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You are Charlotte Fawkins, noted heiress, detective, adventuress, and heroine, cruelly trapped underwater (in the sticks!) after the completion of your quest to find your long-lost family heirloom. Tragically, nobody here l̶i̶k̶e̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u appreciates your talents, even Richard- the snake who lives in your head. Right now, your retainer Gil's been shot, and your frenemy Madrigal's been kidnapped. (Snakenapped?) And Ellery saw the whole thing.

He's pacing.

You hate him for pacing. You hate him because it's such a him thing to do. Talk and walk, walk and talk, the only God-damn things he's capable of. And he's not talking, for once, won't or can't, he hasn't said a word since that— since that stupid little— since he realized— since he said 'Maddie,' though 'said' is a stretch, it's more like it dropped out of his mouth, and splattered on the floor, and now it's just there, glistening, like a pool of rancid spittle. Waiting for you to acknowledging it. But you're not going to acknowledge it, and apparently he's not going to acknowledge it. He is going to pace. Like the useless rancid spit-puddle he is.

You hate him. He's supposed to be the talker. It's not like he's good at anything else. It's not like he can use any God-damned God-blessed situational awareness to notice there's a gunman at the door. It's not like he could've warned you, or anything. It's not like he could've not gotten shot. Of course he got shot. Of course. Of course he ruined it for you, ruined everything for you, and of course he's pacing as loudly as God-damn possible. More than possible! How heavy can he be, with his stick arms and stick legs and— hold on, he's not even— he doesn't even have bones. How the hell is this—?

"Ellery," you snarl.

He doesn't seem to hear you. Maybe because he's too busy tromping.


Now he turns. He doesn't say anything. He has wide glossy scared-rabbit eyes, and you hate him, because what did he do to deserve shock? Get shot? You—

"Were you— were you raised in a barn? How are you walking so—"

Is a side-effect of those fancy bullets speech loss? Because Gil's not talking, and now Ellery's staring at you like you asked him to spell his own name. You stare back with loathing. He blinks first. "...What?"

"I mean— I think even a barn would be too good, frankly. Were you raised in a back alley? Because civilized people don't go around—"

He's not comprehending. Maybe the bullet just shot his whole brain out. But that can't be— he was normal a few minutes ago. (Normal for Ellery, at least.) Then he learned that— that Madrigal was the— and he's not dead. You're certain there's an Ellery still in there. But he's shut up in there, all balled-up and shrunken and wide-rabbit-eyed, and you hate his his huge throbbing self-regard to be so broken up about his ex. His ex. It was YOUR retainer that got shot. YOU should get to mope and pace and hold back manly tears (he can't fool you, he looks like he stood downwind from a chimney). But HE stole it, somehow, when he didn't even do anything, and you hate him. "I don't—" he says.


Finally: a different expression— a novel one, too, somewhere between 'incredulity' and 'disgust.' He looks at you, then past you, then down at his hand. He's holding a small, jagged knife. He looks back up at you and maintains eye contact as he plunges the knife into his hip.

"You can't be serious," you mutter.

You realize he's serious around the halfway mark of him sawing his legs off, but let it get to 2/3rds before rising to the bait. "Okay," you say. "Stop."

He pauses nonchalantly to jam his forearm through his half-open torso.

"I said stop."

He waggles himself back and down, like opening and closing some grotesque treasure chest.

"I said— I'm sorry your stupid ex-girlfriend got kidnapped, or whatever! But I'll have you know it was my retainer that got shot, and now he's just beetles—" Gil has burrowed under your armor. "—and face it, she was kind of a bitch, anyhow, and also, it kind of sucks for me that she got kidnapped, too, so I have two things, and you only have one, so you're not allowed to be such a— such a—"

"How long have you known her?" he says.

You blink. You weren't expecting a complete sentence, even one so mucous-y it's nigh inaudible. You're only been working with Madrigal for two-ish weeks, but it's not that much of a stretch to say— "Six months."

"Eight years." His smile is taut. His torso gapes.


At least he's talking.

>[1] Feign confusion. Eight years? How could it be eight years? It's only been three, hasn't it? What a bizarre inconsistency, almost as if Ellery's constructed some kind of elaborate multilayered deception... [Roll.]
>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]
>[3] Just try to calm him down. Madrigal is gone. Pat is gone. Gil is shot. You're still in the middle of a manse that might start collapsing around your ears. Your priority is getting out of here, no more, no less (then maybe doing some deserved moping of your own).
>[4] Write-in.
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Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! It's good to be back in the saddle. I'm fully moved in, but I'm still a little bit busier than I used to be, so I apologize if I end up having to skip more update days. Luckily, this thread should be more chill than the last couple (for a certain degree of chill).

I've been moderately productive over the hiatus, including producing two comic pages for the waifu tournament and creating a... uh... a personality quiz. Just what everyone was hoping for, I assume. Check it out here: https://uquiz.com/9ZLOuQ

I also scrapped the Gil pastebin and replaced it with a "aftermath of Monty strangling you" bin, which is a little dry and dialogue-heavy and also only half-done, so we'll see if I complete it. If I do, I'll get it done before that becomes relevant again.

One a day, sometimes more if the first one was short. 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 roll over degrees of success system with crits. The base DC is 50. Modifiers may be applied to the roll or to the DC as 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.]




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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Immediate goals:
- Get out of here!

Short-term goals:
- Speak to Eloise about her job proposition
- Speak to Monty about strangling you for no reason
- Spend your share of the heist $$$
- Meet back up with Annie the worm

Long-term goals:
- Rescue Madrigal (?)
- Procure permanent, non-melting body for Gil
- Regain your missing ID
- Regain your missing memories
- Finish your model
- Investigate your gooplicate with Jesse
- Find the Gold-Masked Person and their snake, reclaim the Crown
- In the meantime, continue collecting and storing Law (3/16)
- Learn more about, and explore, the Grande Mangrove
- GTFO of this underwater hellhole
- Make friends???

- Who or what drove Ellery into self-imposed exile?
- 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 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?
- What is a clone of you doing running around in the Fen? What was it saying about "Human Resources"?
- What is the meaning of Jesse's spiral tattoo?
- What is Ellery's patent for? Is it connected to his entire deal?
- Who is Horse Face investigating, and why?
- Who is the Gold-Masked Person? Why did they want your Crown? Where are they now?

Ongoing assignments:
- Inform Eloise (and the Wind Court?) about anything you discover about Namway Co
>>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]
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You compete in the tournament, and proceed to kick the asses of a monkey thing, a bear(?), and Ellery, whom you (and definitely not Richard) torture a little bit. Your final opponent is Gil, whom you choose not to fight, drawing the ire of the ursurper-king of this fantasy land: the white-furred shopkeeper from the previous level. He summons every defeated tournament contender, including Ellery, and forces them to try and kill you.

Nettie finally turns up again, dropping her disguise as the guard captain to help you out. You and Gil wreak havoc, but your POV is cut short when you fly into a mindless rage.

The shopkeeper pulls Gil into some kind of pocket dimension ("whitespace"?) and attempts to convince him to switch sides. He also tells Gil about his tragic backstory. Gil, unmoved, rejects the offer, and with some clever negotiating manages to convince the shopkeeper of the truth: that he isn't real, his world isn't real, and nothing can be done about either of those things. The shopkeeper falls into despair.

Back outside whitespace, you have mopped up the rest of the contenders. With the shopkeeper unwilling to fight, you drag him back to the Horse-shod and ceremoniously execute him. The Horse-shod lets you, Ellery, and Madrigal drink divine nectar and ascend to the third level, the realm of the gods...

...Which is effectively a dev room. You discover that Headspace is responsible for constructing this manse, and that your false eye has been recording video. You also discover that Madrigal is now a very, very large snake, and that you'll have to negotiate with her to get where you need to go.

So you attempt to talk to Madrigal-- but discover that she's holed herself up in a safe, comforting corner of her mind, where she doesn't have to confront the fact that she's a very, very large snake. This manifests in the form of her family's general store, and you learn a little bit about her backstory before painfully snapping her out of it and convincing her to help. She does, and you finally make it where you need to go.

And Ellery's there, for some reason. Apparently, his secret mission was to assassinate the same guy you needed to kill in order to extract the Law: the owner of the manse, whom Ellery claims is stuck in whitespace. You don't entirely get it, but in the end Ellery kills the guy and you extract the Law. You return mostly unscathed...

...Only to discover Ellery shot and Gil at gunpoint. Nettie reveals herself to be Pat, the clone researcher, last seen in Thread 8 after you promised to get her a replacement snake. You did not get her a replacement snake, and now she wants the one you already have. Who is Madrigal. You attempt to convince her it's Madrigal, and she shoots Gil. You hand Madrigal over, and she vanishes with her.

Ellery discovers that the snake was Madrigal, and that Madrigal has just been kidnapped. He doesn't take it well.


>Don't forget to scroll up and vote!
>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]

Welcome back!
I wanna see if he'll admit it himself.
>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]
Jeez, it's really been that long since we found out about fake Ellery?

Also welcome back Bathic.

>captcha was osjoy
Rolled 17, 97, 17 = 131 (3d100)



Rolling for reaction. High is better/more composed. DC 60

Writing after. I'm hoping I'll be able to shake off the rust fairly easily.

Thanks, guys!

It's been... I can't access my notes at the moment, but I'm ballparking a week or week and a half since you found out about Fake Ellery, circa thread 12 or 13. (This is including the 5 days Richard possessed you.) The two-and-a-half weeks is since Madrigal asked you to investigate in Thread 1.
>Listen here you little shit
>Ellery: 17, 97, 17 vs. DC 60 — Mitigated Success

At least he's talking, you think, like it's a good thing that he's talking, like you actually want to listen to him and his whining nasal voice, like you want to hear him fall to pieces over his own stupid, petty, selfish problems, like he didn't cause them himself, like he isn't the sole reason he's all— all— what? What's his problem? He's sad, or whatever? He's lonely? Well, you're sad, and you're lonely, and you don't see you— you—

He's still talking. How? How did you want this? You're not even sure what he's saying, his lips are sure moving but he's all "a buh buh buh, a buh buh buh, something something Charlotte—"

"Shut up," you say. You hate him.

"A buh buh buh—"

"Shut up!" You are standing and you don't know when you stood. "I don't- I don't care about your— shut up about Madrigal, first off, alright? Stop caring about her. She doesn't care about you. She hates you. So it's stupid to—"

"She doesn't hate me." Ellery is grappling for a measure of equinamity. "We parted on ami- amic- good terms."

"Amicable terms," you say.


"Is this before or after you made the fake you?"

You'd like to say you don't know why you said it. You know why. You said it because you hate him, you hate him, you hate him, him and everything about him, and you are sick and tired and done with him. You are done with this entire fool's errand. And you will admit that here, in this moment, you would like to see Ellery suffer.

"What?" he mumbles reflexively. Then: "I don't know what you're—"

He knows. He is standing here and lying in your face. You're shaking all over, which makes you more intimidating. "The one who keeps dying in horrible ways? Do you enjoy that, Ellery? Do you get your kicks from a- a innocent suffering for your own selfish gain? While you stand by, all coddled in your- your—" You can barely get the words out, which makes you more intimidating. "—your stupid f-f-f-fucking fantasyland, where you don't have any responsibilities and never suffer any consequences and don't have to deal with the fact that other people exist, and care about you, and worry about you, and that, by the way, is why I'm here, you bastard. I'm not a spy. I'm not a- a monster. I'm here because you were worrying people, and your stupid girlfriend asked me to check what was going on. That's it. And you don't even deserve it! You don't even... deserve..."

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You have to sit down a little bit and put a hand over your face, like you're scratching your nose, or something, until your eyes clear up and your throat unclenches, though you're still shaking (on purpose), and then you catch a glimpse of Gil's splayed legs and have to start all over, until it's Ellery who says something.


You hate him for the 'um,' the smarmiest thing he could've said, or uttered, but a part of you allows that it might've been all he's capable of. It was a particularly strangulated 'um.'

"You—" he continues, and you intend to say something really cutting about monosyllables and maybe the capacity of his intelligence, but everything's swirling too much. "You said Maddie didn't care, and now you say— she does. You're not exactly inspiring confidence in your— your—"

"Oh. Sorry." You lean your head back against the stone wall. "She hates you because she saw what a colossal prick you are now. And also because, you know, the whole 'exile/death clone' thing. How many times has he died? I forgot."

He is a colossal prick, you remind yourself, because it's hard to tell from looking at his corpse. It must be his corpse, on account of the waxen quality of his skin, and the blue color of his lips, and the fact that he isn't moving, no pacing, no twitching, no fidgeting, no tics, nothing. Dead. Embalming fluid is in his eyes.

"I don't keep—" Ellery's corpse says, and has to stop. The embalming fluid is leaking. "I don't keep track."

That's GS. You know it's GS and you would know it's GS even if you hadn't seen the binders and binders of him meticulously keeping track. You open your mouth to call him on it, then shut it, because you have realized quite belatedly that he has admitted to it. He has admitted to it! You are vindicated! And he has realized the same, you gather, from the way his mouth is hanging open, and the way the fluid is flowing quite freely, now, down his cheeks, catching somewhat in his stubble until he clutches his face and bends and it drips onto his potion bottles, beading there like dewdrops.

He makes a soft noise, like the moan of an animal, and you can't bear the pretense longer. Ellery is crying. He is crying— maybe "weeping," to be pedantic, but that's not really the issue— and— and— and what? This wasn't supposed to happen. You mean, this wasn't— something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Men are not supposed to cry: frankly, you had always assumed it was impossible. Like they had a different kind of tear duct. You're sure you read that somewhere. But certainly this is crying, and certainly Ellery is a man, if a poor excuse for one, meaning you were misinformed.

Not that that helps. Not that you know what to do when a woman cries, much less a man, much less... Ellery. Ellery! What the hell! Are you— should you— you should do something, right? You feel as though you ought to do something, even if you do hate him, which— listen, it's difficult to look at him and hate him, at this particular moment. You're sure you'll get back to it later. But he's just— this is just—

God! What the hell?

>You need to...
>[1] Calm him down. You have a dim awareness that when women cry, one is supposed to... stroke them, maybe, and say "there there"? Not that you're going to do that with Ellery. But you could do, uh, something along those lines?
>[2] Rough him up. Give him a good shake, a good slap, whatever. This is clearly an unnatural, unhealthy state, and you would be best disposed to end it as soon as possible.
>[3] Press for details. Ignore the crying— he just admitted to everything! Hello! When are you ever going to get a better chance?! [What do you ask about? Write-in.]
>[4] Ignore this. Grab him by the elbow and drag him out of here with you. Whatever this is, it is not something you want to deal with here and now, or maybe ever.
>[5] Write-in.
>>[2] Rough him up. Give him a good shake, a good slap, whatever. This is clearly an unnatural, unhealthy state, and you would be best disposed to end it as soon as possible.

Let’s do this in a less-abrasive way and more in a snap-out-of-it way
Hello, new reader here. Which of these 2 images best represents the mc ? is the comic just a fun way or is she really that old ?

we could maybe pat him on the shoulder
with like our foot
or an eleven foot pole

Kek. This is actually really funny.

MC is 23 years old-- I think the context of the comic is the answer to your question.
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t. Richard

But seriously, anon, if you're so desperate to find out, why don't you read the quest?
Thanks anon
QM I just wanted to know the character’s appearance, not an important plot point of the quest. You could’ve just answered like the anon above.
That being said, why should I read your quest ? Indulge me
You do not have a pole and you're not particularly flexible, but you do have a sword to pat with.


Writing in circa 30 min.

Sorry, anon, I don't like answering questions that appear to be in bad faith. If this was a genuine inquiry that you managed to phrase in a remarkably ingenuine way, then I apologize.

My readers are probably better equipped to answer why someone would want to read this than I am, but I'll give it a shot. If you like the sound of...
>a character-driven dramedy with an asshole feMC
>adventures in a weird post-post-apocalyptic low fantasy underwater setting
>dream logic
>body / psychological horror
>inexplicable amounts of snakes
...Or you like Sunless Sea, or Discworld, or the Hitchhiker's Guide, I've had the quest compared to those.

If you think all that sounds lame and terrible, I'm guessing you probably wouldn't enjoy Drowned, but it can't hurt to give it a shot anyhow :^)
People cry without assuming the fetal position? weird.
I mean, he didn't outright fail the composure check... he's still standing. Something like the stock image, I guess.
>Sorry, anon, I don't like answering questions that appear to be in bad faith. If this was a genuine inquiry that you managed to phrase in a remarkably ingenuine way, then I apologize.
I don’t see how you could see it as bad faith, but I’m sorry if my wording wasn’t the best. esl here.
Well I’ll read the first thread and see about giving a shot until catching up with the current thread.
I thought that might be the case, honestly. What you posted here >>5019791 was less bad, but your posts in the QTG very much came across as a snide dig at my artstyle. If that wasn't the intent, I'm happy we could clear that up.

I hope you enjoy the first thread! I would personally advise reading up until Thread 3 before making a final decision, as the first couple threads are a little rocky and don't 100% reflect the full quest. Once you hit Thread 3, though, it's not going to change very much from that point on, so you'll for sure know whether it's your thing or not.
>There, there

You attempt to compose yourself. This can't be that hard, can it? People far inferior to you manage it, so— yeah. Yeah! You can do this. Through your inborn prowess, you (and you alone) shall put an end to this— this— this perversion of nature.

And all you have to do is something classless ingrates are capable of: providing "support." Which, you're fairly sure, is a two-part process, consisting of 1), physical touch [specificaly a sort of patting or stroking of the shoulder, arm, or hand], and 2), words of consolation and/or encouragement, which is where you're blanking a bit. It's not as though you can take back what you said, considering that it's true and factual and you're not sorry about it. You can't say anything nice about him, because you can't think of anything. Where is Richard? Why can't Richard be here? He'd know what to say.

You'll just have to burn that bridge when you come to it, you suppose. But Part 1, the touching, poses its own concerns. Principally, you shouldn't touch unmarried men, and Ellery is almost startlingly unmarried. Also, you don't want to touch Ellery in general, in case he gives you diseases. And there's the whole other matter of reaching his shoulder...

You need something cleaner. More efficient. Like a pole, or something, except you don't have a— oh!


Ellery doesn't respond to your first attempts, so you use a little more force as you aim for his forearm. He flinches, which you take as a good sign, and moves his hands a little to expose his red-raw eyes. He mumbles something inaudible.

"What?" you say, and continue to pat.

He mumbles again but between the mucous and the hand over half his mouth it's useless. You make a face to say as much, and gesture for 'handsign?'

"Okay," he signs falteringly. "What— what the fuck are you doing?"

You look down at your ingenious setup: the blade of The Sword in your (well-armored) hand, its hilt pointed up toward Ellery in a sign of nonaggression, long enough so you didn't have to get close but not so long that it was weird. At least, you didn't think it was weird— but the thought of attempting to explain this all is making you squirm.

"Nothing," you say cannily, and pull The Sword away. "Nothing. I'm not— do you see me doing anything? Stop crying. Why are you crying. It's- it's weird."

"Why am I— you don't know?"

He expects you to decipher the workings of his mind? His mind? "Should I?"

Your eyes— his ugly and watery, yours bright and winsome— meet in mutual confusion, until Ellery glances sideways. "You know everything else. Somehow."

"I do?" Well, of course you do, but you like to see him say it. "Well— excuse me for not finishing the whole damn investigation in under a month? Sorry for only finishing 90% of it? Do you think I'd be here if there wasn't loose ends? It's not as if I'm here for the company—"

"...No." He wipes his nose. "So you don't know... why."

You're affronted. "Does it matter? And— and if it does matter, can't you just tell me?"

He laughs at you, and speaks aloud. "Not a fucking chance, Charlotte."

You have returned to hating him, you decide. You hate Ellery, who has the gall to laugh at you, after he was the one who cried— who is still crying! In painful little spasms, interspersed with bouts of pitched laughter and long stretches of silence. Not silence. Of tromping, because he has taken to pacing, again, but in a tight circle instead of a straight line.

Yes, you hate him. But you're quite proud of yourself, because your two-step plan worked quite well: the state of the world has been restored, and you can chalk the remaining crying up to deep-rooted mental instability instead of... you don't know, emotion, or whatever. God.

You guess you ought to... take charge of the situation. Yes. You ought to take charge, because Ellery certainly won't, and Richard isn't here, and Nettie... isn't here, and Gil—

You don't want to think about Gil, but it's not like you can't, not when he's there on the ground, and not when he's here, under your breastplate, a couple dozen beetles clumped together for... warmth? Security? It's odd to contemplate them being a person, a... man, but it's far worse if they aren't one, and you—

You swallow. Taking charge. That's what you're doing. "Ellery!" you bark.

He laughs derisively.

"Ellery!" You hate him, and his stupid face and stupid laugh. Why can't anyone go right up and slap him? Where's Madrigal when you need her? She'd—

...She's not here, so— so you need to take charge of the situation. Yeah! You need to show Ellery who's boss, because it sure isn't him, not after he cried. You need to launch yourself to your feet, assertively, and stride right up, and grab his collar, because you can't reach his face otherwise, and- and—!

Your hand stings. (His jawbone was pointier than expected.) He blinks at you, presumably in awe. "Uh—"

"So there!" you add.

"...I can't, um, feel— I can't feel pain." He's almost apologetic.

"Well, that's—" Damnit. Damnit. "So what? So what. Stop being a useless twit— I mean, more than normal— and, and follow me." You grab his wrist (it's not— even if he is unmarried, the wrist doesn't count) and tug.


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Where? How are you supposed to know? You just want out of this stinking pit, away from Gil, away from the Gil-bits strewn around, away from the bullet hole in the door, away from the furrows Ellery has trodden in the soggy dirt, away from the Horse-shod, which you think has returned to sleep, but which still unnerves you. You want to go home, or barring that you want to see Richard again, so he can tell you what a terrible job you did and how stupid you are and then fix all of your problems.

You just don't know how to get to there. "Through the door," you say.

"What door?"

"The- the door. There's a door somewhere that'll— that'll take us back up. We're going to go find it."

Ellery considers this. "...I guess that's true."

It is? "Great! Then— come on. We're going. And you can tell me why you're such a useless clone-torturing prick on the way."

You tug, and he follows: through the grass, across the Horse-shod's slumbering back, past the usurper's body, past the usurper's head. He only responds when you get to the stairs. "You know it doesn't— I mean, it shouldn't, uh— it shouldn't... suffer."


"I mean, fuck, I'm not a fucking— I'm not a fucking sadist, alright? It shouldn't— any large amounts of pain should— should make it happy. It's not suffering."

You have to process that. "...You made Fake Ellery a masochist?"

"Please don't call it Fake Ellery." Ellery closes his eyes. "And if you have a better idea, then—"

"How about not making a suicidal clone? That would very easily—"

"That wasn't an option."

"Uh-huh." You jot down mental notes. "And why wasn't it a— oh, shoot." You've reached the top of the stairs. "Hold that thought."

Ellery blows his nose on his sleeve as you fiddle with the stuck door handle. "You know, you could just— oh!" The door unsticks, and you slam it open. "Oh? Oh. Oh, uh, hello."

The deserted courtyard is now— you'll put it delicately, less than deserted. "Overrun," maybe, by— these are unpeople, they have the same bland faces, but these ones are... peasants? They look like peasants. There's a couple pitchforks. There's some angry yelling.

You and Ellery, meanwhile, look like important, wealthy adventurers, excellent targets for a... peasant revolution? What exactly is going on here?

They've noticed you, but nobody's reacted yet.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Start off on good footing. Hello! Yes! You are Charlotte, and this is your horrible, useless retainer Ellery. What are their names, by the way? What are they doing? What's going on here? [Roll for being nonthreatening.]
>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]
>[3] Start off on strong footing. Can these "people" even be reasoned with? What if they're dangerous? You need to grab a few and execute them, as examples, then send the whole crowd packing. They'll muck up the castle floors, anyhow. [Roll.]
>[4] Just flee. This isn't worth your time or energy. Hopefully you'll find the relevant door quick and this won't come back to bite you.
>[5] Write-in.
>>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]
>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]

I mean, we did just kill a fake king
We're by far the most experienced revolutionary here

heck if they're trying to revolt against the dude we tag teamed with Ellery we just did their whole job for them
>>>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]
>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]

Why have a vote when you know the outcome?
Kek, alright.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+15 Kingslayer, +10 Awesome Sword, -5 Disheveled, -10 Not A Peasant) vs. DC 65 (+15 Unruly Crowd) to successfully take control of the mob!

>Spend 1 ID to down one of Ellery's potions (granting +10 to all rolls?) You are at 2/(9) ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N

To clarify, when you say "dude," are you talking about the old king (which you and Ellery tag-teamed and shot on the third level), or are you talking about the usurper king (which you and Gil tag-teamed and decapitated on the second level)?

I could ask myself the same question.
>to all rolls
To all 3 1d100s, I mean, not all rolls forever. This is just a reskinned Richard bonus, it works the same way.
Rolled + 10 (1d00 + 10)

Rolled 24 + 10 (1d100 + 10)


Faulty roll. Rerolling.
>no ID
Rolled 16 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

The fake king meant the usurper
The dude meant the old king

also yes spendy
Rolled 41 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Back to Drowned Dice.
>34, 26, 51 vs. DC 65 -- Failure
An auspicious start! We're technically tied on the ID, but I'll go with "no spend" as to not rub salt in the wound. Writing.

Gotcha, I thought as much but I always like to be precise about what you guys intend.
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>Lead the pack
>34, 26, 51 vs. DC 65 — Failure

Things begin to spill from your mouth before you're quite aware you're speaking. "Salutations, common folk! I have heard of your plight, and henceforth I— Lady Charlotte Fawkins— have cometh here, on this glorious day, to— to aid and abet your most noble cause, and, um—"

"Who the shit are you?!" someone in the crowd calls.

"Me? I'm— I told you. I'm Lady Charlotte Fawkins, knight-errant, and this is my retainer, uh, Ellery— haven't you heard of me? I mean— you have heard of me, surely— seeing as how I..." You're blanking on your backstory. "...slayed some very big, important monsters, and, um— oh! I killed the king! The, uh, the evil one, that plunged this land into eternal winter, and—"

"Sure still seems like eternal winter to me!" the same voice counters, and the peasants clamor in agreement. "My crops are frozen over!" "My cattle are dead!" "My son ran off with the milkmaid!"

You glance indignantly at Ellery, who is cradling his head in his hands. "Well, um, okay— how is that my problem, exactly? I killed him! Isn't that what you guys want? So you should- you should bear me aloft in your gross flea-ridden arms, and cheer, and— and drink to my health, and whatnot. And I should become your beloved leader, and you should follow me around, loyally, and—"

"She's a madwoman!" the vocal peasant cries, sparking more clamor. "Worse— you heard her," a deeper voice adds. "She's a noblewoman. She's more diseased than a pack of whores!" "Yeah!" "YEAH!"

"What?!" You fume. "I'm not— you're all diseased, not— shut up! I slew the usurper! What more do you want?!"

There's no response, for a few seconds— or rather, there's many responses, but they're all lost in the uniform gabble of the crowd. Then, suddenly, it parts, and a short, balding man comes stalking through.

Nettie, you think, instinctively, and you're attempting to work out why when he begins to speak. "We WANT," he bellows, "JUSTICE!" (The peasants cheer.) "Fer TOO LONG, fecking 'IGH-AND-MIGHTY types 'ave been in CHARGE of us 'ere COMMON FOLK! An' fer too long, you bastards have been fecking with our LIVES! We're out there STARVING, an' DYING, an' FREEZING TO OUR DEATHS, and you lot're in THERE—" He gestures widely at the castle. "—having a GRAND TIME! What kind of prissy feck 'as the time to SLAY MONSTERS?! And KILL KINGS?! You know what KINGS are? The worst fecking bastards of the lot! And you intend to put a new 'un in, don't you?"

