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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 dealing with your sleep-deprived frenemy Madrigal, who believes Richard is still inhabiting your body.

Could you use this? Yes. Should you use this?

«Don't you dare.»

…Probably not. You clear your throat. "Okay, uh, I'm not… I'm me again. I'm back."

Madrigal furrows her eyebrows.

"I'm Charlotte."

"Oh." She looks you up and down. "I guess that's why you look like shit."

"And you look like death warmed over. So." You fling your hands up. "I don't know what to tell you. You know where to find fresh corpses?"

"…I can't tell if that's an insult, or…"

"Oh, well, you do look like a corpse." (Barely an exaggeration.) "But I mean literal corpses. …For a good cause."

"'Good cause,'" she drawls. "You."

You shift. "Er, yes. There's this guy…"

"Who wants corpses."

"…No. I mean, kind of. Um." Why is she making you uncomfortable? You're right. "It's complicated." What? No it isn't. "…Ethical corpses?"

"Ohhh." She nods.

"So you—"

"You've decided murdering people is bad now?"

You cross your arms. "I thought we were over that! And I- I didn't personally murder—"

"You just watched, psycho." She is rubbing the inside of her thigh.

"I- I caught a glimpse of— Ellery's back, isn't he! And that's— that was Richard, by the way. Did he tell you that? While you were buddy-buddy? He made me—"

«Shifting the blame. That's just petty.»

Madrigal's shoulders rise and fall. "Hah."

"See! He didn't tell you! It's not my fault that—"

"It'd… it'd make sense." She stares down and, to your utter surprise, begins to tear up. "I'm- I'm sorry I…"

"There's no need to apologize." It's your mouth moving, but not your voice. The snake's head is raised. "She was lying. It was her idea."

She blinks. "Richard?"

"Don't sound like that. I'm not dead. I can't do this long, though, it stresses her vocal cords." (Wonderful. Thanks.) "There were difficulties that forced an early bailout. I am no longer in a position to advise. Don't attempt to ask further questions." You take a deep and tremulous breath. "It will be over soon."

Richard lowers his head. You take another breath. "Uh… yeah."

Could he not just have told you what to say?

«You are unreliable.»

What, and he isn't? Yelling at you one second, cozying up to Madrigal the next? Whoever he works for can't be happy about—

«My lapses in judgement come from external sources. There is an understanding I am not at fault.»

Really! External sources? Because it seems exactly the opposite. He cares, really, internally, he just overcompensates to—


Uh huh.

«This is a classical example of 'wishful thinking'—»

"Charlotte…?" Madrigal's eyes are still watery.

You start. "You're crying," you say dumbly.

"Fucking… hormones." She wipes her nose. "Not my fault. I'll be— don't look like that." (You attempt to rearrange your expression.) "I'll be normal soon, and then I'll— I'll kick your ass. So fuck off."

"Gee, I didn't even…" It'd be crass to insult her for it, you figure. And you're too burnt out to think of anything good.

«Also, you have also been crying. Frequently.»

Well, that too. You cross your arms. "…Uh, by the way, there was a weird lady looking for some kind of leader…"

"Not Monty?"

"He's busy."

"Really?" Madrigal rubs her eye. "Guess she can fuck off, then, I'm not…"

"Got that covered. Uh… so, look, about the last five days. I haven't been super conscious."

"…Light way of putting it." She drops her hand. "He said he clubbed you over the head with a bottle and stuck you in a storage closet. Like, a mind storage closet."

"Ah," you say.

"Said he was checking on you every day so you didn't disintegrate."

«Broadly accurate.»

"Ah," you say again. You don't want to think about that. "What was he… like? I never get to see him—"

«I am right here.»

"He was… weird."


"Oh?" You tilt your head. "Weird?"

"Yeah. Um…" She stares into space for a few seconds, before snapping back to you. "Weird. Like, mostly an asshole, but he… I don't think he gets out much?"

"…I guess not." You'd never thought about it. "What does it matter?"

"He kept saying how nice it was to be out in reality, with a voice, and thumbs, and… uh, he said he thought different. Less strictured, I guess, which he said was like swilling antifreeze? I don't know what that…"

«…Pleasant until it kills you.»
«It's irrelevant.»

"Okay." What are you to make of that? "Why was he talking to you?"

"Only option?" Madrigal scratches her knee. "I'm the only one who already knew you were fucking… haunted, or whatever. Has to pretend with everyone else..."

«This is slander.»

"I think he felt guilty, too, honestly. Or that he was… obligated to help. Something."

"Huh." Maybe she got the wrong Richard. "Weird."

"Yeah." She pushes her tongue over her gums and rubs more at her thigh. "So what's your actual… relationship? I never really got an answer."

There is a warning buzz in the back of your head.

(Choices next.)
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>[A1] Wow. Okay. None of her business, thanks.
>[A2] You're, um— friends??
>[A3] …Colleagues?
>[A4] He's your, uh, advisor? Like, your royal advisor. Yes.
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B] Anything else to say to or ask Madrigal? (Write-in.)

>Wat do?
>[1] Do something alone. [1A, 1B, 1E, or 1F may be combined with 1C, 1D, 2C, or 2D if desired due to lack of major significance.]
>>[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] You have all the books in the tent stacked… time to unstack them and see what they're actually about.
>>[E] Your poor model (V2) has been sitting unfinished for nearly a week. You should keep working on it. [ID gain.]
>>[F] Of course you don't look terrible. You never look terrible. But maybe you could look… better. [Remove 'You Look Terrible' malus.]
>>[G] Write-in.

>[2] Go hunt someone down.
>>[A] You told Ellery you'd give him the rundown. Get that out of the way so you don't have to waste valuable brainpower on him.
>>[B] Monty's probably done with his mystery meeting, right? Speak with him
>>[C] The faster you model a body for Gil, the faster he stops invading your dreams, probably. You should get started.
>>[D] Richard's back and evidently hangover-free. You probably need a rundown on the crown situation.
>>[E] Write-in.
>Last time on Drowned Quest Redux
Locked into an alien mindset of your own creation, you battled Ellery, who had turned into a beetle… god… thing. You eventually prevailed, and left him alive as you descended to the third level of the manse, dove into a sea of beetles, discovered a strange white room, and stabbed the shadow of a person within, filling the first tine of your crown.
On your way back up, you discovered that the beetles were escaping the manse (not your fault), lured Ellery with you, rescued unfortunate captive Gil, and emerged exhausted but unharmed. Instead of waking, you were shunted into a mind-bar, where Richard insisted you greet Gil and otherwise celebrate your success.
You do this, have a heart-to-heart with drunk Richard and your dead dad, kind of, get questions answered-ish, and go to sleep for real. In the morning, you turn in Horse Face's stolen goods, swap information with Eloise, and head off to find Monty, who turns out to be busy. You speak briefly with a mysterious visitor, instead, and along with Ellery attempt to bring her to Madrigal… who had her own problems.

For quick SOL updates, expect two or three a day - for longer/more involved updates, I try to guarantee one/day. If I miss a day, I'll try to compensate with multiple updates the next. There may be sporadic half-updates (no choices) if I start writing too late in the evening, sorry in advance. I am in the PST timezone.

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 may be considered both HP and the measure of her current sense of self, and is 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 write-ins, indicated options, and at reasonable narrative points, as well as through sleep. Dropping to 0 ID is bad.


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

>Pastebins ("Who's Who" updated)

>Doodles (Thread 12 updated)

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!
>[A5] Write-in.

He's our best minion and worst friend. IDFK, he's definitely not our dad though. Like having an evil advisor who more or less wants what's best for you, regardless of what you actually want or think is best.

>[F] Of course you don't look terrible. You never look terrible. But maybe you could look… better. [Remove 'You Look Terrible'.

> Get Maddie back on track re: ethically sourced corpses. Come on, she's a smuggler.

>[E] Write-in.

Go smug it up with sea speak chick. We're the best she's gonna get for now if she wants to talk to anyone. Make sure we look better before we see here. Then go check in if Monty is done with his *personal business*.
Oh, nice. Was expecting to leave this for tomorrow. First day of the thread is always molasses.

>Bunch of things, definitely not your dad
>Hey no I actually do need that corpse
Called and writing.

>Freshen up and go find mystery woman
I'm going to defer this vote, since pressing on the corpse will trigger its own vote. You may write this in again when I next call for a Wat Do, if you still want to.
Engage in sloppy messy kissing with the tallest being
Welcome back! I love the write-ins, but have you considered tossing a regular vote my way every once in a while? :^)

This last sentence is basically incomprehensible, so to clear it up: pressing about the corpse is going to trigger its own set of options, so I'm pushing back the wat do vote until after you deal with that. You can resubmit this when it shows up again.
>well uh you know he's uh
>AHEM, the corpse(s)

You scuff the toe of your boot into the sand. Madrigal sips from her mug. "Well?"

How are you supposed to put it into words? (You shouldn't.) Worse, how are you supposed to make it sound palatable? (You can't.) It's an impossible task, and the buzzing isn't helping you concentrate. It's none of her business. She doesn't deserve to know. She can't know. Everything will be ruined if she—

«Calm down. You're trembling.»

No you aren't. (You hug your arms to your chest.)

«You are. It's sad.»
«The fact is, she already knows too much. It can't be cleanly removed, and I would prefer to avoid a lobotomy. It's conspicuous.»
«I trust you agree.»

So you're screwed.

«She owes me.»
«And I have made my attitude on traitors clear.»

…She's under threat of death?

«I have cultivated a deep gratitude and a healthy respect.»
«In any case, she's in no condition to be telling tales. She's lucky to be mobile, and it'll only get worse. I give her a week.»
«Now talk.»

But you still don't know what—

"He's telling you what to say." Madrigal crosses one leg over the other.

"N-oo—" you protest. "He's not—"

"Don't gullshit me. Your- your eyes go all..." She flicks her fingers back and forth.

"I— yes, but he wasn't… he doesn't tell me what to say. That's just…"

«I give you advice.»

"…He gives me advice."

She quirks an eyebrow. "Good advice?"


"Um…" You drum your fingers against your arm. "He wants what's best for me."


"Doesn't answer the question."

"Oh." It seemed like it did. "Even when I don't. Even when I'm- I'm- shortsighted, or selfish, or whatever, he…"

Madrigal is looking at you oddly. "So you don't agree with the advice?"

"It's not that I don't…" Of course you don't agree, and 'advice' is a very polite way of putting it. But she wouldn't— couldn't— shouldn't understand. "It- it doesn't matter, okay? Forget the advice. He's just… he's a friend."

"He put you in a storage closet."

"I never said— not a good friend, okay? Not a good— he's more of a- a servant, really. An assistant. That sort of thing. Um. He's not- nothing to do with my father. That'd be insane."


Oh, hell. You need to get away from this subject. "Nothing. I still need a corpse."

She laughs at this until she's doubled over and hacking, and the hacking goes on longer than the laughing did. You narrowly avoid the spilling of the mug (the liquid vanishes before it touches the ground) and go to watch from the safe vantage of across the tent.

«Mood swings are an unfortunate but guaranteed side effect.»
«Even if she wasn't insomniac, even if her nerves weren't frayed, the chemicals—»

Did you give the impression you cared? You don't. You're just picturing your father— how funny you can do that now. You're just picturing him this way. You're just picturing yourself, age— 14? 16? 18?— watching him be this way. And then forgetting.

>[-1 ID: 7/(9)]

«Don't do this to yourself.»

Why not? He can't tell you what to do. He's not your father. Ha ha ha.

«This isn't productive.»

Ha ha ha. You're pathetic. You're haunted by the ghost of a man who didn't exist a week ago and when he claws back to life you don't even want him. You want a snake over him. Ha ha ha.

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

«Not just unproductive, unhealthy. How are you feeling.»

You're feeling fine. You're feeling great.

«Okay. Well, you're not. Something has clearly gone wrong with you.»

You're not allowed to feel things? Is that the issue? Does it scare him when you feel things? Would he prefer it if you were his perfect little automaton, ready to—

«If it stopped your bitching, yes.»
«You must've broke something while I was… busy. I would've stopped you. Tell me what you mucked with.»

You didn't muck with anything.

«Of course you did. You muck with everything.»
«The mindset.»
«You shoved yourself in there, you must've—»

Madrigal has stopped, and you don't just mean coughing— she's staring rigidly into space, her hands crooked at her side. "Madrigal?" you say aloud.

Not a twitch.

«You're not worming out of this. We will discuss later.»

"Madrigal?" You shimmy over and wave a hand in front of her face. "Are you—? Hey, look at me."

She looks at you glassily.

"Hey. Okay. Can you tell me where to find a corpse?" You pause. "Ethically?"

You can hear the gears grind in her head. Finally, her shoulders drop and her wrists relax. "Yes," she signs.

"Fantastic. Where?"

"I know… people. I can…" She rubs her eye. "I'm not doing it for free."

"But you owe—"

"I don't owe you a damn thing. What the shit's up with Ellery?"


"That's your job, genius. Don't tell me you haven't found anything."

"How is this…"

"You do what I'm paying you for before anything else. What's the deal?"

>[1] Okay, you have news… most of which you've been told *not* to tell her, but corpses don't grow on trees. [Pick as many as desired.]
>>[1A] This Ellery isn't the real one. You don't know where the real one is. (And you have proof of this.)
>>[1B] Ellery is the vice president of some semi-legal invitation-only manse delving club. You assume this is his main social outlet.
>>[1C] Ellery can take off his skin, apparently. (In unreality.) It's creepy and disgusting. She dated this guy?
>>[1D] Ellery is straight-up physically immortal. (In unreality.) And abuses this to get himself into trouble.
>>[1E] You b̶r̶a̶i̶n̶ ̶d̶a̶m̶a̶g̶e̶d̶ cleverly tricked Ellery into entering a "suggestive state," in which he kind of had delusions of grandeur, and also thought you were Madrigal?
>>[1F] Something else? (Write-in.)

>[2] Look, you've been possessed for almost a week. What does she honestly expect? You don't have anything. [Lock yourself out of Madrigal's corpse source. There are others.]
>>[2A] Anything else to say to/ask Madrigal? (Optional write-in.)
>>[2B] Wat do? (Required. Refer to >>4466913 for choices.)
>[1F] Something else? (Write-in.)
How sure is she that she wants to know? She apparently only has about a week left. Maybe she should just go fucking talk to Ellery herself about it like an adult. Y'know, make the most of her short time here.

If she still wants us to be the one to tell her after that, fuck it, tell her. She dead soon anyways.

Speaking of which, what condition will her body be in by then?
>[1D] Ellery is straight-up physically immortal. (In unreality.) And abuses this to get himself into trouble.

Also he thinks him and Maddy are the only real people, which brings up some rather interesting questions we aren't actually all that interested in her about.

Also the "what about your body" was a joke, now, because I remembered Gil needs a male body.
>>[1C] Ellery can take off his skin, apparently. (In unreality.) It's creepy and disgusting. She dated this guy?

When does Charlotte get the underwater BBC?
>She dead soon anyways.
Achuctchually, you don't think she's going to die-- if Richard wasn't lying, he's lifehacked a way for her to survive the process. It'll be a bitch in the meantime, though, and there's no telling what she'll be like afterwards.

>Gil needs a male body.
He doesn't need one, but you suspect he'd vastly prefer one.

>underwater BBC
Anon, Richard is black, two feet long, a dick, and penetrates your mind on a regular basis. I shouldn't have to write the jokes for you.

I'm going to give this one a little while longer-- would you guys prefer to combine >>4468255 >>4468257 >>4468551 or keep them exclusive? Let me know before I call it or I'll roll for it.
Sure combine it
Mix it all up.
> and there's no telling what she'll be like afterwards.

I mean, that's a kind of death.
Gotcha. I'll write shortly, then, barring new votes.

It is! But in the BS philosophical way that drowning is, not the useful provides-a-corpse way.
It occurs to me, Madrigal could provide a body a different way. Being a woman and all that.
I mean... yes, theoretically. But that's not feasible for a whole host of reasons, #1 being that you've never heard of any successful pregnancy underwater.
Pregnancy? I meant she could seduce an unsavory fellow over and we could shank him. Corpse acquired.

Gil in a baby's body would be useless.
Heads up, since I didn't mention this before: you'll be giving Madrigal a rough outline of the spelunking club to provide context for the skin/immortality thing. You won't mention the vice presidency.

Kek, fair enough-- though I was under the impression you wanted to avoid a random shanking. (I wouldn't consider that "ethically sourced.") You can accomplish that easily enough without Madrigal, though, if that's the route you choose to go with.

"Wtf I don't want to be a baby" was one of the many reasons, yes.
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>Buncha stuff

You don't give a damn if she's sick, you're not letting her talk to you like that. "The deal is— aren't you, like, 40? Can't you act like an adult and ask him? You're dying, it's not like you have anything to—"

"I'm 30."

"That's the same age."

"No it's— and I'm not- I'm not fucking dying." She grinds her fist into her thigh. "I- I'm fine. I'll be fine. Fuck you."

"Denial," you note. "First stage of grief."

"Fuck you. Your fucking not-dad told me I wasn't dying, and he's the… he knows shit. You don't know shit."

You cross your arms. "I know… stuff."

«You don't. She's not dying.»
«She's undergoing a natural biological process.»

She's turning into a snake.

«Firstly, no. That's reductive. She is the vector for the reproduction process.»

Of a snake.

«Secondly, that's false. She'll come out of this intact. Not unchanged, but intact.»
«I have ensured this, much against my will. This is your fault.»

You were knocked out in a storage closet.

«A gross exaggeration.»
«It was more of a basement.»
He shifts his mass.
«Thirdly, you should not concern yourself w-»

"You're talking again," Madrigal says.

"I am not." You rub your nose. "You're delirious. But anyways, if you're not dying, why not see Ellery? If you're in such tip-top physical condition—"

Oh, damn it, she's tearing up again. "He won't fucking talk to me!"

"I mean… you just told him to eff off."

"I wanted to see Richard! And it's not like he- he- he-" She's choking up, too. Wonderful. "He's impossible! You've seen him in— you think I haven't tried? He- he-"

There's snot now. You deeply wish you were anywhere else.

«She'll stabilize soon. The mood swings are a byproduct of the initialization: once the alterations kick in, i-»

Wow, do you not care. You cough. "Er- okay, gee. I'll tell you some stuff, okay? If you'll stop…"

She sniffles. "You will?"

"Yeah. Uh… he's immortal."


"Just tell me you don't fucking have anything," she mutters.

"No, I'm not— it's really— I think I need to start from the beginning. Um." Your legs are beginning to tire: you sit down carefully. "So… you know about the Day of Reckoning?"


Oh. "The- the surgery. Nine months ago."

"Why would you call it that? Yes, I— of course. It was a big deal."

"Okay. Did he ever talk about the side effects?"

Madrigal snort-laughs. "He only talked about what he wanted to… to talk about."

"So no."

"He was mopey for a week, then he got over it. I thought it was fixed." She looks sideways. "Was there more…?"

"Um." You cross your legs. "I think that was the end of it in- in real life. But, um… did Ellery ever talk to you about unreality? Or manses?"

"…Probably? I- I don't…" She rubs her thigh. "You don't understand how much he talked."

You think you do. "It was like you were going insane."

"…Sometimes. When it was really bad. He…" She raises her hand, then drops it. "I don't know what makes him that way."

You smirk. "Well, you didn't hire me to answer that. I— now, just stick with me, okay? There's four kinds of reality…"

Madrigal's face droops more the longer you attempt to explain Metaphysics 101. Several times, she stares completely off into space, and you have to get up and wave your hand in front of her face for her to refocus. She's holding her head by the time you finish. "You sound just like him."

This is possibly the gravest insult you've ever received. You curl your lip. "No I don't."

"You do. Fucking… nonsense gullshit. I don't want to know this."

"Well, blame Ellery, then! He's the one wrapped up in all this! He's in a stupid club for it—"

She's green around the edges. "Just to reiterate, people— actual human people— could be in my brain. And I wouldn't know?"

«She doesn't have a manse. So no.»
«And it wouldn't be <in> her brain, technically, it's sort of bolted on—»

"Richard says not your brain." You pause. "But other people's, yeah. That's where— okay, back to the immortality thing. And the Day of Reckoning— I don't think it did much physically or mentally. He got over it emotionally, I guess. But metaphysically, it— I think he's not real. Anymore."

