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You are Charlotte Fawkins, dashing heroine, detective, adventuress, heiress, sorceress, etcetera. Three years ago, you drowned yourself in a quest to find a long-lost family heirloom; nowadays, you're just nobly c̶a̶u̶s̶i̶n̶g solving problems with the help of your trusty retainer/swarm of beetles Gil. Inexplicably, many people "dislike" you, though you've never done anything wrong in your life.

Right now, you and your adventuring party (Gil, Lucky, some guy named Arledge) are attempting to rescue your kidnapped frenemy Madrigal, but appear to have wound up at a pagan festival in the distant past. You and Gil have obtained lemonades.


"So when you drink that," you say, "do you taste it everywhere?"

The crowd is thick, the sun is high, and the air smells of grease and wet paint and salt. You can't imagine how Gil isn't hot under his big rainslicker, but he seems to be managing. Maybe beetles don't feel the heat so much. Or maybe it's the lemonade— he's drained nearly the whole cup. He's coughing most of it back up in response to your question. "W- what?"

"Um, I was just thinking... you're drinking it with your person mouth. But you're— you're— you're not drinking it with the rest of your mouths. So do you taste it less? Do they taste it too? I don't—"

He pushes up his tilted glasses with a knuckle, then peers bewildered into his coat. "The rest of my mouths?"

"Your beetle—"

"My beetle mouths." He blinks. "I-I-I don't... um... I don't know. I-I'm not usually both at the same time. Should I try and...?"

"Yeah, go for it." You stick one hand in your pocket and watch him sip lemonade in a state of deep concentration. "Is it weird to be both at once? I mean, both the beetles and—"

Gil swallows the lemonade. "No, i-i-it's— it's nice. Um, I wish it were always like this, sort of. I feel really..." His finger taps against his cup. "This whole place i-i-is really nice, actually. Everyone's so happy..."

You are passing down a row of chintzy pay-to-play games— the prizes, from your cursory glances, appear to be offerings. Or maybe replica souvenir offerings. This hasn't dissuaded winding lines from forming. "They're not even real," you say. "And— and if they were real, it'd just be their dumb dead gods tricking them into it. And their stupid lemonade's too sour, anyhow." You've been taking tiny little sips.

"...Are you sure you're okay?" You feel his gaze on you and stare resolutely straight ahead. "Um... I-I-I didn't think it was too sour. I think they just used real lemons. Or, well, 'real'—"

You scoff. "What the hell's a real lemon? I think they just used the cheap—"

"Like the— like the fruit? I-I-I think they had all the kinds of fruit back then—"

"'Lemon' isn't a fruit. It's a flavor. That's like saying..." You wave a hand. "'Pear''s a fruit, or something. Have you ever seen a pear?"

"Um, no, but—"

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"See? It's exactly like that." You pity Gil's middling education. "They probably just used the cheap powder. But I really wouldn't expect anything else from a bunch of blood-freaks."

"Yeah..." He hasn't stopped looking at you. "Um... I-I only taste it in this mouth. By the way. The lemonade. But i-i-it's not really different from how I taste, um, anything else..."

"Oh. Really?" There is nobody to explain this phenomena to you. There's something hard in your throat. "That's interesting."

"I-I-I guess so? I-I think it's just— I don't know how to— it's not like there's nothing different about me. Um. Obviously. But there's a lot of things I-I-I thought was about being beetles that was really just about being, um—" He takes a short breath. "Trapped and stuff. And now that I-I'm out of there, it's really clear it doesn't make much of a difference at all? Like, i-i-it's... it's still me. Inside. Exactly the same. I-It's just the outside that's... what I-I-I'm trying to say is that I think I could dunk myself in the cup of lemonade instead and I'd taste it the same as..."

You're not listening. You are staring listlessly into the distance. Gil swivels his empty cup. "Lottie?"


"Can you at least tell me i-if something happened with Richard? You don't have to explain..."

There is nobody to tell you how unsubtle you are. Not that you need to be told. You nod imperceptibly.

"That sucks," he says. He swivels the cup some more. He looks down into it, then crumples it up, then tosses it roughly into the crowds. "Somebody needs to give that guy an ass-kicking."

You giggle high-pitched and uncontrollably. Gil falters. "Because he... he shouldn't... um, I-I-I know he's your dead dad, but I still think..."

You giggle harder. Your throat hurts. Your chest hurts.

"Okay, um, maybe I-I-I don't know anything. I-I just think it sucks. Um, sorry. And- and I-I'm sorry about the beach, that sucks too..."

What he means is the past 15 minutes: lemonades in hand, you had forged out toward the ocean (an obvious and suitable location for which to rehydrate your best worm Annie). You never reached it. The short stretch of sand only got wider the more you walked on it, and the water more distant, and the hated sun hotter and brighter, all the way until you took one pause and it all snapped instantaneously back into place. You decided about then to aim for Plan B.

You take a deep breath to quell the giggling— any longer and it's going to turn into a whole unladylike spectacle. "It's— that wasn't you. It's the dumb manse, or whatever. And I think we're almost there anyways, so—"

"Oh shit!" Gil snaps to attention. "Oh, I-I guess we— I guess I—"

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It was a lucky thing a map of the festival grounds was posted right up near the beach, or you might've had to settle for whatever water source you found first— a dingy storage tank, a drink dispenser, (God forbid) a public toilet. Instead, Gil traced a squiggly blue line from its ocean source up through rows of stands and booths all the way to a big bold star: 'TEMPLE FALLS,' it was labeled. And in smaller print: 'SACRED.' You liked the sound of that.

So the buskers' cries and the grease-smell have fallen away, and so you and Gil and your third-rate lemonade have walked into a very different part of the festival: one with manicured gardens and informative signs and the persistent rushing sound of water. There's still plenty of people milling about, but they skew more contemplative than the throngs behind you. The stone path slants heavily upward. If you stopped and turned around, you're sure you'd have a great view of the ocean.

It'd all be good and pleasant if you didn't hate this place. If- if something in you didn't hate this place. You itch. Your leg trembles. God! You guess you're on temple grounds now, and everything's exuding paganness? What a horrible world the past was. But you're not calling off Plan B, chiefly out of spite, also because you have no Plan C. You are going to rehydrate Annie in the stupid sacred waterfall, God-damnit, not some stupid piss-tank. She deserves better. You deserve better.

You peek over at Gil to see if he's similarly righteous-looking and instead find him lost in thought. Is it worth jostling him out of it? You need an ally, damnit. But you round a bend, and before you get the chance to say anything you've locked eyes with a pert namebadged woman.

"Hello!" says Kenzy Certified Liaison. "HappyGodsdayandwelcometothetemplegardens. Weaskthatyouhonorthisspacewhichmeanspleasenolitterpetsorloudnoises. Ifyouareinterestedinleavingofferingswehaveacollectiontable—" Deep breath. "—overthereifyouareinterestedinotherservicespleasereadthesignsandifyouareinterestedintheFallsweareopeningthemtothepublictodayonlyoneatatime—"

You understand a good third of this. Did she say— "The falls? They're here?"

"Thattheyarejustoverthere—" She gestures.

The path has led you into a wide, pretty glade, tiled with cobblestone and dotted with velvety blue tents. Each and every one has a line, but the longest line of all snakes around the glade and out of sight down a different path. You're not immediately sure what it's for— it appears to feed into an area blocked off by a gate and a square set of walls— but the now-roar of water, the mist wafting off the top, and Kenzy Certified Liaison's pointing finger all help explain. Damn. Can it ever be easy?

"How long's the line?" you say, at the same time Gil says "Who gives this much of a shit about some waterfall?"

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"Couldbeseveralhoursasweonlyallowindividualstopreservethespecialnatureoftheplace," she rattles off at you, and "Itiswidelybelievedthatstandingunderourtemplefallsbringsgoodfortuneforthecomingyearsoasyoumayimagineitisawidelypopular—"

You heard 'good fortune.' "Fantastic. Need some of that. Okay, Gil, let's get a—"

"Teddy," Gil says.

Whatever. "Okay, Teddy, let's get a move on."

"To that line?"

You hesitate. "Uh—"

>[1] Maybe? Sort of? It depends. You definitely want to get in to see that waterfall, though.
>>[A] Well... yes, the line, but not the whole thing. Work out a way to sneak midway in, hen spend the waiting time forging the SACRED BONDS of COMPANIONSHIP with Gil.
>>[B] It's just a wall. Climb the wall. [Difficult roll.]
>>[C] Attempt to magyck your way out of this! The best solution by far. It'll probably even work. (Gaslighting? Communing? Seancing with Richard? Write-in what you do.) [Possible roll.]
>>[D] Tell Kenzy Certified Liason that you've gotten some god stuff in you by accident and need it exorcised ASAP, ideally via waterfall. (It's not even a lie!) Then cut the whole line.
>>[E] Write-in.

>[2] Forget the waterfall for now: you need to get your bearings first. You'll look less suspicious if it looks like you know what you're doing. What's going on in these tents?
>>[A] Stand in the line for the 'PROGNOSTICATIONS' tent.
>>[B] Stand in line for the 'ABSOLUTIONS' tent.
>>[C] Stand in line for the 'INTERCESSIONS' tent.
>>[D] Stand in line for the 'EVAULATIONS AND EXTRACTIONS' tent.
>>[E] You're not standing in line for random things! Ask "Teddy" exactly what kind of dumb pagan things are going on here. (And what a Certified Liaison is.)
>>[F] Write-in.

>[3] Ask Kenzy Certified Liaison stuff before you do anything. (What? Write-in.)

>[4] Write-in.
Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! Nothing special to report, except that I may run this thread a week longer than usual to fit everything in, then take two weeks off afterward for finals. Still TBD on this, plans may change if I'm burnt out or busy.

One a day, occasionally more if the first one was short. There may be sporadic half-updates (no options) if I start writing too late in the evening, sorry in advance. I am in the PST timezone.

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

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

The MC has a pool of 13 Identity ("ID"), which may be considered both HP and the measure of her current sense of self. It may be lost through physical, metaphysical, or emotional damage. It may be regained through write-ins, designated options, and at reasonable narrative points, including sleep. It may be spent on a flat +10 bonus to rolls, as well as on more elaborate metaphysical effects. Dropping to 0 ID is bad.




>Ask the characters (or the QM), get a drawn response

This quest is a loose sequel to the original Drowned Quest, which ran for eight short threads in 2019. Reading the original may help with context in very early Redux threads, but ultimately is not required.

>I have a question/comment/concern?
Tell me!
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You set about recruiting your rescue party: Gil, Eloise, Monty, Lucky, and Annie the giant worm. Gil is pleased to be included, but you're unable to convince him that the wings he built aren't excruciatingly embarrassing. Meanwhile, Eloise is unsure how useful she'd be, and is even more concerned about Monty coming along-- she sees him as fundamentally unstable. She offers the potential services of an unnamed acquaintance of hers. Lucky is also dubious, and attempts to strong-arm you into making this a Wind Court-led mission. You manage to avert this, then supervise the release of Guppy from custody, bringing her to Monty so he can deal with her. Annie is the trickiest of the options, as the last time you got in touch you also went totally feral, so you opt for the much safer option of conducting a divine ritual with no testing or experience. Richard is unable to substantially help, and your feelings from the previous night (and, well, the past few weeks) boil over. You force him into the persona of your father, who then convinces you to ritually murder him. You do. It works.

Somewhere else, Madrigal Fitzpatrick awakens in a vat of goo: she has been kidnapped by accident, and Pat explains she'll let her go after the experiments with the snake are concluded. Unsatisfied with this, Madrigal resolves to escape the facility as soon as possible, explores a little bit, tests her goo body, and passes out on a couch.

Now flush with ill-gained power, you put Annie under your sway, then meet with Gil, Lucky, and Eloise's acquaintance Arledge inside the destroyed Namway facility. You learn that Arledge is a "magician" (some kind of hardcore pagan), and that he and Lucky have past beef. You also barely manage to restrain yourself from not murdering him: it appears that the Wyrm doesn't like the guy much.

Somewhere else, Madrigal is left behind with "Lester Six," a failed clone of Pat's boss/boyfriend who believes it's the real deal. She occupies herself with teaching Lester Six blackjack, an excruciating process, then cheating to let him win every time. After discovering Lester Four, an even more failed clone, she settles a dispute between them over who's the "real Lester" by setting up a blackjack tournament. Fortunately, Pat interrupts this before it gets worse. Madrigal interrogates her about various topics, including Ellery, then sees red after learning he's shacked up (and broken up) with another woman while in hiding. She's sedated by Pat and wakes up in the lab, where she awakens some sort of psychic link(?) with Matches the snake. She sleeps.

You plummet through the destroyed facility on the back of Annie straight into a sea of discarded goo, which reforms itself into a darkened pagan temple... with the exit door inside. You attempt to [OPEN] it, but instead open the whole temple into a religious festival in the distant past. Gil, more lucid than you are, finds you.
>TO-DO (Completed goals and solved mysteries: https://pastebin.com/3Q3nPDis)

Immediate goals:
- Rehydrate Annie the worm
- Find Lucky and Arledge
- Power up the door in the temple

Short-term goals:
- Use, extract, or otherwise deal with the Wyrm stuff you got going on
- Work with Gil to break into Ellery's manse
- AS MADRIGAL: Escape Pat's manse

Long-term goals:
- Rescue Madrigal
- Procure permanent, non-melting body for Gil
- Convince Gil that he's actually magyck, or give up on doing so
- Cure your [SUNSTROKE]
- Regain your missing memories (...some of them)
- Find the Gold-Masked Person and their snake, reclaim the Crown
- In the meantime, continue collecting and storing Law (4/16)
- Make friends??? More friends? You don't know if Gil counts now

- Who or what drove Ellery into self-imposed exile?
- Who or what is Namway Co. and Headspace Corp.'s “Management”? What did they want with the clone of a snake?
- What kind of company(?) did Richard work for? What is its endgame? What does it want with you?
- What was Richard actually like, behind the whole... dad thing?
- What is the meaning of Jesse's spiral tattoo?
- Who is Horse Face investigating, and why?
- Who is the Gold-Masked Person? Why did they want your Crown? Where are they now?
- Why is Ellery going around assassinating people?
- Why was Henry going on like you knew the all the cult GS already?
- Okay, seriously, why is everybody talking about the apocalypse now?

Ongoing assignments:
- Inform Eloise (and the Wind Court?) about anything you discover about Namway Co
- Escort Eloise to Hell (...maybe)


Don't forget to scroll up and vote!
>>>[D] Tell Kenzy Certified Liason that you've gotten some god stuff in you by accident and need it exorcised ASAP, ideally via waterfall. (It's not even a lie!) Then cut the whole line.
>[1] Maybe? Sort of? It depends. You definitely want to get in to see that waterfall, though.
>[C] Attempt to magyck your way out of this! The best solution by far. It'll probably even work. (Gaslighting? Communing? Seancing with Richard? Write-in what you do.) [Possible roll.]
>Write-in what you do.
>[4] Send "Teddy" to hold us a place in the line, then wander around the tents, starting with "PROGNOSTICATIONS"

it looks like they try to fit us into people who are the best match, so hopefully this will help us find the matches for Lucky and Arledge

Lucky is probably some kind of atheist at this festival, while Arledge might be one of the staff
Rolled 2 (1d2)



>Some level of interest in all the tents

I was planning to do a quick [2E] update and let you guys revote if desired w/ the new info, but I've been out and about all day and ran out of time. I'll just tack it on to the start of this update instead. For now, flipping between gaslighting and tents.

You'll start with Prognostication per >>5441334. Writing in an hour or two.
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>Tent time

"...Maybe? Maybe. Still concocting a, a brilliant plan for the— do you know what's in those tents, by any chance?"

"What?" Gil spins around to look. "Um, they have signs on them?"

"I can read, Gil, I just don't... I don't..." Your furious waving is met with a blank stare. "It's all pagan... ask him!"

"Him? Who, Richard? I-I-I— oh." He pushes up his glasses. "Um, i-if you're sure it's the only..."

"I did it last time."

"Nobody asked you to," he mumbles, but squares his stance. He breathes deep—

"You don't know what the tents are? They have signs on."

"I know," you hiss. "I literally just— oh." The transition was subtler than you expected, but the man staring at you isn't Gil. He doesn't recognize you. "I- I- know, the signs are just— they're weird, alright? They're in weird fancy letters, they—"

"It's the same ones every year, lady," Notgil says. Teddy says. "Have you never been—"

No, Teddy, you're not hundreds of years old. God. "Just tell me."

He raises his eyebrows unkindly at you, but shuts his eyes and points at each tent in turn. PROGNOSTICATIONS: "They tell your future. Sort of. Not usefully." ABSOLUTIONS: "If you've got something to get off your chest, you tell them. Supposed to be good for you." INTERCESSIONS: "If you need a favor done, you tell them, it goes on a great big list, and supposedly that gets sent off to the Eight. Never did anything for me." EVALUATIONS AND EXTRACTIONS: "Sometimes people get it in their head that they drank some funny-looking water or met some blue-eyed naked lady on the beach and now they have some bona-fide spark of divinity riding around in them. Usually don't, but these people will sit there and check it out and take it out if need be."

"Take it out?" You touch your own chest. "That's— but, I mean— why?"

"Causes ulcers." His voice is impassive. "Maybe. Allegedly. It can attract more attention than it's worth. And it's, you know, the right thing to do... if you care about that."

"The right thing to—?"

"There's only so much god to go around. Do you want to be the one to take the last of it? Better to recycle."

"...Uh-huh," you say. "And- and you keep saying 'they.' Who's they?"

"The liaisons?" (You give a 'I dunno' look.) "Do they not have those wherever you're from? They're the point people, the middlemen, the—"

"The clerics!"

"What?" Teddy shakes his head slightly. "They— you can't expect to talk to the Eight on a normal day. They're busy doing... god things. So they have people selected to do all the busywork. Like that." (He gestures to Kenzy Certified Liaison.) "And those." (The tents.) "Normally it's a pain in the ass to even get ahold of them. You have to go through their liaisons. But it's Godsday, so—"

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"Right. Right. All I needed to kn—"

"Oh, thank god." Teddy snatches his glasses off and scrubs at his eye. "I-I-I thought you'd have more questions... or you'd want me to really go into detail, or... whew. I-I, uh, I—"


He replaces the glasses. "Yeah?"

"Oh." You process. "That was really easy? I didn't have to slap you or—"

"Yeah, I-I-I, uh... I've been staying sort of lucid while I... you know." He glances down. "So did that help? Did you decide?"

"Um, the tents sound..." Extremely pagan. But very magyck. You battle yourself. "...interesting. I think it'd be useful to know, um, the future..."

"Aren't we the future?" Gil says.

You hadn't considered this. "Yes? But— but I still think it'd— whatever. Maybe we're not. Or maybe that'll still come in handy? It doesn't matter. That's the plan."

"...And we're doing the waterfall? Not doing it? I-I thought the plan was..."

"Good idea." You snap your fingers. "You stand in line, I'll go receive premonitions— nay, prophecies— of vital importance. Indeed. This shalt goeth forth as... um... yes."

Gil stares at you.

"So go stand in line! I'll catch up with you when I'm done."

"Aw... um..." He shifts. "I-I-I mean, I guess that makes sense..."

"It's your sworn duty," you prompt.

"Standing in lines? Sorry. Um... could you... could you at least..." He thrusts his hands suddenly into his coat and comes out with a teeming palmful of beetles. (They're different than usual, mottled green and beige.) "So I-I can know what's going on? I mean, I won't know, but he'll, um..."

You squint down at the proffered beetles. "I guess?"

"You just need to keep them real contained until he separates, or they're gonna try and head back over to me..." Gil's voice is getting progressively weaker. "Um, i-it's like a magnet... you know magnets?"


"Oh. Um, I-I-I think you better just..." He pours the beetles into your waiting arms. "Okay. Bye."


He hurries off across the glade while the beetles in your arms lurch after him. You clamp down to stop them and, after a moment's thought, cradle the whole ball of them against your chest. Then, thinking harder, you stiffly unbutton a pocket, scoop up the few escapees, and stuff the ball inside. You button the pocket back up.

It periodically thumps and squirms, but you pay that little heed as you too head across the glade and slip into the "PRECOGNITIONS" line. It's only after a wan "Aw, shit" trickles out that you startle, glance toward the waterfall line (Gil is out of sight), and unbutton the pocket.

"Thanks..." The beetles from your pocket sound uncertain about that. "I-I-I don't know why I suggested this. It was dumb. I-I should've just stayed in the line like a, a, a normal person, not a—"

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"You can't complain now," you say irritably. "You're here."

"I-I-I know, I just... am I in your pocket?"


A long pause. "That's fucking humiliating."

What? "...No? It's... why? The rest of you's over there, and he's not pocket-sized, so what's the—"

"Exactly," Gil says morosely.

You're unsure how to deal with this and fall silent. The beetles huddle in your pocket for a while, then creep up to hide inside your collar. The line inches forward— fortunately, it wasn't long to begin with, and you push the tent flap open in short order.

The PROGNOSTICATIONS tent's interior is cluttered with all manner of dangly thing— beads, bells, garlands, the tiniest strung-up electrical lights you've ever seen— and is so richly perfumed you cough reflexively. The liaison(?) inside is seated cross-legged on the ground. Neatly laid before him are a shallow bowl of clear water, a small clean blade, and a towel.

"Come in and sit down," he says. "Happy Godsday."

If they try to do anything to you, you remind yourself, you are filled with— with— stuff. So they can't. You are invincible from all pagan trickery. "You too," you say, and sit down on the empty cushion.

Certified Liaison Draven looks intently at you. His eyes are blue-ringed. "And what may I help you with today?"


"The gods themselves could not divine a single path forward, and neither can I. The future is multifarous. I can only report what I find more or less likely. So what troubles you?" His fingertips skim the bowl of water. "The more specific you're able to be, the more specific I am able to be."

>[1] Um. Okay. Throw something out there you want divined. (Write-in.)
>[2] Don't just throw something out there. Is this even real? You're not in the past— you proved that with the beach, if it wasn't obvious already. The sea-gods aren't *alive.* Ask something to suss out this place's underlying mechanisms. [Roll.]
>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Don't just throw something out there. Is this even real? You're not in the past— you proved that with the beach, if it wasn't obvious already. The sea-gods aren't *alive.* Ask something to suss out this place's underlying mechanisms. [Roll.]
>[2] Don't just throw something out there. Is this even real? You're not in the past— you proved that with the beach, if it wasn't obvious already. The sea-gods aren't *alive.* Ask something to suss out this place's underlying mechanisms. [Roll.]

>hey bro u arledge? arledge in there? helllloooooo?
>>[2] Don't just throw something out there. Is this even real? You're not in the past— you proved that with the beach, if it wasn't obvious already. The sea-gods aren't *alive.* Ask something to suss out this place's underlying mechanisms. [Roll.]
Cool! I need dice.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 12 (+10 INHABITED, +2 Bugged) vs. DC 75 (+25 ???) to attempt to peek behind the curtain.

