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/qst/ - Quests

A bit more than sixteen years ago, in the Empire’s Old Hinterlands:

Your name is Odovacar, and it seems that you are not sure about anything anymore. For a start, you are not sure what is wrong with you. A fortnight ago, your Socket just … failed. You were checked before returning to the Full Brother’s dormitory, and things went exactly like they had since you had the Socket installed. It worked fine as a replacement for the eye that was pulled to make room for it, but when it came to interfacing with the testing equipment – or a Spot-Dosimeter for that matter – the results were erratic, to the point that they were not reliable. As you had been dozens of times before, you were scheduled for a quick recalibration, right before morning prayers. After arranging to be woken up early so you had enough time, you went to bed. And when you woke up, the dammed thing was dead.

You could not see out of it, and when they hooked you up to the testing equipment just to make sure, they could not get any readings. Complete failure like that is uncommon, but even odder is that your graft – the remains of your left optical nerve, which connects and interfaces the Socket and your brain -showed no signs of rejection. Even still, the Ophthalmos was worried that there had been a breach in the shielding, and you might have been dangerously contaminated by the Strangeness from the Socket’s death. But after being checked, you were found to be well within the range of Strangeness considered acceptable for a Dosimetrist.

In the end, they pulled the corpse of the Socket, and sent it away for testing. Two days later, you were summoned back to the Operating Theatre, and a larger, higher resolution Socket was installed in your left eye socket. Now, it always takes time for a body to get used to a Socket, and vice-versa, but it has been whole weeks, and your readings with this one are as erratic as they were with the old one.

To make matters worse, you started getting pins and needles in your feet and occasionally in your hands, which you to be a symptom of lead poisoning. You reported it, and your direct superiors and the Ophthalmos were … sympathetic, but ultimately, they have not done anything about it yet. You should not be too surprised about that, lead poisoning sort of comes with the territory. It is not called the Inquisitors Illness without cause, after all. You have started getting headaches too, but you decided against bothering anyone about them, as they are still fussing over why you cannot get proper readings with the new equipment. After a lot of back and forth – none of which you have privy to – all they have decided is to send you to a specialist Ophthalmos, apparently the one they sent your dead Socket to.

There is something else on your mind, however. Something weighing much heavier than the pound and a half of hermaphrodite where your left eye used to be. Aborgast’s maid, Amalasuintha.
You have nothing definite to go off of, but … you are worried that she might be Witch. And to make matters worse, you have not mentioned any of these suspicions to anyone.

You want her. That is what it boils down to. Now setting aside the possibility that she might not want you, once you tell her that you are not a Journeyman Glasser named Antono, but a Full Brother Dosimetrist named Odovacer, the odds are quite long that you would be allowed to have her. The greybeards and the whitebeards generally are hesitant to allow Dosimetrists to marry, out of concerns for the bride, and potential children they have being exposed to Strangeness. And they are also hesitant to allow Brothers to marry women who they met on assignment. Still, they might relent on those points … so long as there was never any evidence that she was a Witch, or a thrall to a Witch or Coven. Even if the evidence was just circumstantial, Hell, even if the evidence turned out to be no more substantial than moonbeams, if there ever was a question, then that is it.

And the ‘evidence’ that you have is so circumstantial that you could not bring yourself to report it and permanently ruin any chance you might have with her. They are so circumstantial that it feels foolish even thinking about them. Yes, it is odd that a girl as beautiful as her is serving as a maid instead of looking for a suitor to court her. You have seen pretty girls – merely pretty girls – getting married to the third and fourth sons of Citizens – she could definitely do better then that. The other piece of ‘evidence’, which you only became aware of when you pulled her out of her clothes that first time, is that she shaves her body. Witches do that, it is true. Their hair, like the rest of their bodies, has magical properties, and can be used for raw materials for certain spells. Additionally, by removing potentially obfuscating hair from their bodies, they are able to check themselves more thoroughly for evidence of the Strangeness. It is a little more damning that simply being beautiful to be sure, but it still does not prove anything. Whores shave, that does not make brothels into Covens.

Not for the first time, you wonder if she had been a whore – it would explain both of oddities nicely. A former whore, without a father present to approve of any courtship would have a hard time securing any marriage, let alone an advantageous one, even if they were as beautiful as she was. In that case, working as maid for a wealthy Subject was probably the best that a woman in that circumstance could hope for, at least in the short term. And she did not bleed the first time you took her, either.

You feel yourself getting engorged at the thought of that particular encounter, and you do your best to put it from your mind, as you will have plenty of time for that later today.
You are going to be gone for a few days, a week at most, while you are being looked at … somewhere. You are not actually sure where you are going, but that is not unusual in the Inquisition. Presumably somewhere secret. Anyway, you have been instructed to pay Arbogast a visit, ostensibly to explain your absence, and to make arrangements for the lead that you have bought off of him to be delivered to ‘your’ workshop. In actuality, you are going there to continue investigating his household … and if possible, to mount his maid.

Time passes quickly, and before you know it, a certain Journeyman Glasser is rapping the knocker on the door of a certain four-story domicile. As you wait for a response from a certain maid, you continue to fret over the situation that you have found yourself in. Because you have not told anyone about the evidence – such as it is – the higher ups have been reducing the backup you are sent out with each time. Today, all you have backing you up are a half-dozen Half Brothers in the graveyard across the street and one Lamp-and-Flag to coordinate everything. And while you have most of your kit with you, the chapterhouse has decided to stop equipping you with the needle-dagger, for fear of it getting damaged or discovered. On one hand, this is good for you, as it makes it easier for you to conduct your trysts. But, on the other hand … if it turns out that Amalasuintha is actually a Witch …

You rock back and forth on your heels while you wait, wondering if you have made a terrible mistake. And not just about Amalasuintha, about becoming a Dosimetrist. Nearly all of the Brothers who have been made whole in your chapterhouse for the past two years have been dispatched to either the Eastern or the Southern front. While you had been friendly with many of them, after your miserable deployment in Nauretania, and with rumors of more war coming, you do not want to leave the Empire. Even though the life expectancy of a Dosimetrist is shorter than a typical man’s, it seems to you that it is decades longer than an Inquisitor who has been charged with destroying a Pygmy Dragon or Djinn. And for the Inquisitors who were sent after ‘Cultists’ – just men and women who by and large wanted to live their own lives … you do not want to think about it anymore.

Shaving years off of your life certainly was not the easiest decision that you have ever made … but it seemed sensible at the time. Now … now your head aches. You are not sure if that is just nerves, or if it more evidence of lead poisoning. Maybe if you stop worrying about stuff that you cannot change, it will go away? It is worth a shot. You rap the doorknocker again.

It is not like you could do anything about it now, anyway. They have taken your eye. You are no longer whole, no longer fit for any sort of proper duty, unless you are hooked up to a Socket. Even if you wanted to, they would not ‘halve’ you and make you a Half Brother once more.
You are a Dosimetrist, whether you like it or not. Of course, that begs the question – if this Socket dies just like the last one, how many more times are they going to keep replacing them before they just throw in the towel? Those who are no longer whole, or too old to fight and unsuited for teaching – as you are certain you are, you simply do not have the patience or aptitude for it – are retired from the Inquisition and are retrained elsewhere in the Faith. But the idea of spending the rest of your life, potentially shortened by the fraying lump of lead crammed into your skull, as a Velchanos or an Undertaker or something …

You could see yourself doing that, but you cannot see yourself being happy with that, not until the day you die. And that only happens, assuming that by the time you are retired, you are still clean and somewhat sound of body. Pattern’s Perdition, if this Socket dies on you as well, who is to say that the shielding holds like last time? Who is to say that the graft will not eventually get rejected, and you get sepsis without anyone noticing? Becoming a Full Brother was supposed to open doors for you – instead, it opened pits. You are not sure if you are in the one with the flames, or the one with spikes, but …

Shutters overhead open, and a voice calls out to you.

“Good morning, Journeyman Antono. Are you here to see the master?”

“Why my dear, who else could I possibly be here to see?”

Oddly enough, Amalasuintha does not smile at that as you thought she would.

“The master has just stepped out, I am afraid. I would let you in to wait for him, but he has decided to paint the stairs. I cannot come down at the moment. If you would like, you may let yourself in.”

Suppressing a chuckle at the absurdity, you try the handle, to find it unlocked, just as she said it would be. And just like she said, the flight of stairs has been freshly painted – a brilliant white – thoroughly at odds with the relative darkness of the rest of the foyer. You close the front door behind you, and walk to the bottom of the stairs, arriving just before Amalasuintha arrives at the top. Even though the smell of paint is quite strong, all of the windows on the first floor are closed and shuttered, as they always are. Obviously, that is odd, but you have spent a great deal of time in the foyer, and you could never find any reason to assume that it was because of something Strange or magical. You do not want to think about that right now though.

“Amalasuintha, my dear, it seems to me that speaking like this is somewhat indiscrete, if not bordering on impolite. To avoid any indecency, why don’t you straddle the balustrade and slide down?”

Pushing the joke even further, you stand legs apart, with your more-than-slightly turgid fundamental right in front of the newel.

“Do not fret! I’ll stop you.”
She chuckles along with you at that one, and you can feel your worries and fears slip out of focus.

“Oh, but I’d be worried about my clothes, sir. The master paid good money for them.”

“No help for it, you must … denude yourself. Nonetheless, I promise that I will not spy on you.”

You raise your forearms to your eyes, but you deliberately have it so that your right eye – your real eye – is comically visible. She laughs at that, and soon you are laughing as well. With an unusually rakish smile for a woman, she raises her hands to the clasp of her dress, and begins loosening it with those beautiful, slender fingers of hers.

Your head throbs – the one on your shoulders. As you grimace a bit, you cannot help but recall that unnatural size is evidence of the Strangeness. Of course, as with everything else you have been working yourself up over, it is just circumstantial. She is tall for a woman, and she has relatively long fingers. That does not make her a Witch. By the same coin, you are tall for a man, and you have relatively long fingers too. It does not mean anything. On top of that, you have ‘denuded’ her several times, and you have never seen anything else that could be caused by the Strangeness, like moles, warts, or spots, or anything more damning, like anything that could be a concealed scarification glyph. Which, if she was a Witch, she would need to conceal her blank, soulless eyes, right? So, there is no … well … actually, if you are being honest, your attention during those times has been given over wholly to a few key spots. It is it truly out of the realm of possibility that the something small could have been concealed from you?

You are not sure. But you do know that there is a surefire way to defeat a glyph like that – without even knowing where it is. All you need to do is disrupt it, by pushing a finger through the glamor’s envelope. It is not recommended, of course, considering that if the subject of investigation is a Witch, you are too close to them to respond if they attack you – and that is not even considering the risk of getting dosed with the Strangeness from breaking the spell. There are much safer ways – but all of those require equipment and other men to work. If you wanted to know for certain if she was a Witch or not, then the only way – besides doing something like stabbing her with one of your leaded knives – would be to manually test her eyes.
Making a split-second decision, you resolve to put your doubts behind you once and for all. As soon as you get your hands on her, you will test her eyes – and then that will be at least one thing you can stop worrying about. Honestly, you should have done this sooner.

You realize with a start that Amalasuntha is still dressed. Her hands have barely moved from where they were when she started on the clasp. Oddly enough, she looks uncomfortable, anxious.


“Yes …?”

“I’m late.”

“For what?”
She stares as you, and licks her lips, clearly trying to formulate a response … though to you credit, you figure it out before she has to spell it out for you. Your head is throbbing again, and this time, you are fairly certain that it is not the Socket – or the paint fumes.

She must have seen the realization dawn on your face, because before you can say anything, she launches into an apology.

“I thought– Pattern’s Perdition, I am so sorry. I had no idea that … it should never have happened.”

She rambles a bit more, basically repeating herself over and over. While she does, you take stock of this … unexpected development. Setting aside your concerns for your health and your future, and your nagging fear that Amalasuintha is somehow a Witch, this is … good. This is very good. It actually solves some of your problems for you. If Amalasuintha is carrying your child, then it is much more likely that she would be willing to marry you, even after you reveal that you have been lying to her all of this time. And, on the other end, the old goat would be much more likely to write off on you getting married if it was for the sake of an unborn child, though you would probably be hearing about it for the rest of his natural life.

Whatever happens, you will never need to be alone again. At that blissful thought, you smile broadly up at her. But she does not notice, she is still going in circles. It is alright though, you can wait for her to work it out. It is no good to keep a woman bottled up – that is how you get hysterical screws.
As you wait for her to calm down, you realize that you are planning on sharing your life with a woman who you are not completely certain is not a Witch. And then you realize … you cannot find it in yourself to care. She – and Arbogast’s wife, if she is a Witch as well – are not doing anything dangerous. As far as you can tell, she is not even doing magic. She is just here in the city, living her life, one day at a time. Like you. Exactly like you.

