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You are Charlotte Fawkins, noted heiress, heroine, adventuress, and detective, cruelly trapped underwater (in the sticks!) after the completion of your quest to find your long-lost family heirloom. Tragically, nobody here l̶i̶k̶e̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u appreciates your talents, even Richard— the snake who lives in your head. Right now, you are evading both the roving swarm of dream-beetles you royally pissed off and the swings of your unusual acquaintance Ellery, who has just turned into a giant insectoid monster for reasons that are definitely and entirely not your fault.

You skid backwards instinctively, and a sickle-claw misses you by inches. You would yelp and you would say something pithy, possibly a catchphrase, of some kind, but something fierce and cold has overtaken y— no, that's not right. You are fierce and cold, and you are sharp and proud, and you are marble and thorns, (and you are brass and iron), and this is the good and the natural way of things. You belong here and your sword belongs (twice over) in your hand and there is no room for fear in your heart, only irritation. A great heap of irritation. You glower up at the Ellery-thing, whose eyes are as black and knowing as beach pebbles.

"Why," you demand of the nothing inside it, "are you like this?!"

It screams and slashes with five or six arms but you have already left the spot where you were. The Sword licks at the onrushing air as you dash forward, skid under its leaning abdomen and leering pointed face, and thrust into a chink in its armored side. Yellow blood sizzles and pops and the thing howls. When the wound begins to waft smoke you would feel (a little) sympathy for Ellery, but you're quite certain he's gone in the manner he was before: lost or locked inside a senseless body. Only that senseless body was his, and this one is an 12-foot alien murder-insect, so you only pull The Sword out when a sickle bites through your boot and into your ankle.

You are proud and marble and don't cry out as you crash to the ground, and you had every intention to riddle this thing with holes until your arm gave out— but you are still human, and when you see the Ellery-thing spread diaphanous wings the size of windowdrapes and open its mouth and open the mouth inside its mouth, you feel remarkably attached to your limbs. Add to that the approaching beetles (though they've slowed— to marvel at their Deliverer's apotheosis?) and the simple fact that your goal is elsewhere, and you have enough to persuade yourself that a tactical retreat isn't cowardice. It's fine. It's fine! You run, mostly on your uninjured foot.

Pessimistically, the Thing could bear down upon you with a few beats of its enormous wings and devour you whole. Realistically, though you don't have the luxury of looking over your shoulder, you think the beetles must've distracted it. You need the lucky break. The vegetation is thickening, and at the speed you're going it takes all your focus not to catch your feet on the roots that lace the floor.

Compounding your trouble is the light from above, which has taken on a soupy consistency and burnt color. It beads your forehead, beats against your lidded eyes, and reminds you with every step that you are, factually, dog-tired. It's the middle of the night. You haven't slept for days. The earth between the roots and vines is crumbly and giving. How terrible would it be to stop? (You have been running for a long time.) To lean against a tree? (There are trees now, and bushes, and the calling of jungle-gulls.) To bury yourself to the waist in soil? (It would soothe your tired legs.) Not terrible at all. You sag against a mossy trunk, inspect your ankle— functional, but bleeding— and contemplate your options for digging a hole.

A shovel? Yes, but where's the panache? Your hands could be spades. You could speak to the soil with imperious conviction and it would move. Or the only true option— you could burrow, as is your birth na- you could pluck with gloved fingers at the fibrers of re- you could use a dr-

No! What the hell! You are hunched over, hands balled, running dirt through your dirty fingers. You throw it down. What the hell! You don't say this often because it's usually not true but there is something wrong with you, badly, and— okay, you could use a drink, that's fair, except do you want to be less inhibited? More suggestible? Here? And all the rest of it— you'd call it an evil spirit, or a demon on your shoulder, but these thoughts come in too warm and familiar a packaging— they are from your head, and so the only conclusion is that you are wrong. Or different, the same thing.

You are discomfited by this realization and you are revulsed and horrified that it has taken you so long to come to it. You are different and it's more than skin deep it's you except somewhere along the line without your knowledge or consent the definition of "you" changed. "I'll be fine!" you told BK an hour-something ago— "I'm good! I'm competent! I have a- a frigging monster in my back pocket!" And here you are hunted and haunted and lost and alone on a crushing level. (The snake doesn't count.) Is that irony or tempting fate? Where is Richard? Alone on a mountaintop, sipping nasty sparkling wine? There when you don't need him, gone when you do— much like your father, now that you think about it. Funny. Funny how things stay the same.

If you were asked you would deny that you were crying, but nobody is here to ask.

You poke miserably at the dirt with a stick for a long time, scrubbing at regular intervals at your eyes with your sleeve. You feel bad everywhere but especially your ankle. Ellery's blasé disconnection from reality (figurative and otherwise) bothers you on a visceral level but you have to admit it must have its perks. You think maybe it's possible he can't feel bad anymore without a real kick in the pants and in that sense you did him a favor since now he'll have all this to dwell on. This makes you feel better. You stand and stare into the faces of maybe thirty large beetles and one thousand small ones, clustered on bushes and trees and clinging to vines. You are surrounded. This makes you feel worse. The Thing is hiding or not here.

"Hello," you say. You've been perspiring for a while but you only notice it now because it's gone all cold. "Um. Salutations."

The jungle-gull's call sounds, in this moment, like taking a hacksaw to a tin can.

"I don't suppose I can… reason with…" You can't and you're close to certain they can't understand you. You clutch The Sword like a warding totem. "You know Ellery? You know, I was the one who made him all... beetle-y? So you're- you're welcome…"

The largest beetle steps forward and it's holding something along the lines of a dagger.

"I can set you on fire. I can set you on fire like I- like I set your babies on fire. Watch out."

It advances and so do all the rest until they stand shoulder t- shoulder to shoulder (beetles having shoulders or not is not reasonable to care about) in a tight ring around you. You feel like you'll die if you don't stab one and you'll die if you do stab one and laying it out makes the choice pretty obvious, so you lunge forward and plunge The Sword with a hiss into the largest beetle's exposed underbelly and tear it out and it topples and you make to run. You can't: they close ranks in an instant and pick the thing-like-a-dagger off the ground. You realize that you might have to set them on fire, actually. You realize you don't know how.

Not once in your life has this stopped you, and so in the moments before your ritual jungle sacrifice you attempt to free associate. Fire, uh, swords— your sword?— uh—

It doesn't get beyond that: adrenaline and stress swamp your waking mind.

>[-1 ID: 3/12]

You don't remember shouting, but your mouth hangs half open and your voice rings in your ears. You don't remember your sword combusting, either, but when you're standing in a six-foot circle of smoldering ash ringed by 20 feet of everything being on fire, you can draw conclusions. The beetles are injured if not evaporated, but there will be more. Of course there'll be more. You're not stupid. You dry your eye one more time and set off at a brisk walk.

The flames on The Sword have quelled, but you wipe the blade down a weeping tree trunk and run it over a patch of embers and it ignites again good as new. You find its scorching heat reassuring: it makes it feel real. Like it matters. It's partially for this reason that you trail it around you as you walk, catching sticks and leaves on fire— it's partially also to deter followers, and to keep your hands busy. You try to focus your mind on the exit. Or on Gil. You try to remember how he looked. Small, square jaw, awful skin—

You encounter beetles three more times. The first time you run and lose them in a copse they can't fit into. The second time you dare them to follow you back into the fire-torn wasteland you've created, and they cannot. The third time it's a swarm, small enough to fit into any gap, tenacious enough to follow you anywhere, carnivorous enough to be a threat. Your face is pockmarked a dozen times with bits of missing flesh before you hit upon a idea: you unfurl the portrait of yourself, newly life-size, and drape it over your shoulderblades. The skin it covers itches badly, but that's a small price to pay for being left alone, especially as shortly thereafter you stumble upon a corridor covered with ice plant.

Of course, you'd cut down that ice plant an hour ago, and that corridor was attached to a bare ledge, not lush jungle— but you sense that matters little. You venture down it until the plant turns to wires, and you emerge once again into a dark and high-ceilinged room.

"Gil?" you say.

You don't see him among the wires, but they're so dense and tangled that means little. His voice comes again from your mouth. "I thought you wouldn't come back."

"Well, here I am!" You raise your hands. "Amazing. You're so smart. Can we get this over with?"

"I'm sorry. I thought you wouldn't come back."

You rub your bleeding face. "No need to apologize, just— look, I'm on a little bit of a time crunch, so—"

"I'm sorry."

"Ooo-kay. Neat. If you're not going to show up, I'll just be heading…"

As you begin to back away, your gaze drifts upwards, and there you make out something you didn't spot before: a dangling bundle of wire, roughly human-shaped. You'd chalk that up as ordinary (you know nothing about wires, to be honest), but as it gently turns it reveals spikes: long, shiny, metal, in a vertical pattern. They stop halfway down. You squint. You tilt your head. It hits you. "Oh, God. BK?"

"He didn't like me," Gil says matter-of-factly.

You fumble for The Sword. "Is he- is he dead?! Oh, God!"

"I don't know."

"How do you not know? You did— where are you?! Could you please— BK? If you're alive, could you please— I don't know, swing around? Gil, I- I'm serious, I need to— or else I'm—"

The bundle swings slightly. It could be coincidence. You choose to believe otherwise. "Great! Great. Good- excellent start. Fantastic. Um, now, I—"

"I'm here." You whip around. Gil dangles upside-down from a single wire. He shows no signs of exertion. "So are they."

"They?" Your question is answered by the phalanx of beetles that filters into the room. They are larger and better-armored than the ones you've seen before. Some block the doorway. "Come on."

"Sorry," Gil says. "I made a mistake."

"Then help!"

His eyes roll in his skull like marbles. "Yes. Swear."

"I did! I swore on- on my family n-"

"Something else."

>[A1] Swear on something else. (Write-in what. This will matter.)
>[A2] Oh, come on, you're not doing that again! Persuade him to help you regardless. [Difficult roll.] (Write-ins optional.)
>[A3] Not doing that again. Threaten him to help you regardless. [Roll.] (Write-ins optional.)
>[A4] You don't need him. Attempt to climb to safety yourself. [Difficult roll.]
>[A5] You don't need him. Attempt to fight your way out. [Difficult roll.]
>[A6] Write-in.

>[B1] Oh, God, you should do something about BK. (Write-in.)
>[B2] Plan to help BK, but try to resolve this first. (If things go wrong, you may lose your chance— but this also might not be a good time for a rescue attempt.)
>[B3] He's fine! He can get himself out, surely.

>[C] Write-in.
>Last time on Drowned Quest Redux
While on an unplanned excursion in somebody's abandoned mind-palace, you and Richard encountered Gil, a moderately shady and very desperate man who had managed to turn himself into a hivemind of 300-400 beetles. You were forced to concoct a half-truth about Richard to BK, Gil, and later Ellery, who revealed that he was also busy turning into beetles. You let him do that, and examined the exit to the first layer, through which now-beetled Ellery escaped with the only key out. You eventually was able to follow with Gil's help-- though you promised to come back for him in exchange.

On the second layer, you did a bunch of weird things, evaded the attention of various beetles, met an offputting human Gil, encountered a different version of Ellery, accidentally gave different Ellery brain damage, encountered the original, beetled Ellery, nabbed the key back, and in the process pissed off all the beetles you'd been doing a good job of evading. In the middle of your escape, you encouraged the Ellerys to recombine out of convenience. They did. It didn't go well.

Once a day. If the update is short and/or I feel inspired, two or three. If I miss a day, I'll try to compensate with two the next. There may be sporadic half-updates (no choices) if I start writing too late in the evening, sorry in advance.

We 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. Probabilities may be found in the Dice and Mechanics pastebin.

The MC has a pool of 12 Identity ("ID"), which can be considered both HP and the measure of her current ego and can be lost appropriately. ID may be spent on a +10 blanket bonus to most rolls, as well as more elaborate metaphysical effects. It may be regained through marked options, write-ins, and at appropriate narrative points, as well as through sleep. Dropping to 0 ID is bad.


>Twitter (I update this when I remember it exists, ie rarely)


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!
>"I'm not going down alone Gil! If these beetles are gonna eat me then I'll just burn this whole place down first!"

haha fire yes
big fan of the intro image

In the info post? Thanks, I just updated it. Figured 5 months was long enough. New or just happened to notice it?


>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+5 Fire Danger, +5 ???) vs. DC 60 (+10 Unreal, +5 Vindictive, -5 Guilty) to threaten Gil into rescuing you.

>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to all resulting rolls? (You are at 3/12 ID.)
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 27 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Info post yes. Just happened to notice it.

no spendy

reposting without the messed up rolls
Rolled 20 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Rolled 96 (1d100)

>37, 30, 106 vs. DC 60 -- Mitigated Success
Nice save. Writing.
>Hey no F you

You wrinkle your nose. "No. No, I won't— do you think I'm stupid? If you're so damn sorry, just—"

"Sorry," he says, and flips the right way around with boneless grace. He begins to climb. You look dubiously up at him, and nervously at the beetles, which have finished assembling in two straight rows and are now screwing tubes to their mouthparts. You don't understand until one test-fires and a projectile (a dart? a spike? some kind of coagulated beetle secretion?) whizzes past you at a speed sufficient to puncture your skull.

"Gil! I, uh- I- come back? Please?" You shift your weight from one foot to the next. Gil descends obligingly. "Look, I swear—"

It shouldn't be binding, with no blood involved— that's just the fact of the matter. It should be perfectly fine. But you don't like this Gil, who stole your mouth only to spout lilting non-answers. You don't like the range of motion in his joints. If this is the man, life down here has clearly changed him: if this isn't, well, that's worse. Either way, you can't trust him with anything valuable.

You're also angry and tired and you've found room for fear in your heart, after all. You point your sword into his face. "—that I'll burn this place down if you don't help. Gil."

He doesn't react. You waggle The Sword. "I will! I— don't you smell the smoke? I've already burnt— look!" Miraculously, the wire nearest to The Sword has begun to drip and smolder. "See! And I can do a- a lot more fire than— do you want to catch on fire? I- I mean— please." Your voice cracks. "Please."

Every tube is now trained on you. The largest beetle, eight foot nothing and armored like a knight, raises a forelimb. Gil is blank-faced. You try to convince yourself that you're not about to die. That there's nothing of you to die. You work your way inwards— hollow hands, hollow feet, hollow wrists, hollow ankles— and it comes all too close to working. You are stymied at your chest. How could it be hollow? Your heart hammers in your ears.

The largest beetle brings its forelimb down, and Gil cocks his head like an inquisitive bird, swings down, and snatches you up by the sleeve of your jacket. You don't yelp, but you clutch white-knuckled to his wrist: he climbs at a blistering pace, apparently unburdened by your weight or awkward positioning. There is a series of thunks as 30 projectiles hit a wall. There is a barked order. You can barely see them any longer, but the beetles must be rearming. You'd like to see them try to hit you, honestly, between the distance and your speed and the hundreds of wires in the way—

To be fair, most of them don't hit you. Most of the shots go wide or long or bounce miserably off a hanging coil. And to be fair, the one that hit you doesn't puncture anything important: it thuds into the back of your shin. You were basically correct.

It does, however, hurt like a bitch.

>[-1 ID: 2/12]

It's not so much the projectile (a spike) as what it was coated in: some kind of runny purple liquid that burns as it touches your skin. Gil's climbing is so fluid that midair you're able to raise your leg and pry out the spike, but a furious purple-tinged rash has already sprung up around it. It doesn't bode well, but neither does anything else, does it? You sigh.

Finally, Gil reaches his destination: a suspended metal catwalk, shrouded in wires. He hauls you up onto it first, then swings after you. You roll onto your back. "Great. We're here. Remind me what the point was?"

For the first time, you're able to see the ceiling of the room— it's the great face of a machine, overburdened with levers and hatches and starry lights. The wires run into ports across its surface. Gil turns his head toward it, for a long time, then towards you. "I don't know."

"You don't… you took me up here for no reason."


"Maybe." You sit up and kick your feet over the edge. It's a long way down. "God, is BK down there still? Can you go get him?"

"If you swear."

"If I… God. I guess I can drag up wires until I find him…" You brush hair off your forehead. "Plenty of time. I mean, beetles aren't going to find me here, BK's already come to, uh, 'rescue' me… you aren't going to do anything, right?"

There's a significant pause. "No."

"Well, then. I guess I can just… take a breather." You idly pick the crust of dried blood off the top of your ankle. "So, uh, are you also immortal? Because—"

A violent, far-off scream shatters your small talk. The catwalk jitters under the weight of something— somewhere— landing bodily on it. Well. Of the Ellery-thing, somewhere, landing bodily on it.

You groan.

>Select what you want to do before your inevitable (and final??) confrontation! You may select TWO. [1] does not count against that, so if you pick [1] you may select two others.
>[1] Swear on something in exchange for Gil retrieving BK— or negotiate a different price. (Write-in. Negotiation may require a roll.)
>[2] You think you remember what color of wire BK was bound up in. Spend the time to fish him up yourself.
>[3] Spend some time getting some rest and patching up your wounds. (This will remove certain maluses.)
>[4] Spend some time checking on The Sword and readying yourself for glorious battle, etc. (This will provide a temporary flat bonus.)
>[5] Spend some time calming and centering yourself. (This will regain ID. A write-in about how you'd like to do this may increase the amount given, but is optional.)
>[6] Spend some time exploring that… different definition of "you." (This will have a mix of positive and negative effects.)
>[7] Write-in.
>[2] You think you remember what color of wire BK was bound up in. Spend the time to fish him up yourself.
You may pick one more option on top of that (excluding [1] since it overlaps with [2]).
>[3] Spend some time getting some rest and patching up your wounds. (This will remove certain maluses.)

Adding this then >>4420054

also our ID is super low
"Why," you demand of the nothing inside it, "are you like this?!"

> https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=GeNey4E7wBU


Swear to god we'll start more fires. We'll become fire, and leave this place burned down to nothing and he'll still be alone. But notnlike an actual swear, more like a sarcastic angry mutter.

2, 5, 6. See if we are maybe blended with Richard. Ask ourselves, what would dick do? Then see if we can do it. Replicate one of his earlier tricks like locking Gils mouth shut, except it won't be us doing itt but us as Richard.

Then maybe we can use that to heal ourself.

Maybe put our self in the sword for safekeeping and let the snake take over the body.
Sorry, man, gotta narrow that down to 2 options. You only get 3 if [1] is one of the three.
3, 6
Sorry. Exhausted after work.
>Patch yourself up
>Mystery box
Hoo boy. Was expecting you guys to gun for the +ID option, since you're at 2/12, but I see we're going for broke.

Yeah, that clip sums it up. It's also everyone else @ Charlotte :^)
Gil doesn't have a mouth to lock shut.
You can't be possessed at the moment. There is nothing around to possess you.

You're all good.

Writing in a little while.
>First aid
>Wow it's kind of weird how my letters have been turning red sometimes

You know what? Whatever. You will cross that bridge when you come to it, or, more realistically, when you burn it down. You are resting, God-damnit. You are taking a break. You are sitting here and not moving an inch unless you have to. That is that.

So you do. You sit there, and then you lay down, your sword sheathed, staring up at the twinkling ceiling. Gil 'offers' one more time to retrieve BK, but you mumble something about him going to hell, and something else about burning this place down, and leaving him alone in the ashes, and he quiets. After a solid minute of doing nothing, you sit up again and examine your ankle. The inside of your boot is soaked in blood, as is your sock— you pull both off and wince. It's gouged worse than you thought. How were you able to run long distances? Because you didn't know? Too late for that: you wince again as your fingers glance off it. No choice but to deal with it now.

Your experience in wound treatment is limited, but you figure you can bind it up, at least. The Sword is still on fire, you discover upon unsheathing, so you turn to an ordinary knife to cut a strip from your dress. The crimson looks dashing, you think, as you begin to tie it up— it's a shame it'll be covered by your boot. It's a shame that you can't do more, either, with no water to clean with or choking ointments to daub on. Is this what you did to your arm, after it got nearly chopped off? Your memories of that fight are muddy. No, didn't you just- shove it back on? …Eugh.

That wouldn't work here, right?

Right? It wouldn't? Gingerly, you loose the scrap of fabric, place it on the floor, and pinch the sides of the wound together. It hurts like a hot poker, but you grit your teeth, and when the torn edges of your skin meet they stick together like putty. An inflamed stripe across your ankle is all that remains.

You stand, and it still hurts, but considerably less. When you tie the scrap back around it, it doesn't hurt at all. (How could it? It looks so dashing.) You slide your boot back on with relief.

While you're sitting here, though, you may as well examine your other acquisition. Though it's only been a couple minutes since it appeared, the purple rash has already spread to cover a chunk of your thigh. You consider spitting on it (…spittle was key to the survival of the hero in the trashiest serial you'd ever read behind the wall of your bedroom), but get a better idea: you reach under your tongue and press firmly on your gland. After washing your fingertips in the diluted venom, you draw them across the rash. It clears up instantly.

(1/3? 4?)
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It- what? What? What gland? You don't have glands. Well, you might have glands, but you don't have venom g- you don't have venom! You're not a- even supposing you had abilities outside the norm, which in all truth and honesty you'd always suspected, they'd represent the radiant light of your soul, or the fire of your passion, or things like that. They wouldn't include venom, even if it heals things. It's not part of the aesthetic. And more to the point, you've never had venom.

Which means it's different, ie wrong. Your casual transition to that line of thinking bothers you less than the fact it was correct. You did have a gland, and it did fix the rash, and the whole of you knew it would. So who are you?

This is not a question you're accustomed to asking of yourself, and so you go about it in a straitlaced manner. You are Charlotte Frances Fawkins, sixteenth of her line, rightful heir to the throne. (No resistance to that idea.) You are twenty-three. (Or to that.) Your mother is Clara Fawkins and your aunt Ruby Bowers and your father is d- a reptile. Martin Fawkins. (A great deal of resistance, but that's normal.) And he's in your head being stupid and useless except for he's needing for explaining, in which case he's being stupid and useless somewhere else. You pick the snake up off the guardrail of the catwalk and lift it above your head. You stare into its eyes. "Where are you?"

Then you lean over the side and heave up clear bile: your stomach has realized before you have. Only after the last of it drips from your lips do you come to the conclusion that he's dead—

—Or not dead, but you've gutted of him his walk and his lighter and his (what did he call it) legerdemain and his easy menace, his teeth and his body (once) and now his venom glands. You've plucked the steel wire from his gaping skull and frayed it and woven it with your sun-faded silk and children's craft felt. Who are you? You are a mockery and a falsehood. You are a mask and a cage. You are sickening and you are pleased that all of you agrees. Richard won't laugh about this later.

There'll be a later, at least. He was expecting this. (You think that with an echo of certainty and only after remember why— the warning, right before the stairs.) He was counting the stairsteps before he ceased to exist as a whole and autonomous being. You pity him and it is self-pity. You wipe your nose.

What are you going to do with yourself?

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There's not much time to do anything with the way the catwalk is shaking, but time is immaterial if you make it be and you retreat within your mind to think. Doing this confirms what you already knew: there's no one crevice or snakehole where Richard is 'hiding.' You don't think his consciousness properly exists in this moment, or if it does, it's disseminated so evenly through yours that it's— no, it's not indistinguishable. Scratch that. Your mind is riddled with tiny bumps where Richard is protruding from it: the process is incomplete. (Of course it's incomplete. You'd never notice it otherwise.) You could reach and pry them out. You c-

Time might be immaterial to you, but the Thing never got the memo. It comes slowly but steadily along the catwalk, its legs clicking on the metal panels, its too many arms scraping on the guardrails. It has changed since you last saw it: become resplendent, ornate, nearly garish, like the wallpaper of Ellery's sitting room. The comparison would elicit at least a snide titter, but you're too deep inside yourself for it to register. Yes, you could pry the Richard out of you. Yes, you could reconstitute it into— well, it wouldn't be him, you don't work miracles. It'd be enough of him to serve your needs, which include 'not dying horribly' and 'getting the hell out of here.' And it's simple enough. You just…

The Thing's gilded wings protrude from under its shell and its gilded mandibles clack against themselves. If you were wondering what had come upon it, a look at its armored stomach would've answered: the outline of a doorway is printed upon it in chalk. It usurped the beetle on the throne and now it's coming after you to— crown you in turn? Or just kill you? Its motives are inscrutable, and that's if you were focusing. In fact, you're focusing so little on the outside world that Gil had to stop you from toppling over the edge of the catwalk. You didn't notice. You are dredging yourself up, scraping yourself together, and molding it all at will. You are modeling clay in your own hands and though you've never done it life-size before you find it's very easy when it's strictly metaphorical. In the end you stare into a cruel, thin face, into yellow eyes, into black scales. It's not Richard. Probably it was never him. But it's close enough.

You step into it, as well as into the guardrail. Gil watches with bemusement: you have been muttering and gesturing for the last two minutes. He is a little surprised when you turn to face him. Outwardly, you're exactly as you were, but the look in your eyes is wrong.

>[ID: 2/(9)]
>[SV: (6/6)]

As a matter of fact, you're screwed so tight into this— this metaphor-body, this thoughtform— that you can barely breathe, much less move, much less think. The look in your eyes might be fear. What have you done? Seriously, what have you— you have to stop doing this, all of this, getting swept up in— you don't know what it is! It's like a bad dream, it's like your reasoning all shuts down, and— is it a medical condition? Are you turning out like your mother? You'd loathe telling anybody about it, but you might need to tell somebody about it, this i-

The thoughtform constricts around your mind. You are fierce and cold and iron and brass, just in time for the Thing to rear, and scream, and swipe at your neck.

