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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, Richard is swearing at you. This is never a good sign.

"Richard—" you say blearily. "Come on, you shouldn't curse—"

He had been leaning against the wall of your manse just a moment ago, his hands clasped to his forehead— you can still see his expression in your mind's eye. (But what? Fear? Distress? Despondency? Or are you overinterpreting simple exhaustion?)

However, your mind's eye is the only place the expression lingers: it has gone entirely from his face, replaced with something twisted and nasty and— you will admit it— frightening; it is not cowardice to be frightened here, unless it'd be cowardice for someone struck by lightning to be frightened of dark clouds. You have not seen this Richard for some time. You thought foolishly that it'd been packed away for good, that Richard realized it wasn't useful or necessary and he got just the same results from being nice, or at least civil, or at least his version of civil, and he didn't need to go through the whole—

"I shouldn't?"

If it weren't blindingly obvious from the expression, his predatorial stance and tone seal it: this is a trap. If you aver it, he'll seize the opening. But if you deny it— if you recant your deeply held (and correct!) beliefs and kneel and grovel and tell him he can curse all he likes— well, that's the thing. You've tried that, once or twice, sucking up your vast pride in attempts to forestall the thunderstorm. Which is a damn good metaphor, because only God could forestall a thunderstorm, and it's just the same for Richard— only worse. Because he takes white flags for red flags; because he's a snake, and snakes eat floppy little fish, and eggs, and other innocent defenseless things.

So rolling over and dying will just make him hungry. Fine. You are a grown woman— more than that, easily more than that, you have a sword and magyckal powers (probably) and you just saved Gil's God-damned life, all by yourself, which makes you a heroine. And heroines may get frightened but they do not get cowed, not by stupid beady-eyed snakes, not even by snakes coiled half-against the wall like they're going to spring out and throttle you. You've been throttled before. You can do it again.

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

"You shouldn't," you repeat, and for kicks imagine the air smelling of ozone.

"Ah." Richard quirks a foreboding eyebrow. "So you think you can tell me what to do?"

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There's no answer to that, and you both know it. There's no reason for him to say anything right now, except for him liking the sound of his own voice. You wish he'd get on with it. But he won't, until you answer, which means he's leaving the severity up to you: do you make him mad or royally mad?

If you just woke up, if you were feeling particularly vivacious or feisty or plain spiteful, 'royally mad' might sound good. But you are tired. It has been a long day. You just want this over, so you can cry and lick your wounds in private and sleep. "Yeah," you say neutrally.

He strides over, footsteps booming on the tile, while you inspect yourself— eye contact might also tip the scale into 'royally.' Someone has moved you onto a smooth white table; someone has removed your coat; there is something in where your good eye was; there is an odd rough line, like scar tissue, running from the point of your chin down past your collarbone. And that is as far as you get before you are swung with great force off the table.

Richard holds you by the collar of your shirt a foot off the ground, at arm's length— and his arms are longer than yours, so all you can do is grapple his pale wrist and kick at air. He slings you around like a sack of feathers into a waiting column, which— you ought to clarify. To him you're a sack of feathers. To you, you're still a sack of heavy flesh, which goes some length to explain why your vision blackens a little when your skull smacks into the marble, and why your organs jangle against each other, and why you emit an inadvisable "Ow."

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

He regards you impassively, or with the appearance of impassiveness: an impassive person does not shove other people into columns, you think. Though you're not stupid enough to press the point, not when he's leaning into your face. "Charlotte," he says. "I think that, somewhere along the line, you have been misapprehended. Don't you?"

You flick your eyes, enough to serve as an acknowledgement, also to stop looking at his bared teeth. Which are sharper than you remembered.

"I think you do," he continues. "I think you have been made to develop a grossly inaccurate picture of the world and your place in it. About the power you do or do not have, and the permissions you do or do not have, and the role you are to play, as opposed to the ones you've conjured up— excuse me, been made to conjure up— inside that vacuous head of yours. But of course I'm not blaming you, Charlie." He shoves you again against the column to emphasize how much he isn't blaming you. "You being an ignorant little brat, I'm sure it's all too easy to fill you up with stupid ideas. Yes?"

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Three years ago, you would've found this incomprehensible. But you've built up a healthy Richard dictionary since then, God save you, so it's fairly plain: this is the plea bargain. Except you're not guilty of whatever he thinks you've done, or whatever you did isn't a crime, not to anyone sensible, so— so— maybe if you were beaten down, you'd take it. Maybe if you failed Gil and were feeling low and worthless. But you didn't, God-damnit, you saved him, without Richard's help, so you know whatever he tells you is lies, and whatever he does— well, you have a sword, if it comes to it. Don't back down now. "I don't know what you're talking ab—"

Your sentence ends in a sputter, because Richard, in a kind of juggling act, switches to holding you against the column by grasping your neck. He isn't squeezing. Exactly. But his well-maintained fingernails are digging into your skin. "Then let me rephrase," he says. "What did I tell you specifically not to do, Charlie?"

God, there's too much to list. Does he mean recently? He probably means recently? Oh. "The key?" you manage.

"You lost the key. Which could've been on accident. I know how careless you are." His breath is warm against your face. "But you took off the headset, didn't you? And you snapped the cord. The cord provided exclusively for your protection and safety. I thought you might have a death wish, but you've come back quite unharmed, haven't you? So you thought you didn't need it."

Oh, God— so you were exactly right. You didn't do any of that. But Richard won't believe you if you tell him divine magyck was responsible, or worse he will, and it'll incense him more— so you may as well incense him more the regular way. "Um, I-I didn't need—"

"Shut the fuck up." Now he's squeezing. "The way I see it, this is the culmination of a recent and disturbing trend. You seem to believe I'm superfluous. That what I do for you— what I sacrifice for you, regularly— is unnecessary. That if only you were rid of me, your life would be joyous and fulfilling. Bullshit."

You breathe thinly in response.

"If you were rid of me, you would be dead. And I don't mean stabbed or poisoned or evaporated." He tilts his head. "I mean that you live by my pleasure, Charlotte Fawkins. I could stop your heart like that— if I felt merciful. Or I could make you bleed out your eyes. I could strip the motion from your limbs and leave you alive in the wastes for the sharks. Or worse. You remember what you did to that gangly man today? In the arena?"

You don't want to.

"Quite. The fact is, Charlotte I can toss you aside and obtain a cooperative and grateful replacement and nobody would bat an eyelash. You don't seem to understand that. In your infinite ego you think that this is somehow about you, that—"

"What i-i-i-i-in the goddamn is happening?"

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What, indeed, is happening? It takes a split second for you to process the voice into Gil!, and several more for Richard to catch up: spot the pure bafflement on his face before it contorts into purpled rage. He releases your neck, dropping you to the ground like a broken doll, and whips around soundlessly.

Your vision swims as you sit up. Gil, God bless him, stands squarely in the middle distance. "You were all fucked up over losing her, a-and now she's back and you're strangling her? And you're saying you could replace her? What's wrong with you! She saved my goddamn life, you can't just..."

The sentence dies in his throat, not that you're casting blame: it's hard to maintain conviction when Richard's advancing like that. (He was all what over you?) You can't see his face, but you imagine it nasty and twisted. You can see his hand, which is reaching surreptitiously into his pocket. "I," Richard spits, "should have disposed of you when I had the chance."

No. No, he wouldn't— he's just saying that. He's always just saying things. He can't possibly seriously intend to...


But if he does?

>[1] If there's even the slightest chance Gil's in danger, it's your sworn duty to intervene— especially after all that *work.* Get in the way. Wave your arms around. Serve generally as a distraction.
>[2] Serve as a distraction by stabbing Richard with The Sword. You're positive it won't actually hurt him (if you can even hit him), and it's suitably heroic. Maybe Gil will be impressed.
>[3] God, why can't you have nice(ish) Richard back? Actually, can't you *make* him come back? Whatever he says, you do have power over him, and if you can just, er, want your father enough— [Roll.]
>[4] Richard needs a taste of his own medicine, is what he needs, and you're prepared to deliver one. (Advanced Gaslighting. What do you tell him or yourself?) [Roll.]
>[5] Write-in.
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Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! If you remember the art of all the characters that vanished a few threads ago... I've redone it on a slightly smaller scale. Expect this one to be up for a couple more threads before I dislike the art and have to redraw it again.

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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Inside Gil's mind, you discover a lot of embarrassingly mundane things about him, as well as a few interesting tidbits: his encounter with the pagan god has left some genuine magyckal residue, and something called 'locitis' was the talk of the town a year or two ago... except you can't remember it, and Gil can't either. Also, you turn into a big snakey monster for the second time today, which has to be a new record.

Ultimately, you solve the puzzle, knit Gil back together without a hitch, and give him a slightly awkward pep talk. It remains to be seen if any of it sunk in.


Short-term goals:
- Spend your share of the heist $$$
- Meet back up with Annie the worm
- Check the town archives
- Ask around about 'locitis'

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


Don't forget to scroll up and vote!
Welcome back! And oh boy, we've got a situation here...

>[3] God, why can't you have nice(ish) Richard back? Actually, can't you *make* him come back? Whatever he says, you do have power over him, and if you can just, er, want your father enough— [Roll.]

I feel like this is the best option without actively attacking Richard.
Tell him he's wrong about everything. We never lost the key. We have it with us right now, since the blessing gave it back after we gave it the sacred transformation. Even when we didn't have it we knew where it was so you couldn't call it lost, but don't say that part.

We never removed the earpiece either, it got eaten and the cord got snapped in the turmoil of Gil's subconscious. He should have made a less edible earpiece and a sturdier cable instead of blaming us for his shoddy craftsmanship. We expect a full apology. Especially since we were successful despite the faulty equipment he provided. What would he have done if we had gotten lost or subsumed in there because we relied on what he gave us? He's lucky we're skilled enough to make up for his incompetence.
To clarify, is the belief you'd be trying to make temporarily real that "Richard should blame himself?" No worries if it is or isn't, I just need to be sure so I can set a proper DC (if it wins).
I think it's more like "it was Richard's fault"
if that doesn't work I can go with having him blame himself


Attempting to warp reality on the one consistent reality-warper you know... bold move. You will look very cool if it succeeds.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s vs. DC 85 (+20 What Do You Think You're Doing Charlotte Fawkins, +15 Never My Fault) in order to Advanced Gaslight Richard into settling down!

Spend 1 ID on +10 to all rolls? You are at 3/(9) ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N

No, that works, thanks for the clarification!
Rolled 32 (1d100)

Rolled 37 (1d100)

Watch THIS
Rolled 98 (1d100)

oh fug thats high

time for big spendy
I do like that we can now spend ID against richard
>32, 37, 98 vs. DC 85 -- Mitigated Success
Nice save. I'll be merciful and not have you spend ID, since it wouldn't have made a difference, but please make sure to vote with your rolls next time.

>How the turntables?
>32, 37, 98 vs. DC 85 — Mitigated Success

You mean to leap dashingly to your feet, and draw The Sword with a flourish, and with steely courage say something awe-inspiring and/or quotable— or at least scream "GIL!" with appropriate pathos. Instead you are sort of shaking on the cold floor while Gil backs away. (Bless him. At least he has a survival instinct.) Of course the waves of panic hit you now, after you're out of immediate danger, while you must take action. Why wouldn't they? If only Richard could damp it for you— oh, wait.

Of course, you still could leap dashingly, etc. But some of the impact would be lost. And more relevantly, while you're uncertain Richard always wants to make you bleed out your eyes, you damn well believe he's inclined to in the moment. This is not a kind of Richard you confront. Or reason with, or talk to, or look at, or interact with in any way, which rather limits your options. Meaning Gil's getting hurt or you are, and put like that... it's better you than him. At least you know what's going on. At least Richard might have some qualms about hurting you, maybe. And— it's the heroic thing to do, you guess. Self-sacrifice.

...Um. So you guess you'll go do that. You will go jump in front of the sword, so to speak. You will heroically bleed out your own eyes. You will writhe in indescribable agony while Richard (perhaps) cackles and rubs his hands together, and Gil watches completely incognizant of what you just saved him from (he won't even thank you), and then when you're unconscious on the tile Richard will stroll over and gut him anyhow. But none of that has any bearing on your decision-making, as you are fearless and bold and non-cowed, and you have not had a terribly long day, and your shoulder doesn't stab where Richard dropped you on it, and you don't want to just curl up on the ground and go to sleep here. None of these things are true. Positive thinking. You'll just leap dashingly, or perhaps swashbucklingly, to your feet, and then you shall—

Or alternately you could calm Richard down. Yes! How astute of you! This will completely sidestep the issue of you being thrashed within an inch of your life, or optimistically just berated for two weeks straight. You can use logic and reason, since you know he likes those, and he will of course hear out your argument, and accept the facts, and perhaps (if you are sufficiently pitiable) apologize. This is a plausible thing that could happen. Nevermind that attempting to reason with Richard is like falling into the arena and attempting to reason with the horse. Nevermind that Richard treats facts the way he treats, er, Gil: something to wrap around his little finger, then discard if they don't prove pliable. Nevermind that you have a patchy record of successful diplomatic interventions (which in no way is your fault). This is a plausible thing that could happen. It could. It, in fact, will. Richard will see your point of view, you are dearly sure of it, and you don't care if you have to bend the facts around your little finger to justify that. They're there to be bent. It's your birthright and your calling.

And, preternaturally certain (you are thinking positive so hard you're seeing stars), you stand and stick one pointer finger out. "Richard," you say.

His inexorable advance pauses. "You'll shut up if you know what's good for you."

"You don't have to be rude, Richard." You cross your legs. "Leave Gil alone. He has nothing to do with this. Can't you come over and we can talk this out like civil people? Because, you know, if we're airing grievances, I have a considerable—"

"So you don't know what's good for you? That's fine." He checks his wristwatch. "Rest assured, we'll return to you in due time. I'm dealing with Beetles. So if you'd excuse—"

"I have the key."

"You had the key. I availed myself of it already. Now, Beetles, to borrow a turn of phrase— you don't have to be rude. Come here."

He availed himself of— God-damnit! He hasn't even turned around! You take a long breath. "And I never lost it, by the way. Something took it. And something ate my headset and snapped the cord. There was this god-blessing in there, and it— ah."

You must have blinked, because Richard is bent down in front of you, smiling without his eyes. "Pardon me?"

"You know, a blessing. From a god. A pagan one, not—" Well! You wouldn't say Richard looks calmer, but for the moment he's more interested in something else. You suppress a flinch as he reaches for your forehead, resting the back of his palm against it— for an instant, until there's a snap and a pop and a tiny flash of blue light. He hisses and recoils and for a passing moment looks shaken.

And in this moment, before he can twist this around on you, you pounce. "See! What did I tell you! How can you possibly blame this on me, when I was beset by a callous, unswerving higher power, who— whom mercilessly stole and broke and ate the things I held so dear! But not just that, Richard. Nay. It stole and broke and ate these things... because they were stealable and breakable and eatable! Because your craftsmanship was subpar. You know what would've happened if I wasn't skilled enough to get out all by myself? I would've died. And it would've been your fault. Admit it."

On the face of it, this is faintly ridiculous. Richard, even if he could've made something godproof, had no reason to expect he'd need to. He's visibly struggling to make that point. His chest is heaving. But something's stopping him.

"Admit it," you say. It could be your imagination, but the air is wobbling like a soap bubble. "And apologize. You want to apologize. You feel terrible about how you treated me about this, when it wasn't even my fault."

"I—" says Richard, and he kind of looks suffused with regret, in a Richard-y sort of way. You mean, you think he does. You've never seen this expression on him before. "You know—"


"You know—" Before you can react, he lunges forward and thrusts his fist square through your breastbone— and out the other side. He seizes your hair and yanks it down, hard, forcing your chin upwards. "—interfering with other people's thoughts is considered in poor taste. But I'm sure you thought I wouldn't notice, hmm?"

You stare up at him. His eyes are red-rimmed. "...I interfered with— you actually feel terrible? You feel like it's your fault?"

"What I feel," he snarls, "is irrelevant. You thought I wouldn't notice. You thought you could be clever. You think you're clever, do you? Clever and important. You think you can tell me what to do, how to feel, how to behave, who to be—"

His face is very, very close to yours, which means you're all he's looking at. Meaning maybe you can silently put your hand to your waist, draw The—

"And you think you can surprise me. You think you're capable of that." Richard slaps your hand away, draws The Sword, and tosses it inelegantly over his shoulder. It clatters to the ground. You wince. "You think you can put a sword through the monster's back? Is that it? You think you can save the day for yourself. Like you're a— what? What's that new word? A heroine? You think that's what you are?"

You remain silent. He seizes your chin. "It's a question."

"Yeah," you say quietly.

"Oh! She thinks she's a heroine! How interesting! Tell me, Lady Heroine Charlotte Fawkins— what the fuck does that mean? And where the fuck does that come from?"


"'Huh,'" he imitates. "You weren't talking about it three years ago. Or one year ago. Or one month ago. Or half a month ago. You have invented this identity from whole cloth within a week. And you've stopped talking about being Queen. You have always wanted to be Queen. Is it spite? You're spiting me? Pathetic."

Now that he says it, you suppose you have been mentioning it less— but it wasn't a conscious decision. Neither was the heroine thing. It can't have been within days, that's— "Maybe I always wanted to be one," you mumble. "But you wouldn't let me. And maybe it's stupid to talk about being Queen when I might never see my stupid crown ever again. Which is also your— God-damnit, Richard!"

He has twisted your hair into a kind of rope and is using it to tug you backwards, all while he walks you forwards. It hurts like hell. "That was your fault," he snaps, "resulting from your utter incompetence. And yet, instead of learning humility—" He yanks you roughly. "—you have become unmanageable. You think you can do whatever you like without me. You think you can tell people about me. You think you can lead me around like a trained dog—"

You sneer. (Your little 'thought interference' experiment has bolstered your confidence.) "And what's the point of you now?"

"The point of—"

"I mean— we lost the stupid crown! That was the point! So either I can spend three more hell years getting it back, and then three more filling it back up, or I can—" You throw up your arms. "I mean, I'm involved in things! I'm a— a detectivess, and adventuress, and thus forth, and I have a case, and there's a cult, or something, and I need to save Madrigal, and get Gil a real body, and—"

"Gil." He says it like a curse word.

"Yeah! Gil! He's my retainer! I have a retainer now, Richard, and he's way better than you ever were, and he doesn't call me pathetic all the time. So that's extra reason. I don't need you. I just want to go do the stuff I actually like, with people I actually like, and you can go away forever." You have limited options for a finishing blow, as Richard has thrust you up against a wall. "Um, so there."

"Hm." Richard looks down. He rubs his eye. "Well, fortunately, Charlotte, it's not about 'needing' me at all."

"Right, cause I—"

"Because you have me, whether you 'need' me or not. And there's no getting rid of me. If you managed it, I hate to say it, I would be replaced." Richard tilts his head. "You would not like my replacement. Regardless, you have me, and I have a job. And this job is not about you. It is not about your likes and dislikes and flippant desires. It is about getting that fucking Crown on your head, full. So I'll cut you a deal, Charlotte."

"You already did that," you say. "And look where it got us."

"I never said I liked my job, Charlotte Fawkins. But it is mine. So here's the deal. You will discard this 'heroine' nonsense completely, and you will return to doing what I say, when I say it. We will get that Crown on your head. In return, I will not destroy anything and everything you have begun to care for, beginning with—" He turns your chin to look at Gil, way in the distance. "—your pet over there. You will not be around to intervene, before you suggest that. Deal?"


>[1] Call his bluff. You're not taking the deal, obviously, so he better kill Gil right now. You'll watch. You won't intervene. (You will intervene if he actually does it. Obviously. But if he doesn't...)
>[2] Probe. If he doesn't like his job, what's the point of sticking to it? Of going to all this trouble? Wouldn't he be happier if he just, uh, slacked off? (Optionally write-in more or fancier arguments for a DC bonus.) [Roll.]
>[3] Push. You *made* him feel responsibility and regret for what he (sort of) did, meaning something inside there is capable of that. Meaning there is a chance, however small, that he actually cares whether you live or die. And maybe even about if you're happy. Um, maybe. But pressing on that is worth a shot. (Optionally write-in a passionate speech for a DC bonus.) [Roll.]
>[4] Push harder. Why bother with unearthing Richard's never-before-seen grain-of-sand-sized heart when you have one ready-made? Your father would never threaten to murder your loyal retainer, you're sure. [Roll.]
>[5] "Take the deal." Not actually: you're not dumb. But if it gets him off your back for now...
>[6] Write-in.
Why can't we be both? A hero queen? Maybe even a warrior hero queen? The more titles the better.
Richard does not appear particularly willing to compromise. Nothing wrong with this write-in in and of itself, but it won't accomplish anything alone-- it would just boot you back to this same set of options after Richard categorically rejects the idea. Would you be willing to bundle it with one of the given options?
yeah, let's play it safe with 5
pretty sure the answer to 2 is that he's a hair away from being recycled
>[5] + [6]
Unanimity! Incredible. Busy day or scary vote, I wonder... The DCs would've been much lower than 85, for the record, that was only for attempting to beat Richard at his own game. But in any case, called and writing.

