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You are Madrigal Fitzpatrick, professional broker, reliable deputy, and increasingly the sanest woman you know. You'd been getting along just fine in life until you got dumped by your boyfriend Ellery and dragged by your frenemy Charlotte into getting parasitized by a snake, kidnapped by a crazy bitch, and implanted into a semi-solid goo body. You've been plotting your escape from dream prison for three days. Kind of. Right now, you're asleep.


No you're not. You are jolting up, nostrils flaring, wide awake on the stiff sofa in the beige lobby in the dark. It's fucking dark. Night? Is it still night? Shit! Did you fall asleep? What time is it?

>[Your GRIT is: Maximum]

Early morning, probably— no way Pat's up yet. Right? Unless she lurks around in the dark, which you wouldn't put past her. Shit. Shit, you must've been dreaming. Right? Something about... snakes? Maybe? You don't know how other people do that, remember their dreams. They just sieve right through you. And a good fucking thing that is, too, judging by how many cold sweats you wake up in, by how many wet eyes, by the time you screamed yourself awake and Monty came flying in at 300 fucking miles per hour all disheveled and you screamed again (because who does that?!) and then you had to explain for 20 fucking minutes to half the fucking camp that you were not being murdered and nobody else was being murdered and you were just having a nightmare. Which you couldn't even remember at that point.

Which isn't to say that you don't have ideas. You grind your teeth in your sleep and you kick and apparently you mumble, and apparently Ellery got the bright and not-creepy idea to stay up and jot the mumblings down. Which he did, for weeks, until he got bored. His illegible findings: lots of gullshit about the family. (Nothing happy.) Lots about getting shot, the boys getting shot, getting caught, cuffed, family getting cuffed— always coincided with a lot of kicking, he said— drowning, drowning, drowning, drowning, waking yourself up coughing on nothing. And that's just the specifics. Half of it's just generic shit: stuck in a closet, stuck in a cave-in, stuck in a dumbwaiter, thrown into solitary confinement, crushed into a cube from water pressure. Fessing up to the lies. All the lies. Crushed into a cube from 20 years of easy lying.

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You're not saying Ellery recorded all of that. You're extrapolating. And he was way too early to catch the whole genre of "ripping out your own spine" dreams, not to mention this new snake shit. If it even was snake shit. If you even were dreaming, and didn't wake up just because. (It's not like you were screaming.) Actually, now that you're thinking about it, can you— can you dream inside a dream mansion? Does that make any sense? Should you have actually been listening to Ellery every time he rambled on about things he knew perfectly well you gave no shits about? How are you bringing up Ellery twice in 30 seconds? He's fucking dead to you! You're sick in the head, Madrigal, or more than likely it's 4 AM and you're bleary and you need to lay back down pronto. It's still dark. Just lay back down and don't think about the past or the future or tight spaces or ripping your own spine out or your ex-boyfriend. Or any ex-boyfriend. Just lay...


Fuck! What the fuck are you doing? You jolt up again and pound your fist into your thigh to keep yourself awake. Then you scramble off the sofa and stand, arms crossed, in your bare feet on what should be the ice-cold tile. To your unflesh it is eerily neutral. Fine! You don't care about the fucking tile. You have been lazy.

Yeah. Face it. You've been lazy. Going back to sleep? When you didn't mean to go to sleep in the first place? When you're fucking kidnapped? And most importantly— when you've accomplished nothing? Nothing. Let's count. You buttered up a mentally deficient slime-man who proceeded to (badly) manipulate you, then vanished inexplicably. You buttered up your captor, Pat, then threw a tantrum like a bitch and undid all your progress. And you got pretty good at that most fucking useful of life skills, reforming yourself out of a puddle. So you could get under a mystery door, which might contain nothing, and which you haven't even bothered going under yet. That's it. You've thieved nothing, busted into nowhere, discovered nothing of any note except that Pat's fucked the slime-man. One of the slime-men. Oh, and there's maybe a door out in the basement, wherever the fuck that is, and it's fucking locked to Pat specifically so ha ha ha fuck you. Get experimented on. Get released after a week or longer as a blessed fucking act of charity. Madrigal fucking Fitzpatrick, charity case!

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Sure, you can generate excuses. You're great at that. Your brain is cooked from being stuck in a snake. Your brain is cooked from being stuck in a slime mold. You're stressed. You don't know how any of this dream shit works. You don't want to get Pat so pissed she sticks you back in the snake. It's only been two full days. Blah blah blah blah— horseshit! Fuck all that! That's the girl in you talking. The fact is, you should've been out of here by now. It's that simple. Should've been out by this point, should've been able to make Pat watch as you strolled right out the fucking door, should've been able to knock the unctuous pity off straight off her face— should've been able to bend Pat over and ream her in the ass, basically. And by basically you mean metaphorically. (Fucking 4 AM.) Well, unless the freaky shape-changing stuff means she can— no, you can't even entertain this for kicks. Nasty. You're fucking dreaming, anyhow.

...Huh. You're dreaming. But are you dreaming? You've long noticed that your dreaming self is way wussier than you are— you'd never wake yourself up crying or screaming. (You can't remember the last time you've legitimately cried.) But that's the real you. And you're acting awfully wussy. Is the real Madrigal sleeping? Like, unconscious? Are you her half-baked made-up understudy?

You fucking hope so. That'd be a relief. (And not an excuse: an explanation. Fuck you.) You're just going to accept that as fact, you think, and— wow! Look at you, handling this 'lame fake double' thing with approximately infinitely more sense and maturity than Ellery ever—

God, you need to get fucking moving: standing here is doing bad, bad things to you, whoever you are. You have a mystery door. You have a giant tank of water on wheels. You have, in theory, some skill in rapidly un-puddling yourself. You may possibly be a figment of your own imagination, but that doesn't seem to fucking stop anybody, does it? You're going, and you're doing this: no complaints, no take-backs. None of that shit at all.


So you go, and you do that. You realize pretty quick that you practiced a shit-ton of un-puddling but basically zero puddling, and also that wheeling a big unlidded tank of water down a narrow hallway would be loud and splashy and immediately obvious to any observers. And you're possibly congenitally wussy, so you do care about this. The good news is, you figure that puddling is basically just un-puddling in reverse, and that you can soak yourself in the tank and still retain enough integrity to shamble over to STORAGE. Granted, you do fall on your face in front of the door. But also granted, you want to be on the ground anyhow.

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You have to re-re-re-re-remind yourself that this is all a dream before you can actually gun for it, though. Which is not a complaint or a take-back, just a necessary step. Because even with that reminder, the process (if it can be called that) is disgusting, with your skin sticking and thinning and ripping and spilling you over the uncold tile. You are blind. All you can do is will yourself forward and hope to god 'forward' is where you think it is, because you are going to be truly fucking pissed if you put in all this fucking effort just to reconstitute yourself three feet to the left.

You're greatly relieved when you heave yourself upward into a darker, damper space, and even more relieved when you flail around against the wall long enough to find a light switch. You're less than pleased to see the door blockage, though. It's nothing simple: no shelf in the way, no wad of gum in the lock, nothing. Why would it be? Why would it be anything except a motherfucking pulsating flesh tendril plastered against the doorframe?

>[Your GRIT is: High]

That's not the only flesh tendril, either. The shit is everywhere: creeping along the floor, coiling up the wire shelves, spilling out of— that must be the source, the floor drain. You haven't been noticed yet, if indeed flesh tendrils can notice. Zero reaction. They're all pointed toward a few shelves in the back, the ones stacked with gunnysacks. Stacked with Lester Food?

There's a lot of other shit on the shelves, too, but you're too rattled to take it all in. It's not a huge room, and it's not decorated at all. The only other notable thing you can spot, halfway hidden behind a big wad of flesh, is a square opening in the wall. With a shelf in it, or some shit, hung by a... cable. A dumbwaiter. To transport things between storage and whatever lies under storage— the basement, maybe. Or wherever these tendrils come from. Or both.

Excellent. Fan-fucking-tastic. A lead! And if you actually normal, actually sane, you'd be squishing yourself straight into there and figuring out where it went. But you're neither and your palms sweat even in comparatively spacious tight spaces and right now just the vague prospect of entering the dumbwaiter makes you want to hurl. Fuck!

>[1] Get the fuck over yourself and use the dumbwaiter. [----Grit]
>[2] Ignore the stupid fucking dumbwaiter and see what shit Pat has stashed in here. Steal it. (What kind of thing are you looking for? Write-in.) [+Item(s)]
>[3] Why did Lester Six want you to go in here? Did he know about the tendrils? Investigate in more detail and hope to hell you don't piss anything off.
>[4] Get the fuck out and go bang on Pat's door. Inform her that her storeroom is infested with horrific fleshy stuff. Either she'll appreciate it, and you'll get kudos, or she won't, and you'll at least look like an honest sort. [+Pat's Trust, Pat wakes up]
>[5] Write-in.
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Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! Thread 30, wew. I know I said last time that I'd run extra long, but this time I really do intend on running long, or at least until this dual plotline comes to a conclusion. I don't want the POV switching to overstay its welcome.

Also, I might have something special to post later in the thread. We'll see.

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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Your expedition to rescue Madrigal has gone awry, as you and Gil have found yourselves stuck in a recreation of a religious festival 200 years ago. Separated from the rest of your party, the two of you set off to rehydrate your shrink-dried worm Annie. Then you discover that the sacred waterfall has an 8-hour line.

You send most of Gil off to go stand in the line while you and the rest of Gil investigate the volunteer tents set up by the "liaisons" of the sea gods. To Gil's consternation, you can barely fight the compulsion to murder one of the liaisons, instead invoking the divine 'red stuff' inside you to ultra-commune with him. You wind up underneath(?) the goo ocean, where you have a surprisingly civil and pleasant conversation with "Us," a hivemind of several thousand people who drowned and were rendered into goo. Us tells you that the the festival is a comforting "dream" created from their collective memories, and that you're free to stay or go from it, provided you don't disturb anything. You awaken back inside the "dream" and find Gil missing.

As (most of) Gil, you're pissy about having to stand in line, and have gone off instead to get your divine blessing permanently extracted. You accidentally have a spiritual awakening instead.

As Madrigal, you are very wet and very bemused when Lester Six attempts to trick you into opening the mysteriously blocked STORAGE door. You work on learning how to work your goo body, which pleases Pat. She opens up about her situation-- she's under death threats from the inhuman(?) Management, who also kidnapped the real Lester. You're unsympathetic and blow up on her when she proposes experimenting on you to get the goo snake done faster. Pat gives you the cold shoulder the rest of the night, and you pass out on the couch.

Back as Charlotte, you find Gil, then find... Gil, who is acting all weird and uppity. He magycks you, causing you to cough up what looks awfully like a dead Richard-snake, then prompts you to admit to the whole ritual murder fiasco. He's confused about why you're so upset about it, Richard being Richard, but hugs you supportively when you start ugly crying. You calm down in time to spot a plume of smoke rising from elsewhere in the festival.

Your investigation of the smoke is stopped by some random guy. Pissed off by his audacity, you're overtaken by the red stuff and twist him into being your (and the Wyrm's) mindless servant. You don't snap out of it after, forcing Gil to tackle and magyck you. You commune with the "dream" and convince it the fire-- the *real* fire, almost certainly set by Lucky-- is totally normal and sensical. This works, and you're warped across the festival: you've been arrested on suspect of starting the fire, and Lucky is your interrogator. You snap him out of it, then go find Arledge. Finally reunited, the four of you attempt to rehydrate Annie... except that somebody's been murdered atop the sacred waterfall!
>TO-DO for Charlotte (Completed goals and solved mysteries: https://pastebin.com/3Q3nPDis)

Immediate goals:
- Rehydrate Annie the worm
- Avoid or neutralize the arsonist/murderer/Wyrm cultist(?)
- 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
- Cure your [SUNSTROKE]
- Regain your missing memories (...if possible)
- 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?
- Is Richard actually dead?

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!
>>[2] Ignore the stupid fucking dumbwaiter and see what shit Pat has stashed in here. Steal it. (What kind of thing are you looking for? Write-in.) [+Item(s)]

Some keys or a disguise of sorts would do nicely. That, and perhaps a weapon.

Also welcome back!
>[5] Write-in.

These tendrils are clearly very hungry, seeing how they had the gaul to bloom from it's comfy environment out into this quite drab store. Not to mention most seem to be reaching for the food shelves.

Perhaps giving them a hand with the food could appease them? If Pat complains, then you can blame it on the pest as they were going for it anyways, but if they are satiated, who knows, they might clear the way... or kill you for a more protein rich diet.

Also you should probably look for a tool of some kind on the shelves while you're at it like a wrench in case you do get stuck and need leverage later down the line. You can always return it... hopefully :)
Yes, I also want to feed the tendrils Lester food. What could possibly go wrong?
Thanks for running. I would love to play but holy fuck am I sick and my head hurts too much too think.
Got fantastic news for you, anon, I'll be updating all month. Catch up when you feel better (and feel better soon)!
>[5] Write-in.

feeeed the tendrils


Called for the write-in, but you're going to need to find a pointy object to get the sacks open anyhow. Writing.
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Alright, alright, easy dumbwaiter solution: don't look at the fucking thing. Turn your back on it. There. Better already.

Of course, turning this direction puts a particularly fat crop of flesh tendrils right in your line of sight, so it's not that much of an improvement. Whatever. At least you've gotten over the shock of them— you'll overcome the steady disgust soon enough. It's not like doing anything to you, or anything at all except pulsating gently.

Your actual problem is that they still blanket the exit door, and you've wrung yourself fairly dry: you're not sure you can repeat the puddling trick a second time in a row. And you're not prying the fucking things off with your bare hands, so— a tool. A weapon. Something slicey or stabby or both. There's got to be something in all this shit, right?


Well, yeah. There is. You find it nigh-immediately, because the shelves are neatly sorted, alphabetized and hand-labeled. (You knew Pat was a crazy bitch.) It's all the better, because none of the shit on them makes sense: there's M for Mail (moldering salt-smelling envelopes) near M for Mugs (all chipped, none matching); K for Keys (a big bin, different styles— surely not for these doors?) below C for Currency (everything: loose chit, worn-through bills, barter rounds, even one or two pre-Flood conchs) and a whole shelf of C for Clothing. Which— what the fuck? Why didn't she give you any of this shit instead of a jumpsuit? Why does she have an entire shelf of clothes in the storeroom and not her bedroom? Is she a fucking hoarder? They're all nicely folded and for various sizes and sexes.

You're not in need of Mail or Mugs or Keys or Currency or Clothing, though: you beeline for T-for-Tools. (You're enormously tempted by W-for-Weapons, particularly the several[!] fully intact harpoon guns, but you figure getting caught with one of those would be curtains. Tools you can talk your way out of.) It's a weird assortment— no surprise, you guess— consisting mainly of light, handheld thingamabobs: no heavy wrenches or mallets or anything. The only hammer in the bin looks built for shoes, or some shit. You fish around and come up triumphantly with a sturdy-looking paint scraper. The edge isn't razor-sharp, but the tendrils won't need that. And it's small enough to secrete down your top, or maybe even into your arm. Score.

You make to pivot (away from the dumbwaiter) toward the door, but nearly trip over an inconvenient tendril. "Shit," you mumble, and lift your gaze directly to the shelves of Lester Food— and the half-dozen tendrils looped uselessly around the sacks.

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Okay, you have no strategic aim here. You're fucking curious, alright? Wouldn't anybody be curious? That's why you pick your way over to the back shelving and tug one of the sacks up and gash it open with the corner of the paint scraper. You cough as the contents pouf out: it's a fine grey-white powder, like somebody mixed flour with dustpan scrapings. It smells smoky.

The nearest tendril twitches, and you jerk your arm away reflexively. Then you stare. "Hello?"

No response. (Thank god. You think you'd stab the shit on reflex if it started talking.) "Do you eat this shit too?"

Nothing. You take a tiny pinch of Lester Food and sprinkle it onto the tendril. It twitches again, but the Food stays where it is— doesn't get absorbed or anything. Huh. Then why is so much of the stuff trying to—

Fuck! It's water-soluble. That's what Pat said, she dissolves it in... there's no water in here, but you do have a big tank outside. Not that you'd dump a dozen fucking sacks of Lester Food into your water tank and feed that to the flesh tendrils. That'd be stupid as shit. It's 4 fucking AM, and you probably slept like hell, and you're not— there's no way you'd—


>[1] Yeah. No way. But while there's no *proper* water source in here, there is the shallow puddle you wrung out of you— enough to wet a palmful of Lester Food, which is enough to test the effects. That's all you need to sate your curiosity.
>[2] Find a bucket (under B for Buckets or whatever), fill it, and dump one sack of Lester Food in. Feed that to the tendrils. Make something *happen.*
>[3] FUCK IT. Drag the water tank down the hallway, dump ALL the Lester Food in, and pour the entire fucking thing down the drain. Make *SOMETHING* happen. [...*SOMETHING* will happen.]
>[4] Forget it. Go do something else. (Dumbwaiter? Investigation? Something else? Write-in.)
>[5] Write-in.
i was so excited about [2] and we can probably talk our way out of that one. on the other hand

>[3] FUCK IT.

i NEED to know what something will happen
>[2] Find a bucket (under B for Buckets or whatever), fill it, and dump one sack of Lester Food in. Feed that to the tendrils. Make something *happen.*
I've long learned not to press big red buttons. Only small ones.
>[1] Yeah. No way. But while there's no *proper* water source in here, there is the shallow puddle you wrung out of you— enough to wet a palmful of Lester Food, which is enough to test the effects. That's all you need to sate your curiosity.

We van always escalate after testing if we think it's useful. Also plausible deniability for how it happened if we choose not to.

Look how spookily organized Pat is. She'll definitely notice anything large scale like moving a bucket unless we put it back *exactly*. Plus cleaning up the feed.
>[2] Find a bucket (under B for Buckets or whatever), fill it, and dump one sack of Lester Food in. Feed that to the tendrils. Make something *happen.*
reasonable middle ground
>>[3] FUCK IT. Drag the water tank down the hallway, dump ALL the Lester Food in, and pour the entire fucking thing down the drain. Make *SOMETHING* happen. [...*SOMETHING* will happen.]
>[2] Find a pail (under P for Pails or whatever), fill it, and dump one sack of Lester Food in. Feed that to the tendrils. Make something *happen.*

Sorry guys but we aren't charolette so we have to be sensible, even if it means not going down the extremist route



[2] narrowly takes it, but I've spent so long considering what to write for [3] that I may end up making a "what if" bin for it at some point. We'll see.

File deleted.
>Sanest woman you know

You spend an uncomfortable amount of time staring blankly at the back wall before you jolt and blink. Shit! Were you considering it? Were you actually considering— no! No, you're not fucking feeding the— the— you are not risking your fucking neck to— it's not like you care about Pat, but you care about not being shot on sight, and— you don't even know what the fuck it'd be good for, it could be good for nothing, it could get you eaten by a fucking flesh abomination, there is zero reason to— to— to—!

Fucking breathe! What is wrong with you! Breathe. Calm down. You are a grown-ass woman fully capable of weighing your courses of action. You're not drunk. You're not incandescently pissed. You're a little sleepy, maybe, but there is a wide fucking gulf between sleepy and mentally fucking defective. You've never been mentally defective in your dreams before, right? (Probably?) So breathe. There was never any chance of you doing something so ludicrously pointless and reckless and stupid. Never. Your common sense is intact.

(You want to believe this very badly. That there was never any chance. That you were never even considering it: when you were staring at the wall you were staring at the wall, not some some sickening maddening void. That there is something fundamentally different between you and the kind of person who'd force-feed a flesh thing on impulse. You're trying not to name names. You're failing. Alright: that there's something fundamentally different between you and the Ellerys of the world. And the Charlottes, when you think about it.)

It's intact. It's intact. Which is why, sensibly speaking, you'd wet a little bit of Lester Food and try that out. See if it even does anything. And you could go from there. You're not doing that, though: you're running your hand along J for Jewelry and I for IDs all the way until— shit. There's no B for Bucket. You search around in Clothing instead until you locate a wide rubbery raincoat, then sling that over your shoulder.

You're going to do a sack. One sack. It is not, necessarily speaking, sensible. But deep down you feel like you have to make a compromise— have to stave off the whatever-it-is that wants to see the world burn. That's what grown-ass adults do, make compromises. And it's not like anybody's watching to judge.

So you painstakingly scrape the tendrils off the doorframe (they plop to the ground unharmed, their underbellies veiny and blueish) and rattle the handle and retreat to I for IDs and jigger the lock until it clicks for you. And you slink out with the raincoat. You walk softly barefoot to the lobby and the water tank and scale the stepstool and inflate the raincoat with water, then tie it into a bundle. You slink back, your payload sloshing. You try not to think about you sloshing earlier.

Three different tendrils are probing the gashed-open sack by the time you return. You bat them off, scoop up the sack, and through complex positioning of knees and elbows and grabbing a sleeve in your teeth manage to pour its contents into the water-laden raincoat without spilling. (Much.) The Lester Food dissolves readily, but there's more of it than there is water, and after stirring with the paint scraper you're left with gloopy grey-white sludge.

Whatever. Not your problem. You scoop up out a glob with the scraper and plop it onto the nearest tendril. It shivers and curls up on itself, as if tasting the glob— then unfurls and shoots out around your ankle.

"Hi... buddy," you say. "I'm just trying to—"

There's a series of squelching sounds. Every tendril is pointed directly at you. You sigh. "The shit's right here, alright? It's for you guys. You can come and get it."

Can the tendrils understand you? Or were they just taking a moment to sniff out the situation? Either way, they peel off the walls and shelves and snake toward the raincoat with surprising agility. You hold it open as they coil against each other, fighting viciously for access. The tendrils that've planted themselves the firmest are swelling and contracting rhythmically— drinking?

Maybe. When you say 'swelling and contracting,' though, you mean more swelling than contracting: the central tendrils are thickening substantially, while the unlucky outer ones are wilting and twining along them. They're merging together, you realize, into a single flabby tentacle. (You've been released, at least. You step back.) The tentacle is hairy and pore-spackled and is easily as big as you are around, if not larger. It contracts one more time, lazily, and withdraws from the emptied raincoat. It sizes you up.

Alright, you don't know that. It hasn't sprouted eyes or anything. But it seems more alert than the individual tendrils did, if not intelligent, and it's standing itself up to match you. You crouch and it curls.

"Uh," you say. "You're welcome?"

>[++LESTER(S)'S TRUST: Maximum]

The tentacle is cold and sticky as it winds around you, and you have to clutch the paint scraper tightly to keep from doing any stabbing. But it unwinds after a moment without incident and plaps you on the shoulder and plaps onto the ground. And again: shoulder, ground.

You process. "I should... go down?"

It touches your knee twice. (..."Yes"? "No"?) Then it whips backward, finds the drain, winds up, and smashes it open. Chunks of tile spray out. The metal drain itself flies off, rolls under a shelf, and totters to a halt.

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There's little tile chips embedded in the tentacle now, which it doesn't seem to mind. (It's not bleeding or anything.) It 'stands up' again in front of you and pulsates hard and—

"Hello?" Pat, unmistakably. Must be from down the hallway. She sounds bleary. "Is somebody—?"


>[1] Shit. You need to hide. And there is fucking *nothing* in here except the— except the— FUCKING SUCK IT UP and stick yourself in the dumbwaiter. [----Grit]
>[2] The hole where the drain was is large enough to fit yourself down. You don't particularly like holes, but there's always the chance it'll open into somewhere wider. Or somewhere worse. Who knows? [-? Grit]
>[3] Step out into the hallway and fess up. You can talk your way out of this... right? (Write-in your genius explanation for trespassing/feeding tentacles.) [+?/-? Pat's Trust depending on the explanation's level of genius.]
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] The hole where the drain was is large enough to fit yourself down. You don't particularly like holes, but there's always the chance it'll open into somewhere wider. Or somewhere worse. Who knows? [-? Grit]
But close the door first, if it's open. Remove any trace of us having been here.
>[2] The hole where the drain was is large enough to fit yourself down. You don't particularly like holes, but there's always the chance it'll open into somewhere wider. Or somewhere worse. Who knows? [-? Grit]

Make this goo body work for us!
Even with hours I cannot think of a way to explain this to Pat
>>[2] The hole where the drain was is large enough to fit yourself down. You don't particularly like holes, but there's always the chance it'll open into somewhere wider. Or somewhere worse. Who knows? [-? Grit]

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Shit, shit, shit. If you'd submitted to the experimenting, really gotten Pat in a good mood, maybe you could've skated by with this. But last she saw you she was ticked off, and that was before you busted into an off-limits room and pilfered a scraper and fed the fucking flesh tendrils— there's no way she doesn't know about the flesh tendrils, right? They don't look new, and she fucking lives here. And there's no way she wants you to know about them, or she would've mentioned them at literally any point.

And it broke the drain. Four strikes. If you were a little less stressed or a little more creative you could probably bluff some gullshit about being sleepwalking or mind-controlled or whatnot but you're blanking hard on specifics and there's footsteps, now. The door's closed. No way you can clean up the water in the hallway, that's a lost cause, but you can dart forward at least to slam the light switch off and—

—as you do, the hall light comes on. It's just barely enough to see by, which is just barely enough to stop you from registering that you're now locked in a tight and windowless box. Or maybe it's just that you're not in a body that can cramp or sweat or itch. Breathe! You're not safe yet. Pat can still stroll in and catch you red-handed, whether you crouch uselessly behind a shelf or not. If you're committing to this— and do you have a choice?— there is exactly one option. You're trying not to look at it.

It doesn't make much of a difference, practically speaking, between being trapped in a big box or a little box. You know this. In your head you know this. But your neck is not turning and your feet are not moving and in the other part of your head you're running through 50 million insane what-if-I-get-stuck, what-if-I-starve-there, what-if-Pat-snaps-the-cord, what-if-I'm-cube-shaped-forever scenarios. You need somebody to take you by the shoulders and give you a good shake and a hard slap. You need this more than anything else in the fucking world. But there's nobody here, and you can't fucking split yourself in two like a worm or a starfish, and you don't have an evil ghost or your own common sense walking around to help. You have a tentacle.

...Can the tentacle... no! It can't. (Why would it? Fucking hell.) It's stopped doing whatever it was going to do and is instead jamming itself down the drainhole: you grasp your wrist and watch numbly until it goes. And then you're alone in the mostly-dark and the footsteps are ever-louder and the door handle rattles and—

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You realized after some time that it wasn't your door. She was opening some other door near yours. Whoops. In the interim, you were pumped full of so much shaky fear-juice that you probably could've leapt clean into the dumbwaiter. But the drain-hole was closer, and in the split-second you were thinking you figured maybe it'd open up somewhere wider. It really was a split-second. If you'd had any longer, you would've considered where drains usually go, but instead you hurtle feet-first directly into a pipe.

It's big for a pipe, granted, and its walls have been battered even bigger by the retreating tentacle. It's still not big enough for you. Shit shit shit shit. You try to pry yourself out as silently and rapidly as possible, but the handle rattles— your handle rattles— and you, as a grown-ass woman, weigh your courses of action. Either you get caught looking like the guiltiest motherfucker that ever lived, or you jam yourself down the fucking pipe.

You opt for the latter. You'll spare the details (or you really will hurl), but hey. Put it this way. It's the kind of thing that made you understand why you woke up that night screaming.

>[Your GRIT is: Slightly Low]

The pipe is downward-sloping, and after a little while you realize why: it's busted. It dangles open above that sort of sickening maddening void you were chatting about earlier. Being roughly tube-shaped, you have little recourse but to slip down and down and out and you are glad for it— nah, you are motherfucking ecstatic. Because it's not a tube. Even if you die, you're not going to fucking die in a tube.

You are falling, though. It's been a long fucking time since you've fallen a long way— there's not many opportunities underwater, and those you've had have never been worth taking. (Breaking your neck is still a kill, last you checked.) Last time was— yeah. Last time was you making them walk you backwards off the plank, maintaining direct eye contact with the bastard in the back. To intimidate him, and so you didn't have to look at the crowd— you'd already looked at the crowd. No Ashley, no anybody. Figured. They prodded you to the edge and asked for last words and you flipped them the double bird because you couldn't think of shit. You held that all the way down, along with your breath so you wouldn't scream. Or it'd wind up in the papers. You hit the water like a double-stack of cinderblocks.

You don't scream, or Pat would hear. And you're not sure you're sufficiently constituted to scream. You do hit the ground like a double-stack of cinderblocks, though, and go everywhere.


You're not dead. So that's something. You don't even hurt. It's more humiliating than anything else, scraping yourself back together, remolding into something at least bipedal. (You're fucking lucky you practiced this.) It smells mildewy down here, wherever here is, and it's fucking dark. Why wouldn't be fucking dark? Your one saving grace is that you think you reformed your eyes too big. Like you've got fucking dinner-plate squid eyes, you mean. (Well, okay. Not that big. Almost.) You're comfortable with this for as long as you can go without spotting Pat or a mirror, because it means you can see okay.

And what you can see are flesh tendrils. And flesh tentacles. All the flesh things, really. (It doesn't seem so bad now, after the pipe.) They're all attached to the great fleshy blob oozing in the metal half-tank in the room's center. And you do mean 'great.' The thing's not house-sized, but it's big as a large shed or small bedroom. You can't tell if it has a face. It does have little hairy vestigial limbs waving around., though. You shake out your own flipper limbs until they thin into fingers, then reach down to prod a fat tentacle. "Hey... pal. Still me. Madrigal? I fed you?"

It must be able to understand you... or it just reacts to the sound of your voice. Whatever. The tentacle you touched lifts and sways and pulsates like it was doing before and to your considerable surprise morphs into the exact form of Lester Six. Just the end of the tentacle, you mean. The rest is still tentacle, and the blob thing is still a blob— but Lester Six dangles before you. Beneath his face his mouth flaps open.

"Hi sweetheart."

>[1] Reactions? Questions?? (Write-in.)
Also, I managed to procrastinate on writing via updating the character pastebin. Here's your bimonthly reminder that the character pastebin exists and contains lots of useful information about pretty much every single person that's ever shown up: https://pastebin.com/4ZHiLzv4
>[1] Which Lester are you?
hey bud uh you know uh any way out of here?
>Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeey buddy

You shift your stance. "...How's it hanging?"

"Its hanging darling its hanging. Hanging even better now with some beautiful company." The Lester-tentacle twitches toward you. "It gets lonely down here dont you know?"

Its speech pattern isn't human, still, but it's close. Much more coherent than the garbled Lester Six, even though that is Lester Six right there. Or was? You don't fucking know. "Yeah, yeah, I'd imagine. Pat doesn't send a whole lot of beautiful company your way?"

"That possessive bitch?" The central blob quivers in what you have to assume is amusement. "She doesnt have any hot friends to send me anyways. Or any fuck ugly friends either. Keep telling her shes going to die alone but—"

Your composure weakens, briefly. "What the fuck for?"

"Well it keeps her productive. Anyways babygirl its nice to have you here in my pad sorry its a bit of a mess right now. Can I get you anything?"

"A beer?" A joke.

"Hmm let me take a look around." All the non-Lester tentacles and tendrils go patting about for the clearly nonexistent beer. "Yeah I think I got some."

You watch silently as one of the tendrils flails behind the half-tank, out of sight, and flails back curled around a shiny and unopened bottle of nonexistent beer. It transfers it into Lester Six's hands, and you take it from there. Looks like beer, feels like beer, but no. You refuse. There is no fucking way there happened to be— to be— play it cool, alright? You're dreaming. Try and remember you're dreaming. You clutch the dream-beer gingerly between your thumb and pointer finger and try and look Lester Six in the eyes. "Thanks, bud. Real cool of you. You're rocking that, uh, that look, by the way."

"What look, honeybear?"

Shit. You can't just call it a flesh blob. "The— the hair, you know. I like what you did with it. Looks real different from the last time I saw you."

"You mean my shitwad dupes? Of course they couldnt come anywhere close to imitating me. But thank you cutie Ill take the ego boost."

You jiggle the dream-beer compulsively. "...You mean to say you're Lester? The original one?"

"Oh yeah babe Lester Number One. The real deal. Never topped never even came close. Could tell just from looking at me huh."

Something like that. Except that Pat told you the real Lester was kidnapped. And you thought you remembered meeting a Lester briefly— you and Richard— and he was a guy, not a flesh blob. Be patient. "Yeah, shit, bang on. You really stand out. So you manage Namway all by yourself?"

The Lester-tentacle sways. "Well I used to until that backstabbing cunt stuck me in here. Barely feeds me. Wont even let me fuck her anymore the frigid bitch. Wont even let me leave..."

"Leave your pad?" you say.

"Yeah thats it. I try and get out when I can but its not too easy with this setup. Im sure you can relate cant you. She got you too?"


"Tough shit tough shit. You know I feel like something has to be done doesnt it? Sometimes some people cant get out of a situation all by themselves... they need to work together? Need to... partner up? If you know what I mean?"

Yeah, you know what it means.

>[1] Partner up. You don't exactly have a lot of allies, and Pat has to be on the hunt by now. You can find out the details after. [This will lock you onto the LESTER route of escape.]
>[2] Decline. It's a fucking flesh thing. What is it going to do for you? Is it even safe to let it out of here? It's not like it can follow you— leave and explore wherever you are now. (---Lester(s)'s Trust)
>[3] Write-in.
>>[1] Partner up. You don't exactly have a lot of allies, and Pat has to be on the hunt by now. You can find out the details after. [This will lock you onto the LESTER route of escape.]
>[1] Partner up. You don't exactly have a lot of allies, and Pat has to be on the hunt by now. You can find out the details after. [This will lock you onto the LESTER route of escape.]
we're pretty much softlocked already
> Lie

Tell him we'll partner up, but soak him for info first. Get to know the lay of the land as it were, what's he tried so far.

