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You are Sergey Ivankovich Kozlov (or Ivan Kovlove, as your new ID would have you to believe), former resident of a small town now located in another dimension, and somewhat unwilling retainer to the same renowned scientist noble responsible for teleporting your hometown.

After raiding an underground city ruin left untouched for at least 50 years, you've come across an old artifact that forcibly made you and an almost-century old construct designed for warfare named Tau Enkidu enter a pact - a ritual that forever merges two souls, and was understood to be impossible without the consent of both parties.
To make things more complicated, Enkidu claims to come from a superpower with colonies around the world called Pandemonia, a civilization unknown to everyone and absent from any history books.

You've reconvened with your superior in her laboratory, where she reported her findings of the artifact and ran a number of tests on both you and your pactmate. While still at a loss at what could have happened to you, it seems that there are no negative effects from your unsolicited pact. Unfortunately, Dr. Nevada revealed she doesn't want to give up the artifact, as she doesn't trust anyone else to discover its secrets. Dame Gwynn is appalled by her decision to break her promise and add yet another felony to her record, but you side with the doctor - you have to know what happened to you, even if it means piling on secret after secret.


Last thread: (Unfortunately wasn't archived, I'll make a pastebin for safekeeping)

> Say that you can't risk Dr. Nevada (and you, by extension) losing access to the artifact.

"If I can have a say in this, I agree with Dr. Nevada. If that thing really is the only way to get answers, I'd do anything to make sure it will be in good hands. Even if it means breaking the law."
"You- you can't be..."
"Got your priorities straight. Good."
"Sergey, are you aware of what's at risk here? Involving yourself in a conspiracy against the council is a surefire way not just to get you reprimanded or demoted - you could even- even get executed!"
"Yeah, I had a feeling that would be in the cards. But this is something I need to know, and I've gotten a crash course in risking my neck in the past few days."

Scowling at both you and Dr. Nevada, Gwynn then looks down and the floor, seemingly lost in thought for several seconds.

"Uh, Gw- Dame Gwynn? Is e-"
"Shh. She's talkin' t' Durga."

The doctor patiently keeps an eye on Gwynn while idly spinning a pen between her fingers. A long minute of silence passes, with the young girl occasionally grimacing. Then, she takes a short but deep bow and takes a deep breath.

"Lady Doctor Nevada. You understand that I have nothing but greatest respect for the Principality and Her laws, for the safety and prosperity they ensure. To trample on them goes against everything I stand for."

You glance over to watch her reaction, but she continues with her stoic expression, letting Gwynn continue.

"...However, I also have great respect for you. You've greatly contributed to said safety and prosperity, and continue to do so. And I don't want anyone to hinder you in that endeavor, even if my conscience is screaming to report this immediately." You perk up.
"...Does that mean y-"
"I'm choosing to violate section 3, paragraph 12 of the strike team regulation by not actively reporting a tier 2 political offense I have knowledge or evidence of. I won't divulge any details relating to Lady Doctor Nevada's possession of the artifact, or proactively accuse her of any wrongdoing. I'll stick with our story of Sergey breaking into the restricted ruins, and I'll even... lie about the findings. I won't, however, attempt to hide anything if directly asked whether you are hiding an artifact extracted from Minsk for your own research. And I won't assist you with this farce any longer. As promised, I'll continue to tutor Sergey, but if you need help covering up your tracks, you'll have to find someone else. Is this clear, Lady Doctor Nevada?"


Dr. Nevada closes her eyes, tilts her head back slightly and reclines in her chair, mulling over what Gwynn just told her. She then stands up, tossing her pen on the desk behind her. Looking down at the changeling, she gives off the faintest grin, but you can see some tension in her brows.

"Sounds reasonable, 'specially comin' from a straightlaced stickler like you. Doesn't that violate one of your contracts, tho?"
"This counts as a tier 5 infraction, and the standard strike team member contract only enforces violations of tier 3 and higher."
"Fine, but they'll definitely grill you 'bout ev'rythin' from the ruin dive. Sounds like you get t'squeal either way."
"I won't compromise on this, Lady Doctor Nevada. I'll delay my interrogation as long as possible, but that's it. What the officials will ask me depends on how you've been steering the investigation."
"Yeah, not lookin' forward t' a quid-pro-quo with Internal Affairs."
"Apologies, but this is the best I can allow myself to do. I've informed you of my conditions, the rest is up to."

An awkward tension hangs in the air as all three of you take in Gwynn's... well, not quite a ultimatum, not a compromise either - her declaration, for lack of a better word. The doctor irregularly taps on her chin, possibly thinking of the implications and her plan going forward. The commander is shifting between avoiding eye contact, clenching her teeth to make a stern face and preparing to speak up, before catching herself at the last moment. You yourself aren't sure whether it's your place to break the silence - while Doctor Nevada won't get reported immediately, given signs of a break-in and the removal of the orgone source the researchers located in the ruins, it would only be a matter of time until you'll become suspect number one - especially since you're supposed to admit to diving into the ruins... Wait, does that even check out anymore?

"Uhm, one thing..."

Your sudden interjection comes to a surprise to the both of them. While Gwynn looks relieved that someone finally broke the uncomfortable silence, Dr. Nevada looks annoyed, as if she is anticipating another complication.

"Given that you now want to hide the artifact from the authorities, Dr. Nevada, what exactly is my story, now? It's one thing to say I returned from the Minsk ruins with nothing but some scrap, but I don't think they'll buy that I had nothing to do with the disappearance of an energy signature on the same day, especially if it hasn't changed for years now."
"...Shit, you're right. Fine, we'll think up som'thin' new."


She lets out a sigh while clutching the roots of her hair with both hands in frustration.

"Yo Gwynn, gonna abstain from this one too?"
"...I did say that I would give... false testimony about the nature of Sergey's dive." It seems like it took her effort just to say the words "false testimony". She hesitates for a moment, then continues.
"Since it's a different matter, you can ask me about laws regarding dives and pact control. These are things with possible legal pathways, after all. But I refuse to say anything when it comes to the theft of the artifact, alright?"
"Yeah, whatever. Just makin' sure we're on the same page with that one."

She pulls a blackboard on wheels closer so all of you can see it clearly, but before she can grab a writing utensil, she hesitates. Shaking her head, she pushes it away, plops back into her chair and retrieves a sheet of paper from a drawer.

"I'm losin' track of all this. I'm writin' down all the things we gotta keep t'ourselves, 'n all the things we've said so far. Make sure we don't miss anythin',"

She swats the pen from before to the side, retrieves a new one from an inside pocket of her coat instead and starts writing.

"First, the LSPDC. Obviously, we-"
"The what?"
"Large Scale Psychic Displacement Cage. Thing that made your home go poof. The actual reason I got stuck with you, but we can't bring that up. Still classified, so we need a diff'rent reason."
"Baroness Sélène is the only one besides us who knows what happened, but exposing this lie herself would only trouble her. As long as no one has a reason to doubt your choice to make Sergey your retainer, the project should remain a secret. That being said, why don't you admit that the Baroness relinquished Sergey to you? That shouldn't be a problem."
"Oh, that bitch'd make it my problem, alright. If I did that, she'd have t' explain why she made Sergey her retainer, and why she kick'd him t' me. As fun as that'd be, I don't wanna give her a reason t' go on a vendetta 'gainst me."
"Is it that odd that Baroness Sélène would make me her retainer?"
"Nobles put great care in their selection of their retinue as it portrays their tastes and status. While you've proven to be an able candidate, you have a, let's say, rustic upbringing and... probably wouldn't meet the high standards for their... uhm, aesthetics. No offense."

Great. None taken.


"At least I'm known t' not care 'bout looks - I hired Tristan, for cryin' out loud. Next up, Ivan's spontaneous adventure-"
"You mean unlicensed dive and trespassing into a contested ruin, Lady Doctor Nevada."
"...yeah, that. Original story was you escapin' us 'n runnin' int' the ruin, but it's gettin' spotty. Might have t' pivot t' denyin' it outright." Gwynn's eyes widen and lets out a gasp.
"Excuse me? You convinced me to go ahead with this plan because of Sergey's unique legal immunity in this matter! Now you want to hide it from the authorities as well?"
"...If Titania confirms the artifact's gone fast enough, admittin' t'enterin' the ruins makes my retainer prime suspect."
"If? Wouldn't an giant energy signal disappearing be obvious to anyone?"
"Yeah, if. The kinda scan used t' monitor the orgone activity doesn't come cheap, so they're kept t'a minimum - especially if they don't expect anythin' t' change."
"So there's a chance it'll go undiscovered long enough for us to have plausible deniability?"
"Keep in mind that you did trespass, Sergey. If they discover signs of a break-in, they'll most likely fast-track another scan."
"Shouldn't've relied just on legal immunity... The tunnel y'used is far off enough that it won't get spott'd on routine inspections, but it's not a given. The faster we act, the better."
"Is... Is there a way to spoof the reading? So Titania still thinks it's there?"

Now Gwynn stares daggers at you, insulted that you'd even talk so casually about tampering with rival equipment. Dr. Nevada just thinks for a moment.

"Possible. Not easy, but possible."
"Just brainstormin' here, Gwynn. No bad ideas, nothin' set in stone. We're bound t' step on some toes, 'n if you help, we can keep the toes t'a minimum."
"...I suppose a method that would respect the ways of the Principality would be to... negotiate with a sympathizer." Her expression turns slightly more downcast.
"Don't like loose ends. I'd rather keep it in-house." The roundabout expressions are a bit confusing, but you can imagine what she is referring to - bribery, a mole, or something similar. Arcadia probably has some fancy name for it to make it sound okay.
"But we took a big detour, right? If records show when we left and arrived, wouldn't the time gap look out of place?"

Gwynn begins to chime in, but stops herself at the last moment, pressing her lips together.

"No. I said I wouldn't give you advice on any illegal activity I didn't agree to."

She folds her arms together, avoiding eye contact. Dr. Nevada just rolls her eyes and answers for her.

"I guess Gwynn was 'bout t' say that delays happen all the time. Mechanical failure, ambush, psychic storm... Chances are they won't even ask us 'bout that. Right?"

She lets out a slight smirk, which coaxes a wince out of Gwynn. She doesn't answer, but she might as well have said "You got me, Lady Doctor Nevada."


"Any case, we can only fess up t' the dive if Titania doesn't know the cube's gone. Otherwise, the jig's up."
"Unless you report the illegally retrieved artifact to the council, of course."
"Not happenin'. I don't trust anyone overseein' that kinda tech."
"If you can't part from it, then maybe there's some way to convince the court that you should retain rights to research, even if not in the service to House Daedal?"
"Yeah? Like what?"
"Uhm, well... You could... make a good case that you're the only woman for the job?" Her suggestion can't help turning into a question the closer it comes to an end - clearly, even Gwynn isn't very convinced of it herself."
"Right. Then Titania's gonna hold a press conference about how they suck ass 'n everyone should kick their vassals in the nuts."

Dr. Nevada lets out a sigh while Gwynn looks dejected, unable to come up with a better solution. But maybe there's a different approach.

"Dr. Nevada, are you sure there's no one else capable enough to research the artifact? The important thing is that it gets examined without any screwups, right?"
"You're lookin' at the only person who can examine it without any screwups, wise guy."
"...But you did say that Titania has had a great record recently, right? Maybe there's someone who you could trust."
"I can't- I mean, nah, not gonna find someone on such a short notice, if they exist in the first place. Communication 'tween researchers from diff'rent houses are kept on a leash as is."
"Perhaps you could surrender your rights to the artifact under the stipulation that you get to participate in the research? You could make sure there are no oversights, and you wouldn't have to go behind the council!" Gwynn looks pleased with her idea.
"Yeah, right. Titania got no reason t' bring me on board, even if they know their team isn't worth shit. Optics trump the research. 'sides, they'd accuse me of leakin' findin's t' my house. And even if I was on the team, there's no guarantee they won't mess with stuff while I'm not lookin'."
"Sounds like there's no clean way out of this one."


"Ah, but it gets worse, because next up's Ivan's illegal monster buddy. For now, no one but us knows about it, but you can't hide that kinda thing forever."
"An undocumented pact is practically impossible to keep hidden forever in any given megalith. I implore you to report this on your own volition, you'll be able to negotiate for a more advantageous position that way. Pardoning an unlicensed pact is rather commonplace, after all."
"Should be obvious, but one more time for he slow ones. Do NOT tell anyone you didn't agree t'the pact, you hear? Dead giveaway you're a lab case if you let that shit spill"

You stifle a sarcastic chuckle, knowing that Dr. Nevada is treating you like a lab case already.

"I get that, but at what point should I say the pact took place? Before we met? That could be the reason why you made me your retainer."
"Dumb idea, two reasons. One, that bitch of your former Baroness knows you were a dud, 'n she's not gonna buy you somehow hidin' that from her for years. Two, that pompous ass that grill'd you back at the ring-"
"Lord Firdaus."
"-that dude, we told him I hired you for... different reasons. I'd've just told him you're a guinea pig, but you had t' tell him you're my understudy. Which already made him suspicious, but if we don't stick t' that story, he's gonna be on our asses 'til he gets his fill of gossip."

...It seemed like the right thing to say at the time.