Strangers need to be put down, as they are dangers to the fabric of reality itself. Magical artifacts and texts should be gathered and if necessary, destroyed, lest they fall into the hands of the heedless or the unscrupulous. Witches who are terrorizing the countryside, or stealing babies for raw materials, or plotting to undermine lawful Civil authority, they should be sought out and destroyed as well. But if someone … just happens to be born with magic, and is so stable that the only potential evidence of her Strangeness is the size of her fingers, and so discrete that the only potential evidence of her magicking is her fraying grooming preferences, then you see no reason why they would need to be destroyed – especially if that person was someone else’s best chance have a wife. A beautiful, loving wife.
There is no reason to it. It is just dogma. Pure dogma. You had your fill of that shit back in Nauretania. You lost two miserable years of your life to it. You lost your oldest friend to it. You lost track of how many times you nearly lost your life to it. You have no intention of losing anything else to it, ever again. Amalasuintha seems to have recovered herself somewhat, so you decide to speak up.

“Listen, I don’t want you to do … anything drastic, alright? I have money set aside – it is not a fortune, by any stretch of the imagination, but it is enough. I’ll speak with Arbogast as soon as he gets back, and I’ll buy out your contract. I’ll need some time to get my affairs in order, but … we can do the right thing here. For us, and the child.”

For someone who prides themselves on being so glib, somehow you have managed to forget the word ‘marriage’ in your marriage proposal. Your head. It is your head. Thankfully, Amalasuintha is a smart girl. She has figured out what you were getting at, but instead of being relieved, she now looks like she is on the verge of tears. Not happy tears, mind you. Eventually, she pulls herself together enough to explain.

“This … this is … I’ve been here before. Last time, things got – they got rough. It … didn’t work. I didn’t work.”

She noticeably swallows as she watches you process this information.

“I was told that … I was not going to be able to … bear. At all.”

Well, if that is it, then it is immaterial. Having a baby would be nice – the best dormitories are reserved for those with young children, after all – and losing an unborn child would be unfortunate, as you can see that it would seriously upset her. But the child is ultimately just a means to the end, namely, you marrying Amalasuintha. Beyond that, it is not really necessary. Of course, you just need to figure out someway to communicate that in a more … flowery manner.

“Miracles can happen. Apparently, one already has. And if there is not another one … listen, I – I’m not an orphan, but I spent some time in an orphanage growing up. If it should come to pass that such a thing became necessary, I would be more than willing to adopt.”

Heights of Hell, why would you possibly bring that up? Apprenticeship is expensive and exclusive – it not something that an orphan or the orphan-adjacent would ever be able to achieve. Thankfully, your new fiancé seems so overwhelmed with emotion that she has not noticed a glaring crack in Antono’s backstory. You need to continue to press the advantage.

“Whatever it takes to make it work – then that is what I will do. I love you, Amalasuintha.”

And it is true. You do love her. You want her for the rest of your life, the prospect of her being upset is upsetting to you, and you really do not care if she a Witch … so long as she does not endanger your person or your standing.
Of course, if she is in fact a Witch, then that would make remaining with the Inquisition untenable. Which is … well, you swore an oath or two, but more than that, there are Brothers in the Inquisition that you owe great debts to – chief among them that old goat, your Abbot. If you were to just abandon ship like that, you would be forgoing any chance of ever repaying them.

But, on the other hand … assuming that whatever issue you have is not resolved by the specialist Ophthalmos who you are being sent to, it seems that for whatever reason, you are not cut out to be a Dosimetrist. And without a Socket, you are not whole, and therefore not eligible to be a standard Full even Half Brother. You do not even have the temperament for teaching, let alone any real knowledge worth imparting. It seems that you are destined to be forced out of the Inquisition anyway. Why shouldn’t you leave on your own terms before your body is completely ruined? While you still have some time good years left?

Because you will be Attainted and declared an outlaw? That is not a pleasant prospect either. You would be hard pressed to say which is worse, but … in the end, you have a choice, so long as your fiancé does not turn out to be a Witch. Which begs the question, how is she taking this?

As you might have expected, she is crying. You are about to start climbing your way up to her on the balustrade, so you can comfort her, then lead her to the nearest piece of furniture that is sufficiently tall enough to properly bend her over when she finally regains her composure.

“Antono, I … oh, Maker’s Mercy. We have been dancing around one another for so long now. We are almost in each other’s arms, but the music has just stopped, and we are not quite there. It seems of us is going to have to take a leap.”

“I hope you are speaking metaphorically, dear. Regardless, there is no need for any leaping. I’m on way up.”

She is a Witch, isn’t she? That has to be it. She already told you that she had already been gotten pregnant by another man and that she was presumably infertile after losing that pregnancy. What other revelation could there possibly be? You mount the balustrade yourself and begin inching your way upward. You hope the thought behind the gesture is more impressive then how absolutely ridiculous you must look right now. She paces on the landing as you make your way up, but instead of waiting for you to dismount the stairs, as soon as you draw near, she can take it no more, and blurts at you as you try to overcome the gooseneck.

“My love, you’re a Witch.”

“I had figured as much. No worries I … I – I beg your pardon?”
“There is a Perimeter placed on this building. It senses all unshielded magical implements that pass it boundaries. The moment you walked through, it Saw your Socket. If you have felt lightheaded, or distracted, or if you had headaches while you were here, that was the Perimeter Seeing your Socket.”

You are just hanging on the balustrade, gawking at her stupidly. So not only is she a Witch after all, but she also knows that you are a Dosimetrist.

“It registered that the Socket was malfunctioning, in a way that an implant might if it had been made for a mundane man or woman, but it had been installed in someone with stability – in other words, someone who had at least latent magical ability.”

Seeing that further deception would not just be pointless, but insulting, you allow your curiosity to get the better of you.

“Are you saying … that me, apparently being magical … and therefore able to dissipate the Strangeness better than normal … is what killed the Socket?”

“Yes – indirectly. The internals of this device are designed around the assumption of the standard dissipation rate for a fully grown man, in decent health. As someone with latent magical ability, you dissipate much faster than the assumed rate. So instead of there being one level of Strangeness throughout the entire implant, what happens is that there is a gradient of Strangeness through the internal regions. The gradient would have ruined readings and made it impossible to calibrate. It would have also damaged it over time. Which is what I am assuming happened, as the Perimeter Saw a different Socket today.”

“Well, I appreciate you clearing that up. It actually explains a few other things too.”


“Oh, there was this time, back when I was just a Half Brother – a Cleanser – that I was convinced that I had become seriously, dangerously Strange. Warranting curative custody. But by the time that I got scanned by a Dosimetrist, I came up almost clean. It’s funny, I suppose, but it seems that latent magic ability is a very useful thing for a Half Brother to have, huh?”

“I have no doubt that it is, but you have more than just latent magical ability. I didn’t know for sure until the first time we touched – it was the first time that you came here, as I was seeing you out of the sitting room – but since then, I am certain of it. You might have a harder time of it, seeing as you are getting into it so late, but you should be able to cast your own spells.”

"Are you serious?”


You would just let that sink in for a moment, but then you realize you are still on the fraying balustrade. You swing your feet out and get clear of the paint before slowly lowering yourself down on to the landing.

“And I suppose, it goes without saying, that you are also a Witch, correct?”
Your fiancé does not say anything – she just gives this trembling nod, her thin lips pursed tight to the point that they have practically disappeared.
“Can you fly? Do you have a spell for that?”

She looks a little confused and taken aback. Clearly, she did not expect a line of questioning like that. But she nods yes. That’s all that matters.

“Can you teach me?”

She lights up like a beacon at that, and you find yourself beaming as well. You have never seen her look so beautiful as she does right now, right this second – and you have seen her naked. She throws herself at you with enough force that you actually almost lose your footing.

“Birds of a feather should flock together, and you are the only Witch I know.”

Heh, that almost sounds like a lyric. You squeeze her against your chest, sniffing the soapy-clean smell of her hair.

“For that matter, you are the only Witch I love.”

And you do love her. Even more now that she can teach you how to fly.

>Despite wanting to learn immediately, Amalasuintha explained to Odovacar that Flight was simply to advanced for a first spell – not to mention too dangerous. While she promised to take him flying as soon as they made it out of Moevia, she did end up teaching him something that very day, as they waited for the paint on the stairs to dry.
>An offensive Kinesiology spell
>An offensive Strange Refragantibology spell
>A utility Shadow Phasing spell

Well, it is still Saturday. If any new players have braved that thicket of words, then here is the link for the archive. >>http://irc.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Eternal%20Rome
Gonna assume
>Despite wanting to learn immediately, Amalasuintha explained...
Isn't an option, so I'll choose the new spell to learn.
>A utility Shadow Phasing spell
>>A utility Shadow Phasing spell
>>A utility Shadow Phasing spell
>A utility Shadow Phasing spell
that's a neat set of coincidences piling up. truly a miracle of a Pattern led to chlot
>>An offensive Strange Refragantibology spell
Four to one for the Shadow Phasing utility spell. So, Chlotsuintha will be able to find that particular spell, once she starts spending some time, trying to decipher father's notes. I'll get the next post up later today.
Going to be a bit of delay on that post. I'll keep you all posted. Sorry about this. In the meantime, does anyone have any questions about the setting that I could resolve? (Not that I be able to say anything about what is going to happen, but if someone wanted a clarification on something, or me to elaborate on something I mentioned in passing, I'd be alright with giving 'in-character' knowledge)

I'm probably missing something obvious, but I thought Odovacar was a dude we met on the leper lift. The guy who was chillin with the horse while talking to us.
Odovacar is your father, not to be confused with Ossavian, the comely young Inquisitor you met on the Leper's Lift, who is the grand nephew of the Master Abbot
You mean future husband?
Damn, I didn't read the prompts closely enough before going along with the first vote I saw and the allure of a utility spell, but upon reading the flying spell prompt more closely even though it is an advanced spell our father learned it that very first fateful day anyways. It would've been perfect to follow in his footsteps considering he always wanted to fly and his focus on creating dragons.

Also, our father's surprise at learning he is a witch is hilarious, and in general it was all very cute, but also super awkward, like watching your parents flirt, I felt embarrassed throughout it all.
I'm glad you liked the passage. But to be clear on the prompt - even though it is closed, and it is now a moot point, Flight was not one of the options for the spell that your father learned that day. Flying, and the introduction to aerial combat, would have come with another choice on the last thread.

I'm still trying to find the time to sit down and write, but I should at least have something up tonight.
In the afterglow of your most recent – and easily, your most passionate – encounter, you insisted that even if flight was too advanced, too involved and too dangerous for her to teach you today, then she must teach you something else. She was a little hesitant, but vulnerable as she was, it was a trifle to take her in hand and make her relent. By the time she returns with a painter’s brush and a odd inkpot, she has regained her composure … though pleasingly, she has not gotten dressed again. You are still savoring the sight when she asks you to lie down on the floor.


“Skin-Scrivener’s Ink stains – and it carries a trace of the Strangeness. As it would be a lot easier to replace a floorboard than an entire couch …”

She gestures to the floor once more, and eager to learn, you lie down, as instructed. Soon, she is bending over you, painting what you realize must be a glyph on your chest.

“This was one of the first glyphs that I learned – it is simple enough that you would almost have to deliberately try to get it wrong, and even if you did, I don’t see how it could possibly hurt anyone. It is a little more complicated for you, as the basic form is designed for someone with two eyes, not someone with an eye and a Socket. That said, limited glyphs are more efficient, and if done correctly, more powerful than baseline glyphs.

“But what does this one do, though?”

“Oh, it allows you to see through things. Called Permeating-Gaze. Now, besides the limiting clause that restricts the glyph to just one eye, this is the most basic form of the spell. Practically, that means that it will work until it dries, so suffice to say, you have limited time to use the spell. You can dilute the Ink, in such a way that it remains wet longer, it becomes cheaper to make, or both – but doing so will hobble the glyph. Contrarily, you can concentrate the Ink, so that it strengthens the glyph, but doing this is complicated and expensive – especially if you are doing it in a way that does not make the Ink dry sooner. There are more complicated versions of the glyph that work with dried Ink, called dry-running, but the Ink required to work those glyphs is more expensive than their wet-running counterparts, nor are they as powerful.”

She makes a few more strokes on your chest with her brush. Feeling the cold, slick weight of it pressed into your chest is … odd, and you have to suppress a shudder. Odder still is that the first portions of the glyph that were painted are no longer cold – instead, they are noticeable warmer than the rest of your body.

“Now, before we go any further, you must remember this – if a glyph gets smudged or damaged, you must never use it. Best case scenario, it simply does not work. Worst case scenario … well, suffice to say, it can get really, really messy. Also, at some point, you are going to have to start shaving your body hair off. You do not have a lot of open space to work with.”
“The important thing to remember is that it is not safe to cover up Inked glyphs. If you cannot see them, then you have no way of knowing if something got messed up or not. Only ever use them on skin that you are going to keep exposed, like your face or hands – and even then, you should also apply anti-perspiration cream, and stay clear of any and all water.”

“There are ways to make the glyphs more permanent, but they come with their own drawbacks. You can tattoo the Ink under your skin, to protect it against getting ruined, but the Ink only carries so much power. For some of the more intensive spells, you can use it up really quickly, and all you are left with is Strangeness trapped underneath your skin – it makes you more susceptible to Mitigation spells, not to mention the health risks. And of course, if anyone were to see them, then it would be obvious that you were a Witch. The other permanent alternative is to scarify the glyph into your body, and while this can be done deep enough that it conceals them from search, the Strangeness becomes even more of an issue with these.”