After all, we can tell he's clearly a mover and shaker, a Player not a pawn. But game recognizes game, and we ain't looking to get Played capisce?
We can talk and escape at the same time. I guess I missed the "no time for details" whoops. Fuck it lets go.
Yeah-- while you don't know for sure if Pat is tracking you down (she may have just turned around and gone back to bed), I don't think Madrigal would feel comfortable staying too long in one spot. You can and will pump as much information out of Lester One as possible, though.

I'll also note that partnering up doesn't make you emotionally tied to the guy, so you're free to use him for all he's worth then betray/abandon/discard him afterward like Charlotte did to Pat :^). The only thing routelocking does is indicate that *this* is how you plan on getting out of here.
Pat retroactively deserved it
None of this ever would've happened if you had just gotten her a new snake like you promised!
Charlotte didn't do anything wrong, it was just low on her priority of sidequests!
I'm pretty sure we did just decide to forget about doing it, like if we stumbled across a new snake by chance lucky us otherwise oh well.
What anon said: the sidequest had an 3-day timer on it, and you guys actively voted in Thread 9 to ditch it rather than find a snake in 3 days (i.e. by coercing it out of Madrigal's leg). It was a choice, not negligence. To be specific you actually voted to turn Pat in to the Wind Court, which you didn't get around to because you got stabbed and Richard possessed you... but which would not have helped Pat's mood even if you did.
Basically our problem as Charlotte is we don't commit.

I wouldn't necessarily put it like that, because that implies that it's a consistent thing-- you have followed through with a lot of stuff, like helping Gil out. (Which is why he likes you now.) The takeaway should be that your mouth shouldn't write checks your ass can't cash, or alternately that you shouldn't renege on deals with extremely shady mad scientists.
Well, I thought I could update real quick after coming back from a banger concert, but I... could not. Fortunately, tomorrow is pretty free, so please expect a daytime update on top of the usually scheduled one. My apologies.
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You've met the real Lester (or at least a way better copy of him), and he was an unlikable douche. This Lester is not only an unlikable douche but a disgusting monster thing. You have approximately zero desire to talk to or look at it ever again, much less shack up with it. In either sense.

But you've dealt with your fair share of unlikable douches, and you don't put your personal qualms over practical matters if you care about keeping your job. Fact is, you're not exactly rolling in allies. And the thing seems to sincerely like you, or at least your tits and ass. (Whatever works.) You believe it when it says it wants to escape together. How is it going to help you do that? You don't know— it looks pretty damn tank-bound. But surely it knows some stuff. Maybe it has fucking hidden depths. Who cares? Maybe you can use it as a meat-shield when Pat turns up brandishing a gun at you.

That works. "I gotcha, pal," you say, spit on your palm, and stick your hand out. The Lester-tentacle scoots closer, so you grab its wobbly arm and pump vigorously. "Deal's a deal. We'll get out of this dump, both of us."

Well, you will: whether it escapes or not is none of your business. Maybe it'll be convenient, maybe it won't be. It's not like it can tell your smile's glib. "So, partner... what do you know?"



You are Charlotte Fawkins. After tracking down the remaining members of your rescue party, you, Gil, Arledge, and Lucky have finally made it through the gate to the sacred Temple Falls... only to discover a corpse polluting the water.

Gil has begged off and retreated, claiming that his glasses were misting over. Arledge has tied a scarf around his nose and mouth. Lucky, taking no such precautions, has scrambled up the slick rocks and is bent over the corpse. "Woman," he reports. "Mid-late twenties. Wrists slashed, throat slashed, eyes cut out... wounds look recent. I estimate within the last half hour. We may presume this is the murder weapon."

He wraps a tissue around his hand and slides the knife from the corpse's back. "Nice weapon. Looks specially made. Skin around the entry point is puckered and discolored, blade has tarry residue— I'd guess poison. I'd further guess that accounts for the excessive bleeding."

"Or he could've asked me about it." Arledge's hands are clasped tightly behind his back. "Of course it's poison. It's a premonition."

You're hunched over and staring into the red water. "Of?" ("JUDGMENT COMES," the message on the wall screams.) "Oh. ...Of judgment?"

"Of the end of the world, yes. I suppose you know how the Flood happened."

Obviously. "The dumb gods up and died and royally screwed—"

"That's propaganda. They were betrayed and murdered by mankind. Can you guess how?"

You narrow your eyes.

"They were stabbed with poisoned blades and hemorrhaged." Arledge runs a thumb along the wall. "Gods have a lot of blood. Eight of them together have more than you can fathom."
"Uh-huh." You would rather not hear this. "Very cool. So what'd happen if I drank this?"

He doesn't miss a beat. "I can't say I have a lot of experience drinking desecrated water. I'd imagine nothing pleasant, for most. For you I can't say."

"Because I'm special?" (You approve.) "Well, I probably won't drink it. I'm just thinking about Annie..."

"You could describe it as 'special.' The worm?" He turns toward you. "You don't want to—"

"I have to revive her somehow! And it's still water." The SEA-VIPER® lays still in your pocket.

"It's desecrated. Worms are absorbent. You'd be infusing it with—"

"Power? Like we need to open the stupid door? I don't see the issue." You pluck a twig off the ground and toss it into the roiling water. "Unless you have a better—"

"I don't see why the worm needs to be 'revived.'" Lucky has reappeared, murder weapon in hand. "As I see it, we're all better off without an irrational thirty-foot man-eating creature in our midst. Has it died?"

"She's not thirty feet," you say defensively. "And no, she's just dehydrated, but—"

"So it'll return good as new when we're out of hell? Glad to hear it. No need to rush this along." Lucky checks a nonexistent wristwatch. "Speaking of getting out of hell, I doubt any of us are in immediate danger. I strongly suspect it's a single assailant using trickery or stealth. At least one of us is a capable combatant. If we stick together I foresee no issue, so I recommend we proceed as previously—"

"The woman needs to be laid to rest," Arledge says.

"The fictional woman, Mr. Graves? Or, if we're to believe Ms. Fawkins, the already dead woman? I'm all for pomp and ceremony, but not when—"

"She was killed dishonorably for evil purposes. I find it hard to believe—" He looks hard at you. "—that the day was intended to proceed like this. It's the least that can be done."

"The least that can be done is nothing, Mr. Graves. How long will this take?"

Arledge's makeshift mask crinkles. "It depends on if we also purify the waterfall."

"Long." Lucky spreads his hand. "I rest my case. Ms. Fawkins...?"

(Choices next.)
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>[You are at 1/? SV.]

>[A1] Arledge is right: you should give the woman some kind of funeral. It's the right thing to do, and more importantly it should placate Us for a while longer. [Time will pass.]
>[A2] Arledge is right: you should do the funeral, and also let him and the other liaisons purify the waterfall. So you can revive Annie without infecting her with anything. [More time will pass.]
>[A3] Lucky is right: the longer you stall, the more likely the arsonist/murderer will cause trouble elsewhere. You need to strike out and stop them before this escalates further.
>[A4] Lucky is right: you need to get out of here as fast as possible. Start scavenging for the supplies you need to hook Annie up to the door— Gil mentioned "jumpy cables"?
>[A5] Write-in.

(The [B]s are optional.)
>[B1] Hydrate Annie the worm in the desecrated water. [Annie will emerge changed. As MASTER and PREDATOR, you will retain control over her.]
>[B2] Drink some gross blood water. [Regain SV, for all that entails.]
>[B3] Write-in.
>[A3] Lucky is right: the longer you stall, the more likely the arsonist/murderer will cause trouble elsewhere. You need to strike out and stop them before this escalates further.

It would be bad to spend time holding a funeral and then when we're done we find out we need to hold another one. Gotta go for the cause before the symptoms here.

Neither, SV is nasty and Annie existing will do more to destabilize this place than a hundred murders.
I don't like the idea of calling this update (particularly the [B]s) on a single vote, so I'll be letting this one go overnight unless something changes in the next 15 min or so. Have a great evening, folks.
>[A3] Lucky is right: the longer you stall, the more likely the arsonist/murderer will cause trouble elsewhere. You need to strike out and stop them before this escalates further.
>[B2] Drink some gross blood water. [Regain SV, for all that entails.]
Giving Annie the water might have consequences like accelerating whatever's going on. And who wouldn't want a little god juice, given the chance (and an assurance it wouldn't turn them inside-out).
A1, B1, B2.

Remind Lucky that we're the good guys, and the delay to put the woman to rest is minimal.

As for Annie, she is a force multiplier and an important member of the team who we tamed at great personal cost and we can guarantee no man eating will occur without our approval.
Rolled 2 (1d2)





>[No B1]

>[No B2]

Wow, you guys came through. Called for [A3], [B2], and flipping between no [B1] and [B1] in that order. Writing soon.
You guys are going balls to the wall. Still writing soon.

>Annie existing will do more to destabilize this place than a hundred murders
Since [B1] won: not necessarily, since it's not like you smuggled her in: she got incorporated into the "dream" same as everybody else. Rehydrating her, even in the cursed blood pool, is totally logical (and even something Claudia would plausibly do, for whatever that's worth). What's going to affect the place is what you do with her afterwards.
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>God mode

You hate to agree with Lucky, but it's not as though Arledge is much better. "Yeah, we can't twiddle our thumbs! What if the guy murders somebody else while the funeral's happening? Then we'll have to have two funerals, and then the guy can kill two more people, and we'll have to have four funerals, and—"

"Got the picture," Arledge says shortly. "But I'm not so sure about that. This wasn't indiscriminate— this was to make a point. And with the point wholly made..."

"Then he could make two points!" you counter. "And then four points, and eight points—"

Lucky raises his hand. "Ms. Fawkins agrees. That's two to one, Mr. Graves."

"Gil hasn't given his input," Arledge says.

"Mr. Wallace has voluntarily removed himself from the proceedings. If he would've liked to give his input, he could have joined us. Now, as far as leaving goes—"

First off: Mr. Wallace? Where'd Lucky pick up the last name? (Is it part of his special security person knowledge?) Second: "Hold on, I never said we were leaving yet! Don't we have to stop the murderer first? So he doesn't go around... murdering more people? That's what I said? Was I not—"

Lucky's face sets. "The fictional murderer, Ms. Fawkins?"

"Y- yes?" Is he complaining? "It's your entire job! I mean, both of your entire jobs! Out of here and in—"

"My entire job," Lucky says coolly, "is to defend ordinary people from the forces of the unnatural. Not to defend the forces of the unnatural from the forces of the unnatural."

"These are ordinary people, Dib. As I understand it they just happen to be—"

"Dead? I'm aware. Life after death is unnatural, Arledge, and furthermore the deceased should not take precedence over a living person in danger. Or have you forgotten about Ms. Fitzpatrick? The entire purpose for—?"

"We're under time dilation. It won't make a practical difference." Arledge folds his arms. "Your cruelty is as needless as usual."

"My cruelty?"

Lucky has hunched and darkened, a little, and you skitter out in front of him before Arledge trips any more warning flags. (You've had plenty of experience with Richard in that regard.) "Ahem! So it sounds like it's a two-one again— right? Arledge? You think we should arrest the dastardly killer?"

"If a funeral is off the table, I have no qualms with that."

You nod vigorously. "Yup, two-one! And it's basically 2.5-.5, since you were investigating the body up there anyhow, Lucky—"

"I was determining if there was any threat posed to us," Lucky says. "There was not. That does not constitute my support of—"

"Basically 2.5-.5. And really 3.5-.5, since Gil always agrees with me, and 4.5-.5 if we throw Annie in there, and that rounds up to five, and bam! It's unanimous! I love it." You clap your hands together. "If only Annie were here to see..."

"Don't," Arledge says firmly.

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"For once in my lifetime I concur with Mr. Graves." Lucky folds his arms. "What value is the worm intended to add?"

"What value? She's a critical team member! She's our moral support, basically, our— our conscience, our beating heart—"

"The worm."

"And our mascot! She's our mascot! She—" Nobody's convinced. "It just really sucks to see her shrink-dried, alright? She's probably really embarrassed—"

"The worm."

They don't get it. Neither of them get it. And of course they don't: they don't have the boundless noble spirit necessary to tap into the true feelings of worms. "I'd make sure she didn't eat anybody...?"

"We should get going," Lucky says, and Arledge nods. They look at you. You look back.

This continues until you lose: it's two to one, after all. You kick the dirt. "Fine. I can revive her later."

"Later and somewhere else," Arledge says. "This place will be fouled for a long time. But yes, we should go."

So you go. Or, well, they go— you trail behind, growing increasingly petulant. They don't get it. That's the long and short of the matter. They don't get it, and they don't get you, and they're treating you like you're some kind of peer with some kind of stupid-ass equal vote instead of the rightful leader of this expedition. If you want to revive Annie, you should get to revive Annie! If Gil weren't sulking outside you'd be tied in the matter, you're sure of it. If Annie got her God-given vote, it'd be three-two. That's a majority! So you're being cheated, basically, you're—

Arledge has passed through the gate ahead of you, and Lucky's already out. You get an idea. A good idea? You have no idea. (There is nobody to judge you.) But certainly a fair idea, a just idea, a real honest stick-it-to-them idea. If Gil were with you you'd reconsider. He is outside.

They're both well through the gate now. You step forward rapidly, grab the bars of the gate, and slam it shut hard. The snake around your neck constricts, and the lock of the gate clicks.

"Charlotte?" says Arledge, and "Ms. Fawkins," says Lucky, and somewhere from behind the wall comes a "Lottie!"

"Just a minute!" You shake your hair back and re-approach the edge of the pool, pausing to examine your reflection. You knew it wouldn't be yours, but it's one thing to know and another to see your mirror-self's too-sharp chin, too-thin brows, too-narrow eyes. You have no beauty mark and altogether too much eye makeup, though a lot of it is smeared down your cheeks. You pull a face, and the reflection follows along. You pull another. You hook your fingers into the corners of your lips and pull and in the reflection expose rows and rows of needle teeth and stare. You feel with your tongue: normal, human.

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And from behind the gate Arledge says "Don't drink the water," and maybe it's spite (okay: definitely it's spite) but maybe also you want to disrupt the mirror surface. So you dip your hands in and scoop. It's cold like water. Thin like water. Bright ruby red still. Not the worst thing you've drunk— not even the worst thing you've drunk today. You funnel it down your throat.

Tastes like water— maybe a little metallic. Nothing special. To make extra sure Arledge was watching, you take a second scoop and drink, then rub your dripping hands on your slacks and start rummaging around in your pockets. You can't remember which one you stashed the SEA-VIP—

Your teeth crack open. Down the middle. All of them at once. It can't actually be that loud, but amplified in your skull it's like a gunshot. They crack open again, after a second, into quarters. Tiny chips of enamel litter your tongue. Then again, mechanically. Your gums are throbbing. Your teeth-splinters are grinding together, shaving off even more shards as your mouth rearranges itself. It must be according to some grand plan somewhere, from the synchronicity. It wasn't in yours.

You cough automatically as it grinds to a halt, spewing out a hail of tooth-shards. Your mouth is raw and from the taste of it bleeding, but it doesn't hurt much. You grimace at your reflection and it grimaces back sharply. Sorry, Claudia.

And if it ended there you could've lived with it. Your teeth have been sharpened before. (Although you were anesthetized the last time.) It's just that after you grimace, you cough again, and that's where it goes to hell: either the water is expelled down to meet the red-stuff-in-hiding, or the stuff is launched up from your spleen or toes or wherever. The specifics don't matter. The key point is that they meet somewhere around your midsection, and it's from there that the red stuff takes root and unfurls around your organs and spirals around your spine like a beanpole and sends exploratory shoots up your arms and down your legs and you swear you swear you swear you can see something literally under your skin, growing, but what is there to say to that? When your throat is full of roses? You sway back down to your knees and plant your hands in the mud which is calming, if nothing else. Mud's still there. Inside it's hot spring and you are sweating and shaking and flowering heavily and your nostrils are full of blood and rot. You are staring directly down at the SEA-VIPER® which has fallen out of your pocket into the mud.

Annie, you think vaguely, and reach down with fat fingers and lift the package to your mouth and bite directly through the clamshell enclosure. Annie falls into your hand pale and grey, in striking contrast to your brilliant scarlet, and you find space in yourself for pity. You let her tumble into the lapping edge of the pool.

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And as Annie blooms you come to fruit. You are ripe. You are ecstatic. You are bowed under the weight until your nose touches dirt, but still you gaze up to watch Annie swell and flex like a violin string. The pool is shrinking away from you: she is absorbing it. Her proportions are changing, becoming lither and more angular. Her jaws are changing, becoming sharper, whiter, set permanently straight. (She won't hunt like she used to. She won't need to.) Her color is changing, too. She is reddening like you are.

You are abundant. You are unsure what to do with yourself. You can't stand like this. You can hardly move. You guess you should think things through: either you can expand, grow like you're meant to, strengthen to carry the weight— or you can unload this somehow. You would like the former. Your purpose is the former. But something is [Stop!] something is holding [What are you doing!] something is holding you [Do you really want to go all giant-lizard-thing with Lucky right there to murder you?!] back. You blink. A shadow falls upon you.

Annie is big. Annie is really big. More than you remembered her being. And there is no more waterfall, only a cliff. She lowers her head to you and rotates it and snaps her jaws as long as you are open and bites you gently, affectionately, in two.


Not into two pieces, though it might've looked that way, from all the red stuff pouring from you. It's possible you alone knew it was only pulp. You are set back down, again gently, and you straighten: you are juiced.

Stuff still remains in you, more than before. It pools around your ankles. But at least it's liquid, and not... yeah. Well.

>[+3 SV: 4/?]

You pat Annie on her hardened exterior. There is screaming somewhere, and yelling closer. Something about the gate. Something about Lottie. Something about the end times. You pat Annie some more.

And then the gate bangs open (was it locked that tightly?) and Gil leads the pack of maybe twenty-five blue-robed people plus Lucky plus a smaller band of security types into the little enclosure. As much as they can fit, at least. They're mostly armed. Some of them look at you. Most of them look at Annie, who sways patiently.

>[1] Write-in? (Optional. Real choices in the morning.)
I wonder what was your motivation for drinking the water, anons.
Obviously greet them as you climb aboard your loyal steed.

Someone cried about end times? Excellent, that's specifically what we are all about. Stopping. We're all about stopping the end times, to be clear, not about the end times or stopping separately.

Also probably nobody should drink the water.
You expect us to dunk annie in it without checking it first?
>[1] Ah, crud. Quickly set about rationalizing so all this makes logical sense in the dream. (Like you did with the fire.) If it gets you away from two dozen pointy objects, all the better. [Roll.]
>[2] Uh... cash in your favor with Us and wake the crowd up. This might play better if you can explain it to the source.
>[3] What can they do to you? You are invincible. Your hide is iron. Stand here until they get tired and go home. [-1 SV]
>[4] Attempt to calm everybody down with, uh, words and stuff. (Write-in.) [Difficult roll unless your argument is really good.]
>[5] Write-in.

Seemed pretty healthy and enjoyable to me! And now you can bite things better again!

>as you climb aboard your loyal steed
Might need a stepladder. You'll figure something out.

>Also probably nobody should drink the water.
Fortunately(?), all the water has been absorbed.
>[2] Uh... cash in your favor with Us and wake the crowd up. This might play better if you can explain it to the source.

I guess we're trying to evacuate and stop disturbing the place asap?
>[1] Ah, crud. Quickly set about rationalizing so all this makes logical sense in the dream. (Like you did with the fire.) If it gets you away from two dozen pointy objects, all the better. [Roll.]
>[1] Ah, crud. Quickly set about rationalizing so all this makes logical sense in the dream. (Like you did with the fire.) If it gets you away from two dozen pointy objects, all the better. [Roll.]
Any option in Drowned where there are options with and without rolling, it's always smarter to pick the ones with dice.
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>[4] (effectively)

Called for [1]. I need dice.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 9 (+10 Narrative Convenience, +5 Existing Rapport, +3 Claudia, +1 Red Stuff, -10 All Eyes on You) vs. DC 65 (+15 Hard Sell) to smooth over the narrative!

Spend 1 ID for +10 to all rolls? You are at 7/13 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 26 + 9 (1d100 + 9)

Rolled 83 + 9 (1d100 + 9)

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Rolled 77 + 9 (1d100 + 9)

>45, 102, 96 vs. DC 65 -- Success

You're going places. Writing.
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>Choose Your Own Adventure
>45, 102, 96 vs. DC 65 — Success

Arledge was probably right: things weren't supposed to go like this. Arson? Murder? The end times? It was a nice festival. People were happy here. And then you barged in and— and it's not that you've disrupted it exactly, you haven't, you've really been trying not to, but it's been disrupted around you. In your wake. And now you're here: a worm, a force seething in you, an angry crowd, and no more waterfall.

So goes part of you. The talkative part. The irritating part, to be frank. The bulk of you, squeezed blissfully dry, is content to stand here and continue to pat Annie. People are saying things at you, Gil in particular. You nod politely. Annie indicates in your mind that she is hungry (presumably from all the exertion), so you nudge Gil away from you so you can scan the crowd. Nobody's immediately edible-looking. One of the wimpier security guards, maybe. Annie rears up and over the crowd to do her own scan, and this innocent action throws up further screams and yells and at least five (you count them) guns thrust at your chest. And one beaten-up cleaver. Gil's hand is glowing.

"LOTTIE!" he says, as if from a cave or underwater or somewhere. "YOU HAVE TO—!"

But you have ceased to hear because your throat and your pupils are constricting and your blood is hot in your ears and you are thinking about how easy it'd be to kill him, not with your own hands, but by Annie bending over and snapping him up. What could he possibly do to stop that? What could any of them do? They'd be gone. You chuckle at the thought of that. All that noise, and then pure blessed—

You don't want to murder people! You don't! Not even if Annie does it! Unless they really really deserved it, but nobody here really really deserves it— Lucky only really deserves it. Murdering people is what got you into this mess. Murdering people is not an accidental in-your-wake disruption, it's an big fat active— also, it's wrong! Your moral code might account for a lot of things, but cold-blooded murder isn't in there! And why are you thinking about doing it to Gil again? Why does it hate him so much? You don't hate Gil and you don't want him to be eaten and you're beating your fists against the wall trying to say so trying to work your mouth to say so and you are finding zero purchase. You are deadened to yourself.

And nobody is around to— nobody— quit with the cowardice! Richard's corpse is around your neck and it's been a long time and he hasn't come back. If he were here this never would've happened. He would've helped you. Because that was his job. He would've been pissy about it and he would've probably taken you over himself but at least he had the decency to talk to you when he did that. So it wasn't just you and the darkness. And at least you felt it was possible to reason with him: not easy, not common, but if you worked out his weak points and twisted the knife he could—

It occurs to you that you haven't really worked anything out here. You've just been complaining. Do you know that other-you is unreasonable? Isn't she still you, just... icy and bloodless and locked off? (Annie did snap you in half. Maybe too hard.) You think she hears you, you're pretty sure. She called you irritating. And you're calling her a nasty evil snake-whore, so you're even now, but aside from that you—

You've been doing a lot of talking. You don't know how you lived like this. The enormous majority is vapid nonsense, which is consistent with what's being spewed outside your head— multiple people are touching you now, and trying to touch Annie— though you are of superior make, so there's a couple gems. At least you're complimentary of yourself. Yes, you are intelligent. Yes, you are of sound judgment. You know. Yes, you are important. You know that too. You're right, you do wish you got a little more recognition. Annie knows. But these, the masses— they're not bowing or fawning. Yes. You look at them with newfound disgust.

Yes, of course. (The wheedling little voice is making excellent points.) The principal problem with this place was the democracy of it. Every little useless person with their own useless story. No focus. Of course it crumbled. Yes, of course you should be at the center of it. This is demeaning to you. This entire situation. Yes, you should remove yourself promptly. It's nonsensical for you to be here. Unsatisfying. Anticlimatic.

Yes, you're capable of this. It is nothing to you. You already are the center of events: the events just don't know it yet. You do not need to kneel and speak to the dirt to establish this. Ridiculous. You are the heroine— reality's fabric warps subtly around you. (Destiny's burden has a gravitational pull.) The world is open for the taking. So center yourself. Feel your weight. And take it.

>[-1 ID: 6/13]

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You are not Claudia Fawkins, and neither are you C.R. Fawkins. You may have gone by those names once, even recently, but you have shed both like a skin. You have and need no replacement. There is you, and there is the power in you, and there is Maurice.

Maurice. The one with the mustache. You fail to remember where you got him, only that he's a festival coordinator— gods know how he got there, because his allegiances are red as yours. He set the fire. You killed the Liaison. You make a good pair, except for when he questions you.

"That's the worm?" He's not even bothering to hide the contempt.

You have it in a shoebox. It's about the size of your forearm. "It gets bigger."


"When I want it to." You had to get used to the control at first. Now you can't imagine living without it. "You'll see when it happens. Can we go? It's not going to be empty up there for long."

Maurice rises begrudgingly from his squat against a tree. "You're always in a hurry."

You permit yourself a slight smile. (They've gotten much rarer, ever since the teeth changed.) "Listen... world's not going to end itself, is it?"

>[TO BE CONTINUED during the day if I can manage it!! check back later]
This is NOT the way I wanted the events rationalized.

Things are getting very spicy... spicy indeed...
well we did vote for more red stuff, the murder our dad for power red stuff, it was gonna be something like this
Continuation still coming, but I may or may not update again tonight. It's taking a lot of time and I still gotta take care of RL stuff. (It's regular update-sized.)

I'm sure it's not how Charlotte wanted those events rationalized either :-)
Just why
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"And could you tell me what exactly you saw, Mr. Wallace? In as much detail as possible. Anything could be relevant."

"Um," you say. Your ears ring. "Uh, gimme a—"


"Gimme a second!" You are Gil Wallace— you don't even have to think about it. Two seconds ago you were staring Not Lottie in her dead shark eyes. Then she reached out and... shit! And did something, the same something she did earlier, with the fire. You'd bet your ass. Because here you are (here Teddy is) outside in the clearing with no cleaver and no deathworm and some clown with a notebook in your face. Wait. You know the clown.

"Hey, Lucky," you say. "Snap out of it."

"Sir, please answer the question. This could be—"

"Lucky, it's Gil Wallace. We're rescuing that lady together? Madrigal?" Nothing. You sigh out your nose. "...I'm the bug guy?"

Lucky's face contorts as you demonstrate your bug-guy credentials. "Sir," he says a little nervously. "Sir— you're advised to cease—"

A couple hours ago, this kind of reaction would've set you off on a humiliating downward spiral, culminating in you huddling against the wall while Charlotte patted your shoulder gingerly. Right now, it's just kind of funny. "Shit," you say. "Is there a law on the books against this? Anti-beetle statute? Sorry about that. Guess I'll just, uh..."

You have nothing to bribe with, unless Lucky wants a roll of fishing twine, a couple empty jars, a pack of cigarettes, a matchbook, or a cleaver that smells powerfully of fish. Damn. You change tacks. "...Well, listen. If you snap out of it right now, I won't make my bugs crawl all over your face. And I won't let them burrow up your ears and nose and stuff. They like doing that." (No they don't. You wouldn't go up Lucky's goddamn nose if he were paying you. But he doesn't have to know that.) "So what about it?"

He's not really responding: he has those glassy halfway-state eyes. If you slapped him that'd just about push him over, but also if you slapped him he'd whoop your ass— Teddy's actually taller than him, which is incredible, but you have zero instincts for a brawl. (And it would be a brawl. The guy's got it out for you.) Yelling at him would draw attention. Leaving him here will piss Lottie off, whenever she exists again. If she exists again. You calculate. You calculate some more.

And then you raise your arm and point, which is strictly unnecessary for your purposes but looks pretty cool. You follow your own lead and propel maybe a third of yourself (buzzing, cartwheeling) into Lucky's face.

You barely make purchase— your fingers curl instinctively— before a great dark shape comes down on you. "Ow!" you say, out of reflex more than pain, and scatter widely. Lucky brushes his face off with his arm. "Keep your filthy bugs off me."


He wipes his hand on his pants and stares balefully up at you. Lucky. "It's neither humorous nor clever. Where is Leftenant Fawkins?"


"Harrier-Leftenant Fawkins. Charlotte Fawkins. Your—" He makes air quotes. "—'friend.'"

How the hell should you know? And what happened to 'gee, thanks for rescuing me from infinity as some dead guy?' Why did Lottie invite this dickhead? You just don't understand her. "I dunno, where's Arledge? I think things got all jumbled up again—"

"Thank you, Mr. Wallace, as if that needed to be said. I see you are conveniently unaffected."

You're not even sure what he's insinuating. That you're "unnatural"? (Okay.) That you're in cahoots with Lottie? (To accomplish what?) You think maybe, possibly, he's just being a dickhead. "Yeah. So do you want to split up? I can look for Lottie, you can look for— oh, wait, no, I think he's right over there." There's a Liaison guy with a fucked-up face busy conferring with the other ones. "Gimme a sec, alright?"

It's not like Lucky can stop you, so he just presses his lips together and turns his attention to the notebook. You speedwalk across the clearing, cast eerily in the early evening light. The gate to the waterfall is cordoned off, though you still don't hear any waterfall. No sign of a worm. No sign of Lottie. When you get to Arledge it's the same as before: just tapping his shoulder and grabbing his hand and letting the light skewer through you.

He flinches exactly how he did before, and you take a step back. He presses his palm to his forehead. "Again?"

"Uh," you say. "Yeah. She just... uh..."

"Made her escape." Arledge clasps his hands behind his back. "Of course. How is it that somebody like you hangs around a creature like her?"

"She's not a..." You trail off. "Maybe we better get back to Lucky."


You've regrouped. You're the only one actually sitting on the bench: Arledge is behind it and leaning over, Lucky is standing rigidly.

"You're the one who got a clear look," he's saying. "Describe exactly what you saw. In as—"

"As much detail as possible? Anything could be relevant?" (Lucky scowls down at you.) "Yeah. Uh, I didn't see anything... useful. She was just dead. Unresponsive, kind of. I mean, she had half a dozen guys sticking their pistols in her face and she didn't even..." You clasp and unclasp your hands. "It was fucked-up. I was yelling at her and she didn't... the only thing she did was laugh a little bit. And it wasn't even in response to anything, she just... I-I don't know. I-I-It was just fucked-up."

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You're fucked up. The stutter's coming back. From the stress, maybe, from the intense attention of two intense people, but mainly the topic's arousing the worst in you: yourself. Good old Old Gil's lurched from his gutter and has grabbed you by the ankle and is slurring shit like why weren't you supervising her, you asshole? too goddamn scared to go near some red goddamn water? candy-ass needed his smoke break so his hands wouldn't shake? and some other garbage like and then you couldn't even help her? just stood and yelled like a bitch? took your pussy knife out like you'd ever do anything with it? why didn't you fucking magic her, you piece of shit? You're trying to find a way to say that you didn't want to get swallowed whole by a giant worm without sounding, indeed, like a bitch/pussy/candy-ass, but it's not going well.

And all this separate from Lucky interrogating you, which he still is doing. "Did she issue any orders to the worm?"

"No," you say. "She didn't say anything."

"I find it unlikely she'd speak to it," Arledge says matter-of-factly. "If there was communication, it'd be mental. This is supposing that there is a her remaining to communicate with anything, or that there ever was a 'her' at all."

This makes you sit up. "What the hell? Of course—"

"She was reeking of the stuff from the start, Gil. From the start. Before we were ever dumped in here, much less before she drank the water. You said she was hollowed-out?"

"No? I-I said she was unresp—"

"Well, she is." Arledge is sliding a toothpick into his mouth. "That's what exposure to the One does to you— scoops you out. Leaves you cold and empty. And that's if you're lucky."

"What?" Lucky says.

Arledge pauses. "If you're, ah, if you're fortunate. If you're unfortunate, the vacancy fills itself, and then you can't even be qualified as a human being. You're just a big knot of corruption. And if we're unfortunate, that knot bursts."

He's saying all this like it's completely regular and sensible and you have no idea how to respond. "She's— she is human? Though? I-I-I don't know what kind of shit you're smoking, but—"

"I'm surprised you haven't picked up on it yourself, what with the..." Arledge twiddles his fingers. You sink back further into the bench. "I nearly fell over just touching her. She had enough crud in her to kill a horse. Several horses. Judging from her handshake she would've liked to kill me."

"That's just what her handshake's like," you say weakly. "That's kind of just what she's like i-in general..."

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"It doesn't matter in either case." Lucky sounds tense. "All of this is unprovable garbage. There is no widespread problem of people 'bursting' into 'knots,' or whatever else magicians are doing to their fellow man these days. The matter of concern should be that Leftenant Fawkins has utilized unnatural forces and most likely her personal mutations to double the size of her man-eating worm. She has has then vanished along with said worm. Doubtlessly this was her plan all along, to lure us here and abuse our talents to—"

"I-I-I think she really just wanted to rescue... um..."

"—enter the gate. But it couldn't stop there, could it? She plotted this as a joke on me. An enormous joke. I had not thought about you, Mr. Graves, for years—"

"That's mutual," Arledge says.