"Okay, so what should I say, then?"
"If anyone asks, you don't have a pactmate. So far. Down the road, we'll make up a story 'bout how some emergency got you makin' a pact, 'n we'll greenlight it in post."
"Lady Doctor Nevada, aren't you forgetting something? Sergey's pactmate isn't just anyone."
"So? Pacts with defect'd monsters get pardon'd all the time."
"Tau Enkidu isn't a defector, he proudly admits to being an enemy of the Principality!"
"Enk does have some common sense, I'm sure I can convince him to play along..."
"Even if that were the case, Sergey, he's not just an foreign monster, he's a construct of unknown origin and stands out like a sore thumb."
"Oh, right."
"It's one thing to have a nephilim in your ranks, but something this alien is going to raise a lot of suspicion. Just by looks alone, he'll be perceived as a threat to our security - rightfully so, might I add."
"Enk, you wouldn't happen to be able to shapeshift, right?"

You voice your question directed at your pactmate to let the others know, but you don't get an immediate response.

"Uhm, Enk? Tau Enkidu?"
"...Tau Enkidu series designed for terror, not covert ops. Negative."

You just shake your head. Not in the mood to talk, it seems like.


"Uh, looks similar enough to Hivemind tech. Just say it's a prototype raptor or som'thin'."
"I'm sorry, Lady Doctor Nevada, but Hivemind technology with its own orgone field? No one would believe that."
"Top secret collab between the two of us. I'll think of som'thin', that's the least of our problems. We just need a good origin story."
"If you insist..."

"Last, the current location of the artifact. I can hide my activity just fine, so as long as you two don't squeal, I can keep workin' on it. I got 'nough rep t' get the house t' quit lookin' over my shoulder, 'n I can meet their deadlines with a side project. Nothin' we said so far suggests I got a new artifact either, I think."
"Dr. Nevada, we did cross a couple of checks on the way to the lab, right? I remember you telling a guard we were transporting classified materials, won't that show up in some record?"
"Probably, but we were carryin' stuff from the field test. That's actually classified, so that checks out - not like the guard could tell there was an extra crate. And before you ask, the cube went inert when you trigger'd it, so it can't be detected with scans anymore."

Looking over to Gwynn, her awkward body language make it clear that she is doing her best to abstain from this part of the conversation - whether she is holding back yet another reprimand or possible suggestion that would further implicate her in your crimes is anyone's guess. The doctor just looks at her with a neutral expression of apathy you haven't seen from her in a while.

"Well, that's ev'rythin'. Now we just need an airtight plan t' cover our asses."

> To come up with a plan, you need answers for the following questions:

> Why did Dr. Nevada make you her retainer?
> Did you break into the ruins of Minsk?
> If yes, did you retrieve the artifact?
> If no, will you tamper with the scan results?
> Should you reveal your identity as a pactmaker?
> If yes, when?
> If yes, will you reveal Enkidu's origin as well?
> Should Dr. Nevada keep the artifact a secret?
> If no, what should be done to ensure she doesn't lose access?

Keep in mind that if something seems obvious, it doesn't mean that it's a trick question. This is just to establish a baseline for intent. If you feel like a question doesn't need answering right now, you can also skip it. If there's something you want to know more about before answering (that either of them could and would actually answer), ask away. I'm going to leave this one open for a while, considering most people will probably start this quest from scratch.
With the story out of the way, I first want to issue a mea culpa. If you're just here for the story, feel free to skip this section. I understand that sudden hiatuses (or temporary abandonment, depending on your point of view) are common on this board, but I do want to explain why I bailed in the first place.
The last question I asked to the audience was whether they want to keep the artifact a secret, or report it at the risk of losing access to it. I genuinely believed that siding with Gwynn would win, but participants were more invested in the artifact than I anticipated. I didn't want to go against their wishes, but was unsure how to continue: Keeping the artifact a secret would mean that Sergey couldn't confess to being a pactmaker. And if he can't reveal his identity, how can he get into adventures involving his giant robot pactmate in a megacity filled with regulations? Earlier in the quest, we did establish that Sergey has an interest in becoming a strike force member, and his service would be vital in making a case for his pardon. This left me with such a conflict that I just said "fuck it" and bailed - it didn't seem anyone missed it, anyway.

That being said, I still wanted the story to continue. Every now and then, I'd think "A year of hiatus isn't that bad, right?" and come up with more ideas to add to the quest. And after rereading it and getting some words of encouragement in the general, I decided it was time to try again, with a new plan.
This update serves both as a summary of past events and an outline of the stakes, previous decisions, possible actions and the consequences. It seems a bit like I'm asking for a revote, but I realized that the last decision - wanting Dr. Nevada to keep the artifact - doesn't mean that they're limited to a single course of action. There's also two important things I forgot: A DM doesn't have to have a contingency for every outcome, and this being an interactive story with input from other people. Especially since the story hasn't been on anyone's mind for almost a year, I thought it would be best to just give participants an overview and let them decide how Sergey will cover up his crimes. If you're one of the handful of people that followed my quest almost a year ago, thanks for sticking with me.
I failed to consider that a confusing, heavily involved first prompt after a hiatus is a terrible way to attract readers. So to streamline a bit, I've come up with 4 different plans for you to pick. If you haven't read the previous threads and have questions about something, feel free to ask.

> Deny everything - the illegal dive, the artifact and the pact. To throw House Titania off the trail, their scanners will need to be sabotaged.
> Confess to the dive, but bend the truth a little. Dr. Nevada reports your break-in, but claims that the energy signature disappeared before she sent you to investigate, leaving empty-handed.
> Make sure Titania loses the trial to determine the ownership of the artifact. You'll report the artifact, but only after ensuring it will remain with House Daedal - even if you have to fight dirty.
> Let Titania have the artifact. Report everything but the pact and try to get Dr. Nevada permission to participate in the research.
> Write-in

Note that all of these plans have a chance of failure and the outcome isn't guaranteed.
>Confess to the dive, but bend the truth a little. Dr. Nevada reports your break-in, but claims that the energy signature disappeared before she sent you to investigate, leaving empty-handed.
> Confess to the dive, but bend the truth a little. Dr. Nevada reports your break-in, but claims that the energy signature disappeared before she sent you to investigate, leaving empty-handed.
> Confess to the dive, but bend the truth a little. Dr. Nevada reports your break-in, but claims that the energy signature disappeared before she sent you to investigate, leaving empty-handed.
> Confess to the dive, but bend the truth a little. Dr. Nevada reports your break-in, but claims that the energy signature disappeared before she sent you to investigate, leaving empty-handed.

"I don't think we can cover our tracks, so I think we should admit to entering the ruins."
"N' then what? Signal's there, retainer enters, signal's gone. Doesn't take an ace detective t' figure out what happen'd."
"Well, yes, but if there hasn't been a scan in a while, they can't prove the artifact - or signal, rather - was still here, right? We can claim it was already gone, and I was instructed to make the dive to investigate!"
"That's- hm. It's a bullshit excuse, but everythin' else isn't lookin' great either."
"Lady Doctor Nevada, the idea was that Sergey entered without our permission! If you admit he acted under your orders, you'll be tried for instigating an unlicensed dive on off-limits territory!"
"I can deal with that. I'd get tried for actin' on my own, not breakin' the stalemate. Shouldn't be the worst thing I could do."
"Is this alright with you, Dame Gwynn? They'll probably ask you questions, and..."
"They definitely would be asking me questions. My position as a key witness can't be downplayed, and we can't hope for the investigation to miss this opportunity." She sighs once more.
"Sergey, your plan is more amicable in the sense that you'd at least confess to your activities, but I have my obligations as an Arcadian knight. If necessary, I can... stretch the truth a little, but if explicitly asked, I don't think I can cover for you any longer. I... I hope you understand, Lady Doctor Nevada."
"...Yeah, whatever. For now, I'm gonna finish up here and work out how to word the report. Gwynn, you had t' be somewhere, right?"

She takes a moment to register her superior's question, snapping her out of a lull.

"Oh, y-yes, Lady Doctor Nevada. If there's anything else you would..."
"Nah, that's all. Dismissed, and thanks."
"...Right. thank you, Lady Doctor Nevada. Goodbye for now."

Unsure what to say, you watch Gwynn put her shoes back on while Dr. Nevada slumps back in her chair, looking at the ceiling. Finally, the changeling bows as properly as ever and gingerly closes the door after her, avoiding eye contact.

"Argh! Dammit."

The doctor's sudden exclamation punctuated with a kick against the base of the desk cuts the awkward silence short, but she still seems to barely acknowledging your presence, fidgeting with the paper she scrawled on earlier.

> Pick someone to follow up with:
> Dr. Nevada
> Dame Gwynn
> Enkidu

> Optional: Bring up a topic you want to discuss.
>> Enkidu


Letting your superior contemplate her plans on her own, you move towards a corner carefully stacked with folders, devices and spare parts, pretending to look them over. Hoping this will get you some privacy, you telepathically contact your pactmate to catch up.

"Enk, you got all that, right?"
"Eventually, once I admit to being a pactmaker, you'll need to keep your... opinions about Arcadia hidden. You can do that, right?"

Huh. You expected a bit more push-back, like "I refuse to obfuscate the weakness of Arcadia" or "Pandemonic superiority cannot remain unspoken". This sounded more like your father, whenever he's occupied with repairs and absentmindedly giving signs of acknowledgment if talked to.

"...Is something wrong? You've barely said anything since Dr. Nevada ran some tests on you - did she do something to you?"
"Negative. Perception reduced due to increased pensive activity."
"Say what now?"
"Recently obtained data requires reassessment of current paradigm."
"What recently- wait, do you mean the patents? What was is that Dr. Nevada said? That your tech would already be publicly accessible?"

Enkidu takes a moment, then answers.

"92% of all theory, 52% of all designs used in Tau Enkidu series are accounted for in Arcadian database - under new identification number and ownership. Implications extremely likely to be catastrophic."
"Those implications being..?"
"Evidence of stolen research suggests the Pandemonia Federation having been compromised, if not eliminated."
"...You think it's gone now?"[\i]

Your pactmate responds with a low grumble, a bit reminiscent of an idling engine.


"...Negative. Pandemonia must remain in some capacity. Alternate and uncensored sources of information required."
"Well, maybe Dr. Nevada was right - about you being from a parallel universe or something. I mean, monsters originally came from other dimensions, so it's not out of the question, right?
"Target Nevada's proposed theory of inter-dimensional travel fails to account for overlap in Pandemonic and Arcadian research. Likelihood of no prior contact effectively zero."
"For what it's worth, I think we've been dealing with impossible odds for a while now. But why would the Principality hide this part of history? Defeating an empire and seizing all their research seems like something the nobles would brag about."
"Projected military might of Arcadia vastly outclassed by Pandemonic forces."
"You say that, but you've been gone for a while. A lot could have changed within those decades."
"Fall of Pandemonic Federation considered a statistical impossibility."

Enkidu's mantra of Pandemonic superiority sounds like pre-programmed propaganda, but there is a slight change in cadence in his synthesized voice. Is he trying to convince himself as much as he's trying to convince you? Can an artificial monster like him even question his orders, if that's even how creating a construct works? You faintly recall Dr. Nevada saying something about sentience in a construct being optional, but what does that even entail, and does it apply to him?

"Want me to bring up the thing you said about the patents to Dr. Nevada?"
"Obsolete action. Target Nevada's source of information compromised by Arcadian intelligence, and has shown no support for cover-up theory."

> Ask about constructs and his sentience
> Ask about his past
> Ask about Pandemonia
> Tell Dr. Nevada about the patents anyway
> Give him some space, and see if Dr. Nevada still wants something from you
> Write-in
> Ask about Pandemonia
Please give me a 1d10 for a negotiation check.
Rolled 2 (1d10)

Rolled 1 (1d10)

>Ask about Pandemonia


"What made- err, makes Pandemonia so special, anyway? Just the difference in military technology?"
"Initial estimate falls way below actual parameters. The Pandemonia Federation gained unprecedented influence due to the cooperation between monster and man as equals."
"Equals? I heard that human rights made pretty big leaps since Doomsday, but we aren't seen at this level even today."
"Amendment in judicial code likely to be imitation to replicate the Federation's success. Predictable behavior of fairies: Subjugation to uphold false status as superiors."
"...You know, hearing a war machine with a skull for a chest talk about egalitarianism and human rights is a bit of a shock to me."
"Tau Enkidu series not designed for negotiations and/or debate. All Tau models, however, are built equipped with understanding of fundamentals in Pandemonic history and exceptionalism."
"What is the history of Pandemonia, anyway? I'm kind of curious."
"The former Satanic States of America, along with the Goliath Union and other minor North American territories, were reformed as the Pandemonia Federation in 9 Anno Monstrum. The founding of the federation was followed by the signing of the first constitution that considered humans as self-governing people with inalienable rights since Doomsday. The combined abilities of monster- and mankind quickly established Pandemonia as a leading superpower in the liberation of Earth."
"Liberation, huh?"
"Conflict between factions was irreconcilable. Pandemonia Federation offered greatest chance for survival and stability for all parties involved."
"And humans and demons just lived in harmony? After 9 years of war?"
"Resentment between different collectives is an inevitable property of sufficiently large societies. However, a common enemy required cooperation and eventually bred trust. Additionally, clades of demons were known to ally with humans even before the federation."
"It sounded like you had a good thing going. When did you say you got... well, suspended? Trapped?"
"Last log prior to unknown stasis dated 21st December, 26 Anno Monstrum."
"So that's at least 15 years during which the federation was active, according to you. Has there been any indication that it might have been struggling, or susceptible to an invasion?"
"...Negative. No lapse in Pandemonia's rise known."
"Really? It kind of sounds like you are repeating propaganda. Do you actually believe that, or is this another state secret I'm not allowed to know about?"[\i]

In lieu of a physical conversational partner, you shoot the unlabeled binder in front of you an accusatory glance.