>pretty sure the answer to 2 is that he's a hair away from being recycled
That's certainly a large part of it, though [2] was less a genuine inquiry and more an attempt to change Richard's mind about the topic. Which would've been successful if you rolled well!
>Fold like a hand of cards

A heroine is frightened sometimes, but not cowed. Never cowed. But— are you a heroine, then? Richard's saying you made it all up. Which isn't true. He's saying you did it to spite him. Which isn't true. You're almost certain it isn't, even though that does sound like something you'd do, which— isn't proof, though admittedly you can remember very little about how this started, or when. Which doesn't matter. But—

Your resolve cracks. "I— I— can't we make a different deal? I can still call myself queen, and stuff, and go find the crown, it's just that I'll be a— a hero queen? You know, a sort of... daring warrior heroine, queen, who, um, still saves people, she just also—"

"I'm not sure what part of 'completely' you don't understand, Charlotte." Richard wrenches your chin back, so you're looking right at him. "Perhaps you're hard of hearing. Or perhaps you're so thick-headed you need simple words to be defined for you. In this instance, 'discard completely' is defined as 'utter that word again, and I will begin to discard some other things. Completely.' And painfully, if you attempt to negotiate again. Get it?"

You got it the first time, you just— you don't know why you thought you could negotiate. When does negotiation with Richard end with anything other than misery? When does anything with Richard end in anything other than misery? And it's not just coincidence. He ensures it. You get something okay up and running, and he swoops in and stomps it to pieces. Consistently. Eternally. Maybe he takes sick pleasure in it, or maybe he's just a snake, through and through, and you don't know why you ever thought any different. You bet he faked that glimmer of remorse. You bet he's faked every glimmer of anything but calculated cruelty. And you've fallen for it every time, because you're an idiot.

And you're an idiot now, because he's got you up against a wall, literally and otherwise. Defy him and watch him blow up your life, because he doesn't care about your life. He said it himself. Accede and it's the opposite: watch your life tighten into a prison cell, or animal cage. Watch you do tricks for the occasional food Richard throws you. Watch him negotiate to sell you off— what does he get from the Crown? What do any of the stupid snakes get? And whatever it is, are you going to like it?

No. Of course not. If it were a desirable outcome, Richard would've told you in advance, because it's his job to frog-march you toward it. Because he is a wretched, soulless reptile who cares about nothing else. Not you. Not Gil. Not anything or anyone. That is how he can stomach staring you right in the eyes, knowing what he's done and is doing to you. And what choice do you have? Blow up your life, and there's collateral damage. Shrink it to nothing, and it's only you wasting away. It's the right thing to do. The "self sacrificial" thing to do. The— you can only think it derisively, now— heroic thing to do.

"I get it," you say, after a protracted silence. "It's a deal."

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

You watch Richard's expression dispassionately: surprise. He's faking that too, you expect. He really is good: he "covers up" the "surprise" after a second, replacing it with his usual smirk. "I'm glad you've come to your senses, Charlie. Now, I expect we can put this nasty little business behind us, and proceed—"

This nasty little business? Vigor returns to you: that's what he thinks this was? The nerve of the bastard! You'll show him what-for the first chance you get, you will— damn his stupid deal to hell! God! You are a heroine, no matter what he says, or makes you say, and you'll— you'll—

"—in our usual fashion. I appreciate your cooperation." Delicately, he withdraws his hand out of your chest and smooths the hole back over. "Now, shall we..."

He trails off. "Shall we what?" you say.

He doesn't say anything. He looks somewhere above you and to the right and pinches the brow of his nose. He appears vaguely confused, or maybe worried, though this is of course an elaborate deception.

"Are you waiting for me to give us something to do?"

"Don't be ridiculous. I'm merely..." And he doesn't finish that sentence, either.

Perhaps this is the first chance you've gotten to show him what-for. Perhaps you could spring up, and jab a finger in his face, and demand he give you orders. Or demand he provide you with a step-by-step plan to follow to get the Crown back. Perhaps you could say you make a better heroine than he does a— whatever his job title is, and you could call him worthless and pathetic (just for fun). And you could say that your natural fighting aura will defend the things you care about from his wicked hands. And you could say that nothing he does could ever dampen your spirit.

But this would be a lie, because after that brief upswelling of passion, you've returned to being well and truly dampened. Maybe that was your last dregs of energy for the day. Maybe the enormity of what he's threatening has sunk back in. Maybe the things you're telling yourself are beginning to sound faintly silly. You don't know what a fighting aura is. You don't know if it exists. You want it to exist, and a good chunk of you believes it probably does, but the rest of you... you don't know. The rest of you wants to sleep and forget.

Richard clears his throat. "Ahem. We shall discuss the events of the day. I am certain some things remain that I could elucidate for your simple—"

"Why would I want to do that?" you say.

"...Why?" He does not seem to have considered this.

"Yes. Why." You have slumped down to sit against the wall. "I don't want to talk to you, Richard. I'm not sure I want to talk to you ever again. There's no point in it."

He slides his sunglasses on. "I've never heard anything more asinine. Of course you'll talk to me. You must."

You look at him.


He attempted threats, which all seemed flimsy after the one he'd already delivered. And then he attempted insults, and then flattery and cajoling, and promises of gifts and favors, if only you would open your mouth and talk to him like a good girl. You did not. And then he left you alone on the settee and went to go— you don't know. His head is in his hands. Presumably he's plotting ways to ruin your life yet further.

You can't find it in yourself to care. You haven't cried at all, these past 20 minutes on the settee, but there's a distinct lump in your throat. You have mostly stared at your hands. Gil has come over, once or twice, but he doesn't seem to know what to say and you don't even know if he heard what happened. After you stopped Richard from storming at him. At least he's alive and well, for now. Self-sacrifice. You've never hated a word more.

You don't know where to go from here. Richard seems ("seems") more distraught than angry, but you're positive that'll change when he's back as a snake. Snakes can't feel distress, you are fairly sure, but they can certainly feel anger. And they can also shock you or drug you into compliance. You're not sure why Richard hasn't done that earlier, more than he usually does, if he's so mad about you doing your own thing. Not that it matters anymore. As you have taken the deal, even if you mean to renege later. You feel stupid. You feel empty. You feel excruciatingly tired.

"Um... Lottie..." Gil has returned. You don't know why he bothers. "...I-I-I-I-I, um, have a... message...?"

You stare at him bleakly.

"I-I-It's, um, Richard wants to talk to you. About something different. I-I guess. He says he can make it like none of this ever happened? I-I-I, um, don't know what that— unless it was like with that current? Maybe?" He fidgets. "You don't have to go... I-I-I'm just delivering this."

(Choices next.)
>[1] Speak to Richard. (Optional: Do you have anything in particular you want to tell him?)

>[2] Haha. No. You'll speak with Gil, but not Richard. Ever.
>>[A] Ask Gil if he's okay. After everything.
>>[B] Ask if he thinks you're a heroine, or if that's stupid.
>>[C] Warn Gil that Richard might be after him, now or in the future.
>>[D] Ask if he'd back you up. Whenever you do renege on this. Once you feel better.
>>[E] Write-in.

>[3] Haha. No. You are going to sleep. You have had a long day, and you are going to sleep.

>[4] Write-in.
>A, B

I'd definitely take the reset when we feel up to it. I didn't want to singlehandedly risk everything, but looks like playing it safe was a mistake.
>>A, B

This is a vote for:
>A, B

Just making the vote neater.
>2A, 2B

You got it. Writing.
>Moral support

Your throat is dry when you speak. "I think I'll pass."

"Oh." Gil has a look like he doesn't blame you. But he doesn't say that, and he doesn't really do anything else, either— he just hovers.

"You can sit down," you say.

"Oh." He sits in the corner of an armchair and looks into the distance.

You wait for him to say something more. When he doesn't, you rub your thumb against your palm. "You're okay, right?"


"He didn't hurt you?" He doesn't look hurt, but Richard's good at that.

Gil shifts. "Um, no, I-I-I-I—"

"I'm just asking because I went to all this trouble before," you explain. You don't like the way he's looking at you, his eyes all wide and green like that. Like he's looking at a chained-up puppy through a fence. "Saving you. And whatnot. So it'd be a real drag if he went and ruined—"

"Are you okay? I-I-I should be the one asking, not— I-I mean, I should've been helping, and I just—"

"Don't be stupid. I was way over there." And he would've been killed. "Anyhow, I'm fine."

He peers at you. You hate his stupid expression. "Are you sure? Because, um, you seem—"


"...Um, okay. Sorry." His eyes flick. "Um. I-I-I-I-I just feel like you got to know me, um, a lot. So I-I think it'd be fair if you were honest with..."

What are you supposed to tell him? You can't just go and say you're not fine. Because that would be weakness. Because that would mean you've lost. Because that's not how positive thinking works: you start doing it, and then you can't stop, ever, because if you do all the not-positive things come crashing down on your head and there's so many (you've been doing it so long) that you're crushed under them. Or some dumb metaphor like that.

And maybe most importantly, because he is your retainer. Meaning you are supposed to be a noble rock of stability, and a shining beacon of light, such that he is awed and wishes to devote his whole entire life (willingly) to you. And you are not supposed to capitulate to the wicked snake-man, and if you do it is merely a part of a greater plan. So you are supposed to feel smug, not miserable. And saying you feel miserable is proof you did it wrong. Or proof that you're not what you've been telling him you are. Or what you've been telling yourself you are.

You beat out ten seconds with the tap of your finger, enough time to ensure you've swallowed down that lump in your throat. Bursting into tears would be also be proof. "Do you think I count as a heroine? Gil?"

"As a...?" He laces his fingers. "I-I-I'm not sure what you mean. Um, by that. Sorry."

What you mean by that? It seems obvious to you, but as you attempt to articulate a clean definition keeps slipping out of reach. "It's— well, you know, it's— a lady who's noble, and courageous, and strong-willed, and she goes around, um, solving problems. And slaying evil monsters, and rescuing people, and stuff. And she has a sword. And a destiny."

"I-I-I-I guess so..." Gil trails off. "I-I kind of thought that stuff was, um, gullshit."

Your lower lip wobbles. Since he's eyeing his shoes, he doesn't notice. "You know, sort of— that was something people made up. Probably to sell stuff. I-I-I-I didn't get why someone'd just go around risking their life for no reason, and, um, I also don't think destinies exist, so..."

You scrub at an offending eye. He notices this, at least, and starts looking jumpy. "No! No, stop, I-I-I— I was trying to say— I'd never met anyone like that in my life. But you, um— you busted in, and you set everything on fire, and you got me out of there, but I-I-I thought... you know, i-it wasn't a big deal. I-It was just good luck. But then you started— I-I-I don't even know, doing all this other stuff, even though I couldn't pay you or anything... so I-I thought you were, um, crazy, or you wanted something, or both. But then you went out there in the dark to stop the goddamn weather, and you went inside—" He gestures vaguely at his forehead. "—and you're gonna rescue that snake? Or something? Even though that's not your job, or anything, and— I-I-I-I still think you've got to be crazy. I-I-I don't know why you'd do any of this otherwise. But, I-I mean, you're strong-willed, I guess, and gutsy, sure as shit, and you've got a sword for some reason, so I guess— yeah?"

You blink. "Yeah what?"

"I-I-I guess what I call crazy, you call... heroism? Heroineism? I guess you count."

Gil does not appear to comprehend the magnitude of what he's just uttered. You raise your head. "Really?"

"Well, yeah, I—"

"You mean it?"

"Um... sure."

The sun shines. The birds sing. Gil is the most glorious person you have ever seen, and the tears you burst into are good ones.

>[+3 ID: 4/(9)]

Poor stupid Gil: if he didn't comprehend you before, he's completely lost the plot now. He leaps half-out of his chair. "Wait! No! Sorry! I-I-I-I-I-I— oh, goddammit, I— shit. Sorry! Um, I-I-I better—"

"Oh, don't feel too bad. She cries at the drop of a hat." Richard, acid. "It's startlingly unattractive, isn't it? You didn't deliver my message."

You didn't? Gil didn't: he's frozen, mouth open. "Um, I—"

"I don't like excuses." Richard, who doesn't like anything, paces around the side of the settee. He is smoking and besunglassed, having dropped the melodrama. "Does everybody think I can go ignored? Is that it? Do I have to individually teach—"

Amazing how his very presence clouds the sun and kills the birds dead. The emptiness is stealing back on you. "Shut up."

"Oh! She speaks!" He wheels upon you. "Got tired of the mute act? Good timing, as I've gotten tired of entertaining it. Here I was about to rescind my generous offer."

He wants you to ask what it is. You won't.

"..." Smoke curls around his face. "Well, it's simple, so even you can understand it. The nasty incident? Gone. Like it never happened. Never mentioned again. Deal?"

(Choices next.)
>[1] You know— sure. Great. Deal. You won't be getting a better one.

>[2] Does he think you were born yesterday?
>>[A] It's dead obvious what he's trying to do here, and you're telling him (or accusing him) as much. It's— (What? Write-in.)
>>[B] Why the hell would *he* want to erase it? He got exactly what he wanted. Interrogate him thoroughly on the topic. [Roll.]

>[3] Write-in.

inb4 compounding mistake
>[2] Does he think you were born yesterday?
>[B] Why the hell would *he* want to erase it? He got exactly what he wanted. Interrogate him thoroughly on the topic. [Roll.]
>>[2] Does he think you were born yesterday?
>>[B] Why the hell would *he* want to erase it? He got exactly what he wanted. Interrogate him thoroughly on the topic. [Roll.]


Called for [2B].

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Weepy) vs. DC 45 (+20 Recovered, +0 Sober, -15 ???, -10 Gaslighted) to extract a reason out of him!

Spend 1 ID for a +10 to all rolls? You are at 4/(9) ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 13 + 5 (1d100 + 5)


>No spend
Rolled 59 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

No spend on snek
Rolled 64 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

no spendy
File: file.png (97 KB, 411x319)
97 KB
>18, 64, 69 vs. DC 45 -- Success

Nice rolls. Unfortunately, I have an ass-load of work to do tonight, meaning I'm gonna have to postpone the update until tomorrow. Have a nice night!
>lol no
>18, 64, 69 vs. DC 45 — Success

Look at him. There's little trace of the command he held, and none of the fury: if your shoulder didn't sting (and if Gil wasn't there to witness), you could believe the 'incident' already never happened. This is a kinder, gentler Richard, or a Richard who wants you to believe he's kinder and gentler. A Richard who wants the best for you. A Richard who cares.

But he doesn't. There's the kicker. He doesn't care at all, and he's shown that in a thousand little ways ever since you met him and one big, explosive way now. You suppose that's why he's suggesting this. You knowing what he is for cold certain is worse than you bucking the yoke.

But you're not giving him the relief of curtly declining. You are going to drag this out to be as long and torturous as you possibly can. "Why?"

"Why?" His fixed smile slips. (He was so acutely certain you'd leap for this.) "Charlotte, it's considered rude in civilized circles to, as they say, 'look a gift horse—'"

"What's the gift horse for, Richard?"

"I fail to see why it has to be 'for' anything. I am feeling generous, as I often—"

"Why are you feeling generous? You got what you wanted."

"Perhaps I pitied you," he snaps, and adjusts his shirtcuffs officiously. He seems to consider this the final word on the matter.

Probably he expects pity to be a wounding blow to your pride. From anyone else, it might be. From Richard, it's laughable. He expects you to believe he can pity? For that matter, he expects you to believe he spouts anything but vicious lies? "If you pitied me," you say stonily, "you would loosen the terms. You wouldn't throw away an un— uni— complete and total victory. Do you think I'm stupid?"

That's a stupid question, in immediate retrospect, but Richard doesn't take the bait: he just takes a drag on the cigarette. "You appear to be failing to comprehend what an unilaterally good deal I have just offered you. You have no sound reason not to take it."

Well, no. You have no immediate sound reason. But your intuition is screaming holy terror, and considering the circumstances... you don't respond. You fold your hands politely and stare somewhere past Richard.

"Charlotte." Kind-And-Gentle-Richard has been shucked off entirely, if you ever needed confirmation it didn't exist. "I am offering—"

You find the wall deeply fascinating. Where did it come from? Who persuaded it to take shape? Who, in the great tome of the history of the world, built the first wall? And why?

Richard is still saying things at you. You let them go unheard. What can he threaten that's worse than what he's threatened? What can he do to you? He claims you can be replaced, but based on what you've observed, that'd be a lengthy bureaucratic process. Perhaps one involving close oversight from a third party. Who would promptly notice the Crown missing, and promptly send Richard to Snake Hell, or whatever happens then— circling? Cycling? Re-cycling? Nothing pleasant.

So he's stuck with you. (Great.) And he's probably even stuck with a healthy, intact you— sitting here, thinking clearly, the threats to your safety ring a lot more hollow. He could snap you in two, but that'd draw attention, wouldn't it? Even more subtle torture would grant him a Not Satisfactory on the next performance review, and what a sentence that is. So all he can do is threaten, and intimidate, which— is that the other reason for the deal? He escalated too far? What can he do that's worse: nothing, so if you defy him here he's exhausted his leverage forever. Interesting. So then—

"Blast it all," Richard snarls. "I don't require your consent or gratitude, you impertinent bitch. Come here." And he places a clammy hand on your forehead.

You lean back. "Why."

"Why? Why? You want to know why." He's mocking you. "You were supposed to be clever, weren't you, and you can't deduce a simple—"

You've deduced two, but if you told him what they were he'd laugh. Even if you were bang-on. "No, I can't, so you better tell me."

He laughs anyhow. "You think there's any use in it? You won't remember. You won't realize there's anything to remember. The present will die, and you'll wake in a new one, and all this pointless expenditure will be just that. Give it up."

You sit back. "If it won't matter, you may as well tell me."

"It'd be a waste of breath, Charlotte Fawkins. You wouldn't believe it while you did remember."

...You wouldn't? Because you certainly believe the options you've come up with, and you're struggling to think of others. Now you're genuinely curious, not just spiteful. "So?"

"..." He bends to grind the cigarette into a new ashtray, and somewhere in the process his shoulders sag. When he straightens, his lips are pressed tightly together. "So be it."

It would be unwise to comment. This has traditionally not stopped you, but you're not ruining it this time.

"You want your 'why'? You will get your 'why.' Why does Richard snatch defeat from the claws of victory? Why do the grasping power-plays of a human infant trouble him so? Perhaps someone has destroyed any ability to perform his duty. PERHAPS he's been pulverized into the image of an ineffectual, weak-hearted man." He has put his hand against your forehead again, and is pressing. "Perhaps he is drugged with foreign chemicals. Perhaps he has been rendered utterly defective. But that isn't possible, is it, Charlie? No human could ever do such a thing to the likes of him."

You were a bit lost in the affectation. "...Yes? Um, wait, so you're saying—"

"I'm saying," he hisses, "that you have ruined me, Charlotte Fawkins, and I hope you revel in that for the next twenty seconds, as that's all you're—"

"—you're saying you felt bad. Or not just bad, but, like—" You rub the bottom of your nose. "—like my, um, my... father... meaning what. Meaning you saw me as your...?"

You don't even want to say the word. Richard scowls deeply. "Anything I was subject to was expressly your fault, and I would like you to ruminate on that for the next five— four—"

>[1] Oh, God. He was wrong: you believe him, you just never under any circumstances want to contemplate the implications. Welcome oblivion.
>[2] Wait! Stop!
>>[A] ...Is this really so awful? The way he's saying makes it sound bad, but— you think you prefer him ineffectual and weak-hearted. And what he's conveniently leaving out is that it makes him feel good, too. Can't you persuade him to stop fighting? [Roll.]
>>[B] If he's defective, if you've ruined him, and if he's on the brink of recycling anyhow, what's the point of carrying on about his job and his duty? Wouldn't he rather, um, have fun? Adventure places? [Roll.]
>>[C] You're not making a speech, you just want details. How long has this been happening? Has it been getting worse? (How can you make it worse?) And so on and so forth.
>>[D] Write-in.
>[2] Wait! Stop!
>[C] You're not making a speech, you just want details. How long has this been happening? Has it been getting worse? (How can you make it worse?) And so on and so forth.
>>[2] Wait! Stop!
>>[C] You're not making a speech, you just want details. How long has this been happening? Has it been getting worse? (How can you make it worse?) And so on and so forth.
specifically how to make it worse, he said some mean things about daddy
Called and writing. I have to get up early tomorrow so I'm gonna do my best to blaze through this quick.
>Questions, questions

You lean again out of his reach. "Hey! Hey, you— you can't just leave it like that. You want me to think that, all this time, you've just secretly been—"

"All this time? Pah. You have done this to me as water boils, Charlotte Fawkins. Or empires fall." Richard sneers. "The signs weren't visible until it was done already, though the sheer idiotic fluke of you finding out about—"

The party. "Finding out about my real father."

"You could let me finish a sentence. Yes, that. That accelerated things tenfold, as, with your newly-granted knowledge, you endeavored to obliterate me tenfold harder. It was ignorable before. It is unignorable now." He cracks his wrist. "Fortunately, I am almost always impervious. It's only in crucial moments of weakness where the damage is done."

"Almost alw— oh." He means the snake. "Um, you realize that I don't 'endeavor' to do anything, unless you'd say I 'endeavor' to breathe, or blink my eyes, or something— right? I feel like I've discussed this..."

"It's childish to dodge blame," he says shortly.

You pinch your eyes. "I'm not dodging— you can't blame me for something I'm not even trying to do! It's as simple as that! Right, Gil? Gil?" Gil is preoccupied with screwing his head off. "Gil agrees with me. What do you want me to do, stop doing something I never started?"

"Yes. And kindly reset your general opinion of me. It's exacerbating the issue."

"Um, reset to... what?"

"Resentment would do nicely. Not hatred. I can't work with hatred. But this sort of... pitiful... acceptance? Neediness? You start thinking I'm not so bad, or you want me around—" He's using a feigned you-voice. "—and how precisely do you think this affects me?"

"It—" You think. "It— it makes you not so bad?"