Spend ID or SV to improve your odds? You may spend 1 ID for a +10 to all rolls (you are currently at 8/13 ID) or 1 SV to autosucceed. You are currently at 3/? SV and may not regain it without appropriate sacrifices or rituals.

>[1] Spend 1 ID for +10
>[2] Spend 1 SV for autosuccess
>[3] No spendy
Rolled 19 + 12 (1d100 + 12)

Watch THIS
Rolled 17 (1d100)

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17!!! LUCKY 17 BONUS!!!
We still have that, right?
Rolled 27 + 12 (1d100 + 12)

>31, 29 vs. DC 75 -- currently a Mitigated Success*
Rolling the last one and writing.

Yup, it's permanent! You just haven't been rolling any 17s... until now.

*[LUCKY SEVENTEEN: A roll of 17 always counts as a pass of the DC, regardless of what the DC is.]
>31, 29, 39 vs. DC 75 -- Mitigated Success
Jesus, starting the rolls off real strong. Congrats on that Lucky 17 proc.

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>Nah bitch
>31, 29, 39 vs. DC 75 — Mitigated Success

What troubles you? You can't answer that. And even if nothing at all troubled you, if your conscience were pure and stainless as your heart, you're still not sure you want your future... clarified. It'd probably be useful. You knew it'd be useful. That's why you came. But staring Certified Liaison Draven in the face, you just— you just—

The trouble is, you know your future will be great. Spectacular, even. And it feels much better if you don't know why or how it'll be great, you know? There's no complications if you don't know. No obstacles. You can just breeze on by to a bright and glorious new chapter of your— not chapter. (That sounds temporary.) New era. New epoch. Yeah. Things are looking up for you and Gil, in the short term or long term or both, and you don't need some stupid fake pagan man to tell you that.

You just, um, don't know what to say instead. You blink. "Are you... Arledge?"

"Pardon me?"

"Arledge? He's some... guy. He's sort of boring. He has a ponytail... he's pagan?" You are rapidly exhausting your storehouse of Arledge facts. "He chews on toothpicks?"

"He seems like a real character," Certified Liaison Draven says gently. "I'm afraid I've never met the man, though. Do I resemble him?"

Maybe? Their jaws are both sort of squareish, but you could say the same about any random man you plucked off the street. It occurs to you that C.L. Draven could very well be Arledge himself, giving off a bazillion telltale Arledgy signs, and you wouldn't know. You'd have zero idea. Damnit. If Richard were—

You feel the lump in your throat and stop that before you get started. Maybe you can ask Lucky to find him, whenever you find Lucky. If he doesn't find you first, you guess— you don't know how Courtiers react to weird manses. Whatever. You're not in dire need of him yet.

And Draven is still looking at you. "Uhh," you say. "Ye— no. Maybe. From a certain angle. It doesn't really matter. Can you use your fancy stuff to find out where I find him?"

"Where you're most likely to find him, you mean? Presuming you do?"

You fidget with your hands. "Whatever."

"Very well. Please give me a moment." Draven wipes his own hands on his towel, then picks up the small knife. He dips it carefully into the bowl, wipes the handle, and presses the dripping blade to his forehead. He says a string of words under his breath.

Then he presents the knife to you. "Would you kindly cut yourself?"


"I recommend on your thumb or the meat of your palm, though you're welcome to do so anywhere you feel comfortable. I will heal it after."

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You take the knife gingerly and look at it. (It is not the first knife you have held today.)(It didn't heal after.) The beetles nestled in your collar are clawing all of a sudden into your neck. Does Gil know what you did? He can't have. He must have something else to say. "One second," you mumble, and turn sideways.

Prying a beetle off your neck is easier than you expected, and you look down at it for a long moment— does it look back up at you? it's funny to think about— before brushing your hair back and lifting it up to your exposed ear. After a moment's hesitation it clambers on.


You're unsure if he's whispering or if his voice channeled through one beetle is just that quiet. How do you respond? Speaking would make you look dotty, nodding would shake him off... hmm. You settle for a brief flash of thumbs-up.

"Oh. Okay. Sorry. Um, I just... you can't give that guy your fucking blood. Do you not remember the— the insane monkey thing? With the mask? I-I-It wanted to kill you to get your blood? That happens all the goddamn time in manses. All the time. I guarantee this is the exact same—"

The insane monkey thing with the mask? The Usurper-King. You stare back up at Draven with new eyes. "Um, I can't— I can't cut myself."

He gazes back beneficently. "That's not uncommon. Would you like me to do it?"

You clutch the knife. "No! No. Um, I— I changed my mind. I have a new question. How will I get out of here?"

"The exit is just behind—"

"NO! No. That's not what I mean." You stand shakily, pointing the knife. "I mean here. All of here."

"...I'm not sure which way you came in, miss, but the ferry should run every ninety—"

"The ferry isn't real," you say.

Draven frowns somewhat at that. "Miss—"

"It's not. None of this—" You wave the knife. "—none of this is. It's a fake. It's a lie. You're lying to me right now, you God-damned piece of— you slug. You waste of thought. How dare you? Do you not know who I am?"

Draven is silent. Gil is twitching. "Lottie...?"

"I," you say, "am LOTTIE GOD-DAMN FAWKINS, and my future is the brightest thing you've ever seen. It's blinding, is what it is. It is going to scald your God-damned eyes out, and if it gets delayed by one second because SOMETHING trapped me in some STUPID-ASS LIAR MANSE, and tried making me think I was some negative-thinking BITCH, and- and SHRANK MY WORM— I'm not going to be happy! And I'm going to remember that. When my future comes, I'm going to remember that, and then—" You spread your hands. "Who knows? I haven't decided. Maybe I'll throw that thing in my snake pit. Maybe I'll pull its God-damned spine out with my bare God-damned hands. There's a whole multitude of possibilities!"

Some part of you is conscious that Gil has left you— that he's hovering conspicuously out of your reach, nearer to the tent door. Some part of you is conscious that you should lower your voice. Most of you has gone staticky and unresponsive. You are drawing The Sword on rote. "So? Are you going to tell me how to leave?"

It's not actually The Sword. You don't know why you thought it was The Sword. It is shorter and shabbier, really an overgrown knife, but some Claudia-flicker in your head called it Wyrmtooth. "The gods will protect me," Draven non-answers. He hasn't moved.

For some reason it's this that really sets you off. Even as you curl your fingers around Wyrmtooth's hilt, you are wondering— why? It's a normal, albeit pagan-y, thing to say. People in your novels declare it all the time. You don't say that, though. "The gods are SLAIN. Their corpses pour FILTH into the oceans. Your crass and decadent civilization is buried, drowned, and FORGOTTEN. RECANT!"

"I do not understand the likes of you," Draven says. "You would destroy everything... and for what?"

You boil and would overflow— your mouth opens, your arm raises— were it not for Gil's high thin voice. "Lottie!"

Lottie. Lottie. You— oh God! There is something red in your eyes and your sword hand and there is something red wrapped around your heart. There is something telling you— throbbing at you— that there is something inside Draven. That you can get it out if you—

Oh God! What are you doing?

>You are at 8/13 ID.

>[1] Finish the job. You have to. He's not real. There's something *relevant* inside him. Do it. [---ID, +SV +Info]

>[2] No! No. Oh, God.
>>[A] Knock him out. Knock him out and leave and tell the next people in line that he's on break. You can't be here. (Where do you go?)
>>[B] Feint for the kill to trick the red stuff, but actually go in for a [COMMUNION] with Draven. It might yield nothing, or nonsense. But if he's being puppeted by something... [Spend 1 ID.]
>>[C] Gil helped when you were the demony-lizardy thing after the tournament, and when you were the big snakey-thing in his mind's future, and— and— (God, what's wrong with you?) So he's good at coaxing you out of reptile-related murder-states! Ask him to help. Or plead. Or order him. Whatever works.
>>[D] Write-in.
>[2B] Feint for the kill to trick the red stuff, but actually go in for a [COMMUNION] with Draven. It might yield nothing, or nonsense. But if he's being puppeted by something... [Spend 1 ID.]
I like this Wyrm thing less and less.
>>>[B] Feint for the kill to trick the red stuff, but actually go in for a [COMMUNION] with Draven. It might yield nothing, or nonsense. But if he's being puppeted by something... [Spend 1 ID.]
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>Commune, damn you

What are you doing? This isn't you. You don't like pagans. Or fake people. But you don't just go around murdering them, do you? You don't lose it at the slightest— it wasn't even a provocation! You don't. If you did, you would've already throttled Ellery to death with your bare... uh...

Okay, so you did do that. But it wasn't out of nowhere, was it? It was for a good cause? And he came back, so— so it's not even comparable. This is different. And you weren't even going to throttle Certified Liaison Draven, you were going to stab him with a... a...

Maybe it's the knives. It's the fault of the knives. All the knives. If you had The Sword like you ought to, you'd be instead driven into a— a heroic, you know, fervor. Something clean and good. And perhaps you'd be making a grand speech right now, not gasping feverishly for breath. Wouldn't that be nice? And Gil could watch and applaud how good of a speech it was. Draven too. That was one perk of R— of him. He had good lines for you, sometimes. Great lines. And he could make the whole speech sound better, too. Could the stuff in you do that?

YES you think immediately— there is redness in your peripheral vision. YES it could. Forget great. Forget grand. It could make it flawless—pristine—perfect. It could make the people who heard you love you. Make them die for you. Make their blood pool around your ankles. The snake can't do that. The snake can only make it as great as you could make it. Could only push it to the limit of your ability. Human ability. Why settle? Why would you settle? You deserve so much more. You deserve people to love you, Lottie. You could punch through those limits like wet newsprint and it wouldn't even be any effort. You already have what you need inside you. The sacrifice is made. Your hands are bloody. (Your hands are shaking.) Would you let that to waste? If you open your mouth it'd be sealed. It'd be over. You'd win. Or alternately you could stab the bastard and let more build inside you, let it permeate every pore and membrane until you were ripe—low—wet with it until it rises steaming into the green air until you collapse under your own weight until you explode, or implode? Until you spatter watermelonlike into ripe wet chunks and something better comes from you.


Or you could spend it. Or you could open your mouth open your mud/bloodslicked throat and let people love you. Don't you want that? Gil's right there. Gil could love you and you'd never again have to worry that he didn't. He would. It would be law. This is power, Lottie, this is

[Wait, that— you did that! The watermelon thing. Um, metaphorically. In Gil's mind, in the fake future, with the stuck-up bitch of a... of you. You stood by that stupid door and the stupid door pumped you full of red junk and it was heavy as hell and next thing you knew fake future Gil was hugging you for some reason and telling you you were some kind of big snakey thing for a bit.]

REAL power, not cowardly manipulation and misinterpretation and loophole-exploitation: it is not power to work around laws. You do not bend. You create and erase. And isn't that cool? Isn't that awesome? Isn't that the definition of magical? (You can say 'magical'. He's dead.) You want this. You don't just want to stand there— that really is cowardly. It's not very heroic of you to stand there. A real heroine, particularly one with a knife, would take decisive action. Particularly with an audience. Gil hasn't said anything. That means he agrees.

[Which means that if you stab the guy you'll be a big snakey thing again? God, how embarrassing. You don't even like snakes. Why can't your Demon Formes be cool? Can you use your ultimate power to make them cool, actually? You kind of feel like no, which means it can't be that ultimate. Lame.]

He agrees. Aren't you listening? Gil thinks you should do something. Gil thinks you're a coward right now, standing here and not doing anything, cheeks bulging, eyes bulging, spittle running down your chin. There is a phrase you can't repeat that ends with 'or get off the pot.' So why not stab the bastard? He's not useful alive. He's not even real. Or if your hands are shaking too bad to aim, why not open your mouth? It's the easiest thing in the world. You want to right now, in fact. There is an urge like an itch in you. Actually like the worst itch you have ever had. Like you are breaking out in hives inside your mouth, which you very well may be. Don't you want to scratch that itch? Your impulse control is not strong, Lottie. Neither is your willpower. You have been beaten into the dirt for so long that you're unable to resist the slightest injunction. Why else would you readily agree to murder your own

>[-1 ID: 7/13]

[You scream with your mouth shut.]

Well, okay! You can also just stab him. You really do want to stab him. Your sword hand— really knife hand, haha— is also itching. You are already hunchbacked over Draven. [It is as if he has frozen. Maybe Gil has too. Maybe time is sludging past you. Maybe it's too busy being split into infinite fractals.] You would only really have to lean down a little more and move your arm a little and it'd be basically instant. Right? So— you—


Yes! Took you long enough. There you go, with the leaning, though it's more like you're tilting precipitously forward, but— hey, baby steps. Good job! You're a genius. Now maybe crouch a little bit—

[Breathe, Charlotte.]

Wow! That worked out too. You're pretty good at this kind of stuff. Crazy how you put up with someone telling you you were worthless all the time. But you never believed that, did you? Not really. You knew you were in reality just a smidge off perfect— and that was to be expected, wasn't it? You're only human. Anyhow. If you raise your arm, now, you—

[If you weren't accustomed to this, how fast would you have fallen? Richard was vicious and calculating but had one glaring weak point and that was that he existed. He had beady dead eyes and a little spotted tail and a pink tongue and you could hate every one of these. You could hate the whole of him. You could imagine tying him into knots. You could imagine slinging him against a wall. You could sling him against a wall, when he was sleepy— not that it did anything ever. But you knew you were being impinged upon and you knew precisely who was doing it and this inoculated you. If you were Claudia and you picked up some old book and scribbled some runes in marker on your arm and traced a spiral in some dirt and all of a sudden your very own mind was cajoling you— you'd be in chunks. Or in prison.]
[Or Queen.]
[But it's not all-knowing: your willpower is stellar. It really, truly is. You are contorted and itching and drooling and flaking and you know how to make it stop. But you don't want to do that. Hell, you probably would've been more willing to stab the guy before it started making you, but you are nothing if not spite-driven, and ANYHOW you have a better idea. A cooler idea, even. So you are doing that.]
[You just have to...]

—'ll be on your way! Yes! Swing that arm, Lottie. Swing tha-a-a—


Are you stupid! You flung the knife across the whole damn tent! Now you're going to have to go and pick it up, and it'll all be a colossal waste of time. But we all make mistakes. And the bastard's not going anywhere. So just go pick it up and—

—you're putting your hand on him? Why? He's rotten inside. He's filthy. You'll catch diseases, Lottie, it's like touching Ellery— would you really want to put your hand square on Ellery's forehead? Of course not. So stop acting silly and go get the— don't look into his eyes! What's the point of that? You don't want to look. Stop looking. Stop looking. STOP—

[You see through]

>[-1 ID: 6/13]

And your thoughts collapse and you slide inexorably in and the last thing you properly feel is the divination-bowl spilling water onto your awry leg before you are

drowning in— no. You are not drowning. You see and feel nothing. Your lungs, if you have them, are full of nothing. All you are receiving are smeary impressions: that the interior of Certified Liaison Draven is wet, that it is viscous, that it is faintly acidic. That there is screaming. It doesn't overall strike you as Arledge-y, which is some small relief. (Hi Eloise! Your acquaintance? Well, I was overtaken by God— yes, that one— I was overtaken by Him or It or whatever, or some aspect or extrusion of It, I don't really know how it works— so that happened, and I murdered him. With a knife. Sorry.)

Where is the thing you were told about? Does something more lurk here? You probe gently. The interior of Certified Liaison is springy. It is yielding. It seems strangely uniform: artificially made? Mass-produced? Except for the screaming, it is devoid of obvious inner life.

You are unsure what to do. God hasn't followed you in. Yet.

>[1] Well, that was... um, you don't know about "informative," but it was something. And you don't want to get too involved with Gil right there— do you want the medics called on you? Arise.
>[2] There has to be more than this. Attempt to resolve the impressions into a proper landscape, with you in a proper body, and go from there.
>[3] There has to be more than this. Attempt to draw Draven— or whatever's driving him— into proper existence. Then have a chat, if it's a chatty sort of thing. [Roll.]
>[4] Okay. Okay. You need to-- you need to expunge the red stuff on your own terms, not its terms. (Its terms seem to involve lots of murder.) So why not start here, where nobody's around to get hurt? Use it to... uh... to perfectly see into Draven's VERY BEING, you guess. [-1 SV]
>[5] Just, um, wait here. Take a breather. If you deserve anything it's that.
>[6] Write-in?
>[4] Okay. Okay. You need to-- you need to expunge the red stuff on your own terms, not its terms. (Its terms seem to involve lots of murder.) So why not start here, where nobody's around to get hurt? Use it to... uh... to perfectly see into Draven's VERY BEING, you guess. [-1 SV]
purge the angy
>>[4] Okay. Okay. You need to-- you need to expunge the red stuff on your own terms, not its terms. (Its terms seem to involve lots of murder.) So why not start here, where nobody's around to get hurt? Use it to... uh... to perfectly see into Draven's VERY BEING, you guess. [-1 SV]

...Words aren't coming tonight, sorry folks. Tomorrow!
>Well it's okay this time

Some part of you- alright, a large part of you- would like to linger like this. It is peaceful here, and weightless, and there is nothing and nobody telling you what to do. How often does that happen? It was your Aunt Ruby and then it was him and now it's this substance, this- this stuff, which is the worst of the lot by far because it's not even a person. At least you have excuses if it's a person. What are you supposed to tell Gil with this?

God, what is he thinking of you? Shambling forward spouting some angry gibberish, waving a knife around, frothing at the mouth, going unresponsive? There's only so much he can dismiss as Lottie-as-usual. There's only so much you can dismiss as Lottie-as-usual. On- on account of your pure heart, you are not a good liar, and there is nobody left to help you. Unless you open your mouth and then... and then what? The problem will be solved. But what else?

What else, indeed. Stay and Gil loses his mind over you. Leave and you're back where you started. Proceed, and... you don't know. You don't know if there's anything else to see here. Horse Face's VERY BEING was barren, after all, and he was a real live person. (You think.) You could be wasting time or risking yourself for no gain. Or worse, the stuff might- you don't think it can get to you here, or it's too much work to bother. If you materialize all of a sudden, though it might come back worse, and then- you don't know what it'll do. What you'll do to yourself, you mean. You are beginning to feel you didn't fully think things through, before.

Which isn't to say that all hope is lost! You're not ready to... even with everything, you're not giving up. You'll probably realize that getting rid of him was a great and good thing for your life and health and future prospects and everything. You always knew it would be. You fantasized of it often and he always told you it was impossible and now look at him? Where is he? You don't know, because he vanished. Ha ha.

It is a lot quieter in your head without him. You're having to make up for it yourself.

...Where were you? Not giving up hope. Yes. Things are good, actually. They're positive. You hath slain your cruel and tyrannical advisor and, and, and installed in his place a magi- magyckal power of enormous helpfulness. And you are at a fun party and Lucky isn't around to boss you. When you put it like that, it's not so bad, is it? It's not. It isn't. It's probably better to have unfathomable magyckal potential that actually wants to be used than potential that doesn't, right? And even better, it's obvious about wanting that, so you can't pretend it doesn't exist. Ahem, ahem. Gil.

The teensy downside to it wanting to get used is that it's cranky when it doesn't. (Okay. It doesn't have feelings. But it makes you have feelings and those feelings are cranky and that's almost the same thing.) So you should probably use it, shouldn't you? Use it completely up as fast as possible. You can always get more. Can you? You can't. You don't want to. Never mind. You could if you wanted to, is the point, because the process was way easier than you expected. You thought it'd take far more drama. You wish it had taken far, far more drama. So much drama you wouldn't have wanted to bother.


...So use the stuff, was the point. Transition from an object to an actant. Move. Live. Be. You are and then you are somewhere wet and viscous and acidic, are drowning, as a matter of fact, in an ocean like no ocean you've seen in your lifetime. The water is choppy and slimy and stings at you in a way salt doesn't: it pops and pricks and snaps across your whole body, not just your throat and nose. It is vibrant blue. You are going numb in your extremities.

You have drowned before and are not overly concerned by any of this. It isn't real. And even if it were, there is something sinewy and dense and red winding its slow way back inside you. You can't get waterlogged if you're full of something else already.

You find this strangely comforting, in the manner of a weighted blanket or hearty meal: it is the precise opposite of floaty non-existence, but you're compelled to linger much the same... and under the thin guise of plumbing this ocean's depths, you may have done just that. (You are certainly sinking faster than you were.) Instead, some hitherto-unknown responsible shred of you pleads to use the damn stuff, Lottie, and before you have the chance to quash it the damn stuff has trebled in volume and is no longer comforting or safe or pleasant but hungry. It wants to be used. You want to use it, as much out of sheer pragmatism (it threatens to pop your seams) as out of mounting primal thrill. It is inside of your skull- inside everywhere, but your skull more than anything, and it is pressing into the sides of your brain. You want to use it. It is yours. You've earned it. You deserve it. You will die without it. Your goals and its goals are perfectly, gloriously aligned; it would not have come if they were not. All it wants to help you do is exceed your limits. Reach your true potential. That is good. That is positive!

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And all you have to do is crack your mouth open a smidge— just like that! Exactly like that. Crack it open, not even enough to stick your tongue out, and let it vent out of you— just a trickle at first, but will that cut it? Pressure is building behind your eyeballs. You open it wider some and wider still until your lips are strained back against your teeth and your neck is cracked to a perfect vertical and you are screaming exactly, exactly like a tea kettle—

>[-1 SV: 2/?]

—and it billows out, more than you ever thought you could hold; it has sublimed within you and you are ensconced in clouds upon mounding clouds of it. It is ice-cold to the skin and red. Of course red. After a seeming eternity it comes out of you fully, leaving your jaw to clap shut uselessly and you dizzy and hollow.

The red stuff spirals around you then and you see through the gaps of it that you're no longer underwater— or rather, that underwater is dripping away as if soaked in paint thinner. There is whiteness behind it. You expect that to be the whole of it (fantastic, useful, great job) until you realize, with a start, that the whiteness is corroding too.

You feel odd just standing here while the world flakes away around you. It's probably better, objectively better, that your mind and body are intact. You can only begin to imagine the alternatives. But simultaneously you feel... used. If you're unleashing godly power, shouldn't you get to follow through? Enjoy the fruits of your emotional labor? Granted, you'd probably be shaking and crying and puking afterwards, but in the moment it always feels good. It makes it feel good. You don't feel good or bad now, really, just uneasy about the implications— does this stuff need you at all? Actually? Or is all you are its canister?

Whatever. It doesn't matter. There is no more ocean and there is no more blank whiteness. You can't tell if you're inside Draven anymore, or even in the manse. (You hope you're in the manse. You hope you didn't vanish right in front of Gil.) You are suspended midair atop a great cloud of red stuff, staring up at what your first instinct tells you is a cave ceiling. But caves are not pearly and caves are not blue and caves have stalactites, not thousands of damp little organic protrusions. Maybe it's a big fungus, is your second instinct.