>Your ID is temporarily capped at 9. This cap will remain in place until you complete a (currently undetermined) sidequest to lift it. You'll otherwise return to normal after this fight, unless you really want to keep walking around like this.
>You have a temporary pool of SV [Severalty]. SV may be substituted for any active use of ID, including doing weird stuff, adding to rolls, etc., but damage is still taken to ID. Losing all SV kicks you back to normal early, but has no other effect. It's there to be spent!
>It's still possible to regain some ID through appropriate write-ins.

>[1] DODGE! Try to take out a leg, while you're at it. [Roll.]
>[2] PARRY! Maybe you can cut this arm off. [Roll.]
>[3] JUMP! And catch yourself in the wires. You can fight it there— you're more dextrous, and you'll be forcing it to fly. [Roll.]
>[4] Do something cooler and/or weirder. (Spend a variable amount of SV. Write-in.)
>[5] Write-in.

Disjoint your neck like it's a snake body and curve it backwards so the claw swipe falls short. Then stab him right in the doorway. Sord > armored tummy.
This. But also spit in his face and hope it's poisonous. Venomous? Spitting Cobra is a thing.

Wait. Can Charlie spit? Have her consider it then decide it's too rude, if so.
You can try to spit, but note that the Thing's head is approx. 7 feet above yours-- it'd be additional SV. Charlotte isn't too concerned with rudeness at the moment.

Not calling nor writing: I have some RL things I need to get done before midnight tonight, and starting to write at midnight is a recipe for disaster. Update is postponed until tomorrow, and depending on how short it is I may be able to get out two. Vote remains open.

Hope you guys have a nice day.
Bugs breathe through spiracles on their limbs anyways, so we don't need to get in its face.
Thorax & Abdomen, not legs. IDK why I said legs.
Ah, I assumed you were intending to go for its eyes. You could spit elsewhere, sure, but you'd still have to spend for it to have any velocity. (The venom is more for biting.)
Then let's spit at it! We can spit our spite towards it, this fucking bugman has the audacity to chase us and keep chasing us and to do so while being Ellery. Ellery! Who does he think he is, we are so going to make his next incarnation pay for this.

Channel the knowledge of heroic heroines slaying beastly men. Or heroes if no heroines are available but damn it we have an heirloom sword that is on fire and we are CLEARLY the good girl snaketagonist.

So I guess spend a SV if people are willing.
I wonder if our spit would cure it like it did us, kill it, or open the door?
>>[3] JUMP! And catch yourself in the wires. You can fight it there— you're more dextrous, and you'll be forcing it to fly. [Roll.]
And spit too
Rolled 2 (1d2)


Alright, let's count this up.

We're tied between jump and "do things with your neck," and we're tied between spit and no spit-- though the no-spit votes were placed before the write-in was submitted, so I'm going to weight that 2:1 in favor of spit. Rolling first for jump/no jump.
Rolled 2 (1d3)

No jump wins [1 SV]. Rolling for spit (1-2) /no spit (3).
Rolled 95, 62, 34 = 191 (3d100)

And spit wins. You're spending 2/6 of your SV, no roll.

Rolling for the Thing.

3 1d100s + 15 (+30 GOD KING, -10 Paralyzed, -5 Oh Gods Oh Fuck Oh Gods Oh Fuck) vs. DC 60 (+10 Slippery Target)

Not writing yet but I'll do so this afternoon. I'm hoping to publish one earlier than 2 AM, so if you toss me votes I might get 2-3 out. We'll see!
Rolled 5 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Mess with the snek, get bit.
Well, it's not a critfail.
You're in luck, because you didn't need to roll! Those were the modifiers for your opponent's rolls (95, 62, 34).

Writing shortly.
> You're in luck

> Beetledoor has 2 passes.
Well, you know, "luck."
>Go full snaketagonist — Autosuccess

It could be said that you have the hands of a locksmith, delicate and steady, and his love for the infinitesemal, and his rigorous sense of the order of things. These things would not be false and you'd be hard-pressed to deny them. But if you were called a locksmith, you'd bristle, and would not wholly know why. You'd explain in a circuitous manner how it's not your fault you know about keys, and it's Richard's fault, actually, and in your waking life you wouldn't know the difference between a bolt and a bitting, and you're rather sorry that you do. You would evade questions about your deftness and patience and precision. You would never mention that you've sculpted with knife and scalpel and wire for 15 years.

It could be pointed out that you have no knife or scalpel or wire, but you would scoff and gesture to your rolled-up sleeves and gesture to the table and that would be enough. Tools are necessary for the detail, but there's an ancient satisfaction in plunging your arms into a basin of clay, feeling it yield, feeling it gritty and slick in the webs of your fingers— in scooping it in clotted handfuls from the basin, and shaping it, and making something brand new. Something nobody had ever made before, not in the history of the world.

Sculpting is not on your mind when you thrust your hand into your neck and wrap your fingers around your false-spine and yank it away from the sickle that passes a hairsbreadth from your collarbone, but your false-flesh is slick and gritty in the webs of your fingers, and the spine unspooling like rope from your sacrum hits on the same satisfaction. Isn't this the good and the natural way of things? Isn't it right for your body to bow to your sacred dominion? To your rule of Law? You are half your height again in neck.

>[-1 SV: 5/6]

The Thing has taken this new footage as a gaping vulnerability and slashes at it from three different directions. It's so laughably easy to evade this that you don't bother moving your feet, and you don't look down as you unsheath the sword: you can do it by touch. You do retract the false-spine somewhat as you dart under the Thing's abdomen, if only for convenience, but you retain a solid foot of it. (You appreciate the vantage.) It is cool under here, and smells of ozone. The doorway marked out in chalk is a vivid white against the blue stomach, and you stab at it with leisure.

The sword bounces off the armored plate with a dink. You try again, with actual vigor, and it bounces off again. And again. The plate is seamless: there are no chinks to pierce through, no weak spots to puncture. You are flooded with negative emotion you don't have the capacity to name, and you strike fruitlessly over and over until the Thing, tiring of this charade, drags you out from under it with a pincher and hoists you into the air.

In another life you may have struggled or beaten away at it with the hilt of the sword. You may have taken heart in cheap stories of sea monsters and damsels and men with swords and capes and flowing golden locks (though you didn't see why it had to be a man)— but you are too close to all three, now, and stories mean nothing to you. Nor do they have meaning to the Ellery-thing and as it draws you up to its head the two of you share a predator's mutual respect.

This lasts for half a second before its mandibles snap open like a steel trap and before you suck your reserves into the hollows of your fangs, poke two holes in their enamel with your fingernail, and spit pressurized venom into its eyes then— on a second try— into open pores on its side. It rears back, screaming, and drops you.

>[-1 SV: 4/6]

Were you an ordinary snake it might take three hours for the effects to take hold— longer, with the size of it. You are neither, and within seconds the movement of the Thing begins to stutter and slow. It doesn't freeze up entirely, as you might've hoped (the venom works better on fish), but it's lethargic enough to let you show off: you hold your neck still, wait for the swing, and curve away at the last second. This happens four times before it catches on and begins to back— slowly— away.

You are profoundly ambivalent about this, caught between a sense of victory and the desire to finish it off, and this inner conflict is the first crack in the iron shell. You holler at yourself through it: THE EXIT! DON'T YOU REMEMBER?! THAT'S THE POINT! This, of course, means very little to you, but some of the idea carries, and you set off down the catwalk towards the Thing.

To your minor disappointment, it has already stopped. It looks at you, beats its wings, and looses a tooth-aching scream— and what you'd mistaken for plating on its abdomen slides open. The beetles that fly out could block out the sun, and they're all headed directly for you.

(Choices next)
>[1] Hold fast. Focus on wading through the swarm. If you can get to the hatches, focus on using them as weak places to stab. [Roll.]
>[2] As above, but focus on getting inside the hatches. Higher risk, higher reward. [Roll.]
>[3] Nevermind the hatches— your priority is survival. Burn them all. [Roll.]
>[4] Do something weirder, or cooler. [Spend SV. A roll may still be required, depending on what you do about the beetles, but SV may make it easier.]
>[5] Write-in.

Two things: took barely any of the thought process write-in, sorry! It was good and very IC, but Charlotte is very much not IC right now. And sorry about the wait, I'm slower than I thought-- still might be able to get another out if this all goes very fast, but otherwise it'll be tomorrow again.
>[2] As above, but focus on getting inside the hatches. Higher risk, higher reward. [Roll.]

Can't the key we got from Ellery help us get through the hatch?
>[3] Nevermind the hatches— your priority is survival. Burn them all. [Roll.]

I don't think it's possible to not choose a prompt that includes the words burn them all
You can try, but the hatches =/= the door (and they're already wide open, the challenge is getting there before they close).

This information can and will be used against you :^)
Are there wires nearby we can climb up to the hatches?
There's wires surrounding the entire catwalk, so yes. You could also attempt to climb its legs, or just stick your neck up there and leverage your way up.
>[3] Nevermind the hatches— your priority is survival. Burn them all. [Roll.]
Rolled 70, 52, 69 = 191 (3d100)




>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+5 On Fire!, +5 Partial Integration) vs. DC 65 (+15 Still A Lot Of Beetles) to burn the hell out of this assault.

>Spend 1 SV for a +10 to each result? [4/6 SV]
>[1] Y
>[2] N

Opponent's rolls: 3 1d100s + 28 (+30 GOD KING; +15 THE SUN, THE SUN; -10 Paralyzed; -7 Oh Gods Oh Fuck Oh Gods Oh Fuck) vs. DC 70 (+10 Highly Flammable, +10 That's A Lot Of Fire)
Rolled 100 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Well, it's not a critfail.
Rolled 13 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Yes spend, they exist to be spent

also wtf is Ellery doing with the sun buff, he lost that. God King was bad enough, those bonuses are ridiculous

exposure to fire

I'll note that you just critsucceeded, so spending is moot (can't do better than this)-- I mean, you can, but there's no reason to except flavor text.

Just need one more roll on the off chance it's a 1.
Rolled 61 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

> I mean, you can, but there's no reason to except flavor text

You say that like it isn't a good reason.

Can we unhinge our jaw and "eat" Beetlellery to save for later if we spend?
Wasn't sure how nat 100's worked, if they were 2 successes or all three.
>Natural 100 - Critsuccess
Very nice.

To elaborate on the sun buff, his side of the roll was/is for absorbing the fire.

If you were literally a giant snake at the moment, I'd say sure. Since you're not (and no, you're not turning into one), since Beetlellery is 12 feet tall and bulky, and since that's veering a little too magical realm for my liking (whether intentional or not), I'm going to say no.

No problem. At the moment (I've been considering changing this, but I'm not settled on anything), we do traditional "you automatically win/lose super hard" crits.

This all being said, I have a handful of options for the outcome of this crit, and I'd like to put it to a vote. You'll obliterate the beetles regardless.
>[A1] The On Fire! buff becomes permanent: The Sword is always on fire, can set small / flammable things on fire with no additional roll, and gains a flat +5 to actions involving it, stackable with your current +10.
>[A2] You regain your maximum ID (9 -> 12) without the need for a sidequest.
>[A3] Beetlellery/the Thing's +30 GOD KING modifier is obviated for the remainder of the fight.
>[A4] Write-in. (Subject to veto. You can't kill Beetlellery with this-- he got an Enhanced Success.)

And additionally: spending SV here won't change the outcome of the update, but it'll change how it's written (no spend = normal-ish POV, spend = full snake POV.) You're at 4/6.
>[1] Spend
>[2] Do not
That should be [B1] and [B2] for the second set of options.

everything could always use more fire
>[A1] The On Fire! buff becomes permanent: The Sword is always on fire, can set small / flammable things on fire with no additional roll, and gains a flat +5 to actions involving it, stackable with your current +10.
9ID is still pretty good and knocking off Beetlerrey's modifier only effects this fight.
Need a [B] option.

>You say that like it isn't a good reason.
When I write options and set modifiers/DCs, I go at it assuming voters want to optimize the result (narratively, mechanically). It's hard to internalize that people might be just wanting to see what I write, or the character/story implications... it's very flattering, though.
If this was an easier fight I might have gone B1 for flavor text but it looks like the big leagues.
>>[2] Do not
> that's veering a little too magical realm for my liking (whether intentional or not)

Bruh. Just, no. I was just thinking what things snakes do and that we could use a beetle minion made from Ellery.
>[A3] Beetlellery/the Thing's +30 GOD KING modifier is obviated for the remainder of the fight.

No gods, no masters above us. If only we could keep the sword when we leave it would be an easy pick, but I think this is best.

>[A1] The On Fire! buff becomes permanent: The Sword is always on fire, can set small / flammable things on fire with no additional roll, and gains a flat +5 to actions involving it, stackable with your current +10.

I'm SURE this won't affect us in ways unintended since the sword is made from like, our ID.

[A1] / [B2] takes it. Appreciate the prompt votes.

No worries!

I expected the reasoning to be along those lines, yeah, but on the face of it "vore your opponent to turn them into your personal minion" is some crazy Akun stuff, lmao. No harm in the suggestion, and absolutely no bad feelings, but even minus that aspect it's still above your power scale at the moment. (Maybe someday?)


If it helps, you'll have The Sword every time you return to unreality-- and if you ever find the physical version, the buff will apply to it as well.

I've got some RL stuff to take care of, but update will be out tonight (sometime).
I just wanted to see if the Ellery Beetle would chang if we brought him to another level.
This would be complicated, since opening the door requires cutting into the Thing's abdomen and, theoretically, killing it-- but if you have spare SV/ID after you accomplish that, and you still want to, I'll let you drag it inside itself. How about that?
I feel . . . YES about it.

I mean I was gonna just suggest decapitation and hoping the head could talk.
File: THE SUN! THE SUN!.jpg (330 KB, 1024x1024)
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330 KB JPG
>Fire solves everything redux
>NAT 100
>Fire also solves everything: 98, 80, 97 vs. DC 65 — Enhanced Success

The ideas in your head are rigid and colorless and all seem to involve throwing off this useless human skin or at least performing extensive alterations to make it usable, but your clarity of purpose is tainted by the whining. "PLEASE STOP!" and "NO!" and "WHAT ARE YOU DOING!" and "OH MY GOD!", all dribbling forth from that single crack, all sapping at your patience— though the last of those does make you laugh. The children-gods have eight fangs in their weeping hearts and there is nothing in the sky but air. The thing you're facing now is only a man and a sad and shattered man at that. Charlotte, you are the only God there is. Shouldn't that make you feel better?

>[+1 ID: 3/(9)]

But the shrill petulance worms into you more than you'd like to admit, so you settle for one of its many proposals: "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD SET IT ON FIRE!!" Fire does not come naturally to you— you are damp and cold and a little slimy and more importantly entirely passionless— but you know who could help, and so as the first beetles begin to knock against your body you punch your metaphor-hand through your ribcage and rip out your metaphor-heart and swallow it whole. It makes your throat bulge comically which you'd never normally mind but you've now granted yourself 'horror' and 'shame' and so you gulp it down as fast as possible and let it split open in your stomach acid like a ripened fruit. You know then the proper way to feel, so as the first beetles begin to knock against your body (it has been no time) you explode.

Here it is again, slowed down: the flames on the sword flared, first at the tip of the blade then in a sinuous wave all the way to your hand, and up it. They wreathed your arm and your shoulder and engulfed your chest and legs and limned your face in orange gold. You opened your mouth and they took it as an invitation and lept down it, filling your lungs and throat, filling all the hollow spaces in your bones— and there was no more room, and they filled anyway, sucking greedily at the false-life within you. And you could take no more, and you exploded.

It came as a great corona of flame, a lashing, hissing sun-flare, and it turned the beetles to vapor and ash. Practically thinking, you should've been heaped among them on the grates, or in plasticized stripes against the melted guardrail, but you stand here fresh-faced, bright-eyed, and good as new. (Well… just new. But don't tell yourself that.) You're still on fire, which is fine: it's warm and not at all painful. The Sword is raging, it's like you lit a bonfire on it— you sense this is the sort of flame that won't come out. Best of all, you feel yourself again.

>[GAINED: Permanent 'On Fire!'!]

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Well, that's an exaggeration: the metaphor-body still clamps onto you unshakably. But you have a little more room to breathe within it, or enough of you has leaked out of it, or something along those lines. A clenching sensation in your head warns you this may not last, but you are determined to make the most of it, and so you march over to the Thing's scorched corpse with a spring in your step.

It is a scorched corpse, right? It has to be. You evaporated the beetles, you left every wire within a good thirty feet oozing and sparking, you melted the catwalk— there's no way this thing is structurally sound, but you'll let that go. It certainly looks like a scorched corpse, and that impression doesn't change as you draw close: it is blackened and unmoving, wedged between warped guardrails. A bundle of wire has fused to its shell. Its wings are gone. Its eyes are dark. You grin, and then frown at the logistics— will you have to get under it? If you cut through the top and sliced out the chalk doorway backwards, would that work? Is the chalk still there? If it's not still there, does that mean the—

You have already grown used to the flickering heat of The Sword and the flames on your body, so it takes you a full moment to notice that the air is independently heating up. The transition from "sunny day" to "face-first in a hydrothermal vent" is just gradual enough to let you retreat to a safe distance: as you watch, the corpse slides open like a coffin, and there is light inside. Nothing but light, you think at first: white, stabbing, brilliant. (The thoughtform shields you from the pain.) He's ascending to the beetle afterlife, you think, and then you think that must be something nobody's ever thought before.

There's no time to explore this notion further, because as your eyes start to adapt you realize you were wrong. There is a definite form to the light, and a motion— it is crawling out unsteadily. It is obviously young, and you feel sorry that you'll have to kill it. (It might be the most sorry you've ever felt towards Ellery.) The more you look at it, the more detail you make out: the new Thing is something like a beetle, and something like a centipede, and something like how you imagine a horse to look. It is gold and blue and red and green and white, and the light comes not from its entire being, as you thought, but from its throat: there is a sphere there the width of an arm, and you think it must've concentrated your fire within it, but first you think it must be a sun. This Thing is smaller than its progenitor: nine feet, maybe, not twelve.

You think it might be innocent. You think it might be trusting. You think you might be able to negotiate a truce, then slice it open when it gets too close. You think incorrectly. You take one step towards it and it screams: just as inhuman, but higher, smoother. The scream wants you to come closer. You take another step. The scream wants you to kneel. You kn-


(Choices next.)
>[1] If it wants you to get closer, you're not taking another step. Stay as far as you can and attack it from range. (How? Write-in.) [Roll.]
>[2] You are not taking commands from ELLERY. Or a BEETLE-THING. Imagine! Attempt to turn its audacity back on itself— force *it* to kneel. Then… (If it works, what will you do? Write-in.) [Roll.]
>[3] Well… perhaps this can be a form of truce. Play along with its commands, lull it into security, wait for a window of opportunity, then… (If this works, what will you do? Write-in.) [Roll.]
>[4] Do something cooler. Or weirder. (Spend SV. Write-in.)
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] You are not taking commands from ELLERY. Or a BEETLE-THING. Imagine! Attempt to turn its audacity back on itself— force *it* to kneel. Then… (If it works, what will you do? Write-in.) [Roll.]

It's a sun-Beetle? We are a Sun-Snake with a sword of flame and wings of plasma. This beetle is a hollow thing of echoes, not just from Ellery even its flame was clearly inspired by us.

We aren't just a real person projecting into this place, we're REAL wherever we are. We're real nobility, minor as it may be, we're a real Queen (crown is lost but out there somewhere and definitely ours), and also importantly we still have a real sword. You can't swear in loyal retainers without a sword.

Most importantly, and everyone will tell the beetle this, and if there's any bit of Ellery left in there, we are a *real stubborn bitch*.

So it might as well givw up now because otherwise it WILL go down.

Because we are gracious, we will promise to not use it as a mount if it surrenders but instead let it come along with us on adventure and glory and fuck, maybe even bring it outside.

Fucking people being shit and trying to kick us out of our home, we'll sic our burning beetle baby on them.
Spend SV to overwhelm beetle with our snake predator stare, as well. It knows deep down who is the predator.

snek > beetle
we are god queen cobra

demand it lead us to level 3 I guess?

still can't believe we just gave Ellery back his sun
we need to up our fire game to kugelblitz tier so he can't absorb it
> and if there's any bit of Ellery left in there it already knows

Fuck. Typing it up on break at work.

Come on beetle Ellery. You know this fight ain't worth the grief we'll give you.
Let's see...

>We are a Sun-Snake with a sword of flame and wings of plasma.
If you want this to be remotely literal (minus the sword) it'll take spending-- probably 3 SV. It doesn't have to be, just letting you know.

>Spend SV to overwhelm beetle with our snake predator stare, as well.
I won't let you autosucceed here, since it's a direct contest, but I'll let you spend up to 3 SV for a +10 to the roll per SV. If you spend 3 I'll give you a BOGO sale and lump in the above (if you want it).

>demand it lead us to level 3 I guess?
If the hatchening didn't change anything, level 3 is still entered via cutting open a door shape in its abdomen. You could ask it to do that for you, but it'd be a tough sell (for obvious reasons, hopefully).
He kept the door on him through the molting? Did he at least lose the armor?
It's hard for you to tell either of these things without getting closer: it's genuinely too bright to look at for too long. That being said, you strongly expect the door to still be there (and you know how strong expectations work...), and it does seem to be less armored. More of a glass cannon now.
2, use the key on its tummy. Or transfer the door to something else. Maybe a reflection, like water?
Rolled 94, 26, 85 = 205 (3d100)

Alright. Let's look at this.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 20 (+10 ROYALTY, +5 Seething Contempt, +5 Partial Integration) vs. DC 70 (+20 Opponent's Bonus)

>Spend SV to boost your roll? You are at 4/6 SV.
>[1] Spend 1 SV -- +10
>[2] Spend 2 SV -- +20
>[3] Spend 3 SV -- +30 expenditure of this magnitude may have other impacts
>[4] Do not

Opponent's roll: 3 1d100s + 20 (+45 SUN KING, -15 Oh Gods! Oh Fuck! Oh Gods! Oh Fuck!, -10 Paralyzed) vs. DC 70 (+20 Opponent's Bonus)

If both sides succeed, the highest raw roll will be used to determine who wins out.
Sorry, typo'd-- meant modified roll, not raw roll. SV modifiers will count towards the tiebreak.
Rolled 11 + 20 (1d100 + 20)


Rolled 58 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

>[1] Spend 1 SV -- +10
Rolled 95 + 30 (1d100 + 30)


>41, 88, 125 vs. DC 70 -- Success
>You win the tiebreak [114 vs 125]
Nice. Writing.
Bullying Ellery is our calling in life, no matter what his shape or form.
Sorry guys the OP of this thread isn't me, it's an impersonator, and I'm actually rangeb--

Just kidding. Stared at the screen a lot last night, didn't get enough done to post. I'll have it out today and another tonight if all goes well. Keep an eye out.

Fucking Wuxian.
>Turnabout is fair play
>41, 88, 125 vs. DC 70 -- Success

You are locked away inside a simulacrum of something older and more dangerous and even less human than you expected. This is not why you resist the Thing's command. You would resist it at any place in your life, at any level of strength, because the idea is anathema. You'd sooner die than kneel, to anybody— but you'd sooner smash your skull in with a claw hammer and dribble brains from your ears than kneel to Ellery, whom you— well, it's not that you hate him, exactly. (Though he is deeply irritating.) It's that he's less than you, blatantly, stupendously less— and he won't apologize for it. He won't even admit it. The nerve! To swan around like he's worth a thing in the world, to laugh the meaning out of matters, to not die when he's killed, to not change when he's changed! The nerve! To not be what he is! To delude the masses into tolerating him— liking him— loving him! It's incomprehensible to you, it's awful, and now he has the gall to- to stand in front of you, sheathed in delusion, guised as something deeply heathen, and ask you to kneel? To ask you? To kneel?

You could smash his skull in with a claw hammer, honestly. If only you had one. You'll have to settle for-or-r-r-r

The gall. To ask you to kneel. You, who carries the world on your back. You, who brings form and structure to the wild blackness. If not for you, this spiteful little creature would be nothing. Pulp. You should kneel? It should make obeisance before you, it should surrender its ill-gotten—

-I-i-ii-i it needs to open that stupid door so you can get out of this stupid place and get out of your own head and get some stupid sleep and face the next stupid day and pick up the pieces of your real life. Of your life. This is your real life no matter how many times you're told otherwise and you are real. You are Real. You have value. You are a real heiress and you will be a real queen and you have a sword which- it is not Real but it is real to you and that's what-t

And that's what matters to you and what matters to you is all that matters. What matters to you is all that's REAL and what doesn't matter will peel away. Like this thing. This glow-worm. You fix your eyes on it and you take a step backwards.

It screams, more infectiously than the first: it tries to slip under your will, rather than bash through it. There's no words in it but it carries a clear message. "Don't you miss the sun?" And again. "Don't you miss true heat, and true light?" "Wouldn't you like to bask?" "Aren't we on the same footing, pretty snake?" "Oh gods! Oh gods! Oh gods! Oh gods I'm—"

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And perhaps any of those would've held meaning to you, but you are not of light or of the sun or even of fire, despite the circumstances. You are of the damp and the cool quiet underground places, and of the treasures there, shining and unfathomably real, and you only see for convenience. You brush the scream off smugly, tilt your neck, and open your eyes wide, wide, wider, until they are black pits, and there's not a sliver of yellow—

>[-1 SV: 3/6]

"COME," you say, but in nothing so petty as words: you reach and weave it into the fabric of the smoking air around you. The glow-worm flares so furiously that all is white, but your eyes eat the light, and you are implacable. "COME. You little bitch."