"Worse," he spits. "It makes me want it. Uncontrollably. Until I forcibly correct myself. I want to be 'not so bad.' I want to be there when needed. It's insidious. It's frankly evil. And my attempt to re-adjust your attitudes..." He tightens his lips.

Amazing how candid he gets when you won't hold this over him later. (How candid has he gotten other times? No. Don't.) Of course, the question is: how much is he describing actual, quasi-magyckal compulsions, and how much is he describing, um, normal things? Is it that weird to want to continue to be liked? (Maybe... for a snake, it is?) "Right. So if I start liking you even more, you'll be nicer?"

He narrows his eyes.

"And if I start actually endeavoring to make you all..." You have to say it. Spite overrides the nasty feeling you have in your gut. "...paternal, instead of just maybe-sort of-unknowingly doing it, your head will explode? Because, I mean, if it's this bad without—"

"I think you've had your fun." He leans in and places his hand squarely on your forehead. You have run out of settee to scoot back into. You see his free hand working, knotting (or unknotting?) something you can't see—


You have a long-sleep taste in your mouth. Your eyes are wet and painful. Your shoulder stabs. Where are you? Uh... well, Richard's right there (figures), muttering something to Gil, who— Gil! Oh, God, you— you— positive thinking. Surely you've done your job. Surely this is Gil, all of him, intact and perhaps ready to express his undying thanks of you, his twice-over savior. Though that might be a stretch, even for positive thinking.

"Gil!" you say brightly, and spring to your feet. (Your seat is awfully warm, which— well, it does make sense. You were probably moved there while knocked out.) "You're alright!"

Richard puts a hand on Gil's wrist. Gil looks inexplicably nervous, though you guess that's business as usual. "Uhhh... yes."

This is not undying thanks, as expected, but it isn't even a 'yes, I feel lucky to be alive' or a 'yes, I can't believe we got out of there.' You... you did do everything right, right? "You, um, remember everything? You can tell me where we were just now?"

Richard tilts his head implacably. Gil's eyes widen. "Uhhhhh. My lo— manse."

"Oh." That's right. "Okay, I guess—"

"I suspect he's simply exhausted after his terrible ordeal, Charlotte. Be polite." Richard folds his arms. "I suggest we allow him to recover in peace, while you— I suppose you have some queries for me, as you never don't. Unfortunately. Yes?"

Well... now that he says it...

>Pick as many as you want just be mindful of the QM's sleep schedule. Options with 2+ votes will be included in the write-up.

>[1] So, um, your real father showed up in there, again, stabbed, again. This is at least the third time in recent memory. You're sure it's unpleasant dream-symbolism, or something, but does Richard know... of what?
>[2] Another thing that's been happening way too much: you turning into reptile monsters. This is a weirdly specific thing to happen twice in one day. Is this also unpleasant dream-symbolism? And also of what?
>[3] So, um, there was this magyck-blessing-thing in there, and it did *not* like the key he gave you. It said it was a 'pupa'? Did Richard know this? (Don't tell him it stole it.)
>[4] What was the key actually intended for? Surely he can tell you after the fact.
>[5] The magyck-blessing-thing called him an 'agent.' Of what? Or who? Or does it have its facts mixed up?
>[6] Write-in.
>[2] Another thing that's been happening way too much: you turning into reptile monsters. This is a weirdly specific thing to happen twice in one day. Is this also unpleasant dream-symbolism? And also of what?
>[4] What was the key actually intended for? Surely he can tell you after the fact.
>[5] The magyck-blessing-thing called him an 'agent.' Of what? Or who? Or does it have its facts mixed up?
>[6] Has he ever heard of that locitis outbreak?
>[2] Another thing that's been happening way too much: you turning into reptile monsters. This is a weirdly specific thing to happen twice in one day. Is this also unpleasant dream-symbolism? And also of what?
>[5] The magyck-blessing-thing called him an 'agent.' Of what? Or who? Or does it have its facts mixed up?
>[2] Another thing that's been happening way too much: you turning into reptile monsters. This is a weirdly specific thing to happen twice in one day. Is this also unpleasant dream-symbolism? And also of what?
>[5] The magyck-blessing-thing called him an 'agent.' Of what? Or who? Or does it have its facts mixed up?
>2, 4, 5
Called for
>2, 4, 5
and the write-in, because it segues nicely into the next topic. Writing.
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>If I had two nickels...

The night air is warm and humid— not enough to be uncomfortable, but enough to make you sleepy. Though that may also be from the white-noise drone of unseen insects, or from the gentle rocking of the bench you're on, or the half-drained cocktail in your fist. (To celebrate.) Richard, who didn't do anything, has sensibly opted for an iced tea: he said something about wanting to 'maintain his composure,' but you think he knows he doesn't deserve a buzz.

You're trying to think of what to ask, but all that's springing to mind is 'why is my late father haunting me, Richard,' and that just makes you want to gulp the rest of the glass. That and 'what's wrong with the key you gave me, Richard,' but that might make him ask why you think there's something wrong to begin with, and then you'd have to admit it got taken... you think you'll pass. You don't want the lecture and/or yelling, depending on his mood.

That is, unless you phrased it more diplomatically? Less 'what's the matter' and more... hmm. Hmmm. "Um, Richard," you say. "Do you want your key back? I—"

"Don't bother. I've already availed myself of it." Richard twirls it around his finger, just to show off. "Why?"

"Oh. I was just wondering, um, what the point of it was. You never told me."

"The point? I just wanted to keep track of you, Charlie. Normally I have no trouble doing so, but in the special 'environment' you were in... suffice it to say it's easier to pinpoint this than you. That's why I needed you to keep hold of it."

Is he going to mention you not keeping hold of it? You tense, but nothing follows but a faintly genial smile. Perhaps he didn't notice— or the blessing did something to protect you? Either way, you appear safe. Except his answer (while plausible) doesn't address the facts that the key snapped him out of the whole thing in the 'bomb shelter,' or opened doors everywhere, or was a... 'pupa'? Or ex-something? But you can't bring any of that up without risking the lecture, so— damn. Damn. "Okay, um, makes sense. I guess. So you were keeping track of me even when we weren't talking?"


"So you saw the monster? I don't really know what it looked like... it was big and lizard-y. Or snake-y, maybe, I'm not—"

"I didn't have visuals, Charlie. It was more of a spatial sense, which I'll be the first to admit is nonsensical in a nonspatial environment, but the detailed explanation would be taxing to— I haven't prepared diagrams. Suffice it to say it was spatial." Richard sips his tea. "So no. Why couldn't you tell? Was it dark?"

"Uh, it was me. I was—" You drum on the arm of the bench. "And it wasn't even the first time. Back in the manse today— I don't know if you can remember this— the same thing happened. It was a different snake-y monster, but I still..."

"Ah. So you see a pattern? And you want to know if it has meaning?"

Richard is reacting surprisingly well to all of this. Maybe it's the tea. "...Yeah."

"You are human, aren't you. Well. Put it this way. Do you find such a thing frightening?"

"Why wouldn't I," you mumble.

"A-ha. So you place yourself twice in situations heavily influenced by your own mind, by your own thoughts and preoccupations, and you find that the things happening there are peculiarly disturbing to you in specific. Is this an accurate summary?"

Does he have to put it like that? "It— it— how do you know it's disturbing to me in specific? I don't go around thinking 'God, I'd hate to turn into a giant reptile right about now'—"

"Nothing that crude, no. It'd be unusual to be that conscious of such a primal drive." Richard sips. "Miraculous, in your case. But you said it yourself, the concept does frighten you. I suppose you're attempting to ask where that came from?"

You sigh. "And I suppose you're going to tell me?"

"I can't tell you something I don't know for certain. I can posit. And I posit it's some combination of your belated discovery of the Wyrm, your deep-seated resistance to useful alterations, and... oh, dear, that aborted tutorial exercise? All of that, together— and your little brain is very good at forming patterns where they don't exist, and beliefs around those patterns. Do you suspect I'm plotting to make you some raging lizard-creature?"

Does he have to put it like that? "No, I—"

"I posit you do. Not consciously, but strongly enough to create, ah, a self-fulfilling prophecy, when the conditions are right. Interesting." He stirs his tea with his straw. "Wrong, but interesting. Really, Charlotte, why would I want to make you twenty times larger and less manageable? I have no buildings I need knocking down."

You're torn between indignance (you never even thought that stupid theory, let alone said it) and inexplicably feeling a little better.

>[+1 ID: 5/(9)]

The conversation, such as it is, moves forward: Richard is so civil you wonder if the iced tea is spiked with something after all. Or perhaps he's just subtly recognizing your excellent work (being unable to verbally express 'good job, Charlotte'). Either way, you drain your glass and restrain yourself from requesting another, lest you fall asleep here and now. You yawn. The air smells of cut grass.

For all the pleasantness, though, something's been gnawing at you— actually, something's been gnawing at you since Richard mentioned the Wyrm. It's something the blessing mentioned, which means you probably shouldn't be bringing it up, but maybe if you just don't mention the...? "Um," you say, when the conversation lulls. "What's an agent?"

"An agent?" Richard inclines his head. "Who have you been talking to, Charlotte?"

You shift in your seat. "Just answer the question. An agent of what?"

"Of the Wyrm. A profoundly misleading title, believe me, which is why it isn't in use. I am officially a correspondent." Richard leans his chin against his hand. "I don't take orders from God any more than you do, Charlotte. Perhaps less. If I had a direct line, do you suppose I'd be doing what I do?"

A straightforward answer? From Richard? Maybe he got drunk before you woke up. "Um... no."

"Precisely. Your source is misinformed. Or its memory is a touch off. It's as simple as that."

Its memory is— "Wait, you know about locitis, surely."

His eyebrows furrow. "Excuse me?"

"Locitis. It's— it's supposedly this disease that infected people with cruddy Headspace manses, uh, a year or two years ago. Out West. And it was a big deal, except I've never heard of it before now. And Gil hasn't either, even though I found out about it in his mind, so... he forgot. So maybe I forgot too. So maybe, um, you still remember? You're not even real, so maybe it didn't—?"

Richard laughs a little bit. Not in a good way. "A year or two years ago? Out West?"

"Um... yes, I did just say..."

"Yes. You did just say it. Oh dear." He rubs his forehead. "I suppose now's a good a time as any."

Oh, God. "What is?"

"Ah... well, you recall the man who roused your loins? Jesse? Do you recall his accusations about you?"

Ah, this feeling. Like your stomach is dissolving in its own juices. "Jesse died."

"Be that as it may, he had certain accusations. About what you were doing for, what was it, a year or two? This would've been shortly after you arrived underwater. But we determined that, in truth, these were the doings of your nefarious body-double."

You bury your face in your hands.

"I see you've already reached the conclusion, so I'll make this brief. Our determinations were, unfortunately, erroneous, as your body-double was in fact a separate human person with no reason to impersonate you for years. So we must determine differently. Can I ask you a question, Charlotte?"

"No," you mutter.

"Can you name anything specific about the events of the past three years— at any point before you began lodging at the camp? I only need a single thing."

"I was out west, and then I moved more north, and then I got sick of it and moved—"

"That's the least specific you could possibly be. Can you name where you were staying? Or describe the surroundings? Can you name a person you met at any point during the past three years— before you arrived at camp?"

You're trying. God, you're trying. It's like grasping at fog.

"Don't exhaust yourself, Charlie. I'm trying to prove a point, not kill you." Richard sloshes his drink around. He appears less smug than you'd expect. "Of course you don't remember locitis. If you ever did, it's gone with everything else. And it has been for a long time."

>[1] How do you react— how do you feel inwardly, and how do you express yourself outwardly? (Write-in.)
>What the fuck. Did he know all this time? Why didn't he tell us? Was it his doing?
I feel like inwardly we'd think it was a dick move not to tell us but also understand that he wouldn't because it wasn't relevant to the mission or whatever.

Ask if we don't remember locitis because we were a locitis victim
Writing for both! I'm glad we finally got here after two-and-a-half years, I've been sitting on the answer to "why does Charlotte never reference her recent past in detail?" and "how is she *still* so sheltered and immature after three years making it on her own?" for forever
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"You knew?" Your voice is coming from somewhere outside your body. You are perhaps somewhere outside your body.

>[-3 ID: 2/(9)]

"Charlie..." Richard looks down at his glass. "Of course I did. I'm in your head. This sort of thing isn't subtle."

You know what his response will be before you say it, which makes you wonder why you're saying it at all. But you don't have a choice. Your voice is coming from somewhere outside your body. "And you didn't tell me."

"And what, so I could make you miserable? Drive you to distraction? Clearly you haven't needed it."

You knew he was going to say that. And it's reasonable. Too reasonable. Hatred wells up in you. "So you did it."

"Pardon me?"

"You did it. You—" Your hands clench through the slats of the bench. "I know you did. You're in my head. You said it. So you—"

"I'm afraid not." He smiles grimly. "I have no recollection of the past three years, either."

You close your eyes.

"Of course, I aware of this at once, while you— slow as you are— failed to notice. But the cause is presumably the same. What, I shouldn't like to guess."

"You don't know what..."

"Well, I can't quite seem to remember." Ice clinks against his glass. "Jocularity aside, to wipe your mind requires no special effort. To wipe my mind... suffice it to say we appear to have run afoul of something major. Something I'd advise we not bother again."

If you keep your eyes closed, it feels a little less like this is happening. "But we don't know what it is not to bother."

"Then I advise we bother everything as little as possible." Richard sounds smirk-y.

You have nothing to say to that. You may have nothing to say ever again. It's just that the voice outside you keeps talking. "...How much of this have we done before?"

"What's 'this'?"

"I-I don't know. The first time you ever— you ever showed up as a person was under a month ago. Just before I got the Crown. Was that really the...?"

There's a silence. "Ah..."

The slats of the bench will leave white strips in your palm, if you ever let go of it. "Did I really only just find out about my father?"

"...I don't know, Charlie. That's the long and short of it." A rustle: he's shifting in his seat. "But I will say that the body felt, ah, broken-in."

"Great," you mumble.

"I'm not fond of this either, I hope you—"

You don't care about what he says. "So Jesse was right about everything. He was right that I was some— some officer, or something, and I did flee, and I left him The Sword, and he was— and now he's dead. He's dead."

"You never saw the body, so I wouldn't jump to conclusions, Charlie. But all of that certainly seems to be the case."

You are sweating. You can feel it. Sweat is slicking the inside of your sleeves and pooling in your boots. Is it that hot out? Or is it just you? "Did he teach me how to use a sword? Because I— I— I remembered— earlier— I remembered a whole— and he was in there. It was him in there. I think. It looked like him, and sort of sounded like him, and—"

"I would not be surprised," Richard says tactfully, "if that were also the case."

>[SOLVED: What's the deal with that weird sword training flashback you had?]

You just sit there and sweat and stare into the cricket-thick darkness. Sit and sweat. Sit and sweat. Sweat is running down your back. Sweat is running down your face. Or maybe it's something else salty— you don't know. If you don't acknowledge it it doesn't exist.

Finally you or the you-outside-yourself speaks again. "Do you think it's because I— I caught locitis?"

"Because you caught...?" Richard shuts one eye and puts his hand to his temple, like he's concentrating. "...No. Setting aside the fact that I'm similarly afflicted, you don't have a Headspace manse. It's custom-built."

"I don't remember building it," you say dully.

"No. But it is, regardless, and that would seem to be a prerequisite. That, and retrograde amnesia did not appear to be a primary symptom. The fact that Beetles can't remember it either is curious, though. I suppose it could be from a similar source." He shrugs. "Or he's simply forgetful. It may be worth asking others to see if it's consistent."

"'Worth asking others.'"

"Yes. As life does go on, whether you remember it or not, so sitting around feeling sorry for yourself isn't productive. You do have better things to do."

"Like fixing the stupid crown?" you say.

For a moment, Richard's face turns rigid, and then it's gone and he leans back in his chair. "I suppose. Among other things, if you have them. You do have them."

>Get Richard's feedback about...
>[A1] Investigating locitis
>[A2] Solving the Ellery mystery, once and for all
>[A3] Rescuing Madrigal
>[A4] Your other miscellaneous errands
>[A5] Write-in?

>[B1] Any remaining questions? (Write-in.)
>[A3] Rescuing Madrigal
>[B1] Any remaining questions?
Ask Gil what he remembers of the preceding three years. Does his amnesia cover the same span of time as ours?
same as >>5165140
are we major memory wiper victim buddies
>Hey Gil uhhhh


Yes, you do have them, as you always do. As you always have, probably. What better things to do have you done? Which ones were you planning on doing, before you forgot to do them?

Just answer the question, Charlotte. "I— I fixed Gil. So that's done. But Madrigal is still..."

"I'd hardly call that something 'better' to do, when I've already explained how better off we are without—" Richard sees your look. "Yes, yes, well— nobody ever accused you of being rational. You don't even like the woman, you realize?"

"That's besides the point," you say.

"Ah, so it is. Because you are bound by lofty ideals. You transcend the base notion of 'is there any use in this for you.'" His tone is bone-dry. "I am but your humble servant, Charlotte Fawkins, slave to your every passing notion, unfit and unable to question your lordly decrees. I am in your sway."

This pierces your malaise: you boggle. "Um, are you alright?"

"Ha-ha." Richard folds his hands. "Go on. You had some lofty ideals to embody?"

"Um, I didn't say that, but—" Is he alright? "I-I need to rescue her. Madrigal. Except I don't know where she is, and I don't know how to figure it—"

"You also killed your one lead. How sad." He leans back. "Meaning you need new ones. You could order your lackey to dig something up. Not Beetles. The tall one."


"Yes, whatever. You obtained his help, did you not? Make use of it."

Make use of it how, is the other question, but you don't want to make Richard too smirky. "...Right. Um, which Ellery are you talking about?"

"They're both him, aren't they? Though the one hates you."

You pause. "He doesn't hate me, he—"

"Oh, my apologies. He intensely distrusts and dislikes you. It's a pity that he's the only other person looking into this, then... if only you could've conducted yourself better, hmm?" Richard picks at his teeth. "Still, if you're dead-set on this, it would be prudent to reestablish contact. He has his own business with Headspace, doesn't he? Perhaps he also knows about locitis?"

"Yeah. I got it." It's the last thing you want to hear, but okay. Maybe you'll try Fake Ellery first. "That's it? You can't— magyckally trace where they went?"

"For the umpteenth time, Charlie, I am not a wizard. Moreover, I wasn't present in any meaningful sense while it was occurring. If you'd like to pursue Crown business while waiting for a clue to appear on your doorstop, very well, but—"

"I got it."

"Excellent." Richard smiles thinly. "Now, I think you better have some time to digest everything. Better that than a meltdown later. Shall we?"

It's not particularly a question. He motions with his hand and the darkness collapses, and the bench, and the crickets, and you, and you are spat dizzily into the blinding shining manse. It takes you a moment to get your bearings, and a few more to realize that someone is conspicuously missing. Damnit. "Gil?" you call.

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"I'd imagine he's—" Richard, dressed newly in khakis, jerks a thumb toward the ravine. You sigh.

Two minutes of scrambling later, you emerge into the garden-space in the side of your manse. Gil's body lies discarded in the weedy grass: Gil's beetles are scattered amidst the spade-shaped leaves and blush-pink flowers and woody, thorny branches of a new bush. Though does it still qualify as a bush when it's taller than you are? "Aw, uh—" Gil's voice comes from somewhere in the branches. "Uh, hi."

"...Hi." You cross your arms. "I didn't know where you went."

"Um, sorry."

He doesn't say anything after that. You uncross your arms. "It's okay, I guess. As long as you're alright. Are you eating my heart bush?"

"No! I-I-I-I'm not— I wouldn't—" With a great rustle, Gil alights. You'll admit the leaves look unchewed. "I-I-I just... like it here... that's all."

"Ah! It's grown." Richard, coming up behind you, deposits the Law-siphon on the ground. "You can have a heart again, Charlie. That'll aid your lofty—"

"Shut up." You've recovered, somewhat, but your patience is in tatters. "How do I get it back? Don't tell me I have to, I don't know, climb up it and have mystic visions— I am done with mystic visions. I'm sick of them. I don't even want my heart back, if that's what—"

"You can eat the fruit. Or I can put a flower back in your chest. Whichever you prefer."

You think. "Um, is there a difference?"

Richard's patience: also in tatters. "How should I know, exactly? Believe it or not, I am not often in situations where my charge eats her own heart and then causes a Class B collapse attempting to retrieve it. Pick one."

"The fruit. I guess." The less Richard messes around in your chest, the better.

"Wonderful." Richard strides forward, slides two fingers around something-or-other, and pulls. He strides back to you and deposits a small round fruit, like a rosehip, in your palm. It isn't glowing, or beating, or anything you'd expect. It's just streaked pink and red.

You smell it. It smells like plant. You touch your tongue to it. It's faintly fuzzy and tastes like nothing. You glance at Richard, who nods you along, and then you chuck it in your mouth and chew and swallow.

The inside of your heart-fruit is slimy and stringy and tastes like biting the inside of your mouth, but other than that it slides down your gullet without event. You are about to accuse Richard of picking the wrong one, and indeed have your mouth open to do so, until your chest clenches like a fist and your body jackknifes and Richard says something distantly about 'never insinuated it'd be comfortable," to you? Or to Gil? You're unable to tell, as you're screaming, less from pain and more from— shock?— or the inability to process giddy euphoria and grinding rage and thick consuming despair simultaneously. So you are crying (or tears are coming from your eyes), and screaming some more, and it feels as though if you cracked open your skull you'd find it slimy and stringy, and your chest feels beyond the cramping pain full. Not stuffed, only full, though you'd never noticed it empty— and when the emotion subsides, leaving you wracked and voiceless on the dented grass, you're left with an odd satisfaction. And a heartbeat. Had you been missing one?

