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

Right now, you have healed the injured shoulder of your acquaintance Earl, at the cost of temporarily turning him into a unintelligent, overgrown half-monster. Also, you are in the underground base of the local Wyrm cult with its leader, Henry, where you were brought after blacking out and likely murdering your mysterious/obnoxious heist sponsor, Wayne. (In fairness, he was trying to murder somebody else.) Suffice it to say there's been a lot going on.

But when isn't there a lot going on? When hasn't your life been one thing after another after another— when it rains it pours, they say, and it started raining three weeks ago, or maybe longer, you can't remember, and there's no signs of it letting up soon. Really, it would've been more unusual if Earl wasn't hunched before you, arms the size of treetrunks, eyeballs eclipsed by pupil, mouth wide as his head and part-open. If he'd just made it out unscathed— if you'd made it out unscathed— if Wayne had made it out unscathed (which you guess he could've, but you're guessing he's more than a little scathed)— would that have been right and proper? Heroic, you mean? One isn't much of a storied heroine without trials and tribulations and suchforth, and also stealing the seal sounded like kind of a bad thing overall, so it's practically destined it went sideways. It was meant to be, the murder and everything. Potential murder. It was good and proper, and it's good and proper that your gracious host has turned into a slavering man-hulk, because his shoulder is fixed now, isn't it? You fixed his shoulder? Which is what you meant to do? So it's all according to plan. All according to plan. Positive thinking!

You presume that Henry is undergoing a similarly complex thought process, because his face has kind of curled up into itself. He hasn't lunged for his knives or anything, though, so you admire his restraint. (Well, not admire. You'd never admire him. You recognize his restraint.) For his own part, Earl isn't doing much but looming. He doesn't seem especially jovial, which stirs something in the pit of your stomach, but then again he doesn't seem much of anything. He has no appreciable expression. You think the teeth get in the way. He's also the only one making a noise— not really a growl or purr, but in the vicinity of those, way down in his throat.

You clear your own throat. "Earl?"


"Um... how are you doing?"


"If I had to guess," Henry says studiously, "speech is past him."

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"Oh." Earl doesn't prove him wrong. You feel your wrist. "Does he know who he is? Does he recognize...?"

"I deal with this secondhand. Magicians seem well in control of themselves, but this was far from ideal circumstances—"

"He's not a magician," you say.

"Yes, and that. A bad concoction. Better than the shoulder... we must assume." Henry stretches his fingers out toward Earl's heaving chest, but withdraws at a growl. "I don't think he cares for me."

"He doesn't know who you are. He's never met... you've never met him before, right?"

"I haven't."

"He's probably... confused." You don't know how he is. You don't know if he can feel much of anything. You're just saying stuff. "Or scared. Or both. And you're some stranger, and you're wearing scary robes, and you probably smell like disgusting cult stuff. Here." Positive thinking! You lay your own hand on Earl's chest before you can convince yourself otherwise.

It's warm. And rough— it doesn't feel like person skin anymore, not really, even if the color's mainly the same. There's little microscopic scales. Or whatever. You'd rather not think about it. Earl's noise has upshifted into more of a purr-type thing than a growl-type thing, and his big head has leaned down— you try to keep your eyes off the face— and suddenly he's pawing at you, his flattened plate-size claw-hand coming at your face, not forcefully, with mild curiosity.

"Oof," you say. "Ow, I— I— stoppit— Earl!" You duck away. Up above, he's baring his teeth— grinning?

Rrrr, he says.

"God, I—" You glance at Henry, who's maintaining a distance. "Earl? You know who I am?"

"I'd say so, kiddo. Do you have him domesticated?" Henry offers you a space next to him. You glower. "I mean, will he listen to you? I'd rather not have your friend roaming free in here, given the..."

A decent point, hatefully. You straighten up all casual-like, as if you were going to do that exact thing without him saying anything (and of course you were), and clear your throat. "Um, Earl?"

Round black eyes on you.

"Could you... go over there? There." In a broad sweep, you point to the other end of the chamber. "Go? Go!"

It takes a second of processing, but then he's off. His awkward body is only a little less ungainly in motion— part lope, part shuffle, he often balances himself by his fingers. At the other end, he skids to a halt and swivels to face you.

You hesitate. "Um, sit... lay down? Could you lay down? LAY—" You point downward.

He flops onto his side, apparently unconcerned by the rough stone, and stays there.

"Ah!" Henry says. "Charming."

"He's better when he can talk," you mumble.

"Oh, I'm certain. But for the circumstances, a level of docility..." Henry hesitates. "It beats the alternative, is what I'll say. Not that I believe he would pose a large threat to you or me, but it wouldn't be pleasant, especially after you—"

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You fold your arms. "What?"

"After you wore yourself out, kiddo. I'm fully aware of what a drain it—"

"What's it?"

"You know, you used to do this when you were younger, too. The questions. It's not the most grown-up way to..."

If you look at Henry at a certain angle you can kind of pretend that your eyeballs are firing burning beams of light at him, and that his face is melting off, and then he'll stop talking at you.

"I don't know what to do with you, Charlotte." He swings his hands together. "Do you just want it straight?"

What? Did your eyeball beams work? Of course you want it straight. You have only ever wanted it straight, from anybody, everybody, and all anybody ever tells you is vague pronouncements and wink-winks nudge-nudges like you're supposed to know what they mean, but you don't, and they never explain it, and you're just in the dark forever and ever. This is the only thing Richard ever does. Did. Did? Does he remember what he's trying to not tell you anymore? Don't think about Richard. Positive thinking. Henry's offering to tell it to you straight.

Well, he's probably lying. It's congenital, the vague-pronouncements thing, it's rooted deep in his brain. For God's sake, that's all cults do. But what are you going to do, say No, go to hell?

You mean you could. This is a plausible course of action. But the non-Richard on your shoulder, the empty Richard-shaped crevice in your brain, is saying stupid things like "but what happened to Wayne? or Felicia? what happened to me? and what was that eyeball, anyways? and why were you talking about the apocalypse, and have you heard of any big white lizardy-type things before, and by the way do you know how to raise worms from the dead," and on and on, etcetera. Are these the questions Henry is expecting to get? If yes, does that mean he intends to lure you into a cultish trap?

Does it matter? You are so tired of this. You can still blast him with your eye beams if he tries to mince words, you guess. (Positive thinking.) So: "Yeah?" you say, with as much 'isn't it obvious?' as you're able to imply.

"Okay. Alright. You're a grown woman, and that's a fair ask of you. But if that's the case, will you be straight with me? As much as you can be."

If he asks you anything you don't like, you can blast him with your eye beams. Or bite him, or something. "Um, I guess—"

"Excellent." Henry offers out his hand, which you examine suspiciously, but eventually shake. Your crushing grip goes unremarked upon. "Now, kiddo, about earlier."

You find the far wall very interesting.

"My assessment of the situation is: you took God inside of yourself, was overwhelmed by It, and killed a man. Would you agree with this?"

Very, very interesting. "But—"

"I just want to know if you agree, Charlotte. Is that what you experienced?"

>[A1] Yeah. More or less. You guess.
>[A2] No! You didn't take— you never meant to infect yourself with red stuff. (That was Richard's fault. He told you to.) You want it out.
>[A3] No! It— it wasn't really "you," was it? It was the red stuff. Or God (you guess). So there.
>[A4] No! "Overwhelmed" isn't the right word at all, it's not forceful like that— it's sort of insidious, snakey, vining up your throat into your brain where you can't even feel it, and shouldn't he know this stuff? Come on.
>[A5] No! You weren't overwhelmed— you mean you were, sort of, but you also sort of slipped on purpose, because Felicia was being murdered? Did you mention that? Literally murdered? So you heroically sacrificed your consciousness/clean, untainted conscience to save her?
>[A6] Write-in.

>What blunt question(s) do *you* parry with? [Pick 3-4. You'll likely ask one per update.]
>[B1] Has *he* ever blacked out and murdered people?
>[B2] You spent all that stupid time talking to him earlier and he never once told you what that eyeball was. Now he has to.
>[B3] Um, is it normal to sort of... think things really hard... and then they sort of happen, ish? For a little bit? But nobody else notices?
>[B4] Is the world really going to end?
>[B5] How does one raise a worm from the dead? He dodged this question last time, like a little bitch.
>[B6] You want to know about your father.
>[B7] Write-in.
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Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! Work is done and dusted, and I am now officially back on the quest grind. I come bearing other people's awesome art, and a little bit of mine, too-- I'll be posting stuff as relevant throughout the thread. Check it out!

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 14 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 eventually

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

>I have a question/comment/concern?
Tell me!
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You find yourself in the parlor of your house, face-to-face with the white-scaled lizard-thing you'd seen in your dream before. It greets you, informing you that it's come to keep you company while the gigantic eyeball has you disassembled. Skeptical, you interrogate it, and it tells you that its name is the Herald of the Bright Epoch, and that it's looking out for you.

All of a sudden, you're back in front of the eyeball, reassembled, with a message in your head: "CHASSIS / IMPERFECT". You have about two seconds to process this before the eyeball sets about "improving" you, making you metaphysically denser and buffing your [ADVANCED GASLIGHTING] into [ADVANCED ADVANCED GASLIGHTING]. This probably won't have consequences later. For now, the eyeball lets you go, and Richard hauls you out of the dirt. Not without effort: he's physically and metaphysically spent, and barely has the energy to read your recent memories and spout some gibberish before vanishing. Also, you're back with the jacked-up Earl, who has murdered multiple people to "protect" you. Whoops.

You move on as fast as you can, ascertaining that the seal you're trying to heist is probably further underground, and Advanced Advanced Gaslight your way into safely falling down a deep pit. Unexpectedly, though, you're tugged down further than you meant to go, winding up in a strange marble room with two cultists and their leader, Henry. He wants to make up for the way your last meeting went, plus hear about the whole eyeball thing-- they know you saw it, since you fell through the seal they're guarding. The seal you're trying to heist. Whoops.

Trying to make conversation, one of the cultists asks you about how you drowned. You answer honestly-- you found a talking snake who convinced you to-- which startles them. Henry doesn't quite seem to believe you, but says that maybe Richard was a divine messenger of sorts? You think that's stupid and he's stupid, tensions rise, and you're cut off by a loud noise: your heist partners have shown up.

You go to confront Wayne and Felicia. Wayne has been blasting through walls with his "magyck," seemingly Law-based, but you cut him off and claim that heisting the seal will inflict horrors on the world, and that maybe it was a set-up. Wayne believes you, switching tacks: he betrays Felicia, stabbing her with a strange dagger, and wards you away with a pistol.

You are consumed by red stuff and black out. You recall a memory from your childhood.

Awakening in Cult HQ, you are greeted by Richard and Henry, and learn that Earl's been severely injured. After an unsuccessful attempt to heal him, you go to lie back down and are greeted by the other Gil, still in your manse, who's making sure you're okay and not murdery. You and Richard go to check up on his siphon progress, then you take a nap.

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MEANWHILE, Gil has discovered your absence and is on his way back to camp with Pat and Madrigal. Madrigal teases/bullies Gil about you (to his consternation), but shifts to genuine anger after he fumbles an explanation of how he's been possessing her real body. After barely salvaging this (via lies), Gil hangs out with Horse Face and erases evidence of the Headspace misadventure.

Back as Charlotte, you awaken, and decide to heal Earl by injecting him with his blood magic stuff. Though successful, he is also turned into even bigger of a monster than he was before...


>TO-DO (Completed goals and solved mysteries: https://pastebin.com/3Q3nPDis)

>Immediate goals:
- Get answers to your questions

Short-term goals:
- Use, extract, or otherwise deal with the Wyrm stuff you got going on
- Possess a Headspace employee to gather intel
- Ask Us for permission to smash Headspace into the ex-Namway facility
- Update Real Ellery on the current bombing plan

Long-term goals:
- Blow up Headspace
- Resurrect Annie
- 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 is Namway Co. and Headspace Corp.'s “Management”? What did they want with the clone of a snake?
- What kind of company(?) does Richard work for? What is its endgame? What does it want with you?
- 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 was Henry going on like you knew the all the cult GS already?
- Okay, seriously, why is everybody talking about the apocalypse now?

Ongoing assignments:
- Inform Eloise (and the Wind Court?) about anything you discover about Namway Co


Don't forget to scroll up and vote!
With maybe a hint of A5?

>B2, 4, 6

Oh no he's hot
The Dr Strange of Drowned
>[A3] No! It— it wasn't really "you," was it? It was the red stuff. Or God (you guess). So there.

>[B2] You spent all that stupid time talking to him earlier and he never once told you what that eyeball was. Now he has to.
>[B4] Is the world really going to end?
>[B5] How does one raise a worm from the dead? He dodged this question last time, like a little bitch.
A3 B2 B4 B5

Nice art QM!

>[A1] Yeah. More or less. You guess.
Rolled 1, 1 = 2 (2d2)







Called for [B2] and [B4], and flipping between [A1] and [A3] and [B5] and [B6]. Then writing.

>Oh no he's hot

>Nice art QM!
Thanks, I agree! All credit to the artists.
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>I-I guess so

"Um," you say. "I— yes, sort of, but it's not like I just went and— he was trying to kill somebody! He had a gun, and three arms, and—"

"Four, actually. But we can discuss the specifics later." Henry raises a placating hand. "I've already heard the whole story from your other friend, the local."

Huh? Oh. "Felicia?"

"That would be it. I hope you'll be excited to learn that she was little the worse for wear, last I saw her, but she didn't seem inclined to stick around with us. Much the opposite, really— she was off like a shot. But back to the point, I'm not casting any blame or judgement, Charlotte. I just wanted to confirm my assumption."

"I confirmed it," you mutter.

"So you did, thank you. Has this been happening often?"

Henry's tone is blandly inquisitive, sort of doctorlike. You jab your thumbs into your pockets. "Define often?"

"I think it's best you define it for yourself, though I'm gauging that it's been more than once?"

"I haven't been going around killing people," you mutter. (Goo people don't count.) "And it's only been a couple days since—"


You don't say anything.

"Since the ritual was conducted?"

"When do I get to ask my questions?" you snap. "You're all 'ohhh, I'll tell you all my stupid cult secrets straight up, no GS,' but then you just start talking about dumb, irrelevant stuff! How is that fair!"

Henry hesitates. "It's far from irrelevant. I'm just trying to gather all the facts before I go out on any limbs, Charlotte. But please, if you—"

Finally! "What was with the stupid big eye? You promised to tell me earlier, but then you yanked me around for forever, then you stopped telling me anything, so basically you lied to my face— does it even mean anything? The eyeball? Or is it some stupid cult prank, like, ha-ha, made you think you saw an eye, but actually—"

"Did it feel like a prank?"

"No, but—" You brandish a threatening finger. "Is this what telling me straight means? Stupid leading questions? Because I can just leave, you know, and go back to my amazing life, and never ever—"

"You have my..." Henry recalibrates. "...I'm sorry. It's a bad habit. That was God's eye."

Maybe he means something else. "What?"

"That's about as straight as I can get it, kiddo. God's eye. I told you the seal was to plug a hole in the world, and you know what's holding the whole thing up, right? Surely."

According to Richard... "The Wyrm. I guess."

"No guessing necessary. That's not a metaphorical or metaphysical holding— that's literal physical fact. Maybe the most literal fact anything could be. I mean that God is way down there, under the rock and dirt, and if you dug with a shovel for a hundred years you could go and touch It. Same as if you flung yourself off the Edge, though I'd hardly recommend that."

A headache appears to be coming on.

>[-2 ID: 12/14]

"Um," you say. "But I didn't dig, or—"

"Are you sure?"

Richard had to haul you up through a lot of dirt. A whole lot. You clasp the side of your face. "It can't have been God, that's— it was just a big eyeball! It didn't look—"

"Can you figure how big the world is?"

"Big," you mutter.

"I'm glad all those tutors amounted to something. It's big. Now imagine the size of the the being that'd be able to hold all this up. Now imagine the size of that being's eyeball. You're still following?"

You don't want to. "But it dissected me."

"It—" Henry's easy manner hitches briefly. "What's that?"

"Well, sorry, I don't know the dumb fancy cult name for it, but it sort of... took me into pieces... not like it hurt, like I was meant to come apart, or— I don't know! It's hard to explain! But then it put me back together, so it's not like it matters, really, it was just... you're saying God did that?" (Positive thinking.)

"...That would follow." But Henry himself doesn't sound convinced. "It was aware of you?"

"Um, yeah? It dissected me, I just said, and it... um..." You don't want to mention the 'improvement.' "Well, it opened the eye in the first place, obviously—"

"The eye was open? All the way?"

God! "It had to open it first, I just said—"

"It opened for you," Henry says, and looks down, and twirls his necklace around his finger, and mumbles something, and looks back up. He's smiling a not-a-smile. "Well, this brings us nicely back around to the thrust of my questioning earlier. You want this straight, too?"

It'd be cowardly to back out now, that's for certain. You indicate "yes" and also "duh."

"Okay, kiddo, then here it is: you don't check out. You're claiming to know next to nothing about what we do here, about the Wyrm, and given Martin's stance I believe that. I do. But then you're walking around with a head full of God, with a mouth full of teeth, and you're— what— slipping through my grip, kicking through solid dirt, bending the strings? The Wyrm Itself stirs at your presence? None of this passes the sniff test. That's what I think."

You shift. "...Maybe I'm just... special? Maybe I holdeth within me the blood of lots of powerful, um, sorcerers..."

"Kiddo, you holdeth within you the blood of scoundrels, sots, and cads. Your father, God bless him— a stand-out cad. And decidedly average at the party tricks. That's no explanation."

"He wasn't a cad," you say fiercely.

"Not around his darling Charlie, he wasn't! He had the good sense for that. But let's not change the subject. I'd like to assume you're not putting a charade of ignorance, I really would, but I'm in want of an alternate explanation. If there's any scrap of information you could provide—"

It's possible there's some other options beyond the powerful bloodline. You'd just rather not pay them more thought than you have to.

>[1] (Be forced to) tell Henry that you're missing 3 years of your life, during which it's possible/probable you were involved in cult-type stuff. Probably for a good reason you can't remember anymore. [Do you also tell him you can't remember him/your father?]
>[2] Tell Henry that he's forgotten all about your talking snake already, like an idiot, and also possibly your talking snake has done some things to your brain/body that improve your, um, cool magyckalness? So there.
>[3] Oh, God-damnit. Where the hell is Richard? Not only is this whole thing probably his fault, but this is (maybe) *his* old pal. He needs to be here. Actually, he needs to be here, and then explain for you out of your mouth. *That'll* show Henry.
>[4] O-okay, well, not having a special bloodline doesn't mean that you're not specifically special yourself. For example, you could be prophesized? Or destined? Or selected in some way by an outside force (e.g. God)? He should give that a good think.
>[5] Write-in.
>1, 3
oh man, finally maybe some answers about our mysterious past
>[1] (Be forced to) tell Henry that you're missing 3 years of your life, during which it's possible/probable you were involved in cult-type stuff. Probably for a good reason you can't remember anymore.
Don't tell anything else
>>1, 3
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>[1], [3]


Called for [1] and [3] and writing. You won't mention that you can't remember your father.
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Dammit, guys, I hate to do this so early into a thread, but I'm going to have to delay the update. I have about 600 words done, but [1] and [3] is a super-duper awkward combo to write, progress is slow and painful, I'm dealing with an obnoxious bronchitis cough, and it's 2 AM. Bad all the way around. I'll be back tomorrow.
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Back in the saddle and with a quick note: I'm going to go ahead with just [1], rather than both [1] and [3]. As I discovered last night, adding Richard into the mix w/o a good segue adds a lot of finicky, hard-to-write complications, so rather than beating my head against a wall for the second time I'm just going to save him for later. He'll show up while Henry's still around, so you won't miss anything interaction-wise, promise.

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>Memory hole

The thing is, you're not lying to him, or conducting a charade, or anything at all. With your pure and honest heart, how could you? It's far more likely that Henry's the one lying— making you believe that your magyckal abilities are somehow "wrong," or "abnormal." Though it is true that you've manifested them rather late, having evinced no sign of magyckal heritage during your childhood. (As much as you'd wished otherwise.) And it's also true that— well— they aren't all that typically magyckal. You don't get to shoot fire out of your fingertips, as much as you wish otherwise. Or even emit any glowy light, like stupid Gil, who doesn't even appreciate what he's got. But that doesn't mean it's abnormal, just that, um...

Henry is expectant; you bounce your heel. Damn him! Just because you don't have a clear explanation, you're branded a liar and a fraud? He should consider it a good thing you don't know about the Wyrm, a great thing, because it means you're an upstanding member of society— not a creepy skulking cultist like him. Like your father. Like your father was, before he sensibly quit— you mean, Henry says he quit— you wouldn't know. You can't remember! You can't even remember when the magyckal abilities first turned up, either: not before you drowned, but when after? Recently? That's the easy response, but if you think critically on it: was there ever a true precipitating event, an a-ha! trigger? When did you learn what you sometimes do? It feels instinctive. Gut. But you haven't had those instincts forever, so clearly...

Lucky claims you were a deserter. That your gooplicate was a deserter, but there never was a gooplicate. Only you, and years shaved off that you can't remember, and surgical cuts of minutes and hours and days elsewhere. It makes you ill to think about, and it's Henry's fault. You hate Henry. He says he hasn't seen you in years, but you have no way to know if he's lying. You have no way to know if Lucky's lying. You have no way to know if Jesse was lying, when he was alive. Jesse showed you his tattoo like it meant something to you. What was it?

Henry is impatient. A spiral? A funny-looking spiral, scratched there in red. Right by his collarbone. He was bleeding out, gored by, er, you. Hypothetically. It didn't happen, in retrospect. What did he say about it? Just a few words. A non-sequitur. "Still going," or was it— "it's still going"?

Spirals on Management's notice and Henry's robes and Horse Face's creepy statue and on the seal. Red on Annie and in your head and leaking out of Jesse's torn-up neck. What's 'it'?

The cult?

Henry is annoyed. Doesn't say anything, but his lips are set the way Richard's lips are (were) usually set. You pull at the skin between your fingers. "Um—"


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"Um, I—" You already told Gil about it. It's not weird. Positive thinking. "I don't have any idea. I don't remember... I honestly don't know about any of your stupid cult stuff. But I'm a little shaky on, uh, the last couple of years, so it's possible I..."

"Sorry?" Henry says. "'Shaky'?"

"I can't remember them," you mumble. "At all. I remember the last few months, but then it's— it's dark. So maybe I could've been involved in stupid cult stuff, or... or whatever garbage you want to hear. Okay?"

The lips have pursed. The fingers have laced. Henry is concerned. "Kiddo, slow down. You can't remember anything?"

"What do you think 'at all'—"

"Are you aware of a cause?"

You deliver a withering look. "I can't remember anything."

"...I take your point. That's..." Henry touches his forehead. "Is the loss patchy? I mean, is anything at all left behind?"

"What do you think 'at all'—"

"Clean. That's..." He dips his head. "I can't imagine how you feel, Charlotte. Please accept my deepest condolences."

Typical cultist manipulations. "I didn't say I was upset," you mutter. "It's fine. I'm over it, basically, so— do you know anything that wipes memories? Or anyone? Do you go around—"

"I don't," Henry says seriously. "And I couldn't tell you. Anything naturally occurring would leave patches. A clean wipe—"

"You're saying it's unnatural."

"I'm saying that it was deliberate. Something made the conscious choice to take those years from you. A terrible choice. What that something is... I wish I could tell you, kiddo, but I'm far from all-knowing. I don't have a clue."

You sigh out your nose.

"That all being said, that would check out. If you were involved in some way... I suspect substantially involved, given the evidence. Far along the Road, if you will."

If you turn your attention away from Henry, you can hear Earl's heavy breathing from all the way down the corridor. You opt to keep your attention on Henry. "You keep saying stuff about this stupid road like you think I know what it means. I'm just saying."

"Ah. Would you like to know?"

You narrow your eyes.

"...It isn't complex. It's the classical term for the personal journey we set upon. The striving for greater understanding and self-improvement."

"And what's at the end of the road?"

"In theory, absolute perfection of the self." Henry half-smiles. "In practice, the Spiral Road isn't quite a true spiral. Do you see this?"

He points to one of the weird spiraling patterns on his robes. "It's infinite. No end at all. It circles in, eating itself; we circle the drain, but never enter. The Spiral Road teaches us that absolute perfection of the self is unachievable, Charlotte, and if anybody tells you otherwise, they're trying to sell you something."

"Um," you say suspiciously, "shouldn't you be trying to sell me on this? Isn't that the point of you?"

"I don't peddle in false hopes, Charlotte. Humanity was flawed from its birth; no amount of devotion can erase that. The most we can do is strive for perfection—" You open your mouth. He holds up a finger. "—strive for it, which is more important than the obtaining, and happier. We are a support group. We support one another in our best efforts. Perhaps the Great Wyrm will recognize this when it awakens itself, and we will be rewarded. If not, we will be in the same place as everybody else. It's nothing, overall, to worry yourself over."

The chamber is eerie, isn't it? Long and dark and depopulated, with a monster on the other end, and you facing an all-too-placid man with a beltful of knives. "The same place as everybody else," you say. "You mean dead."


"You're saying that the Wyrm is going to wake up and kill everything, definitely, because you said 'when' and not 'if.' Except maybe it won't kill you guys, because you're... self-improving."

"You're a smart cookie," Henry says, a touch amusedly. "That's right. That'd be the end of the world."

Great. Great! "Uh-huh. Uh-huh uh-huh. And you know this—"

"We know this, kiddo, because the world has ended. It's over. The Flood?" Henry mimics a sploosh. "That was it. The big one. Gods dead, everybody go home."

Is he pulling your leg? "But we're—"

"Still here? Yes. And the Wyrm isn't. I'm led to believe there was some miscalculations. A few too many on the lifeboats, if you will. And the water doctored-up. And a key little piece went missing in the scuffle, sank— and now the world's still here, isn't it? A shadow of itself, but here, two centuries in the making. Eternity for us. For the Worldbearer—" He snaps his fingers. "—an eyeblink. The rest is still coming, Charlotte."

"...The rest of the end of the world?"

"That's it. The Wyrm is— It used to be dead asleep. Unreachable. Now It's tossing and turning and trapped under a thousand miles of dirt. It can't do much from down there except leak visions up to us. But it will break out, any day of any week, and then it's curtains. It's as simple as that."

You cross your arms. "You don't sound very upset about this."

"Should I? The die was cast hundreds of years ago, Charlotte. The old gods are killed, and the Wyrm is coming, and you and I?" He spreads his hands. "We have no power in this. Nobody does. The people who brought this about, perhaps foolishly, are long-dead, and even they would have no power in it. We will prepare for the end, and if the end doesn't come, our children will prepare for it—" A pause. "—speaking metaphorically, I suppose. But it will come."

"So it could be in a thousand years, and—"

"In a vacuum, sure. But between you and I, though, the rumbles— they point to soon. I would stake my reputation on it being within the year."

You don't know whether to believe that. You think you'd probably feel better not believing it. "Oh."

"There's no need to be afraid of it," Henry says. "Make the most of the time you have, kiddo. That's what I tell everybody. That's all you can do. Walk the Road. Are you feeling okay?"

"I don't know," you say truthfully.

"Take a minute to digest it. You know, kiddo, your father isn't here right now, but I'm confident in saying he'd agree with me. He did a much better job of making the most of things than I did. I'm only catching up now." Henry taps his fingers at his waist. He looks, to your eyes, a little sad. "How is he, by the by? ...I know it's been some time for you, too, so I don't mean to... er, you've spoken to him more recently than I have, is what I meant. Was he well?"

You feel worse.

>[1] Lie and say he was well. Thanks.
>[2] Inform Henry that your father is dead. Not only is it technically true, you think, but it should also shut down questions about him forever. It'll also make Henry sad, which could be considered a bonus?
>[3] Inform Henry that you don't remember.
>[4] Richard! Richard! You need Richard, stat. You have no idea what he wants you to say/not say anymore, or how he'd phrase things, or anything— no way you're charging into this thicket alone. Richard will actually show up if you vote for this. I won't veto it. Pinky promise.
>[5] Write-in.
>[2] Inform Henry that your father is dead. Not only is it technically true, you think, but it should also shut down questions about him forever. It'll also make Henry sad, which could be considered a bonus?
I'm betting it'll really weird him out
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It's Richard time (for real this time). Writing.
Time to give Henry some Dick.
Also maybe we should see if Henry knows anything about the asshole who jacked our Crown.

Like seriously. Who even the fuck was that, I can barely remember anything about them at all.
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Hey, welcome back.

>Like seriously. Who even the fuck was that, I can barely remember anything about them at all.
You know very little! It was a person of ambiguous gender in a big black cloak and golden mask. They also had a giant black axe and shadow arms, though you've only ever seen them in a manse, so it's hard to say if this'd be an identifying factor IRL. They were pretty genial to you besides the whole "attack you and steal your crown" thing, appeared to know of Monty (weirdly enough), and ultimately hooked up with Richard's snake coworker(?)/nemesis(?) Correspondent #301, vanishing afterwards to... somewhere.

Weirdly enough, Wayne (the guy funding this heist, now deceased) was wearing an identical gold mask to the Gold-Masked Person. You really don't think he's the Person, though, since he spoke all different.

There will be further developments on this front very soon.
We need to loot Wayne's mask for the future, if possible.
Henry is going to go grab you the loot (mask, weird dagger, anything else Wayne had on his person) in a hot second. No worries there.
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>Daddy issues

Is he well? You have no idea. You're going to go out on a limb and guess "no," given that you're haunted by his snake— his snake, who's him, now, except not really. He still can't remember anything. You can't either. So what the hell are you supposed to tell Henry?

Where's Richard? This is the exact thing he's supposed to be here for. You've spent months following his instructions on what you can and can't say about him, and now, when he's the most relevant he's ever been, he's gone. Because why wouldn't he be? Richard?

Richard? Richard. RICHARD. R-I-C-H-A-R-D. This isn't funny. Richard. You want him. Okay, you need him. Is that what he's waiting to hear? You need him? Not for everything- you're not saying for everything. Or most things. But for this, you- you- Richard? Come on. Richard...


Henry frowns slightly. You are bouncing your heel. "Uh, he's... um..."

Is it your approach? Is that's what's wrong? It's worked before, but... no! It's pathetic. Horrible. Week. Charlotte Fawkins doesn't grovel. You do not weep for the absence of- of- some stupid snake who's only ever been a jerk, except for recently, which doesn't count. And you certainly don't need him. You were lying before. You don't need him, and you don't want him here, and if he doesn't want to be here- well- you'll just make him be! Yeah. You will utilize your highly developed, yet non-abnormal, magyckal powers, and he will be summoned here henceforth. He'll be directly behind you, maybe in sunglasses and some kind of stupid printed shirt, and you'll know it by the smoky smell.

That smoky smell. "...Hold on," you add lamely, and turn, and see Richard- cold and damp and slack, face hanging loose like an old mask- blink and see nothing of that sort. He is upright and vital and snapping a lighter closed, and his printed shirt is stupid. "Charlie," he says by way of greeting.

He- um- he's late.

"I apologize sincerely. I was..." He fails to finish the sentence, instead taking a drag off the cigarette.


"..." He's staring off towards Henry, who's clearing his throat. "If it's too painful to speak of, I understand. I apologize for—"

"I'm trying!" you say distractedly: Richard? Hello? Snap out of it? You need the instructions. The instructions about what to say. He's really good at those. You don't even mind if he lies to Henry, or makes something up out of thin air- it's not like his heart is pure and honest, so it hardly matters. You just need them. Now.


Richard, double-damn him, has set his cigarette at a jaunty slant, slipped past you, and walked up to Henry. Who doesn't, shouldn't, indeed cannot, see him. Nothing to worry about. Except for Henry's nostrils flaring, and him suppressing a cough: which could be unrelated to the cigarette smoke. Except for him looking up into Richard's rigid face: which could be coincidence. (Something interesting on the far wall, perhaps. A limpet.) Except for the flash-throughs of doubt, confusion, fascination- recognition? Henry's attention is no longer on you. "Martin?"

"He can't see me the way you do," Richard says conversationally, not turning his head. "Though it's true he's more attuned than most."

Um... okay? Is this supposed to be helping you? Does... does he remember Henry? Surely not. But—

Henry is peering over Richard's shoulder, back at you. "...Kiddo?"

"Yeah?" you say weakly.

"Please stop me if I'm sounding crazy, okay? Stop me. But is Martin— your dad—" He takes a breath. "Is your father here?"

You eye Richard silently. He inclines his head.

"Um," you say. "So, I told you about the talking snake..."


"...And..." Richard! Say something useful!

"He can't hear me, either," Richard says. "Only you can. Do you need me to interject myself?"

What? What happened to him just telling you things? Does he really have to... whatever. If Henry starts stabbing you with poison knives, you'll both know who's to blame. "...Um... you know what, I'll just let him..."

How is Richard behind you again? Gently, he works his hand through your hair, placing five fingertips firm against your scalp. With his other hand, he cradles your neck, and you remember—

Richard, in a kind of juggling act, switches to holding you against the column by grasping your neck. He isn't squeezing. Exactly. But his well-maintained fingernails are digging into your skin.

But this isn't that. He isn't that. He's not even holding you, just touching your skin— touching your brain— nudging you off your perch, offering you a comfortable seat in the back. In some ways it's more sinister than his old scorch-the-earth method, and out of instinct you resist. Not hard enough for it to matter, though.

>[-1 ID: 11/14]

You don't know what "more attuned" means, exactly, but Henry's gaze narrows the second it's complete. He draws himself fully upright, saying nothing.

Finding yourself still in control of much of your body— if numb around your jaw and neck— you flash him two thumbs up. Henry has little time to parse this maneuver before your mouth swings open, ventriloquism-style. "Hello? Ahem."

It's still your voice. This doesn't seem to deter Henry any: he shifts on his feet. "Martin?"

"I'm sorry to say it's not as simple as that." You take a long pause. "Your instincts are good, but the situation is more complex..."