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He's pointing at you. "Um," you say. (Ellery appears to be wishing he's anywhere else.) "Well— the one I killed was a, uh, a bad one. So I guess... yes? You'll get a new king, and he'll be noble, and just, and—"

"He'll be a 'IGH-AND-MIGHTY BASTARD, jes' like the rest of 'em! And YOU, you prissy bitch—" He's addressing you, but facing the crowd, now. "—yer not jes' a bitch, I'll reckon— I'll reckon you're a THIEF!"

"What?" you cry.

"YESSIR! This bitch, ladies an' gents— she thinks she can jes' go ahead and ROB an innocent man of his livelihood! She's so en-titled, she thinks nothing of BEATING 'N ROBBING a poor soul jes' fending for 'is keep! What do you think of that, ladies an' gents?!"

Wait. Wait a second. You have seen this face before. And, more distinctively, heard this voice— it's the bear poacher! The one you knocked out and stole... and took the cart from, before you got all distracted with the king, and the tournament, and all that. You thought you'd never see him again. Maybe he thought he'd never see you again.

"—what do we do wit' a COMMON CRIMINAL an' her ACCOMPLICE?!" He's gesturing again. At you. The crowd is frothing for blood. "—I'll TELL you what. We SIEZE 'em, an' we—"

The remainder of his sentence is lost in the uproar: the crowd is beginning to move. You have seconds before they're upon you.

>[1] Flee to higher ground— the roof, maybe— and attempt to turn the mob against the poacher. There is something you can use... (What is it? Write-in. I do have something specific in mind, but I'l accept a different answer if it's good.)
>[2] Flee to higher ground and attempt to reason with, or bargain with, the poacher. He's clearly not the man of lofty virtue he's portraying himself as— there must be something you can do to get him (and the mob, by extension) off your back. (What do you say? Write-in.) [Possible roll.]
>[3] Flee to higher ground, period. This has escalated far beyond your exhausted capabilities. It's just a matter of making the jump... [Roll.]
>[4] To hell with it, take them head on. You don't have to kill all of them, just enough to demoralize. [Roll.]
>[5] ...Hmm. The principle issue, here, is that you stick out like a sore thumb. You're not one of them. But if you could make *yourself* believe that you belong, for a moment, then— (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>[6] Write-in.
>[3] Flee to higher ground, period. This has escalated far beyond your exhausted capabilities. It's just a matter of making the jump... [Roll.]
Don't try it Anakin.
>>[3] Flee to higher ground, period. This has escalated far beyond your exhausted capabilities. It's just a matter of making the jump... [Roll.]

He talks about honest men being robbed but he's a criminal! Poaching is a criminal act and he was never honest.

This is good, but not the major gotcha I had in mind, so majority vote takes precedent. I might have Charlotte yell something to this effect anyhow (assuming all goes well with the roll).

You are making a tactical retreat!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 2 (+5 Strong Grip, +5 Richard, +3 Ellery, -10 Fully Armored) vs. DC 55 (+5 Slick With Ice) to make the leap!

>Spend 1 ID for +10? You are still at 2/(9) ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 92 (1d100)

Rolled 67 + 2 (1d100 + 2)

Watch THIS!

Rolled 84 - 2 (1d100 - 2)

imma say no spend
for all the good it does
Rolled 54, 93, 76 - 2 = 221 (3d100 - 2)

>90, 65, 82 vs. DC 55 - Enhanced Success
>No spendy
Wow, great job! I guess you--

>[SUNSTROKE: The first Enhanced Success each thread is rerolled.]

--'re getting that out of the way early. Rerolling, crits do not apply.
>52, 91, 74 - Success
Still an excellent set of rolls: you're getting up there unscathed. Writing in a little while.
We need to cure that with a cool drink
Maybe Ellery can help since it's sun related
>Maybe Ellery can help since it's sun related
Not a bad idea. Ask him about it when you're out of this mess. Friendly reminder that he still owes you a favor, too, since you bought him back from the shopkeeper
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>It's over, Anakin! I have the high ground!
>52, 91, 74 vs. DC 55 - Success

For a fleeting moment, you consider fighting, then you feel the weight in your limbs and the rasp in your throat and your thoughts turn to escape. Where? Back down the stairs, and be trapped in that dank little cavern? Into the castle, and the waiting arms (limbs and weapons) of the usurper's waitstaff? Up the roof, and—

—and— that's not a bad idea, actually. It's safe up there, and quiet, and— and steep, and icy, and very far away, but that's not— positive thinking! "ELLERY!" you scream, and point up to the roof.

He doesn't follow your gesture, like he was clearly(!!) supposed to. He flinches away from you. "Moron!" you mouth, before you clock the particular angle of his shoulder, and neck, and—

"Hey! Gerroff—" But Ellery's feeble protests can't deter you: you are upon him, clambering up his back as you might clamber up a pathetic, bony tree, paying no attention to where you place your sabotons: he told you he couldn't feel pain, and by God you're sticking with that. You've got one leg over his shoulder before he realizes what you're doing, and to his credit he gives you a boost: but you've already latched onto the slick edge of the roof, and that's all you need. You swing, scrabble, and find purchase on a loose tile.

Well... "purchase," in that you're still hanging one-handed from the side of the roof. You're in no danger of falling— not after what Richard did to your hands— but you could still be dragged down by a dozen angry peasants, to give a hypothetical example. Disgusting. Rather than suffer that fate, you draw The Sword— The Sword! You bring it around in a perfect, glorious arc and set it biting through the tile. As the ice hisses and steams, you use the momentum to lever yourself fully onto the roof— face-down, a bit banged-up, but safe.

You push yourself to your feet and peer over the edge. Ellery has made no effort to join you: he's just standing there, unfastening his bandolier, ignoring the three pitchforks aimed at his vital parts. The smuggler is still yelling things, though it's a bit hard to pick him out among the din. Does he want them to capture Ellery, or just kill him?

It's not as though it matters: Ellery raises the bandolier and with no ceremony dashes it against the floor. There is light, and garbled sound (screaming?), and colors— lavender and scarlet and saffron— and a grand plume of smoke, large enough to obscure the whole courtyard. You've backed away by the time it clears, and have to scoot forward again to see the grisly aftermath. What used to be a chunk of crowd is now a field of trees, golden statues, and melted slag. And what used to be Ellery is now, you're fairly sure, a scattering of black ash.

...What used to be Ellery's body, you correct yourself. There's not a chance in hell Ellery won't pop up again— it's just a matter of when. In any case, the remaining peasants appear thoroughly cowed, so you lean over the edge and wave The Sword. "Ha! That's what you get for following a— a scam artist! You know he's a criminal, right? Not me! I've never done anything wrong in my life! You were all—"

Nobody's really listening (they're too busy screaming and panicking and whatnot), but it does make you feel better.

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

You turn around and nearly fall off the roof. "God! That was fast."

"...Yes." Ellery scratches the back of his head. His bloodshot eyes are gone, replaced with a general hangdog aura. "It's easier to get up here when you don't have... uh..."


"...Uh..." He grimaces. (You assume that's a 'yes.') "...We should probably get out of sight."

"Yeah, yeah, okay." You use The Sword to support yourself as you pick across the roof. "I see you put your hands back on the right way around."


"What, you don't want to talk about that?" You cock your head. You still hate Ellery, at least a little, and you want him to feel it. "Sure, that's fine. How does Fake Ellery work? I mean, how do you even—"

"I told you not to call it that," he mumbles.

"Okay." You listen to the nice crunchy sound your feet make on the ice. "So what do you call him? Don't say you don't have a name for him."

Ellery hunches over. "I don't have a name for..."


"...I- I mean, it's not a name, it's—" He wipes his mouth, muffling his voice in the process. "—it's just a— a title, I guess. And I really didn't intend to talk about it with anyone else, so..."

You blink innocently. "Then I'll just have to keep calling him Fake Ellery. Or, I guess, 'that fake copy of Ellery that real Ellery planted when he, like a little bitch, abandoned—'"

"Okay! Gods-fucking-damn! It's 'That Guy 2.'"

"It's what?" That barely registered.

"I'm not saying it ag-"

"'That Guy 2'?" You assumed it'd be terrible, but he's managed to exceed expectations. "What kind of a name is that? Why is there a— a "2?" Was there a That Guy 1? Wh—"

"Yes," Ellery snaps. "And I told you it wasn't a name. So I'd really rather not—"

"No, that's— I'm not using that." You wave a hand of dismissal. "So, Fake Ellery. How do you even make a- a person? And don't try to tell me he's not a person. I mean, even if he isn't a 'person,' that's still— I mean, you're not that smart. Right?"

He's shut his eyes, but you know he heard you, so you busy yourself with stomping as loudly as possible in the drifts of snow until he responds. His tone is studied. "I was drunk."

"...Excuse me?"

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"I was drunk. I was very, very drunk. I was—" He exhales. "—you know that level of drunk where it feels like you've sort of ascended to another plane of— of existence, where you're in perfect control, and you know everything, and everyone loves you, and—"

"No." (Maybe you do. But you're not helping Ellery.)

"...Oh. Um, well, you'll have to— you'll have to take my word for it. I was desperate, and very, very, very drunk, for— I don't know, maybe a week straight, and I—" He raises his hands. "I don't remember most of it, so that's all you're getting."

He doesn't sound very sorry about it. You raise your eyebrows. "You were desperate? Why?"

"..." He adjusts his collar. "That's not your problem."

You'll wear him down eventually, but maybe now isn't the time. You walk briskly past him, into the shadow of a looming castle spire, and squat against it. "So. What now?"

"What now."

"I mean, what do we do n—"

Ellery extends a finger toward the sky. You follow it, squinting— your vision is much worse, now, with your good eye gone and its replacement bandaged— and can just about make out the dark outline of a rectangle. Of a... door. "Oh, hell. That's not—"

"It's probably not the only one," he says, "but I'm not too keen on hunting around for alternatives— I don't know about you. And it still should be possible to get up there—"

"To get up there."


"To get up—" (you extend a matching finger) "—there. To get up, what is that, 50 damn feet in the air? Why is it in the sky? Could there be a less convenient—"

"There could." His tone indicates 'and I have personally experienced it.' "It's in the sky because— I don't know, they're just up there. That's how it is. At least we're on the roof... it could be 65 feet, alright? So you really shouldn't bitch about—"

"I'm not bitching." You stand. "It's just... I just don't... ugh."

>How are you getting 50 damn feet in the air?
>[1] Write-in. (This is more a creative exercise than a puzzle: don't stress about optimization, pick something fun.) [Possible roll.]
The funnest thing I can think of is mary poppinsing our way up but we have no umbrella :(

maybe if we held our jacket like a parachute or something
>[1] Write-in. (This is more a creative exercise than a puzzle: don't stress about optimization, pick something fun.) [Possible roll.]
Use the principal of trampoline double jumping.

Rolled 16, 35, 28 = 79 (3d100)

>Double jump (and jacket?)
Excellent choice. Rolling for no particular reason and writing.
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>The funnest way

Ellery doesn't say anything. You throw your hands out. "I suppose you have loads of great ideas, since you're so- so smart. Or wait, I'm sorry, do you need to get drunk first?"

"I can't."

"You can't get drunk?" How does he keep getting more awful? Like— surely you would've hit a nadir by now? "Well, then you're useless. I'll have to do the heavy lifting around here, like— well, like I have been doing, this whole time. We'll just—"

A piercing CRACK saves you from the plan you hadn't yet concocted: a noise like the castle, or maybe the ground itself, is being torn asunder. Or maybe the peasants are taking a battering ram to the supporting pillars. In either case, you stumble, curse, and straighten just in time to see the sun.

The... sun. The clouds— which have hung heavy and interminable over the realm of, of Faerieland, or Beaversdam, or whatever this place is called, since time immemorial, probably, but at least since you got here— are parting. The ice is melting. The eternal winter has—

"Wait," you say, to Ellery. "We didn't— we didn't restore the old king, though."

He doesn't respond. His gaze is fixed squarely upwards: at the sun? It's hard to blame him, considering how pale he is; he's probably never seen the sun in his whole damn life. You snatch a glance at the sky—

it dried the air, reddened your skin, stirred your thirst—
skin peeled from your hands, your feet, your neck, your thighs—
You are standing in an empty grey room. Your fist is bleeding.

—and turn away, just as fast. You hate the sun. It's no surprise, then, that Ellery's so entranced by it: birds of a feather, and all that. "Ellery!"

"...What?" He turns slowly.

"Stop looking at the stupid— why is the winter over?! We didn't restore the old king! Because you shot him."

"You sucked his blood out with a- a tube," Ellery says. "But, uh— I don't know."

"You don't know."

"Maybe it has nothing to do with the old king, and it's just because you beheaded the other guy. Maybe it interpreted euthanizing the guy as a return to default. Maybe this whole thing is a shoddy mess, and none of it follows any kind of logical order, because the people making it were, once again, hacks. Is that enough theories for you? I don't know everything, Charlotte, all I can do is—"

"You don't know anything," you correct him. "I just think it's weird. Why did it happen so late?"

"Because that's how long it took for it to register? How the fuck am I supposed to know? Answer that, and maybe I'll—"

"Shut up." You raise a finger.

"What?! You asked me the—"

"Shut up!" You crane your neck. "What's happening over there?"

He turns. "The ice is melting."

Well, yes. Okay. The ice is melting: even with your subpar vision, you can tell that much. There's just... "I told you to shut up," you snap, and push past him. What is it? Is it the smell? There's something in the air, something beyond the must of damp soil and the crisp push of the wind. You follow your suspicions up the precarious tilt of the roof, using The Sword as guide, and confirm them as soon as you reach the top.

Your side of the roof is cast mainly in shadow. Your side of the roof is also solid. The other side, exposed directly to your foe the sun, is melting.

You don't mean that the ice and snow are melting: you mean that the roof is sagging inward, and the tiles are trickling off it in droplets, and the whole thing stinks of... you haven't the faintest idea. Stone, you suppose, with a large dose of something chemical.

Fueled by morbid curiosity, you take a small step onto the roof, fully prepared to leap back if it tears under your weight. To your surprise, it bears you perfectly well, bending only slightly. If anything, it feels springy.

You have a truly abysmal idea. Nobody is around to stop you.

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


"ELLERY!" you holler.

He sees you. You know he sees you, because you can just about make out the look of shock and despair on his face before you're down again, and the sunward roof coils under your weight, and springs back up, and— "ELLERY!!!"

You bounce a few more times for emphasis before he finally slogs up the side of the roof and looks down at you. "Remind me how old you are?"

"23," you say smugly. "Remind me how old you are? And tell me, by the way, that this doesn't look fun."

"...Uh." Ellery rubs the base of his chin. "...Whether it's fun isn't really the..."

"So yes, it does look fun. And yes, you would like to join me on the—" You search fruitlessly for a better word. "—roof."

"I just... I- I feel as though... um... I mean..." He's not looking you in the eye. "...We have to go."

"We have to go through the door?" You begin to bounce again. Small ones, to start. "In the sky?"


"Huh. What a funny—" Bounce. "—coincidence."

He sags.

"What's the big—" Bounce. "—deal? No, I mean—" Bounce. "—seriously, what's the big deal. It's not as though you're—" Bounce. "—normally mature and—" Bounce. "—dignified—"

"Hey." It's weak. "Fuck you."

"You're gonna deny it?" You attempt a somersault but don't have the agility. "You're gonna paint yourself as—" Bounce. "—some kind of elder statesman? You have—" Bounce. "—have less respectability than a—" Bounce. "—a, um—"

As it turns out, you didn't even have to think of a metaphor: Ellery, sufficiently riled, has jumped down to meet you. As he goes down, you spring up, higher than you've ever gone before.

"Fuck you," he reiterates, in the moment that you're face-to-face. "I take back—"

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He bounces. You descend.

"—everything else I've said about—"

You bounce. He descends.

"—you. You know what you—"

He bounces. You descend.

"—are? You're a—"

You bounce. He descends. You don't think you could stop now if you wanted to.

"kid. You're a bratty fucking—"

He bounces. You descend. The wind no longer whistles in your ears: you think it might be melting, too.

"—kid, with a big mouth, and you don't—"

You bounce. He descends. It's not just the roof that's bending under your weight, you think. It's the castle. Or maybe the whole ground is sagging.

"—understand what adults do. You don't understand—"

He bounces. You descend. You don't think about the speed at which you're descending.

"—that they have to do things which aren't— which they regret, and—"

You bounce. He descends. You can see the door, but it's an arms-length out of reach.

"—you're just deluded! You think there's a black, and a white, and a right, and wrong, and you just don't— even if I explained, you wouldn't— you're just too- too—"

He bounces. You descend.

"—too young!"

He descends. You bounce, and at the apex of your parabola claw for the edge of the door, and catch it, and haul yourself up, and step back in time for Ellery to flop bodily inside. You lean over him. "And you were bouncing. So."

He glares and, scrambling to his feet, draws himself up to his full height. You're resolutely unintimidating. "Also," you say, "you already said all that, mostly. You called me a kid detective."

"You're that too." He wipes his nose for the thousandth time.

"Ah, yes, that's me. The kid detective. Who, need I remind you, unraveled your whole deal in a week?" You're feeling much better than you were previous, though whether that's on account of the bouncing or just some distance between you and Gil's... is hard to say.

...Gil is still with you, right? He didn't... no, he's there. "Gil?" you whisper, just in case.

The beetles don't speak, and don't appear to react. You swallow. "Can you understand me? If you can understand me, could you... flap your wings, or—"

Ellery is already up a flight of stairs. "Who are you talking to?"

Should you tell him? Well... do you have anything to lose? Not really. He saw Gil got shot, according to him. "Uh... Gil."

"..." He has to think. "...The demon?"

"Y- yes, but not— he's my retainer. You met him. The beetles—"

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"The beetles!" Ellery hops the banister. "Yes. And he was... injured."

"He was shot," you say, bitterly. "In the head. Because I actually tried to help your precious girlfriend. And now he's— I don't know."

Ellery considers this. "Ah."

"Yeah. So— that's it. I was just checking on him. Sorry if that's childish, or whatever. I guess wizened elders like you wouldn't care about such a stupid—"

"...I didn't say that." He rakes a hand through his hair. "Uh... could I see them? Him. I mean."

You draw your arms up around your chest. "Why?"

"I- I don't know, maybe I could— I mean, I'm decent at— I could try to... get through to him," he finishes lamely.


"...I have some experience with beetles."

"Uh-huh. What's the catch?"

"What? There's not a— there's no catch."

You look down at Gil.

>[1] No way. You don't trust this pathetic attempt to, what, apologize? And you don't trust Ellery's ability, either. Just head up the stairs.
>[2] ...Okay. Maybe. Let him attempt to commune with Gil, or whatever. If it buys you peace of mind, it's worth it.
>[3] ...Okay. Maybe. But you're not letting him muck up Gil like he mucks up everything else. Why can't he swallow a beetle, like Richard did, and let Gil talk through him? That'd work, right?
>[4] Write-in.
>>[3] ...Okay. Maybe. But you're not letting him muck up Gil like he mucks up everything else. Why can't he swallow a beetle, like Richard did, and let Gil talk through him? That'd work, right?

Ellery is no Richard and we know this, but I want to see what he thinks of that feat
>[3] ...Okay. Maybe. But you're not letting him muck up Gil like he mucks up everything else. Why can't he swallow a beetle, like Richard did, and let Gil talk through him? That'd work, right?
I would also be fine with Gil overwriting Ellery, but Ellery's powers might trump Gil's if it's a single beetle and it's inside Ellery.
>Ultimate BUG EATING CHALLENGE (gone wrong) (gone sexual)


"'Okay'? Is that a- a yes?"

It isn't. You don't want to give him the satisfaction of a yes. And you certainly don't want him to feel like he's doing you a favor. He's not. (How could he be?) If anyone's doing a favor, it'd be you, for allowing him to— for graciously allowing him to soothe his conscience.

Or rather, you would be, if you accepted. You haven't accepted. You cast a derisive look at Ellery's hand, which is outstretched like a beggar's. "What's that for?"

"...Well, I need the beetles, in order to..."

"You're not holding him," you snipe. "You'll get snot on his— his shells. And grime, and— stuff."

"...But I need to hold..." He trails off. "I'm trying to help you, Charlotte. If you don't want help, then—"

"I don't need help." You pause. "But if you're so desperate to do something, you can— you can swallow one, I guess."

Ellery looks at you. He looks away. "What?"

"You can swallow one. It's sanitary." Probably. "Then he can talk through you."

"Are you fucking with me?"


"Are you sure? Because it sounds like— it sounds like you're fucking with me. It sounds like you're trying to get me to eat a bug. Is it poisonous?"

Is he poisonous? "Does it matter? Can you even get poisoned?"

"No, but—"

"So you're just scared for no reason," you say.

"I'm not scared," Ellery says with force. "I just think you're trying to get me to eat a bug, and then you're going to laugh at me because I ate a bug. Sorry I tried to lend a fucking hand, Charlotte, though I don't know what I expected, I really, honestly—"

"So what I'm hearing is that you're too mature and dignified to eat a bug? Gosh, Ellery, that's just—"

He looks at you. "Son of a bitch."

"Pardon me?"

"You're just going to be a little shit about it no matter what I do, huh? You're just going to— to— just give me the fucking bug, Charlotte."

"It's a beetle," you say, "and he's a person, so don't be rude. I know you were raised in a barn, but..." Yes! Success. He's forgotten all about his useless, mortifying pity. "Anyhow, here."

You gently pry a beetle away from the cluster and offer it in a fist to Ellery. As soon as you unfurl your hand, though, it flits from your grasp and back to its fellows. "Oh." You fish another out. "Uh... cup your hands."

Ellery does, and you deposit the second beetle more carefully. You hover over it for a few extra seconds, watching: you're no expert in beetle emotion, but it seems agitated. It keeps bashing itself into the walls of Ellery's palms. "I don't think it likes you," you say.

"Thanks." Ellery claps his other palm fully over the second beetle. "Now what?"

"You swallow it."

"I swallow it."

"Yes. And don't chew. That's murder."

"...Right." He closes his eyes. "And remind me what this is supposed to do?"

"What," you say, "metaphysically? Without the grounding presence of Reality, a single beetle cannot sustain a individual conceptualization-of-self, so when it ceases to be externally perceived it becomes entangled in its surrounding concept. In essence, it's stripped of form and woven into its nearby bylaws, which are now attuned to the resonations of the external—"

"I meant the outcome."

"Oh." You cough. "He'll be able to talk using... your voice. I hope."

"I guess that's not so bad." Ellery squints one eye shut, raises his hands to his face, and attempts, rather awkwardly, to swallow the beetle. Though you hadn't been planning on making fun of him for it, you give it serious contemplation. Maybe if you hadn't seen Richard smoothly and elegantly handle the matter, then—

But he forces it down before you can think of anything witty to say, and sniffs, and blinks rapidly, and wipes his mouth. He looks rather on the brink of a sneeze, though the sneeze never comes. "It's dark," he says.


"It's dark. Where am I? I don't understand." (That much is accurate: Ellery looks as puzzled as you do.) "Where am I? I can't feel anything. I can't feel my legs."


"I don't understand. I can't feel my legs. I can't feel my arms. I can't feel my head. Where is everyone? I'm alone. I need help. Someone help. Someone find me. I'm alone. I'm scared. I need help."

"I'm- I'm right here, Gil, you're not—"

["I don't think he's lucid," Ellery signs.] "Oh god," he says. "Oh god." ["Another thing... about the resonations."]

"About the what?" Your left hand is covered in beetles.

["...That's what you said? The resonations? ...Look, the point is that I'm not feeling anything from your end— from the rest of the, uh, beetles. And maybe I'm not supposed to, I don't really know, but it feels wrong. Sort of... dead."]

You don't say anything.

["I'm not saying that he *is* dead, or unsalvageable, or... I mean, there's something in here, obviously."]
["But I do think he's kind of... broken."]

"Broken," you say.

["I mean, he did get shot, uh, in the head."]

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

You watch dismally as Ellery coughs the beetle back up. You watch dismally as it homes back in on you. You'd previously taken that as a sign of recognition, of conscious decision-making, of, perhaps, some loyalty, but now it reads like animal instinct. Broken.

It's not your fault, of course. It's not. It isn't. You haven't done anything wrong in your life. But, as as you trudge up the endless stairs, you're having trouble deciding who— precisely— is to blame, if not you. You do have options. It's not like you don't have options. They all just—

"Hah!" It's less an exclamation than an exhale, high and somewhat girlish, which means it wasn't Ellery. (As much as you like to deride his voice.) But it wasn't you, either, unless you've been in such a daze that you—

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"Aha ha. Aha-ha."

Okay, it's not you. Ellery, several flights ahead, is unhearing. Nobody else is ahead of you, so you turn, slowly, one hand on The Sword's hilt...


"...Richard?" It's Richard, unmistakably, though he looks as though he's been run through the wash: he's flushed and rumpled and shining with sweat or something worse. He's looking down at himself like it's a brand new body, which you suppose must be true in some sense. "Richard! You, um— you exist."

"Ye-s." He rolls the word around in his mouth. "Yes. I suppose I must. You're unharmed."

"What?" It's a statement, not a question, and you're doubly thrown off by his voice: which is to say your voice. You're fairly sure it's your voice, in any case, though it sounds more like a bad parody. You do not have that strong of an accent. "Yeah, I— that's not funny, by the way."

"What isn't? Charlie, don't change the topic. I was attempting to extend a commemoration for your somewhat prudent decision-making, which is not normally something to be commended, but given your typical strategies, especially unsupervised, I feel I must reinforce—"

He's still using it. Why? To mock you? You assumed he'd be mocking you, but you thought you'd at least get some breathing room. "God, just- I don't care if you're if you're gonna lecture me about how stupid I was, and how I made all the worst decisions, and how I- I broke Gil, and I let Madrigal get stolen, and blah blah blah blah, I just— I don't want to hear it. Not right now. Okay? Just—"

"Excuse me?" It's not even just the voice— it's the same way you'd say 'excuse me.' "I take back the 'you're unharmed'— were you hit on the head? Because not only did I not say any of that, I seem to recall saying the opposite of—"

"In my voice," you hiss.

"..." Richard touches his throat. "Mm. I... hear that, yes. Er—"

He coughs exactly like a cat with a hairball as you watch Ellery above nervously. (No reaction. Still climbing.) Eventually he pulls a kind of bolus, black and semisolid, off his tongue, and pitches it off the side of the stairs. He clears his throat. "Pardon that," he says in his usual voice. "Though it really is your fault. You're very possessive."

"...Yes?" You're rather wishing all of the above didn't happen. "Wait, so you actually did mean to commend—"

"And speaking of faults, I am curious about who you blame."

"What?" But you know what. You were just thinking about what. And he— "How much do you remember?"

"Everything." He clicks his tongue. "But it goes quick, so you may as well answer quick, Charlotte. Who do you blame?"

>[A1] Pat, obviously. She had the gun. She did the shooting. It is completely, objectively her fault.
>[A2] Gil. He's the one who wanted to go along. He's the one who let himself be taken hostage, like a— like an idiot. He should've known what he was getting yourself into.
>[A3] Ellery. He acted like he was all cool, and untouchable, and in control, and maybe some fraction of you had believed him. And then, when he was actually needed, he got shot like a bitch. You hate him.
>[A4] Madrigal. If /she/ hadn't wanted to go along— hadn't pleaded with you, personally, to take her— then she'd still be just fine today. And so would Gil.
>[A5] Richard. Yes, you blame him. If he wanted you to make the right decision, whatever that was, he could've influenced you. But he didn't. So here we are.
>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—

>[B] Discuss anything with Richard real quick? (You'll have more opportunity later. Write-in. Optional.)