“With Inked glyphs, the Strangeness is produced on the Ink, and will only enter your body if the Ink gets to a point where it becomes communicably Strange. With scarification glyphs, the Strangeness is produced on the scars … which is you, you know, your body. Your blood will sop it up, and hold it, which again, makes you more susceptible to Mitigation spells. And on top of that … the Inked glyphs draw power from the Ink, but the scarification glyphs pull their power directly from yourself, effectively shortening your lifespan. Scarification glyphs can be just as powerful as Inked glyphs, but for that reason, they typically are not scrivened as strong.”

“So would I be correct in assuming that you are using a scarification glyph right now, to conceal the true condition of your eyes?”


“Well then stop the damned thing off already! No reason to shorten your life like that, is there?”

Your raised voice startled her, but she looks more embarrassed that she did not think of it herself.

“Ah, good point! You leave it on for so long, sometimes you just forget to shut it off.”

It is uncanny, really. One second her eyes were … normal, the next …

“How long will it take for my eyes to … do that?”

“Depends on how much magic you cast. If you just use this glyph once or twice today, then it should be several months before they begin to fade. It is moot point though, we both should have left Moevia long before it gets to that point. Tell me, how thoroughly did you describe me to your superiors in your reports?”

“Not particularly. Tall, dark hair, fair skinned. Comely.”

“Comely, hm?”

She snorts as femininely as one could possibly snort, with a bemused smile on her face. But the smile slips away shortly, as she gets right back to business.
“Now this is important. Did you specify how tall I was – quantitatively? Did anyone else see me, so they could compare my height to yours?”

You take several moments, but after racking your brain, you are certain that you did not. You tell her as much.

“All well and good then. I have someone in mind who fits that description – I’ll get them over here as soon as I can to replace me. But before you leave here today, we should have a plan on how you are going to go get away and stay away from the Inquisition. To that end, I have a few ideas as well …”

Presently, on Olier’s Wharf in Scrimshaw Mount:

Your name is Chlotsuintha, and right now, even though you are in a lifting oil Refinery that is in the process of burning down – and in certain places, exploding – you cannot help but smiling. Because you have just found the payroll for this entire operation. Tucked into the tight little shelves of the strongbox you have opened are purses, made of the same quality leather as the purse that you recovered from the body you picked clean just minutes ago. The sound of wood cracking somewhere in the distance snaps you out of your reverie, and you physically lunge towards your latest prize, plucking out purses with both hands until there is nothing left in the safe but some loose papers and receipts. You carry the lot of them over to the desk in your arms, grinning even more broadly when you hear the sweet clinking thud that they all make when you drop them down. Moving quickly, you unsling your dress from over your shoulder, untie it, and then loosen the belt that you sinched it shut with. Suppressing the urge to cackle, you shove the purses inside, then bolt over to the other strongbox, on the other side of the room.

You start with the key that opened the other strongbox, and no surprise … it opens this one as well. Unfortunately, this one does not have payroll purses inside, just binders that have CONTROLLED stamped on their spines, along with the year. The records here just go back three years. If you had to guess, the older records would probably be taken by the Imperial Arms and kept in some secret reference library somewhere. On a whim, you pull one out and flip through it, but you can barely make heads or tails of what you are reading. You are not sure if it is some sort of shorthand, or if it is actually a cypher, but either way, you can think of no reason why you should take these books. Before closing the ‘box, though, you pull several more of them out at random, to make sure that there is nothing else hidden behind them. Satisfied, you start to turn away from the box, only to stop, as soon as you notice the vicious looking pistol – a duckfoot – nestled in a specially modified holster, on a belt hanging from a peg. You do not even really think about it, you just grab the thing, and start adjusting the belt and holster so it sits as comfortably as such a cumbersome contraption can on your hip.
Oddly, the powderhorn, shot and the loading equipment for the pistol are nowhere to be found in the room, even after you take the time to rifle through both of the desks and some free-standing cabinets. That is not to say that it is time wasted – to the contrary, it was very, very well spent. At first glance, all of the books in the room were just accounting ledgers, like the ones that were in second strongbox, but you found some more interesting tomes mixed in here and there. The first one that you turned up is The Oiler’s Abyssal Bestiary. While it may be written ‘vulgar’ in the Reichtongue, from your cursory skimming it does seem that this is not just a book for idle reading. The engravings in the text, which depict the fearsome denizens of the deep from whom Oilers harvest Ichor from, seem to be striving for complete anatomical accuracy – as opposed to some of the more fanciful renditions of these beasts that are traditionally drawn in the voids of Mare Incognitum.

Beyond simple interest in a topic that you know practically nothing about, you feel almost obligated to steal this book as a Witchlet. As these beasts carry Ichor in their veins, they are considered magical. And while no modern book – especially one that had been print-published – would ever go into detail about the specific magical properties of these animals, perhaps you can glean something by reading in between the lines. Obviously, your interest is academic, as you have no interest in actually going after any of these creatures – but with any knowledge about magic so thoroughly suppressed, you feel … obligated to learn anything and everything you can. In that vein, there are two other books you found in your search of the room that touch upon magic: Fundamentals of Lifting Oil and On the Manufacture of Wandering Whistlers. Fundamentals is an honest and proper academic text, written in Lingua Roma, clearly geared towards a student of the instrumental sciences … but it just so happens that this particular branch of instrumental science is centered around understanding and working a magical substance. With that in mind, you are certain that you will be able to read in between the lines of this text too.

For Wandering Whistlers however, there is no need to read in between any of the lines. The text is explicitly about how to make Whistlers, which are hermaphrodites, constructs that are part magical and part mechanical. Well … it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a hermaphrodite, as to the best of your understanding these weapons are almost entirely mechanical, as opposed to something like a Spot-Dosimeter, which is at least half magical. But Whistlers use lifting oil, and as lifting oil is magical, then it follows that they have to be hermaphrodites. And even if by some vagary of the definition, it does not qualify, then you could definitely design a hermaphrodite or construct using this text.
I didn't realize it had been so long since I updated. If I had, I would have said something. Once I have everything in today, I should be able to sit down and start catching up, though there is still a bit of backlog that I need to write through. In retrospect, I probably should have waited until this weekend to start this thread.
Just good to hear from you. Take care.
Just finished the archived threads. I really love the setting and detail you've managed to put into everything Trash!
Since you did ask for any questions earlier, i'll just go ahead and ask some:
How do witches see? It seems to me that having "blank" eyes would necessitate at least a membrane over the pupil, which should by all right render us mostly blind. Since magic by its very nature is an active force, i find it hard to believe that there's some kind of natural spell being put on them to fade them like that while still allowing sight.

What do we know about the Lodestar? It was clearly the first time Chlot saw it directly influence the Firmament, but how rare of an occurance is its revelation? Does it also appear as a mundane astronomical phenomenon or is it exclusively there to mess with reality?
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The blank eyes are not a health condition, they are simply an appearance caused by a metaphysical mystery related to the way the soul is integrated into the Firmament. As for specifics, I am still trying to figure the three or four logically consistent answers I would need to have for that question. There would be what the masses, who fear the Strangeness, think, which would be different from what Chlotsuintha and other Witches think, which would also be different from what the actual answer is. On top of that, if the Quest did go into the interior of Outremer, then I would need to figure out what the Cimmaroons think, which would be dependent on a completely different cosmology. I'm sorry for this long non-answer, I just don't want to just blurt something out, and then have to either write around it or retcon it later.

As for the Lodestar, a Revelation is exceptionally rare, but not completely unprecedented. It has appeared to groups of people right before great triumphs and great calamities (like the appearance of the Strangeness, and the Betrayal of Macrobia). There are many more reports of individual revelations, but very few of them have been confirmed by the Priests of the Pattern. Typically, the Patternmaker just sends Heralds on His behalf, to communicate His demands, or to lay with Vestals to impregnate them with Angels to directly carry out His Will. The Lodestar exists only on the Firmament, however, if you were to map the Firmament, and then overlay the map of the Firmament with the map of the night sky, then the Lodestar always appears in the Bootes Void.

I have finally caught up on everything. So tomorrow, I am going to get up early, and start writing. By the end of the day, I hope that I will have finish the update from last thread.
From what little you've written of Macrobia, i'm assuming it's a rogue former Imperial state that uses dragons in warfare. Is that correct?
Of course, there is a real distinction between being able to design something and having the skills and materials to actually weave it together. And that is assuming that nothing untoward happens to the Life-Loom during your escape.

That thought, distressing as it might be, does raise an excellent point. With the situation in the Midden getting more and more complicated, perhaps it would make sense to use whatever time remains after securing the lifting oil and escaping from this mess to start moving your father’s equipment out of the Belfry. After all, who knows how the Plotinus and the rest of the Guard is going to react when they find those – No, not now, damn it. Focus on what is in front of you, focus on the books.

Making a split-second decision, you decide to take them. Now, obviously, books are too large to fit in your pocket-jerkin, or in any of the pockets in the clothes you pulled off of the dead Comptroller. Luckily enough, there is a satchel sitting right next to one of the desks that looks like it will fit them … though the strap is too small to fit you comfortably. You stuff Abyssal Bestiary, Fundamentals and another text, The Humors of Industries – which you think is a medical text of some sort – into the bag without another thought. But as you are about to do the same with Wandering Whistlers, you hesitate. Like the ledgers in the second strongbox, this is stamped CONTROLLED on the spine, and the Seal of the Imperial Armory is placed prominently on the cover. If at any point you are caught, and found in possession of this book, or any other Imperial property without the Emperor’s leave, then you will be sent up on a winch-gallows, after being strappadoed and worked over with a cat-o’-thirteen tails, the nastier, heavier brother of the cat-o’-nine tails, used exclusively by executioners on the condemned who require more punishment than their execution will provide. On the other hand … if anyone gets to the point where they find this book, odds are they would also find the Life-Loom and the rest of the magical equipment, which would be a death sentence of its own. One that would be much, much worse than being whipped and winched.

Having resolved yourself, you slide Wandering Whistlers into your newly acquired satchel as well, then you pluck a few pieces of paper from it before latching the thing shut. After reading the papers to make sure that they are of no interest to you, you get the pocket lantern out, intending to use the integrated snap-sparker once again to light a fire to conceal your larceny. As you dip the papers in the fuel reservoir, you look around the room to make sure that there is nothing else that you missed.

The only thing that jumps out at you is the great coat. Like the other clothes that you pulled off of the dead Comptroller, it looks like it is almost large enough to fit you – probably just a little bit short in the sleeves.
While it might be the Growing Season, the days are starting to get longer, which in turn means that very soon, the nights are going to start to get noticeable colder. And as you do not know where you are going to be sleeping for the immediate future, it only makes sense to pinch the coat as well. After all, it is not like you can wear the Spotted Cloak once you leave the Mount without making your status as a runaway Leper blatantly obvious.

With all of the swag bulging in your dress that you have sinched shut and slung over your shoulder, and the new addition of the satchel over the other shoulder, the coat does not sit particularly comfortably, especially as it is just a little to short in the arms, as you expected. Still, you can move well enough in it … and it is free, so you really should not complain.

Now certain that you have snagged everything of value from the Comptroller’s Station, you get busy with your pocket lantern. Whatever the Hell is in the lantern’s tank, it burns really well. In less than a minute, you have about a dozen fires set all over the room. Your work in here concluded, you head to the door opposite of the one that you came in through. To your surprise, the only thing on the other side of the door is the landing for a steep stair down. You consider locking the door behind you, but then you decide against it, as it was unlocked and unbar – oh, Pattern’s Perdition! The other door! The damned thing was unlocked. Feeling like such a fool, you wrench the door open and dash back into the room. Blessedly, the fires that you set are still too small to present a danger, though several of them have grown precipitously in the minute or so since you lit them.

Once you have the door you first entered the room through unlocked and unbarred, you get the Hell out of that room. Closing the door behind you, you take the stairs down three at a time until you end up in another hallway. Like some of the others that you have been in, this one has supplies pushed up against its walls on both sides. But unlike those other ones, this one has pipes too – suspended overhead. In both directions. Suffice to say, you are not thrilled about the prospect of walking underneath pipes after what you saw happen in the tower, and down in the pit, but it appears that you are not going to have choice here. In both directions, the hallway runs straight, until it takes a sharp turn – beyond that, you cannot see anything.

Desperate to get some clue as which way is the safer of the two, you walk out into the middle of the hall, and once more strain your ears. The sounds of explosions and equipment seems to have stopped while you were in the Comptroller’s Station, but you can definitely hear the crackling of distant fires, as well as a bit of groaning and creaking, with the occasional thump as something falls – sometimes accompanied by a little quaking underfoot if it was close. Clearly, this Refinery is not long for this world.
Figuring that going left is just going to put you near places you have already been, you decide to go right, and get to jogging. The corner that you saw from the foot of the stairs turns out to be a dogleg – after passing through the pair of corners, you are once again in a long hallway, with supplies stacked high along the sides. The lamps in this section of hall are out, and in what little light remains, you can see the slick sheen of oil pouring down from behind the light fixtures. In the distance, there is a hazy, orange light – quite obviously from a fire.