And then the fungus-ceiling begins to bulge and droop down toward you, and as it comes closer you release that on each of the protrusions there are two scooped-out indents like eyes and a slit like a mouth. And you realize that maybe this is not a fungus, particularly when several thousand voices blast





directly into your mind.

>[1] Write-in?
>"I was trying to rescue a potential friend who I got snakenapped, and she was being kept in a manse kinda place, and you know how those things go."
>>"I was trying to rescue a potential friend who I got snakenapped, and she was being kept in a manse kinda place, and you know how those things go."

Shit-timing vote ahoy!
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>Uhh you know regular stuff

Why are you here? It was sort of an accident. Unless it means 'here' like the manse? Are you even still in the manse? Which manse? And is it asking because it's surprised or curious or confused or angered or what? You couldn't pick up on anything distinctive. You have all the questions and no answers and you would rather not be squashed to death by whatever the hell this is wherever the hell you are.

Maybe you should go broad to start off with. Why you're here in general. Yeah. And you can go more specific if it asks. "Um, I'm on a- a mission to rescue my..." (What is Madrigal?) "...fierce rival, who was snakenapped, and, um—"


You purse your lips. "Um, it's— you know kidnapping?" (Does the giant blue gelatinous fungoid thing know kidnapping?) "Um, it's like kidnapping, but rather than napping kids, you're napping... snakes. Snakenapping. Um, to clarify, my fierce rival is not a— is not typically a snake, but through circumstances way too complicated to get into she happened to be temporarily embodied as one, and still— is? Probably still is, and, um— is this making sense?"

There is a long pause.


"Oh," you say. (At least it doesn't seem angry? You think?) "Well, you phrased your question confusingly. So it's not really my fault. Why are you here?"


It's a "we." You probably should've expected that, given the multiple voices, but—


Satisfied you're not in immediate danger, you plop down onto the red stuff. "I should be happy... in the manse?" (There's no way a slime mold thing knows what manses are, Lottie.) "Um, at the... festival? Godsday?"


"And you're not alive here?" You feel a bit stupid, but it's not like you can check a pulse.



"...Yes," you say. You don't need caveats. The red stuff is out of you for now.


"Okay! Okay." You cradle your ears. "Got the picture. You're... people." If Gil's people, gelatin stuff can be people. Whatever. It's not hurting anything to play along, whether it's legitimate or delusional. "Do you have a name?"


"'Us.'" Well, it beats the slime thing, or the fungus thing, or the ceiling thing. "Sure. That works."


"Um, no problem." You shift your legs. This is going far, far too well. "Um, this isn't a trap, right? You're not lulling me into a false sense of security so you can— you can absorb me? Or take over my body? Or both? Take over my body, then absorb it when you're—"


"Um," you say. "I don't know? You can fit a lot into my... normal-sized body." Until you collapse under your own weight and explode or implode or "I don't know how absorbing and whatnot works, sinceI'm not the massive blobby thing."


These terms are far too reasonable: you're not entirely convinced. "So you don't mind if we leave? Because we were planning on leaving."


"...So you didn't break the door on purpose...?"


You squint. "The one out? In the... dream."


Us's teardrop-shape bobs. Their protrusions swish. God, you really wish this thing wasn't contending for the politest person (people?) you've encountered down here.

>[A1] Just ask it to put you back where you were in the "dream." No frills.
>[A2] Ask it to help you in some way. (How? Write-in.) [Possible roll.]
>[A3] Write-in.

>[B1] Okay, well, you can't be one-upped by a fungus thing. Politely introduce yourself.
>[B2] Ask Us what they're doing inside the Namway facility. (You think you're back there? You're back in your regular clothing, at least.)
>[B3] Ask how the hell they used to be humans— there's zero resemblance. You get it in theory, given Gil, but you think you need, um, further explanation.
>[B4] Ask how long they've been around.
>[B5] Ask why it "dreams" of the Godsday festival. Does it ever switch things up?
>[B6] Write-in.
>[B1] Okay, well, you can't be one-upped by a fungus thing. Politely introduce yourself.
>[B2] Ask Us what they're doing inside the Namway facility. (You think you're back there? You're back in your regular clothing, at least.)
>[B4] Ask how long they've been around.
>[B5] Ask why it "dreams" of the Godsday festival. Does it ever switch things up?
Gotta pick an [A], too.
>[A2] Ask it to help you in some way. (How? Write-in.) [Possible roll.]
Maybe there's another door? Or this one can be repaired?
>Maybe there's another door?
The problem is that you wanted to take this specific door, since it was Pat's private entrance and should lead you to her (and Madrigal's) general location.

>Or this one can be repaired?
This is what you were trying to do before you got sidetracked w/ divine possession. You can ask it to help out, but you might get better results if you're more specific about how.
I want to ask it for instructions on how to best repair the door. Maybe it can help us enlist the help of the dream inhabitants?
>[A1] Just ask it to put you back where you were in the "dream." No frills.
>[B2] Ask Us what they're doing inside the Namway facility. (You think you're back there? You're back in your regular clothing, at least.)
>>[A1] Just ask it to put you back where you were in the "dream." No frills.
>>[B2] Ask Us what they're doing inside the Namway facility. (You think you're back there? You're back in your regular clothing, at least.)
if it can point out the other recent dream arrivals we can snag them and be on our way without disturbing things any more. They're all very disruptive people, having them in the dream would just ruin things for everyone else.

Rolled 1 (1d2)



>B1, B2

Flipping between [A1] and [A2] and writing!
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>Look I'll be on my way

"...It's okay," you say uncomfortably. "You probably didn't even do anything. This whole place is wrecked. Have I— have I introduced myself, by the way?" You can't let the thing one-up you on etiquette. "How rude of me. Ahaha. I'm Charlotte Fawkins, well-know and highly acclaimed—"


"Yes, that's what I—"


You cross your legs a little tighter. "That's me?"


"Know—?" You're cut off by the further drooping of Us: its lowest protuberances are now eye-level, and as one touches down onto the bed of smoke it shivers and warps into the form of a woman you've never seen before, with dip-dyed hair and messy eyeliner and a pout. And... painted fingernails, and an outfit you've only ever seen looking down. "...Claudia?"


The voices come out of Claudia's mouth, now. A thick strand of goop tethers her to the rest of Us. You try not to look full-on at her, or you start feeling weird. "...She's a Fawkins?"


"Well, I did mean in life." You side-eye her blank face. She doesn't bear a startling amount of resemblance to you, but then again it's been centuries. And then again, if she died that young, she may not be your direct ancestor. "Um, I guess it really is a small world, isn't—"


No? Maybe? What would he tell you to do? To be polite to things with a square footage several hundred times larger than yours, probably. "Sure?"

Claudia is dragged upward into the central mass, and a different protuberance drops down. You cross your hands idly as it forms itself into the general shape and then the specific appearance of a woman you—

"What the hell?!" You scramble backwards on all fours, unable to rise to your feet in time. "Oh my God, what the hell! That's not— that's wrong. That's— that's— she's not— she's not dead, are you listening? She's not dead. She can't be here, she—"

SHE IS NOT DEAD, says your mother.

Do you have The Sword? God-damnit, if you don't have The Sword— "So you absorbed her alive? Is that what you're saying? That's worse!"


You scoff-laugh. "Do I know my mother? Do I know—"


"So my mother is part of you..." You thrust your hands out. "...why?"


You bury your face in your hands. Why is it always snakes? "You fed on... her memory?"


Memories of her? Memories of... you swallow. "You're the goo snake?"


The goo snake. That Namway was trying to make before Guppy shut the lights off out of spite and let it grow in the dark. That trapped you in that cocktail party from the past. (Okay. Maybe it's not that different.) That took the form of your mother, and that you spared. Richard told you to kill it.

That goo snake. Made of goo. Is the rest of Us goo, too? They rather looks like it, actually— they have the right color. And it'd explain the shapeshifting. And the locale. But you need confirmation, here. "If you were only partially the snake, then the rest of you is...?"


...All the goo. God. Does Pat know about this? Should you gloat about it to her when you rescue Madrigal? You file this away for later. "...Happy to hear it?"


Uh-huh. Uh-huh. "Indeed. Well, I actually need to— I need to, um, get back to the dream. People I know are in there. Can you...?"


Your mother is sucked back up into the whole, to your great relief, and Us begins to reshape: the teardrop thins and lengthens until you are staring at the form of a great translucent snake.


Oh! Oh. Well, of course it does. Obviously. You were expecting as much. "Um— yes."


"Only once," you say. (You don't promise. Who knows what you'll have to do?) "Verily. It hath been noted. Um, so could you go ahead and put me, uh— put me where I was? I don't want to have to walk all the way back..."


It takes quite a bit of your prodigious willpower to hold still as the goo-snake winds stickily around you, cutting off all light, and even more as you feel your thoughts go sticky too, and...

...you cough out a plume of red smoke. You are in the PROGNOSTICATIONS tent. The bowl of water is knocked over. Certified Liaison Draven is gone. Gil is... damn! Damn! Gil is nowhere to be seen, either.

It takes quite a bit of your prodigious willpower to not cuss.

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You are Gil Wallace. You were told to go stand in the giant line, because it's your job. Your job! Official line-stander, that's you, though can you blame her? It's definitely all you've proven yourself to be capable of, given your fuck-up after fuck-up after fuck-up— and maybe Lottie's expectations are too high even now, because you're not standing in the line. At no point since you were told point-blank to stand in the goddamn line have you even set a toe into the line. Goddamn it!

It's because the line was too long. (If she catches you, you're telling her this.) There's a hundred goddamn people in it and it moves at a crawl— not even a crawl, because that implies constant motion. You stood there and counted: one person goes in every five minutes. There's a hundred people at the low end. She can't expect you to wait for eight hours... can she?

That's a good question. "Can she." Not "will she," or "does she," where all the answers are uncharitable: can she expect it? Of course not. Nobody sane would expect that. Nobody who wasn't mind-fucked on a daily basis by their unfathomably shitty dead dad would expect that, right? (Dammit! Why did you make her tell you that? Because you were— what— feeling left out? The most pussy bitch thing you could feel? And now you look at her and think dead dad and she acts weird and you think her dead dad fucking hit her and what the fuck are you supposed to do with that, Gil? Huh? Go beat up her dead dad? Because you're so good at that. Because you definitely didn't go piss your impotent little goddamn pants the other day when he went ballistic right in front of you. Because you have a long and storied history of standing up to shitty dads! Go piss in the wind.) ...So she can't possibly expect it, is the point, and also you were a little mad about having to stand in a line while she does cool shit. Fine. While she and you do cool shit. But you hate the lucky little bastard you sent with her, anyhow, so it's the same thing.

So you are standing in a different line, one you've convinced yourself in and out of two or three times, but you're next up now so you can't back out. Can you? It'd be just like you to back out. You don't know if it'd be just like Teddy, but it's not like he's been stopping you— he's just squatting in the back of your mind, waiting for whenever you need him. Teddy's calm. Teddy's chill. Why the fuck are you not Teddy?

Fuck, you can't even say "he's not real," because you're not real. You are currently a man smuggling beetles and the beetles being smuggled. That's not normal, is it? It feels pretty good, but it's not normal. Teddy's normal.

Some guy exits the tent in front of you, looking shell-shocked, and you think your balls shrivel up right about then because you are first in line and are seriously, seriously considering leaving. You could leave. Nobody sentient would know. You could go stand in the real line and whenever Lottie remembers about you she could give you a treat and a scritch on the head. (And you'd like it.) Shit. Shit. What would Teddy do? Teddy would go in like a normal person. Easy. Let him do it. You usher him to the front of your mind and observe relieved as your sturdy legs carry you in, then usher him back out.

Well, you're inside the tent. No escaping. You probably wouldn't stoop so low as to escape. Just think about what you thought about, Gil. The pros. All the pros. If you're clean, you can sleep at night. If you're not clean, it's not even a real test. It doesn't matter. And if you're not clean and you feel something, you can get it out of you. That's in the name, isn't it? EVAULATIONS & EXTRACTIONS. Extractions.

So it's all good. You're right and it's good, or you're wrong and become retroactively right and you just never tell Lottie you got rid of it. Or you tell her, and what is she going to do about it? Cry? (Surely she wouldn't cry?) Well, damn her. You don't have some goddamn god shit stuck in you, and if you do you want nothing to do with it. Simple as that.

The tent guy is more conventionally attractive than you expected some backwater monk guy to be and you have to bite yourself through your shirt to keep from turning around and leaving. "Hi there," he says, with a merry sort of fucking twinkle. Like he knows. "How's your day going?"

Small talk. You blanch. "Um, I-I-I-I-I— i-i-i-it's—" It's. It's. It's. It's. You know how to say it's. You don't know why your mouth doesn't. "I-i-i-i-it's—"

Motherfucker. You grimace and bury yourself under your shirt and bite the wool and push your glasses up compulsively (you can't get used to them, but Teddy's blind as hell so you can't take them off)— Teddy. Can pronounce words. Can probably functionally make small talk, though he may be too blasé to do so. Not your problem. You shunt him forward again and blink and say "—it's going well, thanks. Weather's beautiful."

The tent guy doesn't notice your voice dropping an octave midsentence, which is fine with you. You take a deep breath. "Is it?" Tent Guy says. "I've been stuck in here, ha ha. But I'm happy to hear it. What can I help you with?"

It's in the goddamn name, buddy. This is a single-purpose tent. But Teddy just takes a seat in the little empty folding chair and clasps your hands and hunches over and says "Well, I think you know the drill. Nothing fancy."

"Any symptoms? Manifestations?"

"Nah. I just suspect something's up. I fish, so, you know, lots of direct contact..."

"That's what we're here for," Tent Guy says, and smiles merrily. "Do you have previous experience with this process?"

Teddy shakes your head.

"It's relatively simple. I'll walk you through step-by-step in a bit, then. Before we begin, though, I need to give you the standard warning that we are dealing with divine power. To identify it I need to activate it, which has the potential to cause profound, if temporary, psychological effects, which are collectively and colloquially known as a 'spiritual experience.' This is typically not harmful but may nevertheless impact your daily functioning. Do you consent to proceed?"

No. No. This is exactly what you don't want, actually— a goddamn spiritual experience? "Sure," Teddy says, before you can stop yourself. Good! Fantastic. You're on a real hot streak, aren't you. You...

...You don't know why you're worried about this. You won't have an experience. Either you don't have any god shit, so you won't have one, or it's not a real test, so it won't make you have one. Calm down. Teddy knows what he's doing, doesn't he? You're fine. You don't have god shit.

But if you did have god shit, you...

>(These choices are permanent. Pick what you want for the story.)

>[1] ...are getting it removed. Full stop.
>[2] ...are keeping it, but you're not having a goddamn spiritual experience, okay?
>[3] ...are keeping it, and you're having the experience. Because you're such a pussy you can't even stop it.
Oh my, is it a payoff for a past decision that is not even a horrible retribution for our fuckups? What is happening?

>[3] ...are keeping it, and you're having the experience. Because you're such a pussy you can't even stop it.
>>[3] ...are keeping it, and you're having the experience. Because you're such a pussy you can't even stop it.
>>>[3] ...are keeping it, and you're having the experience. Because you're such a pussy you can't even stop it.
dang 3 worded so pessimistically


Called for [3] and writing.

:^) I don't forget about things, I just take 22 threads to get back to them

You'd think Gil was a pessimist or something...
>Dramatic irony

...don't. You don't have it. So there's no reason to act like a freak, Gil. Show some goddamn discipline and sit up straight and let the guy do his GS if it makes him so happy. The faster you're done with this, the faster you can never think about it again.

"Alright!" the guy says. "In that case, like I said, not too complicated. Are you squeamish?"

You hesitate. Teddy doesn't. "I've seen a lot of guts. Is it that bad?"

"No, not that bad. No guts, ha ha, fish or otherwise." (He arches a wink-wink eyebrow at you. Can he smell it?) "Some people just can't handle blood, even in small quantities, and I'm going to need a blood sample."

A goddamn blood sample. Of course he does. What were you expecting, to not get coerced into handing some shady unperson your blood? He'll want your heart next. Teddy doesn't know what the hell this implies— you quash whatever he was going to say and stand abruptly. "No you goddamn don't. What for?"

"It is the ocean within us." Tent Guy opens his hands. "But I'm sure that's not what you're asking. It helps attune the mixture to the sacred in you, so it's not firing off indiscriminately. Trust me, that'd be extremely unpleasant... but the good news, I really don't need much. Just a few drops."

"For the mixture," you say dryly.

"Bang-on. I am going to have to make you drink something— I am going to be real— nasty. Nobody likes drinking it. But it's by far the fastest method that exists, and given that we're in a line situation..." Tent Guy checks his watch. "That's relevant. So you're going to have to trust me, alright—?"


"—alright, Teddy? There's been a lot of R&D put into this. Now, before we get to the blood, I have one more question. Do you want the mix done up in front of you, or do you want to save time and go with the ready-done bottles? They're kept fresh—" He nudges the cooler stashed under the card table. "—so there's no difference in effectiveness. Some people just like to see the ritual done."

"Uh, pre-mixed." You'd like this to be less effective, really. And you have little tolerance for sitting here watching this guy do magic horseshit right in front of you.

Tent Guy reaches down, flips open the cooler, and peeks inside. "Do you want grape or tangerine?"

"What? ...Tangerine."

"Tangerine!" He thunks down a bottle with an orange sticker on the cap, which he unscrews and pours into a clean, empty bowl. The mixture is thin and rancid-smelling. (You cough.) "Tastes better than it smells, slightly. Would you roll back your sleeve?"

You're not inside your sleeves, are you? You've gaggled mainly near your collarbone. Okay. You roll back your left sleeve to expose your tanned forearm, which Tent Guy takes gently and lays flat on the table. He swabs a patch of it with cool fluid. "Hold still. This won't hurt."

You're not worried about the hurting. "Um, I-I-I-I'd really— I-I-I-I-I-I-I'd prefer— um—"

"Really, hold still. If you don't relax your arm it might hurt, yeah? I'd like to get the vein on the first try." He's lowering a syringe. "Deep breath."

So this is it. This fake man is gonna steal your blood right in front of your face and what are you going to do about it? What did you think you were going to do? Of course you're going to sit here stiff and stammering and biting fucking holes through your fucking sweater. You deserve this.

It doesn't hurt. Tent Guy taps the syringe against the table, then ejects its contents into the bowl. Your blood fizzes. "Ah, good sign," he says, and pushes the bowl toward you. "Drink this. You can take your time, but it's easier to stomach in one go."

Inside the bowl your blood has thickened and coiled like worms. You could leave. Or you could throw the bowl in this guy's conventionally attractive face, and if you had your gun on you you could go shoot yourself, and if you could go back in time you could stop yourself from ever stepping foot in that goddamn manse, and what's the point speculating on things that'll never happen? You're going to drink this gunk and you're going to like it. You just know it.


...Nope. No way. Screw that. Teddy's going to drink this stuff, and he can have the goddamn experience if he likes, too. Are you sorry? Not at all. You like the guy and everything, but you're in his goddamn body and you can do what you want with it. Teddy looks at the gunk and looks at Tent Guy and weighs his options. He picks up the bowl. He tilts your head back.

The taste of the stuff is muted when you're in passenger, but Teddy, for all his strong-silent-type schtick, gags. Tent Guy nods sympathetically. "Well done."

"You'd think the gods themselves could make this crap taste better," Teddy says, and wipes your mouth.

Tent Guy laughs. "You'd think. We try to flavor it, but there's only so much you can..."

"Nothing's happening," you cut in. (Nothing is happening, except your throat tasting bad.) "So I-I don't have it?"

"I'll keep you for a five-minute observation period, but if there's no reaction after that you're in the clear."

Holy shit, five minutes? That's nothing. You thought you'd have to be paranoid all day. "Cool."


Three minutes later you're dying. You mean really dying, not like the other times you thought you were— you mean you're sweating, you're shaking, you're dizzy, you're nauseous, and there's a sudden-onset killer pain right around your chest. "Calm down," Tent Guy says unhelpfully.

"YOU goddamn calm down! I-I-I-I— I-I-I— I-I-I-I-I— I am having," you force out, "a goddamn heart attack. Do you know what that is? 200 years ago? A heart attack? And last I-I-I-I checked my heart was working fine until YOU fed me some fucked-up untested—"

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"Teddy," Tent Guy says, "I've administered this hundreds of times. You—"

"Maybe your goddamn bottle went bad?!"

"—you're not having a heart attack. The bottle didn't go bad. You're within the observation period. Are you certain this isn't just the onset of...?"

"I-I-It's not the onset of anything," you snap, "except my goddamn heart giving— you said it's not harmful. I-I-Is this supposed to be not harmful?"

"If you relax, Teddy, it's not harmful." Tent Guy scratches his cheek. "Are you letting it happen? You should sit down."

You've been pacing and clouding around yourself. (You can't stay stuck in a goddamn coat when you're dying. Tent Guy hasn't noticed the extra beetles or doesn't care.) This only makes you pace faster. "I-I-I-I-I should sit down? Gee fucking whillikers! Maybe when I stop— I stop—" The pain in your chest is only worsening. "Maybe when I-I-I stop dying, I can, I can, I can— what the hell are you doing?!" He's left his side of the table. "Stay away from me!"

"Teddy, I never like having to do this." Tent Guy is approaching empty-handed. "But it's one of my jobs to—"

"Call the goddamn medics?!"

"—ensure this goes safely, even if it means robbing you of that little first moment of..." he shakes his head. "You're more resistant than you looked. It happens. But please relax, and I'll give you a little kick-start to the—"

Relax? You don't relax. If you relax you start forgetting your own name and age and birthday, Tent Guy. Does he realize that? In all his infinite wisdom? If you relax you're not you anymore. Not a you you recognize.

And you don't deserve it, either. But none of these excellent reasons stop Tent Guy from cornering you and putting his thumbs to your temples (goddamn sock him! knee him in the crotch and make a break for it), and none of your finely honed self-control stops your eyes from rolling up, up, back in your sockets. You buckle. Light pours through you and every one of your beetles.

And then what do you say?

You know what you would've said. How you would've framed it. You can hear yourself framing it, all justify, justify, justify, downplay, downplay, downplay, you didn't really feel anything it's a goddamn manse, it's a trick, even if the gods exist they're dead as goddamn doornails anyhow, even if you did feel something you were too smart to really buy it, to really buy into it, you maintained the perfect ironic distance the whole time: so you're not embarrassed, so it's not embarrassing, so you didn't show any vulnerability or weakness or human feeling to outside observers or especially yourself. You controlled yourself. You were calm. You were chill.

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It's not like that part of you is dead, even. You can't kill 25 years of existence in a minute, no matter how long that minute felt— you feel certain old Gil will try and claw his way back eventually. It might even be soon. But he's stunned into submission for now, leaving you. Uh, and Teddy. Teddy is still doing okay.

You're doing okay too. You think so. You mostly just feel different: emptier, but in a positive way. Like someone did a thorough spring cleaning on you. There was a lot of busted furniture up in your attic. You've never done a spring cleaning.