>[C] Write-in.
>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—
>>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—
>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—
>You have never done anything wrong in your entire life

>It is within the realm of possibility that you have done at least one thing wrong in your entire life

>[uncomfortable self-reflection]

Who do you blame? What a stupid, meaningless question. He's just trying to get a rise out of you, you expect, and you're not falling for it. "Does it matter?"

"Does it matter? Must the fate of the world hang in the balance for every question I ask? No, it doesn't matter." He spreads his hands. "I'm simply curious."

Definitely trying to get a rise out of you. Why did you miss him? "I bet. And you can't just read my mind... why?"

"Ah, well, there's a tripartite answer. Part 1, that would be rather rude, Charlotte."

"Because that's stopped you before," you grumble.

He ignores you, choosing instead to adjust his sunglasses. "Part 2, which you would know if you paid any attention to anything I've said, is that I cannot, as you so tritely put it, 'read minds.' That is not a real concept. All I do is go about my day-to-day business while you radiate balderdash like a sort of... balderdash-radiator."

"That's a great metaphor."

"I suppose you'd be in peak condition, having existed for, let me see, a minute-forty. Part 3 is that I don't terribly care about the actual answer, as I know it already. I'd like to know what you think the answer is."

"So you're yanking me along," you say. "Thanks for the relevation, but I knew that much already, so I'm just going to go. Maybe be less of a—"

You knew in your gut he'd be in front of you when you turned around, but you still flinch. "—a- a prick, next time. Please move."

"We're having a civil conversation, Charlotte, I don't see what you're taking offense at." He doesn't move. This close, he smells of cigarette ash and wet dirt and, peculiarly, soap. "Is it the question? Is it making you uncomfortable?"

"No," you say. And then: "It's rather personal."

"And what are we if not personal? Really, Charlie." He leans. You can see his eyes through his sunglasses. "I will remind you of where I just was. Or wasn't. But in any case, you could at least acknowledge that it is making you uncomfortable. And maybe, from there, contemplate why... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Who do you blame?"

"You," you say.

He laughs. "Don't be glib."

You wish you could blame him, really and truly, so he could hear it radiating off your in big jagged waves and lose the damn smirk. But it's nothing you can sustain. He wasn't even there— and you know he would've wanted to interfere, if he were able.

"I'm not," you say. "Fine, I blame Ellery, alright? Is that what you want to hear? Because I do." It's not hard to summon genuine heat for this one. "He deserves it. He's all 'oh, look at me, I'm so cool and competent, I'm totally not a fake worthless illiterate loser,' and then he goes and— he goes and gets shot! And he doesn't contribute anything, and he- he—"

"That's well enough." Richard appraises you. "And do you believe that?"

"What? Yes, I— yes. Do I sound like I don't? Aren't you the one who keeps calling me a bad liar? Surely you're— surely you—"

"Very well." He's unreadable as he steps aside. "Carry on. Don't let me stop you."

"Wait, but—" That was it? You expected a fight. Or a 'gotcha.' At least a 'gotcha.' "You can't just—"

"You asked me to move, didn't you?" He gestures up the staircase.

...Well, yes, you did, but... God. Now you have no choice but to walk. So you do, feeling quite odd about it all, as Richard reappears a few steps above you each time you blink.

"I didn't lie," you say, a dozen steps later.

"Did I call you a liar?"

"No, but— you implied it." You never want to see stairs again.

"I did nothing of the sort. Do you feel like a liar?"

"...I'm not a liar."

You hear the click-click-hiss of a lighter. "Again," Richard mumbles, "I didn't call you one. I don't care whether you are lying, I care about whether you believe you're lying. So would you bother applying a modicum of introspection and give me a straight answer? Unless you're incapable of that, which... is what I'm concerned about, in fairness."

"I can introspect," you say, offended. "I just— I don't get why anyone would want to. It's a waste of time."

"You are exhibiting," Richard notes around his cigarette, "a high degree of resistance to this simple yes-or-no question. I have an indefinite amount of time. I am, in fact, savoring the astonishing pleasures of being alive."

Meaning he's going to pester you until you give in. You hate that you can so readily translate Richardspeak. And, you'll admit it, you hate the question: "simple yes-or-no" or not, it implies all manner of things that you don't want implied. Are you lying to yourself? Does it matter if you're lying for yourself? If you are, it's surely for excellent reason. How would anyone get through life without lying to themselves? God. You suppose they'd end up like Monty, all sunshine and cuddles until they strangle innocent, unsuspecting young women. (God! He really did strangle you! You'll be having words, soon.)

Well, you're not like that. Like any sensible person, there are things you examine, and things you don't. Does it matter that "things you don't" is so much larger than "things you do?" No. Does that make you a liar? Also no. Does it make you feel like a liar?

...No. Usually no. So it's Richard's fault, then, as it always is, that you are, to a certain (small!) extent, feeling moderately... liar-y. Which makes no sense, because you aren't lying. You do blame Ellery.

You don't say anything. Richard still smirks. "I see."

"Shut up."

"You really are a poor liar, you're right. It just goes all over your face. In any case, now that we've acknowledged this together, let us return to the principal topic. You feel as though you're lying about who you blame, yes?"

"Shut up, Richard."

"So who do you blame?"

"I don't want to talk about this anymore," you say.

"Perhaps this is too open-ended of a question. Let me revise. Do you blame yourself, Charlotte, for the events that occurred? Specifically, do you blame yourself for the beetles—"


"—for Gil being shot?"

You begin to jog. This is a daunting prospect, being that you're going upstairs in heels, but you feel it's worth it. Where's Ellery? You miss Ellery, who was too self-involved to care about how you felt. It's not as though Richard cares, either, but he's clearly got some kind of idea in his head and you're uninterested in feeding it. Wasn't he exhausted after the last time he re-existed? When's that supposed to kick in?

Not soon enough: he's vanishing and reappearing just the same as before, only faster. "Bravo," he says. "Literally running from your feelings, Charlotte. One would've thought that was constrained to bad metaphor, but look at you. Would you care to articulate any of your melodrama, or just repress it until I have to clean up the aftermath?"

You flash him a vulgar gesture.

"How classy. Would you like me to list what you've been telling me? Because I'll happily oblige. You—"

You don't need him to list it. You're scared about Gil. You're scared that something about him is gone, and isn't coming back, and that you caused it, you left him alone, you provoked Pat. She wasn't going to shoot him. You believe her, that she wasn't going to shoot him. But she did, because of you.

And— and it isn't like you and Gil had known each other for very long, or were very close, or were even really— you're not stupid, you know you weren't friends. You were just his only option. But you had thought that maybe you had, on certain occasions, experienced some kind of rapport, or "camaraderie," as they call it. And you had thought that maybe, given more of those certain occasions, he would begin to... want to stay around. You wanted him to stay around.

And now he is shot (you got him shot) and either something is gone and missing forever, and it's hopeless, or it's fixable, and he will hate you after he learns you got him shot, and he'll want to leave even faster. Not that you'd blame him. He was your retainer, and he was supposed to serve you loyally, and he did, and in return you were supposed to be a- a noble protector, and keep him safe from harm. And you didn't.

>[-1 ID: 2/(9)]

You are thinking all of these things you don't want to think, that Richard is making you think, and the beetles are cold under your coat, and you are crying a little. You are not climbing stairs. Ellery has probably made it out by now. The thought of that makes you cry harder and you do until someone grabs you.

"...Richard?" He is grasping you hard, half around your shoulders, and half around the chest. You sniffle. "Are you trying to pickpocket me?"

"No." His grip loosens. "This is— customary."

This is customary? This is— "Oh, God." You push him off you. "Was that a- a- a hug? Are you drunk? Don't tell me you're drunk, I swear to God, I'll—"

"I'm not drunk, Charlie." He brushes himself down. "As I was saying, it's customary to- to offer an—"

"You make me cry all the time—" You are furiously wiping your nose. "—and you never hug me unless you're drunk."

"Well, yes, Charlie, that's when I intend to make you cry, it'd hardly make sense to— I didn't intend to, here, and I will additionally allow that, being newly, how shall we put it, reconstituted, I may be uniquely subsceptible to upswellings of feelings which are forced upon me by pushy, ungrateful little girls, and—" You have begun again to climb the stairs, and he is following, this time, on foot. He is already breathing heavily. "—and, I'll have you know, that if I had the foresight to get drunk, that would have shut you up, and that little incident would have been entirely averted—"

"You're such a bastard," you say.

"So I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't, how generous of you, Charlie— you know, I may as well go drink. I deserve it. You can stay sad and alone—"

"Go then," you spit, but he's already gone. You make short work of the rest of the stairs, wipe your nose one last time, and kick the small nondescript door open with a satisfying THUNK.

Ellery is there. Anthea is there. To be more precise, the two of them are entwined in a fashion you find entirely inappropriate, and you begin to say as much before Ellery's shoulders arch and he looses an ugly broken sob.


>[1] Not this again. Slink back in through the door, shut it behind you, and wait the whole debacle out. You don't want to be involved, simple as that.
>[2] Attempt to clandestinely alert Anthea to your presence and hope she can sort the whole matter out. She seems... tactful.
>[3] Silence the alarm bells in your head and wade right into this. Hello! You don't see anybody crying! Say, how about getting out of this dump? How *is* Anthea doing, by the way?
>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]
>[5] Write-in.
>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]
>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]

Let's drop some eaves.
>>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]

Join the cry huddle
You would rather die, frankly.
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Okay! Time to exploit the heck out of this private moment.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 5 (+10 Good Eavesdropper, -15 Completely Exposed) vs. DC 40 (+5 When's Charlotte Coming?, -15 Very Distracted) to eavesdrop without being caught!
Rolled 61 + 5 (1d100 + 5)


This is me, by the way--was at work.
Rolled 1 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

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Rolled 16 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

epic roll??
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Man... you guys just can't catch a break, can you?

I've been thinking about crits over the hiatus, and I'd like to make an offer. If you don't accept it, I'll offer it on the next critfail (and we all know there'll be a next one).

The offer is:
>Defer the critfail. The 1 doesn't pass the DC, but has no special properties beyond that. (You would get a Mitigated Success.)
>In return, I get to convert one future failure into a critfail, at which point the crit is expended and the "defer" offer becomes available again.
>This would not be used to deliberately screw you: I would use it at a point where I deemed it narratively interesting for a critfail to happen.

>Defer this crit?
>[1] Yes. You get a Mitigated Success. I get to turn one future Failure into a critical failure.
>[2] No. You critfail.
>[2] No. You critfail.

I'd rather not critfail at all, but given the circumstances I'd rather we fuck this roll up than a later one...
>>[2] No. You critfail.
>>[2] No. You critfail.
You got it. Writing.

No problem. I'm not ForgottenQM, I don't do autism checks.
>He looks at you. "Son of a bitch."
>"Pardon me?"
>"You're just going to be a little shit about it no matter what I do, huh? You're just going to— to— just give me the fucking bug, Charlotte."

Oh no, he's figured us out!
>Scooby Doo the hell out of this one
>56, 1, 11 vs. DC 40 — CRITFAIL

Your first instinct is to turn and leave immediately, and you do, almost, until Anthea begins to speak. "Ell—" she says, and then something too soft to hear, then "Charlotte, she—"

Hold on, they're talking about you? That's different. That's entirely different. This is now, as a simple matter of fact, your business. Damn the crying! You have a right to know what's being said about you, at any time, on any occasion, and by God you intend to exercise this right. (And it's not as if Ellery wouldn't eavesdrop on you.)

The principal issue here is not one of morals, then: it's of logistics. You have come in through that gate you attempted to go through some hours before, before you were kidnapped— there's no sign of your kidnappers, though. It's bright and sunny out, and the snow on the ground has melted so rapidly that you're shin-deep in runoff. Meaning you have no cover.

...Well. No cover, unless— unless you take a cunning ploy out of Josey Hatchcock's playbook (the playbook from the earlier novels, before the new author tarted her up). You distinctly recall occasions where Josey had cause to hide from bandits, or hired guns, or the like, and, for lack of other options was forced to— yes!— hide under the water, with only a reed to breathe from. Only you don't have any reeds. And you don't want to get wet. But it's too late, you have already committed yourself to the plan, and now if you don't go through with it you'll begin to think of Gil again.

Which, er... can beetles go underwater? The question comes too late, as you've already begun to lower yourself into the snowmelt. Damn, you think, damn damn damn damn damn, and it's only through extraordinary strength of will that you don't say it aloud. You have almost immediately lost feeling in your fingers.

Damn damn damn damn. At least Richard isn't here, though it doesn't matter much, because you're already visualizing what he's going to say. Maybe you do need a drink after this. A warm one. You are fully submerged, now, and shivering, and shimmying forward on your forearms, and then you realize rather belatedly that you can't hear anything from down here. You can see their boots.

Damn! You rest your face on the cobblestone as you plot how to save face from this. Nothing comes. You roll sideways, in hopes a new position will stimulate ideas, and—

"It's not pointless."

...It's not exactly a voice. It's more like a noise, or a— maybe a vibration, or something, coming through the ground. You can't explain why you understand it.

"It's not? Go on, then, explain to me how it isn't—"

Still vibrations, but... lower? Deeper?

"How it isn't pointless? Ell, what about—"

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"Because the way I see it, I- I-" A pause. "I spent years tearing myself to pieces for a- a cause. I don't know why she thinks— I mean, if I'd done it for shits and giggles, I'd be— I'd be dead. Even with you I'd be— no offense."

"I know."

"But I- I had a cause, you know, a purpose, and I thought it was— gods, I—" Another pause. "You know, I was doing the right thing."

"I know. You were."

"And- and- and now it's been—" Long pause. "It was in my control. It wasn't like she- like she fucked over the wrong bootlegger— I was there, and I-I watched, and—"

"She shot you, Ell. We all trusted her."

"I shouldn't have! And I should've been more careful, and now— don't you see? It's wasted. It's pointless. All of it— fucking pointless."

"That's what I was trying to tell you. You can't think of it that way, or it'll— it really will kill you. Hasn't there been something worthwhile?"

A drawn-out pause. "No."

"Come on. What about the club, Ell? What about- what about me?"

And you don't know what happens, what look comes across Ellery, whether he pushes her or she shoves him or if Anthea just breaks away from the hug, but either way her foot lands directly on the small of your back. You gurgle, and she shrieks, and that's how you wind up, sopping wet, face-to-face with both of them.

Anthea radiates concern. "I- I can't believe I stepped on you! I'm so sorry! Are you alright? That was so stupid of me, I don't know how I—"

"You were spying on us," Ellery says flatly.

"No I wasn't," you say.

"Don't make accusations, Ellery, I don't care what kind of state you're in— she's just—"

"She was laying in the water right next to us." He kicks the water. "There's no explanation for that. She was spying on us, like she has been spying on us. For weeks. And what did you learn this time, Ms. Detective?"

You decide to stick to the script. "I wasn't spying."

"See, she said she wasn't spying, Ellery. Would you drop it? I'm sure she just—" Anthea stops midsentence, and squints, and reaches for your lapel. She retrieves a beetle. (It seems alive, if also sopping wet. Thank God.) "—is this a beetle?"

"No," you say.

"My god, it is a— hold on, do you have more of these?"


She plucks another beetle from your lapel. "Are these the beetles from— from a few weeks ago?"

It was less than that, but you don't say so. "No."

"The ones I expressly told you not to bring with you? And you're taking them places? Charlotte?"

"She's taking them places and getting them shot," Ellery interjects. "They're pretty fucked-up right now. Or it is, or... he, or whatever."

You stare daggers at Ellery. Anthea stares daggers at you. "I can't believe you'd do that! When I expressly told you— and I can't believe you'd lie! And I can't believe you'd- you'd spy on us!"

"For weeks." Ellery wipes his nose.

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"For— for weeks!" Her smoke is billowing out faster and darker than usual. "Do you know what you've done? What you've caused? This is a- a good man, a- a good and decent man, and he doesn't deserve what you're—"

"He deserves it," you say.

"No! He doesn't! And I can't believe you'd be so cruel as to take advantage of such a- a- a—" It's nearly black, now. "—a, a— oh, god, my head."

She sways and topples: you leap back as Ellery leaps forward, catching her before she hits the ground. His face is dark. He hoists her up and puts two fingers to her neck.

"She's not—" you say.

"She's just fainted. She doesn't... she doesn't do well with strong emotion, anymore." He lifts her over his shoulders. "We're going. Not you."

"Oh," you say, and then "wait, what about—"

"I hope I won't see you again." He fishes around in his pocket and pulls out a small clamshell mirror.

"But—" Your words finally catch up to you. "But, but Madrigal. Don't tell me you can rescue her. You're—"

"Gods-fucking-dammit." He looks ready to throw the mirror, but restrains himself. "Fine. Fine. You know how to contact me."

"...Uh, how do I—"

He flips the mirror open and looks into it and when it closes both he and Anthea are gone. You are alone. And wet.

Richard, you think. Rich-ard. Riiichard. Richard. R-I-C-H-A-R-D. Richard! Richard, you useless—

"You're wet," he says.

"You're drunk. Quick. Is it even possible to get drunk that—"

"It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, Charlie." He hasn't gotten to the point where he's slurring his words, but between the slouch and the stench of whiskey you could clock him at a hundred paces. "You need a ride."


"Easy enough." He slaps a hand over your eyes. You are turned inside-out and rightside-in before you can complain and then he removes the hand. You are back inside your manse, which still has an entire ravine inside it, but you're pretty sure the seating area is new. Richard's pulled up a table, a few chairs, and a tasteless rug. Is that where Richard was drinking? Is that...

...Gil? Why is Gil there? He was shot. He's on you. But he is there, he stands when he sees you and waves too broadly. Has he also been drinking? "Charlotte! Hi!"

You look down at your chest. The beetles are still there. You look at Gil, who has stopped waving. "...I-is something the matter?"

Richard leans in close. "Right. I forgot to remind you. You only brought a fraction of him, remember?"

...Well. Now that he mentions it.

(Choices next.)
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>[A1] You know, this is fine. This is fine! Now you can pretend this never happened. Go stick the brain-damaged beetles in a shoebox and don't tell Gil anything.
>[A2] Vaguely tell Gil something happened, but don't let him see the beetles. Maybe you can buy enough time for Richard to fix them, or maybe just for Gil to forget about them.
>[A3] Fully fess up to what happened, but don't let Gil see the beetles. You don't want to risk him finding out about it later, but you don't know if it's... contagious, or whatever.
>[A4] Fully fess up, and let Gil see the beetles. There's, what, sixteen of them? And 300, 400 of him, rattling around inside that person suit? Odds are, he'll integrate them back in, fix all the problems, and you won't have to worry about anything.
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]
>[B2] Abstain. You want to be thinking clearly.

>[C] Write-in.
>[A3] Fully fess up to what happened, but don't let Gil see the beetles. You don't want to risk him finding out about it later, but you don't know if it's... contagious, or whatever.
>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]
Unless he knows he can fix it in which case A4, I'm sure he knows more about multi beetle existence than we do.
Forgot the drink vote
>>[A3] Fully fess up to what happened, but don't let Gil see the beetles. You don't want to risk him finding out about it later, but you don't know if it's... contagious, or whatever.
>>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]
>[A4] Fully fess up, and let Gil see the beetles. There's, what, sixteen of them? And 300, 400 of him, rattling around inside that person suit? Odds are, he'll integrate them back in, fix all the problems, and you won't have to worry about anything.

I mean, what if they're also Gil, but have no must yet must scream.
>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]

Thiniing clearly hasn't worked out for us.



Neat. Writing.

You'll see if he knows.

>I mean, what if they're also Gil, but have no must yet must scream.
The beetles you have are definitely Gil... they're the Gil you've been hauling around for the past 3 threads. Not sure how clear I made that.
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>Well uh you see
>Drink up

'Is something the matter.' Is something the matter? Gil's right there, isn't he? Unharmed, and unsuspecting, and— you could not tell him. You could go right ahead and not tell him a thing, and he'd never, ever know, and his trust would never— he wouldn't want to leave you, and—

Richard claps his hand on your shoulder. "I think Charlotte has something to tell you."

"Oh? ...What?"

"Well, I don't—" You kick Richard in the ankle. "I wouldn't say I have something to tell you, as such, but—"

"Really? I thought we talked about this, Charlie." You are forcibly walked forward: Richard's grip on your shoulder is unchanging. "You definitely had something. It was about what happened to him, wasn't it?"

"Something happened?" Yeah, okay, Gil's tipsy: he's gesticulating. "...Wait, where am I? I-I mean... the other me, not... is he okay?"

"Yes," you say, immediately. "Yes, he's okay, there's nothing to—"

"He was shot," Richard says.

"Well, he was shot, but you know, it was— it really wasn't such a big—"

"I-I-I was shot?" Gil collapses back into his chair. "...Where?"

Richard pokes your forehead. "Right here. Quite tragic."

"...Um, but I-I-I don't have a..." He touches his own forehead.

He means the beetles. "You were, uh, a person. Sort of. Person-ish. And yes, okay, you were shot, in the head, but, uh— that's not— I tried to intervene, but it was— it was too late, and, um—"

Gil looks down. "...So I-I'm dead?"

"No! No, you're not—" You laugh. "You're not dead! No. No. Of course not."

"...Then can I see—"


Gil's eyes widen.

You laugh again, strained. "Not because— I mean, he's fine, it's just— Richard, uh— Richard wants to take a look at him, first. Right, Richard? We talked about this."

"We did. Apologies, Gil, but it's for the best: you're a unique, very delicate system, at the moment, and the introduction of any destabilizer could send you—" Richard makes a 'poof' gesture. "Take it as a compliment."

"A compliment." Gil sags. "I-I-I-I've been shot, and you won't even let me see me, and— and you want me to take it as—"

"I," you say loudly. "want a drink. Does anyone else want a—?"

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Richard, having already slammed a few shots, opts for nursing some kind of unpronounceable wine. Gil demurs, has Richard light him a cigarette, and sinks into a hollow-eyed stupor. You have your usual.

>[+3 ID: 5/(9)]

"...I don't get it." You tink the cocktail glass against your teeth. "You don't exist."


"So you can't feel anything. Or perceive anything. Because you don't exist."


"So shouldn't it just be... nothing? Like you go to sleep, and while you're asleep you happen to be me, and then you wake up and you're you again. What about that is hell? I mean, maybe- maybe philosophically, but you're talking about legitimate—"

"Charlie. Charlie." Richard, splayed over an entire chaise longue, straightens. "See, it's like a- a bell."

"A bell."

"A bell. Like this one." He displays a little brass bell. "See, when you ring the bell, it makes a bell noise."

You prop your head on your hand. "Sure."

"But imagine if it didn't make a— a bell noise. Imagine if you rang it and it emitted, instead, a peal of exquisite suffering."


"And then imagine the bell ceased to exist entirely. Like this." Richard closes his hand, and the bell is gone. "But imagine that the peal of the bell continued to ring out. The last and only proof it existed. The peal is not the bell, yes? But it is of the bell. It carries, in its very nature, the properties of the bell-that-does-not-exist."

"The bell that makes you suffer," you say. "Seems better it doesn't exist."

"It doesn't make you suffer, it— it just is suffering. It is transcendental agony. It is the scream of every fiber of your being as you revolt against—"

"And this is a bell? What kind of person would- would make such a sucky bell? Surely there's better things to do with—"

"Charlie, the bell is a- it's a, a metaphor." Richard rubs his eye.

"But you had a bell."

"Yes, and that bell was a metaphor for the metaphorical bell— the point was, that's how it works. The hell."

"The bell hell," you say, and snicker.

Richard does not. "Right. How am I holding my liquor better than you, Charlotte? Honestly, you've had—"

Half a glass. "I'm not drunk," you say, as clearly as you can manage. "I'm just— I don't want to think right now. I've done my thinking. I want to... I just want to sit here."

"Well, aren't you the little role model." Richard curls his top lip in a kind-of smile. "Embroiled in- in sloth and hedonism. What would we do without you, O Charlotte Fawkins, destroyer of worlds, savior of civilizations, supreme ruler of reality... I suppose we'd all fall to ash and ruin."

You adjust the eyepatch to see him better. "You have a winestain on your tie."

"No I—" He looks down at his tie. "Shit."

(Choices next.)
>Get stuff done before you have to go. Pick a max of 3 options (for my sanity). You will talk about Madrigal's kidnapping no matter what.

>[1] Have Richard take an actual look at the beetles. Maybe he'll be able to tell what's wrong with them.
>[2] Ask Richard about your eye- which is, as far as you know, still recording. You need a better one ASAP. How?
>[3] Ask Richard what the deal is with the sun. Frankly, you don't know if there even *is* a deal with the sun... it's just starting to creep you out. (Ellery might know more about this, but you're not sure you're on speaking terms.)
>[4] Check on the heart you planted. How long does it take to grow, anyhow?
>[5] Shake Gil out of his nicotine coma and semi-sincerely make sure he's okay. Maybe he just needs time to think, but you don't want this to fester.
>[6] Write-in.
>[1] Have Richard take an actual look at the beetles. Maybe he'll be able to tell what's wrong with them.
>[2] Ask Richard about your eye- which is, as far as you know, still recording. You need a better one ASAP. How?
>[5] Shake Gil out of his nicotine coma and semi-sincerely make sure he's okay. Maybe he just needs time to think, but you don't want this to fester.
>>[1] Have Richard take an actual look at the beetles. Maybe he'll be able to tell what's wrong with them.
>>[2] Ask Richard about your eye- which is, as far as you know, still recording. You need a better one ASAP. How?
>>[5] Shake Gil out of his nicotine coma and semi-sincerely make sure he's okay. Maybe he just needs time to think, but you don't want this to fester.
>>5029155 (taking this as a +1)
>1, 2, 5

>1, 2, 4

Called for 1, 2, 5. I strongly suspect that I'll have to break this up over multiple days, but we'll see what happens.
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>Make Richard do all the work

"Told you so." You stick out your tongue.

"Yes, well, aren't you a— a—" Richard waves his glass in a circle. "Well, you have something on your face."

"On my face? Oh." Now that he said it, something does tickle. A stray eyelash? "Oh, ew! Gil!"

"Mmn," Gil parries. His head lolls to one side. Plucking the beetle off your face, you storm over to his chair and hold it in front of his eyes. "Tell it that it isn't allowed to—!"

"Tell it how." Richard's staring at you from over his sunglasses.

"Well, can't he speak beetle, or—"

"Even supposing that was an ordinary insect, do you seriously think that, uh— that—" He wipes his mouth. "Listen, Charlie. Listen. Beetles don't know what faces are."

"And snakes don't talk and they sure don't spill wine on their tie. I don't see the issue."

"You're right! They don't." This utter non-joke causes Richard to break into throaty laughter for a good 20 seconds, splashing more wine on himself. "Ahh. But seriously, Charlie, get that fucking thing away from him. Did you not listen to what I said?"

"Um," you say, and pull the beetle away a little.

"I don't know why I asked that. Do you do it on purpose? Be— be honest, Charlie. Do you not listen to me just t'— is it just to piss me off? Tell me."

You can't even remember what he said earlier. "You're just boring. And- and you talk about boring things whenever you're not yelling at me. Who cares about bells?"

"It was a metaphor! Maybe if you had an attention span of more than—"

"See," you say, "and now you're yelling at me."

"'And now you're yelling at me,'" he mouths, and downs the rest of his wine. "Okay. I'll dumb it down for your human brain. BEETLE near GIL... BAD. BEETLE transmit BAD STUFF."

"Aren't snake brains, like, this big?" You pinch your fingers together.