Save for a moment where you damn near tripped over something in the darkness, your long legs make short work of the hall, and soon you find yourself approaching the open door of a room. The fire that you saw in the distance is inside, bathing you in orange light, but as you close the last of the distance, the smell of smoke becomes almost overwhelming, and you find yourself fighting the urge to cough. Peering into the room, you strain to see anything that might indicate that this is a dead end, that you have no choice but to turn back here. Unfortunately, you see nothing definitive – just the outline of equipment, dancing flames, and the thickening veil of smoke. So, it looks like you are going to have to make a decision here after all – do you risk attempting to navigate this room, or do you double back and hope that you were mistaken in your assessment about going left at the stair? It is not like you know with and real certainty that you are headed towards the lifting oil anyways … or that there is anything on the other side of this room.

But if this room was just a dead end, then the smoke here in the hallway, it would be much worse, right? And have there been any rooms that were just complete dead ends? You rack your tired, stressed brain, but you cannot think of any. Even the Comptroller’s Station had two ways in and out. In a situation like this, you have to trust your instincts. Which in this case means that you are going to have to cross this smoke-choked room.

You back up to where the air is fresher, and start breathing deeply, trying to get your lungs ready to hold as much air as they possibly can. While you do this, you decide to light your pocket lantern, on the off chance that once you get on the other side of the fire, it is not putting off enough light for you to see where the Hell you are going. While you are doing this, you decide how you are going to approach this. Trying to sprint through that mess seems needlessly risky, and it would use up your air quickly, but just walking through there would be the other side of the same stupid coin. Long strides, at a brisk pace – a shuffling jog, that is probably your best bet. And keep close to the fire. As dangerous as it may be, it would be much less safe to try to move around the perimeter of the room, which would logically take longer, and have more opportunities for you to get turned around.
I continue to wait warmly and eagerly read and appreciate each post
Same, pal. Best quest on the board right now for sure. I'm amazed that Trash is spending his time writing interactive adventures for spastics on 4chan instead of writing a novel (although this is probably good practice)
You offer up a quick prayer for strength in the face of adversity, then you take three deep breaths, one right after another. Ready as you are ever going to be, you then take one last great gulp of air, and then you stride into the room, keeping a measured pace with long strides – bit not too long that you seriously risk tripping over or walking into something unseen. It really is not too bad – not until you pass through the door. As soon as you cross that threshold, the smoke gets noticeably thicker. When it starts to go up your nose, you pinch it shut. But when it comes for your eyes, all you can do is squint … which unfortunately does not provide any relief to your eyes, instead it just concentrates the irritation into the thin strip left open to the smoke. Moving through this mess, you can instantly tell that this is not just wood smoke – there is a real chemical bite to it. Not only can you smell … whatever the Hell it is, you can taste it too, even with your mouth clamp shut so tightly your teeth are grinding into one another.

But despite all of the unpleasantness, somehow you are making good progress. It is all thanks to the fire in the center of the room – it burns bright enough to cut through even the thickest of the smoke. It is also a great help that the floor is relatively free and clear. There has been some debris here and there that you had to stumble your way around, as well as plank that gave way a little under your weight before you snatched your foot back, but beyond that you have been able to keep moving forward without wasting any time. As you draw closer to the fire, the smoke gets thicker and blacker, but at the same time, you can also sort of start to make out what is burning – it looks to be some central piece of equipment. Obviously, with all of the explosions you have been hearing throughout the Refinery, you are not going to get too close to it … but on the other hand, you cannot afford to put too much distance between you and it.

When you get as close as you dare to the self-immolating machine, on impulse, you look backward. All you can see is your shadow cast onto a rolling wall of gray smoke, two or three strides distant, with a tiny pinprick of white light from where your pocket lantern is courageously and fruitlessly blazing away over your breast. You can just barely make something out that you think might be one of the pieces of equipment along the sides of the room – out of the dozens that you know for a fact are there. And somehow, you cannot see the door behind you.

As disheartening as your current situation is, it is almost enough to make you turn back when you realize that you are not going to be able to see if there is another door on the other side of the room, not until it is way too late to turn back. In fact, simply walking around this burning hulk of tanks and hoses could be fatal. To keep your bearings, you are going to need to end up exactly on the opposite side of the machine.
Thanks for the kind words you two. They mean a lot.

Close. Macrobia was an independent ally and key trading partner to the south - a genuine peer, not a tributary or dependency. At the height of the relationship between the Empire and Commonwealth, Macrobians were considered a brother-race to Romans, making them eligible to become Subjects or even Citizens. There was an Emperor, Aulus Vitellius Macrobius Imperator Augustus, commonly called Vitellius the Black, who was half Macrobian - he holds the distinction of being the first (and only) Emperor who was born outside of the Imperial borders. During this time, there were even temples built to the Patternmaker for the small Imperial population that had moved into some of cities on the overland trade routes between the Commonwealth, the Empire and the tributaries and rump-states in between them. However, it was the presence of these temples that eventually set Macrobia and the Empire onto a collision course. There were several other events that happened around this time - including the first appearance of the Strangeness - that completely reshaped Imperial society and politics, for good and for ill.
You start circling around the machine. As you do, you try not to think about how your odd of retracing your steps and leaving the room out of the only exit you know for sure exists is decreasing with every footfall, every adjustment you make for the floor underneath you that you can barely see with all of the smoke. You hope that once you get on the other side of the blaze, you will be able to better see where the Hell you are going, but you are not holding out hope. In the short time that you have been in this room, the sting in your eyes from the smoke has gotten so damned bad that it feels like someone has slit your peepers open with a blade dipped in vinegar. You are pretty sure you are crying because of it, which considering that all of your bodily emissions are guaranteed to be carrying the Strangeness after all of the casting that you have been doing tonight is really fraying bad.

But at the moment, you cannot do anything about it. Besides, if it is just a few drops, then odds are it will be overlooked as some discharge or something – if it is even found. And that is assuming that there is going to be a Refinery for the Inquisition to search through. With the ways things have been going tonight, you are not going to count on that. Still, it feels so wrong, just ignoring the earliest and most important lessons – the ones about dealing with communicable Strangeness. You feel compelled to cover your eyes, to try to dab them dry. So strong is this compulsion, you have to physically stop yourself from lifting your arm or your hand up … though now that you think about it, it probably also has to do with how much they are hurting at the moment as much as it does to your training.

You keep your left hand out in front of you, and your right hand is pinching your nose so tightly that your nostrils and your fingers have both gone numb. You just have to keep moving, there is no time for distractions like this. Focus!

The machine, or whatever the Hell the thing is, it is not really that large, but when you factor in the berth you are giving it, on account of the fear that it might blow … it takes longer than you would have figured to work your way around it. Worried that you are wasting precious air, you are about to lengthen your strides and pick up the pace when you realize that would be the absolute worst thing your could possibly do at the moment. While you can tell where you are relative to the fire just by feeling the heat rolling off of it, the only way you are going to be able to judge where you are relative to the rest of the room is if you keep the length and speed of your strides constant as you work your way around. At least, you think so. You are not certain. But you certainly are not throwing out the closest thing you have to a strategy, not at this point. You are committed.
By the time that you are finally reaching what you estimate to be the half-way point around, your lungs have started to burn as well. You are not sure if it is just them being deprived of air, or if some of the smoke got in there before you thought to pinch your nose shut. But you cannot allow yourself to worry about that. You cannot even allow yourself to so much as think about it. Your completely undivided attention has to be on the next four or five steps you take here. Even if you managed to get your position perfect, if you mess up the direction you will miss the door – assuming, of course, that there is a door. Which – no, no you need to focus, it is coming up.

You take the last two strides, then allow yourself to come to a stop. Using the fire and a mental map of the room, you position yourself as best you can. Once you have your heading, you look up. You are looking into the black void of your shadow, surrounded by the larger gray void of the smoke. The pocket lantern is barely doing anything, to the point that you instinctively go to shut it off to save fuel – until you remind yourself once again what the stakes are here. Let the damn fuel burn. At this point, if it had the chance of helping just a little, you would burn all of the oil on this wharf, then come back to burn the wharf itself. And if it turns out that you were wasting it, that it did nothing? Then fray it all to pieces. Why should you worry about it?

No sense in leaving anything for the next idiot, huh?

Damn it all! You cannot think like that. And you certainly cannot stay here. Move! For the Maker’s Mercy, move!

Your feet are moving underneath you before you even realize it. You are getting to the point where you are worried that your body is going to try to take a breath on its own. Your head is starting to throb at your temples, and for the first time, you notice that you are light-headed. Where your strides up to and around the fire were tight and deliberate, now they are looser, sloppier. Part of you wants to tighten them up again, and part of you wants to break out into a sprint. Your visibility is getting worse – you have moved so far away from the flames, everything has gotten noticeably darker, to the point where you can no longer distinguish your shadow. On your way over to the machine, you could at least sort of make out the other pieces of equipment along the walls, but now … nothing. You consider looking back over your shoulder to see where the flames are, but you decide against it, worried that you would somehow get disorientated in the process. As you keep moving, your light headedness becomes more and more akin to dizziness, which considering that your life depends on you walking in a straight line …

And your chest – before, it hurt. Now, you would call it agony.
There is at least a silver lining to that, though. The one thing that you are certain of is that you have kept your mouth and nose shut up as tight as a worm’s ass, so whatever you are feeling in your chest right now, if it is getting worse, then it has to be the effects of air deprivation and not smoke inhalation, right? Well … now that you think about it, perhaps they are not mutually exclus–

You walk face first into something wooden, but before you can even form a coherent thought about it, it gives way … and you stumble through. Doggedly, you just keep moving, hoping that you keep your heading straight. Your lungs feel as if a pair of invisible hands have slid inside your breast and are wringing them both. Your strides now have all of the precision of a drunk derelict. For all you can see at the moment, your eyes might as well be shut – for all you know, they are. And your head – it has gone from tension at the temples and a touch of light headedness to feeling as if it has been hollowed out and it is in the process of being worked over with one of those steam-hammers.

And it is because your head is hurting so bad that it takes you so long for you to realize that the wooden whatever you walked through a moment ago was the door that you were looking for.

You force your eyes open, as far as they will go. They are burning like coals in a brazier, and it is hard to make anything out … but for the first time since you entered the smoke-choked room behind you, you can clearly make out the beam from the pocket-lantern. You do not know where you are, but at the moment the only thing that matters is that there is no smoke in this room.

You had clenched your mouth so tightly, that the simple act of just opening your mouth hurts. And as you take your hand off of your nose while you start greedily sucking down air in these quick, reedy-sounding breaths, you discover that you were pinching your nose so tightly that you started bleeding. And as dangerous as leaving blood behind is, at the moment you are beyond caring. You sit down, then, without even bothering to try to shift the swag in your dress over your shoulder, you just lie down on the rough-hewn planks. Blood pounds in your ears, but beyond that, the room is quiet as you recover. Quiet enough that you can still make out the firing merrily blazing away in the other room. Quiet enough that for the first time since you came down to Oiler’s Wharf, you can actually hear the waves underneath you. Maybe … maybe the Refinery is not as bad off as you thought?

Of course, now that you think about it, that is not a good thing. Well, obviously, yes, it is a good thing – as it stands, a lot of people have died tonight, and if things get any worse, then it is likely that even more will … but if the situation here stabilizes, then it seems inevitable that more people are going to be making their way into here, looking to help. That thought is enough to get you back on your feet.
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With your feet underneath you again, you start walking – or more accurately stumbling – your way into the room. As you do, you are alternating wiping your tears away from your eyes and your blood away from your nose on your shirt sleeve. Well, the dead Comptroller’s shirt sleeve, who you are even more certain after that horrific experience back there must have died of smoke inhalation.

What really gets to you is that, assuming you are right, and it was breathing in smoke and foul humors that did him in … is that he managed to get out, to walk away. Just like you are doing right now. Maybe. What the Hell do you know? You managed to cover all of that distance without breathing anything in. Did he? In fact, now that you think about it, considering where you found his body, and how many damned fires are all over this place, the odds are good that the smoke that killed him came from another fire … if it was smoke that killed him, and again, what the Hell do you know?

Still, it is a Hell of a way to go – being smoked like a fraying filet of salmon or something.

The unbidden thought that comes to you, of you and the Comptroller up on hooks in a smokehouse, is so gruesomely absurd that you have to laugh at it. Which makes you cough. Which somehow makes it all the more funny. Now, with the enormity of your situation here bearing down on you, it does not take long for you to recover from your fit of coughs and giggles, but by the time that you do, you feel like you are breathing somewhat normally again, for the first time since you charged into that mess. Your sight is continuing to clear as well, and by the time that you are on the other side of this room, pulling the largest bay door you have seen in the Refinery since you left the tower, you notice some writing on the wall, half obscured by supplies stacked against the same wall, which you have come to realize must be typical for industrial outfits like this.

You start pulling the crates and whatnot off of their neat stacks. To your surprise, the first thing you uncover is a pictogram, which appears to depict three Moon and Suns, fanned above a drop of fluid –presumably Lifting Oil. There is an arrow, pointing in the direction of the room whose door you have just slid open. Underneath that there is one word written in large, block text: Finishing. Pattern’s Perdition, you do not know if you should be raging or start laughing again. All this time, there were directions, but you could not see any of them, because the fraying idiots stacked their shit right in front of them.