She scoffs weakly. "I'd know if…"

«I mean, he's not… it's more that he has an identical unreal copy of him grafted on.»

Thank you, Richard, that added so much to your understanding. "I don't think you would? It's not like he's a different person, it's like… I think it's like water turning into a gas. It's just a different… state. But, uh— so, in unreality— that's in people's heads, and dreams, and stuff— nothing's real. Including people. But—"

You explain the whole 'you still die when stabbed' thing to the best of your knowledge, and you think you're nearly accurate since Richard doesn't interject. "But," you say. "Um. That only works if you… believe in it, unconsciously. Most people don't have a choice. But since he's not real, he…"

"He doesn't die," Madrigal signs, stiffly.

"Yeah. Uh, he just… I don't think he feels pain, either. Or- or gets tired. And, um…" You make a face. "He can take off his skin? And there's just… nothing underneath. It's…"

Madrigal looks deeply tired. "He must get into so much shit."

"Yeah, I- I think he does." You pause. "I don't think any of that stuff relates to you. It's just really weird, and I- I found it out."

"Thanks." She does not look thankful. "Yeah, I... believe it. He'd take his own fucking skin off for kicks if he could."

"Well, he does. So." You bob your head. "Wait, there is— it's not conclusive, or anything, but he did mention you."

Her eyes fix on yours. "He mentioned me."

"Um… yes. But it was…" You decide not to go into the incriminating specifics. "He said things about how he was the- the only thing that existed, and that everything else was— fake, or part of him, or something. Except you. You were the only other thing there was."

Madrigal buries her face in her hands. You interlace your fingers nervously. "I think it was a compliment?"

"…That's… oh, god."

You scratch your neck with your interlaced fingers. "Does that sound like something he's said before?"

"…Urgh." She raises her head. "It's... I don't know. He's always had an ego. And he— I mean, being followed around by yourself all the time— I never knew him. Above. But it must've fucked with him. But even then… I don't think…"

"He never said it aloud?"

"I mean, yes. If he ever thought that, he never said it. I mean, I'd tell him to fuck right off, right? That's insane. That's… I mean, that's how you wander off in the middle of the night, thinking like that." She rubs her nose. "I'm not sure he thought that, though, he never indicated… it must be recent. He's developed mental illness. Fuck me."

He may have developed mental illness because of you, you fail to mention, but you're not sure it matters— there's no way that came out of nowhere. Maybe he wasn't thinking it consciously, but he was thinking it. "…At least it's kind of romantic?"

"Oh, yeah. We're trapped together in a fucking… hell world stage play. Romantic." She kicks at the ground. "You'd think if I were the only real one he'd fucking listen to me, but no-o."

You don't say anything.

She takes a deep breath. "And you found this all out through…"

"The stupid club." (Were you supposed to keep it a secret? Whatever.)

"Which he's a part of."


"…And he's been a member for…?"

You think. "Not sure. A long time."

"I never heard a fucking word about this. You know how much he talks? And not a fucking word?" She throws a piece of grit at the ground. "And he goes to meetings regularly."

As vice president? "Yeah."

"And he likes the people there. He's friends with them."


"So you're telling me that, for months, while he has been actively avoiding, not just me, but every person who gives a fuck about him—"

You see where this is going and stay silent.

"—he's been fucking around with fucking strangers in fucking… dreamland!"


You run your tongue along your teeth. "…It would appear so, yes."

Madrigal's fist clenches. "I'm going to kill him. I'm going to find him and I'm going to kill him."

>[1] Hey, uh, haha, she should… not do that. How about you talk to him first? Clarify things. Maybe you made a mistake. Haha. (Go find Ellery solo.)
>[2] Okay, yeah, uh, that is kind of garbage? But she should probably still not kill him. (You don't want his corpse mangled.) How about you… come with her, make sure nothing terrible happens. (Go find Ellery with Madrigal.)
>[3] Neat. Have fun. You're off to do something else. (Refer to >>4466913 for options.)
>[4] Write-in.
> Cool. Can we have the body afterwards? Hooefully it doesn't disappear like the othersr this time.
Are you sure you want to tell Madrigal that you want her ex-boyfriend's corpse when she already half-thinks you're a psychopath? You better have a good explanation ("need to use it as puppet for beetles" is not a good explanation).

Also, you need to pick what you're doing afterwards.
I mean, he comes back so it's not like it's that bad. So, you know, if she does end up killing him then want not waste not.

>[2] Okay, yeah, uh, that is kind of garbage? But she should probably still not kill him. (You don't want his corpse mangled.) How about you… come with her, make sure nothing terrible happens. (Go find Ellery with Madrigal.)
Yeah, I'm not saying it's a bad strategy or actually morally wrong (a little dubious, but not *wrong*)... but Madrigal is shaky on the 'coming back to life' part, and even if she were convinced of that you'd still have to explain why you need Ellery's corpse. And then explain how there's this guy, but he's not actually real, and... by that point you've exceeded her (low) weirdness tolerance. Your best bet is to ask for forgiveness, not permission.

Calling the vote fairly soon.
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>Tag team

"Oo-kay," you say. "Um. Sounds great. But why don't we just…"

Madrigal is standing from the cot, stomping to the corner, grabbing her spear— you wince. How is Gil going to use the body if it's full of holes? "Hey, um, don't do anything rash… Madrigal?" Her gait is unsteady, but she's using the spear as a walking stick to hobble out the door. "Hey!"

You dash out after her: she's pale and blinking against the sunshine like some kind of cave toad and scanning the surroundings for any sign of Ellery. And there he is— back at the man with the pins, only it's escalated from glaring to gesticulating wildly. You catch snatches of the conversation: "shoddy," "manufacture," "how dare you—"

She sees him a second after you do, which you know because her knuckles grow white on the haft of her spear. She jabs the blunt end into the ground as she stalks forward, leaving half-inch puncture holes in the mud behind her. You try to look like you're not following her and fail, but she doesn't turn her head. Neither does Ellery, even as she draws within a few feet of him, though the man with the pins seems relieved at the impending distraction. With her free hand, Madrigal grabs Ellery's shoulder, yanks him around ("Hey!"), and— slugs him in the face. The spear is still firmly planted in the ground.

Your sigh of relief is short-lived: Madrigal is dragging a nosebleeding, protesting, baffled Ellery away with her by the wrist, into the weedy outskirts of the trees. You flash the man with the pins a thumbs up and hasten after them. It's only when Madrigal finds a clearing that she releases Ellery's wrist. She points the spear at him instead.

Ellery wipes his nose gingerly. His blood is unnaturally red. "Maddie, what the fuck?"

"You ASSHOLE!" She's swaying.

"Maddie, I literally— I literally haven't seen you in a week. What did I… hi, Lottie."

You wave. Madrigal turns, sees you, and turns back. "What did you do? Is that what you're asking? What did you do."

"Yeah. I'm sure you can understand… are you feeling okay? You don't look good. I heard you were down with something—"

"I'm fine, dickhead!" Her shoulders raise. "I look fine! It's not like you care, you inconsiderate—"

You clear your throat. "Stay on topic, maybe."

"I— shut up, Charlotte! This isn't about you, either! This is about—" She jabs the spearhead lightly into Ellery's chest.

"Ow," he says. Then, "You know, you're hot when you—" She jabs harder. "Ow! What is it, then! It was probably an accident!"


"Well, I sure haven't done anything on purpose— godsdammit, could you get that thing away? You're going to snag the fabric."

Madrigal twitches the spear away, a little. "Oh, so you just accidentally flew the fucking coop. You just accidentally ditched the only fucking people who give a shit—"

"Maddie, I'm right here?" He looks down. "Are you sure you're feeling okay?"

"Oh, you're here physically, but mentally? Mentally, you're—" She turns to you. "Tell him!"

"Um…" You fold your arms. "You've been hanging around in- in manses, with a bunch of…"

"What, you mean years ago?" He squints. "That was… I got bored of that. Moved on to crystals. With a bunch of what?"


"I didn't do it with people. It was— you realize I codeveloped the field? I don't want to say discovered, since— you know, it's that thing where people happen to all make the same discovery at once? But I pioneered—"

"Um," you say. "Okay. No, I mean yesterday. You were in a manse, with people… yesterday. I talked to you."

There's a flicker of something in his eyes— confusion or recognition? You can't tell. "No you didn't?"

"Believe me, I did. So much. So many… versions." You wrinkle your nose. "I mean, if you don't remember, whatever, but— I mean, you can't have forgotten all of it."

"I haven't forgotten— what are you talking about? I haven't been involved in the scene in— months."

Madrigal is breathing heavily. She steps back from Ellery and swings the spear towards you. "Then you fucking lied."

"I didn't lie! He was- how would I even make up the skin thing!"

"The what?" Ellery says.

Madrigal looks on the verge of punching someone again. "Well, one of you is lying! So!"

>[1] Well, you know exactly what you saw. Maybe if you just explain it out, step by step, Ellery will crack. Right?
>[2] No. Something is— something is wrong here. (What? Give it your best shot. Write-in.)
>[3] Write-in.
>>[1] Well, you know exactly what you saw. Maybe if you just explain it out, step by step, Ellery will crack. Right?
>[2] No. Something is— something is wrong here. (What? Give it your best shot. Write-in.)

Goddamnit. Did Ellery die again? Waitaminute. Why is he talking about crystals now? Horseface is the one who is into crystals, has he been hanging out with him? Did Ellery turn himself into one of those things Horseface was trying to summon?

As for Maddie, why would we lie about this. Ellery is clearly the one with memory problems, and otherwise how would we even know about psylunking? We met his friends with the weekday names and everything. Richard was the one who set it up, and if Maddie won't trust us, well, she probably definitely shouldn't trust Richard but I bet she does anyways.

Unless Ellery has multiple copies running around after the dive, or something.
FWIW, Horse Face (as far as you know) was never into crystals-- at least not past the fact they power magitech. He has a whole bunch of chit, which is technically tiny impure crystals, but it's not useful for much outside currency and he doesn't seem to be studying it. He's just rich and sketchy.

Ellery, meanwhile, does seem to be into crystals-- he was growing them all the way back in, er, Thread 2. Which I'm sure you guys all remember vividly, it being a year ago.

Other than that, there's some good stuff in here. I'll combine it with a cursory explanation (>>4470855) and write.

You grin irritably. "Well, it's not me! You think I'd make all that up just to— what, make you look dumb? You know I have better things to do? And it's not like that's hard—"

Madrigal falters. "Well, I- I don't—"

Ellery dabs at his nose with a tissue. "Why would I lie?"

You scoff. "You lie about everything."

"I do not—"

"See? You're lying right now."

"Both of you are fucking liars! That's the issue! But you can't both be lying, and you can't both be telling the truth, and you're—" Madrigal stakes the spear into the ground and sags against it. "Sorry. Sorry. Hold on."

You lean against a tree. "I'm not the one with the most to gain here."

"Sorry, what do I gain?"

"You don't want Madrigal to be mad at you?" You shrug. "I mean, she punched you in the—"

He takes the tissue away from his nose. It's swollen. "Why would that fucking matter? She's always mad at me."

"Gullshit," Madrigal signs slowly.

"I go for a walk, she's mad. I stay here, she's mad. I talk, she's mad, I don't talk, she's mad. I break up, she's fucking furious—"

"Okay, I don't care about your cruddy relationship." (Well, you like knowing the details. But not now.) "We— whatever. We need to talk this out. Okay? Let's just assume we— neither of us are lying. I saw him there, while he wasn't there."

"I don't see why we couldn't've started with this, instead of… assault."

You point at Ellery. "Shut up. Okay, there's— we still have options to explain this. Option A, you've forgotten."

He scoffs. "No."

"Yes. You lie and you forget things, that's all you do. And there were circumstances that…"

"That mean I've forgotten months? No."

That does put a wrinkle in things. "I mean, it's… possible? I guess? But—"

«It's not possible. He remembered your original visit to his manse.»
«That's how you got invited in the first place.»

Okay, point. "But, uh, we can… set that aside. Okay, option 2. You were messing with crystals? What if that did something weird— or, wait, do you know Horse Face?"


You sigh. "Garvin?"

"The creep," Madrigal signs.

"N…o? I don't…" Ellery stuffs the crumpled tissue in a coat pocket and pulls out a fresh one. "There's a lot of new people, I don't keep track…"

"Okay, then— nevermind, I guess. I was going to say you could've, like, turned yourself into…? But no. Um, option three. There's multiple of you? Like, I don't know, there's you and then a beetle you running around— uh—"

The fresh tissue is floating gently to the ground. Ellery has gone pallid, all of a sudden, making his blood all the starker. He is staring at nothing. You tilt your head. "Are you…?"

With a nasty crunching noise, he doubles over and retches out… something. It might be stomach bile, but there's black swirled in it, and blood red, and silver. You frown. Madrigal, still clutching her spear, winces. "Shit."

And then Ellery wipes his mouth, straightens up, and looks at you neutrally. "Sorry, what was option three?"

"Um…" You scratch your neck. "Multiple of you?"

It's exactly the same reaction. Crunch, retch, splat, straighten like nothing happened. He blinks and wipes his mouth. "Sorry, what was option three?"

Madrigal glances at you. You glance back and put your hands in your pockets. "Uh… it doesn't matter."

"Are you sure? You sounded pretty excited about—"

"Yes. I'm sure." You are trying not to look at the vomit(?).

"Ell," Madrigal says, surprisingly gently, "we're going to… take a little break. Okay? Could you stay here? We'll— we'll be right back."

"What? Why?" Ellery scans both of your faces in bewilderment. "Why are you talking to me like I'm a child? I'm fucking older than you, Maddie, I'm way fucking older than L-"

"We'll be back!" You wave. "Bye!"

"So you're going to break my fucking nose, drag me out here, patronize me, and fucking leave?!—"

You loop Madrigal's arm over your shoulder and drag her with you into a thicket. She doesn't complain, but she breaks away as soon as you're out of Ellery's earshot. "I'm not fucking crazy, right? That— you saw that?"

"The vomiting? Yes."

"The puking, and- and- he fucking forgot. Twice. He— he just forgot! That's not…" Oh, God, she's welling up again. "D-did I give him a concussion?"

You push your tongue around your mouth. "…No."

"You can't be sure, can you? Maybe I…" She's trembling, too. God. "I didn't mean to do it so hard…"

Your disgust is mixed with some measure of pity. "No, I… I'm pretty sure."

How are you pretty sure? Well, you don't think concussions work like that. But even outside that, you've seen that vacant look from Ellery before. It's how he was before he stabbed you.

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And… he stabbed you because you were trying to stop him from stabbing himself. He was stabbing himself because finding out he'd died before triggered something in him— some kind of self-destruct reflex, or something. And he has a self-destruct reflex because he's not real, and not in the metaphysical sense. He's fake. He's a construct, or copy, or something, and whoever made him doesn't want him (or others?) to find out. So he's set to kill himself when he does.

So this is a reflex, too. Forgetting. And what triggers this one? The idea there's multiple of him. Why would his creator not want him to consider that?

How could he be in multiple places at once?

Why did Ellery try to lock you out, back in his manse? Why was he regretting inviting you to the club? Why was he trying to avoid you?

Why was he drinking in the middle of an effort to stay sober?

Why does he write in reverse? And why is his manse full of identical notes the right way around? Why does he write daily notes in the first place?

Did he really know who you were? The first time? You thought he did, but thinking back on it he kind of avoided talking about your trip to the cave. And he called you Charlotte, after you'd told him to call you Lottie.

When did he develop those ideas about being the only real one?

Why was he different? Not a lot different— not like Richard— but different. Looser, kind of, less stammery, less… closed-off. You'd chalked it up to him being in his element, but…

How could he be in multiple places at once? How could he simultaneously be holed up in his tent, avoiding everybody, having dropped his manse research months ago— and be the respected vice-president of a spelunking club, with enough friends to host regular card games?

How long did he have to spend in his head to build that massive structure by hand?

Why would someone make a copy of Ellery? What would be the point?


Unless it's to cover his tracks?

Where is the real Ellery? Have you met the real Ellery? Stared him in the face? Spoken to him at length while he furiously pretended to know what was going on? While he furiously pretended to be his fake, based off of— daily notes?

...You think so. No wonder he didn't want you to tell Madrigal.

«That was good.»

>[+2 ID: 8/(9)]

It was good. But now Madrigal is looking at you and snot's dribbling down her face again. And you have to make a decision.

>[1] Tell her everything you know. Which is a lot of things, but which boils down to: this Ellery isn't real. The real one put him here. The real one is in unreality, and has been for… a long time. You don't know why or how. You don't know if it's related to her.
>[2] Tell her parts. (What? Write-in.)
>[3] No. No, she can wait. You need to tell the fake Ellery, first. He deserves to know.
>[4] Write-in.

This has been a year coming. I hope it all makes sense for you guys.
Also, I'd like to point out that I didn't include two Ellerys on the anniversary picture just because of favoritism :v) I have my methods.
>[1] Tell her everything you know. Which is a lot of things, but which boils down to: this Ellery isn't real. The real one put him here. The real one is in unreality, and has been for… a long time. You don't know why or how. You don't know if it's related to her.

Huh. He wad going off about Maddie being the only other real person. So maybe he has a version of her there, too. Maybe Mr "I invented the field of trailing off" was involved with Creepy Body Snatchers Corporation, or they stole his work or he stole theirs.

They seem like people to hide from.
>[4] Clean her dribbling snot so we can engage in sloppy messy kissing
Hygiene first
Well, I mean we kind of worked our way towards it. Seeing multiple Ellery's in the Manse just kind of sealed the deal. Didn't thi k there would be multiple Ellery's "outside" ast it were, tho.
Oooh, can we blackmail Ellery by slipping in backwards written notes to his proxy?
Don't forget to actually vote! And I'm glad it felt like a logical progression. man I hope so I've been dropping hints for 13 threads

>Oooh, can we blackmail Ellery by slipping in backwards written notes to his proxy?
Yeah, but you'd need to convince fake Ellery to write them for you.
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this is 100% relevant to the current circumstances I swear
Fashionable. 10/10

Since this is the only actual vote, we're going with this. Writing shortly.
Sounds good to me
>Spill the beans.

You suck in your cheek. "I… think you better sit down."

Madrigal sniffles and wipes her eye. "Fuck you. I- I'm fine. I don't need to…"

"I think you better sit down."

"Nothing's wrong with my legs, I'm just— I have some aches. Okay? That's-"

You bare your teeth. "Sit down. I have news."

Resentfully, Madrigal sits. You cross your arms. "Listen up, okay? I found out more things than what I told you."

"Of course you did."

"I wasn't sure about them, okay? But now I- I'm pretty damn sure. So, just… I know this might sound crazy, but— hear me out. Please just hear me out."

She raises her eyebrows. "Oh, okay. So an evil witch sorcerized—"

"Not a word—"

"—sorceried Ellery into ditching me, and everyone else, and puking black stuff? Because—"

"No." You breathe in. "Please."

"If I hear one word about sorcery I'm—"

"It's not— it's different. But it'll sound weird and- and crazy. Just…"

You are slow to explain, at first, because you're not sure where to start. The notes are what you eventually land on: she knows about them, she's seen them, and they're unmistakably strange. You move on to seeing their copies in the manse, and the contents of the notes dated 8, 9, and 12 Kitemaker. And the first bombshell.

"He died."

"You said that before." She snorts. "I don't… I mean, he's here."

"He wandered out of the Fen in a bathrobe and no memory. Remember that? Crashed our party? Don't tell me you believe he was drinking. Jacques doesn't serve him. Branwen was out, and that's who he said—"

"Okay, then. Drugs."

"It's not- Madrigal, he has records. The only gaps in the notetaking come after— you know how toxic lionfish venom is?"

"Oh, so you're going to lecture me on exports? You? Miss Goody Two-Shoes—"

You rub your mouth. "Not only is it the only thing that makes sense, I've seen it, okay? I've seen him die. Not poison, but— do you want me to describe it? Because I can—"

"No." She chucks a muddy shard of clamshell at a tree and misses. "It just— I'm sorry, it doesn't make any sense. When they're killed, people die."

"Ah," you say. "Yes. People die."

A protracted silence, then she laughs, once. "Ell's a person."


"He's a- he's a person. I have— I've fucked him, for your information, and I can 100% confirm that he is, in all ways, a—"

"Mmmmm." You shake your head. "That's not what his blood tests say."