"Yes. Now bring that thing here. Bring all of them, Charlie. Come on. Chop-chop." Richard claps his hands together. "I need to do a proper examination."

"Can't you come here?" But you come over.


The most difficult part of the process was shaking all the beetles out from under your coat. The second-most difficult was helping Richard up off the chaise longue. But eventually you got them out, and he staggered over to the table, and all you really had to do was watch.

Not that there was much to see: just Richard muttering and prodding the beetles with tweezers. Occasionally he lifted one up to a jeweler's loupe. You closed your eyes pretty quick.


You start. There is a blackboard in front of you. Richard is in front of the blackboard. "Oh, God."

"It is—" He strikes the blackboard with a stick of chalk. "—done. And I have prepared a visual example—"

"Oh, God."

"—since you will not comprehend any other means of communication."

"That's a lie," you say. You feel pleasantly warm. (Your glass is empty.) "You just want to draw a picture because it's fun."

He laughs for too long, again, and you can't tell if it's because you're right or if it's the whiskey or both. Then he stops very abruptly and points the chalk at you. "No."

"You do. It's fun, and you want to..." You wave your arm. "...show off. Or whatever. So go on, show off, it's not like you care about what I think. Just don't expect me to— to clap."

He purses his lips and looks away, and down, and back at you, and then he turns back to the blackboard. "Very well. Have you, darling Charlie— uh— have you—" He squints. "—ah. Have you ever wondered what factors make up 'you?' What invisible forces—"

"Can you just draw the picture already?" you say.

His face colors. He draws sixteen circles in two concentric ring-ish shapes: one outer, one inner. He draws wobbly lines in between all the circles, though you're uncertain whether they're wobbly on purpose. "There. There you go, Charlotte Fawkins. There is your picture."

You contemplate it. "That's a terrible picture."

Richard throws the chalk at your forehead and misses by a fair distance. Then he vanishes.

You kick your seat waiting for him to reappear. He does not reappear. The chalkboard remains. "Richard?"

Nothing. Silence. Your voice echoes in the huge hollow space. "...Richard?"

"Mn," Gil contributes, from somewhere behind the blackboard.

"Richard, don't be a- a bastard. This is silly. Just..." You contort your face. "Okay, I'll listen to a... condensed version. Tell me what your stupid picture means, or whatever."

"It's not a picture, Charlotte, it's a diagram, and since you insist." He's back just where he was, though notably un-winestained, and swaying less. He taps on the chalkboard. "This is Gil. The circles—" They are barely circles. "—are what you see of him. His physical body(s). Each body contains A), the ordinary rudimentary nervous system of the beetle, and B) a splinter of the original human person, Gil Wallace. Each splinter alone is not powerful to create the illusion of a coherent, congruent 'self,' but in combination..." Richard gestures to the lines between the non-circles. "...They create connections, or I am coining the usage 'webs,' and this 'webbing' is what produces what you know as Gil."

"That was not condensed," you say.

"Yes it—"

"You could've just said there's a separate Gil bit in every beetle, but invisible thingies stick them together so it's like there's only one Gil."

Richard curls his lip. "Yes, I could've, if I wanted to sound dim. In any case, I propose that, when your Gil was shot, the shock, pain, or trauma caused this webbing to—" He wipes away the lines on the chalkboard. "The experience of a central self was shattered in an instant."

You raise your hand. "Aren't they just normal beetles, then."

"No, Charlotte, because those slivers—" He pokes a non-circle. "—are still there. There's something human in them, still, or there ought to be. It just isn't whole, and to be terribly honest I suspect it'll deteriorate rapidly. Don't get too attached."

Don't get too attached. You think of him gagged and at gunpoint, and the shards of him scattered on the ground, like you dropped a vase, and you think of him hugging onto you, and you think of Ellery, speaking— it's dark. He doesn't understand. Please help.

You rub your nose. "Right. So how do you fix it?"

"How do I fix it?"

"How do you fix it. You— you fix things. That's your job."

Richard stares at you. "You want me to fix it. You want me to perform exploratory surgery on— on a novel specimen—"

"He's a person," you say.

"'He' is 5% of a person, and the other 95%—" Richard points behind the blackboard. "—is doing perfectly well without him. Charlotte, I will be blunt, I don't know how I'd begin to repair— and even if I did, the amount of time it would take is just astronomical—"

"You're supposed to fix things."

Richard just looks at you. "Charlie..."

>[1] You don't care about the time it'd take or if he knows how to do it or anything. It's Richard job to clean up your messes, it's as simple as that. Browbeat him into it.
>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.
>[3] ...You mean, it's not... Gil is still here. He's alive and well. He won't miss the beetles if they just... if you just let them go, surely. And it would save you a whole mess of trouble.
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.
We haven't done anything wrong in our life _yet_, but if we don't help our loyal retainer we _will_ have done, because noblesse oblige, feudal contract, etc, etc, and not guilt at all.
Can't argue this stance
>>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.

agree with >>5029574
but richard just said it would rapidly deteriorate
so the stupid complicated way might take too long unless it's like inception
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Hey guys-- I'm not feeling too great, so I'm going to take a pass on updating tonight. I'll be back tomorrow. Leaving the vote open in the off-chance anyone else stops by, though I don't expect anything.
>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.

Would we be a /qst/ protagonist if we didn't?

Feel better and get some rest!
Please feel better fren.
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Thanks, guys! I do feel better. Think I just needed some sleep.



Called for [2] and writing.
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>Take matters into your own hands

"Okay," you say quietly.

Richard tilts his head. "I don't suppose that's a wholehearted 'yes,' with maybe a 'thank you, Richard, you have shown me the error of my ways, I will no longer assume that every colossal cock-up I make has a simple—'"

"You'd suppose wrong, then." You purse your lips. "I'm asking Gil."

"What for? To get the most biased possible response? Think rationally, Charlotte, this is not worth our—"

"I'm asking him." Lurching out of your seat, you stalk around the blackboard and over to Gil, who is contorted in a bizarre sitting posture: slumped, one leg up to his chest, one arm hooked around the chair, his head resting on his knee. He is wreathed in smoke, which is leaking from his mouth, nose, and joints as well as from the stubby end of his cigarette. He is uncannily still. "Gil? GIL."


"Gil. Hello. Can you say words? Tell me you can say words."

"He's probably paralyzed." The sound of wheels on tile: Richard must be rolling away the blackboard. "Mildly."

You whip around. "He's paralyzed?!"

"Mildly." The blackboard is gone, though Richard still waggles the chalk. "What, what did you think it did to him?"

"Well, I'm not a smoker, Richard—"

"You don't have to be. But if you'd like a solution, why not pop off the head? It's detachable. Should just take a grab and a twist—" He reads your look of horror. "I have to do everything around here."

You nod vigorously.

"Very well." He comes up next to you, grasps Gil's head at the temples, and— you assume twists it off, but you shut your eyes. When you look again, his arm is deep in Gil's neck, which is venting smoke like a chimney. After some banging around, he retrieves a heaping handful of beetles. "There. Don't ask me for anything else."

"I didn't ask you to—" you start, before he dumps the beetles into your palms and retreats. You cast a sidelong glance at Gil's headless (it's not a corpse it's not a corpse) body, rub your nose, and squint. "Uh... Gil?"

The beetles' legs are twitching in a sickly sort of way. You poke one in the underbelly. "Hey," it— Gil slurs. "Hey, don't..."

"Gil!" It's words. It's progress. "Oh, God, I'm glad you're okay. Um, at least I hope you're okay. You're kind of— you know, um, nevermind. Would you like to die?"

"...Trick question? I-I-Is that a— a..."

You raise the beetles to eye level. "No. It's not. Richard over there thinks we should consign you— uh, the part of you that went along— to death. Because he thinks it's too hard to fix you. Do you agree?"

His voice has risen. "Do I-I... no? I-I-I don't— I don't want to die, Lottie. Please don't let him kill me."

"Oh!" you say. "Oh! So you don't want to die? You don't want to be left to suffer, cruelly, at the uncaring hands of a certain RICHARD—" You make direct eye contact.

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Richard, unmoved, beckons at you. You look down at Gil, and over at the rest of Gil, which appears to be attempting to drag his head back over to his body. "I won't let him," you stage-whisper at your palm, and trot over to help the poor beetles.

Twenty seconds later, Gil's head is screwed back on his neck— it got easier to stomach when you realized it was cold and hard and not at all fleshy. "...Thanks," he mumbles, "for, um..."

Swelled with emotion, you give him a brief hug and trot back over to Richard.

Richard appraises you over his sunglasses. "Maybe I made that higher proof than I intended."

"What?" you say.

"In any case, I have some questions for you, Charlotte Fawkins. The first is why?" He nods towards Gil.

"Why?" You glance over your shoulder. "Um, because he's my retainer, obviously? He hath foresworneth to be in mine service, and he— I mean— it's my sacred duty to protect those of lesser stock, and, um, he— he— you can't kill my guy, Richard, that's not fair. Kill your own guy."

"Don't hyperbolize, Charlotte, it's more like lopping off a gangrenous finger. And it's not out of guilt?"


"You do not feel horrendously responsible for his present suffering?"

You glare. "I said no."

"I suppose you did. Well, then, my second question is 'how?' How do you intend to fix him, Charlotte, since you know so well what's possible and what isn't."

"Um," you say, "I'll figure it out as I go along. Don't worry about it." Positive thinking. "I'll go into his mind, or whatever. And do battle with his... mind demons."

("What?" Gil says.)

"You'll go into his mind-or-whatever." Richard removes his sunglasses specifically to pinch the bridge of his nose. "You're going to hurt yourself, Charlotte."

"No I won't. I went through that whole—" You gesture broadly. "—that, um— the whole— the thing I just went through, and look at me. I didn't get hurt once."

"You lost your eye."

"No I—" You touch your bandaged eye. "I— I— okay, maybe, but that's not relevant."

Richard checks his watch. "Uh-huh. Well. I know better than tell you not to do it, though I am, in fact, telling you not to do it. But please wait until I'm able to supervise."

"Wait?" You stick your arms out at Gil. "You said it deteriorates rapidly!"

"Not that rapidly. You have until this evening in r-time, by my estimate."

"Oh." You lower your arms. "Okay, but you look pretty able to supervise."

"That's illusory, I'm afraid. Right now, I'm—" He touches his neck, as if feeling for a pulse. "—let's see, three sheets to the wind, and... doing paperwork. A charming combination. Speaking of eyes—"

"But you're right here," you say. "And you seem... sober. Soberish."

"Yes." He checks his watch again.

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"And you're less, um, rumpled." The winestain is gone, but so is the sweaty pallor, the stray hairs, the untucked tie. "Did you— when did you—"

"It's amazing what some R&R will do for a man, Charlie. Oh, don't give me that look." (You continue to give him that look.) "It's standard procedure, I just don't often follow it because it's a pain in the ass. And it's hardly my fault my chronology isn't bound at the hip with yours. Now, I really have to—" He checks his watch for the third time. "...Your eye. What possessed you to remove this, again?"

You tug at the bandage. "I, uh— keys."

"Keys." Richard shakes his head. "Okay. Well, the damage is done. And this thing is a video camera?"

"A what camera?" you say.

"A— it captures moving pictures, Charlotte. Give it here."

"...My eye?"


Reluctantly, you lift up the bandage and press hard around your socket. The eye falls into your hand. It is wet, and the world is dim and grainy.

Richard takes it from you. "I'll take a look at it later. The good news is that you still have your eye."

"I do?"

"Yes. It's in your skull. That being said, this one—" You can feel him poke at your socket. "—isn't coming back, so we may as well discuss alternatives."

"Alternatives." You touch your bad eye. "Like this? I don't want another one of these."

Richard is silent for a long time. "Not like that. Like..."

>This is not a binding vote, but it will influence your future opportunities.

>[1] ...something realistic. Like an actual eye, say. You could pluck an eye out of a defeated enemy and it would be super awesome and metal and only a little disgusting.
>[2] ...something beautiful. If you keep losing all your proper eyes, maybe it's a sign you need to branch out? Get something in gold. Or silver. Or precious gemstones. Or a relic of an ancient civilization, maybe. You just have to find something first (or steal it).
>[3] ...something technological. You have two handsome, intelligent, talented, handy men(?) here, and neither of them will just make little old you another eye? You'll even get whatever special parts they need, or whatever.
>[4] Write-in. (Almost anything eye-sized and very roughly eye-shaped will work, provided it carries enough significance— you can't just stick a dirt clod in your eye socket and hope to see out of it.)
A relic of a lost civilisation in particular would appeal to Charlie's sensibilities, I think.

Supporting this
>2 definitely the most charlotte option
>[3] ...something technological. You have two handsome, intelligent, talented, handy men(?) here, and neither of them will just make little old you another eye? You'll even get whatever special parts they need, or whatever.

Mostly I want to see Richard gag on us being sweet and flattering.
>[2] ...something beautiful. If you keep losing all your proper eyes, maybe it's a sign you need to branch out? Get something in gold. Or silver. Or precious gemstones. Or a relic of an ancient civilization, maybe. You just have to find something first (or steal it).
File deleted.


Called for [2] and writing.

Good news for you, anon: I started writing up a "what if" pastebin where Richard gags on you being sweet and flattering, and I think I'm just going to incorporate it into the main update. You'll get your wish.
Sorry, that should be >3 for the single vote. My mistake.
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>Bling bling

"...a real eye. There's really no better substitute— it's least obtrusive, easiest to adapt to, most likely best quality of vision..."

"A real eye," you say. "Like somebody *else's* eye?"

"It'd be your eye once we installed it."

"You want me to put somebody else's *eyeball* in my *face.*"

Richard rubs his forehead. "You know what the answer to that is, Charlotte, so I'll instead urge you to consider the cost-benefit analysis, in this instance, and not your inconsequential 'feelings' about such a—"

God. "You're such a- a- a snake. If I cut *your* eye out—" (Richard sighs.) "—don't *sigh* at me— if I cut your eye out, and you only had one eye, would *you* go put a dead person's eyeball in your face?"

"Assuming that such a scenario were remotely plausible, then yes. It's the best—"

"'It's the best option,'" you mimic. "It's gross! It's— it is gross. I am *not*— isn't there another solution? Can't you just— make something."

"Make something."

"Like an eye, or— I mean, between you and Gil, you ought to be able to—"

"Charlotte. What do you suppose I am?"

This is a dangerously open-ended question. You make your best attempt. "Um, you're a snake. Except not really, because you... don't exist, or something. But you're definitely not human, I'm just making you look like one, and act like one, I guess, because I, uh— because you're— you were— maybe, at one point, my- my- my- my dad. I guess."

"Really?" Richard laces his fingers. "Because I was under the impression you thought I was some kind of miraculous automaton, enslaved to do your will, who never slows, never tires, never requires breaks from your incessant yammering, who leaps at the opportunity to spend his frankly miniscule free time working on a wholly unnecessary side project that remains inferior to the much easier option I just presented, without so much as a 'please' or 'thank you.'"

It takes some time for you to process all of that. "Hey, I- I didn't say any of that. But even if I did, how is it my fault? You're the one who acts like a robot half the time— 'ooh, Charlie, you're not dynamicizing your efficiency,' 'ooh, here's how to optimize your- your- conversation quotient,' blah blah blah. For years. And now you're an actual person, sort of, for all of half a month, and that's how you want me to think of you? As a person? You've never gotten tired before! So how—"

"I have gotten tired before," Richard says coolly. "I just haven't been able to articulate it. That's the only difference."

"Oh." You turn your empty glass around in your hand. "Well, um, that's— would you please make me a new eye?"


"But you're so... talented. And smart. And you—" You wedge the glass into the chair cushion and brush your hair out of your face. "—you know, I wouldn't ask things of you if I didn't think you could handle them... you're so capable, you know, you can do so many things that I-I just couldn't, and I-I-I— I need you, Richard. I need you to—" You're managing to tear up, even. God, you're good. "—to— to make me an eye. Please. Pretty please."

He looks down at his hand, which you're grasping in a beseeching manner, and back up at you. He raises his eyebrows. "Well, nothing that you said is wrong."

Bastard. "Well, of- of course! So will you—"

"Still no. But that was a decent show, Charlie, I liked the tears." He pats your hand. "It'd help if you picked a particular emotional register, though, mixing it weakens the whole ploy. Try it on someone who isn't in your head, how about that. Like the actual enslaved automaton?"

"Oh!" You'd entirely forgotten about Gil. (Why is he so quiet?) "Gotcha. Okay. Thanks for the tips. Uh—" You offer Richard an awkward side-hug, which he does not reciprocate, and stride back over to Gil. You squat. "Hello! I must say, you're looking awfully handsome."

Gil reddens. "I-I-I-I heard you guys."


"You were— I-I mean, you were just standing right there, and you weren't whispering, or anything, so I... heard you." He rubs the bottom of his nose. "Um, you can keep going i-i-if you want. ...For practice."

You stand in disgust. "So I'm just not going to have an eye, then?"

"You didn't even ask him, Charlotte." Richard looks amused.

"'You didn't even'— Gil, are you going to make me an eye?"

"Um... I-I-I don't know how, exactly, but I could- I could give it a shot..."

"Shut up!" You bury your face in your hands. Why are you so hot? You shouldn't be so hot. "I don't even want your stupid eye. I just want... I don't know."

"Charlotte Fawkins doesn't know what she wants. Who would've possibly guessed. You know, you don't have to put an eye in there."

You unshield your upper face. "What? How would I know that?"

He taps his right eye.

Oh. Oh. Of course. "Urgh," you say, and go to lay on the table. It's cool against your cheek and hands. "I told you, I don't want another one of those. It's ugly."

"It doesn't have to be iron, Charlotte. It could be brass."

"Brass is ugly," you mumble into the wood. "What is it with you and brass?"

"Nothing. It could be gold or silver. Or crystal, though I'd strongly recommend against that, lest you get shot in the face."

"...Okay. I guess." You try and envision yourself with two metal eyes. "Could it be, I don't know, an ancient relic? Super cool, very important, um... powerful... that sort of thing?"

Richard doesn't say anything for a little bit. "...I suppose?"

"Okay." You can definitely envision the relic. "Okay. I want that."

"...Well, then the matter's settled, I suppose. We'll find you one of those important powerful relics lying around. Excellent." He sounds tired. "I really do have to go. Would you get off the table?"

"No." You scooch further onto the table. "Where are you going? And what about Madrigal?"

"I am going to unplug. What about Madrigal?"

"Unplug?" It feels like he's speaking a foreign language, sometimes. "And she's- she got kidnapped. Snakenapped."

"So?" ("She what?" Gil interjects.)

"Got snakenapped. And that's— I don't know— shouldn't I do something? I mean... who's gonna host Game Night now?"

"Game Night, our most pressing concern. I really don't think it's your problem, Charlotte. She wanted to go along, so she accepted the entailed risks— not to mention, that's our primary leak out of the way."

"I guess..." You feel less sick about it than you did about Gil, but 'less sick' is still sick. "I just... I mean, her body's still going to be there, right? In a... coma, or whatever."

"I'd expect it would be, yes."

"In the same tent as me. And Branwen knows I was in there, and Ellery— Fake Ellery knows, and— they're going to think I poisoned her, or something! And Monty's not gonna— he just strangled me, for, for, for some reason, and Eloise... they're going to blame me. Me, Richard." You splay your arms. "When I haven't done a single thing wrong. Because they're all a bunch of- a bunch of jerks. Tell me they won't."

"Ah." It's not a good 'ah.' "...Now that you say it."

"Richard!" You sit up. "You didn't think about this? You're supposed to think about this stuff!"

He's shoving his glasses back on. "I've been preoccupied with a little bit of ego death, Charlotte Fawkins. But yes, I suppose that would be a concern. Wish I could be there to help."


"I'm on somewhat of a strict timetable. You'll have me back in..." He checks his watch. "...an hour or so, your time. Don't cause trouble."


"Best of luck, Charlie." He waves. He vanishes.

You flop back onto the table.

Gil clears his throat. "Uh... there's a body? With nobody in it?"


"Will it melt?"

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Speak to Monty first. You need to rip off the bandage, here: he's the one with ultimate jurisdiction over you. And you really would like to know why you were strangled. He's not still in a strangling mood, right?
>[A2] Speak to Branwen first. She likes you, maybe, or at least doesn't mind you. Probably. (She's hard to read.) You doubt she'd think you'd poison Madrigal. And it was her snake that was snakenapped in the first place.
>[A3] Speak to Eloise first. You did promise to update her about Namway activities, and this is certainly Namway activities— very serious ones.
>[A4] Speak to (Mirror) Ellery first. He's blatantly clingy toward Madrigal— and his real version was an eyewitness. Maybe you can get him to remember something? Or communicate somehow?
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] Let Gil have Madrigal's body, at least temporarily. He can consider it a reward for good behavior— and more importantly, he's the only eyewitness you have. Even if he doesn't technically remember the incident.
>[B2] Don't let Gil have Madrigal's body. It's weird. And it could be a lot more trouble than it's worth.


I just want to see how Gil will try (and fail) to impersonate Madrigal
This is who you're speaking to first, not who you're speaking to total. Please pick one of the [A]s, or at least specify which order.

Also, if you want Gil to impersonate Madrigal, shouldn't that be [B1]?


would this really be drowned quest if we picked B2
>[A3] Speak to Eloise first. You did promise to update her about Namway activities, and this is certainly Namway activities— very serious ones.

Hell, let's tell everyone about Namway. Get a good lynch mob going on.
>[B1] Let Gil have Madrigal's body, at least temporarily. He can consider it a reward for good behavior— and more importantly, he's the only eyewitness you have. Even if he doesn't technically remember the incident.

Forgot this part. Ask him furst though, has he ever wanted to be a woman?



Called for A1/B1.

Listen, I have to provide the option, at least...

I'll take the write-in, but I'm going to shift it to after the fact because it's funnier that way.
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>Weird science redux

You inform Gil that the body shouldn't melt, which he seems greatly relieved by. You're a little relieved, too: it'll be much safer to have a sidekick when you go see Monty. He probably won't strangle you again, but you didn't exactly expect him to strangle you the first time, so you're not sure how well that assumption will hold up.

You attempt, then, to wake up. It fails. Gil looks on with consternation. "What are you doing?"

You cease whacking yourself on the side of the head. "Uh... nothing."

"Are you trying to get out of here? Don't you have an anchor?"

The term is only dimly familiar. "...Like a ship?"

"No, like a... i-it's a little doohickey that sort of, uh, ties you back to where you're going? You're supposed to have one. Everyone has one. That's how you... get back."

"Well, I don't have one," you say stiffly. "Maybe cause they don't work very well. I mean— you got stuck for how long?"

Gil shrinks back into his chair. "I-i-i-i-it didn't work after, um... after..."

"Yes, see? Exactly." You fold your arms. "I would never stoop to something so untrustworthy. I rely on my own willpower, my own... prowess, in order to—"

"...But i-i-i-it isn't working."

"What?" You scoff. "It's working. Slowly."

"...Um, I-I-I'm sure it is, but..." Gil taps his forefingers together. "...would you like a different way?"

"Oh, sure, Mr. I-Was-Trapped-In—"

"I-it needs two people." He stands from his chair and, entirely without permission, walks right up to you. He reaches out a hand; you bat it away. "Excuse me?"

"I-I-I need to... I need to hold your eyelid open."

"My eyelid open?" You hold your eyelid open. "Like that?"

"...Um, yeah, but i-it's like tickling yourself, you know. I-i-it doesn't really... work. Can I? Please?"

You attempt to calculate his possible ulterior motives and come up short. Maybe he's overflowing with goodwill after learning about the body, you don't know. "Okay. Fine."

Gil gently reaches for your eyelid and pins it open with his finger. "Close the other one," he says. You do. "And on the count of three, open them. Open both of them. One... two..."


You never hear the "three," because that's when you bolt upright, gasping. You're alive, and awake, and you- you— your good eye's back! You're prodding your face, and kicking off the blanket, and rolling out of your cot, and springing to your feet, and— ow. You are picking yourself off the sand. You had not bargained for how numb your limbs were.

This is where Richard would undoubtedly say something terrible about your lack of coordination and/or judgment, but you wait a little and nothing comes. You guess he really is gone. Just like Madrigal. Where is Madrigal? You thought she was with you, but— oh. You left her body in her tent, you think.

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On on hand, that means you could plausibly deny that you had anything to do with her unconsciousness. On the other hand, now you'll have to hope nobody sees you sneaking in. Wonderful. You brush yourself down, rake your hair back, and are about to leave when you spot Richard after all, twined around the tentpole over the door. "Okay. So all that 'so sorry, got to go' was a lie?"

He doesn't respond. "Okay, God," you say, and reach to get him down. "Be that w— hey!" You narrowly avoid a snakebite. "...Wait."

Richard never would've passed up a chance to insult you; Richard doesn't bite you (usually). This is just his empty body: a snake. A normal snake. "Hey, pal," you say softly. "Hey, I just want to get you down from there, please don't... ow! God blessed!" Its fangs are buried in the fleshy part of your palm. "Your venom doesn't work on me, stupid. Don't— hey— there." You have wrangled the snake onto your shoulders. "Stay there."

It hisses at you but stays put: you nurse the bite wound as you exit the tent. The outside world is too bright and that's all you have to say about it. You figure that, if you don't notice anyone staring at you, maybe they won't be.

Madrigal's tent still has your hasty "ASLEEP - DO NOT DISTURB" sign on it, which you take as a good omen, even if your throat clogs when seeing it. You push the shredded doors open.

She's still there. "Madrigal?" you say, knowing she won't respond.

She doesn't respond. Her chest rises and falls shallowly, barely moving the blanket. The tent smells like pus and death. You retreat against a wall and sink down. Gil? you think.

He doesn't respond, either, but you're not sure if he can't hear you or if you can't hear him. Gil? Gil, please? Gil— um— the body's—

How did it go last time? You barely remember. Richard was managing the whole thing. You just kind of stood over Ellery's... Mirror Ellery's corpse, and all the beetles came out of your... mouth, and, um—

You get up and stand over Madrigal's cot. Gil! Gil. Gi-il. You need this to work, or it'll just be— Richard will be all, you're useless, you can't do anything without him, he can't even leave for a second without you messing up the most basic... you need to sneeze.

You really, powerfully need to sneeze. Is there something in the water? Are you inhaling little floating bits of Madrigal? (Don't think that.) You'd almost forgotten what it was like to— to— to—


All you see for an instant is whirling, buzzing color, and then it clarifies into— beetles. Beetles are pouring from your nose, beetles are streaming toward Madrigal, are crawling into her ears and nostrils, are pushing through her lips, are burrowing through her sunken cheeks. And then they aren't, and you stumble backwards.

Madrigal's eyes open. They are green. But then, they always were green. "Gil?" you verify.

The eyes dart, but nothing else, and then you remember how long it took for him to get settled in Ellery's body. 15 minutes, or something. You sit back down.


It takes three minutes before he's, uh— before she's— before he's moving. Maybe he got more used to having a single body after you made him one? You don't know, you don't care, gift horse, maw, etcetera. "So? I mean, it's better than the last one, isn't it? Not melting at all."

"...Uh." Gil's voice is raw and high-pitched. His hands keep drifting, irrepressibly, to his chest. "I-I-I have tits."

You winkle your nose. "Don't be crass. You have a bosom. And it's really not much of one, so don't act so impressed."

"...I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I—" He can't force the sentence out. "You have put me i-i-i-in a, a, a, a girl."

"She's not a girl, she's a woman. She's, like, 35." You think she's actually 30, or thereabouts, but Gil doesn't know that. "Or 40. And so what? It's a body. Haven't you ever wanted to be a girl?"

"No? Why would I-I-I-I want..."

"I don't know." You'd envy boys, sometimes, when Aunt Ruby was being especially stringent about learning your domestics. (You still barely know how to sew.) "But how can it be that bad? You can't tell me it's worse than beetles."

