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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, you are about to re-enter your retainer Gil's fractured mind, as soon as Richard stops lecturing at you.

"First off," you say, pointing with your fork, "you're not allowed to say 'argot.' That's a great word, I'll have you know, and if you go around using it you'll ruin it."

Richard looks askance at you, then twirls his chalk. "In your jargon, then, in your parlance. But really, how do you intend to picture this? Even if you're ultimately dancing to his tune, going in with expectations—"

"A book." You pause. "But like a— it should have lots of pictures, probably, since writing gets all... iffy. Or it does in manses, at least, I don't know about..."

"It will be 'iffy.' You're too distractible to maintain lexic..." He pinches his brow, leaving a chalk dot on his forehead. "A book? Well. I suppose you would select something so insipid. It'll have to do."

You scape the last dregs of cod off the plate. "What did you want from me?"

"I couldn't tell you. Don't expect this to be one of your scabby pulp books, by the by... even a human life can't be crammed into, what are those, a hundred pages of trash?"

"150. And you just said I should go in with expectations, and now you're saying I shouldn't, so..."

"You're misrepresenting what I said. Charlotte—" Richard drapes an arm over the blackboard. "Charlie, this is a pain in the ass. Okay? And it's not because I am unversed in the subject matter— I am highly versed. I am excellent, unlike the vast majority of my..."

"Fellow snake conspirators?" you supply. "Or 'colleagues,' or..."

He points the chalk at you, which you take as a 'yes.' "Cretins. So the trouble is not with my knowledge or skill. The trouble is that it's untranslatable, not in the literal sense— though yes, in the literal sense, you don't have the words for simple concepts. But you don't even have the concepts for these concepts, you are so primitive, so I am attempting to invent analogues..."

"You're making this up, you mean."

"I do not mean— there is an element of improvisation."

You methodically stack your fork on the plate on the skillet. "Oh, good. Much better."

"It is, yes." Richard is rolling the blackboard out of the kitchen. You settle back in your chair. "'Making things up' is for children, Charlotte. Improvisation is not just valuable, but absolutely required, when one is dealing with— well, 'no plan survives first contact with the client,' they say, and—"

File deleted.
Richard and improvisation went together like salt and snails, you thought, so this must be the lingering... you-know-what. He was him until a few minutes ago, after all. (God.) "They say that?"

"No, because they're cretins, as mentioned, but they ought to. They—" There's a hitch in his voice, then a long pause. "Let's go. Don't argue."

You don't disagree, but— "Why?"

"This place is bad for the health. I said not to argue. Come along." Richard, blackboardless, is behind you; he is tugging your stool out from the table. "Don't you want to rescue your pet?"

"Gil's not my pet, he's— okay, okay." You're standing. "Where to?"


'Where to' is the front door, which you appraise with some skepticism. "Always doors, isn't it."

"The law for [DOOR] is identical to that of [THRESHOLD], if that helps." Richard has hung his dressing gown on the coatrack and now hovers behind you, picking at his teeth. "It is how it is. Now, listen up. You go through there—"

"And I'll be cast hereunder into frothing incomprehensible nothingness, surrounded by naught but the hideous phantasms I see fit to conjure up, yada yada, I know."

"What? No. You go through there, and you'll come out there." Richard points to the closet door on the far wall, the one with the squeaky hinge. "Understand? Right through there, right back into this room."

You cock your head. "But what's the point of going out in the first place, then? And what about Gil? And where's the incomprehensible—"

"Do you understand." In a shut-up-or-I'll-slap-you kind of tone.

"Sure," you say sulkily. "Yeah. Go through the front door, come out the closet. Got it."

"Good! Good." Richard claps his hands together once, looks faintly embarrassed, and recovers by sticking a wetted thumb in the air. He assumes an air of contemplation, as if this actually meant something. "Yes, you do have it. Excellent. Er— you'll need this back."

The iron key. You juggle it around in your palm. "If I stuck this in the fireplace, would you catch on fire?"

"Don't be ridiculous, Charlotte. Good, the knots are tight..." He's checking the cord around your waist, which you hadn't realized was still there. "I suppose that's it, then. Close your eyes when you step through the door. Remember that one-way connections don't exist; he is within you exactly as much as you him, except he doesn't know it. Remember that you are engaging with a living being, not a building or a landscape. And be sensible. I might have difficulties reestablishing a steady connection."

"Um," you say, "half those things are brand new. He's in my mind?"

"You are interwoven. I'm sure I said that. It hardly matters, in any case."

"...It matters kind of a..." You trail off. "I don't know why I argue stuff with you."

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"She learns. Astonishing. Well, you're settled." Richard releases the cord. "Good fortune, and all that, though a load of good that did... speaking of, this is your last chance. I am not suffering through all this—" (He twirls a finger.) "—again, so you will succeed or you will euthanize him properly. Non-negotiable. Now I'll take my leave..."

The pause is long enough for you to realize you're supposed to say something: something like 'thank you for all your hard work' or 'no, don't go' or 'but I need you.' You shift your weight innocently.

"...Er, now." He feigns a cough, reaches over to ruffle your hair(?!), and is gone. You release the breath you didn't know you were holding and turn to face the front door. There is a notecard cellu-taped to it: "CLOSE YOUR EYES WHEN GOING THROUGH."

Gone but not forgotten, him. Well. As inclined as you are to disobey direct orders, Richard probably wouldn't mislead you about something like this. Big things, sure. Things like 'you can't go back home, actually,' or 'your father didn't die before birth, actually.' But little things? In this case, he wants to make sure you don't start frothing at the mouth. You don't want to start frothing at the mouth. So it probably makes sense.

You reach for the door handle, then withdraw. This is your... house, isn't it? You haven't stopped to think about that. You're standing in your own parlor, about to open your own front door, and God knows when you'll be here again. If you will ever.

...But (positive thinking) that's not— you're not actually back. You can't possibly be. You're not stupid. This is a illusion of some sort, which you are projecting or constructing or remembering in convincing detail, because this is your own mind— it has to be your own mind. You can't think of another explanation. This is an imaginary house, where you and Richard play-acted a imaginary morning, which...

Maybe it's silly, but you find it comforting. That you can slip so cleanly into your old self, despite everything that's changed. That you can warp Richard into someone who makes you breakfast and asks how you're doing, even if you didn't intend to, really. That your home is sort of... with you, or within you, no matter where you go. Underwater, or Gil's mind, or anywhere. Through this door, even.

>[+3 ID: 8/(9)]

You shut your eyes, open it, and step through. You open your eyes.

You are back in the parlor, having come through the closet door, only this closet door didn't squeak. And everything's wrong: not very wrong, the dimensions of the room are the same, with the same furniture is in the same places, but the upholstery is different, gaudier, and there is gold everywhere, and candelabras, like some indigent person's idea of a well-appointed parlor. And where the fading portrait of Harland Fawkins should be is an awfully flattering painting of you.

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Hmm. You shut the closet door carefully, pad around the nearest armchair, and are girded enough not to startle when you come face-to-face with its occupant: Gil, lolling, rotting, shot. His eyes are still open.

"You're oozing on the cushioning," you reproach, mainly to distract from the knot in your stomach. "You ought to put down newspaper— oh."

There is newspaper between him and the armchair. You rub your forehead. "Um, thanks. If that was you. I'm back, by the way. And I really am gonna save you. Last time was a false start, this is— this is the real deal. Got it? You're not alone, you're safe, you're... wait, wasn't there supposed to be a book? Oh."

You assume that's supposed to be a book lying on the end table, though it resembles no book you've ever seen. It's massive, firstly, the height of two stacked dictionaries and the width of two laid foreedge-to-spine, and it's guarded by a shellacked cover that gleams in the candlelight like plastick or chitin. You heft it open to discover stiff blank spiral-bound pages.

God! If you were a book, you'd have the decency to have a title and an author and a suitably invigorating cover illustration and, frankly, you'd be broken up into neat portable volumes. Of course Gil's is boring and inconvenient. But one cannot be choosy when one is dealing with metaphor-type things, not with stakes like this, so you crouch atop the settee and flip through the pages until they stop being blank and become populated with wild crayon scrawling. The scrawling progresses into childish stick-drawings, which end abruptly and— you are flipping faster— are replaced with pages of letters, fat, awkward letters, replete with backwards 'e's and 'r's, which gradually shrink and straighten and refine themselves before culminating in—

The next page is riddled with gnawed holes. As is the next. And the next. You have to page through for a long time before finding anything legible: the corner of a blue paper. "-ESSMENT: Gilbert is intelligent but refuses to apply himself; he is not disruptive but does not play well with oth-". A few pages later, a colored photograph (this is imaginary) depicts a child Gil, mussed and dirty, up to his elbows in the guts of some rusted machine: "HARD AT WORK," the inked caption reads.

You are less than a quarter of the way through, and that is with the best skimming you can muster. Damnit! All while Gil— you can't say that he's watching, precisely, but you're sure he's aware. Maybe if you flip to random pages, you'll— "If I flip to random pages," you say loudly, "they'll be the pages I need."

No response. Nothing you can even take as a response: no tremors or twinges or mysterious glowing. But you went and said it aloud, and everything, and you can't take it back, so what choice do you have? You flip to a random page.

>Diary entries in precise microscopic handwriting. Most have been eaten in whole or part. One survives intact.

You flip again.

>A... ledger, you think: debits and credits and balances. Actually, two ledgers, side-by-side, exactly the same except for the amount of red ink.

And again.

>A hand-written list (not Gil's writing: blockier) of risky and implausible tasks. Many are crossed out.

And more:

>A careful diagram of a nonsensical machine's innards. It seems to involve crystals and the jotted instructions 'hope for the best.'
>A page which is not a page: actually, there's a big chunk of the book where the pages just stop, and there's just a potpourri of dried leaves and paper scraps and paint flakes that dump out all over the floor and table. Damnit.
>Several pages of writing in an alphabet you don't understand in a ink so blue it's almost glowing. The paper has been wetted before.
>A sort of diagram, with boxes that point to other boxes which point to other boxes, and so on, off into infinity. It comprises the last handful of pages of the book.

Is that enough? You don't know. You'll give it thrice more.

>Early in the book: a page blacked-out in its entirety.
>Late in the book: a page blacked-out in its entirety. What are the odds? It's right after the leaf/paper/paint slurry.
>Your fingers catch on a page with a ragged edge and open to it: there is a hole blasted right through the center of it, and the paper is blackened and curled around it. The hole continues through the boxes diagram and clear out the back cover.

You swallow. The first seven were enough after all, possibly. Those ones aren't for you, or... not yet, at least, not until you decipher the rest. But maybe not ever.

So you're done. Good! Your eyes are watering. How these pages are supposed to translate into Gil, or fixing Gil, you're not entirely certain, but at least you probably definitely have the pages you need. You just need to... begin.


>[1] Start with the diary entry.
>[2] Start with the ledgers.
>[3] Start with the list.
>[4] Start with the diagram.
>[5] Start with the... leaves?
>[6] Pick up all the paper scraps on the floor and try and put them back together. God save you.
>[7] Start with the blue writing.
>[8] Start with the diagram.
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Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! This thread is late by one hour. My apologies.
Also, I got a cool Richard commission which I accidentally posted way too large to see. Here's a better version.

One a day, sometimes more if the first one was short. 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:
- Fix Gil!

Short-term goals:
- 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
- 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 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

You discover that the witness was the gooplicate in disguise and kill it once and for all. In the process, you get injured, hallucinate a little bit, ruin your clothes, and discover that said gooplicate wasn't actually a gooplicate-- it was a human person. Whoops. Also, Jesse got murdered, probably. Double whoops. Also, this means that it couldn't possibly have been the Wind Court spy... the spy must've been b ACTUALLY it's probably not relevant! Doesn't matter! You'll think about it later! You drag the "gooplicate" corpse back to the Court guards and leave.

Back at camp, you catch Ellery hanging out with Gil in your tent. You chase him out, then leap into action to rescue Gil #2 from braindeath. Gil #1 is a little uncertain about you mucking around in his head, so you give a rousing motivational speech and go for it anyhow. It goes somewhat poorly, culminating in Richard dragging you into a "bomb shelter": a mind version of your own house, or something.

Gil is in the Husbando Tourney and has miraculously made it past Round 1! Toss him some of that ol' Drowned dice in Round 2 here: >>5090023


>Don't forget to scroll up and vote!
>[1] Start with the diary entry.
Here goes something...
>>[1] Start with the diary entry.
the 8th one, not the 4th one
> Get vaguely angry at Gil, you aren't sure why but the universe around him seems smug for some reason


>[7] Start with the blue writing.

Wet the paper again, lick it! See if there is SECRET MAGYCKAL RUNES

> XTRVV What could it mean



Called for [1] and writing.

YEAH!! I guess this means that Drowned dice really are localized to these particular threads. Art will come when I get the chance.

Aw, crud, this is what happens when I write options at 3 in the morning. If we ever return to this slate of options I'll make sure to distinguish them.
>Ahem it's not a "diary" it's a "journal"

Well... you should probably start with the one you flipped to first, shouldn't you? That's how it works. Or how it ought to work. Of course, there's the small matter of re-finding the diary entries (you hadn't thought to use a book-mark), but you shut your eyes and pick a page and there they are. Or there it is: why have all but one been eaten away? Is it special? Or were the special entries targeted first, and this one is the most banal? Richard would say that you're searching for meaning in random noise, but it's not as though Richard knows what he's talking about. He said it himself: he's improvising.

But whatever the significance of this entry, it's the only one you have, so you may as well sit here and read it. Which you will admit feels vaguely unethical. (Memories are resurfacing of a short-lived fiercely-guarded diary of your own.) But if Gil didn't want you to read this, he shouldn't have put it in this book, and he shouldn't have gotten himself shot in the first place. Yeah! So it's alright. You'll just give it a glance...


...You can't read it. Not like you can't read the handwriting— it is miniscule, but it's also clean and lucid. It might be better than yours, not that you intend on telling him that. (And not because you have bad handwriting. You just hated the practice, is all, and you liked to put curlicues where they didn't strictly belong.) So it's not that, and it's not in another language, not like the blue-ink pages, and it's not blurry or anything, it's just...

You realized that you were waiting for Richard to solve this in the same moment that you realized you already knew. It's the one thing Ellery was good for: you just have to defocus your eyes, but behave all casual like you really are reading it, and it'll— 22.3.89 Today Otis who's pop's a fisher called me a pissant & a horeson because he thought I was making eyes at his girl Muriel. Tried to tell him Muriel has a face like a bird dog & this did not go over well. Was chalenged to a fight. Tried to say that fights were for little kids & got called a sissy & a pussy & Otis punched me in the stomich. He said this was a taste of what's to come. Desided to take back way to home.

(You aren't reading this— you've established that much. So how are the words coming to you? Are you hearing them? Thinking them aloud? Writing them down? You don't know why you'd be writing them down, other than that your hand is twitching and your vision's gone feathery at the edges. But don't stop now.)

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Told Alfie & Warren about the hole thing & they both said to fight him so he'd leave me alone. Otis is a year older so I said he'd probably knock my front teeth out & leave me alone in a dich. Alfie laughed. Warren said he'd beat up Otis for me but then I'll get called a pussy even more for hiding behind my big brother. Also I don't want Otis killed. It's almost sundown which is when the fight's suposed to happen & I have not decided about this. I have also started on a better ornethopter as Pops broke the first one, you finish, but it's a good thing anyways sence the first one sucked. A good ending. You click the pen once in victory, then again to hear the sound, then clip it to the flimsy journal page—

(You are doing no such thing. You can feel the settee under you, the book's weight on you, you can hear even the soft scuttling noises from Gil beside you. If you focus hard, you can even lift your head and look around, though your neck is stiff and your surroundings fuzzy. The journal stuff— the pen stuff— you're thinking that, involuntarily. That's in your mind.)
(...Um, but you're in your mind also. Or Gil's mind. Or something. So you're not sure what distinguishes the journal stuff from the not-journal stuff, except you thinking there's a distinction at all. The distinction's in your mind, too. All you have to do is dissolve it, probably, and...)

>[A1] You are Gilbert Wallace, aged 11.
>[A2] You are somebody who belongs, but not yourself.
>[A3] You are yourself.

>[B] If you stand there doing nothing, this memory will degrade like the last one. You need to take an active role doing... something. You're trying to get Gil to solve his own problems, so his bits get tied back together. What's the first thing you do? (Write-in.)
As I understand it, all Gil's memories are still there, they're just disconnected. So what I think we have to do is
>[B] Find the second half of this memory among the leaves and paper scraps
Deleted my first response because I think I can put it more succinctly... while I admire your thinking outside the box, the prompts are structured how they are for a reason. In the case that you're just confused, [B] is asking for the first thing you do inside the memory.
>[A2] You are somebody who belongs, but not yourself.
>[B] Get Gil to remember something else to tie that memory to this one.

>In the case that you're just confused
As opposed to what?
>As opposed to what?
That was phrased somewhat poorly... I meant "confused about the intent of the prompt," versus "understood the prompt and decided to do something different" (which is still often valid, if not in this instance). I'm not concerned about you guys being confused overall at this point-- it'll get explained more later. If later comes and you're still confused, please just say so and I'll give a clear OOC explanation. I care more about player experience than >muh sanctity of the narrative or whatever.
>[A1] You are Gilbert Wallace, aged 11.
Maybe this is the best way to get him to find himself?
encourage him to go fight Otis
once he wins tell him you're sorry for insulting bird dogs by comparing them to muriel
> "...It matters kind of a..." You trail off. "I don't know why I argue stuff with you."

> she learns

Oh but Richard, you have to ask what exactly she has learned. Not arguing and obeying instructions are two differrent things entirely.

Anyways, can we check if he did anything to our hair while ruffling it?
ROLL IN THE HUSBANDO QUEST we are on the eeeeeeedge
And drowned dice do their thing.

>A2 + write-in

>A2 + similar write-in


The vote you're supporting got revised, so this is invalid! You're both headed in the right direction, but you don't have all the information you need yet.

Called for [A2] + write-ins and writing.

>Anyways, can we check if he did anything to our hair while ruffling it?
It's been too long since this happened for checking to make sense, so I'll state up front that he didn't do anything special. It was just a hair ruffle, however you'd like to interpret that.

In fairness, Gil doesn't know how to drive :^)
I'm taking the moral victory from him being popular this round.
>Slip right in

...And everything dissolves like water, and for an fleeting moment you are A¸B0aO¥O± oK¿?¡suspended in WH whA£±WHO&T nothing, and then you are clutching a doorknob, a doorknob is being clutched by you, someone with chipped colored nails and a freckle on her thumb— who? Hazel, the answer comes immediately, if unhelpfully. Hazel. A girlfriend? Surely Gil would've mentioned having a girlfriend coming over. The mother? You're not old enough. Perhaps it's the sister.

You are opening the door, though you hadn't intended to open the door. And you are walking forward, though you don't particularly want to walk forward— you were hoping to get your bearings before busting in on whatever Gil-fragment sleeps in here. It's the oddest feeling: nobody's controlling you, you're sure (you know what that's like), but it's like you're clicking down a track. You rap on the doorframe. "What are you up to, Gilly?"

The date on the entry should've tipped you off, but this Gil is little more than a gawky child— especially in his mad scrambling to hide the diary, the loosened floorboard, and the pen from your view. "Nothing! Go away! You're not Mom, you can't just— what if I was sleeping, huh? What if you woke me up? Then you'd be a, a big, fat—"

"But you weren't sleeping," you note. "What were you writing in? A diary?"

"No!" He sits extra hard on the diary. "Why would you even think that? Only sissies keep diaries. And girls, so maybe you have one. Boys have journals. What'd you even come in for?"

"Warren told me some kid picked on you after school."

Gil's expression sours. "Warren's a liar."

"Really? He said you got socked in the stomach. Said you had to stop and puke on the way home. Why wouldn't you tell me about this?" You edge into his tidy bedroom. "You know I'm always here for—"

"Yeah! And you treat me like I'm your goddamn baby! I'm not a baby, I'm almost 12, and if I get socked in the stomach that's my own goddamn business who I tell it to, Hazel. You're not Mom. What good would telling you even do?"

It stings to have this directed at you, even if rationally that makes no sense. Hazel, for her part, keeps her tone level. "Don't cuss, Gilbert. And if I knew who the kid was, I could speak to his parents—"

"Speak to his parents? That's a dumber idea than Alfie's." Gil throws the pen on the ground. "Go away."


"Go away! And stop goddamn calling me that! I hate it!"

You can't blame him for that, exactly, with a despised nickname of your own. But still! What a disrespectful, ungrateful little punk! You would've been whooped if you ever spoke to your aunt like this (not that you ever did, because you were raised properly). Imagine having a sister who loved you and cared about you and worried about you. Imagine taking that for granted.

For the first time, you take action: flexing your fingers, just to see if you can, then speaking. "Well, would you rather I called you a bitch? Because you are a sniveling little bitch. I hope Otis knocks your front teeth out and I hope you choke on them."

Gil is tiny. You noticed that— you must've noticed how tiny he was, before— he can't be taller than 5 foot, and you'd pin him at a good ways shorter than that. And with him all shrunken back with shock, he looks even tinier. "...Why do you know his name? I- I didn't tell Warren his name."

You would answer but for the sudden perceptible tautness in the air. Like you're inside a rubber band about to snap. Whoops. Were you not supposed to call him a bitch? (Even if he was?) You'd deviated from the script at that memory-party, with the giant snake and Pat and Lester, but you suppose that wasn't properly a memory: just a place (a dimension? a reality?) made from one. This really is a memory. Different rules, maybe.

But a rubber band about to snap is not the same as a snapped rubber band: you could let it go, gently, and color inside the lines from now on, and nobody would be the wiser. You're almost sure you could. So the real question is: do you want to?

>[1] You don't. Ditch the Hazel persona entirely and drag Gil to the fight whether he wants to go or not. This will alter the memory irrevocably— but it'll save you a boatload of trouble.

>[2] You do. Pretend like nothing happened, let things resettle, and do things the hard way.
>>[A] Clearly the fight is the point of all this. Convince Gil that he should participate— and that you should come along to watch. (Writing-in arguments will aid the roll.) [Roll.]
>>[B] Convince Gil to participate, then sneak along after him. (As above.) [Roll.]
>>[C] Technically, you could just scope out the fight yourself, right? You'd have to go back and nab him if you needed him, but you won't have to persuade him.
>>[D] Write-in.
We're here to restore his memory, not rewrite it.
>[2B] Convince Gil to participate, then sneak along after him
He doesn't even have to win. Just land one good punch on Otis' nose so that Muriel sees him leaking bloody snot. She'll laugh at him forever and his own cockiness will be his undoing.
>>>[B] Convince Gil to participate, then sneak along after him. (As above.) [Roll.]

If he's gonna talk the talk, we expect him to walk the walk then.
>>>[B] Convince Gil to participate, then sneak along after him. (As above.) [Roll.]
sneeki breeki
Lol, I just reinstalled Shadows of Chernobyl
support! also maybe point out that Otis is just gonna keep beating Gil's ass until he has a reason not to (reason: getting punched in the face)

also are we rolling *now* or??
just in case, dice+3d100
Rolled 83, 49, 72 = 204 (3d100)

i need an adult
(pls work)
Rolled 3, 59, 24 = 86 (3d100)

I just like to roll
Seems pretty set! I need dice. (Yes, different ones. Sorry!) The write-ins are enough to convince Gil-- good job-- but you still need to sneak.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 8 (+5 Key, +3 High ID) vs. DC 65 (+15 ???) to tail him with no issues!

No optional +10, Richard is AWOL

>also are we rolling *now* or??
Nope! (Or not when you posted that, at least.) When an option has [Roll] attached, that means it'll require a roll after I call the vote: if I let people roll before, odds are they'll support the option with a high roll instead of the option they actually want. You'll know when you're supposed to roll when I put a ">Please roll me..." command in greentext, as above.
Rolled 72 + 8 (1d100 + 8)

Rolled 68 + 8 (1d100 + 8)

Since I didn't get a third roll in time, I'll take the first d100 from >>5095007.

>80, 76, 91 vs. DC 65 -- Enhanced Success

Excellent start to the thread. Writing.
>Sneeki breeki
>80, 76, 91 vs. DC 65 — Enhanced Success

Yes, you do want to. And not just because you want some humility slapped into Gil, though that'd be enormously satisfying— there's just something about ripping up the script and storming out into the unknown that appeals to you. But Gil's pinched How do I know you're not gonna fuck me up? is rattling around in your head, and... well, God, what if you do eff him up? You don't know what you're doing. Richard doesn't know what he's doing— Richard!— and he's not even here to not-help. Maybe you ought to play it safe... God, that sounds cowardly. But you ought to.

You stand still. You say nothing. The tautness loosens. "I'll stop calling you that when you stop being my little brother," Hazel says for you. "And I'll worry about you for that long, too. Are you planning on fighting this kid?"

Gil slumps back, defeated. "He's, like, seven feet tall."

"He's twelve, he's not seven feet tall. Come on." You fold your arms. "If you avoid him, he's gonna take that as license to beat you up forever. You'd be making yourself more of an easy target, not less, you get it?"

"So I'm supposed to let myself get beat up."

"No! Well, maybe a little, but listen. Dumb kids like this? They pick on you to feel strong and powerful, and in control, because inside they're pathetic, insecure little bitches." Like Enid Tosh. God, you despise Enid Tosh. "And you know what they're most scared of? Being exposed for the bitches they are. Especially if there's a girl involved! So you don't have to win, Gil—" You point square at him. "—you just have to land a punch. One punch, his ego will bust like a balloon, and he'll be so embarrassed he leaves you alone forever. Come on. You talked a big game at me, so why not put that fighting spirit somewhere useful?"

"I guess." He wipes his nose. "Why are you still here? I told you to go away."

"Are you going to fight him?"

"If I'm bleeding out in a ditch somewhere and miss work, you have to fill in for me. Or you explain to Pops. I don't wanna get screamed at while I'm dying."


"Now go away! And shut the door. I have to—" He looks shifty. "Just go."

"Aim for the jaw," you warble, shut the door, and close your eyes. That was good, right? You convinced him? Hopefully you were supposed to get him to go to the fight, and not the other way around, but... well, you wish you could've given Enid or some of the other ones a sock to their stupid sculpted chins. Would've shut them up, at least to your face— the whispers would've been worse, but they were bad already. Still. Now you just have to follow Gil, and make sure he wins, you guess? Or make sure he makes sure he wins? Easy enough. You'll just loiter in this hallway for a little while, then... then, um...

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There isn't a hallway, you're realizing. You aren't standing on anything, you aren't seeing anything, eyes open or not, you aren't clutching— you are clutching a doorknob, inexplicably, and before you slip and tumble into formless nothing you shove the door back open. Gil's bedroom is empty, the journal rehidden, the window... open. A-ha. You shut the door, lock it, and stick your head out into the evening air: there he is, slipping away into the streets. Can you go through the house? No. The door has vanished. You shove yourself through the open window and land in a patch of weeds.

Following Gil is difficult: the terrain is unfamiliar, the path he takes is winding, and he has a bad habit of vanishing behind carts and velocipedists and pedestrians and gaggles of seabirds and lunch stands and every other sundry obstacle in the streets of a modern Pillar. Fortunately, you've discovered a foolproof tracking method— the streets of a modern Pillar only exist in a small radius around him. Farther away, objects lose distinction, disintegrating into blobs of shape and color; even farther, and they fall away into nothing.

This does necessitate you to keep up with him, though, a task that grows steadily harder: either he's speeding up, or the radius around him is shrinking. Pretty quick, you're forced to imagine your own street just to fill in the gaps, but jogging and thinking don't combine well, and when you slip on a puddle your concentration slips with it.

You are nowhere, though for a fraction your body lingers. Think fast! You have a cord, though it only leads out, and you have a, a, a key. Richard's key. A key to a door, or a threshold. You don't have a door. Do you need a door? It's not real, Richard'd said once, cause and effect are a smidge loose...

You fumble the key out of your pocket just before you cease to have pockets and wave it about blindly. There! It catches on something, a lock in a plain wood door, which you shove open and stagger out of into— you are in an empty muddy lot at sunset. Gil, ahead of you, stands rigidly: he is facing a small pack of other kids. One of them, a long-haired, blocky boy— Otis?— steps forward, cracking his knuckles theatrically. "You're late," he calls. "Too nervous, pipsqueak? Or was it just slow getting here on those stubby legs of yours?"

Gil's hands are in his back pockets. "Original. You get that out of a manual?"


"I said..." Gil hesitates. "'Original. You get that out of a manual?'"

"Nope! I came up with it all by myself." Otis's skull is too thick for sarcasm to penetrate. "Anyhow, you were making eyes at my girl. And then you called her a dogbird. So I'm gonna kick your ass, understand? Watch."

He spreads his arms, grinning, as insect legs the diameter of slender trees punch out of his abdomen, as his back swells cancerously, as his eyes bulge and his face crusts over, as the red sunset catches the lot ablaze, as Gil watches in paralyzed horror as an enormous Elleryish beetle-monster crashes down upon him—

You skid out the door and slam it behind you. You are back in your un-parlor, which has only gotten gaudier since the last time you saw it. The air smells of death: you breathe through your mouth.

So. So there's the puzzle-story ending for you, then, an unresolved stinger, an absurd non-sequitur, so so so you, um, you need to find a Gil who'll— who'll solve the riddle of "help a scrawny child kick the ass of a giant beetle thing." If you're right about all this. And who knows if you are.


>DISCOVERED: [Fast Travel]. You can get between fragments without worries about detours or dice.

>[1] The ledgers.
>[2] The list.
>[3] The diagram.
>[4] The... leaves?
>[5] Pick up all the paper scraps on the floor and try and put them back together. God save you.
>[6] The blue writing.
>[7] The chart with all the boxes.
>[2] The list.
If there are risky and impossible tasks there that were apparently completed, maybe it contains Gil's competence?
oh god
we corrupted his memories
we've already messed him up

>[2] The list.
Nah, seems like his traumatic beetle existence has given him PTSD. We can work on that once he's cognizant again.
>[2] The list.
Oh and 2, the list.
Called for [2] and writing... eh... the situation's complicated. If I'm lucky, I'll publish tonight-- if not, it'll be tomorrow.

What >>5096086 said, and also he got shot in the head! He was messed up before you got here-- that's why you're trying to fix him.
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On the bright side— positive thinking, Charlotte— there's really nowhere to go but up, isn't there? Surely not every dissociated fragment of Gil will contain beetle monsters. Maybe some of them are pleasant. It's quite possible some are pleasant. And if you go over here, and don't look at the living corpse in the chair, and inspect this handy-dandy book, then you're certain you'll find there a nice, calm, pleasant, beetleless part of Gil. Emphasis perhaps on beetleless. So you should pick something early in the book, presumably, like the ledgers— though ledgers to you scream "mind-numbing boredom," not niceness. Hmm. The list, then? Yes. The list.

Inconveniently, the book has shut itself, but you mumble "I'm opening it up to the list" and open it and the list is there. Funny how easy it is— it seems like a trick, like you're being lulled into a false sense of security, like any moment now the rug's gonna be pulled out from under you and there'll be screaming and beetles and walls caving in, but that isn't positive, Charlotte, that's paranoia. Just look at the list...

You can't read the list. You can get an impression of the list, by glancing at it and looking away fast, but if you want to know what's actually written there you're going to have to defocus and give yourself eye strain and that's all a lot of trouble when you have this key, don't you? This blatantly magyckal key. (No wonder Richard didn't want to tell you what it did: you are so rubbing this in his face later.) If you simply insert it into the page, like so, and turn it, and feel the whole room wrench 90 degrees, and hear Gil in the chair cry out incoherently— then the page folds open once, twice, four, eight times, draping over the furniture and floor. Some part of you is distinctly unsurprised when you step upon it, denting the spongey surface, and a titanic book cover collapses over you.

There is a flash of darkness, and a sensation— not unpleasant— of being flattened, which lasts until you stumble through the swinging doors of the Better Than Nothing. Or... no. No, it can't be the Nothing, this is Gil's head and he's never been— so this is some other bar, somewhere you've never been, which happens to share the same basic layout. Yeah. Whatever it is, though, it's nasty: grimy and tattered, populated by wispy memory-people, furniture that flickers away in the corner of your vision, and Gil. Excepting yourself, he's the only solid thing here. He's older than you saw him last, or at least taller, and his clothing is baggy and unmatching. Borrowed? He's hunched over at the bartop.

You walk over (this is untrue: you have the impulse to walk over and then you're there) and plop onto the empty stool next to him. "Hiya."

Gil (bewildered, disheveled, early 20s) is slow to react, owing possibly to the drained bottle next to him. "...Do I know you?"

"Uh..." Rubber band, snappage. "...no. No, I just wanted to— um— to say hello, and— do you know anything about a list? Like a list of... tasks. It's important. I think it's probably important." (Or why else would it be in the book?)

"I don't know what you're talking about, lady." He's a good liar: he keeps his voice steady, despite the slight slurring; he maintains an expression of plausible irritation. But his eyes dart downwards, and you follow them all the way to the corner of white paper in his pants pocket.

So he has it, but either it's a secret or he doesn't want to talk to you or both. Fine. You nod curtly, slide off the stool, and walk ('walk') back to the doors. Gil hunches back over into stasis.

Round #2.

>A roll might or not not be required based on the combo of [A] and [B] selected. [A4] doesn't need a [B] attached.

>[A1] You can handle this as yourself. He does know you, even if he thinks he doesn't, and maybe that'll have some subconscious influence.
>[A2] You can handle this as yourself, but... prettier. Or more gussied up, rather. Do your hair, do your makeup (if you can remember how after 3 years), be the, er, sugar water to catch beetles in.
>[A3] It's weird. Maybe you'd be better off sliding into one of the barflies— they don't seem to have faces, much less personalities, so it should be easy enough.
>[A4] God! Just assume Gil's perspective and grab the damn list out of your own damn pocket. It'll be fine.

>[B1] Just strike up a normal conversation. He's already drunk, or on his way there: once you get him comfortable broaching the topic of the list should be easy.
>[B2] Turn your charm up to full blast— yes, you *do* have charm, whatever Richard likes to say, and feminine wiles, and this Gil is drunk and lonely, and... you're not stupid, you know.
>[B3] Darts! Didn't he say he liked darts, way back? And that's a thing people do in bars, probably (you are not an expert dartswoman)? Maybe that'll lighten this oppressive atmosphere.
>[B4] Write-in. [Writing-in particular things to say or do will help any possible rolls.]
>[A1] You can handle this as yourself. He does know you, even if he thinks he doesn't, and maybe that'll have some subconscious influence.

>[B1] Just strike up a normal conversation. He's already drunk, or on his way there: once you get him comfortable broaching the topic of the list should be easy.

But Charlotte's version of normal. So let's start out asking some questions about him, like why he's in this bar drinking etc and bitch about our own life to him. Talk about in vague terms that we're here to help someone out, our vassal, and get progressively more awkward trying to explain things until we get defensive enough to start interrogating Gil.
Maybe start by buying him a drink. That always makes people like you!
>[A3] It's weird. Maybe you'd be better off sliding into one of the barflies— they don't seem to have faces, much less personalities, so it should be easy enough.
>[B3] Darts! Didn't he say he liked darts, way back? And that's a thing people do in bars, probably (you are not an expert dartswoman)? Maybe that'll lighten this oppressive atmosphere.
time to accidently murder someone with darts
>>[A3] It's weird. Maybe you'd be better off sliding into one of the barflies— they don't seem to have faces, much less personalities, so it should be easy enough.
>>[B3] Darts! Didn't he say he liked darts, way back? And that's a thing people do in bars, probably (you are not an expert dartswoman)? Maybe that'll lighten this oppressive atmosphere.
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Rolled 3, 10, 11, 8, 7, 11 = 50 (6d20)

>A1, B1

>A3, B3

Called for incognito darts, though you're going to be talking to him regardless so I'll work in some of >>5097494.

Merry Christmas. Let's play darts!


>You and Gil are playing cricket darts (or at least a bastardized dice-based version of it, pls don't ding me for accuracy). The goal of cricket darts is to hit the numbers 15-20 and the gullseye on the dartboard three times each, which "opens" the numbers. Once a number is opened, you may hit it again to score points (eg. hitting the 15 scores fifteen points), which continues until the other player also hits that number three times, "closing" it and removing it from the game.

>To win, you must hit every number at least three times *and* have more points than your opponent. If you hit every number three times but are behind in points, play continues until you have more points or your opponent closes every number and wins.

>Each number, excluding the gullseye, has a double and a triple segment. These segments double/triple both hits (so a double 15 counts for two hits to 15) and points (so a double open 15 scores thirty points).

>To simulate, we will be rolling 6d20s. The first 3d20s will be the numbers you hit: 15-20 will be, equivalently, 15-20. The second 3d20s will be the modifiers: 14-18 will be a double, and 19-20 will be a triple. If the number and the modifier roll match, that's a gullseye.