She closes her eyes tightly, then opens them again. "His what."

"Oh! Have I not told you about that." You absolutely haven't, since Ellery asked you not to, but you figure— A) he doesn't remember them, B) he doesn't actually exist, so you're in the clear. You summarize your adventures as lab assistant, and the ultimate conclusion you drew from the testing: Ellery could not, physically, actually be Ellery. Moreover, the deaths aren't random— they stop him from figuring too much out. Someone doesn't want him to figure too much out.

Madrigal is white. "I'll— I want to see your notes."

"Sure, later. But are you following?"

"I'm following, it just… I'd be able to tell. Right? I'd be able to—"

"I mean, it's not like he's pretending to be Ellery. He's not acting, he's just... he just thinks he is. There's nothing to tell."

"Huh." Her jaw is clenched. "I think I might be sick."

"…If it helps, uh, I think the point was… to dupe you. He didn't want anyone to find out."


"Ellery." You pause. "The real one."

She only half-rises before her stomach heaves and a quart of dark liquid spatters onto the mud.

«There goes the coffee.»

You edge away as she despondently wipes the drool and liquid off her lips, first with the back of her hand, then with a leaf. You've never wanted a handkerchief more. Eventually, she looks up at you. "I…"

"You're sure you're fine?"

"I-" And then she laughs for a good thirty seconds. You wonder if Ellery can hear any of this.

«I sincerely hope this will be over soon.»

When she stops, she collapses back onto the ground, away from the puddle of coffee (already starting to drift with the currents). "My fucking ex wanted out so bad he made a fucking— dummy version of himself. And it still won't fucking talk to me! Am I okay?"

"N-o," you guess. "Uh… I mean, I don't know why he did this. You may have nothing to do with it."

"When did this start?"

"I don't know. Probably… within the last six months? Since that's when the isolation started."

"We broke up six months ago, Charlotte." She holds her head. "I am going to fucking kill him."

"He's immortal."

"Fuck!" She massages her temples. "Why can't I date normal men?"

"Dunno." You let that sit. "Uh— I don't think the not talking has to do with you, either. I think that's another defense mechanism? Less you interact with people, less chance they have to figure out you're…"

"Yeah. That makes sense. I guess. It's as good an explanation as I've gotten. Can I— can I talk to the real one?"

"…Maybe? I don't know if he wants to see you. He's a little…" You search for the word. "Preoccupied?"

"Oh, he'll be preoccupied." She kicks at the ground. "Did he miss me? And- and everyone else."

"I… don't know."

"Does he feel pain? Is beating the shit out of him an option?"

"I don't think so? But you could give it a shot, I guess."

Madrigal nods decisively. "Okay."


"You are going to get me in to see him, and I am going to beat the shit out of him."

"Is that part of my job description?"

"Absolutely. Does he seem... healthy?"

How do you answer that? "Yes? I mean, except for the delusions."

"Right." She rubs her neck. "Great. I- I need to apologize to this one."


"His only crime is being made by a fucking coward." She stands. "Are you coming with, or—?"

>Yes. Fake Ellery may be jittery and unreliable, but at minimum he knows how the real one thinks. Explain to him what you just explained to Madrigal, then ask questions.
>[1A] You still don't know why he exists— Madrigal's theory seems, at best, incomplete. See if he has any idea.
>[1B] You still don't know the mechanism behind his existence, which could hint towards the 'why.' See if he has any idea, or make some guesses yourself.
>[1C] Discreetly ask him if you can use his corpse, now that he's aware it's not creepy. Or if not, ask if you can follow him around so you know when he dies.
>[1D] Offer your condolences.
>[1E] Ask or say something else. (Write-in.)


> No, this seems to be mostly resolved. You have other business to take care of.
>Do something alone. [2A, 2B, 2E, or 2F may be combined with 2A, 2B, 3C, or 3D if desired due to lack of major significance.]
>>[2A] Has Richard been using your day planner? It seems possible, but you ought to make sure it's all clear and up-to-date.
>>[2B] Didn't you steal a radio? Finally. You should test it out, see if it's working.
>>[2C] Contemplate how to murder Fake Ellery without his knowledge so you can stuff his corpse full of beetles.
>>[2D] Contemplate how to locate Real Ellery so Madrigal can punch him in the face/you can interrogate him.
>>[2E] You have all the books in the tent stacked… time to unstack them and see what they're actually about.
>>[2F] Your poor model (V2) has been sitting unfinished for nearly a week. You should keep working on it. [ID gain.]
>>[2G] Of course you don't look terrible. You never look terrible. But maybe you could look… better. [Remove 'You Look Terrible' malus.]
>>[2H] Write-in.

>Go hunt someone down.
>>[3A] Monty's probably done with his mystery meeting, right? Speak with him.
>>[3B] The faster you model a body for Gil, the faster he stops invading your dreams, probably. You should get started.
>>[3C] Richard's back and evidently hangover-free. You probably need a rundown on the crown situation.
>>[3D] Write-in.
>[2F] Your poor model (V2) has been sitting unfinished for nearly a week. You should keep working on it. [ID gain.]
>[2A] Has Richard been using your day planner? It seems possible, but you ought to make sure it's all clear and up-to-date.

I hope someone else votes.
I hope someone else votes, too! But it's okay if not.
I won't require you to pick something additional here, but for the sake of advancing the narrative I will request it. Would you pick something out of [2B] [2C] [3B] [3C] to go along with your current choices?
>[1E] Ask or say something else. (Write-in.)

A) This Ellery isn't real. Not in a self-aware way, so an apology would be wasted or drive it to suicide. I mean, yeah we need a corpse and all but maybe it's a little cruel to get one this way.

B) Fake-Ellery might lash out at us if he finds out we know his secret. It's happened before, and no we don't want to talk about it.

C) It might trip an alarm for real Ellery, driving him deeper into hiding. Speaking of which, maybe we could find out what or who he might be hiding from that ISN'T Maddie? Does she not remember a corporation doing suspiciously similar fake body making things?

D) Oh yeah we told Hattie about BodyCorp and apparently it's a big deal and shit is gonna go down.

E) Maddie ain't exactly in the best space to deal with this stuff right now either, so maybe a less direct approach would be best for her too.

>[3A] Monty's probably done with his mystery meeting, right? Speak with him. Also we can have a drink or ten with Maddie.
No issues with this write-in, just want to clarify:
> Also we can have a drink or ten with Maddie.
Before or after you meet with Monty? At the bar or using Madrigal's confiscated alcohol stash? Inviting anyone else, or just Madrigal?
After meeting with Monty. Probably with Maddies stash because fuck spending money. Inviting anyone? Drag the wetlander girl along. Girls night out. Or in. Whatever. It'll be like a less boozy party the maids probably had. We'll go slumming, get people wasted, and learn their secrets like a proper shitbag manipulator with no friends and no father.
Branwen is quite a hike away, so unless she's in town right now it's fairly impractical to invite her. The rest is noted.

>and learn their secrets like a proper shitbag manipulator with no friends and no father.
Whew. Learning names is hard.

The Edglander is the haunted looking woman, yah? Not wetlander.

We told Eloise about the whole clone army company.

Anyways. We're at least trying to pretend to be nicer, it can't hurt for Monty to visibly see us comforting Madrigal while she kinda falls apart. I don't really want her shouting out everything in a public place though.

Maybe we can put Richard in a box or something while we go drinking. Maybe we can pretend hard enough to be a nice person that we can convince ourselves we really are.
Gosh, I hope Charlie doesn't realize that Richard gives her attention the more she breaks herself down, so maybe if she breaks herself enough he'll at least be concerned for her which is kind of like caring. Probably won't work though. Her mom checked out mentally when she was a kid, her dad left her, and Richard would rather risk existential death or something rather than at least be fake nice to her like he is to everyone else.
Re-reading, maybe we should just drink the Richard poison. Nobody likes the Charlie Charlotte is, so she probably deserves a Snake who can't like her without pretending to be someone else.

So maybe Charlie doesn't need to be liked, she just needs people to like what she can be around them so she can get her crown and then - well that's a later problem. Make everyone like her? Might as well just move on from models to dolls. Make herself into the fake Charlie everyone likes for real? Might as well skip the crown and commit suicide. Magically metaphysically punch the shit out of whoever is in charge of reality with the crown? Has some appeal to it.


I'm kind of at a loss for what Charlie's goals are, at this point. Aside from getting her model back from Horseface.
You can always check the pastebin if you need help keeping everyone straight! That's what it's there for. (I don't blame you.)

Oh, sorry, yeah. Haunted-looking woman is from the Edge, apparently, which is what it sounds like-- where the world drops off into infinity(?). There's one to the far east and one to the far west. (She's probably from the east.) If you find her, you can invite her, but you're not totally sure where she went!

>We told Eloise about the whole clone army company.
Yes. (There is no Hattie! Hedy is a former friend(?) you screwed over badly)

>Maybe we can put Richard in a box or something while we go drinking. Maybe we can pretend hard enough to be a nice person that we can convince ourselves we really are.
Damn man you're giving me feels

Her mom actually developed postpartum bipolar disorder! Fun times for the whole family. Luckily, Charlotte doesn't have a huge self-destructive streak-- she may ruin relationships/throw herself into danger/cry in public places, but she's not doing it on *purpose.* (That's more of an Ellery trait.) Doing things to get Richard's attention would first require admitting to herself she needs his attention, which she's only kinda-semi-done and then immediately backtracked on. Denial saves the day(?), at least until something drastic happens.

(1/2) (yes unironically)
>Richard's motivations
This is technically spoilers but you would've gotten this info if you rolled less cruddy, so I'm not too fussed about it: He isn't mean to you because he doesn't care, or because he hates you. He's mean to you (and only you) because-- 1) it's effective and he has to get his job done somehow, 2) it's exhausting to be *pleasant* to people all the time, and 3)-- this is the important one-- it's an extremely backhanded compliment. He's nice to other people not because he likes them-- discounting residual feelings from, eg, possessing you-- but because it's disarming and attracts less attention. He doesn't have to do this with you: he knows you and trusts you enough that he can be his actual self, ie a condescending misanthropic jerkward.

>Richard pretending to be someone else
This is in this text, but it's pretty subtle, so: he did legitimately intend that to be a (maybe ostentatiously) nice gesture, not an escape route-- but he misread Charlotte's mood and Charlotte misread the situation and it all kind of spiraled.

>Richard's liking of you (or otherwise)
This is actual spoilers, so don't scroll over if you want to see it in the quest, but since this could've come up last thread (I just forgot to add it as a question whoops[//spoiler]) and I've been open about it offsite: He actually does like you, in the manner that one likes a really stupid cat: you're not at all equals, but it's entertaining to watch you run around chasing light spots and bashing your head into doors, and he'd be upset beyond a professional level if you died. The main problem comes when he has to make you do things, in which case it's like trying to get a really stupid cat to run an obstacle course on command. Impossible! And frustrating!

Charlotte's too committed to positive thinking to even consider this! Even at her lowest (read: 0 ID), she still doesn't want to die-- just stop being the quest MC having control over her life. If everything was taken from her, she'd be more likely to get really righteously pissed about it than commit seppuku.

>Magically metaphysically punch the shit out of whoever is in charge of reality with the crown?
I am not ruling this out as an endgame.

(2/3! I misjudged! why did I write an update length response someone shoot me)
Broken spoilers in the last one but I am not retyping all those tags so you'll have to deal with it. Nothing important is under them.

Voting to update the planner will lay your goals out in nice, readable, sorted, IC form, but here's your main ones at the moment (actual steps in spoilers):
- Continue filling crown reading the books in your tent will help [2]
- Get Gil out of your head ASAP by murdering Ellery, waiting until Ellery dies, murdering someone random, setting off on a Hell day trip, or looking into what happened with Clone Inc. (Namway)-- or multiple, if one doesn't work out
- Continue investigating Ellery -- you still need the why, and the how would be nice you have to get back to the real him, somehow, or ask people who know the real him-- more details with [2D]

You have some miscellaneous minor ones, but I'll wait for the planner vote.

And now I'm going to bed. Christ.
> actual spoilers

I'm not scrolling over them, then.
Totally fair! That's why they're under spoilers to begin with. (Only the last point is legitimate spoilers, though, the top is borderline and the middle is rehashing a couple of lines from last thread.)

I know it looks like the entire last section is spoilers, but it's actually two separate boxes: if you didn't scroll over because of that, here's the nonspoiler part reposted. (If you did... here's the nonspoiler part reposted, I guess.)

Charlotte's too committed to positive thinking to even consider this! Even at her lowest (read: 0 ID), she still doesn't want to die-- just stop being the quest MC having control over her life. If everything was taken from her, she'd be more likely to get really righteously pissed about it than commit seppuku.

>Magically metaphysically punch the shit out of whoever is in charge of reality with the crown?
I am not ruling this out as an endgame.

(2/3! I misjudged! why did I write an update length response someone shoot me)"
>[1B] You still don't know the mechanism behind his existence, which could hint towards the 'why.' See if he has any idea, or make some guesses yourself.

"Hey Ellery if you wanted to hide in unreality and make a fake copy of you so nobody noticed you were gone, how would you do it? Purely hypothetically, of course."

Thinking that maybe we shouldn't tell him everything because then it'll trigger the suicide switch and he'll try to kill himself or us again.

Just rolling into this thread half a week late because I never check twitter, don't mind me.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

No worries. I never check Twitter either :^)
You're losing the vote, but keep the hypothetical in your back pocket for if (when) you see Ellery again. It's a valid strategy.


You'll be telling Madrigal not to tell Ellery, plus all this stuff (>>4472197), then do something else. What is up to the dice.
1 = Model/planner/Gil
2 = Monty/Girls' Midmorning Out

Then writing shortly.

"Er, wait," you say. "Hang on. Are you going to tell him all— that?"

"Yes?" Madrigal picks up her spear. "If I were a fake fucking person, I'd want to—"

"You can't."

She looks as if she wants to say something, but reevaluates. "…Why."

"Because he'll kill himself, Madrigal. Or he'll hurt you. He won't mean to, but that's just— it's how he's been wired."

A derisive snort. "Like you care if he dies. You wanted his fucking corpse."

Okay, you did. (You kind of still do.) But you can't explain to her that you feel sorry for the fake Ellery, a little— she'd laugh. She wouldn't believe you. "I— it doesn't matter what I care. Do you want his blood on your hands? Or your blood on his? Because—"

"He's got the muscle mass of a stick, Charlotte. I can handle myself." She examines the spear's haft. "He's not violent, either, I don't know where you're getting that—"

"I don't want to talk about it."

"Uh huh. Whatever." She sighs. "Are you going to tell him eventually?"

"I don't know."

"So he might never—"

"Not never, just… I think we have to look into this first. Does that make sense? I mean, we tell him now, he— what, tips the real one off? And we're sunk, then, he'll just hide in a billion nooks and crannies until we— you know how evasive he is when he doesn't know I know?"

Madrigal throws her head back and sits down again. "So then what. What do we do."

You don't know how to feel about the 'we.' "Like I said, we look into it. Like, for instance— are you really sure you're the reason? Is he that petty? Or was he involved in—"

"I don't know what he was involved in."

"Let me finish! Listen, what if he was involved in the facility? With the goo and Lester and Pat and stuff? Doppelgängers are exactly their thing, and they seem like good people to hide from—"

«He couldn't possibly be goo. You would've known as soon as he got shot.»

Wow, thanks, Richard. Have any better ideas?

«…The similarity in MO is notable. It's not impossible they're related somehow.»

"I guess?" Madrigal rubs her chin. "Do you have proof?"

"I don't… not have proof? I also don't have other ideas. Plus, I mean, even if he's not involved, it still could be important— you know what Eloise was like about it?"

"You told Eloise?"

"Yes. And she got serious. Like it was a big deal. She said she'd have to talk to people— so if we solved that we'd be, like— heroes!" Yes. This seems right to you.

She spins the spear idly. "Neither of us are fucking heroes, Charlotte, and I have two full-time jobs. I can't run around solving conspiracies for fun."

"Not for fun! Not for fun." (You strike 'it'd be fun' off your mental list.) "For finding out about Ellery. Everything else is optional, okay? And there won't be running around, just… reading things. And talking to people, and stuff."

"My favorite."

You throw your hands up. "Well, it's better than running! Which you are not qualified to do. Look at yourself."

"I can run," she scoffs. "Better than you, with your stumpy little—"

"Then do it! Show me. Run right now."

The look she delivers is wholly malevolent, but with the aid of her spear she begins to climb to her feet. She only gets a knee up before hissing in pain: she's thrown out her back, from the looks of it. You raise your eyebrows. She flashes you an obscene gesture, pushes hard on the ground, and—

"Oh my God!" You hurry over. "Are you—"

"'Oh my God! Are you okay!'" She can't get anywhere near your voice— you're not sure why she tried. "My fucking shoulder just—"

It's visibly dislocated. You drag your hand down your mouth. "Um, um, just let me- uh- I- I don't—"

«I told her not to apply pressure to her joints, and look what happens.»
«Nobody listens to me.»

"—Richard says he told you so?"

"Well, tell him to fuck right off, unless he's got—" She grits her teeth. "—magic shoulder fix juice."

«She should be able to pop it right back. Joint weakness goes both ways.»
«Also, her nerve endings should be dulling, I don't know why she's—»

"He says to just put it back."

"Oh, put it back. Genius. Wish I'd thought of that." She grabs her arm and pushes it towards her shoulder. With a squelch, it relocates. "Oh."

«I don't know why it's so difficult to believe I know what I'm doing.»

You blink. "Feeling better?"

"Don't have that tone. Yes." She stands without further incident. "I need a drink."


"What about Ellery?"

"I'll— he's probably gone by now. I'll still apologize if he's not, I just won't… explain why." She closes her eyes. "And then I'm getting a drink."

Invite her with you. Invite her with you. Invite her with you. It's not hard. She's an invalid, she won't put up a fight. Just do it. Say it. 'Would you like to—'

«Is this a pep talk.»

No, it's not a- no. No. You are plotting— you are strategizing the optimal way to pump her for information. Duh.

«You know she won't like you just because she's drunk, right. That's never going to happen.»
«She's tolerating you because you're useful to her, Charlie.»

>[-1 ID: 7/(9)]

That's not— that's entirely— that's a complete non-sequitur. That has no relevance to—

"Are you okay?" Madrigal is staring.

"Yes!" you snap. "…Yes. Yep! Have fun, or, or whatever! By yourself! Nobody with you!"



You don't see Madrigal as you come out of the treeline which means she's either behind you or stopped to talk to Ellery, which is good, great, amazing, even, because you don't want to see her ever again—

«This is childish.»

You thought it was going well! You thought it was going well, but you guess it wasn't! Serves you right! You are going to collapse face first on your cot and never move again.

«Be serious.»

You are serious and he can't make you move. He can't. You are rooted in place by all-consuming anguish and if he doesn't like it he can go right ahead and suck your tits.

«You've been picking up all sorts of foul language lately. I don't approve of it.»
«All-consuming anguish is not a physical force, by the way—»

A well-placed jolt to your spine sends you jerking upwards. You briefly consider wringing Richard's skinny neck.

«—and laying on your cot is not on your to-do list. Go do something useful until you calm down.»

Like what.

«Like updating your to-do list. I was too busy. Let's go.»

It takes you ten minutes to scratch out and scribble onto the wrinkled map that serves as your to-do list, and you are not any calmer by the end of it. You are, however, significantly more organized.


-> Buy new clothes (real) (with pockets) (for Hell?)
-> Don't get kicked out (one more letter??)
-> Finish the model
-> Spend new $$$
-> Meet w/ BK et al. tomorrow to distribute payment
-> Figure out how to use crown??
-> Work on m̶i̶n̶d̶ ̶b̶o̶d̶y skin for Gil (somehow)

-> Don't get shot/stabbed/turned into beetles
-> Get stolen model back
-> Recover The Sword, actual
-> Recharge crown [1/16???]
--> Look into possible locations/people to do this from?
-> Procure permanent body for Gil (corpse? gooplicate?)
-> Fix whatever's wrong w/ me (Richard made me write this)

-> Ellery!
--> Hiding from something?? Is it Madrigal related?? Company related?? ????
--> How to get more info — confront him directly? Or talk to someone — Anthea/BK? Look into Namway?
-> W.T.H. is Lester/Pat working for?? What does it want??
-> Whole deal w/ sword training... fake memory?? What/when/why/real??
-> White room/lady in beetle manse? What does it mean
-> Why are my dreams so d--m weird???