"Uh..." He's breathing hard. "Um, I-I-I-I wish you would've... told me."

"I thought it was obvious! I mean— what kind of name is 'Madrigal?' That's not a man's name."

"I-I-I, um, I kind of skipped over that part. You could've made it more... obvious."

Is this how Richard feels when he calls you ungrateful? "It's a body! God, just—" You tug him out of bed by an arm, and he rolls onto the floor. You nudge him with your foot. "Get up."

"Ow." He attempts to push himself up, but wobbles and collapses. A second attempt goes better (you grabbed an arm) until his left knee crunches and inverts and his leg collapses the wrong way around. He turns ashen. "Um."

"Uh." You rub your mouth. "Um, that's not a... that's not a girl thing. Just so you know."

"I-I-I figured." His voice is even higher. "So what i-in the goddamn shit is wrong with me? Lottie?"

"Uh... she was not... feeling well. And the snake, kind of loosened her... joints?" This is Richard's thing to explain, not yours.

"The snake..." Gil's head droops. "The snake loosened her- her- her joints."

"And you turned into beetles, okay? These things happen. Come on." You drag him up and hook his arm around your shoulder. "Can you at least walk with support? Fix your knee."

After staring at you, he reaches down and pops his knee back the correct way. You drag him on a lap around the tent: you walk briskly, he stumbles and mutters but ultimately makes it. You consider that good enough, and drag him over to Monty's tent, which is mercifully nearby.

There's a sign on the door. "DO NOT DISTURB."

"Oh," Gil quavers. "I-I-I-I think they're busy. Maybe you should come back another— aw, hell."

"MONTY!" You are already barging in. "MONTY, you owe me an, an explanation! Hello? Did you think you could just... Monty?" Where is he?

"There's a sign on the door." Monty shoves the folding screen aside a little. "Charlotte."

"I don't care about signs," you say.

"I know." His eyes are bloodshot. "It was worth a try— wait, Mads? Mads, what are you... you should be in bed."

Gil freezes. "Uhhh."

"Did you bring her, Charlotte? That's..." Monty's fingers tauten around the edge of the folding screen. "...I can't think of any charitable reason for you to do that. Could you please bring her back to her tent?"

>[1] Yes, okay, you can put Gil outside. He doesn't have to overhear all the stuff about you getting strangled, anyhow, it'll just make you look weak. And you seriously need to clear the air about that before getting to the snakenapping.
>>[A] How do you approach the topic of Monty strangling you for literally no reason? (Write-in.)

>[2] Nope. You're keeping Gil here. And considering that Monty met him the last time he possessed someone, you see little reason to pretend he's Madrigal. Out with it.
>>[A] You need to get this over with as fast as possible. Just spill the whole thing— snakes, Madrigal, Ellery, Pat, Namway Co., held at gunpoint— before Monty can get mad or suspicious or whatever he's going to get.
>>[B] As far as you know, Monty knows nothing about anything metaphysical, so slamming him with it all at once is going to do his head in. Take it nice and slow.
>>[C] Okay, it's obvious he's still mad at you (for some reason). Maybe not strangling-mad, but anything you say right now is going to get construed in all sorts of ways. Stick to the basic facts, only elaborate if he asks questions.
>>[D] Write-in.
(For reference, folks, since this was 5 months ago IRL: here's the post where Monty strangles you. I recommend rereading if you don't remember the details. http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/4781265/#p4792332)
the basic facts that make us look as good as possible

> 2B

Preface it with everything is horrible and we're trying to fix it, and that's also going horribly, and if Monty still believes he's in Hell then he isn't here alone at least. He climbed to the top of the tower, and that probably sucked because he seems . . . . Better, here.

Anyways he's the only person we know who both wants to make things better, and has achieved some sort of success with it. We're sorry, (not for anything we did of course) that he thinks this place is hell because there are genuinely nice and innocent people here and he doesn't have to save them.

But he could. And we can use the help on our end with if not saving the world than at least keeping others from making it worse.

>2B + write-in

Called for 2C, but I'm going to take this write-in >>5033701 as well since it isn't super tied to your particular approach. Writing.
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>Well uh you see

"...No," you say convincingly.

"No." Monty smiles without his eyes. "I don't know why I bother asking you things. Let me put it this way— for however long you insist on roping innocent parties into your manipulation scheme, I'm not going to talk to you. Have a good day."

"Manipulation scheme?" Who does he think you are? Do you look like a manipulator? You've never done anything like that in your life. "I'm not— firstly, that's rude, and secondly, I'm the innocent party here, and thirdly, that's not Madrigal anyhow, so ha."

"...I'm sorry?"

"That's not Madrigal, it's Gil. Gil. Gil, say hello."

You whack him on the arm. He starts. "Hello. Uh... wait. I-I-I-I know you."

Monty is mouthing words, but for a while nothing comes out. "...You know me."

"Yeah! Um, you tackled me, and you, um— you tried to— you had the big pitchfork, and, um—"

"Trident," Monty corrects, dumbly.

"Yeah, the trident." You rest your elbow on Gil's shoulder. "He was Ellery, then, remember? I mean, not actually. But he was in his—"

"...Yes." He sucks in his cheek. "So this is your... friend."

"Retainer," Gil mumbles, at the same time as you say "Yeah."

"And he..." The 'he' is drawn-out. "...is in Madrigal's body. Is she also in there, or is she in, uh, in his body?"

You wave a hand. "He doesn't have a body, remember? He's just beetles. Or, well, his mind is beetles, or—"

"Goddammit, I don't care." You flinch back: maybe you were too hasty in deciding he won't strangle you again. He must realize it, because he attempts another pasted-on smile. "I mean... just tell me what you did to her, Charlotte."

Again with the assumptions! For someone so supposedly ""nice,"" he sure looks down his nose at you, the victim. "I did nothing. As a matter of fact, I'm the one trying to fix it, out of the goodness of my heart, and incurring great— great!— personal expense, and I— I—"

"Is she dead?"

"No! No, she's not dead—" Is this how it's going to be? Him throwing spurious accusations at your innocent person, you on the eternal defense? If anything, it ought to be the exact opposite— he did strangle you. But bringing that up again now will only make this worse. "Just sit down, would you? And then I'll explain it."

"I would rather not, thank you."

He would rather not sit down? "Okay, then." You sit in his chair, the big cushy one. "I'll sit down. You can sit down too, Gil."

"...Okay." Gil sits in the other chair.

"Right." You throw your arms back. "So, look, she's not dead. She's just, um, sn— kidnapped. Kidnapped. But it's okay, and I am working on it, and I can... solve it, without anybody's help, and— yeah. That's all. Nothing to worry about."

Monty darkens. "And what do you have to do with this?"

"I—" Look at him! He doesn't believe you at all, does he? He thinks you're somehow responsible. Have you done something to hurt him? "Why do you hate me?"
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"...I don't hate you." But he's gripping the folding screen very hard.

You slouch back against the chair. "Yes you do. Is it because of the hell thing? You just think everyone you meet here is automatically a bad person? I mean, I'm sorry you think that way, because that's a horrible mindset! What about your dead wife? Wasn't she here? Was your wife a bad person?"

"Don't talk about my wife."

That's a strangling voice, right there. "Okay, I won't talk about your wife. But seriously, Montgomery, it doesn't— I mean, things are horrible here, I'll grant you that, but are they really worse than up there? What with the whole—" You mime stabbing, and a mask, and (in case it didn't come through) your throat getting slit. "I mean, at least now you're a good person, and people like you, and whatever."

Monty is unamused by your charades. "Being a good person hurts more than being a bad one. As I'm sure you know."

Is he calling you a bad person? "But it's better, isn't it? And- and you're a better person, aren't you? So—"

"Am I?"

God! Why are you even attempting this? "Yes, I mean, obviously, because you're not going around murdering people anymore. Except for me, but we'll— we'll get around to that. You are obviously a better person, and you're trying to do good stuff, or whatever, so why not do another good thing and be nice to me? And help me? I mean, it's your second-in-command, or whatever."

He leans his head against the screen. "Charlotte, you just said you could 'solve this' without help."

"Yes." You point. "I can. But will I? I don't know, maybe I will, if you're a jerk and don't even listen to my whole explanation of the—"

"You haven't even bothered to explain this."

"Because you're being mean. Madrigal got kidnapped."

He waits for elaboration, which you fail to give. "...Not very well, apparently, as that's her right there." He gestures to Gil.

"Her mind got kidnapped."

"Ah. Was Ellery involved in this?"

"Uh... yes." Not the one he's thinking of, but still. "Very involved."

Monty nods. "Shocking. And, I'm sorry, how do you claim her... mind got kidnapped?"

"Um." It's a complicated question. "Nettie turned out to be Pat, in disguise, and she shot Ellery, and she took Gil hostage, and she put me at gunpoint 'cause she wanted to kidnap Madrigal, and I tried to persuade her, but then she shot Gil, and, um, I— and then she kidnapped her."

"Ellery was shot? And who's— who's Pat?"

"Uh... he got better. Pat's the main research lady at, um, Namway. Which—" You anticipate another question. "—is a weird company in a sewer in the Fen that clones people out of goo for pay."

"...Okay." Monty grinds his thumbnail into the edge of the screen. "Makes perfect sense. And why kidnap Madrigal? Was this your fault?"

You start to answer, then stop. The answer to the first one is 'because she was a snake,' but do you really want to tell Monty about the snake thing? Because then he might ask who offered to put her in a snake, which was Richard but you'd say it was you, and maybe he'd think it was too risky (and therefore your fault), or maybe he'd start wondering how one exactly puts someone in a snake, and what special snake-related abilities they'd have to have, and... was it your fault? No, it wasn't, but if someone was already deeply biased against you it might seem like it was, and you saying no would be even more evidence... God! But then if you don't tell him, he might accuse you of hiding something, and— and—

>[1] Tell him about the snake thing in a not-super-suspicious manner. [Roll.]
>[2] Don't tell him about the snake thing. Say you don't know the motive (which is sort of true... what promise was Pat talking about?) in a not-super-suspicious manner. [Roll.]
>[3] This is getting nowhere. Make Gil talk to him about it. He can explain the manse stuff, probably, and maybe him sounding like Madrigal (ish) will calm Monty down. Or not. The man *is* a lunatic.
>[4] This is getting nowhere. Leave and get someone else to believe you: you can drag them back in here so Monty will have someone to trust. Probably. (Who do you talk to? Eloise / M!Ellery / Branwen)
>[5] He wants to talk *faults?* After he— to be clear— strangled you for no God-damn reason? And, sorry, what was the thing where he plunged you into some kind of dark nightmare realm? You said you'd get around to it, and you're getting around to it.
>[6] Write-in.

Sorry for butchering your eloquent write-in, anon, but the emotional intelligence there was too implausible for a pure Charlotte POV...
he's clearly biased against us and feels no guilt over the strangling

maybe he'll feel guilt over attacking gil with a trident
Jesus, slow day. Writing soon.


Here for a late vote!
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>Call for backup

"Gil!" you hiss, and reach over the desk. "You talk to him!"

Gil leans away from your hand. "Me?! Why? I-I-I-I-I-I wasn't—"

"Yes," Monty says. "Why, er, him? Why can't you answer the questions?"

"Because you won't listen to me. Gil, tell him what happened."

("I WASN'T THERE,") he mouths at you. You point at yourself, then him, then mime squeezing his throat with your hands. He shuts his eyes. "I-I-I-I-I mean, it's like she said."

"Maybe you could repeat what she said?" Monty's voice is unfriendly. "I don't think I caught all that."

"Uhhhh... sure. I-I-I'll just warn you, um, I don't remember all the details. Since I-I was... shot."

"You got better, though, clearly? Like Ellery."

"Uh..." Gil rubs his mouth. "I-I-I don't think I... did. But i-it's complicated. Anyhow, um, i-it went like this. Lottie and I and and Madrigal and Ellery were— oh. And Nettie—" (He caught your frantic signing.) "—were spelunking this locus, and i-it— sorry." (More signing.) "I mean manse. I-I-I learned it as 'loci,' but you know, um, it's the same thing."

"Uh..." Monty hesitates. "I'm not sure what you mean by—"

"It's an Ellery thing," you drawl, as Gil twists his hands. "I-i-it's, um, well— when your mind wanders, do you ever imagine you... go somewhere? I-it's like that, but... you actually do go there, or it... feels like you do. Like being awake in a dream, only nobody's dreaming it, exactly. Um."

"...So you're saying that your consciousness leaves your body and goes somewhere... else."

"Um, yes, I guess that's right." (An odd look crosses Monty's face.) "So we were all there, and, um, we split up. Lottie and Ellery and Madrigal took the left tunnel, and Nettie and I took the right tunnel, and almost as soon as the rest of them are out of sight, she— Nettie— she goes like this—" He mimics being shoved. "—and next thing I know, there's a fucking pistol right under my chin. And I'm all, you know, 'what the fuck! what are you doing, you manic—' and she just leans in and goes 'sorry, buster, you're just collateral damage,' and I-I try and kick her, you know, go for the- the- the groin, and she doubles over, and I tackle her, and we wrestle, and— the pistol goes off."

He stops for breath, which you're grateful for, because you're having a hard enough time wrapping your head around this. He's— he's lying. Every single word of that was complete and utter gull. He's capable of that?

"So Ellery comes, you know, racing around the corner, because he heard the shot, a-and I swear to god this woman pulls out another gun, a— a fucking rifle, and she shoots him! In the head! And he falls, I-I-I mean, obviously, and then Lottie comes, and she's kind of dragging Madrigal... I-I don't know what happened in the other tunnel, but she was unconscious— and while I'm looking at them Nettie shoves me against the wall again, and puts the rifle in my mouth, so I can't move— and she goes something like 'give me Madrigal, or I-I-I-I'll shoot your... your retainer.' To Lottie. And Lottie... I-I-I-I-I don't know, maybe you can take it from there?"

You raise your eyebrows. "I don't know, Gil, you're doing such a good job."

"...Um... okay. Lottie tries to— to— to negotiate, a-a-and talk her down, and that's how we find out that she's actually... Pat, in, um, disguise. And I-I mean disguise, because she kind of... ripped her whole face off, like it was a mask, and, uh—" He's faltering. "—uh, uh, she, she, um— Lottie tried, um, real hard, but i-i-i-i-i-it didn't— I-I-I-I-I-I-I mean, she, um, well, she— she— she s-s-s-s-s— um, she— the gun was in my mouth, and she—"

"She shot you," Monty finishes.

Gil nods vigorously. He's trembling all over, especially his hands— is he faking that, too? God. You're not sure whether to be disgusted or impressed.

"She shot him," you say, "and then— I mean— what was I supposed to do? She had a gun... uh, two guns, and, I mean, I'm not— I'm not made of beetles, and I'm not all screwed up like Ellery is. She would've killed me. I'm not kidding, Monty, she would've— and then she would've taken Madrigal anyways, and—"

"I understand, Charlotte. Thank you, er... Gil." Monty doesn't seem entirely comfortable with him in Madrigal's body, yet. "That was helpful."

Gil has sunk back into his chair, his head leaned against the backrest. He's still shaking, a little, and one hand picks at the skin of his throat. "...Yeah," he manages.

"So it's her—" He squints. "—mind that's kidnapped? Am I getting that correctly? Considering that her body is still... here."

"Yup," you say, before Gil can say anything.

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"...Right. So how does one—" He squints. "—track down, or rescue, or, uh... you know, a mind? Do you have any sort of... whereabouts? Should I be expecting a ransom note shortly— was that the motivation? Money? Was she in business dealings with this company? Sorry, Gil, you weren't terribly clear about—"

Gil. He's addressing Gil. Who doesn't even know what's going on, who doesn't know Madrigal, who just lied to his face for a good two straight minutes— he's addressing Gil. You kick Monty's fancy chair back and rise. "Sorry, is there something wrong with me?"


"Why are you all nice and normal with him, the, the, the liar, the beetles liar, who, who didn't do anything but get shot, and then you're all pissy with me, who actually— in case you didn't hear him— tried to save Madrigal? Who didn't get shot like a bitch? I mean— I don't even care if you're going to be mean to me, that's your problem, but at least tell me why."

Monty looks at you sideways. "You don't know?"

"Should I?"

"Should you... do you not... I'm sorry, do you not remember?"

Remember what? This is all cryptic nonsense. "No? Did I say something about your wife, I don't know, in passing? Sorry I can't read your mind, Monty, but—"

He smiles in a calm-the-rabid-dog kind of way. His shoulders are tensed. "It wasn't about Constance, though please don't take that as an invitation. You really don't remember... I mean, you're not capable of faking it."

"I'm capable of—" You slam the desk. "Would you just tell me what I supposedly did?! God!"

"If I tell you, you're just going to repeat it."

"I'm— I'm not going to repeat it. Do you not trust me at all?" Monty's expression answers that one for you. "Why? What have I ever done?! I— I have been nothing but kind, and courteous, and upstanding, and— name one thing I've ever done. I dare you."

The expression intensifies. "Charlotte... do I have to get out your folder?"

"What folder?" Cryptic, cryptic, cryptic. He should duke it out with Richard for who gets to say more ominous nonsense.

"...Okay, let me get out your folder." Monty vanishes behind the screen, rustles, and reappears with a thick manila folder. He holds it out; Gil takes it and passes it to you. "I'll wait."

He'll wait. Oh, la-di-da. You scowl as you turn the folder around in your hand. "Why do you have a giant folder with my name on it? That's creepy, you realize?"

"Charlotte, it's a disciplinary folder. Open it."

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You open it and rifle through the contents. You pull out a paper and scan it. You pull out another paper and scan it. You slam the folder shut, swallow down the lump in your throat, and shove it across the desk. "That's twisted. That's- that's just— I mean, why would you forge an entire—?! What kind of person does that?! How much time did you spend on this sick little attempt to demoralize me? Well, you won't. I see through your lies, your- your deceptions, and I will— I will not, um... what is it?"

At first blush, Monty appears entirely unreadable, his face contorted in some kind of toxic soup of emotion— but not emotion you can name. It takes you a few seconds before you realize it's really something rather specific, and a few more before you believe it. People don't make this face about you, usually. Monty sure doesn't. You squint. "What the hell are you jealous of?"

"What am I jealous of?!"

"Would you like someone to forge a very nasty folder about you? Is this some kind of—" You reach over and tap the folder. "—bizarre projection thing? Because—"

"You don't deserve to start over! You don't regret what you do." He rattles the folding screen with every emphasized word. "You don't suffer over the things you can't change. You don't care about what you do to others— give me that." Gil, wide-eyed, passes him the folder. Monty shakes it. "You don't care, or you don't realize— I mean, you sure don't realize anymore, do you!? You don't have nightmares over—"

"I have nightmares," you say.

He scoff-laughs. "Okay, Charlotte, you have nightmares. What about."

"Um." You fold your hands. "My father keeps getting stabbed in the stomach. And he always says the same... thing. Like I'm the one who's stabbing him."

"And did you actually stab him? In real life?"

You cross your legs. "No."

"Well, I guess you wouldn't remember, would you! But okay, Charlotte, you have nightmares. But they're not nightmares about the things you've seen, are they? They're not nightmares about the things you've done. They're not nightmares about the people you've lost—"

"My father's dead."

"Oh." Something seems to reassert itself in Monty. He lets go of the screen. "...My condolences."

(Choices next.)
>[1] Well, you don't know what the hell that just was, but that last part was promising. Maybe he got that... out of his system? Maybe he'll be calmer, now? Or something? Maybe it's a good time to broach the topic of the, er, strangling? [Roll.]
>[2] *Yeah,* his condolences. Does he realize how inappropriate his behavior has been? If not, you'll be sure to remind him, because you, frankly, are offended. You would like some compensation for this. Like information. About him strangling you. Guilt-trip him into it. [Roll.]
>[3] Right. Can you just get back to the thing about Madrigal? And the logistics of finding her, and whatever? Maybe he'll actually talk to you this time. (This will end the conversation. You can still bring up the strangling if you see Monty later, but it will be less fresh in his mind, for better or worse.) [Who do you talk to next? Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face*]
>[4] Write-in.

*As he claimed to have at one point been friends with Madrigal, and he knows a lot of weird stuff

Thanks, anon, it's the thought that counts (at least in my heart, if not the actual vote count)...
>[3] Right. Can you just get back to the thing about Madrigal? And the logistics of finding her, and whatever? Maybe he'll actually talk to you this time. (This will end the conversation. You can still bring up the strangling if you see Monty later, but it will be less fresh in his mind, for better or worse.) [Who do you talk to next? Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face*]

Charlotte being a colossal unrepentant faggot gets less and less amusing each time.
as someone who did not bring the strangling upon themselves in any way, shape, or form, I demand reparations.
>Charlotte being a colossal unrepentant faggot gets less and less amusing each time.
In fairness, anon, she literally can't remember what she has to repent for. This would've gone much differently if you guys had chosen to wipe something else (or not at all).
That being said, I usually try to include 'nice' options, so if you'd like to start changing 20 thread's worth of characterization I recommend you vote and advocate for those. (Maybe start with talking to this guy >>5035082, who has picked this vote's dickhead option.)

Also, I need your next stop (Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face/I guess you can go around and rally everyone if you want a group meeting)
>Also, I need your next stop
Let's report on Namway's activities.
To? Eloise? The Wind Court?
>>[1] Well, you don't know what the hell that just was, but that last part was promising. Maybe he got that... out of his system? Maybe he'll be calmer, now? Or something? Maybe it's a good time to broach the topic of the, er, strangling? [Roll.]
>[3] Right. Can you just get back to the thing about Madrigal? And the logistics of finding her, and whatever? Maybe he'll actually talk to you this time. (This will end the conversation. You can still bring up the strangling if you see Monty later, but it will be less fresh in his mind, for better or worse.) [Who do you talk to next? Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face*]

Horse Face. Haha horse... anywhere else?
To the Wind Court
hey, 2 was the full dickhead option
I went only partial dickhead
Oh, jeez, my mistake, I read that as [2]. You're correct, [1] is only the partial dickhead option-- and it's not even that bad, it's not unreasonable to want explanation/justification/an apology for literal assault.
I'm sure my flavor text didn't help
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NO UPDATE TONIGHT, sorry folks, family's visiting and I have to get up early tomorrow. I may or may not have to call tomorrow off, too, for the same reason-- but we'll play that by ear.

Vote remains open.

Yeah, I think that tipped it over. That and checking the thread fairly soon after I woke up.
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Don't bully Gil, anon.
> >[1] Well, you don't know what the hell that just was, but that last part was promising. Maybe he got that... out of his system? Maybe he'll be calmer, now? Or something? Maybe it's a good time to broach the topic of the, er, strangling? [Roll.]

Haha! Made the vote this time.
Rolled 94, 40, 87 = 221 (3d100)

Still nothing tonight: I'll be back tomorrow. I am going to call the vote, though, just so we can get some dice going (if that's what wins the tiebreak).

>3 (two for Horse Face, one for the Wind Court)


Whoops, I hit the wrong autocomplete. Taking the first roll as a 1d2 (1-50 = [3], 51-100 = [1]) , though, means that [1] wins.

This means I need dice!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 15 (+10 In The Right, +5 Good Samaritan [Madrigal]) vs. DC 60 (+20 Sore Subject, -7 Guilty, -3 Momentarily Cowed) to get Monty to explain his side of the whole "attempting to murder you" deal!
Rolled 13 (1d100)

Rolled 45 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Rolled 28 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Watch THIS
>28, 60, 43 vs. DC 60 -- Mitigated Success
Jesus, you guys really squeaked by here. Monty talks about it but he's no less frosty toward you.

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>Right so uh what about

"Yeah," you say stiffly.

Monty clears his throat. "Right. So, uh, Madrigal— do you know anything else? Where she was taken, or anyone with connections to the kidnapper, or—?"

Oh. Now he talks to you. Now he's polite. "You tried to kill me."

He looks as though you've struck him. You consider it, based on his response. "...I didn't."

"Oh! You didn't. I just hallucinated the whole thing, as did the three other people in the room. We all put our heads together and decided to come up with a whopper of a lie, just for- fun." You rest your chin on your hand. "Makes sense. Makes a lot of sense. And this big old bruise on my neck, I got that from falling down the stairs."

"That's not what I meant. Mad—" He winces. "Gil, um, would you please stand outside? This doesn't concern you."

Gil is slumped all the way down in his chair. His eyes flick to you; you nod. He tries to get up, and slips.

You have to help him out of the tent, his arm draped around your shoulders. "I-I had it," he mumbles, as you duck out of the door and into the hateful sunshine. "I had it, and then i-i-it just died..."

"Uh-huh," you say politely, and dump him against the side of the tent. "Stay there, okay? Don't go anywhere, don't talk to anyone, don't come back in— unless, uh, you hear, sort of..." You make some retching noises. "Or screaming. But otherwise don't, okay? Don't cause trouble. I'll be back in five minutes."

He nods, or maybe his head just dips, but you take that as agreement. Monty is exactly where he was when you return, half-hidden behind the screen. "I thought you'd take your chair back," you say.

"I'm fine, Charlotte, thank you."

Is this a trap, or is he trying to hide something? Dilemmas, dilemmas. "Are you sure? Because I can—"

"I'm quite sure."

You hedge your bets and sit in the guest chair. "Okay, then, be weird. Not that that's hard. Since you tried to kill me and everything."

"As I mentioned, I didn't..." Monty shuts his eyes. "...That was not my intent. Even in the heat of things, it was never my intent. Even if there hadn't been an intervention— and I'm glad there was an intervention— I don't believe it would have come to... that."

"That kind of sounds like you're dodging the real issue," you say, and tip the guest chair back against the desk. "I don't care about what you intended. What happened is that you throttled me."

"...Yes. Is that what you experienced, too?"


"Eloise..." He lingers on the name. "...came after me and told me that I'd taken a few steps forward and put my hands around your neck and squeezed. Is that what you also experienced?"

Oh! Okay, you have him all figured out. He wants to know if you saw the whole spooky nightmare realm thing, which— you were starting to think may have been a hallucination, from lack of air or blood to the brain or whatnot, but here he is all but saying it. You consider denying the whole thing. He'd think he was crazy if you denied it, which could be really handy for you, and anyhow, he deserves it. Since he did strangle you for no reason. But something raw and foreign rises in your chest when you attempt to say 'yes,' and you close your mouth, and you reconsider. (What's the matter with you?) "...No."

"No." He works to keep relief off his face, but you know better. "Okay. So what—"

"We both know what happened," you say. "Also, you still strangled me inside that, whatever the hell that was, so it's not like you're innocent. What was that? Don't say you don't know."

"...Er, I don't—"

"You suck," you say, and scootch the chair back even farther. "You're all 'oh, golly gosh, Ms. Fawkins, you have some inexplicable abilities, that must mean you're an EVIL DEMON sent to TORTURE ME,' and here you are, shrouded in darkness, and you strangle me and burn my face, and all you have to say is that, gosh, you just don't possibly know what the cause is, you didn't mean to send me to a, a pocket dimension full of dark evilness, gosh, the world sure is inexplicable—"

Monty tightens his lips. "I don't know why you insist on saying things I never said."

"It's what you meant," you say.

"It wasn't. I just don't know, Charlotte. Do you think I enjoy not knowing?"

"I think you enjoy not telling me."

"I wouldn't say I enjoy that, either, though I think it may prove necessary. Though I'm sure you'll convince me otherwise." His tone is bitter. "But no. I don't know how what happened happened. It hasn't happened before, I hope it doesn't happen again. That's really all."

