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/qst/ - Quests

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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 have fallen asleep after another exciting evening of almost dying and/or losing your sanity.


You dream.

It is night. You are seated on a rooftop. Richard is crouching some distance away. He is wearing sunglasses, but his neck is craned up, toward the stars.

"Those are shards of my scales," he is saying.

You know this to be true. "Yes."

"They could be yours." And he is sweeping his hand across the sky and the stars are falling into his hand. They look like small glittering crystals. He is standing and you are standing and he is standing in front of you. He is pouring the stars into your palms.

They are making your fingers twitch and stiffen, and they are making your skin boil: rise up in lazy bubbles and burst. There is something hard and shining under your palms.

"I will make of these a heart," Richard is saying— he has more stars in his own palms— "and it will sit in the hollow of your chest."

There is a deep hollow in your chest. Your breath is whistling through it. "Yes."

"And it will make of you..." He is pausing. "...a wholeness, again. You shall-"

"—You." Richard appears. A different Richard, in a botanical-print shirt, and cargo shorts, and young— blond, fresh-faced, flushed. 25? 35? He takes your shoulder and yanks you behind him, then muscles into the first Richard's face. "How dare you."

The first Richard quails. "I am only..."

"Only what. Using my likeness?" Young-Richard rips first-Richard's sunglasses off. First-Richard's eyes are glossy yellow. "Poorly? Only peddling your unsafe, unregulated, frankly heretical tricks on— when she's not even lucid?"

First-Richard— the yellow-eyed thing— bares its pointed teeth. A fear-grimace. "I am making her strong."

"You are making my life hell. Do you realize I'm on break?"

"You're what?" you mumble.

"Shhh, Charlie. I am on break— I know you don't know what that means— I am not supposed to be here. I do not want to be here. But you have forced my— and would you stop looking like that?" Actual(?)-Richard shakes the thing's shoulders. Obligingly, it shapeshifts into you. "No." Into Ellery. "No." Into Monty. "No!" Into Madrigal— "I want you," Richard hisses, with the kind of malice he tends to reserve for your most egregious screwups.

Between Richard's hands, the thing shrivels into a red snakeskin. Richard snorts, crumples it into a ball, and pitches it off the roof. Then he turns.

"Um," you say.

"Charlie." He fixes his sunglasses. "Go back to sleep."

"...Why are you..." You struggle for a descriptor. "...my age?"

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"I'm not your age. You are chronologically 23. I am chronologically— it's complicated. Older than that. You are physically 20. I am physically..." He checks his watch. "...29. So there's really no—"

You are literally not awake enough for this. "But why."

"Ah. I'm experimenting." He pats your shoulder. "Now, please, go back to sleep. Or no, actually, so I don't have to monitor— how about this."

"Huh? Whoa." A wave of dizziness hits you, and you sag. Richard catches you.

"Rest soundly, Charlotte."

As darkness closes in, the last thing you feel is him scooping you off your feet.


>[ID: 9/(9)]

You awaken with the uncanny feeling that no time has passed, though the morning pouring through the canvas of your tent says otherwise. Suprisingly, it doesn't feel like you've been hit with a sack of bricks. Maybe one brick.

Richard is lying on your chest. «I tapered it off this time.»

Oh. Well, that's nice of him. Though you'd previously banned him from lying on your chest, on account of him being icy cold and quite heavy. Also, it's considerably weirder now, what with the—

«I have no paternal feelings toward you.»


«Our relationship is strictly professional. I for one am pleased to keep it that way.»

Yeah, he says that, but you'll wait until he gets drunk again and see what happens. Also, he's still on your chest. You pick him up and toss him across the tent, then sit up.

It is morning. What do you do?

>[1] Do something in your tent.
>>[A] Those books Richard collected over your five-day unconsciousness have been sitting by your bed completely untouched. He got them for a good reason, surely. You should go through them and see what they say. [This will advance the main quest.]
>>[B] Your stolen model is still in Horse Face's shoebox. You should pull it out, double-check that he didn't ruin anything. (This may be combined with another option.)

>[2] Do something in your manse.
>>[A] You need to have a serious discussion with Richard, ASAP. With *human* Richard. The one that actually answers questions. You have way too many things you need to know.
>>[B] Gil is in there, presumably moping around his half-finished body. You ought to finish that up, get it off your to-do list.

>[3] Go track someone down.
>>[A] Find Monty, drag Monty over to Horse Face, ???, profit. Get questions answered. Maybe rub certain things in certain people's faces.
>>[B] Find Monty, but don't involve Horse Face yet. You want some answers about the Spooky Mask People Dimension before anything else.
>>[C] Didn't Madrigal want to talk about something yesterday? And you should probably make sure she hasn't turned into a snake yet. Pop into her tent.
>>[D] Eloise has some kind of job for you, doesn't she? And you ought to inform her about the gooplicate situation. See if she's around.

>[4] Write-in.
Yes, this was supposed to be posted tomorrow! But I've had the OP done for a while, and as it turns out I'm doing something in RL tomorrow. So here we are.

For quick one-post SOL / combat / exploration 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 options) if I start writing too late in the evening, sorry in advance. I am in the PST timezone.

We use a 3d100 degrees of success system with crits. The base DC is 50. Modifiers may be applied to the roll or to the DC as are relevant. The # of rolls that match or exceed the DC determine the result. Probabilities may be found in the Dice and Mechanics pastebin.

The degrees are:
0 Passes = Failure
1 Pass = Mitigated Success
2 Passes = Success
3 Passes = Enhanced Success
0/100 = Critical Failure / Critical Success [regardless of other rolls]

The MC has a pool of 9* Identity ("ID"), which may be considered both HP and the measure of her current sense of self. It may be lost through physical, metaphysical, or emotional damage. It may be regained through write-ins, designated options, and at reasonable narrative points, including sleep. It may be spent on a flat +10 bonus to most rolls, as well as on more elaborate metaphysical effects. Dropping to 0 ID is bad.

[*The ID cap is typically 12, but prior choices have lowered this until a sidequest is completed.]



>Pastebins (Who's Who updated!)

>Doodles (through thread 13)

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.

>I have a question/comment/concern?
Tell me!
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Accompanied by your reluctant retainer Gil, you set off into the face of a violent current in search of your landlord Monty. You locate him through the use of your Cool Magic Earth Powers (name pending), defuse a tense standoff between him and Gil, and graciously allow him to accompany you to your true goal: stopping the current, so you can win the appreciation of the entire camp.

On the way, you encounter that Wind Court guy who let you go during the museum heist, your family heirloom The Sword inexplicably in his possession, and the slime-based "gooplicate" of you he's making out with. You and Monty defeat the gooplicate (who injects you with a "catalyst" that will turn you into goo, too), but the man— Jesse— escapes. You discover that Gil has been speaking to a giant underwater worm, use your Cool Magic Earth Powers to talk to the worm, too, and promptly lose your mind.

Gil and Monty have a conversation in the worm's underground tunnel. When you return to lucidity, your teeth are buried in Jesse's neck, and you leave him to bleed out. You reclaim The Sword and go to save the worm ("Annie"), but it's too late: Annie dies. You pin the killer, who turns out to be "Lucky" Duncan— you left him for dead during your hunt for the Crown. He claims you deserted the Wind Court three years ago, which you deny, and you knock him out. You return to Jesse, fail to apologize, and leave.

As you continue towards the source of the current, time begins to move faster around you. Richard's connection with you gets glitchy, and in an effort to stop you from melting he injects you with adrenaline. You freak out so hard you catapult yourself out of your body, and in your ghostly state discover that you can 'see' pockets of distorted time. One of these pockets: a timeline where you're a miserable housewife, and also Monty is there. He's not supposed to be there, so you enter the timeline and follow him into his own, which you dub the Spooky Mask People Dimension. You narrowly avoid becoming integrated into the SMPD, locate jerkass!Monty, snap him out of it, and escape.

Richard is possessing your vacant body, and tells you he's taking this entire misadventure over. You struggle, and he knocks you out. In the recesses of your mind, the yellow-eyed thing from your dreams speaks to you. You accept its help, lose your mind again, and wrest control from Richard.

You find Gil and Monty, and with them make it to the source of the current: a pagan temple where your nemesis Horse Face has summoned a dead god. Said dead god claims you're associated with "The Wyrm," a god under the earth, and warns you that you walk a doomed path. It also warns you about Richard, who it claims is manipulating you. But you convince it there's still hope, and it rewinds time so that the current never happened.

You go to yell at Horse Face, who tells you little but does return your model. Gil leaves Ellery's corpse, and you sleep.

Short-term goals:
- Talk to Richard about... everything
- Go through the books in your tent
- Speak to Madrigal about investigating Ellery together
- Speak to Eloise about her job proposition
- Finish Gil's manse-body
- Have Richard teach you about Law
- Distribute the $$$ to your heist crew (tonight)
- Spend your share of the $$$
- Figure out current status of the recommendation letter thing
- Figure out current status of Game Night
- Meet back up with Annie the worm

Long-term goals:
- Procure permanent, non-melting body for Gil
— Go to Hell? Murder someone not named Ellery? Look into Namway gooplicates?
- Regain your missing ID
— Speak to Richard about your missing ID
- Finish your model
- Locate and reclaim your lost Sword (in real life) (again)
— Find Jesse (again)
- Power up the Second Crown (1/16)
- GTFO of this underwater hellhole
- Make friends???

- Who or what drove Ellery into self-imposed exile?
— Speak to Anthea or BK about him?
- Who or what is Namway Co.'s “Management”? What did they want with the clone of a snake?
- What's the deal with that weird sword training flashback you had?
- What's the deal with that golden-eyed thing that keeps showing up in your dreams? Does it have to do with the Wyrm?
- What kind of company(?) does Richard work for? What is its endgame? What does it want with you?
- What is Richard actually like, behind the whole... dad thing?
- And why did your dad (and his friend) have weird powers, anyhow?
- Who is Jesse? What relationship does he think he have with you? Why do he and Lucky claim you were a Courtier?
- What is a clone of you doing running around in the Fen? What was it saying about "Human Resources"?
- What is the relationship between Horse Face and the Wind Court? What is Horse Face's entire deal?
- What is the meaning of Jesse's spiral tattoo?
- What is the deal with Monty's grimdark backstory? What exactly is the "Game"?
- What is the Wyrm? What does it have to do with you? What does it have to do with Richard? What makes you a "Wyrm-daughter"?

Ongoing assignments:
- Inform Eloise about anything you discover about Namway Co.
- Periodically check on Madrigal to make sure she's not in horrific agony from sort of turning into a snake or whatever


>Don't forget to scroll up and vote!

>[3][B] Find Monty, but don't involve Horse Face yet. You want some answers about the Spooky Mask People Dimension before anything else.

Talk to him to figure out if you're the only one who remembered the current. Horseface kind of knew, but we obviously can't trust the word of a known model thief, who lied constantly about his thievery.
>>[2] Do something in your manse.
>>>[A] You need to have a serious discussion with Richard, ASAP. With *human* Richard. The one that actually answers questions. You have way too many things you need to know.

>not doing the infodump first before story
>[3] Go track someone down.
>>[B] Find Monty, but don't involve Horse Face yet. You want some answers about the Spooky Mask People Dimension before anything else.
I feel like he'll be more forthcoming.

>>not doing the infodump first before story
You want to do the story first to hook potential readers.


Called for Monty and writing in a while.

Honestly, it's just talking either way-- I'm not sure a hypothetical new reader would see much of a difference. I also think attempting to optimize the order of events for hypothetical new readers is a bit of a futile gesture... but I guess it's not really my place to say!
>[2B] Find Monty, but don't involve Horse Face yet. You want some answers about the Spooky Mask People Dimension before anything else.
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>Monty, alone

As a matter of fact, there's too many things to do. Too many people to talk to, too many things to talk about, too many mysteries, too many undoubtedly traumatic secrets. Especially now that you're sitting up and your head is clearing a little. Is this just your life, now and forever? Ricocheting between… happenstances?

You're sure it's Richard's fault somehow.

«On the contrary. You throw yourself headlong into trouble. It is my eternal thankless duty to drag you out.»

You don't throw yourself into trouble. And it is his fault. If he'd never coaxed you off your nice, safe, sunny Pillar, then you'd never be in this mess, never would've been stabbed twice, melted once, lost your mind how many—?

«Three times, by my count. In two hours. 'Hours' being an approximation, of course.»
«Something is the matter with you.»

That is what he likes to tell you, yes. Constantly.

«Metaphysically the matter. Not a personality defect, though you certainly have scores of those.»
«And I take what I said back. Four times. Counting your little jaunt between chronologies.»

What? Oh, the thing with Monty? God, that was— you don't even know what that was. Though you do feel mildly vindicated. You knew something was wrong with that man. He's just like Richard, really. Pretends to be nice, for appearances, but inside he's actually…

…Actually what? A sinister cloaked guy? Something about a Committee? It was all rather vague. God. This is something you should find out more about, right?

«It's irrelevant.»

Well, it's— he doesn't know it's irrelevant. And anyways, maybe you can— you know, blackmail him, or whatever. And if you're occupied with this, you don't have to think about anything else that you don't want to think about. Yes. It's flawless.

«May I remind you that you are not down here to uncover petty gossip.»
«You have an actual goal that you are, once again, failing to make the most minor step towards—»

It's too late! You are already up, tugging your shirt over your head, jamming your boots on, out the door. You are off to Monty's.


Also flawless: your continued strategy of not knocking. So you slammed directly into Monty, who was on his way out of his tent— so what? So what if his chest was surprisingly rocklike, and so what if your face now throbs? You showed him, for attempting to flee your detectiving. And you're sat down at Monty's desk now, aren't you? It all worked, didn't it? Richard?

«I have refrained from commenting.»

Okay, sure, but you could feel his judgmental little eyes on your neck. Monty is fixing his shirt cuff across his desk. He's all clean and buttoned-up again— a world of difference from last night. Where's his trident? Is it behind the folding screen?

You sit patiently. Finally, Monty rests his chin on his hand. "Sorry, what's the matter?"

"The current."

"Yes, you…" He rubs his eyes. "…you said that. What current? And remind me how this is 'urgent, confidential business'?"

You wave your arms. "Okay, so maybe it's not— urgent. As such. But it is confidential, so. Wasn't lying there. Um— okay, you know, it's the current. From last night?"

"…I must've slept through it." He smiles politely.

"You did not sleep though it. You barged into it, and I had to go get you, which— I mean, you're very welcome. But that's not the point. The point is, there was this entire— this thing. There were these eight people, and they all had these cloaks, and freaky masks, and if you put a mask on you went inside it— inside the mask. Okay?"

Monty's face is ashen. The smile is gone.

You take this as a 'yes.' "Alright. So you were one of these people. And also you were a total jackass. Not the worst jackass I've ever met, but up there, you know. And also, there was something about a game? Players? Leaderboards? So I was just wondering if you'd like to explain—"

"How do you…" he croaks.

"I told you. You barged into the current, I graciously helped you not get yourself killed, in the process some other things happened. You remember." You gesture toward his face. "You know, somewhere."

He looks at you for a long time, and then grabs a crayon as if to write with. Instead, he drags his thumbnail around its circumference, leaving orange shavings on his desk. He does this and looks past you, toward the door of the tent. "Did I fall?"


"Did I fall a long way, at some point."

"Oh!" you say. "Yes, actually. That's how we got out of the Spooky— out of, uh, the place with the masked people."

"Right." He taps the crayon against the desk. "I dreamt about that."

"Oh!" This makes sense. "Did you also dream about giant worms? And punching me in the back of the head?"

He makes an unidentifiable expression, though you'd place it in the region of 'disgust.' "And you've come to tell me that all actually happened to me. And you, and…" He squints. "…Ellery?"


"Right. Gil." Monty drops the crayon and leans back in his seat. He appears exceedingly tired, all of a sudden. "All of it? There was a fish-man— I don't mean a Q!lw, I mean an actual enormous man with the head of an actual fish. Was that—"

You nod.

"I woke up after that. In my cot, you know. No current. Everything was fine. So I just assumed…" He reaches for the crayon and sticks it in the corner of his mouth. "I should've come to check on you. That's my fault."

"Check on me?" You wrinkle your nose. "I was fine."

"In my dream, you were…" He hesitates. "It wasn't a dream. What was it?"

«An alternate chronology.»

"An alternate… timeline, I think."

"Right." That doesn't seem to make him feel better. "In this alternate timeline, you were very… I don't know how to put this. You didn't seem to be yourself, much of the time."

You snort. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Well, maybe I'm not remembering properly. But… I'd just like to remind you of camp policy, alright? Which is to declare anything different about yourself up front. Anything that might make you a danger to yourself or others. Not to discriminate, to be clear. It's not a judgment. But if I or Mads or— if we know about the— the difference ahead of time, then it can be handled safely if the need arises. Which it does, believe me. If we don't know, then people could get hurt. You could get hurt."

It is best, you decide, to not respond. He can't do anything if you don't respond. Monty sets down the crayon. "I believe your self-description at the time of your arrival was 'perfectly ordinary'?"

You immediately forget your vow of silence. "Yeah! I am."

Monty looks pained. "Well… perhaps… but I'm not sure what to make of how you were, then. In my— in the alternate timeline. If you have an explanation…?"

>[A1] Yes! You do definitely have a reasonable explanation for your frightening losses of control. Which is… (Write-in.)
>[A2] Okay. Whatever. Give him the highly sanitized version of what actually happened. Leave out Richard, obviously, and anything that makes you sound too weird.

>[B1] Wait a sec. This is not about you. This is about him, and his freaky mask convention. Attempt to steer the conversation back to that. [Roll.]
>[B2] Maybe he doesn't want to talk about it. But of course he does. You can believe he does. (Use Advanced Gaslighting*. Write-ins for how, exactly, will lower the DC.) [Roll.]
>[B3] Change the subject. Maybe you can get him to drop his guard before hitting him with the big stuff.

(These options are for B3 only.)
>[C1] Ask about the status of the recommendation letters. Did Richard take care of them?
>[C2] Ask about Game Night, which you are, technically, invited to. Did that… happen? Did /Richard/ go to it?
>[C3] Bring up Horse Face, and the need to go confront him about his dastardly model stealing. And also the god thing you guess.
>[C4] Ask more generally about his past, and any wisdom he may like to impart. You don't actually care, of course, but he sure seems to like doing that.
>[C5] Discuss something else. (What? Write-in.)

>[D] Write-in.

*The rules for Advanced Gaslighting can be reposted upon request!
>[B3] Change the subject. Maybe you can get him to drop his guard before hitting him with the big stuff.
>[C4] Ask more generally about his past, and any wisdom he may like to impart. You don't actually care, of course, but he sure seems to like doing that.
You need an [A] choice as well! (That's why they're [A]s and [B]s, not [1]s and [2]s... they're not interchangeable.)
>[A1] Yes! You do definitely have a reasonable explanation for your frightening losses of control. Which is…
Absolutely refusing to understand what he's getting at. In our alternate timeline we were an alcoholic housewife, and it was disgusting. But we don't think it's really anything out of the ordinary.
bro I don't even know what was happening
I was there for like 5 minutes and other me seemed pretty normal
One might even say .... perfectly ordinary.

>[A2] Okay. Whatever. Give him the highly sanitized version of what actually happened. Leave out Richard, obviously, and anything that makes you sound too weird.

Was partway through typing up a write-in for [A1], then realized that it was basically the same thing. Key touch points is that we were trying to help people like he wanted us to. Tilting the rocks from helping someone, a whole tonne of weird stuff crawled and slithered away, and right under the next rock we tilted up. We don't really want to be tilting rocks, but everyone we've graciously went to help out is DEMANDING that we tilt those rocks, not matter how much we say that we saw some wriggly thing with too many legs go underneath it. Not that we were dealing with wriggly things with too many legs though, that's just a figure of speech.

>[B3] Change the subject. Maybe you can get him to drop his guard before hitting him with the big stuff.

With the option being:

>[C4] Ask more generally about his past, and any wisdom he may like to impart. You don't actually care, of course, but he sure seems to like doing that.

It'll help cement that last night's problems did happen, and that we're 'fine' with it. After all, when he wasn't being in the spooky mask dimension or demanding that we prove we were our own self, Monty was rather capable in handling the current problem. More-so when we went and helped out too of course.
>lmao wtf are you talking about

>you know when you think about it it's actually your fault......

>you know what I really wanted? LIFE LESSONS

>ok by the way horse face is a bitch

Called for A1/B3/C4 and writing shortly.
Rolled 68, 46, 19 = 133 (3d100)

Also, rolling to see if Monty buys it.

3 1d100s - 5 (+10 Perceptive, -15 Muddled Memories) vs. DC 50 (-10 Bad Liar, +10 Plausible Deniability) to know you're lying
Mitigated Success -- he's suspicious but keeps it to himself
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>Categorical denial
>Tell me about yourself…

You hate the look on Monty's face. You've seen it before. It's the 'you can tell me anything' look: head inclined, eyebrows cocked, neutral smile. And the eyes. Wide and startling, a nearly electric blue, but softened by friendly little crinkles. Nice eyes. Eyes you can trust. Eyes you want to talk to.


But you don't want to talk to Monty, no matter how much he wants you to, and— is that it? Is this sorcery? Or just weird inbuilt charisma? Either way, does he think you're going to fall for it? You're not a rube. But you do have to blink rapidly to break the pull.

Monty frowns. "Do you have something in your eye?"

"Nope!" It comes out too fast. "No, I, uh— I'm fine."

"If you're uncomfortable about answering, I understand, but this is for the safety of—"

You can't answer him. That'd be letting him win. You have to deflect. "For the safety of—? Seriously? It was depressing, sure, embarrassing, possibly, but I fail to see how a drunkard is a threat to—"

Monty twirls the crayon. "…What?"

"Oh, you know. The other— she had a dress on? You had an atrocious suit? She wasn't even me, you know— I mean, she was, but only for thirty seconds— you weren't even there—"

"A… suit." He taps the crayon against his forehead. "Was this in some kind of drawing room?"

"A parlor."

"Parlor. And I was…" He closes one eye. "I don't know if I'm remembering this right."

You lean across the desk. "Not yourself?"

"Something like that." Monty scratches the back of his head. "I've had better experiences, I have to say. Do you mean to imply that's what your issue was?"

"I don't mean to imply anything," you say mysteriously.

"I think you do. But I wasn't talking about that, Charlotte— I meant later. After you found us again. Do you know what that was?"

Damnit. "Um… I don't…"

"If it helps, your eye was very glassy, you took your shoes off, you hissed at Ell— at Gil once, and you kept calling me 'the eyed one?' Or 'the one with eyes'? Which, I have to say, is a new one."

You force a smile. "I- I don't know what you're talking about."

"You also had us hip-deep in mud, which… it was effective, I suppose, but it didn't seem very in-character, if you don't mind me saying."

"That's not…" You scratch your face. "Um, that's not… I didn't do that."

"Like I said, maybe I'm not remembering right." He doesn't actually believe he's not remembering right. There's no uncertainty in those blue, blue— ow! (Richard bit your wrist.) Gee. You're fine. "This would've been after the… timeline incident, and before the fish-man thing," Monty continues. "If that helps?"

You rub your nose. "I don't… remember that."

"Any of that? There's a blank between those two events?"

Always go with the explanation offered. You nod.

"That's a good half-hour entirely gone, Charlotte. Are you not concerned about this gap at all? You don't look…"

You invent a concerned expression. "Um, no, that's— that's definitely a, uh— are you sure you're remembering this right? Maybe I was perfectly fine, and you're making all this up. Or maybe you did dream it."

"Like I said, Charlotte, I'm not sure I'm remembering this right." He's surer than ever. Damnit. "But if I were you, I'd do some investigating into the matter. Mads says you enjoy that. And get back to me if you figure out what the issue is, okay?"

You have no intention of doing so, and you're sure he knows that. You nod to keep up the paper-thin illusion.

"Wonderful. Will that be all, then?"

What? Of course that's not all. You haven't extracted anything at all about the Dimension, let alone all the other petty things you need to discuss. You're sure he knows that, too— meaning he wants you to move along. And combined with how he initially reacted to your description of the Dimension… you doubt he'll be easily forthcoming. You should butter him up first. "Uh… no."

"No?" He quirks an eyebrow.

God save you. "No, I, uh… I was just wondering about something. You were a jackass. I didn't believe you actually were."

"Ah. Well, I did try to tell you." He shifts. "I suppose we all have our histories."

"No kidding. I was just wondering, er, how you got from Point A to Point B, there. It seems very… drastic. Unless you're secretly still a jackass? Haha."

You meant for that to come across as a joke, at least (you do legitimately wonder), but Monty peels pensive curls of wax off the crayon in response. It's a moment before he speaks. "I hope not, but…" A wan smile. "…do you ever know?"

"Um, know what?"

"If you've changed. If you're actually a better person, and you're not just… pretending. Or it's just because you've boxed up the worst parts and shoved them somewhere, and you're bound to pull them back out when you get tired of being decent."

"I think," you observe, after a pause, "this is a you-specific issue."

"Ah. Well, it probably is. And I'm sorry for…" He gestures listlessly. "That was inappropriate of me. This is business, not…"

What is this? Is he vulnerable? He was vulnerable last night, but in a scary way— this is just weird and sad. You ought to go for the neck, here. You're sure he'd roll over and take it.

…But you don't want to. Why not? This is how you win. Do you not want to win? You always want to win. Is it because he's in charge? It'd make the victory all the sweeter. But it also means he can evict you, if he wants. Yes. Okay. You don't want to be evicted, which is the sole reason— the sole reason— you relent. Richard.


Nothing. "Okay, um, whatever. I don't actually care. I just think you should talk to Madrigal, or whoever."

"She'd miss the point." Monty clears his throat. "But I digress. You wanted to know about Point A to Point B?"

'Wanted' is a misnomer, but you need him talking somehow. "Yeah."

"Well, I'm afraid it's not very interesting. Eight years ago, I'm out for a night walk, put a foot wrong, and teeter off the side of Pillar 11. Miraculously, I don't break my neck on the surface tension. Less miraculously, I die."

You snort.

"Well, I drown, at least. That's unambiguous. And I wind up— do you know where 11 is? It's north-northwest, but not too much… it's more central. Anyhow, it's fairly built up around there. Lots of people stuck around, rather than try their luck elsewhere. So I was rescued almost immediately."

"Is this relevant?"

"Yes, it— hold on, please, Charlotte. It's a good thing I was rescued so quickly, because I say I didn't break my neck, but it sure felt like it. I could barely move. I could barely breathe— I don't think the drowning took properly, at first. And that's on top of the usual shock and grief and so on."

"But I was rescued, so I lived. I wasn't grateful for it. I recall being furious. Oh, don't smirk, it made sense at the time. Back then, I was very used to… having control, I suppose. And then, all of a sudden, I was completely at the mercy of others. It was the worst thing imaginable. Does that make sense?"

You have to admit that it does. "Sure."

"Alright. So, I was furious— furious that I couldn't walk, speak, breathe, furious I was alive (or so I thought, in any case), and furious at everyone around me, too. And I made sure to show it. It was probably the worst I've been." Monty rubs his forehead. "But then three things came to light."

"The first thing was that nobody gave a shit about me, excuse my language. Nobody knew who I was, or at best barely recognized my name. I had no wealth, power, status, or anything at all but the clothes on my back. For the first time in my life, I was precisely even with everyone else."

"The second thing was that, because nobody gave a shit, and I had nothing, my actions had consequences. If I was a prick— and I was— nobody had to put up with it. They could toss me to the sharks, if they wanted. And that's exactly what I was told. If I didn't shape up, I'd die, and it'd be nobody's fault but mine."

"So I shaped up, or pretended to. And then I discovered the third thing, which is— you're going to roll your eyes at this— life is more pleasant when you're nice, Charlotte. I say this firsthand. If your view is that life is zero-sum, and everyone is out to get you, and being nasty is just striking first— I mean, you're jumpy, you're paranoid, you're miserable. I was miserable, not that I would've admitted it."

You didn't roll your eyes at that, though you very much wanted to. "But you're miserable right now."

"I'm not miserable, I'm…" He glances away. "I have some regrets. And I do miss Constance. But I'm fulfilled in other ways, which I never was back then. Anyway, though, I suppose that's it. I was forced to fake being nice, and I discovered it was better, and I didn't stop."

"That's it?"

"I told you it wasn't interesting."

"No, that's not the—" You cradle your face. "Lots of people are nice, Monty. That's not special. But they're not— they're not weird about it. You're weird about it."

"Am I?"

You gesture emphatically toward him and then toward his potted plants. He does not comprehend. "Yes! You are. You are weird about it."

"Well, I suppose I must be, if you say so." He taps on his desk. "It could be any number of things, which… I will not cover in their entirety. But a key factor, if I had to guess, would be that— after I was forced to play ball, I did make some friends. Not close friends, but— people I could be around without wanting to throttle, which was a big step forward. And eventually I learned why they'd drowned."

Monty stops there, and stares off into the distance. You clear your throat. "And why did they—?"

"Uh…" He shields his face with his hand. "Without getting too personal, it was due to me. Indirectly, I mean. I didn't push them off. But I put them down there. I think learning that was what… made me decide, uh, that I couldn't be that person anymore."

"Guilt," you say sagely.

He looks at you, and then reaches for the crayon, and then leans back. "Well, I hope that explained…"

>[1] Yup, that was VERY interesting, you were SO interested, thanks Monty, now about the SMPD— [Roll.*]
>[2] Sure, yes, explained everything, whatever, so about this other topic… (What? Letters/Game Night/Horse Face/Write-in)
>[3] Write-in. (Further questions about Monty's story? etc.)

*To be clear, this will always require a roll— continuing to change the subject will just alter the roll's modifiers. (Changing the subject once has already altered them.)
>[2] Sure, yes, explained everything, whatever, so about this other topic… Letters

>[2] Sure, yes, explained everything, whatever, so about this other topic… (What? Letters/Game Night/Horse Face/Write-in)

Now's about as good a time as any to bring up Horse Face. Might shake Monty off our tail a little, if he has a new pet project to be nice at.
>[2] Sure, yes, explained everything, whatever, so about this other topic… (What? Letters/Game Night/Horse Face/Write-in)

horse face stole my model!
and yeah also almost obliterated the camp last night
>[2] Sure, yes, explained everything, whatever, so about this other topic… (What? Letters/Game Night/Horse Face/Write-in)


>Horse Face

Called and writing.

"Sure. Whatever." You pause. "Okay, but why don't you just threaten to throw me to the sharks? If that's so effective, and whatever."

"You've been thrown to the sharks, by my understanding." Monty crosses one leg over the other. "Your application indicated you were on the run?"