>Gil is way better at darts than you are, so he has both a higher chance to hit the right numbers and a higher chance to hit doubles and triples. Them's the breaks.

>Winning should be possible, if unlikely, so if you win you'll get a bonus. Losing will take off -1 ID for Charlotte's bruised ego. Overall, though, this is just for fun and won't have major narrative consequences.

>We'll play until somebody wins or I decide it's dragged on too long and roll the rest myself. I'll keep track of the points as best I can.

And if you don't want to read all that, here's your TL;DR:

>Please roll me one 6d20!
>(I will ask for 6d20s to be rolled multiple times throughout the day, so please keep a tab on the thread!)
Rolled 12, 8, 6, 15, 2, 8 = 51 (6d20)

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>GIL: 8, 10, Gullseye
>CHARLOTTE: Double 12, 8, 6

Gil adds +5 to any number below 15. His (11,11) roll scores him a gullseye. You fume.

>Please roll me one 6d20! (I may start asking for more 6d20s at one time to keep up the pace-- we'll see.)
Rolled 12, 6, 7, 13, 12, 16 = 66 (6d20)


I will leave the next roll to whoever gets a less sucky one.
Rolled 8, 17, 6, 12, 16, 8 = 67 (6d20)

>CHARLOTTE: 12, 6, double 7
>GIL... tbd

Rolling for Gil: presumably (you) were pissed enough to take two turns in a row.

>Please roll me 3 6d20s! The same ID can roll more than one 6d20, but please be considerate.
Rolled 6, 14, 9, 12, 20, 11 = 72 (6d20)

all 20's lets go
Rolled 14, 11, 13, 18, 14, 16 = 86 (6d20)


I gave a good berth of time for other rollers to roll so gonna roll again.

Not bad…
Rolled 1, 13, 19, 3, 4, 13 = 53 (6d20)

roll 2 electric boogaloo

very above average but I don't think it gets us any points
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Rolled 5, 7, 7, 5, 1, 9, 12, 1, 6, 9, 6, 2, 1, 13, 10, 3, 10, 5 = 112 (18d20)

>GIL: 13, double 17, 11

>CHARLOTTE: 6, double 14, 9
>CHARLOTTE: Double 14, 11, double 13
>CHARLOTTE: 1, 13, 19

Hey! You got a 19! You gloat extensively and put off your plans to browbeat Gil into cutting the number of required points down to 1 until later.

>Please roll me 3 12d20s!


>Do you attempt to gaslight Gil into accepting your double 14s as "basically 15s"?

>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 9, 7, 18, 4, 7, 7, 7, 19, 9, 17, 5, 1 = 110 (12d20)

we're getting serious, I see

also >N
we'd have to honor it going the other way too if we did that
Rolled 20, 9, 8, 3, 10, 2, 13, 6, 3, 4, 19, 14 = 111 (12d20)

also gil rolled like complete ass right there
seriously 18d20 and it's only 2 total higher than my 12 lmao
Rolled 12, 15, 6 = 33 (3d20)

I don't understand darts.
Rolled 13, 1, 6, 10, 7, 3, 18, 1, 11, 10, 2, 19 = 101 (12d20)

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Rolled 10, 12, 7, 14, 4, 14, 10, 14, 3, 18, 2, 7, 10, 6, 9, 11, 1, 9, 11, 19, 7, 18, 3, 14, 4 = 237 (25d20)

>GIL: 10, 12, 12, 10, 6, 14, 17, 6, 11
One good hit in nine throws? Two 1s? Gil's so drunk he isn't even hitting the dartboard some of the time. You can now cheat with impunity, not that you, being pure and honest, would ever do so.

Also, 17 is now open for scoring points.

>CHARLOTTE: 9, double 7, 18, double 4, 7, 7
>CHARLOTTE: 20, 9, 8, 3, triple 10, 2
>CHARLOTTE: double 13, gullseye, 6, 10, 7, triple 3

You are now tied with Gil for # of hits. Genuinely impressive.

>Please roll me 3 15d20s!


>[1] "Accidentally" give yourself some extra points on the board.
>[2] "Accidentally" upgrade your singles to doubles.
>[3] "Accidentally" upgrade your doubles to triples.
>[4] "Accidentally" hand Gil some badly weighted darts.
>[5] Claim that any shots on the line definitely count as the right number.
>[6] No! You are pure and honest!
Rolled 15, 16, 16, 12, 9, 10, 5, 14, 16, 8, 14, 5, 9, 7, 3 = 159 (15d20)

the numbers just keep going up!

you know, by accident
Rolled 6, 4, 14, 6, 2, 1, 13, 3, 18, 10, 4, 10, 18, 17, 1 = 127 (15d20)


Rolled 4, 3, 8, 14, 9, 10, 12, 8, 15, 13, 11, 7, 9, 19, 8 = 150 (15d20)

rolling again since it's late and been a while
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Rolled 19, 15, 11, 12, 12, 5, 17, 3, 17, 9, 2 = 122 (11d20)

Rolling Gil's extra dice... he needed 36 but I guess 25 is the cap!
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Rolled 10, 6, 9, 7, 2, 10, 7, 17, 19 = 87 (9d20)

Aaaand rolling your extra dice because I screwed up on the count.
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Rolled 17, 13, 9, 17, 9, 7, 19, 8, 10, 14, 2, 6, 18, 4, 1, 7, 17, 16, 11, 9, 13, 11, 15, 13, 13 = 279 (25d20)

>GIL +5 canceled out by deteriorating motor functions: 10, 12, 7, 14, triple 4, 14, triple 10, 14, double 3, 18, 2, 7, triple 10, double 6, 9, 11, double 1, 9

>CHARLOTTE: 15, double 16, 16, 12, 9, 10, 5, 14, 16
>CHARLOTTE: 6, gullseye, 14, double 6, double 2, 1, 13, 3, 18
>CHARLOTTE: 4, 3, 8, 14, triple 9, 10, 12, double 8, triple 15

You go on a hot streak... plus your "accidental" addition of extra hits to the 17, 19, 20, and gullseye categories. Look at that! You have 16 points-- Gil has 0. If you can close out 17-20, you win (as you always knew you would).

>Please roll me 3 18d20s!
>Darts will continue into tomorrow; update will come tomorrow as well. (It's a holiday.) Merry Christmas!
Rolled 18, 10, 10, 19, 13, 7, 3, 6, 6, 20, 5, 3, 9, 8, 11, 11, 12, 16 = 187 (18d20)


Merry Christmas!
Rolled 20, 16, 5, 19, 7, 8, 7, 11, 10, 3, 3, 15, 8, 5, 11, 15, 11, 10 = 184 (18d20)

Rolled 14, 10, 12, 1, 9, 9, 2, 12, 20, 2, 2, 3, 2, 17, 17, 15, 6, 7 = 160 (18d20)

looks like we're closing out strong, hope I don't mess that up

merry christmas!
Merry Christmas.
Rolled 12, 7, 7, 12, 12, 17, 2, 19, 14, 19, 4, 2, 17, 20, 2, 9, 11, 19, 4, 4, 7, 6, 5, 2, 15 = 248 (25d20)

Goood morning! Rolling the rest of Gil's dice.
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Rolled 13, 17, 7, 11, 9, 16, 11, 13, 3, 14, 15, 9, 12, 8, 19, 6, 13, 17, 2, 17, 15, 1, 3, 19, 3 = 273 (25d20)

>GIL: 17, 13, 9, 17, 9, double 7, 19, triple 8, 10, 14, double 2, 6, triple 18, 4, 1, triple 7, 17, 16, 11, 9, 13, 11, 15, 13, double 13

>CHARLOTTE: triple 18, 10, 10, 19, 13, 7, 3, 6, double 6
>CHARLOTTE: 20, 16, double 5, 19, 7, 8, double 7, gullseye, gullseye
>CHARLOTTE: 14, 10, 12, 1, double 9, double 9, double 2, 12, 20

You're so close to victory that you can taste it: your back-to-back gullseyes have given you a sizable points advantage, meaning all you have to do is close out 17 with two more hits to win.

Do you

>[1] Earn the last two hits fair and square? (Roll an 18d20 with your vote.)
>[2] Get it over with-- this has lasted over an hour-- and "accidentally" give yourself the final two hits?
Rolled 11, 7, 9, 14, 12, 19, 15, 9, 13, 12, 17, 8, 13, 17, 7, 18, 10, 6 = 217 (18d20)

>[1] Earn the last two hits fair and square? (Roll an 18d20 with your vote.)
Rolled 2, 1, 17, 6, 9, 10, 15, 5, 16, 18, 5, 3, 5, 4, 14, 1, 17, 19 = 167 (18d20)


Rolled 10, 13, 2, 14, 10, 4, 14, 6, 18, 7, 14, 2, 5, 2, 16, 11, 19, 3 = 170 (18d20)

for the ID
In 27 throws, you hit the 17... once. Damnit! You still need one more hit.

>[1] Argue that your 2 hits actually landed on the 17. It did. Basically.
>[2] Oops! Your hand slipped as you were marking your 17 hit, coincidentally drawing a circle. You win!
>[3] One more round. Or three more rounds. Or nine more rounds. You know, whatever you need.
>>[3] One more round. Or three more rounds. Or nine more rounds. You know, whatever you need.
>[3] One more round. Or three more rounds. Or nine more rounds. You know, whatever you need.
Rolled 15, 3, 20, 6, 3, 14, 6, 6, 19, 2, 8, 17, 10, 3, 12, 14, 7, 9, 20, 13, 17, 14, 7, 9, 9 = 263 (25d20)

Very well! But be careful... Gil is sneaking up on you. He's also hit the 17 seven extra times, just to rub it in. Here's hoping you don't snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Rolling his modifier dice.
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Rolled 12, 17, 12, 10, 15, 9, 10, 16, 1, 3, 1, 1, 17, 14, 2, 16, 1, 9 = 166 (18d20)

>GIL: Double 13, 17, triple 7, 11, 9, double 16, 11, 13, triple 3, 14, 15, double 9, 12, 8, 19, double 6, 13, 17, triple 2, 17, double 15, double 1, 7, triple 9, 9

>CHARLOTTE: 11, double 7, 9, 14, double 12, 19, double 15, 9, 13
>CHARLOTTE: double 2, 1, 17, 6, 9, double 10, 15, double 5, triple 16
>CHARLOTTE: 10, 13, gullseye, 14, 10, 4, double 14, triple 6, 18

Pointswise, you're scarily close: 146 - 137. If you don't hit that final 17 soon, Gil could overtake you and make your life very difficult.

>Please roll me 1 18d20. We'll be taking it slower as the end approaches.
Rolled 6, 20, 6, 15, 16, 6, 12, 11, 2, 12, 9, 19, 1, 9, 4, 19, 4, 16 = 187 (18d20)

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Rolled 20, 13, 11, 17, 13, 1, 12, 10, 13, 3, 5, 10, 17, 19, 19, 4, 11, 12 = 210 (18d20)

>GIL: 12, 17, 12, double 10, double 15, 9, double 10, 16, 1

>CHARLOTTE: 6, 20, triple 6, 15, 6, triple 12, 11, double 2

You hate Ellery, Horse Face, the sun, Enid Tosh, and the number 17. When Gil hits it again, despite being barely able to stand, you contemplate hating Gil too.

>Please roll me 1 18d20.
Rolled 16, 10, 20, 12, 10, 7, 3, 10, 12, 5, 16, 5, 17, 11, 15, 13, 3, 14 = 199 (18d20)

Come on, laws of probability!
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>GIL: 20, 13, 11, gullseye, triple 13, triple 1, 12, 10, 13

>CHARLOTTE: 16, double 10, 20, double 12, 10, double 7, 3, 10, 12

Gil hits the 20 and the bullseye, scoring hits he needs. You definitely hate Gil.

>Please roll me 1 18d20.
Rolled 19, 1, 6, 6, 4, 19, 11, 1, 15, 9, 9, 11, 20, 2, 16, 9, 11, 9 = 178 (18d20)

<weeping internally>
...maybe we can gaslight ourselves into thinking we let him win intentionally?
Rolled 2, 1, 13, 16, 6, 3, 19, 12, 2, 17, 3, 10, 14, 16, 6, 6, 12, 19 = 177 (18d20)

...And I forgot to roll for Gil. One sec.

Charlotte is an expert in mental gymnastics... she'll figure it out. But you need to lose before that can happen.
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Rolled 11, 18, 15, 5, 11, 1, 16, 7, 3, 20, 2, 13, 16, 15, 14, 15, 11, 10 = 203 (18d20)

>GIL: Double 2, 1, 13, double 16, gullseye, 3, 19, gullseye, triple 2

>CHARLOTTE: 19, 1, 6, triple 6, 4, double 19, 11, 1, 15

You want to kill the inventor of darts. You are going to throw the inventor of darts into your snake pit. You are going to force Gil to throw the inventor of darts into your snake pit and you are going to make him watch.

Gil might just need two 20s. You refuse to calculate the points.

>Please roll me 1 18d20.
Rolled 16, 15, 11, 11, 18, 2, 8, 15, 5, 3, 11, 7, 9, 20, 19, 15, 5, 11 = 201 (18d20)

Rolled 12, 2, 10, 18, 18, 11, 3, 15, 16, 14, 9, 8, 20, 20, 10, 3, 14, 16 = 219 (18d20)

Gil doesn't hit the 20. You don't hit the 17. Nothing changes. You're pretty sure Monty is right and you are in hell.

>Please roll me 1 18d20.
Maybe I'll let somebody else roll. The laws of statistics seem to have a beef with me,
Rolled 16, 16, 13, 3, 2, 9, 2, 19, 14, 10, 8, 1, 2, 6, 15, 4, 6, 1 = 147 (18d20)

I hope people don't play this irl
well I guess they can aim at 17 irl
Rolled 13, 12, 8, 11, 11, 11, 19, 18, 20, 4, 13, 14, 18, 5, 1, 11, 10, 5 = 204 (18d20)

Rolled 20, 18, 7, 18, 19, 10, 11, 2, 1, 16, 1, 8, 16, 15, 10, 11, 15, 3 = 201 (18d20)


I know this doesn't count but rolling anyways.
Honestly you think we would have hit it.
Rolled 11, 19, 17, 13, 17, 2, 4, 9, 19, 6, 6, 15, 6, 19, 16, 11, 19, 5, 10, 6, 9, 19, 12, 17, 15 = 302 (25d20)

Honestly. Shake the bad rolls out.
There we are, looks like the jam is cleared up and they're coming out 17s now.
Rolled 13, 2, 13, 1, 5, 11, 19, 17, 15, 9, 3, 10, 10, 13, 18, 1, 19, 17, 18, 9, 8, 3, 15, 9, 6 = 264 (25d20)

You throw...

...And throw...

...And throw...

...And after 22(!!!) more turns, you hit the 17 again. This may be on account of you shaking with rage, throwing all the darts to the floor, throwing darts in Gil's direction on purpose, etc. Or it may be some cruel god spiting you, personally. It's probably that. Come to think of it, isn't this in Gil's head? So really, isn't he controlling all of this? So he's cheating. He's the one cheating. You hate Gil.

But do you win?

...Maybe! Unfortunately for you, Gil took some turns in there too...

>Rolling Gil's dice: 108d20.
Rolled 6, 17, 14, 7, 4, 17, 4, 12, 7, 14, 2, 3, 6, 15, 12, 14, 14, 5, 8, 10, 2, 3, 4, 6, 4 = 210 (25d20)

Rolled 9, 17, 11, 8, 1, 17, 7, 12, 11, 9, 6, 9, 4, 18, 12, 6, 5, 8, 6, 9, 1, 14, 16, 17, 12 = 245 (25d20)

>50 rolls in and there's zero 20s

I'm glad the Drowned dice are equal-opportunity so far.
Rolled 3, 7, 4, 10, 13, 11, 12, 17, 18, 18, 6, 4, 14, 11, 16, 19, 6, 19, 16, 5, 3, 17, 1, 12, 17 = 279 (25d20)

It doesn't even matter, because we're in the modifier half of the rolls, but I'm gonna finish this out.
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Rolled 18, 3, 15, 5, 19, 4, 19, 13 = 96 (8d20)

>100 rolls in, zero 20s
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*There's the whole matter of points, but I am going to assume that you score more 20s than Gil scores 17s and still come out on top there-- or alternately that both you and Gil forget that points exist
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> THROW **#48**
This is *your* Throw #48, to be clear-- combining you and Gil it took almost 100 throws total.

And as you are the TRUE AND HONEST WINNER of this horrible accursed game, and in recognition of this ridiculous struggle, I will bestow upon Charlotte this permanent bonus:

>[BONUS GAINED: Lucky Seventeen]
>[A roll of 17 always counts as a pass of the DC, regardless of what the DC is.]

If you roll a 17 and I forget about this bonus, you guys are liable for reminding me. I will write the update... tonight for sure, maybe earlier if I feel like it. GG again!
yes true and honest winner
we definitely didn't cheat in an earlier round at all
still what a horrifying game
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I didn't really get the rules. I was just having fun rolling dice like a boss.

You didn't ""cheat,"" you made several TRUE and HONEST mistakes in the scoring that coincidentally went in your favor. That's your story and by God you're sticking with it.

>"""A way to lighten this oppressive atmosphere"""

You should be able to walk straight back over, right? He won't remember a thing... right? Since he isn't Gil. He can't be. The real Gil's been shot; he can't string two words together, much less (implicitly) tell you to piss off. So this one is— to put on your Richard hat— some kind of imitation, a simulacrum, a figurine wedged into a shoddy diorama, hollow and static unless someone comes by to animate him. Or to ditch Richard's stuffy argot (ha-ha), this is a Gil-as-he-was, which is Gil like a cicada shell is a cicada or like a biography is its author, and gosh isn't it easier to string words together when you don't properly exist? Or maybe it's just because Richard isn't here to shut you up.

If Richard *were* here, he'd tell you to stop fellating yourself (whatever that meant) and get on with it. You declared Round #2 and you've just been standing there. Well— well actually, you've been observing, and Gil hasn't moved a muscle, which supports all your theories. Though you can't explain *how* he gets animated, exactly. Is there always a shardlet of Gil in there, and you're bringing it out of dormancy? Or is it a wholly empty shell, and your attention forces Gil to inhabit it, like how you inhabited your old self back there?

Does it actually matter, or are you just spinning your wheels because you're privately worried about being dead wrong, and stalking over there only for Gil to turn a faintly incredulous gaze on you and ask why you're back? Um... no. No, it actually matters, which is why you—

You know, it might actually be better if you just grabbed one of these guys— you like the look of this wraithy one over here, you're not sure if it's a man or a woman but it's awful tall— if you grabbed one of these guys, really grabbed it, and sort of manhandled it over yourself, which feels like an ice bath, especially when your own skin goes all vaporous on contact... if you did that, and then coagulated yourself back into a person shape, though "a person shape" is about all you can say. You appear to have a face and hair and limbs and other person things— what sort is impossible to say. You might be awful tall. You also might not be.

It's a bit uncomfortable.

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

It's even more uncomfortable when you sit next to Gil, who continues to stare blankly into space. "Gil," you hiss. "Gil. Gil! Hello? Can you— you can't hear me." Or there's nothing awake to hear, and you're not— not what? Not real enough? Not alive enough? Not human enough? You don't register as a conscious observer: you register as scenery. Great.

Well, it's fixable enough. Look at the hand you probably have: might you possibly be holding a drink? It is a bar. Can't you take this almost-certainly-a-drink and gently pour it over Gil's head? Yes you can. And watch how he springs to life, red-faced and sputtering and dry, very very dry, because the gulf between almost-certainly and definitely is prodigious and there never was a drink in your hand. He spins towards you and with his searching gaze pins chunks of you down: you are young, and female, and not in fact tall. But only those. He doesn't recognize you.

Fortunately, it seems to be enough to settle his nerves, and he settles back down on his stool. You clear your throat before he can forget about you. "Can I buy you a drink?"

There's a long silence— maybe he did forget about you, even if he's looking right at you. Damnit! "...Me?"

Oh. What? "Yes, you— there's nobody else here, idiot. Who else would I mean? The bartender? Um, barkeep—" The bartender, who bears a passing resemblance to Jacques, hovers before you. "—get this man whatever drink he wants. Put it on my tab."

Gil's bright red. Maybe you shouldn't have led with the 'idiot?' "Um, thanks, but I don't—"

"What? You don't want another drink? You've only had /one/— c'mon, that's sobriety, basically."

He's jittering the bottle against the bartop. "No, that's not— I just, um— is there a menu?"

"A menu? It's a bar, it doesn't have a—" Gee, even his ears are red. "How'd you order whatever that is? Is that a beer?"

"Probably?" He sees your face. "I don't... drink. Um, I don't have a habit of it, I mean, I clearly am— do you want something from me?"

"Barkeep, I want two—" (What is the name of the cocktail?) "—you know what it is. Quickly, thanks. Why would I want something from you?"

"Because I don't know who you are," Gil says slowly, "and you're sitting next to me, and you're spending money on me. Lady, you're a con artist or you have something to sell me."

"Something to—!?" You sit upright. "How are *those* the only two options? Whatever happened to the virtue of— of munificence? Of, as they say, 'spreading the wealth?' Or—"

"Okay, you're a con artist, you sell shit, or you're trying to pat yourself on the ass. Which one?"

"—/or/ perhaps I'm being sociable? Perhaps I saw you across the bar, and I thought to myself that you seemed like a person I might... enjoy the company of? In time? If perhaps I got to know you, and we had a nice conversation, and...?"

He laughs tonelessly. "Lady, I'll save you the trouble. I don't have any money. I don't know what the goddamn even counts for money, here, but whatever it is I don't have it. I got this—" meaning the beer— "free, cause the guy saw I was new down here and felt sorry for poor me. Got the clothes borrowed. Leech on someone who isn't a charity case, will you?"

God! What a miserable bastard! "Oh, you're new down here?"

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"Thought it was obvious."

(Now that you listen for it, it is: his words have the characteristic garbling of someone unused to speech. You'd taken it for an artifact of the circumstances.) "Not terribly. You blend in very well."

Gil looks brooding and doesn't answer. You clear your throat. "What's your name, by the way?"

"I don't see how it's your business," he mutters. You don't have to fake your look of wounded indignation; he catches your eye and softens a fraction. "...Gilb- Gil. Gil. That's one 'l.'"

"One 'l,'" you say thoughtfully. "Is that short for something?"

"No." He stares straight ahead and, despite your best efforts, continues to do so until two pink cocktails are deposited in front of you. You slide one over to Gil. "There you go. Drink up."

Gloomily, he takes it. "It makes no *sense.* How does it stay in the glass?"

"God." You can't help your snicker. "You really /are/ new. I suppose you're also worried you've died?"

'Yes,' from his stricken expression. "Well, it doesn't matter why it stays in the glass, and it doesn't matter if you're dead, though you probably aren't. Since it does stay, and you're here either way, so what's the point? Drink up."

"...It has an umbrella."

"The umbrella makes it taste better, Gil."

He removes the umbrella and with one finger pushes it towards you. "Okay. I'll drink your girl drink. If that's what you want."

"It's not a /girl/— it's pink because it tastes like—" Gil has held up a finger to 'shush' you and is taking a huge swig. "Um, it's more of a 'sipping'—"

Too little, too late: he has already exploded into ragged coughing, spraying his cocktail over the bar and his clothes (a shame— it stains). He is a shade approaching purple. "—more of a 'sipping' drink," you continue blithely, and suck yours down to demonstrate. "It has a kick."

"You- y-" He seems to be choking on water, not just cocktail— he can't have been drowned a month. "T- that's- that's goddamn /paint stripper!/ What the fuck?"

"Should've kept your umbrella in," you say. "But keep at it, will you? You'll like it better when you drink more of it."

He glares at you. You smile winsomely back at him.

>[A1] This Gil sucks! Wherever your dutiful retainer went, you want him back— if you ditch the disguise, maybe he'll get the hint? ...Maybe?
>[A2] With the way things are going, it might be best to preserve some anonymity, actually. Don't change a thing.
>[A3] Write-in.

>[B] Any topics of conversation while you play darts? (Write-in. OPTIONAL.)

update too long, filler options, darts in part 2, bls understand
>[A2] With the way things are going, it might be best to preserve some anonymity, actually. Don't change a thing.
>[B] Get him talking about his past. Try to get him to remember his fight with Otis to tie these two memories together.
>[A1] This Gil sucks! Wherever your dutiful retainer went, you want him back— if you ditch the disguise, maybe he'll get the hint? ...Maybe

>[B] Ask about his plans for the future now that he's down here. Dead or not, he has to do something with himself. In a sense, he's now free from whatever was stopping him in his past life.

ask if our girl drink was too tough for his delicate mouth

ask if Gil really isn't short for Gilligan

ask why he can't throw a 20
>[A2] With the way things are going, it might be best to preserve some anonymity, actually. Don't change a thing.
>[B] Get him talking about his past. Try to get him to remember his fight with Otis to tie these two memories together.
Called for [A2] + the write-ins and writing shortly.

"Anyhow," you continue, "It shouldn't give you too much trouble, since you're such a tough guy, and this is just a dumb girl drink. Can I have your umbrella if you don't want it?"

Gil doesn't respond, except to tighten his mouth at the corners; you take his umbrella and tuck it behind your ear. "That's not even a drink," he mutters finally. "That's goddamn nail polish remover."

"It's called liquor, Gil." You grab his glass (miraculously unspilled) and take a pointed sip. "And it tastes like fruits, so what's the matter? Do explain. Are you not girly enough to stomach this? And you had a sort of allergic reaction to the—"

"I'm not girly." (He also isn't listening at all, apparently.) "I don't know why you— it's not my fault your drink fucking sucks. Are you out here looking for a fight? Is that why you sat next to me? Go find some other asshole for that. I don't get into fights."

A-ha. Ahaha. You lean in. "Because you're a pussy?"

He tenses, snatches his glass back from you, and gulps a mouthful of cocktail down— his mouth contorts, but he manages not to cough. "I'm not a pussy, I just don't want to deck a lady. Piss off."

"This is my seat, and I'll have you know I'd kick your ass. In a fight or a drinking contest or anything."

"Anything," he scoffs.

Maybe not at... beetle things, or at fixing stuff, or whatever, but none of that's even relevant. "Anything. Try me."

"Okay. Go fuck yourself. We're playing darts." He scrambles off his stool, glass in hand. "You, me, here, now, 8 foot oche, cricket. I don't give a shit if you can't throw darts underwater."

"I think you can," you say mildly.

"That's idiotic. There's no goddamn logic to—" Gil throws his hands up. "Whatever! Whatever. It's magic, or I'm hallucinating it all anyway, so— where's the goddamn dartboard?"


You are standing eight feet in front of a dartboard, possessing both a handful of darts and the brand-new knowledge of how to play darts (or "cricket" darts: apparently there's a lot of games you can play with them), except— you feel a bit woozy— except that you didn't go find the dartboard, or borrow any darts, or have darts explained in any capacity. You're positive you didn't. You were just there, and now you're here.

Gil doesn't seem to have noticed: he is squatting nonchalantly near the scoreboard, which claims that he's already hit the gullseye. "Stop squeezing the life out of it," he says.

"Out of—" You're clutching a single dart between your fingers. "Hey. I don't need help."

He laughs at that harder than you'd expect— until you glance over and see his glass half-empty. Lightweight. "Okay then. Shoot."

Your dart lands quivering in the "12" segment. Which should count, you think, but according to the rules in your head does not. Neither does the forthcoming "8" or "6." Gil springs up to take your place at the scoring line (the "ocky"?): scowling, you replace him by the wall.

He racks up several more hits before you land your first, a 19, and gloat in his face— though it rings a bit hollow when he barely responds. He's been growing sort of weird, and maybe it's the liquor, and maybe it's baseless paranoia, but when he's all pale and walking all jerky and his eyes have clouded up it's hard not to worry—

"...I feel like shit," he mumbles, and drops his fistful of darts. (He has missed eight of his last nine throws: two of them are embedded in the wall around the dartboard.) Turning, he staggers a few steps, falls to his knees, and vomits. You watch not out of particular interest but out of a terrible foreboding.

And when he paces away, it becomes justified: the vomit is pink, soupy, and littered with the corpses of beetles. God! Are things breaking down already? Did you do something wrong? Richard told you to be involved, and you're involved, so— is it the darts? Is something wrong with darts? Besides it being an awful game for idiot shadies. Come on, what would Richard say? Is it that it goes in cycles? You take your turn and throw, then Gil takes his turn and throws, and on and on, no variation, no stimulation, just the two of you trapped in a loop, no better than sitting and doing nothing at all— God! He walked you straight into a trap! But what can you do now, stop playing darts?

Oh, it sounds easy. But you can't think of a sensible reason to stop that won't raise suspicion, maybe breaking the memory even more, or make you look like a whinging coward, and what if Gil remembers you being a whinging coward? And you also said you could kick his ass, and if you slink away not having done so... no. The sensible thing is to win as fast as possible.

You speed the winning along by marking a few extra hits on the scoreboard. (This is, of course, in the interest of Gil's safety.) For his part, Gil is looking more alert, though he still won't talk much. He's concentrating, you tell yourself. As are you. You start to improve in your aiming, even landing a set of improbable back-to-back gullseyes: you restrain the gloating, this time, as it wouldn't go appreciated. Or so you tell yourself until you spot the scoreboard.

"Gil!" you trill. "You better hurry! All I have left is... 17... oh, gee." Something is moving under his skin of his face. It's impossible to say if he's noticed or not: he stares vacantly at the dartboard, having just landed a 17 of his own. "Listen, we'll just wrap this up quick, then I can—"

In the next nine rounds, you hit the 17 once, which you are prepared to chalk up to high stakes and a quavering wrist. But it's fine! Gil hasn't cracked open yet, the room (such as it is) isn't dissolving yet, and all you have to do is hit one number one more time. It's no harder to hit than any other number. Positive thinking.

In the nine rounds after, you hit the 17 zero times. Many things are moving under the skin of Gil's face. He has nearly caught up to you despite this: all he needs are two 20s. He throws and cannot hit the 20. You throw and cannot hit the 17. Gil has hit the 17 ten times.

It has been half an hour. Maybe more, or less: you're not sure how time works, or if it exists, or if it matters. Another fifteen rounds have passed, and you have not hit the 17, and Gil has not hit the 20. Gil is low and swollen with beetles, so he gets an excuse, but all you can figure is that the 17 ceases to exist when you take your turn. Or it swaps positions with another number just before your dart pierces it. You'd figure this was Gil cheating his slacks off if he wasn't equally unable to score— so it's not him winning that's the goal. It's the darts going on forever. Or at least until Gil and the memory (and you) burst like overripe fruit. Good!

But it's still Gil making this happen: it can't be anyone else. This is his head. "Gil," you say. "Gilbert. Gilligan. Gillington?" No reaction. He's an egg sac. You could pop him with a dart. "Gil, let me win. Please."

...Maybe he isn't the one to appeal to. He isn't even Gil: at most, he's an extension of him, same as the dartboard and the darts and the cocktails (and their paper umbrellas) and the bar and Not-Jacques the bartender and every other damn thing in here. It's all him. Which you will admit is a bizarre and discomfiting thought, but you will set that aside because it's also a useful thought: "GIL!" you scream to everything. "I KNOW YOU CAN UNDERSTAND THIS!"

You don't know, but you don't have much other choice. "STOP SABOTAGING ME! THAT'S A BITCH MOVE! I'M TRYING TO HELP!"

What were you expecting? A message to appear on the walls? At least a vague feeling of acknowledgement, you guess, but nothing comes. "I DON'T EVEN— WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO— THIS IS STUPID! DO YOU NOT TRUST ME, o-r..." When you say it seems obvious. God! He really doesn't, does he? Broken or not broken, he thinks you're in it for... something. You're a con artist or a saleswoman or a slave owner. He doesn't think you could possibly just— "Gil, you have to— YOU HAVE TO TRUST ME, OKAY, YOU HAVEN'T GOT ANYONE ELSE! I MEAN IT! IT'S ME OR Richard but you can't— Richard isn't someone to— IT'S JUST ME. AND I'M TRYING TO FIX YOU. SO LET ME HIT THE GODDAMN 17."

That's all you have in you. (And your throat hurts.) Gil is writhing and huddled on the ground. You thrust your shoulders back, pivot around to the dartboard, and throw without conscious deliberation. You know it hits the 17 before it thunks in mightily, and you-


"So what's the plan?" you say, are saying, to Gil, who is upright and unbeetled and seems drunk. But a normal sort of drunk. "I mean... you've gotten over the shock, I hope, so you have to have realized you'll be here for the rest of your life. However long that is. If you don't get dismembered or eaten or hypothetically turned into bugs, you're not gonna age."

"...So I heard." Gil rubs his head. "Because I already died? So I'm at the age I died at forever?"

"No! I mean... maybe, but nobody's been able to prove it, and it's depressing. So you may as well believe the alternative, which is that you're a perfect ageless being now, you're alive, you have a whole... hypothetically, at least a year or two ahead of you, so... what? If you have nothing to do you'll go nuts, in a literal sense. What do you do with yourself?"

"You ask a lotta questions, lady." The tone is more factual than judgmental. "Look, I've got it covered... see here."

He fishes out a list— the list!— and slides it onto the bartop. "I'm not s'pposed to say anything about it, but that rule's fucking— it's fucking stupid, right? I've got this whole innish... inishi... goddamnit. Initit..."


"Innashon. Yeah. I'm all wrapped up in stuff already, so I'm keeping busy. Even if the stuff's fucking stupid. I mean, it's all... says it's to test guts and loyalness and stuff, but I think it's fucking suicide. Look at this one. 'Get shot in the head.'"

You pause. "What?"

That can't be right. Unless it's metaphorical, or a trick prompt, assessing for survival instinct or lack thereof... but no, look at the list: 'GET SHOT IN THE HEAD' is scrawled on there in dripping red ink. You hope it's ink. Gil looks suitably concerned, at least. "Yeah, I know! What a moronic... what are you supposed to do, hand someone a gun? Nobody gives a shit about you enough to shoot you. It's just—" He gets a canny look. "Hang on."

You tense. This is all very, very Ellery, specifically 'Ellery just before he stabbed you through the sternum.' Your nerves aren't eased when Gil pulls out a pistol: a nice one, with an ivory grip, not that that'd help getting shot. "Careful with this, it's a—" He considers his words. "—an heirloom. You know how to work a gun?"

There's no good answer to this. "Uh."

"Well, you just take the safety off, and cock the hammer, and— you don't have to aim if it's point-blank. Just point and shoot, huh? Aces." He sits back down on the stool.

The pistol is heavy in your hand. "...You want to get shot?"

"In the head. I have to be, see? It's on the list." He fidgets. "It's just what's supposed to happen to me."

Out of the frying pan, into the fire? You bite your cheek.

(Choices next.)
>[A] God Himself (Itself???) could descend from the heavens (ascend from the dirt???) and tell you to shoot Gil in the head and you would not shoot Gil in the head. Hell no. You're not letting that sit on your pristine conscience. So instead, you...
>>[1] Gently attempt to convince Gil that shooting him is a bad idea. (How? Write-in.)
>>[2] Less gently yell at Gil, or more precisely the bit of Gil inside this Gil. (What insults do you go with? Write-in.)
>>[3] Take the pistol and slide it in your boot and refuse to give it back.
>>[4] Snatch up the list, ignore all protests, and find a less dumb thing to help with.
>>[5] Write-in.

>[B1] The ledgers.
>[B2] The diagram.
>[B3] The... leaves?
>[B4] Pick up all the paper scraps on the floor and try and put them back together. God save you.
>[B5] The blue writing.
>[B6] The chart with all the boxes.

"Talk about the past" write-in will be bundled with the next update-- "Gilligan" also if I can fit it in. Couldn't work them in smoothly, sorry.

uh technically pat already shot him in the head
so he can just cross that one off
we should cross it off for him
tell him getting shot in the head made him forget he was shot in the head
which is true
>>[A] God Himself (Itself???) could descend from the heavens (ascend from the dirt???) and tell you to shoot Gil in the head and you would not shoot Gil in the head. Hell no. You're not letting that sit on your pristine conscience. So instead, you...

Mime a pistol with your fingers, point at him and go "Bang". Nobody said he had to get shot in the head with a real gun, he got so focused about what was written down that he forgot about what wasn't written.

This is a fragment of Gil that only existed for a period of time that preceded his head getting shot. Izza memory. Sort of. But also him.

Anyways, THIS Gil hasn't gotten shot yet.
>>[B3] The... leaves?

If we're voting on what to do next.
Called for [A4] + crossing the list off yourself + finger gun + [B2].