-Short term-
-> Monty — letters? Margo?
-> Eloise — odd job? / letter (if need be)
-> Horse Face — odd job? / letter (if need be)
-> Madrigal — figure out investigation schedule (Richard made me write this)
-Long term-
-> Eloise — report any Namway/cloning info
-> Madrigal — status of snake thing (Richard made me write this)"

Seeing your life laid out on a piece of paper is making you feel worse, somehow. It feels claustrophobic, like this is all you are, and will ever be, and—

«Unfriendly reminder that something is wrong with you.»

That really improves your mood, thank you.

«Go play with your sculpting things. What do you want from me.»

You want him to shut up.


(3/4 phew)
You also want to tell him it's not sculpting, that's when you stick bits of clay to each other, when most of your process is carving— that's the opposite— but at best you'd get a sarcastic comment and at worst you'd be called names. Whatever. You don't care. You are walking to and sitting down at your desk and opening the desk drawer, where your work-in-progress is as soft and malleable as the day you started: one of the very few advantages of working underwater. It should also be a slodgy, unusable puddle, but you have long given up figuring out what water does and doesn't do. It doesn't matter. It's not stolen, which is something.

God, where did you leave off? This looks nothing like any building, much less your antediluvian-esque manse. Were you drunk? Did Richard mess with it? Were you trying to do this by hand? You have tools for a reason. What were you—

Oh, of course, you'd barely started: this is a raw lump of clay, more or less. But there's something about it that— you'd felt something when you— it's all very fuzzy now. If you could only remember you'd—

You're feeling a little light-headed. You'd honestly like to lie down, but Richard would yell at you, and you dislike abandoning a puzzle midsolve. There is something about this, something essential— you smell perfume. Is it a product of your failing mind or real? Richard?

Richard has shut up. Right. There is definitely perfume and real or hallucinated it's horribly distracting. You haven't gotten anything done. You just need to start. Can you picture the manse? Can you— it's in your head, this shouldn't be a question. Positive thinking. You can picture it, it is there before you, (lodged in your skull like buckshot), it— you are making a cut with the wire but your hands are unsteady. You need to calm down. (Why are you agitated?) You need to just— shove this away, cut a chunk of clay off— just work it with your hands. You can wash them later. No stress, no pressure to get it perfect. Yes. This is good. This is really good.

>[+2 ID: 9/(9)]

You can't feel your feet.

You can't feel them and you can't move them, either. It's like there's nothing below the ankle. You are dying, you decide, or you have been drugged, probably by Madrigal, the bitch. Maybe you are dying of drugs. You wouldn't know. You are not an expert. Well, you might be an expert now. (Haha. You are funny.) The numbness is creeping up your shins.

Richard is ignoring you or not listening and you can't decide which is worse. If you cut yourself with the fettling knife before your arms stopped working and wrote "Horse Face" in blood, would they search his tent? You strongly consider it but then your hands die. You wish you knew what was happening so you could properly complain about it, or feel sorry for yourself, whichever was more dramatic— anything but damp beige confusion.

But it's to your neck now so you just close your eyes and hope the last bit doesn't hurt.

(4/5 jk ;-;)
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Oh, hell, did Richard die with you? He sounds amused.

"This has been an entertaining twenty minutes, but open your eyes, please."

Oh. You're in the manse. You feel stupid.

"Now you know what your body does when you're in here! Isn't that fun." Richard has one cigarette in his mouth and another in his hand, around which most of Gil is buzzing erratically.

Your head throbs. "It shuts down?"

"More or less, but you want that to happen instantaneously, not over the course of… like I said, an entertaining twenty minutes. Say hello to Gil, please."

"Hello," you say dubiously. "Can he not talk?"

"The nicotine is affecting his nervous systems, I believe."

"…Doesn't nicotine kill insects?"

"Yes." Richard exhales smoke through his nose. "He doesn't have to know. He hasn't had a cigarette for six months. What kind of skeleton do you want?"


"You're not going to sculpt without supports, are you? The clay will droop." He smiles. "Or so I've heard."

>Well, what kind of skeleton do you want?
>[1] …Bone? The normal kind?
>[2] Steel. For strength, for sturdiness. Rigid and stubborn.
>[3] Plywood. Light and reliable. Cheap and disposable.
>[4] Wire. Flexible— overly so?
>[5] What? What? What is going on? Hello? What?
>[6] Write-in.

hey wait we're not building gil a body are we
>[6] Write-in.

Normal bone.
Sorry meant to write abnormal bone. What weird stuff does Charlie know about for animal bones? Why not a carapace that's hard on the inside but has a soft layer on the outside? It's always seemed kind of silly to have your muscles outside your bones, to me.
>What weird stuff does Charlie know about animal bones
Next to nothing! She knows a lot about books, clothing, sculpture, and architecture, but little about the natural world. Richard doesn't know that much either, outside snake-related topics. That being said, she's welcome to use her imagination.

A carapace works-- you'd have to build from the outside in, though, instead of inside out, which might be a tad more difficult.
I mean, does Charlie even know how muscles work? Make the frame, fill it with muscles that can pull like ropes, and slap some skin and hair on top. She makes models, so she'll probably be better at constructing it like one filled with viscera than anything else.

Gil, Model full of meat.
Charlotte knows that muscles exist, but not how they work, exactly! Here's the good news: you're not going to have to construct literal muscle (or skin or hair)-- you'll be including the important metaphorical bits, but the details will sort themselves out. Most of the work is just going to be constructing a plausible outside, and that's more of a time sink than actively difficult once you get going.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Rolling and writing shortly.
Fleshy crab gil.

Sure. We could do better, but has he earned it? Don't think we didn't notice his reluctance to express appreciation for us saving his ass not just from being trapped, but from everyone else telling us not to do or to destroy him.

Quite frankly, our time is valuable. We thought having someone willing to serve us who is useful in manse's was worth our time, but it's starting to look like he isn't.

I wonder, since he's in our headspace, maybe we could change him to be a bit more what we want?
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183 KB JPG

You blink. "Is this for… Gil?"

"No, Charlie, I just dug up a couple graves." He raises his eyebrows. "Yes."

"And I have to do this now?"

"You're here, aren't you?"

You rub your temples. "I— I didn't—"

"Yes, you are, so let's get it over with. I've taken the liberty to prepare some options—"

"Do you have a mold?"


You can tell by his face he does not have a mold. You press on. "Well, I just feel like— I don't do people, you realize? I just do buildings and things. If I could just press clay into a mold and then finish the outside, that'd be a lot less— and, you know, wouldn't he like it?"

"I don't presume to know the mind of—"

"Cause it's, you know, beetle-y? Having the hard bits on the outside…"

"You want a carapace."

"I mean... one that looks like a person? But yeah."

"I don't have one. You know how much work it is to—?" Richard tosses his cigarette down and stomps it out. Several beetles alight on its remains. "Like I said, I have some perfectly servicable options, available now, requiring no extra effort—"

You lace your hands behind your back and lean in. "Weren't you s'posed to be good?"

"It's not a matter of quality, it's— Charlie, I can't press a button and go 'right, I need one five-foot-eight flesh-colored beetle carapace.' If you must have one, then you're sewing up the shed skin, so I can—"

"Okay, okay. I'll do that. I guess. Are you feeling alright?"

Behind his sunglasses, Richard narrows his eyes. "Yes."

Was he told off? He's back in the two-piece suit. "If you say so. Um, I can barely sew, so I hope you're okay with—"

"Later. Ought to make the executive decisions up front. Could you stand not being creative?"

What will you do for the head?
>[A1] A lightbulb.
>[A2] A sealed box.
>[A3] A balled-up piece of paper. (Containing what? Write-in.)
>[A4] Write-in. this is still perfectly viable, you'll just irritate Richard

The heart?
>[B1] A motor.
>[B2] A pocketwatch.
>[B3] A birdcage.
>[B4] Write-in.

The blood?
>[C1] Saltwater.
>[C2] Oil.
>[C3] Molten wax.
>[C4] Write-in.

Everything else?
>[D1] Clay.
>[D2] Sand.
>[D3] Wiring.
>[D4] Write-in.
>[A2] A sealed box.
>[B1] A motor.
>[C3] Molten wax.
>[D1] Clay.
Maybe he can find a way to fire the clay. Also I was going to vote oil, but wax will behave better in water.
If it helps, this 'body' isn't going to be underwater-- you're atm building how he appears in unreality, ie your/other people's manses. If you want him kicked out of your head properly, that's what you need an actual corpse for.

In fairness, you've talked to him sober for, like... twenty minutes, tops. It's overwhelming to go from 'trapped in empty house for months' to 'loud noises, people, talking, alcohol,' etc., and he's naturally a private person. He may loosen up as he gets used to it.

>I wonder, since he's in our headspace, maybe we could change him to be a bit more what we want?
You should ask Richard!
A balloon. With a silly drawn smile and big googly eyes glued on. Get fucked richard.


oil blood fits a motor heart, right? it's inside his body inside our head so I don't think water interaction is too big a concern.


>I wonder, since he's in our headspace, maybe we could change him to be a bit more what we want?
bro that is highly unethical and we're kicking him out soon anyway
>[A4] Write-in.

A radio.

>[B4] Write-in.

Padlock. We have the key.

>[C4] Write-in.
Sunfire, like what we summoned in the manse.

>[D4] Write-in.
Paper Mache.

Am i picking write ins just to push Richards buttons? Maybe
> Unethical

To make him *better*? I mean, he's a common criminal and bad at it on top of that. A *jacker*. It's like therapy to adjust him but faster.
And if we're letting out the thing that everyone else told us specifically not to let out into the world, making sure we can chaperone him effectively is probably far more ethical.
It's more like lobotomizing him without consent.
Nah, his higher functions would remain intact. He could just maube benefit from a shift of perspective regarding his obligation towards us in exchange for us taking him out of the manse.

It's not like we wouldn't let him know we had adjusted him. We're not a liar, oh wait we are now so I guess we don't have to tell him.
Rolled 2, 1, 2 = 5 (3d3)

B1 wins, and then...

>Rolling for box, balloon, or "radio" [semi-functional]
>Rolling for wax or oil [you can't summon fire while you're not... whatever you were back then, if I get a 3 I'll reroll]
>Rolling for clay, marble, paper mache

Feel free to continue your discussion. The only thing I'll note is that attempts to deceive about your lobotomization/ethical rehabilitation will require a roll, as this is a major topic and Charlotte continues to be a poor liar.
>Carapace, balloon, motor, wax, marble
Gil: airhead beetle candle cyborg statue. Ah, democracy.

Writing today or tomorrow, not sure. Guess you guys will find out.
Actually-- since the first vote said they'd go oil if not for water concerns, and water isn't actually a concern, I'm going to QM fiat this and go with oil. It's a little more thematically consistent too.
I'm fine with oil.

So long as it can be set on fire.
Cutting him open would reveal a lot of apparently normal blood, but it'd be oddly viscous and... wait for it... flammable.

So yes.
It would be a lie of omission. Besides, if we do it right he shouldn't even want to ask.
>Lie of omission
Yeah. You'd be rolling not to be cripplingly sweaty and awkward around him, basically. Charlotte would be able to rationalize herself into committing the act, but she'd feel pretty internally gross about it.

>If we do it right he shouldn't even want to ask.
Fair enough! Just a blanket reminder that you do need to ask Richard about this, though, because Charlotte wouldn't know where to start (assuming it's possible).
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>Laundry list

"A balloon," Richard says, like repeating it will make it suddenly untrue.

You struggle to maintain a straight face. "Yes. With eyes on it."

"With eyes on it."

"Well, how else is he going to- to see?" It's no use: You're openly snickering. "With- without eyes?"

"Through habit, largely, though that does bring up whether he'd see in compound." Richard brings the cigarette in his hand to his mouth— Gil follows. "Regardless, I fail to see how that would contribute in any substantial way to—"

"It'd be funny!"

"He wouldn't have anything resembling a balloon for a head, you realize? Even if it didn't conform to expectations, it'd be inside the carapace."

"It'd be funny."

"You're lucky I don't really give a damn." Richard pulls an uninflated balloon from his pocket and tosses it at you. "You have to do the eyes."

You do the eyes, and a mouth for good measure. "And he's going to be marble."

"I had no idea you were a stonemason, Charlie. Whatever happened to—"

"Clay? I just don't…" You wave your hands. "It doesn't have the oomph factor."

"The oomph factor. And you intend this to conform to the carapace… how? It provides room for the beetles… where? To say nothing of the questionable mobility."

"Oh, now we're going off plausibility? You're all 'oh, yes, a dinky motor will work great,' and 'oh, wow, oil, great idea,' and now you're— is this because you didn't think of it? You're jealous."

Richard pushes up his glasses. "I'm not dignifying that with an actual response."

"Exactly." You nod firmly. "Jealous. And a teeny bit upset I don't have to rely on you for materials? I mean, we're surrounded with—"

"…If you had to pick stone, marble would be ideal, yes. But there's practical—"

"Marble. And we'll— I don't know, liquefy it, so it goes in the carapace. Boom. Problem solved."

"You want to fill him with lava."

"If it works, it works?"

Richard inhales. "I feel often that you're actively trying to make my life difficult."

"If it works, it works." You're sticking with that. "So? How do we—"

"How do you," he corrects. "How do you do this? I'm not sure."


"This is your pet project, Charlie, I'm just donating materials. It's your head. How are you going to start?"

You have a smiley-face balloon and a hundred thousand tons of marble and a barrel containing oil, apparently, and a motor the size of your fist and the crumpled husk of Gil and very little in the way of moral support. Where are you going to start? How are you possibly going to do this? You can't do this. You make little buildings out of clay and that is the furthest extent of your creative skills. Why'd you pick marble? Why? You can't back out now, Richard will make fun—

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"Are you thinking about it?" Richard tilts his head.

"Yes." (Shouldn't he know that?) "It's a work in progress."

"Is it. You're not going to get very far, I don't think."

"Huh," you say. "Huh. If only someone was there to—"

"I'm not particularly interested in arts and crafts, Charlotte, but overthinking is going to be the death of this whole endeavor."

"I'm not overthinking, I'm just normal—"

"Doesn't matter. It's like a souffle: it's so fragile and impractical a concept that the slightest introduction of rationality collapses the whole thing. You need to be acting, not thinking." He crosses one leg over the other. "I trust this isn't difficult for you."

You hesitate. "I- I just don't know—"

"I was lying, I didn't trust that at all. I prepared this for you." He unfurls his hand.

It's a pill. He's holding a white pill. You react viscerally. "No! I am not— I'm not taking drugs!"

"It's a placebo, Charlie. It's sugar. I just need something to ease the switch— it's safer if your body thinks there's a reason." He sees your face. "I have a— I have something prepped to switch off the problem areas."

"Of my brain?"

"I believe you've referred to them as the 'talky bits'? But yes. Temporarily and safely. Think of it as a disinhibitor—"

"I like my inhibitions," you hiss.

"I agree in most instances, but they're actively impeding you here. It'll speed your perception of time, too, so you don't get— why are you giving me that look? Be reasonable."

"You're trying to give me brain damage."

"Charlie, it's not—" He removes his sunglasses and squints. "It's not damaging anything, it's putting bits to sleep. You'll retain everything but decision-making and some language processes. Name one reason I'd want to give you brain damage."

Well, that's easy. "You hate me."

"I don't h-" He reevaluates. "Even if I did hate you, I'd hate you more with brain damage. I'm not going to inflict that on myself. It's safe."

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Take the white pill. (Makes the process easier, unlocks options to stay longer. Safe[???])
>[A2] Take the no pill. (Winners don't do drugs!)

It is late morning in RL. If you don't complete this now, you will have opportunities to return to it later.
>[B1] Work for three hours [1.5 RL hours]. Sew and stuff an incredibly creepy Gil-husk doll for your and Richard's reference.
>[B2] Work for six hours [3 RL hours]. The above, plus getting the doohickeys prepped— the motor running, the oil unbarreled and measured, the balloon nice and shiny— figuring out the logistics with the marble, and starting to carve.
>[B3] WHITE PILL ONLY: Work for twelve hours [6 RL hours]. The above, plus getting most of the marble carved.
>[B4] WHITE PILL ONLY: Work for eighteen hours [9 RL hours]. The above, plus completing the marble, casting and curing the carapace, and inserting the bits and getting everything hooked up. Technically complete, but barebones.
>[B5] WHITE PILL ONLY: Work for twenty-four hours. [12 RL hours]. The above, plus touch-ups, detail work, and fixes: the only part you have actual skill with. Fully complete.
Did we make the sunfire? I thought we just made normal fire and Ellery converted it into sunfire when he ate it. Which makes a lot of sense in retrospect but boy was I panicking when it happened.

We're gonna learn to do things without crutches. Also Gil isn't even staying that long, we've got multiple avenues of ethical corpse sourcing and we'll be able to kick him out soon anyway.

>Did we make the sunfire? I thought we just made normal fire and Ellery converted it into sunfire when he ate it.
Yeah, this is what happened. I was generalizing, since you can't make regular fire on your own either. Neither would work for this.

>boy was I panicking when it happened.
(QM laughter)
Take the nosleep pill
>[A2] Take the no pill. (Winners don't do drugs!)

>[B2] Work for six hours [3 RL hours]. The above, plus getting the doohickeys prepped— the motor running, the oil unbarreled and measured, the balloon nice and shiny— figuring out the logistics with the marble, and starting to carve.

I mean, all of this is just metaphors right? So it doesn't matter that it's not a dinky little model. We gotta embrace the cheesy side of ourselves and maybe engage in some roleplay of a Queen whose whims the world obeys. Make Richard play along with us. Kind of like how he can pretend to be other people, we can pretend to be a version of ourself who is unstoppable.
A2/B2 takes it. You are saying no to drugs.

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>noo mr sneky do not shut off my brain
>6 hours

You make a face. "Even if it is safe, it just—"

"It just makes you uncomfortable? That your existence as you know it hangs on my intolerance for nonsense? That your higher self could be gone in an instant? On a whim?"


"Get over it." His eyes are icy blue. "You've been at my fingertips from day one, Charlotte, this is no different. I've put in a lot of work for your sole benefit—"

Whatever you were hoping to hear, that wasn't it. "No. I- I can't."

"Fantastic. And who's the coward?" Richard considers the pill, then pops it in his mouth. "Go ahead, do it unassisted."

You stare. "…Are you shutting off your…"

"It's a placebo." He swallows it, slides his sunglasses back on, and leans back against the pillar. "I'll have another when you change your mind. Have fun."

Is he sulking? You think he might be sulking. You're not getting much from him for a while, regardless.

What to do. What to do. You're all ready to grab and run with the first thing that occurs to you, but nothing is occurring, and if you try to actively think it through would that ruin it? Are you ruining it right now? Are you ruining it by thinking about ruining it?

Eventually you close your eyes and stab at the closest thing to hand, which happens to be the husk, which is why you're sitting in an armchair and failing to thread a needle. You blame your weak depth perception, frankly, which makes this embarrassment Richard's fault. Go to hell, Richard.

"Have you wet the end of the thread?" Gil has emerged from his nicotine coma with a bevy of irritating questions. "If it's frayed, you'll never—"

Your nerves are frayed. "What do you know about sewing?"

"Some." He sounds defensive. "I-I-I have a stake in the matter, is all."

To be fair, he does have a stake: you are handling his former body, which stinks of smoke and crinkles like tissue paper. Though it's fully clothed, it feels indecent to look at and borderline obscene to touch, a cross between a corpse and an effigy. This was a person, you think. This was a person and now it's a- a-

"I-I mean, this was me."

"Yup." You wish he wouldn't remind you further. "Spend a lot of time looking at it, back there?"

"At first, then I… it made me upset. I-I thought it'd be better to... accept things."

"And did you accept things? Oh!" You've threaded the needle.

"No." He swirls. "Not even close."

"Hold on." You retrieve a few pins from your pincushion. (Shaped like a coiled snake. Richard refuses to comment.) "Do you still feel upset? Because you can… go somewhere else."