He doesn't look like he's lying, but he does look like he doesn't want to talk about it. And you want fair and complete recompense, here, not some lame excuse. "That's not all. How does something like that just happen? Clearly you remember the whole thing, it's not as if you blacked out—"

"No, it isn't. But it's not as if I made a conscious decision to—" He's gripping the screen again. "You angered me, Charlotte, and I lost my grip on... myself. That's it."

"You lost your grip on yourself," you say, "so then you created an entire—"

"Don't say 'you.' It wasn't as though..." He turns his head. "Charlotte, I'm only discussing this because you were harmed. It's not for you to repeat. Do you understand?"

"Yeah." Well, you're telling Richard, at least. It's not as though he has anyone to gossip to. "Okay, spill."

"And if you do repeat—" His voice indicates how likely he finds this. "—repeat it to a discreet source. Like Madrigal, or—"

Monty's face clouds. "I won't repeat it," you say, semi-honestly.
"...It was rather an, an, um, an out-of-body experience. Like I was..." He gestures above him and to the left. "...there, just watching myself..."

"Lose it," you supply.

"...If you must. Watching myself lose it. Like I had ripped all my..." A claw-like gesture to the forehead now. "...my higher faculties out, and all that was left was..."

You didn't say anything, but maybe there was a look on your face, because Monty stops. "I should hope that's enough."

Maybe. But something's conspicuously missing. "You haven't apologized."

"Have I not?"

"No. And you're still standing there. Why won't you sit down? Did you think I wouldn't notice?"

"I don't care if you notice," he says.

You lock eyes with each other. Some moments pass. "If you weren't trying to kill me," you say, "or if your lower faculties weren't trying to kill me, or whatever, what were you trying to do?"

It's a few more moments before Monty says anything. He shifts his weight. "I wanted to scare you, Charlotte, so you would never do that again. I was hoping it would work."

"Do what?" You slam the guest chair down with a muffled thunk.

"Exactly." He tightens his lips. "Irony. But nevertheless, I'm not apologizing to you. I feel an apology is warranted, but I'm not giving it. Do you understand?"

"No?!" You stand, knocking the chair over entirely. "You strangled me! And you gave me emotional damage on— on purpose! How is that not—"

"It's not about what I did or did not do. It's about you." He raises his eyebrows. "I think you see apologies as a sign of weakness, or of capitulation. I know I used to. I think that apologizing to you would bring you a sense of... closure, and allow you to put all this aside, and consequently I think it would embolden you to continue to abuse me and abuse my trust. So I will not."

"Those are a lot of words," you snap, "for someone who hasn't done anything wrong. And your logic's stupid. I don't see apologies like that."

"No? How do you see them, Charlotte."

"I—" You didn't prepare an actual answer. "They're what you're supposed to do after you accidentally strangle someone. Especially if you're Mr. 'Oh-Look-At-Me-I'm-So-Goody-Goody.'"

"See? I think you see them as weakness, and I think you see me as weak, which in your view translates to an easy target. I don't intend on letting that continue." He smiles grimly. "And that's all I have to say for myself. I hope you have a good day, Charlotte."

A good day?! Who needs Richard when you have Monty to be a condescending know-it-all ass? He doesn't know anything about you, certainly not how you feel about things. You feel angry, is how you feel. "Apologize!"


If Richard were here he'd be a condescending know-it-all ass but at least you could get him to help you, and then you'd make Monty apologize. Instead, you change tack. "Then sit down!"

"I won't, Charlotte."

He won't. Oh, wow, he's so cool and special, nobody can tell him what to do. Everyone likes Monty. Everyone loves Monty. He's so nice. You pick up his nameplate and nearly fling it at him before getting a much better idea.

He sees it coming but there's not much he can do, not with one arm, and not with you careening towards him red-faced and barely containing a scream (a scream would make Gil rush in). You grab the edge of the screen and rip it towards you. It creaks and folds inward.

Monty stands there. His right arm— your left— is all tensed and balled up, like he's ready to knock your lights out. His left arm— your right— is a gross stub, like it always has been, but it hasn't always been oozing. You're fairly sure it hasn't always been oozing. Viscous black liquid— is it liquid? It looks like liquid, toward the middle, but it fades into a kind of mist or shadow near the edges. Anyhow, the black liquid(?) drips down in a sort of rope-shape until it reaches the very tip of the rope and solidifies. Like a stalactite, only without the memory-of-teeth part. (Hopefully.) The whole thing sways and twitches as Monty breathes heavily.

"Whoa," you say.

"Get out," Monty says.


You hum a jaunty tune as you exit the tent, just to prove you were doing it on purpose.


The tune dies in your throat. Ellery is— Fake Ellery, Mirror Ellery, whatever you're calling him, is standing rather anxiously over Gil, who is just where you left him and is sending you a pleading look.

"You were in—" Fake Ellery (Fauxllery? That doesn't really work) jerks a thumb at Monty's signpost. "...Was he possessed? Because I could probably lend a hand, you know, I have some personal experience with—"

You have way more personal experience than he does, but you fail to say so. "No."

"No? Was he jinxed? Or, uh—" He snaps his fingers. "—was that actually his gupe? Shit. That's a bad thing. But no, uh, you just went in there, and you weren't suffocated, so... well, unless... hey, do you think I could take a quick blood sample? For fun."

"I'm not made of goo, Ellery," you say. "What the hell is 'gupe?' Did you make that up?"

"Uh..." He looks sideways. "...Yes? See, it's like 'gooplicate,' and it also sounds like 'goop,' and it's easier to say than 'gooplicate,' so—"

"That's dumb." You'd decided an hour or so ago that Real Ellery was the worse of the two, but you're reconsidering. "Please go away."

(Choices next.)
"Uh, I was here first— and Maddie's here! I was just— I was just walking by, and I saw her just sitting here, and I was— I mean, I just didn't know what— did she walk all the way here? Did someone move her? I don't think she's doing very well, uh... she's not very lucid. Won't talk. Kind of yelped when she first saw me..." Fake Ellery looks kind of sad. Gil's wide eyes remain locked on yours. "Fuck you, Lottie, okay? I don't care what you think. I don't care if she and I aren't— you know, we're not— I mean, she's sick, okay? She's sick, and a fucking snake came out of her leg— have you seen the snake, by the way? I looked around a little for it while she was sleeping, but..."

"You were in her tent while she was sleeping?" you say.

"Um..." Fake Ellery scratches his stubble.

>[1] You have had enough Ellery for the day, and possibly for a lifetime. How did Madrigal do it? How /does/ Anthea do it? Drag Gil out of here and head somewhere else. (To where, or to find who? Write-in.)

>[2] Grit your teeth and engage with Fake Ellery.
>>[A] Tell him about the kidnapping, point-blank. He may be both a weird suicidal mirror clone thing and a total waste of space, but he's bound to be more helpful than Monty was.
>>[B] Hold off on the kidnapping for now: convince him that he's not the real Ellery, then inform him of what real Ellery's actually up to, with the whole 'assassinating people' thing. Maybe he'll offer some perspective on the issue.
>>[C] Hmm. Hmmmm. Real Ellery told you (in a snitty kind of way) that you already knew how to communicate with him. And you know that Fake Ellery's notes get passed along. Drag him to his tent and make him take some very special notes, just for you. (What do you want to communicate to Real Ellery? Write-in.)
>>[D] Just stay here and force Gil to have a conversation with Real Ellery. There's no purpose for this, but you feel vindictive after Monty's treatment of you.
>>[E] Write-in.

>>[2] Grit your teeth and engage with Fake Ellery.
>>>[A] Tell him about the kidnapping, point-blank. He may be both a weird suicidal mirror clone thing and a total waste of space, but he's bound to be more helpful than Monty was.
Meat shield acquired
>Limited options

You allow that to marinate, for a little bit, before tugging the snake back onto your neck. (It was attempting to wind itself around your wrists.) "Well, regardless, that's not Madrigal. That's Gil. Gil, say something."

Gil's gaze turns wounded. "SAY something," you snap.

"...Yeah." He swallows. "I-I-I'm Gil."

"You're Gil?" Ellery glances at you; you nod impatiently. "You're not Maddie? Shit. Um, I'm sorry I—" He pauses. "Are a part of her? Um, like, did you split off from— um— she was under a lot of stress, and um— wait, are you the snake? Is that why I couldn't find you? Because you're—"

It'd be funny to prolong this, kind of, but then you contemplate having to listen to Ellery ramble. Better to cut it off at the head. "No. He's a jacker from out West who turned into a lot of beetles on accident and trapped himself in some lady's manse for almost a year until I bailed him out. I think he's got a screw loose from being alone for so long. I know you can relate to that, Ellery. Anyhow, he owes me a life debt now, so he's my faithful and willing retainer, and you should be nice to him."

You can practically hear the creaking and groaning as Ellery gets to work comprehending that. When he pulls his hand off his mouth, he's half-smiling. "This is a guy?"

"He's not a guy, he's beetles. I just said."

"I-I-I'm a guy."

"He's a fucking guy. He's a— sorry, how old are you, Maddie?"

"Gil," Gil says weakly. "Um... 25."

"Right. Gil. Okay, so, Lottie, what is a strange 25-year-old man doing inside Maddie? Who is not a man? While she's totally fucking out of it? Well, I assume it's because she's totally fucking out of it, she wouldn't in a million fucking years consent to- to—"

"Are you jealous?" you snipe. "But seriously, don't get pissy, alright? Why is everyone so pissy today? Gil isn't doing anything weird."

Gil, for his part, is unsuccessfully attempting to stand. "Um, I-I-I-I-I-I didn't know I was going to be a, um—"

"See? I'm the one who let him have the body! He didn't even know! And even if he did know, who says he'd be having untoward thoughts?! I've known him for a long time—"

"Four days," Gil mumbles.

"—a long time, and I'll have you know that he is noble, a-and pure-hearted, and he certainly isn't a pervert with a dirty mind like you. That's a terrible accusation to make, and you should— you should apologize." If Monty won't, then...

Ellery looks at Gil (who is red-faced), and at you, and throws up his hands. "Okay. Sorry. Can I just have Maddie back?"

"Uh..." You wind the snake's tail around your finger, ignoring its sour look. "Well... look, I didn't just put beetles in her conscious body, okay? That would be weird. And she'd probably scream, or something."

"So you did it while she was sleeping? Um, that's worse, but—" Ellery shakes his head. "It doesn't make a difference. Get your guy out of her, and I'll help take her back to bed."

"...She wasn't sleeping." If he reacts badly you can just show him the lab report, and he'll jump off a cliff, and he won't remember this. You're sticking with that. "Um, she was kidnapped. Her... consciousness. At gunpoint. I tried to stop it, but— it was at gunpoint, so—"


"She's gone. She was taken."

Ellery's chuckle is strained. "It's been ten minutes."

"No it hasn't. It's been hours, in..." You gesture vaguely to your head. "I'm not lying, okay? Gil was with me. He saw it happen."

Gil nods.

"...Fuck. This isn't a prank, isn't it? This isn't you and her collaborating to— to do your dumbass detective work? Because this would be a new low, Lottie, I'm not kidding—"

"It's not a prank!" You fold your arms. "She was kidnapped. So are you going to stand there and— and gawp, like an idiot, or are you going to help me? Because—"

The puzzled silence that follows forces you to reevaluate what you just said. What was wrong? It wasn't a prank, she was kidnapped, he is standing there and gawping like an idiot... "You want my help?" Ellery says.

Oh. Oh, God-damnit, why did you say that? You were so caught up in the moment that you went and— and— God, that does sound like you actually want his help, when of course you can do this alone, it would go much better if you did this alone, frankly, considering Monty's reaction, and Ellery's general... Elleryness, and— you're so dumb, Charlotte, how could you go and— "Well," you say, "it's your stupid girlfriend, and you know a lot of stupid... things. It's not like I'm champing at the bit to—"

Why did you say that? That made it sound like you do want his help! You'd just started talking while the rest of you was thinking, and look what happened. Ellery chuckles again. "Holy shit, you do. What the fuck? Is it Opposite Day? Or—" A glint enters his eyes. "—is this like your weird cave thing? You couldn't find anyone else to go along, since you've been too shitty to them? You've been pretty fucking shitty to me too, Charlotte."

"Oh, shut up," you say, because explaining how wrong he is about you would take too long. "You want to help."

"I mean, yeah, but not because it's you. Because it's Maddie. So how did this happen?"

You give him the debrief. (You exclude the bits about Real Ellery.) You hate yourself for giving him the debrief. Now he really, truly thinks you actually want his—

"So," Ellery says. His hands are stuck in his pockets. "...What's the plan?"

There is no plan, but you can't just say that. God-damnit.

(Choices next.)
>[1] You'll, um— you'll go to Eloise. Didn't she say she'd look into the whole Namway deal? You kind of need that information now.
>[2] No, you'll go round everyone up. Everyone that you know knows Madrigal. Maybe you don't do so well one-on-one, but you can rile up a crowd, and— well— maybe multiple people will know what to do.
>[3] Hey, hold on. Technically, you are on the case of your evil time-traveling gooplicate clone, which Namway (presumably) made. Maybe it can tell you where Pat lives. Or maybe Jesse can— isn't the Wind Court outpost launching a full investigation into them? Head into town.
>[4] You need to contact Real Ellery, and/or Anthea: they're the ones who were in close contact with "Nettie" for at least a few months. Make Ellery write himself a note. (What does it say? Write-in.)
>[5] Write-in.
>[1] You'll, um— you'll go to Eloise. Didn't she say she'd look into the whole Namway deal? You kind of need that information now.
>>[1] You'll, um— you'll go to Eloise. Didn't she say she'd look into the whole Namway deal? You kind of need that information now.
she can be person 1 of the crowd
Real quick, are you dragging Ellery with you? And are you dragging Gil with you?
Gil if he wants to come, not Ellery

And you're bringing Gil, but not Ellery. Writing.
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"That's my problem, not yours," you say brusquely. "Gil, come on, we're going."

Fake Ellery looks on in disbelief as you offer Gil a hand. "Your problem— you just asked for my help! And here I am, helping, and you—"

"So? I don't need your help this instant, do I? What did you expect, I go grab my sword and we set off for Pat's evil lair?"


"I don't know where her evil lair is, Ellery. So I'll take care of all the detective-y parts— I know you can't handle those— and you can mope, or whatever, until I actually need you." Not that you'll ever actually need him, but maybe he'll take a few stab wounds for you. "'Kay?"

"What? No, you can't— you just want me to sit on my fucking hands? Lottie? Lottie, that's a, a bitch move! Lottie! Lottie? Lottie, stop—"

You are already walking. "Bye Ellery! Talk to you in a while!" (Or never.) "I'll let you know when I need you!"

Maybe he says other things, but either the sound doesn't carry or you've perfected the art of tuning him out. Either way, you are bathed in quiet for the first time in what feels like ages. The sea is warm, and greener than usual: algae, possibly? Tents creak and billow in the gentle current. The snake has slipped loose from your neck again and is swimming wide, lazy laps around your head. Except for it— and it hardly counts as a being— you are alone.

"Um," Gil says. (You flinch.) "...Where are we going?"

Damnit. "I have a plan."

"...That's not a real answer...."

"I have a plan, Gil. I am working on the plan as we walk." How can he not tell? Surely you had a pensive expression. "Could you please stop leaning so much?"

"Sorry," he mumbles, but doesn't stop leaning so much. Something seems to have gone wrong with his ankle— it's twisted sideways, and the bone's pressing against his veiny skin like it's trying to escape.

You feel strange when looking at it, and downright awful when glancing up at Gil's face, though you can't tell what's worse— the face itself, which does nothing but remind you that Madrigal isn't there, or the expression, which is kind of bulging out of her like a gall in an oak: almost all gritted teeth, and almost no eyes, they're so squinted. You're less concerned with that, though, than you are with you: this isn't right. This is incorrect. You've seen people in discomfort loads of times, and it's not as though it gave you any pleasure— you're not a psycho— but, well, it wasn't your issue. You didn't let yourself get caught up in it. You kept your chin up, and your feet moving, and your thoughts positive, and it worked. It's been working. So how come you're succumbing to—

To— to— to, um— wait, hold on, what are you thinking? Why wouldn't you feel, frankly, a surfeit of empathy? You're the best person you know, after all. You probably have more empathy than Gil does. Certainly more than Ellery. Though you can't remember any specific instances at the moment, you probably have a long history of comforting the weak and suffering, even if it does provoke unpleasant feelings in your chest-area. "It's okay," you say, and are immediately unsure how to follow that up. You change the subject. "...Uh... how did you do that back there? With Monty?"

"Do what? I-I really didn't... oh." His voice flattens. "That? When you made me..."

"Explain the whole thing? Yeah. I mean, you just— I didn't know you could talk like that." You mean it honestly. "Except when you're drunk."

"...Yeah." It's more of an exhale than a word. "I-I could. That's the— I-I-I-I could, or I could have, before I— before I fucking— before the beetles, Lottie, back when I-I-I-I wasn't—"

He cuts himself off. "But, I-I mean, that— back there, I-I-I had it. I had it. And then i-i-i-i-i-it just... it all drained away. You get it?"

Not at all. "Um, what's 'it?'"

"Me." Gil is trembling again. "I-I-I-I mean me. The old me, the normal one, not this fucking shit excuse for a... I-I was me, for 30 shitty seconds, and I could tell the difference, and now— I-I mean, you can hear me. I-I-I sound like a fucking girl."

"You are a girl," you say helpfully, and adjust his grip on you. "But shouldn't that be a good thing? I mean, now you know it's not totally hopeless. If you give it some time, maybe you'll be able to—"

"I-I-I-I-I want it to be hopeless! I-I-I want it hopeless. If i-it were hopeless, I could— I-I-I could accept it, right? This i-is apparently who I am now. But i-i-i-if I know there's a chance that— I mean, it's going to fucking kill me."

What are you supposed to say to that? Nobody ever taught you this. Gil is staring at you like he expects a response, but clearly he expects too much, because—

"Eh, hang on, we can finish this another time. I know them." ("Oh!" A different voice. "Them?") "Yeah, them— we can finish this tomorrow, alright? How about you head back. Have a fantastic day!"

Eloise waves to the back of the retreating woman, whom you don't recognize. Maybe she lives in town? Your feet appear to have taken you a third of the way down the trail to Lindew's Landing. "Uh..." you say. "Who was that?"

"Just a client." She does look businessy: her sleeves are rolled up, her hair pinned back. "Fancy meeting you here, Charlotte. ...And Madrigal. You slip her a mick?"

"What?" you say.

"Not sure why else she'd let you grab her like that. Now, I'm not insinuating anything, but..." She is clearly insinuating something. "Anyhow, seriously, why do you have her? She does not look in hiking condition. Which, you know, I'd expect, since she just gave birth—"

"She what?" Gil hisses.

"She didn't give birth," you say, and elbow Gil. "She— it was a snake."

"Well, you got me there! She didn't give birth, she just gestated a new lifeform for— I understand it was about a week? She gestated it inside her body until it was able to live independently, then it sprung forth in— I'm assuming a lot of blood and mucus, though I wasn't there, as I was too busy making sure Monty didn't commit ritual suicide. Has he committed ritual suicide?"

Is she joking? "Uh... no."

"Good! Because with him dead, and Madrigal—" She gestures. "—indisposed, and Ramsey... I was told she just up and left? Well, I'm of the understanding I'd be in charge, given how long I've been there, and you absolutely don't want to see that. I don't want to do that. I already pitched myself off a roof to avoid paperwork once."

Is she joking? "...Right, Um, no, he's— he's stable." Probably stable. "So whatever you said to him, it worked, I guess. No, I, uh, I just—"

Eloise has a particular kind of glint in her eye, and for the life of you you can't puzzle out whether it's inquisitive or acquisitive. Maybe those are the same thing, for her. But it's the kind of look that informs it's little use hiding something, because she's going to ferret it out regardless— if not from you, from Ellery or Monty. And you may as well retain the leverage.

You tell her about Gil.

"Well, damn me," she says when you finish (and Gil confirms). "That's a new one. Beetles, plural? How many beetles are equivalent to a man, then? Well— I suppose it'd depend on the size of the beetles. How large are the beetles?"

You make an oval with your thumb and forefinger.

"Alright, so... moderate, I suppose, though I'll confess I'm far from knowledgable in entomolygy— I'm sorry, so how many were you? Are you?"

Gil's eyes flick toward you. "...About 400?"

"Four hundred. Fascinating." Eloise has her hand crooked like she's ready to scribble this all down. "So does it feel as though you're 400 distinct beetles, or does it just feel as though you're a homogenous mass? Or, let me rephrase this, how granular is this experience? I'd really like to know if this is something the human mind is capable of processing, or if what you feel to be genuine beetleness is in reality doctored by your mind so you don't go bonkers from all the moving parts, or if your mind was altered to be capable of this— though frankly I don't know how I'd test any of that. Much less prove it."

Gil is still looking at you, fervently, presumably sending a message like 'why is everyone you know insane.' You wonder the same thing. "Um," you say loudly. "Could you think about it later? Thanks. Madrigal got kidnapped."

"...Fuck. What?"

"By Pat." (Eloise's hands ready a 'who?' gesture.) "From Namway."

"Fuck. You're not kidding?" She looks at you. "You're not kidding. Son of a fucking bitch. Tell me what happened."

You weigh your options and come up with very little. She's going to hear what happened— there's no way Ellery won't talk. So you tell her.

"So they have a snake," she says, when you finish.

"...Who is Madrigal, yes."

"They have a snake." She rubs the bottom of her nose. "Well, you just went ahead and put a damper on my day, didn't you? And probably the rest of the week. I'll have to talk to some people, again... shit. Thank you for telling me. That was the right thing to do."

She begins to hike up her cloak, and you realize— is she leaving? She can't leave. You have questions.

>You can ask as many questions as you want, but the more you ask, the more inclined Eloise will be to ask for compensation (in information).

>[1] Wait, does she have any idea where Pat might live, or where she may have taken Madrigal?
>[2] Does she have any idea what Namway might need a snake for?
>[3] Okay, in general, what's the deal with snakes? Because there is clearly *a* deal with snakes, and you don't entirely understand what it is.
>[4] How long does she think you might have to rescue Madrigal? (Assuming there is a time limit.)
>[5] Does she know if there's any way to recognize someone in disguise, like Pat was? Any telltale signs that give away "I have replaced my entire face with a gelatinous shapeshifting organism?"
>[6] Write-in. (Keep it related to the kidnapping — you'll have a chance to ask unrelated questions in the next update.)
>[1] Wait, does she have any idea where Pat might live, or where she may have taken Madrigal?
>[4] How long does she think you might have to rescue Madrigal? (Assuming there is a time limit.)
>[2] Does she have any idea what Namway might need a snake for?
>1, 2, 3, 4, 5
all the info
we can provide compensation
>>[1] Wait, does she have any idea where Pat might live, or where she may have taken Madrigal?
>>[4] How long does she think you might have to rescue Madrigal? (Assuming there is a time limit.)
>>[2] Does she have any idea what Namway might need a snake for?
>[3] Okay, in general, what's the deal with snakes? Because there is clearly *a* deal with snakes, and you don't entirely understand what it is.

> Let her know that Ellery wants to help
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>1, 4, 2

>1, 2, 3, 4, 5

>3 (+ Ellery)

Alright, I know this doesn't look like a tie, but I'm going to flip for this anyhow to determine if you're doing 1, 2, 4 (which is 'free') or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (which will require compensation). There is a method to my madness, but I don't want to type it all out, so if you're curious/offended just ask and I'll explain the logic here.
>1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Seems like we're going with everything (plus mentioning Ellery). I have to get up an hour earlier tomorrow, so we'll see if I fit all of this into a single update or not.

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>Q&A: Challenge Mode

"Hey!" you say. "Wait, hang on. You can't just— you can't just leave." Is this how Ellery felt? "You have to help me."

"Do I?" Eloise turns, her eyes twinkling. "Seems to me that'll only encourage you. Remember when I said this was out of your paygrade?"

Barely. "No! And even if I did, that's stupid. I'm the one who came to you in the first place! This is my investigation-slash-daring rescue—"

"I'm not convinced it should be, is the point. Madrigal is one thing, and this woman Pat is one thing, but— Charlotte, if you go and attempt this rescue, this won't be an isolated thing. You're going to attract the ire of this whole entrenched power structure, and you don't even know what that entails. What is Upper Management?"

"Um," you say. "It's whatever wants them to dupe a snake?"

"Yes, but who is it? Who is out there commissioning snakes? You don't know, and I don't know. You don't know what they're capable of, what lengths they'd go in order to— well, didn't she say they took her boyfriend?"


"Yeah." Eloise pushes back her sleeves again. "So don't risk your whole life on this. I mean, you're just a kid. Go talk to the Court, get them to throw some warm bodies at the problem... I know they're loathsome, but this is their purported job. And I'll continue pulling whatever levers I can. I'll let you know if anything changes. Okay?"

God, you hope this isn't how Ellery felt, because your stomach's roiling like crazy. You ball your fists. "No! You can't just steal my— I mean," inspiration has struck, "you can't just steal my investigation. Slash daring rescue. You can't, because I'm going to do it anyhow, you realize? Do you even know me? I'm going to do it, and I'm gonna do it better than you'd ever do it, and—" You point. "—if you don't want me to get kidnapped, shouldn't you help me? That way I'm armed with... information, or whatever. Knowledge is power, and stuff. Come on."

"I wasn't joking," she says tiredly.

"And neither am I! Do I sound like I'm joking?" You are perhaps playing it up a tad, but the sentiment is genuine. "I'm investigating this with or without your dumb help, so I may as well do it with. And I already recruited Ellery, so— I mean, do you want me to do it with him and not you? Really?"

"Ellery?" Eloise laughs. "You do make a compelling argument."


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

"I do," you say. (Gil mumbles under his breath.) "So go ahead and tell me—"

"Uh-uh." She holds out a finger. "I'm not doing it for free, because this is not out of the goodness of my heart. You just heard the goodness of my heart, and you didn't want it. So this will be a quid-pro-quo. I inform you, you inform me."

Well, that's fine, you guess. "Whatever. Can we just do your side first, then mine? That way it's faster."

"So you can scam me out of my fair deal? Sure, okay." She raises a manicured eyebrow. "Shoot."

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Shoot? Oh. Oh, uh, you have a lot of questions, actually. "...Right. So you said 'snake' like it was a bad thing."


"...Um, why?" Richard has always been anal about you not mentioning the 'snake' bit, but you never quite got the reasoning. "I mean... they're animals."

Eloise's arched eyebrow remains arched, but the rest of her face grows quizzical. "You don't—? Well, sure."

"If it's common knowledge, you can just tell me for free," you say hopefully.

"No." She turns and marches a little ways off the trail, then motions for you to follow. "Over here."

You follow. Gil has no choice but to come along, though the little wheezing noises he's making may indicate he's not happy about it. Eloise, now leaning against a tree, motions again to a slick bolder— "You can sit down."

Gil sits down immediately. You remain standing.

"Suit yourself. Well, Charlotte, you're not precisely wrong, a snake is in large part an animal— though I'll preface the rest of this with the fact that I am not a snake expert any more than I am a beetle expert, I just happen to have done some work with them. So this will all be fairly rudimentary." She waves her hands. "In any case... you said that snakes are animals?"


"They aren't. They share superficial, if compelling, traits with animals— that doesn't make them an animal, any more than that makes coral a plant. They're actually... I can't say I've ever tried to explain to a layman. Er, suppose everything you could think of was, on a much deeper level than you can see, made of words, and those words made sentences. Everything would be made of many, many sentences, wouldn't they? They'd have to be, in order to capture everything about a thing. Animals especially would be extraordinarily complex— how else would you write a thing into life?"

She's talking about Law. You don't tell her she's talking about Law. You nod.