"Precisely. And here you are. You, and this walking insult—" He's looking at you! "—and an animal I would under any other circumstance kill on sight. All of that, brought into not any ordinary AUX-space but a perverse and unobtainable mirror of the Wind Court's dearest ideals. Gentlemen." The corner of Lucky's lip is hooked up over his teeth. "This woman has played you for pawns and me for a fool. This is more than intentional: this is a power trip. Do we agree?"

Arledge spits toothpick bits onto the bench next to you. "They're not mutually exclusive."

Lucky looks at you. You stare back. What the fuck is he smoking? What's wrong with these people? Arledge wasn't even Lottie's first pick, you're nearly sure. And she didn't bring the fucking worm as a mockery, or whatever, she brought it because... because she has a hard-on for worms, or something. Again, you can't pretend to understand her, but at least you don't pull things out of your ass? You don't— you don't— "Has she done something to you?" you manage.

"Has Harrier-Leftenant Charlotte Fawkins done something to me?" Lucky scoff-laughs. "How recently are we speaking of? Because recently she broke my nose and left me to die, if that fits your criteria."

You could see that. He is kind of a dickhead. "Anything besides that?"

"Sure, Mr. Wallace. What would we like to discuss? The formation of a strictly outlawed paraorganization? The induction of a great deal of previously loyal Court members? The fomentation of unrest and dissent?" He pauses. "Or maybe you'd prefer to hear about the five murders and suicides and murder-suicides linked to the paraorganization. And about Harrier-Leftenant Fawkins' ignominious desertion shortly after these tragedies came to light, and her subsequent total disappearance. Does that work better?"

"Five is low," Arledge comments. "For that level of infection. Should've considered yourself luc— fortunate she opted to remove herself."

Shit! Is that real? He seems pretty serious about it, but Charlotte...? Well... with Richard... you could see it happening, actually. Shit. You mean, as long as she doesn't murder you, it's fine? It was just some Wind Court shitheads, anyhow, so they were probably asking for it. You'll just keep an extra eye out for not being stabbed, is all.

But that's not an appropriate response for Lucky, so you make some noncommittal mouth noises instead. He accepts this with a smug nod. "Excellent. Now that that's settled, gentlemen, the path forward is obvious. We locate her and—"

"Put her down," Arledge says slowly. "It's best for everybody. It's best for her, even if she doesn't know it anymore. I was willing to not rock the boat before, but with this new escalation—"

You stare at him now. "You're not going to murder—"

"I concur with Mr. Wallace. I was envisioning a swift capture—" Lucky touches his nose. "—and a solid blow to the face, possibly. But if it comes to execution, I don't have a problem with that."

"We'll see what happens." Arledge's expression is as fixed as usual, but he extends his arm over the bench toward Lucky. "Misery makes strange bedfellows, doesn't it? Dib?"

Lucky hesitates, then takes the hand and pumps it once. "Doesn't it ever, Mr. Graves. Now, I propose we—"

They shook hands right over your shoulder. You mean it, right over your shoulder. Arledge's arm bumped your cheek. And now they're moving on to discussing strategy for tracking down and murdering Lottie, like it's nothing, like this is a sane course of action and not cold-blooded goddamn murder. And maybe that's hypocritical of you, to care about this and not the murder-suicides? And maybe you'll say to that: who gives a crap? You never once claimed to be a shining beacon of goodness. If anything, the sparkly magic woo-woo (Old Gil's got you by more than the ankle) informed you that it was fine and great to be a hypocrite. That you shouldn't worry about it even a little. So you're not. Facts are: you like Lottie. You care about her not getting murdered. You are concerned she might be dead right now, but— well— you've been concerned about that before, and it hasn't panned out. So you're assuming that she's fine, she's just somewhere else, and she'll probably be less fine if you let these guys get to her.

So what are you going to do about it?

(Choices next.)
>[1] These assholes are ignoring you. This isn't uncommon, in your experience, but you're sick and fucking tired of it. And if your new confidence is waning— fine! Go out with a bang. Just **command their attention.** [Roll.]
>[2] Lucky's thing is only maybe factually wrong, but Arledge's is definitely factually wrong. And neither of these idiots have ever bothered even *talking* to Lottie, as far as you're aware. Stand up and defend her honor. (Write-in your passionate Charlotte defense!!!) [Possible roll.]
>[3] Okay, well, screw this. If they're going to do their thing, you're going to do your thing— leaving, finding Lottie, and pleading some sense into her. Then escaping without them, for all you care.
>[4] Write-in.

jesus H christ that took me hours and hours, no further update tonight for hopefully obvious reasons
Why the fuck did I oversleep and not vote against drinking the water?
I don't even know what to vote for
>Why the fuck did I oversleep and not vote against drinking the water?
Voting against [B2] would've changed nothing, since it was 3-1. Don't beat yourself up about it. (Not that the pro-water voters should beat themselves up about it either... it just makes the story more interesting! And all is not lost.)

>I don't even know what to vote for
There's no trap options here.
101.5 degree fever, tested positive for the 'vid. Don't actually feel too awful, so I might go ahead and update tonight anyhow if any votes come in-- just wanted to give a heads up if it gets worse.
>>[3] Okay, well, screw this. If they're going to do their thing, you're going to do your thing— leaving, finding Lottie, and pleading some sense into her. Then escaping without them, for all you care.

We can find Charlotte better and faster than these shitheads.

Feel better and rest easy!
Gimme like 4 hours to finish work.
Assertive Gil
>[1] These assholes are ignoring you. This isn't uncommon, in your experience, but you're sick and fucking tired of it. And if your new confidence is waning— fine! Go out with a bang. Just **command their attention.** [Roll.]
Forcing write-ins doesn't usually work desu.
File deleted.

>[3] (nice trips)

Called for [1]. I need rolls.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 5 (+20 BLESSED, +10 Pent Up Rage, +7 Beetles, +3 Bigger and Taller, +3 Imprinted, -15 Oh God Oh Fuck, -7 On The Comedown, -5 Risk-Averse) vs. DC 74 (+10 Intense People, +7 Outnumbered, +7 Underestimated) to strike some awe into these shitheads!

>No spendy, you're Gil

can't believe you betrayed me anon </3 jk it's all good life happens
Rolled 97 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

Rolled 89 + 5 (1d100 + 5)


Wow that Gil blessing's coming in clutch

I roll again.
Rolled 37 (1d100)

Rolled 57 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

wow nice rolls

hope I don't ruin them with a 1
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>>5488299 (nice dubs)
>102, 94, (42 or 62 doesn't matter) vs. DC 74 -- Success

I'm feeling crappier (see >>5487802
), so I'm going to take a nap and see how it goes. Writing TBD.
Nap improved things, but it's pretty late rn and I don't think it'd be healthy to push myself to stay up. I'm going to finish up some school stuff then get started, but odds are pretty good I won't get to a decent stopping place. Sorry in advance!
It's alll good. Get some rest!
Ty anon. I actually had to do the school stuff all evening yesterday, so I don't have any kind of head start, plus it's really late rn... again. I'm going to actually write tonight, but this may end up being a COVID mini-hiatus if I don't get it done within the next couple of hours. Sorry ;___;
RIP in advance
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>Go crazy go stupid
>102, 94, 62 vs. DC 74 — Success

Well, go on. Sit on the paint-peeling bench. Think about it systematically. What are your options? You could put up and shut up and try to stop them after you located Lottie. You could stand up and walk off right now and see if they even noticed. Or you could stand up and say something. Could make a convincing case for not murdering Lottie on sight— or skip the 'convincing' part and cow them into submission. Make them do what you—

Yeah, you can't even finish that one— shitty joke. You can barely make your own bodies do what you want them to. (They're inclined to meander off when you're not paying attention.) And it's not as if it's a new development, as much as you'd desperately like to believe that. Sure, you weren't this bad. (It would've been really hard to be this bad.) But you're not a new person, and outside of single shining moments a glib and fearless Gil has never existed. Admit it while you're still capable of doing so: you are at heart a pussy.

Not even in a mean way. Maybe a little in a mean way. But mainly it's just factual: your whole life, you've never met a a force of personality you couldn't bend to or a challenge you wouldn't flee from. Put it nicely— "you have a powerful self-preservation instinct." Cool. But you've never been inclined to put things nicely, or to gas yourself up about stuff. You're a pussy. And that's fine, you guess, that's how you are, you were informed you should be nice to yourself, the world needs pussies, too. Or whatever.

But it doesn't feel good, to sit on some bench ignored by some dickheads plotting to murder your lifeline, and to know objectively that there's nothing real you can do. Not directly. You can sneak around, and that's fine, that's fine, but it's a— a cop-out. Even if you get the same result or better, even if Lottie emerges unscathed, it's a cop-out. Which isn't logical. It's a good thing, to know and work around your own limitations. But...

But she wouldn't agree. If she were here right now she'd be kicking your ankle incessantly until you leaned over 5 degrees and then she'd stage-whisper some stupid plan where you punched both guys at the same time. Or where you stood up on the bench and chanelled ye... ye olde numinouseth... you can't do it. Channeled some made-up magic shit and blew the guys' socks off. And it'd be stupid and it'd get you both killed but you'd look directly into her insane cockeye and find there pure and complete sincerity.

That's what blows your socks off, the sincerity. You've met some people who say crazy shit. Crazier shit than she ever has. But when you looked into their eyes, you always saw... you don't know, some glimmer of motivation. They wanted attention. They wanted a reaction. They didn't actually buy what they were selling, and you and they and everybody knew it. And that was fine!

(1/4? 5?)
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She buys it. She buys it wholesale. You thought she was crazy, at first, and then you thought she was stupid, but now you're starting to think— stupidly, crazily— that things just work different for her. Like the laws of nature go a little melty in her presence. Or like she dropped in from some other universe, one with brighter colors and fewer consequences, one where unconditional trust of strangers is normal, because what else could explain it? You had no face and a stolen voice and a shitty attitude and she still picked you. You've been a sullen and paranoid and twitchy do-nothing and she's done everything and why? If it's not extortion, then why? Lottie believes in you.

It's fucked-up, is what it is. It's dangerously irrational. You're some asshole off the street: you could've screwed her, fleeced her, killed her, anything, and the fact that you haven't yet's no proof. Hasn't she ever heard of the long con? Hasn't she ever had her heart broken? She can't have. She comes from some universe where hearts never are, which is why she believes in Richard and believes in you. Like nobody else ever has. For no damn reason at all.

And while you're in the business of admitting things, here's a doozy: it's infectious, this belief shit. It's a goddamn communicable disease. It's the only reason why you didn't slip away ten minutes ago, and why your legs are falling asleep now: because you might be wrong about you. Because you'd like to be wrong, and you'd like Charlotte and this dumbass god stuff to know better. Maybe there is some human potential scabbed down way inside you. Maybe there is meaning, and purpose, and value, and all that horseshit. You don't know what any of that would look like if it bit you, but maybe that's the point. Or maybe it isn't. You've been wrong about a lot of goddamn things lately.

Or maybe the point is that you've been sitting here silently for an extended period of time thinking and thinking and trying to gin up the nerve to get up on the goddamn bench, something you decided on ten minutes ago. But not even directly ginning up the nerve, just coming at it sideways, hoping to trick yourself into convincing yourself that this really is a good idea. It's not a good idea. But now you have all this stupid motivational stuff wrapped up in it, and you're still half-high off infinite love and whatever, and slinking off now would look stupid. So sit up straight, stop gnawing on the tree branch, and goddamn commit. Think about it systematically.

What advantages do you have? If Arledge and Lucky weren't paying attention to you before, they've clean forgot about you now: the careful planning has devolved into not-that-passive passive-aggressive sniping. (So much for strange bedfellows.) It can't last forever, though, and you reminding them of a common enemy might actually spur progress. So maybe that's not an advantage.

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Real advantages. You're taller? Than both of them, by a couple inches. Which isn't much, but it never happens— not unless you're in a pack of girls, i.e. it never happens— and sure, alright, you'll cop to it being a confidence booster. Uh. You have... beetles? Is that an advantage? You have... you have... you're trying really hard not to call it 'magic powers'... wait, you have Teddy! Shit, you forgot about Teddy. (Sorry Teddy.) In fairness to you, he's pretty discreet— no questions, no complaining, nothing. Utterly calm about some asshole hijacking his body. Perfectly willing to help when you need it.

You think you need it. An hour ago, you would've been up on that bench immediately— you wouldn't have given a damn, being high as a kite. Now you're only high as a... a something. A low-flying bird. An ornithopter. So it's not cowardice to rouse Teddy gently, to usher him back into your mind's gatehouse, to hand him the levers. Not a cop-out. A shortcut.

Teddy cricks your back, shakes your legs out, and stands. He looks over at Lucky and Arledge, who've paced some measures away, and at the bench. You flash an imaginary thumbs up, and with an air of placid bemusement he swings one of your legs up and then the other. You are standing on the bench.

Mercifully, Arledge hears your banging around and glances over, sparing you (or Teddy) the indignity of having to call out. He looks puzzled. Lucky glances over, too, and looks contemptuous. Neither of them say anything. This wasn't a good idea, was it? Even even if Charlotte were here goading you into it, and especially since she wasn't. You have to say something right now to keep their attention, some powerful opener, and for all that ruminating you didn't even think about that. Teddy has no ideas. You're speechless.

In slow-motion you watch their respective interests wane and their eyes start to flick and right then, driven by sheer adrenaline or impending humiliation or both, you grab your hand away from Teddy and flex your fingers wide open. Which is not a gesture strictly needed to fling all 400ish of your bodies as far away from you as possible, but it's cool. You need cool.

In all probability, though, Lucky and Arledge never saw the gesture. They'd be too distracted by the result: Teddy, rigor mortis on the bench, surrounded by a chainsaw-buzzing 10-by-10-foot beetle-orb. You're a little distracted, too, with your whole center of mass yanked up and stretched to breaking. A little light-headed, a little giddy. You can't feel Teddy anymore, except as one big slow heartbeat in a storm of hundreds, which poses some difficulty: you intended to use his mouth. Aw, well. "YOU GUYS NEED TO SHUT UP!" you say, and it's only a little bit clicky.

Lucky and Arledge were already shut up, was the issue, so it's not your best work. (You left your brain with Teddy, is all you're saying.) You observe their reactions from above and around and are pleased to see their bodies shift, though it takes a second for Lucky's response to filter up and disperse through you: "So you finally reveal yourself, fiend?"

The problem with pushing to your outer reaches is that it's a struggle to stay this way: you want to be within a comfortable range of yourself. It's like trying to keep a fist full of rubber bands open. This only partially explains your response: "...YES?"

"Grew too impatient? Or couldn't keep yourself restrained?" You see Lucky's marked shift in body language first— the words lag behind. "That's fine. We were just about to see off Leftenant Fawkins, but if you're presenting yourself first—"

Arledge muscles in front of him. "Now's not a good time," he says to Teddy.

You're making do with what you got, you don't say, because you're laboring to concentrate. You may have been a little reckless with the whole self-exploding thing— had never tried it with a body included, much less from that body. You think you cracked something somewhere, is what you mean. It doesn't hurt. But there's a hot spot, and a liquid feeling, and a... a... oh, shit. A glow. Which trickles down through the beetle-orb and into the top of Teddy's head like molten wax and if anybody asked you if you thought you'd ever see your own eyes roll up into your head you'd laugh, but Teddy wobbles and you dart out of formation to catch him. Arledge's hands are clasped. Lucky's are digging for a torch. Teddy's hands are fixed in claws, and catching him was a mistake: something rockets through you.

You were mostly composed of empty space. Now you are mostly composed of something: not the blessing, which glows on, but some neutral invisible force. You can discern almost nothing about it, except that it is in motion, and it bangs and rattles around in you its channeler for an instant before ricocheting out Teddy's open mouth and ripping the face of the world off.


What just happened? Goddamn, you have a head...ache. You have a head. You are mostly composed of blood, or maybe skin. You are sitting on the bench and your beetles are clustered around your shoulders.

This is not what just happened. You have it crystal clear in your memory: stupid blessing, eyes rolling, catching Teddy, unknowable force, unknowable force rips off... rips off... did you see under, for a fraction of a fraction of a second? Did you see strings?

You shouldn't think too hard about it— they do that in the movies, then start scribbling equations on the wall in blood. You're fine knowing just enough to survive. Like: where are you? Why are you sitting down? Why is Lucky not about to murder you?

Actually, though. His eyes are smiley. He's sticking out his hand. You look at it for a long while, then commit to a weak shake. "I'm glad we could come to a conclusion, Mr. Wallace."

You didn't. Does he know you didn't? "Ye... yup. Me too."

"Well, then!" Lucky withdraws and glances between you and Arledge, who appears similarly unpeturbed. "Ms. Fawkins is in need of rescuing from her own self... which I believe is typical of her, so potentially Mr. Wallace may have some insight. If not, then—"

He doesn't want to rescue Lottie. He wants to fucking kill her. Both of them do. Did you do this? Do what? Peel the old reality off and slap a new one on? Don't think too hard about it. Don't. Wasn't this what you wanted?

>[1] Got some insight about where or how to rescue Charlotte? (Write-in. Optional. Real choices tomorrow, do NOT look at what time I posted this)
Would it be metagamey to suggest festival saboteurs? The audience knows, Arledge might know, but I don't think Gil knows.
Sorry about my terrible habit of leaving off options, guys. I really really wanted to push through and update last night, but coming up with sensible and balanced options uses a whole different part of the brain from writing narratively, and if I stay up too late it becomes kind of impossible.

That being said, here we go.

>[1] You don't know how long you have, or if matters will get worse if you wait. Consult with inexplicably-helpful Lucky and Arledge, then set off immediately to wherever's most probable.

>[2] Lottie will show herself soon enough. She's not subtle, and neither is a giant worm. You need to spend some time preparing (rationally, methodically) for the inevitable confrontation. (PICK TWO.)
>>[A] Pick Arledge's brain about this whole god business. Anything to know? Anything to watch out for? Do... *do* you have "water powers"?
>>[B] You don't want to hurt anybody, but you need to take precautions. Find a tank or two of cazeline and douse a fat circle around the danger area: you don't really *want* to box Lottie into a ring of fire, but you might have to.
>>[C] None of you are armed properly-- you've got a fish chopper, Lucky's ax is gone, Arledge has his empty hands. Where the hell is your gun? You don't mean that you're going to shoot Lottie, but if you're going to have to fight a giant worm to get to her, you want real weapons.
>>[D] Lottie informed you that all this is some goo-thing's afterlife. Pretty fucked up. But doesn't that mean it's controlling all this? Can't it lend you a hand? Get in contact, somehow.
>>[E] So you got to this point, somehow. After what? Fifteen slow minutes of rationalizing, then Teddy doing all the hard work? You're not cut out for this. Face it, admit it, then find Arledge or somebody to make you trip balls again.
>>[F] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in.

Thanks for asking. It'd be metagaming to suggest "saboteurs," but it wouldn't be to suggest some kind of divine influence: Charlotte explicitly told him she did some kind of ritual, killed(?) Richard, and got invaded by "magyck" stuff she was barely keeping a handle on. Gil is a smart guy and it's not much of a stretch from there to suspicious water and giant worms.
>2B, D
Wanna minimize interaction with Arledge and Lucky as much as possible to avoid risk of snapping them out of jolly cooperation mode.
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Writing. Hoping this one won't take two days, but I still have COVID so we'll see what happens.
noice beetles. Gil looks ballin'

Feel better

Gonna give an ill-timed vote for 2B and 2D
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Ty anon. I made the excellent time management choice of drawing while I ate an extremely late dinner, so update is ???? but at least you guys have an infographic.
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>Gift horse, maw

Just play it cool, Gil. This is not the weirdest thing that's happened to you, not by a long shot. Look Lucky in his eyes— goddamn, he is oblivious— look at him and give your insight. "Yeah," you say. "Well, I know she, uh..."


Trying to explain what you know without setting off Lucky and Arledge's (evidently very delicate) murder sensors is a difficult prospect. You omit the ritual bit and the Richard bit and place heavy, heavy emphasis on none of this being her fault. Which is not strictly true, but you're not working with nuances, here. You also strongly emphasize that little bit after you tackled her: she said she knew what'd happened. Like she was watching the whole time. Meaning she's not some vacant shell, or knot of corruption, or whatever shit Arledge was going on about. She's still in there. So it makes zero sense to murder her, and—

Lucky and Arledge are both a little nonplussed, since nobody suggested murdering her, claims Arledge. Lucky was the one to first bring up purging the unnatural influence from her, claims Lucky. It's the right thing to do, claims Lucky. That's stupid, you don't respond, since when did he care about the right thing to do, this new version of events makes no sense, but instead you nod and nod and say you're just a little on edge from the whole thing. Which is true.

So you get down to brass tacks. The waterfall murder scene is related to you, as is the message on the wall, as is Lucky's security knowledge, and in exchange you add what you know of the reset: surroundings warp, ears ring, you're sucked back in and spat out somewhere else. Typical Type II stuff, which is how you're confidently able to say Lottie's deep under while sketching past the fact you haven't been affected at all. Lucky's face sets at the whole topic, but he points out that she was arrested on suspect of setting the fires, and she was found with heathenous paraphernalia. Ah, Arledge says. So that'd be 'deep under' as...

The three of you arrive at similar conclusions at once. A cultist, you say; a saboteur, Lucky says; one of them, Arledge says, and looks a long way up the shadow-dappled path. She'll be at the temple, he says.

Okay, you say, when?

And isn't that the question? He doesn't know. Maybe now. Maybe an hour from now, at dusk. Lucky wants to beeline for it, and you have to bribe him away with a proposal of finding some caz— caz? (Blank stare.) Cazeline? Uh... naptha? Thick liquid, smells bad, lights on fire really easy? That works. Not that he'd ever admit it, but you suspect Lucky just likes to light things on fire.

And, bonus, you know exactly where to find cazeline. Way down at the harbor, Teddy has a boat parked. With a fucking engine, a— you assume it has to be a big one, to move a boat. And it runs on cazeline, says your head, you've got a tank or two spare for emergencies, but it's not even about the caz. That's the truth. You just want to look at the powered boat before everything goes to hell and back. But Lucky doesn't need to know that, and Lottie will never know it either, and— well— you deserve it, don't you? For going out of your way. You're allowed to look at a boat.

So, anyhow, you were on your way to the harbor. Then you got to ground level and Arledge was accosted by a fellow blue-robe and Lucky muttered something about divided loyalties and slunk after them and now you're... not. On the way to the harbor. Or you're on temporary break. You could just walk there yourself, you guess, get some more quality time with the boat, but knowing your luck it'd reset halfway down. Better to loiter.

...You used to be better at this, the loitering. Could loiter like nobody's business, in bars, in the fringes of conversations. All the hot and happening places. Now it just makes you uneasy: makes your mouth dry up, makes you burrow into your slicker for self-preservation. You fight the rising instinct to hasten after Lucky or to stop a passersby or anything. You're not alone. You're not alone. You've got— you've got—

You've got Teddy! Alright, he isn't very vocal, but company's company. He's present. This alone eases the pressure a smidgeon, and you clutch for a pack of smokes to lighten the rest of it. Does Teddy smoke? Should've asked yourself that earlier, back with the awful mist and cig #1. Cig #2 is the same as that one, longer and slenderer and wrapped different than you're used to, but a smoke is a smoke and you've already got the flimsy lighter out. You strike up and inhale and let a thin stream of smoke leak through your nostrils. Goddamn. You needed this. Your pulse is slowing already.

You're going for your second inhale when it occurs to you: is this rude? Not that you've ever given much of a damn, but you've been gassing up Teddy and calling him a cool guy and all that and you're making him watch you take a smoke. Isn't that sort of cruel and unusual? Shit. You twiddle the cig, think, sigh, and let him have it.

Teddy stares down at your curled hand, then slides the cig back into your mouth. He pushes his glasses up. He leans against the side of a balloon-toss stand. Only then does he inhale deeply— the rush for you is muted— and exhale a stormcloud. "What are you?" your mouth says.

Nobody's around you. Teddy's staring into the evening sky, tracing the vanishing remains of his smoke. He... he has to mean...

"Yeah, you." His voice is a lot deeper than yours. "I'm not mad. I'm just asking."

(Choices next.)
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>You can pick multiple options.

>[1] You're just a regular guy. You're nothing special.
>[2] You're beetles.
>[3] You're a time traveler.
>[4] You didn't mean to hijack him. Sorry about that.
>[5] To be completely real with him, you're pretty sure he can't comprehend what you are.
>[6] Write-in.
>[6] you're not sure how to explain. You're a being from outside his world, here basically accidentally on your way from one place to another
>[1] You're just a regular guy. You're nothing special.
>[2] You're beetles.
>[5] To be completely real with him, you're pretty sure he can't comprehend what you are.

You are just a regular? Beetle? Guy? Idk man, it's the best way to explain it to someone. Just a normal man, who happens to be made out of beetles. Yeah, lets go with that.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Flipping and writing.
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>Difficult question

You've heard a lot of spelunking tips over the years, but the one that's been beaten the hardest into your skull is this: don't engage with the occupants. Don't chat with them. Don't do errands or favors for them. No matter how convincingly they portray themselves (and some of them are very convincing), they are not real people, and if you forget it you'll get yourself killed or changed.

You don't mean to say it's bad advice, but you followed it to the letter and still wound up beetles. You're also not sure it applies here. Yeah, maybe Lottie was lied to, or misunderstood something... but she's right that this is no everyday locus. There's too much fine detail for the size, and too many occupants for this level of detail. You can read all the signs just by looking at them, for god's sake. This being some memory-afterlife-thing— to your mild surprise, that actually checks out.

And if that checks out, then Teddy's a real guy. A long-dead real guy, granted, but if you count as a real guy (you should count as a real guy) he should too. He deserves the same kind of answer you'd give anybody else: freezing up and tripping over your words. [Um, I-I-I'm just a— a guy. A normal... I-I'm not... I-I-I don't even know why you'd ask that. Um, I-I'm nothing... special.]

It's not your finest moment, but why would he ask that? Of you? Juice you up all you want, you're never getting through that answer without stuttering. Teddy puffs on the cigarette thoughtfully. "Seems pretty special to me."

[Um, that's... you don't have the full context, i-it's really not... i-i-it's just what happens...] This is immediately way more stressful than you envisioned it being. Shit! Is it too late to take the cig back?

"Okay." He sounds unconvinced. "You're in my beetles. Is that normal too?"

[Uh, I-I-I'm not... in your beetles. I am, um, your beetles.] You hesitate. [Which is normal... for me... now?]

Teddy rustles open your slicker and peers at the dozing swarm inside. "So you're talking bugs."

Cool guy, but he's kind of slow. Maybe that's unfair. You're just tired of going over this. [I-I'm a regular guy, I'm just also... bugs. And you. I-it's a little complicated, I don't know if I can fully... I don't know if you'd get it. Even if I tried. All I-I can definitely say is that, um, I don't mean any harm, and—]

"I didn't think you did." He taps ash onto the weedy ground. "Is it because I'm dead?"

Goddammmit! [What? Why would you—]

"You said it earlier." (He could hear you?) "I'd like honesty."

[...Yeah. You are.]

"Thanks." Long inhale. Longer exhale: the faint sea breeze carries the smoke away. "It explains a lot. You're one of those gods, then?"

You definitely shouldn't have given him the cig. [No! No, I-I-I'm just a normal— why would you think that? Oh.] (Your hands are making an 'explosion' gesture.) [That's... the blessing's not... I-I'm not a god.]

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"If you say so." He tilts his head back. "Spirit guide?"

[...I-I'm just a guy, Teddy.]
[I am sorry you're dead, though. That sucks.]

"It's not that bad. Weather's nice." He nods the cig up toward the sky, then takes a puff. "Don't have a lot of regrets. Was it drowning?"

You didn't say that, did you? Lottie mentioned drowning, but... [How did you know?]

"I'm on a boat by myself all day." He leans further back against the stand. "Always thought I'd be a fish, though. Die at sea, come back a big golden one... this isn't bad, but that would've been something."

[I mean... I'm sure you picked this for a reason?]

"Huh?" Teddy says, but you're already kicking yourself for it— you were just trying to find something helpful to say, you've never talked to a dead guy before, you were feeling bad— "Don't think this was up to me."

No, you should be saying, no, no, of course it isn't, but you're nervy from the "what are you" question and from the lack of cigarette and from talking to a dead guy, and your brain-to-mouth filter isn't kicking in while you have no mouth. [I-I-I mean, not you specifically, but your... collective. Or whatever you call it. You know, um, the goo... the goo...]

The cig is slipping from your fingers. [Uh, Teddy?]

It's slipping from your fingers, and you can't move those fingers. You can't get back in. Shit! [Teddy! Teddy? Teddy, I didn't mean to—]

He's bricked. Just completely shut down. You shove yourself into your other bodies instead and cloud around his face and shoulders. "I'm sorry, I fucked up, I shouldn't have said— Teddy? Teddy? Teddy, please wake u—"

"Wake up" isn't out of your mouthparts before Teddy wobbles and slips downward and— it's not that he melts. He doesn't melt. After a moment of thought, you'd probably describe it as 'congealing': his hair thickens into a solid mass and molds onto his forehead, where his glasses are melding with the bridge of his nose; his fingers and his wrist and the cigarette and the sleeve of his slicker all run together; with a suckery noise his back welds to the wall and the soles of his feet to the ground, which is growing rubbery and unnaturally green. Within a six-foot radius, you are the only thing not coagulating with every other thing, and only because (you assume) you're touching none of them.

When it's over, there is still a Teddy and a balloon-toss stand and a weedy patch of turf, and identically there's none of those things. The life is all gone— it's a bad museum diorama, or a bad clay replica of one. You're wondering whether you should cut your losses (is this explainable to Lucky?) when Fake-Mannequin-Teddy shudders— everything in the six-foot radius wobbles— and locks eyes with you. Or the approximate location of "you," which if anything is eerier.

WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS he says— "he says." Teddy's voice is in there, maybe even the loudest in there, but it's part of such a clamor you don't think you can call this 'Teddy.'


"Sorry," you mumble. "Um, I-I didn't mean to— to do anything. I wasn't—"


"Sorry," you mumble again.


Lottie had described the goo-thing she talked to as intelligent and very polite. (You're paraphrasing.) And you'd heard this, and you believed her, but you're not sure you ever fully processed what that meant— that there would be a goo-thing speaking to you in complete and reasoned sentences. You try not to think about how many human minds have been rendered to soup in there. "...Are you asking i-if I killed that woman? Um, I didn't. And I'd really like to make it clear that I woke you up by accident—"


Is it actually asking you, or is it monologuing? You hate that you have to ask yourself this so often recently. You don't know what's going on at all— the thing hasn't even introduced itself and it's already rambling about milk. (However many human minds in a blender this is, this is maybe too many.) Goddammit. But you can't ignore it, can you? You'd like your body back, and it... alright, if you listen through the cacophony, Teddy's voice is practically mournful. And that does make you feel bad, him being a cool guy and all.

But what do you do?

>[A] You need to cheer this stupid thing up, you guess, if only so it'll give you Teddy back. Figure out a method.
>>[1] Sell Lottie down the river: tell the thing truthfully that she probably killed the woman, not it. Maybe it'll get pissed off at her, but she *is* probably a fucked-up cultist lady right now, so she might deserve it?
>>[2] You'd normally be the last guy to ask about human nature, but you actually dwelled on that quite a bit over the past few months, having precisely fuck-all else to do. Share your own perspective.
>>[3] Magic it. (You have GOT to come up with another word for this.)
>>[4] Write-in.

>[B] Once you have it cheered up (you will have it cheered up... right?), what do you do?
>>[1] Ask it for help with the cornering and exorcising of Lottie. (In what way? Write-in.)
>>[2] Consider yourself lucky it didn't eat you, ask for Teddy back, and leave. Don't dig *another* hole under yourself, Gil!
>>[3] Ask for something else? (Write-in.)
This brings our count of "vote for something innocuous and land in deep shit" to how many?
You're not in deep shit. There's no rolls here. You guys **explicitly** voted to talk to Us right here >>5491513, and this is the follow-through. It would've happened last update if I was a faster writer.

>but they're SAD we didn't vote to make them SAD
They told you last thread that waking them up makes them sad. Talking to them means waking them up. They aren't pissed at you, nothing's exploding, and next update you will use one of three riskless options (or a write-in) to make them less sad and get on with your business. After you ask them for help, or bitch out, you will get Teddy back and go about your day.

I need you to look me in the eyes through your computer screen, anon, and realize that as far as QMs go I am a pretty damn lenient and forgiving one. I am not a sadist. I do not inflict permanent consequences for one-off choices. If you feel like the results of a choice are disproportionately punishing, you need to *trust* me that:

>The bad thing that happens is more interesting (narratively or descriptively) than the better thing that could've happened if I was a little nicer.
>There is a way out from the bad thing. As a matter of fact, it might not be as bad as it looks on your first knee-jerk reaction.

These apply to every single choice you (I assume it's you) have passive-aggressively bitched about, including murdering Richard. I am not your enemy: I am trying to tell a meaningful story with you, which by necessity is going to include danger and conflict, and *particularly* so when you're messing with evil evil nasty bad snake powers. (Do I have to call them that to let you guys know they're bad for you?) There is no character growth without something to grow about, and there is no climatic and triumphant ending without an uphill climb and something to triumph over. So let me do my job as the QM and [i]chill out.[/i]

>But my complaint is actually about something else, like--
Then please address it to me directly like an adult rather than bitching and withholding your vote. Thank you.
>>[3] Magic it. (You have GOT to come up with another word for this.)
>>[1] Ask it for help with the cornering and exorcising of Lottie. (In what way? Write-in.)
>In what way? Write-in.
You guys can go broad about this ("make sure she doesn't escape!" or whatnot), but I need at least some idea.