Negotiation Roll: 1d10 = 2

"Your accusations render the predicted outcome of this conversation meaningless. The answer remains No, and doubt will not alter the given facts."
"Oh, come on. If you really think your country is so great, then how come it's been wiped off the face of the Earth?"
"I do not know."

The uncharacteristic outburst gives you a little jolt. After finally being a bit more talkative and not keeping stuff from you, he's back to giving you little to work with. You subconsciously let out a sigh, apparently loud enough to get Dr. Nevada's attention.

"Oh, right, you're still here. Listen, there's still tests left t' run, but that'll have t' wait. You're not fallin' apart, that's good enough for now. Gotta get everythin' ready for the report - the faster it shows up, the less suspicious it'll be."
"Is there something you need me to do, Dr. Nevada?"
"You're gonna have t' learn Sidhe ASAP. Worst case they'd get a translator for your hearing, but if you're gonna testify without knowin' the official language, they'll dismiss you as an unwashed country bumpkin. Which you are, but we need all the goodwill we can get for this. Hope you're a fast learner." {Got that?}
"Yes, Dr. Nev- uh..."

Her sudden shift into Sidhe took you off guard - the pact might have given you the ability to understand any language, but hearing someone speak seems to bypass your perception to the point that you consciously have to think about the words someone says to determine whether they are actually speaking English. Another unfortunate aspect is it not helping you actually speak the language - a realization that becomes clear as you fail to remember the Sidhe word for "Doctor".

{Y-yes, Lady Nevada.}
{Doctor. Doc-tor.} "Christ, your accent's lousy."
"Have you been speaking English for the past few days so I could understand you?"

She shoots you an incredulous look and fishes a familiar paper cone out of her pocket. A flick of the wrist, and just like a magic trick, the cone has been halfway filled with fries, which she immediately starts snacking on.

"Gffd nn, hff h- *gulp* ...if I don't tell you t' listen up, I don't care if you can't follow what I'm sayin'. Just don't like speakin' Sidhe, it's the tongue of pompous cunts."
"Is that-"
"Listen, interview's over. I actually have work t' do, n' I can't play tour guide for you."
"...Fine. Am I supposed to be at the lab tomorrow as well?"
"I'll shoot you a text when I got somethin' t' discuss. Till then, do your homework, pick up the customs, don't embarrass yourself."
"Shoot text?"

With her unoccupied hand, Dr. Nevada rubs her temple in frustration.


"Right, you never used a phone either. Look, you're smart, you'll figure it out yourself. Just remember any communication thru it's bein' recorded, so don't talk 'bout any of the no-no stuff."
"Recorded? Are we being watched?"
"Not exactly - logs're delet'd after a while, and no one bothers readin' it unless you're bein' investigat'd. Now get outta my hair already."
"One last thing, Dr. Nev-"
"What?!" She's visibly annoyed to be kept from returning to her work at this point.
"You said my keys and phone were ready."
"...aaand you said you have to be present when they give them to me."
"Oh, for the love of... Fucking fine then!"

Before you can react, the impatient doctor is already shoving you towards the exit of the lab while kicking her sandals into a corner, sending them flying against the walls with a bang. After practically hopping into her loosely tied boots, she stomps out of the Orgonomics Research Wing, barely giving you enough time to gather your belongings you left at the reception. You only briefly spot the same maid as before filling in for the receptionist, who all but cowers in fear after seeing the doctor rush past her. While she stopped grinding her teeth once you're making your way through the campus, she still looks like she has a thundercloud above her head, which - given her electrokinetic abilities - might not be metaphorical. After a few minutes maintaining a pace which is just shy of running, she bursts into an office within the main building, cutting off the clerk at the counter before he can greet her.

{Ivan Kovlove. New retainer. Phone and keys, NOW.}

After 3 tense minutes, you leave the office with some more documents, a new key-chain and a sleek looking box in tow. Dr. Nevada checks her phone and rolls her eyes.

"Christ, almost 6 already. Ivan, if you bother me within the next 24 hours, you're dead. Have a nice evening."

With these two contradictory statements, she spins on her heel and stomps back the way you came from. Some people within earshot crane their heads to check the commotion, but quickly return to their routine.

"Well I guess we got some spare time for a while."
"Immediate action: Seek out classified database and search for records mentioning 'Pandemonia Federation'."
"...I doubt that's just lying around. Besides, I want to get to my apartment already - I might not have been on a subterranean expedition, but I'm exhausted all the same."


Thankfully, the document that came with the key-chain contains a map marking the location of your new home, so you manage to find it after some wrong turns. The lock of your door has you stumped for a moment - especially since the key-chain doesn't actually contain anything resembling keys. But looking closer at the sheet with the map, you find out that what you thought were decorative runestones are actually the keys, and are just required to be on your person. It's not clear if this is done through magic or electricity, but it's convenient all the same.

Your new apartment, while not nearly as luxurious as the VIP suite you got to spend your first night in, is still a lot more welcoming than the barracks from the checkpoint you slept in - with Durga's creepy stare fixed on you the whole time, as you unfortunately remember. If "extravagant" was the theme of the VIP suite, the theme her would be "efficient". Almost everything is kept in a single room, and designed to be easy to move and stow away to make room for other activities. Growing up in an entire house for just two people, it's not what you're used to, but for now you appreciate the craftsmanship of the furniture, the soft mattress of the bed and the nice view overlooking a garden in the back of the main building you haven't seen before. After stowing away your bags with new clothes and your backpack, you throw yourself onto the bed and contemplate where to go from here.

> What do you want to do tomorrow?
> Try to find books on learning Sidhe
> Practice speaking Sidhe with the other vassals
> Visit the Orgonomics Research Wing
> Try to find Gwynn to learn about being a pactmaker
> Focus on figuring out how your phone works.
> (Write-In)
>Try to find books on learning Sidhe
>> Try to find books on learning Sidhe
Sorry, still working on the update. I'm a bit unsure about the pacing of the story, so I want to ask three questions:
> Are you happy with the amount of dialogue or would you prefer less?
> Do you prefer moving between story beats faster or a slow pace to allow for more worldbuilding details?
> Do you want the story to remain within the Arcadian megacities (more Arcadian society, intrigue, politics and hiding our powerlevel) or move to the outskirts of the territory (contact with other factions, combat, summoning Enkidu, other pactmakers)?

the amount of dialogue is fine
there can never be too much worldbuilding, if you feel like you need to slow down to flesh out the world a little more, by all means do so
I'm always partial to more intrigue, only because combat in quests is a bit clunky (dice rarely does us justice), but that's just my two cents

The amount of dialogue is fine
As an amateur worldbuilder myself, there's no such thing as "too much worldbuilding"
It would be more IC to have him staying in the city for now. We can get our fighting scenes later after we resolved this inter-house shitshow.
> Try to find books on learning Sidhe


> Try to find books on learning Sidhe


It's been a few hours since you came back from lunch and returned to reviewing the first of the few books you've picked up from the library when a sudden tune of bells breaks you out of your focus, causing you to jump out of the park bench a little. It takes you a moment, but you do manage to find out how to answer the phone before it’s too late - though it could have come much faster, judging by the sour stares from the people within earshot.

"Uh, hello?"
"Ah, Sergey! I was uncertain whether I would be able to reach you - it appears your phone has been set up after all! I assume Lady Doctor Nevada helped you configure it correctly?"

You weren't quite sure who was talking to you, but the uniquely extensive title of your superior is a dead giveaway.

"Dame Gwynn? Is that you?"
"Oh, apologies! Y-Yes, this is Gwynn speaking. Durga is not with me right now, that is why I might sound a bit different."
"Ah, I figured it'd be something like that. Dr. Nevada didn't help me, but I managed to fiddle around with it a little by myself."
“Impressive, Sergey! And here I believed you were going to require help to just turn it on.”
“Give me a little credit. We don’t have mobile phones back home, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t read about them - a diver has to know about pre-doomsday tech to know what he’s looking for. Speaking of, how did you get my number? Do these things even use phone numbers?”
"Well, that would be because I looked it up from the house's registry. As an active commander, I have been granted access to contact information of all commoners of our house. I had to cross my fingers to see whether you would pick up, however. Have you been assigned your own room yet?"
"Yeah, I got the keys yesterday. It’s a bit barebones and different from what I’m used to, but it’s kinda nice."
"I am glad it is to your liking! I hope the economy class bed provided you with a good night’s rest.”


A small room paradoxically holding a clear night sky, obstructed by nothing but a simple door - a sleek design of concrete, steel handle and a large keyhole juxtaposing the constellations and sparse fir trees. You’d reach out to open it, but you already know you couldn’t open it anyway. Thus, you wait until you spot a trickle of… ants, or something, move up the door, towards the handle and right into the keyhole. Looking closer, it becomes clear that what comes across as a colony of ants is actually a trail of tiny, humanoid beings. They’re too dark to make out, but the proportions remind you of someone… Goblins, maybe? They don’t actually get this small, right?

The miniscule creatures continue to crawl inside the keyhole, where they get lost in the pitch black interior of the lock. After what seemed like dozens of them reached their destination, you suddenly hear a bolt shift inside the door, causing the other critters to fall off the flush surface of the door. You reach for the handle with a level of calm that even surprises you and pull firmly to rip it open.

The widening gap blinds your eyes for a moment as a harsh but warm light fills your vision. As you adapt, you move through the door and close it behind you, a loud click letting you know the bolt has snapped into place. Your new surroundings mirror your old ones, and are different yet - while the room you’re now standing in has the same shape and dimensions, the cool night sky has been replaced with a vast blue, a brilliant sun and a sweltering heat. At your feet is now coarse sand and loose rocks, and what little vegetation you were able to see before has now been replaced with small patches of grass few and far between - a single bush, if you’re lucky. It was around that time you woke up, if memory serves you right.


Some noncommittal words of confirmation seem to satisfy Gwynn. Even just hearing her voice, you can tell she’s thrilled to sell you more and more on the great things House Daedal has to offer.

“Uhm, there is, of course, a reason I called. Since our last meeting yesterday was… well, cut short, I failed to schedule lessons with you. I promised to lecture you about etiquette and the fundamentals, correct? Among other things.“

Just before you ask about teaching you about pacts you remember Nevada’s instructions - if you’d give away your secret identity not a full day after being told to not discuss sensitive topics on the phone, you’d never hear the end of it. Gwynn offers some regular time slots and caveats about possible rain checks, while you agree to all of them, not having a schedule of your own, let alone routine.

“Ideally I would gladly kick off your lessons right away, but I am afraid it will have to wait. I have been requested for duty as a commander - simply convoying a mining team for surveyance, nothing more. Not as… unorthodox as my last excursion, you know.”
“Oh. Well if it’s anything like my last excursion, you better be careful.” That gave her a light giggle.
“You mean the Kamaitachi? Not to downplay your achievement, but I think I can handle them.”
“...You didn’t see the other guy. I’ll have to tell you about him sometime.”
“Well now I am worried. I know you are no longer under my command, but please avoid any life-or-death situations with feral creatures while I am gone.”
“Trust me, Dame Gwynn, that’s the least of my intentions.”
“That is a relief to hear. On the topic of your activities while I am away, also remember to practice your Sidhe diligently. You cannot rely on Lady Doctor Nevada as the intermediary between you and other nobles much longer, understood?”
“Way ahead of you - I’ve been studying for the better part of the day already. I remember why it was my least favorite subject, but I’m managing.”
{Ah, very good! Are you able to speak Sidhe yet, Sergey?}
{A… little bit. Not yet.}

Gwynn’s question was as easy to understand as before you’ve cracked open the borrowed textbooks - no exercises on listening comprehension needed here - but your admittedly clumsy reply was the result of your intense study session. Well, mostly, since your understanding of the language came unusually fast. Must be another perk of the translation ability.

{Oh, impressive!} It’s easy to hear the excitement in her voice. “Just yesterday you were unable to participate in a basic conversation! I’m so happy to see you make such a great effort to fit in!”
“Guess I retained more from my school days than I expected!”

A somewhat weak laugh follows, but Gwynn seems to buy it - being able to understand any language is far too good a skill to just announce carelessly. As the changeling continues, she is back to her stern and official sounding cadence.


“You are making remarkable progress, but do not rest on your laurels just yet. Please take the opportunity to practice speaking with other commoners - as with all houses, House Daedal expects a modicum of familiarity of the Sidhean language. I know it is ‘hip’ to heavily rely on old human languages these days, but we all do represent something greater than us. Right, Sergey?”
“Uhm, right. You said you didn’t have time for lessons, but you still managed to squeeze in homework, huh?”
“Ah, sorry, I might have gotten carried away a little. Nevertheless, do keep my advice in mind.”

She clears her throat and takes a moment before resuming.