You're getting sidetracked, though. You were going to try and explain, though you know full well it's unexplainable. Maybe you just describe it. You would feel humiliated, laying it out flat like this, but you're finding you don't care very much what anybody thinks.

So here. Light poured through you, or more accurately out of you, and you were made aware of the following things: that the gods exist. That they know you and recognize you. That you are loved unconditionally. That you are accepted unconditionally. That there is nothing wrong with you. That to be imperfect is to be human and to strive for perfection is an insult. That to withhold yourself is an insult. That to be cruel to yourself is an insult. That your life has meaning. That being beetles has meaning. That being beetles is okay. That being with Charlotte has meaning. That everything in your life has led you to now.

And so on. You're forgetting some of it already. You'll have forgotten most of it in an hour or so, most likely, which old Gil would've thought would be for the better. Because the whole lot of it is crappy, sappy, unrealistic garbage. You feel sorry for old Gil, who can't have understood. It was hard and painful to be him.

Your hands are still glowing. This is one thing that time can't extinguish, you think. You might slip back into going on as you did, and you may convince yourself you were merely goddamn delusional for a little while there, but you can't ignore the fact that a blessing is inside you. It'll make itself known whether you like it or not, and if you want any say in the matter you'll go along with it. And you will.

But that is the future. Right now, Tent Guy is trying to sell you on the idea that you should get rid of it. For the common good, he says. You've never been one to do things for the common good.

You stroll out into the sunshine.

The old gods seem like pleasant fellows.
Back to writing. Happy Halloween... no special illustration this year, couldn't think of any funny costumes.

I think their actual interpersonal "pleasantness" varied quite a bit (you probably met one of the nicer ones, and that probably influenced what Gil experienced), but all of them were unshakable patrons and supporters of humanity. Which makes sense, since depending on who you ask they allegedly created it.
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You are Madrigal Fitzpatrick: legitimate businesswoman, reliable deputy, and one dab hand at blackjack. After being "accidentally" kidnapped by a sketchy researcher named Pat and transplanted from a snake into an artificial body, you've been plotting your escape, mainly through winning the trust of Pat and the various horrible clones of her manager/boyfriend Lester. You've also established the beginnings of a connection with Matches, the snake that hatched out of your leg.

It is MORNING, DAY 3, and you spent the night in a tank of water. You are fucking wet.

Which could kind of be a silly thing to say, given that you're wet every day of your life— and sure, okay, har har. But no. The only fucking thing in common between normal wet and fucking wet is that there's water involved, okay? See, with normal wet, that water knows where it belongs. It gets on your skin, it stays the fuck put on your skin. Beads up a little. It gets in your hair, same deal. Normal. What doesn't it do? It doesn't get sucked into your fucking skin like you're some exotic fucking dying plant. It definitely doesn't soupify your insides, causing you to slosh and wobble with every indelicate movement. Like gee, you don't fucking know, a water balloon. If you slashed a big hole in you, you're dead certain you'd ooze right out.

Easily the worst part is that you don't hate it. You slept way too well to hate it. And at least it's not your outside that's sloshing.

>Your GRIT is: Moderately High

Lester Six is drumming away at a clipboard with a pen, a display of manual dexterity you thought was beyond him. His face oozing onto the clipboard takes away from the effect. "hELLo bEauTiFuL... how waS youRE' sLEEp..."

Wow, and you'd nearly forgotten what he was like. Lucky you. "Pretty good. Pat's gone?"

"yEEEESSS... oFF To woRk... canT kEEp ThaT giRL away fRom iT, TELL you,"

You couldn't tell how old Pat was exactly, what with the mask and also the, you know, transformable-at-will goo-face, but you feel pretty confident in assuming she isn't a "girl." But you're not the one fucking this guy, so whatever. "Neat. So—"

"So wE wiLL Running SomE... eRRands... you and mE, bEFoRE ShE ShE ShE ShE bEFoRE ShE bAcK,"

Lester Six is a lot of things. He isn't subtle. "...Errands."

"juST LiTTLE,, you know? Fix pipES... FakE LESTERS nEEd LESTER Food..."

If he had eyelashes you're sure he'd be trying to bat them.

>[1] Sure! Great! You're in! God knows you've done shadier things. [+Lesters' Trust]

>[2] Uh...huh. Right. Right. Real quick—
>>[A] Does Pat know about these errands?
>>[B] Does Pat *approve* of these errands?
>>[C] Where are these errands taking place?
>>[D] What the hell is Lester Food? (Do you want to know?)
>>[E] He's a smart guy, so he knows you're real smart, too. And trustworthy. And... sexy. Real sexy. Does he want to just let you in on the full plan? [-Grit]
>>[F] Write-in.
>[1] Sure! Great! You're in! God knows you've done shadier things. [+Lesters' Trust]
Oh shit, it's MADRIGAL TIME

>Oh god

In any other situation, this'd be a pretty funny joke. "...Lester food?"

"my FALSE copiES rEquiRE SpEciaL SuSTEnancE To mainTain ThEiR Sad non-ExiSTEncE... ThEy canT appREciaTE FinE dining LikE you i do,, maddy,"

Lester Six has sidled up to you and wrapped his hand around your wrist. You tug at it. He doesn't let go. "You don't get to call me that," you snap, and tug harder— his arm distends, drooping in the middle. His hand is still firmly attached.

"ERRand," he slurs, and drags you haltingly in the direction of the hallway. You strongly consider full-body jerking yourself free and making a break for it (no way this thing can run), but Lester Six lurches forward a touch too far and your insides all sway and no you're not fucking doing that. No way you can run. Fuck! Why the fuck did you go in that tank? Because your fucking kidnapper told you to? There better be some mind-blowing advantage you're not seeing right now, because holy shit. Okay. So you're being waddled into the hallway, stopping just in front of the "LESTER STORAGE" door, which Lester Six is unlocking with his free hand. He pulls you in.

LESTER STORAGE is lit intermittently and stinks of ammonia. Built into the walls of the narrow room are big murky tanks— less than six, you note. There's a big calendar posted up on the wall, peppered with stickers. A little metal ladder leading up to a grated catwalk. A drain in the floor. Pipes— loads of pipes— on the walls and ceiling, mostly leading into the tanks. On the far end of the room sits a lone mattress, a big bucket, and a lot of trash.

You stay near the door as Lester Six releases you and trails on over to a dolly holding a thick sack of... stuff. He drags the sack off toward the center of the room, slashes it open with the key, and tips its contents down the floor drain. All its contents down the floor drain.

Then he drops the empty sack, looks around, and turns back to you. "SEEmS LikE paT didnT LEavE any LESTER Food in hERE..."

You stare at the stained ceiling.

>Available items to INSPECT in LESTER STORAGE: Tank 1, Tank 2, Tank 3, Tank 4, ladder, drain, empty sack, calendar, mattress, bucket

>[1] You get the fucking message. Play along. Where can you find the new Lester Food, Lester? Can you help him go get it? Can you help him break into wherever he really isn't supposed to be going? Do that.
>[2] Goddammit. Just ignore his shit for now and INSPECT stuff. (What?)
>[3] Ignore his shit, sit the fuck down, and figure out if there's *any* use in being fucking wet. He can wait as long as it takes. (+Body Facility, -Lesters' Trust)
>[4] You don't want to do this whole song and dance, seriously. Do whatever the fuck you need to do to get him to spill the whole super-secret plan. (-Grit)
>[5] Write-in.
wow lester good thing you have the authority to definitely get into this area, I wouldn't want to go anywhere I wasn't supposed to
>[2] Inspect all of the things.
>>[1] You get the fucking message. Play along. Where can you find the new Lester Food, Lester? Can you help him go get it? Can you help him break into wherever he really isn't supposed to be going? Do that.
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Using my once-a-week get-out-of-update-free card tonight to get a decent night of sleep and some necessary homework done. Update tomorrow.


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>First rule of improv

Alright! So this is stupid. It's actually maybe the stupidest thing you've been party to in... shit, you don't know. Months? The premise is stupid, the execution is dogshit stupid, the whole thing is— you said it. It's stupid. It's comical. But that's not a bad thing for you, is it? If some fucked-up goo-man wants to use you to advance his toddler schemes, if those schemes happen involve busting into somewhere you shouldn't... is that your fault, really? Can Pat really blame this shit on you? You were tricked. Manipulated. And it's not like she warned you about this.

"Damn!" you say. "That's pretty shit of her, isn't it? To not leave any food around for you? What does she expect you to do, starve?"

"i donT EaT LESTER Food," Lester Six garbles, offended. "iTS noT FiT FoR human conSumpTion,"

"O-oh." You blink. "Well, yeah. I was just fucking with you, you know. It's still shit for her not to leave any for the... fake Lesters? I know they're fake, but they gotta eat too. Who feeds them, usually?"

"ThERES choRE RoTaTion,,"

That doesn't answer the question, but alright. Neat. You don't feel like taking big swings before you've figured out what he really wants. "Smart. Smart. So where does Pat usually keep the Lester Food? I bet we can swing right by and grab an extra—"

"and Fix Fix Fix Fix pipES...pipES aRE inFEcTEd,"

You pause. "Infected?"

"i mEan brokEn,, in RoomS, kiLL Two biRdS... ?"

He's getting less coherent. You clasp your hands together until your knuckles (wait, you have knuckles now?) whiten. "Okay, so we can fix the pipes? It can't be that hard. I haven't seen any broken ones yet, but—"

"noT nicE FoR guESTS... ESpEciaLLy bEauTiFuL LadiES..."

You'll be out of here soon. Real soon. "Makes sense. It's kind of a shithole in here too, isn't it, and wasn't this door locked? Probably just let me into the— uh, the lady-appropriate areas. So where's all this?"

"in ThE nExT Room,,"

"Oh, shit, really?" Easy enough. "So we really can just pop in, pop out—"

You can't. The adjoining door (labeled just "STORAGE," no Lester) is incredibly, thoroughly stuck, no matter how hard Lester Six turns the key— and from the way he keeps glancing at you, you're pretty sure he already knew about this. When you give it a shot, you determine that 1) you have zero upper body strength and 2) something is definitely holding it closed from the inside.

You hate it, but this is intriguing. Taking a wobbly step back, you squint at the door, trying to maybe catch something you missed. The handle is kind of sticky, but that's probably just Lester Six (...or you) oozing all over it. There's a sliver of a crack underneath it, not enough to peek through, but maybe enough for something very, very liquid to slide under. And it's familiar. It strikes you as familiar. Why? You've been in the vat room, the curing room, the lobby, the gift shop (sort of), Lester Storage— never here. Unless you've been sleepwalking, or...
...Weren't you sleepwalking? It's hard to wrap your head around it, but it's not as if you popped into existence when Pat stuck you in that vat. You've been here longer than three days. Maybe considerably longer. You were just... not human.

Fucking hell, you don't want to think about this. Have you been in Storage? Can you remember it at all? If you remember it, what the fuck else are you going to remember? You have the vaguest of outlines of before the kidnapping, mainly of being cold and nervy and angry, so fucking angry, for reasons you can't comprehend now— that, and something about beetles(?), and a tournament(?), and the old store, and being really fucking big. House-sized. Just weird, weird dream shit. Oh— and Ellery was there and Ellery was a prick. But you could've predicted that one from the outset...

You don't know. What else are you gonna do? You're invested in opening this fucking door, now— maybe that was Lester Six's devious plan, and if so it worked. You are gonna open this fucking door if it kills you stone dead.

>[1] And you are gonna open it RIGHT NOW. (Or at least get through to the other side right now. You're not that picky.)
>>[A] Wheel the water tank over here and dump that shit on you. You're already nearly liquid on the inside— if you can get enough absorbed, you can scootch under that door no problem. [++Goopiness, +Lesters' Trust, +Entry into Storage, ---Grit]
>>[B] Head on back over to Lester Storage, the adjacent room, and INSPECT the adjoining wall and everything on it. Maybe you can bust through that way? Or maybe not, and it'd be a total waste of time. Who knows.
>>[C] Write-in.

>[2] And you are gonna... exercise patience, because you don't really have the stuff you need to open it. Take care of that, first. (Please specify if you want to spent until AFTERNOON or until EVENING working on these things. EVENING will provide more stat gain/stuff, but Pat will return.)
>>[A] Train your BODY FACILITY. If you get really good at doing fucked-up goo things, maybe you'll be able to slide under that door no problem. (Or with less of a problem, at least.)
>>[B] Scour the place for USEFUL OBJECTS. Maybe Pat will have a battering ram lying around. Or some battery acid. Who knows?
>>[C] Hone your SNAKE SENSE. You're sure you'll be able to remember something useful.
>>[D] Write-in?

>[3] Some other devious plan? (Write-in.)
>Please specify if you want to spent until AFTERNOON or until EVENING working on these things. EVENING will provide more stat gain/stuff, but Pat will return.

>[Training montage]

Yeah. You will get in. You just- you can't yet, okay? It's not your fault you don't have magic fucking door-opening powers, and for some goddamn reason it seems like a bad idea to turn yourself into a puddle. This is an extended dream, weird dream shit is going to happen, but you're- you're not goddamn Ellery, alright? You're not him and you're never gonna be him. You have your limits.

The trouble is, you wrack your brain for a good long while and can come up with zero other solutions. The thing's jammed. You can't force it open, you and Lester Six(when you manage to convince him to help) can't force it open, you have no tools and no knowledge of structural weaknesses and if Lester Six does he isn't offering. There is a tiny crack under the door, and if you got yourself very fucking wet you could slip under it. That's it.

Lester Six doesn't take kindly to the idea of you retreating back to the lobby, no matter how much you attempt to convince him you're just biding your time. Whatever. You have very little affection for him, anyways- you never liked kids much. Out of the hallway now, you approach the water tank and stare and stare until you decide definitively: no. You don't fucking care if it's the only option. There's got to be a better way to go about this.

So instead you sit down, take a deep breath, and do what you haven't systematically done before: a survey of your entire fake body, tip to toe. Or maybe just your entire body. Unnervingly, it doesn't look fake anymore— it looks like you, pores and moles and nails and all, and when you run your thumb over the bridge of your nose you feel the rough knife scar.

But it goes skin-deep and skin-deep only: you have no bones, no organs, and no muscle. How do you walk? How do any of these goo-things walk, or speak, or do anything but lie in a lump on the floor? Dream shit, you could say. Not worth bothering with. Except that these things exist well outside dreams, menacing lone travelers— not so much in the Corcass, but they're downright common in the wide seagrass plains. And even here, there was that one trying to copy you, way back when you were attempting to nab Bran's snake back. (You sure hope she sends you an apology gift basket, or some shit.)

The point was, you can't chalk this up to being unexplainable. Is it fucky? Sure. But there's some physical mechanism keeping you upright, and while you're sure Pat would be pleased to explain it all to you you don't intend on waiting around.

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So you lay flat on your back and test in your own way. You clench and flex your limbs and your jaw and your stomach, relaxing at unpredictable intervals. You get up, walk around, and do your best to run around (your top speed right now is a light jog). You perform more DEEP STRETCHES, double-confirming that what you've lost in strength you've made up for in flexibility. And you mean flexibility. Forget squats: you can jackknife backwards, scalp to tailbone, without a twinge of pain or a drop of sweat. You could probably literally tie yourself in a knot, if you wanted. Shit. Is this why Pat fucks that guy?

The whole thing, the stretches and the jogging and whatever, probably looks ridiculous to anybody watching. But who's watching? Maybe Lester Six, if he's not still sulking by the door, but that's not a person. The other Lesters are even less of people. Pat's gone. You carry on, then, until you begin to draw a conclusion: goo changes consistency under pressure, becoming firmer and more solid when you clench a fist or take a step. When you jackknife backwards, there's a palpable thickness at your midsection, even as the rest of you slides evenly toward your head or feet.

This is what keeps you upright, you think— and more importantly, this is great fucking news for the door. The puddling's not irreversible. If you can apply enough pressure, and do that dumbass visualization trick you tried the other night, you might be able to resurrect yourself out of it. You don't plan on testing that all in one go, though. (Again: not Ellery.) Instead, you slink up to the water tank, hike yourself onto the stepstool, and dip your left forearm in. And wait.

It takes a little while for the water to penetrate, and longer for it to eat away at the sturdy kind-of skin the curing process left you with. Eventually, though, you feel a sagging and a looseness and when you pull your forearm out you don't have one anymore, just ropy, formless, flesh-tinted goo. It flops around as you haul it back to the couch and lay it carefully on the low table.

And then you concentrate hard, which feels real fucking stupid— but what's more stupid, this or not having an arm? Having Pat walk in all fucking smug? You imagine yourself with two perfectly good arms— good, human meat-arms— and flex your bicep-equivalents so hard you tremble.

It takes way, way longer than you'd like. And the end result isn't perfect: your knuckles and fingernails and palm-lines are all smoothed out and missing. But eventually the goo-which-was-your-forearm shrivels and reforms itself into your forearm.

It's been a few hours. Where is Lester Six?

(Choices next.)
>Your BODY FACILITY is: Moderate.
>Your SNAKE SENSE is: Low.
>Your GRIT is: Moderately High.

>[1] Does it matter? You should be able to get under that door, now— it might take a while to get back into shape, but it's better than *never* getting back into shape. [Enter STORAGE. It will become EVENING.]
>[2] He'll show up eventually. This is all fine and good, but you need to be able to reform *quick.* Keep practicing. [+Body Facility. It will become EVENING.]
>[3] Head off to go look for him. Hopefully he left some doors unlocked.
>[4] Again, you've... been in here before. You've probably even met Lester before. Try your hardest to get a sense for where he might be, then go looking. [+Info, -Grit]
>[5] As [4], but try even harder. You *felt* something, staring at Matches. [+Info, +Snake Sense, ---Grit]
>[6] Write-in.
>[3] Head off to go look for him. Hopefully he left some doors unlocked.
>>[2] He'll show up eventually. This is all fine and good, but you need to be able to reform *quick.* Keep practicing. [+Body Facility. It will become EVENING.]
>[2] He'll show up eventually. This is all fine and good, but you need to be able to reform *quick.* Keep practicing. [+Body Facility. It will become EVENING.]
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>[Training montage with even more hype BGM]

More importantly, does it matter? You don't particularly give a shit whether he lives or dies, provided he doesn't take you with him; sure, you could use him as a tool to get out of here, but you can use a lot of things as a tool. You bet you can manipulate Pat to help you escape, if you can spend long enough with her. So Lester? Sorry, but he's disposable— and you don't even know if anything's happened to him. He could be taking a nap.

So you're here, and you're alone for now, and there is a door you can now conceivably slip under. Problem solved? Sure. Except that it took you fifteen minutes to get your forearm back— your forearm. What about the rest of your body? Are you planning on spending hours halfway under a door to a unknown room blocked by a fucking unknown substance— or, for all you know, a living thing? Defenseless?

Years ago, you would've scoffed at the risk and gunned for it. And hell, you'd still do it now. (You're not that different.) Difference is, there's nobody to watch you do it— nobody to impress, nobody to intimidate, nothing. Just you. And while that's sad as shit, it also reshuffles your priorities: you're pragmatic alone, these days. You're reasonable. And, very reasonably, you'd like to get this goo stuff under control before you start fucking around.

...God, has Monty been wearing off on you? He has, hasn't he? You can't tell him, or he'll get all smug— not openly smug, he's too damn polite for that. He'll get secret-smug, which is worse. Fuck. Well, whatever. You eye the water tank.


Okay. Done once, it's sort of interesting. You're on tenterhooks trying to figure out if you even can get your arm back. Cool. Done two, three, four times, it's a boring-ass process: sitting there, staring blandly, thinking hard (but not that hard, given that it's the fourth time). You begin to wish Lester Six would wake up from his nap, or whatever the fuck, just to have somebody to talk to. Not even to hold a conversation with— your expectations aren't that high— just to speak words for some response. Like talking to a dog, you know. Instead, as the visualization becomes automatic, you contemplate in dry silence. How is Monty? Has Charlotte told him you're kidnapped? (Has she told anybody? It'd be just like her to hush it up.) If she has told him, is he coming to get you in some dumbfuck solo mission? He should know you'd hate that: you can handle yourself, thanks a lot, and also you're fucking exhausted of rescuing him from his own stupid impulses. (Also, why are you the designated stupid-impulses-rescuer? You and Monty, you and Ellery, you and the boys back home— they get to have fun making the worst decisions known to man, you get to have "fun" bailing them out. Is it because you're a fucking woman? Is that why you have a voice whining to you about "but you should be practical, Madrigal" and "but this would worry people who fucking care about you, Madrigal" and "but this might actually kill you, Madrigal" and they evidently don't? And how is that fair? You have ranted on this subject many times to a patient Bran.)

Ahem. You're getting pretty fast at this: the latest attempt was only a couple minutes. And while you could probably shave it down further, you're more interested in getting used to reforming (is that what you're calling it?) a broader area at once. So you get up on the stepladder and dunk both arms in. So you, very carefully, hang yourself over the side to get your lower body in. (The flexibility comes in handy.) So you swing in but hook your chin and hands on the edge of the tank and let everything under your neck and elbows go and hoist the deadweight back up and flop unceremoniously to the ground. So it works, and works, and keeps working: the goo where your body used to be twitches and tautens and spurts fingers and becomes you. It is very, very weird to look at but inexplicably gratifying, even when— especially when you work up the balls to dunk your head in. Feeling your eyeballs slide out of their sockets is fucking scary. Regenerating said eyeballs like you're a big fat lizard is kinda fun. (Reminder to self: don't tell Monty about that, either. Or anybody.)

In the end you can get the whole of yourself in working order in the span of ten minutes, fifteen tops. It's not instant, admittedly, which'd be the dream— but you're not Pat, alright? You've been a dream goo thing for three days. Two and a third, realistically. So you're chalking this up as a damn good showing, plus more than enough for your current needs. Yeah. Too bad Pat comes walking in while you're half a puddle.

You sense her more as a dark shape and a set of vibrations than as a person, but it's the higher pitch of these vibrations that tip you off that it's probably Pat. "Ggglurbph," you say, then realize you should fast-track the vocal cords. And also the eyeballs.

A minute later, you sway into a kind-of sitting position. Your eyesight remains smeary, but that's certainly Pat— who's backing away rapidly. (You nearly bonked heads.) "Madrigal?"

"Yeah?" you say thickly. "I'm— I'm here. Not dead. What's up?"

"You're..." (You think Pat folds her arms.) "Are you alright? What the hell happened?"

You wave an appendage. "'s all good... I'm just fucking around. Experimenting. Have a good day?"

"It was fine. Experimenting? You did this..." She waves to you, and also to the puddles of water you've left everywhere. (Shit.) "...on purpose?"

"Uh." You think. "Yeah?"

Pat is silent for a little while. "And how has it been going?"

"Actually pretty damn well, thanks for asking." It's not incriminating on its own, so you see no reason to lie. "You came in at a rough time. Real rough time. See, give it five— or ten— I would've been totally normal. Would've never known any different."