Gil does not get the memo. "Um… I-I don't know. Kind of, but I also feel… hopeful."

"Wow." You are beginning to pin the right leg together— you've already stuffed it with crumpled paper. "Inspiring."

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"Did I say something wrong? I'm sorry. I- I don't remember how to—"

For the second time today, you feel a pang of pity. (New record?) "No, I was making fun of you. I- I'm glad you're hopeful. I guess. I mean, you better be, since I saved your—"

"Yes. Thanks." A few beetles alight on the armrest: you're being watched, you sense. "You're real, right?"

The right arm is pinned up. You make the first stitch, pulling gently as to not split the material. "Y-es?"

"…You're sure?"

"Pretty sure?"

"Okay." Gil pauses. "It's just that I've spent so much time thinking about leaving, and I've hallucinated, sometimes, and everything caught on fire, and I-I-I got drunk somehow, and then you didn't come back for a whole day, and— sorry."

"I mean, I'm not… offended? But I am real." A longer pause. You sew in silence for a good thirty seconds. "Do you believe me?"

"I-I don't know. I need time."

"It'd be nice if I were your hallucination," you say reflectively. "Be a lot easier…"

The sewing goes smoothly, until it doesn't: the legs were a simple pin-and-stich, but the chest looks like Margo took a shotgun to it, the arms are too leathery, the hands too delicate, the head… Gil has opinions about the head. You insist that the details don't matter, this isn't a finished product; he insists that if you're going to make him into a goddamn mannequin, you better get the goddamn face right, it's not hard. It is hard. It's split like an overripe fruit. But he is very loud.

It takes you three hours and you prick yourself a dozen times before you finish. You were entirely conscious for all of it, which potentially explains why you want to lay down on the floor and sink into it and also ban sewing forever, for everybody. (You are putting that on the list under 'arrest Horse Face.')

You do not lay down on the floor, because that would quadruple the amount of 'told you so' energy wafting off Richard. You do lay sideways in the armchair, legs thrust out, and watch him and Gil examine your craftwork.

"You skipped a stitch here, Charlie." (You roll your eyes.) "And I think a neutral thread would've been better, not… magenta."

Gil doesn't add anything. He hasn't spoken since you declared it finished.

"Overall, though, it should be usable. I'll… look into the carapace. Congratulations." It's among the most unenthusiastic 'congratulations' of your life. "Time for the hard parts, unfortunately."

"Mngh," you say, and close your eyes.

"I recommend dealing with the loose parts before attempting things with marble, but you're a sensible, independent young lady. I'm sure whatever you do will be right."

This is Richard-speak for 'do the loose parts first, you blithering moron,' and other than spite you have no reason to contravene. You sigh deeply. "Whatever."

"Good. Do enjoy yourself." Richard touches the sewn husk, and both he and it vanish.

There is a shuddering noise from Gil, like a tree in a windstorm.

"I- I think he'll bring it back? He'll bring it back." You sit upright. "Hey, and you'll— I'm making you a body, right? So you don't need that old thing."

He slowly rearranges himself into his human-ish shape. "…"

"It's— look, you can watch. I'm going to get all the bits working." You gesture at the collected bits. "You like tinkering with things, don't you? You said so when you were drunk."


"Well, there you go, then! I'll be doing that. Sort of." You're not totally sure what you'll be doing. "Probably. So cheer up."


You choose to take that as 'right away, Lottie, my liege/good friend/respected advisor.' "Fantastic. So I'll start… now?"

You'll start as soon as you figure how to start. Sewing up the husk had an obvious objective and used an existing skillset, while here you do… what? And how? You don't even know how to open the oil barrel.

It takes a lot of dithering before you settle upon a plan of attack: you'll simply pretend you know what you're doing, and everything will fall into place after. After all, um, you are queen, yes, and you, uh— things bend to your will. And stuff. So if you order this oil barrel to open, it will, and—

Why is this so difficult? It's not like you're monologuing to Gil, you're just— no, scratch that, it's Gil. His silent, judging gaze has performed a transmutation: gold to lead, glorious exhortation to playacting. Things bend to your will? Are you stupid? Nothing goes remotely your way, ever—

Richard reappears, husk in tow. He is carrying a vat of murky pink liquid. "Hello."

"Hello. Where's the thing?"

He taps the vat with a forefinger. "Yet to be molded. I see you've been productive."

The told-you-so energy is ticking upwards. You cross your arms. "Shut up."

"No. I want to talk about the marble."

You gesture around you. "What about it?"

"Do not say the word oomph. It's nonsensical, Charlie. I know I approved it before, but— it's nonsensical."

"I really fail to see how that's a—"

"You want nonsense in the details, not the obvious parts— you know you're the one who has to put this together? Think about it. In order to get it inside the carapace, you're either going to have to carve it to fit exactly inside, or you're going to have to liquefy it without scorching yourself to death. Both of those are on the nasty side of implausible, Charlie. Even then, you get it inside— then what? What's the carapace for? To look pretty? You said it yourself, it's to protect soft things—"

You shrug. "Ditch the carapace, then?"

His face contorts. "You are doing the carapace. That is non-negotiable. This is about the marble."

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Whatever. Whatever. Replace the marble with something soft or malleable. (Clay? Sand? Something else? Write-in.)
>[A2] Nope, you're doing marble. You'll just have to… figure something out. Yep. (Roll.)
>[A3] Nope, you're doing marble. You're just going to need some assistance. (Take the pill. Optionally, extend your time working to 12, 18, or 24 hours.)

If time working is not increased [pick one for now]:
>[A1] Speak with Gil. (Review ethical body options? Tell him about Horse Face? Something else? Write-in.)
>[A2] Speak with Richard about the crown.
>[A3] Speak with Richard about something else. (What? Write-in.)
>[A4] While Richard is amenable (sorta), go over your plans for the future— potential Ellery murder, potential Ellery investigation, etc.
>[A5] Write-in.
Whoops, that's what I get for a 3 AM update. Second set should be [B1], [B2], etc.
>[A3] Nope, you're doing marble. You're just going to need some assistance. (Take the pill. Optionally, extend your time working to 12, 18, or 24 hours.)

Fuck it. If taking meds gets the job done, then we'll do it. God knows we've been willing to burn others to get done what we want, might as well toss ourself in the fire as well.

Extend time to 12 hours.

but I also don't want to blow a whole day on this
also >B2
we want that 2/16
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Rolling between A3+12 hours and A2+B2.
Looks like you're getting whitepilled after all. Writing shortly.
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>[pencil that when sharpened reads 'cool to do drugs']

You spread your arms. "Well, I'm doing the marble, so, um, suck my tits."

"Again with that. There's no need to be filthy, Charlotte." He sets the vat down and brushes himself off. "You're welcome to do the marble, so long as it works."

Which is Richard for 'it'll never work, dumbass.' You drop your arms. "Well, I will, then."

"I don't doubt it."

"It'll be so cool."

"Of course."

He crouches to dip a pinky in the liquid. You interlock your fingers. "Um… would the pill help?"

"Destitutus ventis, remos adhibe."



You shift in the armchair. "Really long way to say yes. You have more, right? You said you had—"

A baggie of pills lands in your lap. You flinch. "Oh. Do I just take one, or—?"

"I'd advise so." He's doing a good job at hiding his gloating, though it's leaking through in his posture. You try to ignore it. "It doesn't matter, technically, but there's no reason to introduce error. How long do you intend to go for?"

"However long it takes? I don't know, can't I tell you later?"

"You won't be able to." He pauses. "It might take a day."

"A day? Urgh." You pick the baggie up and open it. "I don't know… half that? Whenever I get to a stopping point, I guess. You're not going to secretly convince me not to use marble, right?"

"Why would I, Charlie."

"Dunno. You're a jerk." You pull out a pill and hold it up to your face. "Here goes, I guess."

"Hold on. Picture what you want to be doing. You'll be… distractable."

"Wasn't this safe?" You hold your forehead and picture oil, motors, pipes, balloons, marble. Lots of marble. Then you take the pill.

Richard permits himself a smile. "Don't panic."

"What?" you almost say, but you've lost the capacity for speech; 'What?' you think, then the words go entirely, and all you have is unadulterated confusion. It feels like water's gone up your nose.

"?????" Richard says. You blink owlishly at him. He stops, starts, and tries again. «?????»

You smile, give him a thumbs up, and fall to the ground. It is safest there, with the least danger of blowing away (were you always 10 pounds?). The tile is smooth, and if you press hard enough against it you feel water and the desk and the smear of clay on your lips. You feel your body. You—

«a cigarette burning to a stub»
«yourself, prone and unmoving»

You roll and look up at Richard, who is staring at you intently. He nods to the materials. You nod back. His face colors. You nod again, for good measure. Gil says something you can't process. You roll back over.

There is something else about the tile, though it's nearly imperceptible: it rises and falls in sync with your breathing. You do not find this odd. The manse is made by, of, and from you; in a pedantic frame of mind, it is you. If you so chose, you could command the roof flown off, the windows shattered, the marble melted and twisted— you could—

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Richard picks you up by your collar like a naughty kitten, lifts you above his head, and ignores your kicking and scratching as he walks you over to the materials. "?????" he says as he places you down. "?????" The message is clear in his tone.

You could hit him for this, you could draw your sword and stab him and kill him, you are picturing all this in great detail, and you're just about to do so when your eyes land on the oil barrel.


In 15 minutes: You have rigged together a circulatory system with pipes, valves, and a motor-driven water pump— except the motor runs on oil, the exact thing it's pumping. It is a perpetual motion system. You silently think yourself a genius. Richard is attempting to play cards with Gil.


In 30 minutes: You have stripped an unfortunate column of its marble and are busy kneading it into putty. Richard has given up on cards and has pulled out a backgammon set.


In 45 minutes: You have the base shape of the model complete. The marble is pliant and impossible to overwork, unlike clay. You have no idea why Richard was against this. Richard has his sunglasses over his eyes, but you think he might be napping.


In 60 minutes: You're nearly done with the detailing, and are pleased with how it's turning out. You must be better at doing people than you thought. Richard bolts up, (knocking the sunglasses off his head) stares at you, stares at the model—

Your scalpel clatters to the ground. "Oh, God!"

"Welcome back." He sounds bleary. "We're calling this a day."

"It's been a day," comes the distant voice of Gil: he appears to be on the ceiling.

"It's been nine hours. Twelve total."

You scoff uneasily. "No."

"Oh, believe me, I was counting them down. It was not pleasant."


"He cheats at cards. He says he 'can't control if he sees my hand,' which is— I'm sure I don't have to explain why that's horseshit."

You have a dull ache in the back of your head. "I-it's been an hour."

"Charlie, you didn't do that in an hour." Richard gestures.

You turn and boggle. Behind you is a life-size, photorealistic marble statue. It is of Gil. It is shirtless. It is very shirtless. You cup your face to hide your reddening cheeks. "Why is it- why are there muscles—"

"Should ask yourself that, really, but if you want my educated guess…" Richard raises his eyebrows. "…Disinhibition?"

"Oh my God." You cover your eyes.

"I-I don't mind," Gil adds helpfully. "It's flattering."

"Oh my God." You would like to lay down on the floor again and never get back up. "I can't…"

"It's not going on the outside, anyway, so it hardly matters. Though the carapace may conform… hmm."

"I really don't mind," Gil says again.

You desperately want him to mind, but there's nothing you can do anymore. "I— how did I even make that? If it were half the size, I couldn't… I couldn't do that at a sixteenth of the size. I don't do people."

"Well, clearly you did people." Richard is using the 'shut up right now' voice. "So don't question it."

"I- I just—"

"Don't collapse the souffle. On that note, it's early evening, and you need time to cool off. Say goodbye to Gil."

"Wait." You rub your eye. "What about the crown?"

He sighs deeply. "Tomorrow. It'll have to be. Say goodbye."

"…Goodbye? Uh…"

Gil quivers. "No! Please don't- I-I don't want to be—"

"Yes. Now wake up."


Your muscles have turned to rawhide, it feels like. It makes sense, given you've been slumped in a chair for…?

«Six hours.»

Six hours. God, no wonder. You peel your face off the flat surface of the desk, peel bits of clay off your face, and attempt to calculate the time of day from the light streaming in. It's dim, and you began before sunhigh…

«Early evening. Like I said.»

You would've figured it out, gee. Richard is coiled atop your left hand, so you pick him up as you stand from the chair. He dangles between your fingers.

«You realize I can swim.»

You need to get your kicks somehow. (You place him on your shoulder.) A note has been slipped under your tent flap. Two notes?

The handwriting of the first is scribbly, but at least it's spelled correctly, with letters facing the correct direction. (Ellery.)


"Her nails are growing for some reason," you narrate.

«I can read.»

First swimming, now reading. Truly a jack of all trades.

«Ha ha.»

The second note is in an envelope— okay, it's a letter, not a note. It is written in purple pen. Purple pen.

"Hi Charlotte,

I informed some people about the Namway situation. It's being looked into. Thank you again for letting me know — the good news is they were manufacturing here to ship back West (from what you said), so it's unlikely to directly affect us, even if they manage to continue production. That being said, I'm concerned about this 'Management'— who is this? Are they brokering mass clone manufacturing purely to turn a profit, or is there an ulterior motive? I hope for the former, I expect the latter. If you discover anything about other "companies" (scare quotes) run by 'Management,' please come straight to me— come to me for anything, of course, but especially that.

As for your inquiry regarding any tasks I may need help with— I've come up with something, though it involves somewhat of a trek. If you're interested, hunt me down at your convenience and we can go over the details. Did you intend to ask pay for this? Let me know.

I've submitted my recommendation letter to Monty. (Don't say anything about his arm, would you?)

Best wishes,
Eloise Crenshaw, D.S."

(Choices next.)
You have no idea what 'D.S.' means. You want a purple pen for yourself. There are still a few hours left in the day— may as well use them.

>[1] Do something alone. [1A or 1D may be combined with another option if desired.]
>>[A] Didn't you steal a radio? Finally. You should test it out, see if it's working.
>>[B] You made good progress on Gil's fake body, but you still need a real one. Contemplate all the options you've discovered, and choose between them.
>>[C] You have all the books in the tent stacked… time to unstack them and see what they're actually about.
>>[D] However you looked beforehand, you've now had your face pressed against a desk for six hours. You need to freshen up. (Remove 'You Look God Awful' malus.)
>>[E] Write-in.
>>[LOCKED] You can't look at anything resembling a model right now, frankly.
>>[LOCKED] You're definitely not going back to the manse tonight.

>[2] Go hunt someone down.
>>[A] There's no possible way Monty's not done with his thing right now. Go find him.
>>[B] You've calmed down about Madrigal— it's been 12 hours. You should probably work out what to do about Ellery. Go find her.
>>[C] Eloise wants you to see her at your convenience? Well, it's your convenience. Go find her.
>>[D] Write-in.
>>[LOCKED] You'll have to talk about the crown tomorrow, it seems.
>>[LOCKED]Even if Gil wasn't trapped in the manse, you'd be too embarrassed to talk.
DS obviously stands for Dumb Stupidhead


tell her all her ideas are bad and to just follow your lead
Very well! Called and writing shortly.
Update still coming (eventually). Ignore: Confirmation blah blah
>Makeover episode

Eloise is "at your convenience"— Madrigal is decidedly not. If nothing else, you have to repair your image— all the Ellery stuff comes second.

«You're not going to repair your image looking like that.»

Like what? You look fine.

«Check the mirror.»

The mirror? Oh, the shard you salvaged from Ellery's— Fake Ellery's corpse. Now that you're thinking about it, what was that doing there? Where did his body actually go?

«It melted.»

What? No it didn't.

«I was there, Charlotte. It melted.»
«…It was unexpected. I did not have the opportunity to collect samples.»
«You'll have to 'take care of' him again."

You'll have to murder him again?

«I suppose you could wait for natural causes, but homicide is more reliable.»
«It's not like his life actually matters.»
«But we're getting off topic. You look terrible.»

Checking the mirror reveals that, okay, maybe you look bad. A little. It's mostly your eyes, which are simultaneously dark-circled, puffy, and bloodshot— well, your good eye's bloodshot. Richard has not been taking care of your hair, which is crusted with salt, or your lips, which are chapped, or your face, which is grimy and red where it laid on the desk. Your coat is grimy, too, and there's faint blood spatter around the wrist. Yours? Or somebody else's?

Ordinarily, you'd be straight out of luck: you have no soap, concealer, detergent, or patience. But you've learned one useful thing from Richard's incessant droning— early on, you were wondering why your hair never grew. «Salt is an… embalming agent,» he said. «Do corpses grow hair.»

As you recall, this led you to a minor panic attack, and he had to explain, over and over, that you weren't dead, he didn't mean that, you're just— in stasis. A slave to the status quo. This is why he made you wait for your skin to clear up, see? So you wouldn't be blotchy forever? And so on.

You weren't blotchy when you drowned, and neither were your eyes puffy, your face grimy, or your lips chapped: all of that is cosmetic. Rub your skin raw with a clean cloth and all of it peels away, leaving you looking barely 20. You attempt to flash the mirror a smile, but it fades when you see your teeth. Sharp. There's no going back three years.


Scrubbing the stains off your coat is considerably more difficult (something something bodily inertia is the primary something), but spitting on the cloth helps. Ten minutes later, it's like you never got stabbed, possessed, or dragged through a muddy swamp. You feel certain Madrigal couldn't find anything to make fun of.

«Your eyebrows are too thick.»

Your eyebrows are— there's nothing wrong with your eyebrows. And they'd grow back if you plucked them. Nothing fixable to make fun of.

«Your attitude.»

…Nothing physical and fixable to make fun of.

«Do something for me before you go.»

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You feel lucky that Madrigal's doing poorly, since it means she won't be running errands— she's bound to be in her tent. No scavenger hunt for you. You don't knock, just poke your head in, and—

"Oh, come on," you snap.

Fake Ellery looks exactly as affronted as you are. He rises from his chair by the cot, from where you gather he's been watching Madrigal sleep. "Get out."

"You get out, creep! Does she know you're watching her? That's just— that's sick. There really is something wrong—"

"I carried her here." His eyes drift down to your hands. "What are you holding?"

"Um…" The research notes are crooked under your arm, but in your hands? You're not totally sure. It's white. And squareish.

«It's a coffee maker.»

"…Coffee maker?"

"Is that for her?"


"Leave it here, then. I'll tell her you came by." He misjudges your look of disgust. "She's sick."

"I know."

He's looking at Madrigal, not really listening to you. "…Wish I knew what with."

>[1] You're not leaving: Fake Ellery is a captive audience, even if it's not the one you wanted. Speak with him.
>>[A] You've changed your mind: you need an educated perspective, and you also need a corpse. The two can coincide. Give him the briefing.
>>[B] It's best if he's kept in the dark for now. Attempt to ask him about things without clueing him in. (About what? Write-in.)
>>[C] Write-in.

>[2] Nope. You're talking to Madrigal. Shoo him out and wake her up, then talk about your plans for the future. (And/or other topics. Optional write-in.)

>[3] Okay, whatever. You'll leave him to his perving. Do something else. (Refer to >>4478408
for options.)

>"SOOO uh you go through your own notes lately? Notice any weird patterns?"

Maybe we can kickstart his suicide cycle, and this time let him carve out his own heart.
If you want to kickstart his suicide cycle, [1A] is the de facto way to do it (and offers plausible deniability through 'oh well I thought you needed to know'). You're welcome to go about it more obliquely, but I'll roll behind the scenes to see if he takes the bait.
I did not think the deniability on 1A would be plausible enough but if you say it is I'll switch.
I get where you're coming from, but consider the following:
1) He doesn't know you're looking for a corpse, so he has no reason to draw the connection
2) He may be rattled enough by the realization that he doesn't stop to think about the whys
3) Even if he does get pissed at you, he's going to forget in 1-3 days

There's certainly other reasons to take [1B]-- you don't want him to kill himself, you don't want to risk Real Ellery finding out somehow, you don't want to look like you lied to Madrigal-- but plausible deniability isn't one of the notable ones.
>[1] You're not leaving: Fake Ellery is a captive audience, even if it's not the one you wanted. Speak with him.
>[C] Write-in. "Since you weren't creeping on her, how about releasing some steam with me ? come." Start carressing him and engage in sloppy messy kissing
1A it is then. Real Ellery finding out is the only actual concern there, and 1B I think makes it more likely since fake might leave notes about it rather than jumping right to death.
Slow day! That's alright.
>Babe, it's 6 PM! Time for your existential crisis!