You are. I'd like to wrap this up within the thread, so I'm trying to cut down on extraneous updates... we'll see how successful that is, but still.
Okay... this is cripplingly ironic given what I just said here >>5100944 and my promises that this thread would suffer less delays than the last, but I'm not going to get to a stopping point and I have an early drive in the rain tomorrow (so I can't pull another 4:30 AM bedtime). No update tonight, yes update tomorrow, I swear on my mom I'll pull a double-update day the next chance I get to compensate. I feel worse about this than you guys do, probably.
it's all good.

It's a good thing you know what's happening: you could spot that crazed glint from a thousand paces. Gil has whipped himself into a State. And yes— Ellery's State ended with a knife in your heart, and your mother's States resulted often in her attempting to leap out the window, or brandishing a knife of her own (until Aunt Ruby took to pre-slicing her meals), but both of those were due to simple mismanagement. Nobody knew how to deal with Mother, back then, and you failed to recognize Ellery's State until he lunged. It's a mistake you plan to rectify now.

You don't deal with a State with an argument, a lesson you have learned through years of hard experience. Logic, no matter how sound, can't penetrate the veil it casts; impassioned pleading will just inflame them. No, as disgusting as it makes you feel, you have to work within it— not feeding it, that leads to window-jumping quick, but speaking carefully, changing the subject, and mitigating what damage you can.

"Yes, you're probably right," you say. "You are supposed to be shot. I mean, it says so right there."

Gil's face loosens into an uncharacteristic dopey grin. "Right? I-I don't even want to be shot, really, it's just that I have to be. It's on the list."

On the list your ass— you're sure he really did go through some convoluted hazing process for something-or-other, but suicide couldn't have been a part of it. "Yes! Though I notice that it doesn't specify you be shot by a bullet."

"But I-I-I was shot by a bullet." His eyebrows furrow. "Um, I—"


"I-I mean... I mean, I'm supposed to be. With a bullet." His look of befuddlement clears. "I don't know why they didn't specify. Guess it was an oversight. But I know I'm supposed to."

Was that him? For a second? Or wishful thinking? "But think about it! Maybe it was an oversight, but shouldn't you be exploiting every loophole you've got? They're already making you do all this stuff— they can't complain if you follow the rules they set. So, look, what if I did this?" You point two fingers at his forehead and mime pulling a trigger. "Bang."

"...Did what?"

"Um, I shot you. With my hand. Bang." You do it again. "You've been shot in the head. Here, look, I'll—"

Gil watches dumbfoundedly as you grab the list from his hand, rip "GET SHOT IN THE HEAD" off the bottom, crumple it into a little ball, and toss it over his head. "You did it!" you crow. "Congratulations! I ought to buy you another drink. What's on the rest of here, anyhow?"

Most of the list doesn't make sense: it's packed with references to places and people you've never heard of, plus Richard-y technical jargon. You poke at one of them. "What's an ornithopter?"

"Oh..." Gil rubs his forehead. (The State has evaporated off him like frost at noon.) "It's a dumb little machine— it flies, uh, by flapping wings. A kid could make one."

"So why's it on here with..." You squint. "...'Hot-wiring the Marquess' floatboat?' I don't know what 'hot-wiring' is," (or the Marquess, or floatboats,) "but it sounds like a crime. Actually, most of these sound like—"

"Because I told the guys I built a couple— you know— back when I was a kid. And I guess they found that real funny." Gil does not appear to find that real funny.

"Oh. So why can't you just build another?"

"I can. Read it again."

You look slightly to the left of the bullet point. "Build an ornithopter with real feathers. Oh. So you have to tangle with the Court?"

"Unless you know where to find a lot of dead birds down here." He rubs his nose. "I don't know anything about them 'cept they're some fucked-up cult. Oh, and one of them called me a 'twerp,' which... do they all read off the same manual? Whatever. In any case, I have no interest in begging, borrowing, or stealing from them, but I guess that's sort of the—"

You nod sagely. "So it'd be useful if I got you some feathers? Or a whole orni-whazzit?"

"Well, I—"

"Fantastic!" The key's already in your hand. "I'll be right back."


Your parlor, if that's ever what it was, is changing: you step out of the closet onto what you think is green shag carpet until you realize it's a thick coating of moss. Odd. But the book seems identical, and for better or worse, Gil does too: motionless, mute, but clinging to life. (He's still blinking. You checked.) "I beat you at darts," you say, and are fairly sure this is true. "Just so you know."

Gil evinces no reaction. You purse your lips and turn: you need an ornithopter, don't you? Or feathers, but you haven't any idea where to find those, while— you thought the word sounded familiar— yes! There's a few new beetle-holes in the diary page, but the relevant sentence is intact: "I have also started on a better ornethopter..." This is how it comes together. You only have to go back in there, make him finish the thing, and—

But you can't do that until Otis is taken care of. And you don't have any way to do that yet, you think. So... so it's like you're turning a big knot around in your hands, looking for the right loose end to pull on. Except the knot's also being eaten by beetles, or something. But it's okay! It's all good. You are going to go ahead, and pick one of these other ones by random (close your eyes) the diagram! yes, and stick your magyckal key in there (how do you convince Richard to let you keep this?), and— it swings open like a trapdoor. You fall, as you do always, and when you land you are different.

Not terribly different, just different: your hair is down to your chin, not your shoulders; you are wearing some manner of flowing robe; you have a sword at your hip which, upon a brief inspection, is not The Sword. Also upon a brief inspection, you rather like the robe. It has pockets! Richard could take a hint.

You are so preoccupied with said pockets that you entirely fail to miss the gun to your head: it takes several beats and an awkward 'ahem' before you glance up. Oh! It's Gil. (Always with the gun, him.) And he looks... normal, actually: moussed hair, suspenders, pinstripes, just like that crumpled skin in the beetle manse. This can't have been too long before that.

"Goddammit, lady, put your hands up!" An unlit cigarette is clamped between Gil's teeth, while— God, what is that? Some manner of contraption is strapped to his chest, with wires leading up to another doohickey near his ear. You put your hands up obligingly. "Who the hell are you?! How did you get in? I locked this ticky-tacky shitheap down after me, I swear to—" (Something garbled is coming through the doohickey.) "—no, I didn't get goddamn tracked... you!" He shoves the muzzle of his pistol against your forehead. "You're not one of their goons, are you?"

"Whose goons?"

"Don't play stupid, lady. You're in their locus." Gil sees that this doesn't help. "Headspace. Don't lie. If you lie I'll shoot, okay?"

>[1] No, you're not a Headspace goon! You're, um, a... (Write-in, else [Roll.])
>[2] Yes, you are a Headspace goon! Mainly, you want to call his bluff, but this could be a useful cover. Or at least an interesting one.
>[3] Huh. This Gil is awfully close to yours, the proper one, except that he doesn't seem to be all stuttery or, er, beetle-y. If you told him who you really were, and what's really going on, maybe he could be the... "loose end of the knot"? (And hopefully that wouldn't destabilize anything?)
>[4] Okay, you're kind of morbidly curious at this point. If you were Gil (and on some level you must be: you're mingled with him, says Richard)— who would you be holding at gunpoint? Find out.
>[5] Write-in.
>[4] Okay, you're kind of morbidly curious at this point. If you were Gil (and on some level you must be: you're mingled with him, says Richard)— who would you be holding at gunpoint? Find out.
>[2] Yes, you are a Headspace goon! Mainly, you want to call his bluff, but this could be a useful cover. Or at least an interesting one.

4 is definitely interesting, but maybe not the best for Gil's mind
>[2] Yes, you are a Headspace goon! Mainly, you want to call his bluff, but this could be a useful cover. Or at least an interesting one.

Lol, Chuck tries to be a villain.
>>[2] Yes, you are a Headspace goon! Mainly, you want to call his bluff, but this could be a useful cover. Or at least an interesting one.
Called for [2] and writing.
>Face-heel turn

If there's two things you've gleaned about Gil from all this, it's that 1) he's an unfettered coward and 2) he's a shameless liar. 'Shoot you?' Fat chance. "Yup," you say gamely, "you got me. I'm a Headspace goon. That's why I'm here in this... manse?"

It must be a manse, since you're breathing air. Gil blinks. "Is that an internal term?"

"Y-es." You nod, the metal of the muzzle knocking against your forehead. "Sure is, as I am not just— I am not just a goon. How dare you? I'm a very important, official person, who is here to conduct official, important business, like... like arresting you. Yes. You are under arrest, Mr. Wallace, or should I say Gil, and if you come quietly, then I'll consider granting you some—"

"This is a... gun. You realize this is a gun?"

You wave a hand airily. "Yes. Now, you really shouldn't protest, Gil, it isn't—"

"It's— it's loaded. There's a loaded gun to your..." He squares his shoulders. "Look, lady, I have a goddamn loaded gun to your head, which means you're my bitch, you understand? Move and I'll kill you. Talk back and I'll kill you."

"You're cute." As you step away from the gun, Gil's eyes widen. There's a pronounced tremor in his forearm. "You get all that from a manual? They passed a little booklet around at Tough Guy camp? Go on, kill me."

He tenses, and for a split-second you think he really will, and then you're calculating whether getting shot inside a memory fragment would kill you or just make Richard yell at you for a while— then the doohickey bursts to life. (It must be some sort of two-way radio. Ingenious.) "Yes, I—" he says to it, then "No, I don't know how—", then "Yes, I'll—"

"Taking orders, bitch boy?" You lean against the wall. (You have no sound reason to antagonize Gil, except that it seems like something an important, official person would do. Also, he called you a bitch first. Also, it's fun.) "Had to go running to your daddy for help?"

He performs a vulgar gesture. "Uh-huh— she hasn't, I'll get her— yes, I know— uh-huh. I'll be right over. Lady, we're going for a walk."

"Oh! Me." It genuinely did take you a moment. "I was thinking about stretching my legs, so I daresay I'll take you up on that offer. Where to?"

"Phin's going to have a little chat with you." Gil gestures with the gun. "Wants to know about the bad press, I'd expect. And the new hashlocks. Not to say we need you for those, but the boost would be appreciated, yeah? Come on."

While you'd enjoy dragging your feet, that seems like a fast track to horrible beetle-related happenings— or Gil leaving and taking his memory with him. You nod primly, allow the gun to be pressed against your back (you don't know why he bothers— maybe it makes him feel better), and meander along beside him.

The manse you are walking through certainly is, er... physical space, which is about all that separates it from absolute void. There are walls, maybe, which comprise rooms, which may contain a suggestion of furnishings— you can't tell, because they shift away when you look too hard. But at least you're walking— at least while you look at your feet— and Gil doesn't seem to be concerned: he's preoccupied with his radio thingy, which squalls away in his ear. 'Phin' is shouting at him, or 'Phin' is having a very bad time with something— you can't tell which.

Eventually— you'd gauge it as about 5 minutes, but you can't tell if that correlates with actual time passing— you emerge into somewhere in particular: a confined wood-paneled room. It smells of dust and contains one fireplace (raging), one table (rickety), and no chairs. There's a faint buzzing sound. One of the walls is torn almost completely down, and behind it lies a thicket of wires, disconnected piping, and blinking lights.

While you're examining the scenery, Gil tears towards a figure crumpled near the fireplace. "PHIN! Phin, goddammit, what did you—"

You follow leisurely. 'Phin,' whoever he was, appears dead— extra-dead, even, since that's not even a corpse near the fireplace. It's thin and hollow, like paper. There is a faint buzzing sound. A buzzing sound. You glance at the ceiling.

Alas, poor Phin, unluckily projected upon: a few hundred murky beetles cloud above the fireplace. At least it wasn't you. "He'll be fine," you say. "As long as you don't run off and abandon him here. But I suppose you'll have to—"

You're not sure if it's grief Gil's paralyzed by or simple shock, but he's not listening either way. You clear your throat. "Ahem. Gosh. How awful for you, Mr. Wallace. I suppose you'll have to interrogate me all on your lonesome, yes? Unless you'd like to outright tell me what difficulty this causes you, and how one official, important gentlelady might endeavor herself to fix it..."

"Shut the fuck up!" He isn't even looking at you.

You cross your arms. "You shut up. Idiot. Why are you boo-hooing over your stupid buddy? He's not even dead, he's just beetles, which— you said it wasn't that bad, so don't be a hypocrite. He can still do whatever he was doing. What was he doing?"

"Installing—" He cuts himself off. "I said, shut up."

"Or you'll kill me? Oh no. So, what, you can't finish installing the whatever-it-is on your own? Is that the big horrible issue here?"

Gil ignores you. (Perhaps that's for the best. You went out of character on accident.) But you're right, you think— this is the big horrible issue, fixable by locating a more-experienced Gil and... dragging him over, you guess. You'll figure it out, you're positive. After all, everything— excepting the darts hiccup— has been going very smoothly.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Okay, he might have a gun, but you have a fancy title. Probably. Officially ask him a few important questions. (But not too many. You don't want to break something.)
>>[A] Who does he think you are?
>>[B] Who does he think he is?
>>[C] What's he doing in here?
>>[D] What bad press?
>>[E] What are hashlocks?
>>[F] What's that thing behind the wall?
>>[G] Write-in.

>[2] Best not to risk anything. Get out of here.
>>[A] The ledgers.
>>[B] The... leaves?
>>[C] Pick up all the paper scraps on the floor and try and put them back together. God save you.
>>[D] The blue writing.
>>[E] The chart with all the boxes.

>[3] Write-in.
Damn, Charlotte is savage. Not having Richard around does wonders for her.

>[1C] What's he doing in here?
>[1D] What bad press?
>[1F] What's that thing behind the wall?
> double down on our offer to fix it.

It's exasperating to do it with a gun on us, but someone has to clean up the mess and Gil clearly isn't up to it. So here we are, bring us up to speed and we'll see what we can do.
>1A, C, D, E, F

B might cause some existential dread but the rest seem like safe, reinforcing questions.
>>[1C] What's he doing in here?
>>[1D] What bad press?
>>[1F] What's that thing behind the wall?
Using my "every dialogue option with 2+ votes" approach, called for [1C], [1D], and [1F] + offering again to fix stuff though as it makes little sense "in character," you won't press too hard about it.

Writing... er... it's New Year's Eve and I'm at home with family. We'll see if I get anything done. Check back tomorrow if there's nothing tonight-- I'm going to aim for a daytime update.
>srs business

And since it is going so well, it won't harm anything if you loiter a while longer, right? You can use the time to pick Gil's brain— though you aren't certain how much he knows, exactly. Can he remember his past? Conceptualize a future? Maybe you better stick to his sliver of the present.

You clear your throat. "What was that about bad press, Mr. Wallace? Surely you can pretend to conduct an interrogation without your boyfriend's assistance."

"My...?" It processes. Gil springs away from Phin's skin like it were a hot stove. "Hey! Fuck you!"

"Aw, I'm sorry... was it unrequited?" You bat your eyelashes. "It's always so difficult, having feelings for a superior. To desire amorous relations with someone in a—"

In a, a— your train of thought was cut off entirely by the terrible noise, first, then the ringing in your ears almost as loud, and it's only when you smell sulfur and follow Gil's gaze to the new hole in the wall that things fall into place. The end of his pistol glows faintly. "Mmm mmphmm mmmm mm," he says under the ringing, but you can read lips: "It's goddamn loaded! I told you!"

You can't cohere a response in time.

"Now, I don't want to shoot anybody, especially a lady, but you can't go around thinking you're the boss here! I'm the boss, cause I have a gun, and you're a smarmy hack with a... a sword?" He stops short, baffled.

"Swords are cool," you murmur.

"Why would you have a goddamn— whatever! Answer my questions. What the fuck is up with the bad press?"

"You shouldn't curse so often. If you curse, you... curse yourself." Your mother made it sound scarier, but you can't remember how she put it, exactly. "Um, what bad press?"

"What bad press? You're making it out like we're responsible for locitis, when you know perfectly well that makes no goddamn sense. We skim off the top, we don't screw around with—"

"Locitis?" You lace your fingers.

Gil laughs derisively. "Sure, let's play this game. Locitis, the one thing anyone's been talking about? Mysterious disease? Causes personality shifts, memory gaps, hallucinations, suicidal tendencies, seizures, sudden death? Coincidentally afflicts, not just locus-havers, but people who have Headspace templates. But it's not because your shitty construction rots people's brains, no, it's the evil jackers going around, killing people, scaring the rest half to death so they'll buy your hashlock protocols and your crackfree failsafes... which are worthless! They add a whole thirty seconds to the crack. This guy—" He waves the gun at the ceiling. "—had three."

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You're trying to remember ever hearing of 'locitis,' directly or in passing. Maybe you overheard some chitchat at the Nothing? But nothing in particular comes to mind. "Was this a regional phenomenon?"

"'Was' this? It's still happening! And how the hell am I supposed to know?"

It was probably localized to the West— that'd explain why you've never heard of it. That, or it's so podunky out here that cases were isolated... and, well, "go-crazy-and-die" is a thing that happens all the time. You don't need a manse for that. "Correct. I was testing you. You're a jacker?"

"No, lady, I'm a professional phillumenist." So yes. Which makes sense— Gil's avoided talking about his job, but he admitted to that much, you think. And they go around... siphoning ambient Law out of people's manses? Or something?

"I see. So I suppose this..." You point at the wall. "...is your equipment? Your Law siphon, or whatnot? Did you intend to put the paneling back over it?"

"My what siphon?"

Is he lying, or— "What do you call it?"

"We grow crystals, that's all. Nothing wrong with that, is there? So why are we the bad guys, and you lot profit off of—"

Lying or dodging the question or something. "Okay, whatever. So the thing back there is your siphon, or... crystal grower, or whatever, and it's half-installed. That's the problem? Why can't you finish?"

Gil jiggles his gun. "Give you details so you can reverse-engineer it? Spare me."

"Well, it doesn't have to be details..."

"Spare me."

Okay, you doubt you're getting anything out of him, at least not while he thinks you're a (what was it?) smarmy hack. Slash important official. Maybe you ought to quit while you're ahead and come back later if you need clarification. Yeah. "Will do!" You pull the key out and swivel towards the wall.

"Hey, is that an anchor? Put that back, lady, don't—"

"Uh-huh." The paneling reveals itself to be a secret door, once you stick the key in it. "Seeya."

Does he fire the gun? He might've, based on the noise and the smell, but as you slam the closet door shut there's no trace of a bullet. Thank goodness. Even if it'd just treat you to a Richard lecture, you'd like to minimize those if you can help it... wait.

This is isn't your parlor! And you don't mean that it's gaudy or moss-covered: this is your manse, in rosy glass and marble and gold, with a fount in the back and a big crack through the middle. Did you take a left turn? Shouldn't Richard be here? You don't see him, or Gil, for that matter, beetled or rotting or any of them. Though now that you look at it, the floor is moss-covered. And the dimensions are a lot more cramped than you're used to. And there's a radio, right where the radio in your parlor is supposed to be. It's talking.

««Charlie. Charlie, come in. Tell me you're getting this.»»

You can't talk back to a radio... unless you have Gil's doohickey, apparently, but you don't. But it's also not a real radio, or even an existant radio, so you suppose you can do what you want. "...Richard?"

««No. It's Harlan Pleasant.»»

It sounds very much like Richard. "Who?"

««Never mind. Of course it's me.»»
««You have made yourself difficult to locate. Though naturally I still managed it.»»
««I am sensing that you are stable.»»

You glance down at yourself. "Um, I guess? Yes. Yes, I've— I have been doing amazing, I'll have you know, and it's awful funny it happened while you were gone. I'm just saying."

««I am never 'gone.' I have been monitoring your vitals. I was simply unable to communicate.»»
««Moreover, your apparent success is a direct result of my—»»

"What's this supposed to be? Is this your locus? Doesn't look like Headspace, but that figures— wouldn't want to infect yourselves. That'd be too sporting."

««What is happening.»»

What is happening is that your stomach is in your throat. You know that voice.

««Don't tell me you let one escape.»»
««Charlotte Fawkins, you didn't let one—»»

You turn. Gil, gun in hand, is shutting the closet door behind him. "Who's that? Your supervisor? Your boyfriend?"

««I beg your pardon.»»

"No!" you say, revolted.

"Aw, I'm sorry." Gil stalks over to the settee and flops down on it. "Is it unrequited? Always so difficult, wanting to fuck your way to the top, and the guy above you just isn't interested—"

"Shut up!" You fast-walk over to the closet and yank the door open to discover— nothing. Not the wood-paneled room, not even a closet, just roiling nothing, and you slam it shut again and whip around. The book, then. Where is the book? You jog back to the settee. A headache has spontaneously developed, as has a sort of static crackle in the back of your head, and you—

««Ah. I see. You are abusing me to create passageways, which ordinarily exceed the limited capacity of the fragment to comprehend. Only you have done it in front of one where inexplicable passageways are normal.»»
««So it has rationalized it and come through it.»»

—you can't find the book. You can't find the book! Where has the book gone? Did it vanish into the crannies of the settee, or slide under it? Did it fall through the crack? Is Gil sitting on it? He couldn't be sitting on it, it's huge. There's still a few leaves and paper scraps on the ground, so it did exist, but... and Gil is watching all of this. "Oops, did you drop your failsafes? Rolled under the couch? I guess this proves you're not hoarding the effective security for yourselves, so props for that."

"Shut up! Richard—"

««What. I thought you were doing amazing.»»
««Keep it up.»»


(Choices next.)
>[1] Okay. Okay, you can handle this. Gil seems fine as long as he thinks he's in the right setting, so you just have to... pretend that you're still a Headspace person, and that this is really your manse. And take it from there.
>[2] As long as it makes some sense, you don't have to stick with your first impulse— claim that you're really something else in *disguise* as a Headspace person, like a demon or a spirit or something. And that's why you're gonna take him through his own memories! It all makes sense. (OPTIONAL: Do you [Roll] for a proper 'true form'? Y/N)
>[3] Nope. Rip off the bandage, inform him that he's fake, etcetera. Will he have a little breakdown? Maybe, but it's the fastest way to ensure that he's useful, and you may as well weather the fallout while you're still stable yourself.
>[4] Write-in.

if this isn't really our manse, what is it? a copy we made while in Gil?
>>[1] Okay. Okay, you can handle this. Gil seems fine as long as he thinks he's in the right setting, so you just have to... pretend that you're still a Headspace person, and that this is really your manse. And take it from there.
>if this isn't really our manse, what is it? a copy we made while in Gil?
Is this rhetorical, or would you like a proper OOC explanation? (It'd be awkward to do it IC.)

Also, I'm going to call the vote in about an hour. I was serious about two updates.
Writing. Also, here's Charlotte's new weeb? outfit.

In the absence of a response, here's the OOC explanation: it's not spoilers (it's all been hinted at in-quest), but don't scroll over if you want to preserve an air of mystery.

Recall that you originally got here from your house (or "bomb shelter," according to Richard)-- you went from your regular parlor to a weird, exaggerated version of it, with Gil and the book in it but no Richard. It's from the weird parlor that you've been doing all the memory stuff. Recall also that you got to the weird parlor because Richard told you you'd walk through the front door and come out the closet-- and to close your eyes while you were doing it.

As he frequently does, Richard was misdirecting you: there was nothing outside the front door (because it led directly back into Gil's nonphysical/nonspatial mind). However, because of the expectation that you'd wind up in the same room-- plus the fact that Gil's 'entangled' with you, and the fact you didn't know there was nothing there-- you subconsciously forced him to imagine the parlor you'd wind "back" up in. This is why it's weird: Gil doesn't know what your parlor looks like, so this was his (also subconscious) interpretation.

The fact that it got even more exaggerated-- and the addition of the moss-- are indications that it's drifting away from the original 'inputs' you provided. (Where to? Spoilers.) And the manse is because Gil, and the book metaphorically representing him, just got overriden by a different Gil... who expected to find your manse behind that door. And because he does know what your manse looks like (on some level), it's very accurate, though still it retains a few aspects of the parlor.
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>Easy route

You fumble with the knobs of the radio until you find the one that shuts the whole damn thing off. Richard quiets. (Imagine if you could do that all the time.)

"Didn't want me to overhear all that?" Gil comments. "I don't blame you."

You take a deep breath. This is fine! It is. Richard said you were doing amazing, and if you focus hard you can pretend he wasn't ironic. This could be a good thing, even, if you could get him to come along. It wouldn't hurt to have backup. (Though he might want you dead.) No he won't! Positive thinking. You'll have to convince him to like you, or scare him enough not to wave the gun around, and you can do both of those things without breaking a sweat. You have to act, is all. You can do that. It's just lying to yourself.

"It hardly matters what you overhear," you say grandly. "I only thought silence would make a better backdrop."

"For what." His tone is dry. You are infinitely glad that Gil was locked in a house long enough to learn manners, because you would've hated him otherwise.

"For me to tell you... that you are trapped, you fool! You are bound and netted and at my mercy! I hope you enjoyed your precious freedom while—"

He's put his feet up on the ottoman. "I still have a gun."

Oh, he does. Damn. "You think that can stop me? Ha! You seem to forget where you are, Mr. Wallace. You come tromping into my manse, mucking up the furniture, and you possibly hope to—"

The pistol is in his hand, if it wasn't before, and he raises it very casually and fires. Near you, or maybe at you, you can't be sure— you don't think he's sure, because the cockiness slips visibly after he's done it, and he looks frightened. Not that it matters, because there is a bullet spiraling towards you, though it somehow doesn't seem to matter much at all. Not when you can see the air wobbling around it. You reach out and pinch it between your fingers.

And then you are staring at the bullet between your fingers, and Gil is staring petrified at you, and— huh?? How did you do that? You can't do that. You're sure you couldn't do it again if you tried, not that you plan on trying, and— is it cause you were acting so cool, and that was the coolest thing you could've done just there? (Well, you could've sliced it in half with your sword. But then you'd be shot twice.) Is it cause it's your manse? Your mind? Gil's mind? Does Gil believe you can catch bullets with your fingers? He might, actually, he seems to have all sorts of weird opinions about you, but...

This Gil hasn't stopped staring, which— you can't blame him, you'd be too. You cough to break the awkward silence and drop the bullet. "Um... ha! Witness my miraculous power! Your pitiful gun is worthless against me, ensconced as I am in my demesne!"

He still doesn't say anything. God, you really wish he would! He's all wedged against the corner of the settee, shrunken in an oddly literal sense: he seems ill-fitting in his own clothes, or maybe his own too-large skin. He seems younger. He seems terrified. You feel bad, almost.

But not quite, because A) play stupid games, win stupid prizes, Mr. Wallace, B) that was cool, objectively, and C) this is good! You wanted him like this, didn't you? You acted, and stuff. "And daren't you try to escape, as mine manse is crackproofed... against leaving! Bwahahaha! Now you art my little bitch, Gil Wallace, and together we shalt rule th- rule Headspace!"

"Do you mean run it?" His voice is much smaller than it was.


"Um, it's a... business. You don't rule businesses. You run them."

How are you supposed to know? You've never ruled a business before. "Yes! We shalt run Headspace, together, as I have been watching you for a long time, Gil. You have ambition. You have drive. And there is nothing I seek more than—"

"Is this a paid position?"

"Is this a— yes! Of course. I fairly compensate my ret- my assistants."

Gil appears slightly recovered, though still reduced from the bravado of earlier. "How much? And is it a salary or per hour?"

You are so glad you turned Richard off beforehand. "None! It— it doesn't matter! You will be fairly compensated with all the riches of the land—"

"With blood money," he says matter-of-factly. He's digging around in a pocket for something.

"Yes! With all the bloody riches of the land, et-cetera, and you don't really have a choice, okay? You're my assistant now, and you have to follow me around and help me out and not ask questions, because I am doing very important stuff. Very secret, important stuff. Gotcha?"

He is lighting a cigarette with a match. You understand this to be a 'yes.' "Good! Good. Excellent. Er... shall we... embark?"

>The book has gone missing, but the same categories will be used for convenience.
>[A1] The ledgers.
>[A2] The... leaves?
>[A3] Pick up all the paper scraps on the floor and try and put them back together. God save you.
>[A4] The blue writing.
>[A5] The chart with all the boxes.

>[B] OPTIONAL: Gil is going to ask for your name eventually, and you suspect 'Charlotte Fawkins' might trigger some unfortunate associations. What goofy Rich Important Evil Person name do you give him? (Write-in.)

>[C] Write-in.
>[A3] Pick up all the paper scraps on the floor and try and put them back together. God save you.
Now we can make Gil do it.

>[B] Desdemona Aurelia
>[2] As long as it makes some sense, you don't have to stick with your first impulse— claim that you're really something else in *disguise* as a Headspace person, like a demon or a spirit or something. And that's why you're gonna take him through his own memories! It all makes sense. (OPTIONAL: Do you [Roll] for a proper 'true form'? Y/N)

Why would we roll for a proper "true form" when we have a snakey one? We can double down on our identity being a secret agent investigating Namway and the manse makers, which is even technically true, and letting him know that Namway has stolen a snake. Hence our reactions to his project.
Worth a shot. Let's see how confident Gil is in it before committing though.
+1 to this.
Thanks. No response originally because I slumbered. Forgot to note how early the update was.

Now is ideal for this task because we have Gil to do it for us help out.


Catastrovania Strifaust Morituros IX
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First of all: today marks the 3-year anniversary of Drowned Quest's first thread. If any of you have stuck with me that long, thank you-- and thanks to everybody that came in later, too! It's crazy to think how far we've come.

Second of all: votes!

>Slave labor
Charlotte is nothing if not consistent :^)

I'll probably mash these up. Definitely not using "Catastrovania" as a first name though, Drowned is not joining the Drawquest Extended Universe

Called and writing.

>Forgot to note how early the update was.
I wanted it to be even earlier than that, but half the reason I don't write during the day is that between distractions and obligations it always ends up taking "literally the whole day." As it did here. Oh well.

I'm not quite parsing this, on top of it being an update too late, so I'm gonna veto. But just to get some clarity:

>Why would we roll for a proper "true form" when we have a snakey one?
You don't have a snakey "true form" at the moment-- that was you wearing the Yellow-Eyed Thing, which you murdered in Thread 16 mid-drug trip. You'd need some pretty serious assistance from Richard (or a lot more drugs) to get back in that zone.

> We can double down on our identity...
I'm not sure how that would be "doubling down," even discounting the most recent update: your cover story is someone working for Headspace, not investigating Headspace (or Namway). Also, Headspace (which makes manses) and Namway (which makes gooplicates) are two different companies, and to best of your knowledge they're unrelated. Though maybe that's something to look into. Have they ever been mentioned in the same place before?...

>letting him know that Namway has stolen a snake.
You don't have any reason to believe that jacker-Gil would know (or care) about this! Was the intent to see if he would?
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>Make Gil do all the work

Gil takes a ponderous drag on his cigarette. He does not seem as enthusiastic about this as he ought to be. "Embark where?"

You were hoping he wouldn't ask that. "What did I say about questions?"

"That I shouldn't ask 'em." He's still wedged in the corner, but his voice is level. "But look, lady, it's simple. I don't give a damn if you're a rat bastard, I don't give a damn if you're working for a net drain on civilization— pay me enough, I'll sell out as hard as you want. I'll sell my own mom, that's what you need. Yeah?"

Wow, what? "Er... we won't have any need for your mother. That's a very bold—"

"Just an example." He blows smoke through his nose. "Though you can have her. Never did anything for me, anyhow. Now, like I was saying... I don't have a ethical quibble. I respect your god-given right to exploit the masses, whatever, I'm flattered you scouted me. I just—"

"But don't you feel a- a moral compunction?" you interrupt. "To stay true to your virtues, and your, um, your sworn beliefs—"

"I'll have whatever beliefs you pay me for, and morals are for girls— no offense— girls, kids, and sissies. Though let me know if you'd like me to change my mind about that. Anyhow, the one thing I ask is that you be up-front, alright? If I'm working for someone, I have to know they're good for what they owe me. It's just logic. So I'd be real appreciative, lady, if you told me where the hell we're 'embarking' to."

It's like a party trick: one moment he's scared out of his mind, the next moment he's as cool and collected as you've ever seen him. Maybe it was the cigarette? And God, how are you supposed to explain— you can't even find the book! "Well, it's quite simple, actually. We're just..." Acting, not lying. Acting. You are an important business person. "...vetting you. Making sure you're suited for the job, yes? It's a normal—"

"Vetting how?"

You smile vaguely, which you hope reads as mysterious and not making stuff up. "Just a background check, Mr. Wallace. Making sure all the, um, parts of you are fit for ruling a business. Though it's just a formality, so don't— don't panic about it. Just sit there and let me—"

Let you what? The book is gone, you're quite sure of it, not that you know why. (You're sure Richard would tell you, but— ha, no.) All you have left are the handful of scraps on the floor, but those aren't enough to— positive thinking! "—let me let you prove your mettle. Yes! You shalt prostrate yourself upon the earth, and scour it for cleverly hidden bits of— of paper, I think. Like there was one big page, and it got torn up? Could you do that?"

Gil just looks at you. (God. You need to catch another bullet, fast.)

"...I'll pay extra?"

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He exhales smoke, nods curtly, and crouches down on the ground. "I don't see any paper," he reports. "There's some plant stems under here? I think they're called succulents... I don't know what type." He stands, dangling a stem of ice plant.

"Oh!" You do. "Er, I mean, I suppose that's an acceptable... Gil?"

Gil's face has darkened— his cigarette, forgotten, gathers ash in his mouth. He is rubbing the stem with his thumb, almost stroking it. He rolls it between his fingers.

"Gil?" Maybe you should've picked up the paper scraps.

Gil looks past you, and you turn: the marble wall behind is covered in ice plant. He glances down and the mossy floor is choked in it. The settee and the radio are smothered in it. You are— "Don't!" you yelp, but Gil has gained a glassy, bewildered look, and when his eyes skate past you are wrapped in spreading vines. How fortunate that the roots are shallow, that they only invade the top of your skin, but if he looks again— no, don't invoke it! You'd cut yourself out if only your sword weren't trapped too, and as a worthless knockoff it's not even on fire...

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

But think positive! This is going amazing! Or it has so far, and you'll be damned if that stops now because stupid fake Gil's getting stupid nightmares from a stupid plant. You have the key, don't you? It's in your hand. If you can yank your arm— yes! yank your arm free, and stumble forward, you can sink the key straight into Gil's forehead, and the last thing you see is his wide, wide eyes before he wobbles and peels open like an orange.

Something thin and gauzy, like a tarp made of green chiffon, unfurls out of him, and hangs for a moment, and drops, and passes straight through you—

You blink. You are standing on a scrubby knoll, facing a house: a large, old, white, abandoned house, done in a poor imitation of antediluvian style. It's surrounded by patches of ice plant. The sky is blue and clear. Gil is beside you, less glassy, still bewildered. "I—" he croaks.

Compose yourself, Charlotte! "Ahem. So we have embark-ed, as planned, and I trust you are ready to justify your obscenely high salary, Mr. Wallace... Mr. Wallace?"

Gil is watching the house. "We're going in there?"

"What? Yes."

"We can't go in there! Are you kidding! That's— that's not a— it's not safe."

"Hazard pay," you say airily, "not that you'll need it. It's only a house, is it not?"

He's lacing and unlacing his fingers. "Yes, but that's not the— we can't— I'm not fucking going in there. You can't make me. You can't pay me, you can't— I'd rather be shot. Take my gun and shoot me if we're going in there."

It is only a house. You recognize it very well, actually. You set it on fire, after finding Gil in it. "It's perfectly safe. Watch, I'll go open the—"

The door is barred with planks. You contemplate the windows, then the windows are barred with planks, too. "Gil, please."

"I'm not— what am I doing? I'm not— I-I'm not—" He forces a smile. It's unconvincing. "Let's embark somewhere else?"

You can't embark somewhere else— you barely managed to embark here. But what can you say?

>Every option will require a dice roll. Appending a write-in to any of the options may improve the DC.

>[1] There's no sound reason for this Gil to be primordially terrified of a house, and you bet he knows it. Attempt to reaffirm his "present-day" identity, then appeal to his sense of logic.
>[2] You know what else scared Gil today? You. All you have to do is scare him worse than the house does, and he'll have no choice in the matter.
>[3] Screw him: you just need to get *in.* Take a sledgehammer or do acrobatics or whatever the hell is required to bust past Gil's defenses.
>[4] Write-in.

if that fails 3 is always fun
Have him center himself in the moment by listing out things he can see, hear and touch.
Slow day, huh? Called for [1]. I need dice.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 15 (+5 Facts and Logic, +5 Grounding Presence, +5 Familiar Face) vs. DC 70 (+20 Couldn't Make Me) to get through to Gil!
Rolled 21 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

damn gil and his residentialphobia
Rolled 43 + 15 (1d100 + 15)



senpai I cannot emphasize how much sovl your art style has. nice work here
Rolled 74 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>36, 58, 89 vs. DC 70 -- Mitigated Success
Close shave. Writing.