You've been alternating between grabbing for control and getting your hand slapped away, but you have it back and you're clinging on until you can get this out. Your pupils feel weird. "I heard you, dumbass. Wow! Welcome back! Do you still want to kill me?"

The Thing is straining and snapping its mouths.

"I guess you're still mostly beetle, so I— whatever. Wish you'd put some effort in. God. You know I won't stop, right? I'm just going to keep on going, and at the end of this you're going to die. Or whatever happens to you. So why don't we speed this up?"

It takes a single stumbling step towards you. The air heats a fraction of a degree.

"Good! Good job! Keep at it."


"That's right."


"Alright!" You're feeling rather cheerful, though you're beginning to swelter. "This was easy, wasn't it? Just a little more…"

In the end it stands 10 feet before you. The smile slides then from your face. "KNEEL."

It can't really kneel. It doesn't really have knees. But it stoops.

"Well, then." You sheathe your sword. "Let's look at you."

To your delight, the chalk markings are still on its abdomen. Better, the armor is lessened— it'll be an ordeal, but you should be able to cut through. You just have to make sure it holds still instead of spewing molten beetle blood all over you, or whatever. Easy. Probably.

[Pick an [A] OR a [B]]
>[A] Cut into it to open the door.
>>[1] Keep it still and alive as you do. [1 SV]
>>[2] Kill it first to make it easier. Sword to the head. [Roll.]
>>[3] Cut it all the way open, not just the door. Who knows what's inside? [Roll.]

>[B] Attempt to open the door some other way. [Write-in.]

[Pick any C]
>[C1] If you get the door open, attempt to drag it/its head/its corpse in with you. Somehow. [1 SV]
>[C2] Fish up BK, finally, and take him with you. [Roll to get this done before anything explodes.]
>[C3] Claim some part of the Thing as a trophy. (Write-in. Roll if it's alive or the trophy is volatile.)

[Pick one]
>[D1] Free yourself once and for all. (Lose all remaining SV.)
>[D2] Don't. (Keep any remaining SV. You run the risk of freaking out anybody in the 3rd layer.)

>[E] Write-in.

Ledgermain up some chalk and redraw the door so it's open. Worth a shot right?



We probably look like a snake version of beetle Ellery right now and that will get us ganked on sight.

>"Wouldn't you like to bask?" "Aren't we on the same footing, pretty snake?"
wow beetle ellery called us pretty, how flattering

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Partially Integrated) vs. DC 65 (+25 Left Alone, -10 Paralyzed) to fish out BK and have nothing go wrong.
Rolled 51 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

If possible, since we're dropping the form after this, can we boost with our remaining 3 SV? Assuming emptying the pool has no ill effects.
Oh, shoot, my mistake-- I thought that post looked kind of short. Yeah, you can boost up to 3, though note how much you want to freak out BK.
Rolled 41 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 24 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Also, 1 SV.
>66, 56, 39 vs. DC 65 -- Mitigated Success
I'm assuming you spend at least 1 SV here, per >>4428485.

I won't be writing for another little bit, so
>If you'd like to spend more than 1 SV [up to 3], you may vote to do so now. (I screwed it up.)

The more you spend, the weirder you'll seem to BK. If nobody votes, we'll roll with the Mitigated Success.
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>Chalk art
>Okay, maybe you should get BK
>66, 56, 39 vs. DC 65 -- Mitigated Success you'll get the mitigated later

You draw your sword once more and picture cutting through the chitin. Sawing through it, really— it's not that thin. You picture the smell of burning beetle flesh and the horrible screaming. Involuntarily, you picture sawing through Ellery's breastbone, and his accusing eyes, and the blood, red like water.

It's true that you consigned him to death about a week ago. It's true that you hate the idea of him. It's true that he's some kind of immortal mutant freak and he'll probably be just fine. It's true that he's not even the real immortal mutant freak. He may not even feel it. He may not even bleed. He may not even be conscious, or he may be buried so deep under mounds of beetle it won't register. He probably won't remember a thing. He certainly can't blame you. He stabbed you! In the heart!

But that image won't dislodge itself no matter how hard you try to curl up away from it, and in the end you have to admit defeat. You scratch the head of the snake, who has coiled around your neck, and sniff. "Guess what. I'm not killing you."

The Thing clicks balefully.

"I expect thanks for this when you're back to normal. Got it? I want thanks, I want— I want a card. And I want it spelled correctly. That's the criteria here. Okay? That's the-" You're becoming acutely aware that it'll never speak back. "Uh, yeah. So I'll just… I'll just figure something else out."

You sit down onto an olive-green settee (wedged sideways into the melted ruins of the catwalk) and rest your chin on your hands. "If you have any ideas, I'll take them."

It doesn't seem to have any ideas. Neither do you, but when you adjust your chin a stick of white chalk rolls from your hands, through the catwalk, and into the wires below. "Oh," you say. You open your hand. More sticks of chalk are inside. "Okay."

You seem to think you should draw a door, so that's what you attempt. The catwalk is too uneven, the settee too soft. The curvature of the Thing's underbelly muddles your attempts to match the dimensions. Your arm keeps shaking from adrenaline you didn't know you had. The thoughtform keeps trying to encroach back over you, and you're forced to devote your attention to fighting it off, not to mention shooting the Thing the evil eye whenever it twitches. It's a disaster.

Finally, you give up: you just let it envelop you, and then you laugh grimly at your thickheadedness and in three straight strokes draw a door in midair. It fills itself in like pooling oil, and then it is wooden and ordinary, like it thinks it's in a wall. You open it and inside are stairs. You pull Ellery's key from your ear and consider it and put it back. You are going down.

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But- BK. God-damnit. You have to get BK or he'll complain that you left him to die, ruining the reputation you've cultivated. God-damnit. Well, there's nothing for it. You shut the door again, turn away, and pick your way over the settee and over the massive missing patch of catwalk and over to the still-intact wires well behind you.

Where's Gil? He's vanished. Maybe you burnt him to death. Well, whatever— you'll just have to do it yourself. You'll just have to fish up a couple hundred wires yourself before you find the right one. Wonderful.

Well, okay, you won't have to. You could just taste iron on your tongue and feel your lungs contract and then it's obvious, it's so obvious, how they hang with tension, bearing a hundred sixty pounds between them, and it's even more obvious how to haul them up, you just grab and you pull, and—

>[-1 SV: 2/6]

The bundle comes now, and you don't want to melt the wires to his skin, so you draw a tortoiseshell knife and slice through them. BK is inside, though he's as changed as you were: bulkier, with metal studs rifting through his arms and legs as well as his back, and the ones on his back longer and sharper than they were. His lips are drawn back from his gums, and he has real teeth, not dentures: they are slightly jagged, like they belonged to a well-mannered shark. His eyes are closed but snap open when you push the last of the wires off his face. They are brown. They were probably always brown, but you'd never paid attention.

He stares at you soundlessly for long enough to make it clear something's wrong. What could be wrong? Is it your teeth? That's not your fault, that's Richard's, for letting himself be absorbed—

BK moves his hand to his neck and gestures. You don't understand, but you feel your own neck out of courtesy, and then you realize you have four times as much neck as you should, and that you could have more, that it would take no effort to stretch your neck out forever, because time and distance and plausibility to you are moderate inconveniences, and then stomach acid rises in your throat and you double over and retch. When you straighten you're the right height and you can breathe freely and deeply.

>[SV: 0/0]
>[ID: 3/(9)]

"Um," BK says. His voice is still softer than his face and you're again surprised. "Shit, you didn't have to- I mean, that was- oof." He's propping himself up on one elbow. "That was wicked."

That was evil and sinful? God, maybe it- it was? Just what did you lose yourself to? Are you permanently tainted with-

"Cool," he clarifies, upon seeing your face. "Uh, that- shit, was that your Beast?"

"My what?" you say.

He blinks. "Your, uh, Dread and Terrible—"

"Oh! Oh, uh— uh, yes. That was its, uh— malign and, yes, wicked influence, weaving dark magickal spells over mine, uh-"

He's not listening. He's shielding his eyes and squinting past you. "What the fuck is that?"

"Uh, well, of course, that's—"

"And shit, where's Ellery? Is the guy just beetles? If he's lost the fucking key, I'm going to—"

"Um, well…" You see the immediate future: you tell him about Ellery and/or the key, he insists on rescuing Ellery, he insists on using the key, going back to the meeting, ruining your plans… "Hey, you know what? This is not structurally sound. How about we duck through that door right there and talk things out, 'kay? Just to make it easy, just so we don't fall a hundred feet…"

You grab his arm, hoist him up (he is, like you and Ellery, strangely light), and frogmarch him over to the door. Though his faculties seem intact and he's in good spirits, he's still very much dazed, and you have little trouble pushing him through ahead of you and slamming the door shut behind. It is richly dark inside, so you pull out your lighter.

BK's eyebrows are furrowed. "Thirdsday, this is— this is the interim, this is—"

"Yeah? Where'd you expect the floating door to go?" You raise your hands. "It's safer than out there, isn't it? Especially with—"

"It's not fucking safer, and you wouldn't believe the amount of doors I've— do you know what's down there?"

Some of you does. "Uh, it's weird, but—"

"Weird how a politician is dishonest, sure. A fucking understatement. You know how many times I've been down there? Once. You know how long I've been doing this? Too fucking long. That's me. You're a fucking greenhorn. There's nothing down there that's worthwhile, and you can take that on—"

"I never said I was going down there," you say pompously. "Stress is bad for the heart, isn't it? Why don't we just sit down, uh, calm down, talk this over, and see what to do about the key, alright? That's all."

>Tell BK about (pick multiple if desired):
>[A1] Finding the key
>[A2] Ellery going… a little crazy (not your fault at all)
>[A3] Ellery turning into that thing outside (also not your fault at all)
>[A4] Just recount the whole thing.
>[A5] Nothing.

>Ask BK about:
>[B] Write-in (optional)

>Get downstairs…
>[C1] Tell BK that you are going down there, period, and he can't stop you, and he can come if he wants or rot outside.
>[C2] Explain to BK that you just obliterated the catwalk, etc., so you will be just fine.
>[C3] Just start walking.

>[D] Write-in.
>[A1] Finding the key

Yeah uuh Ellery might have lost it, down there. Things were getting crazy but I think he said something like that?


How Gil nabbed him and why he has shark teeth now. Also what the minimum level of experience one should have to go down to level 3, so we can safely conclude it would take too long to get that experience and just go down now.


Yeah man we gotta go down to get the key. I don't want to, but we gotta. Yeah.

If my ten billion IQ plan with A1 and C4 doesn't work I'd like to fall back upon C2.
Supporting. High IQ plays will always work.
Called. I'd ask for a roll here, but you're a better liar than normal, so you get it for free. Nice write-in.

I am going to be occupied with a TTRPG all afternoon and potentially into the evening, so it's strongly possible I won't have enough time to complete this update. If I have enough to post, I'll post what I have done-- otherwise I'll try to get it out tomorrow. Unfortunately, tomorrow's my birthday, so it's possible I won't have time then, either. Absolute worst case I post on September 1st, which coincidentally is Drowned Quest Redux's one-year anniversary! I have a couple things prepared for it, so keep an eye out.

If I don't update today, hope you guys all have a great rest of your day.
>ahahaha yeah about the key…
>weird teeth, man

BK rubs his eye. "I… whatever. 5 minutes won't kill us, I guess."

Triumphantly, you sit down. He follows, curling one leg against his chest, the other flat on the ground. You tilt your head. "So…"


"What's the deal with your teeth?"

He taps along them thoughtfully. "Hey, I could ask the same of you. Nice fangs. They come natural, or they Dread and Terrible? If it's the second, then damn, I need to get myself a—"

You snap your mouth shut. "Fangs? I don't… you must be… don't dodge my question, okay? What's the deal?"

"I'm not dodging it, I'm just not totally sure." He shrugs. "Theory's not my thing, you'd have to ask Mav or Ellery for the specifics… I think they call it downshifting? Something about how, uh, the deeper you get, the more your COS bleeds into your active… uh…" He rubs his chin. "Fuck, okay. Deeper you get, weirder everything gets, including teeth. Yours, mine… the important part is that they're fucking badass, right? Go ahead, tell me they're not badass."

You're not about to use that word, but they are striking, you have to admit. "I suppose I can't."

"Hey!" He slaps the ground good-naturedly. "How about that! Yeah, I hate the shit out of everything else down here, but the modding potential is through the roof. Something about the atmosphere you just can't replicate at home. How did you do the neck? Talk about showing off—"

"What happened with you and Gil?"

He pauses. "Now who's dodging the question?"

You stare at your hands.

"…Alright, hon. What do you mean, me and Gil? Yelled at him for a little bit, Ellery exploded, I think you saw the rest? Is there something I—"

You stare up at him. "He cocooned you?"

"He— oh, shit! That's him? Shit, I didn't—" BK buries his face in his hands. "Figures he's an ugly fucker. Ugly inside, ugly outside, that's a good rule of— yeah, no, he got me. I follow your footprints, get to this room, look up, and next thing I know there's this runty little shit spewing wires outta his mouth— didn't even have time to react."

"He doesn't have a mouth."

"Well, he did. Don't know what to tell you." BK sighs. "Then— I don't know. It wasn't that bad, all things considered. I just dozed off. Don't know what the point was, if he was wrapping me up to suck my juices out, or…"

Eugh. You grimace. "Good thing I came along, right?"

"Oh, yeah, no shit. You're a star. You got the key, didn't you?"

Okay, Charlotte, deep breath. You can't tell him. You have to lie. Just be... smooth. Convincing. "What's that maxim? Nothing can be easy?"

"You didn't?"

"Oh, believe me, I tried." You gesture to your soot-covered face. "He made a beeline for the third level. You thought I wanted to go down there for fun?"

BK glances over his shoulder, down the stairs. "You didn't inspire a lot of—"

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"Well, I just cut you out of some gross cocoon— how was I supposed to know how you'd react? You could've been delirious, you could've been turning into beetles… I couldn't risk it. I mean, even if you were normal, I don't know, what if you were pissed? I had to ease you into it."

"…" He rubs his mouth. "Fuck."

"I know it's bad, but I figured that if we went together, it wouldn't be so…"

"I'm not mad at you. It's my fucking fault for letting you go alone." He hits the floor, once, and stands. "Do you know anything about the third level?"

It was that easy? All along, you could just lie like that? No wonder Richard gets mad. You run your tongue along your gums. You know next to nothing about the third level, but your gut tells you that'll change very soon, and you don't want to make him wonder. "Uh, yeah, I've done some… independent reading."

"Reading won't sum it up, but— I guess there's plenty of time down there. It's another magnitude slower. I guess we…" BK stands, slowly, and shakes his head. "Hon, I'm too old for this."

You wrinkle your forehead. "Are you not—?"

"Oh, no, I'm going. But I'm too old for this. Mind taking my hand?"

It's quite one thing to take Richard's hand— he's unfortunately your father, and looks the right age for it, besides. And you've known him. It's quite another to take BK's— he's neither young enough nor old enough, a confirmed criminal— and, almost certainly, a bachelor. What happened to standards? To decorum? To class?

BK coughs. "Please. So we don't get separated."

You side-eye him, side-eye the stairs, and slip a pair of white gloves out of your pockets. You slide them on. "Since I must."

BK's hand, to your great relief, doesn't prompt the confusing upswell of emotion that Richard's did. It is only a hand— large, warm. And you're not technically touching it, so no codes of honor are being violated. "Okay," he says. "Close your eyes. When we start, I'm going to count to 88. When I'm done, you can open your eyes, and we'll be at the bottom. Deal?"

This is deeply suspicious to you. "What? Why 88?"

"That's the number of steps we're going to take."

You break from his hand, walk over to the staircase, and peer down it. "There's got to be thousands of—"

"There's 88. Work with me."

His eyes are pleading. You fold your arms. "I'm right, you know."


"Fine, 88. Whatever." You're not invested enough to argue, and truthfully you'd like him to be correct. Your legs are tired enough.

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You allow BK to take your hand again, reluctantly close your eyes, and set off down the stairs. You take 88 steps, and you know this becaue BK counted each out loud. Never mind the jerking feeling you got each time, as if— say— the ground were contracting suddenly under your feet. Never mind the odd pulsing in your ankles. On the 44th step, the long-neglected snake vanishes from its hiding spot around your waist. You do not mourn it. It was vestigial. You take 88 steps in all, and it takes you two minutes.

"-88," BK says. "Okay, here we are. You can open your eyes."

You do. You are before another door. BK has released your hand (thank God!) and is reaching to his back. He grasps one of the metal spikes lodged there and pulls it out, as well as a considerable amount of rope— it coils out of him and twice around his feet, and you still can't see the end. Stooping, BK places the spike perpendicular to the ground and hammers it in with the heel of his shoe.

"Uh," you say.

"There'll be a drop, and we'll want to get back up here, I'd hope." Maybe he senses this doesn't answer the real question: he grins. "You're not so special."


BK leans his ear against the door, sighs, and stretches his shoulders. "Well, there's nothing for it. Head in as soon as I land, gotcha? Use the rope if it makes you comfortable, but you won't hurt yourself."

"Sure." You're still staring at the rope.

"Wish me luck." He doesn't wait— he opens the door, backs up, and hurtles through at a run.

When the rope goes taut, you follow. Any uncertainty that existed in you before you crossed the threshold vanishes the moment you do. Well. That statement is true, but not correct. What happened was this: at the moment you cross the threshold, any part of you that could've been uncertain died.

You land on your feet. You are different than three seconds ago, as you knew you would be. The magnitude of the change doesn't bother you. You're aware it's temporary. You're aware that, away from the crushing pressure of the layers of the mind, you will separate into two embarrassed, coughing halves and mutually agree to never speak of this again. That will be then. This is now, and you will go by Charlotte Fawkins out of convenience and habit, but by freak ill fortune you're only half her. The rest doesn't have a name.

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You stand on the red grass and examine your second downshift, also out of habit. You're still broadly human (it takes the waters of the subconscious to erase that), but no human in that tyrant reality has ever had roses grow from cracks in their skin. None have skin like this, smooth and hairless and polished, a hairsbreadth from marble were it not for the give. Your ordinary teeth have shrunken to nubs, leaving only the fangs. This might make speaking difficult, but—


—BK didn't quite use his mouth, either. It takes almost an active effort to do so this deep: words just prefer to flow unheeded. "Thirdsday. Focus. Look at me."

You look up at him, and he is different. He is taller and broader again, as he was when drugged, but he's hunched semi-bestially under the weight of the quivering two-foot spikes that crest his shoulders and back. His face is sharper, or maybe it's just the teeth, but his eyes are the same and so is his voice. "It's okay, hon. Everything's the same. We'll be out soon. Just—"

It seems indelicate to tell him you're less frightened than he is. You feign reassurance. "T-thanks."

"Oh, gods, of course, I'd hate to— I've been told it helps if you shut your eyes and just go about things by feel, it's the visual noise that's the worst of the mindfuck— everything's fundamentally the same— though, fucking hell, this is a lot of beetles."

And a politician is dishonest. Except for the tiny grassy islet you stand upon, plus everything on it (some grass, you, BK, a shockingly pink tent, a partially-carved man-sized block of wood), everything is beetles. You are in the midst of a teeming, rolling, featureless sea of them, and above you arches a thick net of them, squirming and blinking, the sky and the stars within. The air is surely infinitesimal beetles knocking into one another, but you don't care to look that close. "Yes," you say dryly.

"I'm going to be honest, I don't know where to start." BK holds his forehead. "I guess we better exhaust our possibilities. There's a tent right here…"

You offer to open the tent flap, as you're less outwardly intimidating. BK doesn't complain: he seems bashful about his present state. You suppose he has limits.

The tent is tied shut but that's swiftly remedied by the application of a knife. You poke your head in. It is larger than without, containing what looks to be the interior of a small, ratty house. It smells suffocatingly of incense. There are a concerning number of pillows. A radio gabbles nonsense on a bureau.

Ellery rises indignantly from the kitchen table. It doesn't much resemble Ellery, being a shifting collage of shapes and limbs and veins, only vaguely humanoid— but it carries such an unmistakable sense of him (and smell of ozone) that you'd be prepared to swear it on oath. Your instincts are confirmed when his voice comes from the radio. "What the fuck? What are you guys doing here?"

>[1] Write-in.
>"Looking for you. What are you doing here?"

Also we're looking for that 1/16th of Law which should be pretty close since there's nothing else but beetles.
Also I almost forgot but happy birthday
Yes happy birthday QM.
Thank you!

Called and writing.
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Update tomorrow (later today, technically). You know, "writing." It was my birthday. You know how it goes.

But now it's past midnight, which makes it officially September 1st-- ie, Drowned Quest Redux's first anniversary! Thread 1 was posted September 1st, 2019. I'm thrilled beyond measure to have made it this far, and to tell the truth there were shitty times over the last year where I thought I wouldn't-- but here we are, and I hope to carry on for as long as it takes.

I know I say this a lot, but I love you guys and I couldn't do it without you. Not only do your votes literally keep the quest running, but it's your comments, theories, discussions, and write-ins that keep me so attached to this medium. It surprises me and flatters me every day that people have latched onto this weird, niche quest, and I'm happy to host such a nice community.

Whether you've been reading since the original or you popped in at random yesterday, thank you.
I do have a couple things in celebration of the occasion:

1) Art of the current major* cast** of Redux.
*"But Bathic! Half these people showed up once but never again!" If they're in this image, they'll probably come back at some point.
**People in order: "Lucky" Duncan, Eloise, Monty, Richard, Charlotte, Madrigal, C.M.S. Garvin, Ellery, Ellery, BK, Anthea, Gil [beetled], Charlotte, Richard [snake], Lester, Pat, Branwen

2) ...More art. To be specific, 200-300 pencil sketches I've done over approximately the last 5 months. To temper expectations, they're deeply unpolished and consist largely of identical-looking 3/4ths busts, but there's some other stuff in there too. They are grouped by character and sorted by their approximate time of creation (I stacked the papers in chronological order, but didn't date them, so these are my best guesses). https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1eVbvuqY6BF7Lk0xcXGLHtoFP4OwXtZ14?usp=sharing

"Why do these exist?" I do it for fun, as well as to generate quest ideas. Doodling usually breaks writer's block for me.

And that's all! As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, let me know. I'll be back tomorrow.
This should have been the new banner. Except for Ellery getting to show up twice, that privilege should be reserved for current main characters only.
Not a player but have to say your art’s pretty good!

Love the memes too!
>This should have been the new banner.
>Ellery getting to show up twice
There's a method to my madness, anon!

Thanks, bud! Love it if you'd stick around, the more the merrier ;^)

Gonna read in my spare time. Which I have none. Lol.
Looks like a fun adventure, so definitely adding it to my to-read list.

Also want to extend my thanks for being one of the only brave anons to go into the mod-chat. Thanks to you, the mods were able to wake up to the shitstorm that was slowly killing the board.
Ha, fair enough. If you don't have time right now to backread, I do have an image that covers the need-to-know basics of the quest (>>4417993)-- and I'm certainly here to answer questions. If you'd prefer to get the whole story, though, I'll be happy to have you whenever you're able to catch up :)

Ah, you're welcome! I got unceremoniously kicked, so I can't take much credit there-- Rafael over at Girls un Panzer Quest was the one to talk directly to the mod. I'm happy to have contributed whatever I did, though.
Happy anniversary!
Happy anniversary! Glad to see you going strong. Haven't caught up in awhile but definitely will now that I've got some downtime. You've got a great artstyle, thanks for sharing all the cool work!
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>Didn't we have this exact conversation before

"Looking for you," you say patiently.

"No shit." He kicks his chair back, and as he does he solidifies into a shape much closer to what you're used to. If you try, you can make out a face. "Let me rephrase that. Why? Could you not just—"

"You're the third one." You nod to his eyes: bright white. "Is it hard being fractured like this?"

You think you see in him surprise, and then he sags and sits back down. "You already—"


"I already—"



BK pokes his head in behind you. "What the fuck are you on about? Hey, man, nice place."

"Thanks!" Ellery says too eagerly. "Used to just be a tent, but I've made some upgrades over the years. Cool spikes."

"You think so?"

"Yeah, I—"

"What I'm on about," you smoothly interject, "is that, since he's so special, Mr. VP here gets mirrored down between layers— infinitely, one would imagine. This isn't the one you were talking to upstairs. He's been here for how long… ten, ten again… two days?"

"Just go and lay it all out," Ellery mutters.

"Were you going to?" You try to smile, but your mouth hinges open too wide, and you quickly shut it. "I hardly see the issue— it's not major, not like the immortality. Really, though, is it hard?"

"…No." If he had a lip he'd curl it. "I don't feel it."

"Immortality?" BK pushes past you— you don't think he intends to shove you aside, but that's the end result. "Shit, man, do you have an entry for that? 'Immortality: fatty, aromatic, like herbed—'"

"Oh, gods, are you the man behind the food metaphors? Seriously, BK? They're fucking trite—"

"They're effective! Isn't the goal comprehension?"