Hmmm…. If we can get some (noncoagulated) people to restrain her somehow, would that be viable.

Either that, or we use our Gil-powers, for whatever that may entail.

If any anon has a smarter idea than me, I’m all ears.
>[2] You'd normally be the last guy to ask about human nature, but you actually dwelled on that quite a bit over the past few months, having precisely fuck-all else to do. Share your own perspective.
A2 B1

Ask the entity if it would be possible to set aside space for the ritual to take place. If the idea is to restrain her rope for pleasure or punishment will do. If it can act as support through the process, that would be a major help, even if you are the current embodiment of some kind of holiness. As for tools, a bat could be useful if things get too out of hand, and a grapefruit spoon for good measure could go a long way.



>Foreplay and bondage

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Alright. Update is coming together very slowly, and I have half a mind to scrap what I have and start over. And between my

>Lingering COVID
>Early afternoon final tomorrow
>Generally low morale

and given the fact that votes are trickling in very slowly, if at all, I'm not enthusiastic about staying up until 5 AM finishing. Tomorrow I'll be sleeping early for a morning final, and then I have a flight the next day. So here's the deal:

>Today's update MIGHT get posted on Tuesday or Wednesday, or it might not. If it doesn't, it'll be posted along with a switch to Madrigal POV on Thursday, and updates will continue daily after that.

Hopefully I'll still have a playerbase on Thursday. See you then.
Feel better, man! And good luck on those finals!
I was late to the vote, but since we're giving Gils perspective maybe we can share Charlottes infectious BELIEF with the Gooplord. I mean we know someone who might objectively choose the worst options and be the worst person, and they're out there genuinely trying to help out and believe in people while being the most unlikeable giant asshole.

Oh my god.

I just realized this quest is the absolute inverse of Snake Quest for character development.

This quest is so fucking underrated it's criminal.
I return with a totally on time vote that is not late at all

>A2 with a little bit of 1, suggest that this iteration can't be counted because of the outside interference of your group, and you're really sorry about that and you're trying to evac asap but it's tough.

were is she rite now
we wanna throw a surprise party
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Thanks for sliding in late, guys... but, like, unironically. I have a terrible habit of taking vote droughts personally, so coming in late to the party helps remind me that it's just a busy time of year and I need to chill out. The good(?) news is that I think I've settled on fully scrapping and rewriting, so I'll be able to take both of these into account anyhow.

Tentatively writing some more tonight, but even if I publish the update sooner vs. later the POV switch means that options won't be up until Thursday regardless.

>maybe we can share Charlottes infectious BELIEF with the Gooplord
This in particular is helpful. I was struggling last night to be true to Gil as a miserable bastard while also expressing stuff that lies at the center of the quest, and I think you've really hit on something.

>I just realized this quest is the absolute inverse of Snake Quest for character development.
Kinda, yeah. I guess that's what you get when your talking snake deuteragonist is as unfuckable as possible... you get tempted out of evil?

>This quest is so fucking underrated it's criminal.
Heh, thanks. I look at things like Space Monke, though, and I think what we've got going on here is pretty decent. Feel free to shill to your friends, though :^)
> I guess that's what you get when your talking snake deuteragonist is as unfuckable as possible

Lol you sure about that.
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Even after all this time, we have not fully plumbed the depths of Richard's unfuckability. I'm pretty sure. Even if you went for it he'd never consent to copulating with a filthy ape anyhow
It's usually a cliche, but that's okay. We can change him.

Sorry, was that too dark? I know dark humor is like clean water, not everybody gets it.
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Unfortunately, you changing him is making him LESS fuckable, not more fuckable
But . . . Who's our Daddy?

IDK, I kind of regret saying this but I'm typing it out, going through a captcha, and pressing post anyways.
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Well, I admire your commitment :^) But nevertheless, I stand by my original statement that

>Even after all this time, we have not fully plumbed the depths of Richard's unfuckability.

I am willing to believe that there's an untapped market of horny teenage girls with daddy issues ready to jump the bones of an emotionless asexual reptile and/or a horrible abusive also asexual reptileman, provided that the reptileman is DILFy and wears dapper suits sometimes. What I'm saying is that you guys haven't seen anything yet. If you still want a Dick inside you after (check notes) another 8-12 threads or so, then we can talk.
I want to know if it's the COVID fueling this Richard-themed madness. Asking for a friend.

Even so, isn't Richard rather old, aside from the fact that he's more-or-less an echo of Charlotte's dad?

Also don't sell your soul to the fujos. DO NOT.
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Anon, you and I both know there is only one thing in this world that truly deserves Charlotte-- and it is the crown and definitely not anyone who has been saving her ass indirectly.

Anyhow Charlotte can fabricate any husbando she wants with her newfound powers once she powers it up.
Listen here, I am an INNOCENT VICTIM of this guy >>5495521... I was just making an innocent comment comparing this to Snakecatcher and he VICIOUSLY ENTRAPPED me in this conversation... I don't spend that much time thinking about this... ;__;

>isn't Richard rather old

>aside from the fact that he's more-or-less an echo of Charlotte's dad?
Also yes.

>Also don't sell your soul to the fujos.
Hey, whoa, the fujos would want... uh... Richard to kiss Gil? Is that how it works? The horny teenager girls I'm going to heavily cater Redux to now are all too heterosexual for that!

>the Crown, who led her on then ruthlessly cucked her
>not the loyal and faithful childhood friend The Sword


>Anyhow Charlotte can fabricate any husbando she wants with her newfound powers once she powers it up.
That's the plan!

You don't know what to do. You're tired. You desperately need a cigarette. And, worst of all, you can't even bring yourself to disagree. "That's life, I-I guess. You eat shit 'till you die, and then you... keep doing it after you die, in your case... sorry about that. That's the one thing dying's supposed to be good for, not eating—"


There's something leaden in you, in all of you, as if shreds of buckshot got wedged under each of your carapaces. You ignore it. "...Kind of? I-I-I mean, people are shit, and you've got a lot of people in here. I'm surprised nobody shanked anybody before this—"


You are drifting steadily closer to the ground. "I-I don't know if I'd call you fools, but..."


There's a distinctive pitchiness to the voices that puts you in mind of earlier— of great gasping breaths, of a damp patch on your slicker. You are too much of a coward to say anything. You shutter your wings, instead, and fall like rain to the black ground.

And then there is silence. You need a cigarette. Ahead of you the future splits again and again, and in almost every one (you are imagining this obsessively) the ground will wobble and the sky will darken and this noise will leak out of every crack and crevice of the world, this inhuman keening like whalesong, and Lucky will come sprinting back over looking for a fight, and you, Bug Man, pinned to the ground at the noise's epicenter, will be forced to admit that all that's happened is that you've made a horrible goo thing cry—

And then a second or two passes, the future collapses into a whalesongless present, and you're caught totally off-guard when Us re-fixes its weighted gaze on you and says merely:


Why is it that you yet live?

Does it realize that you've asked yourself this before? It's always come down to this. You've had okay answers before: for your family's sake, for the business's sake. Because there were starving orphans out there, for god's sake, and you had clothes and food and a roof over your head and so forth. (Because you never wanted to do anything your old man did, ha ha. Go fuck yourself.)

Why is it that you yet live?

You ran out of okay answers around the time you drowned. Nobody you met had a real explanation for their miraculous survival— and you mean a real explanation, not gullshit. Closest you ever got is that you lived because you were always going to; drowning was never fatal. An elaborate misconception. That you could accept (people who didn't accept it didn't last long), and you moved on with your life. And you had a life! A real one, lived on your own terms, shadowed or burdened by nobody, surrounded by people who you thought accepted or respected or gave a singular damn about you—

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That's how you lived through the initial shock of it, you think. Past the screaming and the overstimulation, the jagged motion and the clawing feeling you'd been blown to pieces, you had this maxim tattooed into you: calm down. Calm down. This happens sometimes. Loci fuck you up. Your real body's fine (your real body isn't lying thin and loose on the ground), and as soon as somebody swings by to grab you you'll be out of here. You'd been told all this a million times, you believed it in the core of your being, and so you clung bitterly on. Because how goddamn embarrassing would it be for you to kick it on your first real solo outing? For Phin or Neal or somebody to waltz in to check up on you and find dying equipment and an empty skin?

You were sure they'd waltz in. For weeks you were sure. But as the terror wore off and the tedium set in, the odds of rescue began to slip from definitely to probably to maybe to nil. You huddled listlessly. You beat yourself against the walls. You hallucinated off and on and eventually more on than off. At some point— you don't know how far in— you realized that you were going to die there. That all you were doing was prolonging your suffering. That the rational thing to do would be to give in. That's what you told yourself, it was the rational thing. Anybody in your position would do the same.

Anybody in your position except you.

Why is it that you yet live?

Because you were scared of death? It's the most obvious explanation, except that you didn't see a way death could be any worse. You didn't believe in hell, not really, and the infinite void would've been a borderline improvement.

Because you were scared of dying? Sure, except all you would've had to do was relax. Struggling on as yourself required concentration, pathetic mantras (you are Gil Wallace, one 'l' in Gil, two in Wallace, age 25...), scrubbing back and forth through your memories until you wore holes in them. You could've just stopped, could've just gone to sleep, fully, all at once, and consciousness would've lifted from you like a fine mist. It would've been complete. It would've been painless. It might've even been dignified. It was probably the best you ever could've hoped for.

And you still didn't do it. Because you were special? No. Because you didn't deserve it? You were a shitty person and you knew it. Because somebody out there would care if you dissolved into beetles? Apparently not. Because you had intrinsic meaning, and value, and purpose? Because you had some kind of destiny not to die? You didn't believe in any of that shit. If you had a conviction, any conviction, it was this: life was a crapshoot, and you rolled snake eyes every time.

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...Goddamn, what a miserable bastard you were. What a whiny, depressing piece of shit. What a victim. You thought like this? You don't mean recently, you mean... always? No wonder nobody bothered to rescue you— count yourself lucky you were too fried to say much when Lottie showed up! Shit, this is disturbing. Have you changed this much in this little time? Is your entire goddamn worldview actually this plastic? And if it is... who does that make you? (You aren't real, Beetles, said Richard snidely. You're nothing. You're a cardboard standee of a person. You're a lump of clay, and you're surprised at being *molded*?)

Not a different person, at least, because here comes all the old defensiveness welling back up: miserable bastard? Depressing piece of shit? Go fuck yourself, you smug god-drugged asshole, acting like there was no good reason for being a drag, like you hadn't observed with your own two eyes that the world was shit and the people in it were shit and that you in particular were dealt a two and a goddamn seven, that— and on and on, like a leaky tap, about all the logical conclusions you'd painstakingly drawn. The same logical conclusions you helpfully provided Teddy with. The ones that are lodged in you like buckshot even now. They're painful, sure, but the blunt truth is always painful...

...says Old Gil, who shoved his hand up your gullet way back there. You never expected the goo thing to get all mopey and philosophical on you, is the truth of the matter, and in your blind panic to reply you spouted the first thing that came to you— your canned response to everything. Pretty pathetic. You didn't even bother to ask yourself if you believed any of it anymore, deep down, and here you are in the dirt dragging out a simple response to a—


Shit. You jerk yourself into the air. "No! No, I-I-I— sorry, I-I-I— I should apologize. I-I didn't mean to say any of that crap, and I didn't even mean it when I-I— when I did say it. Can we start over?"


"I..." The wind whistles through you. "...Yeah, but I-I wasn't... I-I-I was gullshitting myself, not you. I-I-I don't know if that makes any sense. I used to think that way, but now I— don't, or don't entirely, or—"


"...Okay," you say. "What I-I meant was that— that I think you're right. I think it is human nature to kill, and it's human nature to betray and steal and abandon and destroy, too. People are shit."


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"I-I wasn't done." You are twisting into yourself, rising and falling and rising and falling. "That's only half of it. People are shit. People are monsters. But they're not— they're not animals, you know? I-I-It's also human nature to... to throw big stupid parties. And to rescue people who need rescuing, even i-if they hardly know them. And to— to help people in general, even if it's dangerous, and that person didn't do anything to earn it, and that person's an ungrateful dick in return all the time..." You trail off. "And I-I-I-I guess it has to be human nature, to love something that doesn't love you back."


"Like a worm!" you say. "Like a— like a stupid worm— loving a worm— that's what I-I-I-I-I meant! Like a... I don't think one worm could love a— a— I-I don't think a worm can love anything, but I don't know, ask Lottie, she's the worm expert—"


"No!" you say. "That's not what I... I-I-I meant that everybody's good. At least a little bit. And everybody's the worst fucking person you've ever met, or one bad day away from being that. Most people are more one than the other... I-I-I-I'm probably more shit than good. Probably way more. But I-I-I'm not perfectly shit, any more than anybody could ever be perfect the other way around. I-I don't think you'd be human anymore, if you were perfect. You'd be... some other kind of thing."


"I-I'm human," you say possessively. "And if I am, you are— you're more than most people are, really. You've got a couple thousand people tangled up in there, from the sound of it, so really you're... you're human on scale. Most people only get little swirls of pure good and pure shittiness, probably, while you've got wholeass murderers and saints and whatever else all running together. I-I-It probably all balances out in the end. Do you feel evil, or whatever?"


"Okay, then. That's life." You hesitate. "Though... I-I-I do think things are going worse than usual. I-I am surprised someone got shanked, actually, I don't know why I said I wasn't. Um. I-I-I think that's probably our fault."


"Not on purpose," you add hastily. "Just that, um, I-I-I think maybe we've tipped the scales just by being here. You had things set up real nice, then we came in and— I mean— I-I don't think you can judge based on this. Maybe we brought in diseases or something."


"It definitely is. And, um, I-I think..." You're not sure how to phrase it delicately. "...I think one of us was definitely infected with something before she got in here. Not that she meant to spread anything, or— but i-i-it's really fucking her up. I-I mean at the moment, it's... and if we don't do anything about it, she could really hurt herself. And you."


"...Lottie," you say. "Um, Charlotte Fawkins. I think she talked to you before."


It was that easy? It's never that easy. You swirl in mild confusion. "Uh... let me think..."

You have no shortage of options, and when you run each of them by the goo thing it agrees readily to each of them. Trouble is, it's reticent to do more than one— it doesn't want to awaken more of itself than necessary, it says. It asks you to choose.

>[1] Have Us awaken a small phalanx of people— preferably armed people— and send them with you as backup. With that goddamn worm, you think you'll need it.
>[2] Have Us prepare the... you don't want to call it a battlefield. That's inauspicious. Prepare the *location where Lottie is* to advantage you and disadvantage her. Maybe it can infuse it with divine energy or whatnot?
>[3] Have Us warp you (and Lucky and Arledge) directly to Lottie's location on your signal. Getting the drop on her could be important, and saving the time it'll take to locate and travel to her could be important too.

You choose, and it agrees once more. Incredible. If you weren't swearing off being a miserable bastard, you'd be doubting its motives, but it really would be one hell of a performance to put on. (And Teddy wouldn't be evil, right?) You're about to thank it and start edging toward the topic of "could I have my body back" when it cuts you off.


Shit. You don't know. You still, after all these years and after that embarrassingly long period of rumination, don't know. Which isn't to say you're not glad to be alive— you unambiguously are— just that you weren't always, and how you got from here to there is a blur. You open your mouths to say something like that, "I don't know" with a "sorry" tacked on, and something else comes out instead.

"Um," you say. "I-I-I don't know if you know, but I was in a real shitty spot for a long time. And I-I could've died really easily, if I wanted to, and—"


"Oh." (Teddy snitched on you?) "Uh... well... I-I-I guess I never died because it would've been embarrassing."


Do you have to spell it out? "Embarrassing? Come on, I-I-I's not that hard to— look, I'm 25 years old, and I-I haven't accomplished anything. I-I-I cooked the books for a couple of years and then I got executed because I couldn't hack it. Then I-I lived and got a job for a year and a half and then I got beetled— are you seeing the pattern? I-I would've been a joke if I died, and that's if anybody remembered I-I ever lived in the first place—"


"Um, no," you say carefully, "I-I didn't—"


"Um, I-I..." You didn't. You really didn't. Your hope for the future was snuffed out years prior (nine, to be particular), and any belief in yourself was caught newly from Lottie. "That's a really low bar, so I-I don't think it..."


You eye Teddy's waxlike mug with suspicion. "And who doesn't? I-I-I don't know what you're trying to get at, but I think you better—"


You don't say anything.


That's the last thing the goo thing says— you're getting your mouths around a goodbye when the congealing begins to reverse. Grass springs apart into blades, pebbles roughen into rocks, and Teddy— god bless 'em— Teddy is sharpening and clarifying back into something recognizably human. Even before he's finished, he coughs wetly and peers down at the half-ash cigarette sunk into his hand. "...What..."

"Teddy," you say urgently. "Teddy. I-I need your goddamn body back, alright? Lucky's going to kill me if I show up beetles, I mean literally— I mean he's going to set me on fire, alright? I-I've been decent to you, haven't I? You're a cool guy. We're buddies. I-I-I just need you to give me permission to—"

Teddy sort of opens and closes his mouth. You can't tell if he's confused because he can't remember shit, or because he can remember shit. "You're... bugs."

He's out of it. Whatever. Forgiveness, not permission. "Yeah, Teddy. Now hold still, please, i-it'll be less complicated if you—"

You prepared yourself to ram straight into him, enduring the brief squicky feeling of phasing right through somebody, but instead you ram into something sticky and invisible directly around him. (Dumbass is covered in magic cobwebs?) You struggle against it, the motion causing your arms to involuntarily... twitch. Your arms. You lift them, then thump your skull a couple times to unstick your vision. Your glasses come loose, and you shove them back on. What a miracle, to have hands. What a pleasure.

And what a miracle and pleasure it is to have a cig only half-smoked in your fingers. You crack your shoulders, then take a long and deliberate drag. What a day.

>Choices are in the previous post.

Obviously I meant for a Madrigal POV switch to be here, but this update is already what I'd deem "stupid long" and already took me half of last night and literally all of today (day and night) to write. We will pick up with her next update.
>[2] Have Us prepare the... you don't want to call it a battlefield. That's inauspicious. Prepare the *location where Lottie is* to advantage you and disadvantage her. Maybe it can infuse it with divine energy or whatnot?
best red stuff countermeasure
>>[2] Have Us prepare the... you don't want to call it a battlefield. That's inauspicious. Prepare the *location where Lottie is* to advantage you and disadvantage her. Maybe it can infuse it with divine energy or whatnot?
2, always pick the place of confrontation.
This'll kick in when we return to Gil. Writing.
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You are Madrigal Fitzpatrick. After feeding a roomful of horrible flesh tendrils and falling down a drainhole, you have allied yourself with horrible failed clone/flesh abomination Lester One in hopes of collectively escaping the dream-mansion-prison you're both stuck in. And that's one sentence you'd never thought you'd ever think of, much less live through—

—but you've got to work with what you've got, don't you? There's no such thing as "picky" when you're kidnapped, and particularly not when your kidnapper is 1) awake and 2) aware you're not where you're supposed to be. There's an extremely real chance you're on a tight time limit—

—which you're not sure Lester One understands. After you sealed your questionable partnership with a handshake, you prompted it to tell you what it knew— all quick-like, or so you intended. Instead, it's been rambling at you without interruption for the last several minutes. You should've fucking expected this, since this happens every single time you try and be polite or make small-talk or whatever else. Your clients don't have basic social skills, see, so when you ask how their day went they fucking tell you. And then they tell you their stupid fucking grievances or decade-old grudges or rattle off their kill list and it takes twenty useless minutes before they just hand you the chit and leave— but not before telling you what a good listener you are. Your exes were exactly the same. Have you just got one of those faces? It can't be your charming and approachable demeanor, surely, so it's got to be that or the tits. God dammit. This is why you like Branwen; she knows when to shut up.

At least it's not all bad: Lester One doesn't seem to care if you respond to it, so you've been passively absorbing the rambling while you work out how to escape this room. The door is thick and metal and locked from the outside, and you see no obvious grates or hatches. Why would you see obvious grates or hatches? When is life fucking easy for you? Blah blah sweetheart blah, says Lester One, from its gross central fishtank. Blah darling blah blah are you listening blah blah— "Sure am," you say, after a beat. "You need me to repeat it back to you, or something?"

Then, without waiting for a response, you rattle back a broad summary of what it told you. Alright, a really broad summary. But you hit everything important, as far as you're concerned:

-> It talks a big game, but it doesn't know a hell of a lot. The flesh lump part of it has been stuck in the tank since Pat put it here, only able to escape via its... various tendrils. However, it's been able to maintain some kind of link with the other Lesters, so it knows what they know too...

-> ...Which is still not a hell of a lot, because the other Lesters are stupid. But it claims to know the layout of the place, along with some ways to get into lower-security areas. None of the Lesters have clearance to actually leave, though— Pat either appears and vanishes inexplicably, or takes a door in the basement that's keyed to her and her alone.

-> In theory you could take her hostage and force her to open the door for you. Or you could sneak up on her, "sample her fluids" (said Lester, not you), and use them to... become her...? You don't fully understand. You could also convince her to open it willingly, but that's a tall order by now.

-> You're in the basement right now. The door is sort of hard to find, but the Lesters know where it is. You just have to navigate there, then get it open.

-> Also, it's dark in the basement. Really dark. The lights only go on when Pat wants them on. Setting your own hang-ups aside, this is never great news: weird fucking things happen in the dark. So far things have been pretty coherent, by dream standards, but this'll... you'll see, you guess.

And before Lester One can offer its inevitable critique of your summary, you reach up and rattle your find— the base of a ladder, hung far too high to climb. "By the way, pal, could you give me a boost?"

"Anything for such a good listener," the flesh lump coos back at you, and you suppress a powerful desire to murder something before a tendril coils around your legs. And higher than your legs. You shut your eyes tightly as you're lifted and dumped onto a cold metal catwalk, though not before the tendril delivers you a palpable squeeze.

"Fucking classy," you mutter, and haul yourself to a standing position. The catwalk, to your artificially large eyes, appears to run a long, long ways. Ladders jut down from it at various points, presumably leading into different rooms— it's too dark to see down into them. You'll be trial-and-erroring it, then? Fantastic. "Thanks," you yell down belatedly. "Uh, I don't think I can— I can bring you up here, so I'll be back to pick you up once I—"

"So eager to let me go, love muffin? We're in this together!" You sigh out your nose as a particularly thick tentacle flops onto the edge of the catwalk. "I'll be with you the whole way."

That doesn't even make sense. "Can you see out of that thing? I, uh, I appreciate the sentiment, but there's no fucking way—"

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"More than see." You scramble backwards ("What the fuck!") as the tentacle bulges and shifts, developing— fucking shit— eyes and a mouth, all lopsided. "We're prepared for anything together, honeybunches," says the fucking tentacle, which is fucking looking at you— you fucking take back the "pretty coherent by dream standards," you take it all back, this is— "not picky" your fucking ass, surely you can do better than this? Than a toothy ass-squeezing man-tentacle? But you have made and laid all over your bed at this point, so you grit your teeth and say "Sure are" and set off along the catwalk.

It's not precisely what makes you squirm, but a narrow, swaying band of metal hung over the infinite fucking void is doing you no favors. Would it actually kill Pat to spruce up the fucking place? Are you actually going to pick a random fucking ladder? Fuck that. You stop in place, grip the sides of the catwalk, and try to focus. Is there anything different?

Yeah. There is.

>[Your GRIT is: Slightly Low]

>[1] Descend the ladder that leads to the loud gurgling, like something liquid.
>[2] Descend the ladder that leads to the rattling noise, like something mechanical.
>[3] Descend the ladder that leads to the horrible fucking stench, like you don't even know what— like something fucking dying, you guess.
>[4] Ask— (urrrrgh)— ask Lester One to just tell you where the closest ladder to the fucking door is. It's going to lord this over your head, but it beats getting lost and ambushed by Pat. [-Grit]
>[2] Descend the ladder that leads to the rattling noise, like something mechanical.
Oh shit it's Madrigal time
>[2] Descend the ladder that leads to the rattling noise, like something mechanical.
>>[2] Descend the ladder that leads to the rattling noise, like something mechanical.
>[1] Descend the ladder that leads to the loud gurgling, like something liquid.

mmmm goo

>>5500444 (nice trips)

Called for [2] and writing.
>Second best

Incredible what you can perceive when you just stop for a minute, and double-incredible that none of it's good. Ominous gurgling? The stench of death? You've already dropped in on one abomination, so what the fuck else is down here? Well, you shouldn't think about it too long— don't want to give the dark any ideas. The weird rattling noise to your right seems least likely to be hitched to something horrific. Go with that.

You feel your way over to the associated ladder, hook your legs over, and descend without a word to the Lester-tentacle. (You're not going to encourage the fucker to follow you around, alright.) Your climb down is uncomfortably noisy, but not enough to drown out the rattling, which pervades from nowhere in particular— is something built into the walls? Something with a couple loose screws? You've never been all that savvy when it comes to machines, particularly if they're busted, so if you have to turn fucking repairwoman...

You're not that lucky. Down at ground level, the darkness is thick as tar, and you have to prod the floor with your foot a couple times to be sure you're not going to tumble straight through it. (You've had enough long falls for today.) Eventually you take a tentative step off the ladder. The rattling stops. Something screeches, metal against metal.

Then you swear and recoil: yellow light, like a punch to the face, pours suddenly from a far wall. Your squid eyes seize, swivel, and slam down to the size of pinpricks, turning the remaining darkness into fucking solid asphalt— but at least you can see through the light, which is being emanated by a large rectangle. Like a broom closet, if broom closets tended to rattle and screech, which'd—

There's a figure stepping out of the light. And you can't see all that well, still, but it doesn't take a fucking genius to guess who around here 1) is shaped like a human person and 2) might be exiting mystery rectangles at this time of night. Fuck!

The rectangle isn't directly in front of you or the ladder, it's down a ways— so you can't have been seen yet. Emphasis "yet." The yellow light has illuminated a cone-shaped area around the rectangle, but outside that darkness remains.

(Choices next.)
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>[1] Stay *stock fucking still.* You don't know what she's here for, or if she'll even head in your direction. It's completely possible nothing will happen.
>[2] Stay *stock fucking still.* Stay so still, in fact, that your internal bits explode under the pressure and melt you into a puddle. (It's so dark that it doesn't matter if this is realistic or not.) Then wait for Pat to move on, scrape yourself back up, and carry on in the opposite direction. [--Grit]
>[3] As [2], but after puddling/un-puddling, go investigate the rectangle Pat came from. If it got her in, maybe it can get you out of the basement...? [--Grit]
>[4] Who says this is a bad thing? You need Pat to open the door, an unsuspecting Pat is *right there,* and she doesn't strike you as the hand-to-hand combat type. Bumrush her with your paint scraper. [You will enter combat.]
>[5] Write-in.
Our Grit is pretty low, but if this works we're out.
(To clarify, [3] would take you back to the main level, not back to reality... unless you really soup up that elevator, I guess. You would still need to return to the basement to get out, not least because you've routelocked yourself into relying on Lester, but this would allow you to confuse and potentially trick Pat about where you've been.)
3 sure I'm honestly not super invested in the Madrigal arc.
>>[3] As [2], but after puddling/un-puddling, go investigate the rectangle Pat came from. If it got her in, maybe it can get you out of the basement...? [--Grit]
>I'm honestly not super invested in the Madrigal arc.
This is completely understandable: to an extent I feel the same way, since it's going way longer than I originally envisioned. (As is Charlotte's half, but at least that has enough content to support it, imo.) I've tried offering some ways to speed past things, namely letting Pat experiment on you directly, but you guys haven't bitten. Because you feel this way, I'm going to offer a personal recommendation to vote for anything except [3], not because it's unviable but because that's what's going to drag things out the longest. In particular, [4] is neither a free ticket out nor a autoloss, but it's going to be your fastest (albeit riskiest) way to escape. Give it a think.

Changing >>5501731
to [4]
I'm not going to let my personal feelings about this part make me vote to rush through if other people are enjoying it.

Butsince >>5501738 changed then sure let's do 4.


Called for [4] and writing. I may do some quick combat updates throughout the day tomorrow-- won't make hard promises now, but check back just in case.

I admire your moral fortitude, anon!

"Madrigal?" the figure says— Pat says. She's not yelling, or even speaking particularly loudly, but her voice echoes around the space. "I know you're in here, champ. If you come out right now, I'll consider mercy. I don't want to hurt you."

You're a good listener. You stay absolutely silent.

"I don't want to stick you back in the snake— I'm the one who got you out, didn't I? Got you a body? Got you a place to sleep? Gave you very reasonable rules? I'm a nice person, Madrigal. I'm not a monster. I'm not Management. I'm nice and I'm reasonable and I have pushed myself to the absolute limit trying to be upfront about the horrible situation we are both in. Because I thought you'd be reasonable about it too."

She's standing still in the doorway(?) while she vents all this shit. You're vividly imagining her practicing it under her breath on the way down.

"That's the problem with me, Madrigal. I keep assuming that other people are like me, when time after time after time every single other person I meet is a vicious two-faced cunt. Do you understand? Every time I extend a friendly hand, it gets gouged open and pissed on. So excuse me if I'm a little disappointed by your behavior."

Definitely practiced under her breath. Fucking whatever— you've heard way better speeches than this.

"For some reason, though, I remain reasonable. And I'd like to think some part of you is reasonable too, Madrigal. So I'm going to give you a generous countdown, and if you show up before it ends we can talk things over. If you opt not to show up, that's fine. That's the choice you've made. I will find you, I will rip you out of your waste-of-materials body, and if I'm feeling nice at that point you're going back in the snake. If I'm not— and I'm really not at the moment—" (You don't know why she needs to draw it out. She's audibly fucking furious.) "—then I'll consider some more creative locations. Are we all clear?"

It's just not that menacing when she spells it all out, but she probably wouldn't take well to "angry monologue" tips. Oh well. You've accomplished what you needed to: slowly, very slowly, secreting the paint scraper back into your hand.

"Great," says Pat. "Then I expect to see you in 20...19..."

How fucking big is the basement? Does she (hypothetically) expect you to teleport? Or is the countdown all a flimsy front of "reasonableness," thereby justifying her in her own mind to lose her fucking shit? You know what your guess is, but it doesn't matter, because you are in fact less than twenty seconds away. At your full-blown sprint, it takes—

"...18— AUGH!"

—about three before you've bowled her over. She hits the concrete ground with a wet thump, and you land bodily atop her, pinning her flailing limbs down with your knees and elbows. You press the paint scraper to her throat, and her eyes are crazed and terrible in the yellow light, but you're not paying much attention to that: you are sizing up your advantages as rapidly as possible. You're about the same size as her, physically, but probably fitter. You're taking a wild guess that you've fought more than she has. You have her vulnerable for now, but you're not strong enough to keep her down in a real struggle. She has way more experience with horrific goo shit than you do. She might have a gun.

"Hiya," you say flippantly, and might've continued in that vein if Pat's entire body hadn't bucked and rippled under you— it's less that she throws you off and more that she sort of oozes to the left and to her feet. You roll up yourself, paint scraper in hand, and stare down the barrel of a gun.

"Hiya," Pat says, dead serious. "Well, this works, doesn't it."

What's in there? If it's bullets, aren't you... immune? You wouldn't like to be shot full of holes, but you wouldn't be dead. And if it's water, that's dodgable. And not an instant effect, in any case. It's not nearly as threatening as she wants it to be.

You have no joints to crack, but you crack them anyhow.

>[1] She's fresh from her bedroom, isn't she? And she sleeps in a water tank of her own, doesn't she? She's more liquid on the inside than she is on the outside, you fucking guarantee it. Start by slashing her open. [Roll.]
>[2] Your physical advantage here is far too slim for your liking. Good thing this is a dream body, isn't it? Start by bulking the fuck up. [BODY FACILITY roll.]
>[3] You're not alone here, for better or worse. Start by calling for backup. Preferably several long... uhh... girthy... backups. [No roll to summon Lester, but it'll roll for effectiveness.]
>[4] Keep it simple, stupid: she has a gun. You don't. Start by getting the fucking gun, or at least leveling the playing field. [Roll.]
>[5] Write-in.
If she has more goo experience she wouldn't bother with a useless gun. Maybe it has like, dehydration bullets or something.
>>[4] Keep it simple, stupid: she has a gun. You don't. Start by getting the fucking gun, or at least leveling the playing field. [Roll.]

I need dice!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+5 Gotten Into Scraps, +3 Paint Scraper, +2 Unfazed) vs. DC 70 (+30 Horrific Goo Shit, -7 NEEERD, -3 Fazed) to level the playing field!

Pat will do her own rolls after I get these in!
Rolled 99 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Rolled 96 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Rolled 22 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

She's in the wrong business for reasonable. Besides, she stole Branwens snake first.

Are her employers reasonable?

Was shooting Gil reasonable?

Kidnapping Maddie, was that reasonable?

Honestly she should either find a different job or admit she's one of the cunts. Even Lester doesn't buy her shit, although he's happy to manipulate her with it. Who does she think has been helping us out.
Well I'm glad these at least went well.
Rolled 74, 69, 34 + 8 = 185 (3d100 + 8)


>109, 106, 32 vs. DC 70 -- Success

Man, so close to greatness. A Success is pretty good, though.