Why is Richard faltering? Is he nervous? Henry laces his fingers unreadably. "You've taken his skin, then? 'Be not afraid.'"

Another pause. "Rather more than his skin."

"His mind? Certainly his daughter. He couldn't have approved of—"

"It was between Charlotte and I. She was a grown woman."

"—of a divine messenger— a Wyrm's agent— and I'm not saying I agree. I told Martin up and down that sheltering her was a fool's errand, and if nothing else I've been vindicated. I have to say, it's cold comfort. How much of him have you taken?"

Pause. "More than not. I am not a—"

"How has she been treated?"

"—I am not some string-puller. She is mine, in practice and effect. I care for her."

It's funny to have it said out loud. Especially in your own voice. If he'd said it a week ago, it would've really been something, but now you're just confused. Henry settles back on his feet, eyes intent. "How does It feel about that?"

Richard's grip tightens. "I don't answer to It."

"We all," Henry says, "answer to It."

Silence. No, not silence. Earl takes heaving breaths.

"You are a confident man," Richard says.

Henry doesn't answer that— wisely, from your Richard experience— just tilts his chin. "How was Martin?"

"...Well," says your mouth. "Well. In good health and spirits."

"I see," says Henry. "Thank you, Sir Messenger, I thought you'd say so. Don't you agree that's enough of this? There's no need to humiliate the girl any—"

Are you being humiliated right now? Is Richard making your face go all funny or something? Damnit!

«I believe he's just unused to this state of affairs, Charlie. But I've outlived my welcome. One moment.»

He releases you. There's a sense of flying forward, though of course your legs are where they always were, and a rush of pins and needles, though of course your jaw's been getting plenty of exercise. Exercise aying vague, stupid pronouncements, by the way— typical. You cough. "Hello."

"Hello," Henry says, not skipping a beat. "I'm sorry you had to suffer that, Charlotte."

"Um, I'm fine?" Unless he means from that conversation. "I'm fine. Geez. It was just a little— you know— a little thingy. Switcharoo. And his name's Richard, by the way, not Sir Messenger, and also I thought I told you the 'divine messenger' thing was a fat crock of G.S., so hooray for not listening—"


"Now you listen. Yeah."

"Kiddo, what's your father's middle name?"

"Um." Of course you don't know. But you're not stupid, and the context clues are glaring. "...'Richard'?"

Henry clucks his tongue.

"Well, that's his name," you say uncomfortably. "It's not like it's a rare name. It's— it's actually very common. So. Can we move on? I asked you earlier about an extremely important topic, i.e. what to do about a dead worm, and you completely blew me off, so now that we're talking straight, can you—"

He gathers up his robes. "Actually, I should go."


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"Not permanently, kiddo. I have some things for you, and I need to grab them. And I think it's best if I... thought about this for a little while. The full meaning of things often doesn't occur to me until after the fact. Yes?" He smiles tightly. "And you've given me much to think about, so thank you. We can discuss your worm when I get back— why don't you check on your friend in the meantime?"

Who? Oh, Earl. You're pretty sure he's fine. "But—"

"Ten minutes or less. My sense of time is very good." He indicates an imaginary wristwatch. "I'll meet you back here, of course. Sound like a plan?"

"Uhh," you say. If you made an objection, would it register? Probably not. For as chipper as his words are, Henry's whole mode is steely. "It is what it is? I guess?"

"It is what it is! A motto to live by. Now, I'll be right back."

He leaves. Or escapes, maybe. Richard's cigarette has burnt all the way out, and he's stomping it under his heel.

You exhale.

>[1] So what was that?! That whole conversation— you barely understood it, but it kind of felt like Henry was winning. That never happens. Was Richard playing some sort of advanced mind-game? Is he *that* off his groove? Explain!
>[2] Did Richard actually steal his name from your father's name? Because that's sort of creepy, if he did.
>[3] Why did it take so long for him to get here? Why is he vanishing for longer and longer? Is— is he going to be okay?
>[4] So you, um, turned Earl into a big monster. Thoughts? Tips?
>[5] Does *he* know how to raise a worm from the dead? (He's nice now. He won't make fun of you for it.)
>[6] Write-in.
>[1] So what was that?! That whole conversation— you barely understood it, but it kind of felt like Henry was winning. That never happens. Was Richard playing some sort of advanced mind-game? Is he *that* off his groove? Explain!
>[2] Did Richard actually steal his name from your father's name? Because that's sort of creepy, if he did.
>[3] Why did it take so long for him to get here? Why is he vanishing for longer and longer? Is— is he going to be okay?
>[4] So you, um, turned Earl into a big monster. Thoughts? Tips?
>>[1] So what was that?! That whole conversation— you barely understood it, but it kind of felt like Henry was winning. That never happens. Was Richard playing some sort of advanced mind-game? Is he *that* off his groove? Explain!
>>[2] Did Richard actually steal his name from your father's name? Because that's sort of creepy, if he did.
>>[3] Why did it take so long for him to get here? Why is he vanishing for longer and longer? Is— is he going to be okay?
>>[4] So you, um, turned Earl into a big monster. Thoughts? Tips?
>1, 3
2 if we have time
> 1

. . . >6

Henry implied our dad might still be alive?

Henry doesn't answer that— wisely, from your Richard experience— just tilts his chin. "How was Martin?"

What the fuck.


>>5721229 [maybe]


Okie doke. Called for [1] and [3] for sure, and I'll throw on [2] and [4] in that order if there's room and time for them. No guarantees.


>Henry implied our dad might still be alive?
Not quite. He's ignoring Richard's comment and following up on his original question to you, which was how your dad was doing the last time you saw him (since Henry seems to have drowned at least a couple years before you did-- you've ostensibly seen your dad more recently). You're not sure about the implications of either him re-asking or Richard's response, and there sure does seem to be a lot of subtext, but Martin being alive/not being alive isn't the purpose of that particular statement.
>What's up pops

"What was that?"

"Hm?" Richard says, not even turning his head.

"What was—" You throw your hands up. "What were you and him even talking about? Were you even talking? Or were you just saying words in random order— out of my mouth, by the way, and not even a thank-you—"

"Thank you."

"Oh." Damnit. "A thank-you that required prompting— anyways! Explain yourself! Because it sure seemed like you were letting him win that conversation—"

"I don't think it's terribly healthy to frame conversations in terms of 'winning' and 'losing,' Charlie."

"But you were," you say. "Losing. Right?"

Richard turns slightly, casting his face in strange shadow. "I was ill-prepared to speak to that man. He is..."


"I was going to say 'acute,' but that's accurate enough. It was a basic misapprehension. The world is full of ineffectual dabblers; picking out the legitimates is a difficult task."

It's some form of excuse. You don't entirely buy it, though. "Do you remember him?"

"Remember? I thought we've discussed this, Charlie, I can't—" He presses his lips together. "Your father was consumed. I am the result, fortunate or not."

"Consumed!" you say. "You ate his middle name, too?"

"Charlie," Richard says patiently, "you dubbed me this. It's hardly my responsibility."

"I called you by my father's middle name. When I didn't even remember—"

"Not consciously. Perhaps something exceedingly minor bubbled to the surface. Perhaps you were... reminded." Richard shrugs. "Alternately, you're correct. It's a common name. I have little memory of the specifics at this point."

"Like Henry," you say.

He averts his gaze. "I don't think the nuances of... of how I... of course I have no memory, Charlotte. Of course. But it felt, powerfully, as though I should have memory, and I found this highly distracting. Do you understand?"


"No? No. Of course not. I don't know that I understand it." Richard sounds distant. "I don't believe that I'm operating at 100% capacity, primrose. It's very strange."

"Uhh," you say. "Yes. Very strange and... unexpected... you know you were late? I was calling for you, with my— um, with my brain, and you weren't anywhere. You were vanished! And I needed you! And you said you'd always be there for me, blah blah blah, when clearly that was a big fat lie—"

"I did apologize. ...I came as soon as I was able."

"Aren't I supposed to be your top priority?" You place your hands on your hips. "Precisely what was so important that—"

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"Of course you're my top priority, primrose. But you were hardly in danger, and I was..."

He trails off. Again! Just like last time! "You were what."

"...I don't..." Richard appears, for the first time maybe ever, sheepish. It looks terrible on him. "...I don't have complete recall. I believe I may have been in water."

"In water."

"Perhaps a saline solution."

"In a saline solution," you say, "whatever that is, doing...?"

He spreads his hands wordlessly.

"...Something. Great! Great." You push hair off your forehead. "Is that where you go all the other times, too? Swimming? Because you've been vanishing a lot—"

"I apologize."

"I mean, a lot-a lot, way more than you ever— and half the time when you're here you're useless anyways— it's awful! And you don't see anything wrong with this?"

"I never—"

"You think everything's all fine and dandy?"

"Please don't put words in my mouth, Charlotte. That's rude." Richard is tapping rapidly at his thigh. "I realize I've been less than optimal in recent days, and I wish for it to be otherwise. I apologize for any harm or inconvenience it's caused you, and in the meantime I am hoping it's a transient state, not a—"

"What caused it?"

"Charlotte, I—"

"What caused it?"


His face has reddened. You draw back, perversely satisfied, as he attempts to recompose himself. "I— pardon me. But you are badgering. I'm not certain what the cause is— it's rare for me to catch ill— but there's a first time for everything, of course, and—"

He doesn't know. He doesn't know he died or who killed him or why. He thinks everything's chugging along per normal, barring some passing illness and a couple minor changes of heart. You have no idea how you should be feeling about this. Maybe 'gross.'

"Oh, primrose. I'm sorry for snapping." Richard has completely misinterpreted your expression. "I'll be just fine, I promise. This is a resilient old chassis— and I don't need to last that long, regardless, just long enough to help you out. It's quite alright."

His arms are all spread, like he means to go in for a hug or similar affection-delivery method. You keep a careful distance. "Um... okay..."

Thank God for Henry, who returns in the nick of time with a bundle of stuff. At a glance, his own mood seems improved: perhaps he's chewed over whatever he meant to chew and saved the rest for later. You wander over before he calls you.

"How's Earl?" he says, first off.

"Uhhh." Shoot. "Just fine. Same as... usual. I mean, not usual, but—"

"I catch your meaning, kiddo. Happy to hear it. If he can remain stable for however long the stuff needs to work out of his system, I'd consider that the best-case scenario. At least for the cards we've been dealt." He jingles his bundle, which, from the raggedness, seems to be makeshift. "This is what we pulled off the... er, the remains. You get first pick, naturally. Would you like to see?"

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Why ask? You gesture, and he squats down and opens the bundle up. You peer over to see its contents:

>Wayne's golden mask, newly scorched.
>A strange dagger: it's shiny and transparent and oddly thick, like a sharpened chunk of chit. It's bloodied.
>No less than four pistols, in varying stages of busted, warped, or fading off into thin air. At most one of them could still be usable... possibly?
>No less than four thick black gloves. Two are partially shredded.
>A thingy? Like a large coin, or a medal with no ribbon. It has an axe symbol on it.
>Ew! That's a human arm! Ew!

"Anything you need a closer look at?" Henry says.

>[1] Yes. (What item[s] do you want to examine? Write-in.)
>[2] Nope. You're good. (What item[s] do you take with you? Write-in.)
>[3] Write-in.
>[1] Yes
Mask, coin, dagger, pistols.
Take: Arm, coin, dagger.

We can probs use a third arm and it matches our bio modding, a dagger to be held by said arm that accompanies our sword - we ain't kniw shit about guns and anyways the things we fight ain't so phazed by them, let alone the logistics of bullets.

and the coin axe symbol bexause it seems cool and maybe we can use it or trade it for something.

Examine: Mask, pistol, gloves
You'll examine stuff! I'll throw up another vote for what you keep @ this next update, so you have the full details before you pick.

>Input action: LOOK

"There's an arm," you muster up.

"It sure is. Not much of the man was intact, but you did spare this." You avert your eyes, but not fast enough: Henry is giving the arm a jaunty wave. "One of four, curiously. I'm not at all sure how he happened upon the extra two, but— I thought you'd be interested— they're not human, anatomically. See the segments?"

"No," you say forcefully.

"Well, I'm pointing, if you'd look... Charlotte?" Henry processes. "Er... you're squeamish?"

Why does he have to say it like that? "No! I simply have a reasonable— a reasonable distaste for— for— I shouldn't have to explain myself! It's an arm!"

"It— yes. It is. I take it that you aren't interested in—"


Henry clears his throat. "Fair enough. I'll remove it. The other objects?"

You gesture impatiently, and he steps back, allowing you to squat down and take a look.

First, the mask. Not shockingly, it's the size of a human face, with holes for the eyes but none for the mouth. It's lightweight and cool to the touch, though you're uncertain whether the gold color is true gold, a plating, or a paint— it doesn't come off when you scratch it, but you'd have to make a cut to be sure. The mask's interior is also gold, with no special markings or insignias. To all appearances, it's just a mask.

Still, your gut twists when you consider trying it on. Is there something wrong with it? Um, Richard?

"You'd like an examination?" (He's still here. Thank God.) "Let me see."

You hand him the mask, trying to ignore Henry's slantwise expression: what does he see you doing? Whatever. Richard turns it around a couple times, then hands it back. "It's just a mask, Charlie. No unique properties."

Fine. You put the mask on your face. Nothing happens, except for it being ill-fitting (too large) and a bit itchy. Is the Gold-Masked Person's mask itchy? You hope so. You hope their mask itches all the way into hell— or no! All the way into your future royal snake pit. There we go.

Um, anyways. You set the mask down and pick up the dagger. You thought it looked like a big chunk of chit from your first glance, and your second look verifies this: it really is just a large, sharp, skinny crystal. The pointy end is bloodstained. Your hand tingles from touching it.

"I can't examine this one, I'm afraid," Richard says. "It's the genuine article. Rather, er, antithetical to my person."

You wave it experimentally toward him, and sure enough he fuzzes out where it gets close. "That's not as amusing as you think it is, primrose. Were you not just expressing concern for my health?"

What? You weren't doing anything. Anyhow, the crystal dagger— this is what Wayne was attempting to kill Felicia with. But why? He had a gun. Four guns. If he wanted her (or you) dead, he could've just whipped one out and shot her. Was there something important about this dagger in particular?

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And he said something about it. What? That he couldn't— what was it— he couldn't "return empty-handed." That's it. Because you'd just scared him away from the seal, which is what he came for. Was there something he wanted from the seal that he was trying to get from Felicia instead? By... um... killing her? Why are people who commission heists so terrible? First Horse Face's stupid god-summoning, now this. Blech.

If the dagger conceals any more mysteries, you won't find them by looking at it. You set it down and shake out the tingles. Your hand is flushed a healthy pink where you were touching it: it must be fairly pure, at least a few steps above chit. Maybe more. Where did Wayne get it?

Well, again, you won't find that out now. You pick up the, um, thingy. Is it a coin? It's rather big for one, resembling a pocketwatch in size, but it is metallic— the same bright gold as the mask. The stamped axe symbol is double-headed and basic in design, really just a silhouette.

On the other side of the thingy (a token?) is a different symbol: a grinning woman in profile, wearing a crown. A crown. It couldn't be the Crown... could it? Maybe? It's too simplistic to tell. You don't recognize either the symbol of the axe or the symbol of the woman.

You hand the token off to Richard, who doesn't need prompting. He twirls it in his hand. "No unique properties, but it's not real. Manufactured underwater."

After Richard hands it back, you slip the token into your pocket— it won't do you any harm, at the least. You pick up two pistols in its place. You know little about guns, but—

"Unreal, but modeled off a Discus N30. Those two look unusable. Let me see these..."

—Richard does, for some reason. You fidget with your belt loops as he pores over the second set, turning them sideways and upside down and buffing their scratches on his shirt. "This one's jammed. This one needs some love and attention, but could be usable with tinkering. If you can source them, I recommend genuine bullets—"

You don't know how to use a gun. And you're not interested in learning, before he starts. You have a sword, and besides, it's not like you ever see him using a gun—

"You don't see me killing people, do you, Charlie? It's not traditional. And they're noisy." Did he slide on sunglasses for the sole purpose of pushing them up the bridge of his nose? "My interest is purely academic. But your interest is, I take it, nil—"


"—so I won't press the matter. Your good friend Mr. Wallace favors the pistol, though, does he not?"

Gil? Um, you guess so. But you thought he already had his own gun.

"In reality?"

...Maybe? No? You guess not? You suppose you could take this and gift it to him, but would he appreciate that? It's the gun of a weird dead murderer guy, plus maybe Gil has specific preferences? You don't want to give him something he doesn't like. But what if he would like it?

"I wouldn't presume to know his mind, primrose." Richard hands the pistol back. "Do with it as you will."

"Is that everything?" Henry says.

You startle and cough. "Y- yeah. Yes. I'll keep..."

>[A] What do you want to take with you, if anything? (Mask / dagger / pistol — write-in.)


"...Sounds great," Henry affirms distractedly— he keeps glancing up past you. "Do you hear anything?"

"What?" You listen. Indeed, there's a faint high-pitched... whine? "Yes? Is that something bad? What—"

"If I'm not mistaken, it's coming from the direction of your friend." Henry glances again. "Are you certain he's just fine?"

"Oh." Damnit. "Um... yes. He does that sometimes. I mean, often. Very often. All the time."

"I see. Candidly, I have to ask— what do you intend to do with him?"

You twist your hands. "What do I intend to do with him?"

"I don't mean to cast judgement, Charlotte, but you— how do I put this— you're the one responsible for his current state. I'm not trying to imply it's worse than the previous state, but it's— you can agree it's more obtrusive, yes?"

"He's not doing anything," you say.

"He's not doing anything yet. As far as I'm aware, it takes multiple hours to revert to usual. Do you plan to wait with him that long?"

"...Um, I have to get back to..."

"Right." Henry dips his head and spreads his hands in a sort of combined 'told you so' gesture. "I've been taking your word that he's not a magician, Charlotte, and that no ill will is intended. But nevertheless I'm concerned that if you're gone, and he becomes restless, or worse aggressive—"

"He won't," you say staunchly.

"Do you know that, or do you believe it? I don't want to have to handle a ton's worth of flesh by myself, and I'm concerned for his eventual safety if I'm forced to do so. I'm also concerned that, even if he remains docile for the entire length of time, that he will revert and be disoriented in a strange place with a stranger. I can envision that ending poorly. Can't you?"

You frown.

"What I'm saying, kiddo, is that I'd like you to either stay until he purges himself of this, take him with you, or figure something else out. I don't think I'm being awfully unreasonable. Can we figure something out?"


>[B1] Fine. You'll stick around until Earl's back to normal— you can take another nap, or whatever. It's dark enough. This'll delay your return to camp by quite a bit, but it's the least hassle for both you and Earl.
>[B2] Fine. You'll take him with you. It seems like he'll follow your orders, so it shouldn't be hard to get around with him— the main obstacle is that he's, er, fairly monstrous, and it'll be tough to explain to anybody you meet.
>[B3] Fine. You will, obviously, use your COMPLETELY EXPLAINABLE MAGYCKAL POWERS to revert him... now! Yes! Indeed! That's how it works! As soon as Henry stops looking at you like that, that is! (Advanced Advanced Gaslighting. How do you justify Earl returning to normal? Write-in.) [Difficult roll, unless your justification is very good.]
>[B4] Fine. Um. ...Isn't this Gil's whole thing? Isn't his blessing really good at un-monsterfying people? Except Gil isn't *here* right now, and neither is his goo body, so you'd have to jerry-rig some way for him to interface with the real world. Hmm. [-2 ID]

>[C] Write-in.


>[D1] Where have you seen that type of gold mask before? Hint: two places. (Write-in. Optional.)
>[D2] What could be the purpose of the crystal dagger? By extension, what was Wayne's motive? (Write-in. Optional.)
>[A] What do you want to take with you, if anything?
Take mask, dagger and pistol.
>[B4] Fine. Um. ...Isn't this Gil's whole thing? Isn't his blessing really good at un-monsterfying people? Except Gil isn't *here* right now, and neither is his goo body, so you'd have to jerry-rig some way for him to interface with the real world. Hmm. [-2 ID]
>[D1] Where have you seen that type of gold mask before?
On the mask guy, of course, and in Monty's memories.
>[D2] What could be the purpose of the crystal dagger? By extension, what was Wayne's motive?
Could it be a device for extracting Law? Then Wayne was after the Law in the Hell Cork, but in a pinch was content with extracting some from Felicia.

Hey, we just got a sort of magical but opposite dagger to use as a focus. Clearly the monster that Earl is, is more of an expression of his REAL self which is to say his normal self.

So we can use proximity of the dagger to encourage the decay of this imposed delusional state of monstrosity that he has temporarily convinced the world and thereby himself that he is.

Alternatively B2 but we will ride on his shoulder to let people know that he's friendly. It totally will not satisfy any deep daddy related issues and having no memory of riding the shoulder of a much larger father figure.
Also take dagger, pistol, amulet.

Cut the mask to see if it's actual gold and saleable if so.
>Dagger and pistol

Mask is just a mask

I was wondering where the second was and >>5722714 sounds correct
He wanted to get something from Felicia/her body, and killing with the crystal dagger would make it easier/possible to harvest whatever it was.
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Calling the BONUS DETECTIVESS QUESTIONS right here, because >>5722714 got both of them in one fell swoop. Congratulations! Your reward is the feeling of sweet, sweet victory and, of course, Charlotte being a step ahead of the plot.

In light of this, I'd like to levy one more BONUS QUESTION:

>[C3] Judging by his receptiveness to the whole "you've been set up" concept, Wayne appears to have been working with or for somebody else. What or who? (Write-in. Optional.)

The other votes remain open per usual until it's time to write the update.
I bet it was our old aquaintance the crown thief
>>[C3] Judging by his receptiveness to the whole "you've been set up" concept, Wayne appears to have been working with or for somebody else. What or who?
>Dagger, pistol, mask if valuable
You already pocketed the token, so no need to vote on that.



>[B3] or [B2]

Narrowly calling this one for [B2].


That would be plausible, wouldn't it...? :-)

>"Votes" for all write-in options
>Without any write-ins
Are you trying to tell me something, anon? You can use your words, it's okay. This is a safe space.
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>Continued from the first bit of >>5722705

"...um... hold on." You set the pistol down and fumble around for The Sword. "I just need to..."

There it goes, shinging out of its sheath with rather more drama than you were looking for. Henry gazes down at its crackling flames as you attempt to take a nick off the gold mask. "That's not Wyrmbite, is it?"

"Uh..." The mask nicks, but there's just more gold underneath. Does that mean it's the genuine article? But shouldn't pure gold scratch with just a fingernail? Maybe it's a mix, or—

"It's not real, Charlie, so that's probably it. Did I mention that earlier?"

No! He didn't! Thanks a lot, Richard. You stow The Sword before Henry can ask any more obtrusive questions and toss the mask back onto the empty bundle. Worthless.

"For the purposes of sale, maybe, but do you think—"

That it could be some manner of clue? For a forthcoming mystery in need of your detectivess prowess? Perhaps pertaining to the unlawful theft of your Crown?

Richard pauses. "Well... yes."

Okay, because you already thought about that. You recognized the mask right off the bat, of course, but there was a possibility (however slim) that the similarity was a big coincidence. The mask factory, etcetera. But now you see the token with a big double-bladed axe on it, like the Person's axe? And a woman wearing a crown? And this dagger isn't a dagger, not really, just a long pointy crystal. Like the type in the Crown. You're not saying it's actually a tine from it, but isn't the resemblance striking? Not to mention, you know full well what these crystals do: they capture Law. Of the sort that, e.g., might be pouring out from a hole that leads straight to God? Or that might, in a moment of desperation, be found inside the living body of a bitchy fish?

It was nice of Richard to prompt you, because you didn't really have it all congealed until now. But you didn't need his help. This mask here isn't the Person's mask, and it's also not Monty's mask— because he had an identical-looking one too! The one that made you hallucinate dying a billion times. The mask you have now can't do that, because it's just a dumb replica, and what do you need that for? You have the token as proof. Good enough.

"Goodness gracious, primrose. You had this all sorted, didn't you?" Richard ruffles your hair. "I'm really very proud of you. You've become such a bright young women."

It doesn't mean anything, him saying that. He never would've said it before, and probably didn't even believe it before, and if he believes it now that's fake. It does feel good, a little bit, though.

>[+2 ID: 13/14]

You clear your throat. "Um, I'll take the dagger and this pistol. You can keep the mask and the other guns."


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>Continued from >>5722706

"Fine!" you say. "I'll take him with me. So there."

"Excellent. I appreciate your cooperation, Charlotte. Now—"

"Now you tell me about—" You cast a look at Richard. "—about the worm thing. 'Worm' with an 'o'. What are the secret cult methods for worm, um, revival?"

"Worm revival," Henry says.

"Yes. For when the worm in question is... perhaps... deceased in some way...?"

"You would like to bring a worm— worm with an 'o'— back from the dead?"

Does he have to make that expression? And say it so plainly, when Richard's right here listening? "Perhaps it could be something of that nature. Potentially speaking."

"Well, Charlotte, God doesn't typically deal in... it's the overriding philosophy that dead things should stay that way, I'm afraid."

You cross your arms. "But could it revive a worm? If it wanted to?"

"Er... yes. But that 'if' is playing a major—"

"So it's possible."

Henry sighs. "Kiddo, do you want my answer, or are you just going to substitute your own?"

You scowl. "What if the worm was previously infused-eth with mystic powers? Perhaps it supped of a— of a cursèd spring, overflowing with the energy of God itself?"


"And then it got really big and turned red?"

Henry is looking at you like you've sprouted an extra eyeball. Is he seriously so unversed in the knowledge of worm transformations? Pah. "I'm sorry? Are you saying you... infused a worm with..."

"And then it got really big and turned red. Yes. I just said. Would that make it easier to revive?"

"Um," Henry says distinctly. He keeps looking down at the ground, like he dropped all his worm-revival notes down there. "...Potentially? This isn't something commonly done, Charlotte, or done at all."

"So it's novel!"

"...Yes. Novel. I— firstly, I don't think you're going to be able to get the complete worm 'back from the dead'. I think that's out of the question. I think that, even if you were to get God's attention, demanding such a thing would make it... testy."

You frown.

"If you're willing to take my professional advice, though, I think you could do with a reframing of the question. Say you're not resurrecting this... worm. Say, instead, that all you want to do is create an exact living duplicate of this now-deceased worm. Suddenly, kiddo, doors open up. Would that be an acceptable alternative?"

"...Would we still share a special bond?"

"Uh..." There's a lot going on behind Henry's eyes. "Yes. Again, this is an exact duplicate."

You glance at Richard, who nods good-naturedly. "...Okay."

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"Great. In that case, I can imagine a method— which would be extraordinarily difficult for a person, by the way, too complex— but for a worm, assuming you mean a literal worm, it could be done. In theory. Nobody's making a practice of this. But in theory, you could locate a host organism— another worm, ideally, but even something else— locate a host, and rip out or alter their strings, overwrite them with the focused concept of your worm— so that they would have in effect no choice but to be it totally. And then you would have your worm. Understood?"

That sounds kind of scarier than you imagined, but Annie deserves you trying as hard as you can. "I guess... but how would that happen? Exactly?"

"I don't know," Henry says.


"At the moment I'm spitballing. But that's the core concept, seen in other workings, if not in this permutation. I'd need some actual time to think on it if you wanted a step-by-step."

"I want a step-by-step," you say firmly.

"Then I will have to write you. If Garvin delivers a letter, will you accept it from him? Or will you, I paraphrase, 'spit in his face and then tear it to shreds and piss on the shreds in front of him.' As he seems to believe will happen."

Now that he says it, you'd dearly like to do the aforementioned. But you want your worm back more. "I guess I'll accept it."

"Great! Then I'll do some thinking." Henry spreads his hands. "Was there anything else?"

>[1] Yes. (Anything else for Henry or the Wyrm cult? Last shot for a while. Write-in.)
>[2] No. You're out of here. [I will ask for some rolls to determine the outcome of your traveling.]
I suspect we already know the step-by-step. After all, we had once forced someone to be someone else deceased.
>[2] No. You're out of here.
I feel like Henry, a man who's has seen through the mysteries of God and Existence to the bleak truths behind them and found himself unphazed was still completely unprepared for the mysteries of Charlotte and her W(o/y)rms.

Mostly Charlotte.
>[1] Yes. (Anything else for Henry or the Wyrm cult? Last shot for a while. Write-in.)

Yes. Does Henry want to explain his reaction to Richard now?

You know, the thing he was all gung ho to talk straight about?

Also does he perhaps know of any containers of laws we could snap up with our snazzy new crystal that, like, aren't seals on a restless God or at least not this one?

Also, what does he mean earlier about all the gods being dead? We've met one, our retainer is kind of sort of their like. Apostle? Pet? Hobby?

But primarily still our retainer so it's not really a concern.

It was Horse Faces fault, part of what he did after nefariously stealing our model which is important to mention because he keeps talking shit about us as if our dislike of him came from nothing and not from him stealing from us and violating the sanctity of a Young Lady's Boudoir and sanctum solace from the Cruel World.

Oh no. Was Horse Face also friends with our dad? If so today will have just been FULL of disappointmentment.
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Just addressing the stuff Charlotte would already know--

>Also, what does he mean earlier about all the gods being dead? We've met one, our retainer is kind of sort of their like. Apostle? Pet? Hobby?
It's what it says on the tin: the eight Seas, ocean gods and patrons of humanity, were murdered about 200 years ago, consequently leading to the great Flood, the deaths of millions, the submerging of most of the world in water, etcetera. The god you met wasn't a live one: rather, Horse Face sacrificed his life force to perform a séance-type thing, bringing it temporarily back into the world. It was still relatively weak and depowered compared to how it would've been in life.

>Was Horse Face also friends with our dad?
It seems implausible. Horse Face claims to be biologically ~25, so either your father would've had to make a much younger friend, or Horse Face would've had to have drowned decades ago (which doesn't really match the whole "time loop" thing). You're also fairly sure he's not even from the same pillar.
Definitely explain Horse Face's crimes and how our grudge against him is valid and justified.


Called for a few more questions and/or statements about Horse Face. I'll give you some options for how you plan to get out of here at the end. Writing.
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>One last thing...

"Yes!" You straighten up. "I would like to inform you that there's a valid reason— an extremely valid series of reasons, in fact, why I place a limited amount of trust in Horse Face, because I see your expression—"

You proceed to inform Henry of the extremely valid series of reasons. His expression doesn't change much. "You have to realize that this sounds far-fetched, on the face of it."

"I just said it— it— it all got reversed! So of course you wouldn't remember it—"


"—and he— do I have to say this again?! He summoned a— a horrific pagan god, and it was like a fish, but also a man, like a fish-man, and it was made of water, and—"

"I think you misunderstand my fundamental principles, Charlotte," Henry says gently. "If that is true, I don't see trouble with that."

"You don't see— isn't that the point of you?!"

"The sea gods are long dead. They have, excuse my crudeness, 'lost.' Petty competition isn't required at this stage."

You hadn't conceived of this possibility. "But magicians—"

"Haven't grasped this essential fact, so they choose to threaten and harass us. Not the other way around. In any case, C.M.S. Garvin isn't one of them, as I've spent some time assuring: it sounds like he had other purposes in mind, and this is a misadventure I find unlikely to be repeated. Assuming it did happen, which I have no way of verifying." Henry shrugs.

"But—" You gesture helplessly. "He stole my—!"

"And you said he returned it?"

Why did you say that?! "Under— under duress!"

"If stealing a small object, then returning it under duress, is Mr. Garvin's worst crime—" Henry spreads his arms. "I've done far worse, and for far longer. I'll leave it there."


"I think we should drop the topic."

You cast a despairing look at Richard, the only person available to cast a despairing look at, which also proves a helpful reminder. "Fine. Then can you tell me what you were talking with Richard about? That's my snake, in case you forgot."

"I didn't, but thank you." Henry casts his own look in Richard's direction. "And we were discussing your father. More or less."

More or less? "You said you'd give things to me straight."

He presses his lips together. "Okay. That thing isn't your father. That's as straight as I can make it."

"That's it?"


Geez! "Um, I knew that already? Obviously? I just called him my snake, which didn't mean 'father,' last I checked, plus he never ever said he was my father—" Except for lately, but he doesn't know better. "—he always said it was stupid and complicated, which it is. So it's not like I'm confused. Is that really all?"

"I'm happy to hear that," Henry says. "And yes."

"Uh-huh." You shift. Should you ask him about places to top off your new crystal? Probably not, if you plan to siphon all the Law you could ever want off Headspace. It'd just make things too messy— he could ask questions. "Okay. Great. Then I shall be taking my leave!"

"Then I will wish you the best of luck. May God be with you, though maybe a little less literally than you have it as is." Henry offers his hand out to shake.

Should you take it? Do you still hate him? Maybe you can shift him off the hate-list for now, owing to him having rescued you from a Certain State. And him letting you take a nap in his secret cult HQ. You're not saying you're friends, or anything, but for now... perhaps... you'll shake his hand.

You do, with Henry failing to acknowledge your murder-grip. "And you're always welcome, of course," he says as you withdraw. "Always. Consider this a safe haven."

"Wherever this is," you mumble.

"I think you'll be able to find us." Henry tucks his hands behind his back. "And find your way out, for that matter."

...Yes! Of course! Right?

>How are you and Earl getting out of here? [All options will require rolls.]

>[A1] Go overland. It'll be much easier to navigate, and you won't have to worry about making Earl squeeze through tunnels. But it'll take longer, and you run the risk of him being spotted.
>[A2] Go underground. You'll have to rely on Henry's directions and your own intuition, making it a little risky, but you're unlikely to encounter trouble. And if you can navigate correctly, it should be faster.
>[A3] Just shut your eyes and wander until you mysteriously wind up where you need to go. It's a legitimate method! ...If you can get it working with Earl. If it works, you'll make it back far faster than you ever could normally, but if it doesn't you could get really, really lost.
>[A4] Write-in.

>[B1] Get Earl to carry you in some way. It shouldn't be any problem for him physically, he'll move faster than you can, and it could signal that he's nonthreatening. You may have a difficult time giving him directions, though.
>[B2] Just walk. Tried and true.

