conscious of the fact that nobody is holding your hand. Some time after that, you come to a door, plainly visible in spite of the lack of light. It is wooden, ordinary, and freestanding. A snake is draped sullenly around its handle. "Richard," you say, your voice sounding hollow. "Hi again.""Hello," the snake fails entirely to say. Its eyes are animal.>[TBC! soon]
>>4380237woah hey woah I thought the exit beetle would take us out, not deeper. Very poor naming convention here.
>>4380265Of course it would take us deeper.Ellery will take us out.
>>4380265Whoops, my apologies. This was exposited on last thread, so I assumed that that'd be the default assumption for everybody, but of course that was two weeks+ ago. It's definitely a confusing name. For what it's worth, >>4380396 is right: the stairwell ("exit") by default takes you down, and you need the key for it to take you back to the meeting. (In an absolute pinch, you can wake yourself up-- but that's strenuous, harmful, and will make everyone else worry about where you went.) So, yes, you've gone to go hunt down Ellery and get that back so that you're able to leave properly. Potentially, you're also to fill up your crown, which also requires descending layers. In that instance, you have to make it all the way down to the third layer, so if that's something you want (yes, you do want, it's the plot) you have one more to go.I hope this all makes sense. Let me know if you have further questions or things in need of clarification, I'd be happy to help.
>Cont.Gently, you unloop the snake from the door handle and hold it up to your face. "You're just empty, aren't you? Or you're in there, but you can't hear me. Or you can hear me, but you can't—" You break off, feeling foolish. "It doesn't really matter, does it?"The snake makes no indications as to whether it matters."Where do you go? How do you just— it makes no sense." You nestle the snake around your neck, which it accepts with minimal complaint. "I don't go around leaving my own body at random. Except for now, but— that's not my fault, is it? If we're going around assigning blame, that's actually your fault." You contemplate the unblinking eyes. "Or, his fault, I guess. Whoever talks."If whoever talks were here, he'd be telling you to get a move on. You scratch the snake behind the head. "It's just you and me, huh? I guess we better go and find Ellery in… ten minutes." (An hour, you think abruptly. Maybe more. Time expands deeper in, which you'd know, if you listened—)"Or… you know." You brush your hair behind your ears. "I think I might be stalling, to be perfectly honest. I'm not scared." You feel it necessary to make this clear. "But it's... I don't know. It could be anything. And it's just you and me."The snake levels no judgement. You wish it did. "Well, okay. I suppose I'll just…"Screwing your eyes shut, you yank the door open, step through, and fall eight feet onto rocky soil. The fall doesn't hurt. The rocks do, a little. You crack an eye open. "Ow."(1/2)
You are back outside the house, though calling it a 'house' now feels off. The foundations are still in place, as are remnants of the stairs and portico, but the bulk of the structure has changed: it's warped and loamy, like it sprang directly from the earth. It's also pockmarked with tunnels— some tiny, some massive— and swarmed with beetles the size of your head. Elsewhere, the ground around the structure is guarded with waist-high sedge grass, while the sky is cast in— you squint to see— an awkward, underdone twilight.You can relate: you feel like you've turned to clay, smashed flat, and resculpted with artistic license. That, or you're just the victim of a confusing, elaborate prank. Why are your arms completely hairless? Why is everything tinged slightly pink? Why do you smell of middle-range perfume? For the love of God, what happened to your teeth? They were pointed before, but your incisors were not this long. Or sharp. Nursing your bleeding finger, you glare down at the snake. "Seriously?"The snake hasn't changed a bit, which includes its willingness or ability to speak. It flicks its tongue neutrally."Is there a point to this? I can't see a— it's not as if I go around biting people, you realize? Normal teeth were— I had no issues with them—"(It's wasteful to sit here and complain, you remind yourself pointedly. You are on a clock, however extended—)Urgh. You drag yourself out of your navel gazing and to your feet, turning towards the structure. Will you have to venture inside? There's nowhere else to go, and nowhere else for beetle-Ellery to be hiding— unless he's lurking in the tall grass, but that just seems silly. How? There's no doors to speak of, but no shortage of tunnels, though finding one you can fit through may be difficult. Searching for one leads you to a different discovery: a silhouette peeking over the top of the structure. It looks broadly human. You shade your eyes against the un-sun. "Ellery?"The silhouette vanishes, and you run a few steps forward before catching yourself. Who says it's Ellery, and who says you want to climb the whole way up there? You did see a few workable tunnels, and there's every chance you'll find him in one of those. But imagine if you caught him right off—(Misevaluated my breakpoints, choices next)
>Note— the deeper you go, the more malleable unreality gets. You're licensed to write in weird reality warping stuff to solve problems or help you out, but it may or may not require a roll, and it may or may not have other consequences. Small stuff is more likely to work.> Scale the side of the structure. It has plenty of hand- and footholds, so difficulty isn't an issue, but it may take a while, and you may disturb beetles in the process. But if that was Ellery—> Head through a large tunnel. You'll have plenty of room to walk— or fight— but there's a *lot* of beetles coming out of it, which you suspect is not a good sign.> Head through a medium tunnel. You'll have to stoop, and you hate stooping, but it seems fairly empty.> Head through a small tunnel. You can't fit through a small tunnel. You couldn't fit your head through a small tunnel. But—> Write-in.
>>4381220I gotta sleep for now, poorly timed check in lol.Looking forward to write ins tho.
>>4381220>4All this reality warping may be nerd shit, but down here it seems awfully useful so we should try to pick it up.How deep does this place go?
>>4381480I'll support this.
>>4381480>>4381700Sorry, guys, I'm going to need you to be more specific than "just reality warp stuff". If you had something specific you wanted to try or a goal you wanted to accomplish, that's something I could work with. On layers: Typical manses have three "safe" layers. It's speculated they extend infinitely down from there, but past the third you're in the subconscious, which is full-on amorphous surreal drug trip territory and not humanly survivable. At best, you escape much weirder than when you started; at worst, you're subsumed into the mind of the owner.
>>4381806alright uh can we shrink ourselves so we can fit in a small tunnel? or maybe make a small tunnel into a big one?
>>4381818You could try either or both of those, sure (though you'd have to note the order). Which?
>>4381825Embrace our inner snake. We got the fangs, let's go beetle hunting. The size of the tunnel is irrelevant, we just need to focus on the feeling of going through it and finding what's at the end. Bonelessly, unworried about obstruction.
>>4381825T,L;DR Charlie is bad at thinking, or more accurately she overthinks when she does, so let's just do it before we can think about it too much.
>>4381825Let's try enlarging the tunnel first, since it doesn't affect us.
> Head through a large tunnel. You'll have plenty of room to walk— or fight— but there's a *lot* of beetles coming out of it, which you suspect is not a good sign.Reject small tunnel gang.Commit normal person action and run through normal tunnel.If you close your eye's, then not only can you not see the beetles, but they no longer exist. The clicking is just the sound of your uhh, shoes. Yes, shoes. Anyways, it's a straight shot, right? Right?
Rolled 2 (1d3)>>4381884>>4382015>>4382222Nice quads. It seems like we're tied, so I'm going to roll off for this...
Rolled 7, 18, 96 = 121 (3d100)>>4382287Alright. Rolling some behind-the-scenes stuff, and then I'll get to writing.On a completely different topic, here's Gil back when he was a guy with shitty skin and not 300-600 beetles.
>M-m-m-m-mystery box, two attempts>Enlargement mit. success, snake autosuccessBut what if you got up there and he was gone? Or it was never him? You don't want to suffer that embarrassment. (Or waste that time!) Better just to forge ahead. Initially, you make a beeline for the largest tunnel you can see— it's halfway up the structure and covered by roots, but you can trade some initial inconvenience for the ability to walk freely. That's your reasoning, anyhow, until you get close enough to see the beetles that line its rim: bulky and horned, the size of a cat. You reevaluate.The larger tunnels ring the top half of the structure, but there's plenty of small ones at eye level: some the size of your arm, others the size of your fingertip. Cupping your hand, you peer into an arm-sized one. It's nothing, it's just empty dirt— but what is that set into the walls? Gold? You can't see it properly. Disappointed, you withdraw.And lean in. And withdraw. You feel on the very cusp of an idea, though not a kind of idea you're used to having: mainly, it makes no sense. You lean in again and focus on the mouth of the tunnel, fixing it in your mind's eye. As you withdraw, you recall its details, its proportions, and— especially— its size. Why should distance matter? Are the concepts necessarily related?The overwhelming consensus in your head is "yes, of course they are," with an addendum of "what the hell are you doing" and a postscript of "please stop"— but you are not a democracy. Something peculiar has taken hold of you, and it won't let go until—The tunnel has swelled. That wasn't the process— at no point did it swell— but it has swelled, to the point where you could worm through on your stomach. This is an unappealing prospect, especially when you(…?) were banking on it reaching full size, but to your consternation you're now invested in seeing this through. At least you're not wearing your coat, you reassure yourself. You're just mucking up Richard's dress. (Though it is a nice dress.) And, really, how far could the tunnel go? It only leads to the inside.You lean into the tunnel, your feet scrabbling against the foundation. You get your head and shoulders in first, then, with enough kicking, the rest of your body. The air smells of fresh loam and middle-range perfume. It's dark inside, but you can see.You begin to drag yourself forward by your forearms. This is arduous, tiring work, and you wonder if Richard would be proud— he's always complaining about your lack of attention to physical health, or something like that. More realistically, he'd be complaining about how slow you're going. (You are going slow.) It's not all your fault: the tunnel has narrowed slightly, so you're bumping against the walls every time you move.(1/X)
Being surrounded by earth grants you a strange feeling. You're not worried about collapses or cave-ins— that would require a verisimilitude you find notably lacking— and the tight space doesn't bother you like it would, say, Madrigal. It's not fear. It's not quite pleasure. Satisfaction? Satisfaction, like you're scratching some fervent primal itch. It's all the better, too, because the tunnel hasn't stopped narrowing: soil clings to your cheeks and lips.Were this a real tunnel, and you a real person, you would turn back here. You wouldn't have a choice in the matter: it would be impossible to move forward, and that would be the end of it. Logic and sanity triumph. Here, the issue is fourfold. Firstly, you've been eased into the improbable as a frog in boiling water— the impossible is just a notch away. Secondly, you're not quite aware you can't move forward. Thirdly, you're powered mainly by spite. Fourthly, you have no bones. You've never had bones.You drag yourself forward. You're not entirely oblivious: however dimly, you know that something's the matter. The tunnel is bearing in on you in an unusual and irritating fashion, for one, and your vision is contracting. You mutter unpleasant things about crawling on one's stomach and what it does to the circulation. You are resigned, though, to seeing this through. How could you not? And how could the exit be much farther?The tunnel is now about a foot in diameter. Your shoulders are crooked inwards, as are your knees. Your torso is longer than it was. Loose skin is beginning to drape around you. Your eyes are fixed ahead; you have no idea of any of this. You complain of feeling bloated.Less than a foot. The loose skin is sloughing off in drifts. You can't keep your elbows by your side, anymore— to move, you sink your fingers into the soil and pull. You are completely knock-kneed, your hips compressed. You should not be seen in polite company. You wonder if you've picked the one tunnel that goes in a circle. (You have not.)Six inches, or about the width of your head. You should not be seen in any company. You are tall— or long. Your clothing is gone with the skin. You have given up the use of your arms entirely, relying on everything you have to move you forward. You have nothing pithy to say about this: unlike the languid, easy compression of your body, the compression of your mind was jarringly quick. Three inches. You would be shot on sight, not that you care. The remnants of your limbs are melding together, not that you care— you move easily on your stomach. Your fangs drip with saliva. Something old stirs within you.Two inches. Close.(2/X)
One inch. This is the right thickness for you. The correct thickness. You are where you want to be and who you want to be. You are content.Half an inch. Go back! Too small! Go back! Go— you can't turn around. You can't turn around, and there's light. You speed your pace considerably, breach the exit——and tumble headfirst onto compacted dirt, in your standard length and width and species. You stay there for a couple seconds, contemplating. >[-1 ID: 6/12]You'd like to spend longer, but can't see the use. To dissect it? To relive it? To dwell upon its meaning? You'd kind of like to forget it happened, actually. It already has the texture of a dream—You should not still be sitting here. What are you doing? Stand up. You have legs again. You stand, and brush down your dress (lightly dusty), and look around.[TBC]Bad place to cut off, so close to the options, but I legit can't focus long enough to finish. Interior description and following options in ~8-10 hours, hopefully shortly after I wake. This ranged pretty far from the mood of the original snake write-in, my apologies— give me body horror and I go nuts. It was a great write-in, though, and probably more relevant than you realize(d). Trust me!
>>4382570Oh noooooo, body horror, noooooo.That was what I hoped for actually. Also for hunting Ellery. Embrace snek, taste the prey.
>Cont.It appears that you've been spat out onto a kind of ledge or elevated walkway. Peeking over the edge, you realize you're 15 feet above a throne room, or at least an obscure beetle version of a throne room: sedgegrass banners line the walls, while human-sized beetle courtiers mill about the main event: a massive beetle king (queen?) perched on an earthen throne. It's the exit-beetle from before, you realize. It sits with its soft underside facing outwards, and a door shape is marked on it with chalk.On your level, the wall is lined with gold-framed portraits of beetles in human clothing. None resemble you, you're relieved to find, but one down the way wears a paisley overshirt and yellowed goggles. Does that make Ellery a notable citizen of the beetle underworld, you wonder, or is it just in his stolen image?The ledge runs in both directions, passing under natural archways and into other rooms. To your left, beetles loiter— some on the walls, some, more humanoid, leaning against them. To your right, ice plant pokes through the ceiling and obscures the archway, but it appears to split off into two passages: from one of them comes a low voice.You have not yet been noticed. You need to locate Ellery.> You have no idea where to start, honestly, but you're convinced you'll run into him somehow. Logic dictates it. Wander aimlessly until something happens. [Roll on an encounter table.]> Do beetles speak? You don't see why not. Using the portrait as an aid, politely ask a beetle if it's ever seen someone in this sort of outfit, and where did they go? [Roll.]> What does beetle-Ellery actually want? You don't have a clue. If you're going to hunt him down, you need to get into his mindset. [Roll.]> Head in a specific direction. (Left or right?)> Write-in.>>4382926Kek. Glad I could oblige, then. You're back to normal atm but feel free to continue writing in snake things, if that's the plan.
>>4382944>1Three seems like a singularly bad idea.Snakes are cool, we can be a snake.Beetles suck.
>>4382944> What does beetle-Ellery actually want? You don't have a clue. If you're going to hunt him down, you need to get into his mindset. [Roll.]
>>4382944Discretely make our way down to the room with the voice. Either it's a beetle that can talk, or Ellery.Confidence is the key. We are meant to be here. Besides, the beetlepeople aren't even real.
>>4382959Snakes are dicks, at least the ones we've met are. But we seem to already partially be one so I rolled with it.We just gotta stay cool, cold blooded even.
> Head in a specific direction.Head to the right.It is always right.
>>4382959>1>>4382985>3>>4383195>>4383207>4 (the room with the voice is to the right)Called and writing.
>>4383347So . . . What's an Ice Plant?
>>4383347Also Thicc Madrigal Pin-Up when?
>>4383430It's a kind of succulent you find growing on coastal sand dunes! Pic related. That's the actual name for it, it's not a setting thing.>>4383432Whenever you draw it, bud!
>>4383439Brb seeing if Shadman takes commissions.