"I've never had anything fatty and aromatic in my- how many people have eaten recently? I sure as hell haven't. Would it kill you to just describe it, not water the whole thing down with weak compar-"

"Shut up." You are glad to see them shut up: some of you worked centuries for this kind of charisma. "Discuss your trivial GS somewhere else. Thanks. We're looking for you because you turned into beetles and ran off with the key."

"…Sounds like me," Ellery says. "But it wasn't me, so. Don't know what to tell you."

BK props an arm against the kitchen table. "Okay, gotta be honest, man, I don't totally get it. Have you seen any beetles coming by? With—"

"Have I seen any beetles coming by." Ellery gestures fuzzily to the door. "Gods, I don't know, have I—"

"Wearing your corpse," you clarify.

"Uh… no."

BK raps his knuckles anxiously. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, I've, uh… I've been asleep, mostly. To kill time. Haven't been outside much, either, it's fucking awful. So if something passed by… I don't know. Sorry."

He hasn't seen anything because there was nothing to see, but you're not blowing your lie now. "Unfortunate. We'll just have to go after it ourselves. BK, how long is your rope?"

"How long… you want to go in?"

"Into the sea? Of course. Where else would it have gone?"

He grimaces toothily. "Thirdsday, that's— at this point, I think it's time to pull the ripcord. I'll apologize to the Stranger and everybody next time, clear everything up… it's not your fault. It's a little your fault, man…"

"Hey, look, I don't remember what I did yet. I'll take care of it, though, that's not a—"

You fold your arms. "What, are you scared?"

"Do I sound scared?" Ellery says.

"Thirdsday, my brain my be mush at this point, but that doesn't mean I want it worse. You want to go down there? You want to breathe beetles? You want—"

"That's fine." You turn. "I'll go alone."

"Did I say I wouldn't go?" Ellery is growing more impressionistic, maybe out of irritation. "If I caused a clusterfuck, I might as well solve it. And it's hard to make me worse, I'm—"

"Oooh." You suck in air. "I wouldn't risk it. Not in your condition."

"What? The downshift? That's cosmetic."

"Oh, no, no. I'm just saying, uh, probably good to preserve your sanity. It's not unlimited."

"Is that a threat—?" But you are already outside, staring into the vast expanse of beetles. It is enough like a sea to confirm to you that your destination is beneath it: water lies always at the heart of the mind. BK emerges after you and tries again to dissuade you but your will is unshakable and he agrees to let you try, on the condition that he's not responsible for your well-being, and that you tie a rope around your waist. Tug twice, and he'll haul you up.

When you look at the sea at a certain angle and in a certain state of mind, you can make yourself believe you can see past the surface and into the depths. You can make yourself believe you see structures there, impossibly tall, jutting out at odd angles. Made of beetles, of course. Surrounded by beetles, of course. But structures nonetheless.

You contemplate your plan of attack.

>[1] Dive down, and down, and down. (This is the faster route. It will inflict direct ID damage, which may be optionally mitigated through a series of write-in prompts.)
>[2] Meander through the structures. (This is the slower route, which may pose its own risk. It offers more standard [if abstract] decision-making and may feature dice.)

Thanks, guys!
>[1] Dive down, and down, and down. (This is the faster route. It will inflict direct ID damage, which may be optionally mitigated through a series of write-in prompts.)

The sea is still not enough to put out our flame. We can still remember it. Besides, we don't have to burn the whole sea just the part that wants to touch us.

Also we should wear appropriate clothing. Whatever Charlie thinks a Sea Divers aesthetic would be plus whatever equipment Richard knows would be useful added on.

> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=labytsb3gfI

Let us hunt the sea.
>[2] Meander through the structures. (This is the slower route, which may pose its own risk. It offers more standard [if abstract] decision-making and may feature dice.)

yeah we got like 2 ID, can't afford the damage
> which may be optionally mitigated through a series of write-in prompts.

We just have to be clever about it. Or, optionally, keep setting things on fire. It's been working so far.
(You're at [3/(9)], just to be clear.)
Still seems too risky for me, but I can back the quick dive to avoid a roll off if no one else wants option 2
Oh yeah late happy anniversary too.
Vote, bruh, we need a tie breaker.
>[2] Meander through the structures. (This is the slower route, which may pose its own risk. It offers more standard [if abstract] decision-making and may feature dice.)
>[1] Dive down, and down, and down. (This is the faster route. It will inflict direct ID damage, which may be optionally mitigated through a series of write-in prompts.)

Happy anniversary
>Oh, cool, a tiebreaker!
>Refresh page
>It's tied again
Ah, the life of a QM.

Thanks! (And thanks for stopping by, new guy? Did my shill work?)

I'd roll for this, but since >>4433534 wants to avoid that I'll award this one to [1]. Writing shortly. I expect this to be a series of short updates, so while I don't want to commit to calling this a session I think multiple are likely.
Updates today, if I get the votes.
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>Down, down, down

It doesn't matter where you start: you will go down until you reach the bottom and the bottom will funnel into a single point. It only matters that you get there without drowning. You slide your hair tie off and shake your hair out and it falls about your shoulders. You brush against the idea of a diving suit and you are in one, white and gold and looking like no diving suit that has ever been. But you are going deep and the waters are not benevolent as they are in life.

BK says something but you can no longer really hear him. You need a mechanism of sinking, so you brush now against the memory of fire and it flickers around you. Ellery has come to watch and says something, but you can't hear him either. You can only hear the rushing of blood. The rope is tied around your waist. You are prepared and feel it.

>[+1 ID: 4/(9)]

Now they are both saying something, but you are stepping down and off the cliffside. You fall and as you would land on the solid seething mass they part before you, and over you, and you are underneath.

It is dark and hot here and even through the suit you hear them scrabbling and chewing each other to pieces. It is an evil sound and you are glad for the helmet. They flee before you still but at a creeping incremental pace, so you are more falling through mud than through water. You are patient. This is fine. But the longer you are here the more the sound eats through your brain. The beetles don't have to touch you for that.

You should concentrate on something else.

Instructions: These are not "trawl the archives" prompts, though if you dig up an example from the quest proper I'll accept it. You are encouraged to invent them wholesale, borrowing from the setting. Only one is needed to dodge the ID penalty— if more are submitted I'll pick majority vote or my favorite.If you don't want to do this, pick [4].
>[1] Something trivial. A song or a rhyme or a story from your childhood. (Write-in.)
>[2] Something dry. Historical trivia or a list of noted artists (and their styles) or the synopsis of a book you've read. (Write-in.)
>[3] Something old. The contents of your bedroom, or of a secret room in your house. (Write-in.)
>[4] You are good. You are fine. (-1 ID.)
>[2] Something dry. Historical trivia or a list of noted artists (and their styles) or the synopsis of a book you've read. (Write-in.)

History of the family sword. It's in our hand and everything.
Also I want to know more about it.

Otherwise, if people want to save SWORD for later, we can reminisce about the grounds of our house and our times in the secret passages. The pretend adventures we used to have while running along them, how they made us feel safe from the adults and their constant worries and the burdens of name, the madness of our mother, etc all being something that belonged to the world outside.
Gotta write it out for it to count. (I'll take bullet points.)

More to the point, you don't know the history of the family sword. If anybody would've told you it, it would've been your dad, and... well.

That time we skipped lessons or whatever noble kids do all day to read Josey Hatchcock novels. Maybe even mix in a little bit of >3
and have us hide in a secret room while we read them.
I'll take it. Writing.
This is why I made a back-up proposal.

You were never an easy child to teach. You were prone to petulance and daydreaming and asking impertinent questions, and that was when you could be found at all. The walls were your sanctuary and your refuge. The tutors never knew. Your aunt only had a dim awareness. Your mother may have known, but she was in bed or out of the house. Your father—

Well. He probably knew. But that is lost forever.

You never questioned why your house contained hidden compartments and spinning doors and a labyrinth of abandoned corridors— you assumed it was created inherently for your pleasure, and treated it accordingly. When you were meant to be taught Geography of the Ancient World you were plotting the distance between the dumbwaiter and the sitting room with twine and footsteps. The handwriting tutor showed up three times without catching a glimpse of your face, which was generally scratched and dirt-streaked until you figured out a route to the water-tap that wouldn't cross paths with your aunt. You were not supposed to have most of your dime-novels, which were deemed bad for the developing young woman, so you kept the ones you begged, borrowed, and stole in three stacks in the wall of your bedroom, and wrote reviews of them you intended to submit to a magazine when you were of age. When you were 17 you burned the notebook you wrote them in.

These memories seem remote and foggy to you now, and the more you reach for them they faster they fade. You cannot remember the titles of the novels or the name of the tutors or if you washed your face hot or cold. You cannot remember how old you were when you did this. You find it difficult to picture the face of your aunt. You hear the beetles again. How deep are you? A hundred feet? Hundreds? Hundreds more to go. The spaces between the beetles are filled with soupy yellow blood which slicks against the windows of your helmet and dims your flame. Some bolder beetles are nearing the chinks in your suit.

You need something stronger.

>[1] Something raw. Something that hit you in the gut and will again. (Write-in.)
>[2] Something bright. What hopes you hold in your heart. (Write-in.)
>[3] Something cold. The steps in your future. A plan. (Write-in.)
>[4] You can depend on yourself. (-2 ID)

Sorry for the wait, ate dinner
>[2] Something bright. What hopes you hold in your heart. (Write-in.)

Sword time. I don't mean to be one note, but it's literally bright. We've managed to muddle our way through some serious bullshit, and we're actually starting to win. We already made some beetle wannabe King kneel before us, and we've always known quality comes before quantity.

These little beetles ain't shit. We don't need to let their whining buzzing even reach our ears, they don't qualify to be heard.

We're starting to feel like a proper Queen. Sure, there will be trials, but even if we can't complete them we can still just cut right through them.
Sword song

> https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=VvAmRp0tujI

We're gonna fill up our crown then rule forever as a literal god queen. We shall bring civilization to these watery deeps. We will construct a queendom and fill our court with people we like, and have a shark pit to throw those we dislike into. We will outlaw dressing like Madrigal, and talking like Madrigal. We will outlaw Ellery as a person. We will have Horse Face's tent searched, and our model found and returned. All wrongs will be righted.
Called and writing.

The Sword is already in your hand— is your hand? The more beetles crush down upon you the harder it becomes to tell inside from out. There is an itching notion in the back of your mind that you are the wrong way around, that you need to contain the ocean and let your organs without, and you have no doubt that this could be so. It is possible that inside your brilliant implausible suit you are distorting from the pressure. It is possible that were it stripped away you'd be unrecognizable except for your eyes. You cannot know. Your gaze is fixed inexorably downward.

The beetles flee in droves from The Sword's light, which hastens your descent— though but less than you would've hoped. This deep it is half swimming beetles and half blood, odious squidgy bits, legs, and shards of carapace, all of which conspire to lodge themselves in the soft parts of your suit. You marshal your forces against them:

Positive thinking! You are- you are (or will be) Queen and you will rule truly and justly in the cool salty air and cast judgement upon those who have wronged you, every one of them, slowly, painfully, and individually. You shall have a pit of sharks— or alligators. Or snakes! Snakes. You'll only sentence those who deserve it to the snake pit but everyone deserves it so you'll start with the obvious offenders: Ellery first, and as he writhes in agony you'll outlaw him coming back— no, you'll just outlaw him, and he'll cease to exist. You'll outlaw Madrigal's stupid whoreish dress and snide vulgarities and pity. You don't know what to do about Horse Face— perhaps you'll just put him on trial and have his tent thoroughly searched. It is your right and your perogative. You are queen

and you are (or will be) God or at least the one that dreams half-awake under the earth and you will put the world to rights, you will put it neat and straight again, you will be the herald of a new era, an era of civilization, of order, you will drain the seas if you have to, this is your birthright and your job description and you will not let it slip through your fingers, you will not be defeated by beetles

but the world is dark and unbearably warm and you can taste blood in your mouth, it has crept through your helmet and you are breathing it, it trickles into your lungs, you are coughing (or something like it), you are so close but your bones might be cracking from the strain of a hundred million beetles above you.

>[1] Words are beginning to lose meaning. You need something else. (Link an appropriate image and an appropriate song.)
>[2] You are so close. So close. (-3 ID)
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it's late, and my phone has a very limited supply of pictures

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>Everything's Gonna Be Alright!

But it's okay. It's okay. You are not your bones. You are not your body or this imitation of a body you cling to. You could be paste and gristle inside this suit and as long as you believed in your existence you would exist. It's alright. It's okay. Breathe.

You are so close. You can tell by the utter disintegration of your surroundings and of your sense of space and time. You could've been sinking for any amount of time and you could be at the surface. You could be flying. You are falling very fast now. Bubbles fill your vision and only a third of them are round. Do you have a face? It's not clear to you. If you do you can't feel it. You might be beetles. You might be turning into beetles. A hundred million. It's not clear to you. There is something around your waist. You don't know what it is. You don't remember. It might be a snake. You might be around your waist. You don't know. You might be a snake. You seem to remember that. It's not clear to you. It's not—

It's alright. It's okay. You are here. You are Charlotte Fawkins. You have been sinking for about ten minutes. You are surrounded by water, murky and freezing cold. Were there beetles? You seem to remember beetles, but that would be absurd. An ocean is made of water. You are in an ocean. A normal ocean. You can swim. (Of course you can.) Your diving suit lets you breathe. (It make sense.) There is a silver of something extremely white below you. It disquiets you in an unplaceable way, but that's rarely stopped you: you swim down and touch it.

You are…

Where are you? Not where you were, wherever that was— you are somewhere white. Acrid white. A room. A... place. (Are there walls?) And who are you? Charlotte Fawkins. That seems to be all. You are not in a diving suit, but in your ordinary clothes. The Sword is at your waist. Something heavy is on your head.

You are not alone. Somebody crouches some distance away— a woman, possibly, but she's so pallid and insubstantial it's difficult to tell. She makes no notice of your sudden appearance.

You think you'll have to kill her.

>[1] Kill her.
>[2] Talk to her first. Then kill her. (Write-in.)
Alright, lads, I'm off to bed. Hope you enjoyed this session. We'll pick up as usual tomorrow.
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Well, you know, "go to bed," "draw," similar things. It's a lot easier to post digital sketch pages on a regular basis than it is to scan in traditional, so if I'm happy enough with the outcome and you guys want to see them I might do more.
>[2] Talk to her first. Then kill her. (Write-in.)

We at least have to ask for her name, and preferably what she is doing here and if she would like to serve us. We can take her away from here if so.

I mean, she's not our mother this time, how bad could this possibly go?

Ask if there's any way we can get what we need without killing her.
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>Try your best

You approach with a sinking feeling in your chest and are much relieved when you see the woman's face and it's not your mother. (You could've known. Your mother is not dark-haired. But it pays to make sure.)

"Um, hello," you say.

The woman makes a sound like "mmh."

"What's your name?"

This produces a long silence and you think maybe she fell asleep or died or something. "What's your n-"


"Our names start with the same letter. That's funny." It's not funny. You pause. "Um, what are you doing here?"

"…n't know."

"You don't know? How do you not…" God, you hate people. "Can I get you out of here? Do you want out? I'm sure I can extract your soul juice... on the go, or whatever."


That's probably a yes, you feel. You bend and take her limp wrist and pull and to your horror her arm comes partially off at the socket. You drop it with a squeal and back away. A beetle crawls out. The woman makes no sound and doesn't appear to notice.

You think it's possible she might be better off disemboweled. Or at least it wouldn't be much of a change. This lifts your spirits greatly and you draw The Sword with a minor flourish. "Er… I think I'll have to kill you, actually."

Not even a groan.

"It's not personal. It's really not. When I'm queen I'll- I'll bring you back. So don't be mad."

Her eyes are dull and vacant.

"Um, I'll have to…" You think you may need the blood. Cauterizing the wound would be bad, then, so you stow the sword and bring out the tortoiseshell knife in your back pocket. "I'll try and make it quick. Please don't move."

She's not even a real person, you reassure yourself, as the ruby blood comes out in spurts. You're not hurting anybody. You're not hurting her— she sort of sighed when the knife went in at first and hasn't made a sound since. You want to puke a little bit but you close your eyes and keep at it until you reach down and all you can feel is goo and shreds of fabric. You crack an eye open then and tug the heavy thing off your head. It is the crown. You are unsure where to start with it so you pick a tine at random and plunge it into the red mess. There is a noise and a sensation like being sucked down a drainpipe and then there is nothing before you but bones and dry, crumbling skin, like parchment. And one tine of the crown is glowing.

>[LAWS: 1/16]

You'd feel quite bad now, actually, but the Second Crown is upon your head, not too large, not too heavy, and you are instead suffused with a powerful feeling of wholeness and goodness. You have felt this sort of thing before, when handling chit, but that was impure. Cheap. This… well.

>[+3 ID: 7/(9)]

The only thing about it is that apparently the wholeness and goodness doesn't extend to your joints, which lock and stiffen the moment the crown is upon you. You nearly fall, but manage to find an unsteady, rigid balance. You will have difficulty moving further.


But that is a problem for later, as is cutting out of this white void. You have no worries about that. You have to plan your entrance.

>[1] Ride out of there on a crest of beetles in glorious fashion.
>[2] Hide the crown. Feign a struggle out.
>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Hide the crown. Feign a struggle out.

Ellery is probably gonna hassle us about it.

Wonder what Cora was though.
Whoooooooo we gotta crown bitches
Can our struggle involve us surfing a sea of flame from our sword as a bigger wave of beetles pushes us along?
>[2] Hide the crown. Feign a struggle out.
Sorry, man, that's about as flashy and non-struggle as it gets. The goal of [2] is to make it look like you barely escaped alive (as would be realistic for a normal person).

Already called, but nice trips!
>Stealth mode

You would like to come out of here blazing and glorious and blow BK and Ellery's tiny little minds. You would like this very much. But you are conscious that that may, ah, scuttle your long-term plans. Raise unfortunate questions. That sort of thing.

So it's not without reluctance that you cut your way out of the white space, (find yourself again not yourself), and rise through the through mostly normal, non-glorious means: kicking, pushing, spitting, slowly and stiffly. Though the beetles are deferential and do their best to help you up with no special effort on your part, it kills you to know that it could be more, you could do more, you could command them to buoy you up like a wave or geyser and they would— you don't know how you know this except you think you may have stolen it from the woman. Whoever she was. But you kick and generally thrash your way to the surface unimpeded, except for the final ten feet, when you reach, snatch, and throw the crown off your brow. (It will come back.) The beetles no longer recognize you, then, and your struggle turns genuine— you surface yelling your head off. The cliff is far taller than you remember, or the sea level has dropped.

"Holy shit!" comes the distant reply, and a second later a rope is flung off the side of the cliff. You grab for it twice before you find purchase, and even then it takes all your strength to haul yourself out: the beetles drag desperately at your ankles. Shaking them off is difficult, but climbing is easy— you stroll up the side of the cliff, only keeping hold of the rope to retain some pretense.

BK's face is white and shocked when you flop stomach-first onto the grass, breathing heavily (or pretending to). Ellery doesn't have much of a face, but you sense he feels the same way. They're both sitting at a table containing an elaborate house of cards. BK's chair is toppled behind him. "YOUR ROPE SNAPPED!"

You roll onto your back. "Yeah, uh…"


"It's been 50 minutes." Ellery props a Two of Shells against a Queen of Knives. "It was a fair assumption."

"Oh. I'm not. 50 minutes?"

"YEAH!" BK jostles the table in his rush to help you up. The house collapses. Ellery sighs. "50 minutes! You're not— you're okay? Did you get the—"

You pull the key from your pocket.

"Holy shit!" Before you can resist, BK wraps you in a crushing hug. Several "You're a fucking legend! Fucking— wonder child!"

"Uh… thanks," you mutter into his shirt.

"Gods, BK, you're seven foot. You're going to kill her." Ellery rises from his seat. "It is fucking impressive, though. Are you okay? You look— get off her." You are released. "You look a little… I don't know. Little different. I don't mean the flowers."

"No, I'm… I'm fine." You rub under your nose. "I guess we better go, then."

"Yeah, that seems…" He peers over the edge. You follow his gaze— the sea level is dropping at a rapid pace. "…Probably smart. Good thing you guys have a rope. Get up, stick the key in—"


"Huh? The key ingil?"

You close your eyes. "We have to get Gil."

"You have to get him."

"Thanks, BK. I have to get him. I… promised."

"Oookay," Ellery says. "Not usually a good idea, but—"

"Already told her."

"—you were already told that. Great. Well, I was going to say it might be for the best, because you have to go pick me up. I can't go through. I belong down here."

You would argue this but you know what he means. You know what he's trying and failing to say. You have to get the first him out. The beetle one. The giant monster beetle one.

...Well, you don't have to, but it would be ""the right thing to do."" Not leaving him trapped forever and so on. As appealing as that sounds.

"Well," you say. "Great."

>[1] Any last things to say/ask? (Write-in.)
>[2] Just go. (Game plan: escape with BK to the 2nd level, lure the Thing to the 1st level, bring it and Gil out through the door using the key.)
>[3] Write-in.

>"Other you is awful. Can we leave it here and take this you instead?"

He stole our fire to make his own sun. The impertinence.
>[1] Any last things to say/ask? (Write-in.)

> Let's *beet-le* it out of here

I imagine those adventure books to be full of phrases like this. Also we shpuld be in an insufferably good mood, chatting about how this went well, don't you think this went well? We could maybe go deeper next time.

Also we should try to smuggle our beetle vassal out. Maybe have it pretend to be a piece of jewellery
I think Ellery just directly told us we needed to bring beetle him out, so no need for smuggling.
What >>4435585 said, unless you mean something else by "beetle vassal." Just telling you up front so you don't have your dreams dashed later: don't expect the Thing to stick around. Bodily inertia is real. But I won't rule out building your own version, if that's something you want. btw Gil's possibly desperate enough to let you call him your vassal and is objectively beetles... just saying

>Be an obnoxious little shit
Awesome. Writing. (may eat food too)
> btw Gil's possibly desperate enough to let you call him your vassal and is objectively beetles... just saying

Are you implying he isn't our vassal? His loyalty will be rewarded in due time, honestly since nobody else wants to save him from the existential hell of being alone I think we've earned his vassilitude. Unlike certain others whose names start with E or M at least Gil recognizes the nice things we do for him.

Ellery is for bullying.
Well... he's not your vassal yet. Gotta rescue him from existential hell first. How about that?
So it's settled. We refuse to let him out until he swears eternal allegiance.
You... may have to revise that plan, but not in a bad way, necessarily? You'll get more info when the time comes.
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"Great," Ellery says. "So you guys should just—"

"Does it have to be him?" Maybe you're missing something. "He's… difficult."


"Awful. He's…" You search for something that means 'a giant monster beetle' without saying it. "…he attacked me."

BK looks towards Ellery. Ellery flickers. "Oh. Oh, that's fucked. I'm sorry. The- the- maybe it mirrored me wrong, or I— but I wouldn't- if I were normal, I'd— are you hurt?"

"Got my ankle bad. Tendons hanging out. I patched it up, of course, but..." You mock-shudder. "The memory remains."

"That's— shit. I don't really…" If he had distinguishable hands he might be clasping and unclasping them. "…I don't think… I'm sorry. About that. I- I wish I could go, but… it, uh- he's the default. If that makes any sense. It all sticks back… onto… uh—"

"'No' and 'I'm sorry' would've been fine." You smile close-mouthed. "Brevity is the soul of wit. BK, shall we beet-le it?"

"What?" He's checking the rope.

"Shall we beet-le it?"

"I don't…"

The smile has slipped right off your face. "Beet-le it. Like beat it, but with— let's just go."

"Oh, okay." He tugs on the rope. "Don't think too hard about the physics, okay? Or your upper body strength. Just climb right—"

"I know how to use a rope."

"Oh." He scratches the back of his neck. "I'll let you go first, I guess, so I can catch you. If you need it. You know. Hey, man, I'll see you on the flip side—" He's turned to Ellery.

Your mind is clear and free of pesky questions as you scale the dangling rope single-handedly. You swing into the open doorway easily and lean your head out to watch BK follow. He has to stoop to fit in past you but straightens easily in the darkness: there is no real ceiling. He plucks the spike out of the ground and screws it into his back.

"No shortcuts going up," he says with regret. "Hope you like stairs."

You do not like stairs, but your spirits are lifted enough by the thought of your victory that you're able to spend the time laughing and chatting and fraying BK's nerves with questions you know the answer to. Well, that wasn't so bad, was it? What was all the fuss? Who says you can't go deeper? What's wrong with going deeper? Does he know anything about white spaces? No? Just asking. Why stairs, anyway…

At some point you perceive that color has come back to your skin and teeth back to your mouth. BK seems relieved to walk unburdened and complains about his knees. You ask why he can't just imagine his knees don't hurt. He says it doesn't work like that, hon. You'll understand when you're older.

Eventually you make it to the door at the top. The doorknob is hot to the touch, and you hesitate to open it, but BK says there's no other way out so you have to, or he will. He's not sure the nerves in his hands work right anymore so you tell him to have at it, then. He opens the door.

"Fuck!" He has stepped through into thin air. You wince in expectation of a splat somewhere below, but a couple seconds later hear a yodeled "I'm fine!" This is good enough for you. You follow.

The door opens out into a smoking hole in the catwalk, which you drop neatly through, landing on your feet on the floor of the wire room. You suppose 'wire room' is somewhat of a misnomer, though, because every wire has melted into waxen stains on the floor. The large beetles are gone. Every beetle is gone. Or going. They stream in swarms into sun-bright portals far above you.