Then again, perhaps you should not be too sore about this. Excluding the hallway that you step out into after the Comptrollers station, you have not actually had any real choice as to where the Hell you are going around here. At the very least, you now know to look for this. And now that you say that, it looks like there is another arrow right underneath the text.
The arrow is longer, but thinner, and with two heads, one right after the other. You pull a sack to the floor, then drag a crate away to reveal the second pictogram and text; a depiction of a bottle, and with the word Bottling written underneath.

You start to rock back and forth on your heels while you think about this, until you realize how much it hurts to move like that in your “second-hand” (or rather, second-foot) boots. But the discomfort is not enough to stop you from getting excited. You are so close! Maybe even just a room away from where the lifting oil is bottled. Now, of course, you do not know if there is any in there at the moment, but it is the first real lead you have had since you set foot in the Refinery. You shift your improvised sling so it sits more comfortably over your shoulder, and you plunge through the bay door, into what is apparently the room where the Lifting Oil is ‘Finished’ … whatever the Hell that means.

You are much more interested in finding the door, so you do not pay much heed to your surroundings in here, beyond the most cursory of glances. Still, this room is large enough that a cursory glance takes more than just a moment. There are about a dozen or so columns of interwoven pipe here – much smaller cousins to the ones in the tower, and without the machinery, junctions or catwalks that smothered the larger trio around the pit. There are also small copper tanks sitting in-between the columns, banded by pipes … which curiously enough do not seem to lead anywhere. They just end in dark holes, which sort of remind you of baby birds, aggressively sticking their open beaks out at their mother. Kind of unsettling, actually …

The lighting in here is not helping matters. The lamps, much like in the hallway before the smoke-choked room, seem to have been broken. The only light is moonlight, filtering in from the open vents on the roof above you. And there are only a few vents, which means that much of the room is shrouded in darkness. It is also damned quiet. Not exactly silent – beyond your footfalls, you can still hear the waves crashing against the piles underneath you, and in the distance, there is some intermittent noise that you can just barely make out. You assume that it is something falling or exploding, but you have no way of knowing for sure.

Just when you are starting to get frustrated, you see it – a small sliding door. If it were not for the faint glow around its edges, it would be very hard to distinguish it from the wall around it, at least in the relative darkness of Finishing. Immediately, you lengthen your strides and quicken your pace. When you get there, you are so eager to get through that you actually wrench the damned thing off of its tracks.

As soon as you had seen the door, your face had twisted into a predatory leer, but as soon as you step through, your countenance is wiped like a slate. The roof of this room is on fire – it is what caused the glow.
The room, a small connecting vestibule with cast pipes running its entire length, is completely bathed in harsh, shuddering orange light from the flames above, beaming down through the vents. Standing as you are in the doorway, you can even hear them, what you would judge to be no more than ten feet up, roaring and huffing and crackling away. At least, you hope the crackling is the flames, because if it is not, process of elimination means that it would then either have to be the roof itself … or perhaps the floor. Neither of which are attractive options. You stare up at the ceiling and the vents until your eyes start stinging again from the bright light of the flames, but you cannot see anything that looks dangerous. The floor looks solid as well, and you note that none of whatever is on fire on the roof here has fallen into the room through the open vents – which you judge to be another good sign. Running out of ideas, you lean up against the doorframe, and put your weight into it. It seems solid as rock … though your really did not expect anything else.

The room itself could not be longer than two hundred and fifty feet, two seventy at the absolute most. The flames on the roof, and the crackling especially have given you pause, but after coming to the conclusion that trying for any alternative route would necessitate going through the smoke-choked room again, you decide to take your chances once more. You start jogging towards the door on the other side of the vestibule, but then you realize your folly, and break out into a run. Your feet move underneath unseen, as for the whole time, your eyes are riveted on the ceiling. A third of the way through, for a moment, it sounds like the crackling is getting worse, but you write it off as nerves. That said, you still pick up your pace … until the sling of swag you improvised from your dress starts to shake loose, and you have to slow down to pin it against your hip to keep it from slipping loose completely.

As you approach the halfway point of the room, it occurs to you that there could have been another way into Bottling from … oh, what the Hell was the name of the room you just came from again? You do not realize it at first, but you start to slow down again as you try to think. There were a lot of dark corners in that room – and if there was another hallway like this one, except without its roof on fire to illuminate the door, then you might have missed it. Honestly, if you think about it, you barely spent any time back there, and to make matters worse, you went and pounced on the first thing you saw, assuming that there was not anything else in there to find. That is sloppy. That would be the definition of sloppy. You advert your gaze from the vented ceiling above you to look behind you for just a second.

Uh … you would say that you are already two thirds of the way across. So you can see no sense in doubling back now. For better or worse, you should just press –
Somewhere over your head, there is a crisp, sharp crack, loud enough that it completely cuts across the rest of the racket. Filled with a primal terror, you instinctively start running as fast as you can towards Bottling. As you run for your life, that wordless fear articulates itself into a single thought; that fire would not, should not, could not make a sound like that. Ever. You are panicking, you are staring at the ceiling again, you are sprinting, you are stiff and sore all over, you are mentally and physically exhausted … and you are tripping.

You are just able to get your arms out in front of you to keep yourself from getting a face full of splinters, but you still hit the planks fast and hard. The inkpot you stuffed into your pocket jerkin jabs itself straight into your ribs, knocking the wind right out of you. Gasping for air, you try to scramble back to your feet, but you are not quite able to get your feet under you properly, and you end up on the ground once more.

You are trying again to get up when the burning roof collapses with a soul-fraying groan. You do not see it happen; you do not even think to try to cover your head. In fact, you are not thinking at all – instead, you are still in thrall to the instinct to ‘run away’. You just manage a stumbly lunge back to your feet when the hammer-blow falls, and everything goes black.

When you do come to, you have no sense of how long you were out. It could have been minutes, just as easily as moments. Your head is in a complete fog, and you cannot see anything. Worse than that, you really do not have any sense of direction beyond a vague sense of up and down. It really feels as if you could be floating in a void. The first coherent thought through your head is to wonder if you have died and wound up in Dark Oblivion. At least, until you remember what you have done tonight. The lives you took. Those sins, on top of years of lesser trespasses … there is no way that you would go directly to Oblivion with all of that unanswered and unrepented for. Honestly, you would probably be lucky to get into the Heights. No, Maker’s Mercy, you are still alive.

You try to get your arms underneath you, to force yourself to your feet, but when you try to move them, you find that they are pinned. After a moment, you try to stand without their assistance, but you find that the rest of you is pinned as well. As your head continues to clear, you try to stand once more time. You do not manage to, but you are able to just lift yourself up enough that you can squeeze your left arm underneath you. And more importantly, straining yourself like this is orientating you. You still feel dizzy, of course, but things are getting better.

As you now focus on getting your right arm underneath you as well, your eyes start to adjust, and you can see that your face is mashed straight into the planking of the Refinery floor. There is also heat – even in the smoke-choked room, you were not this hot.
But just as you are finally starting to get your bearings, something – many somethings, actually – start clattering, and even though you are still pinned, you start to slide inexorably backwards, as if you were a mote of dust caught up in the bristles of a broom. Being dragged like this is painful, and you struggle to get your head off of the planks, lest you take a splinter through your cheeks, or worse, your eye. And as you strain your aching back and neck, so to do you strain your aching head, trying to figure out what the Hell is going on. This is not disorientation, no, you are moving. In fact, you are accelerating backwar –


Oh, no. Oh, Maker, please no.

Not backward. Downward. To the harbor.

The clattering of the woodpile that you are buried under, the remains of the roof which you now realize must still be burning – how else could you explain the heat – gets more and more insistent as you pick up speed. You start wrenching your arms in, contorting your back, desperately trying to get into a position where you could even try to lift yourself out of this, but it is no use. For all the fruits of your struggling, you might as well be transfixed with a pin. In an odd, out of body experience, you realize that you have started to scream – a wordless shriek of raw, unadulterated terror – but you have no clue as to when you started. You know that you should stop, but … the floodgates have opened, and you are as powerless as you have ever been.

A lifetime of lessons on the necessity of being and remaining hidden, drilled, and in some cases, beaten into you – in this terrible moment, all of them fall by the wayside. You articulate yourself somewhat and start screaming for help. None comes, of course. Anyone left in this portion of the Refinery is either as incapacitated as you are, or dead. Your agonizing, inescapable descent to the waves continues, and you start to cry, heedless to the danger of your tears. Or perhaps you were already crying, you are not sure. The only certainty here – the only absolute is that you are falling. Beyond that, your head is filled in equal parts with stupefying fog and quaking, black fear.

“Sorry! Sorry! I’m – I’m sorry!”

You do not know who you are apologizing to. The Comptroller you burned? The Guards you killed? The Strangeness-afflicted Coroners that you abandoned to the Inquisition? The Captain you robbed? The souls whose ascension from the Heights you impeded, if not prevented outright, by harvesting their bodies? The father that you were not worthy of? Or perhaps the Patternmaker Himself, who you are also not worthy of? But in your cries, you find a second certainty – you are most certainly sorry. You might just be the most sorry girl that ever lived.

Regardless, you are still sliding. And you are still stuck. You are still trying to free your arms, your legs, something, anything – but your struggling has replaced its earlier violence with numb obligation.
At this point, you do not think that you are going to get out from underneath all of the debris before they stop sliding and start falling. And once you get into the water you doubt that you will be able to get yourself out - and that is without hitting anything else on the way down. This is it, isn’t it? You are about to die. You are really about to die. And soiled with so many sins – with no way to cleanse yourself of them.

Pray. You need to pray. Now, while you still can.

“Please! I’m – please, I – please!”

While you are struggling under the pile, that is as articulate as you can possibly be. You cannot do both – you cannot struggle and properly pray at the same time. You are going to need to pick one or the other. To either rely on yourself, your wits and your strength, that you can still somehow get out from underneath this … or to entrust your soul to the Mercy of the Maker and let yourself slip from the realms of the Flesh, hoping that one last prayer is enough to escape the Pits. You have to choose. Right now! You –

Suddenly, the weight above you shifts and immediately becomes lighter. You are still processing this as your desperate flailing, which you had yet to give up completely on actually manages to get your arms free and underneath you, one right after the other. There is an exultant rush, as you realize that you can still fight. Wasting no time on planning or even further conscious thought, you press your back into the detritus above you. It feels as if you are trying to push a woodpile by backing yourself into it, but it gives. Makers Mercy, it gives. It gives and you stand.

You do not even remember the sprint to safety – one moment you were emerging from the burning pile, then next, you were in another large room, which you hope to Hell and back is Bottling. You are bent over, with your hands on your knees, breathing as if someone had just tried to drown you. Still out of breath, you start moving – not wanting to stay a single second longer in the place than absolutely necessary. Like Finishing, there are more machines in this room, though these look different from any of the ones that you have seen in the Refinery so far. That is promising. And when you see the racks of glass jugs, you almost collapse with relief. Most are empty, but some have filled and corked. You lean in, wipe your eyes, and in the darkness of the room, lit only by the moonlight filtering in from the vents in the roof, you read the label.

Gothorum Grade Flameless Lifting Oil, Quarter Short Ton.

Having found what you are looking for, you actually do collapse with relief, falling to your knees and choking down a sob. Less than two minutes ago – Hell, maybe even a minute and a half – you were about to give up. You –

You need to focus. So long as you are in the Refinery, you are in danger. Honestly, you should just keep repeating that to yourself, because apparently you have the brain of some silver-spoon coquette.
Poor Chlot!
You bolt to your feet. Just looking at the fat jug, bound with hempen rope, you can tell that it is going to be too heavy for you to carry out on your back. And you confirm this when you damn near drop the thing getting it off of the shelf and onto the floor. This is going to be too much to handle, at least, if you are going to want to be able to do any serious running or climbing while you are making off with this, which obviously, you do. After thinking about it for a moment, you decide that the best course of action would be to crack the jug open and use the lifting oil to reduce the load. Conveniently, there is a square depression at the top of the jug, like a tray in the glass, where you can pour lifting oil in so it will lift up without either spilling or ripping the bottle to pieces. That is, of course, assuming that you pour out the correct amount, and you do not slosh it around too much.

Before you pull the cork, you take off the belt that came with the breeches you stole off of the Comptroller, and you loop it through the handle of the jug to make a carrying strap. As you pop the cork, you realize that this bottle might weigh less than a Quarter Short Ton, which means that the bottle is going to try to fall upwards, possibly even faster than it would fall downwards under typical circumstances. Not optimal. But there really is not anything you can do about that. Short of finding some weights, you suppose. Across the room, there are actually some metal … parts? They look heavy enough, and they just seem to be lying around, half in and half out of crates. Probably spares for one of the machines – but you really would not know. You give yourself a few moments to mull that prospect for a bit, but in the end, you decide against it. You really do not have anything to secure any additional weight to the jug, and even if you did, you are worried that the more you have on your back, the more likely things are going to go wrong.

You break the wax seal on the doling cup and pull it off of the cork. All things considered it is pretty well made. It is not lead, lead alloy, or lined with lead, so you probably should not use it for any magical experimentation, but you could definitely see yourself using this later. Moving right along, you pry the cork out – which was in so damned tight you had to get your knives out to get the damned thing started. You use the doling cup to dole out your best guess for a safe application into the tray. Once it has been loaded in, you sit down on the floor right next to it, get the improvised carrying strap over your shoulder that you are carrying the satchel with, and then get the swag in your slung dress sitting as comfortably as it can. Satisfied as you are going to be, you use the pocket lantern to ignite the oil.