You scoff. "I wasn't on the—"

"Maybe not, but all I'm saying is that I doubt it'd work any better a second time. Now, I wouldn't presume to know why you're so stubborn, but it's certainly a… defining characteristic of yours."

God, why is Monty like this? Well, he just told you why, but— why is he like this? You fold your arms. "No it isn't. But you know who needs thrown to the sharks? Horse Face. Confirmed model thief."

"Confirmed…" Monty twiddles his crayon. "You have evidence?"

"I got it back from him. So, I mean— I told you so. And you didn't listen."

"It was he-said-she-said, Charlotte. But I'm pleased to hear you got it back. I'll have a talk with Cameron."

"A talk?"

"I'd like to hear his side of things, at minimum, but I'll certainly give him a serious warning. Theft is unacceptable."

"A warning." He deserves to be flogged, in your book. "For nearly destroying the entire camp?"

"What? No, for stealing your— what?"

"Oh, because he did." You lean back. "Almost destroy the entire camp. And half the Fen. And town, too, probably. You know he caused the current, right?"

"No, I…" Monty holds his head. "I suppose I did see someone who looked like him, but… sorry, how did he do this? And why?"

Is Monty pagan? You doubt it, but you'll be diplomatic, at least for the moment. "He summoned the god of currents, I think. By accident. That was the fish-man, by the way."

"Of course it was." Monty sighs. "I'll still talk to him, I suppose."

"What? Come on."

"Charlotte, do you want me to offend the man who can summon gods? Because I don't want to offend the man who can summon gods. Best to be tactful."

You slump resentfully. "You're so boring."

"Well, it's kept me alive so far. 'Alive.' You know. Still, that— I presume you're the reason no current ever happened?"

"Oh!" You straighten immediately. "Uh, yes. That was me. I utilized my, um, aura of… of power to persuade the— I made him stop it. So. You're welcome."

Monty brushes himself down and stands, extending his hand. "In that case, you have my deep gratitude, Charlotte."

It's alright to take his hand, isn't it? He's of a superior social class, you're fairly sure. And he's a widower, so there's no concerns about impropriety. You take it, and he delivers a firm handshake. "I mean it. If there's something you need me for, then—"

"Horse Face," you say.

"Ah. Well…" He sits back down. "I'll be speaking to him later on. Early evening, most likely. You're welcome to be there, though I would request that you be… polite. I'm certain you're capable of it."


Wow. Richard, quiet for a whole conversation, and this is where he adds his stunning wisdom.

«I don't know what you mean.»

Sure. You wave your hands. "You know… we'll see."

"I guess we will, then."

Monty glances toward his watch. Is he getting impatient?

>[1] Okay, time to spring it on him. [Roll.]
>[2] Nope, you're getting through the rest of your business first. (Letters+Game Night? Or write-in?)
>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Nope, you're getting through the rest of your business first.
Letters. Not the Game Night, Monty is already suspecting we're not ourselves time to time.

Leave. He's calmed down too much to have stuff properly sprung on him, and prying into his stuff would invite him prying into our stuff. We should figure out how we're gonna distribute the heist cash so there aren't a bunch of criminals angry with us.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Rolling for it.
Writing. This will be quick.

>He's calmed down too much to have stuff properly sprung on him
Yeah, I was very surprised nobody wanted to ask after you'd already gotten him to open up somewhat.
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>Get the heck out of dodge

Well, it's now or never. You open your mouth to ask—

—and Richard coils over your lips. He tastes like metal. «No. You missed your chance.»

What? How? You're still here, aren't you? And—

«Look at him. He thinks you've moved on. That you've forgotten, even. He's entirely unsuspecting.»
«If you ask now he will be surprised. He will be defensive. He will assume, somewhat correctly, that you have saved this up to ambush him with. That's no way to get answers.»

"Is something wrong?" Monty asks, noting your strangled expression.

"…No," you sign. (Can you speak with Richard over your mouth? You're unwilling to try.) "I just, uh— I was going to go."

"Oh! I see." He smiles. "I'll see you this evening, then?"

"…Yeah." You stand. "Sounds good."

"Have a good day, Charlotte."


You emerge blinking into the sunshine. Richard slides down around your neck. «Congratulations. You accomplished nothing.»

What? He told you not to ask. How is that—

«If you had asked, you still would've accomplished nothing. Like I said, you missed your chance.»

Notably, he failed to inform you when you should've asked.

«It was none of my concern. I believe I told you this was irrelevant.»
«Now that you're free of this, we can get back on schedule. The materials I collated contain a number of leads regarding the status of your crown. It is my utmost recommendation that you give those a—»

So you didn't learn anything you wanted to know about Monty. That's fine, isn't it? You can ask him later. Unless that'd be weird. But who else could you ask? Would anyone else know?

…Now that you consider it, BK had a similar accent to Monty's, did he not? All those rounded vowels. It's a stretch, but maybe they're off the same Pillar? Possibly? It's something, isn't it? And if you're going to see him tonight, then… it's worth a shot, right?

«What. What are you on about.»
«Can you focus for once in your life on the task at hand.»

Whatever. Fine.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Do something in your tent.
>>[A] Those books Richard collected over your five-day unconsciousness have been sitting by your bed completely untouched. He got them for a good reason, surely. You should go through them and see what they say. [This will advance the main quest.]
>>[B] Your stolen model is still in Horse Face's shoebox. You should pull it out, double-check that he didn't ruin anything. (This may be combined with another option.)
>>[C] You ought to work out the logistics of paying off your heist crew. Did Richard have plans for that? (This may be combined with another option.)

>[2] Do something in your manse.
>>[A] You need to have a serious discussion with Richard, ASAP. With *human* Richard. The one that actually answers questions. You have way too many things you need to know.
>>[B] Gil is in there, presumably moping around his half-finished body. You ought to finish that up, get it off your to-do list.

>[3] Go track someone down.
>>[A] Didn't Madrigal want to talk about something yesterday? And you should probably make sure she hasn't turned into a snake yet. Pop into her tent.
>>[B] Eloise has some kind of job for you, doesn't she? And you ought to inform her about the gooplicate situation. See if she's around.

>[4] Write-in.

>[1A] Those books Richard collected over your five-day unconsciousness have been sitting by your bed completely untouched. He got them for a good reason, surely. You should go through them and see what they say. [This will advance the main quest.]


>[1B] Your stolen model is still in Horse Face's shoebox. You should pull it out, double-check that he didn't ruin anything. (This may be combined with another option.)

At the rate Richard's being difficult, if we put this off much longer, he'll wind up commandeering us to put us on track, again. It hurts like a mother, so if he'll finally lay off us about these musty old books, maybe he'll be quiet for our next conversation too. One can only hope.
>Knowledge is power

How about this: if you look at Richard's stupid books, he'll continue to be quiet. Deal?

«We'll see what happens.»

…Fine. Good enough, coming from him. You enter your tent, tie the flap shut, and flop down on your cot. Richard slithers out from under your neck and onto your shoulders. You pick him up and hold him above your face.

He sticks his tongue out. «Books.»

Yeah, yeah, you'll get to it. Does he ever find it weird how small he is? Like, you're just holding all of him, right here in your hands. There's just an entire person crammed into here.

«This is my natural state. Nothing is being 'crammed.'»
«I ask that you kindly cease your anthropomorphization and get on with it.»

If it's his natural state— you lower him so his snout is touching your nose— why was he just a voice, a few days ago? Why was his body shut up in a drawer?

«I don't know, Charlotte. Why was your body slumped in a ditch before I got to it.»
«Read the books.»

God, he's such an ass. You let him go, and he winds around the side of your face and onto your head. He stays there as you get up and meander over toward your desk, where the shoebox is.

«That is not a book.»

He should relax— this will only take a second. (You may or may not be stalling to spite him.) You open the shoebox, retrieve the unfinished model, and examine it closely for damage.

Like you saw last night, it's largely intact, though there are some conspicuous fingerprints you're certain aren't yours, and the bottom is more uneven than you left it. Scraped by a knife, or some other kind of tool? Did he want a sample of the clay?

As you move to place it down, you spot something you'd previously missed: a small white card, the same color as the inside of the shoebox. There's typewritten text on it.

"Unfinished Clay Model (?) — C. Fawkins
Obtained 22 Madman, 203 ATF
Corcass Region — Travelling Camp [Near Lindew's Landing, north of Hellsbells]
Corcass Loop 1
Total Loop [est.] 1200"

You flip the card over. Horse Face has written something in pen.

"Subject highly resistant, continues pursuit of worthless object well past reasonable extent.
Low self esteem? Possibly susceptible to flattery? [In future]
Or simply be more careful & work from there."

God, what a freak. Low self esteem? Your self esteem is through the roof. You are doing great.

«Read the books, Charlotte.»

…You have run out of other things to reasonably do, haven't you. You set the card down and mosey toward the stack of books.

There sure are a lot of them, now that you're looking. And they're awful thick. And there's all these papers, too. You have to read these?

«No. You have to go to the pages I have marked. This is not difficult.»

You pick up the book with the most dogears. The spine reads 'METAPHYSICS FOR MORONS — THE LAYMAN'S GUIDE TO OUR STRANGE UNIVERSE." The author is one Rudolph Clarkman. You page through it. Nearly every paragraph has something circled, underlined, or crossed out. Mainly crossed out. With 'WRONG' scrawled across the margin.

Richard drapes over your face. «Not that one.»

Was he reading for fun? That's not very efficient of him.

«It's your fault.»
«Regardless, set that down. Look at the others.»

Fine. The others are largely books written by locals, from your skim of the covers. Guides to the region, that sort of thing. The papers are bleached copies of the Corcass Courier, for the most part, with particular articles circled. You open one, and a smaller sheet of paper falls out.

«Oh. That's not relevant.»

You pick it up. It's something very official, very legal, which you glean from the fact that your eyes are glazing over looking at it. The text is very tiny. And there's diagrams of some kind of device. A badge? With a needle in it?

«It's a patent.»
«Like I said, it's not relevant. I was simply the victim of your inane whims.»

You wanted this? What for? You're bored with it already, to be frank. Blah blah blah, microneedles, blah blah blah, M.A.N.S.E.s, blah blah blah, Headspace Incorporated. Signed by Ellery Routh.

…Signed by Ellery Routh? What? That's his last name? When is this from? (You hunt for a date.) 3/04/202 — so last year.

Well. Maybe you'll take this to Madrigal, when you see her.

«After you read the books.»

Yeah. You got it. After you read the books.

You do read the books, or more accurately you peel off all the cellu-taped notecards and line them up on your cot, and you open all the newspapers to their circled articles, and you give everything a look. Richard wasn't lying about his aims— he was, indeed, figuring out where to go for your crown.

You rub your chin.

(Choices next.)
>Please select your next (planned) source of Law. You may opt to pursue more of these in the future, and this is not a comprehensive list — but it's a good place to start.
>Separately from these options, you may speak to BK about further spelunking when you see him tonight. Don't worry about not having another shot at that.

>[1] A newspaper article about the Delisle Collection— a museum of pre-flood artifacts— coming to the Corcass. Richard has underlined something about rumors of a 'hidden wing' of the building. You're fairly certain this is where you heisted once already.
>[2] A later segment of the same article, which mentions the discovery the skimmers made last week: an entire preserved pre-Flood city.
>[3] A guidebook section about the 'Mud People' of the mud flats. They evidently live in the skeletons of 'invented gods' (different from the Eight, the book notes), see in the dark, and eat human flesh. Evidently.
>[4] A mention of a 'Grande Mangrove' so enormous its crown breaches the surface. This is implausible on the face of it, as is the claim that 'its rootes tap into the Churning Voide.' But Richard has it bookmarked.
>[5] An op-ed about 'the Smuggler Menace' plaguing our 'Dear Corcass.' Pleads with law-abiding citizens to report any they encounter, especially the notorious 'Queen Pirahna'— reputed to have filed her teeth to points, and in possession of an unspecified but highly dangerous weapon.
>[6] A report on the mythical Iuiwei, a shapeshifting creature that stalks the Fen at low tides and has a love for devouring panthers. The fish evidently treat it as a good omen, so they may not be keen on you murdering it.
>[7] Write-in: if desired, you may specify a setting element (or elements) you'd like to see more of, and I'll make a hook containing them.
>[4] A mention of a 'Grande Mangrove' so enormous its crown breaches the surface. This is implausible on the face of it, as is the claim that 'its rootes tap into the Churning Voide.' But Richard has it bookmarked.
>[2] A later segment of the same article, which mentions the discovery the skimmers made last week: an entire preserved pre-Flood city.
I flipped a coin because I couldn't decide between 3 and this.
>>[4] A mention of a 'Grande Mangrove' so enormous its crown breaches the surface. This is implausible on the face of it, as is the claim that 'its rootes tap into the Churning Voide.' But Richard has it bookmarked.

Sounds 'Grande'!

sounds hella cool


By my reckoning, it's too late for a write-in to win, so I'll go with your [4] vote-- that being said, you are potentially headed to Hell in search of an ethically obtained corpse, and Hell seems like exactly the place to have underwater volcanoes.
(This is me, clearly.)
your tripcode is wrong.
>wrong tripcode
>different ID

Lads, this is my mobile tripcode. Go back into the archives and you'll see it on all my phoneposts. (But I'll verify when I'm home again.)
Also, I'm not sure why someone would impersonate me to say something as bland as >>4656924.
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Confirming that this is my mobile tripcode.



Called and writing.
oh no Bathic's been hacked
>The Grande Mangrove

You run your finger under the line 'breaches the surface.' "That can't be right."

«Can it not.»

No, of course it can't. Firstly, you'd be able to spot it from leagues away, and you sure haven't seen any mile-high tree. Secondly, if it did exist, you would've heard of it. People would come from everywhere to climb it. You're not the only one who wants to get out of this dump.

«That may be true, but I do believe such a tree is… possible. And it would certainly be a powerful source of law, should it exist.»
«I would've thought you'd be more enthusiastic. This entry shares your passion for gratuitous 'e's.»

Well, it— you just don't want to waste your time hunting down something that isn't there. But if Richard believes in it, he can't exactly yell at you for spinning your wheels, can he? So in some ways it's perfect.

«If it is no fault of your own, I cannot blame you.»
«But it is always fault of your own. Do not expect to slack off. I certainly will not.»

You appreciate the pep talk.

>[TO-DO ADDED: Find out more about the 'Grande Mangrove']

>[1] Do something in your tent.
>>[A] You ought to work out the logistics of paying off your heist crew. Did Richard have plans for that? (This may be combined with another option.)

>[2] Do something in your manse.
>>[A] You need to have a serious discussion with Richard, ASAP. With *human* Richard. The one that actually answers questions. You have way too many things you need to know.
>>[B] Gil is in there, presumably moping around his half-finished body. You ought to finish that up, get it off your to-do list.

>[3] Go track someone down.
>>[A] Didn't Madrigal want to talk about something yesterday? And you should probably make sure she hasn't turned into a snake yet. Pop into her tent.
>>[B] Eloise has some kind of job for you, doesn't she? And you ought to inform her about the gooplicate situation. See if she's around.

>[4] Write-in.

>[2B] Gil is in there, presumably moping around his half-finished body. You ought to finish that up, get it off your to-do list.

This will take a while, so we should do it while we're still fresh. Plus, that way Gil can finally move out of our head and be useful again. At least, more useful than when he was in Ellery's body and melting into silver goop.
Unrelatedly to this update: I just dug up and published Thread 10's scrapped OP as a Pastebin. I ultimately decided this dragged as an opener, but I think there's some decent stuff in here that deserves to be public. (For anyone lacking an encyclopedic knowledge of Redux threads, this covers Charlotte's ~5 day unconsciousness.) It's canon but entirely optional. ~1700 words. https://pastebin.com/Eh0mmRMy

Yes! It is I, nega-Bathic, come to run Dry Quest, which...
No, it's me, sorry.

>Plus, that way Gil can finally move out of our head
Sorry, no! [2B] is for building Gil a body inside your head, so he's not just a swarm of beetles in there. He'll still be stuck when you finish, but he'll be less mopey and have 100% more opposable thumbs than previous, so you can still probably find a way to put him to use.

>new body is actually in our head.

Well, if it makes him less mopey and slightly more useful, maybe he'll stop going all "Bloo bloo bloo Charlotte, I want to have hands again. Charlotte, I-I-I think it'd be nice to only have two legs for a change." Plus, it's one more thing off the list, so that we can feel like we're doing something useful to make up for Horse Face's god summoning nonsense eradicating our finally getting The Sword back.
>[1A] You ought to work out the logistics of paying off your heist crew. Did Richard have plans for that? (This may be combined with another option.)
>[2B] Gil is in there, presumably moping around his half-finished body. You ought to finish that up, get it off your to-do list.
Man, it's one thing when votes are 10-15 minutes after I call it, but it's been an hour and I currently have 400 words of update written. That's gonna be a no.
I blame autoupdate
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>Dr. Fawkinstein

Well, now what? You could talk to Madrigal, though you have no real desire to do so. What if she's worse today?

«If my calculations are correct, she should be entering Phrase Three.»
«That being 'Euphoria.'»
«Whether that's worse is up to interpretation.»

That sounds worse. God, euphoric Madrigal? Awful. You're obligated to check on her at some point, but it doesn't have to be now.

Alternately, there's Eloise, but… well, she's like that. And it wasn't even urgent. There's working on your newly returned model, but your creative spark is rather diminised at the moment. You suppose you could get straight to investigating this Mangrove, but you don't want to give Richard the satisfaction.

«What a healthy mindset.»

Which leaves sitting on your hands until Monty swings by, tinkering further with Gil's body, and talking to Richard. You need to talk to Richard. You need to know about everything, all of it, and he's the only one who you're sure can answer. But…

He has used this to decieve, manipulate, isolate, and use you. He has monopolized your relationships and your time. He has broken you and is building you back up in his image. Witting or not, you are a tool of him, and you are a tool of the Wyrm.

…You don't know. You just want to put it off, a little bit. And while you have no special love for body-building (that can't be the official term, can it?), it's surely better than nothing. At least Gil will quit whining.

Thus decided, you settle yourself on your cot and shut your eyes. Breathing deeply, you count forward and backward. And forward and backward. And forward and—

«You really are hopeless.»
«Come on.»

—are dragged, sopping wet, from the font in the center of your manse. Richard hauls you to your feet and watches impassively as you cough up rosewater. "You really are hopeless."

You pull your boot off, hold it upside-down, and watch a waterfall splash onto the tile. "You just said that."

"Did I? How unfortunate." He steps delicately away from the pond forming around you. "My chronology was all calibrated, and then someone had to go and meddle with the local timestream. I must still be off by a few seconds."

You consider and discard the questions he's clearly baiting (you are not asking questions), and move on to more pressing matters. "I'm wet."

"I could tell." His voice is arch. "You won't be if you stop paying it so much attention."

You pause. "I'm wet."

"And you won't shut up about it, will you? Go. Sit down." He points behind you, toward an armchair you're certain wasn't there. "I will fix it, like I fix everything."

Being wet, listening to Richard. Being wet, listening to Richard. You schlop over to the armchair and sit down. Unfortunately, this vantage affords you a unobstructed view of his face: it's still young. He could be your older brother. Is this some abstract psychological warfare? Why else would he do this to you?

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"Not everything's about you, Charlie." Small mercies: the voice is identical. He flicks a lighter. "If I'm afforded the opportunity to upgrade this wreck you've stuck me in, should I not take it? I should remain decrepit for your comfort?"

This is even a question? "Um, yes?"

"Typical." He approaches you, lighter in hand. "You take and take and give nothing in return, but the moment I want something it's too far. Look at me. I've gone to all the trouble of enchanting this lighter—"

Don't ask questions. You're not here to ask questions. "You… enchanted that lighter."

"Oh, yes. With powerful drying magick. Close your eyes and I'll use it." He waggles it meaningfully.

"Uh— alright." You shut your eyes. "Is it done yet?"


You open them again. You're dry. "Oh! It really did— and you said magyck was fake!"

"Don't be stupid. It's just a lighter." He produces a cigarette and clamps it between his teeth. Then he pauses and stares up at the ceiling. "Gil? Want a smoke?"

"…Er, no," comes the distant reply. "Actually, they, uh— I-I thought I said this— they make me dizzy, so, um, I—"

"Nicotine poisoning," Richard mouths at you, and returns to Gil. "That's alright. You know Charlotte is here?"

"Oh!" An inconspicuous patch of ceiling whirls into a cloud of beetles. You have to suppress a flinch as Gil dives toward you. "Hello. I-I'm sorry, I didn't realize… I didn't know you were coming. Um. I-i-it's hard to see too far away from me."

"It doesn't really matter," you say bemusedly. "Hi."

"I-If you move around, it makes it easier. Just so you know." Gil clusters on the side of a column. "…Have you come to talk to me?"

You rest your chin on your hand.

"…Not that I-I need that," he adds, at a higher pitch. "That would be, um…"

"I'm here to finish your body," you say.

"Oh! Oh, that's, um… that's actually— I've been looking at that. I-I have some thoughts. Would you— come over—"

You glance at Richard. He waves you on. "It's what you came for, no?"

Gil peels himself off the column and leads you over to the remains of your work from last time. He fans out over it. "So, uh, I-I didn't touch anything. But— look, this construction makes no sense. I-i-it'll fall apart as soon as I—"

"It's not supposed to make sense," you say. "I think. It's just supposed to be… symbolic. You won't actually be made of marble."

"Okay, um, I-I did consider that… that may be a… but what does the balloon symbolize? I-I can't see how that'll— wouldn't I be, what, empty-headed? I-I'd really prefer something… else."

You refrain from mentioning that you picked the balloon to spite Richard. "I'll consider it. Is that all?"

"…No, I… I-I actually had some ideas for how you might… improve some aspects. Um. I was just thinking that, uh, you don't get a new body every day, i-is all, so you may as well… go all in?"

You contemplate this. "You want to be taller or something?"

"No! I-I mean… maybe, but that wasn't… I mean in useful ways. Er. Conveniences. I-I have schematics, in my head, I mean, if that—"

"I'll consider it." You wade into the thicket of warped marble and wires and vats in the hopes of remembering where you left off. Did you finish the model? And you still have to cast it? How do you even go about that? This is the trouble of working with your brain off, you suppose… it's incomprehensible with it back on. Does Richard have more of those pills?

"I don't know about that, Charlie." He's perched on a bench against the wall, smoking. "I'd define your mental situation as 'dicey.' Probably best not to invite trouble, eh?"

What? He pushes these on you, and now he's all 'oh, it's too scary'? Didn't he go on about how safe this was? God. Typical.

>[A1] No, seriously, you want the sugar pill, Richard. It helped a lot last time, it'll help a lot this time. And you'd like to wrap this up sooner versus later. [Whitepilled]
>[A2] Well, if he says it's dicey, it's probably dicey. You can decipher all this own your own, right? [Not whitepilled]

>[B1] Okay, whatever, scrap the balloon head. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea. (What symbolic object do you replace it with? Write-in.)
>[B2] Hey, who's the professional body-builder, here? Keep the balloon head.

>[C1] If you let Gil do his add-ons, maybe it'll make him sufficiently grateful. Or just less useless. (+3 s-hours/1.5 RL hours to total project.) Beetle cyborg Gil.
>[C2] You. You're the body-builder here. You're sticking to the plan. Regular human Gil (except for all the beetles).

How long are you working on this? It is currently ~10 AM in semi-reality. Monty will be stopping by at ~5:30 PM. If you select [C1], please specify if you're doing the add-ons right now— if you are, add three hours (1.5 RL hours).

>[D1] Work for six hours (3 RL hours). Completing the marble, casting and curing the carapace, and inserting the bits and getting everything hooked up. Technically complete, but barebones.
>[D2] [WHITEPILL ONLY] Work for nine hours (4.5 RL hours). Get a good ways through the finishing details, touch-ups, and fixes.
>[D3] [WHITEPILL ONLY] Work for twelve hours (6 RL hours). Finish the body.
>[A2] Well, if he says it's dicey, it's probably dicey. You can decipher all this own your own, right? [Not whitepilled]
I wonder which of Richard's discouragements are actually reverse psychology, baiting the players Charlotte to do exactly what he wants.

>[B2] Hey, who's the professional body-builder, here? Keep the balloon head.
>[C1] If you let Gil do his add-ons, maybe it'll make him sufficiently grateful. Or just less useless. (+3 s-hours/1.5 RL hours to total project.)
>[D1] Work for six hours (3 RL hours). Completing the marble, casting and curing the carapace, and inserting the bits and getting everything hooked up. Technically complete, but barebones.
>Add the add-ons if possible
He wants to look smart? Give him a lightbulb head.



>[A2] Well, if he says it's dicey, it's probably dicey. You can decipher all this own your own, right? [Not whitepilled]

Fuck it, may as well ignore the pill for now. If we have to work on it later to complete it, it'll be easier if we're in complete control for this bit.

>[B1] Okay, whatever, scrap the balloon head. Maybe it wasn't such a good idea. (What symbolic object do you replace it with? Write-in.)

With the idea here. >>4658152 Lightbulbs are pretty empty inside too, so it'll still work if it's a spite.

>[C2] You. You're the body-builder here. You're sticking to the plan. Regular human Gil (except for all the beetles).

We don't need any more things to add on, otherwise it'll never be finished and he'll be beetles for the rest of his lifespan here. He'll take what he gets and likes it, we're already compromising some as it is.

>[D1] Work for six hours (3 RL hours). Completing the marble, casting and curing the carapace, and inserting the bits and getting everything hooked up. Technically complete, but barebones.

Mainly because it's the only non-pill option available.
>A2, B1 (lightbulb), C1, D1
Calling this here before anything gets tied up again. Writing in a while.
>Return of Fawkenstein

You fold your arms. "Are you trying to trick me into taking it?"

"What?" Richard lifts his sunglasses. "No. Why would I—"

"You are trying to trick me. Because you are— you are a deceiver. But you know what? I won't take it. So ha."

He furrows his eyebrows, for a second, then relaxes. "Ah! Well, yes. Of course. You've exposed my plot, Charlotte."

"I knew it!" You turn back toward Gil. "Did you see that? He just tried to trick me. Tried. But I saw right through it."

"Um," Gil says, "I-I'm not sure that's what—"

"I saw right through it," you say, louder. "Just like I— I see through all his plots, and lies, and whatever. So there's no way he could be his pawn. That wouldn't even make any sense."

The drone of Gil's wings is your only response. You lean forward. "Right?"


"Okay! So it's all settled." You spin back around to Richard. "Gil agrees."

"That he does." There's an amused lilt to his voice, though he's managing to keep it off his face. You choose to ignore this. "Like I said, plot exposed. Did you have plans for the head?"

"Oh, I don't know. A lightbulb? So he's… bright, or whatever. Does that fit your dumb standards, Gil?"

He drifts toward you. "Wouldn't that be a tad small? Sorry."

"It'd go inside the carapace," Richard says. "And it wouldn't be real, anyhow, so I wouldn't worry over that. The issue, Charlie, is that it'll be a bitch to—"

"Oh, well, is that my problem? Aren't you supposed to be the expert at this?" You wave him away. "Gil— what did you say about your plans? What were they for?"

"You'll… you'll do them?"

"I didn't say that, but I was thinking, and I realized that you're just a total waste of space. You can't be my retainer if you're useless. So if this'll let you do cool things— like kill people—"

"Um… I-I wasn't really planning on…" (You fix him with a Look.) "…Probably? Yes?"

"Excellent!" Everything's really coming together. You can envision it now— Gil, out in front, taking care of all the messy parts; you, sweeping in behind, cleaning up, and taking the credit. You need only to actually build it. "Say, how much can you lift? Aren't beetles supposed to be strong?"

They are supposed to be strong, as it turns out: you manage to coerce Gil into lifting the entire marble statue into one of the vats, though he complains of the strain. You watch as the liquid inside quivers. "Is it supposed to do that?"

Richard assures you that it is, in fact, supposed to do that, and that you need to exercise your woefully underused patience. You think he didn't have to include the last part, and shift restlessly as the liquid forms a thick skin around the statue. It looks like you dipped the whole thing in bubblegum.

File: hairdryer.jpg (119 KB, 720x720)
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119 KB JPG
Gil mumbles something about not wanting to be pink. You tell him beggars can't be choosy. Richard notes that it won't be pink, unless you stop here, so get a move on. Grunting with exertion, Gil hauls the statue back out of the now-empty vat.

"Curing!" Richard claps his hands together. "This could take days."

Days? It can't take days, you protests— he said this'd take, like, a day. And even that's obscene! You're informed about the definition of the word 'could' and tossed a strange metal object. "A hairdryer," Richard says.

You have heard vaguely of hairdryers, but have never witnessed one in person. Neither had Gil, who lands all over it, and professes a desire to take it apart and see how it works. You remind him of his lack of thumbs, which somehow spirals into him dissecting the pros and cons of beetlehood— he misses the thumbs, yes, and full color vision, and ears, and lungs, but he doesn't mind the carapace. Or having six legs. (Well, 2172 legs.) It's just more stable—

Meanwhile, you are hairdrying the statue with a vengeance. You initially kept it in one place until the pink began to whiten, but Richard admonished you for making things 'uneven' and told you to keep it moving. You're sure this is having some effect, but very little seems to be happening, and your arm is getting tired from all the furious waving. You keep at it, though, until everything is more blush-pink than bubblegum-pink, and there Richard tells you to stop.

If you cure it all the way, it'll just be a knickknack, he says dryly. You have to put the innards in. With Gil's assistance, you lay the statue flat against the ground and get to work slicing around the face and into the chest. The marble yields like putty. (You try not to think about it.) You hook everything together first— the pipes, the motor, the lightbulb, which flickers on after you attach it— then lower it in, stretching the marble to fit. Only then do you carefully funnel the oil into an open pipe, screwing a cap on when you finish.

Gil worries about potential warping of the pipes, not to mention maintaining such a small and low-quality motor, but you tell him it'll be a fun project for him and he shuts up. As you begin to seal the innards back up, he speaks again: could you possibly cut around all the joints? Not cut them off, just leave fissures. It's for his idea. You start to argue, but remember you agreed to this in advance. (Damnit.) You cut around the joints, and around the neck, and across his face, too, per his specifications.

And then you hairdry some more. You begin to wonder if hairdrying has the same effect on time as darkness, because you really couldn't say how long you've been standing here, waving your arm around. Sometimes you switch hands. One time you force Gil to do it, but it doesn't take very long before he's grumbling about how he doesn't regulate heat well, and you take it back. Possibly you've been hairdrying forever. Possibly you will be hairdrying forever.