“Oh, and one final thing, Sergey… I have to apologize for yesterday. We may have different views, but that was no reason for me to act so rash. It is unbecoming for a knight like me.”
“Rash… Look, it’s not what I wanted, but I can see where you’re coming from. And as far as I could tell, you held yourself pretty well - I’ve seen far pettier. Just… know that I don’t want to lose my only shot at making sense of… my situation.” No reply, so you continue.
“You might want to tell Dr. Nevada if you haven’t already. She seemed pretty pissed after you left.”
“Oh, uh, actually I did try to reach out, but I just was unable to catch her! I am convinced I will get the chance somewhat soon, however!”
“Makes sense, considering she told me to not bother her for a full day.”
“Oh dear, I do hope she gets some sleep soon. Sergey, promise me to make sure she won’t overwork herself while I am gone, alright?”
“I’ll try, but I don’t think I can do much. She doesn’t seem very receptive to suggestions.”
“Haha, just let her know we all worry about her wellbeing.”


You say your goodbyes and figure out how to hang up on the fly - good thing your phone seemed to be designed with ease of use in mind, unlike the devices and machines you’ve seen Dr. Nevada operate. You take a moment to observe the many people moving between buildings and lounging in the park. Different uniforms belonging to strike teams, office clerks and cleaning staff interspersed with fancy robes accompanied by more fancy robes and a small following of hectic assistants. The longer you look, the more varied the colors of their skins, features on their heads and even number of limbs become, but one thing grows more and more clear: There isn’t a single unattractive person here.

Now, you’d hardly call yourself vain, but at this point it feels almost unnatural. Thinking back, there were some somewhat disheveled looking people back when you moved through the streets of New Minsk, but ever since you’ve left the public streets, you’ve yet to see someone who wouldn’t wind up with a dozen marriage proposals before they’ve made it halfway through the main street back home. Not that you’d ever tell her, but the skittish maid back at the doctor’s lab is probably the least attractive girl you’ve seen. Despite that, she’s still prettier than most of the girls you grew up with. You definitely won’t tell the girls that. If someone like Gora is working here, you haven’t seen them - the only monsters you recognize as plants are more moss women like Briana. Is there some sort of “No uglies”-clause here? As weird as that seems, you feel a little bashful considering you were hired as well.

“Even in the future, vanity scores of Arcadian society continue to exceed model predictions. Disgusting.”
“It can’t be a coincidence, right? Everyone looks like they’re ready for a photoshoot - even the gardeners.”
“Corruption and weakness impossible to mask with any amount of foundation and mascara. Disdain for meritocracy estimated to be most likely cause for downfall.”
“Do you think they just pick the pretty ones, or they give you a makeover after hiring you? I don’t know if I’d want something like that.”
“Plastic surgery known to cause structural weak spots in skin and bone tissue. Flesh transmutation highly susceptible to catastrophic failure.”
“...On second thought, I think I’m good.”

Your observation gets cut short as a familiar jingle breaks your concentration: your phone is ringing again.

“Yes, is th-”
“My lab, same as yesterday. 5 minutes. Scratch that, 10 minutes. We’re doin’ another set of experiments. Get movin’.”

Click. The slightly irritated mumble can only belong to your superior, so you gather your belongings and make your way back. Just not too quickly, she probably went from 5 to 10 minutes for a reason.


The second time down the stairs at the ORI you carry a badge with your picture and (incorrect) name on it - the pixie at the reception, who actually wasn’t absent this time, gave it to you after tolerating some of your broken Sidhe. You press the button marked with a bell, and after a while, the heavy door slowly slides open to reveal the back of Dr. Nevada as she already moves back into a corner desk littered with open books.

“Close the door.”

You oblige and switch your shoes with one of the sandals in the corner. Unlike the other work-filled days that seemed to roll off the workaholic doctor like water off a duck’s back, Dr. Nevada seems visibly exhausted. Bloodshot eyes are framed by even more pronounced eyebags. Her lower lip is trembling slightly, but her clothes and hair are as impeccable as ever, as if uncooperative in her attempt to look like she just rolled out of bed. It’s out of view from the entrance, but moving closer you can see what most likely is the artifact you’ve found, now in an even greater state of disassembly.

“...Were you able to find out something more about the artifact, Dr. Nevada?”
“That’s not important right now. Sit, I’ve got stuff t’ drill int’ your cramp’d head.”
“About the upcoming investigation?”
“Course it’s ‘bout the upcomin’ investigation. I look’d at previous cases, laws pertainin’ artifacts, dives ‘n disputes ‘n check’d out ev’ry active detective in this jurisdiction. Got a pretty good idea on how I win this now.”
“That seems… Excessive. Are you alright?”
“I broke a truce between two of the largest houses in Arcadia ‘n I’m hidin’ the spoils. No such thing as excessive in that case.”
“What was that about experiments?”
“Experiments? What’re y- Oh, you thought I was serious. If the goons end up goin’ thru’ my calls, I gotta throw ‘em off.”

She fiddles with her phone.


“You didn’t see Gwynn, did you? Tried t’ reach her too.”
“Actually, I talked to her not too long ago, by phone. She said she wanted to contact you, but apparently she has to go on another mission tomorrow. Assisting a mining team or something.” Her eyes snap at you in disbelief, then turn to the floor.
“Gwynn, you LITTLE-!!”

You instinctively lean back, but she catches herself.

“No, I can work with this. As long as she’s gone, they can’t question her. Fine, be that way.”

Her focus is back on you as she explains to you the timeline and logistics of her report. From average response times to reports, escalation procedures and predicted questions, she’s created an intricate simulation of the next 36 hours within just a day. She tells you again and again about the questions you’ll most likely face, the slightly modified story of events you are to report and potential tricks they might try on you to pressure you into confessing, or even giving false testimony for an easy scapegoat. Every time she catches you stuttering or hesitating to recite something, she zaps you and repeats it three more times. Any previous signs of tiredness have been burnt away by her fervor to make this deception just perfect. After what felt like hours, she gives you a short break.

“How are you going to get all this to Dame Gwynn in time? She’ll probably get picked up for questioning the second she returns from her mission.”
“No need. I’ll just send her the cliffnotes, that’ll be enough. She’s strike team, after all.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Means strike team members are trained liars. You saw what happen’d back at your place, Sunfield or whatever.”
“...I did trust her.”
“Part of the job description. You think you’re the only hovel that gets t’ participate in a fun experiment under false pretenses? Happens all the time, so it’s like ridin’ a bike or recitin’ the feywild hymns t’ commanders like her.”
“And I did tell her lying comes easy to her.”
“You told her that? Christ. Still, she’s happy t’ do it as long as it’s for the good of the Principality. Blessed be Her Supremacy ‘n all that jazz.”
“You… seem to think little of Arcadia, or at least how it’s run.”
“If you got time t’ grill me on my loyalties, you got time t’ learn the 3 most likely chief investigators. Break time’s over!”

By the time your superior is somewhat satisfied with your understanding of her preparations, you feel like you’ve run a marathon with your mind. She corrected you on the fabricated story of your dive so many times you have trouble remembering what actually happened. Still, as her lecture was winding down, Dr. Nevada seemed to become less and less agitated, and her lack of sleep was catching up on her.


“Not where I’d like you t’ be, but we’re runnin’ outta time. This’ll have t’ do. Like, I said, I’m handin’...”
“You’re handing in your report tomorrow at 18:30, just before closing time. And you expect someone to drag me to questioning between hours after that between 6 and 9 in the morning.”
“...Right. Sucks we didn’t return on a Friday, we could’ve had the whole weekend t’ prepare.”

She’s trailing off while looking over at the pieces of the artifact strewn across the table.

“Dr. Nevada? Are you alright?”
“...Shit, still gotta clean this place up.”
“You haven’t slept since the outpost, right? You should probably-”
“Great, now you’re givin’ me lip about my sleep.”
“I promised Gwynn-”
“I can sleep before the trial starts.”
“Dr. Nevada, I don’t know much about investigations and hearings, but I’m sure a sleep-deprived suspect isn’t going to leave a good impression on the detective.”
“Christ, you sure talk back a lot for a servant boy.” You let her rub her eyes and lean against her chair in peace.
“Fine, I’ll make time. But I don’t wanna hear you naggin’ ‘bout my sleepin’ habits afterwards. Now scram, I still got work before I can go t’ bed with a clear conscience.”

She’s shooing you once more out of her laboratory, this time far less energetic than the last. It’s only after you exit the building that you realize that you’ve been here for almost 5 hours. The sun is long gone by now, the only light sources being all artificial. Exhausted from the extensive rehearsal, you make no stops on your way to your room. If Dr. Nevada’s predictions are correct, you should have a full day until you’re brought in for questioning. You run through the key points she drilled into your head once more. Some notes would have been nice, but she wouldn’t trust you with physical evidence.

“What would you do if we fail?”
“Failure not permissible. Pandemonic technology must not fall into Arcadian hands.”
“It already is in Arcadian hands, you know.”
“...Target Nevada’s strenuous allegiances make the current configuration acceptable.”
“Ohoh, so you trust her then?”
“There is insufficient space for trust in Arcadian snakes on this relationship partition. Chance of access to artifact in case of a different handler is estimated to be near zero.”
“That’s true. But it’s not like we could do anything with it, right?”
“Standard protocol dictates neutralization of Pandemonic technology, should it be compromised.”
“Neutralization? You don’t mean you want to destroy it, right?”
“This is the only way to find out what’s going on with us, maybe even undo the pact. You’d seriously give that up so the fairies won’t get their hands on it?”
“...I should have known you’d say something like this.”

> Roll 1d10 for dream
Rolled 1 (1d10)

Rolled 10 (1d10)



> Rolled 1 (1d10)

The day before your supposed investigation goes by in a blur. You were off to a bad start when you woke up with your pillow and blanket on the floor. You feel the telltale signs of waking from a vivid dream, but can’t remember a thing - if it’s anything like the others, it wouldn’t have made any sense anyway. Ideally, you would have just resumed your studies under the shade of a weeping willow in the park, however, you couldn’t help feeling paranoid. Even if Dr. Nevada wouldn’t report the break-in until evening rolled in, the idea that at any moment could approach you, put you in handcuffs and drag you away makes it so hard to focus on remembering vocabulary such as “legal loophole” and “orgone energy signature”. So after not even an hour, you end up retreating back to the comfort of your room. Some sandwiches from the canteen kept you fed as you tried your best ingraining Sidhean grammar and pronunciation, voicing sentences to no one in particular. You’ve made an attempt to get Enkidu to hold a conversation with you in the fey tongue, but he refused.

Just after the sun has set completely, you knew it would only be a matter of hours now. Dr. Nevada wanted to hand in her report at the 11th hour to delay the investigation as much as possible - no one is keen on starting a new case just minutes before closing time, after all. Remembering your advice to her, you try to get as much sleep as possible, but to little success - your mind is racing a mile a minute, trying to think of something you might have forgotten. Locked the doors? Check. Returned the gear to the armory? Check. Reciting the fabricated timeline in the Minsk ruins? …Yes, check.

Maybe you’ve ended up sleeping for a bit, but you feel like you’ve kept an eye on your ceiling for the whole night when you hear a gentle but loud chime coming from the door. You jump up and check the clock on your phone. It’s just a bit past 4 AM - they must have worked faster than Dr. Nevada anticipated! You quickly throw on some clothes and open the door.

{Ivan Daedal?}

Two male fairies in identical uniforms stand in front of you, a stern expression on their face and a quarterstaff in hand each. Their clothes appear lightly armored, protecting most of the torso, but don’t compromise on stylistic expression that has been ever present in all clothes you’ve observed so far.

{Uh, yes?}
{We are investigating a potential violation and have reason to believe you are involved. You are to follow us immediately to the bureau, where you will be questioned. Understood?}
{I- I understand. I will comply.}


With a brisk pace, they direct you to the gondola station you’ve originally arrived from. What few personnel are active at this early in the morning watches you with eyebrows raised and whispers exchanged; not how you wanted to make your first impression. The gondola you board is distinct from the others you’ve seen so far, colored in a garish yellow-black pattern and reinforcements surrounding the cabin. A section of it seems to be caged off with thick bars, but thankfully you aren’t being forced in it. Unlike your first ride, this one is obviously much tenser, and with little opportunity to take in the scenery.

Once again, the gondola approaches the triangular megastructure housing the maypoles and slows down as it moves closer to a walkway suspended in midair. This harbor is much different from the other one you’ve seen before - almost every gondola has the same yellow-black paint job as the one you rode, and all walkways on the lower half appear to be secured with reinforced fences and more guards standing alert. While your escorts don’t seem to treat you like an unruly criminal, they look as stern as ever and direct you inside the building. Instead of doors, this place seems to have recesses filled with tightly braided vines and thorny branches, next to which are plates reading words like “Kitchen” or “Small Claims Juniper”. Navigating through a number of turns and stairwells, you finally make it to a recess labeled “Interrogation Room Teak”. A gesture from the guard ahead of you, and the dense braids magically unwind to open a door into a small chamber with a table in the center.

{Sit down and wait for further instructions. Someone will arrive shortly.}

You gingerly enter the chamber, which seems rather pleasant, all things considered. You can hear light splashing coming from a narrow fountain spanning two of the walls, and the center of the table is holding a small flower bed containing a single flower blooming in a fierce yellow. You sit down on the chair facing the wall you just came from - which already closed up again - and wait. Sitting here in silence, you realize your heart is beating much faster than anticipated.