It should come as no surprise that it is actually pretty difficult to light flameless lifting oil, but after half a minute, you do get a wavering flame for your troubles.
Yeah. At this rate she'll never leave the Midden.
Within the same breath of the flame catching, it dies, but as it does, the red oil underneath it starts to glow, indicating that the effect is activating. As advertised, it is flameless. But it does billow smoke – and worse, it shoots sparks. Not substantial enough to start a fire, but if anyone was around, it could catch their eye. Careful to not upset the application of the oil in the jug’s built-in depression, you take your time, and very deliberately get to your feet. By the time that you are standing again, your fears – well, your concerns, at least – have been realized. It is floating – or more accurately, it is falling upward. Your improvised carrying strap is working for the moment, but currently, the jug is right behind your head, and the strap is digging into the pit of your arm, trying and failing to pull you up with it. For a second, you consider looking for something to place on top of the applied oil, to conceal the smoke and the sparks, but you are worried that it would either end up smothering the oil – if that is even possible, considering that there is no flame to snuff – or, more likely, that you would get activated lifting oil on the cover, it would be forced downward by the effect and in the process it would get the stuff everywhere … which as you saw what happened with the Ichor, accelerating debris in every direction when one of the columns went, is very, very dangerous.

You will just have to make do, though hiding from anyone is going to be a bit difficult with the sloshing, puffing and hissing jug floating right behind your head. But it is what it is. This is the smallest jug of any oil on the shelf here, not just flameless. Resigned to this latest complication, you start to head over to the side of the room with what you would judge to be spare parts for the equipment, weaving around a few of the machines in the process. As you had hoped, there is in fact a door – not a bay door, just a typical, everyday kind of door – right next to the pile. Now, perhaps there are directions written on the wall as well?

Wanting to keep things moving, you start tearing the stacks down. Some of the crates are open at the top, or are not nailed shut, and when you drop them, they spill their contents out onto the planks, with clattering and metallic pinging. Unfortunately, it seems that there are no instructions by this door. Looking through the door, you can see another room, large, but not so large as Bottling or Finishing. To your surprise, that space is still illuminated by lamplight, and from where you stand right now, you can see what appears to be the entrance to another hallway, on the other side of that room. Giving up on getting directions at least for the moment, you look down so you can extricate yourself from all the shit that you dumped down there. Right at your feet, is a busted open crate, and written on it, in chalk, are the words ‘prototype bearing parts’. That does not mean anything to you.
And at first, the balls that have spilled out from this busted box do not mean anything to you either. But as you start to look away, you notice how the moonlight is reflecting off of them, and you realize that these are steel balls. It is a casual observation, made in passing. Literally and physically – you are walking out of Bottling when this realization comes to you. And in your worn down and worn out state, you are striding into the next room, considering your choices of doors when you finally connect the dots.

Steel balls! Steel balls!

You whirl around and rush right back into the room, right back to where you were with the parts strewn on the ground. But once you get there, you force yourself to slow down. Cautiously, you go to your knees, making sure to keep the jug level. You probably do not need to mother hen the oil to quite this extent, but you do not want to take any chances here. But that is not what you are thinking about right now. No, your entire focus is on those balls. One of them had rolled over the small gap between the planks of the floor and had gotten itself stuck. You pluck it out and look it over. Just as you thought – it is exactly the size of the graven steel ball you pinched from Aldoin’s coffin. The same size as the ball that you, trying to be responsible, magically mitigated … not realizing that you were screwing yourself in the process. The graven steel ball did not just dump Strangeness into the coffin and the corpse – it was sitting in the Morgue for a day or two, and during all that time, there was nothing stopping it from spreading Strangeness all over the place.

Eventually, the Inquisition is going to find some of that Strangeness, and they are going to be desperate to trace it back to its source. Assuming they are able to – and you assume that they will – they will find out about the graven steel ball from the Coroners, and then they will want to exhume Aldoin, to take the artifact into their possession. Except it is not in the coffin anymore, because you took it out. So obviously, their suspicion is going to fall on you, as the last person to be alone with the coffin. And considering that you had magically mitigated the ball, it was not simply a matter of putting the damned thing back, because then it would be obvious that someone with magic had tampered with – and again, as the last person who had been alone with the coffin, it is going to be pretty fraying obvious that it was you, if you did do that.

You had thought about making a replacement – or a counterfeit. You would not have to bother trying to get the glyphs on the ball right, you could just deliberately misuse some of father’s equipment, and make another dangerously Strange steel ball. Obviously, the Inquisition would have no way of knowing the difference between a completely discharged artifact and a really Strange dummy. But with everything else on your plate, there was no time … but, if you already had the ball ...
Still on your knees, you stuff the steel ball in one of the pockets of the great coat, then grab the half dozen other steel balls that are in your reach and cram them into the same pocket. As you rise to your feet, your head swims with the possibilities. When you gave up on making the decoy graven ball earlier, you were effectively accepting that the Inquisition would eventually come after you – a terrifying prospect. The softly clinking and clattering mass in your pocket represents a potential out … assuming you can get the dummy made and planted into Aldoin’s coffin before the Inquisition has the damned thing exhumed. Which is not necessarily guaranteed. And Maker’s Mercy, is your time already tight. You were hoping to leave comfortably before the seven days that father gave you to leave the Mount, but it was already looking like you were going to be cutting things close. Throw this into the mix –

Ah, damn it all. You need to stop counting birds in the bush. Get out of here in one piece, with the oil before you start planning your next move. You rise to your feet and hustle your way into the next room. While this room is comparably sized to Bottling and Finishing, it appears to be empty. There are spaces and, in some spots, holes in the floor, where judging by the presence of disconnected pipes, equipment had clearly been located at some point. Currently, however, these are just dark pits, openings into the levels underneath the Refinery. For all you know, there might be a way out down there, but given the choice, you would stay out if you could.

And for now, it looks like you are being given the choice. In fact, you are being downright spoiled! Not counting the prospect of way out through the sublevels, or the door you just passed through to get into this room, there are two ways out of this room. A hallway, and a side door. You decide to take the hallway, based on nothing more than the hope that there are directions painted on one of its walls. You cross the room, walking around the pits, as well as parts of the floor that seem to have been cordoned off at random … until, as you pass one, you notice that the floor inside the line is sort of sagging. Pattern’s Perdition – if this portion of Refinery had weak floors before all of this started, then you are really going to have to watch your step here.

Giving the undermined portions of the floor a wide of a berth, you make your way to the hallway. As you approach, you realize that this is the first hallway that you have seen in the Refinery that was just a hallway. No supplies stacked alongside the walls – and no mounted pipes either, though here and there you can see spots where brackets for them might have been at some point. The other thing you notice is the smell. After running through the smoke-choked room, you have been smelling nothing but soot and blood from your nosebleed. But now, those overpowering smells have themselves been overpowered.
It almost goes without saying that it is chemical. You have no idea what chemical, but … Saints and Stars, how it reeks! You have not even gotten out of the hallway when your eyes start to tear up, and you start coughing a bit. By the time you are actually in the room, you have stopped coughing, but your eyes are watering to the point that you are basically crying. As you do what you can to keep the Strangeness in check, you survey the room. Completely covering the entire floor is a faintly steaming sludge. You can sort of see what look like channels in the odiferous shiny black mass, and it takes you a moment or two to realize that they must be caused by the sludge slowly – snail’s pace slowly – pouring through the spaces in the plank flooring. Just how thick is this stuff? And for that matter, just how heavy?

Like the room on the other side of the hallway you just came through, this one is basically empty, which when considering the weight of the sludge, is a definitely for the best, especially if portions of the Refinery here were unsound before tonight, as you fear. But without any machines or tanks in here, it does beg the question: where did all of this shit come from? While you look for a potential safe route across - or better yet, around – the morass, that question nags at you. Perhaps the explosion of the big pump and the collapse of one of the columns in the tower forced this stuff further into the Refinery somehow? That sort of makes sense, you suppose, but then again, what the Hell do you know?

Well … you know that nothing about this room looks safe. There are brackets on the wall, like in the hallway behind you, where pipes were once suspended. It looks like they are close enough together that you could work your way across the room on them … but all it would take it one of them failing, and you would be falling straight into the sludge. It does not look like that it is actually that deep – the leading edge that you can see about four yards ahead of you looks to only a matter of inches thick, maybe a few more once you get deeper in – but obviously you are not going to fraying walk through this shit.

You are starting to get a little dizzy from the black humors in the fumes. When you realize this, you are frustrated enough that you could slap yourself. What manner of senseless lunatic just stands around, breathing like a fraying bellows around whatever the Hell this mess is?

You are not thinking straight. That much is obvious. You have been burning the candle at both ends after all, for nearly two days straight now. You make a split-second decision to write this room off, and you hoping for a better egress, you retrace your steps out of this room, through the hallway, and into the large, empty room right outside of Bottling. Now more comfortable moving with the jug tethered to you, you allow yourself to pick up your pace, to make up for lost time as you head to the side door you saw earlier.
Is this the longest update in any quest ever?
some of the forum quests are extremely longwinded, I've seen updates in the 20k word range
But when you get there, you find to your surprise that the door has been barred shut from this side. Curiously, the drop bar has been nailed into the frame, though it is relatively trivial to pry the thing off using the chipped pin-stiletto. However, when you try to push the door open, you are flummoxed to find that the door must be barred from the other side as well. Equal parts frustrated and curious, you wrap your arm around the floating jug of lifting oil and pull it tight against you to keep it steady. Once you have it secure, you set about kicking the door down. The boots you stole off of the dead Comptroller clearly were not made with this in mind, and by the time that the door breaks open, your toes feel as if they have been run over by a fraying wagon. Further indulgence in self-pity is cut short though, when you see just why the door was sealed shut.

The room on the other side of the side door is a smaller version of the room you just passed through – holes in the floor where machinery presumably once was, regions of the floor cordoned off, and brackets on the walls where pipes once hung. However, there are two differences – or three, counting the size of the space. The first is the … you are not even sure what you would call it, but it looks as if it is a catwalk, suspended from the ceiling, but made just for pipes. The second is that while that the floor in the room you were just in had spots where the floor looked as if it might be sagging, in this room, there are spots where the floor looks as if it might not be sagging. It is an absolute mess. You can clearly make out where the supports are – and are not – based off of the height of the floor. And those are the best portions of the floor. There are swaths where it looks like there are not any supports underneath anymore, and the floor slopes into these little depressions, and there are even portions where the floor is just gone. You are not sure if it was removed, or it fell away after whatever exactly happened here tonight, but either way, this looks to have all the makings of genuine deathtrap. You would have to be crazy to trust that floor – just as crazy as you would have to be to spend any serious time in the room with the sludge.

But perhaps you do not need to trust the floor. You turn your attention back to the pipes suspended from the ceiling. Getting up on those pipes would be trivial … if you were not bone tired and loaded down with swag. Still, you should be able to get up there without too much trouble, even encumbered as you are at the moment. The real question is once you get up there, is that contraption going to be able to hold your weight?

Mulling it over, you feel pretty sure that it should be able to. Clearly, this portion of the Refinery was being repaired or something. It looks like everything that was unsound was removed – so it stands to reason that the pipes up there should be able to bear your weight.
Figuring that you have spent to much time not making any progress, you make a split-second decision. Crossing this room on the overhead pipes has to be safer than trying to climb along the walls of the room with the sludge. Of course, just because this option is safer, it does not necessarily follow that this is safe. The hallway into Bottling looked solid enough, even with the ceiling on fire, and look how that ended up. The relatively light wooden frames around the vents were enough to break the floor underneath you. These pipes look like they are cast iron – thick cast iron. If those pipes were to fall, then you would bet good money that they would punch clean through to the harbor. But on the other hand, if they are so heavy, then it stands to reason that their supports must be really strong as well, right?

That thought makes you marginally more comfortable about attempting this – which is going to have to be comfortable enough. Before you start your climb, however, you need to check to make sure that there is enough lifting oil left in the depression on the top of the oil jug. If the oil was to run out while you were crossing the pipes, it would be a matter of seconds before the jug started to fall normally. The carrying strap you improvised out of the belt you took off of the dead Comptroller is enough to keep the balance of the weight in check, that is the two hundred pounds of lift, less the actual weight of the jug and oil. But you doubt that some belt is sufficient to hold the actual weight when the effects of the oil eventually peter out, no matter how bright the buckle or rich the leather is.

To safeguard against this, you are going to have to ‘top off’ the lifting oil, while you still can. That is easier said than done, considering that the jug is currently floating (or more accurately, falling upwards) directly behind your head. But eventually, you manage to press the base of the jug solidly into the floor with one hand, so you can get the provided doling cup free. It was actually more difficult to pour the oil into the cup, considering. At one point, you actually slipped, and the jug started to accelerate directly towards your face, though luckily you were able to get your hands around it. You ended up spilling more lifting oil than you actually used to refill the reservoir, but it was probably a couple dozen drams lost at most, and you have gallons left. With the oil once again smoking and sparking merrily, you carefully stand up, easing the jug back into position behind your head. Now all there is left is to actually cross the damned room.