But eventually you stop, because it's turned solid and glossy white. It's held the features of the statue very well, which means you've been staring into Gil's realistic lifeless eyes and realistic… other things this whole time. You've also been attempting to convince yourself it isn't weird, and have nearly been succeeding. You hope Richard will be figuring out the clothing situation.

You wipe your forehead with your sleeve. "Is it okay if I break the hairdryer?"

"Hm? Oh, go ahead." Richard has been sorting through a large stack of papers for the last few hours. He looks up from them only briefly. "I have more. It's only the initial process that's the difficulty, really, once you know how to—"

"Thanks." You hurl the hairdryer to the ground as hard as you can manage. It clangs against the tile but does not, to your disappointment, fly into a million bits. "Could you make these less durable?"

"No." Richard flips a page. "I take it you're done for the day?"

If you have to stare at this thing any longer, you'll scream. "Yeah. I'm done. What's with all the papers?"

"Ah, good timing. Come over here." (You kick the hairdryer away and walk over.) "Give it a look, would you?"

You stare at one of the papers. It's covered in tiny, inky text. You think it's just too small>>4659369
to read, initially, then you squint. "Uh, this is… not Inglish."

"Ah, yes, I forgot you're uncultured. Come here." He stands, grasps your chin in one hand, and pushes two fingers into your forehead. Something twinges. "Ow! Hey!"

He releases your chin and wipes his fingers on his cargo shorts. Meanwhile, you pick up a paper again and again squint at it. The words are still tiny, but they're now legible. "Correspondent #314's dimensions shall extend no greater than 25 meters in length, 2 meters in width, 1.5 meters in height—"

"There's no need to read aloud." Richard adjusts his glasses. "I know what's in there."

You jab at the paper. "This is you? You're Correspondent #314?"

"'Richard' is fine, thank you. And I frankly prefer 'consultant' to 'correspondent,' I feel it encapsulates my duties better, but—"

"Why do you want to be…" You're not sure what a meter is. Is it like a foot? "…long?"

"Giant snakes typically are, Charlie. That's what the 'giant' means, really."

Don't ask questions. Don't ask— "Giant snakes."

"Well, yes. That's what the paperwork is for." He gestures to the mountains of papers. "Did you think I could just do this on a whim? There's regulations. Which I am somewhat skirting, but never mind that."

Don't ask questions! "Please… explain from the beginning."

"Certainly. You need to be taught how to use your nice new reality-warping hat. Under naturalistic conditions, which means your life in imminent danger. It is against my core nature to place you in imminent danger, so I must rid myself of that little roadblock. Therefore, giant snake. Therefore, three hours of filling out forms and sub-forms and sub-sub-forms."

"You…" You rub your scalp. "You're gonna turn into a giant snake and try to murder me?"

"Well, I won't be able to succeed. We're in your head, Charlie. Worst that happens, you sleep it off for a day or two. But more or less, yes."

…You have some issues with this plan. "What if you get stuck as a giant murder snake forever?"

"If you read the fine print, there's a maximum duration. And I wouldn't say 'murder snake.' That implies a degree of irrationality I don't intend to exhibit."

"I mean, if you say so." You drag your hand through your hair. "Can't I just practice on Gil?"

"Naturalistic conditions, Charlie. And in any case, please don't interfere with my case subject. His state is fascinating enough on its own."

"Ugh." You sit down. "I just don't know if I'm… ready."

"No? Well, I have the paperwork prepped. Just needs your signature. I'd prefer to do this sooner versus later, but I do want to make it sporting, so I won't force you into it now." He clicks his pen. "I'm sure we could have a discussion first."

>[1] On second thought, you're fine with getting murdered by a giant snake. (Crown tutorial)
>[2] Well, maybe you should have a discussion first. And then it'll feel really good to stab Richard in the head afterward. (Infodump)
>[3] No, you should wake up. You need to…
>>[A] Talk to Madrigal.
>>[B] Talk to Eloise.
>[4] Write-in.
C'mon, Bathic. Must you take each and every opportunity to make Charlie look dumb?

>[2] Well, maybe you should have a discussion first. And then it'll feel really good to stab Richard in the head afterward. (Infodump)
Look, if you guys hand it to me fully-formed, I'm not about to not take it. she is, also, a lil dumb I say it with love

>[2] Well, maybe you should have a discussion first. And then it'll feel really good to stab Richard in the head afterward. (Infodump)

God, he wants to wordswordswords at us so hard, he's barely making an effort to hide it. Let him have his fun, so that we can get properly riled up enough for stabbing him in his dumb smug giant snake head.

Listen, Lottie may not exactly be the brightest bulb in the drawer, especially after Gil gets his head working properly so that it glows, but he's making an effort. At least she's not completely burnt out like Ellery, that man just cannot stop himself from meddling with things he doesn't 100% understand. Lottie does it too, but she's an adventuress, that's practically a given part of that profession.

>he's making an effort.

SHE'S. SHE'S making an effort.

Definitely check that max duration

>exposit me daddy

You slouch. "I don't know if that's…"

"No? You don't want to have a discussion?" Richard leers from over the papers. "I was under the impression you had some burning questions, Charlotte. Some things you felt you were entitled to know. Was that incorrect?"

It's not incorrect and he knows it isn't. He's just needling you. Well, consider yourself needled: you slouch harder. "No, but—"

"Please, explain your reticence. I'm sure you have very good reason for it."

You work your mouth. He probably already knows, so you're going to be made fun of either way. "Well, it's— I want to know, but knowing will just make everything more complicated, okay? Don't even try to tell me it won't. And I don't know how how much more— it's already complicated. And it didn't use to be. It used to all be normal."


What? "No?"

"Your life has never been normal." He puts the tip of his pen between his teeth. "Neither have you. You've always stuck out, Charlotte."

"Wow," you say, "that really soothes my— my—"

"I don't mean it as an insult. I could never consult someone ordinary. Still, I suggest you view this as less a mangling of everything you're comfortable with, and more a suggestion that what you're comfortable with was simply false. Yes?"

You snort.

"I'm hearing 'yes.' Well, then." He spreads his hands. "Fire away."

'Fire away.' What an unRichard expression. "Okay. Fine. Uh, question one, can't Gil hear us? Shouldn't we move—"

"He's in torpor, I believe." Richard gestures toward the ceiling. Gil is clustered against the crown molding.

"But what if he—"

"If he wakes up, he won't be able to understand us regardless. Next question?"

He does this on purpose, you're certain. Leaves out whole explanations. Either you ask, and he makes you feel stupid, or you don't ask, and you feel stupid. Won't understand us? Why? But Richard is smirking.

You have to wipe that off somehow. "Okay, um— would you be saying all this if you were a snake right now?"

He blinks. "Sorry?"

"If you were a snake." You mime a snake.

"No, I got that. I'm just unsure why it matters, Charlotte. Aren't I saying it now?"

He's clicking the pen against his teeth. God, you hope that means he's irritated. "Well, sure, but right now you're…" You lower your voice. "…my… you know."

Yes. Irritated. "I thought you intended to move past that. Perhaps I was ill-informed."

You shrug coyly. "Well, I don't know. It's hard to—"

"You well know I haven't an option. I thought you'd be pleased with this appearance." He's grown rather pink. "Do you know how difficult it is to labor under your constraints? Do you know the time I wasted—"

"It can't be that hard. You did this before, right? The—" You nod toward his face.

"Oh, yes. I did. And you know what? You crushed it like a tin can. You're not just hellbent on making me be this man, you need it to be one sliver of his life. It's absurd. And, you know, I had hope you could resolve your sorry little hangup, but no! No. That was a lie. You lied to me, Charlotte."

…You hadn't meant to provoke him this hard. "I didn't… I was drunk."

"Oh! Well, that makes it all better, then." He tears the pen from his mouth and drops it onto the table. "Thank you, Charlotte. I am now freed from your iron grip."

Sure, you've seen Richard upset, but this is a whole new flavor of upset. He's all sour about it. You rub the toe of your boot against the floor. "…Um, I don't know how to free you from my iron grip. Also, I thought you liked being…"

"Like it? Oh, yes, Charlotte, it's pleasurable. But unlike lesser organisms"— he pokes your forearm— "I am not ruled by basic chemistry. It's an artificial and suffocating pleasure. And as for how you free me, it's impossible. You cannot. But you could loosen your chokehold a notch, except that you are refusing to do so. Because you are selfish."

You're never sure how to handle Richard accusing you of things you didn't know you were doing. "…So what do I…"

"Commit. None of this wishy-washy horseshit. Either you commit to clinging to a wormeaten corpse you don't remember, or you commit to me." He is leaning close to you. His pupils are small. "I trust you to make the correct decision."

>[A1] You want Richard to be more… Richard. Whatever he is now, not whoever he was then.
>[A2] Er… you're okay with him being (kind of) your dad, actually. You know he's not the real thing, and all, but it's safe. It's the status quo. Who ever complained about the status quo?

(Please select any questions you want to get to. They will likely be asked over the course of multiple updates.)

>[B1] He knows what the golden-eyed thing is, doesn't he? What is it?
>[B2] What's the matter with you? (Metaphysically?)
>[B3] What is the Wyrm?
>[B4] Does Richard work for the Wyrm? (What does he work for?)
>[B5] Why did the sea-god call you 'Wyrm-daughter'?
>[B6] Does Richard know about your alleged dark future? What could it be referring to?
>[B7] Why did the sea-god consider you a 'pawn' or 'tool' of Richard? Or the Wyrm?
>[B8] It's not true that Richard insinuated himself into all your relationships, or whatever, right? It can't be true.
>[B9] And it can't be true that he's been deceiving you? What would he even be deceiving you about?
>[B10] If Richard's so adamant about being his own person… who is he, then?
>[B11] What does Richard make of (Jesse/Monty/Horse Face/write-in?)
>[B12] What's the deal with the weird patent? (He'll probably be more willing to discuss it now.)
>[B12] Does he have any suggestions for how to proceed with Ellery? (You are still on that case, despite everything.)
>[B13] Write-in.
>[A2] Er… you're okay with him being (kind of) your dad, actually. You know he's not the real thing, and all, but it's safe. It's the status quo. Who ever complained about the status quo?

>[B1] He knows what the golden-eyed thing is, doesn't he? What is it?
>[B3] What is the Wyrm?
>[B4] Does Richard work for the Wyrm? (What does he work for?)
>[B5] Why did the sea-god call you 'Wyrm-daughter'?
>[B10] If Richard's so adamant about being his own person… who is he, then?
>[B11] What does Richard make of our gooplicate and its unexplicable 3-year stint at Court?
I'll just vote for this, holy options: >>4661156
It's escapism, Charlotte! It's unhealthy!
Also maybe Richard will be less grumpy all the time.

>B: 1, 3, 4, 6, 10, 12
Rolled 2 (1d2)



>B1, B3, B4, B5, B6, B10, B11 (gooplicate), B12... just realized there were two B12s, I'll flip for which one

Called and writing. This update will cover B10, B3, B4, B5, and maaaaybe B1. We'll see how it works out.
Or, sorry, A1 and A2 are reversed. "Fuck you Richard" wins.
>But muh daddy issues :(
>God problems

You recoil. "I- I just don't…"

"Of course you know. This isn't complicated, Charlotte— well, maybe for you. So here." He reaches across and grasps your hand. "I'll dumb it down. Just look at me and say—"

Does he not realize you're looking at him already? You haven't stopped: as repellent as the concept of a boyish Richard is, it's weirdly compelling to watch him speak. He's himself, but he isn't. He's like you— the resemblance is even starker, now— but isn't. And if you squint even a little it's like he's a total stranger. You were squinting when he took your hand, and you're squinting now as you come to a sluggish realization. Would you let a total stranger talk to you like this?

No, really. If a man— say, 30ish, blond, in an atrocious shirt— came up to you, and struck up a conversation, and then called you a liar, and selfish, and condescended to you, and implied you were dumb, and, hell, called you a lesser organism… would you tolerate it? Would you smile and nod? Or would you get pissed? You'd get pissed.

So why not now? …This is a non-question. You know why not now: it's because it's Richard, and the madder you get the worse he gets, and it's an arms race you can't win. He knows how to get to you. You have no idea how to get to him. For the longest time, you thought there was nothing of him to get to. He was a snake. That was it.

But that's not at all it. There is something to him— maybe a lot to him. He can't pretend to not care about things anymore. Like this. You'll be damned if you know why, but he cares about this, a lot. "No thanks," you say.

He laughs sharply. "No thanks?"

"I don't think… I don't think I want to know who Correspondent #314 is." You tug your hand away. "It's not my father that's making him a asshole, is it? My father liked me. He wouldn't be mean to me. So the asshole part is the real part."

Richard looks stricken. And then he doesn't: it's like he was replaced with a whole other person, all of a sudden, a nice and amiable and concerned person. Like Monty, or someone. "Well, that's not true, Charlie. Why would you—"

He's good. He's convincing. You want with all your heart to believe him. But you've heard this tone before— this is the outside-world tone. For dealing with other people. And he already told you that was fake. "You just called me a liar, and selfish, for something I didn't even know about. And you said I was dumb, and—"

"I didn't say you were dumb, Charlie." He tilts his head. "But I'm sorry if you felt I came across that way… I certainly didn't mean to imply anything. I'll have to watch my—"

It's in the shape of an apology, sure. But what did he apologize for? Your feelings? He can't even bring himself to fake a real apology, can he? Or he's just not capable of it. A snake right through the core.

You kick your chair back and lean all the way across the table, until you're right in Richard's face. "I think it's best you stay right how you are."

His lips curl up at the edges. "Charlie—"

"And stop with the 'Charlie'! I hate that nickname!"

"—you're getting rather heated— maybe we should return to this topic another time? When you've got your head on corr-"

He stops abruptly, clutching his throat. Another act? If it is, it's a good one: the blood is draining from his face. His eyes swivel. He pats aimlessly across the table, snowing papers to the ground.

You clear your throat. "Er, are you choking?"

'Am I choking,' he mouths, with a little mocking shimmy of his shoulders. Then he resumes patting, and finally finds what he was looking for: your hand. He clutches it— angrily? Beseechingly?

"So you're not—" you start to say, but he interrupts. "Stop."

"Stop?" A command or a plea? Both? "Is this another thing I don't know I'm—"

His wrist trembles. "Stop. Please. Please stop. This isn't— this is uncalled f— I don't deserve— will you allow me nothing? Is there no depth to your— Charlie—"

"Um, is that a yes for 'thing I don't know I'm doing?'" You rub your shoulder. "Because, I've told you, I don't know how to stop... am I telling you to be my dad really hard, or something?"

"I have—" He's not listening to you. "—precious little, Charlotte. Precious little that's mine. You? Your pathetic tiny life? That is more than—" He squeezes your hand. "—more than mine. So to steal this from-"

You never learn what stealing this from him entails, because midsentence he freezes in place, distorts, and vanishes. He returns in the opposite manner, materializing flickery and broken before resolving into his ordinary self. The grey is back in his hair. He is in a cheap grey suit.

"Um," he says, and blinks hard. "Primrose, I think we should consider postponing—"

You throw your head back. "Oh, God, are you him again? I didn't want that."

"No, I'm… Richard." He says it like it's a foreign term. "Still here."

"But you called me—"

"That," he says thickly, "is what I want to call you." He drags one hand down his face. "I would like a… drink. Would you like a…?"

"It's 10 in the morning."

"…1 PM, really, primrose, but I take your… I am having a drink." He sits down, takes a shotglass out from behind his chair, and sets it on the table.

You peer into it. The liquid is clear. "What is that?"

"Grain alcohol." He pinches his nose, downs it, and explodes into a coughing fit. "Fuck!"

"Um, are you… alright?"

"Yes." He coughs some more and slams the shotglass down. "Yes, I am alright. No thanks to you, you goddamn bitch. Putting me in a straitjacket—"

"I didn't mean to," you say reproachfully. "You know that."

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'I didn't mean to,' he mouths back. "All you had to do was make the correct choice. And now we are here. And I am about to be drunk. So get your vapid questions in now."

You cross your legs. "Oh. Um, alright. You were talking back there about how your life sucked…"

"I wouldn't trust anything extracted under duress, Charlotte. Next question."

"…Okay. So what are you really like, besides an asshole? I mean, I guess you're probably other things—"

"You've lost the right to know that. Next question."

"Gee." You fold your arms. "Fine. What's the Wyrm?"

"The Wyrm…" Richard rolls that around in his mouth. "Wouldn't you know it, I had an entire speech prepared there. Diagrams. Clever metaphors. But, for some peculiar reason, I've lost the motivation to give it. The Wyrm begat reality from chaos, created the earth, and bears it now on Its coils. It is the reason anything exists. You have been worshipping It for the past twenty-three years. Next question."

"…I haven't been worshipping a big worm," you say.

"It's the Wyrm, not a big worm. And you have. Unless you'd like to explain to me what God is?"

Of course you'd like to explain that. "Well, He's a sort of— man."

"Ah, how egocentric. A man. And where did this god come from? What did he do? What does he want? How does one properly worship him?"

You know these things. It'd be stupid if you didn't know these things. "Well, it's— you're going too fast. I can't—"

"You don't know any of those things. Don't feel bad, Charlotte, that's by design. But there is only one God, and It is not a man, or a he."

"…It's a snake," you say.

"Well, no, It's not a snake. It existed for innumerable eons before snakes." Richard pauses. "I suppose It's in some respects like a snake."

Why are there no pillows around? Or other soft surfaces? You'd like something to scream into. "Yep."

"I'm sensing some agitation, Charlotte? Like I said, this— for once— is not the result of an intelligence deficit. You're just a product of your culture, which for centuries has watered down legitimate Wyrm worship into a hollow status symbol."

"So, like a conspiracy," you say.

"…Perhaps not so concerted, but—"

"A snake conspiracy."

"Charlie, please." Richard rubs his forehead. "It is not a snake conspiracy, because the Wyrm, again, is not a snake. There were some surviving Wyrm cults which treated snakes as a kind of spirit proxy, which I suppose you could label a snake conspiracy, if you had to. Your father belonged to one of those."

"He…" Perhaps Richard is currently deceiving and using you. "I thought you didn't have any of his memories."

"I don't. I do have your memories, and those make it fairly plain, Charlotte. Did you honestly think your house was full of secret passageways for no reason? And what of the, dare I say it, blatantly snake-flavored abilities? The name of your sword? The fact he died via snake? How much more obvious—"

"The name of my sword? It's just The Sword."

"That's its nickname." He raises his eyebrows. "What's its name."

"…Wormbite? Or Wormtooth… Wormjaw… along… those… oh." You exhale. "Wyrmbite."

"You got it."

So it's true. Good. Good. "So I guess that's the Wyrm-daughter explained, then."

"Hm? Oh, no. No, that's your entire bloodline. The Fawkins, you know. And the rest of them. Or what else did you think decided nobility?"

Okay, this is easy. "It's our God-given…"


"…our… God-given…" You stare into Richard's implacable sunglasses. "Please, no."

"Is something the matter?"

"No. No, there has to be—" You prop your head between your knees. "—there has to be something sacred, Richard. Something. Please."

"All your noble families are descended from Wyrm cultists. There is Wyrm-blood in your veins. Not much of it, to be clear— it's been sixteen generations— don't expect anything exciting."

You raise your head a tad. "I have god blood?"

"You have the blood of people… altered by God. Like I said, don't expect much. In a practical sense it means very little."

"Aw." You lower your head. "So you're, what, a servant of the Wyrm?"

"How did you come to that conclusion?" Richard sounds bemused.

"The fish god guy said…" Did he actually specify the relationship? "I mean, you're a snake. And the Wyrm is sort of a snake, I guess. And you know a lot about it…"

"Charlotte…" He fixes his sunglasses. "The Wyrm doesn't know I exist."

"Then what do you do?"

"I help you accomplish your goals, Charlotte. And I didn't say— I wouldn't characterize myself as a 'servant.' But are our aims aligned? I suppose they are, for the most part. I'll leave it there."

Oh. Of course.

How do you feel about all this?
>[A1] Indifferent. You knew it would make your life more complicated. And so it has. That just seems to be how things are, now. And probably forever.
>[A2] Excited! Finally, this is the kind of news you want to hear. *Conspiracies.* *Special blood.* Confirmation that you've been dedicated to the *correct* god, even if it is snakey.
>[A3] Depressed. All the things you thought you knew are just… slipping through your fingers, one by one. You've built your whole self around them. So what's left?
>[A4] Write-in.

>[B1] Anything additional to ask an increasingly drunk Richard? (Write-in. Optional.)
>[A3] Depressed. All the things you thought you knew are just… slipping through your fingers, one by one. You've built your whole self around them. So what's left?
>>[A3] Depressed. All the things you thought you knew are just… slipping through your fingers, one by one. You've built your whole self around them. So what's left?
Time for D E S P A I R

Not like we were ever particularly pious. Sure we look down on heathens, but we've never prayed.
>>[A3] Depressed. All the things you thought you knew are just… slipping through your fingers, one by one. You've built your whole self around them. So what's left?

How deep does the rabbit hole go, anyways?!

>A1 you're right, but also being smug about monotheism was pretty darn important to her

>Man this sucks

You don't say anything. Richard looks at you, then removes his sunglasses and rubs his eye with his palm. "Ah, here it comes."

"Here it…" You squint. "Drunk already? Seriously?"

"Grain alcohol, Charlotte. Desperate times call for- for- deshperate— excuse me." He stands, holding his head. "I hav'to exshpel…"

"Um, please do." If he gets drunk now, he's bound to tell you more terrible, complicated things, and it'll all get worse and worse. Or he'll talk about keys, which would be nearly as bad. He nods and teeters off, still holding his head.

You exhale. Without Richard's immediate presence, it's all coming at once. How long ago was it that you thought you knew all there was to know? Two weeks? For twenty-three years, you had facts. Solid facts. Your father was dead before you were born. Richard was a snake that talked. If you found the crown, you'd be able to leave. God was God, and nobles were nobles, and secret passageways were secret passageways, and that's all there was to it. And then, in the past two weeks— less than two weeks. In the past week-and-a-half, every single one of those facts have been packed with gunpowder and blown to little pieces.

And it's not like they've been replaced with new facts. No. That'd be too easy. The sturdy foundations of your life have crumbled and all you get in return is assertions. Richard is possibly your dad who maybe died because he was probably in the business of worshipping snakes. Perhaps the passageways in your house were used for forbidden rituals. Or perhaps they were just passageways! Perhaps Richard has no idea what he's talking about! Or perhaps he's lying right to your face, like he lied about the crown. Nothing could be true. Anything could be true. What will you find out next! (There'll be more. Of course there'll be more.) Was your mother the leader of an opposing cult? Was Aunt Ruby, and that's why she hated your father? Were none of these people related to you, and in truth you were hatched in a snake-egg? Is the King actually a tiny snake in an elaborate costume? Is Richard actually a lizard? Can you disprove any of these things? No. And you can't prove them, either. You're choking on fog.

>[-2 ID: 7/(9)]

At least Richard is here. He's your rock. Your beacon. Your one constant in all this upheaval. No matter where he is, or what he looks like, or what you're doing at any given moment, he will always, always, always be a dick to you. That is who he is. And there's something to be said for that.

Like now. He's swaggering back sober. "All clear, Charlie. I must say, it's lucky I have superior biology… if you drank that, you'd be sobbing in a fetal position about now."

"I bet I would," you say. You wouldn't mind sobbing in a fetal position, really, it's just that it'd be embarrassing. "Are you— is that another drink?"

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He's carrying a highball glass, which he sets on a coaster before sitting down. "Just neat bourbon, Charlie. Nothing ludicrous."

"…Have you considered that you might have a problem?"

"A problem? No. It's hardly my fault a buzz mutes your…" (He mimes being screamed at.) "Not to mention anyone would want a drink after an average of fourteen straight hours of you."

"I could say the same thing," you mumble.

"Could you? How delightful." Richard takes a sip. "I'll also note that drinking issues run high in your family, so perhaps you're projecting. Like the cigarettes. Regardless, did you have more to say?"

Did you have more to say? Surely it all gets more tame from here. "…Yeah. The thing in my dreams."

"Ah, our friend." Richard smiles coldly. "What do you think it is?"

You don't want to say it. It turns your stomach. But the snakyness, and the… God complex. "The Wyrm."

"Oh, no. No. Charlotte, if It actually deigned to claim you, you'd know. Or, well, you'd be obliterated before you knew, but same thing. No. But you're on the right track."

"…That was my only idea."

"Well, then I'll spell it out." He swishes his glass. "Do you recall what I said about mindsets? Not last night, two nights before that."

Dimly. You were also drinking, then. "…They got a tad literal?"

"That's some of it. A mindset is just a way of thinking you can put on and take off. And that's normally all it is. Not pleasant, necessarily, but about as sentient as an overcoat." He pauses. "Or a straitjacket. But I have reason to believe yours has gone rogue."

"…Of course."

"Yes, well, you do have a talent for bungling. I would've assisted if I could've, but I'm afraid my ego was busy giving up the ghost. Now. From my understanding of the proceedings, you felt threatened, and you constructed a mindset to counter this threat. You constructed it from me. Yes?"

Did you? It's like trying to remember a dream. From two days ago. "…Yes?"

"That was a mistake, needless to say, as I have… an inhospitable perspective on many things. This is how you wound up with a faux-Wyrm. But that wasn't the main mistake, which— did you let it take something from you?"

"I don't remember," you say.

"That's the trouble with things that don't exist, Charlie, they always want something. I think you gave it your heart." He sees your look. "Metaphorically. But metaphors matter."

Something rises to the surface. "…It said it ate my heart, in one of my dreams."

"Okay, there you go. It ate your heart. So now it's autonomous, and you're a little less yourself. Could it be worse? Sure. But I prefer you at peak functionality."

Does he? You don't press it. "So what do we…"

"You could bargain for it back, but don't expect it to be easy. It exists now, and it won't want to give that up. Alternately, you could find yourself a different heart."

You wrinkle your nose. "A different heart?"

"Oh, you know. Of some other material. Or you could steal it from something." Richard sips again. "You're installing it with supervision."

This is the sidequest to regain your full ID cap.
>[1] You want your /real/ metaphorical heart back. You'll attempt to negotiate with the Yellow-Eyed Thing.
>[2] A alternate heart piques your interest. Maybe you'd be suffering less with a stonier model. Or you could just get something, like, on fire. Everything's improved with fire. [You will be offered a range of options as the situation for each arises.]
>[3] Write-in.
>[1] You want your /real/ metaphorical heart back. You'll attempt to negotiate with the Yellow-Eyed Thing.
>[1] You want your /real/ metaphorical heart back. You'll attempt to negotiate with the Yellow-Eyed Thing.
I mean, everything is improved with fire.
>>[1] You want your /real/ metaphorical heart back. You'll attempt to negotiate with the Yellow-Eyed Thing.
>>[1] You want your /real/ metaphorical heart back. You'll attempt to negotiate with the Yellow-Eyed Thing.
>[2] A alternate heart piques your interest. Maybe you'd be suffering less with a stonier model. Or you could just get something, like, on fire. Everything's improved with fire. [You will be offered a range of options as the situation for each arises.]
Since when has /qst/ not blindly grasped at the mystery box?


Called and writing. Everyone came out of the woodwork for this one, huh?
>OG model

You stare down at your chest. "I, uh… I think I'd like my old one back."

"We'll hope it proves tractable, then. Though I have my doubts." Richard rubs his forehead. "I can't let you do this alone, so I suppose that's another night of overtime."

Of overtime. "…Because you're supposed to be on break?"


"You know," you venture, "I didn't use to think you… took breaks."

"That was a stupid thing to think." He waves his hand. "Moving along."

"Okay. Speaking of, uh, weird doubles… there was the thing with my gooplicate? And Jesse. And they… knew each other?"

"Had amorous relations?"

You shoot him the evil eye. "Had a- a unknown relationship. Three years ago. I was at that facility a week ago. So how—"

"Ah! An excellent question. And coincidentally, one of the few things I lack complete knowledge of."

"You don't know?"

"I didn't say that, Charlotte." His smile is irritated. "I do have hypotheses, of course. For example… who said your gooplicate was from this facility?"

"…It's the only cloning business we know of?"

"Ah, that we know of. But perhaps they have branches? Or rivals? Say, ones based out West? All it would've taken was a blood sample— that could've been obtained at any point over the past few years, and more's the likely you'd be none the wiser. This one wasn't even wearing your clothes, was it? So it's difficult to pin down a timeframe or location. I'd say it's plausible it comes from exactly where that man claims it does. Why… well, that's another question, is it not?"

"I guess," you mutter. It is plausible, but it's a very neat explanation. Maybe too neat. "You said you had hypotheses? Plural?"

"Oh, yes. My other hypothesis is that, as you witnessed, the timestream was… unstable. It's possible your gooplicate was victim to this as well."

You suddenly envy Richard's bourbon. "It time traveled?"

"I didn't say—"

"My clone time traveled." You flop back in your seat. "Why the hell not."

"It may have experienced some unintended temporal fluctuations, Charlotte. That's all you'll get out of me."

"I have a time-traveling clone." It's just fun to say, honestly. "Is this an… issue? Am I gonna stop existing one day, cause—"

"It would be already over and done with, hence the situation with your paramour. It would have already gone back and lived out its three years. And you still exist, as far as I'm aware."

"Huh." That makes sense. "But wait, I made it so there was no— so it doesn't exist anymore? Or, no. Jesse doesn't know it anymore?"

"You like this hypothesis, I take it." Richard swigs from his glass. "That would be one possibility, yes, but in my experience time is awful… rubbery. It likes to snap back into place. Which is to say that if your gooplicate didn't, quote, 'time travel' now, it's likely another opportunity will arise for it later, and things will go on much as they did before."

"Ahhh." You do like this theory. "You know a lot about time travel."

"I know a lot about a lot of things, Charlotte. It's my job. Now— I will emphasize that the second hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis. The first is equally likely to be true. As is some other alternative. So I'd advise you not to get too attached."

"My time-traveling clone." You'll have to figure out how to work this into conversation. "Oh, since you know so much about time, and whatever, do I have a dark future?"

"Pardon me?"

"You know… am I headed towards irrevocable doom?" That sounds too bland. "And destruction? Fiery destruction?"

"And where'd you hear that tripe?"

You're a little defensive, though you're not sure why. "The big… you know, the pagan…"

"Ah, naturally. Do you believe it?"

You're not sure. You don't want to believe it, but it was a, well, actual god. A dead one, yes. A pagan one, certainly. Still a god. But the look on Richard's face gives you precisely one option here. "…No?"

"Good. You shouldn't. It's a pack of lies." Richard reaches over and squeezes your shoulder. "Your future is bright. I'll admit it may contain some fiery destruction, but you'll be the one causing it, I'm sure. That's all there is to it."