“Rider has 6 observable tells indicating guilt.”
“I know, I can’t help it. But it’s fine. As far as they know, I’m just confessing to trespassing and an illegal dive. They expect me to be nervous.” You make a conscious effort not to look like you’re currently in a telepathic conversation. For all you know, you might be under surveillance.
“Dragoon units excel in intimidation, not deception. Coercion and violence may be necessary components of a successful interaction.”
“I really don’t think that would fly against law enforcers. And I might be less nervous if you agreed to help me remember everything.”
“Engaging in theatrics qualifies as gross misuse of the Tau Enkidu series.”
“Sure, the 10 foot robot with a giant skull for a body isn-”
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A sudden rustle of the foliage quickly tears you away from your mental conversation. As the bramble clears, you see a face you faintly recognize. Alistair Orb.. Something-or-other, one of the potential chief investigators Dr. Nevada anticipated. A large coat in a drab color is draped over his wide body and a loose vest. His clothes do a good job covering his bark-like skin, only slightly peeking out near his collarbone. An oversized collar with a stark white on its inner side highlighting his scruffy sideburns is the only element his outfit has in common with the other guards. Moving towards the table in the center of the room, he doesn’t bother looking up his notes as he speaks up.

{...Ivan… Kovlove Daedal, is that right?}
{Yes, sir.} Not entirely correct, but no need to make it more complicated.
{Aide of Lady Nevada Zappa Daedal?} Zappa? You manage to suppress a snicker. That’s new to you.
{Y-yes, sir.}
{Do you know why you’ve been brought here?}
{Yes, sir.}

For the first time, the detective lets go of the papers he’s holding to look at the ceiling and let out a sigh reminiscent of Dr. Nevada’s moments of frustration.

{Listen, don’t be so stiff. This is a hearing, not a trial. Plus, I’m not a noble either, just a bureaucrat. I just want to ask you a few questions about what happened, and I don’t feel like I can do my job if you’re all tensed up like you’re in an audience with Her Supremacy herself. Understood?}
{Yes, s- Understood.}
{Ah, my name is Alistair Obréan, by the way. I’m a detective in service to the House of Inner Relations.}

He reaches out a hand. It seems Dr. Nevada did her homework predicting the choice and behavior of your interviewer. From what you remember, Obréan is supposedly favored in human-only investigations due to his down-to-earth nature and relaxed stance on etiquette. Traits that Nevada dismissed as a farce to lower the suspects’ guard, but seeing him in person, you wonder if she was being cynical again. You reciprocate his gesture with a handshake.

{Sorry, I am nervous. I am not good with Sidhe, also.}
{Oh, right, Lady Nevada mentioned you’re not from around here. What do you understand?}
“Ah, English. Everyone just spoke English back home, even the Baroness herself.”
“Huh, English it is, then. I grew up speaking English pre-Harvest myself.”

You let out a slight sigh of relief. Not just because you don’t have to continue struggling to remember complicated phrases in Sidhe, but also because the doctor’s suggestion to take advantage of Obréan’s accommodating style of interrogation paid off.

“The stenographer isn’t going to be happy, but let that be my problem. Anyway, now that we’ve made ourselves more comfortable, can you tell me about what happened 4 days ago?”
“Where should I begin? The dive?”
“That would be a good start.”

You take a moment to get Dr. Nevada’s narrative straight - any inconsistencies could be catastrophic.


“Under D- Lady Nevada’s orders, I entered the subterranean Minsk ruins for a dive, where I spent a few hours chasing down a signal - well, a location of a signal, to be exact. I confirmed the status of the target, and then returned to the surface.”
“This target being…”
“...I don’t know exactly what it was supposed to be, and I don’t think Lady Nevada knew either. She just told me there was something unusual down there that needed to be investigated. At least, it used to be.”
“And why’s that?”
“Since the signal disappeared, according to Lady Nevada. She said she only sent me in the first place since it went missing after a long time in the first place.”
“And was it actually missing? The thing giving off that signal?”
“Yes. At least, I was unable to find something. I had a sensor tuned to the same orgonomic energy signature as the one Lady Nevada was after, but it only responded faintly at the marked location.”

The detective looked lost in thought, but it’s hard to tell whether he is buying your story. To be fair, if a signal this significant suddenly vanished after years of no activity whatsoever, you’d be skeptical too.
“Ivan, do you know the significance of the site you invaded?”
“Well, I know that ownership has been contested by House Daedal and House Titan for a while now.”
“Titania, House Titania. If you knew that, why did you go anyway? Isn’t that Diver 101 sense?”
“Well, I lived in a tributary town, so I don’t really have an official diver education. But Dr. Nevada assured me that I would have special immunity from being tried for trespassing.”

The chair across from you softly whines in protest as the large body of Obréan perks up at that last section.

“Special immunity? Why would you have special immunity from something like that?”

You review your mental notes as you make an unpleasant realization. Why are you drawing a blank on this? You remember the actual reason - the unique situation of your missing residence - but you struggle recalling how Dr. Nevada wanted you to respond here. Did she even say anything about this? Was it so self-evident to her that she didn’t even bother bringing it up, or did she forget about it? Or is it you forgetting about it? Technically, the truth shouldn’t incriminate you, but it is related to a top-secret experiment by Daedal, one you signed a non-disclosure agreement for.
It’s unlikely the investigators didn’t ask Dr. Nevada about this as well, so what if the two of you make contradicting statements? Obréan following up his question reminds you that you can’t afford to sit around and take your time thinking of a good answer.

“I mean, immunities aren’t exactly unheard of here, but granting them to some rookie kid who just recently joined a retinue? Ah, no offense.”

[4/5] (Nice counting, idiot)

>What do you tell the detective?

> Dr. Nevada wouldn’t tell you why exactly
> You are not allowed to tell him due to an NDA
> Give him the truth about Springfield
> Ask Enkidu for help (Requires roll for advice and discreteness)
> (Write-In)
I'm curious - out of the people reading the quest, how many of you went back and read the previous threads?
Did one of you follow the quest a year ago?
>>Dr. Nevada wouldn’t tell you why exactly
> Dr. Nevada wouldn’t tell you why exactly


> Dr. Nevada wouldn’t tell you why exactly

“...Honestly, I don’t really know myself. She seemed pretty certain about it at the time - I wasn’t lied to, was I?”

The only reaction Detective Obréan lets off is a raised eyebrow, but he won’t let on any more than that.

“We’ll have to look into that… I’m a detective, not a lawyer. That whole legalese potpourri isn’t my forté. But she did insist you had some kind of immunity, did I get that right?”
“Uh, yes. I probably wouldn’t have done it if I got arrested for it.”
“...Before you got employed by Lady Nevada… Did you get out much, Ivan? Ah, mind if I call you Ivan?”
“No, it’s fine… But no, I barely left my old town. Why do you ask?”

You’re a little confused by his sudden shift in questioning, but he just idly picks at the bark peeking out of his V-neck while pressing his lips into a fine line.

“Hm, that’s a little odd. Help me walk through this, okay?”
“…What’s odd?”
“From what I understand, the Minsk ruins are kept on the down-low. Most people don’t know about them, to keep would-be opportunists away, right? Makes sense to keep a low profile to keep security costs low, no?”
“Uhm, I guess so. It wasn’t secured very well… which, I realize, sounds patronizing coming from the guy who trespassed.”
“Hah, I get it, I get it. What I don’t quite get, however, is Lady Nevada’s behavior.”
“What… What do you mean?”
“So Lady Nevada wants you to go on a dive in a ruin. Tells you about Minsk, and the big drama around it. But you’re a good kid, so you tell her no - which is when she promises you legal immunity. Did I get that right?”
“Uh, more or less, yes.”
“But that just seems weird to me. If she wants you to go down there so bad, why even tell her it’s illegal in the first place? Wouldn’t it be easier for her to just tell you it’s okay to go down there?”
“Look, I’m not saying either of you is lying here. It just seems weird to me, is all.”

Supporting his words is his face, which expresses curiosity more than distrust. Technically there is stuff you aren’t telling him, but you can’t help but feel he’s barking up the wrong tree.

“...Well, my guess is that it’s because of the security? If it wasn’t for the guards, I probably would have had questions by the time I was sneaking into hidden passages and avoiding cameras.”

His eyes remain open, as if he’s slowly processing your comment. Only after you’ve started to become uncomfortable does he break out into a roaring laughter.

“Hahah-HAH! Boy, do I have egg on my face now. I really thought I was onto something here, but I guess I watched one too many crime dramas, huh?”
“Uh, heh, yeah.”


Unsure how to act, you reciprocate his guffaw with a chuckle. Seemingly humbled by his failed gotcha, he changes the topic and demands some answers about how you managed to make it into the ruins, which you have no problem providing.

“You said you were down there for hours. Does this always take that long? Or did something happen?”
“Most of the dive was just traveling to the target location. The entrance to the ruins was pretty far off. On top of that, there were… obstacles, but that’s pretty normal when exploring decrepit cities.”
“Some monsters - not intelligent ones, just ferals - and difficult terrain.”
“According to our files, you’re pactless. Are you proficient in any form of orgonomancy?”
“Nnot really, no. No one in my town really had much use for it, except the farmers boosting the crops.”

He looks impressed and lets out a whistle.

“No support, no visibility, no orgonomancy and you still got back in one piece? That’s pretty impressive. You could have made one hell of a soldier - maybe even a strike member.”
“I’ve… been told that, yes. But I didn’t exactly come unarmed - I was wearing strike team grade armor and carried a shotgun.”
“Still, not a scratch on you. Does House Daedal have an archangel for a doctor, or did nothing even touch you?”

Far from it, but telling him you walked off a busted spine within hours is hardly something he’d expect a pactless human to do.

“I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some cuts and bruises, but nothing crazy. I tried to avoid confrontation as much as possible - it’s the only way someone like me could survive stuff like this, heh.”
“And what injuries you got you could treat with first-aid, right? No hospitalization needed?”
“Right! Dame Gwynn was kind enough to treat my wounds.”
“Oh yeah, good that you brought her up. You said you had strike team gear on you. Was it hers?”
“Oh no, she packed light and didn’t really want to share. Her uniform definitely wouldn’t fit, either. Everything I carried was borrowed from an outpost near the ruin.”
“Oh, yeah, one of my guy- one of my personnel told me you returned a bunch of military gear while I was on my way here. That wouldn’t happen to be the very same you wore for the dive, now would it?”
“The very same, actually. You can look at it, if you want.”
“Oh, well, that’s very nice of you! Not that we need your permission to look at borrowed gear, of course.”

You’re surprised at how easy the interrogation has been so far - then again, the bar for high-ranking conversation partners has been set very low. Your initial signs of anxiousness such as a defensive posture and fidgeting hands have all but disappeared, and you have a good feeling you’ll walk out of this room unscathed.

> Roll BO3d10 for [i]???[/i]
Rolled 4, 6, 8 = 18 (3d10)

Rolled 7, 10, 4 = 21 (3d10)

Rolled 2, 4, 4 = 10 (3d10)



“Uh, by the way…”
“I said I’m a diver, but obviously I’m not part of the guild. I didn’t even know that was a thing, honestly. I only recently learned that you can’t go on dives without a license… Am I going to get charged for this? Like I said, I didn’t know.”

Dr. Nevada never instructed you on bringing this up, but it seems like a good thing to bring up. If you don’t want to seem suspicious, it’s best to let them know you didn’t mean to break the law, right? You anxiously await Detective Obréan’s reply until he gives you a reassuring smile - much to your relief.

“Oh, that’s really nothing to worry about. Chances are you only picked the small stuff clean, and the guild has bigger fish to fry. My brother-in-law’s a member, so believe me when I say that you’d know if you accidentally stepped in on their turf - like with Minsk, heh.”

> Rolled 4

“I guess that makes sense… Best haul I ever got was some jewelry. If clean metal was easy to come by out in the boonies, I’d probably be repairing tractors and rooftops, like my dad.”
“I’m sure you did a fine job. Speaking of you dad, do you still have contact with your parents?”
“Uhm… No. My mother passed away when I was 9… And my father…” He turns remorseful.
“Oh. My condolences.”
“No, no. My father isn’t dead, it’s just that, well… I can’t really contact him right now. As with the rest of my hometown.”
“Hmm… Your hometown, that’s… Ah, here it is. Springfield? Funny name. I’m guessing that’s close to the Minsk ruins? With a name like that I’m guessing it’s a tributary settlement.” You nod, confirming both assessments.
“I guess it’s out there, but not impossible to keep correspondence. Ivan, did Lady Nevada issue some kind of gag order?”

> Rolled 6

His expression feels less like he’s trying to poke holes in your statements and more like he’s trying to offer advice - you almost feel bad lying to him.

“Not at all, she didn’t give me any orders like that.”
“Then what’s stopping you? You care about your father, and your friends, right?”

> Rolled 8

“...Detective Obréan? Are- Are you doing something right now?”
“...Something? Uh, if I had to guess, I’d say I was doing my job, aren’t I?”
“That’s not what I mean. You’re using orgonomancy - are you drugging me right now?”


After two rather unpleasant individuals, Dr. Nevada is describing the third potential lead investigator to you. Throughout her explanation, she is staring you in the eyes, as if waiting for a particular kind of reaction - and it looks like you just gave it to her.