Thank you :)
>Appeal to logic
>36, 58, 89 vs. DC 70 — Mitigated Success

Well... you should start simple, probably, then escalate if you need to. There's still a fair chance he'll listen to reason. "This is part of the test, Gil. If we leave now, it means you're not up for the job, and I'll have to arrest you for—"

"Then arrest me! I-I don't give a damn!"

Okay, maybe a slim chance. But still a chance. "But I don't want to arrest my assistant, so... could you tell me what the matter is? Is it the type of house? Tell me what kind of house this is."

"It's a—" He waves his hand aimlessly. "—a, a model C. One of yours."

"Correct." (You have no idea if that's correct.) "Is there something wrong with model Cs?"

"Besides being shitty, unimaginative, and a real bitch to crack? Nothing I can think of." He seems calmer when he's not looking directly at the house. You shuffle to block his view of it.

"But none of that is a reason to be scared, is it? None of those things are dangerous."

"Dangerous to anyone with taste," he mumbles.

"Yes, I agree, but that's not the—" You brush hair out of your face. "That's not the point and you know it. Gil. It's just a damn house. Is it going to kill you?"


"Okay. Is it going to hurt you, even? No. Because it's a house. What kind of a pussy is scared of a house?"

Gil hugs his arms to his chest. "I'm not a- a pussy."

"Exactly! You're not! And you're not a twerp, or a pipsqueak, or a bitch, or a limp-wristed lowlife coward. You're a tough guy. And you're also super cool, and logical, and you're not going to have a lot of dumb emotions if they make no sense, right?" You smile winningly. "You can get them under control. I know it. Cause you're not a pussy."

"Because I'm disciplined," he says.

"Cause you're... disciplined. Sure, whatever. The point is, you can do it, okay? You can face your fear. You can run up to your fear and kick it in the balls." You have no idea what you're saying. "And you will. Take my hand, okay?"

You stick your hand out, and after a long pause Gil takes it. "You're being very... informal," he says.

Are you? Oh, damn, you're supposed to be— it all got off track, didn't it? You were just spewing the first things that came to mind, and it was even mostly true. He is tough, because if he wasn't he'd just be a lot of stupid bugs, not a person. And he's not a— well, you don't know if you can say that. He might be a pussy. But he tries really hard, and you can win all the fights for him, so who cares? It's better this way. So he doesn't outshine you.

The longer you go without responding, the more Gil reddens. He's somewhere around 'burgundy' by the time you refocus. "Er... yes. You are my assistant now, so I thought that'd be acceptable. And I make the rules, since I am an official person, so it is acceptable. Um. Would you come with me to the house?"

He nods slightly.

"Okay! Just watch. We're going to take a step." You take a big step forward. "Can you follow me?"

He swallows and steps forward. You restrain yourself from pumping your fist. "Yes! See, this isn't so hard. Can you do another?"

You take another big step forward and tug at Gil's hand to follow. He doesn't budge. "...Gil?"

Oh, damnit! Damnit! You had him fixed, you solved the problem, and now you turn back around and he's wild-eyed and quivering exactly the same as if you did nothing at all. Will you have to give a pep talk for each and every damned footstep? No. You refuse. You said you'd escalate if you needed to, and this is clearly the— he interrupts. "Don't you get i¦t? I-I-I-I can't go b¤acK th¯HE®E! Are Y©UaF,UCyou fucking— /I-I(I— NO¡IcCAN,TFU>¸(K¥NO!GoB ªCK!pl¶LEASEiiiI CAN'TDO1N_TWAN2tT¨TO¸TOtTo0(—to— to— I-I—" He shudders. "Ow."

He'd just been hanging there, mouth ajar, as garbled nonsense screamed through him, so it takes you a moment to react. "Yes?"

"My head..." He trails off, clutching his forehead. "Where am I?"

"Um, where do you think you are?"

"In a cardboard box. But that makes no goddamn sense, which is why I'm asking."

>[1] Continue.
>[2] Write-in.

Welcome to my new format for [TBC]s, shamelessly stolen from My Wife Is A Supervillain Quest— this is still a half-update, but you're welcome to provide input if you like. I hope to post the continuation of this during the day tomorrow and update normally tomorrow night, hopefully at a decent hour... my usual writing schedule has gone to hell and back, I blame being home for the holidays.
>[2] Ask who he thinks he is, in detail.
I want to tell him that technically he's right, but he might explode. Also RIP MWIASQ.
>>[1] Continue.
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"...No," you affirm. "That doesn't make any sense. Can you see the box?"

"See it? I, uh—" He reaches sideways with a closed fist and knocks on air. "I— sort of. I don't know how to explain it. I think I'm cracking up, probably, sorry for the inconvenience."

"Oh, no, you're not a— but you can see where I'm standing?"

He nods.

"How about you try describing it? Maybe that'll help... ground you." You shuffle back in front of him, to block the house.

"Worth a shot." He smiles wanly. "Um, it's a grassy slope, or— maybe not 'grassy,' I guess there's a lot of weeds and bushes. And it's pretty dried-out. It's not cold or warm. The sky is blue, and clear, almost, but there's wispy sort-of clouds blowing in from over there. If I remember right they're called cirruses."

How does he know what clouds are called? Maybe you skipped that day. "Yes! Cirruses. Are you on the slope, too?"

"I guess I must be?" He starts to knock again, but stops. "And you're here. I know you. Who are you?"

You want badly to answer that question, but you have to be sensible, Charlotte. Be sensible. There's a tautness around you. "I'm... Desdemona Aurelia Strifaust. IX."

Gil studies you. "That sounds like a fake name."

"It's not a fake name!" you say, offended. (It's the name of a minor character from Wyzards Munificent.) "It's my name. As I am a exceedingly important person. I am the ruler of Headspace Inc."

"The ruler..." He looks puzzled. "How would I know you? I'm just a guy. Nobody special."

"Is that what you think?"

"Am I not? I just— I guess I don't really know. Who I am. Shit, I'm really fucked up, aren't I? Did I hit my head?"

You could tell him whatever you wanted and he'd probably believe it. Maybe permanently. But you couldn't— you've never manipulated anyone like that in your whole life. Why would you start now? And you like Gil. You don't want to screw him up. "Something like that. How about you tell me what you remember? And I can fill in the gaps if I have to."

"I guess." He squints up at the cirruses. "Well, my name is Gil. That's easy. I'm... 25. I'm a normal guy... I don't know. I guess there's not much to remember."

"That's not true!" God, that's sad. "There's lots to remember about you. You're my assistant, first of all, who I hand-picked for being super cool, and tough, and loyal. You like me a lot. And you help me out when we go on adventures."

"...Does the ruler of Headspace Inc go on a lot of adventures?"

"Yes! Because I can do whatever I want." You put your hands on your hips. "And we're on an adventure right now. We're in a manse. I mean, a... locus, or whatever you call them. We're just about to go inside a house you've never seen before."

"A house?" Gil cranes his neck to look past you.

You lean to block him. "Yes! It's a completely normal house, and there's zero reason to be scared of it. In fact, you're not scared of it. You're excited to go inside."

"I don't know about excited, but... yes. We're in a locus. I've been in those before. That's my job."

"Was your job," you say brightly. "Then I hired you. But yes! The point stands. Shall we go to this normal house without any beetles in it?"

"I— I don't see why not." He fixes his gloves. "I'm ready when you are."

Yes! And it was only like pulling teeth. He doesn't seem back to normal, exactly, but... maybe being a little pliable will do him good. Or do you good. It certainly makes things easier in the short-term. (The air is still taut, but you are ignoring that.) "Fantastic! See, I knew you were an excellent assistant. Let us embark!—"

The house was not on nearly such a high hill when you looked at it last, but it gets leveler and leveler as you walk, and as you look at it there doesn't seem to be planks over the door. You grab the doorknob and make to swing it open when Gil coughs. "Are you sure?"

God! "Yes, of course I'm— an excellent assistant is seen and not heard, alright? So shut up." Gil doesn't say anything. You open the door.

There is very little inside the house, though maybe 'house' is the wrong word: it's just one big room, no doors. The walls are cracked and empty, except for the ice plant spilling in through the molding and the single crooked picture frame. The floor is dusty. Gil sits in the exact middle of it, loosely cross-legged. His jacket lies discarded next to him. His hair is drooping severely. He looks you in the eyes, but doesn't otherwise react.

He should be beetles. Why isn't he beetles? "Gil? Can you hear me?"

No reaction. You pace towards him and crouch down. "I'm here to— to fix you. But I need your help. Could you please— huh?" He is raising his left hand. "Are you trying to ask a question?"

"No," he says— says your Gil, from the doorway. (This is going to get real complicated real fast. Could they at least have different voices?) His left hand is in the air. Slowly, he brings it down, and when you glance back over the other-Gil's hand is back in his lap. "No, I— I— what the fuck is this? Who is this? I-I-I'm not— I've never been— is this a set-up? It's a goddamn set-up, isn't it? That's not me."

You take a deep breath. "What's the matter with him? Can he not talk?"

"How am I supposed to know? That's not— that's a fake person. That's fake. Can we go? I think we should go. I think we should—" He turns (and other-Gil turns) and you look: there is no door. "Motherfucker!"

"Don't curse. We need to talk to him, I'm just not sure he can—" Other-Gil's eyes are tracking your movements, but he hasn't said a word. "Could you help?"


"Or maybe I'll figure out something... give me a second." You think.

>[1] The obvious thing to do is to get your-Gil to help communicate: you'd be downright shocked if there wasn't some mental link between the two. It's just a matter of how.
>>[A] Convince him to chip in! This is important! (How? Write-in.)
>>[B] Your patience is rapidly waning: frog-march him over and make them hold hands, or whatever the hell. Easy. Simple. Fooproof.
>>[C] Write-in.

>[2] He doesn't know what's going on, and you don't want to push it. Aren't you and Gil supposed to be "intermingled," anyhow? Surely you can... figure it out. [Roll.]

>[3] Write-in.
Tell him that if that isn't him it certainly was modeled after him at the very least, and he can't leave something like himself in the lurch like this.

After all, we know for a fact if it was to fix another him up he'd let someone into the deepest recesses of his mind where all the embarrassing childhood memories are kept.
> 1A

Tell him that when he gets other Gil to respond, we can take him away from all *this*. There's another, better world waiting for him. Where we actually yes do go on adventures, and where he's loyal and brave and a true Hero.

That's why we know he can do this, because we trust him and this? This locus stuff is what he can do. And if he can't believe in himself then he can believe in the us that believes in him. Believe that we're still gonna make him do it, damn skippy.
Called and writing.
>Pep talk mark 2

Okay, you have thought, and you're pretty sure that your options are something like "you do it" or "Gil does it." And while, as a dashing heroine/adventuress/future queen, you are capable of doing anything you put your mind to, you just don't really feel like, er, putting your mind to it. It seems like something that'd lead to beetles leaking out your ears, is what you mean. And you know who's suited to that? Gil.

"Gil," you wheedle. "Don't you want to find out what this is? Wouldn't it be interesting to—"

"Interesting? I already know what it is, Desdom— that's a goddamn mouthful of a name, if it is real. Do you go by anything else?"

"Er..." You hadn't prepped a nickname. "Dessie? Sorry, you already know what it is?"

"Yeah. I told you already. It's a fake verson of me. So fake it can't even talk. And it's either here because it wants my blood, so it can kill me and replace me, or because someone made it and put it here to psych me out." He stares directly at you. "Now I'm not saying I know who did it, but I think the logical thing to do would be to leave. Don't engage. That's the only way to solve a lose-lose."

That would be logical, you guess, if he wasn't completely wrong. "Whoa, hey— so maybe it is fake, but so what? It's still you on some— I don't know, on some metaphysical level, probably. And even if it isn't, doesn't it look lonely? Have some compassion."

Gil snorts. "Remind me what compassion gets me?"

God! It's not like you expect him to go around adopting orphans and feeding stray dogs, but this is himself— and he's the one who begged you to help another him in the first place! "It- it- well, it makes you a decent person, firstly, but it- it- haven't you ever been lonely?"

"Not in the slightest. Now if you'll excuse me, lady— sorry, Dessie, I'll have to be off. I'll assist you another time, deal?" He's got a matchbook out. With every unsuccessful strike of the match, the walls wobble.

"That's not how assisting— gimme those!" You snatch the matchbook out of his hands. "This is a full-time job! And as your boss, I order you to talk to him."

"I quit," he says coolly, and slides your sword out of its scabbard. As you process this boggling display of audacity, he begins attempting to lever the wall open as one might crowbar a stuck window.

"You can't quit— you're going to hurt the sword!" (You turn to Other-Gil, who is miming dumbly along with him, and mouth an exaggerated 'SORRY.') Gil, you let me go through your stupid embarrassing memories, so how is this worse? This is, like, 100 times less bad than—" Inexplicably, the levering is working. The wall rattles with every thrust. "Gil! Gil, what if I bribed you, okay? Would you do it for a bribe?"

"What kind of bribe?" He doesn't stop.

"Money, or— hey, what if I got you out of here? I don't just mean this stupid house. I mean..." You gesticulate. "Are you very happy? I mean, in general?"

Now he does stop, but only to gaze back on you in disgust. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"I just mean... you're drinking alone at bars, you're breaking and entering for a living, you haven't talked about any friends— I mean, I guess there's Phin, but it kind of sounded like he was yelling at you? And the rest of the jackers, maybe, but you sold them out, um, instantly. So I'm sensing you aren't that... attached?"

"I don't see how it's any of your business." He returns to levering. "Life's not about being happy, anyway."

"I agree." It's not a lie. Happy people aren't cut out for greatness, you think. Or maybe someone told you that. "So what do you think it's about?"

"Nothing. You're born and you eat shit until you die. Best case scenario, you make some other people eat shit along the way. Worst case, you eat so much shit you blow your brains out in the living room."

You wrinkle your nose. "God, that's— that's awful. Don't you think you have any higher purpose?"

"Like a destiny? I don't believe in horseshit, sorry."

"Not like a— I mean, maybe like a destiny, but not necessarily. Just that you're... meant for something. There's a reason you exist, and it's your job to- to go make that reason true." You lace your fingers. "Um, and God is— God's the the one planning this all out, but I think you said you didn't believe in that, so I didn't want to get that involved."

"I did say I didn't believe in horseshit." But his voice is more subdued.

You pounce. "But wouldn't you rather have a purpose? I'm positive you do, you just don't realize it! And if you just keep running away from your problems, you never will, and you're just gonna be a miserable bastard your whole entire life. I believe— no, I know you're better than that. I know it for a fact. I trust you. And I think if you open your eyes and snap out of it—"

"What?" He's stiffened. The sword hangs by his side.

You press on. "If you open your eyes and snap out of it— I can help you, okay? I'm here to help. If you'd just listen to me, I can— we can go adventuring. We can see the..." You're exaggerating, but he doesn't need to know that. "...the world. You know, Gil, I think I was meant to find you. I really do. And I think you were meant to come with me. But I can't help unless you focus and- and wake up. Will you do that?"

There is an odd look on his face. "Could you repeat that?"

"Will you-"

"Right before that. Please."

You squint. "Um, I can't help unless you focus and wake up? Was that confusing? I meant sort of meta-"

Isn't it funny how you can forget about something until it changes? The tension had been there all along, pressing down on you, but it'd been that way for so long that you never thought it would... snap. But cutting off your 'metaphorically' was a wrench in your gut, so palpable you stumble, and suddenly Gil towers over you bright-eyed and triumphant. "I'm not your assistant," he says. "You thought you could lead me on, could you? You thought you could dazzle me with gullshit? I know who you are. I know what's going on."

God-damnit! He can't— he can't possibly— now it's all going to go to hell, you just know it, and Richard will taunt you from his stupid radio how you couldn't even keep up a simple cover, and never mind that you couldn't! It's about the principle! You smile toothily. "I simply have no idea what you mean! I'm Desdemona Aurelia Strifaust IX, I work for—"

"No. No, no, no— shut up." Gil cradles his temples. "You want to know who you are? Because I'll tell you! I've got you all figured out. You're me."

You stop. "Um. What?"

"I know, I know, I'm goddamn dense. No need to remind me. To be fair, I was wondering why everything was so off, it's just now that I— I clocked it. It all makes sense now. I'm unconscious, aren't I? And I don't mean sleeping, I mean..." He mimes being knocked out. "Unconscious. Maybe I'm hurt— god, hope not, but I wouldn't be hallucinating you for no good reason."

"Ah," you manage.

"It would've been so much easier if you'd just gone and told me, but I guess that's how you have to work, isn't it?" He looks like he's diagramming you in his head. "You're... yeah, you're my subconscious trying to get through to me, which is why you're a cute girl. Makes sense. I don't know why you're blonde, but I guess the tits makes up for it—"

You flush. "I beg your pardon?"

"See, you don't have to do that anymore. I got the message. Message delivered loud and clear. You can—" He makes a 'poof' gesture. "—let me figure it out. I just have to wake up, right? Is there a reason I can't just do it?"

After the 'tits' comment, you wouldn't mind leaving him to his own devices, but you have to remind yourself that he isn't Gil. He isn't. He just thinks he is. "You're... broken."

"Oh shit, I am?" He stares down at himself. "I guess I wouldn't remember, huh? Shit. Well... okay, and what is this asshole for?" Meaning Other Gil.


"No, shut up. I've got it." He snaps his fingers. "It's sort of— it's symbolism. Fuck. I hate symbolism. I wish people'd say what they goddamn mean— but still, what is it for? Am I supposed to learn something? A lesson? I fucking hate lessons."

"Maybe that's why you need them," you mumble.

"So it is lessons! Shit. You'd think if there was something I needed to know so bad, I'd just know it, but I guess... so what, I need to go around and do stupid self-help until I'm fixed enough to wake up?" He clasps his hands over his head. "So I wake up a changed man. Whoa. Goddamn, I watched too many movies."

You have resigned yourself to the position of spectator. "What the hell is a movie?"

"Oh, we're having a little joke. That's funny. No, no, it's alright, I'll just—" He takes exaggerated strides towards Other-Gil and bends down at the waist. "Hello. I guess you're here to tell me how miserable I am?"

"So you are miserable," you say accusingly.

"Goddamn, you're a real moralizer, aren't you? I thought my subconscious would hate my guts a lot more, but I guess I can do that all by myself. Now shut up! The men are talking."

It's impossible to tell if he's joking, or how much, or just about anything else: you barely recognize him like this. Is this how he is alone? In private? It feels invasive to witness, let alone participate in, but what choice do you have? You can hardly tell him the truth.

Your-Gil is still bent over at the waist, but for the life of you you can't tell what's happening to Other-Gil: he's gone sort of vague and ghosty. It's none of your business, you decide, and sit down against the wall until it wraps up.

Finally, Gil straightens. "Oh, hell."

"Is everything..." You tilt your head. "Um, where'd he go?"

"Him? Uh, I learned the lesson, so I guess I... absorbed him? Aren't you the one who knows how this works? The lesson made no goddamn sense, because of course it didn't. That'd be easy." He rakes his fingers through his hair. "You're going to ask, aren't you? See, I know. He was saying that he'd been here forever. In this house. Never entered, never left, just... was here, all alone. He didn't want to be rescued— didn't know any different, see. He just... something was missing, he said."

"Something was missing."

"Yeah. He didn't know what. Obviously I didn't know what, though I'm sure it's, like..." He gestures sarcastically. "A good dad. Don't need a coma hallucination for that one."

You fold your hands. "Um, I think it's beetles."


There's no way to explain it to him. But this big empty room and not a single beetle? You were here, and there were thousands— and that's not even counting Gil himself, who really, really ought to be beetles. Or... should've ought to. You're not sure how the 'absorbing' changes things.

"Never mind," he says, bustling past you. "You're cryptic, yeah yeah, I get it. Not your fault. Can I still call you Dessie, though? Bit stupid to name myself, but..."

"Um, sure," you say. (It beats him calling you 'Gil.') "No problem."

"Thanks, Dessie." He cracks his knuckles. "Hey, like I said, I don't really need you anymore... I know the drill. You can piss off whenever you like."

If only!

(Choices next.)
>[1] The ledgers.
>[2] The... leaves?
>[3] The blue writing.
>[4] The chart with all the boxes.
>[5] Just follow Gil wherever he ends up going.
>[6] Write-in.
Charlotte confirmed cute. Not what I was expecting.

>[2] The... leaves?

Maybe Gil just finds weird gremlin women cute. Maybe that's why he never bailed lmao T_T
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Called for [4] and writing.

Charlotte's a solid 5-6/10, but Gil has low standards: he doesn't receive a lot of female attention.

You sigh out your nose. "Well, look... I am you. Says you."


"So you're the one making me be here, because you know you need me. If you didn't, I'd already be gone."

Gil tilts his head one way, then the other, then fixes you with a hard glare. There's an abrupt feeling like— like what? Like ice, like yellow-green, like a violin bow on a metal pole, like a headwind, but those aren't feelings so you're forced to conclude something in you broke a little. You can't see your hands or feet: your wrists and ankles trail off into misty nothing. You can't move. You can't seem to say anything, though you can't tell if it's because your head's a misty nothing too.

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

And then Gil frowns and you pop like a soap bubble back into normalcy. "Guess you're right. Huh."

"Excuse me? You- you-" You sputter. "Oh my God! Did you just try and vanish me?! I could- I could vanish you back! I ought to! You can't go around vanishing innocent—"

Gil is unperturbed. "You're right, I can't... I must have a mental block against it, or something. Guess I'm stuck with you, Dessie. Could you at least bother showing a little cleavage?"

You cross your arms furiously. "What is wrong with you?"

"Mmm... you're right. Better left to the imagination." He has stuck another lit cigarette in his mouth and is examining the contraption strapped to his chest. "Hey, catch."

You teeter backwards to catch the contraption, which is heavy and looks fragile. (Thanks a lot!) Meanwhile, he takes his suit jacket by the flaps, yanks down, and is wearing a different one: it's red, and plaid, and less creased, which is the only nice thing you have to say about it. "Aha! Hey!"

You stare down at the contraption. "What do you want me to do with—"

"Shhh." He wheels around to the wall and with a great flourish pushes it. It topples in a cloud of dust. "Woo-hoo! Yes! Give me five."

What? He's raising his hand up like that means something. Dubiously, you raise yours to match, and he jogs over and slaps it. "Ow!" you hiss. "What was that for?"

"Aw, don't you get what this means, Dessie? I wanted to knock down that wall, and I knocked down that wall. Because this is my—" He stops. "What do you call it when you're not asleep? It's not a dream, it's a..."

"...A vision quest?"

"My vision quest! Wait, that's—" He scratches his chin. "That sounds kind of, um, hokey. Do you have anything better?"

You're not sure whether to be offended. "No, I... don't you have bigger things to worry about? Like dying? Currently?"

"Shit, I'm dying?" He digs his hands into his scalp. "Shit! I wish I remembered how it— goddamn. So I have to learn valuable life lessons, or I'm gonna die?"

Sort of? Not really? "Um, yes."

"Goddamn, that sucks. I'm fine as is. I'm fucking normal! I don't deserve to—" He throws his head back. "I'm fine as is, right, Dessie?"

"Uh..." Why have things come to this? "You're sort of an unlikable egoist? From what I've seen?"

"What the fuck are you, my conscience? What next, you're gonna tell me to stand up straight and quit smoking?"

"I mean, now that you mention it, it's a disgusting habit—"

"But it looks so cool, Dessie. And I need it so my hands don't shake." He plucks the cigarette from his mouth and waves it in front of you. "Now, look, I don't actually want to die, so I'll go along with this. I will. I just want you to know that I'm not happy about it."
And with that, he replaces the cigarette, withdraws, and goes striding out the place where the wall used to be. You make to follow, then realize you're still holding the contraption. God! Should you ditch it? (But it could be important.) You shrug it on, instead, and after some fiddling work out how to get the earpiece over your ear.

««Charlotte Fawkins.»»
««What have you <done>.»»


««I am getting a great deal of abnormal readings. I do not <like> abnormal readings.»»
««Hold still while I understand this from you.»»

Or you could just take off this earpiece, and Richard could leave you alone— there is a tightness at your waist. There is a cord around it, pulled taut.

««I'll take that as a cause to remove you from the situation. Alas. Your beetles will suffer without you. How awful.»»
««The escaped node has... gained... awareness.»»
««I am unable to properly express my reaction to this. Rest assured it is negative.»»

Thanks, Richard. You missed him so much. Has he considered that it wasn't your fault?

««It is always your fault. I fail to see how this presents an exception.»»
««Now, you do not appear to comprehend the danger this poses. For your benefit I will elucidate.»»
««The thing you have loosed is not your beetles. It is a beetle. It is a part under the delusion it is the whole. And now it is free to...»»

"To go on a vision quest," you mumble.

««What a silly term. To embark on a journey of self-reflection, shall we put it, except that it has no self to reflect upon. So it appears it will make itself one.»»
«To put it in a little story for you— I am aware you like those— it's as if a single cog in a machine felt the urge to build a new machine, with itself at the center. So it began to strip the old machine of all its other cogs and gears. You follow.»»

You have slumped down, at this point, and are picking leaves off an ice plant stem. No, you don't follow. You want to fix Gil. Gil is trying to fix Gil, even if he's wrong about the details. So what's the big—

««Precisely. You want to fix him. You want to put the machine back together.»»
««This little cog doesn't know it's in a machine. It doesn't know how the machine works. It doesn't know how it's put together, or what's wrong with it. So it will build a new one from the old parts, and the new one will be a different machine. Likely a shoddier one. Prone to explosions and such.»»


««Yes. It will be impossible to return it to its proper context, now that it has cottoned on, so congratulations. I recommend that you keep it under heavy watch. Intervene if you must.»»
««You are keeping it under heavy watch, aren't you.»»

You're— you are— um— yes. (Damnit. Where did he even go? There's nothing outside that wall, just as you expected there'd be.)

««Your blood pressure increases when you lie. Even when your body is unattended.»»
««Fun fact.»»

...Good to know. (Damnit!) You'll just-


You feel sick. The world had sort of warped in around you, and warped back out, and now Gil is grinning like a lunatic in your face. "Aw, ace! I thought that might— I saw you weren't here, so I wanted you to be here, and then—"

"I got it," you mumble. The air is loud with the sound of machinery: maybe Richard's "little story" was prescient.

««Of course it was.»»

And good, he's still in your earpiece. You in a narrow corridor in between tangles of pipes and wires and levers and strange glowing boxes. It's dim and smells of oil. Gil, leaning smugly against a railing, snaps a finger: a sign made of lights appears above the corridor. "FUTURE —>" it says.

"Thought I'd get it over with," he says. "You know. See how awful it is, how much of a hollow shell of a man I am then, et cetera, get stricken with remorse... I mean, they get stricken with remorse in the movies, we'll see if I'm too far along. Good plan?"

You really have no idea. "Yes?"

He pats you decisively on the shoulder and sets off down the corridor. Like you're his assistant. Is this how it feels? Assisting. Because it feels terrible, actually, you despise it, and you resolve to boss real Gil around extra later to compensate.

Anyhow, you said 'the' corridor, but really it branches in two almost immediately— then in two again, and again, and again, and again. Gil takes the leftmost path every time, trailing his hand against the railing, and you unwillingly follow.

After some time (and a few dozen more branches), you skid to a halt. "Gil? Gil!" On the right branch, instead of another corridor, there's a scuffed white door. Gil appears next to you and blanches when he sees it. "Nope."

"It's a—"

"Nope. We're not doing this. It's not even in the right place." He snaps his fingers, and the door is obscured in darkness. "Now, where's my cruddy future? It should be here already." He snaps his fingers again (God, how obnoxious) and with a grinding sound the corridor shunts in on itself: he snaps once more and it collapses rapidly, like a telescope, and with the ground receding under you you flail for the railing, meet air, and tumble over yourself instead into—

—into the future, you suppose, though you hadn't expected Gil's future to look like the interior of a huge castle. You suppose it's sort of shabby-looking? But a foreboding shabby, with graven columns and torn red tapestries in spiral patterns. And shabby or not, it still doesn't scream... Gil.

Gil looks just as puzzled as you are. "Huh."

"Gosh! Almost like we were supposed to go through that— wait." There's a door here, too, at the end of the room— it's nothing like the other one, though, it's ornate and intricate and takes up the whole wall. It's not a small wall, either. Can a door that big even open on its own? What sort of thing would need to fit through there? You can't take your eyes off it.

Behind you, there's whistling. Sounds like Gil. (You need to take him down a rung— no, a whole ladder— fast.) "Oh, hell!" Gil says, and—

Hang on. Unwillingly, you turn from the door to find Gil and... is that another Gil? It's hard to tell— he's all the way at the opposite end from the door, and the lighting isn't great, but somehow you'd bet on it. Your Gil is already walking towards him. Which— that's bad, isn't it? According to Richard. But Richard also didn't provide you with any actionable advice (typical), and— and there's this door. There's something about it. Something like "God, you really, really want to open this thing."


>[1] Go open the door.
>[2] Don't open the door. [Roll.]
>>[A] Intervene in the conversation that's about to happen. You're not quite sure how, yet, but— you'll figure it out.
>>[B] Persuade Gil that his moral lesson lies behind that big door, and let him go figure it out while you wrangle Future Gil.
>>[C] Okay, so you wanted to take Gil down a whole ladder, right? Now's as good a time as any. Forcibly accost him, teach him a little lesson, then talk to Future Gil.
>[3] Write-in.
>[C] Okay, so you wanted to take Gil down a whole ladder, right? Now's as good a time as any. Forcibly accost him, teach him a little lesson, then talk to Future Gil.
>>[C] Okay, so you wanted to take Gil down a whole ladder, right? Now's as good a time as any. Forcibly accost him, teach him a little lesson, then talk to Future Gil.
>>[C] Okay, so you wanted to take Gil down a whole ladder, right? Now's as good a time as any. Forcibly accost him, teach him a little lesson, then talk to Future Gil.
Actually, can we drive home the concept that he's A Gil, not THE Gil or more accurately all of the Gil by doing some magic shit to him like he did to us? Maybe point out how he would like it if 14yo him was making all the decisions suddenly.
>Assert your dominance
Cool. I need dice.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 30 (+10 Righteous Outrage, +10 Mingled, +10 Real) vs. DC 90 (+20 DOOR, +20 My Mind My Rules) to ignore the door and put Gil in his place!

???????? for +20 to all rolls?
>[1] Y
>[2] N

Yeah, of course-- [2C] can easily cover magic stuff (and I was strongly considering that already). The question is if he's better deluded, stable, and a pain in your ass vs. in existential crisis. Up to you.

In other news, I'd like to formally ask: how is this thread going from a player perspective? Fun? Boring? Awful? I'm asking because it has been an absolute grueling slog for me to write, made worse by the sense that this isn't up to my usual standards of quality. I'd feel better if I had a firm idea of how this was coming across, even if that's "poorly."
Rolled 74 + 30 (1d100 + 30)



I'm having fun. Gil lore is fun and interesting and the dice rolls haven't been *that* bad (and I agree, at least from a QM perspective, that it gets sloggy to write stuff without action. I'm currently in the process of trying to get a move-on to the action without rushing it, and it hurts ;-;)

Can I switch back to >N?
Rolled 88 (1d100)

Y we'll make it back from succeeding anyways.
Oh wait that's a mystery box not ID cost?

Absolutely yes then.
Rolled 24 + 30 (1d100 + 30)

File deleted.
>134, 148, 74 vs. DC 90 -- Success
Nice. Writing.

Thanks for the perspective: that makes me feel better. I think I tend to get up in my own head about this kind of stuff. And my condolences, best of luck :^(


I mean, nobody said a mystery box can't also come with ID cost, but we'll see!
>Pecking order
>134, 148, 74 vs. DC 90 — Success

...But the door will always be there, and Gil will only get smugger and smugger the longer he's left to think it's acceptable. Just look at him now! Practically sashaying over there, like he knows what he's doing, like he isn't stupid and weak and incompetent and— lest you forget— literally nonexistent! He isn't a person! How dare he sully Gil's good name with his- his-

««With his what. His confidence.»»
««It is grossly misplaced, yes, but that doesn't seem to explain your reaction.»»

You're sorry, you don't remember asking Richard for his opinion. Not that you're listening: you are breaking into a fast-walk, all the better to cut Gil off with. He raises his eyebrows when you dart in front of him. "'Scuze me?"

"You can't go," you say cogently. "You- you can't."

He exhales smoke in your face. "And why not? That's obviously me, so I oughtta head over and hear his tale of woe, or whatever. Unless this is supposed to be a show-not-tell deal?"

"Well, no, just—" You're not supposed to need a reason. He's just supposed to listen to you.

"Ace. Don't worry, I'll be done quick. Could you wait over there? No offense, Dessie, but you're sort of a..." He twirls his hand, thinking. "...a nagging bitch. I'd rather not have you interrupt—"

You slap him. What else were you supposed to do? Let him stand there, smirking and smoking in your face? Let him go on thinking he was your superior? It's not like you got heated enjoyment from watching him go reeling back, clutching a white stinging spot on his cheek: this was a stratagem born of pure logic. As was your decision to say "Interrupt this, idiot!"

"Wh-" Obviously you've left him too awed to form words. Yes! You're beginning to piece together your (cold, logical) victory speech when he seizes you by your robe— damn its loose fabric— and drags you toward him. His cigarette butt almost touches your forehead. "I oughtta slug you for that," he snarls—

And it's nearly convincing until you remember that he's Gil. "Aw, you won't," you say breezily, and push him off you. "And besides, I'm you. You think you can hurt me? If you slugged me, your own jaw'd be aching for weeks."

He glances sideways. "Shit. You're right."

"Of course I am! I always am, which is why you should do what I say, not—"

"Nah. Haven't needed you since I was sixteen, don't see any point in changing. How about you go over there?" His eyes meet yours again, he points, the world warps—

—and he's across the hall from you, a hundred feet away, walking again towards Future Gil(?). "YOU BASTARD!" you yell, and "—ARD! —RD! —D!" your voice echoes, and you're just about to follow that up with a shaking of your fist (or some such) when you realize you are up against the door. Or the Door, maybe you should call it.

««I object to wanton capitalization.»»

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He Objects To Wanton Capitalization, Does He. Well, Richard can go and Shut Up, because this close to the Door you are flooded with something heavy and heady and tooth-achingly familiar: not in that you've seen this before (you haven't) or heard of it (you haven't) but deeper or maybe worse. Like—

««Like nothing. Get away from there.»»
««Charlotte Fawkins. Do what I say. Get away from there.»»

—like all the blood in your body is vibrating, or your soul is, except Richard says souls don't exist—

««They do not. It is an archaic and imprecise word for a number of interrelated concepts, none of which take the form of—»»
««—you are attempting to distract me. Get <away> from there. If you do not, I'll be forced to—»»

—like you're in there. And you think it and know it to be true. You are in there, behind the Door, which you reach out to touch—


Stop? You couldn't if you wanted to. You touch the door, which is warm and slick like wet stone, and drain away into it: Richard mutes into an angry buzz, the world goes weak and feathery, and your body hollows. The tide goes out. Inhalation. Exhalation. The tide comes in— spills in— swells you up, filling your every nook and crevice and staining them scarlet. You have been taken and returned with interest. You are brimming.

>[-2 ID: 5/(9)]

You turn ponderously: you look no different, but you're a blacksmith's mold sloshing with molten lead. It is difficult to move. It is harder still to think, with your mind so red and sodden, so it takes you multiple moments to form a word. "GIL!" you scream, and you don't need the walls to make it reverberate.

Does Gil hear you? Does he stop and turn? He must, and he must, but truthfully you can't see him well: your vision has narrowed to a pinprick, like your eyes have grown too large for your skull. It consumes all your energy to slog a step forward, and it is a sound like an anvil when your foot comes down. There is too much of you, packed into a too-small space.

But how fixable that sounds! You either unload some of yourself (how impossibly rude, to reject a gift) or widen the space that contains you. It's only practical. And it wants to widen you, this red-stuff— wants to widen you, of inferior make and model, but so splendid with possibility given a few basic alterations—

You split at the seams— the neck-seam first, then the back-seam— and come piling out of yourself, shining and pretty and flexible. You're far more evenly distributed, now, your muscle able to hold your mass, and you come over to Gil without difficulty. He is white and shaking all over (does he have a condition?) and points his toy gun towards you. It makes a sound like a doused sparkler. You don't notice the bullet.

He looks at you then, and you at him, until some part of you volunteers that there was a point to all of this. "GIL," you say, after a few more moments. "YOU NEED TO DO WHAT I SAY. BECAUSE I AM WAY SMARTER AND BETTER THAN YOU AND I HAVE A SWORD AND YOU DON'T."

Gil nods slowly. He is still shaking. Some feet behind him, there stands another him, clad in livery and wielding a broom. Other Gil appears resigned.