>The right choice [laugh track]What did BK say about the second level? Everything's off, everything's hostile? Well, everything's off, all right. (Half an inch!) Hostile? Not so much, but you're concerned it's only a matter of time. Better to avoid attracting attention, you think.The voice also intrigues you. Ellery? He didn't seem to be able to speak, the last you saw him— but the last time you saw him, you assumed your body had a fixed shape. It's not like you have other leads, anyhow. If it's not him, you can just pick another route—You edge against the wall, attempting to appear as inconspicuous as possible. Either it works, or by sheer coincidence nobody looks at you: either way, you make it to the archway on the right unnoticed. You duck through the hanging ice plant. …There is another layer of ice plant. You duck through it, too, and come face-to-face with… more ice plant. The voice is louder, but no more coherent. Is this an infinite hallway of ice plant? It doesn't seem out of the question. You don't bother to brush it out of the way, now: you just charge straight through. The waxy leaves tickle your legs. This is stupid, you think. Stupid and tedious. If you're just going to be walking, could you at least be in a trance? So you don't mind? You wish you had The Sword, so you could hack your way through, at least. That'd feel proper adventurous, even if the result's the same. Oh, look! It's back on your hip! You could get used to that, if nothing else. You unsheathe The Sword, admire it— it's the same as you remember, only glowing mysteriously, as it ought to— and make to hack.Oh, but you can't, because— again— the universe is hellbent against you. The ice plant is gone, replaced by bundles of wire in an identical color. Put out, you sheathe The Sword and carry on forward. It's only another few feet before the hallway widens: you have found a room.As you probably should've expected, it's full of wires. Thousands of them dangle in loops from the obscured ceiling, which must be dozens of feet up. They attach to nothing and, as far as you can tell, serve no purpose. Were they producing a voice, somehow? You hear nothing except an electrical hum and, far away, the clicking of beetles. You see nothing. Wires gently rustling. Less gently rustling. Oh!(1/2)
There's a man among the wires, climbing down to meet you. He bears a slight resemblance to Ellery— it's the ears, you think— but it's not him: Ellery isn't short or blotchy or coiffed. You're fairly certain that you've never seen whoever this is before. "Fairly certain" rises to "certain" as the man nears: for all his dexterity, his eyes are a milky white. And he doesn't have a mouth."Er," you say. "Hello?"The man doesn't respond, which you decide after a moment makes sense. No speaking, on account of the mouth, and no handsign, on account of the climbing the wires. Though where did the voice come from? It's just as you wonder this that your own mouth opens you utter a string of nonsense syllables that intuitively translate to "Hello. Would you like to come up?"After the initial surprise passes, you narrow your eyes. That wasn't you: that was deeper, more nasal. You've heard this. "…Gil?"The man nods his head yes. You babble more nonsense: "No.""…Uh…" You hedge your bets. "…I left you behind. And you're dead. And made of beetles.""Yes." The man's eyes swirl like trapped mist. "Please come up.">[A1] Okay, fine. God. "Go up" with him. Maybe fate is leading you to Ellery, or whatever. Maybe it's not a massive waste of time. Maybe.>[A2] Politely decline. Noooooo thanks. You'll just be turning around, now. He won't be offended, right? …Too offended?>[B] Attempt to extract some actual answers from Gil(???). (Optional: write-in questions. Including a method— *how* you ask the question— will improve the odds of real answers.)>[C] Write-in.
>>4383583>[B] Attempt to extract some actual answers from Gil(???). (Optional: write-in questions. Including a method— *how* you ask the question— will improve the odds of real answers.)> "What are you doing up there? Do you want to come down instead? Anyways, I'm busy looking for a man named Ellery right now (describe Ellery) although he might be beetles by now, do you know where he is? Also, I have to go down in fact, to find a Crown. Can going up take me down?"
>>4383777No complaints about the write-in, but could I ask you to pick an [A] option? (You can make it conditional on what answers you receive, if that's helpful.) This way I can progress the action with the next update instead of saddling you guys with the exact same choices again, if that makes sense.
>>4383845>[A2] Politely decline. Noooooo thanks. You'll just be turning around, now. He won't be offended, right? …Too offended?
>>4383583>A2>"I'll come back up eventually, but there's something I need down here. Also I should probably find Ellery first. He's not very good at this. Probably will be beetles forever if I don't do something."
>>4383583Also, why isn't he beetles?
>>4383777>>4384115Called. I wasn't planning to ask for a roll, but circumstances call for it. This is a good thing.>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 ???) vs. DC 60 (+10 Altered Mindset) to persuade Gil(???) that you're coming back.>Spend 1 ID to add a +10 to each resulting roll? You are at 6/12 ID.> Yes> No>>4384122I don't know, why isn't he beetles? (I'll have you ask.)
Rolled 71 + 5 (1d100 + 5)>>4384343> No
Rolled 45 + 5 (1d100 + 5)>>4384343>Nah
Rolled 26 + 5 (1d100 + 5)>>4384343
>>4384359>>4384390>>4384435>76, 50, 31 vs. DC 60 - Mitigated SuccessNot too bad. Writing.
>>4384450How is it a success when two rolls were below 60?
>>4384609Mitigated success, not success. As a refresher, here's the chart:Zero Passes = FailureOne Pass = Mitigated Success [success, but something bad too]Two Passes = Success Three Passes = Enhanced Success [success, plus something else good]
>>4384615Huh. Guess I've gotten used to failure + bad, failure, success, success + good.
>>4384632Yeah, that was the old system! I switched to this at the start of Redux for the purposes of........ immersion..... nah actually it was a combo of lots of difficulty complaints + actually bothering to look at the original dice system and realizing it was structured differently lol
>Bunch of questions; noooo thanks>76, 50, 31 vs. DC 60 - Mitigated SuccessThe blank stare is making you uncomfortable. You scratch the snake under its chin. (If it ever left your shoulders, it's back now.) "I, uh… maybe in a little while, if that's… What are you doing up there? Wouldn't you rather—""I don't know.""…Don't know why you're up there, or don't know if you want to come down?""I don't know."Funny how Gil-made-of-beetles is more lucid and helpful than Gil-the-person. You pinch the bridge of your nose. "Er, that's fine. I suppose. Any chance you've seen Ellery? He's, uh, sort of lanky? Pale? Brown hair… looks like he dressed himself in the dark?""I haven't seen anyone."You sense some wiggle room in that statement. "Alternately," you press, "he could look like a walking corpse? Or a lot of beetles? I haven't seen him since he…""Like me.""Yeah. You're beetles, he's beetles— I mean, you were beetles—"Impassively, Gil reaches towards his eye, reaches into his eye, and pulls down on his bottom eyelid. A strip of skin tears away, exposing… nothing. It's hollow. (The sound of beetles has intensified.) "Like me.""Oh." Blah blah blah, by the way I don't have organs: Ellery, 15 minutes ago. "Okay, that too, I guess? But if you haven't seen him, how—""I don't know." Gil impassively seals his face back up. "I am. I know. I am not. I don't know.""Great." If you ever see beetle-Gil again, you're having strong words. "Do you know where he is, though? Please?"Gil outstretches a half-gloved finger. He points directly behind you. "There."You whirl around, tense: there's nothing behind you. "Seriously? There's not— God, you're just jerking me around, aren't you? What's wrong with you?""He's gone now." You're starting to hear the words, not just the nonsense, which bothers you: your mouth is still making nonsense shapes. Gil sounds petulant. "He's floating away.""There's nobody—!" The wires in the hallway aren't even moving. "You could've left it at 'I don't know,' you know! Is this because I won't go u—""Please come up.""I—" You shove hair out of your face. "No! Not unless— look, is going up there going to, like, take me to the next layer? Will it actually take me down? Because— I mean, I'll need to do that, I have this thing with a crown— but I can't yet, I have to find Ellery, I have to—"He looks puzzled. "Please come up."(1/3)
Why? Why up there? You find no answer in the tangle of wires. Inspiration only strikes when you try looking past them, into the dense shadows of the ceiling. "…Is this an analogy? I mean— when you're asking me to come up, do you mean come back to the first layer? Because— I mean, A), that's kind of pathetic? B), I can't, I just explained— surely you can understand? Surely you don't want Ellery beetles forever? It will be forever, if I don't intervene. Have you met the man? He's incompetent. I don't say it to be mean, it's just a fact—">[+1 ID: 7/12]There is a long pause. Gil looks to the side, then back at you. "…Will you come…?""Later," you say firmly. You're starting to think this isn't Gil at all— that some capricious mind-creature borrowed his skin. Or that he was right that he was beetles who thought themselves a person, and this is what's left of the person. Something.He shifts. "You're lying.""I'm not…" You're only slightly lying. Does it show? "I'll have to, won't I? If this is how I get down, or whatever. Plus, I swore on my family name, so…""Not much value there." His eyes are screwed up like he's smiling, despite the lack of mouth. "Not much value, Charlotte Fawkins, first of her name, sixteenth of her line. Not much at all."You'd nearly choked on the words coming out of your mouth. Now you stand, frozen, one hand on the hilt of your sword, the other protectively around the snake. "How—""I know." Perhaps he realizes this answers nothing, because he continues after a couple seconds. "You swore an oath. Didn't you?""Not a binding…" You slightly regret not listening to BK. Only slightly. Your ears are hot. "What do you mean, not much value? Do you have any idea who my family is? Old blood nobility? And who are you? Fingerless gloves and an unbuttoned suit jacket? I could buy and sell you! I could buy and sell you ten times ov-""I don't think you could." That's all he needs to say, because the words are layered with enough implication to plunge you back 15 years. You had left that behind. If nothing else, you had left that behind. You bite the inside of your lip, forgetting, and moan as a fang pierces flesh.>[-1 ID: 6/12]"I won't tell anyone," Gil says (slightly muffled; you nurse your swelling lip), "if you come back soon, and come up here, please."You nod curtly.He stares at you, with unblinking white eyes, and then he scuttles up into the wires and is gone.(2/3)
You storm back through the hallway in a foul mood, tempered only moderately by your vicious hacking at the ice plant. It falls away in sheets, sending thick salty stems and pink flowers spinning to the floor. The Sword cuts like a razor and glows like a hearth fire, or the fire of righteous fury, maybe. Righteous justice? Virtuous fury? You're workshopping it.In any case, you remember stealth at the last second and manage to restrain yourself from chopping down the last layer of ice plant. You stow The Sword and creep out from under the archway, instead. Your efforts are very nearly stymied by, of all things, a bottle: some genius decided to place it right in the middle of the walkway. You pick it up suspiciously. It's very typical: ceramic, blue label. You sniff the opening. Beer.Hmm. Keeping the bottle in hand, you glance around for a source. If beetles wear clothes, do they drink? Do they drink beer? You'd expect cider, or mead, or—Hmm. It's not a source, but there's something new here. Your half-inch hole isn't the only tunnel exit on the ledge: there's a handful of others, none larger than your palm, between and under the portraits. Into one of them is stuffed… something: you'd take it for clothing, but what little you see is strangely fleshy.You would like very much to examine this— but you're in an exposed position, and there's still a pack of beetles right there.> Oh, go for broke. Finagle the thing out of the tunnel and hope you continue to go unnoticed. [Roll.]> Utilize a particular method to go unnoticed during the finagling. (Write-in. This may or may not require a roll and/or cost ID, depending on the specifics.)> Priorities, Charlotte! You need to get a move on. [Please select an option from >>4382944, excluding "head right."]> Write-in.
>>4384946>3Go left this time.> Into one of them is stuffed… something: you'd take it for clothing, but what little you see is strangely fleshy.>what little you see is strangely fleshy.why do we want to examine this again?
>>4385055Mainly it wasn't there, like, 5-10 minutes ago, and nothing else seems to have changed but it and the bottle. (You also like examining things.)
>>4384946> Utilize a particular method to go unnoticed during the finagling. (Write-in. This may or may not require a roll and/or cost ID, depending on the specifics.)Use the cut down ice vine to disguise ourselves.
>>4384946> Utilize a particular method to go unnoticed during the finagling. (Write-in. This may or may not require a roll and/or cost ID, depending on the specifics.)
> Utilize a particular method to go unnoticed during the finagling. (Write-in. This may or may not require a roll and/or cost ID, depending on the specifics.)Rather then trying to disguise ourselves as to blend in. (Something I cannot see as working). Why don't we instead create a distraction to focus their attention elsewhere. Beer has a distinct scent and beetles most likely have a good sense of smell, plus it seems to be something they enjoy based on context. Maybe search around to see if there are any more and then pour it all out into an empty hole that might draw there attention. If we are unable to do that then just go for broke with,> Oh, go for broke. Finagle the thing out of the tunnel and hope you continue to go unnoticed. [Roll.]
Rolled 1 (1d3)>>4385055>>4385839>3 (left)>>4385655>>4385929>2 (ice plant)>>4385857>2 (distraction)>>4385832>2 (???)Geez, this is a mess. Couple things: I'll take >>4385839 right now, but if we get a spate of One Post By This IDs I'll think about temporary samefag precautions, and >>4385832, for the future: if an option says "write-in," that means I need some extra info from you.That all being said, it looks like general support is for , so we'll be going with that. Out of fairness and accounting for the unspecified  vote, I'll be rolling for which route you want to try. 1-2 is ice plant, 3 is distraction.
>>4385949Alright.>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Medium Confidence) vs. DC 70 (+20 You Know You're In The Open, Right? On A Bare Ledge?) to successfully evade notice via a plant-based disguise.And...>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each roll? You are at 6/12 ID.> Y> N
Rolled 82 + 5 (1d100 + 5)>>4385960
>>4385960I also vote No to spending.Karmically, for voting
Rolled 37, 83, 59, 57 = 236 (4d100)>>4385967>>4385968Nice roll. Out of interest in expediency, I'll do the others. Crits will not count.The extra two dice are for determining the ID spend-- 1-50 is Y, 51-100 is N. Majority rules.
>>4385967>>4386008>87, 42, 88 vs. DC 70 - Success>No spendNice! Writing.
>Construct a disguise>87, 42, 88 vs. DC 70 - SuccessWell, obvious problems call for obvious solutions! You need a disguise.(A disguise? A disguise as what? Dirt? Are you stupid? No amount of disguise is going to—)What? Is that quitter talk? You're downright ashamed of yourself— where's your optimism? Your noble, shining spirit? Your pluck? Why are you letting plausibility get you down? That never used to matter, even before it didn't. (You glance towards the half-inch hole.) Is this Gil's fault, this sour attitude? Of course it is. What a—(You could at least get started.)God, shut— okay, you could. You've already been scanning your surroundings for disguise materials, actually. Your findings: you are surrounded by dirt, tiny beetles, and a sizable amount of chopped-down ice plant. The first two are right out. The third—(Will make you stand out more, actually. You will actually attract attention.)More quitter talk. You march back to the hallway on the right, duck through the thin layer of remaining vines, and set about gathering an armful of ice plant. After discarding the idea of weaving the stems together (too slow, too complicated, you can't stand weaving), you settle for tying a couple sturdy knots and draping the mass over your head and shoulders. As a last-minute gesture, you break off a flower and place it on the snake's head. It stares sleepily at you.Confident, you return to the ledge. You choose to ignore how the ice plant does, in fact, stand out against the dirt. This is irrelevant. You have a disguise, so you are hidden, and that is all you will hear on the matter.>[+1 ID: 7/12](...)Correct. Careful not to disturb your disguise, you creep back over to the wall. Closer up, you're certain your enthusiasm was not misplaced: something very strange has been stuffed into this tunnel. But what? You squat on your haunches and, with one hand, begin to pull the something out.It's more difficult than you were expecting: the object is in some places stiff and leathery, in others delicate as tissue paper. You begin to have misgivings when you extract what you thought was a glove, until you spotted the fingernails. You begin to worry when you realize a tattered arm is attached. And it doesn't stop there: it just keeps coming, the more you tug, and coming, and coming. You hadn't known you could fit so much body in such a small space.But, then, it's not a body— not anymore a body? All you have in front of you is the crumpled outside coating, like wallpaper, like a cicada shell: dry, light, no more than an eighth of an inch at the thickest. It has hair and skin and clothing, all bound up as one, but no eyes. It is split smoothly down the middle. The interior is clean and a uniform muscle-pink.(1/2)
And it's Ellery. Did you mention that? You didn't want to, maybe. It's absolutely Ellery, post-beetle: it looks like Ellery, it's wearing Ellery's clothing. (You pat its pockets. No key.) How awful! How horrible! How— well, it's not so bad, actually. Better than his real insides, blown out over the mud. (Don't think about that.) But it is, it is better— this is so much less visceral, so far estranged from reality, that it seems more like costume than corpse. Like you could slide it on and walk around, if you were tall enough. You're not tall enough. Even so! You stand up, holding it out in front of you. How strange that would be! Taking the idiom to its logical conclusion! Could you—You're on the brink of convincing yourself to try on an arm when a hand (disembodied) claps over your mouth. "Mmm!" you say, as another hand snatches the Ellery-husk from your grasp. By the time you think to bite, you're already released: the hands are pounding down the hallway, carried by equally-disembodied feet. You stand rigid, heart pounding, hairs pricking on the back of your neck. The beetles on the left are watching you, or looking past you, depending on if the disguise is working. You can't tell.> Hey!!!!! That's your IMPORTANT EVIDENCE!!!!! Sprint after the thief! [Roll.]> It's fine! It's fine. Assume your disguise is working and take this as a distraction— push past the beetles and head to the left.> Write-in.