"Except for the water everywhere," she says dryly.

"Well— that doesn't count." Your appendage is developing cute little nubs. You wave it again. "Coulda mopped that up, as soon as I have legs and so on. I will have legs, by the way, it's just a whole process of..."

"I know the process, I just..." More silence. "Most people aren't interested in learning new things, Madrigal. They just want to make it exactly like what they're used to, as if that isn't missing the damn— look, I expected you'd be one of those, sorry. Given the extenuating circumstances. I didn't think you'd be interested in..."

(3/5? this one is splitting up weird)
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She's flustered. Ha. Seriously? You were expecting chilly suspicion or a lecture on body mistreatment or really anything but— does she see a kindred spirit in you? Is that what this is? You'd crow about how you duped her if not for the fact that you— well, you did enjoy yourself in the end, once you got to really test your mettle. Fuck. Are you kindred spirits? Are you going to wind up inviting her to fucking Bran's? You bitch about your shady clients and your shitty exes, she bitches about hers? You hate that you don't hate that idea. Being kidnapped is getting to you.

"I mean," you say. "It's handy. Never know when you're gonna need your body back."

"Right?" Oh, god, she's commiserating. "You'd think so! But no, all I hear is— it's weird. It's scary. It's creepy— like being a walking meat sack isn't creepy if you think about it long enough. And like— I'm sorry, are you calling me creepy? Do you realize I employ you? Am I creepy?"

Weird, yes. Scary, arguably sometimes. Creepy? You might have a high tolerance, but— "Nah."

"Exactly! I'm telling you, people don't have any— are you remolding yourself with clothing on, by the by? I don't really give a damn either way, I've seen a lot of—"

"Shit! Fuck." You'd completely forgotten. The jumpsuit is folded on the low table where you left it, after you found it non-conducive to fully dissolving yourself. "Uh, I'd like to, but I'm not sure if I—"

"Just do what you're doing, but really focus on the clothes. Helps if it's something you wear a lot." Pat's mask crinkles. "Look, I'm bushed. How about I go make us some tea, be back in five, and I can give some pointers if you need them."


She keeps her promise, plunks two steaming mugs of tea onto the table, and with a level eye surveys your hard work. "Pretty good. You just started this morning?"


"Well, you're better than some of the bastards who've had this for years. Not to say you're a prodigy or anything, they're just incurious—" Her fist clenches. "A whole damn world to explore, and they want to camp out in the backyard. Anyhow. You have the basics of it. Nice clothes."

You are indeed wearing... clothes. They look, at a glance, like the shit you usually wear— not being assed to shop pays off for once. They're even tighter to the skin than usual, though, and the textures are strange. Not very cloth-like. But at least your tits aren't out in front of Pat, no matter how libertine she professes to be. "Sure thing."

"Really, they're not bad. Smart decision with the solid colors. It's hard to replicate patterns." She grabs a mug and sits down on the couch. "There's a lot of nuances to everything, really— as you might expect. It's a complex substance, a body's a complex thing. Tea?"

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Hey! Good thing you fucking love tea.
>[A2] Shit. Bad thing you fucking hate tea.


>[B1] Forego a regular conversation: just get Pat to ramble about the ~nuances~ of having a goo body. You're sure she's a wealth of knowledge. (What are you interested in knowing about specifically? Write-in.)

>[B2] Just talk like normal people. Normal kidnappers and kidnapper victims. You know.
>>[A] So she's made of goo, you guess, just like you are. But how did that happen? Did she use to be a person? She didn't extract herself from a snake, did she? You're curious. (Fuck! Curious? It really is getting to you.)
>>[B] You're over the Ellery thing. You're *not* going to lose your shit over him anymore— he doesn't deserve that. Ask, very delicately, what kind of gullshit he's been getting himself into.
>>[C] You've put her in a good mood, apparently. Does that make now a good time to ask about why she (or her bosses?) need a goo snake? You feel like you deserve to know, seeing how you were kidnapped for it.
>>[D] Ask why she has that face mask on, even when she's dressed casually otherwise. Hygiene? Fashion statement?
>>[E] Inform her about the shenanigans Lester Six attempted to involve you in, and that you haven't seen him in a while.
>>[F] Write-in.
>[A1] Hey! Good thing you fucking love tea.
>[B2] Just talk like normal people. Normal kidnappers and kidnapper victims. You know.
>>[C] You've put her in a good mood, apparently. Does that make now a good time to ask about why she (or her bosses?) need a goo snake? You feel like you deserve to know, seeing how you were kidnapped for it.
Tea is for sissies and the British

>B2d and partial e
Let her know he needs more Lester food and also ask what Lester food is because he wouldn’t tell you
>[A1] Hey! Good thing you fucking love tea.
>>[B2] Just talk like normal people. Normal kidnappers and kidnapper victims. You know.
>>[C] You've put her in a good mood, apparently. Does that make now a good time to ask about why she (or her bosses?) need a goo snake? You feel like you deserve to know, seeing how you were kidnapped for it.
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Sorry, folks, I'm getting into the crunch parts of the semester-- homework takes priority over questing, even if I wish it didn't. I have two huge papers due later in the month, so there may be more delays coming up. Sorry! Update tomorrow, and vote remains open. You can pick more than one dialogue option if you want btw, they're not exclusive
I will add this to my current vote.
>>[E] Inform her about the shenanigans Lester Six attempted to involve you in, and that you haven't seen him in a while.

GL senpai!





Called and writing.
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>Spill the tea

You haven't had tea for a long time. Not since you've drowned, sure— but not before that, either, not for years before. It has genuinely been half a fucking lifetime since you last drank tea. And why? You know exactly why. Half a fucking lifetime ago, you had decided that drinking tea was too feminine for you. Dainty. Weak. Hurt your image. It didn't help that the parents liked tea, raised you and Leslie on fucking tea, and you know how you felt about the parents. And Leslie, for that matter.

Well, you were a real dumbass kid, because you liked tea. The taste, plus the little ritual with the cup and the saucer and shit. You just had to be a punk about it, because you had to be a punk about everything, and then it's not like the boys were sitting around throwing adorable tea parties. And then you forgot that you ever liked the stuff at all, and then you were cuffed and booted off a plank of wood, and then there wasn't exactly a wealth of tea underwater (Bran's funky herbal concoctions don't count). And that was that.

Was that. And now you are staring down a mug of tea like a wacko and remembering a load of tea-related shit that has nothing to do with Pat, or being kidnapped, or escaping being kidnapped— real classy, Madrigal. You blink and shake yourself and grab the mug. "Yup. Thanks."

"I mean, it's the least I can do." Pat unhooks one side of her mask to sip at the mug, and you try not to side-eye— okay, you're side-eying the shit out of that. She hasn't taken the thing off once since you've seen her.

"The least you could've done was leaving me in the snake. The second-least thing would've been dumping me ass-naked in a closet and calling it a day." The steam on your face feels good— it's sort of clammy in here. "This isn't even in the bottom ten things you could've done, so. What kind of tea is it?"

Pat has to think about it. "Black?"

You realize suddenly that you can't remember what your favorite kind of tea was. "Good one, good one. Is it a pain in the ass to take that off every time you want to—?"

"The mask?" She's halfway into lifting it off again. "A little, but that's alright. Why?"

Oh, shit. "Uh—"

"You want to know what's underneath? It's nothing pretty." She raises her eyebrows. "The mask's for your comfort, not mine."

"I've seen a lot of shit," you say cagily. "I'm sure it can't be tha-a..."

The bottom third of her face is skull: no lips, no cheeks, just teeth and bone and a ragged webbing of goo. Live goo, you think vaguely. That's the only explanation for the eyes scattered on it, plus it's moving— are those tentacles? Does goo develop tentacles? Pat, swinging her mask around on her finger, is maintaining eye contact with you.

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You've seen a lot of shit. You haven't seen this. But you're not easily rattled, on the whole, and you're trying to get on Pat's good side here, and these things prevent you from reacting stronger than you do. "Shit," you say. "How'd that happen?"

"Self-experimentation's a risky business. Stuff just didn't take properly up here." She pats her cheek. "It's no big deal, really, it just tends to distract people. Nosiness sated?"


"Alright. Hey, the tea's getting cold."

It really isn't, but she's right that you haven't been drinking it. You don't know if you'll like it, is the problem, which now that you're saying it sounds real fucking wimpy. But it's been a long time. And you're not the same person. And you are probably investing goddamn leaf water with way more ominous portent than it deserves, aren't you? What's the matter with you? You drink the tea.

Or you "drink" the tea. You try your damndest to, really, but none of it is going down your throat— do you have a throat? If you didn't have one, it'd make a lot of sense, because you're just absorbing the tea. That's what's happening. There is tea in your mouth, and there is tea in your cheeks and your lips and your sinuses, and in your neck and your skull, and it is spreading down to your collarbone, and you're sure that if you drank a sufficient quantity of tea you'd be made of it flat-out. Which you wouldn't mind, because wherever the tea goes it carries with it a heady, syrupy warmth. Your eyes are wide. Your cheeks are flushed. You are trying to determine if you are, in fact, tasting with your entire body.

>[GRIT: High]

"Yeah?" Pat, having reattached the mask, sets down her own mug. "Wouldn't recommend it with iced drinks, necessarily, but..."

"Mm," you say. It's hard to concentrate. "Yeah, I— yeah. Huh. Shit. Um... do you eat everything like this? Because that— I dunno how you'd—"

"I don't eat much," Pat says. "But more-or-less, yes. You can do solids, but they tend to sit there for a—"

"Okay, okay." You'll be back in real life soon. It's fine. "Is that why Lester Food's a powder? So it can be mixed with water, or whatever?"

"Lester Food?" Pat sits back on the sofa. "Where the hell did you—"

"Lester Six showed me, for... some reason. I guess there was none left in the—"

"There was some left. I could've sworn—" Pat squints down into the hallway. "I'll have a talking to with him. He's just supposed to watch you, not drag you into... but yes, it's meant to be mixed with water. Or whichever fluid."

"And... what's in it?"

Is it your imagination, or did she look shifty right there? She definitely glanced away, but you're also definitely biased against her. Hmm. "Organic materials," she says breezily. "Nutrients, vitamins... doesn't taste good, but it keeps them functional. Believe me, they don't need more than 'functional.'"

"Gotcha." So it's dog food for goo men. "So—"

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"Damn, it's getting late. Sorry. Spent longer than I thought..." Pat doesn't finish her sentence. "We really need to get started in the lab."

Great. "Yeah," you say. "So what are you— I know you're making a goo Matches, or whatever, but why? Why go to all the effort of fucking kidnapping me for— for— I don't get it. Sorry, but of all the reasons to get fucking kidnapped, this one's lame as—"

"I wish I didn't agree with you, but I don't exactly have a choice in the matter." Pat's pulling a pair of gloves from her pocket. "This is going to sound like gullshit, but I don't know, Madrigal. They gave me a job and told me to do the job. I'm doing the job. If I manage to do the job, maybe they won't execute me on the spot. Maybe they'll throw me a nice fat bonus if they're in good moods. If they have moods." She shrugs. "Look, I didn't make the deals. Blame Lester."

You furrow your eyebrows. "They?"

"You know. Management." (You don't know.) "Management. The bosses. We get supplies and funding, they get— they get whatever the hell they want, because they have all the damn leverage. They want a goo snake, they get one, never mind how stupid difficult and dangerous and time-consuming that is to—"

Holy fuck. "And they'll execute you?"

"Beats me! I have received... polite encouragements to hurry up. They're very good at being polite. Did I tell you they took Lester?"

That sounds distantly familiar. "Uh—"

"Because they took Lester. Where? I don't know. To do what with him? I don't know. Way I see it, best case scenario they put him in stasis... and this was your friend's fault, by the way. Charlotte? Her fault? Because I had a snake to show them. I had two, actually. And then I had zero, and my life's work crumbling down around my ears, basically, and then Management was not pleased with this. So they took my boyfriend, Madrigal. As collateral. And in their infinite— in their infinite generosity they set a new deadline. Do you know how fucking hard it was to source the snake the first time?"

Do you know? It was Branwen's snake. She literally stole Branwen's snake out of Branwen's barn where you've been a million times. You've seen that snake a million times. Also, you were there when this entire fiasco happened— when Richard made the facility crumble, even. (Charlotte was out cold.) Does she know this? Does she remember you? You were piss-drunk in Charlotte's dream house(?), granted, but you were definitely there. Fuck. You're actually kind of pissed she doesn't remember you.

You're not so pissed you'd willingly invite her wrath, though— if Charlotte's the scapegoat, all the better for you. Better to play it cool. "Fucking hard?" you say.

"Yes. Thank you. It was fucking hard. So I..." She massages her temples. "It's all a big mess. That's what it is. But I have a snake now, and I've done this before, in theory, so it should be... I shouldn't be screwed yet. We shouldn't be screwed yet."

"What?" You fold your arms. "Look, I'm sorry you're under death threats, but I have nothing to fucking do with—"

"You're in the vicinity. You were in the snake. I'm not saying they'll consider you involved, but—" She throws her hands out. "I think it's well within the realm of possibility, alright? It's better you know now. I don't think they think how people think."

"How..." You fold your arms tighter: the tea-warmth is starting to fade. "Are you saying they're not fucking people? What? What are you being bossed around by, a bunch of—"

"I don't know. I don't know anything for sure. I really—" She takes a deep breath. "—really shouldn't be talking about this. We're late."

>[1] What do you do in the lab? (OPTIONAL write-in. It is an ungodly hour of the morning. I'll get options posted midday sometime, but feel free to toss in your two cents beforehand if you have them.)
>moar snek bonding
Bond with sneeky snek.

>Continued from >>5456062


You should be doing something useful, shouldn't you? Should be badgering Pat about the storage door or the basement or Lester-gone-missing or even more about "Management," whatever the hell that is. Or you should be slipping useful-looking items down your cleavage. And if not those, you should be skulking about trying to memorize the steps in Pat's procedure— somebody will pay to know this.

You know you should be, and consequently have no explanation for why you're standing there, unmoving, hardly breathing, staring down at Matches. Or, well, that's a fucking lie. You have no good explanation. No explanation you like or want to accept.

Pat is off elsewhere in the lab doing god-knows-what— you've never understood all this researchy shit. She's trusted you alone here, which feels like a dumb move. What'd she do if you scooped up Matches and stuck it down the tits? What if you up and swallowed it? Cut it in half with one of any variety of sharp instruments? It's so tiny it'd be no effort. Maybe she's cottoned on that you don't have the stomach for any of that. You should hate the thing. You should. But it's so tiny, and its black beady eyes goggle out of its skull, and you were in it, that was you, and you're just—

you're staring up into your own face — your eyes bore into your eyes, and

"Madrigal?" Pat's back. "Doing alright?"

"Uh," you say.

"You and the snake, huh?" She adjusts her goggles. "Say..."

It's a dangerous 'say.' "What's up?"

"...Would you mind describing how you're reacting to the snake? I—"

You tuck your hands behind your back. "It's Matches."

"I can't name the snake, Madrigal. Would you mind describing that?" She lifts the lid of the tank: Matches cowers in the corner from her. "It could be useful."

Again, a dangerous term. "Uh-huh. Useful how?"

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"I mean, it could..." She hesitates. "This was a difficult process to start with, and I have an immature snake and significantly less help and equipment than I did the first time. I need all the leads I can get. If I could work with an imprint it's left on you, that'd—"

"Work with. As in experimenting on me?"

Pat tugs at her gloves. "Humanely? Look, Madrigal, I— the faster I get this done, the faster I can let you go, alright? It's as simple as that. I don't want to keep you here."

>Your GRIT is: High.
>Your SNAKE SENSE is: Low.
>PAT'S TRUST is: Somewhat Trusting.

>[1] God fucking dammit. Fine. Let Pat experiment on you (and Matches)...
>>[A] ...minimally. Enough to placate her, but not enough to really *do* anything. It'll keep you occupied, anyhow. [+Snake Project Progress, -Grit]
>>[B] ...moderately. She makes a compelling argument, and how bad could it be? You're good at rolling with the punches. [+Pat's Trust, ++Snake Project Progress, +Snake Sense, ---Grit]
>>[C] ...as much as she wants. It's not like you haven't gone through hell already with this, and you're confident you can tough out whatever she plans on throwing at you. If it gets you out of here that much faster, all the better. [++Pat's Trust, +++Snake Project Progress, ++Snake Sense, -----Grit]

>[2] Hell no! You're going to escape *before* she finishes, anyhow. Refuse point-blank... [-Pat's Trust]
>>[A] ...because you don't trust Pat.
>>[B] ...because you don't want to be made vulnerable.
>>[C] ...because you just want things to go back to normal already.
>>[D] ...because you don't want to aid the creation of the goo-snake.
>>[E] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in.
>[2] Hell no! You're going to escape *before* she finishes, anyhow. Refuse point-blank... [-Pat's Trust]
>[C] ...because you just want things to go back to normal already.
>>[2] Hell no! You're going to escape *before* she finishes, anyhow. Refuse point-blank... [-Pat's Trust]
>>[C] ...because you just want things to go back to normal already.
>Please stop

"I don't want to be kept here," you say warily. "I also don't want to be fucking experimented on. Fair? Fair game?"

"Madrigal, it'd be beneficial for both—"

"It'd be fucking beneficial for you!" You slam your hand on the counter. "What the fuck do I get out of it, a 'maybe'? 'Maybe' I'll get out faster? And what if I don't. What if it's fucking useless, huh? Then you've wasted your time fucking— cutting me open, rearranging my insides, melting my jaw off— so I get out of here slower, and I'm fucked-up because of it? Wow! Wow. Great plan."

Pat's fists clench a little, but her voice is neutral. "Watch the emotional regulation."

"Yeah? Go fuck yourself. If you come anywhere near me with a scalpel, I'll kick your—" You thrust your finger at her. "I have been patient. Do you realize that? Do you realize I've been taking this fucking well? Even for this being some stupid-ass dream thing, I've been taking it well. I am sleeping in a fucking tank. I am drinking tea through my fucking sinuses. I have been really goddamn polite about the fact that you KIDNAPPED me and IMPRISONED me and stuck me in a FAKE FUCKING BODY—"

"I am trying my best."

"Well, your best kind of fucking sucks, alright? It sucks. And I am getting by with this nonsense shit because I am going to wake up out of this shitty place and be fine. I'm going to be fine! I am going to be normal. And do you know what's going to happen if I let you fuck around with me?"

"You don't even know what my ideas were," she says.

"I can fucking guess! I am guessing they are going to leave me not normal. Yeah? Yeah? And, wow, I'm sorry, but if you wanted somebody who liked that sort of thing you should've fucking kidnapped Ellery. You could've had your lame weirdo conversations with him and you could've experimented on him and he probably would've had a grand fucking time of it. But you picked me, and newsflash, I have a real fucking life outside shitty fucking dreamland. I don't want this."

Pat looks at you for a long time. Then she tucks her hands behind her back. "I'm going to assume you didn't mean to say most of that."

Did you? It feels pretty fucking true to you. Long-overdue, even. "Okay? And are you going to fucking experiment on me?"

"No. I don't operate on non-consenting parties." Her voice is hard. "You've made your opinion on this fairly clear."

"Yeah, I—"

"I think you better take a seat over there, since you don't want any part of it." She jerks her head toward the wall. "I'll walk you back toward the lobby when I'm done for the night."


So you sat against that wall, and Pat didn't speak to you for the next ninety minutes. Her grip was tight when she walked you back. Her goodbye was terse.

>It is NIGHT, DAY 3

You sit uncomfortably on the sofa and try to sort through your feelings. Do you regret it? You still agree with it— you've been squashing down the gullshit she's been putting you through for way too fucking long. Handling dream-shit when you need it to get out of here? Fine. When it's just sort of incidental? Whatever. Willingly subjecting yourself to it? You're not Ellery. You're not Ellery. God, you need to stop fucking bring up Ellery. Why do you do this to yourself?

And why did you say it all like that? You let the fucking business mask slip— great job, Madrigal. Pat's giving you the benefit of the doubt, sort of, but you're sure not buddy-buddy now. Not that that was the goal. Fucking... Girls Nights with Bran. Whatever. You can escape without making friends, and you haven't even fully scuttled that, if you want it— if you really cozy up to her it'll be fine. It'll be fine no matter what.

>Your GRIT is: High
>PAT'S TRUST is: Slightly Trusting
>Your GOOPINESS is: Goopy

>[1] Sleep. (And switch back to Charlotte's POV.)
>>[1] In the tank. (+Goopiness, +Pat's Trust)
>>[2] On the couch. (-Goopiness, +Grit)

>[2] Don't sleep.
>>[A] Slip under the door to STORAGE. You're invested in this. And you sort of promised Lester?
>>[B] Slip under the door to the LAB, and... you don't know. Sabotage shit? Stare at Matches until it gives up its secrets? Many options.
>>[C] Something else? (Write-in.)
>[A] Slip under the door to STORAGE. You're invested in this. And you sort of promised Lester?
where 2 is B
Oh, shoot, yeah-- [11] should be [1A] and [12] should be [1B], you're totally right. Can't believe I didn't catch that.
Rolled 2 (1d2)


Madrigal really isn't a night owl, huh? Writing shortly.

Yeah. It'll be fine. (You slouch back into the sofa cushions.) You're doing fine, aren't you? Not dead. Not in a snake. Not experimented on. Not even in prison, really, properly— yeah, you can't leave, but you've got more-or-less the run of the place. It's insane to you how Pat just leaves you here after she goes to sleep. Is she dumb? Does she really not expect you to take advantage of that?

Er, granted, you haven't taken advantage of that. Yet. You're fucking working on it, alright? It's hard, after a long day in a strange place, to gin up the motivation to get up and skulk around. Skulking around is fucking exhausting. Contemplating skulking around is fucking exhausting. And there's the whole nasty business of melting-yourself-into-a-puddle-and-reforming, which you can do now, you fucking guess, but after the little outburst you had it feels hypocritical. Because if that wasn't so bad, would letting Pat do her shit be that bad?

...Yes? What the fuck are you thinking? Of course it would be: it's the difference between doing and being done to. Fuck, you've got to get out of here. And you will, as soon as you close your eyes for a little bit. A second. And then you'll be up and—

You sleep.



You are Charlotte Fawkins. After wrapping up a surprisingly pleasant chat with the goo hivemind Us, you have reawoken in the fortune-telling tent... with Gil nowhere to be seen. Damnit!

And it's not just that you (probably) vanished before his eyes, either— just before that you were lurching forward yelling nonsense, and before that you've been off-seeming all day. And you're probably lucky it's just seeming off, acting funny, and not you hinging your jaw open and eating some poor sap whole. Ha ha. Not that that (or something like that) is something you're worried might happen. You're actually doing fine (positive thinking), and you are managing the red stuff really well (positive thinking)— supremely well, you mean. Phenomenally! You haven't eaten anybody yet, and there's no reason to think that you will, or that Gil will think you will, even though he probably thinks you're dead right now and that's why you're dashing headlong out of the tent.