Rolling for Pat.

3 1d100s + 8 (+15 Enraged, +10 Desperate, -10 Gunless, -7 NEEERD) vs. DC 65 (+10 Dirty Fighter, +5 Flexible) to get one over on you!

>82, 77, 42 vs. DC 65 -- Success

You win the tiebreaker by dint of your higher modifier (+10 vs. +8), but she's not down for the count. Writing shortly.
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>Go for the gun!
>109, 106, 32 vs. DC 70 -- Success
>Pat: 82, 77, 42 vs. DC 65 -- Success

"Nice gun," you say, and step sideways casually. "Where'd you learn to shoot it?"

Pat's hand tracks you. "Shut up."

"It's just a fucking question, tightass." You step sideways again. "I never learned to shoot one, see, so I'm curious. That the one you kidnapped me with? Took that guy hostage, shot him in cold blood... real reasonable stuff."

"Shut the hell up." Then, after a moment: "Blame it on Charlotte. I warned her what I'd—"

"You can say fuck, Pat," you say encouragingly, and take another step. "It's alright. I give you permission. Do you want to practice with me? We can say 'shut the fuck up' together. Come on. We'll say it in three, in two, in—"

One more step and you're essentially behind her: she's only been swiveling her shoulder to track you, and to get a bead on you now she's going to have to physically turn around. She does, as quickly as she can manage, but you're already lunging.

"Fuck you!" she shrieks, as you grab her gun hand and wrench it downward— something with a decent chance to shoot you in the foot, so you yank the gun to point past you and knee Pat in the chest for good measure. With her free hand she scrabbles at your face, but it's not particularly effective, so you ignore it as you attempt to extricate the gun from her grasp.

It's not working. You're trying to waggle it out, but it's not working. You're trying to shove your own fingers into the gap between the grip and her palm, but there's no gap: the gun and her hand are joined by seamless flesh. Fuck!

Your frustration must be visible, because Pat's eyes crinkle smugly. With a glorp, the gun vanishes into her hand, and for a split second you feel her other hand curl and twist and

fall to the ground. You stare, and so does she: you had swung the paint scraper around in a frenzied attempt to knock the half-formed gun away from your face, not expecting it to slice clean through her wrist. Pat's wrist-stump is pale blue and glistening, and her expression is flat. Her gun hand twitches against the concrete, and you lift your foot and stamp hard on it. It squishes flat and stops twitching.

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"Ew." You wipe the sole of your shoe on the ground. When you look up, Pat has backed away several paces. "What?" you say. "Trying to get out of—"

"Shut the fuck up." She's hunched over oddly, her stump dangling. "I don't like doing this, Madrigal. I'd like to be clear about that. I don't like this, and I have no real desire to put myself through this. You have pushed me to this."

You wipe the paint scraper against your leg. "Pushed you to fucking what. Could you use your—"

She levels a death-stare at you. "Okay, whatever," you say. "Come on, then. I want a fucking challenge, not some pussy-ass poindex..."

Pat has shut one eye. Her shoulders thrust back. She begins to... warp.

"...shit," you finish, and tap the paint scraper against your leg. You're talking a bigger game than you feel, quite frankly. You've already realized that scenes like this one tend to show up mainly in your nightmares.

>[1] Okay, fucking focus. Who cares about the nightmare shit: she's just *standing* there, like a total fucking moron! If you can rush her before anything super fucked-up happens, you'll have her vulnerable for real. [Roll.]

>[2] This isn't a nightmare, though: you are fully fucking aware of what's going on, and you are going to ride that as hard as you can. Stay there and mock the fucking shit out Pat, the sensitive soul, until she's demoralized enough to give up or furious enough to present an obvious opening. [Roll.]

>[3] You know what? You're not going to stop her- she can do her stupid shit. You're just going to turn around, walk a little ways into the darkness, and do your *own* stupid shit to match. Like...
>>[A] Nothing fancy. You just want your fucking spear back, and in *this* dark all you've got to do is reach out and take it. Easy.
>>[B] Something fancy. You love the Fitz, but you need a weapon held together by more than string and willpower. Focus and grab yourself the most kickass polearm you can. [Easier roll.]
>>[C] Something very fancy. This is a fucking dream mansion. You might not like to, or have any real desire to do so, but if it means *getting out*— you're sure you can cook something insane up. [Roll.]
>>[D] Write-in.

>[4] Write-in.
is probably the smartest choice

but if that has no support
has the highest potential for badassery
Here goes something...

Not sure what I expected, top kek. I need dice!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 10 (+10 Darkness, +10 BODY FACILITY, -10 Claustrophobic, -20 What The Fuck Are You Doing?!?) vs. DC 60 (+10 Not Your Head) to go sicko mode!
Rolled 76 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

I hope we summon Charlotte.
Well I messed up the format but 66 ain't bad. In fact I would say it's good!
Rolled 83 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

that would be hilarious but isn't in the cards, sorry

No problem. Negatives are dice+1d100+-X, it's a weird format. And yeah, that's a pass!
Rolled 30 - 10 (1d100 - 10)

Rolled 39, 4, 9 + 10 = 62 (3d100 + 10)

>66, 73, 20 vs. DC 60 -- Success

Clean. Rolling for Pat, then writing in a little bit (gotta eat lunch).

3 1d100s + 10 (+30 Horrific Goo Shit, +15 Her Manse, Her Rules, -25 Ughhhh, -10 Elevator Light, -5 Frazzled) vs. DC 55 (+10 You Succeeded, -5 Unobserved). Degrees of success here will determine what exactly she does.

Hey, a success on an effective DC 70 is nothing to sneeze at!
>49, 14, 19 vs. DC 55 -- Failure
Lol, lmao. Effective DC 45 meant she had a 8.5% chance of failure.

Still writing in a little bit.
Once again our bad decisions are paying off! Abandon reason! Abandon sanity! Believe in the snek who believes in us and pierce the heavens!

Note to self: rescue snek after beating Pat.

I wonder if we can forcefully steal away her goo into ours.
Still writing, if you can believe it: I was hoping this'd be a quick combat update, but the option chosen and the dice results means it really isn't. Hoping to get it out before 9 PM PST, I gotta eat dinner but it's pretty close to done.

>Note to self: rescue snek after beating Pat.
This'll be an option.

>I wonder if we can forcefully steal away her goo into ours.
Maybe, but I'm not sure Madrigal would be super interested in doing so.
might open us up to future pat possession attempts
>66, 73, 20 vs. DC 60 -- Success
>Pat: 49, 14, 19 vs. DC 55 -- Failure

Thing about your nightmares, though, is that it's not you in them— you're conked out cold. It's shitty, ineffectual Dream Madrigal who takes the reins, gets shot, trapped, drowned, whatever the fuck, then helpfully kills herself to let you wake up and forget all about it. It's a nice system, all things considered. You're appreciating it more and more as you stand here, fully conscious, unhurt, paint scraper in hand, and completely unable to move.

Well, that's a lie. You can tap the paint scraper against your leg as hard as you want. But no matter how cocky the smirk on your face, no matter how long you replay the obvious course of action (fucking rush her!), your feet won't unstick from the floor. And it's not raw fear that's doing it— you've pointedly avoided glancing at Pat while she does her whatever-the-fuck. It's not even self-preservation, which you have little of. There's just this gut feeling, this slimy crawling stuff, rooting you inexplicably in place.

You've never been one to trust your intuition, particularly underwater, where people's "intuitions" tended to encourage them to, e.g., wander off into the wilderness. In any ordinary situation, you'd be flipping this one the bird and charging off already. But this is a nightmare, not an ordinary situation, and you're not yourself at all but shitty, ineffectual Dream You. You'd been gullshitting about that earlier, but with all this now? You're certain. This is not your body, and this is not your you.

Which gives you some new sympathy for Dream Madrigal, honestly. Maybe her shittiness isn't really her fault. Maybe she doesn't want to cry, or scream, or die, but the dream takes her over and makes her. Or whatever. You don't know how any of this works, and you don't really want to— that's somebody else's problem. What you do know is that you can't move, and Pat is making a lot of squelching sounds.

Well, that's still a lie. (Not the squelching sounds. The other part.) You can move... backwards. Your gut is strongly encouraging you to move backwards. To cut and run, even, but you have your fucking limits. You pace backwards slowly, then more rapidly, waiting for Pat to call you not just a bitch but a fraud and coward or so forth, but nothing comes. Just more squelching.

(1/6 jfc)
And then you cross some threshold, and there is darkness like a sheet over you. You're no more than a handful of feet from where you started, but you can't see the yellow light anymore. Or Pat, even after you raise your head and look. What the fuck? It gets dark underwater, and it gets weird in the dark, but it's not... you don't fucking know... magic? If you shake a gloworb, or trap one of those light-up fish in a lantern like Bran does, the darkness goes away. That's how it works. It doesn't press on you from all sides. It doesn't slow your movement. It is not a substance, you are not in a substance, you— so you'd like your throat to stop constricting for no fucking reason. You are not submerged in anything. You are not trapped in anything. You are not buried alive. If you step forward, you'll be back exactly where you—

You can't step forward. And your eyes are wide, as wide as they can possibly go, but there's nothing to see. You're being fucked with, aren't you? Is this Pat's doing? This is her dream mansion, or nightmare mansion, or whatever the fuck... oh. It's nightmare stuff. Very cool, very cool. Normalish person turning into monster(?), check, can't fight it, check, magic darkness, check, so now you're going to run away and get caught and eaten. A change of pace from your usual boring-ass nightmares, you guess, but still— fuck that. You have better options.

You plant your feet, press the paint scraper to your chest, and wait. Then, thinking better of it, you sit on your ass cross-legged. Fuck you, darkness. Fuck you, Monster Pat. You are sick and tired of all of this stupid shit, top to bottom, and if you get eaten— fine! If you're Dream You, that's your entire job. Maybe it'll wake you up.

You wait longer. There's no change or sound from Pat. You're trembling a little, which kind of ruins the whole fucking image, but that's not you— really, that's not you. It's just uncontrollable instinct, like the knot in your throat and your dry-ass mouth. Your dry-ass everything, honestly— you wrung nearly all your water out, post-puddling, and it's coming back to bite you. You are vaguely uncomfortable all over.

You wait longer than that. Too long, in your book: how fucking long is a goo transformation supposed to take? It's been easily five minutes since you sat down, if not more. Is Monster Pat... having trouble finding you? Is she hunt-and-pecking around in the dark? Sheesh. You weren't really prepared for this to be a slow thing: your legs are starting to get stiff. You uncurl them, darkness eddying in your wake, and sigh. You rub your face. Is darkness a substance? No. Is fake nightmare darkness a substance? Clearly yes— it's thickened to the point where you're pretty sure you could scoop up handfuls. It is clammy and syrupy against your prickling skin, more of a liquid than a—

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You get the worst idea imaginable. Dogshit. Irredeemable. If you were awake, if you were really yourself, you'd laugh it out of you immediately. Hell, if you were awake, you're not sure it'd ever occur to you— apart from being terrible, it's abstract. It runs on a fuzzy illogic you've never been able (or wanted) to channel. It's all... symbols. And... metaphors. And all that other stupid Ellery shit.

But you're dreaming right now. And this isn't your body. And you're tense, and exhausted, and bored. Odds are it won't do anything and you'll look stupid— but stupid to who? Pat's wandering around like a fellow idiot. Lester is an idiot, if it's even bothered to come down here. You're all alone in the dark.

So what you do is cup your hands around nothing, around air, around darkness. You bring it to your lips. And you drink it.

It is rich and syrupy, like you expected. It is bitter and herbal, a little like Pat's tea, but more like you set a tea tree on fire and ground up the ashes and snorted them. You might've spat it out if anything remained in your mouth, but it's already wicking up through your cheeks and diffusing out from there, and then the taste is the least of your concerns: your head is full of ants then, and dirtied hailstones, and swathes and swathes of crushed black velvet, and you are thirsty like you haven't drank for years— which is halfway true, isn't it? Haha! You shouldn't have done this, you knew it was a dogshit idea, there is pressure behind your eyes which might or might not be ants and you are on your knees clutching your temple, clutching the paint scraper, staring at the paint scraper, wondering if it'd be any less of a dogshit idea to jam the paint scraper into your skull, while the ants press and press against your eyeballs, until you say something like "Fuck it!" (it may have sounded more like "Auughhk") and jam the paint scraper into your right eyeball instead.

Something pops out, and it's so seamless and painless and relieves so much pressure that you do exactly the same to your other eyeball. (You couldn't see anything, anyhow.) You roll the two somethings around in your palm for a second before stowing them in your back pocket.

You never make it as far as prying your hand out of your pocket: you are awkwardly twisted around when you gasp feverishly and freeze solid. Something about you had changed— your pores, or some shit— do you have pores? Does it matter? You are desperate for moisture, or your weird fucking body is, and it's preparing to absorb anything. You mean anything. You mean that you are standing here, rigid, arm back, head full of fucking ants, and the darkness is sucking itself through your clothes, through your skin, your hair, your gaping mouth, your nostrils, and most especially through your eye sockets. It does not feel like ants or like hailstones, taken like this. It is more like the velvet, not to mention silk and fur and oil: soft, smooth, and musky.
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The darkness glides through you, piling first in your corners, then in your middle, then compacting itself like heavy snow as more flows in. It's disconcerting but not unpleasant: the ants are gone, for one thing. And for being stupid magic nightmare darkness stuff, it's— you refuse to call it "considerate," alright? You're letting this happen, but you are not calling the fucking nightmare darkness "considerate." End of story. For being nightmare darkness, it's— it's— you're pretty sure you're not turning into a nightmare monster, or whatever the shit. You think. It's extremely possible that you are and you're being fucked with to believe you're not. But it still feels like you've got arms and legs and fingers and whatnot all in the right places—

Nope, you jinxed it. Fuck! You've got to be about 99% clothes closet and 1% goo by now, and you're feeling the clothes closet entwine itself steadily with your ever-thinner outer skin. It's nightmare monster for you, that sells it, so you've just got to hope that it's temporary, and you don't bang yourself up too much, and that it's, like, a kickass nightmare monster, not a "your dad tells you he's disappointed in you" nightmare—

Your skin flexes gently, stretches a little, twists a little, and snaps back into place. As it does, the very last vestige of darkness slides into your eye sockets. The basement is brightly lit. You are no longer thirsty.

"What the fuck?" says Pat. She is standing upright not very far from you. She is also not a nightmare monster, or any other kind of monster, though she does have her hand back. (Dammit.)

"Huh?" Your head buzzes. You prod your face, which feels like a face. (Suspicious.) Your hands look like usual, except for a— a clear coating of nail polish? And your pants are— you are wearing pants. They are made of black leather. "...Huh."

"You can't do that. You can't go and— that's not possible! That is unilaterally not— what the fuck are you wearing?!"

"Uh," you say. "Leather pants?"

"You can't— why?!"

"...Uh..." You kick out your leg to examine your brand-new leather boots. "...I think I'm a nightmare monster? Like, this is my nightmare... form?"

Pat looks down, then up at the ceiling. (It's not a very high ceiling. The basement isn't that big in general. There's no catwalk.) "Is that why you don't have eyes?"

"I don't have...? Oh, shit!" You poke a finger way deep into your eye socket, dislodging a trickle of black smoky stuff. "Oh, damn, I actually— I can see fine. That's crazy. Damn. Hang on."

Pat is hanging on (barely) as you plunge a hand into your pant pocket and pull out two... yeah, okay, those are eyeballs. You pop them back in and blink hard. "Is that better?"

"...Yes," she says.

"That's good, that's— don't want to fucking spook anyone, do I? Well... maybe Monty..." You contemplate this. "Say, do you think Charlotte's a nightmare monster? Since she has that one eye—"

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"I don't know what that is," she says stiffly. "A nightmare monster."

"Hell, you're asking me," you say. "All I know is that I don't own leather pants. But I absorbed all the nightmare darkness shit, I guess, and this is a nightmare, so it makes sense that—"

"This isn't a... nightmare." Pat has folded her arms, but it reads more exasperated than aggressive. "What are you talking about? Here?"

"Yeah, here? And yes it is? I'm asleep, so I'm dreaming, and then it got all dark and spooky and you started turning into— hey, why the fuck aren't you a monster?"

She ignores that. "You're not asleep, and you're not dreaming. You're in my manse. It's an entirely different state of—"

Oh, shit, is that what Charlotte called it? A manse? "Aren't those basically the same thing?"


"They seem like basically..." These fucking people and their fucking jargon. "Whatever. So why aren't you—"

"They're not the same thing, and whatever you just..." Pat shuts her mouth and snaps her fingers a couple times. The lights flicker, barely, and stay resolutely on. "That's not possible. We're on the top level, I don't allow any bleed, this is not some kind of— some godsdamn— some unmaintained Headspace hellhole, this—"

"Okay, I dunno what any of that that means," you say. "And I don't really know what I— I just drank some shit. But it clearly is possible, since it happened, so I'm not sure what you—"

"You are exactly like him," she snaps.

"What? Like who? Use your... I am not like Ellery!" You fold your arms tightly. "What the fuck! How is that—"

"Exactly like him. This is what he does— breaks the rules and pretends he didn't. And he is insufferable about it. I was wondering how someone like you put up with that, but..." She shakes her head. "Now I know."

This is possibly the meanest thing anybody's ever said to you. "Okay, first off, fuck you. And second off, why the fuck aren't you a monster, Pat? All that fucking buildup—"

Pat looks sideways, sullenly. "I opted against—"


"I— it's a delicate process, alright? There's a lot that can go—"

"Did you get fucking stage fright?" you say.

"No," Pat says.

"You got fucking stage fright! Well, serves you fucking right— shoulda just gone and done it—" You stretch your shoulders. "Whoo, boy. Well, that sucks for you, doesn't it? Leaves you kinda... vulnerable?"

She sighs deeply and points a gun at you. "No."

"Really? Because I just don't— I just don't think that's going to do shit to me, Pat. Sorry." You're not dicking around this time. You mean it. "Because that's kind of, uh, the schtick? The nightmare monster... uh, hold on."

You reach into thin air and (to your unsubtle delight) pull out a spear— not the Fitz, god bless it, but something longer and darker and wickeder. A nightmare spear. Hell yes. "Yeah, okay. Sweet. Anyhow, you can't shoot me, I can stab you, so... let's do it."

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She's not that far away, so your dramatic advance is not that dramatic. She does shoot you, which you admire a little bit, except the bullet pierces through your chest with a plume of black smoke and shatters something on the far wall. You keep walking.

And then you are upon her. You put the speartip to her throat. "Alright. Kneel down."

Her mask is hanging half off her face. She shrinks back. "Please don't kill me."

"Kneel down."

She does. She stares at the concrete ground.

"So I, uh, I need to get out of here." Damn. These leather pants do not work great in a wide stance. "I heard you could do it. Or I can take your... fluids."

"Are you taking the snake?" she says.

Oh, shit, you forgot about the snake. "Matches? Uh... maybe."

"If you're taking it," she says to the ground, "then do kill me. Nothing you can do is worse than Management."

"Uh..." you say. "Or you could just... unlock the door..."

She sighs again, then looks up. She's staring you right in the eye. "If you take the snake, I miss my deadline. If I miss my deadline— again— Management is going to take me. And I'm not coming back, do you understand? Tell me you understand."

"...Um, I guess I..."

"So if you take the snake, kill me. Please." She lowers her head again. "I don't really want to die, but let's be realistic."

Sure, let's be realistic. You, Madrigal Fitzpatrick, have a secret. A fairly big one. Enough to ruin your reputation, should it ever get out. But you can let it slip, just this once, between yourself and you: you are thirty goddamn years old, and you've never killed anybody before.

>[GRIT: Slightly High]

>[1] Kill Pat. (And take her "fluids" to open the door.) [---Grit.]
>[2] Spare Pat. (And make her open the door for you.)
>[3] Another way? (Write-in. Subject to veto if OOC.)

other decisions (e.g. about the snake) will be formally made after this vote
>[2] Spare Pat
>[2] Spare Pat. (And make her open the door for you.)
>[2] Spare Pat. (And make her open the door for you.)
Madrigal really needs a therapist
(As does every character, I suppose)
Would've called it and done a quick update earlier, but I want to let everyone get a say on this one (even if it winds up unanimous). Update tomorrow per usual.

You're not wrong on either count, but I'm curious what in this particular update made you voice this.
>what in this particular update made you voice this.
Her tough posturing in front of her own self, combined with the reminder of her nightmares and her disassociation with her "dream self". So far the characters were just entertainingly fucked up, but this episode made me feel actual pity and concern.
>this episode made me feel actual pity and concern.
Damn, anon, that's nice to hear. I wasn't particularly intending to highlight Madrigal's (very real) issues in this one, so if they came through from her ordinary narration I consider that a big win. I think she's messed up in a more regular way than a lot of the other characters, so maybe it hits a little closer to home? Interesting stuff.
maybe, haha, we can promise to get her another snake

Reverse kidnapping. Take Pat with us, since she's gonna be on the run anyways. Burn her bridges with her bosses and Charlotte will probably take them down. For some reason, her ending them along with the world by accident or malicious impulse seems . . . Right.

Anyways Maddie is a smuggler, smuggling a person is like bread and butter.

I like this idea-- switching my vote >>5504384
to this! But make her open the door for us, of course.
Also we should loot the place before running.
That, and we should also destroy all documents relative to their research if they're around.

This is a good write-in, but it's a major decision I'm not going to leave up to a coinflip. You'll have a formal vote on this next update.

You're in Pat's manse, located more-or-less in Pat's head, so if you reverse-kidnap Pat it's going to come along with her. No need to loot or destroy anything.

You were hoping, in some way, that being a nightmare monster would... fix things. That it'd make you as dark and sharp as the spear, or whatever. But you are grasping inside yourself for the conviction to do it and you are coming up, as you have always, short.

"I'm not gonna kill you," you say roughly. "I'm not a fucking psychopath. But you are going to open the fucking door, and we'll talk about the rest after that."

Pat's shoulders drop.

"Stand up."

You lift the spear a little bit. She rises. She's not looking at you.

"Take me to the—"

"I got it." She clasps her hands behind her back and starts walking. You hasten behind, keeping the spear to her shoulderblades— it seems like the thing to do, even though the basement is so cramped she couldn't run if she tried.

What catches your attention on the way is the huge blackened machine taking up most of the back wall— it looks nearly like the curing machine, but there's no molds you can see, and there's a shit-ton of pipes flowing into (or out of) it? That, and the big shiny metal cabinet nearby, and the empty gurney, and the table stacked with random stuff, and the dumbwaiter installed in the wall (oh, hey!), and the stench— apparently that part was real, because holy shit. It's all coming from the machine, which smells like chemicals and death.

"What the fuck is all that?" you say.

"Doesn't matter." Pat stops in front of a set of double doors. "This is it. You'll want the right-hand side."


"The left leads somewhere else." She presses her hand against some kind of panel, which beeps. "You're not taking the snake, are you?"

"I'm, uh— I'm still thinking about it."

"Uh-huh." She doesn't sound optimistic.

"I am! I..." You trail off. "...Lester's not in here."

He's not: you saw the whole basement just from a quick glance around, and there's zero flesh blobs or tendrils or anything. Did you fucking nightmare-hallucinate him? But it wasn't dark in the storage room, and that was—

"Lester?" Pat turns fully around to stare in your direction. "It's the middle of the night. He's upstairs hydrating. How is that relevant?"

Does she know about the storeroom tendrils? "I— not Lester Six— one of the other ones. Lester One."

"Lester One—" Her voice turns hard. "—got taken. By Management. How many times do I have to—"

What the fuck? "Uh... sorry, I meant... is there any Lester down here right now? Or is it a Lester-free zone, ha ha—"

She folds her arms. "There's the fishtank? That's not a Lester, that's just some— I salvaged some raw material before everything really went to hell. I've been meaning to do something with it, but I've been a little busy. What does it matter?"

"Can I see it?" you say.

"You're the one with the spear."

"Oh, shit." You reevaluate. "Uh, I order you to—"

She's already moving. The fishtank— you see it now— is perched nondescriptly on a wheeled cart. Pat pushes it back to meet you, then folds her arms again. "There."

Inside the fishtank is a globby mound of blue-tinged flesh. It's about the size of your head, and it's not moving.

"Ah," you say.

"Are you happy now?" She sounds frustrated. "Got your kicks? Just tell me if you're getting the snake or not, so I can make my funeral plans."

If only you knew. You want to bring Matches along: it's your fucking snake. It's basically you. And Pat's (or "Management"'s) clearly up to no good with it. But condemning an— an— alright, Pat isn't an "innocent" woman by any definition. She's a complete fucking bitch. But you're a complete fucking bitch, too, so maybe something in you sympathizes— or maybe way down inside you're just too soft, too coddled, too much of a girl. The darkness shit was supposed to fix that, but instead it gave you leather pants, and you're having a hell of a time wanting to condemn a fucking bitch to eternal torture. Or whatever "Management" was planning on doing.

You're sure you can overcome that with a little effort, though. You have decisions.

>Bring the snake with you?
>[A1] Bring Matches.
>[B2] Leave Matches.

>Bring Lester One(??) with you?
>[B1] Bring the flesh mound. (This will certainly not have any consequences.)
>[B2] Leave the flesh mound. (This will certainly not have any consequences.)

>Bring Pat with you? Per >>5505019
>[C1] Bring Pat.
>[C2] Leave Pat.
>[A1] Bring Matches.
No way Namway wants it for anything good.

>[B2] Leave the flesh mound.
What would we do with it? Also it's a creep

>[C1] Bring Pat.
Though the logistics of it while we're being inside her head escape me.
>Though the logistics of it while we're being inside her head escape me.
Madrigal doesn't care about this useless nerd shit! (Don't worry about it.)
>>[A1] Bring Matches.
>>[B2] Leave the flesh mound.
>>[C1] Bring Pat.
A1, B1, bring Pat
>All 1
qm promised us no consequences, bathic would never lie to us
Rolled 2 (1d2)


Flipping between [B2] and [B1] and writing. Fair warning: there's a solid chance I won't make it to options, since I'm starting late and this is covering two update's worth of content (Madrigal's half + Gil's half).

Very cool. Still writing.
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You guys will just get the whole thing (w/ options) tomorrow.
When I say "tomorrow" I always mean "before I go to sleep the next day." I'm writing as we speak.
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>Advanced Mercy

It's tricky to concentrate with Pat's eyes locked so intently on you, but nevertheless you think about it. And think about it. And settle, finally, on a course of action. "Yeah," you say. "I want the fucking snake. It's my snake."

Pat doesn't collapse to her knees or beat her breast or wail or anything, but it sort of looks like she wants to. It wouldn't be too much exaggeration to say the life's all wooshed out of her: she stands there waxen and stiff, her shoulders raised, her fingers curled, her eyes dark and glassy. "Makes sense," she says, after a moment. "You know where it is, isn't it? I haven't moved it from the lab."

"Uh," you say. "Yeah, but—"

"Sounds good." She reaches down without looking and tosses you something shiny. You catch it without looking. "Elevator runs right there. These'll make it start."

Keys. You furrow your brow. "Thanks, but... are you not coming along? To make sure I don't sabotage the rest of your shit, or—"

"Madrigal," she says— with no sarcasm, rancor, nothing. Toneless. "I'm not going anywhere."

You can't even get a "what—" out, much less a "what the fuck are you talking about?": it all happens at once. There's something in her hand, and by the time you register gun it's already lifted to her temple, and by the time you register that the spear's already in motion, whirling and springing and hurtling down on Pat practically of its own volition. The gun, and her hand, go flying. A little bit of black shit wafts from the stump.

Pat's eyebrows shoot up and crash down in red rage. The skin of her face wobbles. She lifts her left hand and the gun in it to her temple and—

This one takes only a little flick. The gun, and her other hand, bounce slightly when they hit the ground. Pat stares. You kick it sideways before she gets any big ideas.

She doesn't say anything, though, or move, so you busy yourself with stowing the spear in its convenient sling. When you look up, her face has gone purple and her eyes have gone squinty, and when she sees you look up they go more than squinty. Shit. Shit! "What the HELL?" she half-screams at you. "WHY?"

You raise your hands in defense. "Hang on, just—"

"You hate me THAT much? You won't even let me DIE? I have ONE option left and I can't—" She's openly tearing up. "You want me to SUFFER, don't you? You psycho, you CUNT—"

"Holy shit, cool it!" you say, and slap her.

It works. She glowers back bitterly and silently.

"Thank you. Holy shit. I don't want you to die."

"Obviously," she hisses. "You just want—"

"You don't fucking know what I want, alright? I'm a fucking wild card. I'm a fucking..." You scrabble for an alternative. "...crazy-ass... bitch. Yeah. That's me. So shut the fuck up. I don't want you to get tortured, or- or locked up, or experimented on, or whatever the fuck Management's planning for you. Alright? Because that's fucked-up."

This is it: this idea is the new worst idea you've ever had. Dogshit. Irredeemable. But the last worst idea turned out okay, you guess, and you— well, there's— you can justify this in plenty of practical ways. You already have, to yourself, several times. No backing out now. "Shut the fuck up," you say loudly. "Escape with me."

There's a long silence. "What?" Pat says.

"I'm getting the fuck out of here. You need to get the fuck out of here, too. It's a total win-win. Management can't kidnap you if they can't—"

"They will find me." Her teeth are gritted. "I could launch myself off the godsdamn Edge and they'd be there to catch me halfway down. I don't think you understand— they get in your mind—"

"Then we'll whoop their fucking asses when they show up, huh? What's the problem?" You hasten on before Pat can argue. "Also, what's the outcome if they find you and we don't whoop their asses? You get kidnapped. Literally exactly the same as if you don't go. And if I betray you, or whatever the fuck, then you die. Literally exactly the same if you shot yourself. And if you do evade them— or stop them— that's way fucking better than either of those. So tell me what you've got to lose?"

"..." She tucks her arms behind her back. "...What's in it for you?"

You were hoping for the chance to justify it. "Yeah, well, listen. I'm a small business owner, see? Do brokerage for some folks. Now, I'm fucking good at this, so I've been able to run things without any help... but that doesn't mean I'd turn down help. Good, qualified help. That's fucking hard to find, though."

Pat shifts her stance.

"But the way I see it... well, think about it. You've got business experience, probably got contacts, got expertise in a lucrative area, you're a real ruthless bitch when push comes to shove but you're capable of being civil— and, oh yeah, you're unemployed. It's a fucking no-brainer. What do you say?"

She looks slightly upward. She fidgets. "What's the salary?"

"The fucking salary? I, I don't— it's commission work, okay? We'll— we'll talk about your cut once you prove you're competent. If you want to market custom goo shit on the side, that's your business."

"That's reasonable," she mutters.

"I know. So what do you say?" You extend your hand. Pat raises her eyebrows. "Oh, shit," you say, and scoop the nearest hand off the ground. It's only gone a little gooey. "Uh..."

You hold it gingerly as Pat presses her wrist on, then watch gingerly as she flexes her fingers. "Okay," she says. "Try again."

You extend your hand, and before you can say anything she shakes it firmly. "You're hired," you say. "So let's get the fuck out of here, huh?"

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Pat is quiet on the way up the elevator (apparently the yellow-lit closet: you didn't know elevators could get that compact), into the lab, and back down. You have the sense that to make conversation would rub salt in the wound and remain quiet yourself, letting Matches wind around your finger. You stand in front of the door out.

"Can I have my paint scraper back?" Pat says curtly.

"Oh." You hand it to her. She tucks it in a pocket.

"Can I have my darkness back?"

"Uh... I don't think so."

She snorts, then— you thought she was making to crack her neck, but her whole body spasms and snaps back and then you're not looking at Pat anymore. It's some other woman, of Pat's height and rough build, but with dark hair and light eyes and thoroughly nondescript features. "I couldn't go out like that," she says, in response to your startled look. "It's nothing. Let's go."

"...Alright," you say, and Pat pushes open the right-hand door into blackness. She and you step out.



You are Gil Wallace. After talking a goo hivemind thing out of existential despair and convincing it to help you rescue your (deep breath) new friend/boss Lottie from her own questionable decision-making, you, Lucky, and Arledge have ventured out to the harbor to swipe some flammable cazeline. You're enjoying this more than they are.

"Mr. Wallace?" Lucky is shielding his eyes from the glare of the setting sun. "Have you found it?"

Have you found the cazeline? Yes. It's exactly where Teddy knew it'd be. You've refrained from informing Lucky or Arledge of this, however, to give you a chance to peer over the stern and check out Teddy's boat's massive goddamn engine. For... research.

"Gil." Arledge this go-around. "We don't have a lot of time."

Is poking at the engine critical to getting the magic stuff out of Lottie and/or her worm? No. Is it even relevant? ...Also no. But listen— listen. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. A not-even-in-your-lifetime opportunity, actually. So you are giving the engine a once-over, not even sitting down to crack it open, and—

"Mr. Wallace?"

Goddammit. You give the engine a goodbye pat and straighten up, brushing your hair out of your eyes (Teddy needs to learn the virtues of gel) and lifting the twin jugs of cazeline you'd snagged first thing. "Yeah, I got them. Should be enough for decent coverage... it doesn't take a lot."

"I'm aware." Lucky takes the jugs as you offer them off the side of the boat, then hop down to meet the two of them. "Thank you for locating these."