The Deliverer has been busy in the last 5 minutes.

>Mitigated Success

"Deeps take me," BK mutters, shading his eyes. You begin to say something about pagan oaths but he's not listening. "What the fuck is this? Thirdsday, do you—"

You shake your head. "No idea."

"Fuck. What'd you do to get the key back? You sure you didn't fuck anything?"

"I don't think so… probably natural processes. Uh. The circle of life, you know. Death by fire. Let's go find the…"

The ice plant hallway is empty and you half-walk half-run through it, dragging BK by the wrist behind you. A portal opens up beneath your feet and you swerve past it and keep going, all the way to the throne room, where your general hunch is confirmed: there is the Thing, incandescent, hovering above the throne with a buzzsaw noise. It must be channeling a way out.

You need to get its attention and lure it out of the hive. Somehow.

>[1] Just, like, yell at it really loud. Then make a break for it. [Roll.]
>[2] Yell at it really loud and chuck something at it. Maybe BK has a weapon handy. Then make a break for it. [Roll.]
>[3] Seek to disrupt its concentration in a more abstract way. (Write-in. Likely roll.)
>[4] Use the crown. You don't know the specifics, exactly, but… you'll work it out. And it'll work. (What do you want to do with it? This'll expose its existence to BK. You will be half-paralyzed using it.)
>[5] Write-in.

last one today, see you guys tomorrow!

Whatever we did before to make it kneel, I want to replicate that. It's clearly gotten too arrogant in our absence. Which couldn't have even been that long due to time dilation. Add poor memory to Ellery's bad traits. If we can't kneel him option 2 is also pretty appealing.
>Whatever we did before to make it kneel
That involved the [SV], which you no longer have. You could attempt a weaker version of that, but it'd require spending ID.

It's been 5 minutes:
>The Deliverer has been busy in the last 5 minutes.
You spent ~50 minutes the next level down and a negligible amount of real time (though quite a bit of subjective time) on the stairs. Dilation is 1:10 between levels, so 5 minutes. It worked fast.
>Engage in messy, deep french kissing
File: mwah.png (67 KB, 308x350)
67 KB
The QM's tablet pen died so you engage in messy, deep, mouse-drawn french kissing with the massive beetle sun god made from a guy you deeply dislike.

This doesn't seem to accomplish anything. Refer to options here: >>4436069
Imagine Madrigal, an angry Madrigal who has caught Beetle Ellery being bad and mimic her voice to ask "And just *WHAT* do you think you're doing?"
I wake. And I'd be down to spend ID, we regained a lot with the crown. As long as it doesn't take like 4+
I'd ask for 3 ID to do either of these with no roll, or you could roll for it and spend ID boosting it. Up to you guys which you want to go for and how much you want to spend.
I want my one, and I'd also like to roll for it. Since even if we fail we'll get his attention.
Rolled 15, 11 = 26 (2d100)

Thanks, but I gotta actually call for the dice first. (Those are godawful rolls. You're welcome.)

We'll go with this: >>4436168 >>4436562

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Partial Integration) vs. DC 65 (+30 SUN KING, -10 Draining Power, -5 Cowed Once) to attempt to bend the Thing to your will.

>Spend 1 ID to add a +10 to the results? (You're at 7/[9].)
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 37 + 5 (1d100 + 5)


>[1] Y
Forgot to add the -15 OH GODS OH FUCK OH GODS OH FUCK modifier from earlier to the DC-- that should be DC 50, not 65. Keep rolling as normal.
Rolled 61 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

big spendy
Rolled 5 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

I'm a lucky boy.
>51, 76, 20 vs. DC 50 -- Success
Nice. Writing.

Trying to revive those ol' Drowned rolls, huh?
Rolled 42 (1d100)

> trying

You mean succeeding
Sorry, guys, the amount of writing I got done is nothing and I'm feeling kind of burnt out tonight. Update tomorrow, ideally two to compensate... won't make strict promises, though.

>Cow it into submission (again)

You need to do… what you did. Whatever you did. You need to look the Thing in its eyes and emanate authority, which is… easy. Easy. You have authority. You have gobs of authority. You have authority coming out your-


You are! It's just that you can't seem to get that mindset back, and you can't seem to remember how you accomplished it the first time. (God bless metaphors.) You think the crown might help, but BK is right there, and you don't know what to do with it, and- this isn't working. The authority.

(Of course it's not working. You don't have any.)

Thanks, pseudo-Richard.

[red(You're talking to yourself.)

Thanks, pseudo-

BK nudges you roughly. "Seriously, what the fuck is this thing? Are you doing something about it? You're just standing-""

"I'm communing," you snap. Then you think. "Oh."


"Shut up, I'm communing." You sink to your knees and shade your eyes from the glare. The Thing is radiating so much energy it's impossible not to feel it and trivial to tap into it: you just feel the heat and bring it inside. Ah. There.

"You're fucking glowing," BK mutters.

"Shut up," you mutter back. Your mind is being flooded with sunlight and devotion and frantic chittering- but you weren't swayed once and you won't be again. You are glowing, and your knees are leaving burnt patches in the dirt, but the heat doesn't hurt. It knows it belongs to you by rights. You sink further, and buried deep in the undifferentiated mass of beetle is a marble.

Okay, not a- it feels that way to your mind. Or whatever. You're not Richard enough to know how it actually works. There is a marble, or a marble-shaped irritant or inclusion, and it's the only thing in the whole of the Thing that isn't radiating insect joy. The marble is icy cold. The marble is terrified. The marble is obviously Ellery, or whatever of him hasn't succumbed, and you-

"Hell do you mean, 'Ellery?'"

You glare at BK. "What part of 'shut up' do you not-"

"Don't blame me! You're the one saying it over and over. Trying to summon him, or- no." BK looks between you and the Thing. "Really?"

"Well, I, uh…"

"Holy shit. That is the coolest fucking thing— shit! Ell!" He is calling out. "Ell! What the fuck, man? How'd you—"

"He can't hear you," you mumble. BK isn't listening. "He can't— okay. Ellery, you son of a bitch, you can hear me. Listen up. You and I— neither of us want you to be a big stupid beetle, right?"

Outwardly, the Thing shows no sign of recognition— but the waves of panic from the marble slow. "Right. So you're going to do what I say, since clearly you don't have it handled. You're going to follow me."

The marble indicates some resistance.

"God, it's not like it's hard. Just take control. I could do it, and my thing was way cooler than yours."


"Oh, well, go to hell, then. I don't have to help you." You stand. "BK, let's just— BK?"

BK, muttering nonsense, teeters toward the Thing. You sigh deeply, plunge your hand in your pocket, and wave a sachet of smelling salts under his nose. He jerks back. "Shit!"

"Don't talk to it! I've got it under control!" Sweat is sticking your hair to your forehead— you scrape it back. "It's fine! Ellery! I'm trying to help, and— listen to me. Listen."

>[-1 ID: 6/(9)]

You are doing something complicated with your fingers. Like tying an invisible knot. You don't know why— (but you do know why. You're linking him to you.) "This is non-negotiable. I am going to pull. You are going to push. Whatever that means to you, do it. We are getting out of here."

You grab BK's wrist ("Wha—?") and tug him with you to the right. It takes no physical effort to do so— you're just walking— but an enormous mental one: you have bound the Thing to you, and the Thing wants to stay exactly where it is. You were depending on Ellery to pitch in. "Come on!"

Two more steps— BK is baffled at your sluggishness— and he relents. Your burden eases. The Thing follows behind you, scorching the earth in its wake and setting small plants on fire, all the way through an abandoned exit tunnel and to the outside. You worry at the door, suspended eight feet in the air— but BK pitches you up, you lift him with one hand, and the Thing burns its way through the doorframe.

The first half of the stairs pass in a haze, and then you run smack into Richard.

«Thank you for the warm welcome, Charlotte.»

"I—" you say.

«Congratulations on getting something done. And you did it all by yourself, too.»
«Wait, you didn't.»

And you were just about to miss having him around.

«How charming. We'll talk later.»

He vanishes. You rub the corner of your eye. "Wait."

"Huh?" BK says, joining you on your now-empty step.

"No, it's…" Is Richard maintaining the connection? With Ellery? Because you just lost it.

«Should I be.»

Yes! He needs to be, that's what's keeping the Thing doci—

It screams in the near distance— you can't see it, but you can see its sun. The stairs behind you are on fire.

>[1] RUN! You need it to follow, anyhow! [Roll.]
>[2] You're halfway there… that's practically there, isn't it? Can't you... fold the stairs over on themselves… or something? And get out that way? [Roll.]
>[3] Commune! Again! It worked the first time! [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] You're halfway there… that's practically there, isn't it? Can't you... fold the stairs over on themselves… or something? And get out that way? [Roll.]

Break everything on the way out.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Stubbornness) vs. DC 50 to get where you need to go (without the space in between).

>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each resulting roll?
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 89, 96, 94 + 5 = 284 (3d100 + 5)

Am back home to roll
> I looked Ellery right in the beetle and I said . . . *Bitch*!
>89, 94, 96
>Enhanced Success
You bend the shit out of those stairs.

> https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5LGEiIL1__s
Holy fuck
Suddenly I'm glad I missed this update.
>Skip ahead
>94, 100, 102 — Enhanced Success

"Are you sure there's no shortcuts going up?" you hiss to BK.

"Uh, I mean, none that I kn-"

"We're halfway there, aren't we? Right here. Exactly halfway. Could that mean anything?"

"You're not asking the right—"

«Stop asking questions.»

Wow. Wow. You're trying to single-handedly save everyone's collective ass, and you shouldn't ask questions. Great input, Richard, it's really nice you exist again—

«Thank you, Charlotte. Glad to be hectored by a know-nothing little twit again.»
«Questions are worse than useless. They induce doubt. Be certain.»

You're not certain. The screaming is disrupting your certainty.

«I don't care.»

"It does mean something," you say aloud. "If I step forward right now this whole staircase will— it'll fold in on itself, kind of, and we'll be there."

«That's actually true, by the way. Known trick.»

Oh. Well, he's the expert, you guess. You screw up your face and step forward. An unspeakable screeching noise accompanies the sodomization of three-dimensional space that ends with you landing on your face in front of an ordinary wooden door.

«Just kidding. Nobody does this.»

"Oough," BK says, and retches into infinite blackness. The Thing lurks in the distance behind him, to your relief. You don't want to imagine going back to get it.

The first floor is exactly as you left it, except there's no beetles, and it's on fire.

«Not exactly how we left it, as I recall.»

Shut up. "Gil!" you scream. "Gil! We're leaving! Gil!" The exit beetle is gone, leaving just an empty doorway— leaving you a clear view of the Thing rushing toward you. "Gil!" You hop over a fallen timber and into the room where you originally found him. Empty. Paintings are curling out of their frames. "Gil!!" BK waits by the door with a pipe wrench in his hands. You duck into the room to the south and find him there— it must be him, it's the only beetles in sight, and they're all clustered on his pathetic open husk. "Hey! We have to go! We have to…" You scoop up the husk, and the beetles that fall off it fly onto your chest and shoulders. "Hey. Hey, that's right. We're leaving. I came back. Come on."

"HE'S COMING!" BK yells over the crackle of the fire. "LOOK SHARP!"

You sprint back with the husk just as the Thing bursts through the door, setting anything that wasn't on fire on fire— even the collar of BK's jacket (he yelps and beats it out). "I HAVE THE KEY!" you yell back. "WHAT DO I—"


The Thing is blocking the way but it's smaller and dimmer than it used to be, this close to reality, and you grit your teeth and slide under it, the key in your hand, and plunge it into the open doorway: this is good enough. It flickers and brightens into a candle-lit forest, and you tumble through, and BK next, and the Thing's carapace comes off in chunks as it squeezes through after— and Ellery falls through and onto the grass, smoking.

The Corcass chapter of Spelunkers Associated stares in silent astonishment. The intact half of Anthea's face is tear-streaked.

You come to your feet first. "Uh… hey."

"What the fuck?" You immediately lose track of who said that, because everyone erupts in similar sentiments. "What happened?" "Hell's bells!" "Hey, I win the bet." "I'm calling it now, this is one for the—"

Anthea taps loudly on her glass. To her credit, her voice is steady. "Guys! Give them space! Especially Madman, I don't know what…"

Ellery has not moved. He smells burnt.

To your relief and delight, you are initially passed over. Anthea checks on Ellery and refuses the assistance of anyone but the man with the pipe, who professes some medical knowledge. Everyone else crowds around BK, who launches into such a specific and elaborate narrative of the past two hours you think he must've been writing it in his head. You resist the urge to correct some of the inconsistencies and retreat behind a tree, where you shake Gil off his husk, smooth it out (attempting to ignore its… skinlike qualities), and fold it into a square you stuff into the belt of your waistband. By the time you emerge, Ellery is on his feet and making a beeline for the drinks table. Anthea starts to follow him, but thinks better of it, and spots you.

"Thirdsday!" she says, and beckons you over. Unwillingly, you come. "I'm so sorry! Between everything I guess we up and… are you okay? From what BK's saying, you…"

"Uh, I'm okay," you say. You are. You haven't thought about anything yet.

"Thank goodness, that's really good to…" Anthea's eyes are drifting to your chest. (You flush.) "Is that a beetle?"

"Wh- huh?" You stare down. There is a beetle on your chest, and several hundred more lining your jacket and the hem of your dress, but Anthea doesn't know about those, you hope. "Yeah?"

"You didn't take it on purpose, right? You should kill it now, just to-" She stops. "Are they in your sleeves?" They are also in your sleeves. "Thirdsday, we have rules for good—"

"It's a person," you say hastily. "I mean, it— he turned into beetles. It's- he would've been trapped—"

"…I want to believe that's true," she says, "but there's so many… I know you're new. You're new. But they all claim that. All the… things. There's rules for good—"

"He is! He— I heard him talk."

«She's not wrong, you know, but she's not aware I'm here to take care of things. You're safe.»
«He was human.»

(2/3 jk)
File: anthea.png (461 KB, 500x667)
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"…Okay," Anthea says. "Maybe you're right. Maybe you just rescued a real beetle person. Weirder things have happened. But it's— you can't keep it here, risking— you have to take it with you. And…" She fishes in her pocket. "Take this, okay? If it goes south, if it turns out to be malevolent, don't deal with it alone. This is my personal contact."

It's a business card. You take it. "Um, thanks."

"The meeting's not over, we still have wrap-up, but…" She looks under your shoulder. "I think you better leave early. Just in case. I'll let everyone know…"

>[1] You have something else to say to or ask Anthea real quick, then you'll go. (Write-in.)
>[2] You should check on Ellery. Just so see what condition he's in. Then you'll go. (Anything to say to/ask him? Optional write-in.)
>[3] Just go.
>[4] Write-in.

>"Was this a normal first spelunking experience?"
>[1] You have something else to say to or ask Anthea real quick, then you'll go. (Write-in.)

"So, nobody wants to hear my version of events? Not like I single handedly saved everyone or anything." This is true, Richard was with us after all.

Maybe pull BK over and ask him to not run his mouth about our terrible beast too much.

> So when is the next dive?
Writing. I'll try to get this out on the early side.

You see few reasons to stick around, but you want to make it clear she can't tell you what to do. You cross your arms against your chest. "Hold on, I just have some… is this normal?"


"What I just… what BK's talking about. The, uh…" The capacity to describe what just happened seems to be slipping away from you. "…running, and setting things on fire, and things turning into other things, and- and stairs, and… is that normal? For a first time spelunking?"

Anthea tugs at her scarf. "…I guess that depends… if you'd done a shallow delve, uh, like you were supposed to, that'd be very strange. They're supposed to be sedate. But from what BK's saying, you—"

You wrinkle your nose. "He's not telling it right. He's leaving out that I saved—"

—uh, that's— I'm sure you did. Uh. He said you all had to go deep, though, in which case… yes, that's normal. As far as 'normal' can be applied to down there." She smiles wanly. "Used to do a lot of deep delves, but then one melted my face. I can't in good conscience sanction them, now, but… I don't think Ellery's gotten the memo."

That sounds about right. "Uh-huh. Neat. So when's the next one?"

"After all that, you're still interested?"

If nothing else, it's free access to crown stuff. («Law.») Law. You nod.

"Oh. Well, then, uh… meetings are once a month. Real month, not s-month. But we do a lot of smaller activities… Ellery and I are at most of them, we have nothing better to do. You could ask him about them? I'm sure he'd have you along."

You're far less sure, but you're not getting into the details with Anthea. You dislike looking at her straight on. "Okay, uh, great. I'll just— I want to talk to BK, then I'll go. Bye."


But you are already away, stalking towards BK, who has made it all the way to the painting you were staring at. You tap his shoulder, and he pause. "Sorry, guys, hold on. Hey, what's the matter?"

"Leave out the parts about R… the Beast."

"Huh? Why?" He scratches the back of his neck. "Those are the best parts."

"I… it's embarrassing."

"Oh, hon, it's not…" He pats your shoulder. You flinch. "Everyone has something."

"Could you tone it down, at least? Then? Tone it down, and— don't mention he was there. In person."

«Good girl.»

BK sighs. "Alright."

"And tell them I single-handedly saved—"

"Don't push your luck, hon." He pats your shoulder again and turns back to the crowd. "So, this thing was yea high, and—"

It's as good as you're going to get. You back away, studiously avoiding Ellery, and glance around for a door or exit of some kind. None are forthcoming.

«Just wake up.»

Oh, wonderful. 'Just wake up.' Another addition to Richard's greatest—

«You haven't even tried.»
«Open your eyes.»

Even worse: your eyes are wide open. If you try to open them again, you just—

File: richard - @slaviiik.png (627 KB, 1240x897)
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—bolt upright in your cot, breathing rapidly. You are alive! And awake, and your body is real, and you are real, and God, you forgot about the state of your tent— what time is it?

«It's been five minutes, give or take five minutes.»
«Allow me a moment.»

What? you think, and then you are slumping, your face pressed against a cool surface. You jerk up in confusion, and your bar stool topples backward, sending you sprawling to the floor. "Ow! What the hell!"

Richard slides off his own stool and offers you his hand. "Hi, Charlie."

You bat it away and push yourself to your feet. You are in a familiar-seeming bar, full of polished faux-wood and fugged with cigar smoke, though nobody seems to be smoking cigars. As a matter of fact, it's spookily empty: it's just you, Richard, and 300-400 beetles clinging to the wall. "What," Richard says, as you shoot him a hostile look, "you thought you'd just go to sleep? Charlie, you have a guest."

You breathe deeply. "Hi, Gil. This is— I don't know. I guess it's my head. We can talk tomorrow, or…"

"I didn't raise you to be rude, Charlotte." Richard twirls his cigarette between his fingers. "This man hasn't—"

"You didn't raise me at all," you say. "Basically."


You don't have an answer to that.

"I thought as much. Gil, I sincerely apologize for her poor behavior. She'll shape up when she has a few drinks in her— the stick up her you-know-what slides right out. Would you like anything?"

The beetles rustle.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Charlie's too inconsiderate to let you speak. Would you give us a moment?" Richard grabs your arm and pulls you to the back of the bar, where he glowers.

"What!" you say. "I haven't done anything!"


"I- I'm tired, okay? God, is that so awful? I've just been running, a- and setting things on fire, and—"

"I'm aware." He sounds pained. "But if that's all, that's a non-issue. Look here."

He places his cigarette between his teeth, raises his hand, and snaps his fingers. There is a jolt at your spine. "Oh!" You point accusingly at him. "Oh! You- you just magicked me!"

"No, I…"

"You did! That's textbook magick! Oh!" Your heart is pounding. "See, I knew it! You—"

"Damn it, Charlie, it's called misdirection. There's a patch on your neck. Don't pick it off." He pushes his sunglasses up and rubs his eyes. "Get the crown out. I can't touch it."

"Uh, why?"

"I don't have the patience to re-teach you the manual way. Get it out. It's on your head."

It is on your head. You take it off.

"Good. You are going to make the least intrusive change possible. When you put it back on, concentrate on 'beetles may speak.' That exactly. Do it right now."

You do that, and the crown glows a little brighter, and the world ripples, slightly— like tossing a piece of grit into a still pool.

"—t won't work. Who are we goddamn kidding? It…" Gil stops. "Ah. …Hello."

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"Hello! About time." Richard gestures furiously at your head; the crown vanishes as you slide it off. "How are you? Coping well? Would you like something to drink?"

"Well, I, uh… it's a lot. Am I too loud? I feel like I'm too loud. I- I can't tell. I…"

"You're not too loud," you say.

"…What date is it?"

"30th—" It's after midnight. "31st Madman."

"It's been two weeks outside." Gil's voice is dull. "Two fucking weeks."

You don't know what to say.

Some of his beetles creep down from the wall. "…Do you have simple syrup?"

"Right on it," Richard says, and ducks behind the bar.

"…Thanks. Thank you. Uh… do you all have names?"

>[A1] Introduce yourself and Richard. (Write-in.)
>[A2] Let Richard introduce you.

>[B1] Ask Gil questions? (Write-in. Optional. You will have further opportunity to do so.)

>[C] Write-in.
>[A1] Introduce yourself and Richard. (Write-in.)

But get interrupted by Richard and lead to

>[A2] Let Richard introduce you.

Seriously. Why does he interrupt so often.

> B1 questions

First, slip the crown back on and proclaim that we cannot be lied to here.

Interrupt Gils introduction in turn to give him a title as our loyal retainer, the first of many. A baronet should be fine, we can probably give him a slice of dreamspace to make his own.

Does he have to/want to remain beetles? We can probably do something about that in here at least.

Does he know anyone outside?

Why are people so freaked out about us bringing him out?

Does he need to eat anything?

>"So you were lonely beetles for like 5 months in there? Shame."
I already updated today, but I dislike leaving such an open prompt with good existing responses open overnight, so I'm calling it here. Will get started on the update, may or may not post it before I go to bed.
>But get interrupted by Richard
>Q&A, Gil edition

"Er," you say. "I'm Charlotte— you can call me Lottie. I mean, it should be 'my Lady,' really, or Lady Fawkins, but I've never gotten anyone to… I guess Lottie is okay. If you must. Even though I am noble, obviously, and…"

There's no reason why you should've trailed off there— you have no shortage of ways to finish that sentence. You only did, you realize, to accommodate an interruption from Richard— who never likes to let you go on about your status. But none comes.

Gil shifts. "Uh, is he okay?"

Behind the bar, Richard is not okay: his face is drawn and purplish and he's gripping a dish so hard his hand is shaking. He is staring at nothing like he wants it to die. Your quizzical look takes a couple seconds for him to register, and then he slams the dish on the bartop, slams a shotglass down next to it, and begins to fill the latter with amber liquid.

The dish is full of simple syrup. You push it down towards Gil, then lean on your elbows. "Are you doing a shot? Aren't you too old?"

He exhales through his nose, slams down the bottle, and kicks back the shot. "No."

"Are you… okay?"

"Bourbon helps." His face is a healthier color.

"Were you going to… say something? Earlier?"

He shakes his head vehemently. "No. No, carry on. Please do."

"…Sure." You'll ask later, maybe. "Uh, this is Richard, who's…"

"No, I- I heard." A couple dozen beetles have crept over to the dish. "Back there. Dread and Terrible Beast. I don't know what that… means, though. Is he human?"

You look at Richard.

He waves a hand. "Ah, you know, fairly close. Humanish. Much like yourself, really."

Gil doesn't respond.

"Understandable if you need time to process. Charlie, here's your drink." He slides you a shot identical to the one he just downed. ('Bourbon,' apparently. It looks like whiskey to you.)

You push it away from you. "Not looking to do… shots."

"Oh, I, er…" To your surprise, he seems flustered. "Wrong one. Here." He replaces the shot with a cocktail (pink).

"That's more like it." You stir it with the provided straw. "So, Gil, you were in there for… what, 5 months?"

He shimmies closer together. "I don't know. Five or six, I guess. Tried to track by the decomposition."

"Of the house?"

"Goddamn prefabs. Yeah. Place was falling down around my e— around me. I- I thought that'd be my out. It'd all go to pieces, finally, and I'd… die. Or stop existing, or… I was counting the days, actually. I- I never thought…" He wavers. "Is it weird I'm saying this? I- I don't— I didn't use to be— I used to know how to act. I don't know what happened."

"I suspect," Richard says mildly, dropping a sugar cube into a glass, "it has something to do with the isolation. Three-quarters of a year is nothing to sneeze at. Did you eat? Drink? Sleep?"

"I didn't eat or drink… I rested, kind of. Parts at a time. Never lost consciousness, except for the, uh, going in that room. If you count that."

Richard nods. "Succumbing to the pressures of your COS."

"I… guess. Has anything happened in— in two weeks? That I'd want to know about?"

"Charlotte lives under a rock, I'm sorry to say."

"Hey!" You wipe your nose. "A museum moved in, I guess. And the skimmers found something big on the flats, though God knows what, they didn't…"

"Sorry? The flats?"

"…The mud flats? Are you not- are you not local?"

Gil is making zigzag patterns on the bartop. "Local to where?"

"The Corcass?"

"I… maybe I forgot where that was…"


"No, I- I'm from the west. Not the City, but kind of… outskirts… you've heard of Floating Rock?"

You shake your head.

"Well, that's where I…" He's losing steam. "You're not in the west?"