The brackets, where other pipes were once were suspended, make the climb up to the remaining pipes, the ones you are going to cross over on, almost trivial, even encumbered as you are. Unfortunately, once you get up to the pipes, and climb up on top of them, everything gets much, much more difficult.
The most obvious issue is how little room there is up here. Now, admittedly, you are six feet, four inches, but even a more typically sized man would have to stoop down up here. And from the ground, you could not see that there were brackets and supports hanging down from the ceiling right onto the bridge – or whatever the Hell you want to call it – in addition to the supports that you saw from floor. You are forced to take it slow, to pick your way around these obstacles. Additionally, there is not a lot of light up here, but bent over as you are, you are not comfortable using your pocket lantern, for fear of lighting yourself on fire. But all of these are just frustrations. The danger up here is the pipes themselves.

Now, you could be forgiven for not knowing that these pipes would be slick and wet. All of the others you have seen tonight looked to be dry, and you had figured that these pipes were disconnected, as all of the equipment nearby had been removed. And because you had assumed that these pipes were disconnected, you could also be forgiven for thinking that they would not be uncomfortably warm through your pilfered, uncomfortably tight boots. Or that here and there they would be venting steam or smoke or whatever through little nubby valves, coincidentally right at the height were the leather of the boot ends, where all you have between the lancing heat and your skin are your relatively thin stolen breeches. You tried getting the great coat you are wearing in-between you and the blasts, but when you did it ended up obscuring your feet, which you knew right away was just tempting black luck.

But as dangerous – and painful – the venting is, you can forgive yourself for not considering it, just like the slickness and the heat. What you cannot forgive yourself for not considering is just how difficult it would be to walk on pipes. Pipes, by dint of being fraying pipes, are round. And when they are as large as these are, that means that even when they are right next to each other, there is a fair amount of space in-between them. More than enough space for you to accidentally slip into, or to twist or roll your ankle with.

As you are bent at the waist, the improvised haversack you have made out of your dress has shifted to your front and is lightly slapping against your knees as you make your way along the bridge. And the jug – that miserable fraying bastard – it is still trying to fall straight up, so you have to bend even lower to make sure that it clears the ceiling and any low hanging brackets or protrusions. Ever single time it tings! against anything, your heart goes straight into your throat, worrying that the application of oil in the jugs depression is going to get messed up. And finally, as you are in such a relatively enclosed space, you cannot help but breathe in some of the smoke that the lifting oil is cooking off. Ironically enough, it is making you feel lightheaded.
But you keep your head down, looking carefully studying the pipes in front of you as best you can in the lousy light. Still, you are starting to entertain the idea of turning back … when you almost run into the wall. Pattern’s Perdition, that was almost something out of a fraying pantomime. As you descend to the floor, you cannot help but nervously laugh. Despite being a miserable experience, you made decent enough time on the crossing, and in the process avoided the figurative (and potentially physical) pitfalls of this room. Once you are back on the floor – and you are satisfied that the planks under your feet are sound, you take a moment to look at how the oil on top of the jug is holding up.

It is pretty good – in fact, there is so much oil left that you are not comfortable pouring more in, out of the fear that you would tempting sloshing or spilling. Sticking close to the walls of the room, you make your way to another door. Like the one on the other side of this room, it is barred and nailed shut, so getting through it takes more than a little bit of doing. When you finally manage to get through, you find yourself in a large, exceptionally long room, with copper tanks all along the wall. Many of these tanks are smoldering, billowing smoke from their tops where they join with large pipes coming down from the roof, venting steam in all directions from the nest of pipes underneath them. Several are glowing, possibly starting to melt, and two of those are leaking sludge. Not a lot, mind you, and the room is large enough that the smell is as overpowering as it was in the other room, but it is bad – and it is getting progressively worse.

But what really scares you is that the sludge leaking from these tanks is burning, And you are not sure if it is a different type of sludge then the stuff you ran into before, or if it is more … dribbly or whatever the technical word is because it is on fire, but this stuff seems to be slipping through the floor, while the other sludge was thick enough that it mostly stayed put, above the planks. For all you know, it could be lighting the piles of the wharf on fire at this very moment. Of course, you would hope that the supports of the wharf are fireproofed, like the floors and walls of the Refinery seem to be, but … you do not know. And you would hate to find out the hard way if the entire place just collapsed on you, especially when you have to be so close to an exit … and of course, while there are no doubt still survivors and rescuers in the building and on the Oiler’s Wharf.

Having learned your lesson from the hallway with the burning ceiling, you start running through the room. As you get closer, you notice that some of the tanks seem to be filled over capacity, as they are trembling and spurting intermittent streams of the sludge from their tops. In fact, there is a bank of them up ahead that look like they are still being filled up.
One of those tanks, one of the two in this room that are gushing sludge from the nest of pipes underneath it, looks like it might be starting to buckle. Frighteningly enough, you can hear the metal groan, even over the loud retorts of your footfalls as you run by. You allow yourself to run just a little bit faster, but you are still not at full tilt, not even at a sprint, for fear of what would happen if you got the application of oil on the jug messed up.

Still, your long legs and reasonably fast pace chew through the room, and before you know it, you are approaching the center of this space, the entirety of which is a platform, elevated about six inches off of the floor of the rest of the room. In the light of this room’s lamps, you can make out pipes underneath the platform, all of which seem to converge on some machine on top of the structure, with what might be the single largest valve that you have ever seen. The thing is large enough that it has handles, and unlike any of the other equipment you have seen here tonight, it has been painted a bright, glossy red.

Out of an abundance of caution for the load floating directly behind your head, you slow down as you approach the platform – you do not want to mistime your hop up and trip, after all. As you do, you notice something else unique about the valve. It is labeled, both with pictograms and with actual writing. You cannot quite read it from where you are now, so you adjust your path and swing closer to the machine out of curiosity. As you draw closer, and you make out the pictogram – bells and lighting, perhaps to indicate alarm, next to what looks to be a depiction of steam or some gas whistling out of the tap – right above the words Master Emergency Discharge, painted in commanding block text, you notice two other things. The first is that one of the lamps – which in this room are hanging overhead, as all of the space along the walls have been given over to the tanks – has fallen directly onto the machine. Blessedly, it seems that either the fall extinguished its flame, or it was not able to catch anything on the platform, and it petered out. The second is that that there appears to be some sort of sign, under glass no less, nestled in between the valve and the machine.

After studying the ceiling and the nearest tanks for any indication of danger and finding none – the tanks that are the worst off are ahead and behind you – as you approach the center of the platform, you cannot help but let your curiosity get the better of you. You slow down to a walk, and head over to the sign. And for an establishment that has relied so heavily on pictograms, it is surprisingly wordy.

In the event of a fire, employ the Master Emergency Discharge, unless the Regulator’s indicator rod is at full extension. In such an eventuality, do not under any circumstances use the Master Emergency Discharge.'
Your stomach churns as you look at the sign. Recently, the Firmament has been presenting you with a lot of opportunities to help people – no doubt because it would be in your best interest to make amends after all of your trespasses and transgressions – but you have been running away from all of them. You had the opportunity to help the Coroners who were exposed to the Strangeness from the Graven Steel Ball, but you walked away, scared of the risk. Right after the destruction started, you had a chance while everyone was distracted to search for survivor, and potentially give them some life-saving succor. But again, you refused, because again, you were scared of getting caught. And the one time that you actually did help, when you freed those blinded survivors, you did not see it through by walking them to the exit, because – surprise, surprise – you were scared. If the route that they were on to the Chemical Station was half as dangerous as the route you took to Bottling, then those men are probably dead.

But now! Here and now is a situation where you can help! And there is no risk – no reason not to. The words that Hortingea spoke to you, the words that you are now certain were placed in her mouth by the Patternmaker Himself, echo through your head, loud enough that you fear you might start shaking. Desperate to make amends, to prove to the Maker – and yourself – that despite everything, you are a good and clean soul, worthy of Wisdom, you practically throw yourself at the valve. But before you can start turning, you remember that you need to check the indicator rod – whatever and wherever that is.

From the sign, you would judge that the machine next to the valve is the Regulator. You hope it is, otherwise, you doubt that you would ever be able to find it. Resolving to learn more about the instrumental sciences, you look the device over, trying to find something – anything – that could the ‘indicator rod’. The Regulator was really clobbered when the overhead lamp fell on it, and it seems that your first impression – that the lamp did not light anything on fire when it came crashing down – is not entirely true. Swathes of the machine show scorching, and now that you look closely, you can see where parts of the lamp have been jammed in between parts of the Regulator.

When you finally locate what you believe to be the indicator rod, located in an alcove on the machine’s upper housing, you find yourself getting more anxious, not less. You have no idea what ‘full extension’ looks like, and from the way that it was worded on the sign, you have to assume that the consequences of using the discharge when you are not supposed to is pretty damned dire. What if it is at ‘full extension’ right now? What if it was, and then the lamp falling knocked it back?

Well … you think you have a way to test for one of those. You grab the rod in your Strange-Stained glove and try to pull up on it.
Easier said than done. You have such a hard time getting the rod to budge that for a moment you thought that it might actually be at full extension, until it finally gives way and starts moving – albeit in fits and starts. You actually have to brace yourself against the housing of the Regulator and pull with all of your might to finally get the indicator to its full extension.

So, the Regulator is currently indicating that it is safe to open the valve. But it comes back to the question of the falling lamp. While there is nothing to indicate that the rod itself was hit by the lamp and pushed back in, the irregular action of the rod worries you. Is it possible that simply the impact of the lamp caused something to break inside the Regulator, causing the rod to retract?

No that – that seems like a bit of a stretch. But then again, with everything at stake here …

You stare intently at the machine for several seconds, fruitlessly willing the contraption to explain itself to you before a distant thud behind you somewhere snaps you out of it. You need to keep moving. Which means you need to make your decision, right now.

Fray it all to the Pits. The rod says it is safe. There is nothing definitive indicating that the indicator or the Regulator itself is not work exactly as intended. Open it up and pray for the best. You turn to the valve and after a quick silent prayer, you throw your back into it. At its size, and with multiple sets of handles on it, you would wager that opening the damned thing is supposed to be a two-man job – at least. So, you figured, that as one solitary woman, you were going to have a hard time of it. That turned out to be an understatement, to put it mildly. It takes just about everything that you have left – and it feels like you nearly pulled both of your arms out of their sockets in the attempt, but just as you were seriously thinking of just walking away the valve finally started to creak open.

Encouraged, you set to your task with renewed vigor as the creaking changes to shrieking. When the platform underneath you starts to shake, you recoil away from the release valve, only to see that it is now spinning itself open. From above you there is a rumbling noise, and fearing another collapse, you run away to the far side of the room. The pipes above and below the tanks all start thumping and jumping, and oddly enough streams of water start to fall from the ceiling. At this point, you have forgotten your fears about messing up the application of lifting oil you have on the jug – you are sprinting. Sprinting as fast as you have ever run. There is a door ahead of you – closed. You do not have the presence of mind to slow down to open it, or to position your shoulder to charge through it. You just run straight at it, outstretching your arms at the last moment to try to push it open. Blessedly, the door is unlocked, otherwise you would have almost certainly hurt yourself.
And double blessedly, the door was tall enough for the jug to pass through without striking the frame, otherwise you might have lost all of the oil. The room on the other side of the door is yet another hallway, and with your footfalls pounding against the planks, you tear through it, only allowing yourself to slow down as you approach the far end, out of the hope that you will find directions painted onto the walls, as you had elsewhere. But unfortunately, this particular hallway has pipes running all along its walls, so there is simply no space for any signage. Frustrated, you keep moving. Once you are through the door, you finally allow yourself to slow down to a jog – partially so you can better scan the area for more directions, and partially because you are just about out of breath.

Though you manage to catch your breath quickly, you are not able to catch sight of anything that could be a sign. Once you are convinced that there is nothing to find, you turn your attention to this new area that you have found yourself in. Lit by overhead lamps just like the room with the tanks, this one appears to be something of a warehouse, though here and there you can see what looks to be equipment – or rather, the remains of equipment. Boxes, barrels, sacks and other odder vessels were all stacked high in this room. Emphasis on were. Nearly all of those tall piles were felled like a tree by the explosion or its aftershocks. What paths there once were through this place have now been obstructed.

There is nothing for it, you are going to have to pick your way across this fraying mess. Stifling some particularly choice oaths, start to move towards the center of the room. As you had feared, it is painfully slow going – figuratively, and your new too-tight boots, physically as well. In the back of your mind, there is a nagging fear that the floor underneath you might just give way under all of this weight, or that everything crashing together in here has mixed things that are best not to be mixed, or something.


After the time you have had here, is it any wonder that you are expecting the worst?

But as you continue to push through this mess, nothing happens. The floor – or the ceiling, for that matter – is not falling on you. There are no fires and excluding the wisps from the lifting oil, there is no smoke in here either. There is even barely any sound in here, beyond the sounds of debris shifting underfoot and your exertions. Of course, it does not follow that this is some stroll through a pleasure garden. As someone who has been climbing for as long as they can remember, you know full well the importance of having sure footing, which is basically impossible to find on a pile of splintered wood. After two minutes you are not even a stone’s throw away from the door and you have jabbed more times than you care to count. You will probably have a forest worth of splinters in you by the time you are through.
You continue to grouse, until it suddenly occurs to you that there could be men buried under these piles. Right now, you could be climbing over a corpse, and you would never know it. It is a sobering thought, though not half as sobering as the one that follows, that perhaps this could have been the ultimate fate of the blinded survivors you cut loose.