A cool sea-breeze whips your hair around as you skid to a stop in the middle of the clearing and pivot: where is he? Where did he go? Think. Think. You're gone in strange circumstances, he doesn't know where Lucky and Arledge are, he turns to...

Himself! You left him in the line! He knows exactly where that is, and more importantly you know exactly where that is— you dodge curious onlookers and shove through less-curious ones and come to the— "GIL!" you yodel. Because there is a little cloud of beetles there.

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And then there's a little arrow of beetles darting toward you, and then there are beetles on you, their hook feet clawing into your face and your neck, and you yank the fabric of your vest and hold it so you don't swat them off through pure mechanical instinct. And Gil is saying "Lottie!" right in your ear and "I-I-I thought you were dead!" and you knew he'd think that, owing to the circumstances and also frankly to his overall disposition, but it— you don't know if he'd be saying it like that if he were happy about it, you guess.

>[+1 ID: 7/13]

He streams off you then and re-clouds a foot from your face— the beetles are nearsighted, you faintly remember. You rub your cheek. "Yeah, I... still alive. Yes. Um..."

You didn't mean to do anything. Hell, you didn't do anything— it was the red stuff that vanished you, really. Nobody sane could hold you responsible for vanishing and worrying him, and anyhow he worries too much, all things considered, it probably hasn't been longer than a couple minutes since he's still right here— "...sorry. I didn't mean to, um— it was an accident."

"I-I-I didn't think it was on purpose? I-I just thought you got eaten, like the locus up and goddamn— I mean, it just absorbed you! I-I thought you, you ticked it off, or something, because you were doing all that—" He stops short.

"Yeah," you say slowly. All that attempting-not-to-murder-Certified-Liaison-Draven. "Well, no. Er... maybe? Maybe it spat me out, or, um... but no, I didn't die. I just went and talked to the thing that's making this whole—"

You briefly explain the conversation with Us. Gil has no eyes to widen (or rather has way too many), but he sounds suitably impressed when you finish. "So we're i-in the afterlife?"

"What? Um..." Is that sacrilegious? "I don't think we're in the afterlife? I think it's sort of artif—"

"I-I-I know! But you're saying these are actually dead people? Aw, geez. Every single one of these guys—"

"Don't say it so loud," you hiss.

"—they're real? They're real people. Who are dead." Gil jitters. "Goddamn. Are— are we dead? Am I-I-I haunting the corpse of some guy who died 200 goddamn—"

"You're haunting his beetles, I think." You pause. "Where's the rest of you, by the way? I don't see you in line...?"

"Uh, I-I-I don't—" He alights tentatively on your outstretched palm. "I-I thought he'd be here... that's why I, uh— why I went. But I-I-I'm guessing, um, if he's not here, then..."


You didn't need to search: the other Gil comes striding right up to you like he didn't directly disobey your noble orders. He's wreathed in beetles and grinning— grinning— and more than that, he reaches out a hand and your Gil is pulled to him like a magnet. "Hi, Lottie."

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"Hi," you say narrowly. "Why were you not in line? I told you to stand in—"

"It was a dumb idea. If you would've asked me if it was a dumb idea beforehand, I would've told you." His facial expression hasn't changed. "A lot of things would work out better if you got my input first, honestly."

You fold your arms. "Okay, I don't remember asking. And why the hell are all your beetles out? Did you get a cramp? Everyone's gonna stare at—"

He laughs weirdly. "They're really not."

"Yes they are? You're not even making them look normal, they're just—" You wave broadly around your head. "Are you talking through them? Because your voice sounds weird, and also that makes it worse? You can explain away normal beetles, I guess. But talking—?"

"It doesn't need explaining, Lottie. If I don't pay it any mind, nobody else will." He tucks his hands behind his back. "Does having them out bother you?"

It's not that he's completely talking through the beetles, you think: his mouth is moving. But his voice isn't coming out of it. "No?" you say defensively. "I'm used to them? I just think it's sort of a dumb idea to—"

"It's okay if you're a little bothered. I don't think I ever completely came to terms with it, either." He is still grinning. "I just think it's healthier to be out in the sunshine. Isn't it a nice day?"

Okay, you were giving him the benefit of the doubt, but something is up here. Gil isn't like this. He doesn't talk back to you, he stutters, he isn't cheery, and he doesn't— he doesn't refer to himself in the past tense? Hello? Did it think you wouldn't notice? You glare at the Gil-entity. "Uh-huh. And where have you been, exactly?"

"I've been around," it says.

"Right. Right. Uh-huh." You sidle closer. "And could you take off your glasses real quick? I bet you can't enjoy this nice day fully with those big things on..."

"Sure, Lottie." It exhales and takes off its glasses.

The first thing you notice as you peer into its wavering eyes is that they're badly bloodshot, and you're about to go ballistic on the (clearly foul and evil) entity for making Gil cry when you process the thick blue rings around the pupils. Your throat constricts. Your bile rises. No, you think, before you can't think differently— no no no no no, you do not want to murder Gil, you don't, no matter what kind of FILTH what kind of ROT seethes in him; you have zero desire to PURGE HIM of whatever it is, and if it couldn't make you murder some random guy why does it think it'll work on Gil? Of course the truth is that (it) doesn't think, only reacts, and as the Gil-entity replaces its glasses and frowns and takes your trembling fist it seethes and foams. When the Gil-entity's big calloused hand enfolds that fist gently it writhes and spits. You take a shuddery inhale.

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And when the blue light blasts through you, it screams. Maybe you do too. You definitely fall to your knees, definitely claw at your throat with your free hand: there is something inside it stoppering it up and you don't know how to get it out. The Gil-entity's glasses gleam blue. Its teeth gleam blue, too.

When it ends it's like a windstorm hit you. You can't breathe, you mean can't breathe— you can make short little gasping cries but no air is reaching your lungs. "Holy shit," the Gil-entity says, and stares down at its hand. "Holy shit. Um, Lottie? Lottie? Lottie, say you're okay? I didn't— I don't think I meant to—"

Some part of you revels in breaking the entity's composure and the rest of you can't breathe. Your hands are around your neck, trying to squeeze the thing in there out, and to your muddled surprise it seems to be working— you can feel motion. The Gil-entity has crouched down to eye-level. It doesn't appear to know what to do.

You don't, either, so you stick to what's been working, squeezing and squeezing and squeezing until you start to hack and gag and ultimately heave out the thing killing you.

It's a snake. Two feet long or three, wide-tailed, black on the top and yellow on the bottom. It is covered in spittle and (having fallen onto the ground) dust. It is perfectly unmoving.

>[-2 ID: 5/13]

You stare. The Gil-entity nudges the snake with its foot, to no reaction. "Um, Lottie?"

"Mmrgk," you emit.

"...Is that what Richard looks like?"

All that work and your throat's still full. It's just mucus now, though, and you sniff it down loudly. "Are you actually Gil?"

"Yeah," probably-Gil says.

"You got... blessed?"

"...Yeah," probably-Gil says.

"Huh." You look down at your curled hands. "Without me?"

"I don't think it's the kind of thing you can do with somebody," he says seriously. "What happened with Richard?"

>[A1] Tell him what happened with Richard.
>[A2] Tell him what happened with Richard, and also about the red stuff.
>[A3] Evade the question.
>[A4] Write-in.

(The [B]s are optional.)
>[B1] Ask if he at least went through a proper vision quest.
>[B2] Ask if he has epic water powers. (You know the blessing said he wouldn't, but doesn't hurt to check, alright?)
>[B3] Ask if he's a stupid pagan now.
>[B4] Ask why he was using the past tense if he's still Gil. That's just dumb and incorrect, objectively speaking.
>[B5] Whip out that good ol [Communion], just to, like, double-triple-check that it's actually Gil. Blessing or not, he's acting *weird.* (Spend 1 ID.)
>[B6] Write-in.

>[C] What do you do with the snake? (Write-in.)
>[A2] Tell him what happened with Richard, and also about the red stuff.
Purely to get him up to date and not at all to procure another emotional anchor

>[B1] Ask if he at least went through a proper vision quest.
>[B2] Ask if he has epic water powers. (You know the blessing said he wouldn't, but doesn't hurt to check, alright?)
>[B4] Ask why he was using the past tense if he's still Gil. That's just dumb and incorrect, objectively speaking.

>[C] Tie it into a knot and stuff it into our pocket for now.
I don't know what to do with it, but leaving it free to ruin goo peoples' nice afterlife ain't it.
uh not the red stuff


Drape it around our shoulders. It's a necklace now.
>B1 B3 as well as right in, does fake gil know philosophic lituture now? Depending on his awnsers, act accordingly.
>C snake isn't real, don't acknowledge it
>>[A2] Tell him what happened with Richard, and also about the red stuff.

>>[B1] Ask if he at least went through a proper vision quest.
>>[B2] Ask if he has epic water powers. (You know the blessing said he wouldn't, but doesn't hurt to check, alright?)
>>[B4] Ask why he was using the past tense if he's still Gil. That's just dumb and incorrect, objectively speaking.

Tie it into a knot and take it with us.






Called for [A2], [B1], [B2], [B4], the [B] write-in, and a combo of [C]s, then writing.

What happened to him? You could tell Gil, in complete honesty, that you don't know. That you kicked him and he vanished, and how are you supposed to guess what that means? He could be dead. Or he could be incorporeal, like Ellery with his skin sliced off: he could be floating there watching you right now. Or he could have fallen out of your reality into a whole other one. Or he's off taking a vacation, and wouldn't that be a good thing? For both of you? He'd get a chance to unwind, so maybe he wouldn't be on edge so much, and you'd get some alone... some alone...

Your lip wobbles. You sniff again, and scrub at your nose to hide it. God-damnit! You can't cry again- it makes no sense. You already did the crying, and you got over it, and you've moved on to a bright and shining and independent future where you're not- where you're not being bossed- where you have phenomenal (that's the word) control over anything that could possibly boss you, and indeed possess unfathomable magyckal power with which to blast your potential enemies to smithereens, and have a worm (in theory), and a retainer, which is also why it's extra important not to cry right here: what's Gil supposed to think? You're supposed to be the noble rock of stability, and whatnot, leading him through the trials of- of- oh, God, you're tearing up, aren't you.

And he can tell, because he's reached out to touch your upper arm softly. This confuses you enough to temporarily halt the tears, and you sniff once more and stare at your arm and up at him. "W-what?"

"Lottie," he says earnestly. So damn earnestly. "Did Richard hurt you?"

>[-1 ID: 5/13]

You blink. And then you can't stop blinking, and your shoulders are shaking, and you're sobbing again in broad daylight in a populated area because probably Gil's hand is on your arm and he has it all completely and totally backwards. He has it backwards, and he doesn't even know it, because if he knew it he wouldn't want to waste his- he is hugging you.

He is hugging you. Your chin is somewhere around his neck area. His raincoat crinkles. He smells kind of like fish. He is very warm and you are bawling harder than before and he is unmarried and there are beetles on you and you are grasping grasping grasping for the words and finally wail out into his wet shoulder: "NO! I- I- I- I KILLED HIM!"

Probably Gil's grip loosens. He steps back, still holding you by your limp forearms. (The beetles hover around you.) "You... what?"

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"I KILLED him!" Claudia's mascara is running into your stinging eyes. You have to space your words between warbling exhales. "I- I MADE him into my FATHER so I, I, I could- so I could summon- so he could help me- I, I, needed to tame ANNIE, but I didn't want to- to BITE anybody, so I couldn't- and I- so I thought he could help me, since that's his JOB, but he wouldn't, and I, I mean- magyck runs in my BLOOD, so I thought my father- I thought- but he made me stab him, and he, he, he DIED! And I ate MUD and now I think GOD is in me and it keeps wanting me to KILL people and I- I don't want to- I don't want to kill you! I don't want to kill... I don't want..."

Probably Gil's mouth is open a little bit. You wobble up at him until he shuts it and furrows his brow. "I know you don't want to kill me...?"

"But it WANTS me to!" You don't know how to explain it. "It- it HATES you! It-"

"Okay. Uh..." Probably Gil purses his lips. "...maybe we better sit down...?"


It is a while longer before you can string together complete sentences. Gil's ushered you down some trail and found some unoccupied park bench and the two of you sit there staring straight ahead. He keeps adjusting his glasses.

"I get the chain of events..." (You've reexplained with more sniffling and less sobbing.) "Um, I'm not sure I get why you decided to do a, a ritual, but-"

"It's in my blood," you say wanly.

"Okay. I guess I don't have to completely get that part. But I-" Probably Gil clasps and unclasps his fingers rapidly. "I don't get why you're so upset about it. Not the murder stuff, that's, uh... I mean the Richard part. You don't even know if he's dead."

You stare down at the snake draped across your lap. "He hasn't come back."

"And so fucking what?" Probably Gil's voice is more vehement than you were expecting- you look askance at him. "Lottie, he's a fucking monster! He fucking beats you up! He-"

"He doesn't beat me up."

"Yes he does? I fucking saw it? Then he wiped your whole memory-" Probably Gil exhales. "Does he do that every time? Is that it? He whales on you until he gets bored and then he eats the whole-"

"No! He wouldn't- he just calls me dumb and worthless sometimes, and I don't even care about that anymore. And that's it."

"Oh, okay, he just-" He slaps his leg. "Wow! He just calls you dumb and worthless sometimes. And you're sad the guy's dead."

Maybe it is a Gil-entity, after all? You halfway hope so, from the audacity of him. "You're my retainer. It's none of your business. People of noble breeding can feel sad for whomever they deign to-"

"I'm calling it how it goddamn is, Lottie. Do you like your shitty dead dad calling you worthless?"

"That's not-"

"Do you like being beat up?"

"Shut up!" you snap. "It's none of your- he just wanted to keep me safe. And I- I- I- I- betrayed him, and I- and he's my father. So just shut up. Please."

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Possibly Gil clenches his jaw and looks sideways. You scrub mascara off your cheeks ineffectually. Eventually you say "You hugged me."

"...You needed it."

"You wouldn't hug me before," you say sourly.

"I-" His mouth opens and closes. "I wanted to. I was too chicken. He was... too chicken."

Yeah-huh. "He? Like the real Gil?"

"Yeah? I mean... sort of? I am the real Gil. I'm... I'm realer than the other one." He pushes his glasses up. "He was so bogged down in pointless shit that you couldn't even see him. He was fucking drowning in it, basically. And I'm... not."

"So what," you mutter. "So you got blessed or whatever and it powerwashed you?"

"Yeah, basically. I think."

"And now you know all the dumb secrets of the universe, or whatever? You're enlightened?"

"No?" He rubs his temple. "I don't think I learned any secrets of the universe, unless self-awareness is a big secret... and even if it was, I don't think I can keep it up. The tent guy said it was temporary. It feels temporary. Wouldn't get used to it, is what I'm saying."

Oh, thank God. You're not sure you could tolerate a Gil uninhibited enough to spontaneously embrace vulnerable young ladies, much less one impertinent enough to speak ill of the dead. (...Possibly dead.) As a brief thing, owing to powerful pagan influence, you can accept it. "I won't," you say. "Um... so you had a vision quest, right?"


"A vision quest? Like a dream sequence, or..." You trail off. "Where you underwent many mystic trials? To unlock your sacred power? But not real trials, sort of imaginary-"

"Oh. No?" He shrugs. "I just drank some shit and it blasted me open. Took like a minute."

"You didn't have a vision quest? You just-" You stand, affronted. "How is that fair?!"

"I don't think it's about fairness? I already-"

"You better not have gotten anything good from that lame- that horrible- do you have water powers? Tell me you don't have water powers."

"...What are 'water powers?'"

"Can you control water with your mind? And freeze it, and- and shoot it at people, and things?" He better not have. He didn't earn it. "Don't lie."

"Uh, I don't know, Lottie. I haven't had much time to... it's not like it gave me a rulebook." But he stands up obligingly, shoves up his sleeve, and flexes his fingers outward. They glow blue. Glow blue! Like in your books! You are not not jealous as he waves his hand around awkwardly. "I'm not really getting any... water stuff."

"Yeah? You're not near any water, stupid." (At least he can't condense it from the air. Good start.) "Do it when we get to the waterfall."

"The waterfall?"

"The whole reason we're up here? For Annie? You remember-"

"The worm. Yeah. ...Hard to forget." He clenches his fist to extinguish the glow. "That's important. Do you smell smoke, though?"

"Smoke?" Your nose is all stuffed up. "I don't think I can really smell..."

"Okay. Because I do." He tucks his hands into his pockets. "Can we go look at that first?"

Temporary. Temporary. Mind addled by nefarious pagan magycks. He'll surely be apologetic later. "Um, I guess we can look. Briefly."


After tying the snake around your neck (you didn't want to lose it), you wandered back up the trail and into the clearing- either nobody recognized you from the 'public sobbing' incident, or everybody politely disregarded it, or Gil 2.0 is right and they just don't give a damn if you don't make a big deal out of it. Either way, it's a small mercy. You were led toward a bald spot in the tree cover- an overlook down onto the festival proper.

You may not be able to smell smoke, but you know it when you see it. A sizable black plume is rising from the west of the grounds below you.


>You are at 2/? SV.

>[1] Stick with the waterfall plan: you're going to have to revive Annie sooner or later. If you make that 'sooner' you'll have a giant worm with God in it-- a good ally when you're facing down a threat of unknown scale. You don't even know if the fire's unnatural!
>>[A] Inform somebody that you have Wyrm gunk in you and need it purged via waterfall ASAP. Fast-track the huge line.
>>[B] Claim that Gil 2.0, newly glowy, is a new Liaison who needs... uh... sacredized using the secret ancient waterfall ritual. Yeah. That exists. (Advanced Gaslighting) [Roll.]
>>[C] Summon more of the red stuff to help you scale (or break through) the wall. You might need it later... but you also might need it out of you later. [-1 SV]
>>[D] Cash in the favor Us granted you and convince them to just let you walk in.
>>[E] Write-in.

>[2] The thing about fire is that it gets bigger. The other thing about fire is that it might, if it's real, be burning straight through the fabric of the manse. And... Us told you it wouldn't be happy about disruptions to its "dream." Make a beeline for the smoke.

>[3] Write-in.
wtf not sure why all my em dashes turned into dashes, guess I'm larping as bananasQM for this update
>[2] The thing about fire is that it gets bigger. The other thing about fire is that it might, if it's real, be burning straight through the fabric of the manse. And... Us told you it wouldn't be happy about disruptions to its "dream." Make a beeline for the smoke.
Lucky has awakened and is seeing everything as a nail.
>[2] The thing about fire is that it gets bigger. The other thing about fire is that it might, if it's real, be burning straight through the fabric of the manse. And... Us told you it wouldn't be happy about disruptions to its "dream." Make a beeline for the smoke.
Once again Annie should be retrieved last. Lucky time.
>>[2] The thing about fire is that it gets bigger. The other thing about fire is that it might, if it's real, be burning straight through the fabric of the manse. And... Us told you it wouldn't be happy about disruptions to its "dream." Make a beeline for the smoke.

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>Yell "FIRE" in a crowded area

"...Lucky," you say hoarsely.


"Lucky." Shouldn't it be obvious? "Come on!"

You scrub viciously at your tear-stained cheeks and grab Gil 2.0 by the wrist and drag him whirring and stumbling along behind you: you have broken out into a jog. If you didn't have ten minutes of winding downhill trail before you, it would've been a sprint, but as it is your lungs burn by the end of it. (Claudia is not an athlete.) Gil is wheezing less than you are, hatefully, but as you corner onto flat ground he still hasn't grasped the situation- he's been pleading with you to stop and explain. You haven't. Time is (most likely) of the essence, and anyways he needs to be taken down a peg. Enlightened or not, he can't go around thinking he can tell you what to do.

You had been passing an increasing number of people hustling upwards as you hustled down, but down at sea level it's even worse: there's easily hundreds of festival-goers surging in your direction. (Enlightened or not, you are glad to have Gil with you.) Now you can smell smoke, though you mainly feel it in your eyes and nostrils. The level of yelling and banging and general commotion solidifies your feeling of correctness: there isn't supposed to be arson on a perfect sunny day like this. There just isn't. And the culprit isn't remotely mysterious, either: you have gotten yourself separated from a man with both a pathological hatred for the 'unnatural' and a pair of torches.

So Lucky woke up. Great! Surely you can talk him out of burning this whole place to the ground, surely, surely, if you can find him first. This is a tall order. Even with Gil behind you to shoulder people out of the way, fighting upstream against the crowd is proving nightmarish- particularly when there's people in megaphones barking orders to HEAD FOR THE EXITS LADIES AND GENTLEMEN THIS IS FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY DO NOT PANIC WE WILL GET THIS UNDER CONTROL at regular intervals. At least the location of the fire is obvious... but is Lucky there? Or has he slipped away in the ruckus to find more targets?

You don't know and have no solid way of knowing. You think about and refrain from asking Gil 2.0 if he is now capable of PROGNOSTICATIONS: mainly you don't want him to be. Him acting like he knows more than you do is one thing. Him actually knowing... yeah, well. It doesn't matter, anyhow, because you have successfully ducked into a side alley of abandoned food tents (you could go and steal kettle corn right now and nobody would ever know) and are weaving skillfully toward the source of the ever-blackening smoke. Soon you-

"MA'AM! SIR!" A sweaty, mustached man cuts directly in front of you. "You're headed in the WRONG DIRECTION! We're asking that everybody please gather in a SAFE ZONE while our brave volunteers contain the fire!"

"That sounds reasonable," Gil says. (Pointedly?)

"Thank you! Yes. So if you'd like to follow me, sir and ma'am, I can escort you—"

You sigh.

>[1] Just grab Gil (or worst case an armful of beetles) and book it past the guy. You don't have time for this. [Roll.]
>[2] If there's one guy trying to corral stray festival-goers, there's probably a dozen: you need a more permanent solution. Pin the guy down and convince Gil to possess his body. That's a thing he can do, right? [Roll.]
>[3] If you can instill in Annie that you're [PREDATOR] and [MASTER], you can almost certainly instill it in this guy. Do so. [-1 SV]
>[4] Call in the favor. Try to preemptively explain to Us that the extreme disruption it is probably about to be experiencing... isn't your fault.
>[5] Write-in.
>[5] We're the brave volunteers, now let us through.
>>[3] If you can instill in Annie that you're [PREDATOR] and [MASTER], you can almost certainly instill it in this guy. Do so. [-1 SV]
>>[3] If you can instill in Annie that you're [PREDATOR] and [MASTER], you can almost certainly instill it in this guy. Do so. [-1 SV]
backing >>5460648
I was going to write it in but I saw it was already there


Called for [3], but Charlotte will attempt [5] before switching tactics. (It would've been an Advanced Gaslighting roll.)