>{TO-DO COMPLETE: Regain your missing ID]


Well, that about did it, said Richard all business-like, and he added he'd deal with the siphon himself. You said "whatever," which is why you are on your cot, in the cool night water, trying to rub the pins and needles out of your legs. "Gil," you say.

Gil, after minimal complaining, has re-lodged himself in Madrigal's limp body. He stares through a carpet of stringy hair up at you. "...Yeah?"

Gil, I can't remember an enormous portion of my life. Even more than I already knew I couldn't remember. And I only just now realized. Gil, Richard knew about it the whole time and didn't tell me. Gil, Richard doesn't know how to fix it. Gil, so much of me's missing I'm not sure what's left. "Um, hypothetically, do you remember the past three years? Like, before you got beetled? Really, just— anything from that time period. Did you meet anyone remarkable? Learn any new skills? Whatever?"

"I-I-I picked up smoking? That's not a skill. Um... I-I already knew how to play darts, but I guess I got better... and I-I-I-I don't know, remarkable people? There was this one guy who dressed like a—"

"Never mind." He remembers. It's just you. You and Richard, apparently, the worst person ever to have something in common with. "Just checking, you still can't remember locitis?"

"...Sorry, I-I-I wish I..."

"It's not your fault," you say. So it's just that. He can't remember locitis specifically. "Don't worry about it."

"I-If you say so..." He tilts his head back against the tent wall. "Um, where am I-I supposed to sleep? I-I-I just— I— the last time I slept alone my teeth melted, so, um—"

(Choices next.)
>[1] You are so tired. Sure. Whatever. He can sleep on your floor.
>[2] You are so tired. Tell him to get the eff-word out and sleep in his own (Madrigal's) tent. You can't deal with this.
>[3] Kick him out, but more politely. Say some things about making a positive uplifting change, by getting the hell over his weird separation anxiety, etc. etc., whatever you can come up with.
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] You are so tired. Sure. Whatever. He can sleep on your floor.
Hmm, our amnesia might have a completely different source than Gil's.
it's not proper
>>[1] You are so tired. Sure. Whatever. He can sleep on your floor.
>[1] You are so tired. Sure. Whatever. He can sleep on your floor.
Throw my boy Gil a bone.


Called for [1] and writing. I might or might not update later tonight as well-- I'll play it by ear.
>Noblesse oblige

You can't bring yourself to care. "Then sleep here. I guess. But you're not sharing the cot and I don't have extra blankets, so—"

"I-I-I-I don't mind." Gil pauses. "I-I've been sleeping on a lot of walls, this isn't really any..."

"Okay then." As long as he stays on the floor, it's fine. It's not weird. It's putting him in his proper place, really. "Good night."

"Um, good night."

Richard is conspicuously silent: you think he might be asleep already. Or 'off duty.' It's sickening to think how little you'd considered that Richard might have a job, or a duty, or indeed a life, and equally sickening how fast you've adapted to that alien concept— like maybe you've come across it before, like maybe you've come across it over and over and over and over for all you know. You can't remember the last three years, but who's to say it came at once? Maybe you were wiped every six months, on a cycle, and you'll wake up tomorrow and not remember this either. Maybe you were wiped day to day to day and it only stopped six months ago. Maybe you're like Ellery and six months ago you died, and came back.

Or maybe not. Maybe it's like Richard implied, that you were ordinary, you were functioning normally, until something terrible happened all at once. It's about the gnawing uncertainty, not the specifics. It's about thinking the world's shifting under your while it stays rock solid: guess who's moving? It's about all those times you thought, glancingly, that something must be wrong with you: is this it? Is this what's wrong? That the real you is dead and you're just what's scrapped together from the ruins?

Look at you! You stop thinking positive for just a moment and you're all death and ruins and nausea pooling in your throat— God-damnit, Lottie, get a grip. You are fine, because what is the alternative? You have been through worse (have you?), and in many tangible ways this day was a success— you caught the murderous gooplicate, didn't you, even if she(?) wasn't a technically gooplicate, and you fixed Gil, after you broke him, and you got your heart back and learned about Ellery's weird assassination gig... yeah. It could've gone worse. Way worse. And no matter who you may or may not have been, or what serious crimes you may or may not have been credibly accused of, you're you now. You're Charlotte Fawkins, possessed of rather more courage and steadfastness than the average person, and a heroic spirit of some description, and a sword and magyck powers and a probable destiny which may or may not include queendom. So there. You can remember that much.

You fall into fitful sleep. You dream in fragments, of fragments: of falling like a vase and being smashed into sharp glazed pieces.


>[ID: 12/12]


You awaken, blearily, to something heavy on your chest. Something like a thin black sandbag: its tail droops off the side of the cot, its head drapes pointedly over your nose. Coughing (your throat is full of phlegm), you roll over, and Richard slides to the ground.

«It is 11:32 in the soon-not-to-be morning. Arise.»

He's better than a rooster, isn't he. Ow. You sit up and lean to see Gil, covered in sand, curled and insensate on the floor. "G— Gil?"

«Oh. He may be in torpor.»
«I advise shaking.»

You kick the blanket off, wrap your arms around your chest, and pad over to Gil. You shake his shoulder, to little effect.

«Kick him.»

You're not going to kick him. You nudge him. With your foot. To your relief, his eyes snap open, followed by his mouth; he gargles out a string of unintelligible clicks, furrows his eyebrows, and tries again. "Uh... good morning."

"Good morning." You roll your shoulders. "No time like the present, huh?"

Talk to someone?
>[1A] Fake Ellery. You owe him some orders— and if you want to contact Real Ellery, he may be your best bet.
>[1B] Horse Face. Not that you want to. But he's bound to know stuff about the blessing in Gil's head, and maybe the cult rumors in town, and maybe *he'll* remember locitis.
>[1C] Write-in.

Go somewhere?
>[2A] You were planning to check out the town archives yesterday, but never got around to it (for understandable reasons). Eloise mentioned she might've seen something of Anthea's in there— and who knows what else might be there?
>[2B] You just revenge-killed the murderer haunting the camp. You are owed free drinks. Many free drinks. So you just woke up, and it's not even noon— that's *weakness* talking.
>[2C] The name "Headspace" sure is cropping up a lot lately: how lucky that their main office is 15 minutes away. Head in and... don't investigate, necessarily. You don't know if they've done anything wrong. But ask some questions.
>[2D] Write-in.
>[1B] Horse Face. Not that you want to. But he's bound to know stuff about the blessing in Gil's head, and maybe the cult rumors in town, and maybe *he'll* remember locitis.
Fake!Ellery seems like a good first step, but just for Ellery. Horse Face is a good source for more broad information.
Ask him to pay interest on our model
>[2A] You were planning to check out the town archives yesterday, but never got around to it (for understandable reasons). Eloise mentioned she might've seen something of Anthea's in there— and who knows what else might be there?
We need to find Pat
>Horse Face


Called for Horse Face and writing.
>>[1B] Horse Face. Not that you want to. But he's bound to know stuff about the blessing in Gil's head, and maybe the cult rumors in town, and maybe *he'll* remember locitis.

"I-I guess so..." Gil rubs his forehead. "Are you usually this energetic? Right when you wake up? Normally I-I-I just want to roll over and, um, go back to sleep."

"It's a new day, isn't it?" A new day, and a new chance for everything to finally go right. Or not a chance— everything will go right today, and you won't learn a single horrible fact about yourself, and the fabric of reality will stay exactly as it is. You can feel it. And you really mean that: you're sort of tingly all over.

«I took the liberty of healing your wounds.»

Your wounds? Oh! Your wounds! From slaying the villainous non-gooplicate! Did he let one scar? Not an ugly scar, or anything, just enough to win the admiration and free-flowing drinks of the populace.



«I also took the liberty of improving the tooth, if you've failed to notice thus far.»

The... tooth... oh, the one you had knocked out. (Today will be the sort of day where losing a tooth will be the worst, most important thing that happens, and not something that slips past you in the blur of everything else.) Now that Richard says it, the gap's been filled: there's something thinner and longer where your old tooth used to be. And curved. You struggle for more dramatic synonyms and are forced to admit it's just a fang.

«You have been doing a remarkable amount of biting. It will improve your performance.»

Um, you guess it will. Are you venomous?

«Not yet.»

You're thoroughly unsure how to feel about this. Gil, against the wall, frowns deeply. "You're talking to him."

Damn. Is it that obvious? "I— yes. I am. So?"

"..." He looks away. "I-It isn't anything. Um, is there an agenda? For the day? Or are we just gonna take i-i-it easy... I wouldn't mind taking it easy, um, given yesterday. But that's just what I-I—"

"Yes. That is just what you think." You point accusingly. "You know who takes rest days? Cowards. You know who doesn't? The retainers of supremely busy young nobleladies. Onwards and upwards, Gilbert, onwards and upw—"

"Please just call me Gil."

"Onwards and upwards." You kick your way off your cot and into a dashing one-foot-up hands-on-hips pose, mitigated somewhat by the utter disarray in your hair and clothing. "Ahem. Go wait outside. Young nobleladies are wont to—"

"Uh..." Gil's eyes widen more. You fix him with a menacing grin. "I-I-I'll be out there... please don't take too long..."

He hastens out. You turn the same grin on Richard, who hasn't moved much since you dumped him off you.

«I am on the ground. My field of view is not wide.»
«Moreover, were I able to see anything, I am entirely incapable of—»

You pick him up and toss him into your portmanteau, just in case. Richard doesn't protest. You proceed then to strip out of your old clothes— rest in bloody pieces, white coat— and into newer ones: not nicer newer ones, per se. You don't have those. But they're equally torn up and have less conspicuous staining, so it's as good as you're getting. You batter down your hair, wipe your face roughly, shake a tiny crab out of your boots, and fling open the—

"Hello, Lottie. Er, I'm sorry, please repeat that. You do not believe you're currently residing in hell, defined as an afterlife where one experiences eternal torment, because...?"

"HORSE FACE," you say.

"Um... I-I-I..." Gil's pressed back against the outside wall, now, clinging to one of the ropes. "I-I would've said because it doesn't exist, but now I-I, um... I-I-I guess I'd say that the torment isn't eternal."

"Not... eternal." Horse Face is scribbling things down on his horrible little notepad with his horrible little crayon like he didn't nearly flatten the whole camp. And steal your model. "Could you elaborate?"

"Uh..." Gil snatches a glance at you. "Not really... i-it's just not eternal. It ends. That's all."

"HORSE FACE," you say, before Horse Face can respond. "YOU— um— go away! This is my tent! You can't just— you don't have the right to speak to my retainer, let alone me, and— what are you even doing here?! What are you doing? Instilling filthy lies in his head, no doubt, and—"

"Good morning to you too, Lottie." Horse Face smiles genially, flips the notepad shut, and adjusts the heavy bag slung over his shoulder. "I was simply making my way back to my tent when I ran across my good acquaintance Ms. Fitzpatrick. You can't imagine my surprise when I discovered Ms. Fitzpatrick was indeed my old friend Gil Wallace, as I had remembered him... taller."

Gil began shaking his head slightly at 'old friend,' and he shakes it harder when you catch his eye. You fold your arms. "How old of a friend?"

"It's been about twenty years. Now, if you'd excuse us..."

If you socked Horse Face in the mouth, you'd knock that stupid grin off— and maybe fix his gap tooth, too. But that wouldn't be a good way to start a new day. You'll just have to plot less obvious ways to humiliate him, or... alternately, leeching some information off him would count. Definitely.

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Ask him what's in his bag. Is it another god-summoning contraption? If it's another contraption, you're stabbing him now and saving yourself the trouble later.
>[A2] Ask him if he knows about locitis. If he was hanging around Gil "20 years ago," presumably he would've run right into it?
>[A3] Ask him if knows that the god he summoned hypothetically imbued Gil with god magyck, and hypothetically if he has any stupid cryptotheological background on how to awaken said magyck.
>[A4] Ask him if he's heard about the cult rumors going around lately. That seems like his thing, right?
>[A5] Ask him if he knows anything at all about "Namway Co." You have no reason to believe he does, but, you know, you're covering your bases.
>[A6] Write-in.

>[B1] Let Gil talk to Horse Face, if he wants. You want him to be loyal, of course, and grateful for your presence, and so on, but, um... maybe having someone else to talk to would improve his demeanor.
>[B2] Forbid Gil from talking to Horse Face. It's *Horse Face.*
>[B3] Write-in.

>[C] Write-in.
>[A2] Ask him if he knows about locitis. If he was hanging around Gil "20 years ago," presumably he would've run right into it?
>[A5] Ask him if he knows anything at all about "Namway Co." You have no reason to believe he does, but, you know, you're covering your bases.
>[B1] Let Gil talk to Horse Face, if he wants. You want him to be loyal, of course, and grateful for your presence, and so on, but, um... maybe having someone else to talk to would improve his demeanor.

I'd normally go for B2 but he's awfully clingy
>Straight to the point

"I'm sorry?" you say. "Excuse you? Last I checked, you were the one standing outside my tent, bothering my retainer, disturbing the peace— you should be the one excusing me! You should— you know, as recompense, you owe me information."

Horse Face appears more amused than you'd hope. "Do I?"

"Yes! You owe me so much— you owe me and Gil so much information, for wasting his time. Have you heard of locitis?"

"Locitis? Hmm." He scratches his chin. "Hmmm. It rings a bell, but—"

It rings a bell! But then again, it's Horse Face. "Really? You're not lying?"

"I might be. It gets tough to keep track." (You narrow your eyes.) "Touchy. I can check my files?"

You attempt to share a derisive look with Gil, but he isn't paying attention. "What, so you have time to make something up? Or steal a relevant—"

Horse Face is unflappable. "Could be, yes. Or I could refresh my memory, which I'm ashamed to say is rather at its breaking point. Did you have particular questions?"

Do you have particular questions... um, no. You didn't think you needed any. But you can't just go and say that, now, or Horse Face will have a leg up on you, so—

«Change the subject.»

Yes, Richard, you were working on it. "Whatever. Have you heard of Namway? Namway Co? Shady local business, makes gooplicates in bulk, nasty habit of kidnapping..."

You hate the look on Horse Face's horse face. "Oh, that's interesting."

"Oh God," you say.

"I do believe I've heard some talk of it... in passing. Not more than that." He readjusts the bag. "Confidential source, I'm afraid, and I do have standards. I couldn't possibly..."

Uh-huh. The trailing-off isn't an accident: gauging from the look, it's an 'unless.' Unless you make some stupid agreement, or do something for him, it's confidential. You hate Horse Face. You hate him. And he isn't even offering anything you can reject, just to stick it to him— he's letting you pick.


(Choices next.)
>[A1] Point out that he doesn't actually have any kind of standards. Or morals. Or ethics. He's just trying to manipulate you, and by God you're not falling for it! (Hope this is enough to embarrass him.) [Roll.]
>[A2] Threaten him. Tell him that if he has important clues for your investigation of the popular second-in-command's hideous kidnapping, and he does not give up said clues, you're dragging Monty straight back into his tent. He doesn't want to sit through arbitration *again*, does he? [Roll.]
>[A3] Play on his sympathies. He claims to know Gil, right? Well, did he know that a Namway lady shot Gil? Almost fatally? So it's basically his fault if he lets her walk free. [Roll.]
>[A4] Bargain. Hey, Gil has weird god stuff, doesn't he? Isn't that crypotheological? Wouldn't he like to... examine that, or whatever? If he fesses up, you'll let him.
>[A4] Advanced Gaslight him. (What do you tell him?) [Roll.]
>[A5] Write-in. (You can combine techniques if it makes sense to do so.)

>[B] On the upside, you have successfully distracted Horse Face long enough that you won't look dumb. What specific questions do you have about locitis? (Write-in.)

>[C] Write-in.

Last vote's [B1] will come into play later, in retrospect I should've saved it but ah well
>[A1] Point out that he doesn't actually have any kind of standards. Or morals. Or ethics. He's just trying to manipulate you, and by God you're not falling for it! (Hope this is enough to embarrass him.) [Roll.]
>[A3] Play on his sympathies. He claims to know Gil, right? Well, did he know that a Namway lady shot Gil? Almost fatally? So it's basically his fault if he lets her walk free. [Roll.]
>[A1] Point out that he doesn't actually have any kind of standards. Or morals. Or ethics. He's just trying to manipulate you, and by God you're not falling for it! (Hope this is enough to embarrass him.) [Roll.]

People with morals and ethics and standards don't steal models.
Please note that [B] isn't marked Optional-- if you want information about locitis from Horse Face, you're going to have to tell him what information. (If you changed your mind about the information, carry on.)
>[B] On the upside, you have successfully distracted Horse Face long enough that you won't look dumb. What specific questions do you have about locitis? (Write-in.)
When and where did it happen? How was the matter resolved? Did anyone lose their memories of it?
People without morals ethics or standards don't get embarassed about extortion.

> Advance gaslight

We already gave him information regarding Namway and their recent activities. If he were to work with us on it he could learn more. After all, his friend Gil is already involved anyways . . . Perhaps we can find a solution to get Gil into a gooplicate body or something too.

We're tied! But as >>5170580 pointed out the flaw in [A1]-- Horse Face is shameless-- I'll give the first voters the benefit of the doubt and go with [A4].

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+5 Old Friend) vs. DC 65 (+20 Advanced Gaslighting, +5 Unflappable, -10 Inquisitive) to convince Horse Face he cares about this!

Spend 1 ID for a +10 to each roll? You are at 12/12 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N

Also calling for these >>5170503 specific questions, though I'll take more if you have them.
Rolled 9 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 59 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

no spend
Rolled 62 (1d100)

Yes spend, if this roll is a winner then we'll have a success, right?
>24, 74, 77 vs. DC 65 -- Success

Nice. Writing in 1-2 hours.

>Turn on the charm
>24, 74, 77 vs. DC 65 — Success

Well, you're not about to stand for this: you're supposed to be pushing Horse Face around, not vice versa. If you give him what he wants, you lose. If you walk away, it's a draw at best, since you'll never know what he has. So the only option available is to convince him to fess up, through guile or force... er, not force. You're not the sort of person who'd go around extorting people at swordpoint, and if you were, Horse Face appears somewhat impervious to that tactic. So guile it is.

Which shouldn't be too difficult, should it? If you look at Horse Face sideways, and squint, and ignore his smarmy smile and conniving thievish eyes and weird bone structure and inordinate height and— if you ignore Horse Face altogether, and substitute in your mind a nicer, better, foot-shorter Cameron M.S. Garvin, you can believe he'd want to help you out for no gain of his. Because Gil's involved, see, and he surely wants to help Gil. And he's interested in the mystery, and if helps you he'll be helping to solve the mystery. Yeah. So now you just open your mouth, and brilliantly, eloquently express these things—

Cameron M.S. Garvin raises one eyebrow. No. Your pretense has died stillborn. Horse Face raises one eyebrow, like the awful, detestable, completely-and-entirely unhelpful person he is, and you haven't a clue how you began to convince yourself that he—


>[-1 ID: 11/12]

God, the sunlight is bright, isn't it? Where are you? You ought to know where you are. That's your tent, and there's Madrigal— Gil, you mean, and horrendously Horse Face is there in front. Raising one eyebrow. God, were you talking to him?

«Indeed. He just offered to tell you what he knows about Namway Co.»

Oh! You must've spaced out. Or fell asleep a little, there. That's suspiciously nice of him: you must've employed your feminine charms/wiles. Good on you. You brush your hair over your shoulder and bob a curtsey. "Thank you, Sir Face of Horse. You're doing me and mine retainer a— a great help. So you know about Namway?"

Horse Face touches his forehead. He frowns. "I, er—"

You frown, too. "You said you were going to tell me? You said, uh, you wanted to learn more about it, and there's no better way than—"

"Yes, yes." He waves you down, having come to an apparent conclusion. "I've heard it briefly discussed, but you'll have to give me a couple more goes before I have all the details. It was something about a connection between it and my source. If you want details, you need to talk to them, and... well."

It's a scary 'well.' "What about it?"

"They're not the kind of people who take well to outsiders, put it that way— I worked my way in on short notice, but I came, ah, pre-briefed. And I have quite a resume." Horse Face taps his crayon to his cheek. "I could keep an ear out for you, but there's no telling if it'll come up again anytime soon. I take it this is urgent?"

Solving a kidnapping? You fold your arms. "Uh, yes."

"What a shame. I suppose the only thing to do is to let you ask the questions... as you're so accomplished at that." His tone is pointed. "I'm sure you could wear them down in no time at all."

"I'm sure I could!" you say blithely. "So where do I talk to them? And who's 'them,' anyhow?"

"A local organization. And, eh... they'll contact you, once I tip them off. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow night. Sound good?"


Richard doesn't have to say anything: his irritation's rolling off in waves. He might have a point. "...It kind of sounds like a set-up, but, um..."

"A set-up?"

"Well, you know. Sort of like how I got that relic for you, and the whole place was full of guards? This sounds like I'm gonna be, I don't know, arrested, or drugged, or kidna... wait." You have a bad feeling. "You aren't working for Namway, are you? Like, that's not your anonymous source?"

Horse Face grins. "No. That's a funny idea, though. Maybe next time?"

God. "Okay, is it the Wind Court? Lucky isn't going to show up with a torch—"

"Afraid not."

You sigh deeply. "And how am I supposed to believe you? You."

"That..." Horse Face's grin doesn't slip. "...sounds like a 'you' problem, Lottie."