…Is that all there is to it? "Why would it lie?"

"Why would it lie?" Richard leans back and chuckles. "Why wouldn't it lie? It lost. It's dead. It's bitter. It sees your future— your bright future, your beautiful, gleaming, perfect future— and it resents you for it. Of course it's going to attempt to derail it. I'm sure it lied to you about other things, too."

Would it do that to you? "It didn't seem bitter."

"You'd think you would've learned something about appearances being deceiving, Charlotte, but I suppose you're not capable of that. Of course it didn't seem bitter. You were barely comprehending it. It could've seemed however it wanted. Do you understand?"

Again, precisely one option. You nod.

"Good. I'm glad to hear it." Richard examines his empty glass. "Are you ready to—?"

"…Almost?" There was one last thing. "You're interested in the whole Ellery debacle, aren't you? I mean right now."

"Right n…" Richard tugs at the sleeve of his suit. "You mean compressed into—"


"Yes. That man is a marvel. Wish I could get him in a cage and study him up close."

You pause. He appears entirely serious. "…Cool. So… I'm not sure what to do? He's kind of dead. Slash inaccessible. And if I'm going to see Madrigal—"

"Don't tell her he's dead. That's step one." Richard points at you. "I have to say that because you would. And I have to say it now because I won't care enough later."

"…Okay, I won't." You weren't planning on it. "But I meant more, um, how do I… proceed with…"

"Ah. Well, let's see. The dead one is a dead end, isn't he? He knows nothing. You want the real one, who's locked himself up." Richard tilts his head. "To you, at least. He's still seeing other people. People like…"

You stare blankly.

"…I have to do this myself. Okay. People like the junkie criminal, and the…" He waggles his hands over half his face.

"...Oh, Anthea? Huh. I got her business card." Where did you put it? Was it even real? "She said to call her if I had an emergency. Should I just—"

"I wouldn't call her without an emergency, Charlie. Best to keep her unsuspecting. But nothing said it had to be an organic emergency."

"You think I should fake—?"

"Just food for thought." He raises his eyebrows. "Now, speaking of manufactured threats, there's water rings on my nice paperwork. I'll have to file this later. Best to get a move on before you ruin it further, hm?"

>[1] Okay, yeah, you're ready to stab Richard in the head now. (Enter crown tutorial)

>[2] …Can you put this off? You have other things to do first—
>>[A] Speak to Madrigal.
>>[B] Speak to Eloise.
>>[C] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in.

You'll ask about the max duration, no worries
>[1] Okay, yeah, you're ready to stab Richard in the head now. (Enter crown tutorial)

Stab hard

>[1] Okay, yeah, you're ready to stab Richard in the head now. (Enter crown tutorial)

Time for some well-earned catharsis after a depressive state.
>[1] Okay, yeah, you're ready to stab Richard in the head now. (Enter crown tutorial)
Let's take a STAB at it
>>[1] Okay, yeah, you're ready to stab Richard in the head now. (Enter crown tutorial)
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Called for 1, though I have some bad news: got a lot of stuff left to work on tonight, so I doubt I'll have an update out before I pass out. Mayyyybe a half-update. Sorry, folks. (I'll try to compensate with a couple combat updates later on.)
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"Those are just the ones on the table," you point out. "The ones all over the floor don't have water rings."

Richard rubs his forehead. "…Yes. That is factually correct. Would you close your eyes, please, Charlie?"

"What? Why?" You shift in your seat. "Also, I told you I didn't like being called—"

"Charlie." He reaches across the table and clamps his hand over your eyes. "I'm organizing the papers."

"You're clearly not— you're holding—"

"They're organized." He releases your face. The papers are back in neat stacks. "See?"

"I hate you," you mutter. "So what, I just have to sign one, and it's — bam — you're a giant snake?"

"Were it that simple. No. No, all this does is allow me to assume the role of a giant snake. Semi-legally. And you have to sign…" He runs his hand down the stack of paperwork. "…somewhat more than one."

"All of them?"

"You won't get hand cramps if you don't think about hand cramps. Do you need a pen?" He offers you a pen.

You take it begrudgingly. It's a nice pen— heavy, but not unbalanced, with a brass clip and scales etched up the barrel. "I dunno. Does everything you own have to be snake-themed?"

"They don't have to be snake-themed, no." Richard lowers his sunglasses. "Let me know if you need me to point out where to sign. Else I'll be giving a preliminary overview."

You're pretty sure you can spot the blank lines. "Overview is good."

"Very well. I've told you much of this before, but to my knowledge you've listened to precisely none of it, so we will be trying again. Attempt to stay focused."

You nod.

"I'll start at the beginning. You've heard me speak of Law, surely? I don't refer to your human laws, which are at best vulgar simplifications. I refer to the underpinnings of reality. Everything that matters is regulated by Law, and everything that does not is defined by the interactions between Laws. That is the simple truth of the matter."

"Now, Law is absolute, but it is not immutable. If one is skilled, one may be able to manually overwrite it, strike it down, or interpret it in unusual ways. The effects are usually localized, but they nevertheless have a tangible effect on reality's outer layers. This is obviously powerful." Richard watches you scribble out another signature. "If you were diligent, or talented, it's possible you could approach the beginnings of this practice. You are neither. It will not happen in your lifetime."

You stare up at him. "Sorry, what's exactly the point of this, then?"

"The point is not for you to attempt manual control. Conveniently, Charlotte, you have in your a possession a tool to, ah, brute-force the legal process. Put it this way. If manual control is a needle, you have a sledgehammer. Or possibly a bomb."

"Oh!" Now he's speaking your language. "That's cool."

"Keep signing. By using the crown, you are capturing Law, but you are not using it directly. Rather, you'll be using simplified concepts that draw upon the Law for power."

"…Like OPEN?" you offer.

"Yes. Like that. They're called Edicts. The bad news with them is that you lack fine control over their effects. The good news is, they're teachable in less than a century."


"I'll attempt to do so right now, in fact." Richard pulls a paper crown out from under the table and places it on his head. "[OPEN] is an edict that, as you know, may be used alone. [OPEN] something, and it'll open. The trouble with this, however, is that it's almost entirely undirected— you have no means to control how it happens to open, and very little means to manage who it targets. And it always happens immediately."

You are nursing a paper cut. "Mmhm."

"Needless to say, this is rarely desirable. The solution is twofold. First, introduce auxiliaries. Second, combine with further edicts." He adjusts the crown. "Auxiliaries, not to be confused with what you'd term 'pocket dimensions,' come in four types: MAY, CAN, WILL, and MUST, in ascending order of power. Do you recall how Gil came to speak?"

"…He went down your throat and puppeted your—?"

"Later. You used the crown. Your words were '[BEETLES] [MAY] speak.' The '[MAY]' is important, Charlie. All it does is unrestrict something. It allows something possible but unrealized. I may say, for example, 'Charlie may stand on her head.' And you would find it a much simpler process. But I may not say 'Charlie may unhinge her jaw,' as you lack the physiology, not just the strength, will, or balance."

"I could stand on my head if I wanted," you mumble.

"But you don't want, and that's the point. Moving upward. '[CAN]' makes something possible. If I said 'Charlie can unhinge her jaw,' you would be capable of doing so. That considered, it does not compel— so if you wished, you would be able to open your jaw to a normal extent, and nobody would ever know. This is what distinguishes it from the latter two auxiliaries. '[WILL]' imposes a necessity, but not a time restriction. If I said 'Charlie will unhinge her jaw,' at some point in the future you will unhinge your jaw. Either circumstances will conspire so you have no other option, or you'll feel a growing insatiable urge to do so. But I can't control when this will be. If I needed you to unhinge your jaw this instant, I'd use [MUST]: 'Charlie must unhinge her jaw.' You would do so immediately, and if you could not, all obstacles to you not doing so would be removed."


You know what's difficult? Listening attentively and signing at the same time. You hope whoever this paperwork is for doesn't mind your slip into illegibility. "Wait, is 'jaw' an… edict?"

"It could be, though I suspect it'd be broader than that. [BONE] or [MOUTH], maybe. No, 'jaw' is just a word. And that brings me to topic two, which is combinations." Richard looks antsy. Does he wish he'd prepared a visual aid? "You may point and say '[CAN] [OPEN],' or '[WILL] [OPEN],' or so on, but you're still lacking a subject. This is where other Edicts come in. Say '[BEETLES] [WILL] [OPEN],' and suddenly you know exactly what will happen. Same goes for '[OPEN] [MAY] [BEETLES].'"

"Open may beetles is not a sentence."

"Maybe not in Inglish, Charlie, but you're not speaking that. You're speaking in concepts. What is 'open' as a noun? Doors, locks, keys, picks, chests. Maybe a grassland. Maybe sky. What is 'beetles' as a verb? Swarming, clambering, consuming… turning into beetles, even. Think expansively."

At least he didn't use 'beetlefying.' "But that doesn't explain jaw."

"Ah. Well, technically, you're not restricted to edicts. You may use anything, as long as you use it with an edict and you're able to convert it into a concept. Broader and simpler things are easier than specific or complex things. Things that make sense are easier, too. 'Mouth must bite' beats 'mouth must jump.' But both are possible, as long as you're willing to gamble on if they function properly." Richard leans over the shrunken stack of papers. "How are you coming along?"

There's more empty lines than signed lines, you'll put it that way. "Fine."

"That's about all you need to know. Except… let's see. [MAY NOT], [CANNOT], [WILL NOT], and [MUST NOT] are acceptable alternatives. Your range is limited to around the crown— you can only affect things in your area, not all jaws or beetles or Charlies everywhere. At least for now. And don't go overboard, please, unless you'd like to drain the thing of Law again and lose all our progress. That's all. Let me know when you're finished, will you— I'm going to take a moment to prepare."

"Um, okay?" (Richard has closed his eyes.)


Richard is snoring gently by the time you finish the last signature (at this point just a line). You hesitate, then stand from your chair and shake his shoulder.

He jolts, and his paper crown slides off his head. You pick it up and offer it to him. "You were asleep for a long time."

"I wasn't asleep," he snaps, and snatches the paper crown from you.


"I was in deep concentration. Took you long enough. You better have it all drilled in by now."

"…It's all signed, if that's what you—"

"I don't need several hundred of your signatures, Charlotte. I need maybe ten. What I need is an implicit loosening of your absurd— I need you to accept that I can be a giant snake, for a defined purpose, for about ninety minutes."

You flex your ink-stained fingers. "You tricked me?"

"I didn't trick you. I mislead you for noble purposes." He cocks his head. "Successfully, from the sound of it—"

"You…" He did trick you. But not in a bad way? You still needed to sign all that, just not for the reason he told you. So it doesn't make him a deceiver, does it? "…So you can turn into a giant snake now?"

"I wouldn't use 'turn.' And I won't know until it works. But I believe so, yes. Let me deal with all this first—" He gathers the sheafs of paper, straightens them, and places them under the table. "—and take this off—" He unbuttons his suit jacket and hangs it on the back of the chair. "—and that should be all, shouldn't it? As a reminder, I'll be trying to kill you in a sporting manner. You should try to kill me. Neither of us will be permanently hurt, so don't get squeamish. If you lose, or if it drags on, I'll be back to this in an hour and a half." He walks past you, ruffling your hair on the way. "Best of luck, Charlie."

"…Thanks?" You touch your head in confusion. "If you go crazy, I get to say I told you so."

"Very well." Richard strides out, past the mess of your Gil project, past the font and all the columns, all the way to the other side of the cathedral. He turns around, waves at you, and vanishes.

Two minutes pass. Gil, who has awoken in the long interim, buzzes at you from a nearby column. You can't understand what he's saying, and wave him off. He buzzes more.

Two more minutes pass. You wonder if Richard's run into technical difficulties, or if it's just a fifteen-minute-type-thing, or what. You resign yourself to a wait regardless.

A minute later, Richard reappears. He's black and brass-yellow and otherwise looks like his normal snake self, except that his usually flat tail tapers to a point, and he's enormous. Larger than you were expecting. (Is a meter longer than a foot, then?) He drapes over half the floor and even then his head comes nearly to the roof. Gil buzzes louder. You shush him.


You nearly fall backwards, which would've been an embarrassing start to this ordeal. Instead, Gil rushes over to catch your chair, which just leaves you with ringing ears and the beginning of a headache. (YOU'RE TOO LOUD!!!) you project back toward him.

«AH. IS THIS— is this better.»

Still loud, but not ear-splitting, so you take it as a win. You offer a thumbs-up.

«Do not gesture. You are too small. But I am sensing from you agreement.»
«Come here so I can see you.»

So he can eat you, it feels like. But you do have a sword, somewhere. And a crown, somewhere. You'll be okay. You head over, Gil trailing behind you.

Richard is larger up close— you can't remember if he's larger than the huge goo snake, but it has to be close. He lowers his head so his yellow eye is level with your face. «Hello.»

"Hello," you venture.

«You are very small.»

"You said that." You reach for your hip. The Sword is there like an old friend. "Um, actually, I'm normal size. You're big."

«That is true.»
«But it is still a powerful sensation.»

"...Can you not go crazy immediately? Please?"

«I am not 'going crazy.' I am in control of my faculties.»
«I am merely appreciating this role.»
«I can tell why it was restricted to upper numerals.»


«It is of no consequence.»
«Kindly get the crown out. I see you have Wyrmtooth already.»

You hunch your shoulders. "It's not called— it's just The Sword, Richard."

«I see no need to resort to a child's name when its proper name is so fitting. Crown.»

You touch your head. The Crown is there. Your limbs are already stiffening.

>[You are HALF-PARALYZED while you wear the Second Crown]

«Good. Let us begin.»
«As this is an educational exercise, you may have the first move.»


>AUXILIARIES KNOWN: [MAY], [CAN], [WILL], [MUST], and all opposites
You will be constructing phrases. (There may be stabbing later. Hold your horses.)
You may have a maximum # of phrases up at a time, and enacting one will draw from a set pool of Law. The more words in your phrase, and the more powerful the Auxiliary (if used), the higher the cost. You may include non-Edicts in your phrase, but they will require a roll to function properly, with difficulty based on which word is chosen.
These rules are somewhat in flux, as mechanics are not my strong suit. Expect additions and/or changes and/or clarifications. Questions and suggestions welcome.

>[1] Say: "Snake [WILL] [BEETLES]" (Roll.)
>[2] Say: "[BEETLES] [MUST] [OPEN]"
>[3] Say: "[OPEN]"
>[4] Construct your own phrase. (Write-in.)
>[4] Snake [MUST] [SMALL]
Sorry, this won't work. You need at least one Edict or you're just... shouting words really loud.
>[4] "Snake [MUST] [OPEN]"
Maybe it'll eviscerate Richard.
Would Snake [MUST] [SHRINK] work?

Snake [MUST] [DIE]?


last one is a joke haha

This would work (but require a roll from the 'snake'.)

These would not. [MUST] doesn't count as an Edict. You need one or both of [BEETLES] or [OPEN]. I would like to point out that you do have beetles nearby...
So we're limited to Edicts we've used before? How do we expand our vocabulary?

I guess let's try

rope in gil
slave for life
>How do we expand our vocabulary?
Collect more Macguffins! Where do you think [BEETLES] came from? You may be able to learn them in other ways but they'll be more limited than if you got them via Crown

Use >>4669557
>[4] "Snake [MUST] [OPEN]"

and while Richard is busy trying to avoid having his insides turn to outsides, we stab him in his smug snake face.



Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 ???) vs. DC 40 (-10 ???, +0 Unresisting) to successfully convert "Snake" into a concept!

As I mentioned, rules for this are in flux-- I'm thinking that maybe a Success or Enhanced Success on a roll like this lets you temporarily use the word as an Edict for that scene only? Thoughts?
Rolled 77 (1d100)


First die up!
Rolled 67 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 11 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>82, 72, 16 vs. DC 40 -- Success
Nice. No thoughts? :(

Writing shortly.

>head empty, no thoughts

I mean, it could be interesting. Honestly, it's up to your discretion though. Probably justify it as Charlotte not exactly knowing what she was saying while whaling on anaconda!Richard, just that it worked. Or Richard purposely excising that word from our memory so that we can't alter him any more in the future.
Oh, I mean, I wasn't worried about the justification... which would just be that concepts are slippery and it's hard to get them to stick around unless you, say, trap them in your Macguffin Holder. Richard is not worried about you attempting to use this stuff on him later. See that +0? That is not normally a +0. No comment on memory wipes.

I think I'll go with "Yes with the right to reverse course if it turns out dumb or broken." Aaaand writing.
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...ok I had to do an alternate version first

>no thoughts, head empty

I mean, Horseface, Gil and Ellery think all the time, and look at them. A pagan model thief, beetles, and Ellery. Probably for the best to just not think too hard. Madrigal started thinking a lot lately too, and now she's turning into a snake. Just need to think enough to get the Crown fixed, ascend to claim rightful throne, win at Game Night and rub Richard's smug snake face in it. Otherwise, we might think too much and wind up getting bodysnatched by our gooplicate or some other nonsense like that.
>Snake (MUST) [OPEN]

You reach up to keep the Crown from sliding off your head. "Um, I don't… that's a lot of pressure."

«Would you prefer to come up with something as I lunge for your yielding mammal flesh.»

"…Yes?" It might shake the ideas free, if nothing else.

«Too bad. I will wait.»

You're excited to find that Richard is exactly as helpful at any size. "Thanks. It's just— there's a lot of options? And I'm not sure which to—"

«Your goal is to slay me, is it not.»

Yes, you know that. "I- I can't even target you. You're not a door, or a lot of beetles, so—"

«…How about you try out the [BEETLES] and see how it goes.»

"And what, and screw up Gil?" You point The Sword at his eye. "You told me not to screw up Gil."

«Hm. So I did.»
«I suppose you may attempt to focus on snakes. It should come relatively easily to you. Just… compress the idea.»
«I have limited ability to explain further.»

Should come relatively easily to you. Right. You squat stiffly and hold your head. Snakes. You don't even know that much about snakes. They're… long. Cold. Scaly. Annoying. Good at mind things. Know about time travel?


You weren't… okay. Snakes. Good at burrowing? Mildly telepathic? Smart like a smart dog or dumb toddler? Present company excluded. Coveted by shady organizations? Reproduce parasitically? Richard is hissing, which sounds like a gas leak. On the wrong track.

…Richard is different as a snake. And maybe that's a dumb self-centered way to look at it, since he's been that way for three years straight, and it's this that's different. But maybe not. He's more businesslike, impatient, direct. Streamlined. Is that the word? Like he only has space for— for his job, which is you, and all the personality gets thrown out. The closest he gets is rattling off gun facts, and even that's dry. He's streamlined. A straight line from A to B. And he's efficient.

That's what snakes are: streamlined and efficient. And… spirit proxies of a big snake god thing, maybe. Is that good? Is that a complete enough concept? How do you even know? You open your mouth to inquire (or complain) and discover that something already lies at the tip of your tongue.

Richard rears back. «Be cautious with that. Finish the phrase first.»

The phrase. Snake… snake must (you believe in starting with a bang)… open? What would that do? Maybe split him open, or turn him inside out, or something. If you're lucky. But better unpredictable reality-warping than no reality-warping, right?

You open your mouth and let it fall from your lips. It tugs at you as it leaves, like you're being dragged into its well of gravity, but your Crown keeps you steady. You are using none of its Law. This is entirely yours.


It'd sound silly if you were just saying aloud, but there's a resonance in the words that make what Richard was trying to say obvious— they're just crude transcriptions. The power is in their meaning, which is what's making the Crown shed light like a sparkler, and what's making Richard—

What is happening to him? He's moving, slithering away from you, his head bobbing— but he does not appear to be splitting open. Damnit.
…Well, maybe a little. Right near the base of his head, below his— you're not a snake expert, you're just calling it a chin— below his chin, a small dark space is appearing. It rapidly assumes the shape of an archway, then stops. Nothing else happens.

"That's it?" you yell up at him.

«What. I cannot see what—»

"It's a door. What is with doors inside— inside people—"

«…I suppose that is a natural consequence of 'open.'»
«There is a door in me.»


«We will ignore it. I will issue you a do-over. You may utilize [BEETLES], or revoke this and attempt it again. There is generally a different result if you attempt it again.»

These are… unusually generous terms. You'd expect him to just attack while you're off-guard, really. Does he not want a door in him? But what combat advantage does a door provide?

>[1] Take the do-over.
>>[A] Attempt '[SNAKE] (MUST) [OPEN]' again, with a different result.
>>[B] Try another phrase. (Write-in.)

>[2] Don't take the do-over.
>>[A] Rip the crown off and charge while he's distracted— attempt to scale his back. You can't deal with sluggish movement, though you don't know what'll happen if you don't wear the crown. (Roll.)
>>[B] Keep the crown on and attempt to sneak around him. His head is up toward the roof again, and he can't see you very well. Prepare for an ambush. (Roll.)
>>[C] Keep the crown on and stack another phrase on top. Can you use [SNAKE] again? Or rally Gil with [BEETLES]? (Write-in what you try.)
>>[D] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Don't take the do-over.
>>[D] [Snake insides][MUST][BEETLE]
You could either try [SNAKE](MUST)[BEETLES] or [SNAKE] inside (MUST)[BEETLES). The latter would require a roll but potentially narrow the focus.

I would not bet on your ability to sustain two 'MUST's at a time. Maybe a 'WILL'?

It is time for experiments.

Plus this is the second time open put a door in someone, I want to see what else it can do
Blagh. Hate to do this to you guys again, but it's nearly midnight and I'm not sure I can push myself to get an update out, even if it is short. I'll see if I can run a combat mini-session tomorrow to compensate. Alternately, I can bang together an actual rules pastebin so you don't have to deal with my scattershot greentext.

We're tied up, so I'll leave the vote open. Have a good night, folks.

>[2] Don't take the do-over.
>>[D] Write-in.
>[SNAKE insides] [WILL][BEETLES]

Going with this because I don't expect us to sustain two MUSTs at once right now. Plus, there might also be the side effect of Richard's insides turning into beetles at his worst possible time-frame. Teach him to misjudge us, when his organs suddenly become beetles at the worst possible time. Probably when it'll be most inconvenient for us too, but that's a problem for Future!Charlotte, not Present!Charlotte.


Called. I'll go with "[SNAKE] inside (WILL) [BEETLES]".

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 55 (-5 Conceptual Link: [OPEN], +10 Abstract, +0 Unresisting) to successfully use "[INSIDE]"!
Rolled 57 (1d100)


Become as beetles, Rick.
Rolled 48 (1d100)

Rolled 95 (1d100)

>57, 48, 95 vs. DC 55 -- Success
>{SNAKE} inside (WILL) [BEETLES]
>57, 48, 95 vs. DC 55 -- Success

You're going to go by your rule of thumb: if Richard doesn't want something, you do want it. Even if it's apparently useless. But if he's offering another move, you're not just going to go and discard it.

"Okay, sure," you lie. "How do I—?"

«You just do.»
«I do not rely on gaudy trinkets. You cannot expect me to have precise—»

"Well, then, give me a little bit. God." Can you stack two… (Huh. Did Richard give the full phrases a name? You'll just call them 'rules.') Can you stack two rules? Surely you can, or this thing— the Crown pricks into your scalp— would be useless. You just need the right one. And Richard so kindly suggested '[BEETLES]'…

If you just attempted 'SNAKE WILL BEETLES,' though, what could that mean? Something stupid, probably, like… enthralling Gil to his cause. You need to get more specific. Snake guts? Snake internal organs? Snake… insides?

«Enough. Get it done with, or I will begin.»

You wave at him impatiently. Insides? You know enough about those. You've been stabbed more times in two weeks than twenty years. You've seen the guts of people, beetles, worms and Ellery. Of course, you've been inside centuries-old sewers, dank earthen tunnels, snake-dreams, trapdoors, and minds. And what is it to be OPEN, if not to get inside something?

You have it. It's there on your tongue. And you speak: "SNAKE INSIDE WILL BEETLES"

>[AUT: 11/16]

Nothing happens, except that your Crown flares and grows heavy. That's fine. It will happen, sooner or later. It's required by Law.

The tip of Richard's tail lashes. «That was not what I told you to do.»

"I wasn't supposed to turn you into beetles?" Yes, you are smug. "I'm so sorry, Richard, how could I not have—"

«Yes. You will be sorry.»

It's possible you could've been more prepared, or could've better assessed Richard's capabilities: for how massive he is, there's nothing that's sluggish. Either mass is a non-factor in unreality, or he's simply 75 feet of fast-twitch muscle— you don't have time to puzzle it out. He strikes down at you like a cannon-shot.

(Choices and dice next!)
>GET OUT OF THE WAY!!! Roll me 3 1d100s - 20 (-20 Half-Paralyzed) vs. DC 40 (-10 All Under Control)!
And then…

>[A1] You can't fight physically under these conditions! You need to discard the Crown and regain some mobility, even if it risks your Rules. (Lose Half-Paralyzed. I will roll every turn minus Crown to determine if any Rules dissipate.)
>[A2] Come on! You just spent all that time turning Richard into beetles— you can't just give up now. Keep the Crown on. (Retain Half-Paralyzed + all Rules.)

>[B1] All you need to do is stall until he inevitably turns into beetles. Kite his attacks until he wears himself out. (Roll.)
>[B2] All you need to do is stall— so why waste energy? Hide among his coils until he pops. (Roll.)
>[B3] You don't need to stall! You have *moxie*! Take advantage of his recovery period and attempt to find some weak points in his scales. With The Sword. (Roll.)
>[B4] If he strikes and misses, his neck will be close to the ground— meaning the archway will, too. If you get it just right, you may be able to dart inside. (Roll.)

>[C] Write-in.
>Excuse me? What's an AUT?
AUT is Authority, your cap on Rules. You have 16, and make Rules costing up to that number. The components of Rules have various AUT costs:

>(MAY): Free
>(CAN): 1 AUT
>(WILL): 3 AUT
>(MUST): 5 AUT

>Crown Edicts (eg [BEETLES]): 1 AUT
>Innate Edicts (eg <OPEN>): Free on first use, 2 on future uses
>Temporary Edicts (eg {SNAKE}): Free on first use if roll is successful, 2 on future uses

So {SNAKE} (MUST) [OPEN] is 0 + 5 + 0 = 5 AUT, and {SNAKE} {INSIDE} (WILL) [BEETLES] = 2 (second use) + 0 + 3 + 1 = 6 AUT, for 11/16 total. You have room for any number of extra Rules, as long as they collectively cost 5 or less AUT.

Balance subject to tweaking, as always.


Now that {SNAKE} is a temp edict can we try 『snek must sleep』

If not B3
Rolled 1 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>[A2] Come on! You just spent all that time turning Richard into beetles— you can't just give up now. Keep the Crown on. (Retain Half-Paralyzed + all Rules.)
>[B2] All you need to do is stall— so why waste energy? Hide among his coils until he pops. (Roll.)
{SNAKE} (MUST) sleep would cost 2 + 5 + 0 = 7 AUT, so no! (If you subbed in (WILL), you'd slide in right under the cap.)

Could I get a roll, though? You have a... let's see here... 2% chance of counteracting that critfail.
Rolled 45 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Let's try WILL then. He'll have to fight off both sleep and beetlefication.

watch me roll another 1
Rolled 99 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>1, 35, 79 vs. DC 40 -- CRITFAIL
No, the 99 doesn't save you. Sorry.
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33 KB
>1, 35, 79 vs. DC 40 -- CRITFAIL


Did your own limbs betray you, locking you in place until it was too late? Or were you simply too self-confident? When Richard told you you couldn't die, did you believe he meant you couldn't be killed?

There is a crunch as a fang the size of your forearm pierces your skull, and a second crunch as it comes out your chin. It is too instant for you to scream. Gil, clinging to the ceiling, clings tighter; a second later, a woomph of air sends him spinning dizzily to the ground like so many leaves. Where there was a rather large snake is now an ordinary-sized man, who sets off at a stiff run before thinking better of it, vanishing, and reappearing by your body.

"Charlie?" Richard says.

Understandably, you don't respond.

"That was not supposed to— you were supposed to dodge that." He rubs his chin. "Only you wouldn't have…"

You are not available to point out how half-hearted he sounds.

"…That's not even a real injury." He bends over to examine your caved-in skull and the pearly shards of bone embedded in your brain matter. He keeps his snakeskin shoes away from the puddling blood. "It's just paper…"

Your head lolls.

"…" Richard grimaces and scoops you up, placing you carefully over his shoulder. He plods over to the fount in the center of the mouth and drops you in. You dissolve.

He pays a nasty glance to Gil, who huddles above a nearby window. "It was her fault."


You dream of floating in warm water.


"Well," someone says, "that's certainly a… story. What do you make of it, Charlotte?"

"Huh?" Your vision runs with color. It's a man's voice, a pleasant-if-unremarkable tenor, with rounded… Monty! It's Monty's voice, which means that green must be his sweater, and that smell must be tea, and this must be Horse Face's tent— it's early evening. Or just evening. How long have you been sitting here? What just—

Monty blinks. "What do you make of— are you alright?"

"Why would I not be alright??" You try to look natural, and not like you were just flexing your fingers to check if they worked.

"…You've just gone a bit pale, is all."

"I've had that before," Horse Face says insouciantly.

"Yes, I'm sure you— Charlotte, if you are alright, I would like to know what you make of this. I'm aware you've had some… personal interactions with Mr. Garvin here—"

>[1] Uh! Yes! The thing is very bad!
>[2] Um! Yep! The thing is really good!
>[3] …could he please repeat the whole previous whatever…? you were, um, ah… (Write-in excuse.)
>[4] Attempt to convince Monty that you were listening super hard and it's actually his and/or Horse Face's fault for not explaining properly. So there. (Roll.)
>[5] Write-in.
>" He bends over to examine your caved-in skull and the pearly shards of bone embedded in your brain matter. He keeps his snakeskin shoes away from the puddling blood. "It's just paper…"
>Your head lolls.

Oh balls i don’t come to this thread in a week and this happens

wait we’re not dying I’m just autistic and didn’t read the last paragraph.

But we’re beetles now?

Reject snek return to beetle I guess
Not sure if you're caught up, but effectively: Richard murdered you in your own head, where you can't actually /die/ permanently. You've just awoken from your convalescence to discover that Richard's left you in the middle of the next thing you were planning to do-- speaking to Monty and Horse Face.

You are not beetles. You did attempt to turn Richard into beetles, which would've been successful if you didn't critfail.
Just so traumatized over having our model stolen and then being gaslit about it for decades
centuries even
what is time down here anyway

>[3] …could he please repeat the whole previous whatever…? you were, um, ah… (Write-in excuse.)