I can back >>5111766
was wondering what would happen if we woke all 16? Beetles actually. Obviously bad things if they fight for control, but if we guide them to jolly cooperation?
i an not unhappy with this, except that names *are* important just not as important as titles and so Cocky Gil or just Cock for short is now learning that ours is QUEEN.

worst comes to worst we can just delete the Gil we don't like since that's not really him, but it is a part of him so out of respect for Gil as a whole we can graciously allow him to recombine with Gil.

roses are red
vilelets are blue
qualia doesn't exist
and neither do "you"
seriously, not only his he not the only Gil, he's not even the best one. Middling at most.
Called and writing.

>was wondering what would happen if we woke all 16? Beetles actually.
You'd have to be more specific about how you intended to do this.
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The name has the same impact on you as Gil's bullet: nothing. It takes you several moments to realize you're being addressed. "WHAT SO WE'RE ON A NICKNAME BASIS."

Future Gil fixes you with an odd look. (Maybe he also has a condition?) "Yes?"


"Yes," he says patiently. (Your Gil looks like he's choking on something.) "Is there something you'd prefer to be called?"


"As wise a choice as ever, Your Majesty." He bows at his hip. "Would you permit me to approach?"


Future Gil pauses mid-stride. "Sorry?"


"Talk to—" He locks eyes with your Gil, who has stowed the gun and appears to wish he didn't exist. (Have you got good news for him.) "Your Majesty, that is an inferior copy of myself. He isn't worth my acknowledgement."


He bows again, shallower. Your Gil shuts his eyes. "I'm not a goddamn— I'm me. I'm making you up, I'm making... that up, this isn't—"

"You think you're awful smart, don't you, sparky?" Future Gil leans against his broom. "You think you have the world all figured out."

"...Yeah? It's not hard— and, sorry, you do? Even supposing you existed, what- you're in a girly uniform, you've got a goddamn broom, you're bowing and scraping to a- a-" He gestures furiously at you. "I'm supposed to take advice from a goddamn cartoon butler?"

"No need. You're too smart. Do you think you're cut out for greatness?"

"What kind of stupid question is that?"

"No need to get defensive, sparky." Future Gil beckons your Gil. You recline. "Come over here and I'll tell you a secret."

"You fucking come over here."

Future Gil shrugs, walks over, and plucks the cigarette from his double's mouth, placing it between his own lips. "Sparky, you're a waste of human potential. You're lazy and mediocre and you think you're hot shit so you don't gib yourself. I get it. Most people aren't cut out for greatness. Most people are going to live, eat shit, and die without catching a whiff of greatness. Which is why the smart move, if you are one of the undistinguished masses—" He places the cigarette against Gil's lapel. "—is to find greatness, real earth-shaking world-shaping greatness, and hitch yourself to that. Sweep greatness's floors, if you've got to. It's the best you can hope for."

"That's pathetic," Gil snarls.

"You'll get over it." Future Gil pulls the cigarette away and is about to return it to his mouth when a noise interrupts— a high eerie keening, like a castrato whale. His eyes widen, then close. He clears his throat. "Your Majesty—"


"—I regret to inform you that I, er, was unable to procure the weekly supplement. As you seem to have... noticed." He glances at the door. "My usual sources were—"

"...Sources of what?"

"Crystal. Rest assured, Your Majesty, I will do my utmost to—"

"Maybe I'm too mediocre to get it," your Gil interjects, "but can you not just jack some?"

If there were not so much of you, and you were not so heavy and shiny, and the keening were not so loud, you might have understood immediately the blank expression on Future Gil's face, or the bug crawling out of his mouth. You are relieved when he proceeds as if nothing had been asked, indicating you didn't have to try. "Excuse me, Your Majesty."


"Do I have your permission to approach?"

"SURE THANKS FOR ASKING GIL." He steps forward. His hands glow blue. "HEY WHAT IS THAT."

"May I touch you, Your Majesty?"


>Gil is most strongly motivated by... these are the remaining pages reskinned
>[B1] Understanding the blue glow.
>[B2] Understanding what's the deal with all these beetles.
>[B3] Spite.

Letting Gil take initiative has already proven to be detrimental

>[B1] Understanding the blue glow.
Wait a minute. I'm pretty upset Gil doesn't think he's great. Does he think just anyone is worthy of being around us? Do we seem like the kind of person to cajole or coddle others as opposed to being A bit of a spiteful unlikeable bitch PAINFULLY CORRECT AND THE ONLY SANE WOMAN most of the time despite that fact going unappreciated?

So yes. Tell this Gil we miss him and we want him to come back and come here for a . . . Hug?

I'm sure Lottie has no problems being hugged by a man or issues from the lack of a father figure in her life/richard being the closest she's ever gotten to an imaginary man.

So yes. Let him approach and Gil is motivated by

> Repressed desire to be the hero too.

But that answer isn't available so Imma go with the one Lottie knows best and pick

> spite.

I really like this write-in. Supporting.

The same way we woke up the first one? Drag them through a portal to fake manse central?
Gil by consensus?
We're tied, from the looks of it, not to mention the proposal of going around and rounding every single Gil up. To resolve this, I'm going to exercise my tyrannical QM power and tiebreak in favor of the write-in (because I like creativity and it's cute), then put that proposal up to a proper vote, because it's a pretty serious detour from the current plans.

>I'm sure Lottie has no problems being hugged by a man
Being hugged by a man outside your immediate family is deeply improper. Fortunately, Gil, who is a lot of beetles, does not qualify as a "man." (By the same logic, Richard doesn't either and he might count as immediate family??)

>But that answer isn't available
Yeah, sorry, it wasn't really a "roleplay" set of options (and this is also talking about motivations-for-the-next-update, not overall).

>Gil is motivated by repressed desire to be the hero too
To push back on this a little: Gil was-and-probably-is obnoxiously cynical-- I don't think he can really conceive of "heroism" like Charlotte does, let alone aspire to it. He does crave respect and attention, though, so it's not too far off.
>Pep talk mark 3

You're not capable of feeling a lot, right now, but certainly you feel safe: you are assured that Gil could do nothing to harm you. He is too short, and you too long, and you are his better in every other measure additionally.


Future Gil cracks a small smile at that. "Your Majesty, you don't have anybody else."


"Because you're a giant goddamn—" your Gil starts, but stops when a broom is shoved at him. Future Gil has strode up close to you, so close you can barely see him. "You scare people, Your Majesty," he says. "Especially when you get like this."


You are suffused with blue light, every square inch of you, and dissolve gently. When it clears, Future Gil is taller than you are, and you know this immediately because he is hugging you.

"Um," you say, mostly out of shock, and he withdraws like he was stung and brushes himself down. "There. Welcome back, Your Majesty. I'm sure you'll need your private time to recover, so I will remove myself and this imposter and return to work on the supplement. Have a good day."

And he bows, almost scraping his knees. Is it that your head still feels like hot soup? Is that why you're filled with digust? Because you shouldn't be, you know you shouldn't be, it hasn't done that before— but it's all different now, with him at eye level. It's gone weird. "Um, you don't have to do that," you say. "Did I tell you to do that?"

"It's the appropriate thing to do, Your Majesty. For a Queen."

Yes, it must be because you're shook up, because that's horror in with the disgust now and that makes less sense. "Oh. I mean, that makes sense. Could you actually just call me Lottie?"

He bobs his head. "Of course, Your— Lottie. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll just—"

"Wait." Why did you say that? You already figured out the problem— you don't need him around any longer. It's for the best if he leaves, really. He doesn't even exist.. "Wait, just— do you really believe what you said to him? About being a waste of human potential and everything? Or you just meant it about him, right, not—?"

"With all due respect, it continues to be accurate. I'm very lucky someone like you was merciful enough to take someone like me in. I am not capable of repaying you for it."

Why isn't Richard back yet? Richard would use his nice voice and fancy words to explain why your stupid feelings make no sense, and you'd be so embarrassed you'd stop feeling them altogether. That's what you need right now. Alternately, you could— what happened to you? You were a lot taller, you're sure of that. If you were a lot taller, your stupid feelings would seem worthless and petty, and you could brush them off like you did that bullet. (God! What the hell!) But you're alone, and you're just you, and your lower lip is wobbling. "But— I mean— I mean, I'm better than you, but t-that doesn't mean you're— you're not a waste, that's just—" You take a heaving breath. Future Gil looks at you with consternation. "—awful! That's awful! People aren't supposed to think that about themselves! My retainer isn't supposed to— am I telling you this stuff?"

"Of course not. You are gracious when we speak, though that is not terribly often."

There's something in the way he says that. Something in the way he says all of it. "Do you even like me? I mean, like a person, not a... are we friends? Gil? Be honest. Or are you just..."

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

In the dead silence that follows, you begin, incomprehensibly, to weep. It is for at least the second time today, if not the third, or fourth, or fifth. It is for what feels like the hundredth time this month. What is the matter with you?! Richard is right, he always is, you're just whiny and dramatic and immature, and you cannot wait until he comes back to tell you so. You'll stop crying when he does, and thank God for it! Somebody is holding a handkerchief under your face. Gil.

"...I'm sorry if I distressed you," he says awkwardly, and you cry out and wrap him in a hug. It is nothing like hugging Richard, who (setting aside how stiff and pointy he is) is warm and substantial: Future Gil is lukewarm and has the quality of thickened mist. He freezes at your touch, then relaxes enough to reciprocate. But he's the one to pull away first.

It's something.

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

"I really should go," he says, and before you can say anything more he grabs the broom back from your Gil and is gone.

You wipe your eyes with the handkerchief. The remaining Gil sticks his hands in his pockets. "Okay, that was weird, but I'm not dying any slower. Lemme just—"

"NO," you bark.


"See, I get the whole future stuff. That was actually— I didn't expect that to be motivating, but god-damn do I not want to end up like that. 'Ooh! Yes, Your Majesty! No, Your Majesty! Three bags full, Your Majesty!'" You slam the closet door shut and pocket the key. Gil is doing some kind of goofy voice. "I mean, grow some goddamn balls, will you? Or maybe he had his chopped off? I mean, big watery eyes, those tits pressed up against him, he didn't even blink— hey, could I get a hug? I need one too."

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The marble walls of your "manse" have turned curved and craggy, and the ravine has widened into a pit. You bare your teeth at Gil.

"Worth a shot— no, see, your teeth are all pointy! That's the part I don't get! I look away and look back and you're a fuck-off big... what even, lizardy snakey spiny monster? I'm not blaming you, obviously, you don't have free will, but you scared the blazes outta me— I didn't expect—" He shakes his head. "Look, can you just tell me what it's supposed to mean? And whatever 'girl turns into fuck-off monster' means, I'll really take it to— wait, is it a girl thing?"

You blow your nose. "What?"

"Cause then he turned you back... I'm just thinking out loud. Was the long neck, like, phallic? Was it symbolism? Please say no."

You don't know what 'phallic' means. "No?"

"Aw, thank god. Because I'm fine, girlwise. Don't need them, don't care about them, they can just—" He makes a swooping gesture. "Course, it doesn't help that they're all goddamn lunatics down here. I get got for bribery, they get got for kidnapping or armed robbery or whatever. And it's always the hot ones, you know? The ugly ones tried to off themselves." A sigh. "Or so I hear. Not like I talk to any of them."

"Because you don't care about them," you offer tiredly.

"Yes! Exactly! Thank fuck we're on the same page about this— I thought you were gonna go on like 'noo, you need to get laid, Gil,' 'nooo, you need a girlfriend, Gil,' 'nooooo, you're so lonely, Gil'— when I'm fine! I am."

"Yep." How long can this go on? This whole thing— but also you sitting here, listening to some indecorous beetle man talk about getting "layed." (You can guess what that means. You're not stupid.) Your handkerchief is soaked, and you are exhausted, and you just— do you have to go through the rest of this? The walking and the talking and the puzzling and the turning into things— God! God, that's two snakey monster things in one day, one long, long day, and you are having words with Richard.

««Are you.»»

Yes! And hello, by the way, coming back into the earpiece well after you needed him. You stopped crying on your own, thank you very much. But anyhow, the- the monster things?!

««Yes. You have a vivid imagination, to put it diplomatically. Grossly inaccurate body plans. Far too big. Etcetera. I do not have unlimited resources.»»
««Is that all.»»

No, that— well, that— you're tired. Richard, you're tired. Can he slap one of those weird energy patches on your real fake body, please?

««That would be ineffective.»»

Okay, so can you wrap this up any faster? Can't you just... round up all the Gils? And rank them from most to least horrible— kidding. Stick them in the same room or "space" or whatever and let them sort themselves out? Congeal?

««If it were that easy, why would I not have told you to do that.»»

Because he hates you?

(3/4 jk)
««For the last time, I don't—»»
««And if I did, presumably my hatred of working long, complicated, <thankless> hours outweighs my hatred of you. So I would be compelled to speed things up.»»
««And yet.»»

And yet, Richard did say, to your face, that he didn't know what the hell he was doing and he was making it all up on the spot. Sounds like a trustworthy source, doesn't it? Someone to rely on?

««That is an incredible misrepresentation of what I conveyed to you. Almost like you are intentionally twisting it to suit your agenda.»»
««If you want to fail, so be it. I will rescue you from your poor decision-making, as I always do, and we can wash our hands of this. I would be grateful for it.»»

>[1] If you had simply done the opposite of what Richard tells you to do, you would be having a wonderful life at home with your family and he would be tossed in the fireplace. You're just saying. Set to work rounding up Gils. (Any particulars for *how* you do this?)
>[2] Carry on as originally planned. "Spite" won the last vote.
>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Carry on as originally planned
It was just a thought
If richard says it won't work I'll trust him this time

Called and writing.
Just kidding. I've been pulling way too many late nights this thread, and I think it's catching up with me-- I'm going to get some sleep. Will finish the update and post tomorrow.
Rest up little buddy.
>Keep calm and carry on

Of course you don't want to fail. Of course you don't. What a stupid thing to say.

««I take it you have discarded this idea, then.»»

You— you— fine. You have discarded this idea. Is that what he wants you to say? You have discarded it, and you're sorry you ever thought of it, and you'll just be off to grab a ruler and give yourself twenty raps on the knuckles for being so foolish as to have entertained—

««Hysterics aren't necessary. Move on.»»

You blow your nose with the handkerchief and glare up at Gil, who has lapsed into contemplative silence. "What's the plan, Mr. Wallace?"

"The... plan?" Gil rubs his chin. "Aren't you supposed to be guiding me to my inevitable conclusions? When you aren't turning into big monsters, I guess. Would you warn me if you plan on—"

"No. And I am guiding you. By telling you to figure out the plan." You're not ceding control if you're making him do it, you figure, and— you know— you shouldn't plan stuff, because your plans are all stupid.

««What did I just say about hysterics.»»

He's the one being hysterical, not— Gil is walking in little circles. "Okay, I mean... I haven't woken up yet, so I guess I haven't become enough of a better person? Which makes sense, since there's only been two of them, and who gets reformed after two hallucinations? It's three, minimum, right?"

"Uh-huh," you say.

"Right. So— future's done, don't know what the first one qualified as, but I guess it'd be my present? Metaphorically? As in I'm boxed in, you know, stuck in a rut, whatever. So that leaves the past. Shit."

"You're not comfortable with—?"

He pinches his forehead. "It's not about comfort, it's just— man, I was embarrassing, you know? I was a total pussy, too nervous to talk to anybody, assholes picked on me all the time... then I got better. I became, you know, normal. Is it so bad that I don't—"

"You became a criminal," you correct. (It's been bothering you.) "You started breaking into people's manses and stealing—"

"The term is 'cracking and jacking,' and it's not a crime, technically, there's no law against it. It's just a business. I'm tapping an untapped resource. Are you gonna look at me and tell me there's something wrong with—"

"It's immoral!" Heroes don't break and enter, you're certain of that. Just look at you: never done anything of that sort.

"Morals are all relative, Dessie." He's stopped pacing to slouch against the wall. "And if they weren't, it's Headspace that should get the shit, not— what does jacking do? Give a few people chronic migraines? It's harmless. What do shitty degrading templates do? Seizures. Death. That's immoral. And so's blaming locitis on—"

You take a deep breath. "I got it the first time, thanks. You're wrong, but— no, hang on, all of that's after you drowned, right? Jacking doesn't exist abovewater. But you got busted for bribery— you just said so."

"So what?"

"So you were doing crimes before you even got here— it's not like you just stumbled into it. What were you bribing someone for? Actually, when did this start? How do you go from too nervous to talk to anybody to bribery? Gil?"

Gil is looking right through you. He coughs, and coughs again: two beetles escape from his mouth. "What?" he says after a moment. "I wasn't— I spaced."

He spaced— or it's too far out of his wheelhouse. The real, complete Gil would know. "Nothing. Um, I think you might learn a moral lesson around the time you were arrested."

"To what? Not bribe the only honest badge in the district? No shit." He sighs. "But I guess you're the expert. Hang on."

He snaps his fingers. A scuffed white door appears in the wall. "No, wait, that's not—" Another snap, an identical door. "Goddammit! I can't—" He tries the other hand. A door appears in the ground. "I- I can't—"

"What's in there?"

"I-I-I-I don't—" He coughs raggedly. Fine cracks have appeared in the floor. "I-It's just a door. I've never seen it before. How about you do the- the- the fucked-up thing with the key?"

««With the what.»»

"With the key? Oh." The key is in your hand. "Um, hold still, I guess."

He's not exactly holding still, what with the trembling, but he only flinches a little when the key clicks into his skull.

««What are you doing. That is not meant to be used.»»

Well, maybe Richard should've told you that instead of refusing to explain anything. How about that. You turn the key, Gil's mouth opens, and he doubles over; water gushes from him like a broken pipe. It's at your ankles unreasonably fast, and your knees even faster, and all you can do is grab his limp arm and cling as it rises past your head.

You are drowned! There is salt in your eyes and nose and mouth and a white-hot burn in your lungs: you kick and struggle for the darkness above you but are dragged back by dead weight. Your limited strength is waning. Would it be better to let go? To relax and let the seafloor claim you? It's pretty, even. It's glowing. You kick up once more, as a kind of show, let the final bubbles trickle out of you, and sink—

—or is it rise? Or are you having visions? You are quite upright, and quite dry, though you open your mouth and water spills from it. Gil is— oh! It is night, and Gil is peeping through a cracked-open window into a house. His house, you guess, though it looks remarkably like yours (same architect)? You peep too. Another Gil is inside, perched at a candlelit desk, looking younger only by dint of his haircut: he can't be less than 20. He is absorbed in some kind of paperwork. He is also in boxer shorts.

As promised, your Gil looks embarrassed. "It was a surprise inspection, okay? It was late..."

"Surprise— you're going to be arrested?"

He cups his mouth with his hand and says nothing.

(Choices next.)
>[1] You're not supposed to stand there and watch, says Richard, but you can't help but feel it's different if Gil also stands there and watches, since he's sort of... "actively remembering" this for you? Or something? It'll be fine.
>[2] Better safe than sorry: clamber on through the window and say hello. Maybe you can figure this one out before the police stop by, even.
>[3] Who says you need to do anything? Make Gil clamber through the window while you watch. He's the one who knows what's about to happen, and at least Past Gil would recognize him.
>[4] Write-in.
>[3] Who says you need to do anything? Make Gil clamber through the window while you watch. He's the one who knows what's about to happen, and at least Past Gil would recognize him.
>>[3] Who says you need to do anything? Make Gil clamber through the window while you watch. He's the one who knows what's about to happen, and at least Past Gil would recognize him.
I feel like we'll still be watching if we make Gil do it


Called for [3] and writing.

Also, I'd like to extend my sincere appreciation to you guys-- I read the stuff in the QTG about people's nasty voterbases and can't relate to that in the slightest. Thanks for being super cool and civil and interested in the silly stuff I put out. I really couldn't ask for better players.

Thanks! I got my 8.5 hours and I'm confident I can crank another update out tonight on the back of that.
>You do it

You nod knowingly and slide the window open further. "Go in, then."

"Go in?" Gil's eyes widen. "Isn't it enough to watch? I mean— those other ones weren't me, really, they were just fake versions. They never existed. This one... that's me, Dessie. I was there."

"It's not you," because 'you' don't exist either, "it's— you know— your dying memory. Or whatever. It's not any different from the other ones, so just go on in and, um— and see things from a different perspective. Expand your worldview. Whatever. Also, reminder, I'm you except I'm actually competent, so clearly I know what I'm—"

"Yeah, I—" Gil sighs. "It's just weird. What am I supposed to say?"

"I don't care. Talk about the weather. Talk about the radio. Just—" You shoo him in.

Now, look: when you said your plans were stupid, you were merely downplaying your abilities. For Richard's sake, of course. So he doesn't feel bad about his cruddy plans. The way you see it, if you make Gil do the work, it's a win-win-win. You can take a little break, you can make him feel like a real actual person, he can ensure things don't all turn to beetles—

««Are you certain about that.»»

Are you certain? Yes. Yes, of course you are. And you're already helping shove him through, so if you weren't certain, it would certain-ly be too late, ha ha. Ha. No, you're certain.


Yes. Though it is possible that you did not account for the idea that Gil was imagining the ground underneath you, and with him inside he has stopped. Imagining the ground, that is. So it is also possible that you are clutching the windowsill with all your might to keep from falling into nothing. (You dearly wish you could assign it a color, the nothing, to soothe your headache a smidge. But it's neither white nor black, and it certainly isn't grey, and it's not exactly a hue, either. It's not bright or pale or dark. It's like trying to see radio static.)

««I would say 'I don't know what you expected.'»»

...Except what? That he did know? Thanks a lot. The good news is, you're not in active danger: you've managed to prop yourself up by the elbows, and your inhuman grip strength is taking care of the rest. The bad news is, you're not quite sure how to move from this position. "Gil?" you say, in as normal a voice as you can manage.

Gil isn't listening: having rolled clumsily through the window, he's sprung up and now hovers vulturelike behind his past self. There's an electricity in the air. "...Gil?" you try again, but it's useless: he advances, and the Gil in the chair grows flimsy and translucent. Your Gil pulls the chair back. Your Gil sits.

The other one disperses as he does, and for an instant hangs as a fog, until Gil takes a deep breath and sucks it in and scoots forward. He returns to his paperwork.

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Was that bad? That seemed bad, but you don't— it's probably fine. It's fixable. Positive thinking. "Gil-l," you call: no response. God, is he— he's not ignoring you on purpose (positive thinking)! Maybe the nothing is eating your voice. You attempt to stick your head through the window.

The door is kicked open, and two people file in: one with a club, the other with an ancient-looking rifle, both in uniform. "Gilbert Wallace," the one with the club reads blandly, "for knowingly and willingly exploiting the trust of your neighbors and fellow citizens, you are hereby charged with the high crime of fraud. As a born citizen of this great Pillar you well know that high crimes are punished in one way and one way only, which is—"

"Yeah! Yeah, just gimme a—" Gil has kicked into a flurry of motion: turning out his coat pockets, then his pant pockets, then banging open every drawer in the desk one by one. "Just need a—" He isn't finding whatever he's looking for, unless that's beetles. Beetles crawl from his pockets; beetles spray from the drawers like confetti; beetles are clinging to the walls and ceiling, and neither the police nor Gil seem to notice.

"—death," the one with the club finishes. "You may die now where you are by say assigned weapons here, or you may be executed with other High Criminals at noon on say tomorrow's date. This is at your discretion. There is no appeal. If you attempt to escape you will be made an example of. There is no place in our society for crime. Please make your decision by add five minutes to the current time."

"No! No, I just— I just need a—" Gil has exhausted the drawers and has been reduced to hunting around on the ground. "I keep a goddamn stash, I just don't know where—"

Whichever drawer his bribery money was kept in, it's beetles now. The one with the rifle has sidled in and stands above the desk. "What's this, then?"

"What's—" Gil peeps up. "That's nothing, that's just— I was filing some stuff, it's not—"

"Looks like a ledger." The rifle one picks up the ledger. "Looks like— wait a tic, what's that? Two?"

Gil grabs for the second ledger, but the rifle one gets there first. "Interesting," he says.

"I just like to be thorough— don't take my stuff!" Gil lunges across the desk, but the rifle one holds both ledgers out of reach. "I ran out of space in the first one, so I moved to—"

"These have the same dates. Different transactions, though. Has our little conman been cooking the books? Catch, Bernie." The club one catches one of the ledgers. "Tax evasion's a high crime too, you realize."

"You didn't even read it!" Gil's clutching the chair, white-knuckled. There's a sound like a busted motor from somewhere.

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"And two high crimes? Oh, boy. That narrows your options, doesn't it? We can't let such a dangerous man roam free until tomorrow. Catch, Bernie." He throws the other ledger, then hefts the rifle. "Start repenting now, Gilbert, maybe you'll scrape it out as something with legs next life. Maybe a toad. You've got enough warts for it."

Gil has dragged the chair with him to the wall, like it'd stop a bullet. "I— I— I don't have warts! It's a skin condition, it's called—"

"You want those to be your last words?" The muzzle of the rifle is against Gil's forehead.

"No, I just— how is this legal? How is it— this isn't how it's supposed to— I can pay you, you know? I can pay you, I just don't know where the coins went! It's the damndest—"

You shut your eyes: you can't watch Gil being shot twice in a day. You can't. You don't care if it's fake. The motor noise hasn't stopped— what is it? Are sounds from the outside leaking in? Something brushes your nose.

On a bare hunch, you crane your neck around. Your first instinct is that nothing has gained a color, or colors: iridescent green and yellow and orange and pink. Then you squint, and focus, and realize you are surrounded by beetles— or are inside a hollow sphere of them, from the looks of it. They curve below and above and around you. There has to be millions.

Gil will be shot, the memory will crack straight through the middle, and they'll swarm in to devour it. That's what they did to the first one. That's what they've done to others you haven't seen, judging by the pages of the book. And he'll be one step closer to oblivion. Good. Good. Good plan, Charlotte, you're such a good planner, you planned this all out real well, and they'll devour you too and Richard will swoop in and pull you out and be smug for a month straight and you'll have failed—

««Deservedly, yes.»»

Oh, now he comes! Now he comes to mock you, to laugh in your face about how you ever thought you could handle this, when you can't handle anything in your life, you broke down and cried less than 15 minutes ago over nothing

««It is taxing on myself to save you from every stupid mistake you make. Whether you realize it or not, I would vastly prefer you not to <make> said mistakes.»»
««So I will propose this. That is not an invader. It is not a virus. It is a cancer: he is consuming his own self.»»

Could he pick a worse time to be cryptic!

««I am not being cryptic. You are being stupid.»»
««I will adjust accordingly for your stupidity. He is beetles. The beetles are him. They are not all of him. They are not human. They may not be comprehensible or friendly.»»
««But they must be integrated like the others. And it is at least theoretically possible to communicate.»»
««I understand that you enjoy that type of thing.»»

(Choices next.)
>[1A] Commune with the beetles.
>[1B] Commune with the beetles... cautiously. [Roll.]

>[2] To hell with the beetles: Gil's *right there*! Scrabble through the window and...
>>[A] Stab the policemen to death with your sword. Will this irreparably sear itself into Gil's memory? Maybe! You don't care! You have bigger things to worry about!
>>[B] Turn into a big snake thing again. Can you do this? Probably? Will Gil remember this forever? Yes! As he should! Sometimes you just need to solve problems as a big snake thing!
>>[C] Grab Gil and offer him to the beetles. Can you communicate with beetles? Not really! Can he? Almost definitely! Make him negotiate!
>>[D] Write-in.
>[1A] Commune with the beetles.
The moral as I see it is 'making Gil do anything is a fail'
I mean we do enjoy this kind of thing

also is the beetles consuming the memory bad? they're also Gil so it's not like he's losing them
>The moral as I see it is 'making Gil do anything is a fail'
Richard lectured you about this Gil for a reason, yes. He means well but really can't be left up to his own devices.

>also is the beetles consuming the memory bad? they're also Gil so it's not like he's losing them
This is where Richard's attempted "cancer" metaphor comes in. Yes, the beetles are also "Gil," but they're not human and probably not sapient. If they "consume" the rest of Gil, he'll become like them-- he'll just be a load of non-talking, non-thinking beetles, even if some memories are locked away in there.

(And for the record, you're right that he isn't "losing" them: if you manage to put him back together, he'll be able to remember things like normal. But that requires the human<->beetle bits to be reintegrated so he can process the memories properly.)
>>[1A] Commune with the beetles.
Called and writing. surprised "sword" didn't get any takers but I guess communing takes precedent
>That sort of thing

Damn! You hate it when Richard is right about something: you do enjoy communing.

««I did not use that term.»»

And yet it's exactly what he meant. You shalt wield the magyckal art of communion upon the foul devourers of your trusty retainer's very being, and shalt (with the power of your true and honest heart) convert their foul intent to the side of light and goodness, etcetera. Hell yes. You just need to— well— there's never a strict process to it, really, it's just a matter of reaching out, sort of, um, metaphorically, and— you can't do it from this window, you're sure of that. Nobody ever heard of communing from a window. But you can't just fall, either...

««Correct. When I proposed this, I meant you to go about it in a safe and regimented manner, which—»»

...You know, on second thought, you trust Gil. You let go of the windowsill and plummet straight down into nothing, into static, into the swarm, which parts around you like liquid and seals back over promptly. You are entombed in beetles, now, which would set any lesser woman sniveling and wailing, but you have a true and honest heart (as mentioned) and a spine of iron and also so much worse has happened to you recently it's not even silly. This wouldn't make the top hundred. And you've cried yourself out for the moment, anyhow.

But yes! Entombed in beetles! Which is perfect for communing, actually, you won't have to 'reach out' so much as give a little prod: "Gil?" you mumble. "Gil, I know this is you— you know me— it's Lottie? Could you please—"

««You think it knows you.»»

Yes? He just said it was Gil? Was that a set-up, because if that was a set-up, you swear to—

««It's <insects>. If you are to communicate it must be on that level.»»
««Rest assured I will be monitoring this closely.»»

Ah. Well, you can't speak beetle, Richard, and you can do so even less when you're being bitten at— maybe the swarm didn't like you speaking to it, because tiny beetle jaws are tearing away at your skin. It's more irritating than painful, for now, but if they don't settle down they're going to— maybe you can speak beetle.


Yes. Yes, if you're to communicate, it must be on that level. Thanks for the tip, Richard! Yes, you must— you must— you must breathe deeply, and relax completely, and relinquish your stranglehold on this stupid body you invented. It's not made of flesh and blood. It's not even made of paper. It's mist, is all, it's thought-stuff, and Gil can think you into anything he wants if you only—

>[-2 ID: 4/(9)]


"So then I turned into beetles?" you'll inform Gil. "Or I thought I turned into beetles. Which might be the same thing, given the— you know. But I had to, see, because I couldn't commune any other way."

Gil will look faintly strangled. "Commune?"

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"You know, it's sort of... opening your mind... it's magyck. Don't worry about it. The point is, beetles. It was weird. I've never— you know, if you're something like, hypothetically, a big lizard-type creature, it's different. Not denying that. But it's a different you can get used to easy, since— you know— it's just you but big and laid out wrong. Yeah?"

"...I-I-I guess?"

"Yeah! But beetles is... God, I don't know if I can... it was like... I don't..." You'll gesture in circles. "I was so light. I remember that. I was weightless, like I was three-quarters empty space, like I was made of stars or glitter or—"

Gil's tone will be weary. "I-I know what it's like."

"Oh. I guess you do. Um—"

"I-I-I'd just want to know how you... handled it. Because I-I was fucked up for... I don't know how long. Weeks, probably. And you—"

Well, maybe you're just better than him. But you will discard that idea (or at least the idea of saying it out loud), on account of Gil having been through enough already. "I sort of got the whole thing from you, right? And you know how to handle it, because you've... been handling it. So maybe that transferred over?"

"I guess."

"You know, I bet it did. In any case, I was beetles, which meant— you know, I thought that'd mean I'd learn beetle language, but it turns out that doesn't exist. Can you believe it? And they didn't really have emotions, either, not like... it was just impulses. It was that basic. But they were so strong that I could barely—"

"I-I know what that's like too." Gil will fold his hands.

"—barely hang on. Right. They passed through them in big electric waves, and I guess I was included in that? So that's how I learned the beetles were... thirsty. Or hungry. It was sort of one concept."

"They get most of their water from... leaves."

"Oh!" You'll toss your head back. "That makes sense! Leaves. But I hadn't seen any leaves anywhere, so I figured they'd have to be sated some other way. But that's later. Right then, I was barely hanging on, I couldn't really hear Richard, and that's when I knew I had to—"

>[1] "—change the way I looked at things—"
>[2] "—listen to Richard, as much as I hated it—"
>[3] "—appeal to some kind of higher power—"
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] "—change the way I looked at things—"
> [1] "—change the way I looked at things—"

Sure it's weird to be beetles. But it's still me, just me who is now beetles, and I could either obssess over the weirdness or learn to make it work and get back to getting stuff done.

Maybe right now even I'm still beetles on some level, but human enough and still myself.
the whole "irreparably sear itself into Gil's memory" put a damper on that option

>[1] "—change the way I looked at things—"

poor gil
being beetles was his unique quirk and now we've stolen it
>>[1] "—change the way I looked at things—"
Called and writing.

>being beetles was his unique quirk and now we've stolen it
>Turn it around

"-change the way I looked at things," you'll finish. "I just had a sort of... revelation. Do you get those? Revelations?"


"Really? You never don't know something, and then it just hits you— bam— like that?" What's the alternative? A slow trudge through logic? Horrible. "Well, that's what happened— I was all 'Oh my God! It's not real!' And you might say Obviously, what sort of a revelation is that, and to that I say— A), I was kind of stressed, okay, and B), it's not what you're thinking of. It's like... you're beetles, right?"

He'll nod dubiously.

"And you're— you are beetles, objectively. If I dragged you onto a stage and asked the whole audience what you are, they'd all say beetles. But me? I felt like beetles, and I think I looked like them, but there's no way I could actually be them. Not really. You're not strong enough to do that— no offense, Gil."

"...None taken..."

"Which meant I was tricking myself. I was making me think I was beetles. I was making me think there was a million beetles to begin with. Which meant I could stop. But if I stopped, there'd be nothing, which'd almost be worse— I told you about the nothing?"

He'll nod again.

"So I- I had to replace it with something. Something that made sense, right? I tried to close my eyes, and then realized— you know beetles don't have eyelids?" You'll pause. "No, you definitely do. Um, so I couldn't close my eyes, but I focused real hard and told myself I was... underwater. Because that's what the beetles acted like. And if I felt weird, that was because I was under a powerful magyckal spell, lost to the centuries until I myself unearthed it from its hidden temple. And there was this blue light, and everything warped—"


—and you are whole, solid, sturdy, plodding, made of clay and water not sparks and smoke, you have hands, your hands are lame at your sides, and someone else's hands are on your forehead and chest. They are glowing but not like they're glowing, like something inside of them is and the blue light's filtering out. All the blood vessels in the hands are shadowy against it.

And then you think magyck! and jerk away, feeling sluggish and oddly-shaped. No glow lingers on you: it remains in the hands— in the whole body of Gil, who laces his fingers and leans against a bare stone altar. You are inside a ruined temple, underwater. It looks familiar.

"I'm not going to hurt you," he says.

"Blue's not your color," you retort. "What'd you do, swallow a glorb? You'd think that, since I made you up, I'd take a little more care to—"

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"It's more complicated than that, but I think you know that, Lottie. And I agree. It's shit with my complexion." He shrugs languidly. "Beetles are shit with yours, so it's even."

Hey! He can't go and— wait. "Lottie."

"Oh, sorry, sorry. Lady Charlotte Fawkins." He bows mockingly. "I was wondering when you'd show up."

Is this another trick? It must be. "You can't wonder that, idiot. You don't exist."

"Aw, you don't have to rub it in." He straightens. "But seriously, did you take the long way around, or—?"

It must be, because you have no other explanation. "You don't exist, and you can't recognize me, and you can't possibly know what I'm—"

"No, not exactly, but I can guess. Gil got fucked six ways to Sixday?"

You stare. "...'Gil'?"

"Okay, I got fucked six ways to Sixday? I'm not him, you know. But I'm not anyone else, either, so I'll grant you the pronouns are weird. I got fucked, and you're the skua picking over my remains... classy stuff."

"I'm not picking over your—" You fold your arms. "I'm fixing you! And you're not dead yet, so don't—"

"No, I'm not dead yet... I don't think I can be. Him, on the other hand— not looking too hot. Are you sure you're fixing anything?"

"I'm working on it, stupid! I can't— what are you? You can't be dead? What does that—"

Gil(?) hoists himself onto the altar. "I think it's funnier if you guess, personally."