>[C] Write-in.
>[A2] Go underground. You'll have to rely on Henry's directions and your own intuition, making it a little risky, but you're unlikely to encounter trouble. And if you can navigate correctly, it should be faster.
>[B2] Just walk. Tried and true.
A3, B1
+1 to this. It's only a dumb idea if it doesn't work!
>A3, B1
>High risk/high reward

>Medium risk/medium reward

You got it. I need dice.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+10 Positive Thinking) vs. DC 75 (+15 Complicated Route, +15 You Have Company, -5 Dark) to coincidentally wind up exactly where you need to go!

Spend 1 ID for +10 to all rolls? You are at 13/14 ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
Rolled 72 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

Watch THIS

>[1] Y
Rolled 94 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

This is unfair, I was supposed to have at least 4 more hours to vote

I guess I wouldn't really sway a 3-1 though :(

Rolled 47 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>82, 104, 57 vs. DC 75 -- Success
EZ clap. Writing shortly.

(Just kidding. I always call dice votes 3-4 hours early to give people time to roll, plus-- you're right-- I figured that the 3-1 wouldn't be broken. Better luck next update, anon!)

Thanks for the (you)!(?)
I think this is the first time a high risk/high reward option actually panned out?
>Take a wander
>82, 104, 57 vs. DC 75 — Success
>No spendy

Right! Right. Right. Of course you will. Why even question that? You have, of course, your excellent navigatory skills, enhanced by your powerful (and again completely explainable) affinity for the bowels of the earth, and there's your positive thinking, of course— which you happen to be exercising right now! Have you ever gotten lost? Can you remember one single instance in which you ever did not proceed unerringly to your destination? Of course not! So why would this be any different?

Also— oh. Richard's waving at you. Also there's Richard, you guess, if something goes direly wrong. But it won't! It won't, and it won't so hard that you're not even going to ask Henry for directions. Even if he's off the hate list, for now, that doesn't mean you can just go up and show weakness. Yeah. You nod vigorously at Henry, perform a wave/salute-type gesture, and turn on your heel, striding away in impressive style.

"I don't know if that's how I would've done it, primrose—" Richard's standing way down over by Earl. "—but I commend your relative civility. A step up from previous, shall we say."

What on earth is he talking about? You have always been civil to Henry, even when he's been extremely undeserving of it. Just like how you've always been civil to Earl, even though he had to go and turn into a disgusting monster, and how you've been civil to Richard, even as he's been the worst person/snake imaginable for most of your remembered life. (Rounding up.)

"...Yes. And I regret that every day, I really do. Words fail to express how much I— Charlie?"

You're strolling past him and over to Earl, who— okay, so maybe he's hunched in a ball, and quivering a tiny bit, and emitting horrible plaintive noises, but in a few hours he's not even going to remember this debacle. And you can make this better in a jiff, besides. "Hello? Hello, Earl?"

Oh, dear: moving around to the front of him, you now spot the deep furrows he's been clawing into the ground. There's mud all over his hands. Claws? Henry probably won't be happy about this, but you're going to be gone before he notices, and he can just use his (presumable) earth-based magycks to smooth it down again. So it's fine! Positive thinking. "Earl? It's me? Charlotte? Remember me? I'm back! I'm here! It's okay!"

To your (richly deserved) credit, the whimpering slows. Earl's big head twists to look down at you.

"It's okay. It's okay. I— I'm sorry I left you... um... I'm not leaving anymore, though! We're going to go back to camp together! Do you know the way?"

It's hard to tell if Earl is responding to your words or to your tone of voice, which has slipped by accident into a high, sing-songy register, but he's perked up visibly. You suck your cheek in thought. Does he know the way? Can he... smell the way back, or something? Even if he can't, he could at least carry you. You've been doing a lot of walking recently. "Also, can I go up? Up? Could I— I need to go—"

After several unsuccessful attempts to gesture 'up', you take one of his big hands, carefully, and turn it palm-up, and hold it there. Earl keeps it in place even after you let go, thank God, and you're able to hop up onto it and from there scramble onto his shoulder, sort of. The position is more precarious than you'd like, but you're working on it.

The process of then coercing/cajoling Earl to start moving takes longer than expected— long enough for another cultist to wander into the chamber, maybe searching for Henry. His face is all obscured from here with culty-type face paint, so you can't make out much, but it hardly matters. You're out of here! At last, Earl has begun to shamble in the—

"Other way," Henry calls.

Damnit. You encourage Earl to turn around, eventually, and thence make your glorious exit, borne astraddle your mighty... oh God, can you call him a steed? Is that mean? You're going to have to have a talk with him, once he's sober, about the things you should and shouldn't be thinking in situations like this. Anyways, he's moving in the correct direction, at a relatively fast clip, giving you just enough time to catch Richard's absence, and Henry waving you off, and the other cultist not waving you off— how rude!— the other cultist being dark-haired and tan-complexioned and holstering a— holstering a sword—

Jesse died. Why are you brought to thoughts of Jesse? Move on.

And you do move on, whether you'd like it or not, through a roomy red-draped corridor. Its ceiling is studded with outcroppings the same color as the last chamber's ivory struts, and Earl bends to not hit them, forcing you to slide down his arm somewhat. Instinctively(?), he crooks it to catch you, resulting in you being cradled in a far more comfortable position than before. All according to plan.

It's possible that this is a leading factor in why you opt to shut your eyes. It's probable, of course, that this was also part of the plan— that's what you'll determine in retrospect. You willingly shucked away your outmost senses— nay, your total control over the outside world— shucked it, and relinquished yourself to the churning of the universe, and were thus borne forth by it, through gulfs and eddies, to your destination.

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The foolish might claim that, with your eyes shut, swayed back and forth by Earth's weird loping gait, next to a considerable amount of body heat, what you did was "doze off." The foolish really ought to note the time of day you Earl crashed into the outer Fen, that being mid-afternoon, i.e. hardly any time after you begun! If the foolish then claim that 'you didn't actually know when you started,' or 'maybe there's just a tunnel that leads straight here from Cult HQ', you say that they can't prove those things at all. While you, being a certified expert in magyck, can identify it instantly.

The good news is that nobody foolish has stepped forth to debate you yet, so you can enjoy a leisurely ride through the Fen. How nice it is to be aboveground! During the daytime! If there were birds, they would be singing— instead you mostly get Earl clomping along, stamping on sticks and old bones and things, but that's okay too. He's doing a good job. (Should you tell him he did a good job later? Would that be weird?) Oh!

You pat Earl until he comes to a halt— that's the edge of the Fen! And that's camp, in the far-off distance! You're back! Well, practically speaking. You still need to clear the last hundred yards or so, but...

...there's Earl, whom nobody will be expecting. You have to do something about that, don't you?

>[A] Sorry, Earl, but you need to go real quick— you can't bring him into *camp.* What will people think of you? Or of him? You'll bring a helper back with you instead.
>>[1] Dash and go find Gil. Not only do you need to reassure him that you're still kicking, but this is a perfect use for his magyckal powers! Surely he'll agree!
>>[2] Dash and go find (fake) Ellery. You dimly recall that he had all sorts of blood-type concoctions stashed away somewhere— couldn't at least one be used to turn Earl back to normal? Plus, you need to go inform him that you rescued Madrigal for him. He's welcome.
>>[3] Dash and go find Branwen, whom you're pretty sure you saw in camp recently. Not only is she a bona-fide beast expert, but she's also Earl's actual friend/heist partner, so she should know exactly how to handle him. Maybe she'll even stay with him for you?
>>[4] Write-in.

>[B] What? You can't just leave Earl on the edge of the Fen! What if some unsavory types find him while you're gone? What if the *Court* does? It might be a slim chance, but you can't risk it— you have to bring him into camp as discreetly as possible.
>>[1] Go find Gil.
>>[2] Go find Fake Ellery.
>>[3] Go find Branwen.
>>[4] Write-in.

>[C] Write-in.


Spend a certain amount of time impressing on Earl that he needs to stay here somewhere tucked out of the way while we get Branwen. Make sure to repeat until he seems to recognize the name.

Maybe use our earth powers to make him an earth copy of ourselves to be a reminder/placeholder?
Can't believe yall want to leave our dumb friend out in the rain and cold
Hey folks: no update tonight, as I have somewhere to be tomorrow morning. Hope you all have a nice day!

>Maybe use our earth powers to make him an earth copy of ourselves to be a reminder/placeholder?
Like many things, Charlotte overblows her "earth powers" quite a bit: if they exist, they're mainly a knock-on effect from whatever Richard's done to her + the other bizarre reality-warping-ish stuff she has going on. She can't really make a "earth copy" of herself worth a damn, and even if she could, I don't think Earl would the capacity to recognize a bunch of funny-shaped mud=her.
But Charlie has sculpture skills + earth powers.


She just has to be confident in herself!

And maybe put her hat on it or something and tell Earl to protect it.
Rolled 15 (1d20)



Called for [A3] and writing.

Cmon, anon, I let you down gentle the first time. If you wanted to make a crude mud snowman, you could do that, but it wouldn't work any better than telling Earl to guard a random tree. If you wanted to make an astonishing photorealistic mud sculpture, you'd have to be on drugs or copious amounts of Gaslighting, it'd take some time, and it still probably wouldn't work any better than a tree.

>implying Charlotte's voluminous natural curls would permit the wearing of any "hat"
> If you wanted to make a crude mud snowman, you could do that, but it wouldn't work any better than telling Earl to guard a random tree.

Honestly yes that's all I wanted.

You seem to be taking this rather silly suggestion very seriously which I both appreciate in you as a person but also really want to, ya know, argue for the sake of it.

I am also totally out of other arguments than sculpting experience and earth powers maybe sorta. But TO BE FAIR, plans in this quest have succeeded with less. Mostly they fail, but like I'm sure theres been one or two successes. Like that time we drugs.
Check passed.

Nice digits!

>You seem to be taking this rather silly suggestion very seriously
I don't think I'd be doing my job as a QM if I didn't give my players' suggestions serious thought, regardless of silliness. Unfortunately, sometimes this serious thought results in the verdict of, well, "this is too silly."

>Honestly yes that's all I wanted.
Okay, well, that's where the issue lies! When I read "earth powers" and "mud copy" I was envisioning a 1:1 copy, since you don't need earth powers (overblown or otherwise) to make a mud snowman. A basic miscommunication, for which I apologize-- making a mud snowman would be sort of goofy and ultimately pointless but not out of the question. [Alas, it still won't get written, since I already got past that point in the update.]

>But TO BE FAIR, plans in this quest have succeeded with less.
True! But usually in situations where it's easier to BS it, like in unreality. I do admire your entrepreneurial spirit, regardless.
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>Grand return

Indeed! And what you shall do is... not bring him into camp! Rather ingenious, if you say so yourself. You swing off of Earl and plop to your feet in a convenient patch of seagrass. "Earl? Earl? Hey, buddy, we're stopping here. Stop. Here. And I'm going to go ahead, but I need you to stay— did you get that? Stay."

You pace back a few steps and watch him carefully. No foward movement, but he is trembling a little. "I'll be back really soon, okay? Really soon? I'm going to get you help from somebody, and then I'll be back. But I need you to stay here. Right at this spot, so I can find you. Stay. I'll come back."

A few more steps, and he's still where he is. That's as good as you're getting, you guess: you turn and fast-walk away, releasing a held breath once you're out in the open and there's no huge crashing noise behind you. Camp! Maybe not "home," exactly, but the closest you have at the present moment. The sunlight, clear and piercing, washes the battered canvas of the tents white. The sand glitters. Even from here, the whole places hums with the little sounds of people living.

Yes. It's not where you're from, but it's where you are right now. And it sure beats any crummy hole in the ground.

>[+1 ID: 14/14]

Too bad the only people out in the glare of mid-afternoon are gruff, thick-skinned, boring types; precisely the neighbors you know and care the least about. You receive some glances, but nothing more than grunts. Did they even realize you were gone? Missing in action after you risked your life for their stupid second-in-command? Why couldn't Gil be loitering conveniently in the middle of the pathway? Is he even back at camp? Maybe you were wrong, and he's still in Hell. Maybe he's still asleep, and doesn't even know you were gone, and this was a load of trouble for nothing at all. For more trouble. Wait, no— positive thinking! Positive thinking. Gil is here... and he's been waiting for you eagerly... and...

Oh, but you can't just go and say hello and then ask him to magyck a gigantic man-beast in the woods, can you? What if he's mad at you for vanishing? You'd only make him more mad. And what if he was scared about you? Then it'd just be awkward, wouldn't it? You don't need Richard to tell you that. You don't want it to be awkward.

Change of plans. Change of plans. Didn't you see Branwen around here recently?


Hatefully, none of the stupid jerks you talk to seem to know who "Branwen" is, or where she might be, or why they might care. It takes far too much teeth-pulling before a jerk (coincidentally with several missing teeth) volunteers that he saw "some old bitch in overalls" with Madrigal just a little while ago. Good enough.


"Shit!" Madrigal vocalizes: you have stuck your entire head through her tent door. "Charlotte!?"

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"Um," you say. "Yes! Indeed! It is I— I have returneth from— hello, Branwen." Branwen presses her lips together, which you take as greeting. "I am alive! And quite well, not that you asked! Were you wondering? About me? Where I was?"

"Figured you'd turn up. You're like a fucking cat, or something. Nine lives." Madrigal cracks her shoulders. "Also very noisy. Deposits corpses onto your pillow. Pisses in a box. You get it, right?"

"No?! I do not—" Why did you try to selflessly rescue her? "I do not urinate in a—"

"It's metaphorical. Are you gonna come in, or are you gonna stand there and let all the hot fucking water come in instead?"

"Uh," you say, and stick your arm through and undo the loose door-tie, and then enter.

"Been hearing about you," Branwen says, by way of further greeting(?). She's sat down on a rickety-looking chair, champing at a toothpick, while Madrigal sits cross-legged on her unkempt cot. Madrigal looks worse than you remember, all bony in the wrong places, plus her hair—

"Your hair's long?" you say. (Not long-long. It's up in a ponytail. But before it wasn't even long enough to put in a ponytail.)

"That's a very 'congratulations on narrowly surviving snake mind invasion' to you too. I feel great, by the way."


"Could feel worse," Branwen drawls. Madrigal nods curtly. "Yeah, what she said. Could feel worse. Beats being inside this little fucker." She raises her thumb to reveal a tiny snake clinging to it. "That fucking sucked, by the way, just so you know."

"Uh-huh," you say.

"And the hair's because I haven't chopped it back off yet. Might keep it for a minute, anyways, though, just to... I didn't think it could grow out anymore. Because the water and everything." Madrigal looks faintly embarrassed. "Anyhow. Did you want something? Or were you just advertising your presence? Because you really should go tell your buddy about that— Bug Man. Saw him with Garvin. And, uh, say hello to Monty—"

You fold your arms. "I need Branwen for something. And his name's Gil, not Bug Man, and he's not even made out of bugs right now, so that's just plain—"

"What for."

Branwen's leaning over, toothpick still, which you're going to take as friendly interest. (She's not giving you a lot to go on, okay?) You clear your throat. "Uh... a very important... a task regarding a certain friend of yours, who is in a way incapacitated, currently..."



Her eyebrows go up. "Toothless's in a ditch? What'd the git do t' himself, go and—"

"Fuck that. What'd you do?" Madrigal demands. "That guy was fucking hale and hearty yesterday, and then you run off with him—"

"He is hale and hearty! He's— he's extremely hale and hearty! Really, hugely—" More than you can describe!

"I'll believe it when I fucking see it. Are you going to check this out, Bran?"

Branwen chews her pick. "Toothless's a good client. Good man."

"Well, then. Guess I'm coming too." Madrigal levers herself to a standing position. "It's not that far, is it?"


"Fucking good. I'm not good for distances yet. Fucking goo's better at walking than I am."

Branwen stands, too, and slips her own arm under Madrigal's without saying anything.

"Well, go on," Madrigal says.

"I will, I just, uh— what did happen to the goo body?"


You decide to leave your questioning at that.


"What the fuck is that?" Madrigal says. "What the fuck is that. What the fuck—"

Earl, God bless him, is exactly where you left him. And there's no Wind Court patrol in sight, either. Two excellent victories! You resolve to focus on those, and not on Madrigal's grating voice.

"Toothless," Branwen says, and sighs a little out her nose. "This is bigger'n usual. During the day, too."

"That's fucking Earl?"

"Going to have one hell of a headache," Branwen finishes, before propping Madrigal upright and striding forth to meet Earl. He clearly recognizes her— he's leaning forward, mouth stretched in a zigzag grin— and any doubts you might've had about this endeavor when Branwen stops short, clucks her tongue, and points sharply downward. Earl plummets into a four-legged crouch. She clucks her tongue again, grabs his massive jaw, and lifts it open with one hand, keeping it open as she examines his teeth.

"That's fucking Earl," Madrigal tries again, more urgently. You nod. "What the fuck! How—"

Another cluck and Branwen swings the jaw shut. Now she presses the top of his head down and gazes into his eyes, spread unaturally to either side of his face. When she releases him, he scrambles to his feet, and she paces all the way around him before returning to you.

"Bigger'n usual, like I said. 'll be like this for hours. Nothing we can do about it, excepting— ever got an anti-dote from him? Little needle, yea big—" Branwen crooks her fingers.

"N...o," you say.

"Then it's between him and the gods, is all I'm saying. Can take the big git back to my place in the meantime— get some exercise in that body. Let Swgd out to tussle, maybe, is what I'm thinking. Real something to watch that, is what I'm thinking."

"You're going to take this grown-ass man out to play with your shark?" You're not sure if Madrigal finds this morally unsound or dangerous or disgusting or what, only that she sounds pissed. "This grown-ass man— we stayed at his house— how often does this happen?!"

"A day a week?" Branwen shrugs minutely. "You're gonna scoff at how to make a living? And he's not a grown-ass man right now, he ain't, so I dunno what you're looking for. Man's deep in it. I give half a day until he's rightly himself again. You want him wandering for half a a day?"

(You take some private pleasure at watching Madrigal lose an argument.)

"I don't know how you're fucking cool with this."

"I'll take him back. Maybe head back over come morning with him, if'n we're in good shape then. Thanks for notifying me of this, Fawkins." Something in Branwen's manner has softened a titch. "Right thing to do."

"Um," you say, taken aback. "You're welcome? I—"

Earl makes a growly noise. "Restless," Branwen translates. "Better git. Sorry to cut us off, Patty, but needs must. Unless there's any other business—?"

>Select up to four topics TOTAL (i.e. split however you want between Branwen and Madrigal).

>[A] For Branwen:
>>[1] So, uhh, real quick, does she know how Earl would prefer you to treat him while he's indisposed? You didn't have an in-depth conversation about this with him before it started, and you wish you did.
>>[2] How is her snake doing? Is it still unkidnapped?
>>[3] Did Madrigal tell her that you (basically) single-handedly rescued her from kidnapping? Out of the goodness of your heart?
>>[4] You are presently planning for a "potentially dangerous excursion" into "somewhere you're not really supposed to go." You're in need of a "secret weapon" of sorts for said "excursion": something awesome you can whip out if things get sticky. Does she have any critters you could borrow and/or rent that'd fit the bill?
>>[5] Write-in.

>[B] For Madrigal:
>>[1] So, is she going to thank you for (basically) saving her from kidnapping? Plus giving her resolution about her boyfriend? Because so far you've gotten zero thank-yous??
>>[2] Would she happen to know about any person in a gold mask who might be going around robbing innocent people blind? Or hiring lackies to rob people on their evil behalf?
>>[3] How's *her* snake doing? Has she developed any... snake powers yet? Just asking.
>>[4] Are you ever going to talk about that time right before she got kidnapped where you saw that fake general store she was pretending to work at? Because actually she was a big snake and that was inside her mind sort of? Wasn't that weird? Just asking.
>>[5] Write-in.
>[1] So, uhh, real quick, does she know how Earl would prefer you to treat him while he's indisposed? You didn't have an in-depth conversation about this with him before it started, and you wish you did.
>[4] You are presently planning for a "potentially dangerous excursion" into "somewhere you're not really supposed to go." You're in need of a "secret weapon" of sorts for said "excursion": something awesome you can whip out if things get sticky. Does she have any critters you could borrow and/or rent that'd fit the bill?
>[1] So, is she going to thank you for (basically) saving her from kidnapping? Plus giving her resolution about her boyfriend? Because so far you've gotten zero thank-yous??
>[2] Would she happen to know about any person in a gold mask who might be going around robbing innocent people blind? Or hiring lackies to rob people on their evil behalf?

B5 - ask her what her perception of the goo body is now that she doesn't have it any longer, vs being a meat sack once more. If she could describe how the both feel, maybe we could understand Gil better or maybe influence our next physical upgrade in a new direction. Like, yeah the snake theme is cool and all but options are always good

>B2, 3, 4
Rolled 2 (1d6)










Now *that* is a spread of options. Calling for [A4], [B2], and [B4], and rolling for the final pick.

>Back on track

Other business? Well, now that you've returned to your usual habitat, you really ought to buckle down on your current projects; chiefly, blasting Headspace Corp into smithereens. You doubt Branwen would have any clean entrance routes, and you're voting 'unlikely' on her having a large bomb, but surely she possesses something that could help you out? Something you could, say, rent for a small and reasonable sum?

You straighten up. "Actually, yes! But it's unrelated to the whole Earl thing, so— forget about that real quick. Different thing. Um. So I am preparing for a certain excursion into—"

"Fixing to blow them suits to kingdom come?"

"Uhh," you say.

"And they're them same idjits who booted my snake?"

"...More or less..." Damnit! Madrigal's smirking! This must be her fault. "Um, how is your snake, by the way? While we're on the..."

"Still have it, if you're asking that. Thing's locked up good and tight now, but it's been antsy. All'a them's been antsy. Makes me think something's a-coming over the horizon." Branwen says this like she's announcing what she ate for breakfast. "Critters know things, I'm thinking. Harder to know what that is."

"Maybe they're sensing how— how incredible my plan will be? Like... the explosion will be so big it— it reverberates the tides of fate? Or whatnot?"

"Could be." She scratches her face. "Can't say I'd cry too many tears if that's what it were. Were you looking to say something about all that?"

Oh. "Yes! By any chance, would you be in possession of any creatures with, uh, useful properties? Preferably portable-sized? If I could rent—"



"I'm of the opinion that you're good folk. Patty can think what she wants—" Madrigal's let out a snort. "—but the way I see it, you didn't hafta bust your ass finding the snake back. And you didn't hafta go untangle all of Patty's boy problems by your lonesome, or try to go rescue her sorry ass, even'f she had it handled. And you sure didn't need to come find me 'bout him." She pats Earl's forearm. "But you did. I can lend ya something. Anything in particular in mind?"

This is a strong contender for the longest you've ever heard Branwen speak interrupted. You don't know how to respond. "Uh. No. I mean— I mean, um, something small, and good for... infiltrating... maybe?"

"How about I fetch you some options, and you take a look when I head on back come morning."

How is this so easy? Nothing is ever this easy. "Um... okay."

"Then I best be heading out. Can you get back alright, Patty?"

"Yeah," Madrigal says, a shade tetchily.

"Don't let her fall," Branwen warns you. "Hup," she says to Earl, and clucks her tongue, and pats him firmly, and just like that he's crunching through the underbrush behind her.

You wait until they're gone before turning brightly toward Madrigal. "I'm not going to fucking fall," she informs you.

"I never said—"

"It's not my fucking fault I was laid out in bed for days. And it's not my fault my fucking joints got snaked. You got it?"

"I didn't say anything!" But perhaps your pure and honest nature meant something let slip in your expression. "It's not like I want to help walk you back, anyways. Why would I want that? After all, you rescued yourself all by yourself, didn't even need me—"

"That's right."

"And you discovered that your boyfriend was in stupid love exile all by yourself, didn't even need me—"

Madrigal scowls.

"And—" You can keep going! "—you broke yourself out of ice prison all by yourself—"

The scowl persists, but its effect is marred somewhat by an eyebrow furrow. "What?"

"Remember? Ice prison? ...You were in that big, uh, ice block? Under the ice castle? In the manse? You were a big snake? And I— and I invaded your mind, sort of, and you were in denial about being a big snake, so you made this little imaginary place, and it was like a store, and you were working there— you had a cute pink shirt, and a nametag, and— that? You remember it?"

The furrow has overtaken most of Madrigal's face. "Uh..."

"It was called Fitzpatrick & Son & Daughter, I think? And you said your brother—"

"I thought I dreamt this," she mutters.

"Oh! No. Well, sort of, but in a— you made it real-ish. So I could see inside. You let me in, but not Ellery, which I think was a smart move. All the products had people you knew from real life on them—"

Madrigal clutches her face.

"Oh! And there was a news article! About you! It looked pretty real, actually, so I don't know if you made it up or you sort of— sort of copied it, um, with your snake powers. But anyways, it was about you being executed. And it was in this little shrine to you, with flowers, and it said REST IN PEACE MADRIGAL— maybe not that exactly, but you know, close enough— because it was a shrine for you! Because you're dead! At least as far as they know up—"


Her voice is rather quiet, muffled further by her hands, and disturbingly non-vitriolic. Taken aback, you stop.

"..." She takes a deep breath, lifts her hands, wipes her nose and her eyes with her forearm. "...I'm going to go back."

"Oh? Um..." You watch helplessly as she begins to wobble away, gripping onto trees. "Um, Madrigal?"

She doesn't look your way. Damnit! Double-damnit! You weren't trying to— to do whatever you just— God, she robbed you of your victory! You were just trying to win fair and square, you know, with your known rhetorical prowess, not... oh, God! You hasten after her. "Madrigal!"

She still doesn't look, even when you draw up right next to her. Even when you tap her on the shoulder. "Um, I— I—"

(2/3 jk)
You draw a hard line at apologizing, given that it's Madrigal and you didn't even do anything. But possibly you could change the subject. "Um, I am need of your... expertise! Yes! Your much-vaunted expertise! What do you know of individuals wearing golden masks? Optionally with— with axes, or shadow arms? Known for wicked thievery? Have you, um, ever encountered such an individual— or their lackies? Their wicked lackies? Also known for thievery, plus sometimes murder? This is a very important— a very— Madrigal? Ow!"

She's caught herself mid-stumble on your arm, but removes her hand as quickly as she placed it. "I don't know what the fuck you're talking about."

"Really? ...You've never encountered such a...?"

"I have been fucked up," she says, "for weeks. Charlotte."

"Oh. But before that, you've never—"


It's impossible to tell if she really hasn't, or if she's just mad at you. "Oh. If you do encounter such an individual, could you tell me?"

She shrugs curtly.

"Um, and do you know anybody who might have—?"

"I'm not the one who knows fucking everything. You're thinking about Eloise. Eloise knows fucking everything."

"Oh," you say.

"You can go talk to her right now."

"Oh." You don't move.

"You can go talk to her right now," Madrigal says, and rips a full strip of bark off the closest tree. The color of the wood underneath is a startling red, like a wound.

«Charlie, I think you better select a more receptive conversational partner.»

Oh, gee, thanks, Richard. Always coming in exactly when you need him.

>Fine. Whatever. You'll go...
>[1] Back to your tent. Nobody's there, so you can't hurt anybody's feelings. Also, you really need to sit down and take stock of everything that's going on. Map out a gameplan. That sort of thing.
>[2] Find Gil. To make sure he's not taking your absence too poorly (or too lightly). And to fill him in, and such.
>[3] Find Monty. You guess he knows where you went, but you feel like you have some unfinished business with him. And there's the matter of the mask.
>[4] Find Eloise. You don't like following Madrigal's instructions, but she's right— if anybody would've heard about the Gold-Masked Person, it'd be Eloise. To say nothing of the other intrigue and conspiracy you've run into.
>[5] Write-in?

fun fact: it has been 2 IRL years TO THE DAY since you explored Madrigal's fake snake general store (https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/2021/4908956/#p4943578)
Will we ever learn to vote for Charlotte NOT making an ass of herself and needlessly antagonizing people?

>[2] Find Gil. To make sure he's not taking your absence too poorly (or too lightly). And to fill him in, and such.
> 2
>>[2] Find Gil. To make sure he's not taking your absence too poorly (or too lightly). And to fill him in, and such.
Called and writing.
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>Bros before hos

Well, it's not as if you like talking to Madrigal, anyways. Far better to spend your time speaking to people who like and appreciate you. So you will take Richard's cue, even though you didn't need it, and— where is he, anyways?

"Right here, Charlie." Something flickers in the corner of your eye. «I always have tabs on you.»

Except for when he doesn't, and is underwater or something instead. Or dead. But whatever. You have Richard right now, and— oh. Madrigal's walking ahead of you again. Fine! You don't need her! Like you just said! What else were you saying? Something something, people who like and appreciate you— a-ha. You meant Gil, of course. Who is at present consorting with "Garvin," AKA Horse Face, adding further urgency to the matter! You must rescue him immediately! Yes!

Your speed-march back to camp is cleverly angled away from Madrigal's plodding path, as to avoid further encounters, at least while she's mad at you for no reason. (But when isn't she mad at you for no reason?) It isn't all that far to Horse Face's tent, which is after all right next to yours, and (as is typical for him) Horse Face has failed to properly secure his door.

«I don't know if—»

You bust in. Horse Face, ensconced in his overstuffed armchair, arches his eyebrows. Gil bolts out of his seat, in the process splashing his teacup all down his front— "Shit!" he hisses, and stares down at himself, and back at you, and back at himself, and back at you, breathing kind of heavy, not moving forward, all while his ankle jitters like a pneumatic drill.

You clear your throat. "Salutations!"

"Welcome back," Horse Face says, and raises his teacup to you.

Damnit! You didn't mean that for him. At least Gil's arrived at a type of conclusion, fumbling to set his empty teacup down and hastening towards you. He skids to a halt right in front of your face, hands turned up and outward, and from the frantic light in his eyes you don't know whether he means to slug you or hug you or both.

After a few long seconds, you realize he doesn't know, either. "...Gil?" you probe.

"..." He swallows, staring down at his hands. After much concerted thought, he drops one of his hands, inches backwards, and offers the other one out, as if for a handshake.

Sure, this is new to you— but Gil has previously been full of strange customs (such as the victorious "hand slap"), and at least this one appears more civilized? You wouldn't ordinarily greet your noble beloved presumed-dead lady with a mere shake of the hands, but more than likely this is usual for him, where he comes from. Perhaps even a sign of tremendous respect. So you should take it in good faith, and indeed 'put your all' into it. Yes!

Gil was not looking you in the eyes when you grabbed his hand and shook it vigorously— so vigorously, as a matter of fact, that there was a bit of a 'squelch', and your hand became moistened. And when you pulled away after that, Gil's hand was a tad squashed out of position, and there were gooey bits of it on your own hand.

"Uh," you say, and examine Gil, who's examining the damage. Not the 'damage.' That sounds bad. The minor rupture. The small amount of oozing. He flops his hand around, then really, properly looks you in the eye, and you contemplate the potentiality that he's been turned against you— that resentment has been breeding in him for hours, incubated by Horse Face's poison lies, and now this has done it, really sealed the deal, and he hates you now, for abandoning him, and popping his hand open by accident, and all your other crimes. Hates you. And now he's going to abandon you, is going to run off with Horse Face and be his retainer, aiding in all of his sinister machinations, never—

Gil laughs. Not super sanely. (An attack of male hysteria?) But he laughs, real loud and hard, half-choking on his spittle— does he have spittle?— half-choking on mystery fluids, wheezing and dangling the mildly displaced hand, clutching onto your wrist with the intact one, so that to be polite you titter along too. It's all downhill from there. He gasps, and you laugh at his gasp, and he laughs at your laugh, and pulls you abruptly into a hug.

It doesn't last very long. He recovers his senses before you recover yours. But when he pulls away, he takes your wrists instead. "You're alive!"

You process. "...Indeed!"

His hands are cold. One of them is sticky. "Not that I-I-I-I thought— I mean— I mean, I-I wasn't sure— you never came back! You and Earl and— you said you were on a heist—"

"Um, I— yes. Um. It didn't go to plan."

"Well, I-I-I-I figured— but you're okay?"


"Of course you're okay." He laughs a little more. "I-I'm glad— I-I'm glad it all—"

"You're okay too," you volunteer.

"Now I am! Now I am... um..." He wipes his nose.

"No, I mean— I mean you. In my head. I went and talked to you."

"...Oh! Oh, I-I— I forgot I— that's good. That's good. Lucky bastard."

There's a period of silence. Gil releases you, curving the busted hand inside his normal one. He looks over his shoulder. "...Uh, sorry, Garvin, I-I-I..."

"No!" Horse Face waves it off. "A momentous occasion! Carry on."

The moment, whatever it was, has passed. Gil is biting the inside of his lip. You straighten.

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Inform Gil about the maybe-God eyeball.
>[A2] Inform Gil about Henry and the cult and the (alleged) coming apocalypse. Not that you're actually worried about that or anything.
>[A3] Inform Gil that you have a new lead on the theft of your Crown.
>[A4] Inform Gil that you killed a guy. A guy who totally deserved it, to be clear.
>[A5] Inform Gil about what happened to Earl.
>[A6] Write-in. (Anything else you want to talk to Gil about?)

>[B1] Take Gil with you back to your tent. You better brief him on all the new, uh, situations. Plus, he might have good ideas for your future planning.
>[B2] Take Gil with you to see Monty. You need to get him officially registered, or whatever Monty does. Plus all the other things you need to see Monty about.
>[B3] Take Gil with you to see Eloise. She's bound to be interested in his new body, plus all the things he found out inside Us while you were, um, absent.
>[B4] Take Gil to your manse. He should swap off with Other Gil, so fair's fair, and neither of them go too stir-crazy.
>[B5] Write-in.
first two will just stress him out i bet

>[B3] Take Gil with you to see Eloise. She's bound to be interested in his new body, plus all the things he found out inside Us while you were, um, absent.
I want those crown clues
>>[A3] Inform Gil that you have a new lead on the theft of your Crown.
>[A5] Inform Gil about what happened to Earl.