You've been admittedly wary around Lucky and Arledge since the incident, but neither have shown an inkling of wanting to murder Charlotte since then. Weird stuff. "...Yeah, sure," you say. "No problem. That's it, then?"

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"We can't afford to delay. I'd bet a considerable sum that she's waiting for the sun to cross the horizon." Arledge gestures toward the pink sky. "Counting walking time, we won't arrive much sooner."

"If we can lessen the amount of time Ms. Fawkins spends in the grip of the unnatural, all the better."

"Fair enough." You wish you could say you were brimming with confidence, but no amount of preparation is going to fix that. "And we think it's the temple?"

"Apart from being symbolic," Lucky says, "the murder was clearly strategic. It lured a great number of these 'liaisons' away from their preparations and their posts in the temple. So..."

"Yes," Arledge says. "It wouldn't happen anywhere else."

"Pretty conclusive, I guess." You've run out of questions. "Well, uh... let's get going?"


Everybody seems lost in their own thoughts on the way back up. You spend most of the time fidgeting with whatever you can get your hands on: the zipper of your slicker, the rim of your empty beetle jars, the handle of the fish cleaver. You don't want to have to use the fish cleaver. You are hoping strongly that you can walk in there, scream at Lottie to snap out of it, and be done with this whole mess. It is not a rational hope. It's Lottie. But hideous irrational hopes are what's been getting you through the day, lately, so you hold it to your heart all the way up the hill.

"Are you feeling alright, Mr. Wallace?"

Shit. Is it that obvious? You're gazing at the temple with the others: it's a whole lot less ugly in the evening light, in your opinion. (Is that sacrilegious? Should you care?) You like thinking about the temple's architectural merits, because it stops you from thinking about your impending anxiety attack. Though nasty what-the-fuck-are-you-doing voices keep piping up, and apparently they're written all over your face, which— "Yeah," you say. "Doing great."

"Are you certain?" Lucky's voice has a edge. "You're looking a little blue."

What? You stare down at your hands: there's a faint blue aura around both of them. And your arms, and torso, and legs. You flush. "I-I-I-I can—"

"Knock it off, Dib. This place is... very consecrated." Arledge is crouched down and running his hand through the dirt. "More than previously. Which is odd, but a positive for us."

"Unfortunately." Lucky folds his arms. "We don't have a lot of time. Or was that your line? She could be in there now—"

"She is in there now." Arledge stands and dusts his hands off. "I recommend we strategize on the go. I know what I'll be doing."

There's no argument. The temple doors are unlocked, and Lucky flings them open unceremoniously. Then he freezes.

The inside of the temple is different from the outside. Us has done its thing.

>What does it look like? All versions will be consecrated.

>[1] It's vertical. The floor space is tiny, but the ceiling is many stories up. The giant worm will have zero room to maneuver— and you, unlike everybody, can fly. (Technically.) But it'll be cramped and difficult to fight in.
>[2] It's flammable. Well, it'd always be flammable— but this is *flammable.* The walls are dark and dripping with cazeline. There's straw and tinder littering the ground. One match and it'd practically explode— a useful failsafe, or if it came to it a weapon. But not at all safe.
>[3] It's abyssal. There's a gigantic pit in the center of the temple, with elevated ground around it. You'd almost certainly have the high ground over Lottie and the worm, but getting shoved or trapped down there would be a nightmare.
>[4] Write-in.
Ahhh, a fellow shift worker.
>[2] It's flammable. Well, it'd always be flammable— but this is *flammable.* The walls are dark and dripping with cazeline. There's straw and tinder littering the ground. One match and it'd practically explode— a useful failsafe, or if it came to it a weapon. But not at all safe.

Fire hasn't let us down ever!
>[2] It's flammable. Well, it'd always be flammable— but this is *flammable.* The walls are dark and dripping with cazeline. There's straw and tinder littering the ground. One match and it'd practically explode— a useful failsafe, or if it came to it a weapon. But not at all safe.

Cannot resist my pyro tendencies.

Plus this one seems the least likely for Lucky to sperg out over.
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Merry Christmas Eve, folks. I have an unorthodox late-night obligation this evening, so I'm going to attempt to call it now and update early. If you don't see anything before midnight PST, it means I failed in this regard-- wish me luck.

>>5507575 (nice digits)
>>5507799 (nice digits)


Called for [2] and writing.

I've been thinking about this and figure I owe you a serious answer, so here you go: I think it comes down to to the nature of goo as both an actual physical substance and something quasi-unreal: it can survive the transition between states very well, allowing for a sort of in-and-out travel you can't do with purely "imaginary" bodies. Gil, for example, won't be able to just walk out of the manse-- he's going to need to travel via Charlotte until he gets a physical body of his own. Which I expect to happen next thread fwiw, I know you guys have been waiting forever for that!
huh some surprising lines on that chart
like madrigals hatred of real ellery
gil's complicated relationship with casey
the lack of any complicated lines for garvin
damn lucky hates us? hurtful. next time we talk to him let's ask if he has any friends outside the workplace
our hatred of henry grows ever more hypocritical now that we're doing the cult rituals
I guess only monty knows ramsey
pat knows a surprising amount of people
arledge and lucky are missing a line I think?
we know lucky likes his coworkers, do they like him back? should those arrows be double ended?
horse face seems to both like and dislike us - I could be wrong about that, big mess of arrows going to and from charlie

>an unorthodox late-night obligation this evening,
on christmas eve? who could have imagined?
>like madrigals hatred of real ellery
She screamed at Pat about him! This'll get fuller exploration very soon.

>gil's complicated relationship with casey
He's the Headspace guy! Casey goddamn Kemper! (It's one-sided for a reason.)

>the lack of any complicated lines for garvin
He's a pretty straightforward guy! :^)

>damn lucky hates us?

>our hatred of henry grows ever more hypocritical now that we're doing the cult rituals
Charlotte? Hypocritical?

>I guess only monty knows ramsey
She got so little screentime intentionally and the thing was so crowded already that I didn't want to mess it up more. It'd probably be a bunch of neutrals from the camp crowd.

>horse face seems to both like and dislike us - I could be wrong about that, big mess of arrows going to and from charlie
Ehhh, yeah, there does seem to be a green line buried in there. "Dislike" is the intended one (you perpetually bothering him).

>pat knows a surprising amount of people
She has ties to both the Namway and the S.A. crowd, plus Madrigal/Gil/you.

>arledge and lucky are missing a line I think?
Totally right, that should be a two-sided Hatred.

>we know lucky likes his coworkers, do they like him back? should those arrows be double ended?
Probably neutral-to-positive for everybody except Jesse. He's not that bad of a boss if you don't tick him off.

>on christmas eve? who could have imagined?
Not me, actually, it got sprung on me last-minute. Ah well.
Fixed. I'll also state for futureproofing that a handful of currently active relationships have been left out for spoiler reasons.
You forgot Annie.

Merry Christmas.
I'll make a mini-map for Annie tomorrow. Merry Christmas! Still writing, am optimistic
>Fire solves all problems

It's not what you were expecting. The interior is almost exactly the same as your brief glimpse of it earlier: wooden walls, high ceilings, skylights, the eight carved pillars holding up the roof. The pillars were a little creepy even in broad daylight, but now, shrouded in shadow, their eel and squid and lionfish heads loom too large over the single room. Their polished-stone eyes leer blankly.

As it was before, the center of the room is taken up by a sunken, circular pool, fed into by a shallow canal that winds toward the elevated back of the temple: the canal stops abruptly when it hits the wall, but twin staircases flank it on both sides, providing easy access to what you're assuming is the big-deal ritual area. You don't actually know anything about temples, and you can't see what's up there very well, but from the big teardrop-shaped window and the mural(?) surrounding it it seems pretty logical. Also, it's super decorated up there, but really the whole place is decked to the nines in flower bunches and garlands and blue banners and artful seashells. It's a maximalist sort of thing, if you're going to attempt to be nice, but you might've found more charm in it if the place wasn't so dim and empty.

Because those are the main changes: it's dim inside, lit only by the skylights and window, and it's totally deserted. Which doesn't make a ton of sense— surely not everybody cleared out to investigate the murder— but maybe Us pulled itself together enough to evacuate any lingerers. You hope so. Apart from that, the pool and canal are drained, and the little artificial waterfall in the back has vanished. Which'd explain why the temple interior smells kind of pond-scummy. It doesn't explain why it reeks to high heaven of caz, though, and it's obviously not just you who've noticed: Lucky's nose is all screwed up, and he's set down the caz jugs. "What in the world?"

"So much for those," Arledge says neutrally. "Seems like somebody's beat us to the bonfire preparation. I'd say it was her, but to my knowledge fire isn't a significant component in any—"

"It's her style. With that damn sword." Lucky folds his arms. "It's trapped. We walk in and get roasted."

Is it Lottie's style to set things on fire? ...Yes? Are you exceptionally flammable? Also yes? You should be more concerned than anybody, but Lucky's pronouncement still doesn't sit right with you. "I-I-I'm not sure. I-It's her style, but she's not... her. And she doesn't have her sword with her, I don't think, so that's not a—"

"Dib, you're the one with the torches."

"...Yes." Lucky exhales. "I still don't like it. I'll be significantly hemmed in if I want to use firepower safely—"

"A great loss for all of us." Arledge strides up to the edge of the empty pool and shields his eyes. "I don't see her up there."

"So she's not in here."

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"Or she's lying in wait, Dib, and we need to scare her out. Charlotte?"

"...Lottie?" you echo. "Lottie, we're— please, i-it's Gil, we're— Lottie?" Wait, that's not her name. What was her name? Her Teddy's name? You can't remember. Shit!

Lucky comes in before you can wrack your brain for it. "We are here to help you, Ms. Fawkins. Miss Fawkins. If you reveal yourself now, we can avoid a great deal of—"

There's a peal of laughter— evil laughter. Like they have in the movies. And as Not Lottie appears above the dried-up waterfall, pointed teeth gleaming, this paradoxically makes you feel a little better. No way real people actually cackled back then, or back now. No goddamn way. That has to be Lottie trapped in there, seizing the moment for maximal nonsensical drama, and if she's alive enough to cackle she's alive enough for you to magic the shit out of her. Right? Right. "You idiots. You think I have a name? You think I bind myself to—"

"Who's that?" you say. A man has appeared next to her.

"That's— that's Maurice."

"Hi, folks," Maurice says. "We're kind of in the middle of something. Might be best if you left."

"Nay! The intruders will be our witnesses. Our last and only witnesses. Pay careful heed, fools, as we put an END to the perversions of this world. Savor this moment. Never again shalt you be subjected to the blazing sun— the screaming children— the candied foods—"

She's still going, but you don't need to hear any more— this isn't a real speech. In no century is this a real speech. This is total gullshit, clearly just Lottie free-associating, which is doubly encouraging: she has to be fighting hard to steal the mike from Not Lottie, even if her voice is going a little weird. You grin grimly. "Yeah, that's great! What are you you—"

"She's mocking us," Lucky hisses, not having gotten the memo. "We have no opportunity with her on the high ground. We must—"

"Witness now!" Not Lottie points straight upwards, and in that exact moment the teardrop window flares; brilliant red light floods the temple, framing her and accomplice Maurice as silhouettes. Through the last-gasp rays of sunset you see it happen, one shadow grabbing another and raising a knife and plunging it in over and over, and you can barely hear Lucky's aggrieved "Shit!" and Arledge's "She really did it" over the screaming ricocheting around the high ceiling. It lingers long after the stabbing stops, it feels like, long after the blood starts pouring down the cliff and threading down the canal and puddling in the empty pool, even after Not Lottie, sprayed red, kicks Maurice's spent body to the ground. She raises her hand to the ceiling. The screaming stops.

maybe tonight depending on when I get back
>Charlotte actually had a loving family

Nice showmanship, Lottie.
Back at it. Expect Part 2 in an hour or two or three.

>Charlotte actually had a loving family
I know-- it's horrible, isn't it? Just because they loved her doesn't mean they were healthy parental figures tho

>Nice showmanship, Lottie.
I mean, if she's good at *anything* it's that
In retrospect drinking the water may have been somewhat rash.

"One of the greatest imperfections of man," she says, "is its capacity for betrayal. It is a culmination of all the others. Of hatred. Of hypocrisy. Of unsettled loyalties. Of blind trust. Of irrational emotion. Of love. There would be no betrayal without the affliction of love, only death— a common imperfection to all species, and nothing to be specially lauded."

You might have spoken too soon.

"I have committed a betrayal. This is in my nature. You might say to me that I will have betrayed gods and man alike, and I say to you that is in my nature too. It is in yours as well. If we were meant to not betray we would not be capable of it. We would have been formed whole. The EIGHT deny this. They spin the lie of free will. But were we not deliberately created? Were not each of us formed from mud and seawater? Make no mistake: we were set on this disc to enact our gross imperfections upon others. We were made to lie and to steal and to rape and to kill and to betray. To provide entertainment. To sate Their sick amusement. You think me insane?"

It's a couple seconds before you realize she's waiting for a response, and a couple more before you realize nobody else is giving one. Arledge is physically turned away, his face cupped in his hands. Lucky has a look like he's taking mental notes. "Lottie!" you say. "Lottie, i-i-if you can hear me, you have to—!"

"I have heard this often. That there is no other possible reason for following the WYRM, who hates me, who hates this world we live in. And I say to you that you misunderstand. The WYRM does not hate. It pities. It sees the suffering and the squalor that the EIGHT condone and it sees the imperfections that perpetuate these things and it pities us, all of us, who live this way. It wants nothing more but to make a perfect world. A world with no suffering and no betrayal. I want this too. I want you to want it too, which is why you have been allowed to witness this. I pity you."

Improbably, blood is still gushing down the cliffside— more than before, even with the body gone. It flows steadily down the canal. It has half-filled the pool. Not Lottie reaches down and picks up a shoebox. "And because of this, you will be the first to be released of your suffering. I wish you well."

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She plucks something out of the shoebox and drops it off the cliff. You and Lucky snap out of your trances simultaneously, and Lucky reaches to shake Arledge, who whirls around, watches the thing fall, and immediately busies himself with something under his robes. You look frantically at Lucky, who is drawing his— goddammit, is that a gun? Why does he get a gun? What the hell? You get the impulse, though, because the thing has washed down the cliff, slid down the canal, and is currently rapidly absorbing blood. It's her worm. Because of course it's her worm. And of course it's swelling to the fucking ceiling. You are— you are going to have a talk. About worms. And murdering people. And drinking goddamn blood water.

But that is later. Right now there is a giant goddamn murder worm, and Lottie is extremely not in her right mind, and you've got to—

"Gil," Arledge says urgently. He's got a fat-needled syringe in his hand, filled brimming with green stuff. "I need you to spot me."

"What?" You glance at Lucky, who's edging up the stairs. "Now? Can it—"

"No. I can take care of the worm with this. It might not be a fair fight, since I got this before it was corrupted, but it'll help enormously."

"You got that..." You glance back at the still-growing worm. "I-is that— that's not blood. Say that's not—"

"It didn't miss it." He doesn't even smirk. "I'm a magician. I've done this before. All I need you to do is not panic while it happens, and to make sure Lucky doesn't shoot me. Both of these apply afterward, too. It's unlikely I'll be able to communicate, but please know that I remain aware of the situation at hand. I'll do my best to be helpful. The process... might be painful, but this is an emergency and I've been through worse. Do you understand?"

What he said? Yes. What the hell he's talking about? "What are you doing?"

"Magic." He grunts as he jabs the syringe into his neck, shakes it out, and stows it back in his robe. Then he pulls out a smaller, sharper one. The liquid inside is clear. "Bottoms up."

You grip the fish cleaver as he injects this into the same place, staggers, and falls to his knees. His eyes are bugging out. "Arledge?" you attempt, because he's already begun to ooze stuff from his face and neck— his hands, too. Probably everywhere. It's shiny and viscous and puts you in the mind of goo, if goo were pale pink. Goddammit! Fucking magic. Where were you? Murder worm, Lottie crazy, you've got to do something. You've got to. Or the rest of your life will be exactly like this, you just know it.

But what?

(Choices next.)
>[1] You don't know what the *hell* is going on with Arledge, but every time you come a little close your hands start going nuts. Suck it up and spend a little time magicing— you're going to have to ask Lottie for alternative words. Magicing him.
>[2] He can handle it, he said. Lottie's up the stairs. The worm, at this precise millisecond, is not yet murdering you. Bolt up there before it starts and confront her face-to-face. [Tricky roll.]
>[3] To be extremely clear, you have never *talked* to this worm. Nothing even close to words was exchanged. But there was a kind of... understanding... a fellow-invertebrates thing, you guess, and you know, what the hell, you're desperate. Attempt to open a line of communication. [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
Just a little, yeah. But that's Charlotte for you.
>[1] You don't know what the *hell* is going on with Arledge, but every time you come a little close your hands start going nuts. Suck it up and spend a little time magicing— you're going to have to ask Lottie for alternative words. Magicing him.
Gym Leader Gilbert challenges you to a battle!
I'd also like to note how fucking TRITE villain!Charlie motivation is. Shaking my head at her reading list.
>[1] You don't know what the *hell* is going on with Arledge, but every time you come a little close your hands start going nuts. Suck it up and spend a little time magicing— you're going to have to ask Lottie for alternative words. Magicing him.

He did ask us to spot him
Also if you want alternative words from Charlie you're out of luck, she always uses that one too
>>[1] You don't know what the *hell* is going on with Arledge, but every time you come a little close your hands start going nuts. Suck it up and spend a little time magicing— you're going to have to ask Lottie for alternative words. Magicing him.
>[3] To be extremely clear, you have never *talked* to this worm. Nothing even close to words was exchanged. But there was a kind of... understanding... a fellow-invertebrates thing, you guess, and you know, what the hell, you're desperate. Attempt to open a line of communication. [Roll.]

I mean. Charlotte is gonna be *pissed* if Annie gets hurt or god forbid killed.
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Listen... listen... compared to the usual villainous monologues in her novels, this is in the upper 50%. She's probably pretty proud of herself that she has a reasonable-ish-sounding motive and isn't just blowing up the world for power or the thrill of it or whatnot. She's having a tough go of it she needs the W
>arledge doens't dislike annie
How can anyone dislike our little worm.
Forgot Richard ;__;

Spending a lot of time as a practicing magician tends to inure you somewhat to large beasties

Rolled 18, 71, 78, 49, 47, 1, 60, 64, 16 = 404 (9d100)



No roll for you, but rolling for everybody else.

Arledge: 3d100 + 30 (+20 ???, +10 Consecrated) vs. DC 80 (+40 GODWORM, -10 Consecrated)
Lucky: 3d100 + 24 (+10 In His Wheelhouse, +7 Armed, +7 Armored) vs. DC 80 (+40 GODWORM, -10 Consecrated)
Annie: 3d100 + 25 (+40 GODWORM, -10 Still Growing, -5 Outnumbered) vs. DC 60 (+10 Consecrated)
Claudia doesn't need to roll this round.
>Arledge: 48, 101, 108 vs. DC 80 -- Success
>Lucky: 73, 71, 1 vs. DC 80 -- CRITICAL FAILURE
>Annie: 85, 89, 41 vs. DC 60 -- Success

Arledge wins the tiebreaker (+30 vs. +25). Writing.
>Spot him
>Arledge: 48, 101, 108 vs. DC 80 — Success
>Lucky: 73, 71, 1 vs. DC 80 — CRITICAL FAILURE
>Annie: 85, 89, 41 vs. DC 60 — Success

No, seriously, what can you do? You can't fight a building-sized worm. And even if you can snap Lottie out of this— a prospect that's looking more remote all the time— she's all the way in the back and up a big flight of stairs. Teddy's a cool guy, but he's just a... a guy. He's not even an athlete.

Meaning you're useless once again, isolated and useless, stuck standing here impotently while Lucky charges off to do his thing and Arledge... Arledge... uh... you don't know if he did his "magic" right, because it looks pretty bad over there. You can barely even see him under all the pink gak, which he's vomiting out as well as violently oozing. You don't think you could handle it if you were stuck with that, if that guy in the tent laid his hands on you and you started puking like a firehose— you thought ugly, unsubtle glowing was bad enough, but you guess there's all sorts of magic in the world. Apparently. ...Goddamn.

Speaking of ugly, unsubtle glowing, that's happening pretty badly. It wouldn't be so awful if you felt like you had any control over it, but with your head mostly clear of the peace-and-love shit you're kind of feeling used. The blessing wasn't your idea in the first place, it just got shoved on you, and when you go to get it out you're conveniently drugged to goddamn oblivion? And now it has a mind of its own? You're not stupid: you have no interest in becoming some goddamn stone-dead fish-man's instrument. Just look at Lottie for how well that shit works out—

Says you. Also says you, louder and panicky: you don't have any choice, do you? You have nothing else to offer here— nothing else to offer in general. You're a perpetual drag, a drain, a waste of time and space and effort; Lottie could throw her stupid goddamn belief down a bottomless pit and get better results. You're useless. Say it again. Useless. So if some extrinsic force wants to puppet you around and get actual shit done, and what it accomplishes is actually good and helpful— wouldn't you have to be a moron to fight that, all on the ground of, what, principles? You don't have principles.

(Says you. Also says you, or maybe the drugs: if anybody could fill a bottomless pit it'd be her. And she'd want you to use it, preferably in as public and embarrassing a manner as possible. She'd say it was cool.)

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And that makes it 2-1 by logical majority vote, so you lurch toward Arledge or at least the soggy cocoon of gak where Arledge used to be (seriously, what the fuck) and stretch your stupid glowy hands out and try to ignore the pressure and the throbbing and the roaring. Which kind-of succeeds until you actually make contact— way too much contact, with your hand cleaving right through the unstable gak. You're up to your shoulder in it before your fingertips brush the cocoon's hard nucleus— brush Arledge's body— discharging the blessing in a flash of electric blue. Your ears pop. Your head sings. You can taste it in your teeth, like copper, and all your muscles have gone slack at once: you half-sit half-collapse and look on blissfully dumb as the cocoon starts to expand. It's growing longer, mainly, fresh gak snaking out in front and building up and hardening and taking on color, until— this is worrying enough to penetrate your haze— you are very clearly looking at a worm. A second worm. Not as big as the first worm, or as red, but still the height of a man and long as— as— a lot of men. Too many men.

"What the fuck," you mumble, and stagger to your feet. "What the..."

The second worm is draped across most of the floorspace that the first worm wasn't, the situation improving only slightly when it sways into the air. You don't want it to be Arledge. You don't want to add "people turning into worms" to your ever-expanding list of things that are possible. "Arledge?" you say.

Nothing. It doesn't even look at you. It's unlikely I'll be able to communicate, but please know that I remain aware of the situation at hand... Shit. And double-shit, because you're realizing that your outburst has broken a powerful silence: that's Not Lottie up there, mouth hanging a little open, that's Worm #1, bereft of orders and deadly still, and that's Lucky, half-up the stairs, somehow non-astonished. He looks mainly resigned. "Typical," he says—

Then Not Lottie cackles and flings her arm around and Worm #1 follows, shooting past Worm #2 (Worm Arledge???) and arcing toward the stairs and snapping up— it snaps up Lucky. Just like that. He doesn't even get a chance to yell, it just shoots its jaws out and swallows him whole and the stairs are empty and he's gone.

Motherfucker! Holy shit! It just ate— it just ate Lucky, just like— fuck! It's not like you liked the guy, but— that was a real guy! Who was supposed to know what he was doing! And Lottie just— she just— she murdered him! She just— what the fuck are you supposed to do with that? Where do you go from here? Do you book it? Essentially every fiber of your body is quivering in anticipation of sprinting away and never looking back, of maybe taking Teddy's boat and its awesome engine and speeding into the dusk and, you dunno, learning how to fish on some island somewhere, and the sole thing rooting you in place is the knowledge that there is no boat and no dusk and no island. There is nowhere to go. For fuck's sake, you don't even have a body to bail out into— you have one door out, and that one door out is guarded by a building-sized worm that just ate a real guy.

It's not like you have any more rarified instincts, though. There's no big heroic will to fight lurking in the wings. It's just the sprinting, which is a stupid plan, so you're just standing there. Which is stupider. Which will get you eaten. But a significant part of you has sort of accepted that you are going to get eaten, and you're even a little spiteful-glad about it, because maybe when Lottie wakes up she'll learn a substantial lesson about thinking before she—

Worm #2 body-slams Worm #1.

You watch it happen like you're out of your own body. Maybe you are, a little bit: you've been spiraling toward the ceiling in sheer (and separate) beetly instinct. But yes. Worm #2 (...Arledge...) body-slams Worm #1. Worm #1 bangs against the wall of the temple, snapping three carved pillars in half. Not Lottie scowls and points and it rises from the rubble, wrapping itself around Worm #2 as if to throttle him, but Worm #2 manages to slide down and pincer its midsection in his jaws. He twists, pile-driving Worm #1 to the ground.

Not Lottie is scowling harder, and you realize abruptly that her attention is entirely on the worm-on-worm fight. She's either forgotten about you or considers you good as eaten already. Which, granted, is how you felt until twenty seconds ago— but you're not, are you? You're not. The sprinting jitters are lifting. Take a deep breath, Gil. You don't want to die. Of course you don't fucking want to die. And you don't want Lottie to learn a lesson from it— what a nasty, shitty thing to think. She wants you to live more than anybody else does. For some reason. For whatever reason. You don't care about the reason. You want her to live, too, and you're the only one capable of making that possible.

She stands above the waterfall of blood. There are two worms, the stairs, and a lot of debris in the way.

(nvm, choices next)
>[1] Hold it. You can— you can *fly.* You are flying. You're not that fast or that agile, but if you can pry yourself out of Teddy you can't see anything stopping you from getting up there. Trouble is, you won't have a face or hands or anything, so trying to get Not Lottie to listen to you could be tricky. But it's reliable.
>[2] No, you need your actual body. Yell at Worm Arledge to make a bridge for you, so you can avoid the debris and the stairs and scramble straight up. You'll just, uh, have to scramble pretty well. [Roll.]
>[3] Screw that: yell at Worm Arledge to swing at Not Lottie and knock her off the cliff, so you don't have to get up there in the first place. She might break an arm or something, but that's the least of your concerns right now. [Arledge will do an additional roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] Hold it. You can— you can *fly.* You are flying. You're not that fast or that agile, but if you can pry yourself out of Teddy you can't see anything stopping you from getting up there. Trouble is, you won't have a face or hands or anything, so trying to get Not Lottie to listen to you could be tricky. But it's reliable.
Why talk when we can god-zap?
I mean. This seems roight proppa use of our powers.
>>[1] Hold it. You can— you can *fly.* You are flying. You're not that fast or that agile, but if you can pry yourself out of Teddy you can't see anything stopping you from getting up there. Trouble is, you won't have a face or hands or anything, so trying to get Not Lottie to listen to you could be tricky. But it's reliable.
>[1] Hold it. You can— you can *fly.* You are flying. You're not that fast or that agile, but if you can pry yourself out of Teddy you can't see anything stopping you from getting up there. Trouble is, you won't have a face or hands or anything, so trying to get Not Lottie to listen to you could be tricky. But it's reliable.

Lucky got swallowed whole, he's fine as long as we cut him out or get him vomited up pretty soon.
Rolled 30, 7, 92, 77, 96, 8, 64, 49, 2, 4, 66, 58, 26, 65, 29 = 673 (15d100)

Called. There's basically nothing she can do to stop a bunch of beetles from landing on her, either, so you can zap her without a roll.

Rolling for everybody else.

Arledge: 3 1d100s + 30 (+20 WORM, +10 Consecrated) vs. DC 80 (+40 GODWORM, -10 Consecrated)
Annie: 3 1d100s + 35 (+40 GODWORM, -5 Pinned) vs. DC 80 (+20 WORM, +10 Consecrated)
Teddy: 3 1d100s + 10 (+10 Unnoticed) vs. DC 40 (-10 Near The Door)
???: 3 2d100s vs. DC 75 (+25 ???), take higher result

>Arledge: 60, 37, 122 vs. DC 80 -- Mitigated Success
>Annie: 112, 127, 43 vs. DC 80 -- Success
>Teddy: 74, 59, 12 vs. DC 40 -- Success
>???: 4, 66, 58 vs. DC 75 -- Failure / 26, 65, 29 vs. DC 75 -- Failure

RIP Lucky
>Oh right

Alright, here we go. Consider your options. You could hurdle the rubble and climb up the usual way: slow, tiring, liable to get you eaten. You could whistle for Arledge to form a bridge for you: weird, obvious, also liable to get you eaten. You could whistle for him to knock Not Lottie down to ground level, except what if she— she breaks her neck, or something? Then where would you be? You could fly up...

Holy shit, you're a moron. You could fly up. Like how you've been flying for six months now. Like how you're flying right now. How did you not immediately jump to this? You guess in your mind there's flying and there's flying, like what you have is too clumsy and mundane to really count, but you don't have the time to worry about semantics. Your problem here is Teddy. Not that he's done anything wrong personally, but his body's like a stack of sandbags: with him around, you can barely get halfway to the ceiling, much less all the way across the temple. So you need to get closer and fly the rest of the way. Easy. If you don't get eaten. Or alternately you—

"Teddy," you mumble, "can you hear me? Teddy? I-I-I need you to get the hell out of here. I-I'm going to give you the body, and you're going to— to book it. Don't look back. Take the boat and have a good life—"

It's impossible to tell if he's listening: there's just that steady presence back there, same as always. Shit. Are you going to miss him? Are you getting emotional over the prospect of never seeing an imaginary dead guy again? "—and— and thanks for being cool, I guess—" You're wrapping this up as quick as possible before you feel anything else. "—and, uh, slam the door when you go— thanks. Bye."

When you're half-out of the body already, it's even easier to relinquish control. You are blown quietly into bits; air rushes through you; your vision doubles and trebles and quadringentiuples, revealing the warring bodies behind you (Worm #1 has regained the upper hand, bashing Worm #2 into the stairs again and again) and the busted floor and the ceiling raining splinters. Back in the early days, this would've been incomprehensible, mind-destroying, a gushing spigot of blurry screaming wrong-colored noise... but you've conquered it now, and can easily spot Teddy staring down at hands. And up at you (Worm #2 has managed to loop himself around #1, lending him some purchase, but he's still getting bashed)— he's not booking it, the goddamned moron, he's just looking. He raises his arm, still maintaining eye(s) contact, and beats himself on the chest twice. He points with two fingers at you.

And then he sprints out of the temple. You're dragged along behind him until the doors of the temple slam shut, snapping the tether and sending you ricocheting backward. You tumble through the air toward the worms, righting yourself in time to avoid a collision— not that it'd hurt, but for all you know Worm #1 is poisonous. It looks sort of poisonous, even with beetle eyes dulling its brilliant red to brownish. Whatever. You zip under an arching worm body and take a hairpin turn to dodge the wall, skidding up and over the stairs and directly into the face of a nonplussed Not Lottie. Even demons(?) don't seem to know what to do with you, you guess, but you'll take the moment of confusion: you fling yourself onto her, hooking legs into hair and skin and clothing. She screams inhumanly, which hurts your feelings, but you try and tell yourself it's not Lottie. Lottie is cool with the beetle thing. And when you do the magic thing, she'll have plenty of time to apologize...

...Huh. It's not coming so easily like this. You clump tighter together, prompting another scream and a few fruitless smacks, and try and focus. It's in you, isn't it? You didn't just let Teddy run off with it? It has to be in you, because you were beetles when the fishman did it in the first place. There are bits of blessing like grains of sand lodged under every one of your wingcases, you know it. (You're pretending you know it.) So focus, goddammit! Focus! You—

You realize what was taking you so long, after it happens: it's not actually inside you. Not really. The blue light zigzags exclusively in the space between your bodies, building up speed and charge before skewering... skewering... you're not feeling anything. No rush. No release. Worm #1 is still thrashing. Part of the west wall has collapsed, and much of the rest looks ready to go. And Not Lottie isn't glowing or remorseful-looking: actually, as you flit sheepishly out of her clawing reach, she looks a little smug. She strokes the black snake around her neck. "Trained insects? How frivolous. A waste of time that only proves the corruption of the modern day."


"Just think of it. The great patrons of man, squandering their precious essences on a novelty. A wind-up toy. While their civilizations crumble. Would you like to see real power, toy?"

"No," you say automatically. "No, I-I-I'm, uh— I'm— no need to—"

"Most of it's in that thing." Worm #1. "But there's plenty locked in me. For a rainy day. They don't want you to have any power, did you know that?" She's drawing her knife. It's still bloodsoaked. You briefly consider trying to knock it away, but you're not nearly strong enough. "None at all. Even their stupid middlemen get the scraps. They want you weak, see? Dumb? Obedient? They don't want you to do this."

She runs her mouth along the edge of the blade and grins. Her fangs are white. Her lips are stained brownish. Something swells in her— something even you can feel, even from your small distance. You skitter backward more, but not far or fast enough: she lunges after you, scooping up a body in her fist. "Or this," she says, and you yearn for the days of incomprehensible visual noise: you have no eyelids and no choice but to watch her open her mouth, drop you inside, and chew. You ache sharply, like somebody drove a pencil into your palm. You crunch. She swallows.

You are trying very badly to stay calm. (You have also flitted up to the ceiling, well out of any reach.) You don't want to return to the fresh hell of three minutes ago. You don't want to blame Lottie. You don't want to want to die. But she just ate you. She ate you. And she shrugged off the magic stuff— the only thing you have to offer— like it was nothing at all. Worm #1 still has the upper hand. Lucky is still dead. The temple is falling apart.