God-damnit! "You're— you're— you're magyckal. I mean obviously. You're glowing. What are you, a demon? Does Gil have a demon? Or a ghost?" Gil(?)'s intensifying smirk informs you you're on the wrong track. "You're his latent magykal energies? You're a living spell? You're all blue. Why does that seem..."

And it hits you. Why the blue glow is familiar. Why the temple is familiar. "Oh, God-damnit, you're pagan."

"You don't have to sound so put out. It's not his fault." Pagan Gil tilts his head. "He didn't ask to be blessed."

He got blessed? You're not jealous. You're not. It's pagan. "And you're... the blessing."

"I think 'shred of divinity' sounds a little cooler, but more or less, yeah." He raises his eyebrows. "Nice to meet you."

>[1] Converse like a civilized young lady. Any questions, comments, or requests for Pagan Gil? (Write-in.)
Blessings are beneficial, so this one should want to maybe give you some help if it disapproves of what you're doing so far? Let's see it come up with good ideas.
>Blessings are beneficial, so this one should want to maybe give you some help if it disapproves of what you're doing so far? Let's see it come up with good ideas.

Made some very poor time-management decisions and I don't feel keen on staying up till 4 AM again, so I'm gonna have to take the L and postpone the update. The good news is, this means I can compensate for my sleepy >Write-in option with some actual choices, which will be taken into account along with >>5120019 tomorrow.

>[1] Okay, does this mean that Gil has magyckal powers?? What exactly does a "shred of divinity" entail?
>[2] Why does Gil get magyckal powers and you don't??
>[3] So has Pagan Gil just been sentient... like... since the night with the current? Does Gil know about him? Has he been keeping secrets from you??
>[4] He seems very calm about not being a person. Did he already get the existential crisis over with?
>[5] (Actually, I didn't want to ask anything else, please carry on with >>5120019 only.)
>[6] Write-in.
>[3] So has Pagan Gil just been sentient... like... since the night with the current? Does Gil know about him? Has he been keeping secrets from you??
>[2] Why does Gil get magyckal powers and you don't??
>[4] He seems very calm about not being a person. Did he already get the existential crisis over with?
> So how many beetles is he?

This is the stuff the god of change put in him yeah?
Going with my "2+ votes plus write-ins" rule for dialogue options...
>So how many beetles is he?

Plus >>5120019 as mentioned. Called and writing.

>This is the stuff the god of change put in him yeah?
Dead on. Here's the exact moment of it (from Thread 14):
>You clear your throat. "So that's a… yes on the body?"
>}}}And rid him of this sacred transformation?}}}
>}}}I will not. But he may have my blessing.}}}
>The sea-god closes His fist back around Gil, and for an instant it flashes blue.
>Y-you too

Why is it being so- so- so normal? Who taught it manners? As a pagan thing it ought to be a slavering barbarian, you know that in your heart, which means that this is a ploy to win your trust. Ha! It can't fool you. You contemplate saying something like 'it's not nice to meet you,' but that doesn't sound right, so you go with a stony silence.

"It's a lot, I get it." It (okay... he) waves a hand blithely. "Strictly speaking, I shouldn't— well, strictly speaking, I don't exist. But I shouldn't, either, what with the big man having kicked it."

The big... "Er, that's awful flippant."

"Good thing he kicked it, then, right?" He grins.

It's not as though you believe pagan gods deserve any respect— you're just confused, mostly. Is this another ploy? A double ploy? "Y...es. Maybe I don't understand what a 'shred of divinity' is? Could you elaborate?"

"I mean, if it'd help— I think it's what it says on the tin, really. See, you can't just create divine power. There's a fixed amount. It's finite. So a blessing's a funny name for a transfer: amuse, impress, appease a god, catch them in a good mood, and maybe they'll offer a microspeck of themselves."

Smells like GS to you, but sure. Maybe you'll cross-check with Horse Face. "So you're a microspeck?"

"'Shred' sounds cooler— more accurate, too, since I'm not quite 'micro'. Seems the big man got a tad overexcited about his undeath, misjudged the quantity. Or it was all part of a grand plan. Who am I to know?"

Who is he, indeed? "Could you please stop using 'big man' to describe a god? Even a vastly inferior..."

"Oh, sorry. 'Pops' got a tad overexcited."

Definitely a double ploy. You sigh out your nose. "Right. So you're a... lot of divinity."

"It's highly relative, but sure. A decent amount."

"So what does that mean? Is he gonna turn into a god or something?"

"Okay, not that much." He laces his fingers. "More like it has a tangible effect at all. Normally it's... you know, a gesture."

Thank God it's not the god thing: you don't know how you could cope if your retainer up and ascended on you. He'd start getting funny ideas about his rightful position. But 'tangible effect'— "Excuse me, he's magyck? And he didn't tell me?! He up and hid— what kind of magyck? Horrible pagan magyck? Has he been talking to you this whole time? Why didn't he tell me he was talking—"

"Could you ask those one at a time?"

You swallow. (You despise how he has the upper hand, but you don't have much of a choice.) "Gil is... magyck."

"Gil is three hundred eighty-four beetles." He seems to find this funny. "And yeah, if that's your chosen term, he possesses magic. Some, at least. I wouldn't say a lot."

You are not jealous— "And he didn't tell me."

"He doesn't know." Pagan Gil hunches over. "Nor, I think, does he want to. It'd be a bit of a rattle to the ol' belief system, see—"

"...So you've never spoken?"

"I don't speak. Or think, generally, but whatever fucked Gil... not sure how to put it. Balled me up? Coagulated me? Used to be sort of diffuse, not really a thing, if you catch my drift. So that's when the thinking started. The speaking's your fault— you showed up and the next thing I know I'm an- anth- personified? You personified me. Uh, one sec."

He places his fingers in the corners of his mouth and, before you can stop him, pulls the skin of his head down like the hood of a jacket. Underneath is movement and blueness and light— not moving blue light, that would be too comprehensible, just the three disassociated. And perhaps 'moving' is weak. It is thrashing, it is heaving, it is roiling around and within itself, so it never looks the same one instant to the next— though you couldn't say what it looked like to begin with, only that it hurts and you can't blink. It tries to speak, though you couldn't say how you know this, either, because all that comes out of it is a sound like waves—

>[-1 ID: 3/9]

"—llo. Hello, hello— oh, cool." The blessing is fixing its head back on. "Oh, are you— are you alright? Lottie? ...Lady Charlotte?"

"Yeah," you say, after a lag. "Yeah, I'm... um... ah... you— you idiot! You think your wicked magicks have any effect on me, a— a— I have God blood, you know! So stay back! Fiend! You pretend to look like Gil and attempt idiotically to hoodwink me, but little did you know, I was wise to your ploys all along! I would never succumb to your barbarous—"

"You're not alright." It rubs its false chin. "Geez, sorry about that, didn't mean to harm you. If you'd hold still, I can—"

"I'll never hold still for you, fiend!" you declare forthrightly, a few moments before you realize that you've just been standing still against a column this whole time and your only real alternative to that is cutting and running, and at that point it has already slid off the altar and is standing right before you. It reaches out a—


—Your earpiece crackles to life, startling you enough to duck away. Richard is barely understandable, but he sounds angry, or frantic, or just urgent. (He's hard enough to read in the best of times.) Well! Not that you needed the reminder— as you said, you were wise to this fiend's trickery all along, and you really were planning to leave, as soon as you got the key out, and— damn it all to hell, it's snatched the earpiece off your head! Just like that! You watch aghast as it pries its mouth open and lifts its upper jaw and drops the whole earpiece into the maelstrom inside.

Then it seals itself back up. "You don't need that," it says seriously.

"I don't..." You're still shaken from the first thing— you think this may have shorted you out. "Um... wait, I-I... yes I do."

"Ridiculous. So an agent can whisper its lies into your ear? So you can be led around like a dog?"

"What... no, no, I..." There's a tightness around your waist. "Richard was going to drag me out if I shut that off! He said! So— so— he's going to drag me out, and— God, you moron, you damned Gil! You damned him! I was going to fix him and now he's going to die and it's all your—"

"Drag you out with what? With this?" The blessing is holding a cable. Your cable. It pulls, and it snaps cleanly. "There you go."

"No! No, you didn't have to—" That was your lifeline!

"That was your umbilical cord. Welcome to the world." Its tone has cooled significantly. "What's that?"

"Nothing!" You drop the key back into a pocket. "Nothing, I swear to God! Leave me alone, you— you—"

"I'm trying to help," he says. "Is that the pupa?"

"The what? It's not— it's just a key! It's a normal key! Leave me alone!"

"Could I have it?"

You ball your fists. "NO! What would possibly make you think—"

"It's bad for you," it says. "Like the rest of them. But... look, I'll put it this way. You said you were here to fix things?"

"Well, yes—"

"Then you need me. I'm a part of him too. But I'll only help if you give me the key." It looks right into your eyes. "It's for your own good."

(Choices next.)
>[1] Give the blessing the key.
>[2] God-damnit, you do need its help (or at least its cooperation.) But you're not just giving it the key flat. Negotiate some terms. (What terms? Write-in.)
>[3] Negotiate some terms— but terms not involving the key. You can make a different kind of deal. (What deal? Write-in.)
>[4] No. No no no no no. You are not making deals with a WEIRD PAGAN MAGICK THING. You know what you're doing? You're bringing it to heel. You're showing it who's boss. You'll *make* it help, whether it likes it or not. (Writing-in *how* will help but is optional.) [Hard roll.]
>[5] Write-in.

>>5120019 and details about *what* magic Gil has coming next update, unless you royally screw yourself here.
Forgot to mention that [2] and [3] may need rolls, depending on content.
>[1] Give the blessing the key.
Explain what the key/pupa is and why it wants it and maybe we'll hand it over.


We should ask what the key/pupa is too while we can.


Called for [1] + explanation and writing.
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>Ok fine

You hover a protective hand over your pocket. "For my own good? What do you care about my own good? What does that even—"

"Blame him."

"What? Who?" You pause. "Wait, Gil? ...He cares about my...?"

"Selfishly. You haven't given him any choice in the matter, so I don't have any either. I'm too much of him."

Of course! It lulled you into complacency, thinking Gil cared about you in a good way, and then it kicked you in the gut like the savage is is. Serves you right. You won't ask and give it the satisfaction. You're moving on. "Right. ...'Selfishly.'"

"What do you expect from him? It's been under a week." The blessing tilts its head. You avoid its gaze. "Look, Lottie, I'm divine-adjacent— not a god, not all-knowing. There could be stuff I'm not aware of. Point was, I really do want you to be healthy and sane and not a snake's glorified overcoat, which is why I need that pupa. The key."

"That pupa?" (Remarkably, the term rings a bell.) "You mean there's a bug in— in—" You scuffle it out of your pocket and hold the key up to the light. It doesn't look any buggier than it used to.

"Not a bug, a—" The blessing takes a step back and squints. "Shit, that's an exuvia. It's empty. Why would the agent give you that?"

"You mean Richard? How am I supposed to know? He doesn't explain anything." Except the stuff you don't care about. "Could you use real words?"

"...I thought the agent planted the key so it'd hatch into a snake and infect you. But—"

"Keys hatch into snakes?" You were already having trouble understanding snake biology, and now—

"Depends on the key. Look at this." The blessing plucks the key from your palm. "See this groove? How it twists around? That's where the snake was. Emphasis 'was.' Where it is... not a clue."

"It's Richard, probably," you say. Because it only makes sense— he gave you it.

"The agent? Can't be. Agents aren't..."

'Agent' isn't precisely a real word, by your definition, but you can figure it out from context: Richard's your correspondent, consultant, advisor, or, you guess, agent. (You wish he'd pick one and stick to it.) "Um, he is a snake, though. Also sort of my father— is that the confusing part? Or is it... oh! Oh, you've never seen him as a snake! He is a snake, so you know, he just doesn't look like one sometimes. But anyhow. Can I have the key back? Since it already hatched?"

"...No." The blessing tucks it its own pocket. "Exuviae are bad enough on their own. But if you want it badly—"

You're not sure about 'badly,' but you don't appreciate being stolen from. "Yes."

"—and if you do fix him, I'll give it back. I don't want its absence to fuck you over. And speaking of fucking you over, I owe you one, so please hold still."

It happens too fast for you to yell again, or really even to consider yelling: it places a clammy hand against your forehead, and a current runs through you. You gasp and blink.

>[+2 ID: 5/(9)]

"There," it intones, and pulls its hand away. "Try and remember what I looked like."

What, so it can give you a headache? Or will you not be able to remember? That'd be just like it, the diabolical— wait, you can remember what it looked like. Huh. But it's different in your recall than it was in person: it looks just the same, you're positive, except now you can make sense of it. Or more than that. It seems... normal. Natural. You wouldn't give it a second look, let alone be shaken afterwards.

"Um," you say. "What did you—"

"I let you accept it, that's all. Are you aware you're full of holes? Not small holes, I'm talking pits, I'm talking whole—"

"Yeah." Father-shaped holes, presumably. "I don't want to talk about it. Can Gil do that? Um, what can he do, actually? Please list it. Or write it down as a list? So I'm prepared?" Prepared and NOT jealous. And NOT so you can read it out to Richard later when he says magyck doesn't exist. You'd never do that.

"No need to write it down," the blessing says. "Not sure I know how to write how you could read it, anyhow, and I don't want to blast your brains out again. What can he do? Nothing. Not on purpose, at least."

You scowl. "Ha ha. If he worked at it, what could he do."

"That's the open question, huh? Hang on." It sits back upon the altar. You slump down against the pillar. "As you know, Pops had control of a number of different—"

"Does Gil have water magyck?"

"Uh... I doubt it. Like I was saying, number of different—"

Thank God. You don't want him edging in on your 'earth powers' thing. "Wait, it said it was the god of change? Or whatever? So can he turn other people into beetles?"

"...I also doubt it. Sacred transformation is always willing— that's where the 'sacred' comes from. It can't just be caused—"

"'Always willing?'" You scoff. "Yeah, okay, and that's why your stupid god was A-OK with letting me melt into goo. Unless you'd like to claim that was—"

"It was. Your body wanted to return to its most basic state, like every body does. Or, uh... 'the flesh was willing, but the spirit was weak,' and your spirit counted fuck-all in this."

"That's stupid. But okay, are you gonna tell me Gil wanted to be beetled? Since your god liked that so much? He wasn't even in his body, you can't use that as a—"

"I am gonna tell you that," the blessing says amusedly.

"GS! That's the worst GS I've ever— do you know how much he was moaning to me over it? Do you? You can't possibly—"

"Look, Lottie, I'm not saying he wanted to be trapped in there alone for six months. And I'm not saying he wanted beetles specifically. But I think on some level—"


"—on some level, he wanted a change in his life. A real change. And maybe he didn't know how to make one happen, or he told himself he was wrong to want one, or— look, I wasn't around back then, you get the gist. So it took a complete accident to—"

You throw your hands up. "Yeah, so you're saying he wanted to, I dunno, quit his job or move out or make new friends. Not turn into—"

"Change comes in many unexpected forms. Regardless of his intentions, he accepted the sacred transformation, and thus— you know the rest. And it's been pretty fucking successful, hasn't it? He's quit his job, he's moved out, friends thing is a work-in-progress..."

"GS," you mutter. "You know what? I'm gonna go tell Gil that he wanted to be beetles and he'll laugh at me. Then I'll tell him you said it, and we'll both laugh at you. Like this. Ha ha ha ha ha."

"He'll laugh at you if you tell him there's a godshred in his head. No need to elaborate." The blessing stretches its arms. "Back to the point, you can't reverse a sacred transformation, and you can't cause one on demand. And causing non-sacred transformations... unwanted changes... isn't in the spirit of things. Undoing unwanted changes, maybe. Speeding sacred transformations, maybe— 'sacred' doesn't mean 'instant.' Soothing the bearers of sacred transformations, possibly— 'sacred' doesn't mean 'easy to accept,' either."

You make mental notes for shoving at Richard later. (Not that you would!) "Those uses seem awful... limited."

"I'm a decent amount of magic, not a flashy amount of magic. And odds are it won't matter, since I'm trapped inside a fucked-up skeptic... I guess I get his luck, too." He smiles wryly. "Actually, you claimed you were here to fix him?"


"And you've just been sitting here talking to me. You don't seem that urgent about it."

Oh. "Excuse me, you're the one going on about— God knows what! While you rot! If anyone ought to be urgent, it's not—"

"Yeah, I guess. Maybe it's just because I don't know what properly happened. It's just 'you're not a thing,' then 'you're a thing now'... which, don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about that part. It's fun to have a mind. I just—"

"He got shot," you say.

"Oh! Oh, I mean, when you're having gun-measuring contests all day long..."

"It was my fault."

"Ah." The blessing scrunches its face up thoughtfully. "Well, uh, thanks for pitching in. What's the progress? Last I checked you appear to have done... fuck all."

You cross your arms. "I've done... stuff. You're the eighth Gil I've gone to. Which I guess means there's, um, eight more? There were sixteen beetles to begin with—"



"Eight's the magic number. Eight's sacred. Multiples of eight are good, but not as good as eight itself. If I'm #8... I'm the last stop. You know what you need to."

You dislike believing anything the blessing says, but you like the sound of 'last stop' more. "Oh! Okay! Wait, so I've, um, I've read all the puzzle-stories, so I just need to— to match them off, right?"


"Well, see, it's like this..."

>PUZZLE TIME! (Your favorite!)

>You have encountered eight fragments of Gil, each with their own problem, large or small. These have been spelled out in the text unless I screwed up somewhere. Less obviously, each fragment can also solve another fragment's problem.
>Your job is to match them up. For example, "Fragment A will do X for Fragment B, and Fragment C will do Y for Fragment A."
>Fragments are never reciprocal: they can't solve and be solved by the same fragment, or they aren't integrated into Gil as a whole. "Fragment A will do X for Fragment B, and Fragment B will do Y for Fragment A" is NOT a solution.
>Fragments are never left dangling (if you want to fix Gil properly, that is): every fragment must solve AND be solved.
>Not all solutions may be intuitive (read: there might be some stretches, sorry). Do your best. You don't have to solve this all in one go, though the more you solve at one time, the easier the execution will be.
>I have the "intended" matches in mind from the start, but if you provide a different complete logical answer I'll still take it.
>The blessing (Fragment #8)'s "problem" is this: it wants to witness a Sacred Transformation.
>Feel free to ask questions, request clarification, and discuss among yourselves.
>I'm serious about this puzzle, it's what the whole thread's been building up to, so I'm prepared to leave the voting window open for multiple days if I have to... pls give it a shot ;_;
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>[A] Please match as many fragments as possible, providing your brief reasoning for each so I can check validity. You do not have to match all of them right now— you can fill in the gaps in later updates— but the more you match now, the easier it'll be to fix Gil in-quest. You can also post a partial answer and add to the post later (or hope others do): I will combine valid answers. (Write-in.)

>You can use pic related diagram and draw arrows, if that would help. It's what I did when planning this.

And optionally, you may discuss matters with the blessing— at the cost of your pride (read: [ID]). It doesn't have much context, but it knows Gil and it's about as smart as he is. Each point of ID spent = one match solved for you (please specify which ones you're having trouble with). You are at 5/9 ID.
>[B1] Spend 1 ID for 1 solution.
>[B2] Spend 2 ID for 2 solutions.
>[B3] Spend 3 ID for 3 solutions.
>[B4] You are a strong independent young lady who don't need no filthy pagan interference.


>THE FRAGMENTS and where you first meet them:
Fragment #1 ("BULLIED GIL"): >>5093337
Fragment #2 ("DARTS GIL") make sure to read the part after the dice spam too: >>5097468
Fragment #3 ("JACKER GIL"): >>5102189
Fragment #4 ("TRAPPED GIL"): >>5109048
Fragment #5 ("FUTURE GIL"): >>5112935
Fragment #6 ("TAX EVADER GIL"): >>5116980
Fragment #7 ("BEETLES GIL"): >>5118194
Fragment #8 ("BLESSED GIL"): >>5119552


Good luck!
I started following this quest as a replacement for Valen, and now I'm finally getting what I wanted (meaning abjectly failing a simple puzzle)
Two more rules I forgot, then I'm passing out:
>If it wasn't obvious, each fragment can be used as a solution ONCE. Fragment A can solve B, but not B, C, and D.
>With the exception of Fragment #8 (the blessing), fragments can't solve until they're solved by something else. This should have little effect on the puzzle-solving, since it'll form a circle anyhow, but may affect the events of the quest. You may specify an order if you want, but if you do it right I'll be able to figure it out myself.

Arright. Here's my thoughts.
Darts Gil wants to build an ornithopter with real feathers. It was spelled openly. And Bullied Gil can build it. This part seems simple.
What Darts Gil can provide is a pistol. Bullied Gil could use it, but it's against the rules. The other Gil who could use it is the Tax Evader.

Next, Future Gil wants crystals to offer to us. Jacker Gil can jack some.
Jacker Gil wants to pass his "vision quest"? Or maybe to finish his installation job? I'm not sure at all on this matter.

Finally, Trapped Gil is missing beetles. Beetle Gil can provide beetles. Which, I think, will cause Trapped Gil to become beetles as he did IRL, which is the Sacred Transformation that Blessed Gil wants to witness. Beetle Gil, meanwhile, wants to eat.

These are the three chain fragments I came up with, but I'm not sure how they go together.
One variant is to feed Tax Evader's ledger to Beetles, which seems very logical, but then Future Gil has to help Bullied Gil, and I don't know how. Maybe with his total lack of fear towards huge abominations? Blessed Gil in this chain will help Jacker, and the blessing's powers are vague enough that I think Blessed Gil can go in any place in the chain.

tl/dr Blessed -something->Jacker -crystals-> Future -something-> Bullied -ornithopter-> Darts -pistol-> Tax Evader -ledger-> Beetles -beetles-> Trapped -become beetles-> Blessed

What do you think, anons?
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I admire your dedication

>Darts Gil wants to build an ornithopter with real feathers. It was spelled openly. And Bullied Gil can build it. This part seems simple.
Looks good.

I don't think Darts Gil can provide the pistol, Jacker Gil had the pistol. Darts Gil had moping and low alcohol tolerance. I thought he might have even been the sacred change candidate before reading the rest of your post.

I also don't think any of the Gils want a pistol. Bullied isn't going to go school shooter and Tax Evader wants bribe money.

>Next, Future Gil wants crystals to offer to us. Jacker Gil can jack some.
Looks good.

I'm pretty sure Jacker Gil wants the install finished. That was his big problem before he followed us somewhere he shouldn't have, and things got weird.

As for who can finish the install I'm not sure.

>Finally, Trapped Gil is missing beetles. Beetle Gil can provide beetles. Which, I think, will cause Trapped Gil to become beetles as he did IRL, which is the Sacred Transformation that Blessed Gil wants to witness. Beetle Gil, meanwhile, wants to eat.

This looks spot on to me, which is great because I had no idea what Trapped Gil could possibly provide.

We definitely have the following solutions, with arrows from helper to helpee:
Bullied -> Darts
Jacker -> Future

Almost definitely:
Beetle -> Trapped
Trapped -> Blessed
Future -> Bullied (has shown abilities to revert giant mutant monsters back to rightful forms)

Tax Evader -> Beetles (by feeding the incriminating ledgers)

If we assume those are all correct, we get this updated diagram made with 20 trillion hours in mspaint. Fragments Bullied, Trapped, Future, and Beetles are all sorted out. Jacker and Tax Evader need help, and Darts and Blessed need to provide help. Not sure who Darts can help though. I guess we can try asking Blessed right now which one he can do? Whichever one he can't must be what Darts can.
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I forgot my future to bullied arrow

>Puzzley thing

I'll just support whatever these guys are doing cause I'm running on a sleep deficit. ;-;

Top-tier autism all-around.
Darts Gil also had a pistol, which he tried to get us to shoot him with. We were even given an option to take it away. If providing it to Tax Evader looks like a cop-out, that's because it is. I have no idea what else Darts Gil can do (except play darts), and no idea where Tax Evader could get money.
Though... his pistol is described as "nice" and a "heirloom". Maybe Gil could use it as a bribe?

Good point on Future reverting monstrous forms.

If Darts Gil isn't meant to help the Tax Evader, what could he do for the Jacker? Maybe finish the installation, but he's at the point of his life where he doesn't yet have the required skillset, I think.
Aw shit. Just realized we have a direct quote on Jacker:
>So, what, you can't finish installing the whatever-it-is on your own? Is that the big horrible issue here?"
>Gil ignores you. But you're right, you think— this is the big horrible issue, fixable by locating a more-experienced Gil and... dragging him over, you guess

The only more experienced Gil available is the Blessed Gil. Which means Darts Gil gotta help the Tax Evader.
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You're right, I missed that he did have a nice pistol. Still don't think any of the fragments want to solve their problems by shooting though.

Future Gil also, but they already interacted and Future drew a blank when it came to a conversation in that area so I think that's right. I guess pic related is what we're trying?
Yeah, I see no other configuration right now.
Great work, guys!

This is not the answer I had in mind, but it's valid within the rules: it just needs to be valid in character, too :^)

>These solutions match my answer:
Bullied Gil ---> Darts Gil
Jacker Gil ---> Future Gil
Future Gil ---> Bullied Gil
Beetles Gil ---> Trapped Gil
Trapped Gil ---> Blessed Gil

>These solutions do not match my answer not that I blame you, these are definitely the sketchier ones:
Blessed Gil ---> Jacker Gil
Future Gil ---> Bullied Gil
Darts Gil ---> Tax Evader Gil
Tax Evader Gil ---> Beetles Gil

I can still accept them as correct, but I need IC justification. Most of these I can see working, except:

>How is Tax Evader Gil going to help Beetles Gil?

Give a reasonable justification and I'll mark >>5123582 as a correct answer. If you can't, you may need to rework things (and/or spend ID-- I'll give the solutions most helpful to you).

Here's a hint: this is an accidental red herring: Charlotte isn't necessarily correct about this. I meant to have Jacker Gil elaborate on the problem with installation, but a lot of stuff happened and then you ditched him. Oops. Since it's QM error, I'll give you it OOC: the equipment is Phin's and it needs to sense him to work. Gil would have to commit some metaphysical fraud in order to install it himself.
>How is Tax Evader Gil going to help Beetles Gil?
Doesn't feeding them his tax ledger work? Gil's metaphysical puzzle book seemed to be half-eaten by beetles, so they must like paper.
Alternatively, I could try to recreate your intended solution with the new information. It should be something like
>Blessed ->Tax Evader -> Jacker -> Future -> Bullied -> Darts -> Beetles -> Trapped -> Blessed
where Tax Evader commits metaphysical fraud and Darts gets eaten by Beetles because it's on his bucket list?
In any case, I must sleep now. See you in 8 hours.
Ah, I think I missed that. That's a little goofy but not any goofier than my version, so, you know, I'll take it.

GOOD JOB! YOU DID IT! (confetti cannon) Feel proud of yourselves. There may still be a few roadblocks or dice rolls involved (as, for example, Trapped Gil and Tax Evader Gil got absorbed...), but this will smooth your path significantly.

Called and writing in ~7 hrs, usual time.

Not quite, but >>5123688 was enough to sell it for me. Have a good night! I'll probably be writing when you wake up.
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Uh, does Future -> Bullied match or not match? It's listed under both.

I guess it no longer matters. The ledger feeding was definitely goofy, it's the only one I put in my maybe column, but none of the Gils seemed to have a great deal of excess edibles.

Anyway with the confirmed ones I tried another solution just for fun, is it close?
Oh, shoot, it doesn't match. My mistake. I was wondering why I had nine things listed there, kek.

Very close (and I'd accept this as a correct answer), but no cigar. Two of these need to be swapped.
>none of the Gils seemed to have a great deal of excess edibles.
No, they don't... but one of them has a great deal of excess drinkables. Darts--->Beetles is what I had.
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Trial and error
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Yes! Now... would you guys rather go with >>5123582
or with >>5123753? Both are functional answers, but your choice may determine how things exactly play out.
I want our abomination please

Yeah supporting our abomination.
You got it. Writing.
This please
>(confetti cannon)

You explain everything to the blessing, who nods like it understands what's going on. You have your doubts. But it doesn't much matter: you don't need some stupid pagan know-it-all to tell you what to do!

...And actually, you don't: the more you talk things out, the more the whole situation clicks together. Is this why Richard goes on and on? "...So it's like a circle," you finish. "Or a wheel. It has to be, right? Or it'd leave some of him out?"

The blessing lays supine atop the altar, hands behind its head. "That'd be intuitive, yeah. So where do I go in the wheel?"

"Where do you go?" You squint at the diagram you chalked down. "Um... do you know anything about installing jacking stuff?"

"...If I worked at it, maybe?"

"Good enough." You squint again, committing the diagram to memory, then crack your knuckles and stand. "You're welcome in advance."

>[+2 ID: 7/(9)]
>[GAINED: A Plan — +15 to all rolls until you fix Gil (or are incapacitated trying).]

Smoking is a nasty unladylike habit, but you have to admit that lighting a cigarette right about here would look very cool. You settle for rolling your achey shoulders. "By the way, you stole my key, so you're in charge of transportation. I need to get back to, uh— a manse, big wood-paneled room, half the wall's torn down— you can magyck us there? Yes?"

"Sure, sure. I'll even teach you the magic word to do it."

Oh! "I didn't know you had magyck words! What's the magyck— I order you to tell me the magyck word, since you owe me big-time for literally solving all of your problems—"

"'Please.'" He grins. "Give it a shot."

Oh. Damn. Damn! You know you couldn't trust it! And now it's going to pop your well-deserved smugness like a little bubble, all to prove some stupid point, and you won't be in charge anymore, and— and— positive thinking, Charlotte. It's not even a real person, by which you mean it's even less of a real person than all of the other not-real people, by which you mean it's going to go back to being a stupid magyck blob without a memory as soon as you sort all of this out. So it can't make fun of you later. You can make fun of it, for being a stupid mindless magyck blob. And surely, surely, surely Gil himself won't remember— and that's who really matters, right? Yeah. You're going to save his whole entire life (again) and he'll forget all about making you say 'please' like an idiot.

"...Please," you say, in as withering a tone you can muster.

"Wow, Lady Charlotte, breaking out the magic word! Yes, I can get us there. It'll be a shame to leave—" It twirls a hand at the temple. "—but change comes for us all. Help me up? Please?"

Does helping him up make you the fool, for following orders, or it the fool, for requiring assistance? It. Definitely it. You offer an impatient hand: it pulls itself to its feet. "Cheers. Now, it should be a matter of, ah..."

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It reaches out to you, mimes scooping something, (you feel scooped,) and opens its fist to reveal a large pearl. It drops the pearl to the ground, stomps it, and the water fills with so many bubbles you can't see—

And they clear, and you are back in the wood-paneled room, except for the fact that it's washed out and ghostly like a watercolor painting and Gil isn't there! It's empty! And of course it's empty, he left, he followed you out, but you'd hoped/assumed/expected he'd have snapped back in while you weren't looking. But no. No, it's empty, it's barely even a place, and where did you leave Gil? Was it before the beetle thing? When he was about to be... shot.

"Um," you say. "I think we need to go somewhere else."

You describe the office room to the blessing, who looks cannily at you and produces another pearl. It drops it, and—

—the bubbles don't clear this time, is your first thought, until the motor-sound and spat-spat-spat of wild buzzing things against your face cues you in that you've merely been deposited into a cloud of beetles. Did you make a wrong turn? No, you can make out the vague shapes of the desk and walls— the wall— the wall is red. Spattered red. And beneath it— no! God-blessed! No!

"Seems our timing was off," the blessing remarks, spinning Gil's corpse's desk chair.

You retch, then try to say something: a beetle flies directly into your mouth, and you sputter and retch again. "I— I— no! No, he can't—" He can't have, he was supposed to stop without you— he can't be dead, or your plan is ruined— he can't be dead, he wasn't alive— he can't do this to you, once is enough

"He could and did. Messy way to go, the head." The blessing, bereft of compassion or reason, is still spinning the God-damned chair. "Ah well. Is this an issue, Lottie?"

Is this an issue? "Yes!"

"Ouch. Too bad I can't resurrect the dead... that'd take a real god. I mean, I guess I—"


"You wouldn't let me finish about the domains. Time's another one. I could—" You can barely make him out through the beetles, but you think he twirls his finger. "That's really at the limits of my capacity, though. I'd be about spent after."

"Great! Who cares!" You think about that. "I mean... would he still be magyck? If you were spent?"

"Hard to say. Uh... you could do a little ritual sacrifice, that'd probably—" He sees your look. "Okay, a sacred transformation? If you can get your hands on one of those? That'd be a splash of cold water."

"Great! Whatever!" After he just said they didn't come on demand. You knew he wasn't to be trusted.

"You're the boss." And maybe he does something with his face or with his hands, maybe he glows, or something, but truthfully you can't see squat. All you get is a current like a bomb blast, and—

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You are standing in the office room. There are no beetles. There is no corpse. Gil is paralyzed in boxer shorts, and two uniformed men are paralyzed in the doorway. Ellery is there.

You have to roll that around in your head a little. Ellery is there. Ellery! Fake Ellery, from the looks of him, though it's not like that's better— Ellery is here, Ellery is inside Gil's mind, because of-Goddamn-course he is. Of course he is. That's what he does. You hate him so much. Ellery is here, appearing profoundly confused, standing right where the blessing was, speaking in Gil's voice— "Lottie? What— where the hell am I? What the hell—"

What the hell, yes. You look sideways. "Who are you?"

"Who am I? I— i-i-i-it's Gil! In the guy with the melting teeth! And now I-I-I— I don't know— is that me? Where's my shirt?"

Oh. So it is Gil? (For all his faults, you don't think Fake Ellery is the impersonating type.) Is this... the blessing, un-blessinged? Pre-blessinged? You guess that checks out? "Um... I think you took it off."

Ellery-Gil does a perfect imitation of Ellery's panic smile. It's a glossy silver. "No shit! I-I-I just— my teeth are still melting, by the— why aren't I moving? Hello?"

Before you can stop him, he shakes the other Gil by the shoulder. Other Gil jerks and spins the office chair around to face him. They stare at each other.

You clear your throat. But before you can get your intelligent, witty, and well-reasoned speech out, the Gils speak simultaneously: "Lottie, what the shit i-is happening!?" "Goddamn, what— who the hell are you guys!?"


>[1] You made it through all this the hard way. Enough. Tell both of them exactly what's happening and win their complete cooperation.
>[2] Bluff. Bluff bluff bluff bluff bluff. (How? Write-in.) [Roll.]
>[3] In a genius move, your faithful "coma vision quest" companion appears to have /gotten/ absorbed into whatever this Gil is. Arrested Gil? Shake him out of it so he understands (incorrectly) what's happening, then get his help. [Roll.]
>[4] You don't need to *explain,* you just need to get them back into that manse so the damn equipment gets installed. Shove them both through a portal or whatever. [Roll.]
>[5] Write-in.
>[3] In a genius move, your faithful "coma vision quest" companion appears to have /gotten/ absorbed into whatever this Gil is. Arrested Gil? Shake him out of it so he understands (incorrectly) what's happening, then get his help. [Roll.]
You see, installing the whatchamajiggit symbolizes you overcoming your father or whatnot. It's a necessary part of the vision quest.
>[3] In a genius move, your faithful "coma vision quest" companion appears to have /gotten/ absorbed into whatever this Gil is. Arrested Gil? Shake him out of it so he understands (incorrectly) what's happening, then get his help. [Roll.]

Immediately our plan goes awry.
>>[3] In a genius move, your faithful "coma vision quest" companion appears to have /gotten/ absorbed into whatever this Gil is. Arrested Gil? Shake him out of it so he understands (incorrectly) what's happening, then get his help. [Roll.]
Should've called this 3 hours ago, but oh well. If I don't get enough dice within ~an hour I'll roll the rest myself.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 20 (+15 A Plan, +5 Familiar Face) vs. DC 65 (+15 But Who's That Guy??) to smooth things over!

>Immediately our plan goes awry.
I said that it'd be "easier," not "easy" :^)
Rolled 70, 5, 49 + 20 = 144 (3d100 + 20)

Rolled 73 + 20 (1d100 + 20)


Here's my real roll
Rolled 25 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Watch THIS
Rolled 78 (1d100)

Giving it one more roll...
>93, 45, 98 vs. DC 65 -- Success

Called and writing shortly.
>Well it's pretty simple actually
>93, 45, 98 vs. DC 65 — Success

Best to stick with what's worked: the truth seems dangerous, and you are too pure-hearted and honest to lie decently under pressure. You clasp Boxers-Gil by the wrists. "Er, you're in a coma. Don't you remember? You were injured terribly, and you will surely perish if you do not mend your cold-hearted ways and, um, emerge a noble, reform-ed paragon of society?"

"I-I-I'm in a coma?" Ellery-Gil interjects: you shush him. Boxers-Gil looks even more bewildered. "...A coma?"