“Knock it off, Ivan. I bet you think you could be buds with this Alistair clown, huh?”
“What? I mean, it seems like I’d have an easy time. Especially if I get to speak Engli-”
“Wrong! The HIR aren’t your friends. You think this guy got his job by being pleasant?”
“Dr. Nevada, I wouldn’t go that far. I can tell he’s pretending to get a confession.”
“It’d be a cakewalk if that was his only gimmick. Listen, it’s hard enough to get this much info about Inner Relation hotshots. Pretty sure this guy’s a Sylvan, tho’..”
“A wh-”
“Sylvan. Mandrake hybrid. Some clades use pollen, pheromones, spores and what have you to distribute an airborne, mind-altering payload. Psychotropics, hallucinogens, neurotoxins… if it fucks you up, there’s probably some sprout that can spit it. Including chemicals that make you more suggestible and less likely t’ act up.”
“Oh. And you’re saying that this Alistair can do that?”
“Can’t say for sure. But the only way I can see a mandrake get a gig like that is if he got somethin’ like that under his belt. …And if you report me to HR for sayin’ that, I’m gonna tie you t’ a maypole.”
“Well that’s just great. What’s the point of me rehearsing a big lie if they can just hypnotize me and make me fess up?”
“That’s the beauty, they can’t. At least, they shouldn’t. It’s illegal t’ use that sort of stuff without permission. Wouldn’t want the bigwigs t’ leak their secret handshakes.”
“So he isn’t allowed to do it after all?” Dr. Nevada returns with a scoff.
“He sure as hell’s gonna try.”

She warned you about this. She warned you about this, and you fell for it anyway. No clue when it began, but now that you’re aware, the sickly sweet smell in the air is enough to make you retch. What have you said so far? Anything dangerous? He follows up, but you don’t listen.

“Drugging you? With what? I didn’t even give you anything to eat or drink, Ivan.”

No… You shared more than you’re comfortable with, but nothing you said should implicate either you or your co-conspirator. Question is, what do you do, now that you know about it?

> How do you react?

> Pretend to comply and try to resist (difficult roll)
> Confront him about it (easy roll)
> Threaten him (medium roll, uses Orgonomancy)
> (Write In)
> Confront him about it (easy roll)

Threatening a cop sounds a bit too risky, while pretending to comply when the air is against us sounds even worse.
>> Confront him about it (easy roll)
Please roll a BO3d10.
Rolled 8, 3, 10 = 21 (3d10)

You betcha!
Rolled 1, 6, 4 = 11 (3d10)

Rolled 10, 10, 6 = 26 (3d10)



> Confront him about it (easy roll)

Your anger towards this man helps you clear the fog in your mind.

“Don’t lie to me. The whole place smells like someone left honey out in the sun. What are you using, pollen?”
“...Who suggested I’d be able to do something like that? Was it Dr. Nevada?”
“Just because I grew up outside a megalith doesn’t mean I’ve never seen a mandrake.”
“...If you say so. But I don’t appreciate you accusing me like that, Ivan. I’m just trying to get to the bottom of this case.”
“I know my rights. Using mind-altering substances and orgonomancy to get a confession is illegal. I won’t speak until I know your mist or whatever is gone.” His gaze jumps between his notes and you, feigning ignorance.
“You probably didn’t even know the House of Internal Relations existed a week ago. Should I also believe some mandrake told you about this law?”

There is a tug in your brain compelling you to answer, but you resist. An omnipresent, low hum that can only belong to Enkidu helps you stay alert. You agreed to avoid any telepathy in case you get caught, but you can tell his urge to punch this man into the ceiling trumps the need for subtlety. And while you can sympathize after this breach of trust, you also don’t want to assault an official while stuck on their own turf. So you settle with the next best thing: silence, in spite of the sweet scent in the air prompting you to relax and trust detective Obréan. In response, the Sylvan leans back, waits a little, and finally speaks up.

> Rolled 8, 3, 10 (BO3d10): 10

“Fine. I didn’t do those things you’re accusing me of, but if you insist, we’ll air out the room a little, and then continue. Sounds good to you?”
“I don’t want to get interrogated in a tiny, closed off room if there’s stuff in the air. You can continue questioning me if we go somewhere else.” He sighs and rubs the back of his neck - for all you know, he’s poisoning the air even more with that gesture.
“Obviously I can’t just do that - security reasons, and all… Tell you what, I’ll leave the door half open. But don’t get mad at me if you see the odd guardsman - or guardswoman - peeking in!”
“...Fine. But if I smell any more of that stuff, I’ll report you!”

That’s what everyone seems to be worried about, right? Thankfully, this last push finally got the detective to relent and move to a corner of the room. A knock on the door, and the same entrance you came from opens up. The fresh air streaming in from the hallway does wonders for your concentration. While he is still denying his dirty trick, you can feel the drowsiness wash away as the saccharine odor fades and is replaced with a crisp scent reminiscent of the park back at Daedal’s campus. Drowsiness isn’t the only thing that vanishes either, as it gets easier and easier to think of reasons why you want this man shot out of a cannon.


After a break of about five minutes, Obréan resumes his questioning. While the sweet stench might have cleared now, you took the opportunity to ask Enkidu to give you a heads-up every minute while your interrogator was busy fiddling with the door. In its current configuration, the branches are only partially extended, leaving plenty of gaps between them. The gaps are too small to leave, but large enough to not hinder airflow. And if that’s still not enough, Enk’s reminders should help you spot any changes in the atmosphere before it’s too late again.

While you’re back to being as tense as you were at the beginning of the interrogation, the detective has pivoted back to questions about the missing artifact - a topic that you’ve covered with Dr. Nevada extensively, thankfully. When asked about taking anything from the ruins, you admit to bagging some gold wafers, but nothing more - you’ll have to forfeit those to the guild later. All in all, Obréan still acts amicable towards you, though he eased off on trying to come across as a friend you’d confide in. He could switch to shouting for all you care, but at least he doesn’t seem to probe as hard now that the air was clean again.

“Those trace readings you got from the sensors… Were they concentrated? Or were they spread out over a large area?”
“Definitely concentrated. There was a spot that got a stronger response than the rest.”
“And where was that, exactly?”
“Within that big concrete city I mentioned. It was at ground level, near a collapsed building.”
“You said this concrete city looked out of place. When you were down there, did you see anything that could tell us who built it, and why?”

“86 seconds have elapsed since last air pollution estimate.”

You delay your answer to sniff the air - still no sweet aroma, good.

“...The only things I can think of were some signs. Any signs with English text also had some other writing I’ve never seen before.”
“Can you recreate the writing?”
“I don’t think so. I didn’t look at them too much.”
“Did either Lady Nevada or Commander Gwynn recognize the structures?”
“At this point, they couldn’t see my surroundings. I described it to them, but neither of them could associate it with a faction.”
“...Odd little thing we had sitting in our backyard for so long. One more thing, Ivan: We barely touched on Commander Gwynn’s involvement in all of this. You said she was the one to rent out all the equipment and outfit. She also assisted in your illegal dive, and didn’t mention any of this when she handed in her report. Is that right?”
“...Yes, that’s right.”
“You were with her for most of the time. Did you get the impression that Lady Nevada coerced her to contribute to her criminal actions? Threaten her with demotion, or even violence?”


There it is, the last lie of the day. Dame Gwynn was supposed to walk away from this incident with just a minor warning - that’s why she agreed to help in the first place. But since the story has shifted from “escape attempt turns into accidental break-in” to “premeditated violation of a political deadlock behind the backs of everyone”, Gwynn’s status as a knowing accomplice was all but guaranteed.
And while she seemed to accept the consequences, your superior wouldn’t have it.

Which now leaves you with a decision to make. If you do as Dr. Nevada asked and claim she threatened Gwynn with false charges, the Changeling won’t be tried for abetting. However, the doctor will have blackmail added to her list of crimes, undoubtedly making her sentence harsher. How much harsher exactly is unclear to you, but if the worst does happen and she loses her position as a head researcher, the fate of your hometown will fall into the hands of someone else. Knowing Gwynns self-sacrificial nature, she definitely won’t appreciate Nevada’s one gesture of selflessness.

But is telling the truth really better? Dr Nevada might end up with a more manageable verdict, but Gwynn’s future as a strike commander is up in the air. You recall what you were told when preparing for the investigation.

“No offense, but Gwynn’s expendable”, Dr. Nevada said with a stone-cold expression in her tired eyes. “Daedal can’t just let their cover girl go behind bars; so they’ll scramble t’ cover all this up t’ save face. Gwynn, however… She’s a damn good strike member, but that’s not gonna save her from PR. If they can’t drag the main culprit tru’ the mud, they’ll jump onto the next best target.”
“And they’ll demote her?”
“Hah, demote? She’d be lucky if they’d let her do another strike mission again.”
“Still, are you sure this won’t make your verdict too severe? I don’t want to see her jailed or anything, but I think she knew the ris-”
Don’t think. Follow orders.”

No sentence is impossible to reduce, but whoever you blame will have a considerably tougher time on trial. Your stomach turns as you realize this choice is only yours to make.

> What to do now?

> Incriminate Dr. Nevada. Say Gwynn was acting under duress.
> Incriminate Dame Gwynn. Say your superior is trying to protect her.
>> Incriminate Dame Gwynn. Say your superior is trying to protect her.
I dont like the Doc all that much but she has the most power between the two to not get us fucked over.
> Incriminate Dame Gwynn. Say your superior is trying to protect her.


> Incriminate Dame Gwynn. Say your superior is trying to protect her.

You hesitate, needing a moment to gather the courage to go through with what you’re about to do. You’re going to go against your instructions and potentially end the career of one of the only people you can somewhat rely on. But if Dr Nevada were to lose her position in House Daedal, you’d lose your only connection to your old life - and you can’t have her overestimating her leverage over the judicial system.

“...Not at all. While she was reluctant and remorseful to assist us, Dame Gwynn did agree to help on his own.”

The right eyebrow of the detective shoots up.

“Are you sure, Ivan? She didn’t seem like she was being made to follow Lady Nevada’s wishes?”
“Lady Nevada begged her to help, but she didn’t do anything else.”
“And if she said no? What do you think would have happened then?”
“I don’t know! Honestly, I don’t know. But if Lady Nevada has told you she blackmailed Dame Gwynn, then she said it because she wanted to protect her.”
“So you think she is sabotaging herself to hide the culpability of a vassal? What a refreshingly selfless gesture. Oh, for nobility, of course - I’m used to seeing retainers and servants getting thrown under the bus.”

You can tell the interrogation is coming to a close as Obréan asks you previously answered questions more and more - either to confirm his notes, or to look for inconsistencies between retellings. Unfortunately for him, you don’t let anything slip, and your periodic tests didn’t register any more of that awful chemical that previously filled the room. You left the investigator with a narrative of a missing artifact, followed by a simple retreat with some minor damage to some of the structures. Dr Nevada returned empty-handed, and your extended visits in her personal laboratory were simply dedicated to testing and showing you the ropes. You can only hope you’ve convinced them. After being left to your own devices (with a sealed exit, of course), Obréan returns.

“Well, I think we’ve heard everything you could possibly say on the issue. I have no further questions.”
“Does that mean I can go now?”
“Hold your horses. You did admit to trespassing and diving in a restricted area. That’s usually enough for us to keep someone in jail until trial.”
“But I-”
“At least, that’s what happens normally. I guess you weren’t making stuff up when you were talking about your immunity, because apparently we aren’t allowed to hold you. Orders from the higher ups.”


You let out a sigh of relief. Lying or not, you aren’t interested in repeating this any time soon. But as you get out of your chair, the large Sylvan gestures to you to stay.

“Oh, one more thing. You can go home, but we need you to sign this contract.”
“A contract? Why? Is it one of those magic contracts?”
“The term you’re looking for is ‘spiritually binding’, and yes. Don’t worry, this is pretty bog-standard for any case awaiting trial. It just guarantees that you won’t leak the details of the case to anyone outside of it.”
“And if I do? What happens then?”
“We’ll know. What you said, and where you are.”
“What if I refuse? Are you going to put me in prison?”
“Prison? No, we wouldn’t do that. But we’d have to keep you in jail after all. Immunity or not, we have to ensure the legitimacy and confidentiality of the trial. Once that’s done, then you’d be free to go.”

He flings the contract in front of you, unceremoniously sliding across the table. A dossier containing just two pages, covered on both sides with the fine and delicate writing of Sidhe. A glance at the cover page gives you a title: GE12-107N04 - Non-Disclosure Agreement for Preventative Confidentiality: Tier 2 Key Witness.

“Sorry if you can’t read this, but these don’t come in English. Or any other language besides Sidhe, for that matter. But trust me when I say this is a regular and pretty reasonable contract, as far as spiritual ones go.”

> What will you do?
> Just sign it, you’d do it sooner or later
> Read it, this could be a trap
> Refuse to sign. You’d rather be in jail than be under yet another contract.
>> Read it, this could be a trap

Before we decide upon whether to sign it or not, read through it very carefully.
> Read it, this could be a trap
Always resd before signing! ALWAAAAAAYS


> Read it, this could be a trap

You start reading right away; The wording is as confusing as ever, but you intend to find out whether he is lying about the effects of the contract. Dr Nevada told you to be wary of contracts, and the last thing you need is to agree to hand over your soul - you’d never afford a replacement. You’ve just made it past the preamble when you hear Obréan speak up.