But she has a black snake around her neck, an evil pointy skinny thing with dead yellow eyes, and as it flicks its tongue at you implacably you think: Richard. And you think of just the other day, when you were shot and blown to pieces, and for no reason for no compensation and at great personal risk (you know this; you've been in your own head plenty) she fixed you. And her reward was your paranoia and your skepticism and Richard flying into a savage rage— a rage, when seconds earlier he'd been worried pale about her. And what were you doing to step in and help the girl who just saved your neck? (Again?) You were sitting there. Impotently.

You useless piece of shit, Gil. Do something now.

>[1] Why is the snake alive? She coughed it up dead as a doornail. Is it a sign that Richard's still kicking? You're fully convinced that guy deserves to die, but... he *knows* Lottie. And he gets in her head, and does things, and you *need* that right now. Get him... out here, you guess. [Roll.]
>[2] Okay, so your magic kind of bounced off. But you were looking at her eat you, and— stay with you— you were thinking that if you got inside her, *alive,* it might have more of an impact. Maybe you can wipe out the murder stuff at the source? You are trying very hard not to read into this plan at all. [Roll.]
>[3] Call her bluff. Bait her into releasing all her "power." You have zero clue what that's gonna do— probably nothing good— but once it's gone it's *gone,* right? She'll be rid of it. And you can magic her easy from there. [Roll.]
>[4] Write-in.
>[2] Okay, so your magic kind of bounced off. But you were looking at her eat you, and— stay with you— you were thinking that if you got inside her, *alive,* it might have more of an impact. Maybe you can wipe out the murder stuff at the source? You are trying very hard not to read into this plan at all. [Roll.]
I hope this doesn't awaken anything in Gil.
>[2] Okay, so your magic kind of bounced off. But you were looking at her eat you, and— stay with you— you were thinking that if you got inside her, *alive,* it might have more of an impact. Maybe you can wipe out the murder stuff at the source? You are trying very hard not to read into this plan at all. [Roll.]
how is the vore vote winning
Because fuck Richard and releasing all the power is a Charlotte plan not a Gil plan.
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Called early for [2] so I don't have any delay writing later. I need rolls.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 5 (+10 Consecrated, -15 Ew Ew What The Shit) vs. DC 40 (-10 Apparently Very Willing To Eat Beetles??) to get in there safely!

Dice for everybody else:
Arledge: 3 1d100s + 15 (+20 WORM, +10 Consecrated, -15 Battered) vs. DC 80 (+40 GODWORM, -10 Consecrated)
Annie: 3 1d100s + 35 (+40 GODWORM, -5 Constricted) vs. DC 80 (+20 WORM, +10 Consecrated)
???: 3 2d100s - 10 (-10 ???) vs. DC 75 (+25 ???), take highest result


It is the will of the people. I'm not planning on leaning hard into the vore angle don't worry

Rolled 60, 98, 28, 45, 14, 46, 55, 16, 95, 56, 34, 39 = 586 (12d100)

>keep forgetting to actually roll
Rolled 90 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

Rolled 8 (1d100)

Rolled 16 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

>85, 3, 11 vs. DC 40 -- Mitigated Success
Could be worse. Writing at the usual time.

>Arledge: 75, 113, 43 vs. DC 80 -- Mitigated Success
>Annie: 80, 49, 81 vs. DC 80 -- Success
>???: 45, 6, 85 vs. DC 75 -- Mitigated Success
damn annie never misses
Best girl for a reason.
>Eat me
>85, 3, 11 vs. DC 40 — Mitigated Success
>Arledge: 75, 113, 43 vs. DC 80 — Mitigated Success
>Annie: 80, 49, 81 vs. DC 80 — Success
>???: 45, 6, 85 vs. DC 75 — Mitigated Success

Behind you, Worm #1 has its jaws clamped around Worm #2's "neck" and is shaking him like a ragdoll. In front of you, Not Lottie is plucking one of your legs out of her teeth. Now that the initial shock's worn off, you're left wondering: why? She didn't need to intimidate you any more than she already has. Does consuming you increase her "power"? But you have no blood, you're pretty sure— that's what Richard said, and he seemed like an authority on the whole thing. Maybe the stuff in her just likes the taste of beetles. That's logical. Maybe you're actually delicious. Maybe you'll have to ask Lottie about that, ha ha ha— huh. Wait.

Normally your plans come to you in pieces. Why this was an exception, you'll probably never know— you're probably so crazed and desperate the whole "let's think about this" thing short-circuited, but a small part of you wonders if it wasn't divine intervention. If it's divine intervention, it's not your fault if it goes significantly wrong, see? You're just following fishman orders.

You're going to go with that, because otherwise you're going to start picking at the plan's obvious flaws, and you're going to convince yourself out of it. And then you'll have no plan. So follow the steps, Gil, you're good at that, you like following instructions:

1) Convince Not Lottie to open her mouth. And hold it open, preferably. Easier said than done, but you're not finished...

1A) Bait her into thinking you've surrendered. Appeal to her swollen ego. (Of course she has a swollen ego. She's grandstanding. Also, it's Lottie.) "Well, shit," you say. "You... you really got me. You're too powerful. I-I-I guess I'm doomed. Nothing I can do now. I-I-I-I have no choice but to die, really, and, um, um, since you feel so... merciful, I-I-I was thinking maybe you could, uh— you could do the job—"

2) Enter mouth. You're surprised you got this far, since that was head-and-shoulders the worst lie you've ever told in your life, but you have the sense the wording didn't matter. It's going to take any opportunity to kill you, is what Lottie said, no matter how dumb. It hates you. So it might be that. Or it might be her in there letting you in. Does it matter? Her lips pull back, her jaw swings way too wide, and you're driven again to flee. Follow Step 2. Follow Step 2. You extend yourself toward her, hesitate— you piece of shit!— and wrench maybe a third of yourself toward her. It's a dripping, steaming cave mouth up close. You are going to die. Follow Step 2. You ram yourself in without further thought.

3) Don't get bitten. Also easier said than done: her teeth are as long as you are and shaped to skewer through any exoskeleton. You have to go single-file, essentially, which is only giving you longer to consider the fact that you are going into her mouth, which is— you can never speak of this, right? This is going up there with the mind thing as forbidden topics. Hopefully she'll never bring it up either, but you don't know if she's capable of shame. Goddammit. Well, you're in this now, and you—

She snaps her mouth shut. 98% of you sees this from the outside, and that's the part that starts frantically begging and pleading and wheedling her to reconsider, to please (please please please) let the rest of you down her throat, not because you want to be there but because you already are. Barely any of you, to be clear. A dozen beetles, or ten, or eight. Nobody would ever miss them.

You don't even miss them. You don't feel the difference. It's just that you know full well what happens when you get twelve or ten or eight beetles stuck somewhere you can't access: they start thinking, just like you. Exactly like you. There's another Gil down there.


It doesn't take a genius to realize what the plunge into total darkness means, especially when you can't see outside any longer. You should've expected this to happen, and you kind of did, but you were assuming she'd quit after you jammed 30 or 40 down her throat— not a quarter of that. Not you. How much magic shit can you have, all goddamn eight of you, collectively the size of a teacup? You're going to tickle her. And then you are going to die, something that really should've been emblazoned smack on the top of the plan: SUICIDE MISSION. FOR DUMMIES. It will be pointless and undignified and painful and nobody at all will miss you, not even the asshole outside. Hell, you're not sure you'll miss you: at this size you don't feel human, not even a little. See, 400-ish beetles is a mass, a swarm, an amorphous thing-in-itself. You can pretend, being 400-ish beetles. You can imagine.

Eight beetles is eight beetles, and you are eight beetles inside a... throat. You're assuming. You can't see for shit, and you're not capable of much physical sensation, only vague flashes of soft and wet. And even that's proving fleeting— a little farther ahead and it's not soft or wet or anything at all. It's empty. A cavity? Maybe this'd be a good place to do it, expend your god payload and make your party sparks and drift on down to die. At least everything outside won't be your problem. You float onward aimlessly, expecting nothing.

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You get BROWN, or more accurately, count 'em, BROWN BROWN BROWN BROWN BROWN BROWN BROWN BROWN: all your receptors pinging off, frantically, at once. You are surrounded by BROWN. The cavity is filled up with BROWN. Is there light in the cavity? No, of course not. But there's definitely unfathomable levels of BROWN.

Which is great and all. You're a big fan of brown! You're just a little skeptical of the readings. The BROWNness, you're noting, isn't a nice woody hue: its yellowgreeny tinge reminds you of vomit. It also reminds you of the shade of Not Lottie's lips. And of the blood on her knife. And of Worm #1, now that you think about it. Every one of them was pukey brown, or so you've been led to believe.

Once upon a time, though, you saw lipstick and blood and giant worms through different eyes. Whittled down to size, you can still hold that impossible color in your memory. Savor it. Cherish it.

You are surrounded by REDNESS. You are smack-dab in the middle of an enormous open space— 'cavity' no longer seems right for it. Chamber? You're smack-dab in the middle of a chamber you'd call big if you were fifty times your size: it's effectively infinite to you, and more-or-less unparsable. Your eyes are too small, and too weak, and you have too few: it is RED, they say, RED, and that is all.

And, above all else, this pisses you off. You dying? Fine. You dying in a nasty, embarrassing way? Fine. You don't give a shit. You dying in a confusing way? No. No. You don't know what the hell you made a wrong turn into, but it's too big to fit into Not Lottie's actual body, and this whole seeing-without-seeing business reeks of chicanery. This chamber isn't real. And, more importantly, it isn't even pretending to be.

Meaning you don't have to pretend, either. You don't feel human? Good: that removes your main reservation. You're not real. You're not even beetles, not actually— as Richard tried to tell you, over and over, you're a concept. A construct. You're made of thoughtstuff. The only thing holding you back is you, blah blah blah; you didn't want to hear it. You told him to stuff it up his ass, basically. But that was back when nothing was going horribly wrong, and you were a normal size, and you hadn't even considered shoving yourself down throats. When magic didn't exist. When you weren't bewildered and exhausted and, mainly, pissed off.

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So if it means he wins? Whatever. You hope he's dry-chuckling in his goddamn grave, and you hope you and Lottie can visit afterwards to piss on it. You're not real. You're not human. And you don't need eyes to see.

And you don't. Just like that. You can see the whole chamber, blindingly RED, in all its glory. It's eerily organic-looking, is your first impression: the chamber is less a room and more an opening in some great clotted, shifting mass. The "walls," such as they are, are slick and globulous. Lumpen orbs dangle from it; feathery fronds sway from it; veiny things jut in and out from it. Parts of it look scaly. Parts of it look rocky. Everything's all nearly the exact same blood-red, with only subtle gradation lighter or darker.

Zooming out, you see a pattern in all the mess: everything in here dangles or sways or juts or leans to its left and slightly, very slightly, upward. Looking at any one globule, you wouldn't notice a thing. Looking at all of them— and you can look in eight directions at once, or as many as you please— it becomes obvious that the "walls" are set in the shape of a tight spiral. The spiral's center, then, would be on the apex of the "ceiling."

It'd take hours to fly there, assuming you never tired. It doesn't matter. You notice the apex and want to be there and are there abruptly, hovering outside a big translucent pustule. It's difficult to see through the reddish liquid inside, but—

No it's not. Fuck you. You can see perfectly through the reddish liquid, all the way to the figure at its center: Lottie, motionless, blankly staring. She hangs above the spiraled abyss.

What was step 4) again?

>[1] Write-in? (Optional*. Roll possible/probable.)
*"too late to conceive of options" placeholder, check back later for real ones
>Beetles eat all sorts of shit, right? GNAW HER OUT
Relying on beatle sense is silly.

Use our god sense to find her god stuff and hopefully we can tell which part is the sick part.

Outside Gil can maybe try something else while inside Gil is doing this? Maybe he can try waking Richard? Somehow get Lottie to argue with herself?

This has to be the best worst idea-- SUPPORT!
>pop the pustule, but on the side so only the liquid falls into the abyss and not Lottie
>>5510888 (nice trips)
Thanks for the input and your patience. Here's the actual options: I'll take existing votes as votes for [A1] or [A3] unless they're changed.

>[A1] You have mandibles, and the pustule doesn't look that thick. It wouldn't be difficult at all to bite a tiny hole through it and drain the liquid out. You're a little worried about getting the red stuff on (or in) you, though, and you're not sure if the chamber will react to you "attacking" it.
>[A2] You want to get Lottie out of there, but you don't want her to fall, or to accidentally disrupt something you shouldn't. Take a look and see if there's any crevices or pores nearby that you can jam yourself through-- maybe you can get her out the opposite way? Or maybe you'll get lost and die.
>[A3] Leave the pustule for right now: you need to find the root of this murder stuff. Trigger the blessing (it doesn't seem to happen on its own while you're beetles) and see where in here needs maximum zapping. Hopefully the chamber won't mind.
>[A4] Write-in.

>[B1] Outside Gil attempts to distract Not Lottie / disrupt her worm control. [He'll roll.]
>[B2] Outside Gil attempts to coax out Richard. [He'll roll.]
>[B3] Outside Gil just tries really really hard not to get eaten.
>[B4] Write-in.

>Outside Gil can maybe try something else while inside Gil is doing this?
Yeah, absolutely: he's just as autonomous as "you" are. His default action is going to be attempting to distract Not Lottie, but if you'd like him to do something different I'll throw it up to a vote-- see above.
>A1, B1
yes, that was the wording that I was looking for that eluded me, drain. Drain the pustule. Safely.

also outside Gil should help since Lucky was eaten and Arledge is getting bodied.
>[A1] You have mandibles, and the pustule doesn't look that thick. It wouldn't be difficult at all to bite a tiny hole through it and drain the liquid out. You're a little worried about getting the red stuff on (or in) you, though, and you're not sure if the chamber will react to you "attacking" it.
>[B1] Outside Gil attempts to distract Not Lottie / disrupt her worm control. [He'll roll.]
A3, B2
>>[A1] You have mandibles, and the pustule doesn't look that thick. It wouldn't be difficult at all to bite a tiny hole through it and drain the liquid out. You're a little worried about getting the red stuff on (or in) you, though, and you're not sure if the chamber will react to you "attacking" it.
>[B1] Outside Gil attempts to distract Not Lottie / disrupt her worm control. [He'll roll.]
Rolled 26, 55, 26, 70, 29, 28, 83, 92, 87, 58, 100, 47 = 701 (12d100)

>A1, B1

>A3, B2

Called. Doing rolls.

Outside Gil: 3 1d100s + 18 (+15 Annoying Swarm, +10 Consecrated, -7 Desperate) vs. DC 65 (+15 Concentrated Smugness, +0 No Real Recourse)
Arledge: 3 1d100s + 20 (+20 WORM, +10 Consecrated, -20 Pincered) vs. DC 80 (+40 GODWORM, -10 Consecrated)
Annie: 3 1d100s + 35 (+40 GODWORM, -5 Constricted) vs. DC 80 (+20 WORM, +10 Consecrated)
???: 3 1d100s + 15 (+15 ???, -10 ???) vs. DC 70 (+20 ???)

Additional modifiers may be applied to some rolls depending on the outcome of other rolls.
>>5511552 (You)
>Outside Gil: 44, 73, 44 vs. DC 65 -- Mitigated Success
>Arledge: 90, 49, 48 vs. DC 75 (-5 Distracted) -- Mitigated Success
>???: 73, 100, 62 vs. DC 70 -- CRITICAL SUCCESS
>Annie: 113, 122, 118 (-5 Distracted) vs. DC 80 -- Nat 100'd

Objectively the funniest possible outcome. Thanks dice gods. You won't see the result for another update or two, though.

Damn Annie.

I remember when people were against getting her trauma of how must be suppressed. and now she is clearly the best limbless fren. What a good girl, helping out mommy like she is. A ride or die worm for real ong.
Can Gil remember anything about manse mechanics to apply here?
I enjoy both of your sentiments, but just to clarify: her Enhanced Success is superseded by the effects of ???'s Critical Success. She might be bestest girl, but that's not going to stop Lucky from fucking dunking on her.

He's basically abusing manse mechanics (and his intrinsic unrealness) already.
hell yeah lucky! cut your way out!
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>Bite me!
>Outside Gil: 44, 73, 44 vs. DC 65 -- Mitigated Success
>Arledge: 90, 49, 48 vs. DC 75 (-5 Distracted) -- Mitigated Success
>???: 73, 100, 62 vs. DC 70 -- CRITICAL SUCCESS
>Annie: 118, 127, 123 vs. DC 80 -- Nat 100'd

You watch her for what feels like an eternity. To— to make sure she's okay. You guess she looks okay, or— or more than okay, really. Inside the pustule, her skin is paper white; her lips are rosy; her clothing is immaculate. Her gleaming curls float softly around her. She could be a statue, or something. In marble. In ivory.

And that's messed up, isn't it? Statues don't set things on fire or romance giant worms or take you shopping or sledgehammer walls or use dumb made-up words like "heretofore" or "shalt." Statues can't be infuriating or baffling or odds-defying or awe-inspiring (at least not any you've seen). Statues don't have retainers. Or friends.

Also, notably, statues aren't alive. You land on the surface of the pustule and bite into it. The chamber rumbles. You ignore that and bite again. Below you, the fronds thrash. You ignore that. Lottie's here. You bite again. And so on until the air is sludgy and dark, the chamber is twisting, and you've gnawed a ragged pinprick in the side of the pustule.

A thin stream of red liquid flows from it, and you take off to examine your handiwork proudly. Soon enough the whole pustule will be drained, Lottie will wake up, and this nightmare can come to an end. Er, hopefully pretty soon. The pustule is distending a little bit. Maybe you should bite another couple holes? Like a colander? Maybe you should get out of the way. Yeah. You dart sidew—

The pustule bursts, releasing a thundering cascade of red liquid: you narrowly dodge the center of it, but you're still spent spinning. You nearly bang against the wall, narrowly avoiding a net of grasping— hold on, the wall? The chamber must've shrunk drastically while you were biting, which doesn't make you feel— goddammit! Lottie! Shit! You're with Lottie, Lottie's safe, you've found Lottie, you're with— and you're with her, under the churning red water. Her eyes are darting wildly, but her body's limp: she's letting herself sink, or doesn't have the strength to do otherwise. You're in front of her— you're in front of her face. Her gaze fixates on you. Her brow furrows. You can feel her recognition spasm through you, slow at first, then—

That was the other thing Richard told you, after you told him to shove various objects up his ass enough times. That you made a mistake, rooming in Charlotte's head. That she'd take you and she'd mold you into whatever she wanted. Her pet. Her slave. That you were powerless to resist, being hollow inside. That it'd probably already started.

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You think you told him to shove a gator wrench up his ass, that go-around. (You didn't have the guts to ask if he was speaking from experience.) But it stuck and it stung and even now you're hard-pressed to find evidence against it. It's been less than a week? Something like that. Less than a week, and you're already struggling to recognize yourself. You're on a suicide mission. For a woman you still— still!— hardly know.

But also, Richard can go fuck himself. In the ass. With an alligator wrench. His slimy condescending horseshit was blatantly designed to screw with your head, and even if it's factually true that doesn't make it actually true, does it? Maybe it's not such a horrible thing to be molded, if the sculpter is skillful and the raw material is really shit. Uncertain, yes. Terrifying, sure. But you trust Lottie. You don't think she means you any harm.

So under her bleary, befuddled gaze your beetles warp and pop into you. You, with arms and legs and a chest and neck and everything else welded securely together. You, with a mouth and nose full of water. You, blue like a star. You, made of solid clay, sinking through the water like a— a brick of solid clay. Shit! You can swim easily you can swim easily back up to catch Lottie, to cradle her onto your shoulder, to fight your heavy way upward. Except you can carry Lottie easily and she melts into nothing, only your arm wrapped around her reassuring you she's still there, but progress is slow and you can swim quickly are blitzing out of there, surrounded by red froth— you don't fully understand what for, or where you're going, but you don't plan on staying in murder water any longer than necessary. You scissor-kick one last time and breach the surface, spot land—

You're both there and you are. You're lying stretched across crystal-white sand. Lottie is nearby, dripping wet, hair strewn all over her face. She's breathing shallowly, but not otherwise moving. You sit up gradually. "...Lottie?"

She makes a noise.

"Lottie... um, hang on." You walk stiffly over to her side and crouch down, hesitating. (You pussy.) You brush a few strands of hair out of her eyes. "Those were, um, blocking your—"

"...Gil..." She tries to lift her head, but plonks it back down. "...Gil... you..."

"I-I-I-I didn't do anything!" you say heatedly. "I-I-I didn't— we're just square now— not even square, I-I just owe you one now, not two, but— and we're not even safe yet! This is still some stupid mind beach, or something, and—"

With a massive effort, she levers up her whole upper body and pincers her arms around your ribcage. It feels the way a rat-trap might. "Ow," you say, which does nothing to loosen her. Just the opposite. You're contemplating taking back the 'meaning harm' thing when she puts her chin on your shoulder and you realize— oh. Oh shit.

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Yeah, yeah, you goddamn hypocrite, you hugged her while she was blubbering, but listen— that was whacked-out New Gil. You couldn't tell up from down, much less appropriate things to do to crying girls your age. Here you're of sound mind and (illusory) body, so you know full well this is bad, really bad— "Lottie?" you hiss. "Are you— aren't I-I-I— unmarried?"

She doesn't respond. She just hugs you. Where are your hands supposed to go? Are you supposed to be noticing that her jugs are pressed right up against your chest? Probably not, but how could you miss it? There's still time to kill yourself. This is exactly what you were afraid of, exactly—

Lottie lets go. She sits back. "...Where is this?"

"Uh," you say. "Your... mind...? I was down your throat, but I-I-I think I made a wrong—"

"...Down my...?"

"Nothing. Uh, lemme—" You swivel around and stare out at where you came from: a vast red ocean. There's no sky and no horizon, just an eye, yellow and unfathomably massive. It extends further than you can see in any direction.

It's familiar. "Wait," you say. "This is— this is your dream. You were dreaming, and I-I-I-I made a wrong turn—"

"You make a lot of wrong turns..."

"...I-I-I guess I do? I made a turn and I ended up here. With the eye, and the—" You're gesturing too much. "I-I-I guess this is the wrong-turn place? What is up with the eye?"

She shrugs.

Great. "Okay. Okay. We came from the ocean... um, don't go back in there, i-it's filled with... um..." You grasp for a descriptor. "...red stuff?"

Lottie's eyes widen. You stand, stepping down to the shoreline and waving your hand above the lapping waves: it glows every time it comes close. "See? We better get out of here— I-I-I think I kind of pissed it off—"

"...It's always like that." She folds her hands. "But yeah, I... yeah."

"I-I-It's your dream, isn't it? Or at least your mind? So you should be able to just—" You stop yourself from snapping your fingers, just in case something happens. "Well, yeah. Um, and things aren't going so great, so i-i-if you want to be snappy about it... ha-ha..."

You're saying all this, and it's all making sense. She's alive. She's lucid. You're alive and lucid, somehow, after a full-contact dip in murder juice— divine intervention again? There's no reason to press your luck. Get out of here, and you're home free.

Except something's missing. This wasn't the plan. Step 4) was to rescue Lottie. Step 4A) was to use the blessing— to expend it, to explode it out of you. All to (hopefully) vaporize the gunk in her. How have you managed to skip that? Lottie's here. Lottie's safe. But the stuff in her is, at best, temporarily distracted.

You're eight beetles. You only look like a guy. SUICIDE MISSION, the plan should've read.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Escape with Lottie.
>[2] Throw yourself back into the ocean. [This will wipe out the red stuff, at least until you commit more ritual murders. It will kill Inside Gil. Outside Gil will be unaffected.]
I can't vote on this. It's too hard.
>>[1] Escape with Lottie.
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Writing. This will be the second-to-last update of the thread.

No worries. It's more of a character vote than anything else
I like the linework and shading on the folds-- wholesome work!
Thanks, anon! I'm finally at a place with my art where I feel more comfortable posting it regularly, though there's obviously always room for improvement. I'm glad you guys seem to be liking it.

Objectively speaking, there's no real value in your continued existence. You're not a person. You're not even the idea of a person, honestly. You're a copy, a cupful of beetles with delusions of grandeur, and outside here lies some asshole identical to the letter to you. He doesn't need you. He already has your thoughts and your face and your past all locked up inside him, perfectly safe. Gil Wallace will survive. The future will happen to him. He won't even notice anything missing— hell, you're sure he's already forgotten— and you're not convinced he won't just grow a couple bodies back once you stumble out of here. (You're in Teddy's beetles, after all, not yours.) So actually nothing at all might be missing.

Meaning you're a redundancy. You lack any inherent worth. You were made to exist for one reason, to follow a plan to the last step, and to quit early doesn't mean that you've failed but that you are a failure. Objectively speaking. And maybe that hurts to hear, makes your chest go all leaden and your hands ball at your sides, but that just makes it truer. The facts hurt, always. The faster you accept it, the faster you can do something in the world for a—


Lottie is staring up at you. Water trickles down her cheeks. "Huh?" you say. "What?"

"Um, nothing, you just— you stopped talking? And you started looking... sad...?"

"I-I-I-I'm not— sad?" You're not sad. "What does that even mean, sad? I-I just— you're crazy, I—"

She scowls at you. "Definitely sad. You look even worse now."

You don't say anything.

"I'm not stupid. You don't have to hide stuff. I know I—" Her voice cracks. "—I really messed up, and, um, I—"

Oh, shit! "No! No, i-i-i-it's not— it's got nothing to do with you. I-I-I don't blame you— I'm sure nobody blames you—" You're normally a better liar than this. "I-I-I was just thinking about what to do with the... with that stuff."

She doesn't understand, even though she stands and follows your gesture to the ocean. "With the gunk," you elaborate. "I-I-I didn't do anything about it— i-i-it's still in you."

"So what? I'll just get Richard to—" She shuts her eyes. "Get someone to deal with it. Eventually. No big deal."

No big deal? "Um, you just..."

"Okay, sooner than eventually. You're such a negative thinker, Gil, it's really— it's not healthy for you. Rots your brain." She shakes her head solemnly. "Is that all you were worried about?"

You open your mouth. You close your mouth. "Um, I-I-I was just thinking that I could do something about it. Could go back in there, and, um—"

"Go back in there? You just said you pissed it off. And it—" She lowers her voice. "—hates you, Gil, I don't know how you got in here alive, much less out, much less... you'd get yourself killed, stupid."

You swallow.

"..." She studies you. Fiercely. You study the infinite beach behind her. If you think about it swallowing you whole, will that work? Is that part of your not-real thing? You'd ask Richard, if he weren't murdered, but— she stamps on your foot. With the heel of her boot. Hard.

"Ow!" you yelp. "Motherfucker! Ow!" (She's stamped again.) "Quit it! I-I-I-I just—"

Her fists are balled. "You moron!"

"I-I-I-It's only logical! I-I-I had this whole plan, Lottie, I— I'm not just randomly— I-I'm not the real Gil, I'm just a copy, so objectively this is the best possible— the best— fucking hell!" She's grinding her heel in. "I-I-I'm sorry, okay? I'm sorry? I'm right, but—"

"You're right?" she says.

"Yeah! I'm right!" Your goddamn foot is throbbing. "Would you listen? I-I-It all makes perfect sense. I'm not Gil. Gil's fine. I-I-I'm just his stupid replacement, so it doesn't matter if I—"

"It doesn't matter?"

"Yeah!" You're all flushed. You can feel it. "Get it through your skull, okay? I-I-I don't really want to die either, if you have to know, but at least I recognize— and don't you do this all the time, by the way? So how is that fucking fair? You throw yourself into danger for me, and the first chance I-I get—"

"That's my job! Retainers don't—" She waves her hands. "And I don't die."

"Gil won't die."

"You'll die!"

"YES!" You've lost it. You're practically screaming. "And it won't MATTER!"

She's silent. Reproachful. She brushes some sodden hair behind her ear. Goddammit, you've really done it now, haven't you? Fucked it all up all over again. But if she'd just listen to reason, she'd— "It'd matter to me," she snaps.

The ocean roars behind you. You twist your hands. You're trying to say something like 'that's completely irrational,' but it's not coming out. "...Why?"

"Because you're Gil?" She interrupts your would-be interruption. "I don't care how many stupid Gils there are, you're still— and I don't want you to die? Um, hello? Obviously? Is this complicated, or something?"

"I—" you say. "But the Gil out there is exactly the same. You'd still have—"

"No he isn't, stupid. God, you're really—" She sighs. "You rescued me. He sat around on his dumb hands. So you're the better Gil, clearly— not that I want him to die, either, but it's, you know, principle—"

"Uh," you say. Something weird is happening in your chest. "That doesn't... make sense..."

She levies a long, pitying stare on you. "Yes it does. Now come on, moron, you're the one who wanted to make this snappy—"

The weirdness is intensifying. You wet your lips. "No i-i-it doesn't? Um, I-I don't think you really get—"

"Come on." She grabs your hand. "Moron. Can't you do the eyelid thing? The wakey-uppy—"

Oh, god-fucking-dammit, it's the belief shit again. Of course it is. Just a couple minutes' exposure, a little yelling, and Lottie's already got you all scrambled up. You're right. You know you're right. Why do you not want to be right? Things work different for her, work different in her presence, like she radiates a sunny aura of complete illogic. Or maybe it's just beamed at whatever she looks at— she's staring at you now, waiting. Her one eye's a really pretty blue. You hate yourself.

"...Yeah," you say. "Um... sorry. You need to close your eyes."

She does. The illogic continues to roil through you. Shit. You lift your wrinkled thumb and place it against her eyelid, which flutters a little. "Okay... now open both of them. At the same time."

She does. But in the instant before she does, what you've been wanting-meaning to say comes busting out of you. "Hey, um, I-I'm really glad you're—"


I'd normally stay up and finish, but I've got an early start and long drive tomorrow. Will attempt to complete part 2 during the day, but we'll see what happens.
Hurrah! Richard is dead and never ever coming back!
Got 90% done, but laptop ran out of juice. Just charged it back up-- post within the next hour (hopefully).

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Here's how it happened.

Not Lottie wouldn't let you back in, no matter what you said or did: from the sneer on her face, she was enjoying your pleading. And when the seconds crawled by and she remained exactly the same, with no redeeming blue flash, you were forced to accept that you were probably being digested. It was over. There was nothing you could do.

...Nothing meaningful you could do, anyhow. Out of petty frustration, you'd launched yourself at Not Lottie's face, buzzing and biting and doing everything you could to make her mildly annoyed. Even then, you barely managed that: she swatted you away distractedly as Worm #1 continued its rampage. Most of the lower level was rubble, at that point, with the ground marred with deep gouges— you were only surprised the roof hadn't caved in yet. And that Worm #2— okay, Arledge— wasn't dead yet. He'd been putting up a fight, but it was obvious from the start that Worm #1 was bigger and stronger, and even as you watched it was squeezing its jaws around Arledge's "head" and twisting. And then it popped off, just like that, the huge worm head of your only remaining ally plunking to the ground.

You watched silently as the whole long body disintegrated end-to-end into goop, and as one limp human body fell to the ground and laid there. He would be eaten, too, if he wasn't dead enough already. If it wasn't over already, it was then. You didn't have anything more to say about it.

Thinking back, you did hear a strange noise about then— a muffled bang or two. You assumed it was rubble, you think, or rioting from outside. Or you just didn't care anymore. You did notice the trickle of smoke from Worm #1's open jaws, though, and wonder about that. You weren't sure if that was normal for worms or not.

And that was about your last complete thought before Worm #1 exploded. No exaggeration: you mean exploded, with a shockwave and a fireball, with a noise that'd bust your eardrums (if you had them) and a smell like cazeline, with bits of worm and temple raining down from the heavens. You survived, barely, by diving into Not Lottie's clothing, and only now do you extricate yourself.

There is no temple, though there is a firey, ashy wasteland about where the temple used to be. (Only one thing stands: a wooden doorframe, dark inside.) There is no worm, though here and there you see jagged jaw-shards and chunks of blubber. Not Lottie, blasted straight through the window, has landed on her back in the grass. She has begun to cough.

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It's kind of fitting, you think dismally. If she dies. If everybody but you dies, leaving you trapped and isolated in a even shittier and more inaccessible place. It'd be exactly the kind of thing that would happen to you. Maybe that's the purpose and meaning of your life after all. Yeah. You were right about all that drivel. The gods (or whoever) created you for a reason, and that reason was to to be shat on. To be stomped into the ground, over and over, until the only thing you knew was the feel of the boot and the taste of the dirt— and of course you'd catch a quick breather when the stomper got tired, and sometimes that'd last long enough to make you think life outside the ground could exist. But then they oame on back, and they're wearing extra-cleated boots with shiny iron soles, and the cycle starts all over again.

Yeah. That sounds about right. You'd like to sleep, but Not Lottie is coughing really hard, so you slide off her and into the grass. Maybe this is the time you do it. Go native. Crawl around and eat leaves all day. Haven't you earned that?

She's basically retching now— 's got one bloody hand to her throat, making all kind of noises. You try to ignore them, even though they're the kind of noises Lottie might make. She's dead, Gil. The truth hurts. Just eat the grass.