>>4386177> Hey!!!!! That's your IMPORTANT EVIDENCE!!!!! Sprint after the thief! [Roll.]
>>4386364:^) ...maybe>>4386550>1 Called. >Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+5 Righteous Fury, +5 ???) vs. DC 55 (+10 Untiring, -5 Uncoordinated) to catch your assailant. >Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each roll? (7/12 ID)> Y> N
Rolled 60 + 5 (1d100 + 5)>>4386779
>>4386779No for spendingNever spend ID! Precious health.
Rolled 63 + 5 (1d100 + 5)>>4386779big spendy
Rolled 74 (1d100)>>4386779> N
>>4387026>>4387200>>4387269>65, 68, 79 vs. DC 55 - Enhanced SuccessHey, that's more like it. Writing.
>HEYFor a heartbeat after, you are devoid of conscious thought. You don't feel the loss. All it means is that, when you find yourself hurtling down the hallway after your thief, you can't remember when you started to run.As a rule, you lose races. However steady and dexterous you are with your hands, it doesn't extend to your feet: you trip, you stumble, you develop cramps. And your legs are admittedly… not long. It's to little surprise, then, that you remain well behind: the thief is not especially fast, but its strides are even and inhumanly long. You're in heels. What chance do you stand? It's only by luck that the thief remains in view: it has taken the path past Gil, which turns out to be well-lit, arrow-straight, and free of dangling vines. You fix your eyes on the husk, which flaps behind the thief like a banner. Truth be told, you're half outraged, half bemused: who would want discarded skin badly enough to snatch it from your hands? What's the point? Is it hoping to impersonate Ellery? In fairness, that scheme would probably work: the man's so awkward you'd hardly be able to tell the difference. Even so, who would want to be Ellery? Not even Ellery wants to be Ellery, seeing how he's nowhere to be found, a duplicate in his place—A corner! You skid on a heel, narrowly avoiding a collision with a protruding rock: the thief has darted into a darkened side corridor. Is it hoping to lose you? Please. So your legs are weary. So your lungs are burning. So you're slowing down, while it maintains its speed. So what? You have the moral high ground, so you can't possibly fail. Those are the rules. Invigorated, you put on a burst of speed……and something ratchets into place. Your breathing eases. Your stride lengthens. You don't just maintain the burst of speed, you exceed it: you are finally gaining on the thief. (Is it true you only use 10% of the brain? Did willpower just unlock the unused running %? Surely that's not how it works.) The thief, for its part, ducks and swerves: but it can go no faster, and before long you're directly behind it. With a final push, you leap to pin its invisible body to the ground.This fails, because it has no invisible body: it is just hands and just feet, with nothing in between. Your momentum sends you crashing palms-first to the ground, embedding them with jagged bits of gravel. "Ow!" The thief steps over your face, smugly (you can and will ascribe emotion to shoes). It staggers, less smugly: you have seized it by the ankle. It, too, trips and falls——into reality. An entire man lies prone on the floor, swearing. "Son of a fucking bitch—" (1/2)
"Ha!" you say. (You have stood.) "Ha! Take that, blackguard! Pay for your transgressions! How does it feel to— oh, hell. Seriously? Already? Can you not—"Ellery has flipped onto his back, but remains on the floor. He has one hand on his forehead, the other splayed by his side. His arms, his neck, and the sides of his face are striped with blue veins, like war paint. He smells faintly of ozone. His eyes are milky white. When he sits up, he leaves a trail of smudgy afterimages. His voice is the same. "Could I get my beer back, please?""Y… I left it back there," you say."Figures." He reaches behind his back and pulls out an identical bottle. "Lucky it doesn't matter.""Uh…huh."He opens it, to your horror, with his teeth. "So," he mumbles around the cork. "What the fuck are you doing down here?">Pick as many as desired, though you are theoretically on a time limit (until BK crashes your party). > What are *you* doing here— what is *he* doing here?! He's beetles! You saw it!> Why does he *look* like that? With the veins? > Okay, what's with the eyes? Gil had them too. Does he know Gil? Is it a beetle thing? Does he know what was wrong with Gil?> Was that his skin? Because that's creepy. He's creepy. Did he have to steal it?> Was he following you around invisible? Because that's creepy. He's creepy.> Where are you, anyways? Was he running to somewhere?> Say, does he have a… key? Of any kind?> Has he seen another Ellery around? Made of beetles?> Has he seen the exit?> Wasn't he supposed to be sober? What's with the beer? Hello?> Write-in.
>>4387770> So which Ellery are you?Because maybe he's not the clone ellery. Or a new one. Or an old copy that died but can come out here.> Where are you, anyways? Was he running to somewhere?> Say, does he have a… key? Of any kind?
>>4387770> Was that his skin? Because that's creepy. He's creepy. Did he have to steal it?> Was he following you around invisible? Because that's creepy. He's creepy.> Say, does he have a… key? Of any kind?> Has he seen the exit?
>>4387770>>4388001>>4387784C-C-C-COMBO Supporting both of these.
>>4387784>>4388001>>4388423Alright! Writing for all of the above.
>Extract some answers"Who says I can't be down here?" You fold your arms. "You're down here, aren't you? Why look at me? I'm not the skulking around indecent, robbing ingenues…"Ellery spits the cork onto the ground. "Anthea says, and I say, and Mav says, and every single other— not all rules are gullshit, you know? Sometimes the collective wisdom holds that— sit down, will you? It holds that the novelty of downshifts doesn't outweigh the danger of being decapitated or burned alive or whatnot, and if you have to, bring a partner, bring— oh, yeah, where the fuck's BK? Did you actually throw him to the crocodiles? He—"You don't sit down. "He's upstairs.""Stellar. And why are you not?"Huh. Shouldn't he be able to put this together? Yes, yes, Ellery, stupid, etc., but really— the leap from "I was about to turn into beetles" to "this might be inconvenient to the group" is not large, and from there "someone needs to clean up that mess" seems rather obvious. Add that to the lack of anything remotely beetle-y, and you're starting to wonder. "Doesn't matter. Hey, which Ellery are you?""'Which'?" He smiles uneasily. "It's been 5 years since there was more than—""Ennhhh.""—one— what? What are you—""I mean, there's all the copies," you say. "I think you said a dozen or so? Over the past six months? And then there's the one who turned into beetles, and there's still the original one out there, theoretically, so I just don't know if— I mean, are you the current copy? Are you a dead copy? Are you the beetle one? Was the beetle one a copy? They all kind of look the same, so—"The smile has widened. "I- I don't know— 'the beetle one?'""Upstairs, you, uh, turned into beetles." You can't think of a better way to put it. "It was gross.""Huh! I bet it was." This news seems to relax him. "I'll know all about that in a few hours, I'd expect. It wasn't painful, was it?""It didn't seem… so, just to be clear, you're not the beetle one?""Uh…" He scratches the nape of his neck. "Yes and no? I will be? It— I won't bore you with the details. I don't know what you mean by, uh, 'copies,' so I won't… sorry. Can't help there. I feel normal, if that—""It doesn't," you say shortly. (It feels like he's evading the point, but you can't pinpoint how or where.) "You were walking around flayed, and you feel normal.""…Yeah?" Ellery has the decency to look sheepish. "I- I don't— it, uh, I know it looks… uh, I don't really— yeah.""You know it looks creepy to walk around with your skin cut off," you translate dryly. "Which it is, just so you—""Not walking," he mumbles."Huh?""You don't walk when— I mean, you don't have legs. That's the whole point. Even if you did, they couldn't contact the— you just kind of move abstractly?" He's attempting to indicate something with his hands, but for the life of you you can't tell what. "I guess— I mean, if you had to, you could call it 'floating,' but—"(1/4)
("He's floating away," Gil said.)You wet your lips. "Ellery?""—that still indicates a relationship to— yeah?""Were you following me? Invisible?""Oh, no, not invisible," he says. "Incorporeal. There's a pretty big—""What? No." You wrinkle your nose. "You can be incorporeal and not invisible. I mean, ghosts? Right? So, I mean, incorporeal, sure, but you were also invisible, and— you know the important part is the following, right? You do that often?""…I don't, actu-""You just go around invisible frequently enough for it to be normal, for no reason at all? Just for fun.""I mean…" Ellery swishes the bottle around. "…kind of? I don't do it in public, usually, I just— it's kind of— I don't know, stress relief?" He sees your incredulous face and wipes his chin with the back of his hand. "I mean, it's not painful, and… listen, okay? It's like you've had this pair of boots for years, and they're a little too small, I don't know, at the heel. So you walk around with them, and they pinch, and chafe, and you get blisters, but you don't really notice because— you know, they're your only shoes, and you've had them for years, right? It's just life. But one day, someone you know dies, and you get his shoes, and they fit, but— that's not the metaphor, actually. The metaphor is you're wearing the boots, and then you take them off, and it's just— it's just relief. And that's what it feels like. The… skin."You feel somewhat like you were tied to a chair and pushed down the side of a steep hill. You have a staggering number of questions: how is cutting yourself open not painful? Why would you not purchase shoes that fit? Why would you have one pair of shoes? Getting shoes from dead people? How does Ellery talk like this? He just opens his mouth and words fall out, as if they were trapped there. Words that mean nothing! It doesn't seem possible.None of those questions are quite so pressing, though, as the one that falls out of your mouth at that moment. "How did Madrigal have sex with you?"Ellery looks stricken for long enough to make you mildly self-conscious, then his face stiffens and his tone flattens. "In any case, yeah, I was following you. Wow. I'm sorry I didn't want you killed, Charlotte."You snort. "Is that funny?""Yeah, kind of?" You tuck a curl behind your ear. "I mean, first of all, I can handle myself. I have a sword, and I have magic powers, so. And killed by what? A bunch of beetles standing around? And you? You'd rescue me? Don't flatter your-""Charlotte." He rubs his mouth. "You have no fucking idea what you're talking about, so it'd be nice if you stopped.""You c-""You've managed to not piss anything off through blind luck, basically, and I wouldn't expect that to hold. Uh, no, scratch that— sorry. It won't hold. Did you see the exit?""No…?"(2/4)
"The chalk on the beetle? It's a huge 'cut here' thing? You're killing that, if nothing else, and that's going to get everything else up your ass. Assuming it's not already up your ass, by the time you get down there, which— big assumption.""Oh, okay," you say. "I suppose you're exempt of this, because you're so—"Ellery points to his eyes. "Yep."That's enough. Finally, you sit down, holding your head with one hand. The snake coils obligingly around your wrist. "That's stupid.""I'm not necessarily disagreeing, but…" He shrugs. "Everyone's managed to get used to me. Hey, you never told me why you were here.""I'm getting the stupid key," you mutter. "Because you went all beetle and took it down here, and we can't leave, I guess. So thanks.""This key?" Ellery produces the key from his pocket.Your heart leaps. "Yes! Oh, thank God! Now we can—""Sorry, it's just a replica. Doesn't work." He tosses it up and catches it. "I know the one, is all I'm saying. Upstairs me has it?""…Yes.""Well, shit." Ellery stands in an elaborate unfolding of limbs (blurry under the trail of afterimages). His beer has vanished. "Guess we better get going, then."You hastily spring to your feet. "Pardon? 'We?'""You want my help and you can't stop me from giving it." Ellery tugs his goggles off his neck and straps them onto his face. "So, yeah, 'we.' Where is this, do you think?""You don't know? You ran in here when you stole—""I don't know about 'stole'— whose body was it?" He fumbles behind his back, eventually producing a small lantern."You weren't using it, were you? And I wasn't doing anything—""It raises questions. Which I ended up answering anyways, so…" He strikes a match against the stone wall. "…win some, lose some." You squint in pain at the sudden lantern-light. "Ow! Do you need that?""Do you not? It's dark as fuck in here." "Er…" You decide to refrain from answering that.The corridor Ellery darted into is narrow, downwards-sloping, and plastered with sickly white pustules. "Huh," he says. "I know where this might be going, actually. Explains the lack of interference—"You trail after him as he walks, careful to avoid the pustules. "Will you tell me where, or—?""Shh. We're almost here." He raises a finger. "It should just be… a-ha!" (3/4)
The corridor bends sharply, and, shortly after, opens into a broad cavern. Pustules splatter the walls and ceiling, while the floor is occupied with— capsules? Vats? Eggs? They're oblong and translucent and faintly glowing, and inside are squirming beetle grubs, each the size of a large dog. Phosphorescent beetles, of a more ordinary size, flit around the ceiling. You stare. "My demesne!" Ellery says, enthusiastically. "I just can't leave.""What?" You stick your hands in your— your dress now has pockets! (You decide being down here has its perks.) "Is this a hatchery? I don't think beetle eggs look like this, er, really.""Huh? It doesn't matter." Ellery strides down a row of eggs(?). "Uh, but no, yeah, I woke up here… three-ish hours ago. This is where I'm supposed to be, technically, but I— you know, I like to take walks. Just to confirm, you have no idea where upstairs me is?""Um, y—""See, I should be able to figure that out, but I really need the right headsp— the right mindset for it. So I'm thinking, while we're here, I can just…" He stops in front of a busted-open egg(?), no grub inside. "…take advantage…"You jog over. "Um, what?""He's all beetles, right? Upstairs me?" Ellery peers closely at the busted egg(?). "Hard to get a grasp on that. It'd help— I think— if I were inside this—""Are you joking?" You'd like him to be joking."No. I woke up in it, so it's safe." He looks at you quite seriously. "Would you keep an eye out for threats? I doubt I'll be very aware."> Hold it. What is he doing? He's communing. You're an expert at this! Insist that you help out (though you are not getting inside any beetle egg or egg-like object).> Hey. Hey. He can't just waltz in and treat you like the sidekick. Let him do… whatever, but forge ahead without him during that. Into the unknown!> Just sit there and keep watch, as requested. Invent an excuse to assuage your ego. > Whoa! This is all moving very fast. Could you not explore more mundane methods of locating beetle-Ellery? Such as walking around until you find him? [Random encounter.]> Write-in.
>>4389170> Write-in.If he's gonna go beetle, we can go snek. Warn him that if he insists on going beetle, we might see him as *prey*Also we need to go down deeper before we leave, anyways. There's a thing we have to get, but we aren't sure if we can trust Ellery if he insists on being cryptic and doing shit without actually explaining options. Apparently time down here is slower? So he is actually here before he turned to beetles upstairs? Which begs the question of why he was down here before that.Also he gets real suicidal after learning about his multiple selves usually ans it seems like it would be inconvenient for that to happen here.
>>4389066I can't tell if this is an accurate joke on my update times or not, but I enjoyed it.>>4389356Since this is effectively a bonus round of questions with little plot progression attached, I'll do a quick ("quick") write-up of the answers and then put you back at the same set of options. Writing. Vote remains open, though you may or may not want to wait for the extra info.