Thinking of suitable punishments for his model theft and 'hypothetical' pagan god calling that resulted in a current down on our heads, and lost the track of things a little. We've had a stressful few days from trying to find Ellery for Madrigal, and we're entitled to blow off a little mental steam, yes?
Called and writing.

Also I never acknowledged this but I did lol. You're right, who needs ""brains"" when you have PASSION and DRIVE and POSITIVE THINKING and also a snake who bails you out of every dicey situation!

>""brains"" instead of emotional strength

Ellery's got brains all right, and look at him. Can't stop melting all over the place, because he thinks using mirror copies to deal with his ex like a COWARD is a good use of his time. Just leaving disgusting silver puddles all over the place, he'd never think about shang-haing his past self to break through a party memory and fight off ruffians to deal with a different snake other than the snake we've been acquainted with. He'd be all "Oh Lottie, we need to be careful. Otherwise we'll destabilize the whole thing and become a vegetable for the rest of our lives, blahblahblah," right up until Henry and Martin stuck him like a G*ddarned pig. It got a teensy-weensy bit unstable, sure, but it all got dealt with, no harm, no foul after all. All bants and jokes aside, I enjoyed both Original Drowned as well as Redux. It's fun playing someone who just can't help herself from mashing the 'Make Everything Worse, All The Time' button before she even finishes reading the other options on the table.
>he'd never think about shang-haing his past self...
Well, he'd never THINK about it, it'd just... happen. On accident. I like writing Ellery and Charlotte because they're both equal sufferers of Quest MC Syndrome (otherwise known as 'a disproportionate number of things happen involving them'), it's just that with Ellery everything happens TO him, and with Charlotte everything happens BECAUSE of her (or Richard prodding her). Which is probably why Charlotte is the more successful MC of the two! But I still have a soft spot for Ellery even if he is a COWARD and also a jaded self-centered manbaby.
>uhmmm excuse me I was just plotting my revenge???

"Personal interactions," you say. This, at least, is familiar territory.

"Er, yes—"

"You mean him stealing my— my property and then lying about it? To my face? Repeatedly. For days. Weeks, practically— months—"

"It wasn't months," Horse Face opines.

"It sure felt like—"

"It's been a week and a half, Charlotte. Yes, I do mean that, though it wasn't our immediate topic of conversation… If you'll forgive me, we have some more pressing concerns." Monty rubs his forehead. "We'll get around to it. Would you just say what you think about this?"

You have no idea what to think about this, but you're not about to say so. "More pressing concerns?! We are sitting in the presence of a thief—"

"We're sitting in the presence of a man who— I don't think I'm overstating this— nearly caused an entire natural disaster. I'm a tad concerned that this isn't your top priority. Have you been listening at all?"

You fold your arms.

"…You haven't been…?"

"I've been hearing him." You're sure this is true, technically. "But I've been focused on his severe punishment for—"

"For the love of God." Monty interlocks his hands behind his head. (Does he know? When he says God? Or is he—) "You wanted me here, you realize? Charlotte, you can't just…" He closes his eyes. "I don't know what I expected. Okay. I don't even know how to begin with recapping this, so I'm terribly sorry, Mr. Garvin, but if you'd—"

"Just 'Garvin' is fine." Horse Face produces a lopsided grin. "I'm used to repeating myself. What's the question again?"

"…Why you inadventently summoned…"

"Didn't summon anything."

"…Why you inadvertently and hypothetically summoned a dead-god-slash-weather-event."

Horse Face crosses one leg over the other. (How freakishly long are his legs? How have you not noticed?) "Right. Put it this way… the weather event was certainly inadvertent. In this hypothetical, I had no intention of putting anyone in danger, except myself, but that's a non-factor. The summoning… let's call it semi-intentional. I hoped for a séance, shall we put it, not a full-blown resurrection. But I got what I needed from the deal, so you won't catch me complaning."

You narrow your eyes. "And what did you need, exactly?"

"He said what he needed," Monty says, with the barest fraction of irritation.

"Yeah, but I don't remember—"

"Again, it's no trouble." Horse Face's grin intensifies. "I was looking for aid with a small issue of mine. I thought a god of time might be able to provide it."

"…Of time."

"Well, yes. Since it has been repeating for me. For the past…" Horse Face clicks his tongue. "…several decades?"

"What?" you say, at the same time that Horse Face mouths 'what?'. "What do you mean—" You stop. He mouthed that, too. "…Have we had this conversation before?"

"This one? No." He leans back. "The reactions are just always the same."

"…Oh. But seriously, what does that— what does that mean."

"It means that when I die I don't die. Everything…" He twirls his finger. "…goes back. Sometimes it goes back even when I didn't die. But I've been stuck in the same five years for about 50, if that tracks."

"Um," you say.

"Don't worry, I usually don't get believed. He—" he points to Monty "—doesn't believe me. And I'm afraid I'm fresh out of proof, as this is my first time meeting either of you— give me a few more go-arounds and I'll have your mother's maiden name and whatever either of your dark secrets are."

"I do not have a— a dark secret." How can he even tell? Where is Richard?

"It's not exactly a stretch to assume that, Garvin, considering the average population down here. Everyone has their skeletons. And more to the point… I don't mean to be rude, but I hope you can understand how far-fetched this sounds."

"Oh, sure." Horse Face is unfazed. "It doesn't actually matter whether I convince you now. There'll be a later."

"I'm sure there will be." Monty sighs. "So that's it. I hope you were listening that time, Charlotte. I'd appreciate any input—"

>[A1] You believe him. (Why? Write-in.)
>[A2] You don't believe him. (Why? Write-in.)

pick however many you want
>[B1] So, like, can Horse Face tell you the future?
>[B2] Has he ever gone around and murdered a bunch of people just because?
>[B3] Is there anything /stopping/ him from going around and murdering a bunch of people just because?
>[B4] Does he know what even put him (supposedly) in this time loop?
>[B5] If he's supposedly been doing this for 50 years, how is this his first time meeting you?
>[B6] Who gives a damn?! What about your stolen model?!? Hello?!?!
>[B7] Write-in.
>[A1] You believe him. (Why? Write-in.)
Because it literally happened to us.

>[B1] So, like, can Horse Face tell you the future?
>[B5] If he's supposedly been doing this for 50 years, how is this his first time meeting you?
>[B6] Who gives a damn?! What about your stolen model?!? Hello?!?!

Because we're too smart to be predicted like that unless he's already seen it.


honestly the model stealing is almost as bad as murdering a bunch of people just because. he's starting small and working his way up there. slippery slope, it's inevitable now.
Called and writing.

>Voters dried up again
feels bad man
>yeah ok that checks out

You purse your lips. "I mean… we were just sort of in a time reset thing, weren't we?" (And there was the whole imitating you right now, but you don't want to say that, lest he do it more. Still, a time loop beats him just predicting you—)

"…Yes," Monty says, "but that was— what— a few hours? And it was a one-time thing— I would hope— with an obvious cause. I don't know if it's comparable to five decades of…"

"Well, no, but it's in the right area, isn't it? And you don't even know if there's no obvious cause. Horse Face, is there an obvious cause?"

"Oh, I'm afraid not."

You glower at him.

"It'd certainly be relieving if I had one, but despite— believe me— a lot of reflection, I've never turned anything up. I wasn't in the habit of stealing burial ashes or fiddling with powerful artifacts, I had no major enemies, I was by all accounts a decent man—"

Your glower intensifies. He pretends not to notice. "—so I don't believe it was my doing. I haven't narrowed it down much more than that, as my most recent speculation was just deconfirmed—"

"You don't know, in essence," Monty intones.

"I don't, but not for—"

You fold your arms. "I really think you should investigate that 'decent person' thing more. It seems kind of relevant."

"—lack of trying. Thanks, Lottie." He drains his cup of tea noisily. "Will put that on my list."

"You're not a decent person, you're a liar, so you won't."

"No, I won't, but don't worry. You won't remember. And for the record— I happen to think morality is a bit subjective— though I never said I was a decent person. I said I was one, which—"

"Semantics," you hiss. "Since time's all screwy anyways, maybe it's cause you're a lying thieving pagan now that made you—"

"Enough!" Monty has half-risen from his seat. "We are not here for childish name-calling or philosophical debates. We are here to get Mr.— to get Garvin's side of the story, which we now have, regardless of how unusual it may be. Since you buy it, Charlotte, I'll take it at face value for the time being. And consequently I have some questions."

You're affronted. "Um, I also have questions?"

"Are they about Mr. Garvin's moral lassitude?"

"…Some of…"

"Okay." Monty nods decisively. "I'll be taking point on this, if you don't mind. Mr. Garvin—"

"Garvin," says Horse Face.

"…Garvin, my apologies. It's not my custom to… regardless, Garvin, I was wondering how it was that you've been in this—"

"I just call it a loop, personally."

"—this loop, for fifty years, give or take, and you've never met either of us? How is that possible? This camp has swelled considerably, but it's still not all that large, and I do make a habit of greeting—"

"Ah! That's simple. I'm not stuck in one place." Horse Face spreads his freakishly long arms. "I've been out West, I've been out in the seagrasses, up in the Aiguilles— briefly, mind you, decided to pack up after I fell off a cliff more than once. Travel breaks up the monotony. Surely you can understand?"

"…Yes," says Monty, "but maybe I'm misinterpreting the mechanics here… you mentioned that when you die you wake up in the same place each time. So I fail to see how you could travel for any extended period."

"Same place, yes— the place itself can change. It's the time that stays mostly the same, and even then that's drifted forward— only a year-and-a-half in twelve hundred go-arounds, but that's something, isn't it?"

"…It's certainly convenient, I'd imagine."

"You don't have to be polite— Mr. Gewecke." Horse Face appears unbearably self-satisfied. (You seethe.) "In fact, I'd rather you out with the specifics. It'll make it easier to solve you later on."

"Will it." Monty closes one eye. "Put it like this. Do you claim to have lived through the future?"

"Oh, I mean, not much of it. I've lasted five years tops before—" He mimes his neck breaking.

"Five years is perfectly fine. Could you let us know something verifiable? I understand that you may have never been here before, but I'm sure there's some major event that we'll have heard of. If it happens, then I'll have no reason to doubt your—"

"I could let you know something verifiable," Horse Face says.


"But I won't, as I've done it before, and I've had a heart attack every time I've tried. Not high on my list of things to repeat."

You believed the time loop story, but also Horse Face is a confirmed filthy liar, so you have no clue what to make of this. It's definitely convenient. You open your mouth, but Monty speaks first. "Seriously?"

"I'm very serious, I assure you." (You do not believe this. Horse Face's eyes are sparkling grotesquely. Whether that correlates to him lying, or just to him being the worst imaginable person alive, is unclear.)

"That's…" Monty runs both hands across his scalp. "…that's gullshit."

"There we have it! But no, it's not gullshit. I have grown very acquainted with heart attacks— they're a full third of my deaths. Do you have other questions?"

Monty is silent. You take this as an opportunity. "Yes. You stole my model."

"Borrowed it."

"What? No, you— you stole it. And stuck a stupid tag on it. And lied about it. Why?"

"I was interested in it."

Is he joking? "I'm interested in your— that weird statuette—" (It's hunched on a shelf and carved from soft mottled stone. Two cabochons gleam for eyes.) "—but I'm not just gonna go and take it! We live in a— there's rules!"

"Sure there are," Horse Face says. "But they don't really apply, do they? You'll have it back, pretty soon, and you won't even know it was taken. Because it wasn't."

You breathe deeply. "I know now!"


How do you argue with that? You're right. You are unequivocally right. It's just that he doesn't care that you're right, or possibly about "rightness" as a concept at all. "Monty!"

Monty, eyes closed, issues a helpful 'urgh.' Great. Where's Richard? Is he off sulking because you turned him into beetles? (Probably? You don't remember exactly what happened.)

"It also got a rise out of you," Horse Face continues blithely. "Which is always good, early on. Need to know the buttons before you get to push them, eh? Though this one was probably more trouble than it was worth. I'll figure something else out."

He'll figure something else out. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Why shouldn't I? It's nice to unload once in a while."

Good. Good. He's either devoid of all social consequences, or believes he is, which is even scarier. Monty seems to have hit on the same line of thinking: "…You're just a liability, aren't you?"

"Am I?"

"I'll put it plainly, since you… enjoy that. As I see it, the best-case scenario is that you're indeed in a kind of 'loop,' and decades of this have distorted your worldview so badly you've ceased to care about the rights and safety of others. This has rendered you a flagrant and unrepentant thief, fraud, and liar. The middling scenario is that you're lying about this loop to cover your ass, which just means you're a loathsome bastard, if a creative one. The worse-case scenario is that it's not true, but you believe it, which means you're just a deeply disturbed man." Monty picks at his eye. "Which is worthy of sympathy, up until it endangers the people I'm responsible for, which it has. Vividly. And I'm not convinced something of that caliber won't happen again."

"Well, I don't intend to try anything—"

"With all due respect, Garvin—" The acid tone of Monty's voice makes it clear there's very little due. "—you didn't intend it the first time, either. And while I'm glad you're not an intentional mass murderer, it doesn't bring me much hope for Round 2."

"Makes sense." Horse Face has whipped out his notepad and scribbles something down on it. "So what do you intend to do about this?"

"We have a strikes system, and we have complaint files, and in light of the circumstances, and what I've heard, we're not using them. I cannot in good conscience allow you to stay at this camp."

"Okay…" Horse Face says. "And?"

"…And you're formally evicted. That's it."

"I don't really want to be evicted."

"…Nobody does, no. But nevertheless—"

Horse Face rests his chin on his palm. "What's the plan if I don't go?"

"…We'll resort to force, in that case, but I sincerely hope that you choose to leave in a peaceful—"

"No, you'll have to kill me."

Monty glances at you, a bit desperately. "…I sincerely hope it doesn't come to—"

"It will, unfortunately. You'll have to shoot me—" Horse Face taps his forehead. "I have plenty of guns if you need one."

"…" Monty glances at you again. "That won't be…"

"No, it won't be necessary, since you won't kill me. Look at yourself. She? She might kill me." Horse Face nods at you. "But you won't let her."

You attempt to tell Monty 'LET ME KILL HIM' through your eyeballs. Monty shakes his head. "I suppose we will… cross that bridge if we come to it."

"We have come to it." Horse Face's horsey teeth flash. "You can't evict me. But I'd be perfectly willing to draw up some terms for my stay. I have no problem being on good behavior."

"…That would be an alternative."

You're still willing to go to bat for the 'Murder Horse Face' plan, but the look on Monty's face brooks no argument, and Richard isn't here to provide you with conversation tips. (You miss Richard.) You'll just have to hope Horse Face wanders off another cliff, you guess. But terms. That's a productive alternative. What can you weasel in there for him to give?

Pick as many as you like, but if you start to get too unreasonable with demands expect a roll and/or Monty just shooting you down
>[1] An official apology for stealing your model!!
>[2] An official *written* apology for stealing your model!!
>[3] An official **public** apology for stealing your model!!
>[4] His -unqualified- future assistance with all things Cryptotheology, not that you may have some issues with gods or anything, hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!
>[5] The ability to lease out his collection of weird crystal-based magitech!
>[6] His entire creepy dossier on Gil!
>[7] His entire creepy dossier on Madrigal!
>[8] Write-in. if you have any extra questions for HF put them here too
>Monty runs both hands across his scalp
>Monty runs BOTH HANDS across his scalp
We're in the bizarro world! A simulation! Wake up! Seek the exit! The Matrix has us!

>[4] His -unqualified- future assistance with all things Cryptotheology, not that you may have some issues with gods or anything, hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!
>[5] The ability to lease out his collection of weird crystal-based magitech!
>[8] Has he ever heard about a tree that reaches above the surface?
Oh fu-- I mean Monty ran his normal hand and his GHOST HAND across his scalp yes hahahaha of course :(

If he can't tell us a big event from the future, can he tell us a small event with exact accuracy from the very near past that happened nearby? Something he couldn't possibly have been present for because this loop he was in the camp, but he remembers it from last loop?

>[4] His -unqualified- future assistance with all things Cryptotheology, not that you may have some issues with gods or anything, hahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!
>[5] The ability to lease out his collection of weird crystal-based magitech!
>[8] The question about a big-ass tree here. >>4677125

No point in asking for an apology, he won't mean it, the liar. His magitech stuff is interesting, and his whole Cryptotheology stuff will be useful for our future endeavours. We don't need to know about what he thinks of people in the camp or Gil, because he's a creepy weirdo. If it comes down to it, probably shear off the magitech response if it's a step too far. His knowledge about pagan god GS is more useful for our purposes, especially because it seems like Ellery is getting something along those lines too. Getting his lanky ass back here so Madrigal can focus on him instead of turning into a snake counts as some of those good deeds Monty wanted us to do too, so it'll kill a few birds with one stone. Otherwise, pretty much drawing a blank on my end.
Calling a little later pays off, I guess! I'll go with

And then you can have both 8s for free, since they're not really something you'd need to negotiate for. No roll. Writing.
>Fair recompense

But what do you want from him? An apology, certainly, but— what would that be worth? He's already a liar. You'd get a spoken lie, a written lie, or a public lie. And he wouldn't even be humiliated like he ought to be. God, you are so throwing him in the snake pit. Once you get one of those.

You ruminate on alternatives while Horse Face scribbles things down on his notepad and Monty gestures like a man possessed. Blah blah blah, appropriate boundaries, report to me, whatever. Horse Face is filthy rich, isn't he? The product of 50 years and zero risks. But you can't just ask for cash, or you'll look crass. (And anyhow, Monty probably wouldn't let you.) You're sure the same goes for all his portable wealth— the salvaged art, the furniture, and so on. What's useful?

Well… he certainly seems to have things. A kettle, and a typewriter, and a whole AUX-space generator. And he was friends with Gil… when? Decades ago? (No wonder he didn't expect Gil to remember.) But still, they must've bonded over something. And Gil does seem to like his— what did he call it?— "tech."

You're just guessing, but you're pretty sure Horse Face has more "tech" somewhere in that warehouse of his. And if it proves too boring for you to figure out, Richard and Gil will be tripping over themselves to pick it apart. Perfect.

But too little. You have emotional damages you need him to rectify. And what's more, no matter how dull or dubious 'cryptotheologist' is as a profession, you may have some, er, cryptic theology to deal with. Not that he has to know the specifics. But maybe Richard shouldn't be your sole source here. (Not that— not that you doubt—)

You lean forward, sitting on your hands. Monty looks up from Horse Face's notepad. "…Is there something you wanted?"

"You're not done, are you?"

"Er, no, I'd still like to get this in a formal contract… I'm not sure a verbal agreement alone is reliable enough. If you can understand, Garvin."

"Makes me no difference." Horse Face shrugs.

"Okay, great. Because I have some suggestions. Um, I think he should do… community service."

"Entailing what?"

You work your mouth. "…Offering his… cryptotheology insights… to the community? For free?"

"Ah, you should've just asked me! I would've done that anytime."

Is he lying? To twist the knife? Or are you just reading too far into an easy win? "Oh. Well, we can just, um, put it in writing. In case you change your mind."

Monty meets Horse Face's eyes. Horse Face nods, and Monty laboriously prints something on the notepad, holding it in place with his wrist. "Then that's all fine. I think we're about—"

"Also, I think he should lease out his— his tech. For the community."

"His what?" Monty says.

You make pleading eyes at Horse Face, who clasps his hands. "My tech. I do have a small stockpile of interesting contraptions, but I'm afraid they're irreplaceable. So I don't know if that'll work out."

"I melted," you growl. "And I was stabbed twice, and my worm died, and I had to see amatory activities. And it was your fault. It's the least you can do to—"

"That's enough, Charlotte. Yes, I do agree that she needs some level of compensation. Those things did happen, at some point, and you were the direct cause. We can argue intention all you like, but if nothing else it seems to me that you failed basic safety precautions. It's negligence. And since it's only through her actions— including the stabbings, and so forth— that no damage was done, I don't know if I can accept that, either." Monty sets the notepad on his lap. "I suppose I also don't see the issue with lending out this— this 'tek.' Are you using it?"

Horse Face narrows his eyes.

"…No. Alright. So if she— or whoever else— were to find it useful, is that such a problem? Presuming these things were returned intact. Perhaps we could set an insurance policy? So you'd—"

You tune back out, satisfied that your will is being enacted. Blah blah blah, compensation. Blah blah blah, emergencies. You'll get to use it. Does any of it start fires?

«I wouldn't count on it.»

You jump, just a little. Richard is inside your sleeve. Has he always been there?

«It doesn't matter.»
«The Court guards that secret jealously. I doubt it's been replicated.»
«I do have interest in what the horse-faced man does have.»

See. Of course he does. And thanks for him being there for you, by the way.

«I got you here on time, did I not.»
«I see you have managed to not make a complete fool of yourself. Just a minor one. Congratulations.»

Yeah, yeah. Monty has stopped his businessy rambling and is offering out his hand for Horse Face to shake. "Thank you for your cooperation."

"Of course," Horse Face says, and shakes it.

"I'll see if I can get this written up proper tomorrow. Until then, Charlotte and I will take our leave—"

"Hey, hang on," you say. "'Charlotte and I'?"


"That's—" There's that face again. You want badly to square your shoulders and argue and win, but there's no winning here. You just need to take your last digs. "Okay, but first, uh— Horse Face. Have you heard of a really big tree? I mean, a really big— I mean, it reaches the surface."

"It's very possible." Horse Face sits back. "I'd have to rifle through my notes."

"Can you not just—?" Maybe his memory's shot, since he's old, actually. Or he's just difficult. "I'm coming back, then, and you better have checked."

"Anything for you, Lottie." He smiles close-lipped.

"Great." Take whatever you can. "And also, um, can't you verify yourself without saying the future? Can't you just tell us an event in the past that you couldn't have been at? But that was, like, nearby? Since you were here instead."


Monty sighs. Horse Face ignores it. "See, I've been in this loop for the my entire travel time. 45 days, so just over a month. I've been at the camp just a week-and-a-half or so, so for anything local I lack any conflicts. Now, I could tell you all about other places, but I suspect that'd be of little use to you."

Damnit. "Yeah, okay. You're really not making this easy."

"First times rarely are. You'll sing a different tune next time around." He grins.

"…We'll be on our way, Garvin. Thanks again." Monty rises, circles around, and puts a warning hand on your armchair. You make him wait a long few moments before standing up yourself, and even longer before you trail after him.

It's early evening, judging from the black-blue creeping in, and the water is cool on your skin. You hadn't realized how stuffy it was inside.

Monty whistles. "Whew."


"That man is…" He stares off into the trees. "…I'm glad you asked me to come along. Would you like to grab drinks?"

What? Those words do not compute. For a number of reasons. "Y— you're old. And you don't even drink. And alcohol is prohibited. And, um, I—"

"It's prohibited on camp grounds. I know there's a speakeasy 15 minutes from here." He puts his hand in his pocket. "That's mostly a holdover rule, too— since we've relocated we're more able to drop our guards. I don't enforce it unless you're passing out against the bulletin board."

"Oh." You hadn't known that. "But you don't—"

"I don't. I was planning on a soda water, personally— you're welcome to whatever you like. It can go on my tab."

You clasp your arms against yourself. This is wrong. This is suspicious. What's the catch? "But why?"

"Why?" He seems surprised. "It's fairly standard to celebrate large accomplishments with drinks, Charlotte. At least where I'm from. I don't know about—"

"Well, no, I, um—" Your ears are hot. You stare at the ground so Monty can't tell. "I know that, it's just—"

"What's the matter, then? You stopped the current. That's worthy of recognition, is it not? And it appears I'm the only one that can give it. I asked around today— nothing. It's only us, and him—" He nods back at Horse Face's tent. "—and Gil, I suppose, though I haven't seem him today. If you know where he went, he's welcome to join us."

Can you lie plausibly here? Probably not. Half-truth it is. "Um, I don't think he can make it."

"That's a shame. Just us, then? I'll pay? It's been a long day."

What do you say? How do you— would it even be proper? On one hand, he was married, and by all appearances is still committed to that. Maybe too committed. On the other hand, he might be in his thirties, but that isn't that old, and he doesn't even look it— late twenties, maybe, and a boyish late twenties at that. And you are not attracted to Monty. You will set that straight. He wears sweaters. But you will admit that, on a purely objective level, he is somewhat handsome, even if his face is entirely too narrow. So what would it look like? And, entirely otherwise— what if this is a trap? What if he's going to murder you with his trident? And stick you in a mask, or something? Not that you have evidence for this, except that he could. He could do that.

«More relevantly, you still have things to do.»
«Idle hands, idle mind. Let's not waste more time, please.»

Yes. He's right. Extremely right. You should not allow yourself to be wrapped up in things of this nature!

(…But it would feel nice to have your myriad accomplishments recognized…)
(…And you always, perpetually, need a drink. Especially a free one.)

>[1] Venture out with Monty. (Have a drink + ask any questions you missed earlier. You will end in time to distribute the loot.)
>[2] Do not associate yourself with such impropriety. Do this instead, before the loot distribution:
>>[A] Put a few more hours into finishing Gil's body. You can probably look at it again by now.
>>[B] Speak to Madrigal. You probably need to ensure she's not in horrible pain, or whatnot.
>>[C] Speak to Eloise. You have a lot of new information to trade her.
>>[D] Take a nap. You should be in peak condition before dealing with hardened criminals. (Re-encounter the Yellow-Eyed Thing.)
>>[E] Write-in.
>[1] Venture out with Monty. (Have a drink + ask any questions you missed earlier. You will end in time to distribute the loot.)
We have to get our deserved recognition from _somewhere_, Richard.
thanks for the booze homie
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>Twist my arm, will you

"There's no pressure," Monty says gently. "If you'd rather have a night in, I'll leave you be. I just thought this was worthy of—"

You ball your fists. "Okay! Whatever! I'll go!"


Dammit! Why did you say that! Can you take it back? No. Maybe? You raise your hand to sign— but Monty is already speaking. "Oh! Fantastic. Do you need any time to freshen up, or are you—"

Aha, here's your out. Take the time, then lock yourself in your tent and don't come out. That'll show him. "No, I'm, um, okay."

"Then we're set, I believe. Would you like to lead the—"

"I'm only coming because the drink is free," you clarify hastily.

"…That's fine, Charlotte. Would—"

"Not because I like— it's nothing to do with you. Except for the fact that you're practically forcing me into this. The only reason I'm going along with it is the free drink. Just so you know."

"I'm not…" Monty reevaluates. "…Of course. Would you like to lead the way there? So it looks like less of a hostage situation."

"Yes." You glare. "But not because you offered. Just because I'm— I'm good at leading people places. Better than you, probably."

"Probably, yes."

There's little conversation on the way to the Better Than Nothing, on account of you staying several yards ahead of Monty at all times. Whenever it seems like he's trying to catch up, you walk faster, resulting in a near-jog by the time you break into the green light of Lindew's Landing. The main street is even thicker with makeshift shelters than it was yesterday. Where are all these people coming from? Is it really just because of the discovery off on the Flats— or are they fleeing something?

Well, it's none of your concern. You pointedly weave around dirty tents and drooping lean-tos and wait impatiently for Monty on the porch of the Nothing. He takes forever to emerge from the trail, then— the nerve of the man!— stops to speak to a woman in one of the shelters. You whistle. He looks up at you, says something apologetic to the woman, and comes to join you.

There's still a sign on the Nothing's door, though the text has changed: now it says "OPEN — FOR RESPECTFUL PATRONS — NOISE/BETTING/FIGHTS PROHIBITED." Indeed, the loudest sound inside comes from the sharp clinking of glasses. The regulars are in their usual places, and there's also a smattering of ill-dressed newcomers— from the crowd outside?— but everyone seems subdued.

You wind your way to your spot at the bar on pure instinct before realizing it won't fit Monty. Jacques comes over anyways. "Charlotte."

"Hi, Jacques. I have a— I have a guest." You tug Monty over. "Say hello."

"A gentleman, eh?" Jacques peers at you over his sunglasses. "Maybe it'll do you some good. Is this why you haven't been coming by?"

"No—" You stop short. "No, it's not— no! God! He's just—"

"I run the camp thataway," Monty interjects smoothly, and reaches over the bartop. (Jacques, surprised, shakes it.) "We're celebrating some good work she did, though I'm afraid our third fell through. I'll be paying."

"Up front?"


"Then you're already leagues ahead of Miss Empty Pockets here. Will you need a table? And what can I get you? I know Charlotte's order."

"Just a soda water, if you have those. Or a juice. I'm not too picky." Monty smiles.

"A tee-totaler, eh? Better not be one of those crusading types. Bad for business."

"Not a crusading type, just personal preference."

"Alright. I'm keeping an eye on you, though." Jacques may or may not be joking. It's always difficult to tell. "Watch out for Charlotte, will you? She gets belligerent."

«More belligerent.»

Monty, for some reason, is of the same mind. (He can't hear Richard, right?) "Moreso than usual?"

"Ha! You'll do fine. I'll get your pansy soda water." Jacques slaps the bartop with his towel and wanders off.

Pansy soda water indeed. It's one thing to moderate, but you don't trust total abstinence, especially if you'll be drinking. Is this a stratagem? He's trying to get the jump on you? You cast a distrustful eye towards Monty. "Personal preference, huh? What's the deal with that?"

"Hmm? Oh, it's nothing."

'Nothing.' Convincing. "Are you a real mean drunk, or something?"

Close! His face colors. "…I'd rather not find out, Charlotte. Inhibitions are valuable things to have."

Valuable for him, maybe. For you, when you're the one making yourself vulnerable, and when you're trying to shake him down for information? You don't want him sober. That's not fair at all.

You look back over at Jacques.

>[A1] Scratch your usual order— you want something strong. And tasteless. You'll be doing him a favor, really, with how *uptight* he is. (Roofie Monty.)
>[A2] Stick with your usual. It's """ethical,""" you guess. Even if ethics are entirely made up. (Don't roofie Monty.)

[Pick one, for now.]
>[B1] Start right in on it. What's the deal with the Spooky Mask People Dimension, Monty? [Roll.]
>[B2] Circle around to it. Why'd he just sit there and let Horse Face win? He could've killed him, you're sure. Or at least let you do it.
>[B3] Meander towards it. You have some other business— how's those recommendation letters going? Are you due to be evicted?
>[B4] Bring up some other topic. Write-in.

>[A2] Stick with your usual. It's """ethical,""" you guess. Even if ethics are entirely made up. (Don't roofie Monty.)

If we get something strong and tasteless, we'll have to drink it. May as well have Monty pay for our girly drink, not like those tiny pink umbrellas are cheap.

>[B3] Meander towards it. You have some other business— how's those recommendation letters going? Are you due to be evicted?