You eat the grass. It's not as good as leaves. You're a little bit worried that the trees around here aren't meant to be eaten by beetles, and also a little worried that Teddy's beetles are different beetles from your beetles. You don't want to starve to death, even if you won't know it. Not Lottie's retching has gone all wheezy, which shouldn't be but is a little concerning, and you feel a distinct tug in the back of your mind. An unignorable one. You lift yourself inexorably and see, for a second, a handful of soggy beetles extracting themselves from Not Lottie's open mouth.

Then comes the same feeling as always, a sliding and a smearing and a brief crisp snapping into place, and the rush of palpable satisfaction that nearly makes the headache worth it. You are whole, and already riffling through your double memories double-speed: bite-worms-kill-smoke-bang; throat-brown-red-drain-flood-beach-spat; Lottie's alive. Lottie's safe and alive. You half-knew this, but it sinks in only now, and it's all you can do to stay in one piece: to not slip your bonds and wheel like a firework into the air.

Below you, Not Lottie takes a deep, pained breath. She touches her forehead. "...What happened?"

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You are Charlotte Fawkins. You hurt all over, and mostly inside.

>[1/13 ID]

There is something in your head about some beach, about Gil being really stupid, but it's already slipping. He's in front of you right now, looking... you don't know. Like a lot of beetles. So normal, you guess, but you don't know where you are at all, and everything's black and stinking. The palms of your hands have tiny bits of glass in them. Gil is taking a long time to answer. "...Um, what's the last thing you can remember?"

A hard one. There seems to be a gushing wound where the last hour-something used to be. "...I rehydrated Annie? I, um..." You blink. "...Where is Annie?"

"Annie? Who the hell's... the worm? Worm #1?" Gil whirs. "I-I-It, um, it ate Lucky."

"Oh." You contemplate this. "Well, I'm sure she had a really good reason—"

"Then exploded. Um... literally."

"What?" You bolt to your feet. "She what? No she didn't. You exploded my worm?!"

"I-I-I-I didn't explode it! It just exploded! I-I-I— Lottie! Wait! Lottie!" You're scrambling down the scorched hillside, dodging flaming planks and collapsed pillars (was this the temple?). You keep seeing other things out of the corner of your eye, meatier-looking things, but you refuse to look. Annie can't be dead— you were just with her, and she was bigger and healthier than ever. You can't have brought her just to die. That's—

There is something in your way: you screech to a halt. Protruding from the ground are two shiny, blackened, jagged things as big as you are. They could be some obscure architectural part you're unaware of. Or a disgusting pagan implement. Probably a—

"Yeah, see? Those are i-i—its jaws! I-I swear, it just—"

You wipe your nose and glare at Gil. "I know!"

"...Oh." The beetles flicker backwards. "...Sorry... I-I-I know you really liked it..."

"I..." Your lip wobbles. "It wasn't anything special, really, we just had a— a sacred bond, unbreakable by the vagaries of life, and stuff, and I didn't even get to see her fight or anything, even though she got all big and scary, and... could I just have a second? Just a—"

"Um, yeah... sorry..." The beetles back up to an acceptable distance. You turn back to the jaws, unsure how to handle yourself. Do you bow your head? Kneel? ...Embrace? She is a woman, so it'd be okay if you did, but— you just don't want to start crying, mainly, because you're not going to stop. Deep breath. Positive thinking. Annie would want you to be strong for her, surely, to— to carry on with your life, and destiny, and so forth, and—

Somebody's strolling toward you, unrecognizable under a thick layer of soot. They're clapping their hands. Slowly. "Welcome back, Ms. Fawkins. Tuckered yourself out?"

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You whip around to glare at Gil again. "Why'd you say he died?"

"He did die! I-I-I-I don't know what—"

Lucky's clothes are black, burnt, and shredded, but his teeth are very, very white. "I was eaten by your man-eating worm, yes. How fortunate it absorbed a great deal of flammable liquid along with all that blood."

You grip the edge of the jaw. "You exploded her!"

"Are you suggesting I shouldn't have?" He brushes the remains of his jacket down. "I should have let your monster run free, killing with impunity, so you could bring about whatever eschatons you liked? I should have sat idly by to be digested alive?"

"I— you didn't have to explode her! How did you even—" He's standing fine, walking fine, sounding fine. He doesn't look digested or incinerated, not even a little bit.

"Ms. Fawkins..." Lucky says condescendingly. "...I received my name for a reason. I'll additionally note that my cold-blooded murder of your monster appears to have led to the opening of our door."

"So you admit to it being murder?! You—" You stare at the doorframe, which definitely looks like it leads somewhere. "How?!"

"I-I-It needed a lot of energy," Gil mumbles.

"That's— that's stupid! That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard! I— I— you need to apologize!" Your lip's wobbling again. "Annie was a good worm, and she was probably just trying to protect me from your stupidness— she didn't deserve—"

"You put on a good show." Lucky is walking around the jaws, around you, toward the door. "But I've seen enough. I'll be with you soon, Leftenant."

He walks straight through the door and vanishes. And vanishes! The vicious murderer of your worm— twice-over murderer! This isn't right. This isn't fair. Annie wouldn't want you to sit idly by, would she? The two of you had a sacred bond— a bond that lasts through death itself. And out the other side. Yes. Yes.

>[TO-DO GAINED: Raise Annie the worm from the dead]

You probably shouldn't tell Gil about this, or Ri— or anybody else. This is between you and Annie, after all. Your little secret. You clear your throat. "Uh... so where's Arledge?"

"...Also dead... I-I-I think... I guess you should probably check..." Gil sounds a little guilty. "He, um, he landed somewhere past you? I-in the rubble, I guess..."

It takes a little while before you find his body, helped by his stark blue robes— even if they are singed through. He's kind of mangled, either by the explosion or by (what Gil shiftily calls) his "fall." You don't look that long before feeling sick, and Gil has to nudge you to turn back around. "I-I-I think he... moved?"

Oh, God. You creep a little closer, enough to look Arledge in his half-lidded eyes. He animates at the sight of you, groaning and twitching— "She's normal!" Gil says. "She— she snapped out of it! We're not here to—"

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The twitching calms, though you can't help but read his dim gaze as accusatory. His finger lifts slightly and comes to rest by his hip. He taps it incessantly.

"Can't you talk?" you say. He groans. "...Okay, is there— are you hurt there? Is there something poking into you? Can you step up the effort a little—?"

"He has something there," Gil says with authority. (Huh?) "Under the— under the robes."

"...Uh-huh." Parts of his robes stick to his skin, and he moans angrily when you pull at them, but eventually you manage to uncover something: a drug stash. You'd been warned about these many, many times— those shadies, lowlives, corpselovers with their needles and their seawater, clogging up the streets, dying in the streets, doing nothing with their lives but shooting up and rambling about infinite love and purpose. You'd half-thought your Aunt Ruby made them up to scare you, since you've never had the misfortune of meeting one of those (unless Ellery counts?), but here it is: a beltful of syringes, all sorted by size and plainly loaded up. You had no idea Eloise interacted with these people. But then again, he already was a pagan.

...He does look really bad, though, so the whole "breaking the law" thing is probably the least of his problems. And it wasn't even the seawater that killed him here (you think)— Lucky exploded him, like he exploded Annie. You'll stomach your disgust for now, but... his finger tap-tap-taps at the smallest syringe. The one with clear liquid in it.

Before he dies, he wants to be on drugs? That's— your mental projection of your aunt is having an apoplectic fit right now, but she'd have a fit if she heard about any of the stuff you do. There's no pleasing her now, that's for sure. (Not that anything you've ever done has pleased her.) So why not? Is it hurting anybody? You don't have to look if you don't want to.

You pick up the syringe. "The neck!" Gil says. "Um, I-I mean, he did the neck earlier—"

The flesh of his neck is scalded all red. You look at it sideways, trying to find something in there, than shut your eyes and jab the needle into a probable veiny area. Arledge inhales deeply—

"Oh, shit!" Gil's tone is encouraging: you crack open one eye, then the other. Arledge's own eyes have shot open, gazing up at the night sky. The skin of his neck is knitting itself together rapidly, and it only spreads from there— even with most of the damage hidden or internal, you can track its progress by Arledge's loosening features. Eventually he sits up, cradling his forehead. "...Thank you."

"That was magic!" Gil says, a tad tetchily. "That was goddamn—"

(5/6 lol)
"I'm a magician." He flexes his hands. "It's no different from injuries outside here, in the water. It's just concentrated. ...And portable. You purged her?"

There's a long pause from Gil. "Um, she's— she's fine now. I-I-I don't know if a complete purge was needed, per se, but, um—"

"It's always needed." You stand from your squat as Arledge lurches to his feet. "But if you have to learn that through experience, so be it. This is above my paygrade, maybe— maybe above everybody's. I don't know. I can't stay around with..." He gestures at you, the jaws, the surroundings. "I wish you the best of luck with Madrigal."

Madrigal. You'd come here for Madrigal. How had it turned into this. "You're leaving?"

"I'm still injured. This isn't a cure-all." He plucks the syringe out of your hand and stows it back in his stash. "Let me know if she's okay, or tell Eloise to. I did what I—"

Gil's attention has shifted, suddenly, and yours shifts too: there are new arrivals on the scene. You recognize none of them except the leader of the small, scrappy-looking group— it's Gil. You mean... fisherman Gil. Whatever body Gil got stuck in. It's here, walking on its own, and your Gil is streaming toward it— "Teddy?!"

You look at Arledge. Arledge looks at you, then the doorframe.

>[1] Take care of final business, then leave. (You may pick multiple. Don't forget to respond to the prompt in parentheses!)
>>[A] Collect a remnant of Annie. For... reasons. (Do you want a piece of jaw, some bristles, or a feeler?)
>>[B] Speak to Us again. (What do you say? Do you attempt to cash in your favor?)
>>[C] Say something to Arledge. (What?)
>>[D] Say something to Gil. (What?)
>>[E] Write-in.

>[2] Just leave.

>post within the next hour
Narrator voice: It was not.
> Ask Arledge if he can ressurrect Annie

You killed Annie? On one roll? Wanna walk us through Lucky's little fucking journey there?
>One roll
On one critical success? Nat 100? Approximate 3% odds? Sure. I treat critical successes as the best possible reasonable (or even slightly unreasonable) outcome for the person who rolled them, who is in almost every case (you). In this case it was Lucky who rolled it, the guy who

>Hates dangerous monsters and "unnatural" things
>Hates *you* (per >>5508034)
>Has been warning about Annie since this entire escapade started
>Got EATEN by the dangerous man-eating monster he's been warning about the whole time
>Has dangerously low levels of remorse
>Has torches and a lighter on him
>Might've had at least one jug of gasoline on him (he's taken them from Gil by the time of >>5508128)
>Set a big fire earlier (and would've set more if you didn't futz with it)
>Was the first to notice that the entire temple was doused in gasoline
>Literally single-handedly killed Annie in her first appearance

If he succeeded in his earlier rolls, he was always going to burn his way out: he's a security guard. He doesn't have his axe or anything on him, just a baton (useless), a gun (won't make big enough hole to escape), and the torches. In this case, he managed to burn his way out, and (from his perspective) an extra surprise happened along the way.

>How did he light a fire?
Either via lighter or gunshot (Gil hears a couple shots).

>But it's too wet / you can't actually light a fire with a gunshot / etc.
It's a manse, Lucky's fire is weird, and crits are allowed to be a little unreasonable. Does it make more sense for Charlotte to spontaneously develop brand new reality warping powers every crit?

>Why was there an explosion?
Because worms (as Arledge kept mentioning) absorb liquids like a sponge, and the entire temple was soaked in gasoline. Also, digestive gases, etc.

>How did Lucky get away uninjured?
Because that's literally his schtick. That's his nickname. Also, he rolled a Nat 100. The particular roll he crit-succeeded at was for how effectively he burned his way out of Annie. The previous two were for surviving-- he managed a Mitigated, so he didn't kick the bucket then. I was fully prepared to kill him off if he failed #2.

>Okay, but seriously, OOC, as a QM, why would you choose this?
Because it makes complete logical sense for what a Nat 100 rolled by Lucky in this context would look like. I also don't think it's a bad thing to fire Charlotte up about something, to give her a new nemesis, or to provide a new and narratively interesting goal. I'm literally insinuating that you can get Annie back IN THIS VERY UPDATE. I don't know what more you want from me, dude.
Also, I'd generally like to point out that while *this* particular outcome wasn't inevitable, somebody submitted a winning slate of expeditioners that included both Annie (worm) and Lucky (overall antagonistic figure who previously murdered said worm). You guys could've chosen almost any major character in the quest to tag along, and you opted for oil and water.
I think you just like taking Annie away from us. This is the second time already!

Clearly this has nothing to do with our previous choices and it's hurtful you implied it was. Rude.

I'm like 90% just joshing, but like to be fair it is the second time.

Like. What did Annies nat 100 do?
Your tone didn't sound particularly joshing (with the swearing at me and whatnot), but it's possible I'm defensive from the other recent bitching.

>Like. What did Annies nat 100 do?
She didn't roll one-- I think I confused you guys. These were her rolls:

>Annie: 113, 122, 118 (-5 Distracted) vs. DC 80

They're really good rolls, to be clear, which is why she (almost) murdered Arledge, but none of them were nat 100s. I think the confusing part came from me writing "Nat 100'd" here >>5511566, which doesn't mean that she rolled one (that'd be Nat 100 or CRITICAL SUCCESS like Lucky) but that the results of her roll were irrelevant due to being exploded. She got Nat 100'd. If she and Lucky had actually both rolled Nat 100s, this would've been an entirely different update.

>This is the second time already!
Easy come, easy go?
Oh, you're right I got that mixed up.

Also yeah I swear a lot IRL. Part and parcel of being a Canadian and a tradesperson. No, seriously, Canadians actually swear a LOT.
> Easy come

I'm irritated that if we want to kill Richard again to get Annie back then we have to bring Richard back too.

Anyways since this happened in a manse, maybe hopefully Annie being only semi-sapient means her identity and self are easier to fix and we can keep her kind of in stasis and put her back together like we did Gil. She ain't dead, just temporarily temporaly paused while the world changes around her moment.
That's understandable, but I encourage you to be mindful of how you might come across to (let's be honest) a total stranger on the Internet. Even if you're surprised or upset, I'd rather we all remained civil.

>I'm irritated that if we want to kill Richard again to get Annie back then we have to bring Richard back too.
You're making a lot of unfounded assumptions and then irritating yourself over them. Please wait to get irritated over the actual canonical events of the quest, ty.

>her identity and self
I have good news: she's a worm. She might be sentient (i.e. experiences sensations, reacts to stimuli), but she's not really capable of having an "identity" or a "self".
>Lucky killed Annie
>by exploding her in a giant ball of fire in an attempt to burn his way out of her stomach
>and he survived

god, how based
charlie may hate him but he's awesome
i bet he walked through that exit like he had a 50 mile dick

>B "Sorry about the giant mess"
>D "Tanks for the rescue bro"
>>[A] Collect a piece of Annie's Jaw
and +1 to this >>5514119
Oh ya

1A, the jaw.

1B apologize and ask them if they need us to fix anything else or if we're square

1D tell Gil he did a good job.

Get Lucky something to clean wimorm guts off of him. Can't unexplode worms. Not right now at least. We can understand his actions and be angry about them at the same time.

Bitch quietly to Lucky about Arledge bailing because of a little hiccup, he'll probably be sympathetic.
>1D tell Gil he did a good job.
Changing my 1D
to this instead of >>5514384
if we're picking up an annie remnant can we make it a small and easy to carry one rather than a jaw that's as big as we are.
It's in a manse like space I think we're just getting a representation.

But I could go for feelers instead. I just picked jaw to not split the vote
So can we "remake" Annie by filling in the missing bits with how Charlotte saw her?
>Get a jaw piece
>Ask Arledge about raising worms from the dead
>Apologize to Us
>Tell Gil he did a good job

Called and writing. This will be the final update of the thread.

Lucky has already dipped-- Arledge is the one who's still around (for now).

>We can understand his actions and be angry about them at the same time.
Way too reasonable of a stance for Charlotte, sorry

You can pick up a bit of the jaw; no need to lug the whole thing out.

Maybe! It's unlikely you'll be doing anything right away-- you'll have time to explore various methods.
>Wrapping up

You clasp your hands behind your back. "Um, we'll be going soon too."

"Probably for the best." Arledge dips his head and doesn't say anything more. He's fiddling with something in his hands.

Damn it. Why can't he just leave? The longer he sticks around, the more inclined you are to ask about... things. Secret-type things. Things you just said you wouldn't tell anybody about— but will you ever see Arledge again? He doesn't seem like the gossipy type. And though the source of his magyck is suspicious and pagan, he does appear to know a lot about it. Wouldn't Annie want you to be bold and daring? To take little tiny risks for the greater good? "Uh-huh... by the way, just asking for no reason, is it possible you might know how to, um... revivify... the prematurely deceased? You wouldn't happen to have any mystic potions, or—"

His face has always been kind of stony, but this is really something else. His gaze bores into you. "No."

You shift. "...No like you don't know, or like you don't want to—?"

"No like no."

Why is everybody you meet so difficult? "Come on, just—"

"If we were intended to escape death, we would have been created to do so. Don't meddle." Maintaining eye contact, he plunges a hand into his robes, does something with it, and— doesn't vanish, exactly. But the light and the hardness goes out of his eyes, and his body promptly melts into the ground.

"Okay? Bye?" You kick petulantly at the sticky spot where he used to be, then turn and fast-walk over toward Gil. "Gil! Who's all this? Is that your—"

"Lottie? Uh, I-I-I don't think you should..." You draw up next to him. "...come close... aw, shit."

"What?" you say, and crane your neck out at the crowd: they've all frozen in place, and they're starting to look a little... gooey. "Oh. Whoops."


All the people's mouths are moving in unison. You swallow. "Uh... hello."


"She's okay," Gil says hurriedly. "She's— she's not dangerous."


"She didn't mean to! I-I-It's like I said— she wasn't i-in her right mind, she—"

"It was Lucky's fault," you mutter. "I didn't burn anything."


You glance at Gil, who hovers anxiously. You don't feel very good. "...I— I don't know. I didn't mean to mess everything up. I'm sorry I, um— are you mad at me?"


You perk up. "Yeah! It could've been— it could've been way worse. Yes. Thank you. So—"

"...What's going to happen to you?" Gil says.


In the far distance, the moonlit ocean is losing its luster. You shove your cut-up hands into Claudia's pockets. "...Have fun."


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"We'll be going now." Gil brushes against your shoulder. "Could you say bye to Teddy for me?"


The beach is gone. The abandoned festival stands are collapsing into the ground. "Bye," you say weakly, and follow Gil back up into the ruins. "...We should go."

"Yeah," he says, and pauses. "Your snake's gone."

You feel your empty neck. "Oh."

"I-I-I hope that doesn't mean anything. I-I-I..." He makes a whispery little noise. "...I-I'm beat, Lottie, I— I don't think I can take any more of this. I-I-I-I'm not cut out for this at all. All I want is a... break."

You might've privately found this a tad lazy, somewhat unretainerly, except that you know exactly what he means. Madrigal's still out there, suffering, needing a swashbuckling rescue as soon as humanly possible, and right now the thought of that fills you with black dread. You'd prefer to lay down and do nothing, or maybe get drunk then lay down. "Shut up," you say. "Don't say that."

He contracts. "Sorry. Sorry. I-I-I'll— I'm not leaving you, or anything, I just—"

"You are cut out for this. Obviously. You went and did all that stuff without me—" (You assume. You'll get the story later.) "—and you snapped me out of it, and whatever. You did a good job."

"What? But I-I-I didn't do..." He pauses. "...Um... thanks, Lottie."

"Obviously." You wave a hand. "You need a ride? You can crash in the manse... maybe I can find a resting place before getting too wrapped up with Madrigal. So I can come in and check on you."

"Um, you don't have to..."

"I will," you say decisively. (You can grab a drink at the same time.) "Can you do the thing? The go-in-my-manse—"

"Sorry. Yeah." He retreats a ways, as if winding himself up. "I-I'll see you later."

The beetles stream through your pupils and are gone. The trees on the hillside are felling themselves, row by row, as the goo encroaches. You start the slow walk back to the doorframe, though you nigh-instantly stub your toe on something ("Damnit!")— a pointy chunk of something-or-other, about the size of your fist. On a hunch, you raise it up to compare with Annie's jaws: one of the cusps is missing. Well, then. You grip the cusp hard, pick your way to the doorframe, and look through it. Blackness. You step through.

Claudia peels like a skin away from you, and you emerge into a tiled tunnel (a storm sewer?) as yourself. There's no glass in your hands. The sound of close-by footsteps prompts you to—


—look up into the face of a woman you don't recognize, and then a woman you very much do. For some reason, Madrigal's wearing leather pants.

And that's it! Full spiel tomorrow, but I'm really happy I could wrap things up like this. This was a contentious last couple of threads, but I hope you enjoyed nevertheless-- or are glad it's over, at least. Next thread will largely be downtime, with one or two surprises we may or may not get to.

Since there was so much going on, I prepped a little FAQ of expected questions. If you have more, or want more details about any of the developments or choices this thread, please ask and I'd be happy to chat about it. Happy new year, anons.

>What would've happened if Madrigal fed all the Lester Food to the tendrils?
I still have about 1/3rd of a Pastebin about this in my drafts. I'll maybe probably finish that soon, so no spoilers.

>Why did things get *so* bad?
You guys opted to drink the (clearly established and signposted) murder juice, infuse the worm with murder juice, and then warp the "dream" so it made coherent sense for you and your worm to have murder juice. If you hadn't drunk from the pool or warped the dream, the boss fight would've been against Maurice. If you hadn't infused Annie, she wouldn't have been so powerful.

>Why did ??? (Lucky)'s saving throws get "take highest"?
He's lucky.

>Would you have actually killed Lucky if he failed both initial rolls?
The effective DC 85 roll (>>5510182) was his last chance. If he failed that and you didn't cut him out after, then yes. If you cut him out, I would've flipped a coin to see if he was dead or just essentially dead (horribly crippled/acid-burned), and you would've chosen what to do with him/his body from there. You could've taken his corpse with you, let Us absorb him into the collective, or (if he was only essentially dead) let Arledge try magic on him, at the cost of Lucky being mad(der) at you for letting him get tainted with the unnatural.
Thanks for running!
I really liked Us. I also liked Pat's lab, though a bit less.
What I didn't like is how the Charlotte's side played out. It felt like with every step ahead the goal retreats one step away and inserts another bullshit sidequest between it and us. Especially the ritual murder felt like an unpleasant gotcha after the rationalization vote (I don't know if it was, but it felt so). And in the end of it all, we've achieved a big heap of absolutely nothing. It felt like a filler arc.

As an aside, things like putting Lucky and Annie in the team or drinking murdewater, imho, are the the consequence of you training the players that their votes don't have negative outcomes, then inserting said negative outcomes infrequently enough to not break that training.
> let Arledge try magic on him, at the cost of Lucky being mad(der) at you for letting him get tainted with the unnatural.

Such a missed opportunity.

Oh well. The best part about this? Everyone hard bailed right before we finished our rescue of Madrigal. If they had been willing to even just wait and see what was next before decidung then they could have gotten credit for it

As things stand, they were all *hand wave*. Except Gil who helped out.

I suppose we should thank them for coming out, but clearly they don't have the stones to stick it out when the going gets tough.
> are the the consequence of you training the players that their votes don't have negative outcomes,

More like negative consequences happen regardless of our votes a lot and we just roll with them.

Fun thread-- loved the interactions between Charlotte and Gil this thread along with Madrigal getting psychologically ganked into a dark Peter-Parker form.

Have a happy New Year as well!
Thanks for running!

Charlie has always been cursed with infinity sidequests. There is no escape.


It would be a pretty boring quest if nothing bad ever happened?

Like there's a difference between the bad stuff we have no control over and the bad stuff we bring upon ourselves
>I didn't like is how the Charlotte's side played out. It felt like with every step ahead the goal retreats one step away and inserts another bullshit sidequest between it and us
I'd generally argue that it's less than I "inserted" sidequests and more you guys took every sidequest I dangled: as best I can recall, there was always an option to ignore it and continue pursuing the main goal of opening the door with Annie. (The one exception is dealing with Charlotte, but that more-or-less fully replaced something else that was going to happen.) There's an argument to be made about whether I should've dangled them in the first place, as well as about general pacing errors (I personally think you should've reunited with Arledge right after Gil had his religious experience), but there were several routes to a more straightforward adventure.

>And in the end of it all, we've achieved a big heap of absolutely nothing.
You've achieved a lot of character development, learned pertinent lore details, and Gil's still magic. Nothing concrete, though, I agree.

>It felt like a filler arc.
As I've mentioned before, I (shortsightedly) only expected this thing to take up a thread, or maybe a thread and a half-- it was never intended to be an "arc," which is probably why it didn't work very well as one. I probably should've tried to keep a better handle on things, but in particular I didn't expect you guys to [OPEN] the door at the very start-- if you'd stayed in the original abandoned temple, none of this would've happened. (But you also wouldn't have met Us, so swings and roundabouts, I guess.)

>Especially the ritual murder felt like an unpleasant gotcha after the rationalization vote
I'm a little confused by this. There were two rationalization votes (after the fire, after hydrating Annie) and like three different ritual murders (Richard, the unnamed woman at the waterfall, Maurice). The only one that'd fit the timeline of your statement is post-Annie ratlonalization/Maurice, but that doesn't make a lot of sense.

If you mean the ritual murder of Richard, I actually agree that it was an unpleasant "gotcha": the tone of the options didn't hint at that at all, making it effectively a trap option. It wasn't intentionally a trap option, to be clear (I very very rarely write intentional trap options), but the result of it was one of those things that unfortunately kind of post-facto dawned on me. As discussed above, it was made with the idea of this whole thing only lasting a thread or so. Spoilers about Richard, mouse over at your discretion, but I've been trying to hint at this basically since it happened: He can't be permanently killed. One unfortunate "gotcha" vote (well, two-- conducting a ritual, involving your father) was never gonna up and remove the second-most important character in the quest, which would be a *nutso* QMing choice. He might be coming back a little off, but he's coming back.

If you mean the ritual murder of that woman, that happened because you guys messed around instead of going to the waterfall first thing. If you'd gone first thing, it would've been normal/non-bloody.

If you mean the ritual murder of Maurice (and by extension Charlotte going cult mode), I agree that it was a tricky option, but I wouldn't call it a "gotcha" like Richard's was. Both the effects of rationalizing and the effects of red stuff were already established, so thinking things through could've indicated something was up. There is also an extremely good reason why Richard murder happened the way it did, but it's also something nobody would have any way of knowing yet, which is what makes that a "gotcha".

>you training the players that their votes don't have negative outcomes, then inserting said negative outcomes infrequently enough to not break that training
Ah, so I've reverse-Skinner Box'd everybody, top kek. I think you're mostly right, though I disagree that bad votes normally don't have negative consequences: I think the consequences are just too subtle or too long-term, like Madrigal getting kidnapped 10 threads after you betray Pat. Like, uh, yelling at the dog for pissing on the floor two hours after it pissed on the floor: it might make sense, but it's not going to teach anything. I'm uncertain what to do about this, though, since I'd like to strike a balance between punishing and meaningless-- please let me know if you have ideas.

In general, thanks for your thoughtful critique. I want to write a quest that everybody enjoys, and I always appreciate the chance to do things better next time.


>Such a missed opportunity.
I was more excited about the idea of Us absorbing Lucky (simultaneously his best and worst nightmare), but that would've been really fun too.

Aside from the Richard murder (already discussed), are there recent instances where bad things happened independent of your votes? You can argue that you've suffered excessive or unforeseeable consequences, but I work hard to make them logical extensions of your actions.

You're welcome!

>Charlie has always been cursed with infinity sidequests.
This is true, though you've actually begun the downhill slide. Soon all the sidequests will collapse under their weight and form an infinitely dense sidequest singularity. (But, like, mostly unironically. You should be able to knock out two or three next thread if you play your cards right, and even more to come.)
> but I work hard to make them logical extensions of your actions.

That's the worst part about it. Like, from your PoV it seems like we're making bad decisions, whereas we're making impulsive uninformed bad decisions lol.

Bad mix when magic is involved.

Anyways I'm here because I still enjoy the quest, so IDK don't read so much into the moaning and groaning lol.
To clarify, Charlotte acts like a kendae way too often
Kendar I mean. Pushing buttons to see what they do, seemingly no fear reflex etc.
>you guys took every sidequest I dangled
That's true, but I'm going to argue that the fire and the ritual murder looked like things it would be bad not to resolve.

>The only one that'd fit the timeline of your statement is post-Annie ratlonalization/Maurice, but that doesn't make a lot of sense
I meant the woman's murder. It seemed to me like it occurred because we've rationalized the fire as a possible cultist attack. Now I assume from your post that it was always meant to happen.
>Anyways I'm here because I still enjoy the quest, so IDK don't read so much into the moaning and groaning lol.
No problem. Please let me know if you (or anybody) get to the point where they're actually not enjoying things anymore, and we can call a time-out and talk about it. I'm not interested in sacrificing the playerbase on the altar of muh creative decision-making or whatever.

>whereas we're making impulsive uninformed bad decisions lol.
Sounds like you're roleplaying Charlotte really we--

I mean, yeah, she is like that. That's the characterization we've built up together over 30 threads. I'd posit that she has pretty good reasons for acting this way (it's been strongly implied that she was way more normal before getting multiple rounds of memory wipes and Richard's hooks in her), but if you'd like her to be characterized in a more sane and reasonable way I recommend you guys vote for saner and more reasonable options. I do provide them, and they're not inherently out of character. Because of this, I'm going to treat bad decisions as bad decisions whether you guys realize it at the time or not, as long as I feel like you guys were *capable* of realizing it. Most of the time I do.

>That's true, but I'm going to argue that the fire and the ritual murder looked like things it would be bad not to resolve.
Sure-- but getting out of there ASAP to mitigate the overall damage done would've been a totally viable strategy. You were only questionably in direct danger from the fire way down the hill, and not really at all from the murderer (Lucky discusses how they wouldn't attack a large armed group), so they were both optional. Also, Lucky wouldn't have started any fires if you'd recognized him as a potential loose cannon and gone to get him first.

>It seemed to me like it occurred because we've rationalized the fire as a possible cultist attack.
No, you're right, actually-- like I said, I was confused, kek. (There might've been some other too-late obstacle for the waterfall, but not a murder specifically.) I see where you're coming from, but the reason why "attack by cultist" was the logical next step is because you chose to infuse that one guy (Maurice) with red stuff, giving the manse an obvious perpetrator. That's kind of the trade-off with SV: you get powerful insta-successes, but it's liable to endanger you and everybody around you with the side-effects. If you guys have learned anything from these threads, I hope it's not to screw around with it!
Oh, yeah.

>New thread anywhere from the 8th to the 10th depending on how much of a break I decide I need! Will post in the QTG or on Twitter as usual. I suspect this thread will die before the next one is up, but if it doesn't I'll post here too.

>Twitter is here: https://twitter.com/BathicQM

>NO ARCHIVE YET, something's screwed up with sup/tg/-- gonna hope it gets fixed before we drop off! But here's the archive anyhow: https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?searchall=drowned

>Tomorrow is Drowned Quest's 4th anniversary!

I didn't finish any of the side Redux projects I've been working on this month, but I might put my nose to the grindstone and attempt to wrap up one or all of them during my break. (Madrigal's "what if" pastebin is one of them.) Keep an eye out!

And of course happy New Years, and have a great week. If you have any more questions or commentary, just post: I'd be happy to discuss things until the thread kicks it.
> if you'd like her to be characterized in a more sane and reasonable way I recommend you guys vote for saner and more reasonable options

Everytime I try I get "Charlotte wouldn't do that."

Like. I mean. Lucky got swallowed by Annie. We can be mad at the situation but still understand that he was swallowed by a giant worm. Ain't like this isn't the first time Charlotte made a big mistake since up until recently she had never done anything wrong.
Still looking forward to telling Lucky how easily we found Maddie after he ditched. Maybe we can let him take some credit because he did help until then, but ya know, he still ditched.
>Everytime I try I get "Charlotte wouldn't do that."
Every time? There's a big difference between actions and reactions: you guys can directly pick what Charlotte does, but you (usually) can only indirectly influence how she feels. I do take cues from how you guys react to things, but the ultimate reaction is going to be down to how she is as a person-- and at the present moment, she's a person who has a pretty simplistic moral worldview, is intensely loyal to the (very few) things she cares about, and is prone to seeing people who've annoyed or offended her as basically subhuman. Lucky, a guy she never liked that much to begin with, just EXPLODED her BEST FRIEND WORM. Like, 15 seconds before she wakes up. Could she, eventually, after thinking it through and maybe talking to somebody more reasonable about it, maybe come to a teensy bit of sympathy for his circumstances? Sure. Is she going to do that right now, while the wound is fresh and she feels physically and mentally awful? No way. It'd be OOC.

If you don't *like* that she's not capable of that, that's where the voting comes in. If you guys start to vote for more level-headed actions, then she'll become a more level-headed person and react to things in more level-headed ways in the future. But you can't force through something that wouldn't make sense in this present moment.

You're certainly welcome to be smug to Lucky and/or Arledge if or when you see either of them again.
we could also tell him it was a long and harrowing journey, made all the more difficult by his abandonment

milk those sympathy and guilt points
That's the spirit.
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> Starta frantically slamming Paragon action choices

Oh no we've gone too far . . .

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