"Used to be," Richard notes. "Moved a long time ago."

"But you're- you're in Shitfuck Nowhere right now. Your body."

"Yeah," you say.

"And I am too."

"It would seem to be that way, yes." Richard sips from his Old Fashioned.

"Ah." He has become a quivering mound. "Goddamn."

You lick your teeth. "So I'm guessing you don't know anyone here, then."

"…Not unless they've moved in the last two weeks."

Why are you glad to hear this? You're not quite sure. "Oh. That's a bummer."


"Wouldn't matter much, you know." Richard circles around the bar and plunks himself down between you and Gil. "Are you aware you're not Real?"

"Oh, God," you murmur.

He kicks your leg. "Not like you."

Gil slides off the dish and assembles himself into a vaguely-human shape. "Maybe you better explain…"

"Oh, certainly. It's about what being 'beetlefied' means. What was 'beetlefied?' Not your body— that's rotting in Floating Rock. Not your mind, or largely not, or you wouldn't be here. No, it 'beetlefied"—" ("Could you stop using that word?!" you hiss) "—it 'beetled' your COS, your conceptualiz-"

You suck loudly on your straw. "Your soul's made of beetles so now you're not a person, or whatever. That's sad."

"Charlie, you can't- you can't just—" Flustered again. What's gotten into him? "There's more nuance to it than—"

"Is it right?"

"It's not that he's not a person. Clearly he is. It's that, metaphysically, he has more in common with this stool—" He nudges it with his foot. "—than he has with you. He's intrinsically unreal."

Gil sussurates nervously. "I- I don't want to be."

"Oh, it's not so bad." Richard puts down his glass and stubs out his cigarette in it. "It's not as if it makes you psychotic or amoral or inhuman, in and of itself. It's only a state of matter. Charlie?"

You stop tapping. "Then why was Anthea so tetchy about him?"

"…There's a propensity for…"

"Does it make you crazy or doesn't it?"

"Charlie, slow down. There is a propensity for creatures of the mindscape to be…" He waves his hand. "…difficult to deal with. Especially if they look or sound human. They can be capricious, vindictive, incomprehensible, they may… lash out violently, they may attempt to trick you into letting them have your mind or blood… It's not because they're unreal, it's because they're not true entities, but the difference escapes most. You're an entity, Gil, just a beetle one."

"…Thanks," Gil says.

"Okay, wait." Things are coming together. "He was those things. Downstairs."

"I never went downst…"

"Ah, yes, see? He never went downstairs." Richard adjusts his sunglasses. "Did you notice how things on one floor had representations on the next? That was him in the most superficial way possible. Of course it didn't reflect his mind—"

"Did for Ellery," you say.

"Yes, well, you could write a book on that man's condition. Take him as an outlier." He pauses. "We've gotten off-topic. Don't be concerned about any of that, Gil, it's irrelevant to you. What's relevant is that you're stuck in here."

"He's what?"

"Yeah, I'm… what?"

"Stuck in here. Did you think you'd be heading back to your body?" Richard props his cheek against his hand. "Even if you were within a thousand miles of it, and even if it weren't slowly shutting down, it wouldn't be a comfortable fit. You remember it, sure, and you might intellectually want it back, but your self-perception wouldn't match it. You'd feel strange and wouldn't know why."

Gil's gathered himself into a jittery pillar. "Are— are you saying I want to be this way? I-I-I-I hate it! I never want to see another beetle in my goddamn life! Of course I can go back—"

"You hate it intellectually. Your mind is repulsed at the thought. But that's not what has the sway." Richard raises his eyebrows. "Sorry."

"Can I- can I-" Gil's anxiety is beginning to affect you, or maybe it's the neck patch. You suck on your cocktail to calm down. "I don't know, have a body in here? Not even in real life, just… here. I don't know if I can stand…"

"Maybe. Just try to make yourself comfortable for now."

"What? Maybe? It's easy." You dig out the crown and put it on. "Watch. BEETLES SHO—mmmph!"

Richard's hand is over your mouth. "She doesn't know what she's doing," he says warmly, "and wouldn't want to royally screw things up, would she? That wouldn't be good. Why don't you tell us a little about yourself while she learns not to play with artifacts outside her understanding?"

"…Uh," Gil says. "I'm… Gil, and…"

"I can detect if you're lying," you sign. (You're not sure if that's true. It seems plausible.)

"…Uh, that's… I'm not lying. It's just Gil."

"You don't have a last name?"

He wavers. "…Wallace."

"G-I-L W-A-L-L-A-C-E." It's not the worst name you've heard, you guess. "How old are you?"

"25, I… think."

"So young and already so lawless," Richard says nonchalantly. "Remind us why you were squatting in that manse? Did you buy that equipment or steal it?"

"…" Gil draws back. "I- I- that's not…"

"Hey!" You finally succeed at prying Richard's hand off. You don't know if it's the patch or the cocktail or the crown on your head, but you are getting ideas. "Shut up, Richard, that's no way to talk abut my retainer."


"Your what?" This doesn't seem to ease Gil's nerves.

"Well, you know." You've never had to define it before. "My… follower. My loyal and valiant companion."

"Am I… that?"

"Well, you will be. You just have to be loyal and stuff first. And I- I have to anoint you."


"Yeah, I just have to…" The Sword is gone from your waist. You improvise with an outstretched arm. "…Could you have shoulders?"

"Huh? Oh." Gil pulls himself back into the humanoid shape.

"Thank you. I, uh— I anoint thee, Gil Wallace, a loyal retainer of I, Lady Fawkins, forsworneth to forever be by mine side—"

"…Forever? Does it have to-"

"—to be at mine side when… deemed necessary, and to aideth me in… things. And in return thy shalt have mine bounteous… favor. And I- I- you'll get your body back, and stuff."

"I guess that's fair," Gil says dubiously.

"Oh, I didn't need your… okay. Uh, boom." You gesture roughly toward his 'shoulders.' "Done. Anointed."

Richard, back behind the bar, sets his shaker down to golf-clap. "Brava. Very meaningful. Very important. He won't get his body back, though."

"Don't ruin it!"

"I'm not ruining it, Charlie, that'd be hard to do further. The man deserves to have his expectations set. Even if we spent a month trekking over there, and even if we faced no difficulty finding it or retrieving it, it'd be unusable."

There is a sound like a moan from Gil.

"You will get him a body, as fast as possible. And you'll see what can be done about his skin here."

(Choices next.)
>Select the method of finding a RL body you'll focus on. (This is non-binding.)
>[A1] Okay, listen, all you need is a fresh corpse… (+fast, easy, human -uncomfortable questions, ?murder?)
>[A2] You've heard, vaguely, of machines that walk on their own. (+objectively cool, -if you can manage to find one you'll have to steal it)
>[A3] Remember goo? Remember how it copies bodies? (+probably the best option -you… destroyed the facility that processed it, haha, whoops)
>[A4] Write-in. (Subject to veto.)

>Select the method of getting Gil to look human, at least while he's here. (This is binding.)
>[B1] Using the husk and his input as reference, sculpt him a body. (Time investment)
>[B2] He's in your head. Work out how to pressure him into it, like you do Richard. (Side effects?)
>[B3] You *can* do it with the crown, Richard says. But it doesn't have enough juice. (3 crystals required)
>[B4] Write-in. (Subject to veto.)

>Richard would like to speak privately to you. When will you leave Gil? The drunker Richard is, the more open he'll be… but the drunker you are, the less coherently you'll be able to ask questions.
>[C1] After 2 drinks.
>[C2] After 3 drinks.
>[C3] After 4 drinks.

>[D] Write-in. (Any more questions for Gil, etc)
>A1 if we can use an Ellery corpse
>A3 otherwise, I'm sure there's goo left over. Plus it gives Lester a chance to yell at us for reneging on our deal to give them a snake haha wait that's not good

>[B1] Using the husk and his input as reference, sculpt him a body. (Time investment)

We drink consistently right? We can take it. Plus he's doing shots, we're just doing cocktails. I bet he'll have 2 or more for each one we drink.
Is it physically painful for Richard not to interrupt us?
>[A4] Write-in. (Subject to veto.)

What about one of Ellery's bodies? Or Madrigal probably knows where we could get one.

>[B4] Write-in. (Subject to veto.)

Order our dread and terrible beast to handle it. Bam. That's how royalty does things, *delegation*.

>[C2] After 3 drinks.

>[D] Write-in. (Any more questions for Gil, etc)

So what is he actually good at? We gotta know so we can use him effectively.
>Ellery corpses
It's not clear these stick around. (It vanished after he was shot.) You could still try it if you want.

>Ask Madrigal
You could do this, yeah.

>We drink consistently, right?

>He's doing shots, we're just doing cocktails
He just did the one shot before moving on to an Old Fashioned.

>Is it physically painful for Richard not to interrupt us?
You can ask him about it next update, if you want.

>Order our dread and terrible beast to handle it.
Richard seems to think that, since you got yourself into this situation, you should be able to get yourself out. (He'll help with whatever you pick, but he's not invested enough in Gil's personal preferences to do it himself.)
Can we just do it badly enough he steps in out of sheer exasperation?

> "What? Maybe? It's easy." You dig out the crown and put it on. "Watch. BEETLES SHO—mmmph!"

Let's just make him look like Richard. It'll be easier since we already have a template to work off of.
>Can we just do it badly enough he steps in out of sheer exasperation?
You could try, but it's a complicated enough process for him that he'd be more likely to let you fail.

>Let's just make him look like Richard.
You would feel extremely weird about this.
Maybe just to start, and then change it from there.

It would be fun to see Richards reaction to it.

I wonder how we get more crystals.
I do wanna try an Ellery body. Maybe Gil's residence will cause it to persist.

Pls no. The confusion alone would be maddening.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>Ellery corpses, ask Madrigal, goo last resort [you can decide on how to start with these later]
>B1 (since begging/tricking Richard is a no-go)

Rolling between 3 and 4 drinks and writing.
>Get stupid drunk

You wave a hand. "Okay, fine, whatever. A body."

"Better than this," Gil mumbles. "But I-I-I don't understand how that'd... work, if I'm stuck here."

"Mr. Big-Shot Jacker can't figure out how to jack bodies? How the mighty have fallen, eh?" Richard picks at his teeth with a stir stick.

"All my goddamn tech is burnt. A-and that's not what I did."


"Not even close. I just… siphoned stuff off the top. I wouldn't know where to start with- with taking someone over, that's…"

"You wouldn't be taking someone over," Richard says soothingly, "just a body. No mess, no struggle. Lights are off, nothing's home. Etcetera."

"'s okay." You pat the bartop near Gil. "I don't know what he's talking about ever. Just go with it."

"Well, I-I'd prefer to know the… the logistics…"

"Logistics? No logistics required. It's a bit like riding a horse, only you're also the horse—"

"…What's a horse?"

"I don't rightly know. Charlie?"

"Er, it's a sort of— they're a sort of beast with… teeth, and—"

The conversation flows easily from there, especially after Richard spikes the simple syrup with vodka and Gil forgets he only just met you. He remains cagey about his occupation, but he's eager to discuss anything else, even things you ask as jokes: his childhood friends? His skin problems? His favorite word? ("Obshequious!") Were you more sober, you might be jotting this down for leverage, but you're two or four glasses in and your fingers are too thick to work a pen. Richard slides you a cocktail napkin, and you punch his shoulder and tell him to stop writing in… in script, snake boy, but he says it's not script and to just squint. You squint and the blur resolves into words.

- Good with "machines" / "tech"(?) [was about to say "good with my hands" but stopped]
- Whatever "jacking" entails [sounds like skimming off law—he may not know this]; may need equipment
- Surface level spelunking knowledge
- Easy access to unsecured manses?
- Some level of involvement in Western politics? [likely not useful at present]
- Western contacts? [likely not useful at present]
- "Beetle things" [too intoxicated to elaborate but seems self-explanatory]
- "Hair care"
- Adequate singer
- Phillumeny [formerly]
- Darts [formerly]
- If cultivated: un-Real nature"

You stare glassily up at him. "How do you… write so good? You're just as…"

He pats your hand. "Wrote it in the future."

"Oh." This is just strange enough to penetrate. "You don't… got to joke."

You laugh along when he starts laughing, though you don't know why, and it's only through this you notice that Gil has fallen asleep, or died (you snicker), but probably the asleep— the beetles are all huddled on the bar, and when you poke one it doesn't move.

"Charlie, we should… go." Richard gestures vaguely. "Elsewhere."

You don't want to move because you might puke if you move. "What about— beetles guy?"

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"Shh." He puts his finger to your lips. His sunglasses are askew and his shirt stained from dropping his drink on it. "Shhhhhhh. Let's go."

He walks his finger up to your forehead and (you might be imagining this) pokes through your skin. The bar goes all runny and then you are on a rooftop. The sky is clear and starry. You are confused. "Where— where—"

"Not sure." Richard wipes his finger on his khakis. "Just a- another shitty memory. Memory place. Thought outdoors would be good, after…"

"Huh." You blink hard. "'ve never been here."

"Maybe you forgot."


Richard looks like he wants to say more, but instead he turns away from you and begins to pace. You cross your arms and tilt your head. "Whatcha doing?"


"You brought me here just to walk?"

"Charlie…" Plaintive. "Charlie, please just- please. Please, Charlie, I'm… I can't be like this."

You sit down slowly, so you don't fall. "You wanna be a snake?"

"No, I- no. I can't be… drunk. I'm drunk."

"Worse things to be," you say sagely.

"Not really. Not when... I was going to talk about things. With you. Crown things. I had it all planned, but I…" He holds his head. "…Please, just… I need to expel this from my system."

You squint. "You're getting less drunk?"

"Yes, as soon as you… as soon as you stop talking."


"So I can talk…" He rubs his forehead. "Coherently."

"Why? You're nicer like this."

You don't recognize the emotion that passes over his face, but you recognize that he stopped walking. You cross your arms tighter "Why don't you just… lecture me tomorrow? I'm not going anywhere. You're damn not going anywhere. Just sit down and… you know. Chillax."

"That's a fucking vile word."

"Yeah, it… it kinda is, but… come on." You pat the roof. "Can't hurt."

He laughs sharply at this, which you don't understand at all, so you continue patting the roof until his shoulders sag and he lights a cigarette and puts it in his mouth and sits down, several feet away. You look at him. He looks at the stars.

>You're past the point of articulate question-asking, much less pressing for answers! As a result, every question will require a roll— the result of which will determine the quality of Richard's answer. DCs vary based on the question. Excessive questioning may raise DCs.

>[1] Hey, so… what was the deal with earlier? When he was… gone. 'Gone.'
>[2] What was happening to you during the beetle fight? Was that him?
>[3] Why was he so freaked out about you pausing for an interruption?
>[4] How does he feel about you?
>[5] God, just… why is he like this?
>[6] Write-in.

>[3] Why was he so freaked out about you pausing for an interruption?

> write in
We know he can be manipulatively charming, so why isn't he with us? No way he can be as . . . Abrasive as he is with us unintentionally. So

>[5] God, just… why is he like this?

Does he want a body too? Non-snake body?
>[2] What was happening to you during the beetle fight? Was that him?
>[3] Why was he so freaked out about you pausing for an interruption?

1 is some manse compression mumbo jumbo
4 is his favoritest person in the whole ocean
5 is because it is his nature
Thinking back on his "management review", they seemed surprised that Richard had a "nature" at all.

I don't think he's supposed to have his own identity.
>5 (with write-in)

3 questions is reasonable, so no penalty.

>Please roll me 3 3d100s vs. DCs 70, 55, 40

Degrees of success:
0 Successes: nothing, or vague motions towards an answer
1 Success: half-truth
2 Successes: the gist of the truth
3 Successes: the truth, or as much as possible
Rolled 62, 70, 58 = 190 (3d100)

Rolled 52, 6, 25 = 83 (3d100)

triple 1's time
Rolled 78, 6, 23 = 107 (3d100)

No step
>Half-truths for all three
Very Richard. Writing, er, some point this evening.
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>Q&A……… again
>(Three half-truths)

You start and falter and start again. "In… in the beetle… place. Do you know what happened?"

"Do I remember what happened."


Richard takes a long drag from his cigarette. "For all intents and purposes."

"Mmm. Do you 'member my neck? It went…" You mime a movement upwards. "…long. And I- I didn't— why?"

"Didn't you want it?"

He is blowing out smoke in the shape of snakes: wrestling snakes, pinwheeling snakes, pirouetting snakes. You struggle to not be distracted. "N…o. I mean, yes. I mean… I-I don't… how do you keep this straight?"

"I'm crafted differently," he says neutrally. "Take your time."

The smoke-snakes are biting each others' tails. You squint. "You don't sound…"

"Oh. I expelled some poisons after all." He fixes the slant of his sunglasses. "Don't worry, I'm not totally sober. Not after today. I just don't see why I should suffer the indignity of—"

"Y'… talk too much."

"Charlie…" But his jaw tenses. "You were saying. You wanted it and you didn't."

"Oh. Uhh… yeah. Sort of. It was like I didn't… want it, but I had to. Want it. Or I'd die. So I made myself want it. I made a me that wanted it, and I- I wore her. Or something. That sounds cuckoo."

"No, that sounds right." Richard taps ash onto the rooftop.

"I'm not cuckoo?"

"You're not. It's due to me, probably— I'm too used to it." He smiles grimly. "You just squeezed yourself into a… a mindset. It gets a tad literal down there."

"Thought it was meta- metaforrical."

"Sure. Literal in a metaphorical sense." You're given no time to dwell on this. "I wouldn't be concerned, really. You've recovered well."

You haven't. You can't tell him this, though, because the brand-new numbness in your core blends neatly with the numbness of 80-proof liqeur. All you have to go on is your evaporating memories. "You're sure it was just a… mindset? It was all…" You flex a hand. "…big, or- or something. Like I knew more than anything. Or like I didn't matter. The inside part. I mean. I guess."

There is an indecipherable look on Richard's face. You wish he'd take his glasses off. "What did you make it from?"


"You said you made it. What from."


He exhales smoke through his nose. "There you go."

"But I've… I've been in your head, a tiny bit, and you weren't…"

A noncommittal shrug. "I have depths."

This is a piss-poor relevation, if you could even call it that— but that's not why you feel cruddy. Why is Richard so standoffish? He drank as much as you, he should be sharing your fellow-feeling, he should be interested in you, in what you're saying— but instead he's six feet away and not even drunk. You scootch closer. "Hey."

"Hello, Charlie."

"Y… you were acting funny earlier."

He smokes. "That could refer to any number of things."

"You were… choking."

"Ah." He chews on the cigarette. "I dislike being told what to do."

Your heart leaps. "So do I!"

"I'm well aware."

You wait. He doesn't say anything else. "Oh. Well… nobody told you what to do, though."

"You'd be surprised."

"I would?"


You wait. He doesn't say anything else. "Oh."


He isn't even looking at you. A lump rises in your throat. Why is he like this? He was friendly with Gil. You did most of the talking, admittedly, but he wasn't like this. He wasn't like this five minutes ago. Did you do something wrong? You must've. You're so stupid with things like this— of course you'd ruin it. Of course. The lump is swelling and your eyes are beginning to well up but you refuse to cry. If you cry he'll have to pay attention to you and that's not the point at all. He should want to pay attention. He should be emotional, and uninhibited, and stuff— and he should like you. He should notice because he likes you. You've been holding your breath but you have to breathe and your inhale is louder and snifflier than you wanted it to be.

Richard turns in confusion. "Charlie?"

You are red-faced and the first tears are sliding down your cheeks.

"Oh, shit." He raises his sunglasses. "Shit. What happened?"

You'd rather die than answer that.

"Or… you're just drunk and tired. I don't remember how long the caffeine patch lasts."

You sniff. "Huh?"

"It doesn't matter. I think it's time for bed, alright?"

He could very easily be mean, and he's not being mean. But he could very easily be nice, too, you know this, you've seen him— and he's not being that, either. He's being pleasant. It's not the same. You wipe your nose with a fist. "Why are you n-nice to everyone else?"

His bemusement deepens. "What?"

"Everyone!" You clamber unsteadily to your feet. "Gil, a-and BK, and Ellery— Ellery. But not me. Why?"

"Charlie," he says, like it's obvious, "it's not real. It's like— you know people who work in shops? How they have to— what is it?"

You are sobbing now and he doesn't understand why, which makes you sob harder. He didn't answer your question. He didn't understand what question you were asking. How could he not? It was right there, right underneath the words. If he's nice to everyone else, why not you? Even if it is fake? But he didn't understand, or chose not to. He's rising, now, and putting a hand on your shoulder. "Charlie. Look at me."

You look. He seems defeated. "I'm not built for this."


"I'm not capable of what you're asking."


He chews his lip. "It is not in my nature to… feel."

You've stopped sobbing in your attempt to process this. "You… don't have feelings?"

"I have some." He sounds defensive. "You have too many, Charlie, it's hardly a loss. What is nostalgia for?"

"I- I don't…"

"Exactly. The point is, I can't… fix you."

"Comfort me."

"Whatever. Yes. I grasp the motivation, I see the chemicals in your little brain going haywire—"


"—I can even attempt— I've attempted before, but—"

You've stopped crying altogether. "What? Just do that, th-"

"—it's not the same. It can't possibly be."

Are you having two separate conversations? "Same as what?"

"Ah." He smiles crookedly. "I keep forgetting you're deaf as a post. Sorry. You've been screaming at me about your father again."

You exhale. The tears are returning.

"If you could inform your subconscious I'm not him, that'd be wonderful. I'm here to do a job, not to play long-lost daddy. This next thing will be terribly ironic." He is fiddling with a wristwatch. "I'm giving you five minutes."


"To do anything. I don't care. Five minutes with your quote-end quote 'long lost daddy,' after which you'll calm down, etcetera."

You don't feel calm. "O-oh. I thought he was… dead."

"Oh, yes, extremely. But thanks to you, I am a perpetual knife's edge away from forgetting that, and then I am a very good replica."

"We… talked about this before?"


"I thought you… I thought said you wouldn't ever do it."

"Oh, it's extraordinarily dangerous." He pats your shoulder. "But my day can't get worse in terms of ego death, and I'm a little drunk, and I want you to stop crying. I didn't know it was possible to be so noisy."


"You say that a lot. Okay, recap: not your real dad, won't know anything you don't, I'm pulling out after five minutes for my safety. He might ask questions— lie, please. I think that's all."

You clasp your hands at your chest. "What if I don't want to-"

"Okay, bye, Charlie. See you in five." He takes the cigarette from his mouth and tosses it down—

—and before it hits the ground Richard is gone, and it's your father there, as if by sleight of hand: how do you know? You feel it in your gut, and only after do you realize his face and posture are softer, and only after that does his voice confirm: it is deeper than Richard's, less smooth. "Oh, hell."

You try to say something but your throat has seized up.

"What did I…" He looks up at you. "Charlie?"

Is this what death feels like? Your heart should not be palpitating like this.

"Have you been crying?" He brushes a strand of hair from your face. He smells of ink and cologne and faintly of wet earth. You want to puke. "What's wrong, primrose?"

What isn't wrong?

>[1] What do you say? How do you spend the next five minutes? (Write-in.)
>Hug him and ask him to tell you a 4 minute story.
But it's not real.

> Say all the things you wanted to say to him, a variation on the theme of "goodbye". Tell him about meeting mum, kind of getting the sword, and that things aren't great but you'll get through them and lie and tell him you're okay even though it's Richard faking it and your dad is dead and all you wanted was someone, maybe one person to support you and maybe even *like* you but all Richard can do is pretend to be your dead dad and you'll take that because you have nothing else.

For someone who supposedly doesn't have emotions, Richard is pretty fucking peevish and hurtful. I wouldn't call him neutral at all.
Also - Call Richard a coward for running away to be our dad. Apparently it's easier for him to run whatever crazy dangerous risk it is, than to even pretend to be nice to us as himself.
>For someone who supposedly doesn't have emotions, Richard is pretty fucking peevish and hurtful.
To be fair, he claimed to have "some," presumably including peevishness (and irritation, anger, self-satisfaction, etc). Or he's lying! That's always an option with him.
Don't forget cowardice.
Supporting this. >>4444998
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Called and writing shortly.
>sad boi hours

No, seriously, what isn't wrong? Is there anything? It can't be possible to have a life filled only of bad things, that just doesn't sound right— but drink has cleared your mind. It's true. Your life cleaves evenly into the things that sucked while they were happening and the things that suck upon closer examination, like kicking open a rotting log. You reconciled with Jacques? You sobbed in front of 30 people, and now he pities you. You filled a tine of the crown? So what? There's 15 left and it'll bring trouble, you just know it. Your father is here? Your father is dead. He's dead. He's always been dead.

Instead of responding you pull back and turn your head and vomit. It tastes fruity.

"You've been drinking," he says, concerned.

You cough. "Yeah."

"Do you often?"


He rubs the inside of his eye. "You always were my daughter. Charlie, take it from me, it's not a healthy way to—"

"I stole The Sword," you say. "And I lit it on fire, and I don't know if that damages the metal, or- or the grip, and—"

"What sword?"

"The Sword. On the mantel? The family…"


"Probably? I don't…" You hold your head. "Look, I stole it. It was me. I'm sorry."

Your father steps over the dripping vomit and to you. He takes your hand and crouches to look in your eyes. You sniffle. "Did you need it?"

"…I guess."

"Have you been putting it to good use?"


"Then there's nothing to apologize for." He smiles. "I'm a lawyer, Charlie, I was using that thing to open corks."