"Yes, a coma! It's super tragic! And, um, I am the manifestation of your subconsciousness, manifestated here to guideth you to enlightenment, remember, and my name was... D-something... there were some numbers after it... Dessie?"

"...Dessie." He blinks hard. "I— I don't..."

"I was some kind of Headspace person?"

"Oh shit! Oh, shit, what— was I dreaming? Or not dreaming, but— what's the opposite of lucid?"

You rack your vocabulary. "Pellucid?"

"I don't even know what that means, but okay. Shit. Where's my shirt? We didn't—?" He snatches a look at you. "No. Um, hang on, I—"

He wrests free of your grasp and sets about producing a shirt. You avert your eyes politely, meaning you're caught by surprise when Ellery-Gil grabs you by the wrist. "Lottie," he hisses. "What the hell is— I-I-I'm not in a coma! You're not my— right? I-I-I can't be—"

"You will shut up," you hiss right back, "and do what I say, because that is your job. I'll let your stupid teeth melt if you ask questions, Gil. Gil! This is also your subconsciousness! I thought we weren't making enough progress with just me, what with you royally screwing up, so I brought him on. He's you, too, but you can call him Ellery! Because that's his name! Say hi, Ellery!"

There's a distinct cracking noise at this, and a glance at the ground reveals new hairline fractures— all originating from Ellery-Gil's feet. You choose to ignore this (why bother?) and wave Ellery-Gil's limp hand for him. Newly-Unboxered Gil waves back. "I'd say it was a pleasure, but I think we can drop the formalities. On the topic of getting this over with, Dessie, ...Ellery, did you have any pointers? I think I got a little off-track—"

God, what was the diagram? "...Pointers! Yes! I think it's time to bring things full circle, as it were, and get that jacker thingamabob squared away. Put the wall back together. Ellery would be delighted to help you— yes?"

You smile broadly. "Yeah," Ellery-Gil says, after you kick him in the shin. "Will do."

"Well, if you're sure." Other Gil rubs his neck. "I'm not positive how that would help me emerge reform-ed, but—"

"It's riddled with mystic symbolism. It's fine. Now, if you'd like to enter this magyckal portal—" Was the wall blue and shimmery before you gestured to it? You haven't a clue. "—it should take us right there. After you..."


As promised, the magyckal portal takes you right there: the wood-paneled room is less washed-out than before, but silver muck now beads through the fissures in the paneling and the fresh cracks in the ground. You choose to ignore this, instead steering both Gils towards the wall and telling them to (paraphrased) go nuts.

Ellery-Gil looks at you like you're nuts, but fortunately Other Gil rolls up his sleeves and takes charge. You squat down in the least-cracked section of the floor and watch as the communication from awkward interruptions to completing each other's sentences to a meditative silence. The equipment looks far too complicated to install in under an hour, so you're uncertain if it takes 10 minutes because of the marvel of collaboration or because Gil wanted it so or because the narrative skimmed over this bit— you may have lost the book, but its extended metaphor lives on in your heart.

In any case, it is done, and you jerk out of your stupor when you realize that they're boarding the wall back up. "Wait! Wait, you need the Law! I mean the crystals! How do you— where do you—"

They look at each other simultaneously, and Ellery-Gil's mouth moves while Other Gil speaks. "Um, it's a little early for it to precipitate, it usually takes—"

"You're in a coma, moron! This is your mind! You can have crystals coming out your ears if you damn well please, so just—" You snap your fingers rapidly. "Open up the whatever, extract the whatever. We're on a timetable."

"Miss Bossy. Goddamn." But Ellery-Gil turns without a word and unhitches a large metal canister from within the machinery. He cracks it open to reveal the interior lined with spiky white-clear crystals, then slams it shut.

"Lady Bossy," you mutter. "And see, I told you so. We have to get that thingy over to your future self because it's also very symbolic and meaningful and will help you out of the coma. So let's get on it. Um. The magyck portal now leads to the future, by the way."

"You know..." Other Gil says slowly. (Damn. Has he caught wind of you? You should do more acting, probably, but it's been such a long awful day and you could not care less. But you should. You should, because—) "I appreciate the straightforwardness, you know. This is way better than some dumbass cryptic 'ooh, figure it out yourself'— I don't want to figure it out! I just want to wake up. So thanks for, you know, being on my wavelength."

"Ah...hah." You try to make that not sound surprised. "Yes. Of course. Just doing my job, which is to make you step through that portal, so—"

"You got it." He slaps you on the back as he passes by and through, leaving you and Ellery-Gil and a canister of crystals and rather more silver muck than when you started: it's less "beading" and more "oozing," by your reckoning. Not that it matters, or is relevant at all, or is related to Ellery-Gil, whose jaw is beginning to look a bit loose— is that why he looks so dazed? "That was me. That was... me."

"Yeah." You offer a hand. "It was. Come on."

He doesn't take it, so you grab his instead. (A weird mind fragment thing indisputably is not a 'man,' and anyhow he looks like Ellery, and nobody could ever accuse you of improper feelings about Ellery.) "Let's go see the future! Or... a future. I hope it's 'a' future. C'mon."

"I-I-It was like we just— like we slotted together, Lottie, I've never—"

Music to your ears. "Excellent! Now come on."


The future is dim and cavernous and torchlit and cracked and doored, which is definitely a word and Richard can't tell you otherwise. Specifically, it is open-doored. The door is open. And there isn't hide nor hair of Future Gil.

>[1] He's in the room behind the door, clearly. Go in the door. You want to go in the door. You could be slotted-together if you go in the door. Isn't that glorious?
>[2] Okay, you remember what happened last time you tangled with the door. So maybe it's best if you send Gil in to drop off the canister and wait out here.
>[3] You should all just wait out here! You don't have a ton of time, especially not with the (completely irrelevant!) cracks following you around, but you remember what happened and Gil is not to be trusted.
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] He's in the room behind the door, clearly. Go in the door. You want to go in the door. You could be slotted-together if you go in the door. Isn't that glorious?
Making Gil do things has proven to be worse than whatever the door can throw at us.
It did bring him out last time
and maybe in that state we'll know what's up with those cracks
not that we're worried, because they're totally irrelevant
just idle curiosity is all
>>[1] He's in the room behind the door, clearly. Go in the door. You want to go in the door. You could be slotted-together if you go in the door. Isn't that glorious?
Rolled 89, 42, 100 = 231 (3d100)

Called and writing. Also rolling dice for no reason.
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Unheard of!
Except when I roll, apparently! (The last 100 was my roll also.) Four 1s in two back-to-back threads and no player 100s since Thread 14... that's the dice for you.
Drowned suffers so that other quests may roll in prosperity
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>Mystery box

He is behind the door. You know this because it is obvious, it is logical, and not because there is a desperate yearning inside you to go in there. He is certainly inside the room behind the door, and you will— or rather, you will drag Gil along with you to deliver the canister, since he's the point of all this. You guess. If he has to be.

"Stay there," you snap at Ellery-Gil, and "Come along," at Other Gil, and without elaboration begin to stride down the hall in a dramatic and attractive fashion. Your abrupt U-turn to snatch the canister from Ellery-Gil's waiting hands is no less dramatic and attractive, though you will admit that the subsequent re-striding wears some gloss off. Not that anyone is paying attention (positive thinking), and not that it matters, not when you're being lured so— not lured. That makes it sound like you're about to get eaten. And you're not about to get eaten, because that would just be embarrassing.

No! You are throwing open the door of your own volition, you are storming inside, (you are drawing your sword to sufficiently discourage any eating), and immediately the air is thick and dusty and portentious— your footsteps boom out like cannon shot, inside the space behind the door. There is no light inside the space except the light from the hall, which falls in a narrow band over torn red carpet and stone stairs all the way up to the back of a kneeling Gil and the face of you.

There is something odd about your face: it is sheeny like polished stone and fixed in a cruel expression. But the rest of you is how you'd expect it, how you've always expected it: you are ensconced in a forbidding throne, swaddled in a sweeping fur-lined velvet cloak, crowned with a— well, a crown. The Crown. You are Queen. She is Queen.

"Go on," the Queen says to Future Gil, who bolts up and past you before you can cry 'wait!' or 'stop!' or 'I got you your thing!'. Not that you can really speak with your throat half out your mouth, the way it feels like. "Approach," the Queen says. Her lips don't move.

You approach. When you said her face was 'like' stone, what you should have said was that it 'was.' Or looks terribly like it. You consider mentioning this, but there's the whole issue of the throat.


You don't want to bow to yourself. That's almost as bad as being eaten.


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

You curtsey all the way to the floor.

"Good," she says, and you feel a ripple of joy at the praise and a ripple of disgust at the joy. "It has been ever so long since we were you."

Your nod is forced into you.

"It hardly bears to think about. How young we were once. How stupid. How careless. How... unhappy."

"Bitch," you murmur, and are pleasantly surprised you could manage that much: you leverage the momentum into a "Like you're living it up alone in the dark in this dump."

"We have discarded the outdated notion of 'happiness.' It is of no relevance to us." There is a shifting in the darkness behind the throne. "Which is why you are so curiously antiquated. You want but you are too weak to take what you want."

You say nothing.

"We have beneficent news for you. This will change. You tactless, pastless, eyeless virago; you friendless, fatherless, loveless whelp; you worthless, useless upstart: your failings and human frailties will be swept aside when you acquire the power you strive for. You will rise above the masses and they will seem as insects to you. You will take everything you want and more you do not, and all shall cower before your wrath. Until this day, we pity you. We pity you so deeply we cannot bear to leave you be in this way: as is our right and our duty we shall grant you a blessing."

"A blessing."

"A blessing," she echoes, and behind you the door slams shut. You were wrong, it wasn't the only light source: the crown glows faintly on the Queen's head, 40 feet up.

>[1] Receive a blessing.
>[2] She **pities** you?!?! No! God no! You'd rather choke! You ought to stab her, you really should, but instead you'll just snap out of this— it can't be that hard!— and give her a good old-fashioned piece of your mind. (Write-in a grand up-yours speech— or [Roll.])
>[3] Write-in.
>[2] She **pities** you?!?! No! God no! You'd rather choke! You ought to stab her, you really should, but instead you'll just snap out of this— it can't be that hard!— and give her a good old-fashioned piece of your mind. (Write-in a grand up-yours speech— or [Roll.])
Listen lady, you're not us. You're a fantasy of a fragment of a fragment of our retainer, which makes you lower than us by four tiers and wholly unqualified to _pity_ us or _bless_ us or _exist_. Our future is our own and our grand throne hall will be much more tasteful and our complexion will be much better! Also we do not have failings or frailties, that's lies, gullshit and provocation.
Sounds like you failed to achieve happiness and so you gave up on it. Gave up on more than just happiness, if I'm right about what's behind your throne. The blessing we'll take is learning from your mistakes.

Uhhh... I meant:
I'll incorporate both write-ins. Writing.
>Up yours, bitch

A blessing. Like Gil got. Only Gil got his from a real live god and you'd be getting yours from some two-bit you-imitator with a fake crown and a fake throne and a whole stupid fake body. You bet it wouldn't even give you magyck powers, not even fake ones! Just an attitude problem and a skin condition, most likely. How dumb you'd look then.

Of course, thinking this is easier than saying it, and it's not like thinking it's all that easy. But when the alternative is so abhorrent, you can't just— you can't— "I don't want it," you force out, and inside you exult.

"Close-mindedness is unattractive, Lady Fawkins. But we are generous. We will aid you too with that." Far above you, the crown sways. "[OPEN]."

>[-2 ID: 4/(9)]

Something terrible is done to you. Something horrifying. You know by the 'squelch.' But you haven't a clue what, because it is dead dark in the space behind the door, and on top of that you have screwed your eyes shut. You will not open them until you unsquelch, you swear that to yourself, and the bit of agency you've stolen emboldens your voice (which has gone a bit shrieky). "I don't WANT your stupid aid!"

"Of course you do."

"No! I DON'T! Your aid SUCKS!" Come on, Charlotte, you can do better than that, come on, come on— "And YOU suck! God, you're not- you're not even— listen to me, okay, you're not real— you- you don't exist. You don't. Gil made you up."

Something winds around your ankle, if indeed you have an ankle. "Whether we are 'made up' is irrelevant. As well you know. What matters is that we are, and that you are us. You will be us. We will help you be us."

"I don't want your STUPID help, and—" A breakthrough. "—no! That's- that's not— are you too dumb to get it?! You don't exist. At all. You're not my future, you're not a Queen, and you're not— you're not me, you're Gil. Or not even Gil, not even a messed-up part of Gil, because, you know what, I can appreciate those! You? You want to know what you are? You're a hallucination. You're a FEVER DREAM of a fraction of a fraction of my RETAINER which makes you unfit to lick my boots much less 'pity' me or 'bless' me or pretend like you have any God-damned sway over me, you statue bitch, and you know what? You know what? This backfired! This goddamn backfired on you, moron! Because now I'm never gonna be like you, ever. I'm gonna spend my entire life not being you. I am gonna have a LOT of friends, not just Gil, and if I have a castle it's gonna be awesome and not a dump, and I'm not gonna be a stupid monster or a stupid statue and I am going to be HAPPY! I am going to be happy! That's my future, my own future, not yours, and— and— I can do it. I know I can do it. Because I don't have any stupid failings or frailties or whatever, that's just you being wrong and negative, because I am great and I am destined for—!!"

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

On some level, it's fortunate that the thing around your ankle(?) yanks you off your feet(?) and sends you pirouetting up towards the vaulted ceiling: it saves you from formulating a pithy conclusion. On the rest of the levels, you are dangling upside down at least 40 feet in the air, and it feels like your organs have slid out of you (though you refuse to verify this in any way). "What pretty words," the Queen snarls. "And of course you are correct. You are destined. You are destined to become us, Charlotte Fawkins, whether you fight it or not, and we think we will teach you this. [BOW]."

She says it differently than she did last time, which goes some length in explaining why, instead of conducting an aerial curtsey, you squelch again and groan and bend and—



You don't open your eyes despite being suddenly upright and on solid ground and with your ankles assuredly intact until you hear a "Dessie!" and a beat after a "Lottie?" and a "Lady Charlotte?". Then you do, and look down to see your organs intact, too, and up again to see three Gils— well, two Gils and one Ellery, but it's semantics.

"Agh," you say.

"Dessie!" the Gil-with-the-canister repeats at you. "Aw, man, thank goodness, I wasn't sure if— I mean, you were in there, but then the door shut in my face and you weren't coming out and I thought, well, that was goddamn stupid, shouldn't I get to pick where I imagined you, so I did—"

"...You did." The torchlight is scaldingly bright after the throne room. "Um, good job."

"I know, right?"


"Yeah." He looks sideways, and his face falls a little. "I was just wondering why it was you in there?"

"...Why it was...?"

"Well, you said I should come with you. So I did. I stood right outside the door. And in there was— I mean— it was you. It looked like you. It sounded like you. Which I thought was weird, since you don't exist. You're me dressed up like a girl. I thought."

Damnit! Not now! Not after all that! "Um, there's a very simple explanation, actually, it's just—"

"That's good. I thought there would be. Uh, the other thing is that I'm not sure why these two called you Charlotte just now. Because Lottie's a nickname for Charlotte. I think. But you said your name was Desdemona."

Ellery-Gil sticks his hands in his pockets. "You said your name was Desdemona?"

You shoot him a Look. "No, I— there really is an explanation, I just—"

"Lady Charlotte, begging your deepest and most fervent apologies, but I also had some queries. Mainly towards the provenance of this second intruder—" Future Gil gives Ellery-Gil a similar Look. "—but also about you. As I had assumed you had escaped your throne room, but indeed you are still in your throne room, and displeased to hear of my assumption. Which begs the question..."

It must be this torchlight: absolute murder on your eyes, it is, and you resolve to install soothing glorbs in your real castle. Because your vision is blurring severely, making it appear as if the Gils are in turn blurring and bleeding into each other, which is stupid, and very bad, so (positive thinking) isn't happening. A trick of the heinous torchlight. As is the single Gil before you, rotted clear through, sinew dry, bones exposed, his jaw dangling open, who lurches forward canister in death-grip hands and spews out an impenetrable "OH¤¤¿¿¿G0&&¨¨DWHª¨T TeH¿Ee2FU _>.&/©K±H¿7,.AqPa¶PE<=NE¥,DT® MEewq;&LlO¿¿TttT¿ ¿¿1¿¿ ?IE¿" The ground is shaking under him and under you. Pebbles fall from the ceiling. There is a distant sound of wings. The cracks are widening.

The cracks are widening! Your own mouth hangs open until you snap it shut and shake your head and dart forward and snatch the canister— or "snatch" is too easy for what it is, you pull and pull until something snaps and you stumble backwards with it and he forwards, violently, into three, two Gils and an Ellery, all of whom seem dazed. Think! Think! You had a plan! You lunge forward and shove the canister into the hands of the Gil who had it before. "Give it to that one!" you say-yell, and take him by the shoulder and push him into Future Gil. Who takes the canister.

No birds sing or rainbows shine and the cracks don't even bother mending themselves, but there is a palpable snap. A good kind of snap. Non-Future-Non-Ellery Gil's eyebrows furrow, and his mouth widens, and out of it crawls a single wet beetle.

You have a shoebox and you have a shoebox. You shoo the beetle off Gil's chin and into the box.

"Seven more," you announce, mostly to yourself.

>I am going to be conducting a dice marathon, sort of like the darts game, to start wrapping up this escapade. Brief rules: I will ask for rolls, and the result of the rolls will either influence the next set of rolls (for an enhanced, regular, or mitigated success) or, if you fail the DC, end the marathon and boot you back to regular options. The DC will get harder as you go.

>If you roll a 100, you'll automatically succeed the rest of the marathon. If you roll a 1, I will ignore it. I'm kind of burnt out on this thread and I would rather stick pins in my eyes then write a major RNG-induced detour right now. Count your lucky stars.

>If you can manage it, please check back throughout the day to roll more dice!


>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 15 (+15 A Plan) vs. DC 50 to connect Future Gil with Bullied Gil!
Rolled 34 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>Rolling dice
We're going to kill Gil, aren't we?
Rolled 73 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

ready for my 1 to be ignored and my 100 to not exist
Rolled 55 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

I'm going to roll again.
>49, 88, 70 vs. DC 50 -- Success
Nice job. No modifier either way from a regular Success, but you pass and move on.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 15 (+15 A Plan) vs. DC 55 (+5 Whuh Oh) to connect Bullied Gil with Darts Gil!
>I'll start asking for 3d100s if we get deep into this, don't worry

>We're going to kill Gil, aren't we?
(chad face)
Rolled 6 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

i wanna know about the whuh oh
Rolled 40 (1d100)

Rolled 22 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

Drowned dice reaffirm themselves.
>21, 55, 37 vs. DC 55 -- Mitigated Success
Barely scraping through. Classic.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+15 A Plan, -5 Mitigated Success x1) vs. DC 60 (+10 *Whuh* Oh) to connect Darts Gil with Tax Evader Gil!
Rolled 98 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

C-can we spend ID?
Rolled 78 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

we exactly hit the dc, nice
also the whuh oh is getting scarier

don't think so, we're cut off from richard
not that we need to with that roll
Rolled 100 + 10 (1d100 + 10)


Oh shit!!!
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>108, 88, 110 vs. DC 60 -- CRITICAL SUCCESS
Well... it's about time! Congratulations on your first player-rolled critsuccess in a literal year. As outlaid:
>If you roll a 100, you'll automatically succeed the rest of the marathon.

So you did it! You fixed Gil. But in recognition of this 100, I'd like to grant a small permanent bonus on top of that... I need some time to figure out what, so please check back here in a while. Alternately, if you have any suggestions, please drop them here and I'll give them a think.
>bonus when dealing with Gil
>bonus when doing mind stuff
>bonus to actions taken when deprived of richard's presence

those are my incredibly vague suggestions that can hopefully be transformed into something usable
Sorry for the wait-- I've been busy for the last six hours, more or less. Here's your crit options. I wanted to provide 3 but I can't think of a decent equivalent 3rd, write-in if you've got one.

>[1] Even after GTFOing, maintain a weird metaphysical mind link with Gil. You can't read his thoughts, but you'd know where he is, vaguely what's he's up to, and if he's in danger (and vice versa).
>[2] Unlock ability to spend ID for roll bonuses even without Richard. In setting it'd function like Advanced Gaslighting+.
>[3] Write-in. (Rough parameters: must be thematic to the crit, can be a roll bonus between +5-+15 depending on versatility or a new ability of moderate strength. Subject to veto.)

Thank you, this was helpful!
I feel like we really missed the ID spend options both now and in the past

but who knows? maybe from now on it's all 100 rolls
>>[2] Unlock ability to spend ID for roll bonuses even without Richard. In setting it'd function like Advanced Gaslighting+.
You got it. Called and writing.

Side note: because this update is covering so much "stuff," there's a distinct possibility that it'll run long and I won't be able to finish at a reasonable hour. If that does happen, I'll post the partial update like usual and finish tomorrow-- sorry in advance!
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Even dazed, Future Gil doesn't want to come with you. He says he's sworn to remain at his station. You inform him that you're the one who swore him to do that, and now you're re-swearing him to come with you. He mumbles something implying that his allegiance is to the Queen, and you aren't her, you're some kind of trespasser, and you tell him he's the worst retainer you've ever had (nevermind that he's the only retainer you've ever had) and you intend to shove those doors right open and inform the Queen of his disrespect (nevermind how you left things with her). He reconsiders, especially after a chunk of the roof comes loose and crashes down not 3 feet away from him.

Even dazed, (you have settled on the nickname of) Jacker Gil doesn't want to open a path for you. He says he's tired of hallucinating stupid symbolic gullshit. He says he's learned enough lessons and he wants to wake up now. You tell him tetchily that the fact that he hasn't woken up yet is proof perfect that he hasn't learned his lesson, and you're the expert here, being his subconscious. He says he's really starting to wonder about that, actually. He's getting the feeling you aren't telling him the truth. You let him know that that is stupid, and he is stupid, and if you were not telling him the truth it'd be for a damn good reason, and regardless of what you are you're here to help his idiot ass. And if he doesn't relive his damn childhood he will, in fact, die. He reconsiders, especially after a few more chunks plummet down, sending the torches guttering and punching fat holes in the floor.

Ellery-Gil doesn't put up a fight, maybe because most of his face has come clean off. But his fists are still balled in his pockets.

Jacker Gil mutters something about his childhood being fine and normal and not seeing the point, but he grabs a random torch and tugs and the wall swings open just like in multiple novels you've read. You are unreasonably pleased by this. He proceeds to lead you through a maze of... of... it looks like the mess of pipes and wires when you look at one way, and castle corridors when you look at it another way, and there's silver muck everywhere no matter what. You opt to stare at your feet to avoid a headache, and only realize you've left when the grated floor turns to dirt and sparse grass.

Things have degenerated in the first fragment since you left it— the beetles have been gnawing at the page, as it were. The audience for the fight has evaporated, the sky has turned a lovely shade of nothing, and space in general seems constrained: you have the sense that the field folds up on itself after a short extent, like a cylinder. No matter. The monster-that-was-Otis is still there, as is Young Gil.

You look at Future Gil. Future Gil already knows. He paces, transfixed, towards the monster-that-was-Otis; he stops in front of it and lays his hands on it. There is a consuming flash of blue light, and a silence, and then Otis is a blocky 12-year-old and Future Gil is gone and there is a single beetle zipping through the air. You lunge and box it.

Six more.

You're so preoccupied with the boxing that you can't stop Jacker Gil from stepping forward and grabbing his younger self by the shoulder and shouting "PUNCH HIM!" in his ear, and you can't stop his younger self from starting and stumbling into a punch, and it isn't a good punch by any means but it hits Otis on the jaw and, probably for reasons of 'still shocked about the monster thing,' he falls. Young Gil stares. Then he stares at you: an unknown woman plus entourage (his future self and a man with his face melted off).

"IT'S A DREAM!" you say over the ear-splitting cracking noises. "IT'S A— YOU'RE DREAMING, GIL. I NEED YOUR ORNITHOPTER."

You'd think he were deaf-mute with the way he goggles at you. "...It, it, it's not finished!"

"DOESN'T MATTER!" The Gil in the bar can do his own assembly. "GO GET IT!"

And it's not that he goes, exactly, it's more like things fade out and in again and he has the parts clustered in his arms, and you coo thanks at him and pat him on the head and make to go (or make Jacker Gil go) until you realize you need the stupid beetle from him and he won't cough it up until the ornithopter is delivered. So you inform him that in a dream he need to do what the nice lady tells him. He tells you that he's not a goddamn kid, he's 11, so don't use that tone with him. You consider the ethics of punching a child so hard he's knocked unconscious all the way until Jacker Gil steps in front of you and tells him that the nice lady is a goddamn liar, he's not in a dream, he's in a coma, and if he doesn't follow orders he's going to fucking die.

It's lucky that Jacker Gil doesn't seem to know what orders to give, so he's forced to go along with yours: full speed to the first bar he can think of. (He doesn't complain.) The machine/castle/goop space sports a sprinkling of beetles and at least one large rift in the path, which the Gils universally want to turn around at until you shimmy over it using the railing.

The bar is literally that: the bar and a row of stools, suspended dizzily in nothing. The farthest stools are missing chunks. You can't see the beetles, but you can hear them, even as you stride noisily along the bartop. Jacker and Ellery hang back, but you've dragged the eleven-year-old along by the wrist despite his protests. "GIVE HIM THAT," you demand, and yank him in front of The Gil Who Lost To You At Darts.

AKA Very Very Drunk Gil: his head is slumped onto his hands, and his breathing's making a whistling noise. He barely looks up when his younger self stoops down in front of him and offers an armful of ornithopter parts. "Whazz—"

"It's for you," you say. "For your list."

Some of the delirium ebbs. "Oh hell. Howddyou... howwdyou..."

"I made it," Eleven-Year-Old Gil says fiercely, and drops the armful: widgets and wingjoints bounce off the bartop, feathers scatter in a whirlwind, and he bounces and scatters too until all that's left of him is a dwarf-size beetle. You box it.

Five more.

Drunk Gil picks up a feather and twirls it. "Something's happened to me," he says clearly.

You grin. "What? Nothing's— you're drunk. You're drunk! You're not thinking straight. You—"

"No. Something's happened." He tucks the feather into his collar, then stands on his barstool and steps onto the bar. "Let's go."

Oh, how you want to argue— it's about the principle of it! But the far edge of the bar cracks then, and splits and spirals into nothing, and you take that as incentive to speedwalk back to the other Gils and remind Jacker about that little office you re-found him in with the gunmen does he remember that? And he's trying but you're not sure how good his memory is (or if he has a memory proper) so you screw your eyes shut and ignore the sound of the new edge of the bar cracking off and of beetles gnawing at the wood like termites and imagine the office, which had a big desk and a chair and ledger and a door so easily busted-through, which looked so remarkably like a room in your own house, and a floor forms under your feet and a ceiling over your head and you open your eyes again. You hadn't imagined the cracks, but maybe you'd expected them there, like the surface of half-dried wet sand: they lace the floor under your feet and the ceiling under your head, and the window also, which is concerning since beetles are beating against that window.

And the Gil is not there, because Jacker Gil absorbed him like an idiot. You grab his forearm. "Go sit over there!"

He yanks himself away. "Me? So I can get shot? Hell no! You do it!"

"I would if I could, stupid! You have to— you have to, Gil. To learn your coma lesson."

"Gullshit! There weren't any coma lessons at all, were there?! I am in a damn coma, but I'm never gonna—"

"You will if you sit down!" You didn't quite intend to shove him into the chair, but that is what happened. "Gil! Give him the gun!"

Drunk(?) Gil comes forward with his pistol and offers it gently. Jacker practically spits. "Why, so I can shoot them and make a break for it? so I can goddamn shoot myself before they get me? Genius!"

You throw up your hands. Drunk(?) Gil pulls the pistol away and nods. "Don't worry, Lottie. I'll take care of it."

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Lottie? He shouldn't— no. You guess he should. Future Gil's a part of him, or, optimistically, Gil can... well, there's positive thinking, and then there's setting yourself up for stinging disappointment. Don't count your chickens. You lower your hands and watch as Not-Drunk Gil walks over to the two men by the door. "Hi there."

They jerk to life. "Stay where you are, criminal! You have been formally charged with—"

"I know. Not my finest hour. Uh... you see this gun?" He dangles it by the muzzle. "It's my late Pops'. You know where he got it? Salvage. You know how old it is? Old. You know how much it's worth? More than both of you, probably. Certainly more than whatever petty gullshit you've got me for. Way I see it, you get this, you're getting the better end of the deal by a ridiculous margin. You hear me?"

One of the men looks unconvinced. The other thinks for a second before snatching it out of Gil's hand— except Gil goes with it, swept clean out of existence. A beetle flies from him.

You box it just in time (four more!) before the ground shakes, and the cracks split, and the room is shot through with geysers of beetles.

>as expected[/spoiler[
I preferred calling him Gil Who Lost to Us at Darts
Too long to write out multiple times, but you'll have the chance to inform Gil that he lost to you at darts and/or mock his shoddy dart-playing ability later.

Back on the saddle and writing. I'm gonna work very hard to wrap it up tonight.
Thanks boss

You clutch the shoebox to your chest and lunge for stability, finding desperate purchase on the edge of Gil's desk— just as the whole room begins to list sideways. Which is fine! You could hang here all day, even one-handed, even with the tips of your fingers barely under the desk's lip, even with all the desk papers snowing in your face and the great big ledger book thwacking you in the nose, sliding down, and trapping itself painfully between your raised chin and collarbone. You need only to swing a little, to get the damn ledger off you, and this would've gone fine— gone great!— if a belated geyser hadn't punched clear through the desk and sent you crashing through the wall.

You sail dizzily through empty space, though is it empty when there's so many damn beetles in it? You sail dizzily through beetle space. It's like being caught in a hailstorm, if the hail were alive and bitey, and that's what half of you is thinking about: another quarter is devoted solely to keeping the shoebox under your arm, and the last quarter is wondering what the hell you have to do to dispose of the ledger, which is biting into your neck. What, is it glued on?

And that's what occupies you until you slam back-first into more beetles— not that there weren't enough before, but underneath the hailstorm they've packed together into a single surprisingly hard mass— the wind goes out of you, and you lay there stunned for some time. Long enough for the mass to part underneath you, so slow you don't realize it at first, then when you lift your head and try to rise it drops out rapidly and you plummet. The space above you fills in immediately, so when you halt you are packed in as if encased in stone.

You can't breathe terribly well, and it's very hot, but those are minor dangers compared to the beetles' rhythmic thrumming— they shift as one mass every half-second or so, forward then back, and you can feel yourself shifting with them, under your skin. And you know where this leads. Except this time the temple's gone, and the blessing's spent, so there's no escaping: you will be beetles. Fake brainless mind beetles, stuck in some other fake brainless mind beetles, while your fake body withers and your real body rots and Richard's blood pressure shoots so high it starts spurting out his ears. How pathetic of a way to die! How devoid of any meaning! Especially with you so close— like chopping the final chapter off the novel and tossing it into the sea. You want your money back.

...Have you thought this before? It seems familiar, but nobody ever accused you of originality, and just because that time was a fake-out doesn't mean this will be. You might still die. Horribly, uselessly. But, God, where is your positive thinking? Hello? You get trapped in with some bugs with one minute and you're already plotting your own death? Well-bred young ladies don't plot their own deaths, and neither do plucky (but still well-bred) young heroines, because it's impolite for the former and frankly out-of-character for the latter: plucky heroines don't die. And if they do, they sag down demurely in a young man's arms and remain astonishingly beautiful after gentle life passes from their plump rosebud lips, or they, as was your preference, go out in a great bang of glory, sacrificing themselves to slay the Dark Emperor or purge the land of evil or whatnot, and then children and a holiday are named in their honor and statues of them go up across the land. Since there's no young men to sag down into, and not a single valiant cause to sacrifice yourself for, surely it stands to reason that you won't die. Indeed that you can't.

The irritating Richard-ish voice in your head kicks up: that's delusion! It's one thing to act as a heroine, to wave around a sword and kill monsters, because swords and monsters both exist— but to expect real life to stick to some stupid books because of that? Would you expect to leap from a window and not break bones, because a stupid book character wouldn't? That's the sort of thing your mother would think. Are you winding up like your mother, Lottie? Are you? It was about your age that she developed her condition. Fantasy isn't real life, you know that, and you will die some day, you know that, and there's no sound and sensible reason why it couldn't be—

No! No, God, shut up— it takes some wrangling, but you shunt the voice into the dark little cellar it came from and slam the door. You don't need a second Richard, thank you, you need positive thinking, which is that you are not about to be turned forcibly into beetles and absorbed into the hivemind. (You are thrumming harder.) It simply will not happen.

And anyhow, it's wrong. The voice. Factually. Fantasy isn't real life, but you're not in real life— you abandoned real life for some liar snake and wound up somewhere with a lot less oversight. You float underwater in real life. You choke underwater in real life. Drinks don't work like that in real life, and darkness and distances and fires don't either, and you can't just pull things from thin air because you might have them on you— even if you have a dozen pockets. Why'd Ellery have a dozen pockets, anyhow? You can't remember the exact reason, but you'd guess it's to make the whole con more believable: Richard would say 'to the Universe,' but you think it's to Ellery. Ellery has to believe, on some level, that in one of his pockets there's a knife or a pebble or a bit of twine, and that's what makes it possible.

So why can't you believe that you're not going to die, and why can't that make it possible? Maybe because you haven't put your whole heart into it— but you have, now that you shut that voice up. Maybe because if it worked, nobody would ever die— but you're not saying you can't ever die, just that it has to be the right time. Maybe because you're striking down a weird, unhealthy path— doesn't binding yourself to fictional rules make you a little bit fictional? A little bit less of a real, live, whole, functional person?

Well, maybe. But you don't want to be beetles again.

>[-3 ID: 4/(9)]
>[BONUS GAINED: Narrative Convenience. You don't need Richard to spend ID on rolls, or in general.]

There's no shock up your spine like Richard would give you: there's not really much of anything. But you feel confident you'll come out of this intact. The question, of course, is how— and you have an idea. Not a good idea. Richard would hate it. But Richard would hate everything you just went over, so you may as well commit: say you are a heroine. The heroine. And say you had acquired a mysterious object in, say, the previous chapter. Or scene. Wouldn't it make sense to use the object in some way? To ensure the reader wouldn't forget about it?

Yes, you are telling yourself. And the universe. And maybe God, if He/It is paying attention. Yes, you would use the object— the ledger. You have no God-damn idea how it could be relevant, but that's hardly your business. All you have to do is rock back and forth, to give yourself some arm space, and grab it out from your chest, and sort of raise it up— "Hey!!" you yell (as best you can while muffled). "Hey, I have this, um—"

The beetles heave all at once, forming a canopy above you. And a thread of beetles trickles down from that like a fang, or stalactite (just a rock fang, really), or the dangly bit at the back of your mouth. Tentatively, you offer the ledger to them: they surround it and retract into the canopy.

There is a distinct sound of chewing.

That was the right thing to do, you tell yourself/the universe/God, that was the right thing to do, the only thing to do, really, so you can't possibly be blamed if it all goes—

The chewing ends. The empty cover of the ledger drops out of the canopy. And around you, beetles take flight— but not under you, where a small platform remains. You crouch reflexively as you're borne aloft into a thin spiral of beetles, then scream reflexively as you're tipped upside-down and sent falling— until you are caught by a thousand tiny legs and floated down through a hole in the roof of a broken-down house.

Ellery-Gil gives the impression of staring, though he's legs and half a torso. Jacker Gil, seated on the ground, coughs. A beetle flies from him.

The shoebox! Do you still have— yes. Of course. (Three more!) "Um," you say. "I'm back."

Jacker Gil wipes his mouth and looks past you. There's a stalactite of beetles wedged through the hole in the roof. "Lottie, I can't."

"You can't..." Ah. "You have to. It's in the plan."

"You don't understand! I can't do it again. I can't. I-I was doing so well. I-I was somebody, for once in my life, and then it just— it went to shit, all at once, and I—" He doesn't finish the sentence. "Lottie, I like it how I am. I'm normal. I'm cool. I don't have a goddamn stutter. Why the hell should I—?"

'Cool' is questionable, but you don't have the heart to dispute it. Especially not when it's time to rip the bandage off. "But you're not... him. And he isn't you anymore. He changed." (You eye Ellery-Gil.) "And maybe he changed for the worse. I don't know. I don't think that's totally true. But he did change, and you can't just shut your eyes and pretend he didn't. You have to face reality, Gil."

You're not a hypocrite, because hypocrisy is wrong and you've never done anything wrong in your life. "Also, I mean, you're not going to wake up from the coma if you don't. I wasn't lying about that. You are in a coma."