>P.S.You're silent for long enough that Ellery looks concerned. "Um," he says. "I guess I'll just—""No. No. Three hours?""Huh?""You've been down here for three hours? That doesn't— even with time dilation, that doesn't work. You were only beetles for… what, one minute? That's a [color=blue]1[/blue]:180 spanner, that's absurd. Even if it's from the time you got infected, that was… 10 minutes? 1:18? Still—""You're calculating it wrong, is the issue." Ellery leans against the broken egg-thing. "I've been here from the minute I entered the manse. You were up there for half an hour, give or take, so that's a 1:6. Normal.""From the minute you…" You cross your arms. "You didn't go down the stairs?""Just woke up here, yeah." He pats the side of the egg-thing. "It's normal, don't worry. I don't—""No! That's not normal! You- you realize that, right? That's not…" You're uncertain where your conviction is coming from, but you're certain you're right. "That's not how it works!"You've succeeded at eroding some of his good humor, at least. He rubs at the corner of an eye. "I know that's not how it works. I have a- a condition.""Oh?" Finally, something juicy. "Which is?""I, uh… are you still reporting back to Madrigal?"Depends if she pays you. "…N-o…" "You're sure?""Y- yeah, I'm sure." He doesn't have to find out, you figure."Okay, then." Ellery scuffs his heel against the floor. "I'm not— well, no, listen. You're not Real, right? You can't be."How many times have you heard this? "I'm aware—""No, no, listen. The thing is, you were, and you know you were, and even if you're aware intellectually that you're not— you don't believe it, not really, not even if you try. You could sustain believing it for a few minutes at most, maybe." He fidgets with his buttons. "But if you were a beetle, if you were created from raw mindstuff, if you never existed outside someone's head— you'd know to your core you weren't Real.""That's not a…" You narrow your eyes. "Wait.""Now, imagine you were… also the beetle. Like, you're Charlotte Lastname, you're twenty-something, you grew up a mile in the sky, you have slaves do your laundry… whatever. None of that's gone. But you- you're not…""You're just talking about the Day of Reckoning," you say, annoyed. "What's with all the buildup?""The- the Day of what?""The Day of— your dumb surgery? I read your dumb diary about it? Didn't I tell you this?"(1/2)
"Um," Ellery says. "I- I, uh— sorry. If you— yeah, that's what I'm— yeah. That's all. I'm me and also a metaphysical copy of me at the same time and that fucks everything up. That's all." He wipes his nose. "I'm just going to get started now, if you don't mind.""I do mind, though?" You go to cross your arms, but realize they're already crossed. "Um, A), would it kill you to stop being cryptic? Lose the- lose the metaphors, lose the talking in circles, explain things— you could've just said 'oh, yeah, Day of Reckoning,' and I would've got it, you know?""I—" He rubs his forehead. "I didn't— I'm not trying to be, I just… that's how I talk, Charlotte.""In circles.""…In circles. It gets worse if I try to be clearer, actually, because then I spend so much time explaining… I'm told that you- you get used to it, after a while, if that… helps.""Not really!" You nod towards the egg-thing. "Uh, okay, B), are you planning to turn into beetles? Again? Because that— come on, again? Do you have to?""What? I'm not going to—""If you do, I'll have to— I warn you, I might attack! I have a—" You unsheath The Sword. "I have a sword, and a- a predator instinct! So you really don't want to—"Ellery eyes the sword with less concern than you'd been hoping. "Damn. Is that recycled metal, or is that actual—""What? Why would it be recycled? Of course it's—""Damn, nice. Uh, I like the glow, it really pulls it together."You level The Sword at his chest. "You'll have to pull yourself together if you—!""Relax! I'm not turning into beetles." Ellery gently pushes the point of The Sword away. "I'm just going to be in there for a little while, and then I'll come out exactly the same, except I'll know where to go.""You're sure?" you say. "This isn't another death wish thing? Not another 'oh, let me cut my chest open, it'll be—'""What?" Ellery looks down at his chest. "What are you— no, it's not a death wish? I'm just going to be indisposed for a little while, godsdamn. You have a vendetta against beetle eggs?"> Hold it. What is he doing? He's communing. You're an expert at this! Insist that you help out (though you are not getting inside any beetle egg or egg-like object).> Hey. Hey. He can't just waltz in and treat you like the sidekick. Let him do… whatever, but forge ahead without him during that. Into the unknown!> Just sit there and keep watch, as requested. Invent an excuse to assuage your ego.> Whoa! This is all moving very fast. Could you not explore more mundane methods of locating beetle-Ellery? Such as walking around until you find him? [Random encounter.]> Write-in.Left out needing to go down another level, since I didn't understand the purpose of discussing that right now and it's something you may want to consider keeping secret. Also left off explicitly mentioning snakes for the same reason. I'll wait for a majority before Charlotte spills the beans on those.
>>4389949> Just sit there and keep watch, as requested. Invent an excuse to assuage your ego.
>>4389949> Hold it. What is he doing? He's communing. You're an expert at this! Insist that you help out (though you are not getting inside any beetle egg or egg-like object).Totally not influenced by snake thoughts of eating eggs. Yep. Yepyepyep that would be delic- err, gross.
>>4390029>>4389949Or this and repressing snake thoughts. We is a repressed snek thot.Also IDK what that video was about I was pretty drunk last night,. Group X is good stuff tho, 90's arabian teen sensation.
>>4390029>>4390038>>4390040Seems like  takes it? Writing.
>So alright, cool, whatever"I don't have a vendetta," you say. "I just— it's weird.""Yeah? I'm not making you do it." Ellery's trying to keep his voice even, you think, but the tetchy way he's unstrapping his boot betrays him. You sense he's unused to being questioned. "If I turn into beetles, you get to say I told you so. How about that.""But you won't understand it…" You give up. "Okay, fine. Turn into beetles if you want. It's not my problem."He cracks a lopsided smile. "That's the spirit." "Uh-huh. Why're you taking your clothes off? Can't you just… clean them?" He's shrugging off his overshirt, now, depositing it in a crumpled pile on top of his boots. "Since you're such a freak of nature.""These are nice shoes!" (You survey the boots critically. The soles are coming off.) "And a nice shirt. It's new. I have standards, Charlotte, I don't just— I prefer 'medical marvel,' by the way, if we're assigning— oh, this tastes funny." He's dipped his finger into the viscous clear fluid inside the egg-thing. "It's sweet.""Do you have to…" A pointless question. You reach for a better one. "Could you get a move on? We don't have all day.""Working on it, gods." Ellery, now in a plain navy tee-shirt and holey socks, fiddles with the egg-thing's skin. "Hey, so, no need to let me out— I'll manage it when I'm ready. I don't care if I'm convulsing, I don't care if I'm speaking in tongues, I don't care if I beg, just leave me there. Got it?""You're not helping the death wish case," you mumble."Death wish case would be cutting it off early." He dips a whole forearm in and swishes it around. "Not that it'd kill me, but I'd rather not be fried for a few weeks. Ready to sit there and do nothing?""Uh…""Fantastic." Ellery hoists himself in feet-first and, waist-deep in fluid, turns to face you. "See you in fifteen. Don't break anny…annythhh… shit." He topples backwards like a stone. The broken egg-thing seals over his head."Ellery?" You approach cautiously. You can't make out any details through the soft translucent shell, but you can tell he's in there, unmoving, knees drawn up to his chest. "Can you hear me?"No response. Nervously, you let down your hair and scrape it into a tighter bun. "I guess I found the way to make you shut up. Haha."The silence is deafening. You rub your neck and, eager for for something else to focus on, turn to Ellery's discarded clothing. He really just threw it onto the ground, you marvel. Just like that. It's the least you can do to fold the overshirt— you'd need an iron to really attack the wrinkles, but producing one seems out of your league— but the boots are a larger matter. The soles are coming off, but so are the straps, and they're all caked in mud. You'd need to be a cobbler to tack them back together, but the mud is fixable, at least: after several fruitless tries, you eventually manage to fish a pick, a toothbrush, and a clean cloth from your pockets, and you set to work. (1/2)
You've scraped out mud, sticks, pebbles, and stranger objects (half a needle? a thick tuft of fur?) from the sole of the left boot by the time you hear the noise: like footsteps, but they click. You look up: a bipedal beetle, as tall as you or taller, stands casually in the nearest doorway. You duck. When you work up the courage to look again, it has already entered— it stands over the nearest egg-thing to the door. As you watch, it plunges its forelimbs into the shell, grasps the grub, and pulls it, dripping, into the air. It turns it around, checking closely for… something, then drops the grub back into the egg. (You're confident with calling it an egg, you think.) Harmless enough, you figure. You stand. "Hello?"The beetle looks at you and chitters."I'm sorry, I don't speak…" You don't see this going anywhere. "Okay, sorry."Turning back, the beetle moves on to the next egg, repeating the process: pull grub out, examine grub, replace grub. It must be a nursemaid, you decide. That's almost sweet. You wish you were farther away from it, though, it's coming down your row—It's coming down your row. It's already onto the third grub. You have visions of the near future: beetle reaches Ellery; beetle pulls Ellery out, half-cooked; you're now forced to— what— haul him around, drooling? Leave him in a corner? Put him out of his misery? (You could let it happen. If you wanted to.) But it'd be such a bother—Er, that's only the near future if you stand here, anyways. You do have a sword. > Stab the beetle to death before it reaches Ellery. An efficient, effective solution— also the end of your dumb luck.> Concoct a distraction. [You have access to The Sword, various small, uncomplicated objects, a whole bunch of grubs inside eggs, and general reality-warping— usual limits still apply.] (Write-in. A roll may or may not be required.)> Write-in.>>4390040sorry bud but sea snakes go for fish, not eggs-- as you know here at Drowned Quest Redux we strive for only the highest scientific accuracyif you see any fish though... yes
>>4390683> Concoct a distraction. [You have access to The Sword, various small, uncomplicated objects, a whole bunch of grubs inside eggs, and general reality-warping— usual limits still apply.] (Write-in. A roll may or may not be required.)Inventory where?
>>4390975Inventory in hammerspace-- you don't have anything on your person besides the painting of you. The idea is that you'd be able to produce whatever small, uncomplicated object you would need. (Small = fist-size or less, uncomplicated = no moving parts.)
>>4391258Awesome.In that case, let's pull out some flares and toss 'em. Or a lantern, if that's what Charlie is more familiar with. I bet this place needs temperature regulation, so the beetle nanny will immediately want to remove sources of heat and open flame. Meanwhile it's not a directly hostile act.
>>4391284More likely an oil lantern than flares, yes. Called.>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 ???) vs. DC 75 (+10 Complex Object, +10 Open Flame, +5 Matches, Too) for nothing to go wrong with this.>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each resulting roll? You are at 7/12 ID.> Y> N
Rolled 25 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4391681>>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 ???) vs. DC 75 (+10 Complex Object, +10 Open Flame, +5 Matches, Too) for nothing to go wrong with this.> Y
Rolled 90 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4391681> yWhen in doubt set things on fire.
Rolled 77 (1d100)>>4391687>>4391833Neat. Rolling the last, then writing.
>>4391910Huxxah.Sorryy I'm out drinking and probs getting the 'vid https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=iBoojBTEPaI
>>4391920>Regular SuccessNo problem. Enjoy yourself and don't die on me-- I need the votes :^)
>>4391948No promises. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=c5wGcEPezcIMagic suirrwl IDGAF EOOOKKOKKLLLL https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=9DF9NNWG_fs
>>4391948Home & not dead
>>4391948Oiyouve a patreon??
>>4391948Likea drunk cheerleader linjteded time offee
>>4392038>>4392064>>4392070>>4392073>>4392038>>4392064>>4392070>>4392073We here at Drowned Quest Redux do not advocate for driving or questing under the influence.I don't have a Patreon: believe me, your money belongs in better places. Drink some water and get some sleep, how about that?
>Fun with matches>40, 105, 92 vs. DC 75 - Success>SpendyThen again, do you want to raise a ruckus? For all you know, there's a guard patrol just around the corner. Better to approach this with some- with some skill. Some finesse.You haven't a clue how, though: you have nothing at your disposal but a sword, a painting of yourself, and some boot-cleaning supp- no, they're already gone. A sword and a painting. Ellery bobs gently. (You hope he's alive: imagine explaining to Madrigal that you let her ex drown himself in a massive beetle egg.) The beetle, for its part, works at a steady pace: it has a dozen grubs left before it reaches you.Hunching down, you rack your memory for relevant stratagems. How did Josey Hatchcock get herself out of sticky situations? In the later books, it was often through lascivious use of her feminine wiles— the lead author had been replaced— but in the earlier books, the good ones, she always had something up her sleeve. What that was varied: it was sometimes lockpicks, sometimes lipstick, sometimes a steel mirror (for the lipstick, and for blinding crooks). Could you blind the beetle? If you had a mirror, maybe, but you don't have a bright light source either, and you worry it'd be more harm than good. Distracting it with light, though, that's not a bad idea. If you rolled a lantern down the row, surely it'd pause to investigate. Too bad you have as many lanterns as you do mirrors.But couldn't that be remedied? You'd produced the supplies, after all, and it wasn't even hard: it just took a moment of not thinking. You could do the same here. Just reach behind your back, for no reason at all, and close your hand around the—Nothing. You frown. (Nine grubs left.) Reach behind your back and grab the— nothing. Grab the— nothing. Where's the lantern? It can't be a matter of not wanting it enough, you're pouring every ounce of yourself into wanting this damn—(You're doing it wrong.)It'd help if you didn't distract yourself with unhelpful statements of fact, probably. (Stop trying to 'summon' it; it's not magic. It's the farthest thing from magic. It's a balancing act and a confidence trick and an elemental foxtrot. It's tugging on a loose thread and watching the universe unravel, just a little.)(It's in the wrist.)It's- it's in the wrist. That sounds right. You take a deep breath, barely noticing the electric prickle up your spine, and, with a flick of your wrist, reach behind your back. You do something off-putting with your fingers. You retrieve a lantern.(There we go.)It is brass and oiled paper. It is unlit. You consider this, for a moment, and reach into your pocket. You don't withdraw matches, as you intended: you open your fingers and discover a lighter, also brass, in the rectangular shape of a winding snake. Richard's lighter.Huh, you think.>[-1 ID: 6/12](1/2)
But that's all: the beetle is rapidly approaching. You flip the lighter open, flick the sparkwheel, squint against the yellow flame, push the lantern-paper aside, find the wick, and light the lantern. It flares brilliantly, far brighter than you expected— you raise your arm to shield your eyes and simultaneously, out of accident or instinct, fling the lantern out of your hand. It sails across two rows of eggs, trailing oil, and lands on its side on the ground.After you lower your arm, you conclude things could've gone much worse. Nothing's on fire that isn't supposed to be on fire, for one, and you've definitely distracted the nursemaid beetle: it drops its grub and rushes away, chittering wildly. The lantern is brighter than ever, blinding, lancing, explosion-bright— you may as well have gone for the mirror. What was on that wick? The beetle, cast in long velvet shadow, throws itself atop the lantern: the light dims, but only barely. Not enough. The phosphorescent beetles near the ceiling drop with a sound like a buzzsaw. Midair, they go from a blob to a spiral to a downward curve: they are descending upon the hapless nursemaid, who quivers in place. Or, no. As you watch, you realize that's not quite right— they are descending upon the lantern, drinking in its light— the swarm has gone from phosphorescing to outright glowing. That's not to say the nursemaid is unaffected: its newly hollowed shell wobbles out from under the mass. It's just collateral damage.You bite- you do not bite the inside of your lip. (You tongue the scab there instead.) Maybe the beetles, when they're finished with the lantern, will leave? That'd make all this very simple— make sure Ellery doesn't glow like the sun, problem solved. (He wouldn't, right? Would he?) Of course, the eggs themselves are glowing, if only slightly, but you figure that, seeing how the beetles were already in the room, if they wanted to eat the eggs, they very much could've—Nope. Nope. Having finished with the lantern, the beetles have decided to go for broke: splitting into smaller swarms, they've started to pierce the surface of eggs, draining each of their light. Is that bad for grub development? Would that be bad for Ellery's (already dubious) sanity? Is that something you can actually risk?No. It's not. You drag your hand down your face.(Choices next.)
>All options listed (sans possible write-ins) will require rolls of varying DCs.> You just need the man to wake up, God-damnit. You're not supposed to cut him out, and he can't hear you, but surely you can… commune. Yeah. Do that. > Oh, hell. You have a sword that glows brighter than the eggs, and you're faster than a swarm of beetles, probably. Lead them on a merry chase far away from Ellery.> If a lantern worked the first time, surely it'll work again. The issue lies in replicating that light… [Spend ID to modify the roll. 1 ID = good, 2 ID = better, 3 ID = autosuccess.]> Just sit here and swat away any beetles that try their luck. The easiest solution. Also the riskiest. > Write-in.
>>4392173>4Except instead of swat we cut. With The Sord.
>>4392173> Just sit here and swat away any beetles that try their luck. The easiest solution. Also the riskiest.We can always switch to running away or a second lantern if necessary.
Rolled 51, 25, 42, 13 = 131 (4d100)>>4392240>>4392443Called. This is an opposed check, so I'll be rolling for the beetles, as so: 4 1d100s + 15 (+15 Swarming) vs. DC 50.>Please roll me 4 1d100s + 10 (+10 Good With A Sword, +5 ???, -5 Ill-suited Weapon) vs. DC 60 (+10 Hard to Hit) to defend the egg. >One person may roll 2d100. [The extra 1d100 in each set will be used to tiebreak, if required.]>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each resulting roll? You are at 6/12 ID.> Y> N
Rolled 27 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4392879N
>>4392879At least the beetles also had bad rolls.