We have been helping people after all. That counts. Plus, if we get evicted while Horseface gets to stay, that's a travesty. A straight-up mockery of what it means to be in the camp, since we haven't been 'hypothetically' calling up pagan gods that cause problems, stealing things, and being creepy to everyone else. We've been model citizens by comparison. Busybodies, yes. Annoying, maybe. Dangerous, not more than most. 'Hypothetical' criminals, no.
Theoretically, you could roofie without actually choking down nasty alcohol as follows:

- Order shot
- Move to side table out of Jacques' sight
- Either convince Monty to leave his drink or wait until he gets up for whatever reason
- Dump the shot in his drink while he's gone
- Order cocktail
- When he gets back, claim you drank the shot and ordered cocktail as a chaser
- Drink cocktail

By no means do you have to pick [A1], but if that's the only thing stopping you it's avoidable.
>[A2] Stick with your usual. It's """ethical,""" you guess. Even if ethics are entirely made up. (Don't roofie Monty.)
>[B3] Meander towards it. You have some other business— how's those recommendation letters going? Are you due to be evicted?
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Vote is open until tomorrow. Until then, here's a pen pressure test.

Is there such a thing as strong and tasteless?


Called and writing.
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>Stick with the usual

«And how do you expect to accomplish this.»

Richard has slunk out from your sleeve and now drapes himself over your hands. You attempt to shake him off without anyone noticing. You thought he'd like this plan.

«It's admirable in theory. You have a habit of mangling the execution.»
«And I am not wasting my energy on this pointless diversion.»

How is him making you sign paperwork for two hours not a pointless diversion.

«That was the necessary requirement for a useful training exercise.»

And not because he just wanted to turn into a giant snake?


Okay then. Jacques is long-gone, hopefully to check his stock of paper umbrellas. (What will you do when he runs out?) Monty is looking askance at you. "Everything alright?"

God. "Would you stop asking that?"

"…I'm sorry." He sounds slightly wounded. Good. "I suppose you just have a habit of, er, appearing lost in thought."

"Nothing wrong with being lost in thought."

"No. No, of course not. I'm just wondering if there's something beyond—" He sees your face. "—Nevermind. Please, feel free to—"

"I can't now." And give him more reason to suspect anything? "You ruined it. Now we have to talk about— things."

"That is what people generally do, yes." Monty nods amiably. "So, I take it you come here often?"

What does he care? "Yes? I mean, I did— I've been, um, busy. Recently."

"Ah, wrapped up with Madrigal's issue? I question how right it was for her to involve a bystander, but I suppose it's none of my business. As long as it was voluntary. She's excellent in strongarming people—"

"I wasn't strongarmed." You? By her? You're offended. "For the record, it was entirely voluntary — and I am leading the—"

"Oh, I have no doubt you are. Again, the bystander factor. Better for you to take the fallout than her. But— it's none of my business, like I said. I hope you're making good progress?"

"…Yes?" Seriously, what does he care? This is getting too close to things you should, under no circumstances, mention. 'Ellery is fake and also dead and also I killed him to get a corpse' things. You need to talk about anything else. "Yes, it's, um, good. Great. Am I going to be evicted?"

"Are you going—" Monty turns his head as Jacques deposits two glasses onto the bar. You take the one with the (green, not pink) umbrella and take a long sip. That's the good stuff. You can hardly taste the salt. "—Thank you. Are you going to be evicted?"

"It's been a week, and I got— I mean, I don't know if all the letters, um, made it to you."

Monty squints. "That's called off."


"I thought we talked— how have you not heard?" He grabs his drink and leans in, lowering his voice. "Margo died, Charlotte—"

"Talking about Mrs. Lindew?" Jacques has reappeared.

"…Er, yes."

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"God rest her. What an awful way to go." Jacques shakes his head. "Wonder if it got to her, finally. Mourning poor old Tom."

What nonsense had Ellery spouted about that? Tom was an alligator? Ghost alligator? Whatever. "And how'd she go?"

"Be respectful. She founded this darn place." Jacques rubs his nose. "I heard she passed… unnaturally. A poisoned knife. Like I said, God rest her."

Unnaturally. A murder? Or a suicide? …After blackmail? Well, it's certainly not your fault— if she hadn't done anything blackmail-worthy, it would've been a non-starter. Duh. "That's real sad, Jacques. Why's my umbrella green?"

"Ran out of pink, young lady. You'll take what you can get." He shuffles off again.

If only you had somewhere to complain about the customer service— but the Nothing is the only speakeasy in miles. Dammit. You return to Monty. "So it's all called off, huh? I'm off the hook?"

"You are."

"Do I get compensated for my wasted time?"

"I would hope your compensation is in stronger relationships with…" (You're rolling your eyes.) "…Have you gained anything at all from this exercise?"

Have you? You don't care. You're not giving him the satisfaction. "No."

"No, of course not." He sucks resignedly at his soda water.

It's quiet, for a short time, until you feel the itchy urge to say something. Anything. "So what do you think about the Ellery-Mad—"

"What's the deal with Gil, Charlotte?"

You pause. "Um, I'm not sure what you—"

"He looked like Ellery, except for the… oozing. And he told me he was, er, beetles? Who wanted his own body? I believe you told me it'd take a long time to explain, but— we're here, we have some time. I'd like to know."

Ah. You did tell him that.

>[A1] Give him as much truth as possible, except for the murder part. Claim Ellery volunteered his body, and that you can't explain the melting. [Roll.]
>[A2] As above, but be honest about the melting. Which involves explaining the whole Fake Ellery/Real Ellery snafu. But Monty's trustworthy, isn't he? [Roll.]
>[A3] Invent a wilder explanation (lie). (Write-in.) [Roll.]
>[A4] Attempt to convince Monty that you already explained this to him, idiot. [Advanced Gaslighting — Roll.]

>[B1] Now's the time. Bring up the SMPD. [Roll.]
>[B2] No — you should drop his guard more, first. Continue this small talk.
>[B3] No — you should catch him off balance, first. Accuse him of being soft on Horse Face.
>[B4] No — you should get him emotional, first. Use Margo as a springboard back to his dead wife.
>[B5] Write-in. (What tack do you take?)

A fair trade. The deets for the deets.

>[A2] As above, but be honest about the melting. Which involves explaining the whole Fake Ellery/Real Ellery snafu. But Monty's trustworthy, isn't he? [Roll.]
>[B2] No — you should drop his guard more, first. Continue this small talk.

Look, Ellery is weird, and weird shit happens around him. Monty's dealt with his weird ass enough to understand that. If we can trust anyone with how Ellery is making strange mirror clones of himself, Monty is one of the few people we can trust with it. At the very least, he should know about how Ellery seems to wander off into god-knows-where, vanish for a while, and show back up at camp without any good reason for it. For his peace of mind, and no ulterior motives whatsoever if anything else.

As far as what it comes for talking about the Spooky Masked People Dimension, we should give it another moment or two first. If Monty is all up in arms about the whole "Ellery's melting into silver and making strange clones of himself to string along Madrigal and then melt into silver" debacle, we should make sure he's either fully certain that we have NOTHING to do with it before bring up the SMPD. Otherwise, he'll probably draw lines and connections where he shouldn't, and wonder how we know both Gil and Ellery's melting condition, and come to the conclusion we had something to do with it. Something that's to be avoided, if only to avoid spilling all of our secrets on the table for him.
I don't think Ellery has a melting into silver condition. He's found some way to prevent it as long as his copy inhabits the body, which is annoying because if we knew how he was doing it we might have a very quick and easy body for Gil.
>[A1] Give him as much truth as possible, except for the murder part. Claim Ellery volunteered his body, and that you can't explain the melting. [Roll.]
>[B2] No — you should drop his guard more, first. Continue this small talk.




Called for A2/B2.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 5 (+5 Half-truth, -10 Bad Liar) vs. DC 35 (+0 Sober as a Judge, +5 Mildly Suspicious, -20 Full Disclosure) to cover up your (consensual) murder of Mirror-Ellery!
Rolled 42 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

he'll never see through our web of lies
If you're still around, you may roll the rest. If not, I'll get the rest in 10 min or so.
Rolled 16, 71 = 87 (2d100)

Rolling and writing.
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>Spill the beans
>38, 11, 66 vs. DC 35 — Success

You weigh your options. Can you tell him? Would he even believe you? Would Madrigal get mad at you? Does she have the energy to get mad at you? Probably not. And even if Monty isn't personally tangled up in weirdness (…at least not at the moment), he's surely had enough close contact with Ellery to understand.

You clear your throat. "…Maybe we better move to a table."

One table later, Monty is looking expectantly at you. You take a prolonged sip from your cocktail, just to put him in his place, and push your hair behind your ear. "Alright, so yes, he's beetles. His mind is. He's sort of, um, disembodied, at the moment."

"And Ellery got himself possessed?"

"…Yes." Posthumously.

"That man." Monty shakes his head. "Love him, but he can't go a week without— well, you know. How did this all transpire?"

"The beetles, or the—?"

"I meant the possession, though I wouldn't awfully mind an explanation of the beetles, if you know it. I'm not sure I can picture it… though it has been a long time since I've seen a beetle."

"Oh. Um, I don't know exactly what caused it. He used to be a person, then he messed with the wrong thing and sort of… hatched? Into a couple hundred beetles, except they all still had his thoughts. But because he was all those beetles, he couldn't work the equipment to get back into his real body, so he was trapped. Until I rescued him. Out of the goodness of my heart."

Monty does not appear as awed as you'd expect. All he does is nod. "That was very kind of you, Charlotte."

"Yes. It was." You pause. "I mean, it was nothing, though. Compared to the— the— unfathomable depths of my, um, my kindness."

"I can't fathom them, to be sure." Monty's lips quirk. "That's all very interesting. I can't say I understand the half of it, but it seems you've got it all figured out. How exactly did Ellery get himself involved, though?"

"…That's complicated. Um. Madrigal knows all this, so if you don't believe me, ask her, alright? And I have— documents— for some of it. So."

"That's quite a start."

"…Yeah. So, uh, it begins with the Day of Reckoning—"

You regale Monty with the entire story as you know it: duplicates, death cycles, programmed behavior, memory loss. As you do, his demeanor slips from polite bemusement to something approaching hangdog. "…He'd go to those lengths?"

"I mean, he did." What a dumb question. "So yes?"

Monty swishes his drink. "I never thought he was so dissatisfied… he never brought anything to my attention. I would've helped if I'd known."

And a dumb statement. He's on a streak. "Okay, considering the elaborate clone replacement operation going on here, I'm pretty sure he didn't want anyone to know. So it's not like you—"

"Did he not trust us?"

"…Apparently not. Again, considering the— everything."

Monty stares bleakly at the table. You polish off the dregs of your drink. "So yeah. Broke the news to Fake Ellery, he got a little antsy about the prospects of his imminent accidental suicide, offered to donate his body, since he wasn't going to be using it, anyways. So that's the melting. I think that's, like, what he's made of?"

No response. He drinks his soda water. You opt to continue. "That, or that's just what he… breaks down into? And presumably reforms out of—"

"Reforms out of." He rubs his eye. "You're asserting that he's died multiple times in the last six months and I never— nobody ever noticed."

"I mean… you probably noticed him disappearing for a couple days at a time, but that's normal for him, I think. As is the memory loss— and he wasn't talking to anyone, anyways. And his corpse vanishes quick…"

"I see." (His expression is unchanged.) "Is there any way I can get a message to him? The original one."

"You can't contact him, or he'll bug out and go deeper into hiding, I think. If he wanted to be contacted, he… you get the idea?"


The most dismal 'yes' you've heard in a while. "Good. God, you're dense."

Monty nods at that. (Maybe he didn't hear you right?) "…Please let me know if you ever find out why he… did this. And if it was anything I could've intervened in, please send along my extensive apologies—"

Sure, old Monty was a dick, but you're fairly certain he didn't self-flagellate like this. And there's something to be said for that. Being fun at parties, you know. "I'm like 90% sure it has nothing to do with you, but whatever. Stop thinking about it. This is boring." You gesture broadly. (You're beginning to feel pleasantly fizzy in the head.) "Talk about— I dunno. I'm not good at conversation. Maybe 'cause I locked the Confabulating tutor behind the wall that one time and she never came back. I dunno. What did you use to drink?"

"What did I…"

"Don't say you've never drank. A), you're old. B), you weren't always stuck up."

"…I wasn't picky then, either. I rarely had the opportunity to really sit there and savor anything, and I couldn't afford to get very drunk, either. It'd usually just be a beer." He rubs the rim of his glass. "An Alexander for special occasions."

"Ah." You're not quite sure what that is. You're not even sure of the name of your cocktail, and that's all you ever order. "Very interesting. Do you miss it?"

"Not sure they could make it down here, so I don't think it matters. Even if they could, though… it's for the best I steer clear. For everyone's sake, yes?"

>[1] Aha! This is the time. There's a relevant segue and everything. Bring it up. (Roll.)
>[2] No... he's in a peculiar mood. You're not sure how he'll react. You should try and steer him toward something easier to pinpoint. (What mood are you going for? Write-in.)
>[3] Write-in.
>[1] Aha! This is the time. There's a relevant segue and everything. Bring it up. (Roll.)
>[1] Aha! This is the time. There's a relevant segue and everything. Bring it up. (Roll.)

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 0 (-5 Buzzed, +5 Easy Segue) vs. DC 60 (+30 Don't Want To Talk About It, -10 Tit For Tat, -5 Guilt, -5 Obligation) to extract an answer from Monty!

>Spend 1 ID for a +10 to all results?
>[1] Y
>[2] N

Degrees of success will correlate to how much info he gives up
Rolled 10 (1d100)

Beeg spendy
Rolled 20 (1d100)

Rolled 51 (1d100)

haha fuck
>20, 30, 61 vs. DC 60 -- Mitigated Success
Grody rolls, but at least you got the save at the end. Writing in a while.
>Go time
>20, 30, 61 vs. DC 60 -- Mitigated Success

You squint. Is this a good time? You can probably leverage the whole Ellery thing— make him feel like he owes you. He does owe you, really. All your timeline did was make him an upstanding family man. "…So why couldn't you afford to get very drunk?"


"That's what you said. What was stopping you?"

His eyes flick to the door. "It was just a figure of speech, really—"

"Was it?" You prop your elbows on the table. "Or does it have to do with your spooky past? With all the masked people? And the dying? And the Game, whatever that is? And—"

The blood has drained from Monty's face. He takes a long, shaky drink of his soda water, sets it down, and stares into the glass. His hand cups his forehead.

"Yes?" you provide.

"I don't want to relive this." He's not meeting your eyes.

"You don't have to relive it, you can just explain it for me. I think I ought to know, right? Since it's your fault I was even there, and—" You point. "—I told you about my big secret thing, so you totally owe me."

Now he meets your eyes, and his gaze is hot. "Is that why you told me?"

"What? No." A little bit. "That's absurd. That's— that's paranoia, right there. I just thought you were a worthy recipient of my knowledge, just like how I'm a worthy recipient of your knowledge—"

Monty half-rises from his seat, nearly knocking his glass over. "It's not about 'worthiness,' Charlotte. It's just none of your business. Anybody's business. It's over. It's done. It's been almost a decade, for God's sake. What's the use in digging this up— to feed your idle curiosity? That's not a use!"

"Keep it down!" Jacques hisses from the bar. "Did you read the notice or not?"

Chastised, Monty returns to his seat. "I owe you an apology, Charlotte. I am sorry I subjected you to— that. But I do not owe you an explanation."

You make to respond, but your thoughts have gone all murky. You smack your temple in an attempt to clear them up.

«I am shocked your plan to convince this man to divulge his most personal secrets to someone he barely knows didn't work. Shocked.»

Well, hey, Richard, thanks for the tip-off in advance.

«I was preoccupied with managing your blood alcohol uptake.»
«And now I see you have offended him. Congratulations.»

You didn't— offend— you can't offend Monty. Monty doesn't get offended. Which is really annoying.

«While I would ordinarily resign myself to you alienating every living being you encounter, this one has unilateral power over your shelter. Patch things up.»

He makes it sound so easy.

«It is. Don't yelp.»

Your shoulders jerk as a shock runs up your spine, but you mercifully suppress a yelp. Monty, broody across the table, furrows his eyebrows.


You cough. Your tongue feels thick in your mouth. "Um… okay, maybe you don't owe me an explanation."

Your voice is thick, too, like syrup. Monty tilts his head. "Yes."

"But, I mean, I already pretty much know. I still have the— you know— the memories." This is an exaggeration. You remember bits, but nothing substantial. And it's not like you understand the bits, either. But your voice washes past these difficulties. "I just need the last piece of the puzzle. Hardly anything."

He seems conflicted. "I—"

"And like I said, I did just provide my own disclosure. You don't owe me, but I'd certainly understand if you felt… obligated."

«This is not patching things up. This is furthering your ridiculous agenda. Cease.»

No! He lets you have a magyckal voice, you get to do what you want with it. "So… you know. Tell me?"

«It's not 'magyckal.' Which, again, is not a word. It's a fine-tuning of the parameters of—»

Whatever. Monty is clenching the edge of the table. "What are you doing?"

"Nothing." You are convincing.

"No, you— please, stop. Let it lie. I don't want this, Charlotte." He has the glint of a cornered animal. "Please don't— don't persuade me."

Why wouldn't you? You're an unstoppable force, and he's far from an immovable object. This is great. "I'm not 'persuading' anyone. Don't be dumb. I'm just saying, wouldn't it be nicer if you just explained all of it? You finally told someone? You've been carrying this around for God knows how long— I mean, no matter how terrible it is to be around you, it's got to be worse to be you, right? And you could make that easier, right here." Your voice is soft. Calming. "Come on."

He loosens his grip on the table, bit by bit, then pounds the table once with his fist. He shuts his eyes, then braces his forehead with his hand. "…"

"Come on."

You can watch the fight leaving him. "What did you need to know."

Wow! It was that easy? All you had to do was torment him a little? "I told you, the whole thing with the Game, and all the masked people—"

"The Game is common knowledge, Charlotte." He moves his hand to his chin. "I'll explain that."

"…And the masked people and everything?"

"I'll explain that. What Pillar are you from, again?"


"That'd do it. The Game, as a phenomenon, is localized to Pillars 11, 12, and 14. It was outlawed in 13, last I heard. I'm sure the rules and culture differ somewhat between Pillars, but the core remains intact." Monty pauses. "It's a sport. It is a… blood sport."


"The object of the Game is to kill your opponents before they kill you."

"Oh," you say. "…You're alive."

"Yes. I'm alive." Monty doesn't say anything after that.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Okay. You get the picture. Maybe call it an early evening, work on figuring out how to plan the heist stuff, etc. You wish you could mooch more free drinks off him, but unfortunately tonight's a night to stay (relatively) sober.

>[2] Press this topic.
>>[A] So, like, how many people has he murdered?
>>[B] Was he actually really good at this or did he just get lucky?
>>[C] Why would anyone want to participate in this? What's the prize?
>>[D] Why did /Monty/ want to participate in this?
>>[E] How does one actually win this? Is there, like, a points system?
>>[F] Okay, so he'd definitely be capable of murdering Horse Face, right? Why bitch out?
>>[G] Write-in.

>[3] Press about the SMPD. That's the actual issue here. [Roll. Writing-in arguments may help the DC.]
>>[A] (OPTIONAL) Helpfully provide a theory about it, so he knows he's already screwed and won't feel bad about clarifying. (Write-in. Archive diving recommended.)

>[D] Write-in.
>[3] Press about the SMPD. That's the actual issue here. [Roll. Writing-in arguments may help the DC.]
>>[A] (OPTIONAL) Helpfully provide a theory about it, so he knows he's already screwed and won't feel bad about clarifying.
What we know is:
-Charlotte found herself in a room with seven masked people (SMPD1), took off her own mask, put it back on, got killed many times, then found herself in a dark room alone with Monty (SMPD2)
-If Charlotte didn't put the mask back on, the masked people would've forced it on her.
-The killings somehow stripped her personality and replaced it with SMPD!Charlotte, but Charlie managed to retain a shred of herself that grew back afterwards.
-Charlotte said the mask did the killings, or made it feel like they happened.
-Yet the writing indicated the killings and personality replacement were done by a collective.
-Masked people in robes are Game Committee members
-You're inducted into the Committee after you kill a Committee member
-Committee members don't always wear masks, since SMPD!Charlotte didn't know she killed one until she was inducted.
-Judging by masked!Monty's words, the proper way to get into SMPD2 was to kill Monty.
-Just stealing a mask and putting it on would've worked too.
-SMPD2 contains rown of motionless masked and robed figures. Those absorbed into the dimension stay there forever.
-SMPD2 is inside a mask, and Monty and Charlotte weren't bodily there, just their minds
-Monty seemed to indicate they were specifically inside Charlotte's mask
-Once Charlotte OPENed the mask, it split into two and Charlotte was back at SMPD1, alive. Monty was also there.
-Monty didn't recognize Charlotte inside the mask, despite having seen her face outside the mask.

So, my theory is:
Once you put on the mask, it absorbs your mind and possibly remolds it (by making you relive the deaths of the previous owners?). The previous owners of the mask are all still in there, though not in full capacity. The masks are somehow all connected, as demonstrated by Monty's confusion over who killed whom. I don't quite know what to make of it further though. The connection between the mind in the mask and the mind in the body is unclear. You clearly don't have to wear the mask constantly, but you also likely don't have to wear the mask when you're killed to get to be stuck inside it. The Monty in the mask behaved as if he didn't know what transpired outside, but not as if his body was hijacked by someone else. Maybe it's something like a back-up copy? But if death isn't a reason to restore the back-up, what's the point? And he did manage to get back inside his body when the mask opened.
It also seems like there's some sort of collective that manages the masks and personalities, probably the real Committee. I first thought it was formed out of all the minds inside the masks, but Monty wasn't privy to its actions. Maybe the Committee takes over when you put on the mask, and switches back to you when you take it off?

Feel bad now. Besides, who needs a world without mystery anyway?
>[3] Press about the SMPD. That's the actual issue here. [Roll. Writing-in arguments may help the DC.]
>>>[A] (OPTIONAL) Helpfully provide a theory about it, so he knows he's already screwed and won't feel bad about clarifying. (Write-in. Archive diving recommended.)
Really just voting this because that guy put in a lot of work.


Called for 3A.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 20 (+25 Nearly There, -5 Buzzed) vs. DC 70 (-5 Guilt, -5 Obligation, -10 Broken, +0 Sober As A Judge, +10 Onto You, +30 Set Boundaries) to get the rest of the story from Monty!

Spend 1 ID for a +10 to the results? You are at 6/9 ID [forgot to mark the loss last update].
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 20 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>[1] Y
Rolled 29 (1d100)

The dice gods hate us
Come on let's see some big numbers bby
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Rolled 84 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>50, 59, 114 vs. DC 70 -- Mitigated Success
Drowned dice strike again! At least you scraped by... again... Monty clarifies but he's pissed at you

Writing shortly.
>Peak social awareness
>50, 59, 114 vs. DC 70 -- Mitigated Success

Well, that's all very nice. But he's not telling you everything. He thinks he can get away with not telling you everything. What an idiot. Why would you stop now? When you have every advantage?

Perhaps Monty sees something cold steal across you and that's why he stands to leave. You stand, too. You are between him and the door. "Hey, come on."

He smiles, but it's more like he pulls his lips back over his gums. "…Please, Charlotte. I told you—"

"You told me hardly anything! Common knowledge. I could've asked any old person and I'd have a — what — three-in-sixteen shot? I could get that from someone else in here, probably." You gesture around behind you. "Come on. Let's talk about the good stuff."

"It's not good. And it's not relevant. There's nothing you'll gain from—"

"Why don't I hear it and decide for myself? I'm very capable of that. If it's not relevant— you can say 'I told you so.'"

"I don't want to say 'I told you so.'" He appears incredulous. "I don't want to talk about it. I don't know how to put it clearer than that. I don't want to talk about it."

God, is that the best he can do? Really? You don't even have to try to win! "Well, I do, okay? Didn't you say you owed me a favor? I'm making it easy on you! You just have to talk for a little bit." You lean out over the table, propping your chin up on both hands. "And I already know most of it, besides. You'd really just be clearing up a few points."

"You know most of it."

"Yeah! I got that whole fake life, and you told me the rest of it. While you were all— jerkish." You squint, attempting to pull your jumbled memories together. "All the masked people are the Game Committee, aren't they? They… run the Game. And—"

You summarize what you know. Monty collapses into his seat halfway through and buries his face in his hand the whole rest of the time. "…So it sort of absorbs you, doesn't it? But I'm not sure if it's permanently, or…"

"I'm not sure either," Monty says dully.

"Okay, don't lie. You do, obviously. So why not just—?"

He stares at you.

«This is not patching it up. This is actively making it worse.»
«Back off before it gets—»

Back off now? When you almost have him? You don't need advice, Richard, you need another booster shot. You just need one more—


—push. No? Seriously?

«I am not enabling this.»

He is the least useful reptile on the face of the world which is apparently a giant snake god oh God oh God anyways!— you don't need him. You know what it feels like. If you just feel the same way again, then it'll all fall into place. You squeeze your eyes shut, and think, and grit your teeth as your nails involuntarily dig into your chin as something goes up your spine and your vision dims and— yes!

>[-1 ID: 5/(9)]

«No. No. That is illegal.»
«You are <not> permitted to—»

Who gives a damn! You open your mouth and the words ooze out like you chugged a whole jug of mead. This is good and this is how it's supposed to be. "So why not go ahead? Lay out your story. I'm sure I got some things wrong, so here's your chance to clear it up."

"You're doing it again," he says.

You shrug in feigned confusion.

"You're not charismatic, Charlotte. I'm sorry to put it like that, but you're not. And then it's like—" He snaps his finger.

"I'm just applying my natural talents," you say, put-out. "And you're just making excuses, cause you think you don't want to explain, but really you do."

"That's not—" Monty looks down, at the table, and laughs once. "Please stop."

"I'll stop when you clarify! Which, again, is hardly anything—"

"…" He's seemed tired since you got on this topic but now he looks exhausted. "Okay."


"You win."

You win! Of course you win. You were always gonna win, but still, it's exciting. You flop back down in your seat. "Yes! Amazing. Go on."

"…It's not like it matters. It's over. We're dead."

"Um," you attempt, "I don't think… I mean, yes. Um. Go on?"

"And I am being punished. Maybe by you. Which—" He hasn't met your eyes once. He's been fiddling with his empty glass. "—would make sense. Cycles, and all that."


He pushes the glass back and forth. "In that light, this could be a basic punishment. Or it could be a refresher on why I'm here in the first place, thus damning me further. What do you think?"

"Um, I—"

"I think there's no difference. I think that, when one is subject to eternal damnation—" He taps the glass on the table. "—one lacks options. And, in terms of eternal damnation, I think that it is better to get things over with. So here we are."

"…Are you going to tell me, or—?"

"I see why Madrigal roped you in— you're mostly right. The Game Committee—" He says it like it's a dirty word. "—does run the Game. And you do become a Committee Member by killing a prior Committee Member. That is, in fact, the purpose of the Game. Well. One purpose. The main purpose."

"…The others are…?"

"Fairly obvious to an onlooker, I'd assume. Population control and entertainment for the masses. Tamps down revolts. If you grow up in the culture you're a lot blinder to that, though." Monty sits back, taking the cup with him. "In any case, the purpose of the Game is to continuously refresh the Game Committee, which runs the Game. If you think that sounds a bit cannibalistic, you wouldn't be wrong, until you understand the purpose of the Committee. Which is in fact to be the totality of the government of Pillar 12. The President is a figurehead."

"I don't know what a president is," you say helpfully.

"…Um, it's like a king, but… people vote for it. But he's a figurehead, so the voting is irrelevant. All decisions are made by Committee. Their word is unilateral, final, permanent, and completely secret." Monty jiggles the glass. "They were created— I don't know how long ago— it predates the Flood. But the Committee was created to be the superior way to rule a populace. And this was accomplished through the harvesting and permanent storage of the country's— later the Pillar's— finest men and women, whose wisdom, keenness, and guidance would collectively find the best solution to any problem."

You process. "Wait, that's the— the masks?"

"The masks do both the harvesting and the storage. Bond with one— by which I mean kill its owner and put it on— and you may access the eternal wisdom of centuries of exalted sages. And when you inevitably get pushed off a balcony, you'll ascend to their ranks and dispense your brilliance to generations to come."

He's entirely deadpan. "Um…" you say. "…Do you actually feel this way, or…"

"That's how it is in theory, in any case. In practice, every single one of those is full to the brim with the dead-bored minds of slimy power-grabbers, backstabbers, cowards, morons, and sociopaths. You know, the people anyone would expect to luck into winning a murder game, except for whoever invented the murder game, apparently. And it is up to their vote how a million people live their lives. And nobody knows it."


"Nobody. Maybe ten people, all with a vested interest in keeping it secret. And now you. So there you have it."

You're still processing. "…So you were a- a member of the—"

"No, I just have intimate knowledge of it. Of course I was."

"So you were, like—" You squint. "—important."

"You'd think so, yes. Member of the shadow oligarchy, and all. No. I was a mouthpiece who looked good in a cloak. The real Committee— or my segment of it— was in the mask. Now, to be fair, so was I."

«Put in a manse, presumably.»

"…Um, permanently?"

"No. When the mask was on. And then, for all my labors, I had the privilege of watching loathsome people squabble over how much to ration the poor: next to nothing or nothing."

"Oh!" You love it when it all slots together. "And that was your first spark of a conscience—"

"Oh, no. No. I supported the policies, for the most part. I was just incensed over my lack of control over them. I'd been scrabbling for power most of my adulthood, and I'd obtained it, and then I ended up— literally— a warm body. It was not the happiest year of my life."

"No." You're plum out of questions, but look at that, Richard! Look how well that went! He's not even mad at you, or anything. "I bet not. Now, that wasn't even that bad, was it? You just— perpetuated the suffering of— hundreds of thousands of— it wasn't that bad. Doesn't it feel good to get it off your chest?"

Finally, Monty looks at you. His eyes are red-rimmed. "No."


"No. You're a loose cannon. The whole camp will know in a week." He clenches his lips. "It's what I deserve, frankly. I was just thinking things were going too well. So it works."

"Oh! Yes. It works. Good." You nod vigorously. "I'm glad we could—"

"No, no. Stay here." Monty gestures to your chair. "You know, I was thinking. You said this was equivalent to you informing me about Ellery. Yes?"


"It's not. You don't care about Ellery. You lose nothing by telling anybody. Your equivalent is telling me what you are."

"…'What' I am?"