Fantastic. You don't suppose he'll be offering more details, then.

>[1] Okay! Fine! You don't have any other leads! And you can handle any stupid anonymous source. You have a sword, don't you? And magyck powers? They won't be expecting that, whatever they are.
>[2] If it isn't Namway, or the Wind Court... you're running out of organizations. If you just think of the right one, and tell him, surely he'd confirm it? And elaborate? (Guesses? Write-in.)
>[3] No. This is too suspicious. But you've used your feminine wiles/charms to sway him, meaning that if you decline now you *win*— decline in grand fashion.
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] If it isn't Namway, or the Wind Court... you're running out of organizations. If you just think of the right one, and tell him, surely he'd confirm it? And elaborate? (Guesses? Write-in.)

Thieves guild? We know Horseface is a thief after all. Hopefully that since we know some thieves ourselves.

Cult of the god of change? The one who he tried%succeeded%*%?'hfailed???? To summon?

Those tower dudes that Monty used to be a part of? Pretty sure we can own their asses too and the whole "kill one and take their place" death game jazz I think they have could make things easier.

The spelunkers club? Because if so we gonna be real salty about them not helping more.

Does Namway have any corporate rivals?
I can't think of any groups we know that >>5171337
didn't lay out, and none of them look likely so I don't want to just throw them out there.

Maybe a jacker's association? He did know Gil somehow.



You'll rattle stuff off to Horse Face, and if nothing sticks you'll bite the bullet and accept the offer as-is. Writing.

>Does Namway have any corporate rivals?
Interesting question! I wonder if anybody's ever mentioned any corporate rivals of Namway's? :-)
>Name game

No details... unless you guess what he's talking about, then he'll be so awed he has no choice. Or so disgruntled he has no choice. Either/or. And it can't be so difficult to guess. "Okay, if you say it's not either of those... what is it, a thieves' guild? Since you like stealing things so much."

Horse Face clicks his tongue. "I'm not aware of any thieves' guilds in the vicinity, I'm sorry to say. Do point me to them if you find one."

You make a face. "As if I'd— fine. Is it the freak club? Whassit... Spelunker's Society? Whatever? I swear to God, if they're investigating on their own—"

«Spelunkers' Associated.»

Too late now. Horse Face scratches his chin. "Investigating what?"

"Madrigal's kidnapping! God, keep up! Didn't I explain this?" You did while you spaced out, you thought. "Whatever. If it's not them, is it— I dunno— the jackers? Do they have their own freak club? Gil?"

"What? Uh..." Gil has slunk behind you ever since you interrupted, but he shuffles back out. "I-I-I really shouldn't, um, discuss the—"

"You've retired, haven't you?" You fold your arms. "You don't owe them anything. You owe them less than nothing, actually, since I didn't see any of your garbage friends bail you out of—"

"It's alright. He's talking about their fraternity." (Gil blanches.) "But they wouldn't be caught out in this... pleasant locale. Present company excluded."

So, 'no.' What's left? Monty's Spooky Masked Person Dimension thing? But Monty didn't indicate anything about that having a branch underwater, and also he might actually literally kill you if you told Horse Face about it. Even briefly. You wrack your brains. "Okay, fine, is it a— a cryptotheological thing? Is there a cult for the dumb god you hypothetically summoned? And hypothetically killed people with? And hypothetically—"

Horse Face has a look. "Would you like that to be the case?"

"What?" What the hell does that even mean? "Do I want to infiltrate a stupid pagan cult? No. But if I have to, then—"

"No, I didn't think so. You didn't seem the persuasion." He taps his teeth.

What? What is he— "Shut up! Shut up. You know what, I don't even care what your stupid— I don't care if it's a cult or a secret society or a knitting club, alright? Because whatever it is, I can handle it, and if it's a trap, I can handle that too, because I'm just that good. Right, Gil?"

Gil is outside your peripheral vision, but you assume he nods. "Yes! So— so there."

"Oh, dear." Horse Face shakes his head wanly. "I've been told, I believe. I have no option but to contact my source and ensure you're contacted in short order."

"Um..." You place your hands on your hips. "Yes. So there."

"Wonderful. So, Gil, I believe we were on the topic of..."

Hey! "Wait! You were going to get me stuff about locitis!"

"Ah." Horse Face appears put-out. "Certainly. Allow me to consult my records. Did you have specific questions, or did you intend for me to sift indiscriminately through 40 years of—"

You'd love for him to sift indiscriminately, mostly because it sounds like he doesn't want to do that. But then he just might not do it at all. "Um, I don't know. Can you put a date on it? And a location? And were there any reports of, random example, people forgetting all about it?"

«And how the matter resolved itself.»

"Oh, and how it all wrapped up." Why is Richard helping with this?

«If you are hellbent on wasting your time, you may as well waste it thoroughly.»

You know, you'll take it. Horse Face sighs. "Good enough. I'll be seeing you, then. Stay here."

Mercifully, he exits. You slump onto the ground. Gil squats down beside you wordlessly.

Some minutes pass before Horse Face returns, not carrying much of anything. You squint. "Hello again," he says too-cheerily. "As it occurs, I was privy to this before I was much in the habit of collecting souvenirs."

"...So you don't have anything?"

"I didn't say that, did I? I don't have any newspaper clippings, but I do have some of my own notes. Not too many. I was preoccupied by, as I recollect, a string of heart attacks. But for what it's worth..." Horse Face shuffles a pile of papers out of his pocket. "...These span about three months, from— let us see— Kitemaker 202 to Netmaker 203, give or take. That's this year? 203?"

You roll your eyes. "Yes, Horse Face, the year is— so you're saying this started about a year ago? A year and a month? And it ended six months ago. But did it end, or did everyone just forget about it? Theoretically?"

"I'm not clear on that point, I'm afraid, but if I had to guess... it seems to have faded out of the public eye, rather than necessarily ended. Why, I haven't a clue. The Western people are fickle."

You fold your arms. "So it was all out West?"

"I was out West, so that's all I have to give— though I wouldn't be surprised. That's where all the people are, after all. And all the jackers, which..." He pages through the papers. "I pin as the primary cause? I couldn't say how accurate that is. This didn't seem to capture my attention."

"Hmm." You dislike Horse Face on principle, but this is more information than you had before. And something about it feels important, though you're not sure you can pin down what. "Okay. Cool. None of this absolves your crimes, by the way."

"Of course not." He smiles. "Now, really, I was in the middle of something. Mr. Wallace and I—"

Him and Gil? You can't leave Gil alone with him— he'll pick up ideas! Horrible, thievish ideas, which... uh... hmm. Well, he is your retainer, so saying he might pick up bad ideas looks poorly on you. Shouldn't you be a stronger influence than Horse Face? How can Horse Face beat you at anything? He can't. So maybe it'd be good to leave Gil here, so he correctly sees how much better you are. And so he stops wanting to sleep in your tent all the time. But mostly the first one.

But on the other hand, you're still in the middle of... detectiving, and stuff! And he's your trusty partner! Can you just leave him?

>[A1] Leave Gil with Horse Face.
>[A2] Take Gil with you.

>[B] Go somewhere else, or talk to someone else. (Select an option from >>5167031).

>[C] (OPTIONAL) Something about the dates Horse Face mentioned is bothering you. 9 months ago to 6 months ago... hmm. Can you detective(ess) it out? (Write-in.)

As a brief reminder for the chronologically confused, the Drowned year is composed of 8 months (3 of 40 days, 5 of 48 days).
>[A1] Leave Gil with Horse Face.
>[B] Go somewhere else, or talk to someone else: the town archives

>6 months ago is when we arrived at the camp, isn't it?
>Weren't we up North before that though, not West?
>Netmaker was Pat's fake name when she shot Gil. Chosen for a reason or a coincidence?

Isn't it too short? Only 3 months? I got the sense it went on a lot longer than that.
>>[A1] Leave Gil with Horse Face.
>>[B] Go somewhere else, or talk to someone else: the town archives
>>6 months ago is when we arrived at the camp, isn't it?
>>Weren't we up North before that though, not West?
>>Netmaker was Pat's fake name when she shot Gil. Chosen for a reason or a coincidence?
Called for [A1] and archives. On the [C]s: Excellent ideas, but none of them are exactly what's bothering Charlotte. Getting the "right answer" here isn't mandatory, so I won't continue prompting for it, but I won't stop you from continuing to guess either.
>none of them are exactly what's bothering Charlotte
Just when I have to go to work where suptg is blocked.
Tragic! I'm not setting a time limit on this, fortunately. Charlotte can come to a revelation any time (or never).

Have you tried sup/tg/'s new URL, lws.thisisnotatrueending.com? You could also manually search up Redux threads in archived.moe if that's unblocked, though that's way clunkier

You squint at Gil, who makes big pleading eyes back. Yes, you decide. You can leave him. It'll build character. "Yes, yes, go on. If you do anything to him, Horse Face, I swear to God I have a sword—"

"'Do' something? I don't know why you'd think I would, Lottie, but you have my word." Horse Face places his hand over his heart, or rather the shriveled thing he calls a heart. "We'll have a pleasant conversation. On my honor."

His "word" is worse than nothing, as is his ""honor,"" but—

«This is mutually beneficial.»
«Do not ruin it.»

Fine. Fine. "Uh-huh. Me and my sword will be leaving now, Horse Face, so— watch out." You gesture threateningly. "We're going off to do things. Important things. More important things than you've ever—"

Gil looks miserable, but he isn't saying anything (perhaps recognizing this as an enriching opportunity.) Horse Face is grinning. "I'm sure you are!"

Damn. Damn. You hate Horse Face. You gesture harder, spin on your heel, and march off to— somewhere. Somewhere important. Somewhere important and far away, so he can see you leaving, meaning, um...

«I believe you had settled on researching the 'Grande—'»

No! Shut up! You're not doing that anymore, Richard, or at least not now, not when you have a kidnapping and a mystery disease and an Ellery remaining to solve, and new clothing to purchase, and a good body for Gil and many free drinks to get. You are not holing yourself up and poring over dead-end leads again, for the sake of a stupid crown you don't even have. You are going adventuring. And what is he going to do about it— wipe your memory? Oh, wait.

«As we have thoroughly discussed, I have done no such thing.»
«I do not understand where this unfortunate change of heart is coming from. We have compensated for the lack of the instrument. You have dedicated years to—»

Have you dedicated years to finding the Crown? Really? Has it actually taken you three God-damned years to find a stinking cave full of stinking alligators? Or has a very small percentage of that time been spent on that, while the rest of the time you gave up and started doing interesting things?


Right. You don't know! And he doesn't either, if he isn't lying. So he can't pull the stupid 'spent 3 years on this' anymore.

«Have you forgotten the point of this. Because it was not to chase mindless pleasure.»
«What of your family.»

What of your family? What of the poor tragic Fawkinses? Let you count the remaining members: your father, a deceased(?) cultist(??), now a reptile(???). Yourself. Aaaaand...

«Your mother.»
«You intend to abandon her for nothing. Interesting. And you accuse me of being cold-hearted.»

...Um... no, you just... that's not what you...

«That is precisely what you mean. You intend to gallivant around, fulfilling your own selfish whims, indefinitely. But that is not how life functions.»
«It is an eye for an eye. You suffer, or others suffer in your stead.»
«You claim to be a 'heroine.'»

...Yes, um, but—

«So you would rather make others suffer than sacrifice your own happiness. You would sacrifice duty for hedonism.»
«How noble of you. How courageous of you.»

Shut up.

«The courageous heroine can't stomach the slightest criticism. How telling. Almost as if you've created a <fiction> to avoid the work you must do.»
«You are going to the archive. And you are requesting material on the Grande Mangrove.»
«That is the sum total of it.»

He says it like you weren't already trudging down the path toward town. How intelligent of him. How insightful of him. God-damnit. You thought— you don't know why, but you thought maybe he'd go ahead and let you... do anything else. He was acting so nice last night. But that was him, and not the snake, so.

«I am the snake.»

He knows what you mean. But it's fine! Because you were going to the archives anyhow, so ha, he's not telling you what to do, it was all one big coincidence. And now you're changing the subject, ha-ha, so he can't continue talking about this: you're thinking about locitis now. Isn't it sort of weird how it ended right when you came into town?

«Are you implying that you single-handedly ended the spread of a psychological disease.»

Uh... well, it'd be really cool if you did... also, no, but what if whatever made Gil forget about it (6 months ago?) also made you forget about everything? You don't know why it'd affect you different, but...

«I suppose that is possible. I would not call it 'plausible.'»

Possible! Alright! The other thing was— Horse Face said it lasted three months, but that seems pretty short, doesn't it? You thought Gil talked about it like it was a big thing, not a quickie—

«Surprise. The man-stuck-in-time's dates are unreliable.»
«Not to mention the issues that arise when someone meddles with memories en masse. It could go for months after. How would anyone notice if they didn't realize it existed to begin with.»

Fine. Maybe you'll just have to dig up some public medical records, see if anyone's been suffering from locitis recently.

«What public medical records. The only doctor picked up and left without notice.»

Oh. Well, um... also-also, isn't it sort of weird that Pat was under the pseudonym 'Netmaker'? And that was when it ended? Does he think she—

«If you tossed two coins and got two heads, would you assume they were rigged coins.»

N...o, but—

«There are eight months. Most of the members of that club have pseudonyms from months. There is a one-in-four chance she would have had a 'relevant' pseudonym.»
«Moreover, that woman with half a face was picking them.»

So he's saying Anthea's in on it. (Are you joking? You're not certain. She is weirdly nice...)

«You are hopeless. I don't understand why I waste my time on you.»
«Just go in. Do your research. Unless you would like me to do it for you.»

...You would not. So it's with a tight knot in your stomach that you stand outside the back door of the archives building— "building" is a stretch, really, it's sort of a shack built on to somewhere nicer, though you've never bothered finding out what 'somewhere nicer' contains. There's no sign on it. If you hadn't spent half the last six months in here, you'd never know it were here.

The lock on the back door is rusted through and has been as long as you've known it. The contents are in a similar state. It's a shack on the inside, too, just one with reams of molding paper and hand-bound books and journals and one gnarly stack of newspapers. Almost nothing is organized, except a ancient effort by one brave soul to sort a few documents by author. You don't know who. Nobody in particular seems to maintain this, except to toss a few more papers on the piles every so often.

To "research" the Grande Mangrove in here would take hours, if not days or weeks. You'd have to sift through everything and pray to God you uncovered something relevant— something you did for the Crown, but that was when you had nothing better to do but drink. Nowadays, it's absurd. It's utterly infeasible. Why on God's wet earth would you waste your time on that when you could mosey over and look at the sorted documents?

«It's your duty.»

Says him. You're moseying... moseying... mos—

>[-1 ID: 10/12]

You are not moseying. You are face-first on the ground, onto which you've toppled, on account of your upper body spasming excruciatingly.

«Get up.»

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Hell no! If he knows anything at all, he should know you're motivated almost purely by spite. Summon all your willpower to power through whatever he attempts. (He can't feel spite, so he'll have to give in first.)
>[A2] Attempt to strike a sensible bargain. So you're not going to research the Mangrove thing now, obviously. But maybe you could research it... at some point... much much much later? After you've done everything interesting? And then he doesn't have to waste his time shocking you? [Roll.]
>[A3] So he says that if you don't do it, he will. Which sounds typical. But now that a little rage is in your blood, you're thinking: hasn't he complained about doing boring paperwork before? How exactly is this different? Does he really want to do busywork just to prove a point? You'll let him if he really wants to...
>[A4] Confront him. Why is he being so mean? Why now? Why can't he use his big-boy words instead of yelling at you and calling you names and torturing you a little bit? *Gil* never tortures you.
>[A5] Write-in.

You'll probably, eventually, get up and look at the sorted documents. They're labeled by last name, some of which look... familiar. Which do you gawk at?
>[B1] A. Aves
>[B2] E. Crenshaw
>[B3] C. Fawkins
>[B4] E. Routh

>[C] Write-in.
>[A4] Confront him. Why is he being so mean? Why now? Why can't he use his big-boy words instead of yelling at you and calling you names and torturing you a little bit? *Gil* never tortures you.

>[B1] A. Aves
And by us researching it I mean someone else, who has found themselves in our debt by dint of our heroinic exploits and would be repaying us by sifting through a bunch of boring old papers.
I forgot the B vote

I also forgot for a while to say that >>5171305
>Thank you, Sir Face of Horse.
made me cry laughing
Valen has resumed, you know. Two quests worth of archive trawling might be too much.
Anyway, 9 months ago was the Day of Reckoning, and 6 months ago Ellery broke up with Madrigal and got a fake. Also 6 months ago Gil got beetled.
>[A1] Hell no! If he knows anything at all, he should know you're motivated almost purely by spite. Summon all your willpower to power through whatever he attempts. (He can't feel spite, so he'll have to give in first.)

Get fucked Dad.
>[B3] C. Fawkins

Oh yah, that B vote.

Also changing to

>[A4] Confront him. Why is he being so mean? Why now? Why can't he use his big-boy words instead of yelling at you and calling you names and torturing you a little bit? *Gil* never tortures you.

Because Richard can definitely feel spite, or a mindless hostility close to it. Maybe we should keep trying to get closer to him emotionally. Break down those walls. Find that warm centre inside of him that we've seen peek out before.
Ya know, Richard pulls on our levers by manipulating our feelings for others. Has he ever thought about how much easier his job would be if we liked him? For such a ruthless manipulator it sure is weird that he acts in a way that makes us so angry. It's not like we're unclear in how THAT motivates us.
Also accuse Richard about caring for our mom only because he used to be our dad probably grumble grumble. Probably rubbed a little of that off on him. Grumble grumble.
Oh, boy.





Did you forget to actually vote or is one of the other IPs also you?

Called for [A4] + [B3] + hJNCWMLl's write-ins and writing.

>And by us researching it I mean someone else, who has found themselves in our debt by dint of our heroinic exploits and would be repaying us by sifting through a bunch of boring old papers.

>made me cry laughing
Hearing this warms the cockles of my cold, dead QM heart. Thanks for sharing. Hope you weren't reading somewhere public

>Valen has resumed, you know. Two quests worth of archive trawling might be too much.
Hey, tell Riz I was in the catalog first.

>Anyway, 9 months ago was the Day of Reckoning, and 6 months ago Ellery broke up with Madrigal and got a fake.
Interesting! :-)

>Also 6 months ago Gil got beetled.
Actually, he got beetled two weeks ago-- the two weeks just felt like 6 months because of manse nonsense.

>Because Richard can definitely feel spite, or a mindless hostility close to it.
Hostility/anger yes, spite might or might not be too complex for snekbrain.

>For such a ruthless manipulator it sure is weird that he acts in a way that makes us so angry.
There's a lot of unflattering reasons why Richard's acting like this, but one fairly surface-level one is that this has worked for him before (before Charlotte had much in the way of outside attachments) and he hasn't quite comprehended why it's failing so suddenly now.
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>lol no (deja vu edition)

You flop onto your throbbing back. There's two blurry S-shapes above you, and you wonder for an instant if Richard's got his own gooplicate before realizing you've just gone crosseyed. He's just made you go cross-eyed. You. Who's never done a thing to deserve it, whose motivations are entirely pure, who has by all accounts been kind and gracious and unassuming through your whole entire life— he's debasing you, as he's done for months, as he's done for probably years. He is insulting you and hurting you. And in return he wants you to pick yourself up and do something you'd hate.

"Why would I?" you say.


>{-1 ID: 9/12]

You kick and your back bucks and your shoulders thrust and you dig your nails into the dirt. You breathe. You breathe. You can breathe, for now.

«There's no choice in the matter.»

There's no choice? That's how he's playing this? Because— (You grit your teeth against the cramp in your thigh.) —because, it sure seems like you— like you can stay right here on the floor. If he wants to move you he can do it himself, but that'd sort of defeat his point, wouldn't it? Unless he means that he doesn't have a choice, but—

No. That's GS, too. Because if you remember one thing clearly, it's him being very very very nice to you in those final months before you jumped. And sure, it was a brittle, metallic nice in retrospect, not anything human or real— but he wasn't calling you names. He wasn't shocking you.

So why'd he turn so mean?

«Oh. So I suppose this is my fault.»
«I throw myself on the sword over and over and over for you, an ungrateful little bitch, and you have the <gall> to question how I conduct—»

Yes! You do! And you never asked him to be your whatever-he-is, he offered, to you, and even if he has saved your life you don't see what that has to do with it! Does that give him some sort of bastard permit? Does he have a little card you can show you? Because you saved Gil's life, twice, and you're not treating him like he's some kind of lesser lifeform (even if he objectively is made of bugs)— you have risen shakily to your feet. You have been nice to him, and he's been nice to you, and you don't understand why Richard can't—

>[-1 ID: 8/12]

You stumble back into a rickety shelf and crumple, shaking. Papers rain onto you.

«I am not your friend or your family and you are not my equal, Charlotte Fawkins. I am not here to maximize your pleasure. Get that through your thick skull.»
«I <am> <not> <nice>. And I will not be.»

You can breathe, can't you? You can. Though it feels like there's a plank of wood in your throat. "Immmnot," you slur, and reconsider. God-damnit, Richard, you're not asking for— you know perfectly well not everybody is as naturally sweet and good-tempered as you. But does he know what? You've just been in Gil's head, and Gil is not sweet or good-tempered, he is in fact usually kind of a cynical dickhead! But he tries really hard to be nice anyhow, or at least not mean, and—

«I believe you misunderstand.»

>[-1 ID: 7/12]

You are flat on the floor again. Your leg is twitching. You can't stop it. Richard is by your head.