>[B3] Take Gil with you to see Eloise. She's bound to be interested in his new body, plus all the things he found out inside Us while you were, um, absent.

I lol'd
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Calling for [A3], [A5], and [B3], and writing.
>Exposition fairy

"I agree!" you say. "Indeed, we should carry on... outside! Posthaste!"

Gil pushes his fingers together.

"Posthaste, Gilbert!"

"..." He sighs. "Sorry, Garvin."

Horse Face's cheeriness is impenetrable. "Nothing to apologize for! There's plenty of time for everything. I'll be seeing you both, then?"

God, you hope not. You beckon for Gil to follow, then dart out the door back into the glorious Horse-Faceless sunshine.

Wisely, Gil emerges after you, his hand still dangling. You squint down at it. "Is that going to be okay? It looks, um, bad."

"What? Oh." He holds it up. "I-I-I can't feel it.... and i-it's not like there's any bones in there. Um. You just surprised me, was the only thing. I-I assume it's probably fixable...? I can try to..."

Gil squinches one eye shut. There's a notable gurgle. You catch one glimpse of his flesh shifting around before deciding it'd be more tasteful to avert your gaze, and do so. "There!"

You look back. He's presenting an complete hand and a grin, though the latter wavers upon eye contact. "Wow," you say honestly. "What'd you do?"

"Um, I-I just thought about having a normal hand..." He stops, abashed. "What are we doing? Um, right now? I-I-I assume you have a...?"

"We're going to see Eloise!"


"You met her already. Remember? She asked you about being beetles... had this dumb cloak on... we must convey to her information, Gilbert. And in return receive potent knowledge about— I don't know— various things! She knows lots of things! And we know lots of things, so it's a fair exchange. You can tell her about your goo powers, she can tell us about my wicked crown thief..."

"Crown thief? Oh, shit, you mean the guy in the— the whole get-up— and there was a snake, or something? A long time ago?"

"It wasn't that long, Gil! It was, like... a week ago! Ish." It's hard to keep track of the days when you keep getting knocked out and possessed and consumed by bloodlust and taking long naps and such. It's not your fault. "A mere week, and already this thief has recruited cronies to aid in their scheming. Just last night, I personally encountered a crony! Personally! And who knows how many more there are? How— how far-ranging their tentacles spread?"

Gil's expression is approaching the quizzical. "Metaphorically!" you clarify. "Metaphorically. I think. I mean, they might have real tentacles— they did have real shadow arms— and the crony had four arms, Gil! Four! A complete perversion of nature! Like he was a— a man-beetle, or something— not like you. You're a beetle-man. Beetles-man. So I guess like you, but in reverse? Like your evil doppelganger!"

"...I guess?" Gil twiddles his fingers. "Um, i-it sounds pretty handy to have four arms, actually... like, if it were between that and, uh, the status quo, then I-I don't think I'd mind swa—"

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"Silence! The man-beetle is dead, anyways, so he can't— you have emerged victorious over your evil doppelganger. The point was, in case you forgot, the evil crown-thief is trying to ascend to godhood? With my priceless artifact? And that's bad. So—"

"So are we dealing with this before or after Headspace?"

"—uh—" Gil always asks hard questions. "—um— after! Probably! We'll knock out Headspace real quick, you know, then slay the crown thief. Or whatnot. But it can't hurt to gather information beforehand, can it?"

Gil is forced to concede that it cannot hurt.

"Then we shall do so!" You flourish. "Onward!"


It's always easier to say 'onward' when you're leading a charge, for example, or are about to enter a dangerous cave single-file. As you're discovering, it doesn't work quite so well when all you're doing is walking side-by-side your retainer, in broad daylight, at a normal pace.

Eloise's tent isn't that far, but you're compelled to make conversation along the way regardless. "Um, by the way, Earl is also fine."

"Oh," Gil says. "That's cool."

"I mean, he's— at the moment he's sort of a— a slavering beast— but he's in good hands. And he'll turn back to normal by tomorrow, according to experts on the matter."

"...Oh," Gil says. "That's... cool."

You nod to yourself. Another successful conversation completed.


Thank God Eloise is easily findable. She's not even in her tent yet, just walking toward it. She shields her eyes at your approach. "Would you look at that! Charlotte?"

"Indeed!" you say. "It is I!"

She laughs at that, even though you didn't say anything funny. "Sure couldn't be anybody else. Welcome back! I have to say, things were awful dull without you. I heard you went to go save Madrigal's skin? And it didn't go so well?"

"Uhh..." Damnit! Has she already gone and told everybody? "I mean... I..."

"I-I-I don't know what you've been hearing," Gil says defensively, "but Lottie busted her ass trying to save that chick. You wouldn't even believe what we— what she went through. I-I-I-I-It's not her fucking fault that she was beaten to the—"

"Well, hello to you too," Eloise says. "Could that be... was it 'Gil'? With the beetles?"

Gil shifts. "Yeah."

"I don't know that I've seen that body before. Is it—?"

"I-It's me."

"Oh!" Eloise claps her hands together. "Of course! You look just how you sound." (Gil frowns.) "This all makes perfect sense. Congratulations on that— and I didn't mean to demean what you two have been through, of course. You've been gone for days, I was sure it had to be— were you coming to speak with me?"

"...Indeed!" you say.

"Delightful! Delightful. You caught me at an excellent time. Now please, come in, and tell me all about what happened. You'll do that, won't you?"

Well, yes. Maybe. At least some of it. As long as you get something out of the exchange, too.

>Eloise will trade information for information. (If she doesn't know something now, she'll do her best to find it out and tell you later.) Please select an EQUAL NUMBER of [A]s and [B]s— if you pick 1 [A], pick 1 [B], 2 [A]s = 2 [B]s, 3 = 3, and so on. This may or may not be split into multiple updates.

>[A] You'll tell Eloise about...
>>[1] Us, and its dream of the distant past.
>>[2] The final truth about Ellery. Why he really, actually, broke up with Madrigal.
>>[3] The inner workings of Headspace. Casey Kemper. Management.
>>[4] The seal on the hole in the world. The eye. [You can send Gil away for this one.]
>>[5] Your increasingly less explainable (though still highly explainable!) magyckal powers.
>>[6] Get Gil to tell her about his new goo body. And beetle stuff, or whatever. He needs to contribute, too!
>>[7] Write-in.

>[B] You'll ask Eloise about...
>>[1] Anything she knows about the Gold-Masked Person and/or their potential lackies. Simple as that. [Do you show her the token you got from Wayne?]
>>[2] If she knows any locally based Headspace employees, and any details she may know about them. (For possession purposes, but leave that bit out.)
>>[3] If she knows anything that would make for a good bomb. Or any device of mass destruction, really— you're not picky.
>>[4] How she would handle Management. They're coming to inspect Pat's progress in just a day or two, if you remember correctly, and you are... er... not a noted liar.
>>[5] Monty. You and Gil need to talk to him. How has he been over the past few days? Any tips on avoiding getting strangled?
>>[6] The apocalypse. She isn't a crazed Wyrm-worshipper, as far as you know, so you'd like to get her neutral perspective on the matter. Has she heard of it? Is there any, er, metaphysical grounding?
>>[7] Write-in.
A2, and actually let's ask Horseface what he thinks about it. He's supposedly time traveled a bunch of loops so if the world has an end date he should be aware of it.

I mean, it sounds like bullshit but we experienced our own time loop so hey it could be true. Maybe we'll get to see him genuinely perturbed for once and won't that be delicious.

Then B1 and let him know about the law eating dagger we got. Maybe he can think of some uses or general principles of it.

Finally B4, manse Gil can swap out and maybe go out and socialize slash ask around about masks, or maybe talk to Monty about them (he was part of a masked community after all) while we brainstorm with Richard and current goo Gil.
[A] You'll tell Eloise about...
>[2] The final truth about Ellery. Why he really, actually, broke up with Madrigal.
>[3] The inner workings of Headspace. Casey Kemper. Management.
>[5] Your increasingly less explainable (though still highly explainable!) magyckal powers.
>[6] Get Gil to tell her about his new goo body. And beetle stuff, or whatever. He needs to contribute, too!

>[1] Anything she knows about the Gold-Masked Person and/or their potential lackies. Simple as that. [Do you show her the token you got from Wayne?]
>[2] If she knows any locally based Headspace employees, and any details she may know about them. (For possession purposes, but leave that bit out.)
>[3] If she knows anything that would make for a good bomb. Or any device of mass destruction, really— you're not picky.
>[4] How she would handle Management. They're coming to inspect Pat's progress in just a day or two, if you remember correctly, and you are... er... not a noted liar.

A1 because why not. Include where we met Us and maybe offer to introduce her? Better than answering one question, we can offer an entire source of info and a unique experience.

A3 again because why not. Fuck them and everyone who looks like them especially if they are in Goo bodies.

A6, whatever Gil feels comfortable sharing about what he's learned about his goo body and beetle experience.

A7, share the info received from a genuine Cultist about the death of the gods and coming apocalypse final act. But keep details about the seal and the eye vague. Offer to maybe introduce her to Henry depending on her reaction.

A7, share our own modified physiognomy.

A7, share details of the man-beetle and his mask and his presumed plans to steal laws.

B1, show her the token and ask if she knows or can find out anything about the thief in the mask.



B7 ask what she knows about Laws and any natural or unnatural sources we could target without being, you know, evil about it. Not looking to stab people or anything.
Wrong link back sorry.
>A2, 3

>B1, 4

maybe A4, B6 as well
you have 2 more A's than B's, we could drop a couple of those

also do we need B7? I thought we were gonna get more Law from the headspace job than we could ever use
Just swinging by with a couple of comments.

Sorry! I had some free time and thought I could slip in an extra. Horse Face will be around, so if you bump back into him (or drop Gil back off or etc.) you can ask these questions. (You can also show the dagger to Eloise-- I forgot about that when writing options. I'll throw that in with [B1].)

>Finally B4, manse Gil can swap out and maybe go out and socialize slash ask around about masks, or maybe talk to Monty about them (he was part of a masked community after all) while we brainstorm with Richard and current goo Gil.
To be totally clear, only one Gil can be out in IRL at a time-- he only has one real(ish) body. I assume you meant that "manse Gil" takes the goo body and "goo Gil" hangs out in your manse with you and Richard, but thought I'd mention it just in case.

(Also, the process would be more like "Gil recombines and then splits back off," so it'd be two identical Gils inside/outside, but that's just plain nitpicking.)

>>5728581 is right on the money, though I'd also like to note that you can add more [B]s instead of dropping [A]s if you like. You just need to make the numbers even.
Drop the A7s.
Rolled 1 (1d2)




>>5728576 (maybe)







>>5728576 (maybe)

Alright, I'm going to take anything with more than one vote, so you'll be trading [A2], [A3], and [A6] for [B1], [B4], and [B6]. Despite >>5728480 dropping his write-ins, I'm also going to include you sharing details about Wayne/the law-stealing, because that's something Eloise would be very interested in + it leads well into [B1]. Resultingly, you get one more [B], which I'm going to roll for now...

Still not sure if this will take up more than one update, but don't be too surprised if it does. Writing.
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That didn't work out. Good thing I double-updated yesterday, so I have a bit of a bank saved up. Update tomorrow (and now I'll work really hard to get it in one).
>Equivalent exchange

The outside of Eloise's tent is choked with paint: flowers, swoops, stars, swirls, all rendered brightly, crudely, almost childishly. The inside of Eloise's tent resembles a grand mansion put through a trash compactor, with improbable velvet carpeting and a massive feather bed and a chandelier with imitation-glass dangling so low you could grab it. The whole place is roomier than it looked from the outside, a final insult to sanity. You're 99% sure it didn't look like this the last time you were in here.

"I redecorated!" Eloise says, like she read your mind. (Surely not?) "Do it all the time. Not a stick of it's real, so it's all easy come, easy go— do you think it's too much?"

You see what she's going for, broadly, but it's— your Aunt Ruby would've dubbed it, archly, "nouveau." Gil is throwing a glance at you while trying to pretend he's not throwing a glance at you. Emboldened by his backing, plus your pure and honest heart, you straighten: "Uh... yes! You should dump the chandelier in the garbage. In my opinion."

"Ha!" Elose claps her hands again. "In the garbage! Do you know how many people would've told me that? It's in the single digits, Charlotte."

"...So you will dump the—"

"No! But I'm glad it has the intended effect. If folks'll walk in and start questioning my taste levels..." She pumps her fist, jingling her bangles in the process. "But enough about my decorating. Take a seat! Tell me how it went. I've been dying to know, I mean that. Did you connect with Arledge?"

You perch yourself on an engraved wooden bench (up close, it does have the sick sheen of the not-real) and come to the immediate realization that you can't tell her anything. How was Arledge? Oh, he just turned into a giant worm and attempted to kill you, after you drank cursed God water and blacked out, after you inadvertently ruined a giant newborn goo hivemind's party, after Lucky committed arson, after, after, after, after, after you killed Richard, who was actually your father, but not actually your father, because he told you to, and you don't know why he told you to. Why would he tell you to? Why did you listen? It was like you didn't even have a choice. Like you were sleepwalking.

See, that's what it comes back to, if you tell her anything. Anything at all. Why did you even enter this tent? Gil is glancing at you again, having come, presumably, to the same conclusion. (As any good retainer should.) You beam "OH GOD" through your eyeballs back at him, consider, and then tack on a "HELP ME?".

As any great retainer should, Gil registers your message swiftly. "Um, I-I-I don't know if that's the most interesting part of the story?"

"It's not?" Eloise's smile is a tad sharkish. "Do tell!"

"Yeah! It's not!" You clasp your hands together. "I successfully detectived— I mean, I found out what's the matter with Ellery! I mean, really the matter. Beyond the whole freakish-mirror-copy thing—"

"What's that?"

"...The freakish-mirror-copy thing? Fake Ellery and Real Ellery? You know, the... um..."

Oh. She doesn't know. She doesn't know. You've gone this whole entire time since you found out without telling her a thing. "Maybe you better start from the beginning," Eloise says warmly.

Well, um, if you were going to ever tell her... maybe this is the best time? That's it. (Positive thinking.) You meant to do this, really, and now it's not some lame trickle of information— it's a grand detective-ish reveal! You're so clever!

Anyways. You relay the whole freakish-mirror-copy thing to Eloise: the odd reclusive Ellery of the last six months isn't the real deal. He's made of mirror gunk. He writes backwards. He doesn't know why he does the things he's doing. He keeps dying and coming back and forgetting about it.

"That poor man. I wish I could say I'm shocked, but..." Eloise shakes her head. "And the actual one?"

Yes. The actual one has been living inside his own mind prison for years, subjectively speaking. He's an annoying immortal jerk with a stupid crossbow and a bad taste in shirts. He's been doing a stupid vigilante thing with his new ex-girlfriend and the woman who shot Gil in the head (he's better now, don't worry, but she still shot him in the head). They've been busy murdering the consciousnesses of Headspace's victims, who would otherwise suffer forever as their Law is sucked out and collected en-masse for unknown but surely nefarious purposes. Pat and Anthea (those being the Gil-murderer and new-ex respectively) are doing this because it's a nice thing to do, you guess, but Ellery has a special grudge because the REASON he's in mind prison is— you take a deep breath— is because he WORKED for Headspace a while back, and accidentally contributed to the development of the evil consciousness-sucking doohickey, which that patent was for by the way, and then he found out he contributed, so Headspace BLACKMAILED him by threatening the life of MADRIGAL, therefore he had to BREAK UP WITH HER AND GO INTO EXILE AND MAKE A FREAKISH MIRROR COPY TO COVER HIS TRACKS!!!

You take another deep breath. Gil does a little clap for you. Eloise had opened up a journal and a pink sparkly pen about halfway through your diatribe, and her attention is still mainly on that. "...cover... his... tracks."


"And when you say Headspace threatened him, do you mean Headspace? Or do you mean the Headspace-Namway-Querk-Ozertec conglomerate."

"Um, the— I guess the conglomerate. Their Management. Upper Management."

"I thought so." She doesn't sound too excited. "I'm going to dispense with the 'above your pay grade' lecture, because we're so far past that it's not silly. Have you found anything more about them?"

Have you? (God, you love knowing things.) As a matter of fact...

You relate what you discovered about Headspace and Management— the trapped employees, the dubious working conditions, Management's reputed cruelty, their purported inhumanity— though you omit how you came across all this information. Eloise, whose expression is growing increasingly grim, doesn't pry.

"And," you conclude, "they were the ones pressuring Pat into the goo snake thing, she didn't even want to do that— but then she didn't do it! Because Madrigal became best friends with her, and turned her good, or something. I don't really get it. But anyways, that's called off, and she even made Gil his own body out of goo— maybe as an apology for shooting him—"

"...snake... called off..." Eloise sucks on the back of her pen. "Wait, so this is the origin of the body? That's a spot of good news— Eight knows we sorely need that. It's goo?"

You elbow Gil. "Y- yeah," he says.

"Really! It looks so natural! How does it feel, if you'll excuse the prying?"

You allow Gil several seconds of silence before elbowing him again. "Um!" he says. "Um, I-I— it's fine."

"Fine?" you hiss.

"I-i-i-i-it's— it's good! I-I-It's— it's—"

"Very different from beetles, I'd expect?" Eloise prompts.

"Um, yeah, but not... i-i-it's the same amount of different as a regular— as a person body is. I-i-i-it's the same, um... they're both sort of big, and solid, and, um, compact, sort of, like there's only one— one central—" Gil falters: you pat his knee encouragingly. "...Um, a regular body and a goo body are both like that, i-i-is what I mean, but they're still different in a lot of... um... goo i-is really quiet. I-I-I don't move. I-I mean, I don't have to move. But i-if I'm beetles, I can't not move, so it's sort of... weird... I-I guess..."

"I'd imagine! Now, look, I'd ask to see the new digs up close, but I won't put you through even more of this. Congratulations, truly— you said Pat did this?" Her attention's back to you. "Am I mistaken, or is she hereabouts at the moment?"

"I assume so. Since she and Madrigal are—" Gil's nodding. "Oh. Yes."

"See, I thought so! And I thought I even saw her around earlier— I saw a woman I didn't recognize, I mean— but she completely evaded me. I'll have a chat later on." Another note in pink pen. "Is that everything? The full story?"

Everything she needs to know about, anyhow. "Yeah."

"Well." She presses her lips together. "It's amazing how things can keep escalating, isn't it? You think a clone-army-for-hire is a matter of concern, and then two weeks later there's a group of people—"

"Or things," you say.

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"—a group of people or things, let's see—" She flips back in the journal. "—'sucking thousands of innocents' minds out and replacing them with copies while they're put in mind torture prison so their mind juices get sucked out for unknown evil reasons, and this has been going on for probably a year or longer, but nobody can remember it, for other unknown evil reasons.'"

You cough. "I didn't say it like—"

"I'd estimate a good 80% of that is an exact quote. It doesn't matter, though." She sighs. "There just isn't any end to it, is there? Anywhere you try to go, it..."


She clicks her pen in and out. "You know what? Don't worry about it! Thank you for letting me in on all of this. I don't know if..." She looses a tiny sigh. "...I don't know if there was anybody better you could've talked to. You're going to keep messing around with this?"

"Um," you say. "Yeah."

"Then please... I can't say 'be safe.' Please take all reasonable precaution. Is there anything I can do to help you right now? I'll be passing this along the chain, but I mean— as an individual."

You slide your fingers against each other. "Um, do you know any local Headspace employees? I mean, people claiming to be employed by Headspace? Not Ellery." For possession purposes, but you're definitely leaving that out.

"Ooh. That's a puzzler, kid." Eloise pushes the pen against her cheek. "...No. Not off the top of my head. I guess they're all stuck in there, huh? But you know what? I'll ask around, I'll see what I've got, and I'll have an answer for you by tomorrow. Sound good?"

You weren't planning on possessing anybody today, so that's no skin off your back. "Yup. Oh! Another thing! Management is— they're coming. Soon. They're going to inspect the goo snake."

"Which doesn't exist, you said, much to all our great fortune?"

"Yeah. So, um..." You try to remember what Madrigal said. "...so they're going to vaporize Pat, because she didn't make one on time. Or something. They already stole her boyfriend. And Pat's a good guy now, apparently, so this is a bad thing. Apparently. So if you have any tips for avoiding vaporization...?"

"Hah. Um..." Eloise drums her fingers. "I don't know if I can be terribly specific, because you know more about these guys than I do, and you don't seem to know a lot to begin with. So I'm just going to be making things up. Okay?"

It's more than what you have. "Okay."

"Okay, then... well, I wouldn't count on being able to kill them. Or hurt them, really. Both in case they're not human, which... I don't want to touch, and because— they have to be outnumbered hugely inside Headspace, right? So if somebody could've brained them upside the head with a lunch try, they'd already be brained. If you catch my drift. Same thing for trapping them, or anything else physical you try to cook up."

Like Richard. ...Like Richard most of the time. You nod.

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"Now, effective strategies?" Eloise shakes her head. "If I were you I'd steer way clear, but that's not going to happen, obviously. I guess you'd have to aim to trick them? Either make a substitute snake— unless they wanted to take it with them?"

You have no idea.

"See, they might want to take it with them, so that's going to be dicey. Really dicey. You could have somebody bluff the shit out of them— excuse my language— bluff the shit out of them, pretend to be one of their higher-ups, say that the whole goo-snake thing is called off. Problems with that are, A) I don't know if they have higher-ups, but I think they sound bureaucratic enough for it. And B), I don't know how you'd convince them, if they're actually some higher-level... it'd have to be really good. Personally, I wouldn't attempt it. I think you'd need absurd luck. But..." Eloise shrugs.

Absurd luck? Ha! Try positive thinking, and also whatever the eye did, and also you have Richard— so— you're unstoppable, basically. You'll bluff them in a jiffy. "Okay! Thanks! Changing topics. I believe that there is yet another looming threat on the horizon, but it's unrelated to the first looming threat. I think. I have not uncovered evidence of a connection yet."

Eloise sighs.

"I believe that a sinister personage— henceforth referred to as the 'crown thief'— is gathering allies! And power! Power and allies! And once they gather enough of those things, they could ascend to godhood! But not in a good way, not a good— I mean a bad god. An evil god. Or at least a— a super annoying— a dislikable god. Are you with me?"

The pen clicks in, out. "Why the 'crown thief'?"

Oh, God. Richard— Richard has always counseled you, always, not to say anything about the Crown. But does he care anymore? Is he even here?


...No. "Um, it's sort of a— a long— you see, um, as I've made it very clear, I come from a noble family—"

You relate the history of the Crown as you know it. "So I went to go look for it, and I did find it— it was in Tom's Cave, actually, it mutated a whole bunch of alligators—"

Click. Click. "It was here?"

"Yeah! In this backwater, of all places! But anyways, I found it, I prepared to return triumphant— but it was stolen! This person in this gold mask with a giant AXE came and they TOOK it from me, unjustly, and they teamed up with this SNAKE, and then they vanished— and I never heard from them ever again— until now! I ran into one of their lackies! And I found all this stuff—"

You stand, stick your hand in your backpocket, and withdraw... oh, that's the pistol! Oops. "Hey, Gil, this is for you."

"What? Um..." Gil stares at the gun in his lap as you retrieve the rest of your loot. "There was this crystal that the lackey stabbed somebody with— I think to harvest mind juice— and there was this thingy! Do you know anything about these?"

Eloise accepts the token you drop into her hand readily, but pauses to slide on gloves before taking the crystal dagger from you. She examines that first. "Charlotte, this is extremely pure. Did you know that?"

"I thought it was pretty pure, but—"

"Extremely. Careful with it. It's emanating a lot of reality." She hands it back gingerly.

Extremely pure. Weren't the Crown's crystals supposed to be like that? Maybe... maybe it really is yanked straight out of there? Damnit. You'll have to get it professionally repaired.

"As for this... huh. Well, there's the axe you mentioned. And the crown." Eloise twiddles the token. "This isn't real. It must've been created custom after the theft— maybe it's a a symbol of alliegiance? Something like that. It looks really familiar, though... hmm. I'd guess the design's based on something existing."

"And you know what?"

"Not that familiar. Ask around about it, though. Somebody's bound to know something." She hands the token back, too.

There's a pause. You opt to fill it. "So, um... have you heard of any person in a gold mask and a black cloak? Recently?"

"That combination also sounds familiar, I have to say, but not recent. Sorry, kid. I don't..." She taps the pen against her chin. "Well... there was... I don't know if this is related, to be clear. But I heard some rumors out from mid-East that some woman was kicking up a real cult of personality. Sort of a— a hero-queen, warrior-queen type-thing— supposedly pretty popular among the folks out there. But I have no idea if she has a crown or an axe or anything. The rumors weren't that detailed."

Mid-East— a week or so on foot, but less if you find transport or travel in the dark. It's nothing if not possible. "Okay. Could you, um, listen to see if there's any more—?"

"Sure. I'd prefer to keep my energies on one world-ending crisis at a time—" Eloise smiles thinly. "—but I'll certainly keep an ear out. I hope that's the last of the news?"

The news, yes. You got your information. But... "World-ending?"


"You said 'world-ending crisis.' Like the— like the world was going to end, or something."

Eloise's mouth has kept the 'thin' but lost the 'smile.' "Figure of speech."

You glance at Gil, but he's too absorbed examining the pistol. "Are you sure? Because, I mean, what if the world was actually going to end, and— wouldn't that be weird? The world ending? Like, what if God woke up and decided to end the entire world, like blow it to smithereens, and everybody to smithereens— what if? Ha ha."

"Yes," Eloise says. "What if."

Your keen instinctive analysis of human nature is informing you that maybe she doesn't want to talk about this.

(Choices next.)
>[1] Too bad! Since when does anybody get away with not telling you things?
>>[A] Attempt to persuade Eloise through your fabulous raw charm and charisma. (Write-in a regular argument.) [Roll.]
>>[B] Attempt to persuade Eloise through cheating. (Advanced Gaslighting. How do you convince yourself that she wants to tell you? Write-in.) [Roll.]
>>[C] Attempt to do something else?? (Write-in.)

>[2] FINE. Drop the subject.
>>[A] Say anything else to Eloise? (Write-in.)
>>[B] Get out of here. [Where to? Monty/Gil swap/other?]

>[3] Write-in.
>>[A] Attempt to persuade Eloise through your fabulous raw charm and charisma. (Write-in a regular argument.) [Roll.]

There isn't anything Eloise might want to mention about the world ending . . . Or finishing ending . . . Because we've heard a lot about that lately and in the interest of veracity and maybe us not doing anything drastic either way like hahahaha maybe accidentally waking up slumbering and/or dead gods because that would be . . . Bad? Good? Inevitable so don't do it again?

And THAT is how you lead a question becaus now we've dropped the Again but we have done both things and depending on if she tries to gullshit us with vague answers we can do the same while remaining truthful.
"You don't seem too enthusiastic about this subject, which is unfortunate because I was all ready to talk about a local cult lead by an old family friend which watches over one of the seals on God. I guess you aren't interested though, oh well."

Fuck it, stress out Gil let's goooooo.
Rolled 9, 92, 68 = 169 (3d100)


Called. I apologize for my inability to ask for dice earlier (I've been out and about all day, and my phone wasn't cooperating), but due to the late hour I'm going to go ahead and roll these myself. DC 60.

This is pretty different from the first write-in, so I'll have you escalate to full info-dumping if she doesn't rise to the hints.

>accidentally waking up slumbering and/or dead gods
Technically speaking, the Wyrm was at least half-awake before you got there-- what you did was alert It / catch Its attention. I don't think the distinction would matter to Eloise, though, and Charlotte's nothing if not an exaggerator.

Very cool. Writing shortly.
There was also the time god that unhappened.
That's true! But that was definitely Horse Face who summoned that one-- you just happened to show up after the fact. Again, not necessarily something Charlotte would want/need to be specific about, but I like to be clear OOC so everybody knows what's up.
>9, 92, 68 vs. DC 60 — Success

Of course, your analysis is missing something critical: you would like to talk about this. And surely that's far more relevant than whatever Eloise feels about the matter. "So, do you have any opinions on this? Because it's just... it's really weird. Would be really weird. If it were the case. And it seems like the kind of thing you would have an opinion on, if you did know about it, because it— you know, it— it'd be sort of important. If it were real. Right?"

"Sure," Eloise says.

Gil's ankle is bobbing again. You lean in. "I mean, if I had heard about the world ending before this, then I'd definitely have an opinion about it. And I'd want to know more about it from— from reputable sources— so I could stay super safe! Super safe. And not not end the world on accident, or anything, like if I— if I busted open a seal, um, on God, or slipped through it, sort of— not on purpose— but if I did do that, and then I woke up God, for example, and then It got really mad and ended the world? Or it— it mind-controlled me into ending the world for it? Or something? Anything could happen, really."

"Okay. From—"

"And I'm not saying that I want this to happen! I really, really, really don't want it to. I'm just saying it's a— it could happen. You never know. Like, maybe I've been consorting with a sinister cult, or maybe I have— maybe I have cultish ancestry, sort of, so maybe God thinks I'm really cool and awesome, so I— it'd be more possible for me than for the average, non-magyckal person. Is what I'm saying. So if you knew anything that would help me take reasonable precautions, as you might put it—"

"From a skientific perspective," Eloise says, "there's no conclusive evidence whatsoever of a surviving god."

You curl your hands in your lap. "But—"

"There's a lot of ritual, superstition, and rumor, definitely. And there's a lot of people who say they believe in one. But most of those take it on faith only, and the ones who claim to have evidence tend to be unreliable fringe-types. If they do have something to offer, it's circumstantial. Always." Eloise has adopted an odd didactic tone. Her fingers are steepled. "Now, don't get it wrong. Skiens hasn't disproven that there's a surviving god. It's a good theory with plenty of historical backing, and plenty of reputable skientists place stock in it. But it's still just a theory; it can't, with our current technology, be proven. Do you follow?"

It feels like she's trying to trick you, even if you don't know how. Does Gil agree? As a good retainer, he ought to, but he's actually brightened up. Damn him, he's nodding. "I-I think that makes complete sense."

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Eloise nods too, once. "Thanks. Now, I don't know how brushed-up either of you are on modern skiens— I think Charlotte and I've talked about this a little bit before— but the core principle of it is that reality is composed of invisible fundamental elements called 'strings.' They're thought to be string-shaped, and they're thought to vibrate, is why they're called that. What strings do is contain information— raw information— on how the world should and does work. Any property of any thing you could imagine is defined in these strings, and they're created, destroyed, and altered every second of every day. It's how the world moves. It's how it all happens. It's pretty incredible."

"Okay," you say tetchily. "And the world ending—?"

She holds up her pen. "That's the basics of it. What less people know is that the strings might be invisible, or even in a sense conceptual, but that hasn't prevented modern skiens from being able to analyze their structure. And we've determined, pretty strikingly— they've determined that the positioning of the strings isn't random. Hopelessly tangled, yes. Always shifting, yes. But if you take the infinity of them and zoom way, way out, a pattern becomes very obvious. The strings emanate from, or are attached to, one location. A location—" She stomps the ground. "—thought to be very, very, very deep under the seafloor, a place unfortunately inaccessible to modern skientists, who on the whole live a mile in the sky. Hence the inconclusivity, hence the theories."

"Like the God one," you say.

"Yes. Like the god one, among others. It could just be the biggest crystal you could possibly comprehend, given that the material is known for affecting strings. That's similarly unprovable, as crystal is a son-of-a-bitch to come by up top." Eloise appears faintly amused. "And there's other stuff, too, but I won't get into it. They're not important. There's a third proven skientific finding, which is the one skientists try not to tell people about. The strings are all either coming or going from a certain place, right? They're not just waving around freely. They're taut."

"Like an i-instrument," Gil supplies. (Damnit! Why is he so into this!)

"Exactly. Like the strings of an instrument. This is all speaking on relative terms, of course, so there's still enough slack for them to move and tangle and do string things— but please believe me, any amount of tension has major repercussions. There's two other things. One, there's no record of any string tension before the Flood. And we do have a handful of surviving documents on the matter. Two, it's getting worse. It's been getting worse since measurements began. The 'why' is unknown, but there's plenty of theories out there for that, too. They also don't matter."

Gil looks like he's trying to plot this all out in his head. "How physical are these? Can they break?"

"They're not physical at all. They're metaphysical. But we're physical beings in a physical world, I'm afraid, so that's the best vocabulary we have." Eloise smiles wanly. "And yes, it's thought that strings can break, or the closest metaphysical equivalent to 'breaking'."

"Aw, shit. So i-i-if the torsion's screwed up too high..."

"See," Eloise says. "It's not too hard to be a skientist, is it? You've got it."

You don't! And it was your question! "Um, are you going to explain, or—?"

Eloise raises a hand toward Gil, who blanches. "Uh... i-i-i—it... they could snap. I-if whatever's got them winds them too tightly."

"Oh." You shift. "That sounds pretty bad."

"Yes," Eloise says.

"That sounds..." You cast a sideways glance at her. "...world-ending...?"

"If every string snapped at once, reality would cease to exist, per our current understanding. It'd be wholly consumed by non-reality, which isn't known to be conducive with 'existence.'" Eloise clicks her pen, hard, against her teeth. "Current string tension is thought to be so high that rupture could be caused by any major incident. Or this was the case several years ago, in any instance. I'm sure it's worse now."

Your keen instinctive analysis of human nature is informing you, after much deliberation, that Eloise appears to be speaking in coded messages. Which is very close to trickery, so you feel vindicated, plus you're being led to believe that these coded messages are agreeing with the 'apocalypse' thing, so you also feel vindicated. Score two for Charlotte.

"So the Headspace gullshit—" says Gil.

"It appears as though some group is collating a great deal of string energy— or 'reality juice,' which I like quite a lot. A large enough release of this would qualify as a 'major incident,' if that's what you're asking. I don't think anything you could do would, though, Charlotte. This isn't an individual-scale problem. I really do mean 'major.'"