"..." He takes a deep breath. "...I know."

"Okay. Do you want me to..?" You sit down beside him without waiting for an answer, and take his hand supportively. You squeeze it. (You're pretty sure that's what you're supposed to do.) "I believe in you." (You're pretty sure that's what you're supposed to say.)

He smiles wanly at that and raises his head. That's the only signal the beetles need: they drop from position and pour into him. And then they are gone, and so is he. Except for one. You box it.

And behind you is a flash of blue light. You turn— two more— and squint against Ellery, who is newly intact and glowing like hell. "I thought that would work," he says brightly.

"I guess it did." You're not sure what else to say.

"You've almost done it. Astonishing. Your talents are being squandered on the path you're taking." The blessing tilts its head. "But I won't lecture. Here's your excysis back."

You take the key. "...Thanks."

"Of course. And I should thank you. Saving him is... a really decent thing to do. Noble." It sticks its hand out.

Should you shake its hand? It's a suspicious pagan magyck thing. It could curse you, or something. But on the other hand, it's complimenting you. It sounds sincere. You shake. "Um, it was. Yes."

"Don't take it personally if he doesn't thank you enough. He isn't good at that. But I think he will be grateful, uh, in an inarticulate sort of way." It smiles. "But here, I won't hold you up. Good luck, though you shouldn't need it, may the currents be in your favor, try and convince him divine magic exists, if you can help it... oh, wait, you need to get out of here. I can manage that. Pretend I said all that stuff before now."

It smiles broader and, instead of pulling out a pearl, tears its whole body off: its true shape, if 'shape' can describe it, is normal and natural to look at, and you are comfortable as it rips the house away and grows bright and dissipates.

You are in what may have been the parlor, once, but it isn't now: it is the cavern where the Horse-shod lived, all mossy and dark. It is where Gil got shot.

And it is where Gil stands now. You catch the final beetle on instinct (one more!) and walk over to him. "Gil?"

He's intact, except for a clean hole through his forehead. His eyes are green and blank. You open the shoebox: the beetles know where they're going, and when the last of them burrows into his chest he shudders and breathes. His eyes focus on you.

"Gil?" you attempt again.

He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. And then you notice the hole still in his forehead. And then you wonder: that was all the fragments. That was all the beetles. So why were you counting one extra?

And then something behind him catches your eye— the door. The door to the next layer, you guess. Except it's not how you remember it from earlier today, all fancy and decorated: it's plain white, a little scuffed. The one that's been showing up all over.

"Gil—" You point. "What's in there?"

He shakes his head.

"Is it important?"

He shakes his head.

"I think it's important, Gil. I think we should probably go in there."

He shakes his head. You sigh.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Okay, fine. You will go in there, scope it out, then go tell him that it's not that bad. One last step. Easy.
>[2] You don't need his consent, honestly: just drag him in. It's better than leaving him unsupervised, you know that much.
>[3] Hey, you know what? You'll just tell Gil/yourself/the universe/God that the door is safe, and helpful, and it's the last thing you actually need from here. And then it will be safe and helpful and the last thing you actually need from here. Genius. (-1 ID.)
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] You don't need his consent, honestly: just drag him in. It's better than leaving him unsupervised, you know that much.
>>[2] You don't need his consent, honestly: just drag him in. It's better than leaving him unsupervised, you know that much.
Gil-t him into coming with you.

Advanced gaslight him into us being right, and that the door is necessary and not bad (although maybe painful and scary) and besides we'll be with him so it'll be fiiiiiiine.
I wish he'd use his words
> Behind the door is Gil' repressed horniness and desire for Charlotte's body

Or that one time he tried asking out a girl through the drivethrough window and thought she said yes, but she was actually replying to another customer on a speaker.

Or that time at the Grad dance when he went alone but his mom was there to take pictures and asked him where his girlfriend Meghan was in front of everyone and she was right there but didn't even know Gil at all and he threw up right on the dance floor.
I'm seeing some split votes here, so I'll compromise: you convince/lightly Advance Gaslight Gil into coming with you on the condition that you enter first.

Called and writing.

>I wish he'd use his words
He's still a little screwed up and can't talk/articulate properly. Sorry if that wasn't clear.

>pic related
But seriously, you've about nailed him. RIP Gil Wallace 178-203 "never caught a break" Real Gil's repressed feelings about Charlotte are more complicated than pure horniness (being beetled does weird things to you)... but I'm not saying they don't include some horniness (being stuck in a house does weird things to you).
>Gil-t him heh heh heh heh

You can do this, Charlotte. One more thing. One more thing. "Gil," you say sweetly, "it's just a door. You can go in a door. You're not a pussy, are you?"

His eyes widen. You cross your arms. "Right! You aren't. And I know that, because you're my retainer, and I'm very particular about who I swear in. Besides, I've come all this way for you, and it's been horrible and tiring and I could've quit any time I wanted. But I didn't, because I'm not a pussy, and I do the right thing and whatever, so to get almost to the end and stop because you wimp out at a stupid door... I mean, it breaks my heart. And it's not that bad, even. The door. What's so bad about it? Look at me."

You wait until he looks at you. "It's not bad. And you're not scared of it, like a stupid pussy coward. You're excited to go in there— don't make that face!" Maybe that was too big of a stretch to work. Or you're just too done to put in the requisite energy. Whatever. "Fine, you don't have to be excited. But you do have to go in there, alright? For me? I'll go with you. I'll go first, even, if that makes you feel better. I'll just go over here— come on!"

Stepping over to the door, you place your hand pointedly on the doorknob. Gil sighs (the nerve!) and comes a little closer. "I'll go in, and then I expect to see you right behind me, okay? This is for your own good. I can't have a retainer that's mute."

You're not sure why you were expecting a response to that. Okay. You trust him. And, as you suspected it'd be, the door is unlocked. "Watch. I'm going in, and it's going to be fine. It's going to be normal. And then you're going to feel silly, okay? Look, I'm—"

The door glides open, and you through it. Inside is a nondescript bedroom. Sort of messy, you guess. Nothing to be terrified of. (As expected.) You crane your neck around to double-check and come up empty. "See? It's safe! It's a stupid bedroom! You put in all that build-up for—"

Your sentence dies on your lips. Richard's there. Not standing, not sitting— flat on the bed, motionless. The Sword is in his hand, bloody. Blood dampens his rumpled suit. He's stabbed himself in the chest. A note is in his hand, bloody. Don't read it. Don't read it. You walk over and pick it up and read it.

"I forgive you. I know you aren't in your right mind. It's okay, primrose. I forgive you. I love you, Charlotte. Charlie. You'll never know how much. I'm sorry."

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

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You're not sure where the shriek came from. It wasn't you, though your mouth is hanging open and a cold prickle has struck up all over your body. It couldn't be you. You are not a stupid pussy coward. Perhaps it was Gil who shrieked, seeing your father dead on the bed there, reading the note where he says— why is it always the same thing? Why is it always your fault? You didn't do anything. You haven't done anything in your whole life. It must've been Gil who shrieked in sympathy to you, because there he comes now, skidding through the door, and there's a weird twisting feeling. You look over. Your father is gone. In his place is a man with broad shoulders and a sandy beard, which is all you can make of his face, as it's been spattered all over the headboard. A gun is in his hand, bloody. Gil's gun is in his hand, bloody. A note is still in your hand, and against your better judgment you start to read it.

"Dear Family. I am sorry but it has become too much to bear. Every time the thieving collectors come to our door the hole under my feet becomes deeper and it is at the point where I look up and I can't see the sky any longer. I—"

It is snatched from your hand. Gil crumples it up and slams it to the ground, then stoops and picks it back up and uncrumples it and begins to tear the note into little pieces. You watch in silence as he gives up, recrumples the remainder, and tosses it onto his father's body. He stalks over. He snatches his gun back and stuffs it into his waistband. He stalks back. He meets your eye.

"Um," you say, "um, okay, maybe I shouldn't have said all that about—" and he's talking over you, "I-I-I-I-I-I— I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I— he was an asshole, anyway. He was an asshole."


His face crumples like the note. "He was. So it was for the best that— it was for the best— we need to get out of here. I-I-I-I don't understand what we're doing here. In this dump. We need to— here, I-I-I'll—" He's fumbling with a matchbook, but his hands are shaking so badly he can't even touch the match to the lighter strip.

You rub your hands together. You're still shaking a little, too, but less. "...Do you want me to...?"

"No! I-I-I-I can, I will— he was an asshole, he— I-I-I am— I'm not a coward. Fuck you."

But you didn't call him a coward. Technically. So why do you feel nasty? "I didn't mean—"

"No. No. I-I-I-I didn't either, I just— I just— sorry." He turns to face the wall and cups his hands to his face. He mutters something inaudible, and looks to the ceiling, then returns unsteadily to match-striking. It goes better. He turns back to you with a lit one. "Take it."

You take it, but he doesn't let go: he leans in and blows on the flame. You feel warm all over as the bedroom melts into smoke, and just before it vanishes Gil abruptly blows the match out. You are whisked somewhere else, somewhere with sunshine—

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"FUCK!" Gil throws the match to the ground and stomps it over and over and over until it can't be more than wooden shards, then a few times more for good measure. "MOTHER-FUCK!"

You'd be alarmed, or offended, if it weren't obvious exactly where the issue laid. You are on a scrubby hill, and before you is a broken-down white wooden house. "...I thought I set it on fire?"

He needs to catch his breath before he can answer, and his voice is ragged when he does. "You did. This isn't— i-i-i-i-it's not— it's my locus."

"Oh." (His manse. You need to train him to use 'manse.') "And it didn't use to—"

"What the fuck do you think?! Sorry. Sorry. I-I-I-I-I just—" He wipes his face. "No. Lottie. It did not use to look like this. But I-I-I don't know what I..."

"Can you put it back?"

"I-I-I-I don't... maybe. I-it's not— maybe it's not— I don't want to think about it. Right now. I-I-I-I just want to... I don't know. I-I don't know what I want."

You had thought, perhaps, that upon fixing things, it'd be... fixed. The world would be right. At least for a second, before it all went wrong again. But no. Of course not. "Um, I don't know if I can... maybe we should go inside? Maybe it's only the outside that—?"

He doesn't exactly agree, but he doesn't protest, either, so you steer him across the slope and through the front door (half off its hinges). Inside is a mixed bag. It's furnished, which is a step up from the original, and there's peeling wallpaper on the walls, but everything's ratty and choked with ice plant and covered in a quarter inch of dust. You purse your lips and clear two chairs. "Here. How about we—?"

You sit. Gil collapses. He won't look at you.

"Um, so I saved your life," you say. "You were sort of shot. In the head. But I fixed that."

He digs his nails into the upholstery.

"So I think you should be... happy? Or not even... I mean, it'd be real nice if you were happy, but any kind of positivity would make sense here. Um. Since again, you were going to die, and now you're—"

"You were i-in my head."

You lean back. "Well, uh, there wasn't really any other..."

"You were in my—" He jabs at his skull. "So you saw—!"

"There wasn't any other choice," you repeat. Because it's true.

He brings his knees to his chest and presses at his temples and looks at the ground. He seems nearly on the verge of tears, though it's not that he's sad, you think. He doesn't look sad. If you were to be hysterical, and melodramatic, you'd say that were despair, that he was despairing— but there's melodramatic, because nothing to despair over! How could he! You saved his God-damn life! If the blessing hadn't warned you he'd be ungrateful you'd possibly be strangling him now, and as it is you have to sit on your hands.

"So you saw... me." He is choosing his words carefully. "You had to have."


"And you hate me."

You pause. "Um, what?"

"Well, I-I'm just thinking. Either you saw me normal, and now you see what a pathetic piece of shit I've devolved into, and you hate me. Or you saw me normal, and you saw what a pathetic piece of shit I've always been, and you hate me. Or both, hell. I-I-I don't blame you at all, Lottie. I-I'd feel the same way. I-It's just the logical conclusion to draw."

You don't know what to say. Gil looks at you for the first time in a while, then sideways. "Or tell me what conclusion you've drawn, then. I-I just won't believe you. That's all."

>[1] How do you feel about Gil after everything? (Write-in.)
He was, like, normal kind of pathetic? The kind most humans (but not us) are deep inside? Not the hateable kind of pathetic. Sym-pathetic. Defninitely not a piece of shit. And he didn't devolve, really, so there's no reason to hate him? Though really, he could stand to display more gratitude.
. . . . Hasn't he seen our life so far?

Besides, maybe things didn't work out in the past and all but those were also kind of sorta other Gil's, our Gil took a bullet for us and that definitely outweighs all that prior stuff.

Clearly we're a good influence on him, and we're gonna push him into being the best Gil he can. I mean, he can kinda sorta sometimes do god stuff now also so hey, hey bud, who can say that? Not many people at all!

Fuck, we're actually pretty good at this leadership thing. Pulled a brave magyckal tech dude first try. Richard don't know shit about no risk no reward.
Backing >>5134229
Not everyone can be perfect like us. Pretty much everyone is their own brand of weird. Plus Richard can amnesia us after this so we won't even remember.

Supporting >>5134229
Seems like >>5134229 takes it, but I'll throw in some aspects of >>5135107 because I don't like to see a good write-in go to waste. Called and writing.
>Pep talk mark 4

You still don't know what to say (how could you?), so you masterfully change the subject. "Gee, you're not much of a positive thinker, are you? You're just dwelling on the, the bad stuff, when there's loads of good stuff— again, I saved your life? Hello? Would it kill you to give me a thank-you? It doesn't even have to be fancy, just 'gosh, Lottie, you have my gratitude for literally saving—'"

"I-I don't know if that was a good thing."

You can't strangle him, he's your retainer. Not even a little bit. Breathe. "Excuse me?"

"I-I-I-I just... I-I hung on because I thought I had a chance, you know? I-I-If I just got lucky, everything could go right back to normal. Then I-I-I got lucky, and then it didn't. But I-I still thought there was a shot of... I don't even know what. Having some kind of life. And now I-I-I-I-I fucked that up. So I-I guess I'm sorry you wasted all your time."

What the hell is he talking about? "...What do you mean, 'effed that up'?"

Gil looks at you like you're stupid. "Because you hate me?"

"I don't hate you," you say.


"I don't— I don't hate you, and that's such a stupid thing to say, Gilbert. I can't hate my retainer, that's not the right dynamic at all. And if I did hate you, I would make it very obvious, because I believe in honesty. I wouldn't say nice things to someone I hated. I'd hate them. Duh."

"My name isn't Gilbert," he mutters into folded hands.

"Gilbert is your God-given name," you inform him, "and it's perfectly good."

"No it isn't."

"...No, it isn't." You prop your chin on your fist. "But it could be worse."

"No it couldn't."

"No, it could. It could be, I don't know, Cameron Morgan Samuel Garvin. Wild exaple. I made that one up. But it isn't that, so instead it's just... regular bad. Bad like a normal bad name. So I guess it's like you?"

He doesn't seem to know how to take that. You sigh. "Since I do believe in honesty, especially with my trusted retainer, I won't— I mean, you were pathetic, sort of. You kept mentioning my... 'tits'? Which I—" You're cut off by the thunk: his head hitting the back of his chair. "Um, which we don't have to get into. But you're not totally wrong about the—" Thunk. "Gil, you're going to hurt yourself. I was saying that you weren't totally wrong. It was bad. But it was normal bad, not..."

Your only response is another thunk. You suck in your cheek. "Um, I'm saying this wrong. I'm trying to say that— that I think most people would be like that, if you cut them open and dug around in them. Almost everyone's all pathetic and stupid inside, they just hide it better or worse. So what makes you so special? You're not specially pathetic. You're not hateably pathetic. You're just normal."

Gil laughs a little, which you guess beats another thunking. "I-I'm normal."

"Yes? Is that funny?" You frown. "I'm trying really hard here, Gilbert, you shouldn't—"
"...I-I-It's not funny. Sorry. I-I-I just..." He pushes his thumbs together and shakes his head. "...Why is it 'almost' everyone?"

"Oh!" (You were hoping he would ask about that.) "Well, that's easy. Certainly most people— the teeming masses, say— they're flawed. They're pathetic and stupid. They walk around all day with their, you know, foibles and human frailties and neuroses and whatever. That's you, no offense. It's honestly nothing to be ashamed of. You're what provides the necessary contrast for..." You lace your hands behind your head. "...the chosen few, who are unburdened by such petty concerns, being A) of a higher caliber of being and B) possessed of a destiny, which they face unswervingly, bolstered when needed by a few lesser—"

Gil's lips are pinched together and he's squinting so hard you assume he's having a medical emergency, even moreso when he bites his hand and emits a string of unintelligible choking-like noises. His chest shakes. You frown harder. "Was something I said offensive?" Wait. "Did I leave something out? When fixing you? I thought I—!"

The shaking slows. He removes his hand from his mouth and uses it to wipe his eye. "No, no, I-I'm— sorry. I-I-I needed to hear that. Are you one of those? The chosen few?"

You shrink back. "I didn't say which one I was."

"...No." He wipes his other eye. "No. Sorry. I-It's just... you know how it feels? Like everyone's got i-it figured out except you? And you're the only one out there fucking up all the time? I-I-I'm not even talking about beetles."

"No," you say defensively.

"I-I-I guess you wouldn't, no." He pinches his lips together again, though it sort of looks like he's smiling. "Um, that's okay. I-I think I got a wake-up call about that about now. That's all. So thanks."

He must be a little scrambled, still, because you're not following at all. "Sure? Wait, so you're doing better? I had all this stuff, like how it wasn't even really you in there, and about how I like current you better anyhow, and how being all stupid and negative is insulting me, basically, since you're my retainer, and— did I not need that? And is that a thanks for whatever I said, or a thanks for literally saving your life?"

"I-It can be both... um, I-I guess it's good you did. Sorry I said it wasn't worth it, I-I-I-I-I don't know why I... I-I didn't want to die. I-I-I just got up in my own head, I guess." He drums his fingers on the arms of the chair. "...Um, speaking of... what happened? Exactly? Besides me hitting on you, which... I-I don't know what to say. I-I-I feel really bad."

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Give Gil the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He deserves to know.
>[A2] Give Gil a lightly polished version of the truth. He deserves a break. (What do you leave out in particular? Do you tell him about the blessing? Write-in.)

>[B1] Never mind what you did— how much was he aware of, exactly? Does he remember being shot?
>[B2] He kept talking about 'locitis,' or whatever. You've never heard of it, which is weird, because you would've /been/ roughly in the region around that time. Does he have any insight?
>[B3] Here's the facts: Gil will not believe you if you tell him about the blessing in passing. He won't believe you even if you go into detail. You'll need to put in hard effort to have a fighting chance at convincing him. [Roll.]
>[B4] Does he know that he lost to you in darts? He lost to you in darts.
>[B5] Accuse him of being a lightweight! He was a grown man, for God's sake, he couldn't handle one cocktail?! He wasn't even bugs!
>[B6] Actually, why isn't he bugs right now?
>[B7] Other questions? (Write-in.)
>[A2] Give Gil a lightly polished version of the truth. He deserves a break.
Give a general outline but leave out the particularities of his inner Gils. Tell him about the blessing.

>[B2] He kept talking about 'locitis,' or whatever. You've never heard of it, which is weird, because you would've /been/ roughly in the region around that time. Does he have any insight?
>[B4] Does he know that he lost to you in darts? He lost to you in darts.
>[B6] Actually, why isn't he bugs right now?
Leave out whatever would make him feel bad. Do mention blessing.


I want to confirm he remembers what other him would to make sure our process worked right.
>[A1] Give Gil the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. He deserves to know.

>[B4] Does he know that he lost to you in darts? He lost to you in darts.

> Also mention offhandedly that he has god stuff in him from that one time that ended up not happening (yet? Maybe?) But you don't expect him to accept that without going on some sort of actual spirit quest within himself. Basically that's a Gil problem.
[A2] and [B2], [B4], and [B6] take it. You will let him know about the blessing, though of course he won't believe you. This will be the second-to-last update of the thread.

Called and writing.

I'd also like to formally state that I really liked this >>5134229 write-in: pls don't take Charlotte mangling it as a value judgment. Sometimes you guys have too much EQ for her to handle (I say lovingly).
>[the period of time that >>5118194 happens during]

You're not certain 'really bad' cuts it, frankly, but— but you need to be magnanimous, Charlotte. He wasn't in his right mind. And he has returned to understanding his place in society. "Well. Quite. As for what happened... you got shot."

Gil touches his forehead reflexively. "...Um, I-I-I-I-I guessed. I remember you leaving, then the lady— Nettie?— she grabbed me and cuffed me and put a goddamn pistol to my head, and she said, um, something like 'sorry, it's not personal,' and I-I-I remember thinking it seemed pretty personal... and that's it. Everything else is sort of..." He spins his hand. "But with the pistol, uh, I-I-I sort of knew. Afterward."

"...Uh-huh." Way to murder your grand reveal. "Well, uh, you did. Also, Nettie was a fake name. That was Pat. I know her. But anyhow, she shot you, and this upswelled righteous outrage within mine breast, etcetera, so I swore upon heaven and earth that I'd stop at nothing to avenge your most untimely demise. Um, then Richard told me you weren't dead. You were just sort of broken up. So then I swore upon heaven and earth to—"

"I-I-I think I got it. Except that you wound up— you were i-in— you were in my head. I could feel you, in my head. Which— I don't—" He holds his temples. "That's i-i-i-impossible. Nobody's been able to crack—"

"Oh! I used magyck."

He sighs. "You don't have to tell me i-i-i-if it's proprietary, or whatever."

You don't know what that means. "It's not. It's magyck."


The blessing sure did have a lot of foresight, because Gil's neck looks awful stranglable right now. "Okay, you're not allowed to sound like that when I just literally saved your life, and yes. Magyck. Which you have personally— you are made of beetles, Gilbert."

He just looks at you.

"...Gil. Um, and you've seen Richard turn into a big snake, and I was a big lizardy thing, remember, in the tournament, so I don't know how you'd like to explain all that without—"

"I-I mean, none of that can really happen, though. And i-i-it didn't. My real body didn't turn into beetles, and your real body didn't turn into a big lizard thing, and I-I-I-I don't think Richard has a real body, because he's not a real person— right? Someone made him up. But you were really in my head, Lottie, so I don't—"

"Okay," you say impatiently. "But the god thing really happened, right? I mean, then it un-happened, but— you saw it the first time. And that was magyck, wasn't it?"

Gil rubs his face. "I-I-I-I mean... if that really happened... that was a whole other caliber of thing. You're not a god."

"I have god blood though," you say modestly. "Oh! And— and— hey! You remember when it gave you a blessing, right? So that wasn't just saying stuff. You have latent magyck powers."

"..." He takes a deep breath. "...Lottie, um, I-I-I-I-I don't mind if you're into that kind of... imaginary stuff. I-I-It's none of my business. But i-i-if you start involving me, I'm calling gullshit. I-I-I don't like playing pretend."

Breathe. Channel the heat into picturing his face when he realizes. "Okay, well, I'm not playing pretend, and I'm right. But whatever. Come talk to me after you go on your spirit quest. The point was, I did get into your head, via magyck, and that's how I—"

You proceed to give a run-down on everything that happened, almost: you leave out specifics about the Gils, rationalizing that it'd be like informing someone of their behavior while black-out drunk. (Embarrassing for everybody.) Instead, you focus on the important victories, like—

"So I discovered that I have a natural talent for darts," you announce. "My first time ever playing, against an expert, and I won. 'Beginner's luck?' you might say? Hardly. It wasn't like that at all, which you'd know if you watched— actually, you did watch. Because you were there. And lost. Of course you had to lose, really, so I could properly—"

Gil pulls the cigarette from his mouth. "There's a dartboard in my brain?"

This dodge of the matter at hand is pure, unadulterated proof of your darts dominance. You allow yourself a glow of superiority.

>[+2 ID: 3/(9)]

"Um," you continue, "I don't think it's literally in your... it's like I told you, I was kind of imagining the whole thing based on the information, um, you were sending me. Or something."

"So you just i-i-imagined that you won?"

"...No, I... I won fair and square, it's not like I..." You're sure that's wrong, but you're not sure how to argue it. Richard would know. "Moving on!"

Besides the victories, you also point out the things that've stuck with you— the beetles, for one, and also the matter of...

"So what the hell is locitis?" you say.

Gil pauses halfway to the ashtray. "What?"

"Locitis? I don't know, you said it was some sort of disease, and Headspace said the jackers caused it, and the jackers say Headspace causes it... you look confused."

"...I-I-I-I don't know what you're..."

"What do you mean? It wasn't that long— it can't have been longer than 2 years ago. And you were pretty worked up about it, it wasn't a offhand... do you seriously not?"

"I-I-I-I-I don't..." He furrows his brow. "I-I-I'm not... locitis?"

"Yeah. See, I don't remember it either— but it sounded like it was in the news, and stuff, and I used to live over there back then. So that's weird. Let me know if you remember, okay?" You tilt your head. "And, um, I thought smoking did weird stuff to you?"

Gil looks down at his cigarette guiltily. "I-I-It doesn't..."

"Richard says it paralyzes you? Lightly? Something about how it works on bugs, I don't— wait, why are you not bugs? Gil? I thought you were supposed to always be—"

"Goddammit," he mumbles.


"I-I was hoping you wouldn't—" Before he can finish his sentence, he's flickered and vanished from his chair. His cigarette falls to the ground.

You bolt upright. "Gil!" Was it you? Did you do something? Did you not fix him right? Has he been sent to Beetle Hell for not believing in it? Not after everything you—

"I-I-I'm still here..." A tiny cluster of beetles (so few you can count them: four-four-eight sixteen total) scrabbles up the inside back of the chair. "I-I-I just... yeah. Um. I-I-I-It was going great while you didn't notice... I-I don't like being this small. I-I-It screws with my head. And I-I miss normal smoking."

"...Um, that makes sense." You sit back down, unsteadily. "But, um, how?"

"I-I-I-I don't exactly know. I-I think you... expected me to be a person. And I-I could sense that, I don't know how, and I-I-I could lean into it, I don't know how either. But i-i-it worked until..." The beetles rustle around.

He sounds like Richard: all this stuff about expectations and being made into stuff and you at fault. Always at fault. (Except Gil didn't blame you.) Is it a not-real thing? A in-your-head thing? "Um. Sorry. I didn't mean to."

"I-I-I know. It's okay. I-I-I-I think we were wrapping up, anyhow... I want to get out of here. I-It's depressing."

It's difficult to disagree. "Okay. Uh, I'm not quite sure how to—"

"I-It's okay. There was just one other thing. Um." The beetles cluster together. "Could we not... talk about this? Ever again? I-I-I-I think you were trying to be nice, describing it, but I— I-I mean— i-i-i-it was still goddamn awful to listen to. Um. So i-i-if we could please pretend this just never..."

Oh. Oh, you promised the memory-wipe to the other Gil. He doesn't even know it's a possibility.

>[1] Even better, then: you'll look like a saint for offering. Make Richard make you forget what you saw today, for Gil's peace of mind. (You'll still remember that you saved Gil— just none of the details.)
>[2] No. It's awful right now, and awkward, and painful, and embarrassing, but that's the sort of thing that forges a bond between people. You're not sure you've ever known anyone else this close. Legitimately. Remember it. (Do you agree to never speak of it, though?)
>[3] Remember it, and— if it will make him feel better, offer a secret of your own. (What secret? Write-in.)
>[4] Write-in.
Agree to memory wipe, but remember about locitis. It sounds important. If there's someone out there who can mass-remove memories, it might explain some things.
I can back writing ourselves a note if Richard can't precision wipe
>[2] No. It's awful right now, and awkward, and painful, and embarrassing, but that's the sort of thing that forges a bond between people. You're not sure you've ever known anyone else this close. Legitimately. Remember it. (Do you agree to never speak of it, though?)

Agree not to speak of it until he feels more comfortable about it.

>[3] Remember it, and— if it will make him feel better, offer a secret of your own. (What secret? Write-in.)

We aren't always in control of the situation like we seem, and we sometimes worry if we can actually do all the things we want to like becoming God Queen of Creation or finding Pat and wrecking her day. Whew, feels good to admit possible failure lurks in the backs of our mind.
Personally I'm against memory wiping. Too much of that recently what with us "doing nothing wrong", not remembering our Dad for so long, and having a coherent identity being rather important so chopping big wholes in our continuance of consciousness seems really fucking bad.

>[2] We should remember. Don't agree on speaking up or not speaking up for now.
+1 to this. Seems like solid reasoning.
Understandable, I probably wouldn't vote for it if we hadn't promised him we would when getting his approval to do all this.
>[3] and agree not to speak of it

>[2] and fencesit

>[1] except not locitis

Complicated votes! Because [2] and [3] are similar in intent, I'm going to lump the [2] vote in and call for [3]. However, since [1] is effectively "guarantee that you never speak of it again," I'm going to assume that those votes support that promise, so...

>[3] (per >>5138133)
>Agree to never speak of it again, at least until/unless he changes his mind

Also note that Richard can mess with your memories whenever, so if you guys change your mind it's still on the table.

Also, some very minor points to make:

>all the things we want to like becoming God Queen of Creation
I wouldn't normally nitpick about characterization (you guys write Charlotte just as much as I do), but because this was set up so early I consider it pretty immutable-- Charlotte doesn't actually have much interest in becoming a god or having godlike power. Richard offered Thread 1 and she turned him down flat.

Reading back to when it came up last thread, it wasn't an *explicit* promise-- Charlotte mentioned it, but it was along with a bunch of other stuff. It'd be pretty easy to justify not doing it.
It's more about doing it out of spite than anything else at this point.

>It's more about doing it out of spite than anything else at this point.
But being anti-Godqueen spites Richard :^)))

Nah, that's fair. Without spoilers, I think it's likely we'll come to an inflection point about Charlotte's motivations next thread, so there'll be an actual vote to solidify what she's aiming for long-term. Something to look forward to, I guess.
>Showing vulnerability?!?!

You could still offer it now. It'd be better that way, even— he'd be astounded at your sheer commitment to his well-being. Hell, you'd be astounded. It was just something you tossed off in the moment, desperately trying to convince him, without much thought involved. So now you're giving it thought, and not particularly liking what you find: is this something you want to forget? Would it actually be better if you forgot? And most importantly— do you want to give Richard permission to mess with your memories? It's not that you don't trust him, but...

Okay, it is that you don't trust him. Sort of. He's done enough for you over the years— he's proven he honestly wants you alive and well, because if he were lying you'd be dead. But he's done enough to you over the years, too, that you've realized your definition of 'well' and his barely overlap. He'd take out other memories of yours if it were useful to him, and convenient, and is there anything more convenient than "please delete the past hour-something"?

But even if he didn't get itchy fingers, letting Richard sift through your memories so he can criticize your each and every mishap? He'll do it anyhow, but you shouldn't invite it. God forbid.


"Yeah! Yeah, I was just— um, yes." Right, He doesn't want you to talk about it. Which is sort of irritating, considering what you just went through, but... he is your retainer. If you don't keep him satisfied you've failed in your noble duty, and you hate failure more than keeping your mouth shut. "I won't talk about it."

He doesn't have a face, and attempting to understand his body language is like reading shapes into clouds. Damnit. You guess his voice sounds pleased. "...Thanks. Um... sorry for getting shot. I know this was an i-i-inconvenience for you... I-I'm glad we can move on. Now, I-I-I can get us out of here, if you'd hang on—"

"Wait. Gil."

"Um, what?"

'Um, what' indeed? You'd promised to keep your mouth shut not twenty seconds ago, and look at you busting out— and what for? Because something rubbed you the wrong way, just a little? How stupid. You really should quit while you're ahead, not— "It wasn't an inconvenience. That's dumb."

The beetles separate into two clumps. "Sorry."

It's a rote 'sorry,' not a genuine one. He still believes it. "I wasn't asking you to apologize! I just... God, it's not about 'convenience,' okay? You got shot because of me. I let you be shot. I'm the one who failed, not you, and I owe you safety, so I— I— I failed. And I had to unfail. What the hell is 'convenience'? Why did you think I went and fixed you?"

There's a long, long pause. "Um, you spent all that time making that body, and you rescued me in the first place, so I-I-I-I-I thought you were recouping your investment."

Your "investment." Like you own him. That's what he thinks, what he still thinks, because you never lectured this Gil about it— God-damnit! You don't feel like repeating everything, but you can't just let this stand unargued. "You're not an investment, stupid, you're a person. You're my retainer. And that doesn't mean slave! Or servant! It means I do my best for you, like fixing you, and you do your best for me, and we're— we're bosom companions."

A shorter pause, but it's still longer than you'd like. "I-I-I don't know what that means."

You need to stop while you're ahead. Why don't you ever stop while you're ahead? You breathe deeply. "It means 'friends.'"

"Oh." The beetles freeze in their path. "Uh... we don't... know each other."

"I know you," you say awkwardly. "Now."

"...But I-I-I-I-I don't know you. Sorry. Sorry." The beetles begin to move in jagged little patterns. "I-I-I think we better go. I can—"

You squeeze your lips together. "Is it that I'm unapproachable? I know it seems like— like I'm perfect, like I'm always in control of everything, and I know what I'm doing all the time, but honestly... I-I'm just human. Um, a human with a great destiny, but I— the truth is, sometimes I don't know. I don't know if I can get the Crown back. Or save Madrigal. Or see my family ever again. And I— I didn't know if I could fix you, Gil. Even when I was doing it, I didn't... I mean, I thought I would. To be clear. But I- I- I was worried about you."

Gil doesn't say anything.

"So maybe we aren't friends... yet. But I hope you can— you can open your mind a little bit. I think you're sort of seeing the worst side of everything. But you'd be a lot happier if you tried, um, positive thinking." You fold your hands. "Like, about us, but not just us— you're so focused on what you've lost. Or how you're worse now. But if you saw it less as a 'deevolution' and more as a- a transformation. Not bad or good, just different. Um. A chance to be someone different, if that's what you wanted."

"I-I-I-I didn't."

"I think maybe you did," you say quietly, "you just didn't realize. But it's just something to think about, and... I'd be really happy if you did. A lady doesn't like to see her retainer miserable. But anyhow. We should reunite you with your, um, you. He's probably freaking out. No offense."

"...No, I-I probably am." Gil clambers down onto the seat of the chair. "...I-I-I'm not sure how to do this without hands. Uh. Sorry. Is there any way you could—?"

Do what? Or does he mean— you fix your gaze on the beetles and do your best to imagine a slouchy man in their place. It isn't too difficult. You've seen enough of him lately. And he appears, looking a bit startled. "Oh shit! That was— that was fast. Um. Okay, so I-I-I can just—"

He lights a new cigarette— on both ends. It makes more sense when he doesn't smoke it: instead, he brings it over to you, pinched in the middle, and asks you to hold out your hand. Do you trust Gil? You guess you do, so you hold it out and he places one lit end against it. He holds the other lit end in his hand and blows.

There's no pain at first, just warmth, then a creeping burning feeling flares into a narrow stabbing hot-pin feeling and you say something like "What the hell!" but Gil holds your wrist, and blows, and it feels like it shoots right through your palm and you—


—wake up. Or maybe "waking up" isn't the right phrase, when you're out of one imaginary body and into another, but you're in your manse— you know it from the ceiling color and from your palm hurting. You're not in the armchair, though. You're flat on your back somewhere cold. You sit up, and your vision sloshes around like a bucket of water, but you think that red flouncy shape over there is Richard in his dressing gown. He is leaning against the wall, both hands clasped to his forehead.

"Richard?" you say, and are surprised at how raspy your voice is.

Richard does not leap a foot into the air. He's got too much self-possession for that. But you can see a jolt run through him: his back straightens, and his shoulders raise, and for a moment he stops dead. Then he pushes his sunglasses up the bridge of his nose.

"Charlotte Fawkins," he says nicely. "Where the fuck have you been?"

Okay! And that's it! Full archive spiel tomorrow not at 2 AM, tl;dr:

>New thread circa Feb 5 or 6
>Featuring: Richard is mad at you
>And maybe you'll get around to some Ellery stuff?
>We'll find out!

Thanks for playing!
richard is mad at us?
time to gaslight him into thinking he abandoned us in the depths of Gil's mind
we're mad at him now

thanks for running!
We are archived here: https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux

My Twitter is here: https://twitter.com/BathicQM

As mentioned, I'll be posting Thread 23 next-next weekend: this thread was pretty high concept/high stress on the QM end, so I'm gonna take some time to unwind. I can't say I'm entirely happy with the execution, but I hope you guys enjoyed yourselves.

Feel free to post questions/comments here until the thread dies-- I'll be lurking.

Have a nice few weeks!

Hey, that's the spirit!
It sure was nice to be competent for once.
You guys made good decisions (the puzzle solution ended up flowing better than the intended one!) and the dice cooperated, so I'm happy to oblige.

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