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...Sorry, folks, but I called this one way too late because of homework and now I'm staring down the barrel of writing during truly obscene hours of the morning. Since I don't want to still be up at 6 AM, I'll do my best to update tomorrow... but if you remember what I said about those huge papers, Paper #1 is due Monday. So it'll be Monday night at absolute latest. Sorry!!
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be strong
we believe in you
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>Enter your magical realm...?

Come on, Lottie. Easy lie. "We- we are the volunteers," you say. "Yes. Ahem. That's us. So actually if you could escort us towards the dastardly—"

"Ma'am, I didn't see you at training. Or you, sir. So—"

You glance helplessly at Gil, who's blank-faced. "Um, we were... sick?"


"Yes! Horribly sick. Ailing. On death's door, practically. We were feverish, and- and vomiting, and if we had attended training when it happened we would've purged ourselves everywhere, on everybody, on you probably, and—"

"Ma'am," the man says placidly, "you are not a volunteer. Can I see ID?"

"ID?" you say. ID? He can't expect you to show him ID! It's an emergency! Shouldn't he want brave volunteers, regardless of legitimacy? It's his fault if the whole place burns to the ground, his idiot fault alone, and— you would've said all this, might've even coaxed Gil into "producing" an ID, if you hadn't thought instead: how dare he?

How dare he? How dare this fat mustache of a man, this worm, this eyelash, this not-even-a-man— how dare this specter, this whisper, this quivering fungoid tumor stand up to you?! You, Charlotte Fawkins: regal, god-blooded, stinking of destiny? You, who slew your own father and reveled in it? Does he not see your hands stained brazen? You would laugh in his face if you had the breath for it, but the snake is tied too tightly. Instead you grimace in rigor mortis and cock your head. You could kill him. You could take Wyrmtooth take Wyrmbite take the tortoiseshell-handled knife (it is always tortoiseshell-handled) and you could rend him open and take the tangled Law out of him, but what would be the purpose? It is not a thing of its own. [Also, you interject a little desperately, also murdering the guy sort of creates further—]

No, it is far better to make your dominance known. And more than that: respected. Adhered to. You will take this thing and mold it like clay; you will be Queen to it, and you will be neither loved nor feared but obeyed, and it will make obeisance to you.

And so you strode forward, and so you would have done precisely that, were you not caught by the forearm. The beetles— the retainer— th [Gil!] the Gil is holding you pincerlike, eyes bright and intent. His hand is shot through with light. [You think thank God, thank God, thank] you snarl and emanate something like 'remove yourself, insect' and tear him off you with force. He goes stumbling and sparking and you stalk the remaining couple feet to the petrified mustached man.

His face squelches under the force of your grip, and his knees weaken into a kneel. Good. You say nothing to him: you have nothing to say to each other. All you do is take him (what paltry little there is), smooth him out, and form him into the shape of a spiral.

>[-1 SV: 1/?]

When you are done he is melting more than he used to. "Bow," you say.

He bows until his chin scrapes the grass.
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"Who is your master?"

The words fall from him dully. "My master is the progenitor, the imposer of reason, the corrector of faults, the thankless one, the serpent that bears the world, the true god and the only god the Wy—"

For an instant, you falter. "...Your earthly master."

"You, my lady."

"You will do anything for me?"

"Anything, my lady."

"You will return to referring to me as 'ma'am.'" You are disinterested in attracting unwanted attention. "And you will escort myself and Beetles to the scene of the fire."

There is no hesitation. "Yes, ma'am," says the mustached man, and he turns and walks.


You are Gil Wallace, and though you've been divinely enlightened for all of 30 minutes you're already having some trouble with the nuances. For instance, you were made to believe that your life has intrinsic value and purpose, and that the beetles thing had intrinsic value and purpose, and that your relationship with Charlotte (however you define it) does too. You don't mean to sound sardonic about it: these things still register as emotionally true. You want them to be true. You're just confused about how far they oughtta stretch: does Lottie going fucking nuts have value and purpose, too?

And if so, should you leave it be? Because you feel like you can actually fix it, the going nuts thing, you think— not that you know. (No instruction manual.) All you know for hard fact right now is that that thing's not Lottie. It's not. A couple days ago you would've left that up for debate, but she's snotted all over your turtleneck now, so it's different. So now what? You would've called it Richard (for the "Beetles" if nothing else), but Richard is apparently stone-dead— holy shit! It was that easy? Why didn't she do that years ago?— stone-dead, so it can't be him. Something worse, then. When she was doing the aforementioned snotting she called it "God," but that can't be right.

Well, whatever the hell it is, it keeps making you light up like you chugged a damn glorb. And there's an anticipatory tingle, and your blood's all oceany in your ears, and your hover pattern goes all sideways, and short of having it explicitly beamed down on you (or obtaining that instruction manual) you're not sure how it'd be any more obvious that you're meant to help, somehow. And you felt that, and you did that, and she batted you off and turned the organizer guy into a busted slime puppet.

So... were you meant to fail abjectly? Is it actually a good thing that she's possessed? You don't see how it'd be a good thing, but you've recently realized that there's a whole lot of shit you haven't been seeing. You're trooping along behind Not Lottie and the puppet now and staring at the back of the puppet's head and pondering how she could've done that to you at any time— at any time! She had your whole self in the palm of her hands! But she never did, never even hinted at it, did nothing (as a matter of fact) but try and buck up the Gil she was stuck with. It didn't work. Obviously it never worked, and couldn't ever. But she tried, and you don't— you don't think it's a good thing she's possessed. Maybe it's the right thing, or some shit, but it's not at all a good thing.
You can't afford to get too melancholy, though, because things are on fire. They've been on fire for a while, judging by the thick smoke: Not Lottie and the puppet seem unaffected (or incapable of expressing discomfort), but you've had to screw shut your watering eyes and look out through less sensitive lenses. To the beetles the world is mainly green-grey, which is why you have trouble identifying the conflagration when you spot it.

In fairness, you could use the whole damn color spectrum and still not make sense of what you're seeing. There's fire, yes. You got that. It's regular fire, albeit with a pretty white corona around it. It's just everything around the fire is an open wound: the sky is steaming, the earth is boiling, and the world itself is charring, sliding, oozing, dripping into the flames. You can't smell all that well, being so spread out, and you're thoroughly glad for it— what you can glean is metallic and acrid.

None of you are in the danger zone, though you're keeping an eye on Not Lottie to make sure she doesn't bolt. The fire's only really collapsing things in its direct vicinity, but its direct vicinity looks like it's slowly growing. Fantastic. Now... why are you here? Was she expecting to put this shit out all by herself? "Lucky" is that one guy, you're pretty sure, but you see no guys around here. Unless he got eaten by the fire. (Surely not?) You could ask Not Lottie what you're supposed to be doing, but you don't know if she knows or cares or wants to help you. You don't want to tick her off, either, what with the— the puppeting.

So what is a divinely enlightened guy to do?

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Attempt to sneak behind Not Lottie and tackle her long enough to... magic her. (You're going to have to get used to saying that.) It has to be done. [Roll.]
>[A2] Attempt to trick Not Lottie into letting you manhandle her for a second. (How do you do it? Write-in.) [Possible roll.]
>[A3] Leave well enough alone for now. She might go back to normal on her own... right?
>[A4] Write-in?

>[B1] The fire is creepy, but it's not the point, you think. The point was Lucky. (Probably. Going with that.) Hasten off in search for him, using whichever tools are at your disposal. [Roll.]
>[B2] Shit, you need to get this under control. Somehow. Where's the brave volunteers supposed to be? Where's the people with magic goddamn water powers? Rally the troops. [Roll.]
>[B3] Write-in?
>[A1] Attempt to sneak behind Not Lottie and tackle her long enough to... magic her. (You're going to have to get used to saying that.) It has to be done. [Roll.]

>[B2] Shit, you need to get this under control. Somehow. Where's the brave volunteers supposed to be? Where's the people with magic goddamn water powers? Rally the troops. [Roll.]
Lottie can look for Lucky in the meantime
she already threw us off once, we need backup



Called for [A1]/[B2]. I need dice. Now that I'm not writing the options at a [REDACTED] hour of the morning, I don't think rolls for the [B]s are super necessary, so this will just be for tackling Charlotte.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s (+15 Size Advantage, +5 Right Thing To Do) vs. DC 80 (+30 BEGONE INSECT) to magic(?!) the thing out of Charlotte.

>(No spendy option, you're Gil)
Rolled 73 (1d100)

Rolled 70 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Watch THIS
Looks like Charlotte's emo phase is ending prematurely.
Rolled 68 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

Pathetic, I'll save us
>93, 90, 88 vs. DC 80 - Enhanced Success
No [SUNSTROKE], since you're Gil. Writing.
>93, 90, 88 vs. DC 80 - Enhanced Success

Whatever you do, you shouldn't panic: neither the fire nor Not Lottie are out of control yet. She's just kind of standing there, weighing her own options. Does she know why she's here? Does the thing in her even care about getting out? That's not a loaded question— you honestly have no idea what it wants. To kill people? Then why spare the mustached guy? Why spare you?

...Well, you know it's articulate: that was it ranting in the fortune-telling tent, wasn't it? All the stuff about ripping the spine out? You could just ask it. Uh, politely. Deferentially. You're not stupid. You're just thinking that the thing seems to be sort of a control freak, judging by all its reactions, and if you framed it like you (lowly, worthless) needed its glorious assistance not to screw up the—

Damn it! Not Lottie is striding forward toward the fire, arms grandiosely outstretched. You have never been a great thinker under pressure, pre-beetles, post-beetles, anytime— have always been the fatal combination of methodical and risk-averse, willing to spin your wheels for as long as it took until the correct answer came to you. You've been correct a lot of times. And you've been elbowed and mocked and socked in the face the rest of the time, when there never was a correct answer and the machinery clogs up and and you're silent and still as the grave mid-conversation.

Silent and still, or stuttering like hell to fill the gap— that one's new. Either way, you hated it, you mean you hated it, you mean you'd be frozen there considering and simultaneously screaming at yourself to hurry the fuck up, you moron, you fuck-up. Thinking critically back on that, you're pretty sure that was actually making stuff worse. Actually, screw 'pretty sure': of course it was. But if you knew it was making it worse, you would've hated yourself for that, and—

You don't know how you survived like that for that long. You don't. It's not a flaw or a weakness in you, any more than making decisions on a dime is a strength or a virtue: it's a difference, is all. It makes you human. If the whole world was people who made decisions at the drop of a hat— like if everybody randomly just (arbitrary examples) started setting things on fire, or started conducting scary unexplainable magic rituals for no good reason— that'd be insufferable, is what that'd be. You'd shoot yourself living there. Somebody has to think everything through...

...which is what you're doing now. You are staring at Not Lottie's retreating back and you are methodically and rationally thinking through every single one of your options and for once it doesn't take long at all. Lottie is going to die, you think methodically. That thing is going to fucking burn her alive, you think rationally. And then you are sprinting full-tilt- and have you mentioned how much you like Teddy's body? Not like that. Geez. You mean objectively; you mean that he's taller than you and wider, that his hands are sandpapery and his fingernails are chipped and squared-off, that his sturdy legs close the distance in the way yours never could. He's imposing in a way you never could be. And so you are glad it's him that launches himself toward Charlotte, and him who drags her bodily to earth, and him who pins her down though she thumps and writhes and scratches against his slicker. What a cool goddamn guy, Teddy is. God shit or no god shit, she would've thrown you off in an instant.

But Teddy has her prone in the black dirt, and you can feel the magic stuff pushing up against your skin, and from there it's really a no-brainer: you watch from a high vantage the light scything out of you and Lottie going stiff, and below you feel a rush and a great soothing wash of relief: your muscles have relaxed completely. You lie there monastically until Lottie twitches. "Ow," she says, in a small voice.

You nearly jerk upward until better sense takes hold. "...Lottie?"

"Of course it's- it's-" She's attempting and failing to buck you off. "-it's- get off me, idiot!"

"What's my name?"

"Gil? Do you think I forgot? I-" You roll off of her, and she flips over onto her back. Her eyes are red-rimmed. She coughs wetly.

You stare down at her, unsure what to feel. "You were-"

"I was right there, stupid. I know. I was right there the whole time and I couldn't even..." She sits up slowly. "I couldn't... you tackled me!"

"Uh," you say. "Sorry? You were-"

"Shut up! I know I-" She claws her fingers into the dirt, and you realize abruptly that she's right on the verge of tears again. Goddamnit. You open your mouth to say something, but rather than sob she wipes her nose ferociously and staggers to her feet. She stares out over the blaze. "Where the hell is Lucky?"

"Uh, I haven't-"

"I know you haven't seen him, Gil! I-" She slams her fist against her side. "He's going to get us killed if he- if we don't- damnit!"

"It's not spreading very much," you say.

"Does that matter? We're not supposed to disrupt the stupid-ass- do you know what this is? Tell me what this is."


"It's disruption, Gil. And if he goes and he sets a billion of these and we can't catch him because this place is huge and we don't know what he looks like and nobody's going to help us because stupid Arledge is gone and they SHRANK my stupid worm—" She takes a deep breath. "What then? Because the way I see it, Us is going to WAKE UP and it's going to blame all of us even though it's stupid LUCKY's fault and then we're going to get dissolved or eaten and Madrigal's never gonna get rescued and—"

Her arm is up over her eyes to shield from the smoke, ostensibly, but she can't hide the tremor in her voice. And again you don't know how to feel. "...That isn't very positive," you say.

The arm droops. For a long while she pauses. And shen she flounces her hair back and straightens up and brushes the dirt off her. "Ahem. Indeed, I was briefly consumeth with a plague of, yes, negative- negative thinking, resulting from a foul curse cast upon me, which you hath since dispelled. With your god powers. I am thus revivified—"

"Where do you get these words?" you say.

She blinks owlishly up at you. "I am THUS REVIVIFIED, and have mounted the heroic resolve to forthwith oppose the evil plot of Duncan- Duncan Whatshisface, AKA Lucky. Yes! My spirit is burning with... vengeance. Divine vengeance! Now the two of us shalt mount forth to—"

"Three of us."


"The three of us." You nod toward the puppet, who's been standing motionlessly since you got here. Charlotte follows your gaze and her eyes get round and her mouth forms an 'o.'

To her credit, she recovers quickly. "YES! The three of us shalt mount- shalt sally forth to foil the evil plot! With our god powers combined!"

You wait to make sure she's done. "Okay. Sounds good."

Another pause. She drops her raised fist. "Um, and- and thanks. For your god power, and whatever."

"I didn't really do anything," you say. "But no problem."

"You- you tackled me! And I-"


He tackled you, which the red stuff didn't like very much, and then he magycked you, which it liked less. And by that you mean it shriveled up and fled somewhere distant— your toes, or somewhere, your spleen— leaving you alone, aching, a knee shoved into the small of your back. But at least you were infused with a general glow of well-being, and ut at least it was your back. You are Charlotte Fawkins, and thank God for it.

>[+2 ID: 7/13]

Unfortunately, you have just promised a grand sallying forth, and you don't know how that's going to work out. All the things you said before that are still true: this place is giant, and you don't know what Lucky looks like, and Arledge and Annie are still AWOL, and Us is probably going to get pissed if you don't resolve this very, very quickly. That doesn't mean you have the right to think negatively, though, and you're ashamed you said any of that aloud. You're supposed to set a noble example, for God's sake.
So you will be concerned privately, and you will, very very quickly, determine a plan. Indeed. Your genius plan is...

Sorry, this is kind of a revote/expanded version of [B], since [A] took way longer than I thought I would. Pls understand ;__;

>[A1] Before you got tackled, you wanted to go *into* the fire. That doesn't seem like a great idea now... but you have this mustached guy here, red stuff in him, ready to obey your every command! Send him to go suck up the fire, or whatever you were planning on doing before. [This will succeed, but ???]
>[A2] No, that's dumb. What you actually have to do is sit Gil down and magyck him into thinking that his god powers include 'water manipulation.' Then get him to dump a ton of water on it. Easy? (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>[A3] The fire, in and of itself, isn't the issue: the issue is that it doesn't *belong* here. You're good at telling stories, though. Sit down and coax the 'dream' into accepting the fire as natural. [Roll.]
>[A4] Just get mustached guy to rally his BRAVE VOLUNTEERS and generally handle the whole deal while you go confront Lucky.
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] You've been spending far too long taking this manse at face value- the fact is, it's not a real place, and it doesn't have to follow the rules of a real place. If you want to find Lucky, you will. [This will succeed, but might be considered a "disruption."]
>[B2] To find Arledge, actually. He shouldn't actively be evading you, and he'll be sure to want to help stop his arch-enemy(?)'s EVIL PLOT. He can use his stupid pagan magyck to find him, or whatever. [Roll.]
>[B3] Good old-fashioned sleuthing! Surely people have seen a suspicious surly-looking man carrying a load of torches around. Do the legwork. [This will succeed, but will take some time.]
>[B4] Write-in.

>[C1] Yes! (What do you tell Gil to go do? Write-in.)
>[C2] No, you need Gil with you. What if you need to be magycked again?
>[A3] The fire, in and of itself, isn't the issue: the issue is that it doesn't *belong* here. You're good at telling stories, though. Sit down and coax the 'dream' into accepting the fire as natural. [Roll.]
Festivals are commonly accepted occasion for both alcohol consumption and cooking meat on open fire in an outdoor setting, and for some reason both of these activities are liked by the same people, which naturally leads to incidents. Happens all the time, many such cases.
Or else, this could be a terrorist attack by a Wyrm follower! I mean, a poorly thought out prank that went out of hand by a misguided teen in a rebellious phase.

>[B1 with a twist] And of course, the arsonist left tracks, right? Tracks that absolutely naturally would allow anyone who wants to find that person to succeed, right? That's how all such cases end, RIGHT?

>[C2] No, you need Gil with you. What if you need to be magycked again?
we're about to advanced gaslight a dream

File deleted.
>[A3], [B1], [C2]

Neat. Dice! (I called this one late, so I'll roll whatever's left over in 40 minutes.)

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 14 (+10 Narrative Convenience, +10 Plausible Story, +5 Existing Rapport, +3 Claudia, +1 Red Stuff, -15 Negative Thinking) vs. DC 70 (+20 Real) to neutralize the fire!

Spend 1 ID on +10 to all results? You are currently at 7/13 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 6 + 14 (1d100 + 14)

Easy roll.
Rolled 80 + 14 (1d100 + 14)

Rolled 90 + 14 (1d100 + 14)

>20, 94, 104 vs. DC 70 -- Success
>No spendy

Very clean. Writing shortly.
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"It's not hot," you say.

Gil flicks a beetle off his glasses. "What?"

"There's a whole giant fire right there, and it's all weird and smoky and gross-smelling, but it's not hot. Right? Isn't it? Or can you feel any—"

He squints at the whole giant fire. "No, but I thought that was because I was... beetles? You can't feel any heat?"

"Nope." Except from the regular sunshine, though the smoke's blocking out most of that by now.

"Damn, so it's— it's not real? You could've walked right in and been—"

"No! No, I didn't— shut up." You are desperately trying to remember all the lectures you zoned out of. "It's, it's, it's— it's real. I think it's real. I think the problem is that it is real, and it's, um— it's eating all the not-real stuff? And the not-real stuff is... everything, since it's a manse, and... shut up!" (He looked like he was going to say something dumb.) "I'm working on it. It's eating the not-real stuff, it's... antithetical to it, probably, and it's not hot because..."

Gil's fingers drum thoughtfully against his chin. "...It's eating the heat?"

"What? No. Maybe? Maybe it's eating the..." There is nobody around to lecture you about the stupid metaphysical properties of stupid Wind Court fire. You tug the snake around your neck. "Look, it doesn't matter how it's not hot. The how doesn't matter. It just isn't. Which is weird, Gilbert, because if I or you or whoever went and got a match and lit it I think that'd be warm, wouldn't it? I think the kettle-corn cookers are warm. I think the beach bonfires are warm. It just makes sense. While this..."

"It's eating the sense?"

You stare out. The blaze covers a fair area: what used to be several tents, plus what would've been the promenade between. You're guessing. There's no tents and no area between them, only a blast-zone of white flames and black ash, and around the edges the world globbing, dripping, pooling— reducing all to nothing, because nothing is real. No matter how orderly or pleasant or unobstructive it is. No matter how many actual memories went into fashioning it. No matter how realistic it is. It's not real, so it's fuel for the fire, and you yank your attention back to Gil. "Um... yeah. Maybe. The sense, or the ver- very- verysimily- the fake-realness. The pretendingness. This place is fake-real and the fire has to make it real-real, because that's how it works— right?" You don't wait for the answer. "And it's not hot because nothing here can make it pretend to be hot?"

The fire crackles. The beetles whirr. "Uh," Gil says tactfully. "I never really got into the whole, um, theory..."

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"You! Whatsyourface! Am I right?" The mustached guy can barely nod before you've snapped his fingers and pointed at him. "Obviously I'm right. Yeah. I detectived it all out. So it's really easy! All we have to do is convince the dream that the fire's fake-real, not real-real, and that should make it totally normal fire, and then the firemen can deal with it. Done. Bam. No sweat. And then we can go find Lucky, and—"

Gil's looking at you like you coughed another snake out onto his boots. "Convince the dream?"

"Yeah? It's— you know, the afterlife, remember? It's alive?" (His expression intensifies.) "Nevermind. I'll handle it. Magic me if I start..." You wave your hands noncommittally. "Okay, bye."

You'd originally been thinking about using Whatsyourface as the conduit, since he's very polite and also talks, but then you remembered about the red stuff and you sticking your fingers into his face and opted against it. You're sitting cross-legged on the ground, palms flat on the patchy dirt, ignoring Gil's side-eyes. You know this'll work— intuition is a powerful trait in heroines, particularly those of the sorcerous/god-blooded stripe— and you're sorry he doesn't get it. Maybe if he'd bothered going on a real vision quest he would've. Just saying.

Anyhow, you're doing the usual thing, though it's easier than ever: you're less than attached to this physical body, you guess. It's as dark and as weighted-blanket-comfortable as usual, though possibly improved, since there's dragging you downward here. It's just normal dirt... or, well, the dream of it. A bunch of goo pretending to be it.

Which is great, because that's exactly what you wanted to contact. Indirectly, you mean— it'd be unladylike to wake Us up for this, and maybe counterproductive. Far better to come at it sideways. Subtly. Gracefully. Utilizing your feminine wiles, and whatnot. You clear your metaphorical throat.

And then you murmur into the dream all the good reasons a fire might be here. Yes, it's unexpected, it's unusual— but is it? At a festival in full swing? With drunks and beach bonfires? With malfunctioning electrical gizmos? With decorative evening torches? With attractive young ladies skulking around and spiking drinks, jamming motors, kicking up seagulls, worshipping things they're too young and dumb to understand? It could've been on accident. Or on purpose, but nobody intended to hurt anybody else. Or it could've been an act of cruelty, or passion, or revenge, or any one of those good juicy motives. It could've been hatred. A terrorist strike. A sign of oncoming doom.