You click your tongue. "Boy, wish I did too. At least I know what's wrong with you."

Fake Ellery raises his eyebrows in the way you've come to recognize as 'annoyed, but determined not to show it.' "Do you."

Yes, you do, and since he's here you may as well tell him. What were you even concerned about? Did you feel sorry for him? Why? He'll come back, won't he? And it's not like you're killing him, he would've— you know, it would've happened eventually.

«I admire your moral backbone, Charlotte.»

Oh, he doesn't care.

«Just ensure the whore doesn't find out.»
«You're lucky she's incapacitated.»

Madrigal hasn't twitched since you entered. Fake Ellery crosses one leg over the other. "So? What's wrong with me?"

You set the coffee maker down and hand him the stack of notes. He flips through briefly. "Can you stop stealing my fucking stuff?"

"I didn't steal it," you say haughtily, "I—"

"You borrowed it? And now you're giving it back? Wow, thank you." He pages back to the start and pauses. "Wait, I didn't write this."

"Just read it."

He looks about to protest, but there is something in the hard set of your jaw that prevents him. He returns to the notes.

You watch him with great interest. He reads slowly and mechanically, mouthing the words as he sees them; sometimes he stops, squints hard, and turns the paper upside down. On these occasions, you come around, lean over his shoulder, and read aloud what always ends up being a segment of your handwriting. And then you return to your station by your door, because you want to see his face.

He makes a big show, at first, of humoring you: flicking his eyes up to make sure you're watching, flipping the page with a lofty flourish. That ends somewhere around the second piece of paper, where he begins to bite his lip; page three is when a subtle tremor comes to his left wrist. He checks his pulse twice, then tries to feel his heart. He tries again.

"Other side," you sign, close to your body.

He rests his hand against the right side of his chest and goes white. You gesture impatiently for him to keep reading. He stares at you a moment, then ducks his head.

When he finishes he has a look like he means to rip the pages in half, and you nearly yell, but all he does is fling them up and watch the paper drift down like snow. When the last hits the ground, he buries his head in his hands and doesn't move.

You were banking on the schadenfreude to carry you through this, but when a minute passes with no further reaction you begin to grow uneasy. "Ellery?"

His fingers tense, but he doesn't move.

"I think you should… talk to me."

His voice is thick and muffled through his hands. "Would it make you happy if I talked to you."

Hmm. You're not always the best at these, but you sense a trap. "…No."

Nothing, for a moment, then his shoulders heave and he laughs bitterly into his white palms. It occurs to you that you've heard this kind of laugh before: as a child, you had gone to watch a public execution. You pick the paper off the floor.

Ellery stops laughing, after a while, and then his voice is dry and hoarse. "Well, it makes sense."

"…Yes," you say carefully.

"This is exactly the kind of gullshit I get into. This is exactly what happens to me. You know I thought it stopped?"


"I thought it stopped. I thought I'd developed some- some- some self-control. I was- you know, growing. As a person."

"Mmm." You nod. "And you're not even a person."

He looks at you and his eyes are wide and his pupils very small. "I guess I'm not! I guess I am not," he is sounding the words out as if from flash cards, "a person. I am not a person."

"Um," you say. "Should I be calling you Ellery? Since you're not— Ellery."

"Please call me Ellery." He seems suddenly reduced— in presence, in stature. He has shrunk back and into his coat. "I- I- I don't have—"

He doesn't have anything else. "Okay, um. 'Ellery.' So I actually have some…"

"How long has it been?"


"How long has it— how much of me is real. How much really happened."

"Oh." You purse your lips. "Uh, I'm not sure, exactly, but… I think he's had the fake for six months? Give or take."

"The fake!"

"You," you provide.

"No, I- yeah." Fake Ellery cups his face. "Six months. Holy fuck. Three-quarters of a year of my— not 'my.'" He exhales. "Not 'my.' Shit. I don't know how to— 'he's' had the fake?"

Oh. That part wasn't in the notes. "I'm pretty sure the actual Ellery made you. Like, on purpose."

He laughs like he's falling off a cliff. "Of course. I'm such a fucking dick."

>[A1] Well, you're not disagreeing. In fact, this is the most vulnerable you've ever seen Ellery, including him going insane. You've been waiting good and long for this moment— go on the attack.
>[A2] You don't like Ellery, at all, but— does this guy even count? You know how it feels to discover your whole life was a lie. Exercise some restraint.

>[B1] Okay, cool. Can you have his corpse now? Since he knows he won't be using it?
>[B2] Any thoughts on what he actually… is? Like, physically?
>[B3] Any way he'd like to talk about the breakup now?
>[B4] Inform him what's wrong with Madrigal, for real. It's not like he'll remember.
>[B5] Inform him what Real Ellery has actually been up to. What does he think about the 'nothing else is real' thing?
>[B6] Write-in.

>>4480142 I realized belatedly that Ellery does know about the corpse thing, you asked him for his-- but he's not in a mental condition to question you, plus I won't punish you guys for my error. You're still off the hook.
>B2 and also B5 if possible?

We already told the last fake Ellery what was wrong with Maddie for real at the end of his previous cycle right?
You did, yes (and then Richard murdered him).
Multiple [B]s are fine.
>A2, B2, B5
Called and writing shortly.
>Cut him some slack you tried
>Hey so uh about…

You shift your weight uncomfortably. "I mean, it's not… your fault."

"…Thanks." It's deadpan.

Does he not believe you? You try again. "Since you're not him. I mean. You never were."


"You don't have any control over the…"

"Do you think this is funny?"

You flinch. "What?"

"Do you you think this is funny? Is this entertaining, to you? Does watching my life fall to little bits get your rocks off, Lottie." He is standing now, his hands jammed in his coat.

"No? N-no, I—" You thought it was going to be, but it was just…

"You're fucking lying." He's working himself up: his handsign is getting really sloppy. You squint to make sense of it. "You do, and it is, and it does. Look at you, you're fucking smirking." (You're not smirking.) "You wanted this. You showed me this because you wanted this."

"I... that's not…" Why is Fake Ellery so stupid? You don't want this at all. You want him to die and forget and be normal so there won't be anything wrong with your stupid throat.

«You've gone soft.»

What? You have not— that's ludicrous. You can't stand him.

«Then what's with the remorse.»

That's not—

«I'm disappointed in you, Charlotte.»

Gee. You straighten your collar, which Richard has dented. Fake Ellery has fixed you with a suspicious look. "'That's not'?"

"I- I didn't— I just thought you deserved to know. If I- if I were a— you know, a fake person, and I didn't know, and someone else did, I'd want them to tell me. So."

«That's a bald-faced lie.»

"You were acting out of the goodness of your heart," Fake Ellery says.

"Y-e— yes."

A humorless laugh. "Okay."

Why is he not believing you! "What? Is that so bad?"

"I mean, it's not bad, it's just horseshit." He's managed to slow his signing, though there's still a pronounced tremor in his hand. "I've known you personally for two weeks, and during this time you've teamed up with my ex, gone through my shit, read my shit, stolen my shit, harassed me, and insulted me, constantly, for… no fucking reason. No fucking reason. Have I done anything to you?"

Yeah, he tried to lock you in his house, and he forced you to chase him down, and then drag him around, and then he turned into a stupid beetle and tried to kill you, and— well, okay, that was the real one. This one… stabbed you. (But that wasn't under his control.) And… lied to you, a lot. (But he didn't have the real answers.) And… you know, he's stupid, and annoying, and stuff. But that doesn't sound good when you say it out loud.

>[-1 ID: 8/(9)]

You settle for deflection. "No reason? Hello? Madrigal? She hired—"

Ellery glances at the cot, and his shoulders sag. "She's sick."

"So what! She wasn't sick when she paid me to go through your stuff! How is this my fault!"

"You didn't have to agree. And she's not paying you to be a bitch." He collapses back onto the chair. "If you have a heart, it's pretty shriveled, Lottie. So let's just out with the real reason."

>[-1 ID: 7/(9)]

You cross your arms. "That is the real reason."

"I'd be happy to sit here and reiterate all that, but apparently I'm going to shoot myself in 24 hours." Ellery rests his chin on his hand. "Let's move on, please."

"It is the real reason," you repeat, a little desperately. "I- I do feel like…"

"And I feel like I'm going to shoot myself. Let's go."

"…I thought you might be able to help with the…" Your last word is inaudible.



He laughs— he laughs at you. "Are you being sarcastic?"


«You're not going to listen to unpeople, are you.»
«Why would he have anything of value to say. He's never had an original thought. And this is the <improvement> over the original.»

Richard's right. Of course he's right.

«When am I not.»
«You need to put him in his place. He thinks he's better than you.»
«Do you think he's better than you.»


«Then why would you allow him to think that. Punish him.»

Like… hit him?

«I'm not fixing your heart again. Be more inventive.»

Right. Yes. You square your shoulders. "You know I met the real you?"

Oh, and watch the smile slide right off. "Uh…"

"Do you want to know what he's like?"

He does. He does badly. He's tensed everywhere, like a spring. "…Sure."

"He's a vain, impulsive, hedonistic jackass who endangers others for fun. His attention span is miniscule. His ideas are terrible. He talks and doesn't say anything and sure as hell doesn't listen to anyone. He still drinks. He wears tacky shirts. He—" God save you from the pits of hell— "fucks other women—"

So you made the last part up? So what? Anthea was doting over him a weird amount. Fake Ellery has gone ashen, though you sense he's trying to put up a brave front. "…Are they hot?"

Is Anthea hot? The side of her face that exists is fairly attractive, you guess, but then it all goes downhill. "They're disfigured."

His eyes flick to Madrigal.

"And not in a cute face scar way."

And they flick away. "You're exaggerating," he says unsteadily (and correctly). "I'm not that…"

"You remember the thing I told you about the beetles? And the trapping everyone there forever? I wasn't making that up— that was him." You step forward. "And he didn't care."

Okay, he cared, it's just that most of the time he was delusional or a beetle. You're rounding up. Fake Ellery looks stricken. "I'd… care."

"You're not him."

"…" He flexes his fingers.

"Even if we're saying you were him, he's been gone for six months. A lot can happen in—"

"Three years."


"Three to five years. If you're saying he's in unreality, and he never left." He looks at you. "There's a— there's a spanner. Time moves faster in there."

"He's almost 40?[/i}"

"Don't say that." He swallows. "Yes."


"Yes. That's what makes this..." He is slumped back and drumming irregularly on his knee. "What you said is… I mean, shit, that's me, but... that's the bad parts. I- I- have good parts, too, I'm not just a- a-"

Well, sure. You weren't around lucid Real Ellery very long, and you're loath to give him any credit, but you'll admit he wasn't… irredeemable. He had to convince 12 people to like him somehow. The lump in your throat is beginning to redevelop. Maybe you ought to—


…No. You wipe your nose. "Again, you're not. Did you know he told me he thought he was the only person who existed? And everyone else was fake? Actually, that's pretty ironic, now that I…"

Fake Ellery stares. "I don't think that."

"Well, he does, clearly."

"No, I mean… I wouldn't think that. I'd never think that. That's not… normal."


"Something terrible must've happened to—" He stops. "Where did you say he was? In unreality? Usually?"

"I didn't. His manse?"

"Ahaha." He wipes his chin. "That's not safe. Did you know that? You're not supposed to stay long-term in your own manse, or you—"

"Go crazy?" you offer.

"—lose… perspective. It's an echo chamber in there, all you get is your own ideas bounced back at you— I mean, it's literally your own mind. And you have so much control, it's- it's just unhealthy. Clearly."

"He said he could do anything."

"Yes, well, there you go. He's been living in his own head for years. He can." He exhales. "Gods, that's fucked up."

You're unwilling to inform him that this raises more questions than it answers. Real Ellery didn't believe that stuff— and then you triggered something. Was he just hiding that idea out of politeness, and you removed his filters? Or did he think that previously and change his mind? Why would he change his mind? And why did he mistake you for Madrigal, and include her in his delusion? In general, if Real Ellery knew the risks of staying in his manse (he had to, or Fake Ellery wouldn't)— why did he anyways?

"Yes," you say, "it is. Pretty sad you're more sane than the real one. Any idea what you're made of?"


"Since you're being so helpful and all. You're obviously not an actual person, you just look like it. So what are you?"

He looks again at his hands. "I don't know."


"I wrote all about my blood, so not goo, clearly. I don't— I can't think of any other ways." He grimaces. "Maybe if someone was commissioned to custom-build—"

"Wouldn't work. You keep coming back, so you're… reforming, or something. Reappearing."

"Mmm." He seems a little nauseated. "I just… I don't know anything about me. Maybe if you sat down and described…"

You sit down and describe. He fidgets more the more detail you put in.

"…And that's all I know about…" You gesture in his direction. "…you. Well, that's not true. All I know about you physically."

File: mirror.jpg (30 KB, 349x523)
30 KB
"Y-es." He scratches his forehead. "So you're saying I write mirrored, read mirrored, bleed silver, cough silver, …dissolve…, leave mirror shards, and my heart's on the wrong side of my body."

"Hmm," you say. "Okay, I see where you're…"

«I feel you could've got this on your own.»

You feel he could've got this on his own.

«Not my job.»

"I'm just guessing, but, uh…" Fake Ellery leans back. "I did shit with mirrors."

"You did ask Eloise about them," you reflect. "And your manse had a lot of them, actually."

"There you go. Did shit with mirrors. Which I guess makes me…" Fake Ellery sucks in his cheek. "…his reflection?"

"Do you have a reflection?"

"You know, I… I don't know. It hasn't really come up." He smiles faintly. "You know, that makes me feel better, actually."

"Not having a reflection?"

He twiddles with his coat. "Being… probably his. It's still dogshit, don't get me wrong, but… it feels better to be part of him, sort of, instead of… nothing. I- I don't know if that—"

"I guess that makes sense."

"Thanks. Yeah, I… gods. Shit. I still kind of want to die."

You stand up straight. "Huh?"

"Is there any point to me being here? I mean, really." He spreads his arms. "I'm not real. I'm going to die in a day. I'll be back. I- I feel like… it'd be better to go quick than to poison myself, or whatever. I just don't…"

>[1] He's right on the brink. Push him off.
>>[A] Offer to help, right now (once you get outside and all). So he can't reconsider.
>>[B] Offer to help tonight. You'll do it in his sleep, so he doesn't even know.
>>[C] Write-in.

>[2] He's right on the brink. Help him back up.
>>[A] It just… doesn't feel right. Especially when he wants it to happen.
>>[B] It's too much hassle. You'll follow him around tomorrow and catch him when he does die.
>>[C] You've decided against using Ellery's corpse for Gil, for whatever reason. (Why?)
>>[D] Write-in.

>[3] Wait. You have questions. (Write-in.)
>[4] Write-in.
>>[A] Offer to help, right now (once you get outside and all). So he can't reconsider.

Just to make super sure he doesn't leave real Ellery any notes, so it just looks like this was a short cycle.
>Assisted suicide (for a good cause)
>bitch kys

«What are you waiting for.»

You've been silently staring at Ellery for several moments.

«He's asking for it. Just give him a little shove.»
«Are you going to pretend you care about his well-being now.»

No, it's just… there's all the blood, and…

«Squeamishness is a personality defect, and you'll be weaned of it sooner or later.»
«Why not start that process when no actual lives are at stake.»

…That's fair, but…

«It won't get easier than this.»

Okay. You feel the point of a tooth with your tongue. "I… don't know if there is a reason. For you to be here."

"Right? I- I don't have any baggage—"

"Nobody will miss you, since you're always wandering off…"

He runs his hands through his hair. "Gods. I guess there's nothing stopping me."


"Except me." He's keeping a light tone, but it's a little forced. "I- I don't think I— I believe you, don't get me wrong, but that's- that's going against 30 years of—" He closes his eyes. "30 remembered years of living. I don't know if I have it in me."


"Um," you say. "Maybe I could… help."

"What? How?" A silence passes. Mirror Ellery hunches forward. "You'd— kill me?"

You nod imperceptibly.

"You'd… oh, gods." He rubs his forehead. "You hate me that much?"

You fold your arms. "I just feel like, if I made you feel this way, I should make you… stop."

"Hah. No, I- I remember. You wanted me dead earlier, didn't you? Wanted my… corpse. Fuck, that's…"

"I can have multiple reasons for wanting things."

"No, it's… it's okay. Fucking weird, but I'm not…" He raises his arms. "I can't criticize that. I don't give a shit. It's not like I'm any good for anything alive."

"Oh." You weren't expecting that. "Well, uh, I guess... we should do it right now."

"Right now?" He looks at the cot. "Here?"

"No, not… in the woods, somewhere. I guess."


"And I need you… intact. So I can't just stab you or anything."

"I-I don't really want to be stabbed, so that's…" He trails off. "If you could make it not hurt, that— I'd appreciate it."

>[1] How do you intend to murder Ellery? You're going for painless and keeping his body intact. (Write-in. Roll may be required, depending.)
damn I don't want to google painless ways to die, I'll get put on a list
uuuuh, we probably don't have any poison
can we drown him? :^^^^^^^^)
Maybe, if you had fire! (You don't. The Sword doesn't count.)

Suffocation works great. Good job. That being said... he's probably going to struggle. Do you

>[A1] Just do your best? [Roll.]
>[A2] Let Richard help? (-2 ID)
>[A3] Do something to prevent this? (What? Write-in.)


>[B] Any last words? (Optional. Write-in.)
If we have 6 or more ID, A2.

>[A3] Do something to prevent this? (What? Write-in.)

Ledgermain something to help? A garotte, something to tie his arms with? Have him lie face down on the ground while we sit on his back?

Make sure we get pretty far away from camp too and aren't followed because this would look a little bad if witnessed.
Get some ropes, tie a noose and voila.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

You are at 7/9 ID, so I'll flip between snek steroids and just getting a rope. Will be writing sporadically.
>Strangle him

"Um." Pain is generally a prerequisite, you feel. "I- we'll work something out. Do you know any good places?"

"To kill me?"


Mirror-Ellery stands, shrugging off his coat. "Yeah. Yeah, let me just…"

"We should go separately, so it doesn't look— what are you doing?"

He freezes, the coat half-draped over Madrigal's limp form. "She looks cold."

"She's asleep."

"I know." He straightens the coat, glances at you, and pecks her on the lips. Then he's off like a shot, ignoring your choking sound: "Meet you at the table!"

"Y—" But the tent flap sways in his wake. You sit down on the chair in a huff. Men. Can't go a day without…

Madrigal blinks an eye open. "…Mmnh." She touches her mouth. "…What…"

"He kissed you."

"What? Who…" She lifts the coat. "Oh, fuck."

"The audacity."

"Fucking… bastard. Fucking… he tells me to fuck off…" Throwing the coat away, she teeters to her feet. "Where'd he go!"

Oh. That's not good. "Out there, but—"

Madrigal nods firmly, takes a step, and falls flat on her face. "I'm fine!" She strains to push herself up. "I'm— I'm fine! Don't—"

"How about I go find him?" you offer. "Since I'm mobile."

"Fuck off." She's muffled by the ground. "Why are you even here? You know we need to—"

"I'll go find him." You flash her a thumbs up and leave.

Mirror-Ellery leans against the table (sorry, "art" installation), the moony look on his face strengthening your resolve to murder him. You stop short, your arms crossed. "The hell was that?"

"Hello to you too, Lottie. Where's your gun?"

"What do I need a gun for? And answer the question."

"Shooting me." He tilts his head. "I don't have anything to lose. That's all."

"I'm not shooting you— you know you'll be back, right? And she'll still be pissed?"

The corners of his eyes crinkle. "That won't be my problem, will it?"

"Yes it— that's stupid."

"Is it?"


"I guess it is, then. You're the expert."

You start to retort, but stop. "…We need to go. Where are we going?"

"Cute little peat bog. Good place to hide a body… in theory," he adds hastily. "I don't make a habit of this."


You spend the hike alternately nettling Mirror-Ellery about Madrigal and prying your boots out of sucking mud. He spends the hike picking burrs off his sweater and badgering you about your murder method.

"What does it matter?" you snap, eventually. "You'll be unconscious."

This doesn't seem to make him feel better.