Rolled 58 + 10 (1d100 + 10)>>4392879how do I mine for egg
Rolled 10, 64 = 74 (2d100)>>4393200>>4393438Rolling the last two...
Rolled 25, 17, 31 = 73 (3d100)>>4392879Beetles: 66, 40, 57 vs. DC 50 -- Success>>4393200>>4393438>>4393588You: 37, 86, 20 vs, DC 60 -- Mitigated SuccessRolling for Ellery and writing.
>>4393591Fuck, Ellery. You fucking suck so much in so many ways.Never letting him have responsibility again.
>No muss, no fuss>37, 86, 20 vs. DC 60 -- Mitigated SuccessWell, what did Ellery ask you to do? Keep watch, that was all— not risk life and limb to save his stupid ass. Whacking away any beetles that came this way would be tantamount to charity.You feel strange leaning against the egg, which squishes underneath you, but you persuade yourself that you need the load off your feet, and anyways— anyway, Ellery can't feel it, probably. It's fine. The beetles aren't even coming this way: they're fanning out in the opposite direction, sucking row after row of eggs of their light, which is also probably fine. You've done nothing wrong. You've done nothing—Oh, a few are trickling back this way, actually. You stand in preparation and realize that you don't know how to whack beetles in large quantity. Do you need newspaper? A fly-swatter? You couldn't stand using your fists. Alternately, if you covered the egg in adhesive paper, would that— a beetle has alighted on the egg. You wave your arms furiously at it, and it takes off, a shooting star in the dark, only to circle around and land again. You repeat this pattern three more times before it grows old and you smash the beetle between your fingers.It bleeds fluorescent yellow down your fingers and down your palms and wrists, and you realize then that might've been a bad idea. The cavern is bright as dawn from the concentrated beetle-light, and only growing brighter as more and more turn back in your direction— your attempt to hide the blood only succeeds at smearing it further down your dress. Except for the beetles, you are the brightest thing in the room.They come for you, at first, in a narrow stream: you find that flailing about mostly drives them away, and you throw yourself into it with mad abandon. (You're glad Richard isn't here to comment. The snake watches tolerantly from a middle distance.) When the stream becomes a deluge, when they land on your hands and chest and cling there, when you can barely see but for beetles, and your eye, your eye, your eye can't— it's like a chemical burn, you think at first it's the beetles, the beetles are eating your eye, oh God! oh God! but they're not, it's the light they're shedding— I just tweaked your eye a little, Richard said. Just a little. Bad in direct light. You hope wherever he is, he's laughing, because this is—>[-1 ID: 5/12]Your hand is at this point covered with beetles, but you ignore that long enough to find the hilt of The Sword by feel. Unsheathing it helps a little, because half the beetles fly to cling onto it, and half remain on you, and you can start to see, if only a little: you have not attracted all the beetles, only some, though this seems paltry consolation, and Ellery's egg is pristine. Untouched. Well! You hope he's laughing, off in— his head, or wherever—(1/2)
The beetles have drained the blood smears of their glow, but The Sword is proving a greater obstacle, and they're all flocking over: it takes two hands to keep it steady, and it looks for all the world like you've tied a beehive to a stick. Your good eye is screwed shut, and you're seeing grainily, blurrily, solely out of the bad one. And it still hurts like hell! Because of course it does! Thank you, Richard, for your gracious paternal bestowment, you really needed this in your—Is Ellery moving, or is that visual snow, or is it beetles? Impossible to tell. You thrust the sword as far from your body as possible and lean in, shielding your forehead: no, that is movement, a twitch of the leg. So he's not dead. (You are vaguely disappointed.) Well, maybe that's a good sign, maybe the fifteen minutes are almost up, maybe you're done! and can leave and open your eye. But then he does more than twitch, he turns over, and presses his hands against the shell of the egg— his fingertips are white with exertion, and the shell distends around them, but does not split— he opens his mouth, his cue-ball eyes bulging. You are good at reading lips: he says "HELP," once, and then his spirit flags and his hands slide away.You are covered with a moderate amount of beetles, and your sword in an obscene amount. Your ambient level of pain spikes if you look towards them for more than a second. You've guarded Ellery for now, but that's a temporary state of affairs: once the beetles have finished with The Sword, all bets are off.There are distant clicking footsteps from the way you came in.>[A1] Figure out a method to occupy— or otherwise deal with— the beetles. (Write-in.)>[B1] Do something about Ellery. How could it get any more clear than 'help'? And the faster he gets out, the faster you— well, get out. (What do you do, exactly?)>[B2] Don't do anything about Ellery. He explicitly told you not to. >[C] Write-in.Sorry, weak prompts, I know— bad combo of late night and writing myself into more of a corner than anticipated. If I don't get responses, I'll put some proper options together in the morning (ie early afternoon).>>4393824Ah, Original Drowned Luck (tm)
>>4393916>B1Cut eggsac open with Sord
>>4394161Your sword is covered with beetles to the point of unusability. Is there something you'd like to do about that?
>>4393916>[B1] Do something about Ellery. How could it get any more clear than 'help'? And the faster he gets out, the faster you— well, get out. (What do you do, exactly?)Slash the egg open.More fire lanterns. Fire lanterns everywhere, and then we run.
>>4394412More fire. So much more fire.Or . . . Can we make our sword *sharper*? It's supposed to cut, and it's our sword, it should be able to cut anything. Dumb beetles climbing a sharp thing.
>>4394161>>4394451>>4394468>CUT IT OPEN>SET EVERYTHING ON FIRENothing can possibly go wrong with either of these options.A lantern will cost 1 ID. I won't require a roll for producing it, but I will need a roll for escaping the room you're setting on fire.>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 5 (+5 ???, -10 Oh God Your Eyes) vs. DC 45 (-5 Close To The Exit) to get out of here! And...>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each resulting roll? You will be at 4/12 ID.> Y> NAnd...I need one 1d6 for Ellery. You can roll this in addition to your d100. You're playing reverse Russian Roulette.1 = Bang2 = Bang3 = Bang4 = Bang5 = Bang6 = Click
Rolled 62 - 5 (1d100 - 5)>>4394548
Rolled 1 (1d6)>>4394548Dang Ellery has it roughNo spendy
Rolled 97 - 5 (1d100 - 5)>>4394548
Rolled 56 - 5 (1d100 - 5)>>4394548N
>>4394563Fuck You Ellery.
>>4394558>>4394568>>4394618>57, 92, 51 vs DC 45 -- Enhanced Success >BangHey, at least one thing goes well. Writing shortly.This will be the last update for a couple days-- I am going camping with no WiFi until Tuesday evening. Assuming we're still on the board, I'll pick up where I left off either on Tuesday or Wedsnesday.>>4394633He would've been fine if you left him in there. He knew what he was talking about.
>Go crazy go stupid>57, 92, 51 vs DC 45 -- Enhanced SuccessYou're dead certain Josey Hatchcock never dealt with situations like these. You need to— oh, God, you need to get rid of the beetles, the few left on your hands are trying their very best to burrow into your skin, though they're not getting very far. You need another lantern. Can you get another lantern? You let The Sword tilt onto the floor, free a hand, reach behind your back, twist and grab and— nothing. God-damnit! (Don't be vulgar.) God-damnit! You will be vulgar, this is exactly how you did it the first time, and your eye's busy melting out of your skull, and Ellery's dying, or whatever, and— (You're panicking, too. That doesn't solve anything.)Well, you're not panicking to solve anything, so how about that! How about that. It's not your fault that— (Isn't it? At least some of it is your fault.) Well, it is, but— (Anyway, you're doing it wrong, again. You're going about it too ordinary.) First too much magic, now not enough magic. Wonderful. You try again, now with an artful hand waggle, to no success. Wonderful. What if you died here? Would that work? What would happen to your body? (Thinking that way doesn't solve anything, either.)(You're not putting your heart into it. That's the problem.)Oh, God, where do you come up with this GS! Where's Richard! He'd tell you to do, what properly to do, or better he'd solve all of this himself! You just need a lantern! Is it that hard? Is it? Why can't you just reach behind your back and— grab— grab the— grab your chest, tear it away, force your hand past your sternum, feel your heart flutter in your fingers, slice away a sliver— not much, not enough to be noticed, but enough to—You don't do this, though you come closer than you'd care to admit. It is possible you do something like this, only refracted— ephemeral, broken. You wouldn't care to remember. You don't.>[-1 ID: 4/12](1/3)
The lantern is already lit when you pull it from behind your back, as you expected it to be. You didn't expect the handle to be scalding, which is why you hurl it from your hands with a strangled scream. It hurtles to the ground and smashes and 20 square feet of bare earth are on fire, now. On fire! Holy hell! You scramble backward, past the egg— beetles are streaming off The Sword, easing its weight, aiding your eye— though you don't dare to open it, the fire is still plenty bright. The beetles pop in the heat, which would be funny if you weren't dazed and bewildered and if— (Ellery.) Oh, God, you have to do something about him, don't you? You can't leave him to roast in his own juices, that'd be— and he asked you to! He asked you to, practically, you don't give a damn what he said before, what does he know! You're half-convinced it's nothing, that in fact he makes up every single thing he says, and it's only out of extraordinary luck that some of it is true— and anyway, look at him! It's your moral duty. He will thank you.With the heat of the fire at your back (it is growing, out of the sheer apparent reason that it thinks that's what fires are supposed to do), you plunge the unbeetled tip of The Sword into the yielding surface of the egg and begin to cut. Ten seconds later, a limp, sopping Ellery slides facedown onto his neatly folded overshirt. (You grimace.) He doesn't move. (You grimace, slightly less.) After another ten seconds, he still doesn't move. "…Ellery?" you say unsteadily. Eggs are beginning to burst in the heat. "Are you…?"Nothing. You kick him in the side. This produces a response: he manages a guttural groan and attempts, but fails, to rise. Frustrated, you crouch, lift a skinny, sticky arm over your shoulder, and help haul him up— he comes weakly and shakily to his feet, like a new colt. He stands for a moment, then doubles over and retches a pint of black goop onto his socks. The fire is scorching your last nerve. "Put your boots on!" you say. "Please. Please put your boots on, we need to—" He is not putting his boots on. He is staring at the floor, his eyes unreadable but his countenance slack and guileless. It's okay, you think, it's okay, he's fine, but your enormous capacity for self-deception is nevertheless not infinite. Ellery is not fine. Ellery is—You won't say 'dead,' that's— you need something to cling to. Not dead. Gone, or lost, or stranded, or buried, or prisoned in his body, unable to move: for this is not Ellery, there's nothing of Ellery about it. This is— this is the snake, you think. This is a body and a heartbeat and a loose bundle of animal instinct. The thing that speaks is missing.(2/3)
You swallow to push down the lump in your throat (which, to be clear, does not exist— why would it? why would you care? you don't care. thank God, honestly), wrap Ellery's arm back around your shoulder, and begin to drag him with you: he doesn't quite walk, but he stumbles obligingly along in his socks, the corners of his mouth stained black, his front caked with dirt. When you start to think of the grubs being boiled alive, you remind yourself that they never existed. The Sword trembles in your loose grip— more than once, you nearly drop it. Then you do drop it, and it isn't you who picks it up.Ellery's hand closes around the hilt, and he holds The Sword up in front of him. Without speaking, he breaks suddenly from your grip, wheels around, and marches suddenly back towards the wall of flames. "God blessed!" you hiss hoarsely, stopping in your tracks. "ELLERY! DON'T—"He doesn't turn— he outstretches The Sword towards a burst egg and slathers its blade in the viscous liquid bubbling inside. (You cover your mouth in horror.) Then he walks towards the flames, into the flames, you think at first— but he only comes dangerously close. He waves The Sword into them, and it comes out alight. He laughs, and he walks back towards you, and he thrusts The Sword back into your hands, and he laughs again, worse than the first time, and he walks away. He walks towards the exit.>[Gained: Your Sword Is On Fire! - +5 temp bonus to all sword rolls, stacking with the existing +10 — and you can set things on fire with it if you want]You stand shellshocked for a moment before the heat at your back becomes excruciating, and then you jog to catch up. "Ellery!" you say. "You're alive! You're— I mean, you're here! You're—" You feel entirely foolish for ever believing otherwise. "See! I knew you'd be fine! I said so! I said, 'you'll be fine,' and—"You have made it out of the (now entirely ablaze) cavern and into a smaller, cooler passageway— the one the nursemaid beetle came up through. Ellery doesn't acknowledge you, but he stops against a wall and stares down at his hands. He stares at his filthy shirt and pants and socks. He feels his face, and he laughs, and sticks his hand in his pocket, and pulls out a whalebone knife. He is still laughing as he slits himself vertically from forehead to groin and crumples to the floor. You are not. You wish this would all end.A moment later, he steps out of nowhere, clean and dry and clothed in his usual beat-up coat and sweater. He is grinning broadly, but the expression fades when he catches your eye. He comes up to you, smelling of damp paper, and to your surprise takes you by the shoulders. He studies your face intensely and with great concern. "Maddie," he says, "what happened to your eye?"[THREAD END***]***temporarily -- see >>4394679, and see you all in a few days! If the thread dies before then, I may make a new one immediately-- if not, check my Twitter. Have a good one.
>>4395769See? He's always fine. That's why he has such bad ideas. We seem to have an old version Ellery. Maybe this one is better.
>>4395769Thanks for running!Considering Ellery will be back to normal in 3 days max this may have been worth it for the sword buff.
>>4395862I can't dispute the first line of this. As for better... eh?>>4396334A very in-character line of reasoning.I am on my way back from camping and have 500 words of the next update on a document on my phone, so that'll hopefully be completed and posted today. Glad to see we're still around.
>>4400205Bathic, mist is back. You're going to enjoy this complete shitshow of a thread >>4399889
>>4400733I appreciate the notice, but as soon as I saw "Mist" in the QTG I was scouring the catalog. Already there (and already looking at his 2-3 other quests up right now, love getting bumped off the board by those)!
Sorry, folks, but between unpacking, a bunch of miscellanies, and the fact that I have to get up far earlier than I'm used to tomorrow, I'm going to push the unwritten remainder back to the projected Wednesday rather than today. Hope you don't mind the wait too much, and hope you have a good night or day.
>Cont.You're so wrapped up in the heat and the furor of it all that for a good long while you miss the obvious."My... eye?" You touch your good eye gingerly. "It's, uh— it's nothing, it was just bright in there, it, there's nothing wrong— why would something be wrong with it? Does it look bad? Please don't say it—""Bad? Maddie, it's gone." Before you can resist, Ellery begins to paw around your bad eye. "It's all healed, too. When did this happen?""It's not gone, it's... years and years ago." You cover it with your hand. "Swear to God, it's not— excuse me, Maddie?"He smiles wanly. "Has it been too long?""Do I— do I look like your girlfriend?!"You assume at first this produces the desired result: he drops your shoulders, rakes his hand through his hair, walks for a few steps in a circle. "No," he concedes."Okay! How about you lose the 'Maddie,' then, and—" "Madrigal, you have to understand, I never meant to..." He stops and lamely spreads his arms. Perhaps he did mean to. "It was for the best. It was all for the best. For you, for me..." He stops again and laughs again, and you wonder at how effusive it is. You'd known Ellery to chuckle nervously or mildly or, at best, knowingly— you'd never thought him capable of a guffaw. "...Mostly me, I'll admit, but then of course I don't know what you've been up to— and it wasn't as if I expected it! You should've seen how I went into this! Maddie, I—" He breaks off there with a little gasp, as if you'd struck him on the throat. (You'd half a mind to, admittedly.) Then he laughs more typically, small and strained. "I- I'm sorry, it's been a long time since— it's been a long time."It has been three minutes, but there seems little point in telling him this: his face is flushed and his eyes glossy and his voice pitched and canted like the eaves of a fallen-down house. He is In A State, as your aunt might say about your mother. You feel no more than vaguely responsible for this: Ellery has always seemed on the brink of A State, or possibly in the minor throes of one, what with his twitches and his unbridled carrying on. Even so, there's no-one else for him, and so it's with your aunt's Authoritative Tone that you proceed. "Well, okay, then. What month is it?""What month?" It's as if he's never considered this before. "Maddie— does it matter?"Does it matter? It doesn't really, you suppose, but you're curious to know when he assumes he is. It can't be now, he doesn't recognize you— but it's clearly after the Incident with Madrigal. One of those quiet nothing months, then, while you were new in town, and he was speaking to nobody? Not a difficult deduction. You want it from him, though, so you maintain the Tone. "Yes."(1/3?)