The problem with the coded messages are, you have no idea how to reconcile this with the Wyrm thing, which you're pretty sure is definitely true. (Given the eyeball.) You're just not boring enough to grasp it all, you guess. But surely it has the be related somehow?

"But anyway," Eloise says, "this is all just speculation. Nobody knows the maximum torsion a string can support. For all we know, it could be effectively infinite, and a lot of people are stressed out for nothing. And even if it is a concern, nobody knows the timeframe for when the maximum'd be hit. People think it could be around now, but people are wrong all the time. All the time. The whole scenario isn't something I'd spend a lot of time thinking about, if I were you, because what could you do if it happened? Nothing. Nobody could do anything. There wouldn't be an 'anybody' or an 'anything.'"

"I-if they could be unwound—" Gil says.

"We're not advanced enough for that. And strings aren't something you can experiment with, either. It's just too risky. But anyway, like I said, I really wouldn't worry about it. It's neither of your's concern, and that's a great thing."

Per your keen instinctive etcetera, Eloise appears downcast. Or maybe just "sad."

>[1] Oh. You didn't mean to do that.
>>[A] Tell Eloise that you won't worry about it! Positive thinking!
>>[B] Tell Eloise that you'll make sure the world won't end! Easy!
>>[C] Tell Eloise that you're like 95% sure God factors into this equation somewhere.
>>[D] Ask Eloise why *she's* worrying, then. Idiot.
>>[E} Ask Eloise some other questions about this whole skientific business. Or make Gil ask questions, since he seems to get it more. (Write-in.)
>>[F] Write-in.

>[2] Maybe you better leave well enough alone.
>>[A] Head over to Monty's.
>>[B] Plot out your next steps with recombined-Gil and Richard, assuming you can find Richard.
>>[C] Write-in.
>[1D] Ask Eloise why *she's* worrying, then. Idiot.
>[1B] Tell Eloise that you'll make sure the world won't end! Easy!

So by blowing up headspace we're potentially saving the world? nice
>>[E} Ask Eloise some other questions about this whole skientific business. Or make Gil ask questions, since he seems to get it more. (Write-in.)

Doesn't the act of looking at the strings and reading their information, if the strings are just information, change the information you're looking at but then you didn't look at that information because it didn"t include the information of you looking at that information and basically have they considered NOT examining the strings and hoping it would all work out instead of helplessly watching things get worse and maybe that's making it worse?
>>[1D] Ask Eloise why *she's* worrying, then. Idiot.
>>[1B] Tell Eloise that you'll make sure the world won't end! Easy!
>>5730444 (checked)
Called for [1B] and [1D]...

...and you can inquire about definitely-not-quantum shenanigans. Writing.
The act of observing changes both the observer and the observed!
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>lmao imagine being "worried"

Well. Sounds like somebody needs to learn a little something about positive thinking. "But you're worried about it?"

"I didn't say it wasn't my concern," Eloise says.

"But why? You just finished saying that nobody knows anything about it, and nobody can do anything about it, and— and— maybe the only reason it's getting worse is cause you keep looking at it! Like the opposite of watching a pot! Maybe if you didn't worry about it, nothing would ever happen, but instead you keep it in your mind... simmering..."

She musters a chuckle. "Anything's possible! But I don't think that could ever be proven, much less acted upon, and I think the uptick right around the Flood points to other causes. I take your point, though, and I'd like to reassure you that I really have been trying not to bear it too much thought. Trying hard. But I've found it's easier said than done, in the end."

Bah. Quitter talk. "If it's so hard, then I'll just go fix it!"


"Fix it! The whole stupid string-tightening thing. So the world won't end." You recline smugly. "It's a totally normal thing for heroines to do. They're always saving the whole entire world. Just so you know."

It takes a moment for Eloise to register what you said, but her resulting guffaw is from the heart. "Ha! Wouldn't that be something else? Maybe we've all got a chance after all."

"We will," you say. "Not 'maybe.'"

"Okay! We've got a chance. I really shouldn't doubt you, Charlotte."

"Good. Now..." Is Gil okay? He's kind of staring off into space. "...I believe we shall be making our egress. Your information has been, um, useful. To future endeavors. We shall meet again—"

"Tomorrow," Eloise says. "I'll have some notes on local employees by then."

"Tomorrow!" You stand. "Gil. Gil, we're going."

"Oh." He stands too. "Uh... thanks for the info... and for talking about the strings stuff. That was really interesting."

Eloise clasps her hands. "Of course."

You make for the door. "Also, don't forget to dump the chandelier. Bye."

"I'll do that when you save the whole entire world, how about that? Ha." Eloise waves. "Bye, Charlotte. Nice to meet you again, Gil."


You don't hear if Gil responds, because you exit first, but he emerges just a second afterwards. He looks deep in thought. You bounce on your heels. "Um, are you okay?"


"Are you..." You gesture. "I mean, the end of the whole entire world is— is a minor matter for the likes of me, but I know that most people might be affected by that news in... some ways...?"

"Oh. Um, no, I-I'm okay." Suspiciously, he sounds okay. "I-I-It's sort of interesting, actually."

Gil, for all his decent qualities, does not possess a pure and honest heart. You narrow your eyes. "You think it's interesting that all of reality could go SNAP at any moment at all? And it'd all be over? And there wouldn't be a you, or a me, or a— or a camp, or an ocean, or anything in the entire world? And there wouldn't even be a world? It'd all be like none of it ever existed in the first place? And none of it even mattered at all?"

Gil squints out at you and the camp and the ocean and the entire world. "Um, yeah. I-I mean, it's sort of... if everybody goes all at once, and i-it doesn't hurt or anything, don't you think that's sort of optimal? I-I-I-If you just die normal, you have to worry about... I don't know, leaving a big mess, or what people are gonna think about you, or what you did with the whole thing, whether you wasted it, or— yeah. All that. But i-i-if everybody's dead, nobody's left to give a shit. And you don't give a shit, since you're dead. So i-isn't it win-win?"

Huh? What? Excuse you? "...No?"

"Okay, then maybe I-I'm missing something." He shrugs. "I-I-If you feel so strongly about it, I'm not gonna— don't get me wrong, i—i-i-it's not like I'd want to cause this. But i-if it's going to happen naturally... I don't know. Maybe you should say your piece."

About why the end of the world is bad?


>[A1] Okay, um, Gil, the world can't just "end" before you get the chance to heroically save it. That's not how things work. He should know this by now.
>[A2] Okay, also, your entire life up to this point has not been incredibly great. Which is fine! But you're sort of going through this with the expectation that things are going to be incredible later, and if the world *ends* before you get there that'd just be horrible. And lame. And not positive at all!
>[A3] People who want the world to end are always evil villains. Meaning people who don't want the world to end are good people! Like you! And (you hope) Gil! This is non-negotiable!
>[A4] You don't... you just think that dying is bad? And that things existing is good? Because you're a normal person?
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] Say hi to Monty.
>[B2] Go plan with Gil and Richard.
>[B3] Write-in?
>[A4] You don't... you just think that dying is bad? And that things existing is good? Because you're a normal person?
>[B1] Say hi to Monty.
>[A4] You don't... you just think that dying is bad? And that things existing is good? Because you're a normal person?
>[B1] Say hi to Monty.
Ok yeah fair point. I'm still gonna try and save it and stuff but I can understand your point of view.

The world can't end before we *win*, Gil.

Anything less isn't just losing, it's accepting losing. Like a loser would. No, if the world wants to end it's going to be over our dead body and even then it better watch out for its ankles as it does so.
Gil isn't allowed to accept losing either, because he's not a loser. We won't let him, not by ordering him to not be a loser but by providing an example. If he goes before we do, that'll be leaving a mess alright and we dragged him back once so he better damn well believe we'll do it again if he tries that.

He's going to be pushing the end from behind while we snap their ankles out. Doily over teakettle style, the end of the world will never see us coming.
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I'll go ahead and combine these. Writing.

This is not an argument you had prepared for. "Um... well... I guess that sounds like it makes sense, and I could see why you'd— why you'd think that way, sort of, but—"


"But... um..." It's so obvious. How are you supposed to explain something so obvious? "...things existing... is good? And dying is... bad? And the world ending involves a whole lot of people dying, Gil, so unless you think dying is really awesome, actually, and cool, and you want to— unless you want to— unless you want to die, then I don't see how you could support— you don't want to die? Right?" You search his face.

Gil raises his hands placatingly. "I-I-I don't want to die! I-I'm just saying, if I had to die— and, I mean, we all have to die eventually— then this wouldn't be so bad. You're with me there?"

"It's sort of a lame way to die," you mutter. "And what do you mean, 'have to die'? Gil? Am I detecting some negative thinking?"

"Uh..." He drops his hands a little. "...You know that everybody dies... right?"

"I drowned," you say, "and I didn't die."


"And you got turned into beetles, and you didn't die. And you got shot in the head, and you didn't die, and your goo body malfunctioned, and you didn't die, and stupid Ellery and stupid Horse Face have been killed a billion times, and they haven't died."

Gil is watching you warily. You fold your arms. "And you want to know why? Simple. Those would've been stupid ways to die. They would've been stupid, and they would've been pathetic. Those are all the way that losers die. Are you a loser, Gil?"

He doesn't respond.

"Are you?" Maybe you need to offer a hint. "Um, I don't pick losers for retainers. Just saying. Randomly."

He twitches. "...No?"

"No! Exactly! You're not a loser at all. Me and you— we're winners. We win. And you know what we don't do?"


"No! I mean, yes! But I was going to say that we don't just— just— we don't just roll over and let the bad guys win. Or the universe. Whatever's causing this. It doesn't matter. We do not just lay down and— and— and die! Just because it's convenient! How could you even say that! What we're supposed to do is win, in spectacular fashion, both of us— we both will prevent the very end of the whole entire world. We are going to kick the end of the world's damn teeth in, okay? We are going to— to— like, I'm going to shove the end of the world, and you're going to stick your leg out, and it is going to go flying off a cliff into a pit of snakes. And die. It'll die, do you understand? And after we have saved the entire world, then— then— maybe we can die. In astonishing heroic fashion. With explosions, and giant monsters, and things. After the world is saved. That's how it works, Gil, for winners."

"Heh," says Gil.

Is this a good response? You shift your stance. "It is."

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"I-I guess you'd know, huh? I guess... I-I mean... I'm in this for good. At this point. So i-i-if you're actually going to go off and save the world, somehow, through some convoluted, um... well, I-I-I-I don't know how much I could contribute. But I-I'll be there while you do it. I guess." He pauses. "I-I-I think I can wait on the dying at least until then."

"Oh! Fantastic! And if you do die in astonishing heroic fashion— well, you won't. I'll do it first. That's my whole job. But if you do, it's okay if people are sad about it, because that means they liked you. And cared about you." You pat Gil's arm. "Anyways! We traverse onwards to Monty's!"




It takes some of the steam out of the 'barging in' when Monty's tent door is already open. He's reclined at his desk, cleaning something with a cloth. He seems relatively calm. Non-strangly. All good signs.

"...Hello!" you declare.

"Huh?" He shades his eyes. "Who is that? Come in. That isn't Charlotte, is it?"

"Indeed! It is I!" You drag a reluctant Gil inside with you. "And also I have—"

"Would that be Gil?"

Gil stiffens. "How does everybody—"

"In full disclosure, Mads informed me you'd made it back with her. I was told you'd be in some kind of 'stripey jacket'— though I expected more insects, from the rest of the description. No insult meant."

"He's insects on the inside," you say firmly. "Not the outside. And he's my retainer, so you better not insult him, or strangle him—"

"Of course." In one motion, Monty sets down the thing he was cleaning (is that a giant tooth?) and slides his feet off his desk. "Well, let me congratulate you on a safe return, Charlotte. You caused a lot of worry among a lot of people, myself very much included."

"Sorry," Gil says automatically. You kick his foot.

"But all's well that ends well, of course. Madrigal returned safely, you returned safely, we have a few new friends—" He gestures at Gil. "I don't know that it could've gone better, frankly. It's possible my assistance would've caused more harm than good."

Ah. He sounds a touch bitter, there. But he recovers so smoothly you don't get a chance to say anything. "In any case, is there something I can do for you both?"

"Yeah!" you say. "Gil needs somewhere to sleep!"

"I wouldn't expect anything else. He's welcome with us, of course— should I commission an extra cot for him?"

"A cot?" You glance over at Gil. "What about a tent? He deserves his own—"

"I have no doubt. But we have a waiting list for new tents, I'm afraid. No spares at the moment, and a lot of the folks parked in town at moment are interested in a spot. And have expressed their interest prior to you, ah, coming here. I'm very sorry." Monty leans back in his chair, clasping his hands in his lap. "We can sign him up for the waiting list and get you a cot in the meantime? If you wouldn't mind sharing your space, of course."

>[1] You don't exactly have a lot of *room* for an extra cot, but fine. You'll have to figure something out. Maybe Gil can sleep on the floor, or in his manse, or... wherever. You'll work it out with him. Happy now?

>[2] No! You are not going to stand for this unjust mistreatment of your best retainer!
>>[A] Attempt to convince Monty that he completely owes you one. You saved Madrigal, didn't you? You're a beloved member of the local community, aren't you? So surely it can't hurt to bump your retainer to the top? [Roll.]
>>[B] Attempt to convince Monty that he completely owes you one. Given the things he has done to you, and the trauma he has put you/your neck through. He doesn't want you to nurse a grudge about that, does he?
>>[C] Attempt to convince yourself that Monty believes he totally owes you one. Never fails. (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>>[D] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in.

What if we went and got our own tent for him! Where do tents come from anyways? Maybe we could grab some extra while we're there since we are a Valued Member of the Community.
Supporting proactive tent acquisition
Heroes don't cut in line
Tents are acquired courtesy of local architect Eloise, who more-or-less imagines them very hard into existence. It's less of a "material scarcity" thing and more of a "Monty doesn't want to deal with too many newcomers at once" + "Monty doesn't want to deal with the general logistics" + "Monty doesn't want to overwork Eloise" thing.

You're still welcome to offer this, which would mean giving Monty the runaround and asking Eloise for a favor directly, and it'd probably be effective. It might tick Monty off, though, so consider well.
What if we imagine it very hard into existence in Eloise's place? One part settled, and Gil 's pretty much a member of camp already so hardly a newcomer, two parts settled. We just need to deal with the logistics - evict Horse Face to make room for Gil, all set.
>What if we imagine it very hard into existence in Eloise's place?
I guess you could give it a go, but there's a reason it's a specialized profession (with special equipment). Even if you could produce a tent, the real trick of the matter is getting it to stay put-- it'd be liable to vanish as soon as anybody stopped looking at it. And even if you could get it to stay put, you'd likely be ticking Monty off exactly as much or more as getting Eloise to do it. The whole "challenging his authority" thing.

>evict Horse Face to make room for Gil, all set.
If you could convince Monty to do this, you wouldn't need to deal with a new tent, because Horse Face's tent would be empty! That being said, your odds of getting Horse Face evicted approach 0%, since Monty knows you have beef with him and he hasn't been causing trouble otherwise. (Also, you would bum Gil out.)
Get Horse Face, us and Eloise to brainstorm on how to make a tent for Gil.

Monty can suck it if he thinks he can stop us from getting done what needs to be done.

Even if it makes him made that doesn't make him right.
We can just make a tent for the next person in line also. That way nobody is jumping and the line actually moves ahead faster so it's a win all around.

Service should come with benefits. A good lesson for a community to learn.

Alternatively what about contacting the Wind Court for how they settle refugees or freed convicts or whatever. We can steal their bureaucratic wiles.
>look man don't worry about it I'll take care of it myself :)


Lmao. Writing.

Richard has abandoned you again, but if he were here— actually, you're not sure. Nowadays, he might tell you not to rock the boat. To not risk spoiling Monty's extremely tenuous good mood. Blah blah blah. But if you had the old Richard here— and you're not saying that you want him or need him or miss him— but if he were here, you bet he'd have way more useful things to say. Things you'd agree with. Like 'who needs Monty, anyways?'

And okay, yes, you thought that all by yourself. So you didn't need him, like you said. But it would've been a little less lonely-feeling if he was there to tell you.

...Ahem. Who needs Monty, anyways? "Um, it's Eloise who does the tents, right?"

"Yes, she's been gracious enough—"

"Then I'll ask her about it! I was just talking to her, actually. We can work something out together." You kick your feet out, draping your arms against the arms of your chair. "Problem solved. Now—"

Monty's trying not to look testy. It's not entirely succeeding. "Eloise is fully aware of the existence of the waiting list."

"I'm sure, I'm sure. But there's no need to worry! We'll work something out, um, lady to lady. You don't even have to get involved. Hell, Gil doesn't even have to get involved. It'll all be taken care of."

"Charlotte—" Monty says.

"And if you care so much about the dumb waiting list, I'll throw in a bonus! We can cut a deal for two tents; one for the first guy on the list, and one for Gil, who has been through so much strife, and hardship, and— and beetles, and who undoubtedly deserves a decent place to rest his head, as Eloise is bound to recognize! And thus the sanctity of the holy waiting list is preserveth, and there's no problem at all." You put your feet up onto Monty's desk. "Right?"

Monty's lips are a flat line.

"Doesn't this make perfect sense, Gil? One for you, and one for the needy of our community. Well, two for the needy of the community. You're needy too. Right?"

Gil, thumping his foot against the leg of his chair, spooks at your direct address. "Um, I-I-I-I-I— I— um— yeah! I-I-I mean, that all makes... sense..."

"See!" you say, spreading your hands. "It makes sense!"

Monty doesn't respond. Maybe he's a coward: he thinks he'll lose, if he argues. Maybe he's sensibly repressing the urge to murder you with his bare hands. But he does rise from his seat, go to his filing cabinet, clank open a drawer, and retrieve a sheaf of papers. He stalks back over and drops those onto the desk.

"I need you to fill these out," he says to Gil.

"Is that tent paperwork?" you say.

"It's general admittance." He slides the papers over with two fingers, tosses a slim black crayon after them, and retrieves a clipboard from his desk drawer. He stacks that on top. "For our records. Would you mind filling this outside, also? Charlotte and I need to discuss some personal matters. I'll come get you when we're ready."

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"Uh..." Gil says, as you fold your arms. "You can't make him go outside! It's hot out there! And that's discrimination! He's my best retainer! Why can't he—"

"I-I can't feel temperature," Gil mumbles.

"I can make him go outside," Monty says stoically. "And I won't be discussing this with company, regardless of your opinion of his character, Charlotte. I'm sure he's of excellent character. This will still be between us."

What?! He can't—

"I-I-I-It's okay. I-I'll— um, I-I'll be right outside." Gil grabs the paperwork. "Yell i-if you need me."

"I'll scream if I need you," you hiss, as he scurries out. Monty follows after him, fastens the door, and returns. He clears his throat.

"Who did you kill?" he says quietly.

>[-1 ID: 13/14]

You scoff, heartily, so nobody could ever hear the catch in your voice. "I— who did I— what?! How could you say such a thing?! I am a lady of great moral fortitude, and I— I cannot conceive of— how dare you?! How dare you?! What a ridiculous assertion! There is absolutely no basis to your—"

"There's blood under your fingernails," Monty says. "There's blood on the bottom of your boots. The cuffs of your shirt are scorched. You're dirty all over, but not wounded." He scratches his nose with his spooky arm. "And you're a shoddy liar, but I'm sure you already know that. Who did you kill?"

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Nobody! That evidence is all circumstantial! And this is literally none of his business!
>[A2] You were— you were saving somebody's life, okay? That's not a lie. That's 100% actual fact. And you *did* save that life, so— there.
>[A3] ...Give him the name and the details. You wanted to grill him on all the Gold Mask stuff, anyways, so it's not like it's a super special secret. Even if he'll act all smug about it.
>[A4] Write-in.

While you're having a "personal discussion"... (These options may be spread over multiple updates.)

>[B1] You know Monty doesn't want to talk about his spooky past, or whatever. But you *have* to talk about it, because his stupid spooky murder mask looked EXACTLY the same as your thief and their lackies' masks. Would he like to elucidate? [Do you show him the token and/or dagger?]
>[B2] Um. On the topic of murders. You presume he has a lot of experience in containing sudden murder urges of his own, right? Because it's possible you might be struggling with that, and you've got it mostly under control, but you wouldn't mind... tips.
>[B3] Hey. So he remembers the, uh, nightmare dimension he thrust you into during the "strangling incident"? That he said he couldn't explain? It is somewhat possible you may have honed your skills in a similar... thing. So you can explain it, actually, and he's not a freak or anything. [Would you like to demonstrate, assuming Monty consents? Y/N]
>[B4] Where'd Guppy go? You don't suppose *she* has a tent, doe she? Also, has he seen Pat around? They haven't banded together against you, have they?
>[B5] Hey, um, just so he knows, if Madrigal comes around saying mean things about you, or already has— you didn't mean to bother her. She just got weird all on her own, which was very confusing, since normally she cusses you out if she's bothered. But she didn't this time, and it's not your fault, okay?
>[B6] Write-in.
>[A3] ...Give him the name and the details. You wanted to grill him on all the Gold Mask stuff, anyways, so it's not like it's a super special secret. Even if he'll act all smug about it.

>[B1] You know Monty doesn't want to talk about his spooky past, or whatever. But you *have* to talk about it, because his stupid spooky murder mask looked EXACTLY the same as your thief and their lackies' masks. Would he like to elucidate? [Show the tocken but not dagger]
>[B4] Where'd Guppy go? You don't suppose *she* has a tent, doe she? Also, has he seen Pat around? They haven't banded together against you, have they?
>[B5] Hey, um, just so he knows, if Madrigal comes around saying mean things about you, or already has— you didn't mean to bother her. She just got weird all on her own, which was very confusing, since normally she cusses you out if she's bothered. But she didn't this time, and it's not your fault, okay?
Actually, let's instead combine [A2] and [A3]. Give him the name but not all of the details. The heist is irrelevant, what's relevant is that we were protecting an innocent.

if he doesn't want to talk about B1 we can bump A2 up to A3 in trade


B1, show token.
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>[A3] / [A2]

>[B1] (with token)




Called for [A3]/[A2], [B1], and [B4]. Writing. I expect this to be relatively short.
>No u

Another thing Richard doesn't actually have to tell you, but it'd be nice if he were around to do so: trying to deny it now is going to look awful, and Monty's going to start thinking even harder that you did something wrong. Which you didn't, to be clear. You didn't do anything wrong at all. And if you can explain that nicely enough...

"Um, it was in self-defense," you say. "I mean, not self-def— other-defense. He was trying to kill—"


Monty's gaze is withering. You try not to slouch. "I— um— I don't think you'd know him. He's not from here or anything, I think. His name was Wayne...?" (No reaction.) "Um, Wayne. We were on this thing together, and he was trying to— I stopped him from doing this one thing he wanted to do, so he starting going nuts, and pointed a gun at me, and then he stabbed this other person with a knife, really hard, and so I... yeah."

"I see." Monty glances down. "I don't know that anything justifies taking a man's life, Charlotte, but that would come close. Your intentions were nobler than any of mine have ever been. Assuming you're truthful."

"I am! He totally— he stabbed— and I didn't even tell you about the rest of it! Mostly since I figured it all out afterwards, but—" You drum on your lap. "I figured out that this guy— Wayne— he was working for somebody! Specifically, he was working for the person who stole my crown— didn't I tell you about that, my crown being stolen? It was horrible! And now, not only is it stolen, but the thief has— has recruited evil lackies to fill it with magyckal power! So they can turn into a god! Probably an evil one! So I really did the world a giant favor by dispatching, um... dispatching..."

Monty's face has gone slack, but you choose to ignore this. You haven't even finished all your information. "Oh! I forgot the weirdest thing! The thief and Wayne were all wearing your mask. You know your mask? The gold one? And it makes you die all those times when you put it on? It looks just like that, except it doesn't make you die. Or go to a spooky dimension. It's just a normal mask. Isn't that weird?"

He swallows.

"Monty? Isn't that— oh! And one other thing! The guy I righteously slew was carrying this thingy." You fish out the token and slide it across the desk. "It seems pretty important. There's a lady on it, and an axe on the other side, and I guess it was made underwater... do you know anything about it? Monty?" You pause. "Monty?"

It's a good thing you're looking at him closely, because if you weren't looking at him closely you'd swear he was dead. He's not moving at all, or making any expression, and he definitely has a corpseish pallor going. But his eyes are registering the token.

Like tar, his spooky arm unspools over the edge of the desk. It forms a fist and two fingers. It delicately pushes the token back to you. Then it vanishes again, dropped to Monty's side, though Monty's eyes stay on the desk where it used to be.

"Monty?" you attempt one more time. "Do you know, um... is it possible you know about this? Monty?"

No indication he hears you, though surely he must. Surely?

>[1] Uh... what if you tell him that you've already figured the whole thing out? Wouldn't that spook him enough to talk to you? You haven't figured it all out, yet, but... well... (Tell Monty why he's so bothered by this. Write-in.) I classify this as "moderately solvable": you should be able to get the key reason right, but there'll be some missing details. The other options are completely viable, and you can always come back later with more evidence, so don't sweat it if you'd rather not go on a wild-goose-chase.

>[2] Okay, this is a little bit scary. If you can't get through to him like a regular person, maybe you better pull out the big guns. He can't ignore you then, can he? (Communion. Spend 1 ID.)

>[3] Maybe you should... um... come back later. You can save your question about Guppy until then.
>>[A] Go drop back in on Eloise and explain the tent situation.
>>[B] Go drop back in on (ugh) Horse Face and explain the tent situation. Also, maybe you can get his input on the end of the world. Or other stuff.
>>[C] Go plot out your next moves with Gil and Richard.
>>[D] Write-in.

>[4] Write-in.
Relevant threads:
>Masked thief - threads 3 and 4
>Spooky Masked People Dimension - thread 14
>Talking to Monty about SMPD - thread 15
>Masked thief again - thread 16
>Absolutely justified righteous execution of Wayne - thread 34
Going out on a limb here.
Monty started to react once he heard about the masked thief. But the previous time we told him about it he didn't react at all, even though it involved his possible assassination.
So I have two theories:
>Either the masked thief has visited Monty and Monty's opinion of the situation severely changed, probably as a result of the thief having a snake and a new goal now
>Or this is somehow related to Monty's dead wife. Is the token her symbol? Is she actually alive and Wayne was her minion, not the thief's?
>[2] Okay, this is a little bit scary. If you can't get through to him like a regular person, maybe you better pull out the big guns. He can't ignore you then, can he? (Communion. Spend 1 ID.)
Going to write up a response to this one >>5733347 then boot you guys back to a similar set of options, since there's no way I'm making you do [2] on one vote. Hopefully we'll have a little bit more participation next round.

>Close, but no cigar

Well, it's a fantastic thing that you're an accomplished detectivess, and you should be able to piece this all together in a trice. Ahem. "Um... is it a wife thing?"

Yes! Monty is looking at you. You press forward. "Presto! Perhaps your dead wife is, as a matter of fact, not dead? She's been lurking in the shadows all this time, seeped in resentment, scheming against us all— going as far as to don a cruel facsimile of your whole spooky costume deal? Or alternately, um, she's not the crown thief, but she is the boss of the guy I exterminated— and she's working together with the thief? Or not? We can fill in all the details later. But this lady on the thingy is definitely her, and that's why you've—"

You are registering that the look in Monty's eyes isn't awe, but rather raw contempt. You are thinking that this is unsupportive of the 'wife theory.' "Um, or not! It's not your wife! Your wife is still dead? Super dead? That's not her? You can use your words."

He swallows and glances back away from you.

"Okay. Not the wife. Awesome! New theory. Um..." You rub your hands together. "...have you met the thief before? Because I remember I told you you might get assassinated, and you didn't care at all, but now you're appearing to care quite a lot. Which is weird. I'm guessing you're not a big fan of the whole 'become a god' thing, which makes sense, because I'm not either... but it's not like you're going 'oh dearie me, Charlotte, that sounds like an awfully bad thing to happen.' Which would be true, and that is what you sound like, by the way— but you didn't say that. You're freaking out all scarily. Why?"

You pause for a response, but really for dramatic tension.

"Is it because you've met the thief before, so you know that it's actually really, really, really bad? Or do you... do you know who they are? Monty?"

His eyes slide onto the thingy, which still squats head-side up on your side of the desk. This is, in your professional opinion, maximum confirmation. He definitely knows who the thief is.

>[1] DETECTIVATE. (You only need to get one of these right for Monty to crack, but are welcome to attempt to answer both. Please select an option from [2] or [3] as a backup vote in case you don't solve it.)
>>[A] Who is the thief? (Write-in.) [Difficulty: Moderate-Hard]
>>[B] Why is Monty so beat up about this? (Write-in.) [Difficulty: Very Hard]

>[2] Okay, you've been entertaining this long enough. Maybe he'll answer questions better if you take the direct route. [Communion. -1 ID]

>[3] You probably shouldn't push this too far.
>>[A] Talk to Eloise (again).
>>[B] Talk to Horse Face (again).
>>[C] Talk to Gil and Richard.

>[4] Write-in.

Feel free to change your vote or keep it the same. I'll count this as a valid vote for [2] unless it's changed.
Well, the thief knew who Monty was, and who ate his arm, and that Constance was dead. The thief also seemed to really dislike both Monty and Constance. Called Monty a liar and a traitor.
Monty also probably knew the thief, since one of the Game Committee Members we've seen in Monty's dream had a similar axe.
So I have some guesses regarding this:
The thief, obviously, is a GCM
The thief wants revenge against Monty
The thief is Constance's killer
The thief was the cause of Monty's arm loss
The thief had originally pushed Monty and/or Constance into the sea. In fact, it's possible he pushed Constance and Monty jumped after her.
For extra drama, the thief's mask contains a copy of Monty and/or Constance

Oh man, meant to browse old threads for the last vote when I had time and ended up forgetting lol.

Definitely fellow GCM member
Maybe uh Monty was allied with him, but then messed up and/or backstabbed him, and his mistake got Constance killed and other guy drowned, and now other guy wants revenge.

if not that force things
Seems like the people have spoken. Which is good, I'm working 12s on day 7 of 'em. So no time to travel threads. Thanks for writing!
>>5734400 [checked]
You both start strong then go way off the rails, but in classic Charlotte fashion you inadvertently get enough key details right to push Monty off the ledge. Metaphorically speaking. Good job!


Jesus, man, completely understandable! I wish you the best of luck with that, and we should be back to our regularly scheduled "just read the update and pick one or more options" shortly.
>Close enough for the cigar I guess

"Hmm." You stroke your chin. "Is the thief one of your, um, coworkers? One of the spooky masked people? Or whatever it was— I don't remember the— the Game Committee! What a boring name. Were they one of those people? Because the thief had a giant axe, and they all had... spooky... weapons? Am I getting hot?"

Of course you're getting hot. When has your detectiving ever failed you? Have you ever been wrong in your life? Never. Monty's face has pinched all together.

And just like that, you have it. The complete story, arrived to you in a scintillating flash of brilliance. The Gold-Masked Person— the very first time they haunted your manse, didn't you spook them off with talk of Monty? And they were mad! At him! How peculiar! Almost as if... they have prior history? Bloody history? Tragic history? Could it be that this vile thief has haunted Monty almost as badly as they've haunted you? Slew his wife? Slew his arm? Pushed him off the edge of the Pillar? Pushed his wife off the edge of the Pillar?! All in revenge for some perceived slight of Monty's, or— worse— an epic betrayal! A turncoat Monty, playing the thief for a fool, making them believe they're allies— until, in epic fashion, the ploy is discovered! And bam! The seething hatred! The scary freakout! The definitely dead wife!

This is the best theory you have ever concieved of, and quite possibly the best theory any detective anywhere has concieved of. Frankly, it's novel-worthy— better than any late-period Josey Hatchcock hatchetwork— and once you save the whole entire world/become Queen you'll commission an author to write a novel following this whole storyline. But for the time being, you must present it to Monty in as clever and elegant a method as possible. Hmm. Hmmm. "I perceive that I am getting hot, perchance. In fact... could it be?! That I perceive everything there is to know about this sad tale?! That—" You flourish. "—all this time, you had been in cahoots with the thief?! That—"

You don't get any further. Monty's face has pinched so closely it looks misshapen, like bad stitches in bunched-up fabric. Or like he's in terrible pain. He is gripping onto his desk like the whole floor's listing, his regular hand starched of color, his spooky arm all oilslick and throbbing up and down. Is this a breakthrough? Or a breakdown, and next he's going to grab that discarded tooth and go after your arteries?

Neither. He stays like that for a good thirty seconds, then wrenches himself away, leaning heavily into his nice desk chair. His eyes remain shut. And he stays like that for maybe a minute... concentrating? Meditating? Building self-control? Plotting your death, or his? (It's a realistic possibility! You're not just harping!) Whatever it is, he exhales.

And then he opens his eyes, and they're normal. Not scary or tortured or anything. His face is normal. His shoulders have untensed. His spooky arm is still spooky, but isn't pulsing. It's like that stupid god reversed everything that just happened, except there was no current, and you can remember all of it, and it didn't. Do that. So you're not sure what Monty's trying to pull here, you mean.

He clears his throat. "Yes."


"You're right. It's like you thought." Ah, but his voice isn't normal. It's controlled. Big difference. "We were in cah— we were— I had advance knowledge. Of the attempt on your crown. Attempts."

>[-1 ID: 12/14]

"You— what?!" That's not what you meant! That's— that's—

"It wasn't my original idea." He turns his face to the wall. "I'd received a formal complaint from the Court that you'd cheated them out of some artifact, some crown, or something. I wasn't going to act on it. They had no grounds. But I was telling her about it, and she knew what it was. What you had. She was extremely excited. Was saying it could do anything you could think of. Raise the dead, even." Monty's tone has dried to sand. "I was most interested in that."

Now you grip the desk. "And you didn't ask me if—"

"I didn't think it was possible to reason with you." He taps on the arm of his chair. "But I said it wasn't my idea, originally. It was hers. It was altruism— I thought it was altruism. It'd be borrowed and returned. I stipulated that. You wouldn't be hurt. I stipulated that too. I said under no circumstances could she hurt you. Did she?"