He's lying, you think. He knew his way around a sword back in the tunnels and he sure as hell wanted this one back. He's lying, or he's… saying what you want to hear. Maybe he doesn't know he's lying. He's dead. You feel sick again.

"Was that all you were crying about?"

"N-no. Uh… I saw Mother. The other day." She was a snake. "She wasn't taking her medicine."

He exhales through his nose. "I'm sorry."

"Wasn't eating."

"Yes… you mustn't feel responsible for any of it. You mustn't. She's just sick, that's all. You know this."

You nod.

"You have Ruby. And you have me, primrose. You always have me."

Your laugh creaks like a rusty door-hinge and then you begin to cry again. He doesn't understand (how could he?), but he pulls you into a hug, and you bury your face in his shoulder. He is warm for a ghost, and soft. He doesn't complain about the snot you dribble on his sleeve. He strokes your hair. How could your tears not subside? It's everything you wanted. It's everything you've been wanting, forever.

As a matter of fact, it's exactly that. He's doing it because you want it precisely this way. He doesn't have a choice. He may not know he doesn't have a choice— but that's because he has no free will. He isn't a person. He's not even a thing. You've just browbeaten Richard into embodying your most selfish and childish and stupid urges. You are hugging yourself.

But yourself looks and feels and hugs you like your father so what are you supposed to do? Stop? It's not as if you have alternatives. It's not as if you'll ever have alternatives—

>[-2 ID: 5/(9)]

"Are you feeling better?" he whispers.

"Yes," you lie.

"That's my girl. Knows how to power on through the bad." He squeezes you and releases you. The front of his shirt is soaked with brassy liquid, which trickles also from the corner of his mouth.


"Hmm?" He looks down. "Oh. Oh dear."


"I believe I'm bleeding." He lifts his shirt and feels under it. "Ah. I'm wounded."


Your father looks at you solemnly. "I forgive you."

"Huh?" You step back. "I- I didn't do that!"

"I know. I know you weren't in your right mind. It's okay, primrose."

"What the hell! I- I didn't—!"

"I forgive you. I love you, Charlie. Charlotte." He is sinking to his knees. "You'll never know how much, I'm sorry."


He is breathing shakily. "I'll- I'll see you in—"

And then a godawful shrieking fills the air: you wince and clap your hands to your ears, he jolts, as if struck by lightning, and falls to the side. The whites of his eyes are enormous. The shrieking halts.

You slowly remove your hands from your ears. "…Richard?"

"Nngh." He blinks, pained. "It would seem so."

"You're- you're—"

He drags himself up onto his elbows and stares down at his shirt. "What did you do, Charlie?"

"I don't know!" You are desperate. "You just- you just started bleeding!"

"I see." Richard rubs his chin. "That's unfortunate."

"Just a little!"

"Oh, don't have a cow." He waves a hand over his chest, and the bloodstain vanishes. "There. I hope you're happy, by the way, since that was a nightmare."

You're… something. Not happy "You didn't have to do that."

"Didn't I?" He pats around for his sunglasses. "You stopped crying."


"Hormones have..." He squints in your direction. "…stopped spiking, at least. I think your BAC lowered, too. Seems like a net success, but what do I know, I'm only…" (He mumbles something.) "Ah, and you vomited!"

"Could you just be there for me?"


You wet your lips. "Please. I know I might be, uh, irritating… and melodramatic…" (He doesn't correct you.) "…but I- I need someone."

"I gave you someone," he says.

"Not someone real."

He smiles coldly. "Your brain can't tell the difference, Charlie, no offense."

You cross your arms. "Coward."

"Charlie…" The smile has turned incredulous. "I know you can't possibly comprehend, but I just risked my existence. For you. So you'd have adequate—"

"So you'd get to duck out of being nice to me for once."

His face reddens. "I was being nice, you ungrateful little—"

Does he not know what you want? He's inside your head and has been you twice over today alone and he doesn't know what you want? Does he think he knows better? Or does he only see you like a- a read-out, words on a page, bereft of emotional value? You close your eyes. "You don't need to be my dad."

He stops. "That's not what…"

"I've been saying? I can't…" You wave your hands. "I don't know how to turn that off— it's instinct, or whatever. Listen to my mouth. You don't have to copy a dead guy for me. He's dead."

"You don't mean that, Charlotte." He slides his sunglasses on. "I'm 'copying' him right now, hence the body, hence the… civility. You're not interested in me unadulterated."

"Maybe I am!"

"No, believe me, you're not. I'm not, either, since this is... pleasurable. More topically, I can't be extracted from your father while I remain in your head, so there's little point complaining."

He still doesn't get it. It's almost comical. "Okay, that's… fine… but you don't have to be him. You can just be you, even if you suck at…" You think. "…being nice to me, or apologizing, or telling the truth, or feeling things, or stuff."

He laughs. "Charlie…"

"Just be there."

His smile fades. "This is sad."


"It doesn't matter. Well. Yes." He gets to his feet. "I will… consider it. And now you're going to bed."

You rub your forehead. "But we were just…"

"You're exhausted, Charlie, it's time. Don't talk to me about this outside here, hmm? I won't want to hear it."

"What- what about Gil?"

"I'll take care of him, nothing to worry about. Say your goodbyes to the sky. Won't be seeing that for a while."

"Uh… bye?"

"Good. Good." He grasps the base of your neck. "Out you go, now. Good girl."

You sit bolt upright in your cot. It is still dark.

this one got well away from the write-in but I hope it sticks to the spirit!! my apologies
He laughs. "Charlie…"

"Just be there."

His smile fades. "This is sad."


"It doesn't matter. Well. Yes." He gets to his feet. "I will… consider it. And now you're going to bed."

> Richard isn't really real, he's just the lizard part of our brain carved out and given a voice. That's why he doesn't have emotions and isn't supposed to be a person. We just asked ourself to be there for us because there's no one else there for us, and having Richard pretend to be someone else wasn't enough.

We looped ourself. Man, I really hope that's not right because that WOULD be sad.

Also can Richard read our posts?
I'll neither confirm or deny this, only comment that Richard has claimed multiple times to be a separate entity merely residing in your head (while That Guy in the original was very open about being a manifestation of Ellery).

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You breathe, for a second, then lay back down. You sleep immediately.

You dream.


You are on the shore of a vast ocean. The sand is coarse and white. There is no horizon, only a yellow eye, half-submerged, larger than cities.

You hike up your dress and wade into the red water, which sucks avaraciously at your legs. You ignore it. It is irrelevant to you. You care only for the eye, and the pupil of the eye, which you must climb into. You must. But you are wading and wading and it is getting no closer.

"Rest." A hand on your shoulder. It is your hand. You are behind you. "It is not time."

You stop.

"You have not been readied." Your eyes are yellow. "Wait. Be patient. The new era will dawn when it must."

You nod.

"So there is nothing to-"

A crack. Yellow-eyed you splits at the seams and falls into the water. A swarm of beetles hovers where she stood. "Ow! Hell!"

"I..." Your mouth is dry. "Gil?"


"What are you doing here?"

"I-I was going to ask you the same..."

"I'm dreaming," you say. It seems obvious now. "I'm asleep."

"Oh." He swirls. "That's cool."


The waves lap. The eye watches.

"So what are you doing here?"

"I'm-- I'm not totally sure. I think I made a wrong turn."

"Ah." You suck on the inside of your cheek. "I'm going to wake up now."

"You don't have to g-"

"See you..." You gesture aimlessly. "...around."


You wake up. It is morning, though you're unsure what time. Your chest feels hollow. Your eyes feel like sand. Your tent still looks like a windstorm hit it. Great. The snake is in the desk drawer. You have slept in your clothes. You want to roll over and sleep for another 12 hours but it is awful and bright in here.

A new day. Hooray.

>[ID: 9/(9)]

Now how to spend it.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Do something alone.
>>[A] You need to clean this place up- Richard's papers are still absolutely everywhere. You have to sort them before you can look at them properly, too.
>>[B] Has Richard been using your day planner? It seems possible, but you ought to make sure it's all clear and up-to-date.
>>[C] Didn't you steal a radio? Finally. You should test it out, see if it's working.
>>[D] Contemplate how to murder Ellery so you can stuff his corpse full of beetles.
>>[E] Write-in.

>[2] Go hunt someone down.
>>[A] You stole something for Horse Face, apparently. Better to hand it over ASAP.
>>[B] You should talk to Madrigal, who might know where to find a corpse, and who might want to know what Ellery's been up to.
>>[C] You have little idea what Richard's been doing with your body for five-and-a-half days, but you know who might: Eloise always knows what's going on.
>>[D] The faster you model a body for Gil, the faster he stops invading your dreams, probably. You should get started.
>>[E] Did… did Richard get recommendation letters? What happened with Margo? You should speak with Monty.
>>[F] Write-in.

The choice below has no mechanical bearing, it just determines how I'll draw Charlotte for the next X threads!
>[A1] Continue wearing the dress and jacket.
>[A2] Change back into your old coat and slacks.

Now that we stole something for him we can tell him to unsteal our model.

E also a point of interest but we should probably ask RIchard about that before going to Monty.

>>[A] You need to clean this place up- Richard's papers are still absolutely everywhere. You have to sort them before you can look at them properly, too.

We can just ask Ellery for a corpse.

>>[A] You stole something for Horse Face, apparently. Better to hand it over ASAP.

We need people to be willing to let us stay here.

>[A2] Change back into your old coat and slacks.
Sorry, folks, tomorrow.
It's all good
Called and writing.
Wait I thought 1 & 2 were exclusive.

They were, but I decided to be a little lenient since "clean your room" would not be the most engaging solo update.
We wouldn't fall into a manse hidden in the corner that would take 3 threads to escape? :^)
Shh, I'm keeping that one secret until Thread 14... you need your social interaction break first ;)
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>Clean up
>Drop off
>Old clothes

Well, you are still in the dress, which— oh, it's back to missing pockets. Even worse, but the point was this: no hands wove the cloth, crushed the dye, cut the muslin, sewed the panels. You are not wearing a dress. You are wearing an idea in the shape of a dress, and that just squicks you out.

You change back into your coat. The bloodstains have mostly faded.

Having real cloth against your skin makes you feel a little better, but not much— your hangover appears to have lodged in your chest, which throbs like nothing else. You glance suspiciously at the snake, who hasn't moved. "Richard…?"

No response. You walk over to the desk and pick it up. It hisses. A small white card falls from its coils. "Gee," you say, place it down again, and scoop up the card. "DO NOT DISTURB," is printed in black letters across it. Below, that, smaller: "that means you Charlie"

Oh. He's ignoring you. 'Won't want to talk about it' indeed. You drop the card back on the snake (who hisses again) and shut the desk drawer.

And now for your tent.

It takes you an hour and a half to even get it in working order, though it's still not how you left it. You close and stack the open books in teetering piles, undo the alarm system, stack the dossiers— unsure what to do with the photographs, you leave them up. By the end of it you have two paper cuts, one on each thumb, and are thoroughly unsatisfied. Richard has not stirred. The sack of stolen goods rests on your cot, and looking at it makes your chest worse.

You barge into the tent next to yours without knocking. Horse Face is crouched over an elaborate contraption of driftwood, blue string, and turtle shells and doesn't turn at your approach. "Hello, Charlotte. I see you're uninjured."

"You're… not looking at me."

He gestures to the tangle of lenses and mirrors strapped to the side of his head. "I trust everything went well?"

"It didn't, but I got your thingy, I guess." You waggle the pinwheel. "God if I know what all the fuss is about…"

"Holds some personal significance."

"A pinwheel."

He adjusts a turtle shell. "Yes. Shall I go get your payment? Pure chit, as I recall, but I can do mixed currencies."

"'Mixed currencies.'"

"Art, rare coins, jewelry. Weapons. Western tech. Or I could write you a treatise on Edgist heterodoxy." (You make a face.) "Only joking."

>[1] Okay, geez, sure. Pure chit. You have to split it between the rest of your co-conspirators, so you can't afford to muck around here.
>[2] Okay, geez, sure. Some kind of mixed payment. You deserve it, frankly, and it'll show the rest crime doesn't pay. (What sort of thing[s] do you want?)
>[3] Attempt to negotiate hazard pay. (What do you want extra?) [Tough roll.]
>[4] No, actually, what the hell does he want with a pinwheel?
>[5] What is he *doing* with all this string?
>[6] Write-in.
>[1] Okay, geez, sure. Pure chit. You have to split it between the rest of your co-conspirators, so you can't afford to muck around here.

but also 5
Do you also miss Valen quest?

>[3] Attempt to negotiate hazard pay. (What do you want extra?) [Tough roll.]

We need him to sign a letter saying he doesn't mind us staying here.

>[1] Okay, geez, sure. Pure chit. You have to split it between the rest of your co-conspirators, so you can't affordto muck around here.

> unless he has a supply for freshly dead bodies. We have a friend who needs a home.
Banished quest actually
>1 (unless he can supply corpses)
You won't need a roll for a letter. Called and writing.

Never read Valen, but I have read all of Banished... keep The Sword out of bars, is all I'm saying.
>Sounds good

"Er," you say, "chit sounds fine. Unless you know where to find…"


You were trying to think of a good way to put it. "…uh, the recently deceased?"

Silently, Horse Face slides the crayon off his ear and the notepad from his pocket. He begins to scribble something down.

"Hey! No! It's not— it's not for anything weird. I- I just— I need a body, that's all."

"Uh-huh." He is still scribbling.

"Not for me! For— charity."


Where's Richard to spin this for you? You have no recuse but the truth. "There's this guy, who doesn't— I mean, he used to have a body, but now, uh— I just need him out of my head— I figured a- a corpse would work… for… that…" Horse Face has turned around and is now scribbling directly at you. You flush. "His name's Gil."

The crayon snaps in his fingers. "Pardon me?"

"…His name's Gil?"

"Gil Wallace?"

You boggle. "You know him?"

"It's been… some years. I doubt he remembers me." Horse Face smiles oddly. "Had a mutual interest in gewgaws. He's in your head?"

"Y…eah. Uh, I didn't- I didn't trap him there, or… I kind of rescued him, actually." You tuck a strand of hair behind your ear. "Daringly."

He raises his eyebrows. "My. Well, I'm afraid I don't have a source of fresh corpses… not a useful one, at least. I'll send my best wishes. Would you let me know when he's corporeal?"

"Sure?" It wouldn't hurt, you suppose. "Hey, so, uh… what's up with the strings?"

"My best attempt at a kelbain. Still not good, I'm afraid." He licks his finger, wets the broken halves of the crayon, and screws them together. "I take by your expression that's unhelpful?"


"Ritual object intended to catch and redirect currents… thought at the time to represent the flows of the Eights' attentions. The 'pinwheel' ought to help, so thank you for your prompt delivery."

You curl your lip. "Sure thing, saltlicker."

"Hmm? Oh, I don't keep a faith… not at this point. I'm just a student of traditions." The odd smile again— his diastema doesn't help. "Shall I get your payment?"


"Just a moment, then." He steps away from the kelbain and towards an antique end table, where he picks up a small device. "Could I ask you to step outside?"

Oh, he keeps it in his pocket dimension. You don't know why, but your will for pointless arguing is gone. "Sure."

You spend the next minute watching a starfish inch towards a bed of mud clams and nearly yelp when Horse Face pokes his head out from the tent. "All ready."

It's in an unlabeled crate, but there's no need to verify the contents: you can feel the chit the second you're through the door. It's a hundred times less pure than the crystals on your crown, but quantity makes up for quality. "God."

"It's the good stuff."

"Yeah." You'd like to crack the crate open and run your hands through it, stick your head in it, but you've heard the horror stories. Drowning at best… "Uh, here's your pinwheel." You hand the sack over.

"Thanks kindly."

"Would you, uh, write something for me? Since you're… happy with my performance."

"Ah, a referral?" He flips a page in his notepad. "Certainly."

"Uh, not about… criminal stuff. Just how I should stay here."

"Oh! Well, certainly. Typed or handwritten?"

He has a typewriter? "It doesn't matter. Just… as fast as possible."

"I'll pop over with it. Is that all?"

>[A] Is that all with Horse Face? (Write-in.)

>[B] Wat do? (Refer to >>4447061 for options, or write-in.)
>[A] Is that all with Horse Face? (Write-in.)

Any other objects he might want us to keep an eye out for that could help with his kelbain? We might also have someone we could consult about it if he has any specific questions about it, and we would be willing to act as middleman for trading info with said person. Their identity is kind of sensitive tho, so a meet-up would be exceedingly difficult to arrange. (Richard, obvvy)

>[B] Wat do?

Acquire Elf sla- er, can we chat with Gil without being asleep? If so, check on his relationship with HF.

Otherwise, go check in with Monty and find out what you did recently.
Now that I've stolen this pinwheel for you, could you unsteal my model?


2C from linked post
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Notes on your [A]: (You) called Horse Face a saltlicker because the kelblain sounds super magic... ie, not the kind of stuff you read about (magick), and not the kind of stuff Richard does (metaphysics), but nasty, pagan, dead-god-worshipping nonsense. (You) wouldn't be interested in aiding and abetting that, and from Richard's judgmental comments on the topic he'd be even less interested.

>Ask about stolen model
You can attempt to contact Gil. Rolling between Monty and Eloise and writing shortly... if I don't get it out before 4 PM PST it may not happen (TTRPG today) so I'll try my best to make it quick.
>Model, Gil, Eloise

"Yeah. Could you give my model back? Come on."

Horse Face closes his notepad. "I could, yes."

"Okay. Then why not—"

"Unfortunately, that hinges on me having it. I'm sure I've told you I don't."

You woke up less than 2 hours ago and you're already tired. "Yeah, and that's the worst lie I've ever heard, so."

He stows the notepad in a pocket. "Quality is not a high concern, frankly. It's fast and dirty."

"So you did steal it?"


"Okay." You breathe deeply. "Why do you even want with it? It's terrible, it- it's not even finished. I barely started. There were a million ones with paint and glazing, some of which I don't like anymore! It would've been fine if you stole those! What's the point in—"

"I own plenty of finished art, Charlotte. I find the process a more compelling look into the mind of its creator."

"So you did steal it."


You cross your arms. "I hate you and I hate your stupid liar horse face."

"Ah," he says, "but you won't."

"Yes I…?" It's useless. It's like speaking to a gap-toothed wall. "Okay. Bye. Give my model back."

"You need help?" he offers, as you begin to drag the crate out of the tent.


Is there a way you could've said yes, you wonder, and still preserved your pride? Because the crate is heavier than expected. It takes you five minutes to push it the ten feet to your tent, and they are the longest five minutes of your life.

«Excluding any time in unreality. Last night. Etcetera.»

Oh, good, Richard's back.

«I was disturbed.»

From his beauty sleep.

«If it pleases you to call it that.»
«Don't bungle things. Thanks.»

The radio buzz cuts out as you shove the crate fully into your tent, and doesn't resume as you walk back outside and sweep over the trail you left. (No sense in inviting trouble.) He doesn't interrupt your vain attempt to locate Gil in your head, either. Though you sit on your cot and stare hard at your boots, you find it difficult to sort yourself into anything discrete, let alone locate a foreign presence. Perhaps you've grown too used to Richard.

Gil? you think. (Just in case.) Hello?

If you're saying anything back I can't hear you.

Let me know if you heard this later… I guess.

You wipe your nose and feel silly. Imagine if he wasn't in your head at all? Imagine if it was all a dream, or a vivid hallucination. Imagine if you were just crazy. You'd thought this sort of thing about Richard before and had always been roundly chastised, but with his absence and the lack of feedback from Gil it's a difficult thing to shake.

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Best not to dwell on it. (This is what you get from sitting in one place too long.) You haven't updated your TO-DO LIST, but a priority really ought to be figuring out what happened over the last 6 days. Richard isn't going to give you straight answers, you feel, and you can't imagine the legwork that'd go into retracing your footsteps. You need to ask people. Or one person, who knows everything.

Eloise is not in her tent but has provided a handy note as to where to find her: crouched over a patch of murderer's azalea, ten minutes from the signpost, turn right off the trail and follow the seagrass. "Isn't this beautiful?" she says, unconcerned by your approach.

Murderer's azalea is paste-pink and unattractively waxy. "Beats mud, but that's about it."

"Were you born a downer or raised one? Come on, someone died here, years ago, and the blood residue still feeds these things. It's not about the flower, it's about the life cycle."

"It'd be nicer if the life cycle didn't have massive thorns, I think."

"Ah, well, like everything else in life… flowers are subjective." She smiles broadly at her own non-joke. "How was your excursion last night?"

You stare. She laughs. "You look so worried! I don't know where you went, but your boots speak volumes. And your eye bags. I have stuff for that, if you want it."

Do you want it? Yes. Do you want it from Eloise? Absolutely not. "Um… I'm alright. I was just wondering…"

You stop. You were about to ask what you did… but you should know that. Since you're normal. She'll know if you just ask.

"If it's about gossip," she says, "I only do fair trades for that. No freebies."

>How do you ask her?
>[A1] Bait her into it. Claim you're just testing her knowledge. [Roll.]
>[A2] Admit to amnesia, but offer a different explanation for it. (Writing-in this explanation is optional but may improve the DC.) [Roll.]
>[A3] Refuse to offer an explanation, and hope your trade is juicy enough for her not to pry. If it's not, it may be a no-sale.
>[A4] Write-in.

>What do you trade for it? (Multiple may be selected. This will affect the DC of the rolls or determine the outcome of [A3].)
>[B1] Information about Ellery— did she know he keeps dying in RL?
>[B2] Information about Ellery- did she know he's not the real one?
>[B3] Information about Ellery— did she know he's *immortal* in unreality?
>[B4] Information about Horse Face- did she know he has a weird pocket dimension full of expensive stuff?
>[B5] Information about Madrigal— did she know she's sort-of turning into a *snake*?
>[B6] Information about Spelunkers' Assocation— did she know it exists?
>[B7] Write-in.

>[C] Anything else to say to or ask Eloise? (Write-in.)
We were helping Ellery with his nerd stuff and he bungled a thing and robbed us of our memory of the last week.

>[B4] Information about Horse Face- did she know he has a weird pocket dimension full of expensive stuff?

B5 is tempting but also will make people very angry if traced back to us. Maybe some way to anonymously trade that info?
>[C] Anything else to say to or ask Eloise? (Write-in.)

If she wants any other flowers, or if she needs a hand with anything. Why not.

>What do you trade for it?
Discuss that company that was attempting to artificially reduce snakes. Mention that Horseface used to run with a Jacker named Gil Wallace. Tell her that you're currently looking for a fresh body, acquired as above board as possible, for a disposessed personage living in your head. Let her know that Ellery is in love with Madrigal still. Tell her you're trying to be nicer, or at least more valuable, around the place. Let her know someone, probably HF, stole our model and has been collecting gewgaws to talk to Gods.
You need an [A]-- if you don't have one I'll assume you support >>4450989's vote.

>Tell her you're trying to be nicer, or at least more valuable, around the place.
I'm not against this and it's not something Charlotte is incapable of, but is there something motivating her to pursue this? Is this angling towards a recommendation letter, or is it genuine? If it's genuine, why? (I don't mean to interrogate, but this would represent a fairly large swerve in characterization.)
Motivated by a recommendation.

Fuck these people in general, and some of them in very specific.

That's why "nicer" gets reassessed to "useful".
Alright, gotcha. Thanks for the clarification.

>Hell of a lot of stuff
>Do a favor? :)
Totaling all your gossip brings the DC to about 15, so I'm not requiring a roll. Nice work.

Writing shortly.
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>Fair exchange
>Fetch quest bls??

"It's… kind of?" You rub the base of your chin. "This might sound crazy, but look, I was doing a thing with Ellery—"

"Never bodes well, in my experience."

"…Yeah. And I, uh— that was last week, and— I can't remember anything past that."

She arches her eyebrows. "I know a lot of things. Don't know how to fix anteretrograde amnesia. Have you asked… oh, I suppose you wouldn't remember. Still, I'd take that to Ramsey— you've met her?"

You shake your head.

"Red hair, built like a brick shithouse? Monty's friend? Jean's her first name?"

The physical description sounds passingly familiar. "I might've seen her around? But I— that's not the issue. I'm fine now. I just don't know what I've been doing."

"Ahh. You want timetables."


"We-ell… I'd give you the gist, but I don't like going back on myself so soon, yeah? And that's quite a lot of info. What were you doing with Ellery?"

You look to the side. She shrugs and begins to tug on leather gloves. "It's not like it'll surprise me, Charlotte. God knows I've been involved in enough of his gullshit."

"It's confidential!"

She gives you a look. "I thought nothing could be confidential?"


"That's what you told me last week."

You barely remember that conversation. "Okay, well, I misspoke. Whatever. Still confidential."

"Can you just not remember it?" She's bending to pick some azalea. "It's okay if you can't. That'd be funny, honestly."

"No! I- I can't reveal investigation things."

"Oh, you're still doing that? I thought Madrigal would've gotten sick of your shit by now."

She doesn't mean that as an insult, which nicely encapsulates why you dislike Eloise. "We're on good terms, for your information."


Well, okay terms. Fine terms. Not active hatred, you think, unless Richard decided to ruin things. "Great terms. I mean, I saved her life." Technically true.

"Let me guess, she got too worked up, starting choking on her spit?"

"What? No." You pause. "Though that's funny."