"But that's the thing!" He comes towards you again, and you grip The Sword tighter: he is very tall, and his eyes are wrong, and memories are surfacing of being stabbed in the heart. The whalebone knife lies at his feet in a mound of dust. "That's the— Maddie, that's the— it doesn't. It- it can't—" The last word was not 'can't.' The last word was not a word, but a gutteral sound that lodged neatly in your mind as 'can't.' "—it— Maddie, it's not real. It's not real! It's not real." Only half those words were words. His laugh is fevered. He is closer to you. "Months aren't real, days aren't real, time isn't— time isn't r- nothing is! Maddie! I am the only thing out there that- that's—"He cups his hot hands around your cheeks, and you look up into his empty overjoyed eyes. "Maddie." His breath is mildewy. "Maddie, we're the only real things there are. Do you understand? You and me."You realize a couple of pressing things.1) He's lost it. Or he never had it, and every Ellery before him wore sanity like a gauze. (This is your preferred theory, as it doesn't involve you. And it'd explain a lot.)2) He's going to kiss you.You run through your escape routes in half a second. Run? No. Scream? To who? Bite him? Only after. Stab him? Messy. Drop through the floor? If only. Brace yourself and take it? Your only recuse. You squint your eyes shut, tense what feels like every muscle in your body, and—A few seconds pass, then a few more. It's only when his hands fall from your face that you open your eyes. Ellery, four inches from your face, stares at nothing. His mouth hangs slightly open. When you withdraw, he doesn't react."...Ellery?" you say pointlessly: the vacuum in his wake is so palpable you thought your ears might've popped. He's gone. You lean against the wall. "God blessed." You kick the wall. "God blessed."He just stands there as smoke billows out of the other room. You rise. "We have to go."Nothing."We have to go." You take his unresisting arm and begin to steer him down the corridor. The air hangs heavy with smoke, and you duck your mouth and nose into your sleeve as you wind onwards. You don't know where you're going, and as the corridor splits off into more and more corridors you doggedly continue straight. The longer you trudge, the more it's to a distinct drumbeat: you should've asked him about beetle-Ellery. You should've asked him. You should've asked him. Why didn't you ask him? (Because he was insane, damn it.) That's no excuse, Charlotte, you stupid—God, where is this taking you? It feels like you've been climbing out of these warrens for ages, but you're unsure if geometry applies here, and nobody's present to lecture about it. How long has it been, too? Too long, it feels. Forty minutes? Fifty? If only Ellery were right about time. God, you're really— what did BK say, so colorfully? Up a creek? Up a creek. Wonderful.(2/3??)
The buzzing is increasing in pitch, at any rate, so you're nearly somewhere. The gentle flames along the length of The Sword are sending small beetles scurrying before you reach them, but they seem to be growing more numerous as well. You attribute their metallic glints to their shells, and any further thought in that direction is swallowed when you notice an altered rhythm to your steps. Ellery is walking on his own. It's only a few more seconds before he laughs. "Maddie—!"You've already backed far away. "You've got to stop! I'm not her! I'm nothing like her! Could you look for 5 seconds and—""There's nobody else!" The extended absence restored nothing. None of those were words. "Maddie, there's— there's nobody else. Nobody! If you're not, it's just me, do you understand? It's all me. Do you understand?""No! Not at all!" You're caught between trying to intimidate and trying to appear nonthreatening, and end up neither. "Do you understand? Because that's actually nonsense, you're literally not-"You would've continued in this vein, but you were promptly distracted: you stepped on a large beetle. "-Eugh!" Ellery watches as you wipe the guts off your boots, and continues to watch as you pick something out of them. You side-eye him as you hold up a small metal key. "Is this it? Really?"There's a dizzy grin on his face, but he doesn't respond."It was inside a random beetle? I was just supposed to walk around forever until I stepped on a random beetle? That's it? That's—" You swing The Sword down in disgust, scaring off another twenty beetles, all of which glint. And walk funny. You narrow your eyes, lunge for one, and scoop it up: an identical key is sutured to its underside. "Come on! This is just intentional!""Of course it is," Ellery says. "It all is. It's all—""I don't care!" You drop the beetle. "You know what? This is stupid! This is— we're walking. Come on."(3/4)
You genuinely don't know if he'll follow, but he does, at a pace not matched by the leisurely speed of his legs. You scowl and swipe at swarms and swarms of key-beetles. The corridor turns upwards even further, and finally you catch a glimpse of light— kind of. The exit is half-blocked by extended thorny limbs. Your little "set the entire nursery on fire" stunt must've attracted attention.You creep up further. Past the guards is an open space, thronged with beetles of all shapes and sizes. Most of them have identical keys attached to their bodies, but the ones who don't stand in orderly lines that trail into sub-buildings— offices? From your limited view, there's no sign of beetle-Ellery, nor the actual key he presumably carries. Is he nearby? You're not sure."Maddie," the current Ellery says, and you think your head might explode.>[A1] Jam it through his skull that you're not Madrigal, God-damnit. (Regain some ID.) >[A2] You know, if it keeps him happy... whatever. Whatever. Maybe it'll help with the derailed investigation, him thinking this. Maybe it'll just save some effort.>[B1] Lure the guards inside, somehow, and dispatch of them safely and with great prejudice. (How? Write-in. Maybe roll.)>[B2] You're sick and tired of this, and you just set a couple hundred beetle children on fire, so you're not going to be popular regardless. Just gank them in public.>[B3] Sane or not, Ellery just spent 10 minutes getting in touch with his beetle side, or whatever, and he seems to be basically indestructible. Push him out there and make him talk to the guards. (QM roll.)>[B4] Just walk out there like you belong there. Ignore the guards entirely. You're fine. (Roll.)>[B5] Write-in.
>>4402904>[A2] You know, if it keeps him happy... whatever. Whatever. Maybe it'll help with the derailed investigation, him thinking this. Maybe it'll just save some effort.>[B3] Sane or not, Ellery just spent 10 minutes getting in touch with his beetle side, or whatever, and he seems to be basically indestructible. Push him out there and make him talk to the guards. (QM roll.)
>>4402904>A1>B4Just a minute beetles, I'm living the dream.
>>4402956>>4403141>>4403246Called for A2 and B4.>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 15 (+10 Ellery, +5 ???) vs. DC 80 (+30 You Violated The Geneva Convention) to waltz out there unnoticed.>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each resulting roll? You are at 4/12 ID.> Y> N
Rolled 63 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4403579Y
Rolled 38 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4403579
Rolled 85 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4403579Y
>>4403585>>4403654>>4403958>88, 63, 110 vs. DC 80 >Success>SpendyJust squeaked past there, huh. Writing. Pic belongs with the last update.
>Play along>Nonchalance>Spend>88, 63, 110 vs. DC 80 - SuccessYou're not going to deny it: you would like to wring Ellery's skinny neck and scream your name into his ear. The catharsis! But losing your temper won't help a State, as you know from long experience, while keeping polite remove often does— and, as far as delusions go, this one seems harmless. Maybe better than harmless: the attention, however misplaced, is flattering. Should things get dicey, you'll just remind him you have a sword."Ellery," you interject amid a stream of rambling. "Do you know where the upstairs one of you went? The beetle one? The one you stranded me to-""Do I know where I am?"A vague response, or a non-sequitur? You shift on your feet. "Um… yeah. There's actually— there's a version of you from upstairs, I guess, who turned into beetles. I guess. And, uh, he-""Of course I know where I am." He holds his palm up to his face. "I'm here. I'm everywhere. I'm everything, Maddie, I'm—"About as helpful as asking his dead body. Of course. You commit yourself to one more try. "That's great. But, I mean, specifically, there's another you, walking around, made of beetles, and I don't know if you can find him, or, or what, but I'd really like to—""Never been beetles." A far-off look comes over Ellery's face. He scoops his knife off the floor. "Out of everything, not beetles. I could.""Um," you say. "Please don't.""I could." He says it with awe and terror. "You don't understand." The knife flashes through the air, and for a terrible second you think it's headed towards his abdomen, or yours. Instead, he's swung it towards the exit. "I'm there.""Oh, thank God!" You slump against the wall."I can feel it," he adds brightly. "It's in my teeth, like a bell."What? "Well, why didn't you just—!" "I don't know."There's no trace of malice or artifice to that statement, which blunts a lot of your frustration. He doesn't know. He's coiled up so tightly within himself he can't see out. You sigh. "Whatever. Fantastic. Any big plan for getting out without being skewered, or is that up to me? Ellery?"He's turned and is walking up the corridor. And out of the corridor. He ducks under the guards' limbs and paces backwards into the center of the room. Nobody has so much as glanced in his direction. Oh, of course. He's supposed to be down here. You are a thorn in the bleeding side of this anonymous person's head— you're not getting out like that, there's not a chance in hell. You'd be choking down beetles before you could blink. No practical way around it. Of course, there's alw-(An impractical way?)Er, yes. (Look at you, tripping over yourself.) What that might entail is a mystery, but you assume you'll figure something out. What'd Richard say, trust your gut? You can do that, easy. You run your tongue along the roof of your mouth and think.(1/2)
You're comfortable with the orderly dit-dit-dat manner of your consciousness, bound by laws spoken and unspoken, where things proceed in semi-logical order and in distinct straight lines. It's always disconcerting, then, when you spot yourself veering from that course, and the first couple times you stop yourself on instinct. You touch your incisors with your tongue and begin again. Suppose you went all beetle? (You couldn't bear it.) Okay, suppose you camouflaged yourself, somehow? Suppose you went very flat against the floor? Suppose you went narrow against the wall. Suppose you took hammer and tongs and beat yourself into a basic, innocuous shape.Suppose you picked the snake up off your shoulders and stared into its reptile face and slipped into the tar pits of its dilated eyes. Just a little bit. Just enough to submerge yourself in background noise and to see with your tongue. Any more and it'd crush you like a vise. Suppose you held it tightly as you walked out, not unnoticed but dismissed as irrelevant. You wouldn't not belong.Suppose this took a toll.>[-1 ID: 3/12]You suppose you did that, or something like it, because you're out in the open and not skewered, and additionally you can see with your tongue. Or its tongue. A tongue. It doesn't much matter and you don't want to think about it. Ellery has begun to roam, and you rush to catch up with him before he vanishes. He turns before you have the chance to speak. "There's more of you.""Yes," you say impatiently. "Wow. There's, like, twenty of you, so I feel like— are you going anywhere? You're going to the beetle one, right?"The laugh makes its unwelcome return. "I'm just walking.""God! You-" When you wipe your forehead with your hand, the snake ducks. "Could you go to the beetle one? It's- it's important. It matters.""Nothing matters," he says.You and the snake throw your heads back. "Yyyyyyou— God-damnit. Okay. It matters to me, and you like me, right? You really, really… please."This seems to get through, at least a little. "It's not that specific," he says, grinning uncomfortably. "I'm here somewhere, Maddie. Nice snake."You gain a little too much pleasure from that last comment. "Thanks! Er. So what, we just hunt around until…?"The laugh, somewhat strained. His mind on the ebb again? "This is your pet project, Maddie."(Choices next.)
>[A1] Maintain your current "disguise." (Steady ID drain [every ~2 updates]. No further rolls.)>[A2] Drop it, but attempt to maintain the effect through willpower. (Roll. Easier than DC 80.)>[A3] Drop it entirely.>[A4] Write-in.>[B1] The pressing question is, what *is* beetle-Ellery doing here? And why does everything have copies of the key? Do some sleuthing. Unfortunately, this'll take time you're desperately low on. (*Optional* write-in: theories about the above may save some time.)>[B2] If current Ellery can vaguely sense B-Ellery… could this work in reverse? If he doesn't just show up on his own, could you lure him out? Somehow? (Write-in. Maybe roll.) >[B3] Just loudly announce that you're here, you know B-Ellery is here (somewhere), and you'd like to talk, or else. Wait. This'll break your cover, but sometimes needs must.>[B4] Write-in.
>>4404348>A2>B3I didn't pick B1 but I bet the key copies are all fake keys spread by Gil to confuse and demoralize us so we give up and go back to level 1
>>4404348>[A2] Drop it, but attempt to maintain the effect through willpower. (Roll. Easier than DC 80.)>[B3] Just loudly announce that you're here, you know B-Ellery is here (somewhere), and you'd like to talk, or else. Wait. This'll break your cover, but sometimes needs must.
>>4404384>>4404572>>4404794Called for B3.Not asking for a roll, as standing and loudly announcing your presence is going to obviate any attempt to blend in. Remember, you're not invisible, you're just being ignored (until now).
>Just, like, yell at himJosie Hatchcock would take this slowly and stealthily, poking around corners and ducking down passageways, until she inevitably discovered, detained, and dispatched with her suspect. You are not Josie Hatchcock. Over the last hour and a half, your nerves have been ground to fine powder. You are done.Your fingers tighten around the snake's neck, and an invisible pressure tightens around yours. "ELLERY!" you demand. (For the first time ever, you wish you knew his last name.) "YOU SSON OF A WHORE! GET OUT HERE!"Beetles rustle dubiously. You wipe your mouth and continue. "IT'S CHARLOTTE! REMEMBER ME? YOU INVITED ME? AND THEN YOU TURNED INTO BEETLES LIKE A MORON? AND NOW WE'RE SSTUCK HERE?"Maybe this was the 'Charlotte,' or maybe the 'beetles,' but this catches the guards' attention. They scutter toward you on flimsy, improbable limbs, chittering angrily. You ignore that. "SSO GET OUT HERE, GOD-DAMNIT! SSEE ME FACE-TO-FACE, YOU YELLOW-BELLIED ILLITERATE BASTARD! I HATE YOU!"You are seized and bound by four pairs of forelimbs, and all you can hear is Ellery laughing, but you feel good.>[+1 ID: 4/12]The beetles are a few inches taller than you, and considerably bulkier; they're able to drag you off your feet with little effort. You barely resist. "COME OUT ALREADY! I KNOW YOU'RE HERE! I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME! I KNOW YOU CAnmmmph—!" Smaller beetles have swarmed your mouth. "Mmmmmm!!"You are being walked back steadily, and you resign yourself to your fate as beetle captor or beetle dinner. Or beetles: you never did learn how it happened to Gil. Would it be so bad? (Yes.) Okay, well, would all of it be so bad? Once you got past the 'dissolving organs' bit, the rest would—Did Ellery wander off? Figures. Makes you work to the bone to rescue him, doesn't lift a finger when you're in trouble. It's less of a wander, now that you spot him, and more of a purposeful walk, though that's no better. That's worse. You always knew he was a bastard. Watch his head bob above the masses. God, he doesn't deserve to be tall. Watch—Watch two heads. Your Ellery reemerges cowed, obsequious. He trails in the wake of beetle-Ellery, upstairs-Ellery, who has done a fine job of pretending he's not several hundred beetles inside a corpse. Where his skin had split apart, white stitches now crisscross his face and hands. There are only a few conspicuous lumps. He still has beetles for eyes, but if you were severely nearsighted that could be ignored. Not bad at all. Raising a leaden arm, upstairs-Ellery opens his mouth and emanates a wave of overlapping chittering. The guards stop dragging you, though they don't let go.You shake beetles from your mouth. "About time! Good God! You realize I'm on a—"(1/2)
Upstairs cocks his head, expressionless, then lifts a finger. Blank-eyed downstairs-Ellery hesitates a fraction, then opens his mouth. An understanding has passed between them. He doesn't gag or protest when a dozen beetles pour down his throat, or when two wriggle up his nostrils. He swings his mouth shut again like a door hinge."What the fuck are you doing down here?" he says. "Where's BK?"The same questions from before, with entirely different implications. You scowl. "What? I can handle myself.""You're covered with ash," he says. He stops. "Are you in that snake?""What? Don't be- don't be ridiculous—" (You clamber out of the tar pits.) "No. No, I'm not, that'd… could you just give me the key? Since you're all lucid and whatever?""You're funny." He sniffs and wipes his nose. "What the fuck did you do to me? Charlotte? Why am I reliving an incredibly shitty period of my life?""I'll answer that if you give me the key?""I think you'll answer that," he says, "if you don't want to be fucking executed.">How are you going to approach this conversation? A roll will always be required, but the DC may vary.>[A1] Nonchalantly. Play it off. Persuade him into giving it up. >[A2] Deferently. Oh, no, you don't want to be killed, please, he's so cool and powerful, etc. Flatter him into giving it up.>[A3] Inquisitively. So, uh, how's being beetles? What's he been up to? Is it weird standing next to himself? It looks weird. Where is the key, anyway? Distract him into giving it up.>[A4] Defiantly. You don't need him and you don't need his "help." You have a Dread and Terrible Beast, remember? Intimidate him into giving it up.>[A5] Conversation? You have a sword. Act like it. >[A6] Write-in.>[B] Any particular questions or methods of persuasion? (Write-in. Optional.)>[C] Write-in.