File: peat bog.jpg (61 KB, 640x425)
61 KB
"Cute" is not the first word you'd use to describe the bog— "putrid," possibly, or "Godawful." This is evidently where every plant in the Fen goes to rot, and there's more than a few animal corpses, too— silver-scaled fish, mucousy eels, even an entire shark, half-eaten. Did it fall here? You don't see sharks this deep, most of the time.

Ellery seems unaffected by the stench. "Found this out on a walk. I named it the Death Pit."

You do your best to sign with a hand clenched over your nose. "Did you really just want to die at the Death Pit?"


"Okay then." You gesture. "Turn around, or whatever."

He does. You realize with disgust that you'll have to stand on tiptoes to get a good shot at his neck. "…Sit down. And close your eyes."

"You're awful demanding, Lottie." He sits down on a firmer patch of earth.

You remove your hand from your nose, switching to breathing through your mouth— always uncomfortable, since you can feel the water down the back of your throat. "Just… stay there."

«Do you need step-by-step instructions.»

You've read about loads of stranglings. It can't be hard. You just kind of… squeeze.

«Trying to crush the windpipe is pointless. Water's already in his lungs.»
«You're trying to cut off the carotid arteries. Back of the neck.»

Right. Right. Easy. You shake out your hands. Just have to go for it. Just have to kill him. Easy. You're perfectly capable of—

«I don't have forever.»

The jolt to your spine kicks you out of one train of thought and into another: colder, more objective. Kill him? He never lived, or he's already dead, whichever you prefer. He's a thing. You're doing him a favor by treating him otherwise. You're—

Your fingers are around his throat and his fingers are on your fingers tearing and peeling them off but your grip is too strong— inhumanly. He is bucking and his legs are thrashing at nothing. He is making a terrible raspy gargling noise. You want to puke. You want to let go. You should let go. You are good at justifying things but this is— you're murdering him. You are a murderer. You.

>[-2 ID: 5/(9)]

You are just about to let go, in fact, when Mirror-Ellery's hands slip off yours: he sags forward, motionless. Dead? Oh, God. Ohh, God.

File: neck bruising.jpg (37 KB, 604x453)
37 KB
«Calm down. He's just unconscious.»
«You have to go for another few minutes before he dies.»

A few minutes? He's lying. That's not what it said in the books.

«Shockingly, not everything you read is true.»

You- you can't do this for another few minutes. Your hands hurt. You're not cut out for this. That's the simple truth. Maybe if it were a gunshot, a moment and it's done, no time for regret— but you can feel his heart beat under your hands. Ohh, God. You're—

«You're staying right here.»
«The only thing worse than murder is giving up halfway through.»

>[-2 ID: 3/(9)]

A jolt to your spine, much larger than the first: your fingers seize and tighten. You can't move your arms. You have no choice but to kneel there, his chin lolling against your knuckles, for the next five minutes. And then he dies.

You know he dies because his heart slows and stops and also because his skin takes on a faint sheen like that of an oyster-shell. It is peculiar and quite inhuman and makes you feel the tiniest bit better.

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

But there are still tears trickling down your cheeks and bile in your throat and a painful cramp in your fingers. Richard releases his hold and you release yours, sending Mirror-Ellery crumpling. His neck is purpled with bruising. You turn away.

«You did well.»

Richard loops around your shoulder. His voice is soft and fuzzy with static.

«I know it's difficult. Especially when it's slow. But you did well.»
«I'm proud of you, Charlie.»
«Get Gil in there and you'll feel better.»

You forgot about Gil. You don't want to see that body alive again. You've vomited enough over the past two weeks.

«I'm not positive it'll keep, to be frank. You may not have to see it for very long.»
«But he's dead now. You can't take that back.»
«You just need to give the say-so and I'll tell him it's time.»

>[1] Let Gil have Mirror-Ellery's body.
>[2] …No. No, you'll… you should see what it's made of, instead. You guess. It might be important. (Find a different body for Gil.)
>[3] Write-in.

We might feel bad now, but just wait a few days and Ellery will be back and it'll all be normal again!

Also we can study the body after Gil is in it. Right? His gratitude for resurrection will extend to a little bit of human experimentation right?
>Weird science

…He is dead now, and you can't take that back. You just have to- make the most of it. Positive thinking.

«I will take that as approval.»
«Lay the body flat and facing up while I inform him.»

You don't want to look at it, much less touch it.

«Too bad.»

Positive thinking. Tug your sleeves over your hands. Pick him up. He isn't heavy, but he is still warm. Pretend he's alive. Pretend he's unconscious. Positive thinking. Shut your eyes and set him down. Ask Richard for a handkerchief. Tug a handkerchief from your pocket. Set it over his face. Open your eyes.

His right arm is crossed over his chest and his left leg is crooked at a sharp angle but you're unwilling to mess with him further. You can't see the expression on his face and don't want to.

«All clear. Take that off, will you.»

Do- do you have to? Really?


…You take the handkerchief off. His eyes are closed. He has a strangled expression. Ha ha.

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

«Open your mouth. Keep it open.»

Sometimes you think Richard makes you do things just because it's funny.


You open your mouth, and a beetle falls from between your lips. And another. And another, until it's a proper stream of them, and you make the executive decision to shut your eyes and wait for it to finish.

It does, in about 20 seconds, and you open your eyes in time to catch the last of the beetles marching into mirror-Ellery's gaping mouth. You don't know how to feel about this.

«If it helps, you're hallucinating it. An outside observer would see nothing.»

That helps a negative amount.

«Don't be difficult, Charlotte.»
«It may take him a minute. It's quite an adjustment.»

If you'd been paying close attention, you would've noticed mirror-Ellery's skin regain its usual character. As it stands, Richard has to nudge your neck to stop your intense examination of your boots. «Be polite.»

You look up with no small apprehension and start. The body is exactly how you left it, except one eye is open. It's green.


The eye swivels wildly.

You creep closer. "It's- it's Charlotte. Lottie."

The other eye flutters open. The mouth twitches. Nothing else moves.

«The minute was for any response. Full functioning may take fifteen.»
«I advise you to sit tight.»

"I'm just going to… wait, okay?" You crouch by him, trying to keep your eyes off his neck. "I'm right here."

Over the next ten minutes, Gil transitions from flexing his fingers to weakly sitting up to attempting to speak: the first try is an inaudible rasp, then, when Richard encourages him to 'project,' an inaudible rasp laden with beetle clicks. You rub your chin. "How about you just think it, but… louder?"

Gil stares at you blankly. (Facial expressions are nearly last, Richard says.) "I don't think that's how that… works. Oh."

"How do you feel?"

"…Weird." He wipes his face with his sleeve. "I can't see behind me. I-I didn't think I'd miss that."

TBC 2AM, not gonna push myself, part 2 tomorrow
"No, it's… I wanted this." He sounds as if he's trying to convince himself. "This is what I-I-I wanted. I just never thought it'd be…" His eyes dart to you. "Um, thank you."

"You don't like it."

"No! It's not that I, uh… I just need time to adjust. Maybe a lot of time, I-I'm not…"

You squat down irritably. "I killed a guy for you."

"Um… thanks. You didn't have to… kill anybody."

"Yes I did." Of course you did. You refuse to entertain the possibility that you didn't. "So I'd appreciate if you could muster some enthusiasm—"

"Sorry." At least he sounds genuinely dejected. "…Am I tall? I feel tall."

Unfortunately. "Yes."

"That's… something." Gil pats along his face. "Strong jaw."

"So it's not all bad."

"I-I never said it was…" He trails off. "What's going to happen to me?"

>[1] You'll let him stay in your tent. There's not really room for two, and you'll have to hope you don't get caught, but you can keep an eye on him.
>[2] He can stay in Ellery's tent. It's unoccupied, and nobody will question him being there, but anyone wanting to talk to Ellery will find him instead… which could cause issues.
>[3] You're going to have to involve someone else. Talk to someone about it. (Monty/Eloise/Horse Face/Madrigal/?)
>[4] He can sleep out in the Fen. It's not safe… but it's certainly private. He'll be fine.
>[5] What? It's none of your concern. You never promised to do anything but get him a body.
>[6] Write-in.

Issues for Ellery!
>Dead guy's tent

Your eyes drift over his bruised neck, and you rub your own in turn. "What? You're— you're— it's over. You're all good."

"…I'm, um… yes. But I-I— sorry." He takes a juddering breath. "I don't know anyone and I don't know where I am, except it smells like shit, and even if I found civilization I-I don't have any money. So. I'm screwed."

You contemplate this. "Um. We're at the Death Pit, which—"

"The Death Pit."

"Because of the corpses." You pause. "I didn't name it."

Gil mumbles something about the frontier.

"Um, but it's in Fenpelok, which is the big foresty place… I don't live here," you add solicitously. "There's the town, and then there's a camp ten minutes out, where I am— you can stay there. There's a free tent."

"That's… lucky."

"Um, no, not really. It's your tent. I mean—" You rub your eye. "Ellery's tent. Sorry. But he's not using it."

"That's an awful familiar— are you sure he'd be okay with… aw." Gil looks down. "I get it."

"…Yeah. Can you stand yet?"

"Maybe?" He tries, and winds up in a tangle of limbs, like something newborn and precocious. "I think I'm… all elbows, or something."

"You are." You offer him a hand, then regret it— he looks much more like Ellery standing, down to the awkward slouch. "…Stand up straight."

"Huh? Oh." He does. "It's weird having a… spine."

"You'll get over it." You brush your hair off your face. "Uh, it's starting to get a little dark. We should head back."

"You're the boss," he says, but his hands twitch. He's signing 'we.' You're not sure he knows it.

>[1] Give Gil a full tour before you hit the sack. He'll feel more comfortable and arouse less suspicion if he knows where everything is.
>[2] Give Gil a surreptitious tour before you hit the sack. It'll take longer and be less informative, but it ensures you won't be seen hanging out with "Ellery."
>[3] Drop Gil off at Ellery's tent and go to see Madrigal. She's technically waiting for you.
>[4] Drop Gil off at Ellery's tent and go to see Monty. It's probably outside his "operating hours," or whatever he calls them, but the thing with Margo is pretty urgent.
>[5] The Death Pit is… pretty weird, actually. You should spare some time to poke around before you leave.
>[6] Write-in.
We've already been seen hanging around with Ellery a fair amount.
Called and writing, though I wouldn't expect this to be out for a while.
Rolled 8 (1d8)

And a roll for random encounter...
We rolled the best one!
You rolled the... most interesting one! And the one I have the least notes for! Please sit tight while I figure it out.
>Full tour

Between the dwindling daylight and your shaky sense of direction, getting back to camp is an ordeal, and Gil isn't helping: his running commentary on every last thing lost its entertainment value 30 minutes ago. At least you know his opinions on Ellery's build ("bony"), hair ("greasy"), and fashion sense ("sensible," said in the tone of an insult); as well as on the local climate ("muggy," "smothering") and vegetation ("what do you mean, don't touch that"), though what use this serves you're unsure.

"Am I being a bother?" Gil, despite his stupid long legs, is struggling to keep up. "I-I-I can't tell."

"Already asked that." You've thrust your hands into your pockets.

"…I still can't tell."


"Oh." It's a tiny, closed-up little 'oh.' "Sorry."

"It's…" It's what? You're stressed and irritated and it'd be a great relief to lash out at Gil. You know he'd lay down and take it, too, which— maybe that's the issue, there's no sport in it. "…It's fine. Just… shut up, please."

Victory: he doesn't respond. Nor does he speak again, forcing you to continually peek over your shoulder: is he still following you? He always is. So you don't dwell on his hangdog expression, you look away as soon as you can.

When you breach the treeline, the camp is cast in the purple shadows of dusk. "We're here!" you announce brightly.

Gil doesn't say anything.

"What do you think? You can talk."

"Um." He works his mouth. "It's… rustic."

Same tone as "sensible." You squash an urge to defend the place by reminding yourself you hate its guts. "Oh, no, it's a dump, but there's not a lot of options down here. Town's full, the skimmer camp is even worse... it's this or living alone."

He grimaces.

"Yeah. So, I don't know, I can take you around? Since you'll be here for… a while. We can start at my tent?"

«Why are you asking him.»

"We can start at… my tent. Yes."

Your tent is a short walk away: you spend longer hesitating in front of the flap. Why don't you want to show him the inside? There's nothing wrong with it. It's a little empty, but that's— intentional. And your models… nothing wrong with them, either. They're normal. A normal hobby. He won't make fun of you for—

"Are you okay?" It's a smidge repulsive to see Ellery's brow furrowed in concern, but you suppose that isn't Gil's fault. (Don't look at his neck.) "Did I-I…?"

"I'm great," you snap. "You didn't do anything. Come in."

Gil, inside, stands with his arms crossed. You bustle around him, wiping up clay and kicking the book stacks farther under your cot. (You've never been so glad to have cleaned earlier.) "Goddamn," he says finally.

You flush in shame.

"This is a nice place, and I-I-I don't just say that. I mean, it's— it's tiny, but it doesn't feel tiny— is that real wood?" He's looking at the desk.

You're still flushing. "Y…es? Um, it's a salvage."

File: lindews' landing.png (761 KB, 1000x500)
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"Aw, yeah, can feel it in the grain." He's running a finger across it. "I'm kind of sick of the fake stuff, to be honest. Never used to have a problem, but… what are these?"

"Nothing!" You drop the lid of your portmanteau and rush over. "Nothing! They're not— don't touch them."

Gil sets down the model. "Sorry, I didn't… did you make these?"

"It's not important! Stop looking! I— look, I got a glorb." You hold yours up. "For when it gets dark. So we can go now."

You entrust Gil with the holding of the glorb in the hopes it'll keep him occupied and take him around the edges of the camp. First stop is Horse Face's tent. You point. "I forgot to ask, have you ever heard of a H— of a C.M.S. Garvin?"

"Garvin?" He shakes his head. "Why?"

"He said he knew you, but you probably wouldn't remember him, so I guess that's right. He has a pretty distinctive face, maybe that'll—" You poke your head inside. The tent is empty. "I guess he's still busy? We can try tomorrow."

"Who's in all the rest of these?" Gil gestures at the row of tents.

"People. They don't matter." You wave your hand. "I'll point out the important ones—"

Those being Monty's ("he's in charge"), Madrigal's ("do not go in there"), Eloise's ("um, you don't need to go there, I just recognize it"), and Ellery's ("that's yours"). "They all look the same," Gil gripes, but dutifully follows along. You point out the bulletin board, the map on it, the central clearing— "Uh, that's all there is, really."

"Very rustic. You said 30 people live here?"

"30ish. Most of them are asleep, I think."

"Asleep? It's barely—" Gil pats his pocket, as if looking for a watch. "—you know…"


"In their tents, at least, or at the bar. There's not much to do at night."

"…I see."

"Were there things to do at night where you…?"

"I don't want to talk about it." He rubs his eye. "Where's that bar?"

You're banned from Lindews' Landing, technically, but it's been six days, so maybe that's been rescinded? That's what you're going with, anyhow, as you lead Gil down the trail. "We won't go inside anywhere, but just so you know what everything looks like…"

The town is typically prettiest in the dark, with all the obelisks glowing yellow and the windows a flickery blue-green— but there's something different about it tonight. It could be the sudden profusion of pop-up stalls and lean-tos (did a band of merchants come in?), or it could be the general atmosphere: everything seems sort of still, subdued.

"The bar's closed." Gil is examining the door of the Better Than Nothing.

"What? Since when?" You hurry over. Indeed, there's a notice in Jacques' blocky handwriting. "OUT OF RESPECT FOR THE DEAD — WE ARE CLOSED." Then another notice, below it: "TEMPORARILY STOP ASKING ME IF IT'S CLOSED FOREVER"

"Gee. I hope it's not his wife." You rub your nose. "Well, the bar's normally open. The general store's over there, everything else is housing, mostly. Uh, the big place way over there is… some kind of offices, I don't know for what—"

"Sign says 'Headsp—' Headspace? Really?"

"Do you… know them?"

"Yeah! They're the goddamn idiots who pump out the template manses! Insecure as shit, nobody who has one takes any care of it— god. I-I should shake their hands."

"…I'm not following."

"How do you not— oh, you said you were new."

"Did I?"

"You were kind of drunk. Uh… come on, come over here." Gil drags you around the polished side of an obelisk. "See, there's two kinds of manses. There's custom ones, which, you know, you make out of your… youness. That's the real kind. But building one takes a lot of time and patience, and so if you're a lazy bastard or a trendhopper, you opt for kind #2, which are template manses. These just take an preexisting space and shove it into your head, which works, but the results are basically shit. They're not tuned to the owner, they fall apart, anyone can get in with a little knowhow— they're basically great, um, unless you get stuck in one."

"Oh. That was a—"

"Yes. Uh, the beetles weren't— that was the rest of the mind leaking in. But the house was." He pokes his head out to squint at the sign. "There's a few places that do templates, but Headspace is the shoddiest by far. Had no idea they headquartered…"

"Well, now you do." You're getting a little restless. "You can say hi tomorrow, or whatever. We should get back."

[TBC] apologies… fell asleep a little writing this :( random event and choices tomorrow[, but no second update most likely

You're glad you thought to bring a glorb: without it, you could've barely seen the trail. With it, you'll make it back in good time, without twisting any ankles. (You wince at the recollection.) It'll be good to be back— you hadn't realized how tired you were. Honestly, you could go for a nap right he—e—re—

Richard shocks your spine. Your eyes snap open. "Ow!"

<You're being drugged.»

Okay, um, A), how? You haven't eaten or drank anything in— don't think about it. B), isn't that what he does? Can't he just stop it?

«It's not mine. I'd wait until you were in a practical place.»
«I think it's on… my end, though.»

You don't know what that means. You are sinking to your knees.

«It doesn't matter what that means. Tell Gil you're fine.»

Gil has backed far away and stands there, fiddling with his sleeve. You offer him a weak thumbs up. "All good!"

«I will be there as soon as possible.»
«Don't say anything regrettable.»
«Remember I am your best—»

You black out. When you awake, seconds or hours later, you are somewhere mostly dark and featureless, except for a table, a lamp, two chairs, and a woman. The woman is ordinary, except that her arms are a touch too long for her body.

"Sit down." Her voice is familiar, though you can't place it.

"Um, did you drug me?"

She quirks an eyebrow. "Does it matter?"

"I— I don't really want to sit down with people who drug me."

"In that case, no. In any case, you're not in trouble. This is just a routine inspection— I'm to understand you were party to one several months ago? Same thing."

What? Nothing was happening to you several months ago. You spent days in the library and nights in the Nothing. "I think you— got the wrong person?"

"I assure you, no. You interfaced with…" She appears to check invisible documents. "…231? It was somewhat impromptu, is what I'm gleaning from…"

Wait. "The giant snake?"

"That was his chassis, yes."

"That was last week, not… months ago."

"Oh, my apologies." The woman tilts her head. "It's difficult to isolate timestreams. I'll make a note of that."

Her hands don't move. You slump back in your chair. "Are you going to give me a survey, or whatever?"

"That was the intention, but it's against protocol to administer another so soon… I'll have to stop back later." She reaches for the lamp, then pauses. "Or we could go off the record."

You didn't know there was a record. "What does that..."

"It'd be just between you and me. I won't type it up."

"Is that against protocol?"

She shifts. "Only a little. Here, I— I'll answer a question for you, too, if it's not classified. Tit for tat. Deal?"

Go with the flow, Charlotte. "Um, sure."

"Fantastic. We're off the record. So— your consultant, 314? Is he—"


"He's taken a name?"

There was some kerfuffle around this, wasn't there? "Uh, I just… call him that."

"Even so, that's worse than I thought… what's he like? There's so many rumors, it's hard to—"

You have the uncanny feeling you're being milked for gossip.

>[A] What's Richard *like?* (Write-in.)
>[B] What's your question in return? (Write-in.)
>[C] Write-in.
Utilizing our perfect memory of being able to look up past threads, tell her 314 has totally shaped up after the recent official review. He's become much less tolerant of our escapades and frippery. Definitely only refer to him as 314 from now on.

Return question would be what measures her agency could take against a recalcitrant but indispensable agent that would scare the shit out of them.
Writing. I'll get started on it, at least, won't guarantee I'll finish it tonight. (It's almost 1 AM.)
>[vivid flashback to Thread 7]

Is this a trap? This feels like a trap— and if Richard gets punished, he's bound to take it out on you. Best to hedge your bets. "Um… he's very good. Very professional."