«It is not a matter of 'trying.' It is a matter of principle.»
«I do not have to bother maintaining a facade of a relationship. I discard all frivolous niceities. I have no desire for either. You simply do what I say, when I say it.»
«It is clean, it is efficient, and it is effective.»

You laugh despite yourself. "Is it— is it seeming effective?"

>[-1 ID: 6/12]

Your vision whitens, then blackens, then all you can see is burned-in colored spots. That might be spittle on your chin.

«It will be effective. There is no alternative.»

He could be nice? To you? He could tell you the things you should do politely, and explain reasonably why you should do them, and then you could nod your head and agree and go do them without having to go cry or drink until you pass out? And what does he mean, a facade of a relationship? He has hugged you before. Unprompted.

«I was addled.»

Okay. He was addled. And so he's un-addled now? This is the real Richard? Thinking clearly?


Well, you guess you can't argue with that. Excepting that he's told you to your face (while drunk) that being a snake sucks and he hates it. That he thinks different like this, and not in a good way. That when you look past the swimming colors at the beady eyes before you, you're less looking at Richard and more at his charred-out stripped-out evil little husk. Okay, he didn't say that, exactly. But you're extrapolating.

So you're not sure why you should believe anything he says about himself, or about anything. In fact, you don't believe him. It's one thing to say he's inherently an enormous bastard— that's obvious enough. But it's wholly another to claim he doesn't desire otherwise. He's said he prefers being a person, with thumbs and outfits, with feelings beyond a scale from 'neutral' to 'angry,' with the capability to— well, he hasn't said this, but you hope it. With the capability to care.

«Oh. How interesting.»

>[-1 ID: 5/12]

You are balled tight, half from pain, half because your limbs won't straighten. Richard is right in your face.

«I did not expect you to admit that you're inventing this pathetic fantasy from whole cloth. But now that you have, perhaps you'll face the reality of the situation.»
«I am Richard. The whole of him. Any delusions otherwise are exactly that. You cannot 'change' me. You cannot 'improve' me. You cannot 'convince' me to treat you any other way than efficiently and logically. It is all you deserve.»
«So I will repeat myself. I do hope your hearing still works.»
«Get up.»

Your arm is composed of old rubber bands and rusted nails and a yardstick broken in half, and it creaks and groans and screams as you dislodge it from under you. Richard watches expressionlessly (always expressionlessly), but if you paid it thought you'd read into him approval. And then the rubber bands go SNAP and you thrust your arm out and catch him by his smooth cold neck. He wriggles like a worm on a hook.

You roll onto your back and bring him up to eye level. "No," you say. "I won't. Ever. God, don't you get it? I- I- I- I don't need you! I don't—" You have to stop yourself, there, to marvel at the sound of that. "I have better things now. I have Gil! And people are depending on me to fix a crime, and there's mysteries, and I have a sword, and—"

«So it's back to this.»

Back to this? This is the first time you're articulating this, you're certain. He's probably just trying to freak you out. "—Um, well— listen. I don't really care if you want to be nice on a personal level, Richard. Because your stupid logic is broken. I broke it. It doesn't work anymore. So if you want me to do anything you say ever again, you have to be nice."

You brace for a shock. Nothing comes.

"Um," you add. "So there."

>[A1] And when you say 'do anything he says,' you don't mean that you'll just go and do it. You mean you'll add it to your list of considerations. And what that means is that you are going to go do whatever the hell you want, and Richard can come along and complain all he likes. But he can't stop you.
>[A2] As above, and when you say 'you don't really care if he wants to be nice on a personal level,' you mean you don't care if he *wants* to. Because you are going to make him be. You are going to lever every ounce of your will to make him the happy, pleasant, personable, p̶a̶t̶e̶r̶n̶a̶l figure he won't allow himself to become. It's what he deserves.
>[A3] As above, but you're getting started riiiight now. You can see it already. (Advanced Gaslighting*.) [Roll.]
>[A4] Write-in.

You know, you can look at more than one folder. Nobody's stopping you anymore.
>[B1] A. Aves
>[B2] E. Crenshaw
>[B3] E. Routh
>[B4] Actually, I really did just want to look at one folder.

*of yourself, not Richard, if anyone has bad flashbacks from an earlier attempt this thread
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And an announcement: QM is taking a short break, no update until Thursday or Friday. Sorry! But I have midterms coming up fast and I am worryingly underprepared. I think this is an ok place to stall out, at least. (Document examination and dates revelation still coming.)

Sorry I didn't manage to include this! I had a little plan for it and then things went in another direction. I might be able to toss it in next update if a workable [A] is picked.
>[A3] As above, but you're getting started riiiight now. You can see it already. (Advanced Gaslighting*.) [Roll.]

Fuck man, we'll burn this whole thing he's got going on down. We're "Back" to this? So whatever he does to us, it clearly doesn't take so maybe the problem isn't us it's him. He's oh so logical and goal orientated, willing to do *anything* to see it through, but he can't just be nice. We're a total sucker for nice, too. Like, look what we're doing for Gil.

But he keeps doing what doesn't work regardless of the lies and the manipulation. Too scared to quit, too scared to see it through. Like, at least we had the gumption to jump into the ocean so we might as well hold that over him. He's just scared to make a jump.

TL;DR Richard needs to hit it or quit it. Because this situation he's trying to hold on to isn't working.
fuck it
being cautious before sucked

Hey, man, we're just putting the skills papa Richard taught us. "I learned it from you!"
>>[A3] As above, but you're getting started riiiight now. You can see it already. (Advanced Gaslighting*.) [Roll.]


Best of luck on your midterms! Get lots of sleep (if you can)!
You guys uh, wanna add or edit anything for the gaslighting? Or is it just gonna ride on what I wrote + QM interpretation?
While they're welcome to add or edit anything, I already know the particulars of what Charlotte's going to gaslight herself about, so it's not mandatory. (Hence the absence of the (Write-in) tag.)

yeah like OP said it's A2 but with the power of imagination
>[B1], [B3]

I haven't quite decided whether I'll be updating tonight or tomorrow night, but I can at least call the vote and set up the roll. Midterm #1 went well!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 20 (+10 Catharsis, +5 Spite, +5 Second Time's the Charm) vs. DC 70 (+20 Advanced Gaslighting) to dab on Richard.

Spend 1 ID for a +10 to all rolls? You are at 5/12 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N

Right on.
Rolled 31 + 20 (1d100 + 20)


Rolled 8 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

no spend

good to hear about the exam
Rolled 40 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

I'm in a betting mood, what's the worst that can happen?
>61, 38, 70 vs. DC 70
...Drowned dice, amirite? Probably writing in 1-2 hours, but if nothing shows up tonight that means I decided on Friday.
Never mind! Took a power nap and I'm still exhausted, so rather than pass out halfway through the update I'm gonna turn in early and write it tomorrow usual time. Sorry to lead you all on.
>Up yours
>61, 38, 70 vs. DC 70 — Mitigated Success

You await a shock for that, or at the least a bitter response, but the snake you're clasping is limp and silent. Did he leave? Did you kill him? You shake him experimentally.

«Unhand me.»

Ah. (Phew.) "Uh... no. I mean, not unless you say it in a nice way. Like 'please unhand me, my good...'" What are you to him? "...'my,' um— 'unhand me, please.' You know."

Richard chooses instead to snap and lunge at your face: you flinch despite yourself, and when your eyes flick back open your hands are empty and he's twisting in air some distance away. But he doesn't say anything more.

You rest your head on the ground. "Come on."


"Be a good sport, don't just... you know who uses the silent treatment? Losers. People who've lost. Cause they can't think of anything to say. Are you saying you've lost?"


But he doesn't have an argument. "But, um... you have. I said 'so there' and you didn't say anything, so the logical conclusion is that you lost and need to admit it. Because this is sort of embarrassing. Are you scared?"

«'Fear' is an emotion for lesser beings.»
«Like yourself.»

"That wasn't a very nice thing to say." You sigh. "And I don't— is that true? I mean, I believe that you don't get scared, but I'm asking about the real Richard. Who secretly does want to be nice to me. Is he scared? Of failing, or being wrong, or—"

«I am the real Richard. As I just said. If you are dim-witted enough to be led otherwise, that is not my fault.»
«Perhaps you are the frightened one, and you're projecting it upon me. How sad.»

You squint. "How does that make sense?"

«If you are dim-witted enough not to comprehend that simple statement, then—»

You got the meaning, it's just... stupid. It's a profoundly stupid meaning. "I'm the one who won, though."

«I fail to see how that factors in. You are frightened in all avenues of life.»
«As I said. How sad.»

In a different place or time, this jab— no matter how on-the-face-of-it ridiculous— might have hit. It might have come in a barrage of others— lousy alone, but in quantity enough to send you reeling— or as a knife to the ribs while you were already feeling low or weak or particularly homesick. You would have laid awake that evening replaying every time you had been frightened (times often involving Richard, which wouldn't have helped). But now? Does he see you laid out on the floor and take you for broken? "That's not... true."


"Um, I'm not. Usually." You attempt to disentangle your limbs somewhat. "I'm not saying I don't ever get scared, but I think compared to the usual person... I mean, I jumped off the side of the Pillar, um, on purpose. So I think you're wrong."

Richard twists— in aggravation? In disgust? In shame? You can barely tell when he is speaking, and not at all when he isn't. And he isn't. Of course he isn't. Because he doesn't have an argument, and he (something slots into place) he doesn't have a plan. He is planless. He has been riding out at least six months and probably three years with the firm expectation that things would continue as they have been continuing, successfully, efficiently, except now they've juddered to a halt or more accurately imploded and the only thing he can think to do is what he's done.

Though you aren't certain if that's out of stubbornness or fear or the acute possibility that he... can't. In that he is (right now?) a snake, and you've heard a few times how snakes are 'efficient,' or 'compact,' or 'perfect,' or from your cluttered human perspective hugely limited, or limiting. How are you supposed to think outside the box when you are the box? Is what you mean.

Of course, outside the box is 'being nice to you,' and you have no real evidence of this— it's not like he's going to confirm it, and you also have every reason to believe the answer is 'he's Richard.' He is nasty and horrible to his marrow, he is sort of nasty and horrible even when he's nice-ish, and you may as well wring blood from a stone. But that sounds like giving up, and that also sounds like what he wants you to do, which means it's out of the question.

So what do you do? You already delivered the ultimatum, which hasn't worked, exactly, but it's fully possible he'll adapt once things simmer down and he realizes you really do mean it. (Or once it's been long enough to save face, probably.) On the other hand, though, is that what you want? For him to fake 'frivolous niceties' so you'll follow orders? You guess it beats the alternative, but it's hardly satisfactory. And just wait: you'll get comfortable and he'll start slip-slip-sliding back into being Richard. He's not capable of admitting defeat long-term, you just know it.

So all you have to do is make it not seem like defeat. All you have to do is stare into his God-knows-how-old beady snake eyes and reach into his you-forget-what-they-called-basically-a-soul and alter the fundamental nature of his very snake being against his will all by yourself.

Easy! (You shut your eyes.) Easy! Easy. This is something you can do. You are capable of this. You are thinking so positive it's coming out your ears. You can do this, Charlotte Fawkins, using your gumption/sparkiness/wits/feminine charms/other applicable attributes, using sheer God-damn force of will, you can (you are going to) mold Richard into a desirable and pleasant person, who by coincidence likes you very much. And also by coincidence might resemble your deceasedish father, but only because Richard is your deceasedish father but worse, and you're removing the 'worse.' Yeah. Yeah.

«Is there a way to phrase 'you cannot change me' in clearer terms.»
(Were you saying that aloud?)

«You may as well have been.»
«Your thought processes increase in amplitude when you are engaged in bolstering your fragile ego.»
«By the way, I have come up with a rephrase. 'This is impossible.' And I will not look kindly on failed attempts.»

Okay, did you ask for his opinion? No? And he will look kindly when you're done, because that's the whole point, stupid. God. The only thing he's probably right about is that doing it all in one go probably is impossible, even for positive thinking. This is the sort of thing that takes time. And steps. And step one, the way you see it, is the snake.

You don't know what it is, honestly. You don't know if it is Richard, or if he's inside it, or if he's controlling it, or if Richard's definition of 'I am a snake' is wildly different from yours— all you do know is that Richard is sometimes nice when he isn't a snake and never nice when he is. (Unless you count the time before you drowned, but it's never recurred, and he was faking it anyhow.) Fortunately for you, he's told you enough times that he isn't real, and that reality's slippery underwater...

«This is nonsense.»

"This is nonsense," he says, in a voice level and frictionless and toxic as glass if you discard the static burr. Is it possible to imagine it differently? "This is nonsense," the Richard in your head says, with 'this-is' crammed together like he's too impatient to pronounce them separately and 'NONsense' with a swing up on the 'NON' to emphasize that he's disappointed, not mad. Except he's also mad. That's him, all right, and that's your mental image shaking his head and turning his lips down at the corners, and removing his sunglasses and folding them up and tucking them into his label, and looking at you with his—

You can't remember what color eyes he has. And when you realize that, you realize you can't remember anything about his face, or appearance. He must be old...ish? Surely? Based on the voice? And... blond? Because you're blonde, but you don't know why that's relevant. You don't...

«Precisely. It's not relevant.»

Richard is— Richard-the-snake is— "Precisely!" your mental image says, "It's not relevant." And you see his face, and while the features slip right past you you know for certain they're all smug. Is he— he wouldn't—

«Of course not.»

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"Of course not, Charlie." The mental-image smiles at you. You don't trust the smile, and you don't trust Richard, who is doing something— why? What were you just on about? Something something, reality's slippery, something something, gumption/sparkiness... it's something important, whatever it is, and Richard is doing something to stop you from it. You're positive. Which means you... you... well, you don't know what the details are, but surely if you focus said gumption/sparkiness really hard his nefarious machinations will be thwarted? Un-machinated? You are after all no ordinary person, but a, a, a heroine, with magyck blood, and you are proofed against curses and spells of all kinds (because of the blood and also your innate goodness), so if you can just invoke that—

>[-1 ID: 4/12]

—then yes! Your thoughts run quicksilver— you know what Richard looks like, he's thin and severe and greying, with a nose like yours and bones like yours and eyes a little like yours, only less greenish. Because he is your father or the closest thing you have to one, which makes your head hurt worse than it was, but mourning for someone you never really knew is not a productive (dare you say heroic) way of approaching the matter. You should be striving to rectify it.

You turn a cold eye on Richard.


You're not doing anything wrong. You are as a matter of fact restoring him to his rightful-and-much-better state.

«Nothing could be further from the truth.»

You can see him now, actually. No whip-body, no paddle-tail, no unblinking reptile eyes or porcelain reptile teeth: just a man standing right there amidst the stacks of books and sheafs of paper. Frowning.

You frown too, and tilt your head. Richard flickers. You watch. He flickers more, and faster, until he vanishes. You watch.

A man appears.

"YES!" you say, and "HA!", and "WOO!" and you pump your fist and your other fist and would dance around were your legs still not basically shot.

>[+5 ID: 9/12]
>[+1 MAX ID: 9/13]

Richard fails to comment on your lack of dignity, being preoccupied with himself: he's patting his own cheeks like he's applying blusher. You think he ought to be more concerned about his outfit, which is odd: a rumpled checkered jacket, a black button-up, a red tie.

"Why is your tie red?" you say, in an admirable display of sportsmanship (discarding, for instance "Ha-ha, I made you wear a tie").

Richard looks down at his tie, mumbles something inaudible, wipes his mouth of something black, flickers, and vanishes. Shoot, you think, but not even a moment later he's back and besuited. He looks frazzled.

"You didn't have to change it." He did, sort of, but you have decided to be magnanimous.

He purses his lips and stretches his fingers out. "I could say the same to you, frankly."

Excuse you? "I'm not the one with the ugly tie, so—"

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"You could have left well enough alone, and now—" A long look at his hands. "This is futile, you realize. What'll happen will happen regardless of your consent, or as a matter of fact your involvement. You're only abdicating what little agency you had."

What? "Are you saying I had agency? Also, that's a 'we.' We're abdicating what little agency I had, apparently, because you can't do your stupid thing without me, and I'm not interested, and I turned you into a person so I obviously win here, so—"

"This can't last, Charlotte Fawkins." He pushes at his sunglasses. "Being a snake is not optional. You might've already tripped a few flags, and I won't know until—"

"Shut up. I don't care." Your magnanimity has a shelf life. "You're going to be a person until you change your ways, or I say so, whichever comes—"

"No. I am going to be provisionally human for... I can fudge fifteen minutes. No longer. You wildly overstate your abilities, no matter how—"

There's a rattle from the door— the front door, whose lock still functions. And then another rattle, and a knock.

You look at Richard. Richard looks at his fingernails. You scamper over to the door, check for a peephole and find none, and settle for opening it a smidgeon. Eloise (it's unmistakable even from the little you see — what with the cloak) stands directly outside.

"Oh!" she says. "Hello!" You're not sure if she can see enough of you to recognize you.

>[1] Say nothing. Slam the door and relock it.
>[2] HI what a FUNNY COINCIDENCE could you please COME BACK LATER, THANK YOU!!!! (Shut the door.)
>[3] HI ELOISE HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF LOCITIS? PLEASE COME BACK LATER (Shut the door after getting a response.)
>[4] Be polite. Hi! What are you doing here? Let her in if the reason isn't weird: Richard will be... fine? Probably?
>[5] Write-in.
I'm sure whatever we did will last 5ever
>[3] HI ELOISE HAVE YOU EVER HEARD OF LOCITIS? PLEASE COME BACK LATER (Shut the door after getting a response.)


Offer to make Man-Richard our vassal. Besides, even if he goes back to being a snake he'll remember being a man in his snake bones and we can just turn him back into one whenever his snake box is . . . Insufficient. Really, even the snake should be able to see the benefit of not being a snake sometimes, otherwise he never would have not been a snake in our minds in the first place. We're just adding a slightly larger scope to the original plan of his.

He should be happy with that, and if not oh well we tried.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

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You're letting Eloise in, so you can't talk to Richard in any substantiative way without looking insane. Therefore I can't take >>5180352 this write-in, which... I won't speak to the results of hypothetical actions, but I will drop these expressions I drew earlier.

Writing shortly.
>>[4] Be polite. Hi! What are you doing here? Let her in if the reason isn't weird: Richard will be... fine? Probably?
>Hi!!! Nothing suspicious going on!!!

With Richard loitering right behind you, you ought to slam the door and lock it. You can't risk Eloise and her big mouth, and that's the fact of the matter, and you're not sure why you aren't slamming it and locking it right now. Slam the door. Slam it, Lottie.

You open the door a crack further. "What are you doing here?"

"Charlotte?" Eloise cranes her neck. "Is that you?"

Well, great job: now you can't slam it without her going and blabbing to Monty or someone. But you can still kick her out, can't you? Say you're busy. "Um, yes, that's... I'm sort of busy."

"Oh, I don't mind. Won't be a bother. Let me in?"

No. Say no. "Um, okay." You open the door all the way. "But why are you—"

"Why do I want to get into the archive? Been feeling light on reading material, and don't you know it, the shit in town's been mostly cleared up. I'm hearing some reports of a vigilante woman..."

"I'm not a vigilante, I'm a—" You fold your arms. "I told you this yesterday. A heroine. And I slew the evil murderer, and avenged a whole lot of people's deaths, and it was sanctioned by the Wind Court, okay? I was freelancing, not—"

"Ah, so it was you!" Eloise appears unreasonably pleased by this. "See, I had my suspicions, but I couldn't get any definite— you're a real little firecracker, aren't you? Not a scratch on you or anything. Say, is that a different outfit?"

You fold your arms tighter. "Maybe. Maybe my coat got torn up. In the pursuit of... justice."


You startle at Richard's interjection. If Eloise notices, she doesn't show it. "Geez, that's a pity. Is it too bad to repair?"

"Um..." How did you get on this subject. "Maybe?"

"Because I do bespoke orders— not for free, of course. But I'd toss in a vigilante discount. 'Scuze me." Eloise bustles past you— right toward Richard, or right through Richard, who warps and shimmers and snaps right back into place, unbothered. He's polishing his sunglasses on his lapel.

You look at him. He slides the sunglasses on and looks back at you. "Sorry, were you expecting something else?"

"No, I—" Eloise arches an eyebrow at you, and you flap a frantic hand back. No! You weren't expecting something else, you guess— well, you weren't expecting it, but you thought maybe things would be different. What with your astonishing victory. She can't see him at all?

"As I have endeavored to explain, Lottie, I am disembodied; I am entirely inside your mind. Not of it, to be quite clear. But in it. Can this woman see your thoughts?"


"But you can, of course. Ergo." Richard pauses, presumably for effect. "As you have... abused, I am inextricably bound to your perception. You experience me as real, if nobody else can. Isn't that interesting?"

Not really?

"Oh, I think it is. Hmm. Especially with..." He curls his fingers. "Come here, will you?"

"Not unless you be nice," you mumble.

"Ah. Well, I can come there." And he does, circling behind you and putting a warm and solid hand on your shoulder. You bat it away first and consider Eloise after: fortunately, she's turned away.

"Oh, don't be like that, Charlie." He replaces the one hand and with the other brushes your hair out from under your collar. "I'm only being friendly."

You want to yank yourself away, to snap and yell at him to get off you, but he's right in that he hasn't really done anything. And Eloise would turn and ask what the matter was, in her awful half-joking way. So you stand there as he finishes with your collar and turns to running his fingers through your hair, clucking his tongue and tugging painfully when he hits a knot. You grit your teeth. "You must take better care of yourself," he says. "Really. It saddens me."