>>4405901>[A2] Deferently. Oh, no, you don't want to be killed, please, he's so cool and powerful, etc. Flatter him into giving it up.But overdo it, and be sarcastic. The least we can do for the oh so experienced and wise Ellery who dragged us into this, then turned into beetles and disappeared into the second level of Beetletopia with the only key out, before we met another Ellery who spent his time insisting we were either Madrigal or not real, obviously we're the one responsible for this.We can get out just fine, probably, and he can probably resurrect or whatever if he dies here, but it's going to be pretty shitty for BK if Ellery insists on this prima donna bullshit.Does he want to know what the worst time in our life is? Well, it isn't when we're about to be executed by dream beetles but that's in the top 5 at least.
>>4405901>>4405908To clarify, point out that him feeling bad ain't justification for killing someone, and that BK at least needs him. God for fucking bid we do something nice like try to see if Ellery needs help after turning into beetles or trying to save BK from being stuck with Gil forever. Probably as beetles.
>>4405901>A5tell him he doesn't have the balls
>>4406335>>4405901I also support working this in somehow.
>>4405908>>4405912>>4406028>Shame him>>4406335>>4406382>Threaten himKay.>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 15 (+5 You Have A Point, +5 Your Flaming Sword Has A Point, +5 ???) vs. DC 70 (+15 Beetlefied, +10 Distrustful, +5 Pissed, -10 Two Heads Are More Reasonable Than One) to see how this goes.>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each resulting roll? You are at 4/12 ID.> Y> N
Rolled 47 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4406400>N
Rolled 78 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4406400big spendy
Rolled 38 + 15 (1d100 + 15)>>4406400Y
>>4406400I hope we get some ID back for threatening the dude who can probably have us executed.
>>4406400It does make me chuckle to think just how pissy Ellery must be that even at this moment, Charlie is absolutely unreasonable.Man we are so gonna get kicked out of the community. Worth it tho.
>>4406405>>4406406>>4406474>72, 103, 63 vs. DC 70 -- Success>SpendyNot too bad.>>4406480That's a good bet, yes. >>4406483Charlotte Fawkins: Ace Bridge BurnerActually, as it stands, it's still possible to make it out with your reputation intact. You'll just have to lie. A lot. Good luck!
>>4406495> You'll just have to lie. A lot. Good luck!This sounds like a Richard job. We should start calling him our evil advisor.
>>4406497That's the spirit!
>>4406535Was that pun on purpose?
>>4406691No pun at all.
>>4406790This should really be the OP image.
>Shame and blame (and sword)>No balls>72, 103, 63 vs. DC 70 -- Success>SpendAn hour and a half ago, you may have taken this threat more seriously. A little more seriously. Right now, out of all the indignities you've suffered, this is nothing at all— and it's Ellery. Ellery. As threatening as a kicked dog.You curl your lip. "Do it."It's instantly apparent you've judged correctly. Upstairs shrinks back, tugging at the neck of his shirt. "Well—""No 'wells.' Do it. Execute me." You're making sure he can see your teeth. "Oh, what, you won't? You're just making hollow threats?""Er—""Never would've guessed. Oh, wait, I did, because you're a limp-wristed bastard, aren't you? You couldn't kill me if I handed you a loaded pistol, you sad, spineless waste of space. You excuse for a man. You make me sick."He waits a few seconds, to make sure you've exhausted yourself, then opens his mouth. "Look, I-""You thought I was done?" You spit at the ground. "How dare you! You know, I will say, you're not entirely a lily-livered bitch. It takes some nerve to foist your stupid problems off on other people and run for the hills. Oh, no, sorry, that just makes you a cowardly piece of shit! I forgot."You think you might be done for real, but you can't be positive— the source of that invective seemed vaguely out of your control, as if visited upon you by some capricious ghost or spirit, or warped into your being the same way these teeth were warped into your mouth. You don't really care. Look a gift horse in the mouth, and it'll devour your firstborn, right? And look at Ellery's face.>[+2 ID: 6/12]By 'Ellery's face,' you mean downstairs-Ellery: Upstairs is doing all the gesturing, but you suspect he lacks the fine motor control to shift his expression. Downstairs, possessed of/by a mere dozen beetles, doesn't have this issue: a smile has crept over his face, with the lips pulled away from the gums. It contains all the glistering fervor of freshly-deranged Ellery, but none of the joy— caustic enough to melt concrete. "Aren't you a piece of work," he says.It's not particularly judgmental, which makes it worse. He carries on blithely. "Now, see, Charlotte, you're absolutely right. You've exposed me. I would feel—" and here he widens his eyes in mock-terror, though the smile holds fast— "kind of shit for murdering an acquaintance. Can you imagine?""Ah." For the duration of a nod, you manage to look ingratiating. "Yes, of course. But death threats are fine."His laugh is a bark. "Surely you can understand that, Ms. Breaking and Entering? Nobody's perfect. Seriously, though, I'm not far enough gone for murder— though I'm pretty fucking far gone. Would you like to tell me what you did?"Not after all that. "You don't seem far gone."(1/3)
"Don't I?" His eyes widen again, mockingly, but he doesn't hold it for long. "No, I don't. Ironically, uh, when you put me and me together—" He reaches and grabs his own shoulder, and you have trouble ignoring how his fingers sink in, as if through gelatin. "—it cancels out, uh, superficially. Equal and opposing crazy, right? I was fairly deep into this whole beetle thing, it's probably lucky you came along—"You curl your fingers. How is it possible that, after your best tirade in recent memory, he could slip so quickly back to- to benign jocularity, to confidence, to ease? You're loath to call it 'normality,' since for months the only Ellery you knew was intensely withdrawn— but it strikes you that Madrigal could've been right, that that was an anomaly— and this is the true default. You hate the idea to your core, but it's easily rectified: just bully him back into a stuttering heap."Lucky I came along? Of course not! You had it well under control, I'm certain." The smile has mostly faded, though it still lingers in the corner of his mouth. "Well, there's 'control,' then there's control. I doubt it'd be permanent, but—""I've always admired how in control you are, really. It must stem from a lot of experience. A lot of wisdom, you know, built up over the course of…"His brows are furrowed: you're sure he's comparing this back to the 'limp-wristed bastard's of the previous few minutes. Still, you receive the benefit of the doubt. "Er, sure, I guess you could— I have picked up some things.""Like how to abandon your stupid- your tour group? Like how to abscond with the only key out. Like how to lose your mind— repeatedly! You know I had to drag you around? You know you thought I was Madrigal? Me? You know—""Yes," he says thinly. "Yeah. Haven't forgotten. Haven't stopped, actually, Maddie. It's worse for me than it is for you."You snort. "The worst I've ever felt, actually. It's just golden and grand and boundless at the very surface, then digging in it's— it's this incestuous, uh, pond scum— you're bound up in yourself, and you're rotting, and—" He looks at you. "You don't care.""Sounds like evading responsibility." You push your tongue around your mouth. "Mmm. You know, I've been through some pretty awful things, too. For example, uh, being slated for execution by beetles— but anyway. Evading responsibility. Are you going to apologize?""Am I going to apologize." "It's the right thing to do." "Am I going to apologize for—" He pinches the bridge of his nose. "—for what. For, against my will, being beetlefied— and then, extremely against my will, losing my fucking marbles? No."(2/3)
"How about for trapping BK and I here? Forever? Maybe not— at least BK forever. I mean, that's just— aren't you friends? Or whatever?""Friends. Uh, you pulled 'forever' out of your ass, so—"You'd fold your arms if they weren't restrained. "Can't get out without the key. You won't give the key.""Holy shit, did I need to specify?" He scrapes his hair back in exasperation. "I'm not a fucking monster. I need it right now, I'll return it when done, we'll all get out just fine. Few more hours down here, hour tops up there, so— gods. Sit tight, or sit tight in beetle jail, whatever works for you."You narrow your eyes. "The hell are you doing with it?""Well, I, uh— look, I've been recognized as the—" (Insectoid clicking.) "—which is, uh, it translates to 'The Deliverer,' approximately, which makes me the, uh, beetle messiah—" Gloriously, he pulls out the key from his pocket. "So I am, uh, predestined to free them into reality, where they'll… I don't know. Drown? I haven't…" He shrugs. "I'm going with it. I mean, I'm compelled to go with it, so."He seems to be moderately aware how all of that sounds, but that doesn't stop loathing from curdling in your throat. That is the stupidest thing you've ever had the displeasure of hearing from someone's mouth, and you kind of want him to die for it. Which is not the same as you killing him for it, you're not— but your hand is twitching towards the hilt of The Sword. (You don't remember sheathing it, but there it is.) Part of it is he's holding the key, right there, as you speak— he could hand it over, and this nightmare would be finished. He's lucid! He could do it! But he won't, because he's— what. He's having fun? He likes to feel important? To say nothing of the fact that releasing thousands of fake beetles into the middle of the ocean sounds like a spectacularly bad idea. You hate it! You hate all of it. Amazing.You are not explicitly thinking most of this, because you are, at this moment, kicking and twisting and hacking free of your restraints, knocking the guards (and their bleeding arm-stumps) away, and barreling directly for Ellery. He didn't expect this, and there wouldn't be much to do if he did. You are fueled by more than anger.>[-1 ID: 4/12]You knock Upstairs sprawling and crouch above him. He— you presume he stares in confusion, though his face doesn't move and there's little to glean from beetle eyes. "What the fuck?" he says from behind you. The key is still clenched in his hand."Hand it over," you say, "or—" The Sword is at his throat. Flames blacken his chin, which droops— beetles have fled from the area. His forehead bulges. He closes his fist tightly around the key and laugh-coughs. "Do it."> Write-in.
>>4407345>Stomp on his wrist so he drops the key, then grab it.wow really ellery if I wanted my own comeback I would have wiped it off Madrigal's chin
>>4407345> Ellery. When you come back, is it you who comes back or someone else who is just really similar? I just want to know how shit I'm going to have to feel after I'm forced to kill my apparently possessed acquaintance who does come back sorta from death so that at least BK doesn't die horribly, as well as not releasing a horde of psychic beetles into the world since they really don't seem that friendly. What the fuck, Ellery.> But at least I can promise you it'll be me killing you this time.Desnake a bit and focus on being purely Charlie.> I really don't want to kill you, even if someone does come back. Not just because I'm worried about the key, but also because I think you probably could fight the compulsion. It isn't real, right? Only you are real? Maddie is still out there waiting for you somewhere and who knows maybe she will even love you or something if you can get your shit under control.And if that doesn't work, cut his hand off and take the key.
>>4407446Wait no, after reading this I think this write-in is better. Maybe still tell him not to worry, we'll clean up his mess and save BK and prevent a Beetleocalypse and either save him or kill him again so he can reboot again.
>>4407449>>4407345Or if you can merge these it would be awesome.Anyhoo. I kinda like my write in implication we kinda killed him before with the "at least it'll be me killing you this time" sinc Richard killed him previously.I thought about going more snek and just telling Ellery that if we are gonna kill him we have people for that, snek people, but that just seemed like a cop out for the challenge.
>>4407454Not to harsh your mellow but I'm fairly sure neither Ellery or us remember that, since this is a different version of him and we were conked out to heal a big stabby, and Richard didn't tell us what he did. Unless he did and I forgot.
>>4407459I'm pretty sure Charlie figured it out, and Ellery not knowing is what makes it great. Besides, this Ellery seems weird. He might know about it.
Little early to call the vote, but I can sit down and respond to this.>>4407459>>4407479After dancing around it I thiiiiink Richard outright told you, so Charlotte knows. Ellery shouldn't know, but ???.>>4407446Extraordinarily based.>>4407454Yeah, I can merge them.
>>4407513If it wasn't so very OOC I would have made it part of the write in.
>>4407589> If that wasn't so OOCBut was it?
>>4407829Charlotte refuses to even say fuck, do you really see her making a joke like that?
>>4407868I suppose you have a point. What's a fancy way to say that then?> Gosh, Ellery, I'm flattered you would imitate me but I don't think you thought this through.Or something?
>>4407893Maybe. I thought it was good because it was so crass, but Charlotte just wouldn't say it so it was better to just act. Plus knowing Charlotte any attempt to talk here would turn into a stuttering mess of "You can't say that! I said it! You can't just take things other people say!"
Rolled 58, 38, 69 = 165 (3d100)>>4407589>>4407829>>4407868Charlotte is a proper S̶o̶u̶t̶h̶e̶r̶n̶ ̶C̶h̶r̶i̶s̶t̶i̶a̶n̶ lady who wouldn't dream of making vulgar remarks. OOC it's hilarious, IC she wouldn't ever think of it, and would be disgusted if she did.>>4407893This is obviously less punchy but would work, yes.>>4407911...But this is also accurate.Looks like we're pretty set on all this. I'll edit the write-in somewhat to match the vibe of stomping on his fingers, but you'll get your monologue in there. Just as a note: you can't consciously* "snake" and "desnake," because you haven't actually realized that's happening, but it may just happen that way.*Except for spending ID, but you haven't really connected the dots there, eitherRolling for Ellery's composure and writing... today.
>>4407972Forgot to attach this.
>>4407980Ellery is essentially a "living"(???) Meme tho.Maddy reminds me of my terrible choices in GFs.
>(breathe in) ok bitchYou flush with indignation, but something rigid in your throat keeps you from firing back. Instead, you take a deep, shaky breath, hold it for a few seconds, and exhale. "Anywhere is fine," Upstairs says. "No vitals, so— the skin's pretty thin at the neck, so I do think you're on the right track. Right at the collarbone, maybe? Up to you—""Is it you who comes back?""Sorry?""When you die. Is it you, or is it a copy? Or a- you know, sort of you, but not entirely? Missing something?"There's such a long silence that you worry he broke again. Then he wipes his nose. "What the fuck are you talking about?""…Um, I've, uh, seen you… die." You scrape your heel across the ground. "And then come back. So I— I mean, if I have to k— if I have to do it, then, I mean— you know. So is it you? I mean…" Another deep breath. This is not going well. "Will I have to feel bad? When I—""Talking yourself into it, huh?" "What?" You scoff. "No, I'm… answer the question. Or else.""It'll have to be else, I guess, because I haven't died? I don't think I can." He catches your look. "Physically, at least. I mean, it's not— didn't you see the skin? That's all I— I mean, if you stomped all these beetles to death, maybe, but I'm not too sure about—""I saw you—" You cup your face with your free hand. "In real life, idiot! You sure as hell can die in real life! It's all bloody!"He freezes. "Oh.""Yeah! 'Oh', you stupid— you're immortal? In here. You're immortal.""Uh." Very gently, he pushes the tip of the sword away from his throat. He stubs out the finger that caught fire in the dirt. "I wouldn't— that's a big word.""It means you can't die. Like you said.""I know, it's just, uh—" He exchanges glances with himself. "Look, it's just— just physical, like I— and I didn't ask for it, it just… you know, it just happened. Like the rest of my life. And— you know, it's entirely possible I can get killed, I just haven't found the right… could you not make this public?""Could I…" You calculate. "Your freak friends don't know?""You were in that snake— okay, you know what, whatever. Anthea knows. Everyone else…" He looks sideways, then back. "…Um, not the full extent. So I'd really rather not-"You've pointed The Sword back at his neck. "Give me the key and I won't tell."He stops. "Gods, you're a bitch."(1/2)
"Easy choice! Key or secret! And if that doesn't work out, I'll—" You stare down the length of The Sword. "—I'll burn your stupid beetles alive, okay? Kill you proper? Painful? How about that? And it'll be me killing you, not—"Not Margo and not Richard. It's Upstairs' turn to scoff, though his heart isn't in it. "I don't think that'd—""I set a room on fire and I- I'd do it again!" God, that sounded terrible. You need to change the subject. "I'd— I mean, listen, do I want to burn you alive?" A tad. "Not really. I mean, it'd— I don't know, it might melt the key, or something, but— you can do it, right?""Do…""You know, um, manning up? Fighting the dumb beetles?" Your gestures are not aiding your point. "Just tell them no, and give me the key, right? It can't be hard, since you're so wise, and… I mean, it's not even real, right? It's— nothing's real but you, or whatever, so just ignore it. And, uh… gee, you know, I'm not Madrigal, but you know she's still around, right? She's not dead. So if you get your head on straight, clean up a lot, maybe she'll bother to lo—""Go fuck yourself," he says coolly, "up your fat fucking ass.""Well, I tried." You stomp suddenly and violently on his curled fingers, which don't uncurl but rather crunch and deflate. "Fuck," he grunts, and the skin of his face is buckling at the seams, but you are already bending and scooping the key from his mangled hand, and scraping the bits of shell off it with the hem of your dress. "There we are!" you say. "Now, would you like to accompany me to the exit, or would—""Can't stop them." His beetles-for-eyes are glossy gold. "Hurt the Deliverer. I can't stop them. I'm barely—""Barely what?" You nudge him with your foot. "Ellery? What do you mean, 'can't stop them?' Could you not be cryptic for once in your—"It's silent, except for your speech and your breathing. It's silent. No buzzing, no chittering, no clicking, no scraping of beetle feet on hard dirt. You glance back, and a beetle is crawling from Downstairs' nose. You glance around, and every pair of beetle eyes is fixed on you. Upstairs squeezes your ankle. "Better run."(Choices next.)