Or it could've been some stupid drunk kids! Who knows? You don't— you're not telling it what's right or wrong. You're not telling it anything. It's just (it should be just) getting the general impression that the fire is perfectly benign and sensible and natural and...

The problem with general impressions, of course, is that there's no obvious way to tell if or when they'll work. You push on until you start feeling like Gil'd be getting nervous, then snap open your eyes (oh, yup, he's hovering right by you). You feel... hot. A couple dozen feet away, the fire rages yellow-orange; the earth around it is mounded and warped but completely solid.

You grin up at Gil, who boggles down at you. "See? I said I'd—"


The illustrious C.R. Fawkins has found herself in a bit of a jam. Nothing she can't get out of, obviously. Obviously! She didn't enact those protective charms for no reason last night. Soon, once this asshole stops gurning his obnoxiously white teeth in your face, you'll— she'll— the illustrious C.R. Fawkins will utilize the forbidden arts to crack these handcuffs off and make a break for it. But he's right in your face, and his breath smells like candied something.

He was saying something about your human rights. And now he's saying something about waiving those rights. Plea. Leniency. Something-something. You're too busy attempting to remember which forbidden art pertains to not being arrested for something you didn't do. Even though you are jealous of whoever did do it— you mean, setting Godsday on fire? Inspired. A golden gift-wrapped up-yours to the system. And maybe you would've helped out, even, but you were just done warming up with the seagulls and the kettle corn and you were a little thirsty from all the running, and yes, someday your frail human form will be built up into something that neither tires nor thirsts nor gets unattractively sweaty, but that's someday and you wanted a lemonade. And then you got handcuffed and no lemonade. Zero. You narrow your eyes menacingly at the cop.

"—verbal confession?" he finishes, terrified secretly of your awesome power. "It'd be ideal to have it in writing, but we understand that's difficult in your present—"

You snap to attention. "Confession?! I didn't do anything!"

"Miss Fawkins," the cop says, "you were found in possession of prohibited substances—"

"As if everyone here isn't on drugs already?"


They took your knife. "For self-defense? Is that a crime, now? If some dickhead comes up and mugs me—"

"Then we have posted security, Miss Fawkins. You also had in your possession a small booklet of rites, corresponding to known practices of the dangerous and antisocial— ahem." The cop bats away a small swarm of bugs. "—dangerous and antisocial— shit."

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Geez, maybe it's not a small swarm. And they're not small bugs, either: it's a lot of fat brown beetles, big as the pad of your thumb. They've parked themselves, hovering, straight between you and the cop. Somebody clears their throat, and you crane your head to see the other guy they slapped handcuffs on— he's vaguely familiar. Teddy, you think it was. The weirdo. He jerks his chin toward the beetles. The beetles jerk themselves onto your face. You cough and sputter and their hook feet claw into your face and your neck and you've had— you've had beetles on your— recently, you've—

"Lottie," Teddy says urgently. ("Shut up!" the cop says.)

—you've— you cough. A little trickle of black comes out.


You are not C.R. Fawkins. You are handcuffed, though, and Lucky is maybe two feet from your face. Not like a hunch, like your interrogator has a lot of suspiciously Lucky-like qualities: you mean that that's his face right there. And his shiny name badge says "DUNCAN BLAINE" on it. It's him. But there's no glimmer of recognition in his eyes, and if you were— you were just at the fire, weren't you? Which he definitely, 100% set, and he must've been lucid to do it. But now he's... he's...

The beetles flock off of your face, and you meet Gil's gaze. Damn. Damn. You're going to have to save him again, pretty soon, or things are just going to get way out of whack. He jangles his handcuffs at you.

"Miss Fawkins," Lucky says coldly. "If that was a failed attempt at a 'rite,' your timing couldn't be worse."

Your timing couldn't be worse? His timing couldn't be worse. Yeah. Yeah. So there.

(Choices next.)
>[A] Duh, you're waking him up. (No reason not to. Also, he probably has the key to your handcuffs.) But you're also talking to him, probably.
>>[1] Fill him in on what's generally going on. (Do you leave things out? Write-in if so.)
>>[2] Accuse him of setting the fire(s) before everything got retconned.
>>[3] Attempt to make him chill with the whole "semi-trapped in goo-hivemind afterlife-manse" thing, so he doesn't go sabotaging all your efforts. (Effective arguments get bonuses.) [Roll.]
>>[4] Ask if he has any special fancy cop knowledge now. Someone else is going around setting fires?
>>[5] Get out in front of the whole "divine enlightenment" brouhaha and inform him that if he lays hands on your magic retainer you'll actually kill him.
>>[6] Ask why he's still himself when you and Gil are in different bodies.
>>[7] Write-in.

>[B1] Okay! You are now officially back on track: fire neutralized, Lucky located, no tantrum from Us thus far. Drag Lucky along to help you revive Annie, whether he wants to or not.
>[B2] Well, while you're down here, you might as well complete the (two-legged) party. Round up Arledge and get his thoughts on powering up the door.
>[B3] Wait, wait, wait. So there's someone setting fires, who isn't Lucky, but whom cop-Lucky thinks is Wyrm-related. That's... not good? Probably not good. Head out to intercede, even if you have to delay leaving even more.
>[B4] Write-in?
>[1] Fill him in on what's generally going on. (Do you leave things out? Write-in if so.)
>[3] Attempt to make him chill with the whole "semi-trapped in goo-hivemind afterlife-manse" thing, so he doesn't go sabotaging all your efforts. (Effective arguments get bonuses.) [Roll.]
It's basically the realest shit around right now. Not actually real, but almost-real, can't-be-told-apart-from-real, arguably closer to real than the miserable underwater. Also, they're people, even if they're dead and gooed, and they are astonishingly _lawful_ and _organized_ and _orderly_ and _proper_. Aren't they close to the White Court ideal? Why do gooed people have to be treated differently than drowned people?
>[4] Ask if he has any special fancy cop knowledge now. Someone else is going around setting fires?
>[6] Ask why he's still himself when you and Gil are in different bodies.

>[B3] Wait, wait, wait. So there's someone setting fires, who isn't Lucky, but whom cop-Lucky thinks is Wyrm-related. That's... not good? Probably not good. Head out to intercede, even if you have to delay leaving even more.
I just want Us to be happy.
>A2, 3 (we were already in a manse so this is just one more layer), 6
>>>[1] Fill him in on what's generally going on. (Do you leave things out? Write-in if so.)
>>[3] Attempt to make him chill with the whole "semi-trapped in goo-hivemind afterlife-manse" thing, so he doesn't go sabotaging all your efforts. (Effective arguments get bonuses.) [Roll.]
>>[4] Ask if he has any special fancy cop knowledge now. Someone else is going around setting fires?

>[A1], [A3], [A4], [A6]



Called for the [A]s and [B2]. No roll for [A3]: I think >>5466169's argument hits more-or-less at the heart of Wind Court philosophy, and >>5466210 doesn't hurt. Writing.
>Lucky duck

"It wasn't," you say patiently. "It's just beetles, Lucky. Geez. You've never seen beetles before?"

"I'm not interested in playing games." He leans back, hooking his thumbs into his pockets.. "As I was saying, you were in possession of a booklet espousing the beliefs of—"

"Okay, you might've seen them before. But when was the last time, Lucky? Years ago? They're not very common underwater, Lucky."

"Miss Fawkins. Do you understand the position you're in? My leniency can only—"

"Do you understand the position you're in? Lucky?" You lean back against your chair. "You're in a manse. We all are, I mean. We weren't even here a minute ago, Lucky. I'm not actually this girl. You're not actually— I mean, you are you, actually, but you're not you. Right? You weren't alive 200 years ago?"

Lucky pulls his lips back over his teeth. "Miss Fawkins—"

"Yeah! That's me! Charlotte Fawkins? Not the evil deserter one..." (Although you were.) "The, uh, the Crown one. I sicced some alligators on you? You tortured me a little bit? We got drinks? Come on, Lucky. Charlotte Fawkins?" (His brows are furrowed.) "We were going to go rescue Madrigal? From the- the foul gooey clutches of—?"

"Gooey..." His fingers curl. "Ah."


"Excuse me." He turns and stalks over to a nearby folding table— you're in the security tent, you think. He finds a utilitarian black rucksack there and digs through it and locates a canteen, which he fumbles open and swigs from. His back stiffens.


And then he looses a sudden gutteral roar and hurls the canteen to the ground. His shoulders heave. He turns, very slowly, back to you.

"...Can you unlock our handcuffs now?"

"Can I unlock your handcuffs now." He spits out a wad of black stuff. "Is that the most pressing concern you have, Ms. Fawkins?"

God, you hate trick questions. "Yes?"

"You're not at all concerned about the monstrous crime we're presently subject to? You are perfectly comfortable existing in this perversion of the surface world, with your mind and your body becoming a plaything for unnatural and malevolent forces? You'd just like your handcuffs off, please."

"...Yeah? Um, it's not really that—"

"So you enjoy it. You find it fun to engage in aberrant practices. But we all knew that about you, Ms.—"

"She didn't say that," Gil says.

Lucky's jaw sets. "And who is this?"

"Gil." He pushes his glasses up with his handcuffed hands. "I'm Lottie's retainer. I'd ask who you were, but you're some Court dickhead, so, I mean— have you ever been in a locus? Or a manse, or whatever?"

"I do my best to refrain from—"

"So no? Okay, because if you ever had, you'd know that you sound goddamn stupid. What plaything? The Type II shit? That's tame. Would you like to hear about what your mind and body becoming a goddamn plaything looks like?"

Lucky sneers. "Does it have something to do with attracting a great deal of insects?"

"Attracting them?" Gil spreads his fingers, and the beetles burst out around him; he clenches his fist, and they cluster into a ball. "You Court types have a real limited imagination, don't you? This place is tame. It's pretty, it's clean, everybody minds their own business, nothing's trying to stab you or hypnotize you or eat you— so what are you bitching about? The basic goddamn structure of a manse? If you'd spent two minutes asking me I would've warned you. Ask anybody and they would've warned you. But you goddamn Court—"

"Gil!" you hiss. (Is he insane?)

"It's quite alright, Ms. Fawkins." Lucky's smile is predatory. "It's always important to get various perspectives, even if they come from warped individuals. Is it supposed to matter that our prison is well-polished? Is that all it takes to let it sink its claws into your being? Or beings."

"Being," Gil says, while you speak over him. "It's not a prison."

"Is it not, Ms. Fawkins."

"Um, it's not. The exit's just malfunctioning. If it was working, nothing would stop us from walking out." You shift in your seat. "And it wasn't broken on purpose, before you say that."

"And you know this through exceedingly natural means?"

"...I got in contact with the thing behind all this, yeah." You do your best to gesture 'all this' with your hands locked together. "They're not evil or malevolent or anything, Lucky. They're just... dead people. Like, normal human people. Who died."

Lucky was not expecting that, possibly. "Excuse me?"

"They died a long time ago— I think in the Flood. And their bodies melted into goo, and Namway, I guess, harvested it and used it in their stuff. But then the whole facility fell apart and all the goo stored in it drained out into one giant goo lake. That's what we fell into. Except, I guess whatever bits of consciousness were left in all that goo ran together also, and now it's..." You struggle for the word. "...alive? Talking? But it's not evil, like I said. It's just using all its leftover memories from when all the people were alive to sort of... pretend they are still alive, and happy. It called this its dream. And we just fell in by accident, and it made us part of it because that's just what happens, alright? Everything clear?"

A sigh. "Assuming this is remotely truthful... and if you were lied to, Ms. Fawkins?"

"I don't think that'd make any sense? It showed me, um, the girl I'm in. Claudia. And if it wanted to hypnotize me or eat me, it could've done that way earlier. It could've done that to any of us at any point, because we're inside it. Everybody here's a dead goo person. And instead, the only obstacle we've gotten is one suspicious fire, which I don't think it set itself, somehow."

"Maybe. Maybe not." Lucky folds his hands. "This does complicate things."

"Just a little bit," Gil says.

You shoot him a look. "Yeah! So... are you going to get mad at dead people, Lucky? They didn't ask to get melted into a horrible goo thing. That's why they made all this up, so they didn't have to be. And it's not even a perversion or whatever you said, it's... nice. It's normal. I mean, it's more normal than underwater is. And it's peaceful, and orderly, and— and isn't this what the Wind Court wants? The Court just wants things to go back to how they were on the surface, and— I mean— isn't that what this is? The dead people didn't invent some depraved nightmare realm... they just invented home again." You pause. "And if you ask some people we're all dead too, so."

Lucky sucks at his cheek. "Yes. They do say that."

"Yeah. So could you unlock our handcuffs now?"

He does. Sensing victory, you shake out your wrists and proceed to tell him a rough overview of your and Gil's escapades. "I'm sorry," he says. "You're admitting to being possessed?"

"Oh. Uh..." Damnit! You scramble. "Uh, I think the— the person I am, Claudia, was into... that sort of thing. Yes. Indeed."

"Never could've guessed," he says neutrally. "And is she also... dead?"

"Oh. Um..." You look at your painted nails, now scuffed and dirty. "...yeah. I assume yours is too, Gil. Why are you not in another body, by the way? Was there nobody suitable around to—"

"Unlike you two," Lucky says, "I'm inoculated against all forms of trickery. I would not have allowed it to place me into a dead man's body."

"Okay, geez." You didn't know it was an opt-out sort of thing. "Do you at least remember things from before we snapped you out of it? What's the matter with the fires?"

He sighs and leans against the folding table. "It's unknown. It's suspected they were set deliberately, as crowd control. A distraction."


"Also unknown, but the traditional religious ceremonies were intended to take place shortly. It may have opened a window for sabotage, or worse a hijacking. A perversion of the rituals." He tilts his head. "I'm extrapolating some of this, by the way."


"So, Charlotte, none of that drivel matters. Regardless of the origin of the place, it is not real and it is not our place to run off on wild investigations. We should locate Mr. Graves, ensure he's not conducting his own brand of perversions, and leave as intended. If you're truthful, there should be no obstacle. Very well?"

"...Sure." The more you keep him satisfied, the fewer fires you'll have to put out. "Gil?"

"I probably need to update that guy," Gil says, and pries himself off the wall. "Sounds fine to me."

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You'd asked Lucky if he thought Arledge might be in the giant mess of evacuated people, and he scoffed and said something about the man refusing to go with the crowd. You stroll instead through the eerily empty grounds, passing a pop-up children's puppet theater (the show: "HOW THE WORLD WAS MADE"), a corral containing 4-legged animals you only dimly recognize, an unstaffed sign-up booth for the kite competition— was Godsday this comprehensive in life? Or is it, like Us, an amalgam? You guess it doesn't matter. The only reason you don't stop to pat the little furry horned thing is Lucky's judgmental eyebrow.

Ironically, your wandering gets less aimless when you shut your eyes, spin in a circle, and march off wherever you pointed. (Works every time.) The terrain change gives you an idea of where you're headed, but you remain resolutely blinded until your Heroic Intuition informs you you've arrived, and also Gil elbows you.

You've headed back up the hill, past Temple Falls— you've made it all the way to the temple proper. It's elaborately carved and tiled in what looks like mother-of-pearl and coral, and you'd be extremely tempted to model it if that wouldn't be blasphemous. There's a number of people gaggled outside it (fire refugees? nosy onlookers?), all of whom you're forced to ignore as Gil leads you and Lucky up to the temple's wide-open doors.

"Sorry, friends," says a coiffed blue-robed woman (stationed strategically just inside). "While the Eight smile upon your enthusiasm, we're still preparing. May I suggest you enjoy some— hey!" Gil's ducked under her outstretched arm and is hastening inside. "Sir! We are not yet open to the—!"

You take advantage of her confusion by darting in too. (Lucky remains pointedly in place.) "That's him," Gil says, and points out a scarred blue-robed man— he must know something you don't, because you see nothing special. But whatever. You watch curiously as he hustles over and grabs the man's hand. Blue light flashes out for an instant—

—and Gil, hand on the man's shoulder, is leading him back to you. "Hi, Charlotte," Arledge says. "How have things been going for you?"

You glance at Gil. "...Well? You're a priest?"

"Something like that. It's quite the honor." His lips quirk. "I would've liked to linger here, were it feasible. Alas."

You would've liked to make a backhanded comment about pagans or some such, but find yourself agreeing, however mildly, with the sentiment. "That's life," Gil says.

"So it is. Nice... snake, by the way." Arledge's blue-ringed eyes meet yours. "Kill it yourself?"

(Choices next.)
This will either be the last update of the thread, or I'll be taking a week off and continuing in this same thread. More on that tomorrow.

>[A1] Yeah. You did.
>[A2] It's none of his damn business.
>[A3] Write-in.

>[B1] Well, the gang's all here. Use Arledge's priest cred to skip the line and resuscitate Annie.
>[B2] Actually, hang on. There's a big rectangular pool of water smack-dab in the middle of the temple: it's probably even more sacred than the Falls, and those have "SACRED" stamped right on them. Zone out until the religious ceremony thing happens (for maximum sacredness), then toss her in.
>[B3] You don't have to zone out, you know. You *could* just convince the dream that the fire danger's passed, and that everything's returned to normal. You *could* just... walk around, for a few hours. Have fun. (Madrigal would never have to know.) And then you could attend the ceremony when it actually happens. [Regain ID. Time passes.]
>[B4] Write-in.
>[A3] Pretend not to hear him.

>[B4] We're reviving Annie in any case, but what if Arledge has more ideas on powering up the door?
I'm a bit confused, so time passes in B3 but not B2?
In [B2] you'd be entering a trance-state, where "time passes" kinda-sorta-not really. Think of it like a scene transition in a play: hours or weeks or years could pass for the characters, while it's a couple minutes for the actors and the audience. In [B3], you'd be experiencing it in real-time. For more on trances, refer back to Thread 18.
silence, pagan filth

we got over half ID and even if Maddy didn't know we would
also B2 seems like a big ol disruption
Called for [A2] and [B1] and writing. You can ask Arledge for ideas too.
>Oh yeah right your original objective

Your cheeks redden. "Shut up! How is that any of your business? That's the rudest thing I've ever—"

"My apologies," Arledge says. He's still looking right at you, though.

"Yeah, your— do you know how you can make it up to me? Do your job and get us past the stupid waterfall line! I need to unshrink my worm."


You brook no argument, and fortunately get little: Arledge is unreadable, Lucky resigned, Gil as supportive as ever. None of them seem to have a clear plan for what to do next, which helps, and Arledge even seems to find some merit in yours. "Worms are fairly porous. If you can enable it to absorb a blessing—"

The four of you are making your collective way back down the sun-dappled pathway. Water rushes in the distance. You cross your arms. "I was just going to revive her, not stick some dumb—"

"Revive her in the sacred falls, though?"

You pause. "It's important. She's a special worm, she shouldn't get any old—"

"I agree." Arledge inclines his head. "I just believe this could be a two-birds-one-stone scenario. If the gods smile upon us—" (Lucky scowls.) "—she could be both revived and blessed. And if we could find a method of linking her and our exit—"

"A jumper cable," Gil says, to no reaction. "You know, a cord? To— to kickstart— we can talk about it later."

You can. The air becomes cool and misty and the trees denser and more shaded until you arrive back at the clearing. The tents are all still there. The line isn't. Certified Liaisons are everywhere— conferring with each other, ushering people down side paths, and most especially body-blocking the gate to Temple Falls. Their faces are collectively grim.

Lucky places his hands in his pockets. "Crime scene."


"I know what crime scenes look like, Ms. Fawkins. I'll take care of this."

And so he starts off— but makes the mistake of brushing past Arledge, who catches him by the arm. "You're not in charge, Dib."

"I beg to differ, magician."

"Obviously. But you're— what— secular security. Something involving consecrated waters will not—"

"Both of you go!" you hiss. (God!) "Just get me in there!"

"And me," says Gil.

"And Gil!"

So they go, begrudgingly. They're too far off for you to hear anything and at a bad angle for lip-reading, so you're forced to wait impatiently for Lucky to beckon you over. Finally, he does. The gate to Temple Falls is aged and mossy and creaks as Arledge pushes it open. The waters of Temple Falls are red.

Bright red. Foaming, brutal red. You're no waterfall expert— there's not a great quantity of them, up on the Pillar— but you are fairly sure that's abnormal. As you step inside, the nearest Liaison murmurs "Be careful."

File: temple falls, bloodied.png (4.22 MB, 2048x1365)
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The air around the falls is misted in faint red, too, though the manicured grass and flowers are regular colors. That's good, you guess, but your uneasiness intensifies as you glance around the scene and find no obvious source. Maybe somebody dumped a barrel of dye in the river upstream? A harmless prank. Claudia would do that.

You'd like it to be that. But Gil spots it first. "Shit," he says.

Arledge: "Eight be within us."

Lucky, tetchily: "You might recall I said it was a crime scene."

And so it is. At the top of Temple Falls (it's not a big waterfall, all told, you could climb up it easily) is a lot of outcropping rocks. Atop the rocks is a blue-robed body. A knife protrudes conspicuously from its shoulderblades.

You turn and you look away from it for no particular reason at all and that's how you're the first to spot that the message is bipartite. On the inner wall of the sanctum, somebody has scrawled two words in fresh red letters.


Okay! I'm not going to do the ending spiel, because the thread isn't necessarily over. Short version is that Mega Paper #2 is due Wednesday and I need to not kill myself writing it and the quest simultaneously, and then directly after that it's Thanksgiving and I have family obligations. So I'll be out for about a week, and by that point I'll be past my 30 day thread timer.

That being said, this thread is only on Page 5, and my schedule has been super janky for all of it. I feel like we haven't gotten a ton done, and I really wanted to get through at least one more Madrigal section. So I want your opinion: should I

>[1] Pick up in a week (11/26) in the current thread and run until it dies (or I find it appropriate to stop)?
>[2] Start a new thread when I'm ready and carry on from there?
>[3] I don't care, do what you want!

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.
Why is nothing's ever easy?
>[3] I don't care, do what you want!
>[2] Start a new thread when I'm ready and carry on from there?
only the highest quality drowned
>>[2] Start a new thread when I'm ready and carry on from there?

Don't burn yourself out, senpai
File: worms.png (214 KB, 558x576)
214 KB
214 KB PNG
>Self care

>Who cares

The people speak. Guess this is


In this case I'll be back with Thread 30(!) in 1-2 weeks from today, picking up with Madrigal's POV. I'm committed to wrapping up both sections by the end of 30, and I'm really hoping I'll be able to follow through. TY for your patience with my schedule and pacing.

We are archived here, make number go up if you like: https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?searchall=drowned

My Twitter is here, for however long that lasts: https://mobile.twitter.com/BathicQM

I'll post the new thread on Twitter and the QTG when it's up. Might post some AMA responses here in the meantime if I get around to drawing them. Have a great week or two!

Would it be Drowned Quest if things were ever easy?
Dope thread. Thanks for running!
Thanks, lol. New thread tentatively Sunday, but no later than Tuesday. No AMAs sadly since I left the drawing tablet in my dorm, but I'll get em done eventually I swear


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