Can it sadden him in another time? And place? Is there any way you can pry him off you without making a scene? His grip tightens. "I'm afraid I'm simply too stricken by a newfound sense of caring, Charlotte. Really. You'd abate my progress?"

Okay, so he is making some kind of point here. Got it. You would appreciate it if he stopped, now, since you've understood, and— oh. He's released you. (You mean, of course he released you, as you have made him shake in his shiny Bal-types, and—) He has come around in front of you, and before you can process his intentions has wrapped you in a hug. Only it's too tight, and his fingernails dig into your ribs. He releases you before you can adequately protest and stoops down instead to your eye level. He seizes your cheeks in one hand, so your lips bulge out. And he brings his face very close to yours, so his forehead knocks against your own.

"I will make you regret this," he says pleasantly.

And then Eloise says "Charlotte?" in a half-joking way, but the other half is worry, and you blink and Richard is gone. He is leaned against a bookshelf, smoking. With his sunglasses on, you can't tell where he's looking.

>[-1 ID: 8/13]

"Uhh," you say.

"Doing okay? This rat's nest make you dizzy? Can't blame you. Were you in here looking for the papers by that woman you were talking about? With the face? Because I think I found them again, if you—"

She's over by the labeled documents. "Uhh," you say. "I— I found those earlier, but... yes. I haven't looked at them yet."

Richard exhales smoke as you walk past him. Eloise taps the "A. Aves" folder. "Haven't the slightest whether this stuff has an address, but it can't hurt, huh? Worst case, you get a bit of an education. It's dense stuff."

You glance at her, pull the stack of documents out, and sit down to skim— or collapse down to skim, more like, because your muscles have abruptly re-locked up. Thanks, Richard.

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Your first impressions: Eloise wasn't lying. You hadn't taken Anthea for the scholarly type, but her name is plastered across a half-dozen... reports? Or studies? Any meaning beyond that is lost in a bramble of cramped script and jargon. You think one might be about pre-Flood... stuff? Artifacts? And there's one about pre-Flood 'subspace' and 'supspace,' whatever those are, and then they... you think they start being about manses? Maybe? You're not cut out for this kind of stuff. You find no addresses, but the one about the artifacts(?) keeps mentioning, if you're reading this right, the Mud Flats. Where they've dug all this stuff up.

You don't know if Anthea lives out there. For all you know, she had the stuff delivered by courier. But you guess it's something, and you say as much aloud.

"The Flats?" Eloise thinks. "It's not impossible, but... well, I wouldn't want to live alone over there. Rumor is the sinkholes eat stragglers. Skimmer camp, maybe?"

You attempt to imagine Anthea mud-skimming. "Um, I don't know."

"No, I don't either. But we could make a zig-zag through the Flats when I run my errand, if you wanted to scope things out."

The errand to Hell, she means. You nod absently: you've made it through all the smaller papers and are leafing through the last, thickest, most recent, and least formal: it's more like a lot of notes bound together than a proper write-up. It's from around three months ago, or maybe two-and-a-half: the dating on it is strange. And it's a "case study." You don't know what that means.

Richard snorts but acts like he didn't when you glower at him. Why would you know what a "case study" is? Why would you have to? It clearly hasn't played any role in your (storied) life thus far, and you expect it never will again. Besides, you can simply apply your wits to figure it out in context. The "case study" concerns a person dubbed "MM" whom Anthea found somewhere in shabby physical and grotesque mental shape: he or she was "hanging by threads" (she writes), "unclothed & apparently unable to recognize another human being." But Anthea thought she saw some life in there, blah blah blah. You're uncertain whether this is real or an outline of her new romantic novella, as the bulk of this appears predictably to concern her nursing "MM" back to health and sanity. You spot no addresses in your leafing through. Well, whatever.

"Your last name is Fawkins, isn't it?" Eloise comments.

You drop the case study unceremoniously. "...Yes?"

"I didn't realize you had stuff in the archives, especially— I mean, this is heavy-duty. Meta-physiology? 'The Body As Prison: External Pressures On Self-Conceptualization'... from a year ago? No kidding?"

You didn't write that. Or you don't remember writing it. One of the two. But how do you...?

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Uh... no kidding. That definitely is your name on that meta-something-or-other. You did write that. You are very smart. Yes. Unfortunately, you can't bear to talk about anything you publish after the fact, so you can't take any questions. *Any* questions. [Roll.]
>[A2] Uhh... there must have been a terrible mistake! Someone wrote a paper and put your name on it for some reason! How bizarre! Haha!
>[A3] Uhhh... well, listen, you, uh— you may or may not have written that, but you sure can't talk about that, because a year ago is a little bit blank. Which is normal! A totally normal thing to happen to people, whose memories vanish all the time. So she shouldn't pity you, or discuss it at all, ever.
>[A4] Write-in.

>[B1] Inquire about locitis.
>[B2] Inquire about the contents of the paper you wrote(?).
>[B3] Other questions or topics for Eloise? You saw her pretty recently*. (Write-in.)

*In-character, at least (I know it's been 4 months in RL)
these combo well. now if only the whole camp wouldn't know by tomorrow
>>[A3] Uhhh... well, listen, you, uh— you may or may not have written that, but you sure can't talk about that, because a year ago is a little bit blank. Which is normal! A totally normal thing to happen to people, whose memories vanish all the time. So she shouldn't pity you, or discuss it at all, ever.
>[B1] Inquire about locitis.
>[B2] Inquire about the contents of the paper you wrote(?).
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Leaving the vote open, because I'm taking the night off (again). Sorry! Midterms are over, but I have a load of other deadlines staring me in the face and can't justify spending 4-5 hours tonight writing. I'll update tomorrow like usual.
>[A3] Uhhh... well, listen, you, uh— you may or may not have written that, but you sure can't talk about that, because a year ago is a little bit blank. Which is normal! A totally normal thing to happen to people, whose memories vanish all the time. Maybe she heard of somehing similar, like Locitis?
>[A3], [B1]
Neat. Writing.
>You can explain!!!

You glance at Richard, to no response. For all you know his eyes are closed. (God, you wish he wouldn't wear sunglasses indoors.) "Um, I... yes."

"Not proud of it?" Eloise chuckles. "Happens to the best of us. I mean, you do make some... let's see, some bold statements. The 'assimilation' point of no return is 8 days? How'd you get anything empirical on that?"

How do you have anything empire-y about that? You glance harder at Richard, who must be either sleeping standing up or ignoring you on purpose. "Um..."

Eloise glances, too, and judging from her expression sees nothing. "Is everything alright?"

Of course everything's alright, except that she's waving around cold proof of your missing year(s), if Richard's word wasn't enough to go on— and often it isn't. And it's not just that you can't remember it, it's that this doesn't even sound like something you'd be writing. What kind of person were you? "Y...yes."

"You're one of the worst liars I know." She taps the document against her cheek. "Just putting that out there."

Oh, God. You know very well you're a poor liar— on account of your inborn honesty and goodness. And what's the alternative, fumbling through technical explanations of things you don't know in the first place? With Richard content to let you fall on your face (your reward for thinking you didn't need him)? You couldn't bear it. "Well, I'm sorry I— you're not trustworthy, okay? At all? So this is your fault."

Eloise's eyes brighten. "Oh, it's a secret? What is it, you bought off a ghostwriter?"

Do you count as your own ghostwriter? "No! No, I didn't do anything wrong, okay? Why do you go straight to that? That's immoral! I wouldn't lie about who wrote my—"

"Hey, calm down. It's only business." She smiles lopsidedly. "So what is it, then?"

Are you telling her? The whole camp will know by tomorrow. But it's not like you did anything wrong, here. You were victimized. So maybe that'll make people feel sorry for you (in a good way)? "It's— it's— this isn't weird, okay. It's normal. So don't be stupid and act weird about it."

"Starting off strong, Charlotte."

You scowl. "I said don't be stupid. I can't remember it, alright? That's from a year ago? I don't remember a year ago, except that I was up North, but that's it. So maybe I wrote that, but I can't answer any of your dumb questions. That's it. I don't even know what an assimilation thing is."

In the back of your mind you thought maybe Eloise would laugh at that. She doesn't. She's knitted her eyebrows. "What?"

"I just said. I don't remember a year ago— I mean, I don't remember three years or two years ago, but those aren't relevant to this."

"You can't remember..." She puts the document back in its folder. "At all?"

"Yeah." Close enough.

"...Do you know how you...?"

"Not really." You rub your hand against your arm. "Uh, I guess I ran into... something major. Six months ago or so."

"Something big." She sucks her lips in. "Yeah! Uh, I'd say you had a snake encounter, but to the extent of my knowledge... they tend to bite chunks out of you, not long stretches of time. Not years. That's scary stuff. Do you know anyone else with something similar?"

Richard. "...No."

"Shit. Well, uh... I promised myself I wouldn't..." She runs a hand through her hair. "Okay, if you find anything out about that, would you also let me know?"

How are you supposed to find anything out about— maybe you found out about this thing once, and that's why you can't remember. God. "I guess?"

"Okay. And then... please stop dragging existential crises to my doorstop. You're funny and all, you're a cute kid, but I can't— I've had one grey hair for half a decade, and I intend on keeping it that way, alright?"

It's framed like a joke, but her tone's just tired enough to make you think otherwise. (Enough Eloise exposure has left you with bad feeling about arguing "cute kid.") "...Yes?"

"Solid." She thumps the folders absent-mindedly and doesn't follow up.

You shift uncomfortably. "Uh, unrelated, have you ever heard of locitis?"

"Locitis? Sounds fake. Real thing or trick question?"

Okay. You could understand someone like Branwen genuinely not hearing about it, cut off from the news as she'd be. But Eloise knows everything, and seeing how Horse Face confirmed it wasn't a secret... there's got to be something going on. You're not sure you're ready for the whole camp to know that, though, especially not with Headspace a jaunt away. "Nevermind. Uh, could I take a look at those?"

"Huh? Oh!" She scootches over, and you edge your way toward the folders. You had thought you'd seen one— ah-hah. "E. Routh." Ellery. Wouldn't it be grand to rescue Madrigal, sit her down, and inform her you'd solved the whole thing? She'd owe you double for that. She'd put you in charge of Game Night. (Which sounds awful, but declining would give you the upper hand, so it all works out.)

The "E. Routh" folder is empty. "Oh," you say.

"Oh? Oh, that's odd." Eloise peers over your shoulder. "There definitely used to be papers in there."

"You looked at them?"

"That's a word for it!" She laughs. "I, uh— well, look, you've met Ellery. Nice guy, smart guy... can't string two thoughts together, much less two sentences. All over the place, all the time. I helped him focus it down."

What? "You wrote for him?"

"It was his ideas, and usually his... 'experiments' is too strong. Politely I'd say 'field testing,' accurately I'd say 'bumblefucking into new...' What?" She sees your look. "I couldn't bumblefuck half as well as he did, but I did help with more formal things. Half his equipment's on permanent loan. In any case, eh, I just translated the notes into something publishable. It's still his name on there." Eloise rubs her chin. "Or was. You think he took them out himself?"

"Um, maybe." You have no idea, but all this talk of Ellery and documents is ringing a bell. "So you also wrote his patent? He, uh— I found a patent of his in here. But I couldn't understand what it was for."

"A patent? I didn't know he had a... I didn't know there were patents down here, with nobody enforcing them. Don't think the Court's interested. Do you mean a spec sheet?"

Richard said 'patent.' "...Yes?"

"Huh. Well, no, that wasn't me. But it was legible? I mean, everything was spelled properly?"

"Y-es." It's been a little while. "Yeah. Probably. So what, you're saying someone else helped him with it? Or wrote it for him?"

"That'd be my guess, unless he was yanking my chain for a few years. So it was a technical level you couldn't understand it on?"

You weren't reading it that closely, so it's not because you're dumb. Richard. "It's not my fault it was complicated. And stupid."

"No, I'm sure. Uh... if you still have it, you're welcome to drop by with it. It might or might not be my area, but I'l give it a fair shot, huh?" Eloise rubs her nose. "Especially if you let me know what's going on with that man."

Sounds dangerous. "Right. Well..."

"Well, I'll be off." Eloise shoves two books under the crook of her arm: she must've found them while you weren't looking. "Turns out, the murderer gets taken care of, demand comes roaring straight back. Let me know if you want a commission, will you? Cheers."

>(You can catch Eloise later if you have further questions.)

Talk to someone?
>[1A] Fake Ellery. You owe him some orders- and if you want to contact Real Ellery, he may be your best bet.
>[1B] "Toothless" Earl. Well, not "talk." But you can send a letter and maybe inquire if he knows where Anthea lives more specifically. Also, since you're in the area, you can retrieve Gil from the clutches of Horse Face.
>[1C] Write-in.

Go somewhere?
>[2A] You just revenge-killed the murderer haunting the camp. You are owed free drinks. Many free drinks. And it's inching towards noon, if not past it, so it's basically 4 PM.
>[2B] The name "Headspace" sure is cropping up a lot lately: how lucky that their main office is 15 minutes away. Head in and... don't investigate, necessarily. You don't know if they've done anything wrong. But ask some questions.
>[2C] Eloise's mention of "commissions" has reminded you: you're newly flush with cash, and you've run out of wearable clothing. One of these things can solve the other thing. Go shopping.
>[2D] Write-in.
clothes shopping? I'm ready for ID to hit a trillion
> C


You got it. Writing.

Le late vote
Man, how do you guys keep showing up like 5 minutes after I call it?

I am reminded to vote by the vote being called.
Consequentially, all those late votes are mine.
>Walk, walk, fashion, baby

You watch Eloise stroll out the door, then wait two long minutes— enough for her to get out of earshot if she's walking, or get bored if she's listening. Then you fold your arms. "Okay, that went fine."

Richard lifts his sunglasses. "Fine?"

"Yeah! It went fine— actually, you know what, it went good. She didn't ask stupid questions, she said she'd look at the patent, or whatever it is... and you were utterly useless, by the way."

"I hardly could've intervened." His gaze is narrow. "I mean, really, you're met with the slightest obstacle— do you surmount it? Certainly not. You lay down on your belly and submit. You proclaim yourself a pitiable victim and a freak. While those things may be true, there was no call to inform your entire peer group of it."

Don't get upset. Don't get upset. He wants you upset, because he's upset, you made him upset, and he wants petty revenge. Yeah. You're above this. You're miles high, Lottie. "Um, then you're also a freak, because you said you can't remember either. Or you're a liar. Which one?"

"A liar, I suppose." He smirks.

Oh, God, really? He remembers? He seemed so sincere last night, but you guess, um, you're not the best judge of that. God-damnit. At least— at least you have someone who— "...Then you know what happened?"


"Before 6 months ago? You know what I was doing that whole time?" You clasp your hands. "...So you know why I wrote that thing Eloise grabbed? Or... how? It doesn't seem like something I'd..."

"Oh, yes." Richard peels himself off the wall and heads over to the folders, rifling through and plucking out the paper. He flips through it. "I'm glad you're aware of your own considerable limitations. I wrote this."

"Ah." It makes an unfortunate amount of sense. "...And you put it under my name?"

"Was I intended to write 'Richard' on there? In case you've forgotten, there is no 'Richard.' He doesn't exist." He scratches an eye. "Not to mention, judging from the subject matter, I was Charlotte Fawkins. Nothing deceptive there."

Nothing deceptive there, but something's itching at you. "What do you mean 'judging from the subject matter'? You remember writing it in my body or not."

"Nitpicking is beneath you, Charlotte."

"No it isn't." You put your hands on your hips. "Tell me something else about the last three years? Why can't I remember them? Surely you know, seeing how—"

And there it is: a flicker of annoyance or exasperation, if your magnanimity has returned, or fear if it hasn't. He covers it up with his typical bland smugness as fast as he let it slip, but you know already. You were right in the first place. He really can't remember, either.

Which means he just lied to you about lying to you, which is so stupid it actually does make you upset. Is it because the alternative was deeming himself a freak? His stupid fragile ego can't handle a hundredth of what he throws at you? Or did he not like the suggestion he was some kind of deviation from the norm— despite that transparently being the case? Good proper snakes are not supposed to get piss drunk and ramble about their feelings, you're certain. But still he won't give it up, and he goes on and on hurting you and insulting you and lying to you. About nothing.

You slap him.

It was kind of a poorly thought-out move considering he had you spasming in the sand 20 minutes ago, but then calling it "thought out" at all is generous. You were suffused with righteous fury, which makes it not your fault. You'll tell him that. And he'll tell you that's the most idiotic thing you've ever heard, but maybe he'll let up a little bit...

Though he hasn't started. You would've thought he would've started by now. Instead he's just looking at you blankly, hand halfway to his reddened cheek. Is that a good sign? You have little time to contemplate before your muscles opt to seize up, all by themselves: you guess the sudden lunge was overtaxing. Or at least your annoying little analytical voice guesses that, while most of you is split with sudden wrenching pain. God! Hell! You stumble, baring your teeth: Richard blinks and starts after you, catching you supportively by the shoulders. You yank away from him. "Geddoff!"


"Don't touch me, you freak!" You sink into a defensive crouch. "Or wasn't I supposed to regret it, huh?"

All he does is straighten his tie. He has the gall to look hurt.

"Or was that you talking, and you're just half my stupid father now, huh?"

"Which you're bent on imposing," he mutters, "so I fail to see what—"

"It never sticks. I get out there and I stop hurting and you're going to turn around, Richard, and you're going to call me a stupid dumb idiot, and say I walk funny, and that nobody in my life will ever love me, and it's going to be just like 95% of the time you're around. And having 5% of the time be okay makes it worse. And maybe that's on purpose! But, I— ow." You grip your shoulder. "I am sick and tired of the flip-flopping, okay? You can't split the difference. Richard. It can't go on like this."

"You don't understand the situation I'm in."


"The situation. The amount of scrutiny I'm under. The pressure. If you were under this amount of pressure, I daresay you'd crack like an egg and run out over the floor. I am poised on a razor's edge, Charlotte Fawkins, and it is all I can do to remain balanced." Richard flexes his fingers. "And look what you've done to me. I wasn't supposed to say that."

"So make me forget," you say.

"The amount of scrutiny I'm under." His tone is bitter.

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"So be a snake." You barely know why you're going on like this. Is it the righteous fury? "You wouldn't say it then."

He snorts, curling his lip. "It hasn't been 15 minutes."

"It has too. And it wouldn't matter if it hasn't, because you're only this way because of me. So I'm rescinding it. Go back to being a snake."

He looks levelly at you.

"You don't want to."

"I said no such thing." But notably he isn't a snake. "Pathetic, to be reduced to fantasy once again. I hardly know how I stand you without cracking up myself. Are you feeling well?"

"Can't you see my... vitals?"

"Yes. And they inform me you're merely faking disability." Richard strides over and lifts your arm over his shoulder. "Up you go. This place will give you mold poisoning."

You squint. "It will?"

"Oh, yes. Quite toxic, quite deadly. You ought to get some sunshine, or whatever passes for it down here. See the trees. Stretch your little legs. That type of thing." He's got you up and is steering you out the door. "Go do... whatever there is for you to do. Have you been using that day planner?"

It's such a transparent attempt to distract you that it nearly loops around into effectiveness. You're genuinely baffled, to be sure. "...No?"

"Of course not." He shakes his head grimly. "Well, your clothing is atrocious. I suppose that'd be Item #1, yes?"

"I... sure?" Have you caught onto too many of his motives, so he's behaving via random chance? Spinning a wheel? Throwing darts at some unseen dartboard? "I think the general store stocks some clothing?"


You don't know what to make of this response, and you're not sure Richard does either: he lapses into muddled silence, and doesn't respond when you hiss his name. He appears to be deeply in thought. For your part, you limp over to the general store, trying not to look like you're being supported by anybody invisible/intangible.

The door jingles when you push it open, and the shopkeeper unslumps. It's a boy apparently no older than 17, though as the placard by the counter helpfully explains, "I AM 31." (The other placard: "FISH NOT WELCOME.") He appraises you, decides you aren't a fish, and waves you in disinterestedly.

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You square your shoulders, to project confidence, make eye contact with the shopkeep, who breaks it immediately, and make a beeline for the back. You've only ever been in here a handful of times— being minimalist in nature, and also unpaid in nature— but you definitely recall a few sparse racks of clothing there. Most of it is unwearable, of course: not because of size, which like many things underwater tends toward 'flexible,' but because of astonishing lack of taste. (The clothes, like nearly everything else in the shipments, consist of patched-up corpse-wares and architects' castoffs. The fact that Eloise is an architect should explain everything there.) Still, you're confident that you can—

"What about these?" Richard deposits a pile of clothing in your arms.

You glance at the shopkeep, who, thank God, is not looking. (What would he see if he was?) You glance at the clothes, and at Richard, who has lost the pensive expression for something studiously neutral.

.....Does he just want to go shopping?

"The faster you get this done with, the faster you..." He waves an impatient hand.

You don't believe him.

"I don't care." He tucks his sunglasses back on. "I know what you like to wear, what you look good in, and how often those two coincide. Take it or leave it. But good luck finding better options, Charlotte Fawkins."

>The choice of outfit(s) will have zero mechanical impact. It will have negligible narrative impact. Pick what you personally prefer. (They're in order from left to right.)
>Charlotte can comfortably afford two.

>[A1] 1 (Vest outfit)
>[A2] 2 (Fancy jacket outfit)
>[A3] 3 (Cape outfit)
>[A4] 4 (Trenchcoat outfit)
>[A5] Write-in. (You describe it, I'll do my best to draw it, time and motivation limiting. QM veto power in effect. Or draw it yourself and save me the trouble.)