>A roll will be required regardless of choices.>[A1] Run! All by yourself! He can go to hell!>[A2] Drag along Downstairs Ellery. He's of dubious use and turns deadweight at random, but at least he can talk on his own. And he's less inhibited about... whatever the hell he can do.>[A3] Drag along Upstairs Ellery. He's closer to the 'real' Ellery, and his presence might dissuade the worst of the onslaught, but he also might explode into beetles at any time. And he can't speak properly alone.>[A4] Drag along both, so the crazy continues to cancel itself out— but it's twice as many to keep track of, and he's not fast. >[A5] Can they, like, merge? Or something? Maybe it'll make him normal again. Or maybe it'll make him twice as bad. It's a gamble. [Literally. I'll roll for outcome.]>[B1] Oh, God! You have to make it back to Gil before you leave! You promised!>[B2] Gil can go to hell! Consequences are for future Charlotte! (You will suffer significant ID damage at an undisclosed later time.)>[C] Any particular strategies for getting the hell out? (Write-in. Optional.)>[D] Write-in.>>4408221>Maddy reminds me of my terrible choices in GFs.lmao
>>4408631>A5Our rolls have never let us down before>B1We don't have the ID to suffer ID damage>CUse Sord to set everything you can on fire on your way out. Good luck flying through fire beetles lmao.
>>4408631>[A5] Can they, like, merge? Or something? Maybe it'll make him normal again. Or maybe it'll make him twice as bad. It's a gamble. [Literally. I'll roll for outcome.]Also get a sack out to shove Ellery bits into so we can carry him while he merges. He shouldn't weigh too much because this is all metaphors and whatnot. Refuse to carry his baggage along with him.Twice as bad? 2x0=0 so no he probably can't get worse.>[B1] Oh, God! You have to make it back to Gil before you leave! You promised!Maybe he can help.>[C] Any particular strategies for getting the hell out? (Write-in. Optional.)More fire. Try to hold our beetle painting up between us and beetles and maybe they'll think that's us. Or can we, like, wrap it around us like a mask that spreads and flows like a cloak? You've heard of a wolf in sheeps clothing, maybe we can be a snake in a beetle shell.But first more fire. We DID say we could do it again.
Rolled 2 (1d2)>>4408946>>4409180Damn, you guys hate Ellery's mental health. Called.1 = Fine2 = Whoops
>>4409463Still better than reverse russian roulette.
Rolled 21 (1d100)>>4409463Haha. Whoops. >>4409481In a way, no, since Reverse Russian Roulette was designed for failure with a small chance of an out-- you got the expected outcome. This, meanwhile, could've gone fine.Rolling for severity, higher is worse but low is still bad.
>>4409463It's not that we hate it, it's just our preferred gambling currency, because the alternative is our own mental health.
>>4409496Well, it's not irreparable. Good job! Ellery will come out of it fine... ish, as is typical for him, and your conscience can remain pure and underused.Have to get through it first, though. >>4409525Kek, fair enough.>Please roll me three sets of 3d100s (one 3d100 per person.) Modifiers and DCs in spoilers below.Set 1 (Whoops!) 3 1d100s + 20 (+10 Good With Sword, +5 On Fire!, +5 ???) vs. DC 60 (+30 Whoops!, -10 Low Severity, -10 Used To This Shit)Set 2 (Escape!) 3 1d100s + 25 (+15 Chekhov's Painting, +5 On Fire!, +5 ???) vs. DC 80 (+20 God Damn, That's A Lot Of Beetles, +10 Gil Backtracking)Set 3 (Where The Hell Is Anything?) 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 ???) vs. DC 40 (+10 Gil Backtracking, -20 Story Logic)Additional modifiers may or may not be added based on the results of each set.>You can make a little fire with your sword. Spend 1 ID to make that a LOT of fire? > Y> N
Rolled 7, 57, 94 = 158 (3d100)>>4409543>Y
Rolled 12, 46, 45 + 25 = 128 (3d100 + 25)>>4409543a lot of beetles in the DC? drat, I wanted a fiery beetle holocaust
>>4409543I forgot to specify but between N and Y on making a lot of fire I pick YYYYYYYYYYYY
>>4409573I suggest you vote for Y, th-->>4409578Yep. Doesn't come free.
Rolled 33, 2, 74 + 25 = 134 (3d100 + 25)>>4409543
>>4409796>>4409580I forgot to vote Y or N and I guess this should just be +5 for the third set. Sorry I worked outside landscaping for 8 hours and it was 32C so I'm kinda exhausted.
>>4409796>>4409580Also I vote N. I'll own this failure. Charlie in Blunderland, the story continues.Although I don't see why we can't just cut a hole to the 3rd level to escape.
>>4409580Wait whose head are we inside again?
>>4409807Gil's, right? Unless he was a fellow spelunker who got trapped in here.
>>4409812I thought he was a "jacker" which BK seemed pretty disgusted by so I think it's not his head.
>>4409829I guess it's just some rando the club picked out then
>>4409801No problem about the modifier, I have to add them manually anyways.>>4409803That would take more power than you have. The distinction between levels is pretty rigid. >>4409807>>4409812>>4409843Yeah, it's someone random, as far as you know. >>4409829 is correct about Gil.>>4409556>>4409573>>4409796On Fire! increases for this update to +15. This has... no effect on the results, unfortunately. (But it's cool.) No other modifiers.>Whoops: 37, 87, 124 vs. DC 60 -- Success>Escape: 47, 71, 70 vs. DC 80 -- Failure>Navigate: 38, 7, 99 vs. DC 40 -- Mitigated Success...Could be worse.Writing. This will be the last update of the thread, since we're page 10. We'll pick up in a new one after a break of a day or two (I want to update the newbie brochure), and I'll keep running until you make it out of this dump. Did this up very quickly a few weeks ago but never posted it-- downstairs-Ellery's weird afterimage effect, pre-losing it.
>>4409896Thanks for running!
>>4409896Thanks for running!The fire was worth it for being coolEllery is looking kinda veiny there
>>4409906>Ellery has flipped onto his back, but remains on the floor. He has one hand on his forehead, the other splayed by his side. His arms, his neck, and the sides of his face are striped with blue veins, like war paint. He smells faintly of ozone. His eyes are milky white. When he sits up, he leaves a trail of smudgy afterimages. His voice is the same. "Could I get my beer back, please?"Right from the source :^)>>4409901>>4409906Of course. Couldn't do it without you guys.
>Setting things on fire solves any problem>Success, Failure, Mitigated SuccessYou could leave him. You have every right to leave him. You should leave him. You don't leave him: you kick his hand off your ankle, grab his wrist, and, one-handed, yank him off the ground. He is uncannily light. He stares at you for a moment, his face unchanged. "You don't have to-" he starts.And then you are away, pounding down a large tunnel to your left, your sword stretched above your head like a beacon. The soft surrounding earth slows your pounding heart and soothes your nerves, but can't dampen the vicious buzzing that has sprung up from behind you. Your gait is clumsier than the strange, easy loping you'd settled into last time, but you are still making good time, and for a precious few seconds you think: well! This is easy! What's the big deal?You really ought to know better, because the instant you complete the last word you trip on a cat-sized beetle, concealed as a dirt clod, and tumble head over heels over head onto the ground. Before you can begin to rise, several dozen beetles appear from the ground about you and fly directly for your face. You shriek, and reach for your sword (it skidded a foot away), but there are already beetles in your eyes and nose and mouth, and they eagerly dive down your throat, and Ellery grabs your collar and yanks you up (you are as light as he) and ahead of him he scoops up The Sword and foists it upon you and you are away again, pounding again, fast but not enough: there are beetles pouring after you and beetles springing from the walls and floor and ceiling, and black beetle eyes glint in the firelight down distant offshoot tunnels, and Ellery is slow. He is slow, because he is warring with dangerous urges, and because there's not enough of him for two tattered groaning bodies, and because he's slow. He's not fast. He's untiring, but you outspeed him, and with every step you war with your own dangerous urge to up and leave him- all of him- behind.So it's with justification that, on your first reprieve, you make a small request. Ellery had spotted a small damp hollow, set into the wall, and had dragged you into it — you squat inside, pressed too close against his side, and clear your throat. "Is there any way you could… merge?"He watches beetle wings and beetle feet pass you by. You are, for the moment, hidden. The Sword is sheathed. "…I don't know. I don't know if…""I think it'd be helpful," you press. "It's- you know, less to keep track of, and— I mean, I don't know, maybe it'd fix stuff? Cancel things out for good? It's worth a shot.""I mean, that's not wrong, but, uh…" He rests his elbow on his own shoulder. "I don't know. I've never done it before, so I don't know if…""Well, that's all the reason for it! You can put it in the book, or whatever it was-"(1/X)
"The docubook? Already in there. 'Bracing, enveloping, slightly acidic, like a swan dive into overgelled marmalade.' Um. I don't remember who wrote it, but it's not a- we got that in pretty early.""Oh," you say."But it might be worth a- a revisit." Downstairs' teeth gleam in the dark. "Always thought it was a little trite, anyhow. Don't mind me.""Oh, uh, I w—"Downstairs dutifully swallows a few more beetles, then he's up, he's active, he's holding his own face in his hands. "Hi, handsome," he says, so ironically it loops into complete sincerity. (You mock-gag.) "Let's get these out…"He picks swiftly and deftly at the facial stitches, and before long has a small pile of white string and a face opened like a wrapped package. Inside lies a compacted prolate ball of beetles, the exact size of the head, which crawl and writhe over each other and show no sign, overt or otherwise, of personhood. They smell damp. You gag for real. Ellery practically coos. "Look at that. That's fucking amazing. You see this? Charlotte? That's me, and you'd never even—""Get on with it," you say shortly."Alright! Working on it. Uh, I don't know the best…" He plunges his hand into the beetles, which immediately begin to crawl up his arm. "You think it needs to meet a critical mass, or—? Oh, no." The beetles are wriggling into his arm, through his wobbling sleeve. They leave no trace. "We're good.""We're good?" You watch his face. "So you're all…""It is like marmalade, actually. I should apologize." The last of the beetles vanish inside. He nudges the empty skin, and it disintegrates. "Yeah, I think I'm… hoo!" He raises his shoulders, flexes his fingers, kicks his legs out. "Yeah! I'm good, I'm all here. Still might have some- no, I don't think so. All clear. You think they're gone?""Uh…" You crane your head out and glance around. The tunnel is empty. "Looks like it?""They'll be back, or there'll be more, but I think we can take it easy for a little bit. Conserve energy, you know." "You haven't gotten tired," you note, rising gratefully from the hollow. The floor of the tunnel is beaten flat from the passage of the beetle mob. Ellery springs to his feet. "I was being nice. You know where we're going?""Er, not exa—""I think I might, a little? I mean, I was born here, sort of, so." He traces his hand against the wall. "Better get going."(2/X)
You unsheathe The Sword and begin to trail dubiously after Ellery, who after a couple of minutes begins to whistle off-key. You take the opportunity to stomp any small beetles you see to death, but encounter no large ones. Ellery has begun to scratch viciously at his neck. He is still whistling. You don't recognize the tune but you don't know if you'd be able to. The tunnel has let out somewhere: a massive, dimly-lit gallery, full of gold-framed paintings. All portraits. You wonder if the same beetle paints all of them, or if there's a workshop somewhere. You wonder what the paintings say about this person's head. Artistic? Narcissistic? A couple large beetles mill about, but they're far in the distance. They haven't gotten the signal.Ellery scratches his neck, which at this point is thoroughly red. "Huh. This doesn't… look right.""You don't say, genius." You stomp at a passing beetle. "What's wrong with your neck?""Huh? It just itches. Some shitty side-effect, I guess. Everywhere kind of itches, it's just the worst.""Oh," you say. "Interesting.""You asked. Actually, um…" He smooths down his stubble. "…Would you mind if I, uh, traded out? Fix the itching, change the shirt back… I won't make you watch. I'll go over there."You wrinkle your nose. "I mean, I can't stop you.""Great! Great. I'll just— it'll only be a second. Stay right here." And he goes and disappears behind an unusually shaped water fixture. You wait a second. You wait a few more seconds, then a minute, and when you check behind the fixture he's gone, with just a limp boot sticking out of the statuary to prove he ever existed. "Ellery?" you call. The art-appreciating beetles are moving in your direction. "Ellery?" Very fast. "Ellery?" The one on the left has something dripping from its mandibles. Blood? Acid? "Oh, for the love of—" You run.This section of the— nest? hive? structure— is far better-lit than anywhere else you've been: orange sunlight dapples the floor, and vegetation grows accordingly. You don't have the time or inclination to appreciate the natural beauty, however, and curse every time you stumble over a protruding root. You have to get back into an enclosed space, you think, because the beetles have taken flight, and you can't match that type of agility— but you don't see any options. Can you dig a tunnel? Dive straight into the wall? Are you positive there's no half-inch holes around here? Damnit!Ellery reappears, forty feet in front of you, back in paisley. Thank God! you think but don't say— you are breathing heavily. You speed up.(3/X)
He looks down at you impartially. Then he laughs. It echoes. "MADDIE!"Before you remember you're being pursued, you nearly come to a screeching halt."MADDIE, YOU WON'T BELIEVE IT! IT'S FUCKING AMAZING!"He grips his scalp, which bunches loosely in his hand— now that you're closer, you see how his skin drapes, like curtains. His teeth and eyes are white and whiter now against his exposed pink gums. You dislike the way he's poised. You dislike the pronounced clickiness of his plosives. You dislike how he's drawing closer, the more you run in his direction, but you feel powerless to stop."I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!"He pulls his skin off over his head with the practiced flourish of a waiter with a tablecloth. It is not immediately violent, so that's your nice compliment of the evening. But you refuse to use 'he.' The person is gone from the creature that rises from Ellery's crumpled husk: at best, it's the blackout drunk (on power? on pure solipsism?) collected mind of the several hundred beetles he might've been. It is easily twice Ellery's height and could not possibly have fit inside his body. It is blue and it is gold and it is segmented and it has too many arms and it is not immediately violent, but that doesn't make it not violent, and after a moment of deliberation it screams— it's not his voice, it's not anybody's voice but its own— and swipes towards you. You are too close. The ends of its claws are like sickles.[TO BE CONTINUED]This update falls in the academic category of "ass-long." We have a day or two left in the thread, so Part 2 tomorrow! (I don't feel too bad, since it was going to end the thread regardless.) If we somehow fall off before that, check Twitter for a Pastebin. And thanks kindly for reading and playing!