“You sure you can’t read Sidhe? Because that document is hardly material for a newcomer to the language.”
“I… I said I can’t speak Sidhe very well. I’ve rarely had the opportunity to speak it. Besides, I’m still having a hard time reading it.”
“Want me to help? I’m hardly an expert when it comes to these, but I do get the gist.”
“...Thank you for the offer, but no. I know you say this is standard procedure, but if I took your word for it, I wouldn’t need to read the contract.”
“Huh. Suit yourself, but keep in mind that you’re going to make me late for my report, Ivan.”

You’re a bit taken aback by how he can continue to be so brazenly cordial despite his attempt to drug you just earlier, but you find it best to ignore that for now. Progress grows slowly, but as you fight your way through the wordy web of caveats, one thing becomes more and more plausible: the detective seems to have told you the truth about the contract. A section with the odd title “trust reimbursement” outlines something about telepathic orgonomancy and alerting the nearest Internal Relations facility, but beyond that, you can’t find any references to restrictions or punishment he neglected to mention. Accepting the terms, you nod at the official. He promptly returns a slight smile and produces a large, but slightly scuffed pen for you to use. A signature later, you are finally let go.

Leaving the large complex dedicated to the HIR feels like the weight of the world is suddenly lifted from your shoulders - though some weight remains. If Dr Nevada was here and knew you foiled her plan to keep Gwynn out of this, she’d actually do good on one of her threats. But so what? Gwynn would have never accepted that verdict anyway.
You’re not so naive as to think there won’t be a follow up, but for now you want to bookend this ordeal by grabbing some food and winding down in the Daedal park. Which would be the first place you’d head to, if they didn’t drop you off at the front entrance of the Limur House of Internal Relations, somewhere inside a megastructure far away from Daedal. Great. Of course, you asked if they could bring you back, but you were - with a thin veneer of politeness - informed that they don’t run a taxi service. Also great.


The shadows cast by the proud birch trees are already beginning to stretch across the plaza by the time you finally make it out of the station. Your stay at the HIR already took a significant chunk of the day, but trying to make heads or tails of the many paths and stations felt even more exhausting than the actual interrogation. How is Dr. Nevada holding up? She hypothesized that she’d be stuck for considerably longer. With her being held up, and Gwynn… gone for a mission, you’re unsure where to go from here. You definitely haven’t seen the last of Inner Relations, but is it really okay to just sit around and get free food from the cafeteria until then? Is there some protocol that has you beholden t-

“Found you~!”

A singsong voice with a drag along your spine leaves you practically leaping in the air from shock. You could even feel Enkidu being this close to being summoned, so you take a moment to calm your nerves and look behind you.

“It’s you! Uh, Briana, was it? You just almost gave me a heart attack.”
“Áw, Sergey, I didn’t take you for such á scaredy cat~ But I’m so happy to hear your heart skips á beat when you see me~”
“Sorry, I just had a long day. I-”
“I bet you had~! You couldn’t wait á week before getting dragged áway by armed guards~? Very ámbitious, very punk~!”
“Trust me, I would have loved to avoid- Wait, you saw that?” The glee on her face and giggle on her lips are only partially obscured by her dainty hand.
“Hehee, if ónly~! But I ónly heard ít from second hand… Well, technically third hand, but who’s counting~?”

You look around to scan the crowds around you, to see if someone recognizes you. Fortunately, the only person with their eyes trained on you seems to be the short moss woman. In her own leisurely pace, she passes you and invites you to follow.

“Oh great, does everyone on campus know?”
“Ónly the one’s crazy for gossip~ Which happens to be me, as well as a good number óf the óther servant gals- Óhh, poor human, don’t look so worried~! I’m pretty sure I’m the ónly óne who figured óut the ídentity óf the mysterious criminal! You are very new here, áfter áll!”
“...You heard it from a third hand account and still managed to figure out I was the one being arrested?” She puffs out her chest in pride and gives you her best smug look.
“Your face ísn’t exactly memorable… But your clothes must have made an impression on some~ When I had them described to me, I immediately recognized my handiwork~! But don’t worry, your secret is safe with me~”
“That’s… good to hear. Thanks, Briana. The last thing I need is half the house staring me down wherever I go.”
{So happy to be of service to you, good sir~!}, she follows up with a perfectly rehearsed curtsy. “But as payback, Í want something in return~! Can you guess what it is~?”


“Uh… More shopping?”
“Hmm… Good idea, but wrong~! I want details, of course~! You can’t just get whisked away by two hardcore looking guards and not tell me everything about it, that would be too cruel~! I need gossip more than orgone, you know~”
“...Sorry, but I can’t tell you.”

Briana looks shocked - this is the first time you’ve seen her emote anything besides ‘aloof glee’. What’s the best way to word this? It’s not like you want to share everything about the case with the first person you meet - especially if that person turns out to be a gossip fiend like her - but you definitely don’t want to trip the contract by accident. The mandrake’s wide eyes recover as she puffs up her cheeks and pouts.

“Now you’re really being mean~! You can’t just say something like that and not tell me~! Haven’t I been nothing but a great friend to you~?”
“Reminder: Enkidu deployment still possible.”
“I… can’t tell you because I’m not allowed to. Really.”
“I promise not to tell anyone, Sergey, really~! It’ll be our little secret~.” She gives you her biggest puppy dog eyes as she moves closer. As much as you’d like to enjoy the attention, right now the risk is looming too heavily over your head.
“Briana, please… This really isn’t an option for me.”

The mosswoman narrows her eyebrows and stares you down, the normally intimidating gesture somewhat defanged by her exaggerated pout and petite build. But in an instant, her eyes light up, the tension in her face vanishes and she lets out a sharp gasp.

“Ooooh! I see what’s going on here, hihi~ Sergey, you should have said so from the beginning. I know exactly what you mean~”
“Y-you do?”
“Of course, of course~! Oh me, oh my, you really know how to make an entrance~! I guess you are getting the express tour to the Arcadian high life, huh~?”
“Uhm… Please keep this a secret. I don’t want to spend the next weeks dodging questions.”
“Weeks of investigation~!? Sergey, what sort of conspiracy have you gotten yourself into~?” She looks positively giddy, hopping from leg to leg in place.
“No! I mean, I don’t know how long until this is over - I’m just expecting the worst here~”
“Awww, you must be so down in the dumps~! Don’t worry, I’ll seal my gossiping instincts just this once!”

She moves slightly ahead of you - her run barely has her leaving her feet off the ground - and firmly plants her heels into the gravel of the road. With an athletic twirl and a dramatic flourish, she summons forth a light but sudden gust of wind. The gale is weak and confined to her immediate surroundings, but is enough to whip her hair and the frills on her uniform back and forth. With a sweet little “Hah!”, the wind suddenly stops, and she relaxes back into her usual stance.


“There, sealed~!”
“Uhh… Seriously? Did you actually… what, seal away a part of your personality?”
“Heheh~ That’s right~! I learned this technique to lock away the most dangerous part of myself - a bloodthirsty monster that wishes to devour all humans I see~! This is the only way I can live with humans in peace, but if my evil self were to break out… I couldn’t hold myself back~!”

You’re left speechless, unsure where to begin. After holding a devious grin for a few seconds, she makes that decision for you by breaking into a laugh.

”Reminder: Predator Bolt technique accessible in base human form. Ideal compromise between subtlety and lethality.”
“Ahahah! So sorry, Sergey, but this was waaay too good to pass up~ Evil self? You really believed that~!”
“I did not believe- But the wind thing~!”
“Just some harmless special effects, you know~? Oooh, I wish I could meet more sheltered humans like you, this is a riot~!”
“...If you’ve had your fill egging me on, I’ll be going now.”
“Come on, don’t gooo~! Don’t you still owe me something~?”
“What, gossip? I told you, we’re not talking about that.”
“Gossip~? No, not at all~! Don’t you remember~? Or did you give it to someone else~? Oh, unless you want to have it~” What is she talk- Oh.
“The bracelet, you mean?”
“Bingo~! I said I’d be getting it back, didn’t I~? Since you’re not carrying it, I’m assuming it’s still wherever you’ve been staying these days~ Did you get your own apartment yet~?” You nod.
“Perfect~! You can show me your new place, then~! I can’t wait to see how a country boy like you lives~ Oooh, can I do your interior decorating too~? I’ll have it match your wardrobe~!”

> What do you tell her?

> You really want to come to my place? Sure!
> Fine, but after you get the bracelet, you need to go.
> Sorry, but no. I’ve had a long day, and I want some quiet time.
> (Write-In)
> Fine, but after you get the bracelet, you need to go.

Not sure if it's in-character for Sergey, but option 1 sounds a bit too simpy for my taste, while option 3 sounds a tad bit too cold. That said, Sergey's probably going to contend with a few hours of "small" talk with Briana after he returned the bracelet, but we vassals/servants/labrats gotta stick together, no?
> Fine, but after you get the bracelet, you need to go.
> I forgot the accents


> Fine, but after you get the bracelet, you need to go.

“...Fine, you can come. But just to look! I’m not planning on having my whole room turned upside down.”
“You’re no fun… Maybe Í’ll just sneak ín some picture frames while you’re óut of house~”
“What, you’re gonna break into my room now?”
“As íf~! Did you forget Í’m á maid~? We do clean your rooms ás well, you know~”
“Seriously? I thought that was magic…” Briana whips her head away from you and fails to hide a snicker.
“Áah, Sergey, you’re too much~ Óf course the cleaning ís handled by áll the staff~ You’ve been here for álmost four days, ánd you still haven’t seen any óf ús do ány cleaning~? Éither you’re more óf á shut-ín than Í thought, ór House Daedal has been slacking ín directing their servants~!” Rich, coming from her.
“No, I’ve seen them. I just thought most of it was done through magic, or constructs.”
“Hmm~ No, that would be á big waste~”
“What do you mean? There’s self-powered machines and structures everywhere! I always pictured people from the court using orgonomics and electricity to automate everything.”
“The Season Princes themselves, maybe~ But for éveryone élse, we don’t have that kind óf wealth… It’s cheaper to just hire serfs ínstead~”

“Cheaper? How can it be cheaper? I thought the point of automation was to make working easier and more efficient.”
“Well… This ís how they teach it ín school~ Á human makes órgone, ánd works to get food, right~? Ánd á construct doesn’t need food - but they do need órgone~! So for évery construct you deploy, you need more humans to keep them running, but úh-óh~!”
“Úh-óh, now áll those humans don’t have á job ánymore~! And without á job, they’re going to starve~! Ánd once they starve, we monsters starve too~!”
“Can’t they just… you know, get other jobs?”
“What jobs~? The Principality can ónly provide so much~! We can’t just have óne group of people sit áround while the óther has to grind áway~”

You step into the complex your apartment is located in, which greatly seems to interest your conversation partner. Tip-toeing up the stairs, she trails off from her explanation to make some comment about shift rotation.

[i]”Unclear if target Briana has been brainwashed by Arcadian propaganda or is malicious. Central planning and communism vastly inferior to individualism and free market.”
“No idea what you’re talking about, but sure.”[/i] You break Briana out of her spell.
“I don’t know, it seems wrong to hold back new stuff to keep people working. Maybe those humans can come up with new ways to work for food. I know my old town was always over the moon when we got some new machine or tool, and there was always more to be done.”

She gives you a smile that’s new for her, but hard to place. Amusement? Frustration? Pity?

“That sounds sooo sweet, Sergey~! …But, ánd Í don’t want to sound mean, don’t you think it’s á little naive~? Í mean, á megalith ís hardly á teensy speck óf people like your town, right~? Things go á little bit different when you go big… It’s áasy to keep you fed, but not so éasy to keep track óf everything~”
“Keep track? Like spying?”
“No, silly~ Make sure éverything runs smoothly~! Éveryone’s working hard to make the Principality work, and we áll deserve to live á chill life because óf Her~!”
“Uhm… I guess, but what does this have to do with…”
“There’s á lot that can go wrong with a big city like Lemur - ánd Í’m not just talking ábout scary dragons ánd vicious ángels~ Í’m á complete ditz when ít comes to history, éspecially the one without monsters~ But there’s óne really neato thing Í learned~! Wanna hear ít~?”
“I’ll bite, what is it?”
“No matter when ánd where, all óf your great civilizations that died, collapsed from within~! Pretty cool, right~?”
“Uh… We’re here.”

Unsure where to go with this conversation from here, you’re grateful for the miraculous timing of the door to your apartment. Briana doesn’t seem to mind the breakneck change of topics, as she gleefully watches you open the door.

“Finally, the lair óf the criminal mastermind~ ÓMG, you live like this~? It looks like it’s still vacant~!”
“Gimme a break, I just moved in. I didn’t exactly bring my old room with me.”
“Just kidding, just kidding~ You do have á nice view though - I bet the évening sun ín here ís delicious~”

Stepping on her toes and craning her neck, Briana starts inspecting random corners and surfaces in your room. At first you think she’s looking for her bracelet, until she starts testing the shelves for dust by wiping her finger across them. You wonder if she’s going to criticize your cleanliness, but she tells you not to worry.