"Call me a lot of things, and you'd be right about a lot of things, but not 'dense.' Not 'dense.' No, sit down." (You had begun to rise.) "You owe this to me, if you will. What manner of thing are you? What with your ensorcellment and your teeth and your 'episodes' and your flagrant disrespect of human norms."

"…My teeth?" You touch your mouth.

"They're all pointed, sometimes. And sometimes not." Monty exposes his own prenaturally straight teeth. "I did notice."

«…I will have to modify the filter.»

You grimace, close-lipped. "…What do you think I am?"

"Me? I think you think you're some manner of demon come to haunt me in particular. And perhaps you've branched out to Ellery along the way. You're still welcome a tent, of course." Monty sees your look. "I could be wrong. I am asking."

«I don't care what you say.»
«But it is not to involve me.»
«And I will <intervene> if it does.»

>[1] What are you? (Write-in.)
>"I am the latest heir of the noble Fawkins family line. We are 100% human and can trace that humanity back through dozens of generations. At no point in our long and illustrious history did any fraternization with demons occur, and frankly I'm offended you would even imply such a thing. Honestly if we were somewhere civilized it could get you executed, we Fawkins are very close in line for the throne. It's been a while since I was above surface so I couldn't tell you how far exactly, but definitely within the top dozen. Alsothere'sasnakeinmyheadthatgivesmemagicpowers."

Maybe if we blather on for a bit Richard will stop paying attention and we can rush that last sentence out.

Also get wrecked Richard. I wasn't even going to say anything until you said not to.
>[1] What are you? (Write-in.)
Really what >>4686811 said but throw in some sarcasm about how "Yes, Monty, my whole purpose in existence is to be a spectre which haunts this terrible slice of the end of nowhere. And more specifically you, the barman. I'm the ghost of your past and future come to haunt you, certainly."
Rolled 12, 68, 27 = 107 (3d100)

Called! Rolling some innocuous numbers here... DC 80
Aaaaand writing shortly.
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>Excuse me??

You're entirely unsure how to respond, or how to feel at all. Is it flattering or offensive? Obviously it's offensive. Calling you a demon. But it does lend rather an aura of mystique. Well, demon mystique. But it means he considers you equal to him, or better, and if he was important— well—

Okay, but 'demon.' That's just an insult! A totally groundless one! You can't just sit here and get insulted, especially not by Monty, who on top of being a gormless cornball hack is also washed-up. Imagine having your best days behind you! You can't. "Oh, yes, certainly. I have come here, to a podunk hole-in-the-mud, to torture you, a sad one-armed sweater man, for your decade-old crimes of killing some idiots who were asking for it and making some bad policy decisions."

Monty gazes levelly at you. "Yes."

"Then, um, you're wrong? Like… really wrong? I am completely human, not a drop of… er… just as a random example, not a drop of reptile-slash-god blood in here, all human— all royal, really. Very royal. From a long line of very human, royal people. And frankly, I am affronted that you'd insinuate— certain members of my family would execute you for that, you know."

"Would they?"

Does Richard count as a member of your family? (Oh, God.) Richard would execute him for you, right? "Yes. And I would, in fact, feed you to a pit of— of venomous animals, just as soon as I obtained said pit. Which I will, obtain a pit. Of venomous animals. In the near future."

"That does sound like a more classical damnation. I'll look forward to it." A smile plays on his lips.

"No, I— it's not good. It's threatening! It's— you'd be bitten!" You're a slightly irritating level of tipsy. "You can't— and I'm not a demon! I said!"

"Very convincingly, yes." Monty raises his eyebrows. "But you haven't provided much of an alternative. Even if you are human, 'completely'… the teeth, Charlotte."

"My teeth are human," you scoff. "And you can't prove that— that there's anything wrong with— you're wrong. You're the wrong one."

"Listen, I'm being patient. I understand you've had something to drink, but unless there's something in there I'm unaware of, you should be fully capable of facing the problem. And I can just sit here."

"Well, I— I don't have to—" You stand. "I can just go and— not undergo this farce!"

"Then I'll be well within my rights to write you up for improper disclosure of mitigating factors. And that, with everything else on file… come on. I'm asking remarkably little." He gestures toward the table. "Sit down. If you won't cop to full demon, I would accept, say, partial demon, or being possessed by a demon?"

There's no such thing as a partial demon (surely?), and even if there was— "The Fawkins would never miscgenate, you— you—"

"Possessed, then? It would of course not be your fault. You would simply, at random intervals, become consumed with the desire to destroy t- hey, now that I'm thinking about it, it would explain your file."

He's close. He's close and he doesn't even know it. Has anyone been close? Madrigal doesn't count, that was all Richard's fault, anyhow. You can't remember anyone being close, which— well, Ellery, maybe, but he doesn't count either. For anything. Nobody else. You've skated through three years without anyone knowing, much less understanding, and Monty is right here saying exactly what you've wanted to hear— it's not your fault. Of course it's not your fault. It's Richard's fault, Richard who has eaten your father, and ruined your life, and is busy ripping up your past with something like glee. Richard is why you're in this podunk hole-in-the-mud. Richard is why you have a file of behavioral complaints. Richard is probably also a demon here to torture sad sweater men, for all you know. It wouldn't surprise you a whit.

If you could just tell Monty this, then— he'd know, and he'd be on your side. Unlike Madrigal or Gil. Of course it wouldn't be your fault! Of course! You wipe your mouth with your hand and lean across the table, suffused with a new eagerness. "Yes, it would. But actually, it's a-"

A- what is Richard? You should know this. He is a… tube, sort of. A bitey tube. A scale line. A necklace animal. He is around your neck. «I told you not to tell him.»

That's not… (a sn- a snarly, sneaky- what?) How is that fair? You should— be allowed to—

"A what?" Monty prompts.

"A…" You furrow your brow. "Um, don't worry about it. Just know that I've, um, been granted—" What? What have you been granted? Something, surely, or why would you have said that? But nothing's happened to you at all. You're completely human. (You remember saying that.) "—um—"

"…Are you feeling— I keep asking this. Are you feeling alright?"

Are you feeling alright? Are you feeling anything? Your necklace is constricting. «Why don't you quit while you're ahead.»

Ahead of what? Why is there a voice in your head? That can't be healthy. Especially when it's a man's voice. "I, uh— yes."

"…Were you about to tell me something?"

"No? I, um, I don't think so." What would you even have to tell him? "Wrong again."

"Okay. Um, you look… bad, Charlotte. Is this another episode?"

You touch your face. "Another what?"

"A—" Monty shakes his head. "We should get you back. This topic isn't over, but it— it's getting late, anyhow. Thank you again for your efforts… I don't know what to call it. Last night. You were invaluable, even if that will have to go— largely unrecognized."

"Because people are dumb," you grouse. (You feel drunker than one cocktail. What happened?)

«You may experience some knock-on neurological effects.»

Some what? Knock-on what? At least it's a good voice. Sort of a radio person's voice.

"…Well, it's not their fault. Come on. Can you walk?"

"Duh." You stand decisively, right until your legs wobble. You grip onto the table for support. "Oh— I mean— give me a—"

"No, come here." Monty circles the table and puts your arm over his shoulder, ignoring your protests. "I could pick you up, but you don't seem that far gone. …Hopefully. Shall we?"

You shall: he schleps you back toward the bar, where Jacques peers at you. "She's not normally a lightweight."

"No? Does she normally drink that?"

"Oh, yes. Only that. My attempts to broaden her tastes have ended in—" Jacques throws up his hands. "—abject failure. It takes her four or five before she's catatonic, not one."

"Hey!" you say.

"I call it like I see it, missy. You're lucky you have a man to take you home this time— beats sleeping it off here, again. Now, I trust he won't take advantage of the situation—"

"Charlotte would know better than to go out with a cad." You can't see Monty's face, but he sounds smiley. "I'm also married. I hope this covers the tab—?"

The chit he deposits does cover the tab, and you're out of there shortly after. The way back passes in a muddle, then you're in your tent. Monty stands in the doorway.

You rub your forehead. "I, uh— I didn't need you to—"

"No, you didn't, but it beats sleeping it off in there, doesn't it? Um." He hesitates. "If you do have something to tell me, then of course I'm always available. …Except at night. Please don't wake me up."

"I don't have anything to tell you." You blink hard. "Um… are you mad at me?"


"…Making you tell me all that…"

"I believe in... separating my feelings... from how I treat others. I don't always succeed, but I try."

"Oh." You think. "That doesn't answer the question."

"Have a good night, Charlotte." Monty withdraws and is gone.

Richard, a snake, is sliding off your neck and into your lap. «And how did that go for you.»

How did— hey! Hey! You do have something to tell—

«I can do it again. So let's not, please.»
«It's a hassle.»

It's a hassle? He- he- tranquilized you! Right there! In front of Monty! You could wring his stupid skinny snake neck, his snake neck, you know what a snake is—

«You were intent on jeopardizing everything we have collectively worked towards. Ergo, I will utilize everything at my disposal to stop you.»
«You are also incapable of wringing my neck, and would look silly if you tried.»

You glare. He pokes his tongue out at you. «Now, you have a brief period of time before your ride stops by. I recommend you use it wisely.»

(Choices next.)
>What do you do before heading out to meet your heist crew?
>[1] Stop in to see Madrigal. You can't go over anything about Ellery right now, but you can probably check on her condition, and her letter did say to come as soon as possible.
>[2] …Wait! Didn't Lucky have that note about Horse Face? 'Pay Garvin'? You totally forgot! Go to confront Horse Face about it before it's been too long to bring it up.
>[3] Practice intimidating faces in your mirror shard. All these people are used to dealing with Richard. Who is… not you. You should try to mitigate this. (Gain +10 temp bonus to appearing like a competent crime lord)
>[4] Sulk. Go to hell, Richard.
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] …Wait! Didn't Lucky have that note about Horse Face? 'Pay Garvin'? You totally forgot! Go to confront Horse Face about it before it's been too long to bring it up.
>>[2] …Wait! Didn't Lucky have that note about Horse Face? 'Pay Garvin'? You totally forgot! Go to confront Horse Face about it before it's been too long to bring it up.

How does Monty knowing about Richard jeopardize everything? His nerd delving club already knows. From the display just then Monty has almost certainly guessed most of the relevant details. Richard is just mad that everything IS actually his fault. Monty was right.

>[2] …Wait! Didn't Lucky have that note about Horse Face? 'Pay Garvin'? You totally forgot! Go to confront Horse Face about it before it's been too long to bring it up.

If we put it off much longer, he'll act all smug, talking about 'hypotheticals' that made him live 2 years in 7 hrs or something, and brush it off. Besides, we could use a pick-me-up of brash arrogance to bounce back from Richard basically roofie-ing us in front of Monty and the whole bar.
>How does Monty knowing about Richard jeopardize everything?
1) Nerd club does *not* know he's a snake, or know you're after the crown
2) You don't see nerd club on a regular basis
3) Richard is significantly more concerned with things like "jeopardizing the mission" as a snake
4) Richard is a raging hypocrite who will never admit to doing anything wrong
yeah I mean obviously mentioning the crown will be bad, but with all the weird shit underwater snek in head doesn't really seem like a dealbreaker.

I mean look at Ellery for god's sake. Unless there's something especially bad about snakes in particular?
>Unless there's something especially bad about snakes in particular?
Less "bad" and more "distinctive," if one were to be in the know about particular things. And even if Monty isn't, the chances of him telling someone who does or just finding out independently is are too high to risk it. (Basically, him bring a snake is a giveaway for... ??????)
>>[2] …Wait! Didn't Lucky have that note about Horse Face? 'Pay Garvin'? You totally forgot! Go to confront Horse Face about it before it's been too long to bring it up.


Called and writing shortly.
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1.53 MB GIF

Ugh. So you do. …Your ride?

«The woman with the hat.»

Branwen, then, and her… shark-thing. Scood? You guess that makes sense, though you have no idea how she intends to remain inconspicuous.

«She's not just riding up into camp. There is a pick-up point.»
«This was all predesignated while you were too busy to help.»

That's a funny way of saying 'while you were unconscious and being piloted around by a snake with a suspiciously wringable neck.' Richard.

«I fail to comprehend how you even imagine that succeeding.»
«Again, you are incapable of it. And I would, in addition, bite you. To hopefully instill a permanent lesson.»

He's just absolutely no fun at all, is he? All the fun's wrung out of him, like a nasty little sponge. Or like his neck. Hypothetically.

…Anyhow, you have a brief period of time. You could sit here and do nothing, just to stick it to Richard. But now that the distraction of Monty is gone, something that's been niggling at you is niggling a lot more. Did you have something to ask Horse Face about? Didn't… Lucky mention him?

Yes, he did. And there was that note, too. Highly suspicious. And if you wait too long on it, he'll have all the more room to evade your questions. Of course, he may already have too much room… but better now than later, right?

You pluck Richard from your lap («Excuse me.»), arrange him jauntily on your shoulder, and make to go.

Your attempt to burst into your neighbor's tent unannounced is stymied by the fact that it's closed up. You're forced into that most ignoble of positions: knocking.

Horse Face pokes his head out after a few moments. His face falls when he spots you. "Back again?"

"Yes!" You jab your finger up into his face. "Explain yourself, blackguard!"

"Didn't I give you back your thing? What else do you want?"

"You— um, can I come in?" It really lacks the same impact when you're shut out in the cold.

"Will you stand here and yell at me until I let you in?"


He sighs, withdraws his head, and opens the flap of the tent. "You're charming. Don't touch anything, will you? Seriously."

"Oh," you say, "like you didn't touch any of my things, you—"

"Correct. Uh, there's nowhere to sit, so you'll have to stand." Indeed, there's nowhere at all to sit: Horse Face's ottoman and armchairs have vanished, replaced with a large jasper statue. You don't recognize the subject: some kind of androgynous humanoid. A spiral is carved into the sheer surface where its face should be. Horse Face's notepad by the base of the statue, open. "What's your latest grievance?"

"I have reason to believe you were fraternizing with— with perpetrators of malfeasance—"

"And in Inglish?"

You huff. "A Wind Court guy insinuated you were working with him, and I found his note. Which said to pay you. Why are you being paid by the Wind Court?"

Horse Face studies you intently. "And if I were to tell you no such thing was happening?"

"Then I wouldn't believe you, since you're a liar."

"Fair point. Just a moment." He extracts his hands from his pockets and strides over to one of his shelves, where he retrieves a small box. He plucks two white cards from the box and returns to you. He hands you a card.

C.M.S. Garvin *** Private Investigator

You make a face. "I thought you were a whatever. A crypto-theologist."

"I have multiple interests. Plenty of time for them, too."

You turn the card over in your hand. The other side is blank. "…So the Wind Court hired you as a private investigator?"

"You could say that, yes."

"Of what? Or who?"

Horse Face takes back the card. "I'm afraid that's not for me to disclose. Is that all?"

>[1] No, seriously. Of what? Or who? (Roll. Writing-in arguments for why you ought to know this may give you a bonus.)
>[2] What's on the other card?
>[3] What's with the statue?
>[4] That's all. Await Branwen.
>[5] Write-in.
>[1] No, seriously. Of what? Or who?
Of course it's for him to disclose, who else could do it?
And it's in his best interests, 'cause we're an investigator too (just ask Madrigal), and when we smell a _secret_ we can't help but _investigate_ it, so we _won't_ leave him alone until our investigation is over.
>[1] No, seriously. Of what? Or who? (Roll. Writing-in arguments for why you ought to know this may give you a bonus.)
We ought to know because he owes us a debt he can never repay, and we're curious. Especially if he was investigating someone in camp.


>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Annoying) vs. DC 80 (+20 ???, +10 Experienced Stonewaller) to get Horse Face to break confidentiality!

Spend 1 ID for a +10 to all results? You are at 5/9 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 79 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

No spendy, we don't need it. Watch this nat 100.
Rolled 34 + 5 (1d100 + 5)


No spendy, it's unlikely to work with it, so may as well save the ID.
Rolled 64 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>[2] N
>Mitigated Success
>No Spendy
Called. Writing in approx. 90 minutes.
>Yeah okay b-but
>84, 39, 69 vs. DC 80 — Mitigated Success

"No!" He thinks you'll let him off that easily? "Really, what is it? Or who? Can you say if it's a what or a who?"

"I have professional standards," Horse Face says tetchily.

"Oh, and you were so professional when you STOLE my—"

"This has nothing to do with that."

"Everything you're involved in has to do with that, because you're a thief. And a liar." You pause. "Is that why you came here? The case? I thought you wanted to talk to Madrigal about something. Unless you lied."

"I came to this region for a change of scenery, and to this camp in particular because I heard my good friend Madrigal was here. The case came entirely incidentally."

"Uh-huh." Suspicious. "And how long ago were you good friends with Madrigal?"

"500 loops? Twenty years, ish? Hard to say." Horse Face picks at his teeth. "That has nothing to do with it, either. I don't discuss ongoing cases."

"Even with a fellow detective?" You straighten your shoulders.


"…Um, I am a— I am a detective. I've— I've found out—"

"I believe you." He puts his hands in his pockets. "It makes no difference. I still don't discuss ongoing cases. You don't even have a reason to want to know this."

"I," you say haughtily, "am driven by the noble spirit of inquisitiveness, which lies at the center of all thinking men, um, and women, and which spurs me to— endlessly pursue my— you wouldn't even get it. You're just driven by… craven… liarness."

"I wouldn't say that, but I appreciate your perspective. Unfortunately, the noble spirit of inquisitiveness is not a valid—"

You stand discreetly on your tiptoes. "Is my endless pursuit of the truth valid? My endless, persistent, noisy, late-night—"

"It's not endless. It'll end in two to four weeks, after which I'll remember to tell Mr. Blaine to be more subtle, and/or will not give you that business card."

"Ah." You try not to look like you're off-balance. "But for two to four weeks, I will ask about it constantly. Every time I see you. And since I'm right over there that'll be often."

Horse Face doesn't say anything.

"And you can't even do anything about it. What are you gonna do? Tell Monty? Monty wants to evict you! Kill me? But you need to take your creepy little notes about me, and anyhow, even if Monty wouldn't kill you for it, all the fleabitten louts around here would string you up for hurting a poor, young, innocent girl. And they'd knock your skull in with a rusty shotgun, to make sure it took. You still feel it when you die, don't you?"

The involuntary twitch of his hand toward his throat gives you all the answer you need. "Right. So if you tell me now, we can just save all that bother, and—"

"It's a who."


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"You asked if it was a 'what' or a 'who.' It's a who. I am investigating a person." Horse Face looks down his nose at you. "I'm not about to tell you who that is, as, again, I have professional standards. And I am being paid. How about you use your detective skills and come back to me with who it is?"

You furrow your brow. "Is it Ellery? Because I guarantee that I've made more progress on him than you have. I haven't exactly seen you putting in any effort—"

"I'm not about to tell you who it is. Come back to me." Horse Face strolls over to the statue and picks up his notepad. "I'm glad I could answer your question."

He's glad? He's just trying to brush you off! Even though, well, he did answer your original— but you can't just go. Not when he so plainly wants you to. You can't make him feel like he's won. You walk on over next to him. "What's with the statue? It's weird."

Horse Face is less put out than you hoped. (He seems to actually enjoy discussing cryptotheology. Disappointing.) "This? It is weird, yes. It's not a standard depiction of any of the Eight, even though some cultures did ascribe more-human forms to them. I'm more inclined to believe it's a tribute to a Deep God— perhaps not a portrayal of it, but of a cultist or follower. See the spiral?" He gestures to the statue's face. "Common symbol. It's not quite a spiral. There's no loose ends to it— it's all connected together. Texts on this are difficult to find, for a number of obvious reasons, but my interpretation is that it's a closed system. Everything is contained within it, and inevitably everything—" He traces the spiral. "—descends inward, deeper, toward the God. Or it could be the reverse, in that everything stems from the God in the center here. It's possible it depends on which way the spiral is facing. Of course, it could also be entirely wrong. That's the trouble with conjecture, isn't it?"

"Er… yes." The statue is weird. It has a weird presence. The more you look at it the more you want to leave as soon as possible.

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

"That is the trouble with conjecture," you mumble.

"Now, the material is interesting. I'm not a geologist, but I've been led to believe this is composed of bloodstone, a sort of jasper, despite blood being, of course, popularly associated with the Eight, the mortal enemies of the— where are you going?"

"I'm busy," you say vaguely, caught inching towards the door.

"Ah." Horse Face appears torn. (Either he was willing to bypass his irritations with you for the sake of lecturing, or he was so caught up in lecturing he plain forgot.) "Have a nice evening, Lottie."

"Yup." You escape.

«That was interesting, Charlotte.»
«Your anti-intellectualism never fails to disappoint.»

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You aren't anti-intellectual, you're anti-boring. You're fine with learning things that spark your noble spirit of inquisitiveness, etc. Like, who is Horse Face investigating? You hope it's Ellery. You want to rub it in how far ahead you are.

«How childish.»
«Why don't you concentrate on appearing prepared for this outing. You have my reputation to uphold.»

His— ah, yes. As he was busy pretending to be you.

«I was busy being you. Which was as unpleasant as one might imagine. I haven't the slightest how you manage it without driving yourself insane.»
«Ah, it's because you have me.»



Your efforts at appearing prepared consist of tying your hair up (unable to find a hair tie, you resort to using Richard again), semi-begrudgingly pocketing the mask Richard insists you bring (you don't like to do anything Richard insists on, but it is a cool mask), and dragging the crate of chit out to the center of your tent. It's soothing even locked away. You'd like to wrap your arms around it and soak it in forever—

>[+1 ID: 5/(9)]


—which you will not do, since that's how people die of chit exposure, and all that. But you do in fact have to wrap your arms around it, since you have to somehow haul it out to Branwen's meeting point. To be clear, you are not not strong. Richard. You are reasonably muscled for your gender, and age, and normal height, and so on. But this is a large box of lucky rocks, in essence, and you are not suited for hauling large boxes of rocks. Not that you would want to. It's not dignified.

«To be <clear,> Charlie, you are below average even accounting for demographics.»
«Which is unfortunate, considering the amount of physical activity you are now accustomed to. But your ability to gain muscle mass is impeded along with everything else. Therefore, you are stuck with these flabby stump arms.»
«You still have to haul the crate.»


«Fortunately, I am able to compensate for your remarkable deficit in physical prowess.»
«Hold still.»

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

It's all too routine: shock up the spine, slight metallic taste, slight emptiness, and in return the swell of power. In your arms and shoulders, this time around. God. You can't remember why you were so against this, before you found the Crown. Were you even against this?

«I don't know why you would be.»
«Go ahead.»

The crate lifts with nary a grunt or jostle or desperate attempt to prop it on your knees. You hold it above your head, just to show off. (One-handed proves to be too wobbly.) "Nice!"

«Now… to transport it.»

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The logistics are difficult. Your tent lies on the very edge of camp, which minimizes potential witnesses, and you know for sure Horse Face is cloistered in his tent. But you can't fully rule out anyone spotting you wading into the Fen with a 70-pound mystery crate, and you decide in the end that you'll just have to risk it. If you wait for it to get any darker, you'll be late by the time you make it out to the smuggler den. So out you go, trying not to jingle or clatter or (God forbid) drop the thing on your foot, and you only relax when the trees close in behind you.

Richard says that Branwen isn't far out— though with evening well upon you, 'far out' is growing fuzzy. In the end, you fix the image of her shark-thing in mind while Richard issues directions from atop your scalp. Eventually you locate her in a small clearing, around which all the trees are gouged with deep 'X's. Fish-sign?

Branwen is dressed in the odd combination of cargo shorts, a lacy, dated shirt, a long vest, a bandolier, and her hat. She is squatting against the flank of her shark-thing, which gnaws happily at a log. "Fawkins," she signs when she sees you.

You drop the crate, which was beginning to strain, and attempt to extract a trailing of moss from your hair. "Um, hi. I'm here for…"

"Know what you're here for. Don't got time for pleasantries. Help me tie that up." She's fished a length of cord from her bandolier and wields it menacingly.


"On Sgwd." She slaps the shark-thing's side affectionately. "Only bites when I tell 'im to. Won't tell 'im to if you help."

How do you spend the ride over?

>[1] In silence, trying not to get motion-sick. You mean, er, girding yourself for dealing with hard-bitten criminals. (Temp +5 to relevant rolls.)

>[2] Asking Branwen questions.
>>[A] How's her returned snake doing? Any other thievery attempts?
>>[B] Does she, um, steal valuable objects from museums often?
>>[C] Didn't Richard say she invited BK to join the crew? (Or… Earl, his name is.) How does she know him?
>>[D] Does she have any animal products available for purchase? Poisons, maybe? Paralytics? Not that you have immediate use for them, but you never know.
>>[E] Does she know how Madrigal's currently doing? (Fill her in.)
>>[F] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in.

>[2] Asking Branwen questions.

>>[A] How's her returned snake doing? Any other thievery attempts?
>>[E] Does she know how Madrigal's currently doing? (Fill her in.)

One set leads into the other. If we don't have the time, the first should be fine. That temp +5 would be nice, but getting a bit of a better idea of what Branwen has been up to is probably worth it, and Madrigal is a friend of hers. She might have an idea on how to reverse Madrigal's Snake-itis before it becomes terminal.
>[2] Asking Branwen questions.
>>[A] How's her returned snake doing? Any other thievery attempts?
>>[B] Does she, um, steal valuable objects from museums often?
>>[C] Didn't Richard say she invited BK to join the crew? (Or… Earl, his name is.) How does she know him?

I want that +5


Called for 2 A, B, C, E and writing.

>If we don't have the time, the first should be fine.
It's gonna take at least a full hour to get over there. You have plenty of time.
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>Are we thereeee yet

You help tie up the crate, though you're careful to note that this is due to your overflowing magnanimity, and not because you are frightened of being eaten by Scood. Branwen grunts in response.

She grunts again when you inquire as to the existence of some specialized saddle or bridle for the shark-thing. "Already rid it once, didn'tja?"

"…Yes…" And your thighs were achey the whole morning after.

"Head like a sieve," she remarks, and barks something foreign at the shark-thing. Scood stoops obligingly. "Don't got time to waste, 'less you care for that Q!lw biting yer head off."

"That… Kullwa?"

"Q!lw." Branwen pronounces the clicking sound deftly. "The fish? Tall 'un? Fins?"

"I know. God." You've heard the proper name for fish before, but it's your firm belief that no word should contain clicking. "Just give me a minute to—"

You're up on Scood after… longer than a minute. (There's not much to hold onto, okay.) Branwen fails to comment on your competence level, instead swinging up after you and positioning herself ahead of the dorsal fin. She pats Scood's snout. "Hup."

Scood sets off at an amble. You peer out from behind the dorsal fin. "I thought we didn't have time to waste?"

"Can't go fast under trees," Branwen says. "Hup."

You settle back, resigned to a slow start. At least you're pinioned between the fin and the crate, which provides both a comforting wholeness and a back rest.

There's little conversation for a long while, as Branwen issues short commands and you try to avoid thinking of nausea. It wasn't so bad last time, when you were up to speed, but right now you're decidedly not. Having entered a stretch of potholed turf, Scood is taking its time. Eventually, though, you tire of 'hup's and 'ho's and tongue-clicking. "Branwen?"


"…I was wondering how you knew, um, BK." No. "Earl."

"Earl?" Branwen spits. "Customer."

"Oh. Really? He buys animals from you?"

"Blood. Usually Sgwd's. Usually… monthly."

That means nothing to you. "Um, what does he use blood for?"

"Ain't yer business." Branwen pushes down her hat. "…Night jobs. Still ain't yer business."

Astonishingly, that contrives to mean less than nothing to you. You suppose you'll have to ask BK about it directly. You can't envision him keeping something secret. "Do you often rob innocent people with him?"

She turns her head. "You set this up, Fawkins."

Thanks a lot, Richard. "…Um, yes, I— I meant— you know, in a playful way. Haha, robbing innocent people."

"Hm." She snorts unreadably. "If it pays good. Don't get asked much, though. Sometimes with him, sometimes not, don't matter."

"…That's very immoral. Haha."

"Should've locked their things up better if they want 'em so bad, is the way I see it."

Try as you might, you can't think of a single way to respond to that. You lapse back into silence.

It takes a long while for you to speak again: Scood breaks out onto the Mud Flats, and into a gallop; it grows dark, and Branwen takes a glorb and a collapsible pole from her bandolier. She fixes cord to the glorb, and to the pole, and holds the whole contraption out to the side like an anglerfish's bobbing lure. You try hard to avoid being whacked in the face by it. "Hey, Branwen."


"…How's your snake doing? It hasn't been stolen again, has it?"

"Snake's fine." She presses between Scoop's eyes, and it veers right. "Stopped up the trapdoor with barnacle glue. Ain't nothing getting through there. Nobody's come to ask about it, neither."

"…That's good." You suspect the Namway people were preoccupied with their facility falling to pieces, but it was worth a double-check. Did they get a snake in time for that three-day deadline, then? And what was going to happen if they didn't? "Um, speaking of snakes… Madrigal."

Branwen sucks in through her teeth. "Haven't seen 'er."

"…She did tell you about what happened, right?"

"Damned fool, she is. Mucking with snakes. Damned fool." She shakes her head. "Damned fool."

"…So yes. Alright." You're not quite sure how to address this. It seems a sensitive topic. "Um, she's not dead yet."

«Stellar approach.»

"Didn't think she was." Branwen looks sidelong at you. "Said she'd live. But it'd be a hard road. You taking care of 'er?"

…Richard was? Sort of? "Y-up. Yes. She is in… good hands."

"Good." She looks back ahead. "She's a damned fool. But she don't deserve this. Tell 'er I'll come by one of these days."

"…I'll tell her. Um, but she's— I don't know how coherent she is—"

"Don't matter. I'll come by."

You guess she will, then. You're out of questions once again, though, and so you fall back into quiet: but not for long. Ten minutes later, Branwen whistles, and Scood comes screeching to a halt. You are outside a crevice in the ground: there is a red-painted stake in the the mud in front of it.

Branwen kicks the shark-thing to make it crouch, then scoots past you to untie the crate. Her initial attempt to lift it ends with her red-faced. "Two-woman job."

It could be one-woman, if Richard gave you another boost, but you're feeling somewhat drained. No need to show off. (…For the moment.) You slide off, ignoring the soreness in your thighs, and help her lower the crate. "Do you need to tie Scood up, or—?"

"Does what he's told." Branwen scratches his side. "And he eats thieves."

"…Got it."

It is dank and claustrophobic inside the crevice, which widens into a chamber that barely fits a table and a couple stools, let alone BK and Felicia, who both crest six foot. BK stands when he spots you, which just makes matters worse. (His head bumps the ceiling.) "THIRDSDAY?!"

"Um," you say.