Monty's blue eyes, trained on you, are hard to look away from. You guess you can see how he was a famous person. A famous despicable theft-accomplice. "No, but—!"

"That's good. She could've hurt you. I don't know how she didn't, in retrospect. It was a stupid thing to expect restraint, to expect any level of— of decency at all. And now she has it, and now—"

His eye contact crumbles. His hands cross and latch tightly. "—now I— now there are consequences. That I must pay for in totality. I was selfish and foolish and blind, and have been deceiving you for— for weeks, I suppose. I'm no better than I ever was, and in many respects worse, which you now know for certain. I'm sure most people suspect it."

You keep waiting for Monty's voice to hitch, but it remains impressively even, if suspiciously toneless. He must be throttling things somewhere below the vocal chords. "Uh-huh."

He gestures loosely. "Say what you'd like to say. Please."

(Choice next.)
>[A1] Agree with Monty.
>[A2] Don't agree with Monty.

>[B1] Blame Monty.
>[B2] Don't blame Monty.

>[C1] Hate Monty.
>[C2] Don't hate Monty.

>[D1] Pity Monty.
>[D2] Don't pity Monty.

>[E1] Forgive Monty.
>[E2] Don't forgive Monty.

>[F] Write-in. (Feel free to write-in alternatives or nuances to any of the above, or other facets of Charlotte's reaction not listed.)

Side note on the previous detectiving: Monty told you about the actual circumstances of his wife's death early in Thread 14, but it was in a weird place and kind of tossed-off, so understandable that that was forgotten/overlooked. I'm *pretty* sure that you've also been told how he lost the arm (it's not thief-related), but even I can't locate this, so you guys are definitely off the hook in that regard. Overall, all your theories were very cool and cohesive (if largely incorrect), and I probably would've stolen from them if I hadn't already contradicted them in canon years ago. Alas!
Don't forgive Monty YET, but that thing was our family heirloom. This is like Horse Face and his model theft times a thousand. He did this to us and he wasn't even going to give Gil a tent.
I still like my theory more. Charlotte definitely has to turn it into a book.
Interestingly, I thought about Monty being in cahoots with the thief, but I tossed this theory because I missed the fact that the Crown wasn't actually in Monty's possession.

>[A2] Don't agree with Monty.
On the fact that most people suspect it. I'm not sure what we're actually supposed to agree on tho.
>[B1] Blame Monty.
>[C2] Don't hate Monty.
>[D1] Pity Monty.
>[E3] Forgive Monty as long as he helps us to get it back
>[F] Don't forget to ask who's the thief
Kek. It's definitely a lot more neatly wrapped than the actual story, but you have to remember that the Gold-Masked Person becoming a huge villain was the result of a legendary 1/1000 double-critfail, so nothing about her(?) is neatly wrapped!

>I'm not sure what we're actually supposed to agree on tho
His last paragraph of dialogue ("Now there are consequences..."). You're also welcome to agree with parts and disagree with parts.

>Don't forget to ask who's the thief
You'll get a fair shot at asking questions and getting more details once the initial shock's worn off.
By the way, now that I've found the story of Monty's wife's demise, I'm pretty sure his co-conspirator is Eloise.
> Lecture Monty about not believing in our reasonableness. We're only unreasonable when it's reasonable to be so, and raising the dead is SUPER unreasonable and we've also done it multiple times and the Crown was really tangential to those times. So. Really backed the wrong horse there, hay?

> He's not wrong about the cost though, and honestly this one is really light. All he's lost is our respect. No wonder he never did anything about Horseface stealing our sculpture, he's just another Horseface.

> He did this to us and he wasn't even going to give Gil a tent.
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Calling for [B1], [C2], [D1], and mixed feelings/conditional forgiveness. You guys are split on [A], but >>5735688 seems pretty negative on Monty, so I'm going to lean towards [A1]. Writing.

>we've also done it multiple times
I mean... no? Gil was never dead (just nearly), and if you mean the Richard/Martin shenanigans that's definitely not what Monty was thinking. He's talking straight-up D&D-style True Resurrection, which isn't possible in the Drownedverse without divine power or something very, very close.

If you mean Charlotte to be lying or heavily exaggerating, specifying that would be appreciated.

Intriguing theory!
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Well, I keep thinking about other upcoming bits of the quest and can't seem to buckle down to write this bit. That, combined with my super late night last night, means that I think I'm going to turn in early and bang out the rest tomorrow. Sorry! (I have drafted an outline of the remainder I need to write, so hopefully it should go quick.)

Have a nice evening/morning, folks.
Back on the grind. Writing.
>Seriously man? Not cool

You push your tongue around your mouth. "You weren't even going to give Gil a tent?"

"Huh? Uh..." Monty looks stricken. "...Yes. I apologize. I agree it's only fair he be provided a... I will notify Eloise as soon as reasonably possible. She may be able to get it done before nightfall."

"Oh! I see. It's only fair now, but it wasn't fair at all just before—"

He hesitates. "I had forgotten."

"You forgot that you stole—?"

"I hadn't been thinking about it. Mads was so sick for so long— and then kidnapped— and the whole mess in town— and there was no news about the crown. Nothing. You didn't notify me of any activity, and she'd skipped town, and I'd assumed it— that it was over. Nothing more would come of it. I wasn't thinking about it at all anymore."

"Until I reminded you," you snipe.

"Yes," says Monty. "Until you reminded me."

He looks off over your shoulder, like the scratchy tent wall has comfort to offer him. You clasp your hands. "Well, anyways, I think you're right about all this, pretty much. This is your fault. Quite a lot your fault. Not completely, since you didn't steal it, but— it does definitely seem like I'd still have the family heirloom I'd been searching for for years on end if you weren't involved. So that's interesting."

"Yes." He breathes in. "I wasn't made aware of its significance."

"Ah! I see! Well, that was its significance. It was supposed to restore my family's good name. Now it's probably being stripped for parts by evil morons, thanks to that big idea you got. And you know what? I think you're right about being selfish and foolish and blind, and I'd like to tack on stupid, because this is just about the stupidest thing I've ever— you thought I couldn't be REASONED with? Me? When I am the most reasonable— I am reasonable all the time, except when it's reasonable not to be. Plus, I guess you forgot I was a storied heroine, so if you had just come and asked for help—"

"...I wasn't aware you were a storied heroine at that time, either."

"Yeah. Yeah. I bet. I guess you were too stupid and rotten to notice, huh? Figures." You straighten up. "At least this explains why you were on Horse Face's side. You're exactly the same as him. You're both stupid... thieves."

"I suppose you hate me, then," Monty says. "You'd like to kill me for this?"

>[-1 ID: 11/14]

Your gut clenches. "What? I—"

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What does he mean? Is he that wary of you? You thought he bought your explanation— which was true, so he better have— and he didn't seem all too frightened then. His tone is benign, even pleasant. So it's a test of some kind? A rhetorical trap? God, you despise these. Some nerve Monty has to spring one on you when he's on the back foot, or ought to be! How rude! You should kill him for this, just kidding, just kidding. Just kidding. You shouldn't kid about that. Just because the red stuff's been quiet doesn't mean it's gone.

"You don't think I deserve it?"

Monty's smile is tight-cornered, his gaze unswerving. Definitely a trap. (It was nice of Richard to sensitize you to such things.) But what is it baited for, exactly? Is this a loyalty-test thing, and you're supposed to say you'd never ever ever hate or kill Monty, and of course he doesn't deserve it at all, and you're really sorry for bringing this up? But he's not controlling like that, or you never got the impression he was. Even with the scary stuff. A tight-ass, yes, but Madrigal's his second-in-command, and she's not exactly a sycophant...

Really, the way he's phrasing it, it's like he's angling for you to agree. To say you hate him, and stuff. But that's—


That's what it is, isn't it? That's what it has to be. He would like you to hate him. He would like to be hated. He sat through your entire tirade waiting for the H-word and when it never came he started trying to pry it out of you. He's probably sitting there in his stupid nice chair clawing at his insides right now because you haven't indicated enough dislike yet. Or a proportional level of dislike, he probably thinks it is. How sad is that? That he can't be satisfied with plain old stupid and rotten? He wants you to want to kill him. To kill him. He thinks he's done something worth being killed over? He didn't even steal the damn Crown himself, or even know it was run off with. Stupid, yes. Stupid, stupid, stupid. It's not like you respect him any for this. But to want to kill—?

It's just sad. It is. You can't even properly call it 'negative thinking,' because even known negative thinkers don't think they're owed death. Maybe it's whatever's way beyond negative thinking. A wasteland, or a big pit of black goop, or Hell. Or the Edge, where you look over and nothing's there, and if you fall off you fall faster and faster forever. Maybe one of those. It's not like you can really ask about it.

Anyways, you definitely can't say you hate him now. He doesn't win a prized spot as a sworn nemesis by asking for it, that's— that's what the opposite of a nemesis would do! Nemeses are shameless! Monty is shameful, to a frankly embarrassing degree, and that seals it. "It doesn't matter if you deserve it. I don't know why I'd kill you, so I'm not even going to talk about that. And no, I don't think I will hate you. Ha."

See? Watch Monty twitch: a flinch suppressed too far up the chain. "Not after—"

"I already said you were stupid. You're still that. But you didn't wave a big axe around and take the thing, did you? That wasn't you with the axe?"

"Er, no—"

You cut him off before the 'but' comes. "Okay, then. I hate the axe person! Axe lady? I will proceed to hate him or her with passionate fury, and perhaps I will slay him or her if she's being a real pain, or has turned into a big monster, or God, or something of that sort. But why would I slay you? Who'd give Gil a tent then?"

Monty's smile has flattened bemusedly. "That's... I believe I may hate her also."

"Great! We can do it together!" You spread your arms. "See how easy this is? Now, I would like to notify you that you're not forgiven for this. I will remember that you plotted to steal my cherished family heirloom. Maybe forever."

And now see his shoulders lift, his fingers unroll, a shift back into his chair: he's blatantly relieved. "I understand."

"But!" You raise a finger. "It is possible I may reconsider if you do something for me. This is not a guarantee. My judgement is known to be, um, unshakeable! As the mighty earth!"

"...Of course." Monty's spooky arm twines around his good one. "May I ask what this is?"

"Um, help me? Duh? I need to stop the menace you created, and you're the one who knows about the menace, so—"

"Ah." He rests his chin on his clasped hands. "I thought that went without saying."

"...Then you're on the road to forgiveness! Possibly!" If he's really useful. And doesn't get squeamish about anything you plan on. "First thing. Who is the thief? You keep saying 'she', so it has to be a girl. No. Don't say anything yet. Is it... Eloise?"

Monty makes a noise that you thought might've been a cry of alarm, like he was really impressed how you got it in one, but if you look carefully at him he seems to be choking on his own spit. "Is it Eloise?"

"She wears a cloak!" you say defensively. "She's very mysterious! She likes gold things, like jewelry, and... masks...?"

He's gone all red from the choking. "I— maybe? None of that means..."

"Okay, it's not Eloise," you say.

"She couldn't lift an axe, much less swing one! And I'm very sure she knows nothing at all about that mask, or what it means, to say nothing of the fact that she'd never agree— she's a good person, Charlotte." He's drawn himself up all serious. "I don't know how you'd ever assume such a thing. You're lucky she isn't within earshot, or you'd never hear the end—"

"I already said it wasn't her," you mutter. "So who is it?"

"You can't guess?"

"I don't want to." Anymore. "Just tell me. What is there to lose at this point?"

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"Nothing. I... it was Jean."

You wait a moment for further explanation. "Who?"

"Jean? You know... Jean Ramsey? You've definitely met... you've definitely met her. She was here for some time. She served as our medic? In a highly ad-hoc fashion, but..."

You are surfacing dim memories of a woman built like a brick. Who knew Monty pre-drowning? "Are you sure?"


"Okay... because I didn't think she was very important." You frown. "That's why I said Eloise. That would've made more sense."

"...Er," Monty says. "But it was Jean."

You wave a hand dismissively. "Uh-huh. Whatever. It would've been more exciting if it were Eloise. But anyways..."

>[1] He's going to have to tell you more about this lady. Was she even a real medic? Where is she from? What is she like overall? Is it plausible she'd, uh, start a cult of personality?
>[2] Priorities. You need to know what she's capable of, besides swinging a big axe around and being a menace. Any special traits? Physical abilities? Magyckal powers?
>[3] Was he aware that Ramsey obtaining the Crown could lead straight to the total collapse of reality? You're going to fix it, so it's okay. You just think he should know.
>[4] Is he aware that he never would've been able to raise anybody from the dead to begin with? The Crown wasn't nearly powered enough to do that. It would've been a paperweight.
>[5] Just in the principle of full disclosure, and absolutely nothing else, how did Monty lose his arm?
>[6] Just in the principle of full disclosure, and absolutely nothing else, how did Monty and/or his wife drown?
>[7] Write-in.

I was going to give you guys a chance to dig through the archives (or character pastebin -- reminder that exists and has useful info!) for an ID, but the Eloise pick was funnier. TY anon.
>I don't know how you'd ever assume such a thing
I'll tell my train of thoughts - the thief seemed to know Constance, and Monty said that of the people who lived at the camp at that time only he and Eloise have remained.


>[1] He's going to have to tell you more about this lady. Was she even a real medic? Where is she from? What is she like overall? Is it plausible she'd, uh, start a cult of personality?
>[2] Priorities. You need to know what she's capable of, besides swinging a big axe around and being a menace. Any special traits? Physical abilities? Magyckal powers?
>[3] Was he aware that Ramsey obtaining the Crown could lead straight to the total collapse of reality? You're going to fix it, so it's okay. You just think he should know.

Eloise is too honest, she never could have kept that from us, we'd have seen it on her face.
>Easy as 1, 2, 3
Cool! Writing.

Alright, anon, I see where you were coming from... but you still have to disregard everything else you know about Eloise to get there :^) (And, of course, the possibility that the Gold-Masked Person could've met Constance pre-drowning.)
>And, of course, the possibility that the Gold-Masked Person could've met Constance pre-drowning.
The thief also knew what exactly bit off Monty's arm.
I will say I wasn't thrilled by the idea that Eloise was deceiving us all this time, but that would be quite a dramatic twist, so I thought it was possible.
I mean they practically were as good as dead. Details, details. We can probably figure something out if we had the crown and the ultimate power that goes with it.
> I forgot
Still writing, but:

>The thief also knew what exactly bit off Monty's arm.
Well, yes, but that also isn't a secret! Anybody who's talked to Monty enough is likely to know about that. (I'm just razzing you at this point. Don't worry about it.)

>but that would be quite a dramatic twist
It sure would've been... if I had planned it as a twist from the start! Instead I set up a minor character as a minor villain, laid some groundwork for her in Thread 16, and then you guys double-critfailed and turned her into a major villain. This necessitated her leaving town and consequently being forgotten about for 19 threads. Which I think is kind of funny in its own way, personally. Also, not to worry, actual dramatic twists are still cooking :-)

>We can probably figure something out if we had the crown and the ultimate power that goes with it.
Hey, this bit is 100% true! If you get the Crown fully charged and on your head, you could certainly bring whoever you wanted back from the dead. You could even kill them first then bring them back, if they weren't obliging enough to be dead in the first place.

If you liked, you could offer to bring Monty's wife back once you get this all sorted out, but you're pissed at him and he's already helping so I didn't think it was worth an option slot. (You can also bring his wife back without needing to offer! Surprise him!)

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>Get the deets

"...if it must be Jean... I thought she went by her last name?"

"Most commonly, yes. It makes me no difference."

"Um, okay. If it must be her, then you have to tell me absolutely everything about her. Because I don't know anything. Is she a real doctor?"

Monty sighs. "Not much more than I am."


"She knows how to take bodies apart. Shakier on how to put them back together. I needed to give her something to do." He fiddles with the cuff of his sleeve. "In my defense, she does know how to use a bandage, and it's far from an essential role down here. Seems you're either fine or you're dead, and—"

"I thought we were in hell," you say snidely. "You think people die a second time?"

"I'm not sure what else you'd call it, Charlotte. Maybe they escape. Maybe they go somewhere worse. Maybe they come right back here, as Garvin has posited to me. I wish I knew. But I can't imagine my answers actually matter that much to you, do they?"

"Just asking. Anyways, so she and you were friends—"

Monty chuckles. "I wouldn't say that. I think it's possible she considered that to be the case. I can't say I did— and that's long before any of this, to be clear. We have always been... of very different minds."

"Meaning she's a thieving jerk?" you say. "And you're merely a thieving jerk accomplice?"

"In a sense." Monty ducks his head. "She's always preferred the spotlight over me. That's one difference. She used to be very well-known back then— very well known— and it wasn't out of raw talent, though she wasn't bad. What she was was a born showwoman. She was 'the Executioner,' because she'd chop off people's heads, see, in broad daylight. People loved it. She had radio interviews and sponsorship deals out the ears, or neck stump, if you will. Zero grace. Zero subtlety. I could've taken her out fairly easily if she wasn't always surrounded by fans— they'd all take a damned bullet for her, see. Which I thought was a fairly obvious bending of the rules, but the Committee thought otherwise, and she was never reprimanded."

He's rattling this off all clipped-like, maybe so he doesn't think twice about telling you all this, but it makes it hard to follow. "She had sponsorship deals? Did you have sponsorship deals?"

"..." He sucks in his cheek. "...A few. I needed an additional income stream."

Somewhere out there in the world, there's collectible Monty merchandise. When you become Queen, you'll order somebody to search it out. For your palace decorations. "What did you sponsor?"

From the look of him, he looks like he regrets ever bringing up sponsorships, and possibly being born. "It's been many years, Charlotte, I don't have a strong— I believe one of them was shoe polish. And some variety of patent medicine. She had many more than I did, because she liked having her endorsement on things. Even back then I found the glad-handing crass."

"So you're saying you didn't like all the attention? And stuff?"

"I thought it was beneath me, Charlotte." He clucks his tongue sardonically. "So yes. I loathed all the attention."

"Which is why you decided to go be a famous murder person—"

"Game player. And believe me or not, but I wasn't in it for the fame. I'd say she was, but I also believe she enjoyed killing people."

"And you didn't?" you say.

"I didn't feel anything about it. It was something to do." Monty swivels his chair a little, first one way, then the other. "What I enjoyed was winning. And being good. I was very, very good. If I could've been so in relative obscurity, I would've, but being very, very good builds a reputation on your behalf, and— I don't mean this to paint myself in a better light than her. It all went straight to my head. I wasn't a nice man back then, or a good man, and I especially wasn't a personable man. Jean was extremely personable, back then and now. People were just drawn to her."

"You might say she had a... a cult of personality going?"

"Sure, I might say that. It was all faintly mystifying to me at the time, but it and the Committee favoritism made far more sense when I was inadvertently promoted. Guess who was pleased to see me? She said I was one of her favorites. I don't know that we'd spoken two words." He rolls his shoulders. "I was obligated to invite her for dinner with my wife and I at least once after that. Constance was pleased I made friends. I was lying to her quite a lot, that entire year."

On one hand, you'd really like to focus on the vile, twisted inner workings of your thief. On the other, Monty's talking about himself without you literally having to pry it out of him, which you think might be a first. Best not to rile him up. "Mm-hm?"

"I'd say that was the worst part of it, but the company was terrible, the work was abhorrent, and the prospect of being stuck there for eternity was unimaginable. It was worse than death, and I can say this because I have experienced death. I would rather be rent limb from limb—" He stalls himself, takes a couple deep breaths. "Jean enjoyed it."

"Oh," you say.

"They all enjoyed it, to varying degrees, but she really did. She thought the illusion of power we had was thrilling, and she thought the company was edifying, and the physical changes invigorating, and the prospect of being stuck in there just about the greatest damn thing anybody could hope for. It didn't hurt that the Committee figured she could go unmasked most of the time. She was good for public relations." Monty smiles grimly. "Wouldn't you know it, I wasn't."

Maybe he thinks that if he says a lot of things offhandedly, he can slip them past you. Ha. "Uh-huh. Physical changes?"

Oh, yeah, there we go. Instant regret. No smile. He's drawn himself up, the spooky arm contracting in coils.

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"If the person who stole my one-of-a-kind family heirloom has any physical— oh, hold on, did I mention? I was talking to Eloise, and she told me about some skientific gobbledygook where reality's been sort of stretching, and now any 'major event'— she said that, 'major event'— any of those could snap it in half? E.g., somebody using my family heirloom could qualify? Isn't that funny, Monty?"

"I couldn't say," he says, apparently seriously. "Eloise said this? Did she say what 'reality being snapped in half' entails for the layman?"

"Uh," you say. "Everything ceases to exist! All at once! Poof!"

"Is that all?"

"Is that—" God-damnit! "Is that not enough?"

"I could think of far worse things. Some I've mentioned. The way you have it, you'd downright reduce suffering." Again, he's apparently serious. "I take your general point, I suppose, but—"

"I didn't even say my general point!" You fold your arms. "You owe me everything you know about quote-end quote 'physical changes.' The world might literally end if you don't. Or maybe it won't, because I'll stop it, and I guess in your opinion that'd be worse, which— maybe just forget the world. You stole my crown."

"Yes." Monty inhales. "That's fair."

"So are you going to—"

"Please wait." There's a soft noise you can't place, until you realize his foot must be scratching on the ground. "This isn't something I've really..."

You wait.

"...Really, all of this is... I've only ever told Constance. Years ago. ...Please be patient."

How much more patient can you be? You join Monty in the ground-scratching.

"...What kind of face would you expect me to have?" he says.

"Um, what?"

"I've told you enough. You know I was engaged in violent activities for many years. I played the Game. I boxed. I provoked people. What kind of a face would you expect from that?"

What on earth is he talking about? Is he expecting a physiognomic examination? You wouldn't expect him to be that tough, you guess, if you didn't know him— his features are all long and softened and sort of blandly handsome overall. No dashing square chin, no darkened brow, no wicked scar. But is that what he means? If it isn't, you suspect it'd be awfully rude to say, not to mention far too forward. You opt for the safe route of saying nothing at all.

Monty sighs. "I'll be more specific. Would you take a look at my teeth?"

He bares them for you. (Maybe he's sick of you being here, and this is his attempt to drive you away?) You take as polite of a glance as you can get. "They're very... white?"

They are very white, not to mention perfectly straight. He must've had enough sponsorship money (ha-ha) to have a surgeon look at them. "Yes," he says. "They're very white. Thank you. Did you see any missing?"

He could just be making fun of you. That's a possibility with anybody, really. "You have all your teeth, Monty."

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"If the person who stole my one-of-a-kind family heirloom has any physical— oh, hold on, did I mention? I was talking to Eloise, and she told me about some skientific gobbledygook where reality's been sort of stretching, and now any 'major event'— she said that, 'major event'— any of those could snap it in half? E.g., somebody using my family heirloom could qualify? Isn't that funny, Monty?"

"I couldn't say," he says, apparently seriously. "Eloise said this? Did she say what 'reality being snapped in half' entails for the layman?"

"Uh," you say. "Everything ceases to exist! All at once! Poof!"

"Is that all?"

"Is that—" God-damnit! "Is that not enough?"

"I could think of far worse things. Some I've mentioned. The way you have it, you'd downright reduce suffering." Again, he's apparently serious. "I take your general point, I suppose, but—"

"I didn't even say my general point!" You fold your arms. "You owe me everything you know about quote-end quote 'physical changes.' The world might literally end if you don't. Or maybe it won't, because I'll stop it, and I guess in your opinion that'd be worse, which— maybe just forget the world. You stole my crown."

"Yes." Monty inhales. "That's fair."

"So are you going to—"

"Please wait." There's a soft noise you can't place, until you realize his foot must be scratching on the ground. "This isn't something I've really..."

You wait.

"...Really, all of this is... I've only ever told Constance. Years ago. ...Please be patient."

How much more patient can you be? You join Monty in the ground-scratching.

"...What kind of face would you expect me to have?" he says.

"Um, what?"

"I've told you enough. You know I was engaged in violent activities for many years. I played the Game. I boxed. I provoked people. What kind of a face would you expect from that?"

What on earth is he talking about? Is he expecting a physiognomic examination? You wouldn't expect him to be that tough, you guess, if you didn't know him— his features are all long and softened and sort of blandly handsome overall. No dashing square chin, no darkened brow, no wicked scar. But is that what he means? If it isn't, you suspect it'd be awfully rude to say, not to mention far too forward. You opt for the safe route of saying nothing at all.

Monty sighs. "I'll be more specific. Would you take a look at my teeth?"

He bares them for you. (Maybe he's sick of you being here, and this is his attempt to drive you away?) You take as polite of a glance as you can get. "They're very... white?"

They are very white, not to mention perfectly straight. He must've had enough sponsorship money (ha-ha) to have a surgeon look at them. "Yes," he says. "They're very white. Thank you. Did you see any missing?"

He could just be making fun of you. That's a possibility with anybody. "You have all your teeth, Monty."

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"Not smart. I don't think it got into the brain like that. She's cunning— I wouldn't misestimate her— but no genius. Nor am I one, for that matter." Monty taps the desk. "I don't think she's inhumanly fast or inhumanly strong. I'm not, but she was on the Committee for much longer, so I can't be certain. I would assume she's merely very fast and very strong, but I still wouldn't recommend you fight her."

"You said you could beat her," you mutter.

"That's meaningless, Charlotte. I could beat you."

This has gone too far: he's gotten cocky! "Oh yeah? Prove it!"

"No," says Monty.

"Then you're a coward! A low-down— I bet I could beat you. I bet I could beat you, and I bet you know it, and you're scared, and you—"

He's impassive. "I'll revise this. Please don't fight her directly. She was holding back on you before. She's killed men twice your size who know how to fight, and that was sans-artifact. Get it back if you must, but I know you'll want to duel. Don't."

What you're hearing is 'absolutely duel, but upgrade incredible magyckal abilities first.' "Uh-huh. So that's the physical stuff. Did your stupid spooky mask give her anything else? Anything that could be described as 'magyckal,' perhaps? Given the shadow arms, and the turning-into-shadow thing, and the—"

"I don't know."

"Really? Because I seem to recall being plunged into a spooky darkness dimension, and also you have a shadow arm right now, which you started oozing out right after you got really really mad and plunged me into— yes! You were making that exact face!"

Monty attempts to correct his strangling expression, to little avail. "I don't know about any of that. I have no explanation."

"Um, are you sure? Because I'm thinking that maybe you were wearing this spooky mask for a whole year, and maybe it leaked some spooky energies into—"

"I think we better stop," Monty says.

He leaves off the "for your sake." Fine. Jean Ramsey: very tough combantant. Possible spooky energies. "Stop everything?"

"Is there more you need to know?"

Maybe. But probably not right now, you're sensing. "Uhh... that was a lot."

"Yes. It was a lot." He reaches for some stray papers, apparently for the sole purpose of stacking them officiously. "You won't be speaking of this to anybody, will you?"

Uh... will you?

(Choices next.)
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>[A1] No. It's between you and him. Promise.
>[A2] No. It's between you and him. Promise. [Lie.]
>[A3] You'll keep his personal stuff secret, but the accomplice stuff is fair game. People deserve to know that their noble leader is a low-down thief. That's just how it is.
>[A4] You can't promise anything. Sorry.
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] Go plan things with Gil and Richard. You've put it off for long enough, and you have a lot of complicated things you need to work out.
>[B2] Go speak to Eloise. The tent's solved, but she still needs to be told about it. And maybe you better tell her to check in on Monty after you leave. He doesn't seem too great at the moment.
>[LOCKED] You got Gil's tent solved, so your desire to speak to Horse Face has reverted to your customary 'nil.' If you have things to ask him, you can do that when he drops off Henry's Annie-resurrection instructions.
You've posted part 3 again instead of 4
Oh, fug. Of course it's too late to delete now, too. Thanks for notifying me.


"Yes, I do. Which is very strange," he says, "because I've had multiple teeth knocked out over the years. This one right here for sure—" He indicates a definitely-present lower-right canine. "I was 17, I think. Had the tar beaten out of me. There was one somewhere around here—" A couple of premolars on the top right. "—which was a folding quarterstaff to the face, if I remember correctly. And then one in the back from God-knows-what."

Yes. Extremely possible he's making fun of you. 'Taking the piss,' one might say. "You're saying they grew back...? Or..."

"You inquired." Monty shuts his mouth. "I am saying that. I'm saying that six months through my Committee sentence, I wake up with decade-old teeth."

"Oh," you say.

"I had to tell Constance I got implants. At another point, I wake up with an unbroken nose. It used to be I could hardly smell anything." (You eye Monty's current nose: straight as a ruler.) "Scars were going missing. Old aches and pains were going missing. I was..." He bites the inside of his lip. "I had always been fit, but I had also been fairly wiry. Until I wasn't. I was as strong as I'd ever been, and my endurance was good as it had ever been, though no special effort on my part."

He pauses for a few beats, rubbing his thumb against the knuckle of his forefinger. "All of this disturbed me, but none of it so much as— at this point I was 27, or thereabouts, and I had already found a couple grey hairs. I assume from stress. You see a lot of prematurely grey Game players, just as you see a lot of prematurely dead ones. I wasn't fussed about it. I was more fussed when I discovered all the grey hairs had turned brown. And that it was growing in thicker than it had, and my skin was firmer, and one night Constance asked—"

His voice cracks.

"—asked me if I had signed a sponsorship deal for an anti-aging pill. And I didn't know what to tell her. She was kidding. I told her that I was just happy to see her— that when she was around it may as well be a—"

Monty stops, staring out at the wall again. Maybe it does have some comfort to offer. You don't know. You fidget. "Um... so... you're saying that wearing the spooky masks magyckally—"

"I didn't say 'magic,'" Monty says tightly. "I don't know what it was."

"Um, well, you grew back teeth... and reverse-aged... so I don't know what you think it could be other than that, but—"

"I don't know."

"Okay. Whatever. You don't know." (Still magyck.) "And do you think this happened to Jean Ramsey also?"

"If you look at her teeth," Monty says, "then yes. That's a tip for you, actually. That's how you spot us. Identical teeth."

It'd be a little funny if his tone weren't so devoid of humor. "Um, got it. Do you think this speaks to any advanced capabilities? Like, is she super smart now, or super fast, or strong, or—"

NEXT PART: >>5737599
And here's the complete update in order, for anybody who might prefer reading straight through without interruption. Apologies for the slip-up-- I have no idea how this happened (except probably being sleep-deprived and posting really fast so I could go to bed).


Thanks for your patience!
>[A1] No. It's between you and him. Promise.
>We're not responsible for anything Jean might reveal while doing a villain monologue though.

>[B2] Go speak to Eloise. The tent's solved, but she still needs to be told about it. And maybe you better tell her to check in on Monty after you leave. He doesn't seem too great at the moment.

Understanding gained.
>>[A1] No. It's between you and him. Promise.
>>We're not responsible for anything Jean might reveal while doing a villain monologue though.
>>[B2] Go speak to Eloise. The tent's solved, but she still needs to be told about it. And maybe you better tell her to check in on Monty after you leave. He doesn't seem too great at the moment.
> A5

A1 but be incredibly clear that it's because we were raised to hold a certain moral standard, a quality seemingly vanishingly rare around here. Be offended he thought we would carelessly gossip.

Also if we need to somehow use that info to reclaim our Crown well - it's his own damn fault then.
Called for [A1] and [B2] and writing.
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>Under wraps

Well, have you ever in your life leaked sensitive information? Have you ever broken a promise? No and also no. It's frankly ridiculous he'd question you here. "Well, of course it's between you and me! You said this was a private conversation, and I don't know what other definition of 'private' there—"

"That was all I needed to know," Monty says. "Thank you."

"I after all have unimpeachable moral standards! Ask anybody. I wouldn't go spreading around information— I haven't even spread around all the stuff from last time, so you know. Even though I could've! I could've told lots of people! But gossip is highly unladylike, Monty; I thought your breeding was high enough to realize that." You push your hair behind your ear. "Then again, given the company you keep... ahem. Of course, if it becomes necessary to countermand such an agreement, perhaps in an effort to put a stop to the horror you have personally unleashed..."

"I expect that bridge will be crossed if we come to it, Charlotte. And if it becomes relevant to make this public, I would prefer to do it on my own terms." He riffles the papers with his thumb. "I do think it would be the just thing to do. But not right now."

"Okay, um, do whatever you want." It's a little less exciting to know all this if Monty just up and tells everybody. "Also, if Jean starts blabbing all about it while I'm dueling her, that's not my fault. I didn't cause that."


"Okay! Then we're all sorted! Let me just grab this—" You scoop the token back up. "What is this, by the way?"

Monty sighs out his nose. "It's a counter for the Game. Marks kills."

"Oh! So do you think the scoundrel I disposed of had already killed—"

"Anything's possible, but no. I doubt it. They were also collectibles. Different one for each of us. The hoi polloi kept replicas on their person to show tribal allegiance."

You consider this. "So there's a counter with your face on it out there somewhere?"

"No comment."

Another item for the search. "Okay! Well, I shall be taking my leave— I'll go notify Eloise that she needs to make a new tent. How about that? So you don't even have to leave."

"...That would be fine."

"Great!" You spring to your feet. "Goodbye!"


"Aw, shit!" Outside, Gil springs to his own feet. "Are you— hello! Are you okay? You were i-i-in there for so—"

"Did I scream?" you say merrily.

"Um, no, but... uh... I-I finished the paperwork... is he okay? Did you do something to him?"

"What would I do to him, Gilbert? We just talked. Watch. I'm going to go straight back in, hand him these papers, and he'll be completely normal." You lift the clipboard out of Gil's unsuspecting hands. "Watch! Hold the door open! I'm just going to—"

You barge in, Gil obligingly holding the tent flap open behind you. "Monty! Hello! I—"

Completely Normal Monty is gone. The Monty you're staring in the face looks like a really clever wax replica, the sort where you might see it coming around the corner and be momentarily startled— how did they get it so close to looking like Monty? Sure, the skin has a distinct pallor, and the eyes are devoid of life, and it doesn't move, but could you make a replica that good? I couldn't get it so good— and so on and so forth.