"But the thing about snakes is, they're not made of sentences. They're not even made of words. They're just a word— they are SNAKE. And this word, this little self-referential loop, is enough, on its own, to kickstart life. We don't know exactly why. But we do know that's enough to disqualify snakes from being true animals... they simply are. They're snakes."

You nod slowly. "But can they talk?"

"Can they talk? Interesting question. Did Madrigal's, before it—?"


"See, I wouldn't expect it to. Among the many interesting properties of snakes is that their profound effect on reality— I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that they have a profound effect on reality, probably due to their structure, though we still don't know exactly why— it's under investigation. In any case, that effect varies based on its size. This big to this big—" She indicates an inch, then a foot. "—and they're indistinguishable from a true animal. This big to this big—" A foot to both of her arms outstretched. "—And they start getting smarter, though not enough to speak: they're maybe at the level of a 2-year-old child. This is the also the stage where they start eating memories, which you may or may not have heard about— or maybe you've just forgotten." She snickers.

"No," you say, "I knew about that." That was the size of Branwen's snake.

"Okay, good. Past this, we start getting theoretical, because snakes larger than about 6 feet are impossible to study. But we think they grow very smart, very fast— a 12-to-15-foot snake would probably be capable of human speech, if it had the inclination to learn it. It'd certainly be telepathic, and could likely read your memories as well as eat them. Larger than that, and maybe it creates things out of memories. Larger than that, and it begins to slip out of the present, into the past and future— and, well, you get the gist. In theory, it scales infinitely up from there, because unlike true animals snakes aren't bound by petty things like 'food supply' and 'gravity.'"

"Right," you say, though it doesn't make a lot of sense. Richard's two feet long, maybe three, and he can talk. "So it's not bad that Namway has a snake. It's bad that they want to make a... big snake."

"Yes. Well..." Eloise runs a hand through her hair. "You can't make an existing snake smaller or larger, or at least we don't know how. I sincerely doubt these guys do, either. The problem is that they're trying to dupe a snake, and if they have enough material, they can make that as big as they want. I hope you understand why that's an issue?"

"Fuck," Gil says quietly. You clear your throat. "Uh... it's a doomsday device? If they make it really, really big."

"Maybe. Or maybe somebody just wants reality bent to their will. Maybe they just want the memories of everyone in a 50-mile radius wiped. It's hard to say, Charlotte." Eloise sighs. "I'll give them credit, I'm not sure anybody's thought of this before. It's fairly clever."

"Uh-huh." You hadn't expected that all to take so long. (She isn't charging by the minute, right?) "Okay, but— what about Madrigal?"

"What about Madrigal?"

"Well— what do you think they're going to do to her? Is she going to get hurt?" You pause. "Um, I'm asking because I want to know the timeframe, not because I'm worried about—"

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"I'm not exactly privy to their evil plan, you know. And unlike a sufficiently large snake, I'm not telepathic."

"So guess," you say.

She looks sideways. "I don't know. They'll probably draw some blood, but I don't see what else they'd do... if you're right, she's not there to be experimented on, she's just there as a model for the dupe. If anything, they'll take great care of her."

"Oh." A knot in your throat unclenches. "Okay, so she'll be fine."

"Well, she's inside a snake, which I suspect isn't pleasant. We'll come back to that, by the way. But physically... they're not going to kill her, they probably won't torture her. If that's all you care about, and not the potential impending apocalypse—" Eloise shrugs. "—don't feel rushed."

Don't feel rushed. "Okay, great! So where is she?"

"Where is she?"


Eloise blinks. "Yes. Well, I don't know that either. Eh... she's probably being kept in a manse right now, which would be a bitch to track down— maybe impossible. You'd be better off finding Pat. Didn't you say she lived in the area?"

You nod.

"If she really does, I doubt she lives anywhere too populated... would you, if you were in disguise all the time? Probably not town, probably not Hellsbells or the skimmer camps. But I also doubt she's a complete hermit... again, I'm guessing. But it'd be easier to get fresh faces if you're around a few new people every now and again."

"So somewhere not too populated, but not too unpopulated."

"Yeah. You also may want to check where they get those big drifts of goo around here— I know you said they had a bunch of that shipped in, but if I were seriously researching that stuff, I'd want ready access."

"Makes sense." Also sounds super boring. Maybe you can get Ellery to do that? "Yes. Okay. So how will I know her if I see her? Pat, I mean."

Eloise laughs, again. "Sorry?"

"Well, she won't look the same, so—"

"You're the one who's seen her, not me. Are you talking about goo in general? Because there's no foolproof method, there, except trying to draw blood. Everything else is hit-or-miss... sometimes there's a blueish tinge, apparently, or real prominent blue veins. Translucent flesh, uh, tentacles— that's a very obvious one. If they're too flexible. Boy, you really owe me some good stuff, don't you?"

"That wasn't a good answer," you say. "That shouldn't count."

"It wasn't a good question." She grins. "Speaking of, I think it's about my turn, isn't it? I'll even give you an easy one— what's with the interest in this? I was under the impression you and Madrigal, eh, mutually disliked each other."

(Choices next.)
>What do you tell Eloise?

>[A1] Well, you're a detective. (Kind of.) And this is a mystery. (Kind of.) You're just doing your job.
>[A2] Well, you're a heroine. (Definitely.) And this is a damsel in distress. (Definitely.) You're just doing your job.
>[A3] Of course you dislike Madrigal, and vice versa. That's why you're doing it. Wouldn't it be hilarious to have her owe you so massively?
>[A4] You just need something to do.
>[A5] You don't understand why nobody likes you. If you rescue Madrigal (who everyone inexplicably does like), maybe that'll change.
>[A6] It's just like Gil. Like Gil, she was vulnerable, and confused, and scared, and you were supposed to keep her safe. You were supposed to get her back safe. And you didn't. So what does that make you?
>[A7] Write-in.

>What's your *real* interest in this?

>[B] Write-in. (You can copy/paste an [A] option here, even the same [A] option that you chose— or write-in something else. There's no right answer.)

>What else do you tell her as compensation? [You may pick multiple. Eloise may ask more prodding questions if she doesn't feel you give her enough.]

>[C1] How you put Madrigal in the snake. (Well, how Richard did. But you'll just say it like you did it.)
>[C2] About Real Ellery— that he exists, and he's immortal, and kind of a douchebag, and so on.
>[C3] About Real Ellery's assassination thing. He's going around shooting people with crossbows "for a good cause." Pretty weird, you think.
>[C4] About Anthea and Real Ellery. There's this lady with half her face coming off? And she and Ellery seem like... more than friends.
>[C5] About Monty. Does she know he's probably murdered people? More specifically, does she know he was part of a conspiracy/shadow government involving spooky masks? You know Monty told you not to tell people, but Monty also strangled you.
>[C6] About Monty's ooze... tentacle... thing. Seriously, what the heck?
>[C7] Write-in.

You'll be able to ask her about extra things in the next set of options-- this ran too long.
>[A2] Well, you're a heroine. (Definitely.) And this is a damsel in distress. (Definitely.) You're just doing your job.

>[B] You don't understand why nobody likes you. If you rescue Madrigal (who everyone inexplicably does like), maybe that'll change.

>[C1] How you put Madrigal in the snake. (Well, how Richard did. But you'll just say it like you did it.)

>B : A5, with a strong helping of A6 that we won't admit to ourselves

We don't know much about this, so maybe if she does or has met Anthea before she'll muse aloud and we'll get some free info.
>>[A2] Well, you're a heroine. (Definitely.) And this is a damsel in distress. (Definitely.) You're just doing your job.
>>[B] You don't understand why nobody likes you. If you rescue Madrigal (who everyone inexplicably does like), maybe that'll change.
>>[C1] How you put Madrigal in the snake. (Well, how Richard did. But you'll just say it like you did it.)
>>[A3] Of course you dislike Madrigal, and vice versa. That's why you're doing it. Wouldn't it be hilarious to have her owe you so massively?
> Also we're a detective hero, and she's a mysterious dame. Gonna be all up in her biz, and we're gonna make it better and she's gonna like it and won't that just irk the living shit out of her.

>What's your *real* interest in this?

Spite. How dare they kidnap our sidekick? How dare our sidekick get snaked, and then kidnapped? How dare Pat *shoot Gil*. He's like a beetle to us, the beetle we never had. Kind of like a butler, but we had one of those.

We got some closure required here.\

>[C4] About Anthea and Real Ellery. There's this lady with half her face coming off? And she and Ellery seem like... more than friends.

She's related to this Pat figure, and finding her might help us find Pat.

Changing my C1 to C4. Everything else stays the same.


>B: Mainly A5, also A6 + spite
None of these are mutually exclusive and it makes sense for Charlotte to have complicated feelings about it, so I'll take everything.



Called for A2 (Eloise), mix of A5/A6/spite(real), and C4. Writing.

>Kind of like a butler, but we had one of those.
Actually, you didn't. The Fawkins family fortune (if there ever was one) was squandered through multiple generations of drinking, gambling, womanizing, and all-around rabble-rousing, and though your mother's side was/is legitimately wealthy, she was estranged because she ran off with your father. The only money coming in during your childhood was your father's salary, which while substantial-- you were solidly upper-middle-class, unlike, say, Ellery (dirt poor) or Madrigal (middle class)-- wasn't enough to make you actually /rich/, especially between your mother's health care and the exorbitant taxes on your giant inherited house. You definitely couldn't afford servants, not that your Aunt Ruby would ever hire any (she thought house chores built character).

You make a point of not telling anybody this, though.

"That's a stupid question," you say. "That's a way stupider question than my— than my question. You need to get better at—"

"Then give a stupid answer, Charlotte. All's fair." Eloise smirks, like she thinks that's funny.

Well, it isn't funny! Now she's gone and screwed things up even more. Now anything you say is gonna sound stupid— and that wasn't even the problem to begin with! The problem was that you couldn't say the answers you did have, because they sound weird, when you say them in your head. You can't tell her that you took Pat's betrayal as a personal insult, that you want revenge for your retainer's injury and your tagalong's kidnapping, because that'd bring her right around to the original question— but why care? You certainly can't tell her that you wouldn't mind the adulation that comes with heroically rescuing the second-in-command, that you would tolerate the newfound respect from others, that you would begrudgingly accept the warm embrace of the community. And you'd rather get shot in the forehead, Ellery-style, than admit the unfamiliar feeling in your chest, the one you don't like, the one you don't want to name, even though you did once. Under duress.

"I mean, it's a stupid question because it's so easy." You fold your arms. "She got kidnapped, didn't she? So she's a, um, a damsel."


"You know, a damsel. A, um, dame. An ingenue. She's all helpless, and kidnapped, and stuff, and I— I mean, I have a sword." You point to The Sword resting on your hip. "That practically makes me a heroine all by itself. And I'm courageous, and I possess strong moral turpitude, and—"

Eloise raises an eyebrow, again. (How does she do it? You've never been able to raise just one.) "Do you mean fortitude? I'm not saying turpitude is wrong, but—"

"—and I stick to my convictions," you say at an increased volume, "so, I mean, it's practically my duty to rescue her, regardless of how much of a bitch she is. Not that I would ever call her a bitch, on account of my virtuous heart."

"Your virtuous heart?"


"Is this a new bit, or have I just never seen it before? I liked your old one better, personally."

"It's not a bit," you say righteously, "and you'd do best not to— not to impugn my honor. Honor is a very important thing to a heroine, slash detective...ess, as I am also a— that's also a reason, I'll have you know. I'm full of reasons."

There's a short pause. "...I did say you could give a stupid answer, huh? Well, that's alright. We can call that a trade for your last question." She prises herself off the tree and cracks her back. "You did ask five or six more, unfortunately, so I'll let you fill that in yourself. I'm sure you have plenty of gossip, being a detectivess and whatnot."

"Um, you can just say detective." It sounds worse when she says it like that. "And... yes."

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Yes. It's been three days since you last talked to Eloise, and in that timeframe you, uh... there was the whole thing with the current that never happened, then you found out about Horse Face, and about Monty, and you finished Gil's fake body, and the Gold-Masked Person stole the crown, and you got The Sword back, and you watched Madrigal gestate(??) a snake, and Monty strangled you... and you got confirmation about Real Ellery, and found out about his assassination thing, and watched him and Anthea hug rather intimately... and there's whatever's going on with Monty's disgusting ooze, and... well, that's it. That's what happened.

But you can't say most of that, because it's too sensitive, or too personal, or will provoke a whole host of follow-up questions, or Monty will make an attempt on your life for it. Really, your options are remarkably limited. You cough. "Uh... I do have something."

"Which is?"

"Um..." It has to be enough to satisfy her needs, but as little as you can get away with: a tough tightrope to walk when you're not struggling to find anything remotely palatable. You really know very little about Eloise, beyond the obvious. What does she like? Gossip? (Duh.) Petty drama? Surely she doesn't broker news of kidnappings and giant snakes every day— it has to be smaller things, like a brawl in town, or the newest thing they fished out of the Flats, or which anonymous nobody is having relations with which other nobody...


"...Ellery," you say portentously. "As you may be aware, I have been spending mine days investigating his strange... activities. And I have, as a matter of fact, discovered something... intriguing. Have you heard of one 'Anthea Aves'?"

"Aves? I'm afra-ves I don't recognize that name." (She snorts.)

Oh. Seriously? You thought Eloise knew everything. You were kind of hoping she'd tell you about Anthea, since you don't know that much, but— okay. "She has red hair? Freckles? Very pleasant? Half her face's evaporating into mist?"

"Mist? Sorry, must have 'mist' her." Eloise surveys your unamused face. "...No, eh, I think I'd remember a woman with half her face gone. She must not live in town."

Where does Anthea live? She's president of the Corcass chapter, so she must be in the region, but you can't recall her ever mentioning the precise location. "Uh, I guess not. In any case, her and Ellery... I think they're involved." You pause for drama. "Amorously. I have witnessed, with mine very eyes, an embrace..."

"Witnessed it when?"


"He's been a recluse since he and Madrigal split. I really didn't think he'd be sneaking out for liaisons... I didn't think he'd be having liaisons, really, he seems awful hung up on—" Her eyes flick to Gil. "—Madrigal. Especially not with someone... you called her 'very pleasant?'"

"Oh, yeah. She's all nice, all... rules-follower-y, uh... kind of like Monty, actually, but less..." Your initial impressions of Monty have been somewhat colored by the murdering thing, and the strangling thing (you are not going to drop that), but you do your best. "...patronizing? You know how he gets."

"He's trying his best." Eloise smiles unusually. "But yes, she does sound pleasant! Good for Ellery. I wouldn't have expected that."

"You wouldn't?"

"I'm under the impression that's not his type, though I could be wrong." There's no indication she actually thinks she's wrong. "All I'm saying is, I've heard that that man likes his blood pumping... maybe he's had a change of heart, after that nasty little—" Another glance at Gil. "—implosion, a few months back. I wouldn't blame him. Still. Odd. Do you know how they met?"

You know that she knows about Real Ellery's obnoxious 'condition,' and about his assassination gig. (Pat knew about that too. Why? What relevance did she have to that?) And he's Vice President, she's President. (Did they found the chapter together?) He must trust her; she thought he'd care about her more than Madrigal...

But you don't know how they met, or when they met, or what the hell she saw in Real Ellery— though you could ask the same thing of Madrigal, you suppose. Still. "Um, not exactly," you say. "But it was probably in a manse. I'm not sure they've met, er, physically."

"Ah, I see! A relationship in unreality... wonder what they get up to." Her tone leaves no illusions about what 'get up to' means. You make a face. "Maybe that's why he's in his tent all the time— but hey, I'll leave the detectivess work to you, since you're the expert. Just let me know if you get more details, will you? Or if you ever meet her in person. I'd love to chitchat."

That's never, ever happening. "Uh-huh. So is that enough? To compensate?"

"To— ah. Well, frankly, that wasn't that substantial... sort of like how mist isn't that substantial? Hmm." She frowns. "I'll workshop that one. What I'm trying to say is, I'd usually say no."

"But?" you prod.

"But Ellery in a rebound... I have to say, I did not expect that, and that's fairly rare these days! So I'll give you a pass. If you want anything else from me, though, I need something else."

>[TO-DO ADDED: Find out what Anthea's deal is.]

(Choices next.)
>[A1] You do have other things to discuss with Eloise. (You can pick multiple.)

>>[A] Hang on, she said— in the letter she sent the other day— that she had an idea for a job for you. Is that offer still open?
>>[B] ...In the same letter, she also told you not to mention Monty's arm. Why? Is something hypothetically wrong with Monty's arm? Is it hypothetically oozing? How would *she* hypothetically know, considering she wrote that before the strangling? [Requires [B].]
>>[C] She wrote that in purple pen. You are not jealous, at all, but also where can you get a purple pen? [Requires [B].]
>>[D] She didn't seem concerned about the snake thing when you first mentioned Namway— she was more worried about the whole 'clone army' thing. What changed?
>>[E] She's been at the camp longer than anyone else, except Monty-- so she's known Monty the longest of anyone. What does she make of him? Did she know him before his wife died? [Requires [B].]
>>[F] Okay, she knows a weird amount about boring, Richard-type things, which you did /not/ think was her speed. What is her background, exactly? [Requires [B].]
>>[G] Write-in.

>[A2] No, you're good. [End conversation.]

>[B] You'll have to give extra compensation for your extra questions. (TECHNICALLY OPTIONAL — Only required if you picked an [A] option that says "requires [B].")

>>[1] How you put Madrigal in the snake. (Well, how Richard did. But you'll just say it like you did it.)
>>[2] About Real Ellery- that he exists, and he's immortal, and kind of a douchebag, and so on.
>>[3] About Real Ellery's assassination thing. He's going around shooting people with crossbows "for a good cause." Pretty weird, you think.
>>[4] About Monty. Does she know he's probably murdered people? More specifically, does she know he was part of a conspiracy/shadow government involving spooky masks? You know Monty told you not to tell people, but Monty also strangled you.
>>[5] About Monty's ooze... tentacle... thing. Seriously, what the heck?
>>[6] Hey, did she know that Horse Face is stuck repeating the same year over and over? And that's why he's like that?
>>[7] Write-in.
(I know this is a weird-ass vote, so just to quickly clarify: a vote should look something like


And because [A1C] requires a [B] option, you'd also vote


Or you could just vote >[A2] or >[A1D] and not have to include any [B]s, because those {A]s don't have the "requires [B]" tag. Hope this helps.)
>Hang on, she said— in the letter she sent the other day— that she had an idea for a job for you. Is that offer still open?
>[D] She didn't seem concerned about the snake thing when you first mentioned Namway— she was more worried about the whole 'clone army' thing. What changed?

dirty model thief
he deserves no secrets
A1D, maybe this will help us get Madrigal back
A1F, with an eye to figuring out how she might be useful in future
A1G, if we hypothetically needed a spare body that wouldnt melt, does she know anyone who might be able to uhh assist us
B6 (what that guy said ^)
B5 because that might be a public health hazard! also we basically get to ask about Monty for free

and then we should probably try to uhh go save Madrigal and worry about Monty's arm and milking Eloise for answers later >_>

>A1G, if we hypothetically needed a spare body that wouldnt melt, does she know anyone who might be able to uhh assist us
You asked about this the last time you saw Eloise: she suggested you trek about a day south, hang out around Pillar 12 (smack dab in the middle of Hell), and wait for a suitable dead body to float down. (Not everybody survives drowning.)

>and then we should probably try to uhh go save Madrigal and worry about Monty's arm and milking Eloise for answers later >_>
All in good time, anon. You still need to figure out where Pat lives in the real world before you can charge off on a rescue mission.
>>>[A] Hang on, she said— in the letter she sent the other day— that she had an idea for a job for you. Is that offer still open?

After all, this gives her the option of being included in our crazy hijinks. Which, we will point out, are what discovered all this in the first place.

Aren't we also working with the court on this already?

>>>[B] ...In the same letter, she also told you not to mention Monty's arm. Why? Is something hypothetically wrong with Monty's arm? Is it hypothetically oozing? How would *she* hypothetically know, considering she wrote that before the strangling? [Requires [B].]

Can we tell her that we're also working with the Court on finding the Crown? If not

>>[6] Hey, did she know that Horse Face is stuck repeating the same year over and over? And that's why he's like that?

Because HF doesn't seem to care if anyone knows.
>Aren't we also working with the court on this already?
What do you mean by "this"? You're working with the Court (and specifically Jesse) to try and catch your rogue evil(?) time-traveling(?) gooplicate. As far as you know, Eloise's job offer is unrelated to that-- you just asked her if she had any errands you could run for her, essentially.

>Can we tell her that we're also working with the Court on finding the Crown?
Sure, that's called the write-in option :^) It's also not accurate-- you're working with them about the gooplicate, not about the Crown. (Lucky would not want to work with you to find the Crown, as you're a direct competitor for it.) You're also not working with the Court to investigate Namway, though that may or may not change.

Hoo boy.

>[A]s with 2+ votes: [A1A], [A1B], [A1D]
>[B]s with 2+ votes: [B6]
And then there's little reason not to throw in [B5] with [A1B], since it's on topic, so I'll take that too.

I'm starting late and this may be a long one, so hopefully I'll be able to cram it all in tonight. Writing.
Just realized that, if I pair [A1B] and [B5], Charlotte has no reason to offer [B6] except spite. And while that's a fairly powerful motivator, I'm going to throw in >>5041306's A1F just so you guys get something real in return for that info.

Still writing.
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'Need something else'? "Oh, come on," you say. "I'm lending you a hand, out of kindness, and generosity, and— and neighborly feeling, and you're just going to reject that? You're too consumed with greed to acknowledge my, my, my charitable—"


"Your job offer." You stuff your hands in your pockets. "You said you had one, in your letter. So I'm accepting it, and really, that should be worth a ton of info all by itself, so—"

"Oh! Yes." Eloise claps her hands together. "That. Actually, about that— I changed my mind on it."

She what? "You can't do that! You wrote me a letter— I have it in writing. I'm taking the job offer, and you can pay me in information, alright? Also chit. But mainly—"

"Relax, Charlotte. The original plan was to have you rendezvous with a friend who lives in Hell, since I assumed you were heading there anyhow, to..." She stops. She tilts her head. "...Wait, are you the unrelated disembodied guy?"

She means Gil, who takes a moment to realize he's being talked to. "Um. Unrelated to what?"

"To the one Charlotte's usually talking to."

"Uh... yes, then."

"Wow! Okay, then, she just went down a half-tick on my crazy-meter." (Her what?) "We can throw you a party later, Charlotte. In any case, the rendezvousing was because I was booked clean from now to Kitemaker— but with the shit that's going on in town, I'm freed up, can make the trip myself. That being said..." She leans back against the tree. "...you're welcome to come along. You know I love company."

Come along? And be with Eloise for a sustained period of time? Your brain would start leaking out your ears. But... if you do head Hellwards, it'd certainly be safer to have a partner, and that's not worth nothing. "Uh, we'll see. When were you planning on this?"

"No hard date!" She smiles. "Late this week, maybe, or early next week. I'll let you know. Don't try and worm your way out of this, will you? I know you know things."

"That doesn't mean I want to share them," you mutter. "And besides, you know even more things. Somehow. How did you know about his arm?"

"His arm?" But she knows what you're talking about. The corners of her eyes crease.

"Yeah. I go in, I talk to Monty, and the whole time he's standing half-behind a folding screen, like a complete freak. And at the end, I see behind it—" (An entirely factual description of events.) "—and he's— I mean, his bad arm is— there's this black sludge oozing from it? In a, a rope shape? And it was long, it went almost to his hip—"

"Did you mention it?"

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Did you mention it? "No, cause he kicked me out—"

"At least you can follow instructions." The corner of her mouth quirks.

"I— but you knew about it!" You point accusingly. "Somehow! Even though it only happened ten minutes ago! Did you send that letter from the future?! How on earth—"

"I wish I could send letters from the future, Charlotte, I'd love to see the look on people's faces! But no. The condition's nothing new, though I don't know if it's ever been that... advanced. I knew it was leaking when I left him, but..." She shrugs. "It's best he gets it over with. Was bound to happen eventually, with Ramsey gone."

You understood a quarter of that. "The condition?"

"His arm's only been leaking rejection fluid for a year and a half. How did you get a detectivess job? Maybe I should apply."

"Shut up." You cross your arms. "Just explain it properly, then mock me."

"Another compelling argument! Alright. Are you sure you don't want to sit down?" (You stare.) "Well, that's your prerogative. So... where were we?"

"Black ooze," Gil mutters.

"Black ooze, thank you. Now, this is a black, viscous liquid? Tastes burnt?"

"I didn't taste it."

"Monty thanks you, I'm sure. But it should taste burnt. It's called rejection fluid because a body produces it when rejecting a... change. And not one like a change of clothes, or boyfriends— a real change to the integrity of a person. I'm sure you've coughed some up, considering what you get up to."

Have you? There has seemed to be some black goop in your recent past, now that you think about it. Wasn't Ellery coughing it up? And though you're loath to compare yourself to Ellery in any way, you seem to recall coughing some up, too. Maybe at that party where you first met Pat? "...That's classified."

"I'm sure! But anyhow, it has nothing to do with whether the rejection is successful— it's just a natural reaction. Common thought is that it's curdled blood, actually, the makeups are similar, but that's open to debate— I assume it's still open to debate, I mean. Hard to stay up-to-date."

"Uh-huh." That helped, but only a little. "So he's oozing this... stuff. Because he's rejecting some... change. What change? And why now? I mean, you just said it's been going on for a year—"

"And a half, yes. We're straying rather far from the realm of objective fact here, Charlotte, so I'll reiterate once again that I'm not magic. I only know what I hear and what I've been told, and Monty does not consider me a confidante."

"Does anybody consider you a confidante?" you say.

"You'd be surprised. In any case, everything that follows is educated speculation, yada yada, don't come running to me if I'm dead wrong." Eloise cracks her wrist. "But it's pretty obvious you broke him."

You— "Excuse me?"

"The man's wound tighter than a kitespool, so don't get too impressed with yourself. You applied the right pressure at the right time, and he—" She cracks her other wrist, as demonstration. "I don't know why I'm telling you this. You're the one he choked."

"Yeah! For no reason! Not because I applied some 'pressure,' whatever the hell that's supposed to—"

"Everyone heard you, Charlotte. But no. He broke, or his—" She waves her hand in a circle. "—will did, or whatever's gluing that mess together— and I don't just mean the will to not choke you. Though that was an obvious victim! No, uh, also whatever dedicated effort was keeping that arm plugged up."

You don't like Eloise. "So you're saying I made his arm gross."

"I'm not saying anything! I'm speculating. And to continue to speculate... you asked 'what change?' Also pretty obvious. He lost his arm."

Yeah, okay. You thought of that, and then you rejected it, because it was stupid. "So? I've gotten stabbed, and I don't start growing ooze tentacles out of my—"

"What a shame." She snorts. "Are you trying to imply it's deeper than that? I don't know, maybe. Maybe he was unusually attached to having two arms... he did box. Or maybe his body's just jumpier than an average person's. But I really think it's the arm."


(Sorry, folks, I have to do one of these: this is what we in the biz call a "long-ass" update, and I'm not keen on staying up until 5 AM to finish. The remaining half, and the vote, will come tomorrow [before the regular update time]. While I have you here, though, could you please vote in this little poll?)

>[1] I would prefer that you continue to post incomplete (optionless) updates, if you're unable to finish them at a reasonable hour, then post the second halves of the updates when available.
>[2] I would prefer that you don't post anything until the update is finished and I can vote on options.

(This will determine how I treat these [TBC] updates moving forward. Thanks!)
>>[1] I would prefer that you continue to post incomplete (optionless) updates, if you're unable to finish them at a reasonable hour, then post the second halves of the updates when available.