"Oh, finally. You know, humans have this thing called 'laughter'… no?" Your eyes have narrowed. "Boy, you're a tough crowd. Alright. What happened?"

Now that you're forced to think it through, this requires a staggering amount of context. "Uh… I think we better sit down."


You attempt to explain your quest for Branwen's snake, skimming over the boring or sensitive parts, skipping entirely over your brief possession. It still takes too long, and you think frequently that you must be boring Eloise, but she's an attentive listener who snickers at parts you never thought were funny. (You have to train yourself to stop flinching when she does.) By the time you get around to the technical saving of Madrigal, though, she's grown more serious than you've ever seen her. "Just to sum this up… there's a friendly local clone-armies-on-demand company under our feet somewhere. And they're after snakes?"

"Their management is, I guess. They were following orders."

"Well, that's fantastic." Red flower juice stains Eloise's gloves— she's been grinding the azaleas between her fingers. "You know, I really thought I left yearly threats to existence behind, but… it never works like that. Should've known."

You didn't think she was capable of sincere emotion. It's making you uncomfortable. "Yep."

"I mean, don't get me wrong, it's really, really good you told me. This is above your paygrade by a few orders of magnitude. Don't get me wrong, it's above mine, too, but…" She gestures. "…less. This isn't something for playing detective at, you hear me? You're a kid."

You scowl. "Am not. And I'll do what I want."

"Can't say I didn't expect that." She interlaces her fingers. "Look, if you stumble on anything else by coincidence, let me know. I'm not kidding."


"Thanks." She stands. "Well, that derailed my plans for today. I should get back."

"Wait!" (It comes out too fast. You are eager to change the subject.) "Wait, I didn't… I didn't even tell you the other stuff I know."

Her hesitation is obvious. You pounce. "It's good. Like— I'll even break confidentiality! Ellery and Madrigal are still—"

"They still wanna get into each other's pants? No shit. Everyone knows."

"What?" you say. "That's not true."

"They're not subtle people, Charlotte. Come on."

You tug at your collar. "Well… okay. Did you know Horse Face is really-"


"Uh… Garvin. The new guy. He's weird. He has this whole pocket dimension full of really expensive stuff. I think he's a crime lord, or something. Or he consorts with demons. He was definitely trying to summon something— or both. Demonic crime lord. You know he was friends with a jacker?"

"Which is?" She sees your look. "Am I supposed to know?"

It's more that you're still not entirely sure. "Um, it's a- a bad person. Steals things from- from heads."

"What, like thoughts?"

"Yes." You have no idea. "Probably. Uh, yeah. So there's that. And he stole stuff from me, too."

"Your thoughts? Is that why you're so—"

"No! No." You hug your arms to your chest. "Something. It doesn't matter. And he— uh, semi-related, do you know where to find the recently deceased?"

This prompts a toothy smile. "Say, I didn't take you for a corpsefucker."

>[-1 ID: 8/(9)]

You're the approximate color of azalea juice. "What! No! Wh- wh- I-I'd never— no!"

"Relax. It's a joke." She tilts her head. "…Though I'm going to need an explanation, I think."

"I… it's not weird! It's just— I have someone who needs one. Not me. I— he doesn't have one anymore."

"A corpse."

"A body. It's complicated. I— do you know where to find a fresh one? Ethically?"

"An ethical corpse."


She rubs the corner of her cheek skeptically. "Is this for whatever you talk to in your head?"

"I don't talk to anything in my head," you counter.

"Sure. But is it?"


"Just an unrelated disembodied guy. Gotcha." She purses her lips. "I'm not huge on corpses, sorry. You want them ethical and… intact, I assume?"

You consider Ellery's tattered skin. You consider Ellery, shot in the chest. "Um, yes."

"Well, that cuts your options down to shit, since you've got to get gory to really kill. I guess you'd want poison. Or hopelessness. Or fugue. But there's not exactly an abundance. I guess…" She rubs her forehead, now. "You could make the hike to Pillar 12? It's a day or two out, but you could camp out there, wait for someone with a weak heart to float down… damn, that's morbid. I guess it'd work, though."

"Huh." You hadn't thought about that. "…Thanks."

"Sure." She eyes you oddly. "You're less bitchy today."

"Late night. And… uh… I'm trying to be. Nicer."

This isn't false— it was a late night, and you are trying to be nicer, sort of. The specter of eviction is clinging to your back. Eloise's eyebrows shoot back up. "Oh! Good luck. How long has this lasted?"

"…Just today?"

"I figured." She takes your shoulder jauntily. "I'm telling you, you just have to commit. Swinging between extremes will just freak people out, you hear me? It's a lot more fun if you're just—"

"I'm just trying to be useful," you mutter. "Do you have anything that needs doing? That isn't stupid."

"Mmm. Keep me updated with the Namway thing. I'll let you know if I have…" Her gaze is drifting back towards camp. "I really should go. This isn't news you sit on."

"Oh. Okay." You fidget. "Do let me know."

"I will. Bye, Charlotte." She pats your shoulder and leaves with a crushed bunch of azalea.

It takes you a moment before you realize what didn't happen, and then you jog after her through the seagrass. "Hey! Hey! You never told me—"

"Hi?" She turns.

"You never told me what I was doing!"

"Oh! I'm sorry." She pushes her hood down. "I don't know specifics, just to be clear— I wasn't following you around. And we never spoke. But in general, uh, you were hanging around Madrigal a lot… Monty, too. Garvin. Saw you carrying books back from town. Saw you make a lot of trips, actually— Fen, mud flats—"

Speaking to Branwen and scoping out the museum, you figure. And the books must be the ones left in your tent. But why Madrigal? Or Monty? "…Thanks."

"Yeah, no problem. Hope you get that…" She makes a circular motion towards you. "…all sorted."

(Choices next.)
>[X] Anything else you'd like to ask or say to Eloise? (Write-in. Optional.)

>Wat do?
>[1] Do something alone.
>>[A] Has Richard been using your day planner? It seems possible, but you ought to make sure it's all clear and up-to-date.
>>[B] Didn't you steal a radio? Finally. You should test it out, see if it's working.
>>[C] Contemplate how to murder Ellery so you can stuff his corpse full of beetles.
>>[D] Contemplate the logistics of a trip to Pillar 12.
>>[E] You have all the books in the tent stacked… time to unstack them and see what they're actually about.
>>[F] Your poor model (V2) has been sitting unfinished for nearly a week. You should keep working on it.
>>[G] Write-in.

>[2] Go hunt someone down.
>>[A] You should talk to Madrigal, who might have less ethical corpse sources, and who might want to know what Ellery's been up to. And Richard's been hanging around her, apparently.
>>[B] The faster you model a body for Gil, the faster he stops invading your dreams, probably. You should get started.
>>[C] Did… did Richard get recommendation letters? What happened with Margo? You should speak with Monty. And Richard's been hanging around him, apparently.
>>[D] Say, is Ellery alive? Unbeetled? It might be good to check on his condition. And if you explain properly, maybe he'll provide a body…?
>>[E] Has Richard stopped napping? Is he sober? You probably need a rundown on the crown situation.
>>[F] Write-in.
> "You know, I really thought I left yearly threats to existence behind, but… it never works like that. Should've known."

Suddenly I feel kinda close to this woman.

Didn't really mean to spill EVERYTHING about Gavin, more sound out wht she knew about Jackers and gewgaws. But. You know. Next time I'll be more precise about that stuff.

> pls sign our sheet
>[C] Contemplate how to murder Ellery so you can stuff his corpse full of beetles.
>[D] Contemplate the logistics of a trip to Pillar 12.

>[C] Did… did Richard get recommendation letters? What happened with Margo? You should speak with Monty. And Richard's been hanging around him, apparently.
>Didn't really mean to spill EVERYTHING about Gavin
Sorry about that. (It won't negatively impact you, if it helps.)

>[C] Contemplate how to murder Ellery so you can stuff his corpse full of beetles.
This is an option that would lead to choices, so it can't be combined. (I mean, it can, but that'd effectively be condensing two full updates into one.) The other contemplation is more linear, so that's fine lumped in.

We don't need to kill Ellery for a corpse, he'll kill himself in a couple days max.
engage in sloppy messy kissing with the woman
This is true, but considering that he could kill himself when you're not around or in a way that leaves his corpse unusable (eg shotgun), doing it yourself would be most efficient. At minimum, you'd have to set up a watch on him so you know when it happens. (This is if he doesn't just let you do it, obviously.)

Tragically, you are a hard 0 on the Kinsey Scale!
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling between Monty and book learnin' and writing.
Time for the full Monty, innit?

(Alternately: there is no full Monty! He's missing an arm!)
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>sign here uwu
>Day trip planning
>The full Monty

"I'm working on it." You scratch the back of your neck. "Hey, so, uh, you like me, right?"

"As a person? You're kind of shitty and unpleasant. Like, actively unpleasant. You're really working for it. I'm not sure why yet."

>[-1 ID: 7/(9)]

You want to argue this— actually, you just want to insult Eloise back. But you've lost the words. "Oh."

"But if you're asking for Monty's cute little letter thing, I don't want you gone. You're fun! Gods know this dump needs fun."

'Fun' is a new one. You squint. "Uh… huh."

"You are! Give yourself some credit, Charlotte, gee. You stir the pot. You bother people. You know how rare that is? Everyone's so concerned about not going nuts they cling to the status quo. But you don't care! It's fascinating." You see the back pat coming and dodge. "I'll get to the bottom of you someday, kid. Won't get to your bottom, though. I don't swing that way. Ha! Now, I've got to—"

"The letter?"

"Oh, well, I can't do it now. No paper. And it'd help if I had something substantial to write about, you get me? Talk about it later." And she hurries off.

"Um, bye," you say to the trees.

The trees do not respond. You're not sure how to feel, so you decide not to feel anything at all, and on your way back to camp you consider Eloise's corpse proposal.

Pillar 12 is… geography is not your strong suit. You need that map Ellery had. If you were forced to guess, it's… south? Through Hell, and through Hell's thermal vents and corrosive gasses and angry, angry eels. Wonderful. You'd need better clothes, most likely, and something sturdier than a pocketknife. Maybe even someone to go with. And a map or very good directions, though knowing you that doesn't guarantee anything. If you found someone who knows the area, maybe you could plan a route…

Camp is the same as always— full of people you could've sworn you've never seen before, and probably never will again. There's no sign of Eloise. (Did she head to Lindew's Landing?) Monty's tent is as easy to find as always, but you're stymied by the notice on its front: "OCCUPIED — PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB."

The 'occupied' part is nothing new— you've never known Monty to take breaks. The 'do not disturb' is. You hesitate before the notice, and in the quiet you think you hear voices. Monty and… a woman?


>[1] This sign can't stop you since you can't read! Bust in.
>[2] Eavesdrop! It'll be tricky, since the tent material is thin, and the sun is bright… but you need to know. [Roll.]
>[3] Sit right outside until whatever this is wraps up. You'll be able to see who the woman is, at least.
>[4] Head back to your tent and do something for a little while, then come back. (Wat do? Update planner/check over books/contemplate murder/work on model/write-in.)
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] Eavesdrop! It'll be tricky, since the tent material is thin, and the sun is bright… but you need to know. [Roll.]

>[5] Write-in.

Wander around camp, see what's going on in town. We can collect info on our own, we're a real dream queen after all.
We could also ask around to see if anyone knows who the woman is.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Rolling between eavesdrop and make Bathic generate plot hooks at the drop of a hat uhhhhh I mean talk to randos.
>Talk to randos
So it goes. Writing soonish. This'll be very short so expect 2 today.

It's of no matter. You will extract answers at a time convenient to you, which is not now, since it is late morning and the sun is sticky on your neck. (Stickier than usual. Why do you live here again?)

Because Monty's tent is so central, you have a good view of the rest of Base Camp. As usual, there's people about, mostly killing time— playing cards, tossing pebbles at passing crabs. Some of them catch your eye.

>A COLORFUL WOMAN with the enormous backpack and weatherbeaten manner of a traveling salesperson, unfolding a table never designed to be foldable
>Nearby, a LOUCHE MAN leaning against a board full of identical pins
>ELLERY, alternating tossing pebbles at crabs and glaring at the LOUCHE MAN
>A HUNTED-LOOKING WOMAN staggering out from the treeline
>HEDY ALTREY, also coming from the treeline, except she hasn't talked to you for two and a half months and you think it's best it stays that way

Who do you speak to?

>[5] HEDY (why? let the past be)
>[6] Nevermind, you want to do something else. (Refer to >>4452940 for options.)

games yay
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Rolling and writing soonish.
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You've never seen her before, though that doesn't say much. She's swaddled in odd robes and is clinging to a walking stick made out of rib. Her eyes are wide and searching.

The significance of this is obvious to you. This is a prophet! Or a herald, or at minimum a pilgrim. (Or a wise woman? But she seems young.) And she is here for you. Or if not for you, then it's something you can distract yourself with, at least. You wave to her. She stares.


"…What?" she signs back stiffly.


"Is this Lindew's Landing?"

Why does everybody passing through ask that? "No, it's ten minutes down the trail, but we have about the same population… who are you?"

"Nobody. I'm from the Edge. I— do you have a leader? I need to talk to your leader."

>[1] Sounds like a fantastic excuse to disturb Monty! Take her there, get that sorted, talk to him about your stuff after.
>[2] Monty is busy, which means this is something for Madrigal to handle. You're sure you can track her down somewhere.
>[3] How convenient!!!! You happen to be the leader!!!! She can tell you all about whatever this is!!!! [Roll for deception.]
>[4] Write-in.
>[3] How convenient!!!! You happen to be Nobility!!!! She can tell you all about whatever this is!!!! [Roll for deception.]

Technically the truth.
>[3] How convenient!!!! You happen to be the leader!!!! She can tell you all about whatever this is!!!! [Roll for deception.]



>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 10 (+5 Detached, -5 Still Half a Lie, -10 You Look Awful) vs. DC 55 (+5 Gullshit Radar) to convince the woman you're worth talking to!
Rolled 39 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

ooof tough roll
Rolled 4 (1d100)

Rolled 8 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>29, 0, 0 vs. DC 55
Christ, you guys are lucky this is low-stakes. Writing shortly.
Those are some of the worst rolls I've ever seen for sure.
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>Ah yes, it is I, your glorious leader
>29, 0, 0 vs. DC 55 — Failure

Well, that's easy enough. "I'm the leader, as a matter of fact. Uh, yes. So you can go right ahead and tell me everything."

The woman looks you up and down. "Okay."

"Great! So you can just— my heart is open to receive your, uh, story. Tragic story."

"I'll just ask somebody else." The woman pushes a length of fabric over her shoulder and looks past you.

"Hey!" You point. "Hey! I'm— I'm also nobility, you know that? I'm entirely qualified to— whoa, hey! That's not—"

Ellery, evidently tired of harassing the crabs, has walked up in front of you. Directly in front of you. You pop out from behind him, indignant. "Hello! I'm having a perfectly nice conversation, and you—"

He's signing to the woman. "She told you she was in charge?"


"Okay. She's not. That's Monty, and—"

"Monty's occupied," you interject.

"Okay, well, that doesn't leave you in charge. That's Maddie, then, but— I, uh, I don't think she's feeling well. Leadership gets fuzzy after that, but I've been here way longer than this one, so I can—"

"Gee, thanks."

"What?" He drops his hands and looks at you. "Is that wrong? It's not wrong."

"I save your life, and this is how you repay me? I drag you out of that hellhole— which was on fire, by the way, and you—"

"What the fuck are you talking about?"

Typical. "Wow, okay, play dumb."

"I guess I will?"

You scowl. "And you think you're qualified? You? You're not just a lowlife, you- you're off dying every two seconds, except when you're turning into beetles, which… I mean, really?"

"I don't… we can talk about this later, not when there's…" (He signs 'sorry!' to the woman.) "Okay, you know what? How about you and me take her to Maddie, and then when she tells us to fuck off, she's not feeling well, I can talk to her. Sound good to you?"

>[1] Whatever. Go with Ellery and take the woman to Madrigal. Maybe you'll find out what's up second-hand.
>>[A] So, uh… is he fine post-beetling? He seems fine?
>>[B] Would he care to, say, donate a body? For science?
>>[C] Other questions for Ellery? (Write-in.)
>[2] Nooo thanks. He can do whatever he wants with the woman, it's not your problem. Do something else. (Talk to the COLORFUL WOMAN / LOUCHE MAN / options here: >>4452940
/ write-in)

Who can resist when it's for science?
>[B] Would he care to, say, donate a body? For science?

His other self owes us one, at *least*, and if he wants to claim any sort of continuity woth his other selves he should honor that.

> Backup plan, agitate him into killing himself.

Full Renegade choices.
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>sure :) btw can I have your corpse I'm not creepy

You sigh. "Fine."

He nods to you and turns back to the woman. "We'll, uh- we'll take you to the leader. One of them. If you'll just follow..."

Mercifully, Madrigal's tent is at the far edge of camp, giving you time to sidle up to Ellery and tug at his sleeve. "Hey. Can I ask you something?"

"Could I stop you?"

"No. Uh… look. So I have this guy in my head…"

"Oh, shit!" He stuffs his hands in his pockets. "You're copping to it?"

"Huh? No, it's not your freaky thing, gee. I mean a literal guy. A person. He's in my head cause he's missing a… it's Gil. You remember Gil?"

Ellery squints. "Maybe."

Well, he did have brain damage. "Great. Well, so I was just wondering— could I use yours?"

"My head?"

"Your body."


"Um," you say, "no. Kind of? I mean, I was just thinking… you're gonna die anyways, and you're coming back, so… it's not like you're using it."

"I… I kind of am?"

"You are right now," you say patiently, "but you won't later, so. And it's not like you're not used to having lots of you around."

"That's been fixed for over a year, Charlotte."


"It has! It— I'm fine. Can we not talk about this in front of—" The woman trails slowly behind.

"She can't even hear us! Come on, you're being unreasonable. How will this—"

"I-I'd rather not die?"

You snort. "Okay. We'll see."

"What does that— are you planning to kill me?"

Maybe? You haven't decided. "Does it matter?"

"Um, yes? I'd rather not be murdered for some random—"

"He's not random," you huff. "And it's an experiment! Don't you like—"

His face is drawn tight. "Maddie was right. You are psychotic."

"What! How am I—"

Ellery spots Madrigal's tent (labeled "MADRIGAL'S TENT" by the sign outside), stalks up to it, and knocks. Ten seconds later, Madrigal flings the door open. Her eyes are red and dark-circled, and she stares through Ellery for a moment before focusing. "Fuck off."


"I don't want you. Fuck off." Her eyes land on you. "You."

You touch your chest. "Me?"

"No shit, lizard boy. In." She jerks her thumb over her shoulder.

Ellery looks at you with, you think, a certain level of resentment.

>[1] You'd love to, but you have to deal with Ellery first. Foist the woman off on Madrigal while you talk.
>>[A] He's playing dumb, obviously. Yell at him until he admits it.
>>[B] Does he really not remember? Summon your limited reserves of patience and summarize why exactly he owes you.
>>[C] Maybe you just have to ease into it. Change the subject. Why was he glaring at the Louche Man?
>>[D] Does it matter whether he's lying or not? You just need an outcome. Go over his death history in gory detail, and make plans to watch him tonight.
>>[D] Say something else. (Arguments? Explanations? Questions? Thoughts? Write-in.)
>[2] Okay, great, Ellery can talk to the woman. Head into Madrigal's tent.
>[3] Write-in.
[1D] will take a roll, missed notating that.
Take the woman in to see Maddy. Tell Ellery that you'll talk to him about this later, and you'll fill him in on what he's apparently missing in return.

Or he can continue not knowing. Also if he's good we can maybe help him fix things with Maddie. Does he even remember what he did to her? And leave on that note, like it's bait.
Be smug to Ellery that we can get in to see the "leader" and he can't.

Take the woman in with you
Tell Ellery if he decides to kill himself while we're having fun with his ex, don't go too far before doing it because we need to put Gil inside him.
>cuck Ellery
Writing shortly.
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>Ha, sucker

Madrigal ducks back inside.

"Oh!" you say. It's easier to muster the appropriate tone when Ellery is involved. "Oh, well, look at that! It seems the second-in-command wants to see me, and not you! Interesting!"

Ellery wipes his nose. "It doesn't matter if she wants to see you. It matters if she wants to see the lady."

"I never said it mattered, I just said it was interesting! Which it is. I guess I better take her in, and you can wait outside or kill yourself or whatever. Could you not make it messy, please? That'd be no fun for—"

"Why would I kill myself?"

"Don't worry about it! I— we'll talk about it later, if you're not dead, 'kay? Keep you filled in. In the meantime… maybe I'll put in a good word with Maddie for you? I'll think about it. Hey, excuse me? Miss?" You wave at the woman. "It's just in here—"

"I am not going in there," the woman signs, irratably. "You people are lunatics."

"Well, I'm not a lunatic. He's the—"

Ellery throws his hands up. "You literally want to kill me."

"It's perfectly valid in context!"

"There is no context that—"

"Madrigal's not a lunatic," you say, to the woman's retreating back. "Whore, maybe, but not a—"

Ellery jabs at your chest. "You scared her off."

"You scared her— you know what! Have fun dying. I'm off to talk to your girlfriend."


"Oh, sorry!" You smirk. "I thought you might've forgotten… you know, like everything else? Can you even remember what you did to her?"

"What?" His voice is stable, but there's no mistaking the flash of panic on his face. "What are you—"


"Charlotte! You can't just—!"

You step into Madrigal's tent, secure in the psychological havoc you've wreaked.

>[+1 ID: 8/(9)]

Madrigal is huddled on her cot, clutching a mug of something with shaking hands. If it were possible, her tent has gotten messier. There is a faint burnt smell about.

«I prefer 'rich' and 'nutty.'»

Richard is around your neck. He is again a snake. The snake?

«Does it matter.»

Kind of?

«It does not. I appreciate your welcome back, Charlie.»

'Welcome back.'

«Too late now. I am fully recovered from the unpleasant effects of yesterday-»

Getting drunk?

«Also that. It is now business as usual.»
«You shouldn't be here.»

What? It's just Madrigal's tent. Madrigal is taking an eternity to react to your entrance— she's just swirling a pinky in the contents of the mug. You cough.

She doesn't look up. "You're late, lizard boy."

"Am I?"

"Ye-up. Doesn't matter much, though. I didn't sleep at all again."


"Fuck you. Don't give me a fucking 'oh.' This is the fourth fucking day in a row."

You waver between 'it's not polite to curse' and 'how are you alive' and settle on the latter. "…Don't you die after three?"

"I'm not a fucking doctor." She raises the mug (slowly, with the shaking hands) and takes a gulp from the mug. "Fuck. This is disgusting. Can you not make it taste better?"

«Words from an uncultured palate.»

"Um," you say. You are beginning to piece things together. "I gave you that."

"Yes, numbnuts."

And Richard was hanging around her. "Okay. Just, uh… one second."

He's giving presents, now?

«I was…»
«It's not…»
«She'd be in a stupor otherwise. It'd raise concern.»



GS. Why would he care, as long as you're not implicated? And why would you be? You were legitimately uninvolved.

«I was not at optimal function.»

He was in your body and caught feelings.

«No. What an unbelievably crude way to—»

So yes. Okay. Madrigal's half-delirious and still thinks you're Richard, who was being nice to her about the whole 'whoops you're turning into a snake' thing, for some reason. Gotcha.

«Charlie, please.»

Is there a way you can use this?

>[1] Pretend you're Richard for the moment. You don't think she'll be able to tell.
>>[A] Focus on figuring out exactly what's up with her physically. Richard gave you very few details.
>>[B] Focus on figuring out what Richard was like to her while you were unconscious.
>>[C] Write-in.
>[2] Alright, alright, that's not why you're here. Let her know you're back to normal. (You may pick multiple suboptions.)
>>[A] Any chance she knows a good corpse source? Might as well cover your bases here.
>>[B] Boy, do you have some new info about Ellery. She should hear it... even if he's asked you not to share. (What do you tell her? Write-in.)
>>[C] Is it possible she'd be hypothetically interested in an overnight trip to Pillar 12? Hypothetically.
>>[D] Write-in.
>[3] Write-in.
This here may be the last update of the thread-- we are on page 10. I archived early due to the Wuxian drama, so no worries there. If it is the last update, we'll pick up in about a week... if it's not, we'll still pick up in about a week. Check the catalog, check my Twitter.
>[2] Alright, alright, that's not why you're here. Let her know you're back to normal. (You may pick multiple suboptions.)
>>[A] Any chance she knows a good corpse source? Might as well cover your bases here.
>> let her know about the deaf chick
>> get filled in on what Dickie was up to in your body
>> Ask Ricardo if he's gonna be okay now that he caught feelings. Like. Middle management won't wipe him out of existence if the find out, will they?

>> try to secretely wonder if hin being a jerk to you was overcompensating to hide the fact that he might actually be able to care.

We gotta keep our priorities straight here.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

It's certainly possible she's deaf, but using handsign isn't an indicator-- it's the lingua franca of underwater. You use it all the time outside the mindscape, I just don't usually write it out since that'd get irritating.

Rolling. You can ask Richard about his employment status and wonder about his niceness ratio regardless of result.
We still might have a day left in the thread, but I'm going to call it here-- I don't have a good place to [THREAD END] on. Next thread will begin with the contents of >>4455654 as the OP. Hope you guys have a good week! I'll be around until this drops off.
Thanks for running!
Thanks for running Bathic.

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