He is breathing steadily, though. And he did flinch all over at your re-arrival. (You were exaggerating about the 'not moving.') So that's something. "—I, uh... I have... Gil finished his paperwork..."

You inch over. Monty's eyes track you accusingly, but they haven't been clever enough to make a wax replica that talks yet. You deposit the clipboard on his desk with a clatter. "Okay! Bye!"


"Um..." Gil says diplomatically, after you've high-tailed it a sufficient distance. "You're positive you didn't...?"

"I didn't do anything! He just has a delicate constitution."

"Sorry. Um. I-I did hear some of what you were talking about, by the way."

"Eavesdropping, Gilbert?!" You affect a glower until Gil actually starts to wilt. "How resourceful! It hardly matters. I'm sure Monty wasn't count you as a person who shouldn't know about this... and I might've told you, anyways. At least the bits that pertain to our new objective! That being challenging a certain Jean Ramsey to single combat! Or maybe double combat. You can participate too."

"Um... thanks." Gil shifts. "I-I-I-I don't know if I understood most of what I heard, um, though. Why were you talking about teeth...?"

"Can a lady not talk about teeth?"

He can't seem to formulate a response to this. "Also!" you say. "I got you a tent! You're welcome. And if we pop in on Eloise real quick, then it'll all be—"


"Back so soon?" Eloise, fussing with a wall hanging, sounds genuinely surprised. "Not bearing more bad news, I hope?"

"Not at all!" you say. "Monty said you were in charge of the tents, and he said Gil should have one by tonight. So he has somewhere to sleep."

"Monty said that, huh?" She cocks her head. "With that waitlist stuck up his ass? Did you blackmail him?"

Blackmail? When have you ever done such a thing, or even considered doing such a thing? "I just convinced him! Because Gil deserves it! You can ask Monty if you don't believe me."

"No, no! I don't particularly care how he feels, and I'm not doing anything of particular importance. I'd be happy to. We wouldn't want you two to share a place, would we?" She smirks. "I'm sure we can clear a plot across from yours, or thereabouts."

"That's what I was going to recommend!" That or kicking Horse Face out of his adjoining spot, but that'd require more effort.

"Then we're all set. It does take a bit to prepare, but I'll have something by nightfall, alright? A preemptive welcome to camp, Gil."

"...Thanks," Gil says.

He's just nervous, not actually unappreciative. You're sure of it. After all, this is another stunning win for the tally— this has been an great day, hasn't it? Far better than... than most of the days you can remember, really. An excellent day.

>[+1 ID: 12/14]

"Yeah! Welcome to camp!" You jostle Gil's shoulder.

>[1] By the way, Eloise might want to go check on Monty. Not because you did anything, to be clear. Just because.
>[2] By the way, what does she know about Jean Ramsey?
>[3] By the way, that weird token is actually called a 'counter.' You used your detective skills to find that out. You're just that good.
>[4] By the way, can you watch Eloise make(?) the tent? You've never seen it done before.
>[5] That's all you need! Depart.
>[6] Write-in.
>[2] By the way, what does she know about Jean Ramsey?
>[4] By the way, can you watch Eloise make(?) the tent? You've never seen it done before.
Hypothetically, is there any way the new tent could be given to Garvin, and placed on the other side of camp, while Gil moves into Horse Face's old tent? If so, could she do a bad job making the new tent? Make it as uncomfortable as possible?
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Slow day, but this option slate isn't too important, so I'll go ahead and call it here. Calling for [2], [4], and the write-in, and flipping for [1] (1=yes 2=no).
Just [2], [4], and the write-in. Writing shortly.
>Bonus round

Gil flinches. "Anyways!" you say. "I know you said nightfall, but when? Can we watch?"

"There's not a whole lot to see, I'm sorry to say, but sure! It's easiest to do at dusk— you want to be able to see, but not that well. So an hour from now? Forty minutes?"

"Great!" Plenty of time for you to get something else done beforehand. "And, er, this'd be right in front of my tent? Or thereabouts?"

Eloise smiles broadly. "Nothing gets past you, huh? Is it those famous detective skills?"

"Uhh," you say. "Yes! Also..." If things have been going so well, isn't it worth a shot? "I was sort of thinking, um, maybe you could try a spot right next to mine?"

"Aren't those both taken?"

"...Yes, in a sense, but I'm sure that if you made Horse Face a brand new tent way on the other side of camp, then he'd—"

"Ah!" Eloise says. "And I'm sure Monty approved this?"

You attempt to ignore Gil's sideways glances. "Well... um..."

"You know, it's a valuable skill to learn to live with people you don't like very much, Charlotte. Protip." She winks. "I'll set up across from yours, give or take."

...Still a very fine day. But maybe not an 'excellent' one. You opt to politely change the subject. "Um, noted. By the way... what do you know about Jean Ramsey?"

"Ramsey? Didn't she fly the coop?"

"...Yeah, but, um, I didn't get to know her very well before that. I'm just curious."

"Well, that sounds perfectly plausible. I'm sure you haven't found yourself another case, have you?" (You are beginning to feel you've spent too long around Eloise.) "Well, Miss Just Curious, I think you've earned yourself plenty of idle gossip today. Was there something specific you wanted to know?"

Nothing that Monty didn't already cover. "Just tell me whatever. Anything you know."

"Anything! Okay. She's a real character, but I'm sure you already knew. Big personality. Fairly polarizing. Quite a lot like you, Charlotte. I thought she was a riot, though I don't think she liked me much. Thought I was a little— what is it— too big for my britches?" Eloise indicates her lack of britches. "I don't think Monty could stand her, which was funny, since he's the one who set her up as medic and all. I do have a theory about that."

"Proceed," you say.

"Okay. According to what people in-the-know have said— and what she's said herself, frankly— it sure seems like she was involved in the same exact thing Monty was involved in. I told you about that? The legalized-killing-people thing. I'll reserve my ethical tangent on that—" She raises her eyebrows. "—and just say I think he felt hamstrung by his own, you know, imaginary need to be polite. Or he felt it wasn't fair to turn her down and not anybody else. I betcha he's thrilled to bits she vanished, even if he won't say it."

So not much you didn't already know. Yet another victory for you. "Okay! Thanks!"

"Anytime! See you two in a little while."



Eloise was right about dusk being on the way: the light outside has the soupy quality of late-late afternoon. You stretch your back. "Whew! That went well, didn't it? As it always does."

"Um... yeah."

Gil is excited for the tent, right? Considering that you negotiated bitterly for it, and it's all for his benefit? "I mean, I got you a tent, and we'll get to watch it being set up—"

"That part should be pretty cool," Gil admits.

What? "That part? Not the part where you get a brand new—"

"Um, I-I... that too..."

Maybe you're interpreting this all wrong. "You want a tent, right? Because you said you weren't leaving me, and you were sticking around for however long it took, and that you wanted a real body, and you got one, so obviously you need somewhere to sleep, right? Am I missing something? Would you rather sleep outside and get eaten? Because we can arrange that, you sleeping outside and getting—"

"I-I-I-I know! Sorry! I—" He wrings his hands. "Everything you said was right, and, um, I-I don't want to get eaten—"

"Okay," you say. "Because I don't want you to get eaten either. Hence the tent."

"Yes! And that makes sense! I-I-I just... I was so on edge all day, because you disappeared, and everybody was being a bitch, and I was in your head, so I didn't know if I was gone forever, or dead, and this body is weird and i-i-it's— it's— it's just happening really fast. Sorry. That's all it is. I-It's happening fast. I-I-I don't want to get eaten."

"That's good." You shove your hands into your pockets. "...Sorry I disappeared."

"I-I-I-It wasn't your fault," Gil says. He looks down at the ground. "Um, I... thanks for the tent."

"You're welcome," you say.

You both stand there. The soupy light's filtering through Gil, turning him translucent at the edges. You decline to inform him of this.

"Um... I-I-I think I'd feel better if I, uh, met up with the rest of me. I-I don't think I feel very good if I stay away for too..."

"Well, we do have 40 minutes to kill. We might as well." You clear your throat. "I mean, we shall indeed forge onward, to my tent, since yours doesn't exist yet! And then we can entereth my manse, and you can see all the stuff you've been working on! And be rejuvenated! We can both be rejuvenated. Okay?"

"Sounds like a plan. ...Thanks."

"No need to thank me! I'm merely doing my job. Now, I believe my tent lies thisaway, so let us embark..."


You and Gil don't talk much more on your grand journey back to your tent (down the row and take the second left), but he actually walks right next to you, not trailing behind. And he's taken his hands out of his pockets.

Another victory. It's getting silly, really— you're just not used to this level of success. You think you actually need to go sit down. Your ears are ringing. Ha! Your head's going to inflate, your Aunt Ruby would've said. You can't even walk straight from it.


Even Gil senses it! Though you can't see him that well. Maybe all the success is going straight to your eyeballs, too. You never know. You're really not feeling very well. You—


—pitch over sideways.

>[-2 ID: 10/14]


It's dark. Gil isn't here. Your head hurts like the dickens. There's a woman sitting in a shabby folding chair ten feet away, bobbing her ankle, but as soon as she sees you looking she scrambles to her feet. She's very tall, and her neck is longer than a normal person's, and the chair she kicked over has vanished.

You have a general sense that you should stab her with your sword, but you're not sure how to get from the present moment to the moment where you stab her.

"Hello!" the woman calls, and clip-clops over to you: you can't fathom wearing pumps at her height, but you guess she can. "You're Charlotte F. Fawkins?"

Do you respond? Can you respond? You make an experimental noise.

"I don't have that in my lexicon. Sorry!"

Oh, God. "...I'm Charlotte Fawkins..."

"Phew! Got the right one. Has anyone told you you have a bizarro string-signature? Did he tell you? I bet he didn't."

'He'? 'He.' The dark space. The uncanny woman. This happened before. "You mean Ri— Correspondent #314? You're here about him."

"Oh, good, someone's already checked up on you. I thought for a second... phew! I'll make this quick. I'm not here officially, strictly speaking—"

"Nobody's checked up on me," you say. "Not since... I mean, somebody came weeks ago, but that was for a survey, or something, not..."

"Oh." Richard's coworker looks down at the envelope she's fished from her skirt, then discreetly tucks back in her waistband. "Nobody?"


"Oh." She scrunches her eyebrows up. "That seems like an oversight. Sorry about that."

You don't know what to say. After a moment, it appears that Richard's coworker doesn't either.

>[1] ...What does she have to say about Richard?
>[2] ...Did she really have to commune with you? You're going to scare Gil. Haven't snakes ever heard of sending letters?
>[3] ...What's a string signature?
>[4] ...Does she know that her neck's all messed up? Maybe snake necks look like that, but people necks definitely don't. For future reference.
>[5] ...Is she the same one who gave you the survey? Or a different one? What's her name? (Or job title, or whatever.)
>[6] Write-in.

Side note: I realized I completely blanked on having Monty tell you about Pat/Guppy. Assume he would've told you that Guppy's already found temporary bunking with somebody (but not her own tent!), and that Pat apparently has her own place in Hell but is staying in Madrigal's tent at least overnight, if not for the next couple days. Both of them should be around camp somewhere.
>[3] ...What's a string signature?
>[4] ...Does she know that her neck's all messed up? Maybe snake necks look like that, but people necks definitely don't. For future reference.
>[5] ...Is she the same one who gave you the survey? Or a different one? What's her name? (Or job title, or whatever.)
>[1] ...What does she have to say about Richard?
>3, 4, 6
What does she want?
This and also what's her name? And does she know where any extra laws might be kicking around to get stabbed into us by our new dagger? Worth asking even if she says no, and she seems kind of loosely goosey about the rules compared to #341.
>[1], [3], [4], [5]

Anon's [6] is effectively the same thing as [1], so I'll lump them together. Writing.

>And does she know where any extra laws might be kicking around to get stabbed into us by our new dagger?
I don't think this makes a lot of sense to say in this situation, nor is it something Charlotte is particularly concerned about. Also, I'm genuinely confused about why you're so hung up on this one concept. I've reiterated multiple times IC/OOC that-- if all goes well with Headspace-- you'll have way more Law than you'll know what to do with. Have you missed all those times I said that? Do you not believe me? Is it about what you're interested in exploring plotwise (e.g. you want to do more quick self-contained excursions), and not actually about the Law itself? Please help me understand your mentality here.
Bad, bad, bad, bad terrible writer's block. Despite this update being (seeming?) relatively uncomplicated, I've been staring at my laptop in despair for the last two hours. Going to turn in early and hope things improve with better sleep tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'd like to take your guys' temperature on the quest right now. Talky/infodumpy/lore-heavy threads are some of the hardest to gauge, so your input is appreciated. (Feel free to answer some or none of these questions-- they're just prompts.)

>How has it been going? Good? Bad? Boring? Interesting? Things you especially liked or didn't like? Things you wish there were more of? Anything you're looking forward to?

>A lot of important information has come to light this thread. Do you feel it made sense in the context of what you already knew? Do you feel it was paced out appropriately, or was it dumped out too fast or trickled too slow?

>Regarding the "detective" archive-digging options: do you enjoy these? Do they increase your personal engagement in the quest, or do you wish Charlotte would nut up and solve mysteries by herself? Are they too easy, too difficult, or just right? If you don't participate in these options, do you find them obtrusive, or are you fine with sitting back and +1ing?

>Any character you wish you saw more of? Or less of?

>Got any ideas about an upcoming 4th anniversary picture I could draw, or something else I could do to commemorate it? I definitely didn't forget about it until yesterday
>How has it been going?
Interesting! I liked it.
Wish there was more puzzles and accomplishment and less Charlotte being a dumbass for shits and giggles.

>A lot of important information has come to light this thread. Do you feel it made sense in the context of what you already knew? Do you feel it was paced out appropriately, or was it dumped out too fast or trickled too slow?
I think it was done just right.

>Regarding the "detective" archive-digging options: do you enjoy these?
You don't even have 80 threads in the archive. This is fun.
Going to bed in a hot second, but while I'm here:

>Wish there was more puzzles and accomplishment and less Charlotte being a dumbass for shits and giggles.
1) Do you say this in the context of this thread (i.e. there was too much of Charlotte being a dumbass, you wish there were more puzzles and accomplishment this thread), or in the context of the quest as a whole (i.e. Charlotte is usually being a dumbass, but this thread had more puzzles and accomplishment, so it was better)? Or both (i.e. Charlotte is too much of a dumbass both in this thread and overall)?

2) Do you say this in the context of the choices you're given, in the way Charlotte's written, or the way your fellow players vote? Or, basically: do you wish I offered less explicit options to be a capricious dumbass, do you wish Charlotte was written as more capable in a general character sense, or do you wish your fellow players voted smarter or stopped writing-in stupid things? Or some combination of the above?

>Everything else
Glad to hear it!
As the quest goes on the scales tip more towards puzzles and accomplishments, but they still point a bit too much to dumbassitude for my liking.
That being said, I'm proud of Charlotte's personal progress. And this threads had an amazing amount of accomplishment

Players will be players, but you sometimes write Charlotte's moments of competency as her still being a dumbass, and either Richard steps in, or circumstances arrange themselves to make her succeed.
A limited amount of dumbassitude can be adorable though.
>>How has it been going? Good? Bad? Boring? Interesting? Things you especially liked or didn't like? Things you wish there were more of? Anything you're looking forward to?
Honestly I enjoy the quest, and your art is getting better, which is always a pleasure to see.

>>A lot of important information has come to light this thread. Do you feel it made sense in the context of what you already knew? Do you feel it was paced out appropriately, or was it dumped out too fast or trickled too slow?
I think the pacing was fine.

>>Regarding the "detective" archive-digging options: do you enjoy these? Do they increase your personal engagement in the quest, or do you wish Charlotte would nut up and solve mysteries by herself? Are they too easy, too difficult, or just right? If you don't participate in these options, do you find them obtrusive, or are you fine with sitting back and +1ing?
UH, I'm in team +1 since I'm too braindead to do a traipse in the archives. Good on the detective-y anons though.

>>Got any ideas about an upcoming 4th anniversary picture I could draw, or something else I could do to commemorate it? I definitely didn't forget about it until yesterday
Time for a 5 minute, fully-animated music video featuring each and every DQR character (even the ones that only got like one line of dialogue)!!! Chop chop-- time's-a-ticking!!!
>the scales tip more towards puzzles and accomplishments
For what it's worth, I think this is likely to continue as we move towards endgame. I wouldn't expect many full-blown thread-22-style puzzles, for the simple fact that I'm not very good at designing them and it takes a really long time, but "detective work" is comparatively easier and I'll see what I can do about continuing to work that in. And looking at the long-term goals list (which as a reminder is all intended to be completed by the end of the quest), there should be plenty of accomplishment on the docket, too.

>That being said, I'm proud of Charlotte's personal progress. And this threads had an amazing amount of accomplishment
Awesome. I won't promise that every future thread will go this smoothly (especially as you transition back into uptime), but I'll certainly keep this in mind.

>you sometimes write Charlotte's moments of competency as her still being a dumbass
I think this is a fair criticism, and considering that I've heard it before I'm sure it's something I still have to work on. Richard being Niceified and also intermittently AWOL has helped my impulses, as has Charlotte gaining more agency in general, but I will continue to watch myself here.

>Time for a 5 minute, fully-animated music video featuring each and every DQR character (even the ones that only got like one line of dialogue)!!! Chop chop-- time's-a-ticking!!!
Why would you give a law stealing dagger as loot and not expect a player to want to steal laws with it? Especially since we don't have the crown and expect to go up against someone who not only has it but also has their memories which presumably include much more knowledge of laws and plans to use it since they were able to break into our mind in super reality and steal it with the aid of a snake.

Honestly I kind of thought the knife was intended to balance that out. What if we run into people at Headspace with their own law bullshittery? If we can quick power level with theaw knife then why not.
>>Regarding the "detective" archive-digging options: do you enjoy these? Do they increase your personal engagement in the quest, or do you wish Charlotte would nut up and solve mysteries by herself? Are they too easy, too difficult, or just right? If you don't participate in these options, do you find them obtrusive, or are you fine with sitting back and +1ing?

> Are you forgetting something?
>How has it been going? Good? Bad? Boring? Interesting? Things you especially liked or didn't like? Things you wish there were more of? Anything you're looking forward to?
Good & interesting. Monty being in on the crown theft was a nice twist. Looking forward to the big showdown with Gold Mask. We may need to fix Richard first though.

>A lot of important information has come to light this thread. Do you feel it made sense in the context of what you already knew? Do you feel it was paced out appropriately, or was it dumped out too fast or trickled too slow?
It makes sense, but I haven't gone through the last 34 threads for plotholes yet. Could have been dumped a little faster.

>Regarding the "detective" archive-digging options: do you enjoy these? Do they increase your personal engagement in the quest, or do you wish Charlotte would nut up and solve mysteries by herself? Are they too easy, too difficult, or just right? If you don't participate in these options, do you find them obtrusive, or are you fine with sitting back and +1ing?
I like them when my schedule gives me time to dig. Or when I do have time but I figure a bit of BG3 can't hurt and there goes my day.

>Any character you wish you saw more of? Or less of?
Lucky is top tier
Ellery is old news

>>Got any ideas about an upcoming 4th anniversary picture I could draw, or something else I could do to commemorate it? I definitely didn't forget about it until yesterday
Big party all cast members invited?
Okay! This clears things up a lot, so thank you very much.

>Why would you give a law stealing dagger as loot and not expect a player to want to steal laws with it?
>Honestly I kind of thought the knife was intended to balance that out.
See, from a QM perspective it was more along the lines of "well this guy was established to own this thing, and then you murdered him and got loot, and obviously the thing he was established to own would be in there," with a dash of "this is a clue about who he is and what he's up to." You're coming at it from an angle I wasn't intending, but now that I understand your player-side perspective I can work with it. So:

>Especially since we don't have the crown
>What if we run into people at Headspace with their own law bullshittery?
Okay! This makes sense! It's about powering up pre-Headspace in preparation, rather than afterwards. Makes a lot of sense. Of course, part of the reason I kept shutting you down wasn't just that you're going to get a lot of Law anyways, but also...

>If we can quick power level with the knife then why not
...from the QM side of things, there's no such thing as a "quick power level." An excursion to go stab something with your dagger can go one of two ways: it's timeskipped over, which is quick but gives you a reward with no challenge or effort involved (i.e. not happening), or it's not timeskipped over and requires 1/2 a thread at bare minimum, possibly ballooning to multiple threads (see 28-30) if it goes off the rails. At this late stage in the quest, I can't afford to spend that long on something not connected to the story. You got me?

>Okay but I still want to use the dagger
Of course! Let's make that happen in a way that doesn't eat up a ton of thread space. Here's two options:

- You already have some preexisting Law stored in two places: 1) in the rock you bought in the fantasy manse, and 2) siphoned from the guy in the bottom of the fantasy manse. You could absorb some of that into the dagger instead, and expend it as a 1-shot Law similar to [OPEN] inside Headspace.

- You could just keep it on your person until you find somebody or something stabbable-- maybe even inside Headspace itself.

I'll give you guys the first option when you meet up with Gil in your manse, and you can choose whether to take it or not.
"Read Drowned Quest Redux: It's Like Valen Quest But 45 Threads Shorter"

> Or when I do have time but I figure a bit of BG3 can't hurt and there goes my day.
Kek. Me @ Book of Hours may have dumped 18 hours into it over the course of 2.5 days

>Lucky is top tier
It may take a little while (for good reasons that I cannot disclose atm), but you will 1000% hear from Lucky again.

>Ellery is old news
Bad news: you're going to have to deal with Ellery at least until you get Headspace cleared up (it's kind of his thing). Good news: you should be free to ignore him after that, as he doesn't have any direct relationship with the Crown fiasco, and indeed probably doesn't want to talk to you either.

>Big party all cast members invited?
>tfw anon wants to kill me by making me draw 30+ people
It might not be *all* cast members... I'll take this under consideration for sure, though. BTW Game Night is not just still happening but has been scheduled for a certain thread in my mind already
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Back in the saddle. Writing shortly. also, I'm going to try to start doing these again

You better think of something, or else you'll be beaten to it. You can't let a snake beat you to it. "...You know your neck's too long?"


"I mean, look at my neck." You indicate it helpfully. "This is a normal human neck size, because I am a normal human. Now look at your neck."

You shouldn't have said that: now she's bending it in ways normal human necks aren't supposed to go. "I don't see an issue. Is this not within typical parameters?"


"Are you sure? It might be on the high end, but I don't— to be honest— I don't know how you see anything with a neck like that. How do you see behind yourself? This is already on the stumpier side, I thought, but—"

You're collapsed on the ground with your eyes rolled back up in your head so you can listen to this know-nothing snake talk about stupid neck sizes. And things were going so well. "I can see behind myself by— by turning my body! Like a normal person! And of course I'm sure, I— I— how many human beings have you seen before? In your whole life? Because—"

"Not enough for a representative sample," Richard's coworker says, a little offended. "But I see this arbitrary distinction is causing you distress, so give me a second, will you."

As you watch skeptically, she grips the top of her head, braces the bottom of her neck, and shoves downward, as if popping a cork into a bottle. It contracts. You stop watching much too late.

>[-1 ID: 9/14]

"There! Is that more suitable?"

The coworker's neck is a normal length, though she's still freakishly tall. You sigh. (Snakes.) "Yes. You're not the same one that tried to give me the survey, right? Because she had issues with her arms. I don't know why you bother to—"

"Hmm? I don't give surveys."

"Um, okay, because you look basically the same as her, and you're wearing the same type of clothes, and—"

"Oh! I apologize. The translator doesn't have a wide sample net... it hasn't been updated in a very long time. I keep saying terminations should be fed into it, but you know how it is."

You don't, but maybe if you keep talking she won't notice. "So if you're not her, what's your name? I mean title. Or job. Job title. Or whatever it is."

"We-ell," the coworker says, "I'm not exactly here officially, so—"

"Who am I going to tell?"

She tilts her head back and forth. "...I'm a RD-C. I'm really part of R&D, but I liaise with the Correspondence division to provide technical assistance..."

God. You don't say anything.

"Okay, okay. He'd probably know who I was from that. I'm R/D-C #1."


"There aren't too many of us," says R/D-C #1, with no apparent sense of irony.

Snakes. "Okay. Cool. Back to what I was saying. Why do you even bother with the human stuff? Because you get it wrong, or your translator-thing doesn't work right, and you know I've seen snakes before, right? I've seen multiple talking snakes. Including really big ones. So it's not like you're going to blow my mind if you show up as a big dumb snake, alright?"

"Well, yes, but I really needed hands. Chassis don't come with any of those, can you believe it? Here." She slides out the envelope again, then hesitates. "Has Correspondent #314 appeared to you at all recently? By the way."

At all? It's not lying if you say yes. He has appeared recently, indeed more than once, and that's all this snake needs to know. You nod.

"Yes!" She pumps a fist indecorously. "I thought he would be. I was telling everybody, you know, clearly what happened was his whole hacked-together house-of-cards bullshit collapsed in on him, as I said it would, multiple times, but clearly he knows better— well, anyways, I said it collapsed on him with him inside. And he's still inside, and that's why we can't just deploy a backup. Catastrophic read-write error, you know. It all made sense. So—" Now she proffers the envelope properly. "Could you give this to him when you see him?"

You cross your arms. "What is it?"

"It's a get-well-soon card! I got it signed by all the— okay, not all. A fair number of Correspondents." She leans in furtively. "It's just not the same without him. There's nothing to talk about anymore."

"Uh-huh," you say. You don't take the envelope.

R/D-C #1 carries on like she doesn't even notice. "Though I can't imagine that's the reason they're expending so much effort on this. Right? Most people would've gotten insta-recycled— or recycled an epoch before this, frankly. I think there's some favoritism going on. Is it just me?"

You have no idea how credible this woman(?) is. (She's like Eloise, if Eloise were really tall and a snake.) What she's saying is totally different from anything Richard's ever let on to. "I thought he was... on thin ice."

"Oh, yes. Thin ice. One incident away from recyclement— I think that's where he's been for the last fourteen incidents. Give or take." She makes a face at you. "Give me a break. Maybe he thinks he is, but given the evidence... I think he has a friend in a high, high place. Or some kind of leverage. Your string signature is just the weirdest thing..."

She's looking at you hawkishly. You shift. "What are you talking about?"

"You know, your string signature? Stringnature? Is this not common..." She registers your blank stare. "You're all so backwards, aren't you? Your string signature. It's like a scale whorl, except in—?"

Last time this happened, Richard busted in, rescued you, and lectured the interloper survey-giver. Could he wake up and get on that?

"A scale— oh." R/D-C #1 concentrates. "A fingerprint, you would say. A string fingerprint. ...Stringerprint. You know, like even if humans all look the same from the outside, none of them have exactly the same string patterning. And they really don't have it like yours, you know?"

You scowl. "What's wrong with it?"

"Is there a good reason why you have a big knot that just says [SUN]? Or why the whole thing's so dense? You have no reason to be so densely packed. Almost no open space at all. Unless you do have a good reason?" (You feel appraised.) "Hey, if you hit the big time, think of me. R/D-C #1."

"Okay," you say, so she'll stop saying things you don't understand.

"Now are you going to take the card?"

>[A1] Take the envelope.
>[A2] Insist that she open it in front of you, so you can see it's not some kind of trap.
>[A3] Reject it wholesale. This snake-lady is entirely too smug, and you dislike that on principle. You'll sure Richard will appreciate your discretion.
>[A4] Write-in.

>[B] The questions sprout like weeds.
>>[1] Hold on. What's happened to Richard on the snake side of things? He needs a get-well card? Is he okay? If he's not okay, can you make him okay?
>>[2] What's a "backup"? Or a "read/write error"? Like, he wouldn't be able to read or write anymore?
>>[3] What's R&D? Wasn't Richard bitching about them while he was drunk?
>>[4] What does she mean, "hit the big time"? You're in the big time. You are the big time.
>>[5] Write-in.

>[C] Write-in.
By the way, this will likely be my last update for a couple days. I plan to return the evening of the 22nd, or maybe the 23rd if I get back really late. Sorry for the inconvenience!

>Won't that put us over 30 days in the thread?
I'm going to run for a bonus week (or so), since I have time and we're coming off a decent-length hiatus. Surprise!
>[A1] Take the envelope.
>[B] The questions sprout like weeds.
>>[1] Hold on. What's happened to Richard on the snake side of things? He needs a get-well card? Is he okay? If he's not okay, can you make him okay?
>>[2] What's a "backup"? Or a "read/write error"? Like, he wouldn't be able to read or write anymore?
>>[3] What's R&D? Wasn't Richard bitching about them while he was drunk?
>>[4] What does she mean, "hit the big time"? You're in the big time. You are the big time.
> "Read Drowned Quest Redux: It's Like Valen Quest But 45 Threads Shorter"

Valen is running right now in fact. Supplies!

> it's not timeskipped over and requires 1/2 a thread at bare minimum, possibly ballooning to multiple threads (see 28-30) if it goes off the rails

That's the good end though.

Fun fact I have 500ish hours in Morrowind and I have never completed the main quest. Hope that helps explain how I feel about sidequests.

> Use the sun to BURN THE CARD.

Her thoughts and wishes will be passed on but this whole thing being "irregular" on her end and what with having been screwed over by a snake more than once already . . . Remember how Richard was before we jumped? They know. They can fake being people much better than they appear to us as. Probably make errors on purpose to avoid being too uncanny Valley. Make them seem relatable and fallible.

Big old heckerino noperino to taking the letter.

B3 and B4 if it comes to questions.
>That's the good end though.
Maybe for you! But I've read Banished Quest; I know where uncontrolled sidequests leads a QM. I'd like to bring this quest to a conclusion sometime within the next century.
>Extra B4
Our string signature is special because we are special. We're the chosen heroine, prophesied to save the world.

Since she looks like she's from a big company, what does she know about the Upper Management of Namway and Headspace. Her snake group is the closest thing to a peer to them we know of, and she's the only one we can ask since 314 is borked and 301 is hostile. Speaking of 301, any office gossip about what he's up to?

Also phew big relief we don't need to worry about the recycling.
> Put on the mask, Charlotte


>All the questions!

>Some of the questions

>Bonus questions

Called for [A1] and all the questions + bonus questions. Writing.

>But I thought you just said you were going on break
Well... I said "likely" to... (I'm starting writing really late, so there's decent odds I won't be able to finish in time, but I figure I can carve out a chunk of it while I have nothing better to do. No update tomorrow, though.)

>Open the box in the attic, Charlotte
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>You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours

"...Fine." You can always dispose of it later if it proves useless or dangerous. "But not yet. You can't say a load of stupid cryptic stuff and then just leave like everybody else does, okay? I won't let you. Answer my questions."

R/D-C #1 looks a tad put out. "What kind of questions?"

"You'll find out when I ask them." Obviously. "Question one. What do you mean, 'hit the big time'? I— I have hit the big time. I am the big time. I'll have you know that I'm a very famous heroine, actually, and I— that's probably what you see in my stringnature! That I'm a heroine! Who's going to save the whole entire world, and there's probably a— I have not as of yet found a prophecy pertaining to this, but there probably is one. Somewhere. About me. So I think you're sorely mistaken about the meaning of 'big time,' and if you'd like to explain what you think you mean, then I'm sure we can clarify—"

"I don't think I'm mistaken. But look, you'll know it if you hit it, alright? You'll know it when you hit it." Her close-lipped smile is Eloise-esque too. (You can't escape!) "Next question."

....Your leverage here is slim, especially if the card's in bad faith. You're probably lucky she's saying anything at all. Damnit! "Fine. What's an RD? I know what a Correspondent does, but I've never met a—"

"Researchist-Developer? It's what it sounds like!"

You scowl.

"We research and develop new technology? As a division? We're responsible for— well— name something!"

Name something? Like a... a technology? She expects you to know snake technologies? Or maybe this is a clever trick to get you to stop asking questions? Oh, God. Surely you can think of something. ".......Backups?"

"Yup. Developed those. Plus just about every other—"

"What is a backup?" You fold your hands together. "You said it can stop somebody from reading and writing? Because that's just stupid. Why would you invent something that—"

"Hmm?" Researchist/Developer-Correspondent #1 blinks. "Ah! No, no, no. A backup preserves a safe metaphysical state, so it can be reverted to if disaster strikes instead of a recycle or semi-cycle. Since those aren't very conducive to success rates, if the previous eon has proven anything. It has nothing to do with literacy. I was saying that #314 has banjaxed himself catastrophically enough that the auto-backup isn't triggering, and they're holding off on the manual backup for some reason. I assume it's because there's a degraded scrap of him still in that mess, it'd cause a huge conflict, and the backup might bork, too. Which wouldn't make his friend happy. Whoever that is."

Some of these words make sense to you; if you sat down and really detected at it, you're sure you could form a coherent picture. Best not to linger too long, especially with the other matter at hand. "Okay. So he's really messed up?"


Who else? you don't say. That's not his stupid name, you don't say. His name is Richard, God-damnit. You don't say God-damnit. "Yeah."

"He hasn't been in his cube. But nobody else has moved in, either. That's all we're supposed to be aware of." She thwaps the envelope against her palm. "It's obvious what happened, though. And I've heard speculation that he's stuck in a stasis tube until it all gets sorted out. That's real fun."

"But he's not dead?" And you're not stuck with his weird distorted ghost-copy?

"If he was terminated, there'd be a new Correspondent #314 in the cube. Simple as that."

He's not dead. He's okay. Or... or not doing so great, maybe, but anything's okay compared to dead. "Um, okay. Is there anything I can do? To fix him? Since he's still around in my head, and, um..."

"Aw! You care about him?"

No. No. "I didn't say that," you mutter. "He just— he hasn't been very reliable, and I'm doing some stuff soon that I need him there for, and I don't want him to vanish randomly."

"That's so sweet! He's so lucky he has a client that puts up with his shit. I don't know if there's anything you can do to fix him—"

"Or help," you say.

"Well, you could give him the card. Warm the cockles of his heart." She's smirking. "Really, though, I don't know there's much you can do. You don't know anything. No offense. But if you could convince him to wake up and get back to work, maybe he could help pick up his own pieces. He's not uncapable."