"Is that YOU? I had NO IDEA that—" And he leans over the table, his hand outstretched. ("Watch it," Felicia snaps.)

You look at the crate in both of your hands, then over at Branwen, then slide it delicately onto the table. Then you take BK's hand. He pumps it for what feels like an eternity. "What a SMALL WORLD!"

"I thought you didn't know her, Earl," Felicia says half-accusingly.

"I DIDN'T! But now I—" He sits back down. "I had no idea how I didn't spot it! Maybe it was the mask?"

Oh, shoot, you forgot to put your mask on. "Drugs," Branwen contradicts.

"Or the— well, those too, yes! Well. Who knew! And I see you have this crate here—"

"I think we should talk about the traitor first, Earl." Felicia's voice is dry. "Before we distribute the earnings to said traitor."

"And I don't think there is anybody— bad luck. It happens! No need to have a jury for—"

"'Bad luck' is stubbing your toe on the safe. It is not having the entire place swarming with informed cops for no fucking other reason. That is someone sold us out territory." Felicia stares at you. "And, as I've been saying, someone here was let go by a copper—"

"Could be you," Branwen offers stolidly. "Brought it up, didn't you."

"You think the cops would work with me? Seen me recently?" Felicia spreads her webbed fingers. "They'd rather drop dead. It's her."

You are... fairly certain Richard had no reason to sell these people out, right? It's not as if the Wind Court likes you, and Lucky sure didn't seem to think you were in cahoots. But you're with Felicia, at least in concept: the Wind Court wasn't packing that museum in the dead of night for sightseeing. Somebody had tipped them off.

But who? Who would know of this heist— and sell you out over it?

>[A] Who do you think it is? (Write-in. This should be possible to get right based on what you know, though you may not necessarily be penalized for guessing wrongly. Reading back may be helpful, but shouldn't be required.)

In general, how do you handle this?
>[B1] Just act natural. It's easy, but you'll have to hope and pray Felicia doesn't call you on your lack of Richardness.
>[B2] Let Richard take over, just a little, just for the first part, then ride that impression of you the whole rest of the way. [-2 ID]
>[B3] Just fake being a criminal mastermind! It can't be that difficult. [Roll.]

>[C] Write-in.
>Our client betrayed us.
Horse Face. We know he has connections to the Court. The "Pay Garvin" note was on the reverse of a photo with our gooplicate circled. Possibly all of this was a sting op.
And also
>[C] Gaslight them into thinking we're a criminal mastermind.
I was gonna turn it on Felicia, but this seems pretty good too >>4691645

They are just taking our word for it all though, not like we brought the note with us. If we do turn it on Felicia, say it isn't too hard to leave an anonymous tip, especially if you want someone cut out of the reward. Also we organized the whole thing, we're the last person who would sabotage it. What does she even think our motive is?

Advanced Gaslight them? That's doable, but will take a roll.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Called. Good call on Horse Face. Flipping between Advanced Gaslighting and Richard take the wheel.
>Advanced Gaslighting
>[In conversation, you may attempt to convince someone that they have an opinion, viewpoint, emotion, or other intangible quality that they do not actually have. If they believe you, this becomes 'true', and they behave as though they do genuinely have this opinion, viewpoint, emotion, or other quality for the duration of the conversation, or until otherwise appropriate. The plausibility of your gaslight determines the DC for the associated roll.]

Alright! I need some dice.

>PLEASE ROLL ME 3 1d100s + 13 (-5 Unmasked, -5 Innocuous, +3 One Eyed, +5 Memory Gaps, +5 Recent Murderer) vs. DC 85 (+20 Screwing With Reality, +15 Three Targets, -5 Felicia: Fooled Her Once, +3 Felicia: Cynical, +0 Branwen: Indifferent, +5 Branwen: Prior Experience, -5 Earl: Trusting, +2 Earl: Prior Experience, -10 ???) to convince the world you're a secret criminal mastermind!

You may spend up to 2 ID boosting the results, for a maximum of +20. You are at 4/(9) ID. This won't always be available for Advanced Gaslighting rolls, but this is an area Richard is somewhat specialized in.
>[1] Spend 1 ID (+10)
>[2] Spend 2 ID (+20)
>[3] Do not spend
Here's the degrees of success for Advanced Gaslighting.

Failure = Your target(s) are confused. Possibly suspicious. Possibly worse.
Mitigated Success = You gaslight them. And yourself.
Success = It works!
Enhanced Success = It works! And you can draw on this alternative truth in the future.
Sorry, that should be +3, not +13.
Rolled 71 + 3 (1d100 + 3)

holy modifiers batman

>spend 2
Rolled 57 (1d100)


>Spend 1 ID (+10)

Tempted to spend two, but no point in burning through all our ID right away.
Rolled 71 + 13 (1d100 + 13)

>[2] Spend 2 ID (+20)
>94, 80, 94 vs. DC 85 -- Success
>2 ID
Very nice. You don't get anything for two of the same number, but good job anyhow!

Writing shortly.
Blegh. I have some written, but despite this being something I was looking forward to writing... or maybe because of it... my motivation is running a little dry. I'm going to head to bed early and finish the update in the morning (estimated arrival ~noon PST?), then update at the usual time again in the evening. Have a nice night, guys.
>Gaslight your entire heist crew
>94, 80, 94 vs. DC 85 -- Success
>Large spendy

Well, who knows? You, Richard, Branwen, Felicia, Earl. Maybe it is Felicia— could she have left an anonymous tip? But what would she have gained from that? It's possible, but…

Horse Face.

Horse Face was your client. Horse Face knew what you were stealing and when and where. Horse Face is working for— is being paid off by the Wind Court. And, crucially, Horse Face is a shifty bastard devoid of human decency. Of course he'd sell you out! Except— he didn't seem all that perturbed that you came back unarrested.

«I suppose it'd be a win for him no matter what outcome. He gets his payoff or he gets his artifact.»

…That makes sense. God. How could one man be so repulsive? If he's not careful, he's going to dethrone Ellery. Ellery.

"Look at her," Felicia hisses. "Look how quiet she's got."

Shoot. "I'm not— I didn't do anything, okay? Why would I do anything? For your information, I organized—"

"Oh, trust me, I know." She props her elbows on the table and steeples her fingers. "So you had the plan, innit? And you were in the prime position to fuck all three of us over. I'm not seeing the issue here, Miss—"

You make pleading eyes at Branwen and Earl. Neither of them will quite meet your gaze.

«Do you remember what I said about you and gravitas.»

…You didn't have any?

«Anti-gravitas. And look here. All your lauded force of personality, gone in a stiff breeze.»

Well— that's not— you're just biding your time for her to finish. (She's still talking.) And then you'll show her what's for. You have the answer and everything! It's Horse Face!

«Ah, yes, the easy scapegoat you have no proof for. No note. No statement. You're going to be steamrolled.»
«It doesn't matter if you're right. It matters if you can hold the room. You cannot.»
«I can.»

Great. So he wants to possess you. Again. You're really looking forward to being a passenger in your own body for the dozenth damn time.

«It's not as though I particularly enjoy it, either. It is just the pragmatic option.»

Uh-huh. Is it the pragmatic option? Maybe it is. But he enjoys it. He unabashedly likes being you, and he'll take the flimsiest excuse to do it. Now, whether it's some kind of calculated erosion of your ego, or pathological control freak thing, or just that being you (cool, beautiful, intelligent, sword-wielding) beats being a snake (annoying, ugly, dumb, handless) any day, you don't know, but—

«It is none of those. It is simply that you are so incompetent as to require constant direct intervention.»

What if you don't?

«Then it will take longer and be more painful. Consent.»

God. Fine.

«Good girl.»

For a split second you regret everything: you are torn from control with such velocity you see stars. What have you done! You have let the enemy through your gates! Into your fortress! Now he coils upon the throne, screaming with laughter, since he will never let you go, not ever—

»See,« the enemy says. »I wouldn't have to sedate you if you didn't get hysterical.«
»But you always do and thus I always do.«

Hysterical?! This is a perfectly ordinary reaction to the violent invasion of your very—

»You knew what was going to happen.«
»Here. I will moderate the dose. Perhaps a fuller experience will inoculate you against further baseless panic.«

Baseless panic, lies the enemy, as if it were ordinary that you— you are enveloped in a comfortable fog that banishes the animus from your heart and the words from your head and the flesh from your bones. You are nothing (you clatter to the floor) and it is good. You are bones and it is good. You are fog and it is good. You are spread— you are blanketing— ensconced— you—

»Hysterical or utterly loopy. See, Charlie, this is why I just knock you out.«
»But no-o, that's bad, somehow.«
»Now stay there and internalize how nothing horrible is happening.«

You are eyes and it is good. You are a dispassionate observer of the world around you. Your mouth is moving.

"—so you can see why this would be plausible, yes?"

You arch your eyebrows in a genial manner at the three of them. Earl and Felicia squirm. Branwen does not. "Ain't adding up."

You hate this woman. "Is it not?"

"Ain't saying it's not true." Even though she is. You hate this woman. "But I don't see how it all fits. Specially without proof."

"It doesn't need proof. It's obvious. Unless you have a better idea?"

"I don't got a better idea, but at least this 'un—" She jerks a thumb toward Felicia. "—does. I dint see it, but if you were let go by—"

"She was," Felicia insists.

"—then this does seem… deflect-y." Branwen laces her fingers. "I ain't accusing anything. But just talking fancy outta nowhere won't fix no proof."

Of course it will: you've been holding back. You thought you didn't have to levy everything against them, but it's hardly your fault one of them is intractable. She has only herself to blame. "Branwen," you say. "Do you know who I am?"

She picks at her teeth with her dirty fingernail. "Fake name or real name?"

"No name at all." You could stab the bitch. "Just me. Well. Me and my network. I understand that you're disconcerted by the lack of hard evidence, but you have to realize that it doesn't work that way. My sources are in high places—"

"High places."

"Yes." And here you slam open the floodgates. Your voice drops. "I can't believe you're unsure, Branwen. I know you know. Who's been buying all your stock, recently? What happened to Sixeyes?"

She stares back at you, silent, ensnared. You're spouting bullshit. But what you say doesn't matter— it's the tone of your voice, the jut of your jaw, the glint in your eye. "And you!" You pivot to the mutant. "Felicia. Who laid that bad-luck curse on your brow? And you." To the toothless man. "Where's all your work been drying up to? Who's been claiming it? And to you all— do you think you weren't brought together for a purpose?"

You are standing and breathing heavily. "So who am I? Hmm?"

They all sit there. Finally, the mutant ventures: "…You're not that Pirahna bitch, are you?"

"Can't be the Pirahna whosit," Branwen mumbles. "'s got filed-down—"

You bare your pointed teeth.

"Shit." "Shit." "No way." The man stands, bumping his head. "Ow. Really? I had no— wow! What an—!"

"Sit down." He sits. "I'd rather not get the word out, if you'd understand. I'm very busy—"

"Running your whole fucking smuggling empire," the mutant says, in something like contrition.

"Something like that. So please, if I say that man is responsible for…"

Inside, the fog is lifting: not all the way, but enough for you to experience a twinge of confusion. What are you talking about? You being some kind of… criminal mastermind? Smuggler queen? That makes no sense at all, but… you sound so certain about it. You wouldn't be certain about something patently false, would you? You're no good at lying.

»Charlie, please, I'm almost done.«

Is it patently false? You're not aware of being any sort of criminal, but… it's true that you have forgotten large things before. And… you've had some periods of… of… callousness. Ellery, and the blackmail. Ellery, and Gil. And your eye. What happened to your eye? Why is it missing? It makes sense that a smuggler queen would…

»I'm lying to them. You're not…«
»Hm. Fascinating. Keep on believing that while I relinquish this. Ordinarily, they'd wise up, but I think— hold on.«

You blink. And blink again. You move your thumb.

«Say something.»

"…Um," you say. "…So it's definitely Horse Face, okay?"

There's something different in the manner of all three of them. Respect?

«You appear to have generated a spontaneous warp in reality. I'm not sure what to say, frankly.»
«I suppose, er, you're a smuggler queen. For the moment.»
«I'd say not to embarrass yourself, but for once I'm not sure you're able to.»
«Have fun.»

"Okay," you confirm, after a hesitation. "So that's settled. I guess we better…"

"So when are we taking revenge on him? Ma'am? …Your Highness?"

You stare at Felicia. You've never gotten anyone to say that before. "Um, I don't… I'm not… revenge?"

"He tried to fuck us. Are you going to send your… goons? Or are we going to fuck him back personally? I bet we're all in for—" Branwen and Earl look uncomfortable. "I'm up for it. If you have a plan—"

>[A1] You need to keep Horse Face around— he's supposed to be your personal cryptotheology servant, and stuff. And you're not sure how revenge would even work if he doesn't care about anything. Tell Felicia you'll send your imaginary goons.
>[A2] YES! TAKE REVENGE ON HORSE FACE! And you do, in fact, have a plan! (Write-in.)

>[B1] Divvy up the chit according to the original arrangement. Easy.
>[B2] Give yourself a larger share of chit. How can they say no to someone so important? (And dangerous?) Hopefully you're long gone before all this wears off.

>[C1] Stop to speak with Earl after everything's settled. It's weird, seeing him properly in person. And you have some questions-- about when Spelunkers' Associated will meet again, and things like that.
>[C2] It's been a long evening. Head back with Branwen.

>[D] Write-in.

We need him alive for smuggler boss reasons, but he does have a pocket dimension full of cool shit that we can liberate into our own pocket dimensions.


It may be a nerd club, but it's the source of all the Law we currently possess. Plus we're like a born natural or something.

>[A1] You need to keep Horse Face around— he's supposed to be your personal cryptotheology servant, and stuff. And you're not sure how revenge would even work if he doesn't care about anything. Tell Felicia you'll send your imaginary goons.

Given his weird temporal stuff, it might not be in our best interests to kill him. Even if it's GS, pretty sure Monty will kick us out for murdering a member of the camp. All of our stuff is there, and it'll be a hassle to move. Plus we'll never get invited to Game Night at that rate.

>[B1] Divvy up the chit according to the original arrangement. Easy.

No need to ruffle feathers. Causing bad blood now will cause problems down the line. We've already got a long enough queue of people gunning for us, no need to add to the list.
>[C1] Stop to speak with Earl after everything's settled. It's weird, seeing him properly in person. And you have some questions-- about when Spelunkers' Associated will meet again, and things like that.

Not entirely sure how to get a hold of Earl otherwise, and keeping tabs on those weirdos at Spelunkers' Associated is in our best interest.
>[A1] You need to keep Horse Face around— he's supposed to be your personal cryptotheology servant, and stuff. And you're not sure how revenge would even work if he doesn't care about anything. Tell Felicia you'll send your imaginary goons.

>[B1] Divvy up the chit according to the original arrangement. Easy.

>[C1] Stop to speak with Earl after everything's settled. It's weird, seeing him properly in person. And you have some questions-- about when Spelunkers' Associated will meet again, and things like that.
Called and writing.

>Not entirely sure how to get a hold of Earl otherwise
Theoretically you could ask Branwen for his contact. (In practice the point is moot.)
>Goons, normal share, chat

Taking revenge on Horse Face sounds enormously appealing… but what of the logistics? What would you even do? You couldn't let Felicia murder him, he wouldn't mind. And Monty would be apoplectic. …Internally. Which might be worse. You could kidnap him, but what then? You have nothing to blackmail him over, and he wouldn't mind that, either. You could steal his stuff…

Whoa! What are you doing? (Are you a crime lord?) If you steal his stuff, then— you're just Horse Face! You'd be committing his crime! And that's just not— that can't be possible. You are inherently a good, just person, while he's inherently a criminal jerk. How could you ever descend to his level? Maybe… maybe if you did steal his stuff, you'd still be morally in the clear. Maybe nothing you do can ever stoop to his level. Because it's not about what you do, right? It's about your pure, noble intentions. Of revenge.

…But also you have nowhere to put all his stuff. You don't exactly have a pocket dimension, unless you stole his, you guess. But that'd just be obvious. And Monty would still get mad at you.

"Um, no, I'll just send my… goons." You attempt to look like you have goons. (Is Gil a goon?)

Felicia looks disappointed, for a second, but swallows that down. "Yes. Of course. Er… and you don't need any help?"


"I see." She scratches her chin. "Well, I guess we better… divvy this up? Did anyone bring a crowbar?"

Nobody brought a crowbar. Everyone glances nervously at you. (Is this how it'd be if you were officially Queen? It doesn't feel as you expected.) Finally, Earl rubs the back of his head. "I guess I can give it a jab."

A jab? Felicia sits back. "Oh, good, and we'll have to babysit you for the rest of—"

"Just the forearm, 'Licia. I have a compression tie." Earl fishes under the table and retrieves a messenger bag, which he digs around in. He pulls out an elastic tie, a syringe, and a small vial of something red. "This won't take very long, it's just a quick—"

«A magician.»
«How unfortunate.»

…Okay, yes, that is unfortunate— you're not sure you can bring yourself to associate with a junkie— but how did Richard not know this? Wasn't this discussed in the initial planning? Wasn't this the… point of having him in the heist crew?

«I was addled.»

Okay. Earl takes your look of disgust to heart. "Oh— I'm sorry, er, Your Majesty— should I take it outside? Or should I— not— we could take a knife to it."

"And break a good knife," Branwen says flatly. "No."

"You brought it here on Sgwd, didn't you? Maybe it's been knocked loose— maybe Sgwd could bite it open? No, then it'd go everywhere— er." He looks embarrassed. "Maybe if you all turned around? It's not really a sight for ladies? Especially royal ladies."

"Knock it off, Earl." Felicia. "I've seen it a million times. The hat one sells you the shit. Her Majesty guts people like trout. We can all tolerate a little graphic imagery."

"…I'll turn around, then, hey?" He shrugs off his leather jacket, lays it on the table, and slides the elastic tie up to his right elbow. He pinches and twists the tie until the skin around it is white. It looks painful. He turns, exposing the metal studs that poke through his shirt, and draws the red liquid into the syringe.

«See, Charlotte. <This> is magic. Not your child's vision of 'magick.'»
«Isn't it <filthy.>»

Gross, certainly. Earl is injecting the liquid into his wrist. Unsanitary, too, most likely. You'd never do it. You'd judge anyone who did (moreso than you were already judging them). But you're not sure where the hate you're sensing from Richard flows from. It's just drugs.

Earl wipes the needle with the corner of his shirt and draws saltwater into the barrel of the syringe. He checks the tie, pulls it tighter, and jabs the syringe again into his wrist. He looks back at the rest of you.

"If we have to babysit, you're paying us," Felicia says sharply.

"Fair enough." He pushes the plunger down, tosses the syringe onto the table, and immediately clamps his left hand over the tie. His right hand, and forearm, have begun to ooze gobs of pale-pink— is that blood? It looks that way. Seeing your gaze, Earl moves his arm in front of him, so you can't see it from this vantage.

Thirty seconds later, he turns back around. Felicia whistles. His left arm is normal, as is his right arm above the elbow. Below the elbow, a change has been wrought: his forearm is almost double in size around, as is his hand; his fingernails have lengthened and thickened; his skin has taken on a rough texture and blueish tinge. "See, 'Licia?" he says. "I know what I'm—"

"Get that crate open, then gloat."

"Yeah, yeah." He hobbles awkwardly back to the table, drags the crate over, and digs his nails into the top. The crate flies open with a brief pull. "Would you look at that."

Felicia claps. Branwen claps. You are torn between the desire to not honor something so gauche and the fact that it was, admittedly, pretty cool. Richard hisses into your ear. You clap to spite him.

Earl stares into the top of the crate. "This is… a lot. Um. I hope you all brought bags, at least…"

You did. (Well, Branwen did.) It takes a good 30 minutes to partition the chit, owing to Felicia's squabbling about what constitutes 20% exactly, and Earl's need to stand in the corner and un-magic his arm, but in the end you get all of it into labeled gunnysacks. You watch as Earl and Branwen stomp the crate into driftwood (something about hiding the evidence)— Felicia is already gone with her share. You'd offered to help stomp the crate, but Earl had assured you it wasn't business for a lady, even a sorta-pirate-queen lady.

"Hoo!" Earl picks a shard of crate off his shoe and flicks it onto the table. "What a good evening. Say, I'll see you in a few weeks, Morris—"

"Could you stick around?" you say.


"Er, by royal decree, and everything. Can I talk to you?"

"Oh! Of course, Your Majesty." He brushes himself down. "I'd be honored. What can I do you for?"

>[1] …So why doesn't he have any teeth?
>[2] What does he think about Ellery? (What does he *know* about Ellery?)
>[3] When will the S.A. meet again officially? How do you get re-invited?
>[4] Will there be any side meetups soon? Say, with Ellery attending them?
>[5] …Has he ever heard of a Monty Gewecke? (Wasn't Earl from that area?)
>[6] Does he live nearby? Is there a way you can find him again?
>[7] What does he use Branwen's shark blood for?
>[8] Write-in.
>[1] …So why doesn't he have any teeth?
>[2] What does he think about Ellery? (What does he *know* about Ellery?)
>[3] When will the S.A. meet again officially? How do you get re-invited?
>[4] Will there be any side meetups soon? Say, with Ellery attending them?
>[5] …Has he ever heard of a Monty Gewecke? (Wasn't Earl from that area?)
>[6] Does he live nearby? Is there a way you can find him again?
No update tonight, yes update tomorrow, will be last of the thread. We'll pick up in a week or so with confronting the Yellow-Eyed Thing.
Called and writing for 1-6.
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>c-can I get your number

…That was easy. You don't know why you were expecting it to be a struggle, really, except that everyone else you try to talk to hates answering questions. You segue immediately to the most pressing issue. "So why don't you have any teeth?"

«Testing how maximally obnoxious you can be, hm.»
«I suppose that's one strategy.»

No, you just— you just wanted to— Earl grins broadly, exposing his pearly dentures. (Are they bone?) "Hey! Now that's a question! It's a funny story, actually— I wish more people asked. 'Toothless' this, 'Toothless,' that, never why."

"…Uh-huh," you say.

"So! Here's why. I take the stuff diluted, obviously." He catches your blank expression and retrieves the vial from earlier. He holds it up. "The stuff. If I didn't take it diluted, it wouldn't be pretty. Effective? Maybe, but I like to keep this ugly mug around, so I've never done it straight. That being said, Your Majesty, I haven't always stuck with the same ratio. When I first started out, I didn't know what ratio I needed. Are you following?"

Barely. You attempt to sound like you're just asking as a sort of test. "Ratio of what?"

"Blood to blood. My blood ta'… ah, well, trade secret. Anyhow, very first time I tried, I went with 50:50. Nice round numbers, I thought, what could go wrong. Well, I'll tell you what. 50:50 gave me great big fucking fangs. Wicked, right? And it was. It was wicked. Unfortunately, they came in—" He pushes his fingers up his chin and over his mouth. "—and pushed my old guys out. Just came falling right out of my mouth. And they never grew back! So how about that?"

"That's… nightmarish." However you feel about Richard messing with your teeth (profoundly ambivalent), at least he kept them in your mouth. Where they very much belong, before he gets any ideas. "Though I suppose it is just punishment for such, as you put it, wicked practices—"

"Hey, you're funny. No, I mean, as far as missing bits, I got a pretty good deal! I wasn't exactly using my teeth very often— and now I can do this." He pulls his spit-drenched dentures from his mouth and positions them on his hand like it's a puppet. "Not a lot of other people can attempt this," he ventriloquizes, poorly.

How to break it to him? "I can see your lips move."

"Something to work on!" He returns his dentures. "You always need something to work on, or what's the point of life, eh? Not that you need reminding— I'm sure you're scheduled to the gills with crime and whatnot. Hey, is that why you're in with S.A.? Not often you pick up a hobby that grants more time in the day."

"…Something like that." Always go with what they tell you. "About that. I know the next meeting is next month, but when—"

"Fourth Twosday of every month! So that would be…" He counts on his fingers. "…The 28th? Yeah. 28 Maverick. Ellery doesn't tell you anything, huh?"

Far more correct than he knows. "He… likes his mystery."

"Oh, I don't doubt it! But still, you should know the meeting dates. You'd think he didn't want you to show up, or something!"

"…I guess you would." Does he know? "That's, um, a while away. Didn't you say there were smaller—?"

"Yes! Oh, all the time. I don't make it to most of them, that's how many there are. I think— don't quote me on this— I think there's one on Eighthsday. Not sure what they're doing, exactly… might be a small group dive. I'm sure you're welcome, though."

You're not sure, but it's not as if permission matters. "Will Ellery be there?"

"Huh? Oh, sure, yes. He's at all the meetups, doesn't matter the size. Scary dedication, that guy." Earl scratches his chin. "You know, you could just ask—?"

"Yeah. I could ask Ellery." You let your derision sit for a moment. "Good idea. You're sharp as a tack, really."

"Excellent point, Your Majesty." He sticks his hands in his pockets. "That's tough. He did invite you, right? Because the person who invites you is supposed to show you the ropes, help you around— geez. And he's just giving you the cold shoulder?"

Well, he's dead, in fairness. But it's close enough. "Yes."

"And I thought…" Earl shakes his head. "None of my beeswax! You know, if you need anything— not to say that you do need anything. I know you're a very accomplished lady. But on the off chance you do, you're welcome to ask me, alright? I'll get you fixed up. And maybe I'll chat with Anthea about people shirking their duties, huh? Breaks my heart you're being treated this way. And by our Vice President, of all people."

This is weird. Is he hiding something? Nobody cares this much about someone they hardly know. Maybe he does know about Ellery, and this is some sort of veiled threat. That'd make more sense. "I— I— don't tell Anthea."


If he does, word might get back to Ellery, and then he might get all skittish. Maybe that was the point. "No, it's… it's okay. I am a very accomplished lady— um, like you said— I don't need any help. From him. Or anybody."

"Except for the meeting dates?" He's leaning on one elbow.

"No. Not the meeting dates. I would've found those myself." This is probably definitely true. "You just sped it up a little, okay? So don't get a— don't get a big head. You are speaking to your— your better."

"Um, of course." Earl looks bewildered. "I didn't mean to offend— but that's no excuse. No excuse. I'm sorry if I implied anything untoward—"

"You better be." You narrow your eyes. "So what's none of your beeswax? About Ellery."

"…It really isn't my…"

"Tell me, or I'll throw you in my snake pit. Which is made of," inspiration has struck, "other people that I've tossed into the snake pit. And then they all turn into snakes, and stay in the snake pit forever, and turn other people into snakes."

«That's unrealistic.»

Shut up. Earl's foot taps rapidly on the ground. How strong is this— what did Richard call it— warp-in-reality thing? Was that too big a whopper? But after another moment he relents. "…Well, as long as you don't tell anyone else, alright?"

Whatever. Verbal agreements aren't binding. "Sure, okay."

He twiddles his thumbs. "Look— I like Ellery. Some people don't, I won't name names. But I think he's a decent guy, alright? A decent guy, very talented, and fucking ballsy. He'll do anything once. Anything. And I do, I value that in a person. I like him, we don't have any bad blood. I just want to establish that." He ducks his head. "But, ah, look. I was surprised he brought anyone new in. I think most of us were. He just doesn't seem like he has… friends."

«Oh, see, you can relate.»

Shut up! Doesn't he have some dumb snake paperwork to do? "What do you mean, doesn't seem like he—"

"Well… like I said, he attends everything. And he never… the codenames are just a formality, you get it? For any bad actors. Most of us, we know about each other, where we live, what we do… we talk about it, right? He never talks about it. Never mentions any other life. And it's not for privacy, either, since he goes by his real name. I think we all thought he was sort of a shut-in? Again, um, I do like him. But that he maybe stayed in his room all day, never talked to anyone, just spent all his time in his head. But then he comes in with a friend—" He looks sideways at you.

…So he doesn't know, or he's lying. Either way, it's basically right: Real Ellery is a shut-in who spends all his time in his head. Literally. But what do you tell Earl?

«Go ahead and say you're one of his only friends. Or that you recently met.»
«It's not far from true.»

"…We, uh, we met pretty recently."

"Oh!" He raises his eyebrows. "That would explain a lot. Huh. I guess you better give him a chance, then, even if he's an ass… if you ask me I think he's lonely. Maybe not used to other people, either. I'll definitely hold off on Anthea, then— but would you let me know if it gets worse? His behavior."


"Oh! Hmm. Write me a letter, send a courier. You can't be that far, are you? We're both here. I'm in Hellsbells, if that means anything."

Barely. A hamlet over in Hell. Located partially underground, maybe fully, on account of the heat and the gases. A day away? Two days? But you'd have to offer the courier a bonus for dangerous terrain. "…I think so?"

"Well, then! Tell them to ask for Earl Polasky when they make it. Or 'Toothless Earl' should work too, if you can't remember the Polasky. Hey?"

You nod.

"Hey! Alright." He looks like he's about to clap you on the shoulder, but stops himself. "I think I'll be heading out, if you don't mind awfully. I hope you have a great rest of your evening—"

"Wait," you say. (You remembered something.) "Wait. Are you from Pillar 11?"

"12! Haven't strayed too far from it, either, since it's smack bang in the middle of Hell. Why?"

Hmm. Well, it's still worth a shot. Just to get some confirmation about Monty's story. "Have you heard of a Monty Gewecke? Montgomery Gewecke?"

Earl squints. He rubs his chin. He leans against the table. "Hmmmmm."

"He would've been involved in a sort of, um, murder sport?"

"Oh!" He snaps his fingers. "A-ha! Thank you. Monty Gewecke. Isn't that the one who necked himself? Hotshot over on 11, dominated the leaderboards, couldn't take the stress, decided he'd be the one taking himself out, nobody else.? I think that was the story. Can't quite remember. It was all over the papers, way back when."

"Was it?" Interesting.

"Oh, yeah. But you know the press, they're all bottom-feeders. Why do you ask?"

"…Um, I was just thinking about it, that's all." Which is not, on a technical level, a lie. "I'm gonna go. I think Branwen's waiting for me outside."

"Is she? Oh, better not hold her up, then. She doesn't like waits. Not to say that you couldn't take her. You're both very accomplished ladies." Earl is becoming visibly aware of the hole he's digging. "Have a great night, Frances."

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(And that's it! Thanks for sticking around. It's 3:22 AM as I write this, so I will do the whole business of posting links tomorrow. New thread ETA March 27th, but that may change. It'll be announced in the QTG and on my Twitter, so please keep an eye out.

Also, I was doing the filthy business of actually going back and reading [skimming] the OG Drowned so I could double-check if the shark-thing had a canon name [it does not], and I caught this cap. I think it's still very relevant 2 years on.
Thanks for running!

dang, monty really was a bigshot

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