You know that your mind is just needling you, just like you know that you really did not have much of a choice with those three. If you had walked them all the way to safety, you would have not only risked being seen by rescuers, but there would have been a very good chance that the men would have picked up that something was wrong – that their savior had no idea how to find their way around the Refinery, or that they sounded somewhat feminine for a Refinery worker. You cannot fault yourself for walking away from them, after clearing off that hatch. It was perfectly reasonable.

So then why is this tearing up your insides? You try to push it out of your mind, and focus on moving … but climbing over practically endless piles is mindless enough that doing that is easier said that done. You sigh and try to distract yourself by wondering what time it is, and thinking of what else you could do tonight … which leads to you thinking about how much you need to do before you can leave the Mount. And that is really overwhelming, so to distract yourself from that, you go back to thinking about those men you sort of saved.

It takes a half-dozen or so piles worth of climbing, clambering, shifting and sliding before you think you have an answer. Two answers actually. The first is fairly obvious. You do not know what happened to them, and in absence of any concrete knowledge, your admittedly guilty conscience is going to castigate you with malign musings. Of course, those men are not the only ones with an unknown fate. You have been doing a good job keeping your father out of your mind while you are plying your trade here, but … no, no you cannot do this to yourself. Not while you are still on the wharf – in fraying imminent danger of being seen, or worse, getting caught.

That resolution does not last though – the going is simply to slow to prevent your mind from wandering.

The other reason that you came up with was that you ended up in the middle ground, between the practical and the moral, with none of the benefits of either but some of the costs from both. The smart, or the practical thing to do would have been to walk by. You were making a leap of faith that these men were blind. And even if they were, what if someone who was not saw something, or found something, and then connected it somehow to these men getting sort-of-saved. Contrarily, the good, or the moral thing to do would have been to see them to safety, regardless of whatever risk it might have presented to you.

In the end, you took the middle road, which at the moment seems to have been the worst of three.
Half measures and compromises. Just where the Hell have they gotten you? But perhaps you should not be so hard on yourself. You are in over your head, and you are doing the best you can – or at least trying to do the best you can.

More than anything, you just want to talk to father again. He would tell you exactly what to do, and then that would be the end of it. No worrying, no fretting and definitely no second-guessing … which is basically all you have been doing since he woke you up five days ago to tell you that he was going out on –

Pattern’s Perdition, you need to stop this bellyaching before you give yourself a fraying ulcer. To keep your mind occupied, you pick up your pace, moving faster and faster over the rubble. You are really starting to exert yourself, and you are well on your way to collecting that forest worth of splinters, but it is worth it to keep you head screwed on right. You keep moving, only stopping once when you find a relatively stable dell in the detritus so you can reapply the lifting oil. Single minded. You need to be as single minded as an old mare with blinders on.

This focus serves you well, because before too long, you have found another door. Or rather, the top third of a doorway, as the door itself is unaccounted for, presumably blown out by the collapse of the supplies, and two thirds of the doorway is buried under strewn-out supplies. Reinvigorated, you make your way over, stoop down, and stick your head through.

For an embarrassingly long moment, you mistake the alley for yet another hallway, until you turn your head to the right and in the distance, looming out of the night and over the black harbor is the Mount, with the Promontory wreathed in fuzzy yellow lamplight. It is always a beautiful sight, but tonight, after what you have been through, seeing it is enough to move you to tears. You are not speaking figuratively, either you actually started tearing up and had to rub your eyes raw to get them to stop.

After making sure that Strange-Staining was only activating on your clothes and nothing else, and that the coast (or rather, the harbor) was clear you set yourself to safely getting the jug of lifting oil extracted from the doorway. You manage, though the smoking and sparking seem to have picked up a little bit – perhaps the sea breeze?

You follow the jug out, and you cautiously stand up. You can hear men running around, and the occasional order being barked, and while the is great sense of urgency, nothing in the words or the tone of those orders indicate panic or desperation. Is … is it over? Has this disaster been taken in hand?

Well, ‘over’ and ‘in hand’ are probably too strong, but you would guess that those men giving the orders do not believe that there is any more imminent, or at least acute danger. Which is wonderful, except that it puts you in the same tight spot you were in when you first got here.
Ah, out! out! At last. Not home yet, certainly not safe yet, but out of the Refinery.
I was planning to catch up with the thread when there was a choice, so as to be able to read the update all at once.
That proposition has become very daunting.
After this, lets...do the opposite of how we agreed to handle the huge updates and lots of choices before those updates. It is probably wiser to go back to voting on a choice and then receiving a modest update, with it being longer depending on the context and importance.

At this rate the thread will fucking fall off the board before we even get all our updates for our previous choices.
I absolutely love this update. Just the meme of it will be hilarious to troll the other quests on.
From the gate to the first Refinery, there was decent concealment along the edge of the wharf provided by stacks of supplies. However, right after that, there is just this wide-open space in front of those massive bay doors. As you can already hear and even see men moving around over there, you know that you have no chance whatsoever of sneaking out that way. So, if that is out, then that means you would need to find some way to get back to where you were when all of this started, that horrible little room with all of the pipes, and then retrace your steps to leave the wharf. But that means getting back in the Refinery, which … you would sooner trepan yourself then go back in there.

What else is there? The service scaffolds underneath the wharf? No, heading underneath sounded dangerous before … whatever exactly happened tonight happened. You do not know if the scaffolds are still down there, let alone strong enough to hold your weight.

You blow air through your teeth in frustration as you resign yourself to going back inside the Refinery. Before you do though, you try to judge where the room you just left ends and the tall room with the columns begins. You look all the way down to the corner of the Refinery, trying to compare that distance with your shaky mental image of the room. Unsure about it, you turn around, and intending to get the full breadth of the space. To your shock, nestled between the wood-and-steel hulks of the Refineries, is an open gate. From your position, it is hard to see, but sort of looks like there is something on the other side of it, some sort of … path? Is there another way off of Oiler’s Wharf?

It is hard to constrain yourself. You want to just run right over there, but you need to remember that you are no longer alone, there are potential witnesses everywhere now. Though you do make your way as quietly as possible, you do have a serious spring in your step as you do. It is a long way back there, and by the end of it, you are praying that you were not seeing things.

Blessedly, you were not. From the ass-end of this ‘alley’ there is a spur off of the wharf back to Stickport, where shabby houses and shabbier warehouses sit, beckoning you hither. You have to actually stifle laughter, as you nervously look back over your shoulder to make sure that no one has spotted you. Satisfied, you return your attention to the crooked little pier. The thing does not even have railings, so the minute you step out of the ‘alley’, you are going to be completely exposed. You fervently scan the shoreline, looking at each and every one of the houses that you can see. Many of them, despite the late (or rather, the earlier hour) have some of their lights on, which makes sense – something as spectacular as the destruction here would obviously draw onlookers like moths to a flame.

The question is, how many of those moths are going to look away from the flame and towards this stretch of pier?
You look over your shoulder at the sputtering, floating jug. The smoke has gotten a little better, but you are noticing now that the sparks are putting off quite of a bit of light. You are not sure if it is enough to be seen from the houses and tenements however, which are closer to the crude avenue of the Lower Boardwalk than the actual harbor. There is an exception to that, the housing for the Refinery workers that you passed by earlier, but from here those buildings look like they have been evacuated. For a few moments, you seriously consider smothering out the oil, and just carrying the jug across … but not only would you still be out in the open, and as such, conspicuous, it would take several times longer if you had to carry it. And that is assuming that you could carry it. It has been a long, long night, and now that you are not moving, you are realizing just how much of a mess you are at the moment. You are tired, you are hungry, you are thirsty, but above all, you are battered and sore.

It would be a fine way to end the night if, just as you were about to get clear, your grip failed, and you dropped the oil into the bay. You almost laugh at that. Almost.

So instead of smothering the oil, you take this opportunity to recoat the depression on top of the glass with the provided doling cup. As you do, you continue to scan the shoreline, looking for any other sources of potential witnesses. But by the time that the oil has been reinforced, you cannot see any. Instinctively, you know that if you are going to take this route, you should do it sooner rather than later, before anyone comes down this alley, trying to get into the Refinery through the door you crawled out of. As a final precaution, you wrestle the jug out in front of you, just in case if anything were to go wrong, you would have a chance to recover.

And just like that, there is nothing else left but to leave.

You pass through the wrought-iron gate. You would prefer to run this portion, to be done with it, but … grappling with the jug and running seems like a recipe for disaster, so you have to content yourself with a brisk walk. Still, the twin to the gate you passed through, the one that sits on the other side of this spur from the shore is getting closer and closer by the second. The smoke from the oil is tickling your nose, but compared to the fumes you were dealing with earlier, you barely even notice.

So … what do you do next? Well, obviously you want to get back to the Midden, but … Maker’s Mercy there is so much to do. You could take the time to start moving tonight. You doubt that you would be able to finish, but you could get a head start. Then there are the steel balls. With a little bit of effort, you could turn them into a ‘replacement’ graven ball, to plant into Aldoin’s coffin. Maybe, just maybe, that would be enough to keep the Inquisition from looking for you.

Or … you could go to Aldoin’s house.
Going there would not get you out of the Mount any sooner, nor would it improve your odds of making a clean break. In fact, it would be the opposite. The first time you went there, you were followed – at least until you got up onto a roof and started running for your life. If you get caught up in whatever is going on, forget making clean break, you might not even leave the city alive. But at the same time, the odds of you managing to reunite with father seem slim, and look to be getting slimmer by the second. And even though you have no way to know for sure that father was involved with whatever happened at the house, it still is the best lead you have as to what father was doing, and by extension, where he might have gone. In fact, if you were being realistic, it is the only lead you have. The apartment –which again, you have no way of knowing if it was connected to him or not – has been Leadfired, along with the rest of the building and any hopes of you finding anything there. And the cock-pit – which not only do you not know if it was actually connected to him somehow, you do not even know which fraying cock-pit it was – has been seized by the Inquisition. Four fraying weeks ago!

Which, now that you think about it …

Father is an exceptionally cautious man. If he knew that the Inquisition had seized one of his constructs, he would have insisted that the two of you pack up and leave immediately. So, then that has to mean that he either did not know about the Inquisition finding his constructs … or they were not his constructs in – no, no what are you saying. If he knew that the Inquisition found anything that was made out of the same ‘materials’ that he works with, regardless of if he made the thing or not, he would have wanted to leave.

So, he must not have known. Which seems to indicate that was not actually his construct … and in turn, that means there would have to be at least one other Witch living in Scrimshaw Mount, as the Master Abbot described the construct as being recently made, and in such matters, you would be willing to trust his judgement. Stars and Spheres, just what you need, something else to worry about. And without any more information, that is really all you can do about the prospect. Worry.

Honestly, maybe you would be better served just spending what little time remains to you tonight taking care of yourself. Eat something. Take a bath. Try to salvage your dress. Sleep. Oh, Maker’s Mercy, wouldn’t that be wonderful? For just a few hours? You have another night – actually, depending on how you count your seven days, you could have two. And if you keep burning the candle at both ends, things are not going to get any easier for you. And they certainly have not been easy to start with.

What is stopping you from just deciding to say ‘fray it’ and indulge yourself is the fear that you might not have another night. And if you wasted that precious time –
I cannot believe that it took me this long, and I still have not even finished this update. I am never, under any circumstances, going to let this happen again. If there is a vote, or a set of rolls, then the quest stops until I write it up properly, even if it takes me a week.

So, to makes sure that I get the attention of all of the players who are still willing to deal with this nonsense, I am going to make a new thread, and put the final post (posts?) in there with the vote. To prevent bloating up the archive, I will copy this entire thread over to the new thread, and then I will archive the new thread as ‘The Graverobber’s Daughter V’, even though it will be ‘The Graverobber’s Daughter VS’ … which I now realize is probably going to confuse people, because most people do not know about fractional roman numerals.

But whatever. All you need to know is that there is going to be a new thread up, if not tonight, then tomorrow. And the last bit of the update and the vote will be in the new thread. I’ll take care of the rest. Hope to see you there!
Thank you for your work QM, regardless of your feelings.
I would prefer you keep this thread, if only for posterity's stake. That's not to say that you shouldn't do what you want to do, you should. Maybe make this a fraction of the previous thread instead, but I think keeping this would be better than not, simply for the fact that it shows your dedication and commitment to the quality of this quest. It isn't wrong to try experimenting with the formula of your quest, it's just in this case that the experiment didn't pan out as anyone expected. No harm, no foul.

Regardless, thank you for your work and dedication QM, I appreciated reading the snippets ever now and then as you were tackling this update. See you in the next thread mate!
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[Spoiler] It would have been pretty sick if Trash just banged out the whole update in one sitting- no proofreading- but that kind of thing only happens once every millions years or so, when the sun doth shine, and the moon doth glow, and the plants doth grow. [/spoiler]

You are a champion. Thank you!
New thread is up! I decided that I will archive this thread after all.
Based! History will be preserved and the memes will flow!

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