Maybe. Maybe you just need to talk to him. Seriously, you mean. And make him listen. "Okay."

"You could tell him that #301's the crown prince nowadays," she adds helpfully. "That should kick his tail into high gear."

#301? That's... the Gold-Masked Person's snake? You mean Jean Ramsey's snake. (You need to get used to that.) "Um, he is?"

"Oh, yeah. Causing a lot of waves. A lot of folks think he's got the one." #1 sounds unimpressed. "Which definitely hasn't ever been thought before, but you know. I guess some of the low-digits have bought in, even, but only some. Since he broke regulation, and all. Guess they think results are more important than regulations— not that there's been too many results. It's more about future results. Possible future results."

Meaning that they can't be too far along yet. Thank God.

>[+1 ID: 10/14]

Maybe things are looking up after all? Maybe this stupid detour is actually a valuable mine of clues? It can't hurt to give it a shot. "Um, that's very interesting. By any chance would you happen to know about a 'Management'? 'Upper Management'? Do snake companies interact with people companies? Because I've been sort of looking into some people companies, called 'Namway,' and 'Headspace,' and—"

"What?" R/D-C #1 says harshly.

You recoil: nothing about her is dishy or bright or remotely Eloise-like any longer. She is dark against the dark backdrop; she bristles with long sharp angles; she looks even less human than she did with the neck. She looks like a snake.

All this for a moment. Two moments. Then she notices your reaction, and slips back into her body, and looks merely highly frazzled. "Well, I think my time's up! This was supposed to be a quick jaunt, you know, not a— take this! Tell #314 to feel better! Bye!"

The envelope is crumpled into your hands as the world drops out from under your feet.


You sputter alive. Your face is all sandy. Gil is hunched directly over you, looking sweaty-concentrated, clutching a match— a match? Why is he touching you? His eyes are so big. Your mouth is soft, and your hands, and the sand. The sand's getting softer. So it makes perfect logical sense that it drops open, and you slide through it.


You drop onto grass (also soft) and lay there. The grass is green. It's dewy. You struggle to compose more complex thoughts and fail, which is nice in its own way. Thinking isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Gil's here too, staggering to his feet. He raises his fists to the sky. "YES! Fucking ACES!"

What is he so excited about? You sit up a tiny bit to try and see.

"I got you out! I knew— I figured it had to be some total mind gullshit, not just physical— I mean, the way you fell all of a sudden— and I figured I could probably intercept it if I did the right— if I did the—"

Oh. This is his manse. He thinks he rescued you.

>[1] Disabuse him of this notion.
>[2] Let him have this.
>[3] Encourage him to shut up— you mean, quiet down, and lay down on the grass, and take a minute to stop thinking about things. Thinking about things is really unpleasant, Gil.
>[4] Write-in.
>[1] Disabuse him of this notion.

Woah so they do know each other, and it doesn't seem like they're too friendly, nice.

Maybe we'll net #314 mad brownie points for nuking their base. Immediate results.
>>[1] Disabuse him of this notion.
>>5742266 (checked)
>Be nice

>Be honest

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>Um achtchually

Well, you can't just let this stand, can you? If he counts this as a time that he rescued you, that'll falsely inflate his half of the rescuing ratio, and what starts happening if you appear to look dependent on him? Disaster. Ruin. A complete dissolution of the natural order. Gil might be occasionally useful and/or pleasant to be around, but he is still your retainer, and it's your duty to remind him of such.

Also, he's destroyed your peaceful haze, which deserves some extra scolding. "I was already out! Gil."

"What?" He lowers his arms.

"You didn't rescue me. The stupid snake already let me go, because I scared her by talking about Management. Or something. I was awake for— for a tiny bit before you made us go here. You didn't even notice?"

"..." His hands unfold at his sides. He looks confused, or betrayed, like he's fallen off a sturdy ladder. "...Um, no, I-I-I— I-I— sorry."

"And you didn't have to save me in the first place, anyways. I wasn't in danger. It was just some stupid snake talking to me, like I said. Weren't you there when it happened last time?"

"Sorry," Gil says.

"You were, weren't you? And I was fine that time. And I'm fine all the times, actually, since I have— I have heroic prowess, and it's not your job to save me. You're just my retainer. I'm supposed to save you, which is the proper order of things. You oughtn't overstep. At the very least, wait much longer before you—"

"I-I-I-I'm sorry!" Gil appears to have completed his fall off the ladder, and has maybe broken a rib. "I-I'm sorry. I-I'm sorry. I— I— I— I made a gigantic— a dumbass— you're right."

"I am?" you say, mollified.

"Yeah. And I-I-I— you should go. Back. I-I-I-I didn't mean to interrupt— I'll go ahead and, um, stay here. I-I-I don't want to mess up anything you're doing. I-I'll stay here, and that's me over there, I think, so I'll say hi to him, and you— feel free to go. Sorry."

Huh. There is a Gil on the other hill, miniature-sized, standing outside his miniature shingleboard workshop. He's waving. Look at that. And that's— oh, dear. That's your Gil, trotting down your current hill, away from you.

>[1] Hey! Wait! He's not allowed to walk away from you! Follow him.
>>[A] Say something? (Write-in. Optional.)
>>[B] Do something? (Write-in. Optional.)

>[2] Okay, great. You didn't really want him overhearing you talking to Richard, anyhow. Now, to actually *find* Richard...

>[3] Write-in.
>[1] Hey! Wait! He's not allowed to walk away from you! Follow him.
apologize, that went even meaner than I thought it would

Called and writing. With how the thread's slowed down, maybe I should've called it good at 30 days like usual, but I'll keep trucking until we get to a good stopping point.
>[Gil didn't like that...]

Away from you! The nerve! You try to call him back, but find yourself unfairly tongue-tied. Maybe he'll stop halfway down and reconsider? Or come back? If you wait here? Oh. Or he could— or he could, um, use his stupid god blessing to turn into beetles, then fly away from you. Right across to the other hill. He could do that too.


But what are you supposed to do now? Leave? He wins if you do that. Sit here? He double-wins if you do that. Follow him? You can't fly. You could run, you suppose, down one hill and then up the other one, but even then you couldn't possibly catch up. You could walk.

Yes, you could walk! Which would thwart Gil's evil scheme to make you leave, show subtle defiance by making him wait for you to show up, and additionally preserve your dignity. It's a win-win-win, the best kind of win. You hike up your slacks and begin immediately.

Things you learn immediately: Gil's hill is unconscionably steep, and its grass is thick and slippery, and the dirt path laid into it takes maybe the least direct route geometrically possible. But it does improve on the 'steep' and 'slippery' aspects. This all means you have some time to think, or rather not to think, as would be your preference. Isn't the sky such a charming periwinkle? Isn't the grass so real-smelling? Isn't this path just laden with little kickable pebbles?

Wasn't Gil's expression terrible? It really was like he'd fallen off a ladder. Or not like that. Like you'd kicked the ladder out from under him. Like he'd climbed all the way to the top of this skinny rickety too-tall ladder and started bragging about how high up he was, and you knew he was going to break a rib, falling off it, that there was no future in which this ladder didn't collapse under him, so you chose to kick it yourself. Hard. To sort of prove a point. And then it collapsed, and he fell, and he broke a rib, like you predicted. It was more similar to that.

If you think about it that way, you start to feel funny, because it makes it sound like the obvious move was to help Gil off the stupid ladder. (Even if it wasn't your fault he got up there in the first place.) You could've heroically saved him from the stupid evil rib-eating ladder, and he could've been all happy and grateful, and he could've hugged you, metaphorically. Or literally. Either way. Instead he's un-happy and un-grateful and ignoring his retainerly obligations, and it's... your fault?

>[-1 ID: 9/14]

Not your fault! Mostly not your fault. It's not like his ladder was in its prime— it was a horrible, stupid, hasty, ill-founded ladder, and it was going to fall. But you did kick it. Possibly several times. Possibly you went and got a saw and sawed its legs off. It wasn't good. So that part was your fault, a little. But what were you supposed to do? Nobody's ever shown you how to help people off ladders. You've been on loads and loads of them, and all anyone's ever done is leave you up there or kick you down. Mainly the ladder, you mean latter— your Aunt Ruby was a championship ladder-kicker, and kicking ladders was all Richard ever used to do. So were you supposed to make something up? Leave him up there? Did you do something wrong?

You've never done anything wrong in your life, except for one time very recently. If you did something else now, does that make it a trend? Oh, God.

The first time you ever did something wrong in your life, Gil went out of his way to fix you. When he shouldn't have. He shouldn't have needed to fix you. You shouldn't have messed up. You shouldn't have listened to Richard. When did you ever listen to Richard, except for then? Why did he tell you to do that? He should've known it'd put him in the snake hospital with a snake coma. He knew everything. Did he want to die? He never seemed like he wanted to die. He seemed like he wanted very very badly to live.

It doesn't make any sense. You should've known better. Why couldn't you stop?

Why don't you know how not to hurt people?

Why did Gil make this path so God-damned windy? Was it supposed to be atmospheric? The only thing reassuring you you're not going in circles is the gentle upwards incline, which is still managing to kill your ankles. What happened to stairs? Nice, straightforward stairs? Gil's probably gone and locked himself in his workshop by now, winning by default. God-damnit. God-damnit. Is that it there?

That's it there! The end of your arduous journey! And that's Gil, out in the open air, smoking. ...One Gil. Wasn't there two? "Hi, Lottie," Gil #1 says coolly.

"Hi," you say. "Where's the other one?"

He jerks his thumb towards his chest.

"Oh." Probably for the best. "That's neat."

He takes a long drag on his cigarette— so long that you're surprised he says anything at all. "Yeah."

Is Gil mad at you? He was upset before, but not mad. But he's sounding kind of mad, and looking kind of mad, and you're uncertain if this is any improvement. At least he isn't crying? "...Um, I just wanted to say that I... it's embarrassing when you try and rescue me all the time. Even from stupid baby stuff, like a random snake. It's like you think I'm weak, or something, and helpless, and like you think I'm not even a proper heroine, who is supposed to be independent, Gil, not dependent, and—"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

What? Is it not self-explanatory? "A heroine is supposed to be independent? That's sort of a key component of the whole thing? She doesn't need anybody, so she goes and helps other people, out of the goodness of her own heart— not because they're supposed to turn around and help her. That's just crass, Gil. And this all goes triply for a retainer, whose whole job is to be rescued, basically, and—"

"I-I-I-I was worried about you!"

"What?" you say.

"You collapsed! For no reason! After going missing for the whole day, after going goddamn psycho-loony-cultist a day before that! I was worried. And I-I'm sorry for that— I guess I shouldn't have given one single shit, and I-I-I should've left you alone on the middle of the ground? Maybe pissed on your unconscious body? And that would've been less goddamn embarrassing for you."

You are starting to suspect that the other Gil is a bad influence. "There's no need to be uncouth—"

"I-I-I-In fact, I'm real sorry I wasn't more considerate of your goddamn embarrassment, because I kind of feel like I know what it's like to be embarrassed? Probably less than you, though. Because i-i-it's not like I've ever committed any unimaginably stupid fuck-ups, or anything." Gil clenches his cigarette. "It's not like I've ever owed every square i-i-i-inch of my miserable existence to one person— not that I-I'm more dependent on anybody than you are, obviously! That would be fucking ridiculous! And of course it's not like I spend every waking hour in abject goddamn shame at how useless I am? At what little value I provide compared to the colossal waste invested in me? It's not like that. And i-i-i-it wouldn't matter if it were, because it pales in the face of your embarrassment."

You got lost around the first or second double negative, but you think you extracted the gist. "I don't think you're useless?"

Gil gives the horizon a surly look.

"I think you're use...ful. I think you're too useful." You put your hands on your hips. "That's the whole point, Gil! You're obsoleting me! It's like you think I'm completely useless, and lame, and I can't do anything by myself, even if it's just a snake delivering a card—"

"I-I-I don't think that," Gil says.


"When did I-I ever...? I-I-I-I think you're way better at most things."

>[+1 ID: 10/14]


"I-I just wanted to help."

"Oh," you say, and drive your nails into your palm. "Um, I'm sorry I kicked your ladder over."

Gil opens his mouth, then closes it. "Huh?"

"Never mind."

"Uh, i-if you say so. ...What are you holding?"

You look at your clenched hand. There's a white envelope in it.

(Choices next.)
>[A1] Tell Gil about what #1 said about everything. Including Richard.
>[A2] Stay vague.

>[B1] Open the envelope right here.
>[B2] Don't.

>[C1] Ask to see Gil's progress on the mini-siphons. (Last you checked, he was making them more portable.)
>[C2] Go over your future plans with Gil. You have a lot of spinning plates at the moment— Richard would approve of making a proper plan. Wherever he is.
>[C3] You need to have a serious conversation with Richard as soon as possible, meaning 'right now.' Brief Gil on being good backup.
>[C4] You think you need to sit down after all that. If that's okay with him. [END THREAD here. We'll open in a similar position next thread.]
>[C5] Write-in.
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You got it. Writing.

Also! I've written up a quick (~1.1k word) vignette about how Gil got from point A to point B last update. Read it here if you like: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RyYLE6uGRpooFYdqVmHX8UlYpSIj0aznjWhqNt05T8A/edit?usp=sharing
>Set the table

"...It's a get-well card," you say. "Um, I think. I haven't opened it. But the snake said it was one, and I guess she seemed honest? Or she was a really good liar, which, um, I mean... given snakes..."

"Snakes?" Gil says tentatively.

"Well, you know, uh, Richard isn't... Richard isn't honest about a lot of things, I think, and that one goo snake was pretending to be my mother, and that other snake helped steal my crown, so they don't have a very good— oh! You mean— weren't you listening earlier? That's why I blacked out. It was some snake illegally communing with me so she could give me a card to give to Richard."


"Since he's sort of dead. Or not dead, she said! Just messed up! Really messed up. Because I... you know, he told me to, um... we don't have to get into it. But that's probably why he's not here right now. He's too busy being sick, or being in the snake hospital, or something."

Gil twiddles his cigarette. "The snake hospital."

"Or whatever it is that snakes have. It wouldn't be a normal hospital, would it?" You waggle the envelope at him. "Anyways, the lady snake said that I should have a talk with Richard, since he's also so— I mean, you've heard him recently. You know how he's been. Abnormal. So that'll happen whenever he actually shows up, which I bet will be soon—"

"But you don't have anything to do i-in the meantime?" He hesitates. "Um, did you want to see what I-I've gotten done so far? On the siphons?"

"Huh? Maybe later. No, I have a— do you know what Richard loves best?"

You can practically see Gil's gears turning. "Wh— himself?"

"No! No. Um... maybe, actually. But no!" You thrust the envelope out toward his chest. "Planning! Sitting down and making long boring plans! So if we sit down and start making long boring plans, he's going to appear magyckally and start complaining about the way we did the planning. And he'll say ours suck, and his plans are way better and more efficient, ecetera. But we can ignore that part, because it was really a trick to summon him, see?"

"Sort of. ...Are they going to be actual plans?"

"Y-es? They'll be preliminary plans, Gilbert. Subject to change. More of an outline of... an itinerary... we'll figure it out! Do you have pencils? Or anywhere to sit? Or..." You decide to test your luck. "...lemonade?"

Gil flicks the cigarette onto the grass and stamps it out. "I-I-I-I'll see what I can do?"


Privately, you think Gil might have sledgehammered the old house in too much haste, because he hasn't built any indoors buildings except the workshop. Which is A) cramped, B) full of pointy objects, and C) bereft of lemonade. When you prod him about this, he seems genuinely surprised at the concept. Has he been sleeping outdoors? Isn't he hot? The sun's right overhead. Does he hate buildings now? Is it beetle instincts? Do beetles hate buildings? How many leaves has he eaten since you saw him last?

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Gil, tiring of the interrogation, insists you wait there while he goes around the back of the workshop. (Attempting to re-assert his dominance?) You do wait, impatiently, until he calls you- then you walk as slow as you can around to see. There's a small veranda behind the workshop, occupied mainly by a two chairs and wooden table with an umbrella down the middle. The table is graced with a curvy pitcher and two glasses and a pencil and a thick blue-lined notepad.

It's entirely conceivable this veranda existed before, and you just never went around back to notice it. If it didn't exist before, then it's about 2 minutes old, and asking questions could very well make it vanish again. Not to mention embarrass Gil, who's trying to look nonchalant in one of the chairs.

You plop down in the other and pour yourself a tall glass of lemonade. Then you flourish the pencil. "Well! Shall we embark, Gilbert? First things first..."



There's some things you need to take care of that aren't connected to anything major.

Firstly, you need to make sure Gil moves into his tent okay. Once you're done in the manse, you can watch Eloise architect it. And that's pretty much it. You think? As long as nothing goes wrong.

Secondly, Branwen said she'd come back with (a hopefully lucid) Earl sometime tomorrow. You should probably meet them when they arrive, and make sure Earl knows where he left his shoes, and stuff. Maybe tell him about the attempted murder / actual murder, if you can work yourself up to it. Also, Branwen will have some critters for you to borrow.

Thirdly, Henry said he'd have instructions for resurrecting Annie by tomorrow. Horse Face is supposed to deliver them to you, which is a horrible idea, but whatever. You'll pick them up and know next steps for the resurrection then.

Fourthly, and optionally, it might be good to check in on Guppy. You haven't seen her since you deposited her with Monty pre-rescue mission. She's probably fine, and Monty didn't mention anything, but who knows?


"Those are easy," Gil says appreciatively.

"See? I told you." You jab the notepad with your eraser. "I even put moving you in on there, even if that's barely a task at all. See? But it's going to get more complicated."



The Second Crown, your priceless reality-warping family heirloom, was stolen by a mysterious EVIL BASTARD (the Gold-Masked Person) and their JERK SNAKE (Correspondent #301) around a week ago. You heard nothing of them since... until today, when you accidentally murdered one of the Person's lackies, forged a connection between his mask and Monty's old murder mask, and went to interrogate Monty, who shut down hard. Using your astonishing detective skills, you got him to tell you that the EVIL BASTARD was actually an EVIL BITCH! She was Jean Ramsey, a murder-happy ex-Committee Member / that camp medic you met one time! And Monty was working with her all along to steal your crown! But she double-crossed him and took it for herself, and he's really sorry about it all.

Also, Eloise told you that she heard about a woman forming a new "cult of personality" somewhere in the mid-East. Given the timing and the description, not to mention the lackey and his mask, you're guessing the shoe fits. Eloise has promised to keep an ear to the ground for any more rumors coming her way.

Meanwhile, Researchist/Developer-Correspondent #1 informed you that Correspondent #301's been garnering some attention, and maybe some patronage, for his wicked Crown-stealing efforts. The snakes don't seem totally convinced he's won yet, though, so you presume achieving Godhood is a ways off.

Unfortunately, there isn't too much you can do with all this right now. Even with a name and leads on location and progress, you have don't have a clear idea of how powerful Ramsey is, nor how many people she's controlling, nor what precisely she's planning. And she's at least a week away on foot. As much as you'd love to show up on her doorstop and knock the Crown off her stupid head then and there, it's likely you're going to have to wait until after Headspace and gather more information. And maybe some backup.


"This one i-i-isn't really a plan," Gil says. (You are trying to ignore the beetle on the rim of his lemonade glass.) "I-I-I-It's like an anti-plan. The I-can't-plan-anything plan."

"Aren't you grateful?" you say. "I could've put 'go chop Ramsey's head off' and have that be the plan. It still is, basically. I'm just saying later. Once her head's more readily available."

"I-I wasn't complaining!"



You've learned, relatively recently, that God is something like a ginormous snake that holds the whole world up. Being as you never had a clear idea about God in the first place, you were forced to accept this. Even more recently, a couple different people have told you that the world's slated to end soon, maybe within the next couple months: Richard rambled about it while piss-drunk, Henry claims that the world was meant to end with the Flood and the rest of it's overdue, and Eloise says that the fabric of reality's fit to snap at the next 'major incident.' You're not super excited about the prospect of this, but you think it has to be somewhat true, if so many people agree.

On a personal level, you still possess a few last drops of 'red stuff,' which you got from the ritualistic murder of your father, who was actually Richard. You didn't mean to ritualistically murder him. It was an accident. But you did definitely do that, and now you have divine power and intrusive murder thoughts. You'd like to get rid of 100% of the red stuff, and it might be as easy as using it all... or it might not be. You won't know until you try.

Also, you saw God, according to Henry. You thought it was a big eyeball. You didn't know it meant anything that it actually opened up and looked at you, or that it sorted your insides. You did notice that your magyckal powers got more inexplicable right afterwards, but you didn't know God did that. But apparently that is what happened. You don't know what to make of this. Are you still being watched now?

Also also, this big white lizard keeps showing up and talking to you. It says it's named the "Herald of the Bright Epoch," whatever that means. It's been very nice to you. It gave you venom (which you still haven't tried out — note to self, bite something). You don't know what to make of this either. But it seems important, so you're putting it here.

None of this is something to really make plans about (except for maybe the apocalypse): you're just confused. It's all very portentous, which is a good thing, but what is the portent supposed to be? If you're destined to save the whole entire world, wouldn't God have said something to that effect? Or the Herald would've? Or you would've heard of a prophecy by now? There's always a prophecy. Is it being hidden from you?

You guess all you can do is wait and see. And also save the whole entire world.


"Are you okay?"

"Huh?" you say, and hide the notepad with your arm. "Yeah? I'm just... planning is hard work. I need total concentration. So I can't talk, or... reveal what I'm writing, or..."

Gil sighs.

"But look!" you say hastily. "Soon I will break my concentration, for your sake, and commence a major planning operation! A major one! Come watch me!"



A major planning operation! After weeks of detectiving, you've blown the case wide open: Headspace, the local free-but-unbelievably-crappy manse company, is directly responsible for the forgotten disease 'locitis'! Which in turn isn't a disease at all, but the symptoms of the Headspace E.Z.-M.A.N.S.E. device, which vacuums up its wearer's consciousness, duplicates it, swaps the dupe into the wearer's body, and dumps the original wearer into a featureless void— all the better to harvest Law from! For unknown but SURELY NEFARIOUS purposes! And Ellery was accidentally responsible for a lot of this, because of course he was, the moron!

Given that locitis was conveniently wiped from the minds of everybody not named 'Gil,' 'Horse Face', or 'Real Ellery', your chances of going public with this are nil. Instead, you've opted to take DIRECT ACTION, meaning infiltrating Headspace HQ, lighting off a bomb at its heart, bang-smashing it into the Namway manse, and fleeing with all limbs intact! Or that's the plan. It is admittedly incomplete.

First of all, you don't have a bomb. And you're not set on where to get one, either, especially not one capable of destroying a manse and shattering thousands of mind-prisons. It feels like you'll need something really big and special. Could you make one, like you made Gil's body? It wouldn't be easy. Maybe you should enlist some help? You hate Ellery, but he's pretty good at blowing things up. He might know something? The Wind Court (or, well, Lucky) doesn't trust you very much, but maybe they'd let you borrow some fire for this highly important matter? Or you could reach further afield? Much to consider.

Second of all, you need to possess somebody to gather intel. In theory, you can use their mind to instantly know all sorts of things about Headspace, and use their body to effortlessly blend in among the employees. (Did you mention that the employees have been trapped inside Headspace for years?) In practice, you've possessed one guy for a grand total of five minutes, and Richard gave you a big lecture about how doing it right and not losing your mind was really really hard. You don't really want to lose your mind. You should talk to Richard to make sure you know what you're getting yourself into... and if it's too much, you can always change your mind. As for your victim, Eloise should deliver you a list of options tomorrow. Easy peasy!

Third of all, you need an entrance. If you successfully possess somebody, that's solved... except if you intend to bring anybody with you, which is harder. Either you smuggle them in via your head, which is weird and complicated for anyone not named Gil (and even then!), or you open some kind of physical entrance, which could blow your cover. You could go it alone, but then you're blowing up a massive nefarious company alone. So there's that.

Fourth of all, you need something up your sleeve. You already bargained with Branwen to take one of her critters in, which definitely qualifies! But you do have two sleeves, and they're sort of poofy, so there's lots of space in them— so if you wanted a whole arsenal, you could do that. Lots of people could have useful things to offer you. It's just that you'd have to ask them for favors, or... yuck. Up to you.

Fifth of all, even though you've settled on merging the Headspace manse with the Namway manse, you have yet to actually get permission from the Namway manse's sole occupant(s). And you don't *need* permission, technically, but if you want the employees to stay there permanently... you really need to go have a talk with Us. Hopefully they're not too mad about you ruining their festival.

Sixth of all, you really should talk to Real Ellery before you go. Not because you like him. But this is the company that he's wasted five years taking impotent revenge on, so you don't think you can get away with not telling him you're blowing it up.

Once you do all that, you can blow it up! Unless other complications arise. Pray to God they do not.


"You weren't kidding," Gil says wonderingly. "That's... that's a major operation. Um, I-I-I didn't realize you'd thought it through so much."

"I think things through when it's necessary," you say.

"No kidding." (You try to ignore the dozen beetles on and around his lemonade, plus the one swimming inside.) "...Do I-I-I count as a secret weapon?"


"Well, i-if I come along, and I'm up your sleeve, literally, then..." He's reddening. "Sorry. Never mind."

"Do you want to be a secret weapon?" you say.


"You can be if you want to be. And if you won't get detected by their... beetle detectors. I don't know if they have those. Who knows what Management plans for... oh!" You flip the page.



You were RIGHT about there being a conspiracy. Namway Co. and Headspace Corp., not to mention at least two other businesses, are all under the umbrella of the mysterious, foreign, possibly-inhuman "Upper Management"— the same people who are pushing for the goo-snake and Law-siphoning schemes. What's more, you've just discovered that the lady-snake R/D-C #1 reacts strongly to a mere mention of them... and so the snakes get looped in. Is Management their bitter enemy? Their close friend? Another thing entirely? The plot, as they say, thickens.

This would be another 'wait and see'— except that goo reseacher/Gil murderer Pat is slated to be assessed by a pack of Management no later than tomorrow. When they find her with zero goo snake, they're not likely to be pleased, and Pat's not likely to be around much longer after that. Unless you intervene.

Unless you intervene. Which you don't, strictly, have to do. This is a mess she got herself into— and, lest you immediately forget, she murdered Gil, plus kidnapped Madrigal, and even if they're buddy-buddy now it doesn't mean you have to be. Pat's deal with Management is none of your business, and so is the outcome.

At the same time, though, it would be a chance to interact with Management close up. And, begrudgingly, it would be the heroic thing to do. Even then, do you have a clear plan for what you'd even do?

>[1] Nope. This is none of your business. You'll leave Pat to her fate, whatever that may be.

>[2] You'll intervene. Heroically. According to Eloise, your best bet would be to bluff...
>>[A] Plan to pull the God card. If these people are metaphysically sensitive, they can probably see your red stuff. Tell them that you talked to God, and It gave you an ix-nay on the whole goo snake plan, and you just wanted to give them a heads up.
>>[B] Plan to utilize your impressive magyckal powers. A goo snake? What goo snake? Did they ever care about a goo snake? Did such a thing as a goo snake ever exist? You didn't think so.
>>[C] Plan to recruit Richard. You don't really look like a Management type... but doesn't he, sort of? With his suit and his sunglasses? And he's definitely weird and nonhuman, and he's a very, very good liar. It could introduce complications, but if it goes well it could also make this whole thing really easy.
>>[D] Write-in.

>[3] Write-in. (Feel free to add input or additions to any of the other topics discussed, not just Pat and Management.)
>[B] Plan to utilize your impressive magyckal powers. A goo snake? What goo snake? Did they ever care about a goo snake? Did such a thing as a goo snake ever exist? You didn't think so.

Don't think our magic has very good chances of affecting them. Plus won't it only last until they return to home base and get asked where the goo snake is?
>>[B] Plan to utilize your impressive magyckal powers. A goo snake? What goo snake? Did they ever care about a goo snake? Did such a thing as a goo snake ever exist? You didn't think so.


The people speak! Writing.

>Plus won't it only last until they return to home base and get asked where the goo snake is?
Depends on how you do it.
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>A wizard did it

Do you need a clear plan for what you'll do? You'll just magyck them. Done.

Gil slumps back in his chair. "You want to magic..."


"...the people who're running a giant secret Law-harvesting scheme... who're known to, um, vanish people who tick them off? You want to magic them?"

"I'm not seeing an issue," you say pertly.

"What i-i-i-if they magic you?"

"Then I'll win! Because mine is stronger! Have some faith, Gilbert. Unless you really do think I'm useless?"

Gil makes a variety of shapes with his mouth. "I-Is there anything I can do to make you not...?"

"No!" you say. "I already wrote it down, see? 'Magyck them.' So it's all set. Now—"

"Magic who, Charlotte?"

Richard, polo-clad, pours himself a glass of lemonade. He looks regular. Like he didn't just appear out of nowhere. But he smells kind of funny. Damp? Salty?

You try to pretend that Gil didn't just startle out of his chair. "Management. We were just planning—"

"Planning! Are you sure you're the real Charlie?" He winks. "No, of course, of course— you're a busy girl. I don't know that I'd personally advise 'magycking' a powerful unknown quantity—"

"See?" Gil says.

"—but I know you don't listen to my advice, primrose, so I'll let you be, and I'll be there if things go topsy-turvy. If I have anything to say about it, you'll be perfectly safe."

"See?" you inform Gil, but your heart isn't all in it. Richard, sipping genially at his lemonade, looks normal. And he's saying all the right things. But how can he say he'll be there when he— well, he hasn't been there? He wasn't there when Felicia was being murdered. Or when you had to crowbar the truth out of Monty. Or when the snake knocked you out just now, even though that's exactly the sort of thing he cares about.

You don't want him to go back to his actual normal, which was— he was mean to you. And now he's not mean, and you're nothing but pleased about that. Honestly. But is it worth it when he's gone when you need him? Isn't that the point of him? To be there when you need him?

You have an unopened envelope.

>[1] Just give him the envelope. Let him read it. Don't say anything.
>[2] No, you need to talk. Really talk. Buck yourself up, then tell him about the ritual. And why he's been "sick." And what the snake-lady says happened to him. If you dump everything at once, it could be the shock to the system he needs.
>[3] Before this all happened, Richard claimed that getting drunk shut up the 'wanting to be your father' urges. Now he *is* your father, for all intents and purposes... and you haven't seen him drunk yet. Maybe this is the fix? Or you'll learn something, at minimum.
>[4] Write-in. (Feel free to suggest some combination of the above.)
Maybe that'll work and we won't have to do 2
But be ready to do 2
Hype ourselves up while he's reading the letter
Actually let's just do 2
>>[2] No, you need to talk. Really talk. Buck yourself up, then tell him about the ritual. And why he's been "sick." And what the snake-lady says happened to him. If you dump everything at once, it could be the shock to the system he needs.
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Cool! This will be written...


...in approximately two weeks! Maybe a little sooner. (Current ETA for next thread: Sept 9th.) Thanks for reading!

>Wait I thought you wanted to get to a solid stopping point
I changed my mind. Thanks to the current active voters for hanging in there, but things have been going *really* slow for the past ~week of updates, and we're getting into some stuff I'd rather have the whole playerbase around for. There might be more detectivating prompts, for example. Also, I'm not 100% certain how long you'll be dealing with Richard, and I don't want to cut it off somewhere even worse because I run out of time.

We're archived here, upvoots appreciated as always: suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux


Drowned Quest Redux will be turning 4 years old in about 4 days. This thread will 100% still be up by then, so I'll post about it when the time comes, but preemptively: that is a really long time! Thanks for reading!

>Questions, comments, feedback
Tell me!

>Minor fun fact about this thread
If you hadn't cracked Monty, you could've shown Wayne's token to various people to try and get a match. Horse Face would've pinned it as Game-related but not put a name to it; waiting until Earl returned and showing it to him would've gotten you "Jean Ramsey." (He's from a Pillar that played the Game! As you discovered in... uh... Thread 15!)
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Thanks for running!
Happy Drowned-versary!!!
Thanks for running!

Pog art
Bathic went all out on the commission this time.
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Thanks, folks! Update on my anniversary picture: I think I've unironically strained my right wrist from playing too much Book of Hours on my laptop ;__; Going to sleep on it and see if it feels better in the morning, but it's possible I may have to rest it further, which will preclude drawing...

DUDE THIS LOOKS AMAZING!!! LOVE the textured shading and background and the lighting and the BLOOD-- maybe this is her mid-red stuff blackout?? Could not ask for a better pre-anniversary present, thank you so much!

Not sure if memeing, but the art Anon just posted is 100% brand new uncommissioned fanart! They're the one who deserves all the credit, not me. Also, not to be pedantic, but most of my art is from art trades, not commissions :^) (If it's commissioned, I usually say so explicitly.) I am but a humble college student, not independently wealthy enough to afford... uh... pic related...
> claps in American

Good thread.
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Hey folks.

1) Good news: happy 4th anniversary!

2) Bad news: as alluded to in my previous message, my wrists are bonafide shot, and have actually gotten worse over the past few days. Typing and drawing are uncomfortable at best and painful/actively damaging at worst right now. As much as I hate to say it, I'm likely going to have to delay the next thread until I've recovered.

>It's the QM Curse!
It's definitely the QM curse. I knew I couldn't outrun it forever,

>That's what QMs say before they never make another thread ever again
Trust me, nobody could be unhappier about this than I could. Writing and drawing (and playing vidya until my wrists give out) are what I do for fun; being barred from questing is going to drive me up the wall. I want to continue ASAP! But the last thing I want is for this to get even worse.

So: I will make the next thread the minute I feel I'm physically capable of it. (I'm going to aim for that to be within the next month. Fingers crossed.) I intend to remain active in the QTG discord, so if you'd like to check in on my status or razz me about Thread When I encourage you to do it there. Ditto for Twitter if you'd prefer that.

Hope to see you guys soon, and thank you very much for sticking around through all these years!

Give your wrists all the recovery time they need.
Feel better and hope you make a speedy recovery!
Type one letter at a time.

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