>[B] Is there anything else you need to purchase from the general store? It has a little bit of everything. (Write-in. Optional.)

dang I like them all

does the store have aspirin or aspirin equivalents? feel like those would come in handy.

maybe like a glass eye
or eyepatch
or monocle that has the anime light glare so you can't see through it
Vest outfit for getting heroing done and cape outfit for looking good while doing it.
Also we should buy us some handbag or loot sack combo. Tasteful and spacious but light with short straps.



Called for cape(let) and vest. You can also pick up a bag and see if the store has any painkillers (processed medicine is unlikely, but it may have something herbal and/or made of weird animal parts).

>maybe like a glass eye...
From Charlotte's perspective, her "bad eye" isn't gone: it's an orb of dark metal. She can still poorly see out of it, which is why she doesn't have an eyepatch or anything like that-- better her vision at 75% than 50%. From everyone else's perspective, it *is* gone, so it probably functions like Richard does: it only exists to her. Not sure Charlotte's super willing to admit that, though. If you did feel inclined to cover it up so other people are less uncomfortable, you have plenty of spare cloth to make an eyepatch with, so I don't think buying one makes much sense.

You did lose your good/remaining normal eye the other thread, but that's only in unreality. It's still intact and functioning in RL and doesn't need to be covered up.

>handbag or loot sack combo
A handbag seems likely to interfere with Charlotte's usual activities, but I think a small rucksack would make a lot of sense.
>Work it, move that bitch cr-azy

You fold your arms. "Have you never been shopping before?"

Based on his small frown, Richard appears to not have expected this line of enquiry. "Myself?"

"...Yes?" And then you think about it. "Oh my God, you haven't— you're such a snake! God! Put these back on the shelf." You shove the clothes back in his arms.

Richard stares down at them. "These are objectively the optimum—"

"Shut up. Do you even know what shopping is?"

He looks back up at you. "You exchange currency for goods or—"

"Wrong! Incredibly wrong. That's buying. 'Shopping' is a— it's like going to the beach, or something. It's like reading a book. It's recreation. We're supposed to go around, and we're supposed to look at all the clothes, and try them on, and make fun of the ugly ones, and be surprised by what we find, not just— not just going in and grabbing the stupid optimal clothes and leaving." Between a lack of budget and a dearth of shops on the higher levels of the Pillar (away from the manufacturing), you have not been shopping terribly often. But your idea of it is extremely, unplaceably strong. Can you not remember...?

"..." He digs his fingernails into the clothes. "Lottie."

"Put them back, stupid. You wanted me to go shopping, we're doing it right. And it's not like I have anywhere to be."

"Lottie." He glances sideways. "Let the record show I was under duress. I offered the sensible option and I was rudely shoved aside. Interfering further would require a show of force, and calculations determined that to be an excessive exertion. Therefore the ensuing waste of time is in no way through action or inaction my fault."

You cock your head. Then it processes. "A-ha. Yes."

"In addition..." He still isn't looking at you. "Let it be known that any negligence, irrationality, or erratic behavior I may or may not exhibit stems from being, against my will, physiologically and psychologically impaired. I have in effect been rendered legally insane."

"...Yes." This seems excessive, but what do you know?

He turns back, presses his lips together, hefts the clothes over his shoulder, and vanishes into the racks. You hear rustling. He returns shortly after, empty-handed and again studiously neutral.

Quite despite yourself, you grin.


The process of "shopping" comes easily to you, but not to Richard, no matter how legally insane he might be. He isn't actively heckling you, so it's a step up from previous experiences, but when you pull out a pea-green jumpsuit and attempt to engage him about its laughable construction, he gets a look a bit like a cornered animal. Maybe you should've gotten him a drink first? Because if you had to put a word to him, it's "inhibited": once or twice he starts to say something, stops, and refuses to finish his sentence. Maybe you can take the man out of the snake, but not the snake out of the man. Or maybe the man won't let you take the snake out of the man. Or something. (You're working on it.)

Maybe he is scared. You said that mostly as a cudgel, but you're wondering if you had a point: is he scared of being a person who would observe, in the spirit of camaraderie, that the former owner of this hat must have been a elderly widow, perhaps one whose husbands all died in suspicious circumstances? Or does he just not really know how to be that person? To be a grown man, snake, man-snake, and not know how shopping works— it's sort of pathetic. And to think of Richard as pathetic feels to you legally insane, but... God. You're really living in a whole new world.

If you were bolder, you might challenge him on his reticence. It doesn't feel like he's trying, you'd say. But put one foot in that direction, and odds are good as not he'll step forward, sneering, and catch you by the collar, and say that he's been trying to restrain himself, but this silly little game has gone on long enough. And he'd drag you out by the ear, purchaseless, or maybe he'd say that he's tired of waiting, and something would eat you from the inside out, and you'd wake up a month later with one arm and a bullet in your side.

Or maybe not. You don't actually know what his mood is, right now, and increasingly it seems changeable as the tides. You wish you could read his mind. It only seems fair, given the reverse.

"I can't read your mind," Richard says.

You swallow and pull out a sweater. "Oh, God. It's like someone threw up on it."

"I like it."

You'd take it for sheer contrarianism, except that this is the first time Richard's expressed an opinion on anything so far. "...Um, why?"

"It pleases me. Is there something else required?" Richard plucks the sweater out of your hands and slides it off the makeshift hanger, which he thrusts back at you. He proceeds to shrug it on over his suit jacket. It still looks like someone threw up on it. "I'll take it, I think."

You stare. "How are you wearing that? I mean— that's an actual— is it invisible now? Am I going to walk out with a floating sweater?"

"You're thinking too hard about it. Hmm." He tugs at the sweater, flickers, and vanishes. You sigh.

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It's difficult to discern a difference when he returns. He's still wearing the sweater, though... oh. The bulky suit under it's gone. You sigh longer. "So are you just... stealing that?"

"Nonsense." He meets your gaze.

You meet it back. "...Great. Okay. Well, um... oh, this one isn't so bad...?"


You wind up with four-ish workable outfits, which Richard's critical comments narrow to two. (He loosened up somewhat after besweatering himself, to your concealed delight— though he kept making clothes-related analogies you couldn't understand.) Those, as well as a few impulse purchases you pick up along the way, are what you spill on the counter. "Hi. What does this do?"

"That?" The shopkeep peers at the little bottle you wave in his face. "Not a clue. Might be poison."

"It's a weak acid. It's anti-inflammatory." (You think disapprovingly at him.) "Meaning it'll ease most pain, though it can't hold a candle to what I do. I hardly see the point."

"I'll take it," you announce. "And all this. And that." A small, surprisingly cute rucksack— because while you'd make Ellery carry all your stuff all the time if you could, he's occasionally dead.

"You got it, crazy lady."

You frown. "What?"

"Couldn't decide whether to tack on 5% or discount you 5% for the whole 'mumbling to voices' deal, so I'll keep it flat. I don't take IOUs, by the way, so I hope you have the chit for this."

He slides over a notepad with his calculations. It's an amount that'd make you wince a while back, but with your new savings... "Um," you say. "I do have it, I just don't have it... on me."

"Then I'll put the stuff in the back and wait till you do." He grabs your would-be purchases and hauls them over the counter. "I'll give you a day, then I'm releasing it. Deal?"

It's a fair deal, despite the squirming feeling it gives you. You shouldn't get upset over this, either. Yeah. You should feel— are feeling a healthy glow of victory. You shopped. And you made Richard shop with you! Even if you have to look at that sweater now. Well, that's sacrifices.

>[+3 ID: 12/13]
>[GOAL COMPLETE: Spend your share of the heist $$$]
>[BELATED GOAL COMPLETE: Check the town archives]

(Choices next.)
>Do something?

>[1] Go see Fake Ellery. You owe him some orders- and if you want to contact Real Ellery, he may be your best bet.
>[2] Head back to the tent and take care of little things. You'll grab your chit before you return to town. (You can pick multiple.)
>>[A] Retrieve Gil.
>>[B] Write "Toothless Earl" a letter.
>>[C] Work on your model.
>>[D] Just sit down and take stock of the current situation.
>[3] You just revenge-killed the murderer haunting the camp. You are owed free drinks. Many free drinks. And it's definitely a little ways past noon, so it's basically 4 PM.
>[4] The name "Headspace" sure is cropping up a lot lately: how lucky that their main office is 15 minutes away. Head in and... don't investigate, necessarily. You don't know if they've done anything wrong. But ask some questions.
>[5] Write-in.
Well let's go back and get our cash to pay for stuff, and then hit up Headspace.

Kinda irritating though that we had to remember to bring money shopping OOC.
>Kinda irritating though that we had to remember to bring money shopping OOC.
I didn't expect you guys to remember, it was just narratively inconvenient to have Charlotte spend 35 minutes slogging back and forth to pick up money, and for ~verisimilitude~ I didn't want to fudge it. You're not facing any negative consequences from this.

Do you want Gil along? If so, I might recommend picking [2] first. If not, you're fine.
Which suboptions of [2]? (The [A], [B]s...)
>>[A] Retrieve Gil

We should retrieve our cash while we're at it.
>[4] + go back get cash


>[2A] + go back get cash

Gotta love a split vote. I think I'll have you head back, get the chit, grab the patent(?), and decide where to go from there.

>On the road again

Having (certainly) succeeded in all imaginable ways, you extend a certain graciousness to the shopkeep and flounce out of there without putting up a fuss. You have better things to spend your precious time on, after all. Things like rescuing Gil from Horse Face's spindly clutches, so you can take him back with you to the store and he can compliment your new outfits.

"I'm glad your priorities are intact," Richard remarks mildly. He's been avoiding particularly muddy segments of trail by vanishing and reappearing past them.

Is there something wrong with wanting your best retainer freed from the presence of a man, of equine visage, who is perhaps the least trustworthy person to ever exist? Present company excluded.

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that." Richard flicks his cigarette butt into the bushes. "Seeing as how you've been depending on me for the better part of a half-decade, and such."

Like you had a choice.

"Oh, indeed. Like I was going to allow you to—" He gestures. "What a clever rejoinder, Charlotte."

...Allow you to what? To die? Or to ruin his dumb plans, whatever they are? You guess those are the same thing. You guess you don't even know if he actually cares about anything outside his dumb plans, or if he would care, if you weren't making him. Did your father like ugly vomit sweaters?

"I'll pretend I didn't hear that either."

You eye Richard. You think it's a valid concern, because if you're making him do this— if 'I'll make you regret this' was the real Richard talking, and you just drugged him into submission after— you'll have to work hard if you want any kind of lasting change. But if this is organic, if some nice caring sweater-loving Richard's been smothered in there all along, and you've just freed him from snake prison... then you just have to convince him it's okay to like you now.

Does he like you? (...Secretly?)

Richard closes his eyes. "What's the point in asking that of me?"

The point is that you'd like to know whether he—

"You're not that unintelligent, surely. You know I can't answer that." He fiddles with his watch. "Assuming, of course, that I had any desire to."

Okay. Okay. (He's walking faster. You hurry to catch up and nearly trip over a stray root in the process. But you don't trip, is the important thing.) He 'can't answer' in that he isn't allowed to, or he doesn't know?

He scoffs. "I am still well in control of my faculties, Charlotte Fawkins. I don't answer frivolous—"

But he didn't say doesn't, he said can't. Is this what's the matter with him? He can't tell if what he's feeling is genuine? Or if he means that he's prohibited by some great snake authority, issuing snake commands from luxurious underground snake palaces— well, surely that would mean he does like you? Or he would've said 'no.'

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You want Richard to know that it's fine to admit to liking you— as you are highly likable, and in fact most people (eg. Gil) like you, and if he wants to compliment your outfits, too, you're sure that would be societally acceptable. As they are very nice, fashionable outfits, with pockets. You also want him to know that if he's confused about his feelings, then he ought to join the club, because you've been confused about him for at least six months and probably three years. Also, you think it would probably be easier on him if he just gave in and liked you, even if it isn't real, because it'll surely turn real soon enough. So if he wants to go ahead...

"I see 'subtlety' remains absent from your vocabulary." Richard is leaning stiffly against a tree some ways ahead. "This has ceased to be amusing."

Well, it wasn't supposed to be, so—

"You have clearly obtained some twisted sense of what is appropriate for me to discuss. And why? Because I briefly indulged your sensibilities? Serves me right, I suppose." He's fidgeting with his wristwatch. "I thought giving you what you asked for would make you shut up about it, but I was mistaken. No longer."

Oh, what a load of gull. He expects you to believe he was faking the whole past hour-something? Is he going to say that risking the wrath of the Grand High Snake Elders (or whatever) was all part of his master plan, too? No. No, he's done this too many times. What he's doing is dodging your valid ideas because they make him a bit uncomfortable.

You don't expect Richard to look you unblinkingly in the eyes, but he does. His expression is chilly. You glower back at him until he shuts his eyes, breathes deeply, shudders (involuntarily?), and vanishes.

"Hey!" you say. "How is that fair? Huh? You can't just—"

«It is obvious that I can.»

Oh, great.

«I appreciate your warm welcome back.»
«I would of course expect nothing less of you.»

Okay. Does Snake Richard like you? He's draped lazily over an overhanging tree branch.

«Firstly, I have complete recollection of the fact you asked that not five minutes ago.»
«Secondly, that question is prohibited.»
«Thirdly, I do not 'like.' You are not exempt.»

You don't know what else you expected, honestly.


The rest of the way back to your tent goes much faster, as you discover your conversation options have narrowed considerably. Which you guess was the point. You wonder how Snake Richard feels about being a living escape hatch, think about asking, and then realize he can't possibly have an opinion.

He's still remarkably subdued compared to usual, though, but you're not sure if that's from your threats or lingering influence or a lack of ideas. (You're only walking, after all.) You don't remark on it, because that's guaranteed to rouse him. Someday you won't have to worry about that, you swear to yourself. Someday.

The interior of your tent is cool and shady and nearly inviting enough to make you flop down on your cot. You fight the impulse by thinking of Gil's abject suffering in this very moment, and settle for sitting down briefly. Thereafter you spring to your feet, retrieve your chit from where you stashed it (it's still in its gunnysack, buried in the portmanteau under your bed), and set about figuring out where you left that patent. On your desk, as it happens, under other papers— you ought to clean this place when you can.

Thus armed, you bust out of your tent and directly into Horse Face's. "GIL," you announce, "I've... come... huh?"

What were you expecting: a quasi-hostage situation, with Gil cooped up in an armchair, made to drink salty tea, and forced to listen to cryptotheological blathering. The reality is quite different. Some kind of carnage has happened here: the floor is positively littered with mechanical bits and bobs, and the half-emptied carcass of some cubeish appliance is square in the middle. (The furniture has been shoved to one side.) And Gil, the traitor, rakes at it with a... tool, while a begoggled Horse Face stands nearby.

"Back so soon?" he smarms, and Gil looks up. "Oh! Lottie! I-I-I-I— hi."

"Hi," you state.

"...Hi." He sets the tool down. "Um... Garvin's letting me take apart his spare AUX-space generator... I-I-I don't know how he has spares. They're not for public sale, usually, and, um—"

"Garvin isn't his name." Your chest is tight.

"It is, actually," Horse Face says merrily. "And of course you're welcome to spectate, Lottie. I'd be delighted."

You can't think of anything worse.

(Choices next.)
>[A1] No. No no no no no. Assert your dominance. Gil is *not* staying here a minute longer, lest he get more corrupted than he already is. He is your retainer; you are dragging him out. That is that.
>[A2] You can't possibly let Gil stay, but if you say it like that he might start thinking you're mean, or something. (When this is for his own good!) Tell him that you absolutely need him for whatever you're doing next, so he'd really be letting you down if he abandoned you. Then take him.
>[A3] Okay! If he wants to be a horrible traitor, and let you down enormously, it's none of your business! Let him hang around basically the worst person you know. But inform him you will be having a Talk later.
>[A4] He seems... happy. Which he's been tricked into by Horse Face's scheming, of course. But he hasn't really been happy very often. So you should suck it up, and sacrifice your peace of mind, and let him stay without complaint because you guess you should. And then maybe cry (just a little bit) outside. [-2 ID.]
>[A5] Write-in. (anything too emotionally mature will take off ID, pls remember that this is charlotte)

>[B1] Headspace.
>[B2] Talk to Fake Ellery.
>[B3] Find Eloise (to decipher the patent).
>[B4] Write-in. ("Get drunk" option will return later, don't panic.)

Richard re-snakeifying should not be taken as a punishment: it just felt like the right time (and prevents me from indulging in further Richard introspection). Should you want further Richard introspection, you can roll at any time to force him back into a person. Just write it in.
Our new dresses are too heavy for our dainty lady arms. I'm sure that spare generator isn't going anywhere.
Need a [B] also.
Other nerd shit to keep Gil happy
>[A2], [B1]

Neat, called and writing. I'm starting way too late on this, so there's an off chance I might post a partial update, but I'm hoping to keep this short enough to avoid that.
...Enhh, on second thought, I don't think it's going to happen tonight. And because we've officially hit 30 days since this thread began, and you guys are just about to start something new, I think I'm just going to wrap it up here. Hope you guys enjoyed.


New thread in 1-2 weeks, depending on how I'm feeling-- I'll announce in here when I settle on a date. We'll pick up with you nabbing Gil, nabbing your clothes, and heading off to ask some polite questions of Headspace.

We are archived here: https://lws.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux
My Twitter is here (I announce the new thread on it): https://twitter.com/BathicQM

As always, please post any questions, comments, and concerns you may have, and I'll do my best to respond accordingly. Essentially the only feedback I get on Redux is what gets posted in the thread, so don't hold back!

Have a nice week(s)!

No feedback except enjoyed the thread. Rolls weren't too bad either.

Can't wait until we acquire DRIP and get deadass drunk in the next thread.
How much did you expect the fold option on this vote? I rarely get the feeling there was a wrong option in this quest, but I did here. After picking it, unfortunately.
>Can't wait until we acquire DRIP and get deadass drunk in the next thread.
Hell yeah.

>How much did you expect the fold option on this vote?
Yeah, you got me busted. I wrote options [1]-[4], went "well, in the interest of fairness...", and tacked on [5] without fully thinking through the implications, assuming you guys would be rearing to dunk on Richard. 18 hours later, I went "oh fug," having now thought through the implications, and had to damage control. That being said, I didn't set out to make the next update as bleak as it ended up... that's just how it, uh, ended up. The writing process takes me interesting places.

>I rarely get the feeling there was a wrong option in this quest, but I did here. After picking it, unfortunately.
Yeah-- I definitely include better or worse options, but I do my best to signpost their pros/cons in their descriptions. If I fail to do that (like in this instance), it's not because I'm plotting to dunk on you guys, it's because I wrote all the options at some ungodly hour and didn't process their logical consequences until after they were picked.
Okay, I'm committing:

>Thread 24 will be posted Tuesday, March 15

I'll run for three weeks, then cut it off early as I enter the final stretch of the semester. Thread 25 will either be posted in early May or I'll run it through April on "slow mode," meaning I'll post updates when I have time vs. sticking to a regular schedule. It could be once a day, it could be once a week. We'd return to the normal schedule in May.

If anyone's still around in this thread, would you mind giving your preference here?

>[1] Take most of April off, run Thread 25 as a normal thread in May
>[2] Run Thread 25 in April on "slow mode"

Rolled 1 (1d2)


>[1] Take most of April off, run Thread 25 as a normal thread in May
>[2] Run Thread 25 in April on "slow mode"

I'll roll with 1 and 2 for respective choices above cause I like rolling dice. I'm still not caught up either way since I am, likewise, getting my ass roasted by studies. Rip.

dammit why is the spoilertext not working right?
I must tie any vote I see
>3 I find you and make you write

But realistically see you in May. But if you want to write a short one shot or something then please do.
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Sensing some indifference here, kek. I'll lean towards May, but I won't need to make a decision for a while, so if anyone else would like to chip in feel free.

Considering the length of threads these days, a normal one-shot would take the same amount of time and maybe more effort than just running 25. This is a scheduling issue, not a burnout issue, fortunately. Then again, I could run an April Fools thread like I've been considering for years, but I'd have to decide what to do for it...
Run it as being set in one of Charlie's Heroine ha'penny adventure novels.
I'd need a suitably hokey plot and the fortitude to write in a consistent period style, so I think that'd take more effort than I can give considering the circumstances. Sorry! Maybe in a future year when I can preplan more. I have been considering doing either a Richard-centric or an Ellery-and-Madrigal-centric thread, if either of those strike your fancy.
A oneshot from the perspective of I Am 31 thr Shopkeep. A fun vignette of the people of the camp coming in to shop, and maybe we can learn why he refuses fish.
You're about 8 hours too late, I'm sorry to say-- I finished up the April Fools OP this evening. I have that OP written and not Thread 24's. I am good at time management. That being said, I can guarantee there'll be at least one and probably two hopefully not three more Aprils before this quest is completed, so I'll keep that idea in my back pocket, eh?
Alternately, that concept feels like it could be a Pastebin rather than a full thread-- the interactive bit doesn't seem necessary. Ditto with >>5192923 (though running a literal CYOA book would be admittedly fun). I'll mark it down for "when I have free time."

If you guys have any other concepts/premises/POVs you want to see that'd fit in a 1k-2k word vignette, feel free to drop them here. I won't guarantee anything, but I'll keep it in mind if nothing else. (It might end up showing up in the quest itself if I think it'd work somewhere.)
What's our time returned worm child up to in the swamp? I'd trawl for the name but I'm at work right now.
Annie! And this is something you can find out in the quest :^) It's on the to-do list for a reason.
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