The woman snorts. "Professional."

"…Yes. And, uh, efficient—"


"He's gotten— he's, um, better. From last time. Really cracked down on my… escapades."

"Did he tell you to tell me this? Honestly." She plays with the string of the lamp. "Word is it's nothing but escapades. I told you, it's off the record, it's okay if you—"

"He's efficient," you say emphatically.

"I'm not his superior, miss, you really don't have to worry about—"

"He's efficient." You pause. "Worry about what?"

"You know, backlash."

"No, um… last time." Why is your memory of it so vague? "The big snake threatened him with something, and he— shut up. He never shuts up. What does he have to be worried about?"

"Well… 231 is his superior, so plenty, probably— demotion, replacement, early recycling. If you ask me, he's lucky he's made it to—"

Demotion and replacement are clear enough, even if the details are fuzzy (demoted to what? replaced by who? would you have a whole other snake in your head?): "early recyling" is a complete mystery. "Sorry, what was the last one?"

"Are trying to sneak an extra question past me?"


"Don't worry, I know how backwards you lot are." Is she trying to smile? "Living a long time, you accumulate quite a bit of detritus— regrets, attachments, feelings, that sort of thing. It starts to impede your efficiency. A healthy recycle clears that up."

It clears regrets? Attachments? "A mind wipe, you mean."

"Nothing so barbaric. Everything important is kept."

"I see." It's funny, watching her slip between casual and corporate. "So an early recycle…"

"They're typically on a schedule. They don't have to be."

"Huh." You feel less alone about your shoddy memory, now.

>[+1 ID: 5/(9)]

"While we're here…" Back to casual— the biggest tell is the body language. "Why not shoot me another question? I've got all day, believe me."

"I thought we were doing tit-for-tat?"

"I'll ask mine after. It's a big one!"

>[1] One more question? (Write-in)
>[2] No. You're passed out in the middle of the trail, assuming Gil didn't drag you anywhere. You need to go.
>[3] Write-in.
>What is the motive of her organization? Assigning agents to help you become a pseudo-god? What's in it for them?

Also they wanted us to be excited about this, but get mad at 314 when he spends time on morale raising activities. What's up with that?

Double also it hasn't been nothing but escapades. We're at 1/16, and now that we know how to do it the rest are gonna go quicker.
Except put commas where all but the last question mark is. I don't trust her to not hear the question marks.
Called and writing. This might be a long one.
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>Questions and unquestions

"…Um, okay." You'll worry about it when it comes, you suppose. "Uh, before I come up with my question, I just have some… statements. Okay? Not questions, statements. Uh— I wouldn't say it's been nothing but escapades, first off. We've made good progress."

"Of course."

"We have! We're, like— 1/16th done. Um." That doesn't sound very impressive. "It'll go faster later. And anyhow, I don't see why escapades are so bad. They're morale-boosting, and stuff, and that's good for— whatever you're trying to accomplish."

"In a limited sense? Certainly. 314 is not known for his grasp of—"

You raise a finger. "Um, hold that thought. What are you trying to accomplish? Or, no, I take that back. What's the point? Why is there a secret snake agency trying to make me a fake god? Don't say you get nothing—"

"A fake god? He told you that?"

"…Well, he just said god, but— I mean, I couldn't be a real god. That's not how it works."

"Of course it is." The woman tilts her head. "How else will you herald a new epoch?"

"What does… I don't know what that means."

"Have you looked around? Your world is crumbling, miss." Her eyes glint in the lamplight. "Your leaders have sunk. Your empires have sunk. What's left? Rats and petrels, squabbling over the remains. Corruption. Deprivation. Crime and death and decay. And that's above. Below is anarchy. Perversions of decency and order, everywhere."

You want to disagree, purely on principle, but you can't find the words.

"You'll wipe the slate clean, miss. You'll fix everything. Isn't that wonderful?"

It does sound nice, the way she puts it, but—

"Oh! That brings us around to my question, actually. Have you personally achieved communion with t-"

"Charlie." Behind the woman, Richard pops into existence. "Come here."

"Do I have to…?" With that look on his face? You'd rather not be throttled.


Well, you'll get throttled either way, probably. You join Richard, who, ignoring the skeptical look of the woman, takes you by your shoulders. "Look at me. Are you hurt?"

"No? She just- she just talked to me."

"What did she say? Did she make you uncomfortable? Look at me."

"…No? It wasn't anything, really, she just—"

"Always on edge," the woman says lightly. "I'm not here to sabotage your pet project, 314. It's just a routine inspection."

"A routine inspection." Richard shoves you behind him and stalks up to the woman. "Which I was not notified about, which came as a profound interruption— you could've killed her."

"Or— consider this— I checked her vitals?"

"Why do you have access to her vitals! Why do you— which one are you? What is this?" He waves an arm through the woman, who flickers. "I've never seen a worse—"

"I'm 487," 487 says, a little defensively. "It's so she'll feel comfortable."

"Charlie's a big girl, she can handle it! You got the arms wrong, by the way. Witness." Richard holds his arms out to the side. "Boy, was that hard. Where are we, by the way? Because it's pathetic."

"There's no point in making a whole place just for—"

"It's not hard. Look." Richard leans through 487 and takes hold of the lamp chain. With a click, everything vanishes— and with another, you are in a nondescript office, with a desk and potted plant and a window to open sky. "Wow."

"You're plugged into her!" 487 protests. "Just because it doesn't take you anything doesn't mean—"

"It doesn't take me anything because I'm good. Leave."

"I wasn't really done, but—"

"Don't come back."

487 shoots you a told-you-so look. "Talk to the higher-ups. It's not my fault you need watched. Has anyone told you you're a jackass?"

Richard smolders.

"Thought so. Okay, I'm leaving. See you around, miss."

She vanishes. You clear your throat. "Um, Richard, I—"

"Did she ask about me?"

"Huh? Uh, yes."

"And what did you tell her?" There is an edge to his voice.

"That you were really good and efficient and stuff."

"…" He removes his sunglasses and turns to face you. "…Really?"

"Yes?" What part is he not getting? "I didn't go into that much detail, but—"

"…It's alright." He twists and untwists his hands. "…Uh. Thank you."

Has Richard ever thanked you? For anything? You're struggling to think of another time. "Did you—"

He slips the sunglasses back on. "I purged your system. Wake up before Gil has a stroke."

"Wait, n—"


You wake up. You are surrounded by rotting leaves. Gil, tensed against a mangrove, nearly bites through his cigarette. "You're alive!"

"You're smoking," you say dumbly. Your side hurts.

"You just collapsed! I thought—"

"You're smoking. We're underwater."

The cigarette sizzles and dies, and Gil spits it into his palm. He holds it up to his face. "Aw."

"How did you even… I don't want to know, frankly." You wipe the hair from your face. "I'm fine. Let's go."

Though the way back is uneventful, the the rattling of the trees does nothing for your nerves: you blame a shift in currents. You are grateful to spot the trailhead, and moreso to get to Ellery's tent undetected. Gil does not share your sentiments.

"Of course you had to murder a goddamn packrat. Why is this box full of wood?"

"I… think he whittled?" You hug your arms to your chest. "Just put it down. It doesn't matter."

"Where did he sleep? I mean actually, where did he sleep. He has a chair full of junk and a couch full of junk but no bed. How does he not have—"

«Given his condition, I suspect he pulled one out of nothing.»

"I think he has one, it just doesn't exist?"

Gil sets down the box of wood and stacks several boxes of papers on top of it. "Lovely. Couch it is."

"Better than the wall," you say pointedly.

"…Yes." He pauses. "Sorry."

"I mean, this place is a dump. I'm not saying you're wrong. It's the only dump you've got, though."


You rub your eye. "I'll ask Monty for a cot tomorrow. You can keep the glorb. Good night."

"…Good night."


You flop down on your own cot, then remember to take your boots off, then flop down again. You have plenty left to do, but nothing you have the stamina to do today.

You sleep. You dream.


You are strangling Ellery with your bare hands. When he ceases to struggle you check his pulse and find none. He is dead in record time. He is smiling. He is at peace.

You open your mouth and instead of beetles something long and loose and slippery crimson winds from your throat. It darts between Ellery's teeth and when his eyes open they are yellow.

"I ate your heart."

This is enough to stir you, just a little. "…What?"

"I needed to understand. I can't give it back."

"What? Who are you?"

"Everything." Blood drips from Not-Ellery's mouth. "Everything. I— Hello? Lottie?"


"Bwah!" You sit up. It's black as sin in your tent, but someone is silhouetted in your doorway. "…Gil?"

"Um, yeah. Is it okay if I…?" He jiggles something that might be an unlit glorb.

"Well, I'm awake now." You throw your arm up to block the sudden bright light. "Ow. What time is it?"

"I-I don't have a watch. Um, late. Or early? I don't… I couldn't sleep."

"You're coming to me for this?" You lower your arm and squint. "You're how old?"

"25. Um, I'm not— scared." He seems uncertain about that. "It's just that… do you mind if I come over?"

You're decent, luckily. "Whatever."

"Okay." He comes over. "It's just that my teeth are melting?"

They do seem to be melting: his mouth drips with silver fluid, and his incisors, at least, are nubs. You sink back onto your elbows. "Yep."

«I told you the body wouldn't keep.»

"I was just wondering if this was… normal?"

>[A1] Yes. Haha. Totally normal. Go back to your tent.
>[A2] Okay, no, it's not normal, but you'll… fix it. In the morning. Don't worry about it.
>[A3] You hate to declare defeat so soon, but if other things start to melt he'll be in trouble. He needs to evacuate.

>[B1] Make it clear that this is the last time he interrupts you in your sleep. He's a grown beetle man, he can fend for himself.
>[B2] Set boundaries. Emergencies, sure, this counts. Other times? Absolutely not.
>[B3] He has some issues, clearly, but given his circumstances it's hard to blame him. If he needs to wake you up occasionally… well, he's your retainer. Noblesse oblige.
Oh, and of course
>[C] Write-in.

My bad.

> Crown time. Let's test out this God power. Of course, Gil will have to formally accept us as his liege and owner. We could dress it up in fancy words, but that's what it would be. We're going to own reality eventually anyways, apparently, so really he's getting a pretty good deal by being first in line.

If he refuses then AC.

> B2 mixed with B3. We're happy to help, but time and place yo.
For B, essentially be pissed about being woken up but help him. Just tell him that next time lead with "melting teeth" and not "I can't sleep".

dang I thought him being there would stabilize the body. Why does it not do this when fake Ellery is in there? Need to know more about mirror clone science.

Please no. Telling people about your actually feasible plan to become god usually results in getting stopped.
Gil is literally depending on us to make his body.

We can also forcibly change his mind in out Manse.
>dang I thought him being there would stabilize the body
It did (a little). It would've normally been gone by now.

>Why does it not do this when fake Ellery is in there?
Richard likely has theories.

>We can also forcibly change his mind in out Manse.
I've been dodging this question, but for the sake of informed decision making: You can't, not really: he might be in your head, but he's not a part of your head. Your best bets would be
1) Imposing Laws affecting [beetles]-- possible, but crude, limited control, and prone to nasty side effects.
2) Keeping Gil in your head for so long he actually does become a part of it-- possible, but infeasible due to Richard's disapproval and the time it'd take. Also self-defeating, since it'd be questionable if he were still an actual autonomous person.
He has a body already, if we manage to fix this dissolving.

We can't change his mind, and even if we could I wouldn't want to. Unethical. Even if he is compelled not to tell others, people could invade his mind and find out.
this >>4491163
>A2 B2

>Crown / AC B2 B3

Looks like no crown takes it, but I'll work a splash of B3 into B2. Called and writing.
That works too.

I just kinda wanna force reality to work properly for once.
As it turns out, movie night is not conducive to quest writing. I have about half a post done and am having some writer's block on the wording of the next segment, so I'm going to set this down for the night and come back to it tomorrow. Apologies.
> Top 10 Anime Betrayals
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Y-you'll get it tonight!
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>Be worry don't happy

"Normal for what?" you hedge.

"For… being someone else? I- I don't know, I've never done this…"

"I haven't either, but, um… I don't think so. Not for… normal people." Unless Richard has something major to tell you. "Um. You're not a normal person."


"No, um, not you." You're still half-asleep. "Him. Ellery. He's… he was a mirror… guy. Construct. Thing. So he's… you know, your body's all funky."

Gil is pale. "My teeth are melting."

"Yeah, and… it's 3 in the morning, or whatever the hell. Talk to me tomorrow."


"I can't… you know, um, my arms are open, or whatever, but it's 3 in the morning, this is out of my wheelhouse… I don't even know what you want me to do. And could you lead with the emergency next time, not—?"

"I was getting to it," he mumbles.

"Get to it first, then. Just… I mean, it's okay you woke me up now, but… don't do it if your teeth aren't melting. Or I'll strangle you." You rub your nose. "Again. Does it hurt?"

"No, it ju-"

You could've seen it coming— could've noticed the steady thrumming, the tent walls flexing and bulging, the gritty taste in your mouth. But it's 3 in the damn morning and not-Ellery is standing over you dribbling effluvium onto your only blanket so you're cutting yourself some slack for being caught off guard when a rip current hits your tent.

It's the noise of a bomb blast, and near the strength: the ceiling trembles, while the close wall strains against the pressure. With a groan, your bookcase begins to tip over— you can hear the thunk of your knickknacks sliding off it— and you wonder if you'll die like this or just break a few bones and can't decide which is worse. Neither: Gil drops the glorb and dives across the tent to catch it. "Holy shit!"

«Get out of bed.»

Richard is laying directly and meaningfully on your chest. You don't need to be told twice: you stumble to your feet and help Gil drag the bookcase away from the wall. ("I-it's going to fall again!") It's dark again, proper dark- the glorb winked out when it hit the ground. You pray to God you don't step on anything important.

«Now get out of the tent. It isn't safe.»

You're more reticent about this— go into the current?— but the ominous creaking of the tent's ropes convince you. You snatch your boots, order Gil to find the glorb, and lurch outside into a murky, leafy wind tunnel. Even as you shield your face against flung pebbles and snail-shells, it becomes clear you're not alone: the rip current has woken up the whole of camp, and within a minute thirty-some groggy, shivering people are clinging to their tent poles. There is shouting, of which you can understand nothing, and signing, which is too dark to make out.

Eventually a tacit agreement is made to congregate, and you haul yourself and Gil to the center of camp, where a disheveled Monty relays orders to a slab-faced woman whose phosphorescing hands make her the only understandable one in the bunch. There are things about weighting down the tents and evacuating to town if needed and many, many reassurances: stay calm, it's just freak weather, we've been through worse. You lose interest quickly and turn to picking out recognizable faces in the crowd: there's Eloise, cloak bunched loosely around her, there's Madrigal, looking wider awake than she was all day, there's— where's Horse Face?

And a cry goes up then, because a man with a bleeding brow is gesturing frantically to the treeline: the Fen is glowing, faintly, blue. Monty wipes his hand through his hair, and the slab-faced woman signs faster: Do you know how many odd glows there are down here? There's no indication it's related. Even if it is related, what do you expect to do about it? Go into the death swamp in the middle of the night? What then? No, the only thing we can do is batten the hatches, it'll be over eventually—

You yelp, unladylike— Madrigal has jabbed her bony elbow into your side. A glorb is clenched between her teeth. "Monty's going on his martyr quest again," she signs.


She points. The woman is still signing, but Monty has vanished from his post— his tent flap swings in the current. "Happens every fucking time something nasty happens. Goes off on his own to get himself killed, like a prick. Then I have to chase him down—"

"Why are you telling me this?"

"Charlotte. My joints are fucking gelatin. I can't— hey!" She's spotted Gil. "Hey! Asshole!"

Gil stares. "Sorry?"

"Thought you could… what's wrong with your voice?"

You thank the heavens the difference isn't more obvious. "Could we not do this now? There's plenty of time when the world isn't—"

"I bet he fucking caused this. On accident. It's exactly the type of—"

"…No." Horse Face, missing since this morning. Horse Face, with a device to 'catch and redirect currents.' "No, um… look. Here's what I'm going to do."

>[1] Chase down Monty and bring him back. It's always good to have people in your debt. (Bring Gil? Y/N)
>[2] Chase down Monty and go with him to the source of the glow. If you can shut the current down, you'll be the talk of camp— but it's undoubtedly dangerous, and you're exhausted. (Bring Gil? Y/N)
>[3] Work with everyone to get tents secured. The current won't last forever, and you should at least keep up appearances.
>[4] Secure your tent, then go the hell to sleep.
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] Chase down Monty and go with him to the source of the glow. If you can shut the current down, you'll be the talk of camp— but it's undoubtedly dangerous, and you're exhausted.

>Bring Gil? Y

I mean, not like his body is gonna last anyways right? Besides, it's probably for the best he woke us up.

Anyways. We don't have to go around trying to be *nice* to people if we can point out "hey remember that time we saved all y'alls?"

Besides, whatever did this ruined our chance for more sleep and all our stuff. We got a snek and a beetleman and a crown and we don't know how to use them and that should probably terrify people more if they knew.
>[2] Chase down Monty and go with him to the source of the glow. If you can shut the current down, you'll be the talk of camp— but it's undoubtedly dangerous, and you're exhausted. (Bring Gil? Y/N)


Time to get dunked on horseface.

Also I want to leave Gil because he's unstable and this would be perilous for his fragile body.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Called. Rolling for Gil/no Gil.
It'll be fiiiiine.

Will you get your vengeance on Horse Face? Will you get bludgeoned by an uprooted tree? Will Monty notice that his friend's teeth are melting? Find out NEXT TIME on Drowned Quest Redux. In 2-3 months.

>But we're page 8!
I don't want to start something self-contained and then leave you guys hanging in the middle of it during a hiatus. Better to come to a good stopping point.

>2-3 months?!
I love my quest, but it's unquestionably a time sink, and I have some life stuff coming up that I need to focus on. Nothing you guys need to worry about (not the Curse), just higher priority.

>When are you coming back, exactly?
I don't know for sure. Earliest date is likely mid-December, latest is mid-January. I hope to make it earlier rather than later. The date will be preannounced on my Twitter and in the QTG, so please keep an eye out.

>Are you coming back?
Of course.

>Will you be working on anything quest-related during the hiatus?
Idk, maybe? If I make anything major (new pastebin, side story, art) I'll post it on Twitter.

>Anything else?
Ask me!

Twitter is here: https://twitter.com/BathicQM
Archive is here (I'll archive Thread 13 in a bit): http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux

I hope all of you have an excellent holiday season!
Thanks for running!

Why did horse face have to pull this nonsense now? We need this time to study mirror clone science!
Immutable law of the Drownedverse: nothing in life is easy.

Weird note: I should be receiving a ton of Charlotte art over today and tomorrow. (Won a lottery, basically.) I'll post my favorites in the thread and the rest on Twitter... or maybe I'll just wait for December. We'll see what happens.
Thanks for running.

Why hasn't Charlie's aunt been more involved with all her subconscious shenanigans. Can Charlie get a second snake that takes on her aunt's persona?
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>Why hasn't Charlie's aunt been more involved with all her subconscious shenanigans.
In comparison to Charlotte's bipolar mother and dead / alcoholic, ??snake related?? father, her (stable, reliable) aunt just made less of an impact. I won't rule out Ruby turning up later, though.

>Can Charlie get a second snake that takes on her aunt's persona?
Not unless she finds a snake made of her dead aunt in a box. (No.)

I can't wait for another problem we can solve by setting everything on fire.
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Someday, anon. Someday. (Excited to report that about half the new art 25 pieces or so I'll be posting next thread features The Sword, on fire.)

Unrelated, but we are archived here: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux
Wow that is a wimpy fire sword. I imagined the whole blade aflame, not just some tiny patch at the tip.
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This one do it for you?
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Or this?

oh hello sans undertale

I am fully erect
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>sans undertale
glad I'm not the only one who thought this
Man how do you get people to be your draw slaves?
In this instance, I effectively won an art raffle. The stuff I got in July was effectively the product of a bunch of art trades, and I may have more art trade stuff by the time Thread 14 hints.

So... draw slave unto others as you would have them draw slave unto you?
*hits, not hints, obviously.

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