Nice trips. Do the logical thing and don't burn yourself out, fren.
2 - whatever's easier for you!! but all things being equal, i prefer reading in bulk so my 2 brain cells dont lose track of what's happening
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"Well, I guess," you say. Your legs are beginning to ache from all the standing, though it'd be impossible to sit down now, not after refusing twice. "So it's just going to be oozing forever?"

Eloise shrugs. "It's really not my area. I'd say ask Ramsey, she's been treating it, but... she ran off. Whatever happens, don't mention it."

What?! "You want me to ignore him oozing all over the place? What if he oozes on me? What if I catch diseases from his disgusting ooze? You expect me not to mention the diseases I—"

"Try." Her hands are folded. "Listen, pissing everyone else off? That's funny. Pissing Monty off? That makes life around here shit. And mentioning it is going to piss him off— so do me a solid and don't. Treat it like it's always been there."

"You want me to lie." The nerve of the woman!

"If that's your name for tact, then yes, I want you to lie. Anything else?"

Can you argue this? Well, you can argue anything. But would you win? ...No. So really, the optimal move would be to grab Gil off his perch and storm right back to camp, signifying your lack of patience for the blatant display of immorality before you, and also sticking it to Eloise, who seems to think she's in charge of you, or something— but you're not actually finished, and slinking back to her later with more questions would be worse. "Uh... while we're still on the topic of your letter—"

"You really should've brought it to point at! I barely remember the thing."

"I didn't think I'd run into you," you mumble. "But anyhow— you didn't say anything about snakes. Or the apocalypse. You just said you were looking into the whole... regular business part. The clones-on-demand thing."

"Ah! Well, I did." She tucks her hands behind her back. "And I determined that that wasn't of huge concern... at least not to us. Their big clients are all out West. So then I got to thinking about the rest of what you said, and I was talking to someone else who knows snakes, and—"

"Someone else who knows snakes?" They wouldn't have a Richard, would they? (You glance down at the snake, who is exploring your ankles.) Surely not, but... what if they did?


"Are you going to tell me who?"

"No," she says.

God! "You're telling me everything else. Like, how do you know about snakes? You don't— I mean, at least Branwen has a good reason. What's your excuse?"

"My excuse? I had a prophetic dream that revealed to me the mysteries of— I'm just kidding! It's not even really a secret. But if you don't know... come on, you know the drill.

You do. Unfortunately. But you shouldn't tell her about Real Ellery, you can't tell her about Monty, you don't want Lucky to wave another torch in your face... what's left? Horse Face's thing? Hmm. Actually, you'd rather like to inconvenience Horse Face in any way possible.

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You tell Eloise about Horse Face's claim: that he's trapped in a time loop of variable duration, that it's been happening for around fifty years, cumulatively, that he claims to have never been here before, but he befriended Madrigal and Gil in previous loops, and that, conveniently, he can't prove any of this, or he'll die.

"And you can ask him about it," you finish, and reach down to tug the snake out of the leg of your slacks. "He'll tell you the same thing."

Eloise's fingers are steepled. "What the hell?"

"I'm serious. This is exactly what he—"

"He's delusional. Or a con artist. That doesn't—" She shakes her head. "It's not just implausible... I mean, I'm implausible, Charlotte. You're implausible. That's just flat-out impossible. You'd need a god, and do you know where the gods are?"


"Extremely dead. It's that, or maybe— I don't know, a thousand years ago, the old people at the peak of their power. But do you know what happened to those guys?"


"Also extremely dead, and their knowledge..." Eloise waggles her fingers. "All I'm saying is, whatever survived the first 700 years, I think the big fucking flood took care of it."

"Well," you say. "What if a hidden sect survived? And cultivated the ancient... practices? And then performed a big ritual, and maybe someone killed a shark with their bare hands, and ate it, then was filled with—"

"You're saying someone out there has the capacity to manipulate time, and they're using it to torment some... did he say what he was before this 'cycle'?"

"Uh." You have to think. "Just a guy?"

"To torment some average guy. Or, alternately, it's just gullshit?"

When she says it like that... "I mean, maybe. But that still qualifies as information, right? You didn't say it had to be true. And— and—" You point. "How do you even know if that's GS or not, huh? What are you? Don't tell me you're just some average... I bet if I asked Gil, he wouldn't know. Would you know, Gil?"

"What?" Gil says. He sounds panicky.

"See?" You cross your arms. "Now you have to tell me."

"Well, okay. I told you it isn't a secret." Eloise smooths out her cloak. "I'm a retired skientist. Emphasis here on retired. And now I am leading a much happier, much less stressful, much better-paid life, so don't try to drag me back into things, understand? I'm not interested."

You're still stuck on the first part. "A sky-entist? Like... you study things about the sky?"

She snorts. "Valid guess, but nope! It's a nonsense word, nowadays, just stuck around because of tradition... I think it's a corruption of 'skein,' personally. Like thread. Like the fabric of reality, see. Heh. You might know it better as a 'metaphysicist'?"

The only thought in your head is: thank God Richard isn't here. "Um," you say. "...Yes. You're retired?"

"For almost a decade, so—" Eloise pokes you square in the forehead. "—don't. And really, I better get going, before you make me answer more questions about this— I see your look. Stay safe out there, don't piss off Monty, please tell me if Namway does anything else! Okay?"

You don't like the idea of reporting in to her, but at least it's better than reporting in to... Ellery, or someone. "I guess. Where are you going?"

"Back to camp... hm." She furrows her eyebrows. "Aves?"


"Ellery's fling. Was the name Aves?"

"Her last name— why? Do you know her after all?" Or was she just pretending not to know for a better dramatic reveal? You wouldn't put it past Eloise.

"Not 'know,' I definitely haven't met her... but you got me thinking about skience. Now, it's been a while since I checked, and wouldn't you know it ink gets runny underwater... but I may have read that name? At least the 'Aves' part."

"Read it?"

"As the author of a paper. What paper? Not a clue. But you could check the archives in town, see if there's anything... though with the shit in town, not sure I'd recommend that right now."

"What stuff in town?" You haven't visited since you got The Sword back.

She chuckles. "You know that mob that came in the other day? All the treasure-hunters?"


"Something's got them whipped into a frenzy. I don't know, there's word of a cult? Serial killings? It's probably gullshit, but Margo's too dead to manage them and the Court does not have control of the situation. There's some poor man with a big scar—" She gestures to her eyebrow. "Wouldn't be surprised if they find him trampled! But it's none of my business. Say, though, if you are headed that way— do you want me to take her with?"

"What?" you say. (Big scar? Does she mean Jesse?)

"...Him, I'm sorry." She coughs. "Gil. I'm sure he's very capable, and I'm not a medical doctor, but... that body is not in good shape. He's going to need a load of bedrest before he can get around on his own. It'd be no trouble for me to bring him—"

>[A1] Head into town. Maybe you can check out the archives— you have been in before, to attempt to locate the Crown, but it's been ages. Or maybe you'll just meet up with Jesse.
>[A2] Head back to camp (at a suitable distance behind Eloise). You have other plans. [Wat do next? Write-in.]

>[B1] Let Eloise take Gil. You will admit that he doesn't look... great. And if there's a whole angry mob...
>[B2] Drag Gil with you. He *is* capable-- and more importantly, he's yours. He can handle a few dislocated joints if that's what it takes. You believe in him.

>[C] Write-in.

(And please vote in >>5041777 if you haven't already!)

"Until the update is finished" doesn't mean I'm gonna write until 5 AM-- it just means I'll skip a day and post the complete version the next day. But I appreciate the worry, anon.
>[A1] Head into town. Maybe you can check out the archives— you have been in before, to attempt to locate the Crown, but it's been ages. Or maybe you'll just meet up with Jesse.
Woah, is that the actual macguffin of the quest?

>[B1] Let Eloise take Gil. You will admit that he doesn't look... great. And if there's a whole angry mob...

I like the piecemeal updates
>>[A1] Head into town. Maybe you can check out the archives— you have been in before, to attempt to locate the Crown, but it's been ages. Or maybe you'll just meet up with Jesse.
>>[B1] Let Eloise take Gil. You will admit that he doesn't look... great. And if there's a whole angry mob...
>>[A2] Head back to camp (at a suitable distance behind Eloise). You have other plans.

Drop Gil off. No sense leaving him *alone* with Eloise to interrogate.

Then A1. Meet up with Jesse.
support but can we drop Gil off in Ellery's tent and idk, leave a note for Monty or someone reliable to check on Gil/Madrigal's body as we might be gone awhile?
These are valid write-ins, but I'd assume you'd drop Gil off in either your or "his" (Madrigal's) tent? Not sure why you'd leave him in Ellery's, unless you wanted Ellery to watch him, or you just wanted to prank Ellery when he gets back to his tent.

> leave a note for Monty or someone reliable to check on Gil/Madrigal's body as we might be gone awhile?
Sure, though Monty is fairly unhappy with you right now. Your other options are Eloise (liable to sit there and interview Gil) and Fake Ellery (not thrilled about a grown man in his ex-gf's body)... you could also attempt to recruit Horse Face, who knows Gil (or claims to), but that would require actually talking to Horse Face. Up to you.
I vote for fake Ellery. If he wants to help, he can take care of Maddie's body for Gil.
>Take the plot hook
>(But drop Gil off yourself)

Okay! Called. And because I only got one response to >>5042798, you'll be making Fake Ellery check in on him.
We're also 2:1 for keeping the [TBC] updates, so unless anyone else has feedback I'll be keeping those. (It's the same amount of work for me either way-- it's more about the guise of keeping up my usual schedule.)


>Woah, is that the actual macguffin of the quest?
I have no idea what you're talking about, anon :^) But seriously, the Crown hasn't been forgotten about, but it won't be directly relevant again for a while. Charlotte has no leads and lots of higher priorities (kidnapping, gooplicate, Real Ellery) at the moment.

lmao I got warned for transphobia against Gil
which tranny janny saw it a week after the fact and got offended??

ouyay illway evernay ebay ayay omanway
>lmao I got warned for transphobia against Gil
I had no idea that was even enforceable policy on this website! Pretty impressive. You don't need to defend Gil's honor, Mr. Janny, he's not transgender... he identifies as beetles(male)

You scoff. "What, so you can pump him for secrets? Do you think I'm stupid? Not a chance."

"Oh, so he has secrets?" Eloise pauses on her way back onto the trail. "Noted."

"What?! No! That's not—"

"I'm kidding again." She cracks one last smile. "Mostly. Good luck, Charlotte."

You wait until she's well and truly gone before collapsing onto a patch of grass. Gil stares down at you. You stare back. "What?"


"Did you want to go with her?"

He blanches. "Uh..."

>[-1 ID: 5/(9)]

So, yes. "Oh! I see. So I rescue you from hell, and I slave for you, and Richard made me take weird drugs for you, and I almost get shot for you," and you make me feel things I don't like, "and I get a real body for you, twice, and you don't even want to be around me? You'd rather be friends with Eloise. Why? Have I done something wrong? Tell me, Gil. Tell me what there is about me that everyone seems to—"

Richard should say something. Richard would say something, but the snake is silent, and Gil is, too: he sits up there like a gargoyle, wide-eyed, stone-faced, hunched. "Uhhh," he says, after too long. (You are breathing heavily.) "Uh, I-I-I-I didn't mean... I'm just, um, pretty fucked up. Look." He stretches his left arm out and bends it at the elbow. Then he bends it at the elbow, the wrong way around.

"Ew," you say reflexively. And then, "I knew that was what you meant." You did. "I was just testing you, and you passed, so good job. Um, yes, that's— could you please fix that?"

Gil straightens his arm.

"Good. Thanks. Um... yes. I'll bring you back, and you can take a nap, or something. Have you been sleeping?"

"...Kind of? I-it's a complicated... process. Aw, um, thanks."

He takes your proffered hand, and you help him off the boulder. "Do you dream?" you say.

"Not... normal dreams." He adjusts the strap of his shirt. He hasn't let go of your hand.

You look at your hand, with the hopes he'll follow your gaze and realize, but he doesn't. "So, what, beetle dreams? Weird. I guess you can go and take a nap and have a normal person dream, then. I'll get Ellery to check on you."

"Ellery?" His grip tightens.

"He wanted something to do, didn't he? So he can do that. What's the matter?"


"Do you not like him?" you say hopefully.

"Well, i-it's not that I don't... I just don't like looking at him. Um. I-I-I just think of melting."

"Ah." He'll learn to dislike him properly sooner or later, you're sure. Positive thinking. "If you're asleep, that won't matter, so that's fine. You can have Madrigal's cot... or mine, I guess. I'm not using it."

You regret it as soon as you say it, and you regret it more when Gil lights up. He has still not let go of your hand. "Oh... I-I'd prefer yours. There's, um, less shit everywhere. I-it's probably cleaner..."

"That's true." Finally, you just wrench your hand away. "I guess we'll do that, then. And I'll go tell Ellery..."


Gil grabs your other hand as he stumbles back down the trail. You don't say anything. It's not untoward, you rationalize, as he is a girl. And even if he isn't a girl, he's just beetles. There's no rules about beetles.


He sits on the edge of your cot. "You'll be fine," you say. It's a command, not a statement.

"I-I'll be fine." He wipes his nose. "And you'll be back...?"

"Soon. But it doesn't matter, because you'll be asleep." Also a command. "And don't look at my stuff. And make sure Ellery doesn't look at my stuff."

"...But I-I-I'll be asl—"


"You want me to what?"

"Watch him," you say. "You wanted to help. So help."

"To help with the rescuing! Not help with— with— what do you even call this? What do you call this, Lottie? Babysitting? Do I look like I have nothing better to do?—"

"Yes," you say truthfully. You had found Fake Ellery taking a walk to nowhere in particular. "And you don't have to sit there... just stick your head in, make sure he hasn't fallen off the cot and cracked his skull open. It is Madrigal's skull, you know."

"Believe me, I know." He runs a hand through his hair. "Gods. What the hell is wrong with you?"

"Is that a yes?"


It was a yes. You embark alone for Lindew's Landing, and spend most of the walk tossing pebbles at the snake. You never quite manage to hit it.

Eloise called it a mob, but you weren't really expecting a mob. Not like those peasants earlier. A rabble, maybe. A group of discontents. You were definitely not expecting to be stopped on the trail by two armed, feathered guards— and yet.

"That's her," one says to the other. You vaguely recognize both. (Were they the ones at Tom's Cave?) "That's the one on the fucking poster."

"The poster?" The other one, the woman, looks you up and down. You kick the snake behind you. "Naw, her hair's down, and the poster one doesn't got one eye. Loads of girls have curly hair."

"But she has the mole."

"I don't have a mole," you interrupt. "I have a beauty mark—"

"See," the woman (Hatch?) says. "It's a beauty mark."

"And is this about the wanted poster? Because Lucky and I, we got that sorted, it's not actually me on there, it's my—"

"It's HER!" comes a cry from the underbrush, and before you can say 'gooplicate' you are grabbed, shoved, and dragged, kicking, off the trail. The two Courtiers watch apathetically as you vanish into the trees. "I told you," the man (Molina?) says.

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Meanwhile, you are biting the dirty hand over your mouth ("Son of a bitch!" someone curses) and scrabbling as best you can for The Sword, which is at an awkward place on your hip. At least three people have grabbed you: a fourth, his face streaked with mud, jabs a fancy-looking rifle at your cheek. "You're gonna pay," he growls uncreatively. "You think you can skulk around, picking us off one-by-one? Well, surprise, motherfucker, bet you weren't expecting—"

You have had more guns pointed at you today than you have in three years, you reckon. (Where's Richard?) "Excuse me? I'm, I'm a law-abiding citizen, and I have never laid a hand against anybody, unlike you ruffians!"

"Exactly what a murderer would say!" comes a voice from behind you. "Don't even try to argue. We have witnesses, and you, little lady, fit the—"

"STOP!" Another voice, from behind you and to the right, and the sounds of someone crashing through brush. "GUYS! YOU CAN'T JUST— wait. Turn her around."

You are wheeled around to face— Jesse, knee-deep in creepers, his face also streaked with mud. His hair, attractively rumpled, sports a sprinkling of leaves. He is carrying an inferior sword in one hand, which he stows in his belt in order to rub his forehead. "Okay, yes, that's the wrong one."

"It ain't! She's got the one—"

"This one has an eye socket, not the... the sealed-over skin. And the clothes are different. And she looks cute, not— fiendish. Let her go." (Cute?)

You are not let go, though the rifle is lowered a touch.

"Let her go!" Jesse spreads his arms. "That's an order! And back off. Back to your hiding places. Go."

Slowly, begrudgingly, your assailants slink away. You blink as the rifle butt hits you in the cheek.

Jesse lowers his arms. "Uh... Sorry about that, Charlie."

>[1] Yeah! Sorry! You need a better apology than that. He needs to get on his knees and grovel. Not literally. ...Maybe literally.
>[2] Okay, you're sorry, what's going on? Why is there an ambush? Who are these people?
>[3] Eloise said something about a 'cult'? That's brand new. Are these the cultists?
>[4] How's your gooplicate doing? Apparently murdering people. Anything besides that?
>[5] Tell him about Madrigal's kidnapping.
>[6] Tell him Molina and Hatch were useless.
>[7] Tell him you like his hair like that.
>[8] Write-in.
>[2] Okay, you're sorry, what's going on? Why is there an ambush? Who are these people?
Start by buttering him up

>>[8] Write-in.

Just stare at him, as disapprovingly as possible and wait for him to get uncomfortable enough to spill beans.
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No update tonight, vote remains open. Happy Halloween!
Called for 7, 2, 4, 5, and the write-in. Writing.
is gil's costume his own body TT_TT (these are great)
> his own body
I mean, now that you say it... :^) Nah, he's dressed up like the underpaid/underappreciated Detective Gumshoe from the Ace Attorney games... Charlotte is dressed like his demanding boss Edgeworth, while Richard is dressed like Edgeworth's abusive adoptive dad, who successfully remolds Edgeworth in his own image (well, at least until the events of the games).

Not that there's any resemblance here!
>Silent treatment

'Sorry?' Yeah. He ought to be sorry. You'll make him sorry. He can stand there and feel every ounce of the sorry he is, and he can like it.

You narrow your eyes; Jesse widens his. You fold your arms. You shift your stance. You suck in your cheek, then un-suck in your cheek, as your teeth were digging into it painfully. Jesse is—

Jesse is not cowed, as you were expecting/hoping. Jesse, eyebrows slightly furrowed, is not even looking at you. Oh, he looks like he's looking at you, but concentrate: he's staring just to the left of your face. Is this a technique? Some kind of advanced defensive stratagem they teach only in the Court's hidden Eyries? (Or is he just embarrassed?) Either way, your psychological warfare has been rendered, sadly, moot. You can recover from this, right? (Yes. Positive thinking.) You can recover from this— indeed, with your next well-chosen sentence, you're bound to regain the upper hand. You need only to disarm him. Or, no, flatter him. You shall pick a random topic, unrelated to your personal feelings, and deliver it with as much feminine wiliness as you can muster...

"...You should do your hair like that more," you say, at the same time as Jesse opens his mouth. "We're just so undermanned, and the captain wouldn't let me come talk to you, and these guys were rearing to— huh?"


"What did you say?"

You wipe your nose. "I didn't say anything. Keep talking. Lucky wouldn't let you—?"

"He said I'd be imposing myself on an unrelated party... and that if you wanted to help you'd stop by yourself... and, um, that you weren't gonna..." He mumbles the rest.

"I couldn't hear you," you say helpfully. "I wasn't gonna...?"

"Fuck me," he says, though it comes out so fast it's more of a garbled 'fuckme.' You get the gist. Jesse's scar is pale against his vibrant blush; you may be turning a similar color. Richard, thank God, isn't back yet to confirm.

"Ah," you say. "Well, I mean, he's right. Since I'm not your girlfriend. And I never was. Since your girlfriend was an evil goo murderer version of me, and stole my sword, and pretended to be me for years, while I was busy leading, I will have you know, a pure and a chaste life, and frankly you really should've known she was fake and evil considering that she deflowered herself for a- a- what manner of person were you?"

Jesse is practicing his defensive stratagem again. "What do you mean, what manner of—"

You can't ask directly. It would be untoward. "Did you lick salt?"

"Did I—?" He makes eye contact. "My father was a magistrate."

And your father practiced law. You know the code well enough— only a certain sort ever holds those positions. The good sort. You untense. "Well... small mercies. And how is the evil goo murderer version of me doing?"

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Some of his redness clears: this is safer territory. He takes a few steps forward. "About that."

"Let me guess, murdering people?"

He swallows. "Well, there's been... bodies. Not all of them are conclusively her, but—"

"How many?"


"In three days? That can't be normal." You were under the impression goo tended to prey on lone travelers, or lash out in self-defense, not go on random sprees. "Did your girlfriend go around murdering people?"


"No, right? Hmm." You stroke your chin. "Maybe it's just extra evil. Or maybe it's trying to stoke chaos on purpose. Do you have any evidence of motive?"

"...Yeah. Um, if people haven't wrecked the crime scenes, I can show you... three of the four have puncture wounds here." Jesse points at his neck. "I think she's collecting blood."

"Oh! For disguises." Not that that explains the murder part, but you'll take any clarity you can get. "So it's out there... lurking among the townsfolk? Spooky. Wait, except those guys said they recognized me— who are those guys? Who ambushed me? They better also apologize, by the way."

"I doubt that'll happen. They're just... they're just some of the newcomers, and they were all gung-ho about catching the murderer, and..."

"And I'm the murderer?"

Jesse scratches the back of his head. "I think she's making sure to look like you whenever she... does it."

"Oh, good." Another problem for your ever-growing mountain of problems. Actually, speaking of problems— "Hey, you know that you lot have been useless about Namway, right? Considering that one of them swooped in and kidnapped our second-in-command. I should hope you're planning on doing something about this, considering that you guys promised to take care of them."

"Kidnapped?" He blinks. "Um. I'm not assigned to that, but I can let Lucky—"

His sentence is ended by a distant shriek. No expert in shrieks, you nevertheless translate this as "help, I am being murdered by an evil murder monster." You look at Jesse, and Jesse looks back, and before any conscious decision takes place The Sword is drawn and you are sprinting headlong for the center of town.


You had translated inaccurately. The shriek was not 'help, I am being murdered'— it was 'help, I have found a dead body,' which you consider close enough. The blueish-pale woman before you is both blubbering incoherently and blocking any view of the corpse, which she (evidently) found folded-up under the outside stairwell of the general store.

Jesse is visibly uncomfortable. "Ma'am... ma'am, please, we're here to help, but we need you to let us see the body... please, ma'am..."

The ma'am doesn't move. You sigh, step forward, and shove her aside. "Thanks for your cooperation. Oh, ew."

It's a body, all right. A few weeks ago, you may have vomited— now you stare dispassionately and ignore the churning in your stomach. A thickset, balding man is wedged awkwardly under the stairwell: the fingers of his right hand poke up through a crack in the steps. He is tinted greenish, but not visibly decomposing— not that anyone does, really. But the shrimp and the snails and the boneworms haven't got to him yet. Maybe from this morning? Last night?

You lean away when you realize Jesse's lips are close to your face, until you realize he was attempting to whisper. You lean back.

"What do we do?" he says under his breath.

You squint. "Excuse me? You're the— this is your job."

"I never got trained in— Charlie, I know swords. I'm good at swords. Point me to the fiend, I'll stab it, okay? You were always the one who..."

"Who investigated?" you say.


"That wasn't me, though."

"I know." His eyes are big and brown. "But I just thought maybe..."

>[1] Has anyone given these corpses a proper look-over? You need to do a full visual inspection— maybe it'll turn up revealing details. (And maybe Richard will come back in time to help.)
>[2] Calm this awful woman down and subject her to a proper interrogation. Who is she? How did she find the body? Does she know anything else? [Roll.]
>[3] Who needs the woman? You need to find and talk to whoever witnessed "you" commit a murder— they're bound to have much more useful info. Does Jesse know who they are?
>[4] You're thinking too small! The gooplicate, whoever they look like, is likely within a hundred yards of you. Round up everybody in sight and subject them *all* to a proper interrogation. Maybe with fire? Can Jesse provide fire? [Roll.]
>[5] Forget it. You're not his evil murderer detective girlfriend, and you don't know how to run a formal investigation. You just don't. You can come back in the evening to do a stakeout with him, but for now you're going to the archives.
>[6] Write-in.

anything other us can do we can do better

sorry other anon but if 4 seems unfeasible
>[1] Has anyone given these corpses a proper look-over? You need to do a full visual inspection— maybe it'll turn up revealing details. (And maybe Richard will come back in time to help.)
Let's make an autopsy report (and then update it)
>[2] Calm this awful woman down and subject her to a proper interrogation. Who is she? How did she find the body? Does she know anything else? [Roll.]
[1] and i think we should delegate...
[2] to Jesse, even...
[4] if he's man enough to handle it while we do the difficult, cerebral work

but, like, if he does go talking to people, we need him to make it very clear that we are good and virtuous and definitely not the murderous gooplicate

Called for [1] and [2]-- you guys can decide whether to do [4] / delegate Jesse to do [4] afterwards, I think.

I need dice! After I get three rolls, I'm going to end the thread: we'll pick back up in 1.5 - 2 weeks with the results in Thread 21.

>Why? We're on page 5! It hasn't even been a month!
I am going to be what we in the biz call "super busy" for the next couple weeks, and I don't want to string you guys along with continual stops and starts. May as well kill it now (it's almost been a month, anyhow) and pick it back up later.

>But the thread's still going to be on the board in 1.5 - 2 weeks!
I don't care! I'm not sure when threads started lasting 50 days, but that's just way too draining for me to sustain. I intend to keep making new threads every ~30 days like usual.

But in any case, I'll do my full ending spiel in a couple hours. Dice!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 17 (-5 Tact?, -15 How Do You Deal With Crying People??, +3 Smarter Than Jesse) vs. DC 35 (-15 ???) to get anything out of the crying woman!

Spend 1 ID for a +10 to all three 1d100s? You are at 5/(9) ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 46 - 17 (1d100 - 17)


screw it. I vote yes to spend ID

How the hell can we miss a DC of 35?!
Rolled 80 - 17 (1d100 - 17)

>[1] Y
Rolled 18 - 17 (1d100 - 17)

no spendy
although I'm outvoted

technically with the -17 mod it's a 52 dc
still a shameful display to miss but not 35 tier bad
lmao someone please come end my life
at least it's not a critfail
spendies were right
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Told ya so
>29, 63, 1
>39, 73, 11 vs. DC 35 -- Success

Nice save. And yes >>5045719... not a critfail :^) Just a Richard intervention.


Hope you enjoyed, even if this was a talky one. Tune back in on either November 13 or November 17 (I'll announce the definite date when I decide on it) for*...

>EXCITING "forcing the QM to write excerpts of fictional scientific papers" ACTION
>A THRILLING VOYAGE into Gil's shattered mind wherein NOTHING CAN GO WRONG, PROBABLY

The thread is archived here (and yes, I did write the description before I drew the Halloween pic...): http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux
Toss it a vote if you feel inclined!

My Twitter is here (I post links to new threads on it): https://twitter.com/BathicQM

I'll keep an eye on the thread if anyone has any questions or comments. Have a great few weeks!

Missed this earlier, but
>(and then update it)

*events subject to the capricious whims of the voters, may or may not take place in this order (or at all)
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Good thread!! Hope we can make Gil into a real boy someday!
Thanks for running!
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Thanks guys!

>Hope we can make Gil into a real boy someday!
Yes. I have multiple methods planned, even. He's gonna have to stick it out for several more threads, though, don't expect it "soon"
Huzzah. Thanks for running!
New thread on Wednesday, November 17th. Or maybe Tuesday if I write the OP early. See you guys there!
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