“Not your handiwork, but óne óf the last maid~ So this is what passes ín the retainer quarters~? Óh boy, let’s hope she never has to work át the Órchid zones~”
“You think it’s dirty? I thought it was spotless when I first got here - I still do, actually.”
“Hmm~ Let’s just say óur clients áre áccustomed to more… passionate levels óf commitment~! I’m sure whoever made this tried their best, but you did get to experience óne óf óur rooms reserved for óur visitors, right~?”
“You’re… more competitive than I thought. Especially considering your habitual breaks.”
“Don’t be rude, Sergey~ Í did say Í’m á hard worker, didn’t Í~? If Í wasn’t, Í would have been ón laundry duty while you checked ín for the first time~”


Acting like a maid for the first time since you’ve met her, she makes your bed with a few elegant and purposeful moves within a worryingly short timeframe. You can only appreciate her work for just a moment before she turns around and lands with her back on the carefully straightened blanket.

“Ímpressed, hmm~? You get to get á looot óf practice ín this job, so something like that ís the bare minimum~! Should Í show you how to fold your clothes next~? Í bet Í’d be horrified if Í saw how you filled your wardrobe~”
“I- …Oh, I see. You’re stalling for time, aren’t you?”
“...You’re á weird óne~ Refusing the helping hand óf á lovely top-tier maid because you just can’t wait to throw her out~? Í don’t think Í could understand you éven if Í was human~”

Your accusation causes her to sit up straight and pout, but you let her fume. You open up a drawer and fish out her bracelet. As much as you enjoy Briana’s eccentric company, the interrogation did leave you pretty winded, and she’s extremely good at draining your capacity for social interactions. The mandrake beams as you hold up the accessory you kept for her - or rather, she made you carry for her.

“Óoh, ít’s éven cuter than Í remember~! How Í missed you~”

She extends her arm towards you and crosses her legs, her satisfied grin telling you to hurry up already. You reluctantly slide the bracelet over her slender hand, and she gives you a polite clap; the gold loop glittering in the soft light of the ceiling lamp. Humoring Briana’s playful whims feels somewhat embarrassing, but you’d be lying if you said you didn’t enjoy it a little. After appreciating her latest haul, she removes the bracelet and stows it behind her apron.

“The perfect crime~! If they éver catch me, I’m ratting you óut too~!”
[i]”Transaction completed. Remove target Briana from HQ.”[/i]
“You aren’t really making me want to help you again.”
“You’re going to kick me óut now, áren’t you~? Now that we’re éven, you don’t want me ánymore~?”
“That’s what we agreed on. Besides, aren’t you supposed to be working?”
“What makes you say that~? For áll you know, you could have caught me óutside my shifts, right~?”
“If that was the case, you wouldn’t be hiding your jewelry, right?”
“Áah~ Nothing gets past you, does it~? But just so you know, you’re not állowed to wear áccessories when wearing this úniform~ Ít’s a shame, Í know~! But since Í’m working áll the time, I barely get to áctually show óff my lovelies~!”
“Heh, are you working so much to cover for your interruptions?
“Ít’s always some zinger with you~ You’re lucky Í love á quick wit - maybe because Í’m so slow úpstairs, heheh~! Fine, Í’ll give you your well-earned rest, but únder óne condition~!”


Before you can ask about the condition, Briana snatches your phone from the nightstand and begins typing away.

“Hmm~? Áh, here we go~! You have to let me give you my number~! We can’t just keep relying ón fate to have óur paths cross~!”
“Oh? Uh, I guess you’re right about that, thanks.”
“...Ánd you really need to get some friends, Sergey~ While Í’m honored to be your first number ín your contacts, ít’s lonely áll by myself~ Don’t you have friends ánd family back home~? Why not ádd them~?”
“I haven’t tried adding anyone yet. As for the people back home… Well, we don’t really have phones there. Not like this, anyway. There’s a wired one in city hall, but it’s more like the Baroness’ phone. Plus, I don’t know the number anyway.”
“Áww, what á shame~! Í bet you miss them, right~?”
“Y-yeah, I do. There’s been a lot on my mind lately, but my thoughts eventually always go back to Springfield. I hope I can see them as soon as possible.”
“You can be so thoughtful~! Í don’t know why you have to be so mean to me~”
“I don’t exactly try to. Look, Briana. I know I might not have seemed like it at times, but I really appreciated this talk. After the last couple days, it’s nice to have a normal conversation with someone, monster or not.”
“Áww, ánd you were so close to giving me án áctual compliment~! Í could have you reported for that last comment, you know~”
“Oh, I didn’t mean-”
“Relax, Í únderstand~! You wouldn’t be the same íf you didn’t make goofs like this~!”


She stretches out her arms as far as her narrow shoulders allow and gives you a big, friendly hug. Her grip is surprisingly tight and her short frame puts her green hair right under your nose, so you can’t help but take in her scent. It reminds you of an orchard in the morning hours of autumn: a blend between muted dew, slightly damp tree bark and ripe fruit. Compared to the disgustingly sweet memory of the interrogation room, this aroma leaves nothing but relaxation and warmth behind. It takes you a moment to realize you’ve closed your eyes and leaned in ever so slightly closer - thankfully, it seems like Briana didn’t notice as she releases the pressure and takes a step back. With the same smile as the one she had when you met, she gives you another curtsy and says her goodbyes.

[i]|”Warning: Strain on human components greater than anticipated. Retrieve sustenance to recover.”[/i]
“You don’t have to tell me I’m hungry, Enk. I haven’t had anything to eat all day.”

You have to say, it feels pretty liberating to talk to your pactmate out loud, without having to worry about saying the wrong thing. Before you get ready to head to the cafeteria, you check your phone to look at your contacts. Sure enough, Briana is the only one here - you haven’t gotten around to registering Dr Nevada and Dame Gwynn, though their numbers can be accessed through previous calls. Looking at the list, you spot 5 missed calls since the day started. Unfortunately, your early excursion made you leave the phone back in your room, and the person trying desperately to reach you is… Dame Gwynn. Oh.

She must have gotten wind of what happened in her absence, and tried to get in contact with you.

> What now?

> Immediately try to call her back.
> Get something to eat and try to send her a message.
> Your calls are being monitored, better not to give them more material.
> (Write-In)
> Get something to eat and try to send her a message.

Don't go into the specifics, but I'm pretty sure texting her "what's wrong" does not violate the non-disclosure contract. If she gets mad at us, tell her she can get mad at us after Nevada's trial because we aren't allowed to disclose what happened during the questioning unless we want to spend the rest of this month locked up in a cell.
> Get something to eat and try to send her a message.


> Get something to eat and try to send her a message.
Seeing all those attempted calls concerns you a little, but your gnawing hunger has priority. It’s been almost two hours since the last call, surely Gwynn can wait a few minutes more? After changing to proper clothes, you rush to the cafeteria and grab whatever looks filling: steak, pasta, loaves of bread, if it’s full of calories, it’s coming with you. A single person grabbing heaps and heaps of food hasn’t been that uncommon of a sight, though most cases are presumably servants on food runs for their superiors. You, however, are prepared to finish everything before the day is over.

You step back into your room, now with a large bag filled with fragrant meals in each hand - from all the perks you’ve got to enjoy being a retainer to nobility, unlimited access to an enormous buffet is definitely your favorite so far. With your phone in one hand and a burger in the other, you navigate through the menus, trying to find out if you can’t send Gwynn a message. The old models could do it, so these should be able too, right? At least, that’s what you were hoping, as by the time you’ve finished your burger, you’re still no closer to contacting her.

[i]”Enough! Patience expired. Follow these directions, idiot!”[/i]

The sudden outburst from your pactmate causes your hands to snap shut, crushing the thankfully empty wrapper. A little dazed, you just listen to Enkidu as he instructs you through several screens until you end up with an icon of the messaging service on the primary screen.

“Wow, thanks, Enkidu! How did you know?”
[i]“Interfaces of commercial products follow extremely predictable patterns and guidelines. Furthermore: Operating system appears to share significant amount of elements with documented open source-solutions. This task is incredibly easy for a Tau model.”[/i]
“I’m impressed, but does that mean you knew when I first tried to figure out how that thing worked? Why didn’t you help me back then?”
[i]“You found it eventually. This time, you took too long.[/i]

You grumble and start tapping away to write a message to Gwynn - you left her waiting long enough. The text forms slowly - you used a keyboard a total of maybe three times, and the one displayed on the monitor is even smaller - and Enk isn’t very pleased with your typing speed. After two sentences, you decide to read the draft out loud.

>> Dear Dame Gwynn,
>> apologies for my delay. I wad occupied with other matters that needed my attendance. It has come too my attention that you have attempted to communicate with me on numerous occasion, but unfortunately you have found little success on your endeavor.

“What do you think? Sounds good so far?”


[i]”[b]Verdict: Horrible![/b]”[/i]
[i]”Analysis: The proposed text fails to meet every requirement of a text message! Misplaced structure! Typing errors! Unnatural language! Final score: 5th percentile of text messages!”[/i]
“Wh- Give me a break, this is my first time writing a message on this thing!”
[i]“Weak excuse detected. Rider suspected of being unable to write properly. A terrible waste of a pact.”[/i]
“I can write! I was going to fix these mistakes later!”
[i]“Furthermore: language used rated at 83.4% for pretentiousness. Alienation of recipient guaranteed.”[/i]
“Aren’t all letters supposed to be like that?”
[i]“Negative! Is this a baseline of your writing?”[/i]
“I’ve never written a letter before, who was I going to send it to? The only letters I’ve ever seen were official court stuff, and they all looked like this!”
[i]“Imperative: Delete this draft immediately. I shall dictate, you shall write.”[/i]

If that’s what he wants… This whole conversation took you by surprise, you haven’t seen Enk this passionate before. Was he a writer before he got trapped or something? After writing his first paragraph, you look at your progress as you wait for the next one.

>> Hello!
>> Is everything alright? I just got back home and saw your calls.

[i]“Message complete.”[/i]
“That’s it? That’s barely a sentence!”
[i]“Exemplary structure for communication through instant messaging. Nothing to add, nothing to remove.”[/i]
“...Fine, but let me at least add a ‘Dame Gwynn’. It feels weird not addressing her by her proper name.”

With a tap of a button, the message is sent - now to wait. In the meantime, you open a bowl of rice.

“I feel a little bad eating so much by myself. We always had to ration during harsher seasons, so gouging myself like this feels really selfish.”
[i]“The rider is expected to consume. That is one of his duties in the pact.”[/i]
“I guess Gwynn did eat a lot too, didn’t she? And Dr Nevada looks like an elf too, so her diet must be pretty rough.”
[i]“...Caloric intake still higher than estimated to meet orgone production needs. Weight gain likely.”[/i]
“So much for enjoying the food without guilt…”

Your train of thought gets cut off by a jingle and buzzing from your phone. Looks like Gwynn wrote back!

> Sergey! Finally!
> I tried to call you as soon as Lady Doctor Nevada told me about her report. Have you seen her?

You hesitate. Admitting to this isn’t talking about the case, right?

>> Not since the day before yesterday, just after you called.
> If you were gone, it must be because you got questioned. This is important: What did you tell them about my involvement?


Answering that would definitely go against the contract. Not only that, but is she really okay discussing this through the phone? Are messages safe from surveillance? You rack your brain how to answer. It’s probably best to say you can’t tell her, right? Like Briana, she’ll probably understand your situation. You are halfway done typing, as another message appears.

>> Oh! Sorry, you’re probably subject to GE12-107N02, right?
>> Don’t worry. We both are suspects, so we are allowed to talk about the case.
> Seriously? Why?
>> You’re already being watched. The HIR expects accomplices to slip up and divulge new information.
>> So please, Sergey, tell me. What did you tell them about my involvement in the break-in?

You contemplate if there’s a diplomatic answer for this, but then push that aside. Even if you lied, it’d be a matter of time until she found out the truth.

> I told them you agreed to help us.
> I denied Dr Nevada blackmailing you to get you to cooperate.
> And said you were remorseful, but weren’t forced.
> Dame Gwynn?

You’re a slow typer, so you grew more and more uneasy as you sent message after message over a few minutes without a single reaction from her. Is she busy? She’s still supposed to be on a mission, so maybe she’s doing something else. Or did you read her wrong, and maybe she’s furious you ratted her out after all?

> Hello?
>> I understand. Thank you, Sergey. I was worried Lady Doctor Nevada would endanger her own life to protect my career.
> I figured you would say something like that.
> I thought you would be angry if the court believed she made you do it.
>> Was it an easy decision to make?

That question came from left field. You are quickly coming to the realization that you don’t like text messages very much - without being able to pick up the nuances of their voice, let alone their face, you are at a loss at what is happening on her end.

> Yes. It was the truth, and I knew you were going to contest it.
>> I would have contested it, you’re right.
> Do you know when you are coming back?
>> We should wrap up the mission today - tomorrow for your time zone.
>> I doubt we’ll see each other soon, though.
> Is everything okay?
>> I’ll get held as soon as I get back, probably until the trial.
>> I doubt I’ll have a chance to stop by House Daedal, that is all.
>> And sorry, I was a bit distracted. We’re eating lunch right now.
> Ah, no problem! I’m eating right now as well.
>> That’s nice. Thank you for keeping me up to date, Sergey.
>> Bless Her Supremacy, and good night.
> Bless her Supremacy, Dame Gwynn.


Thinking of your encounter with the HIR, you feel bad for Gwynn - coming back from a mission to immediately get sent to jail must be terrible. Was she aware this was going to happen when she agreed to help? Thinking about everything that happened and everything that is to come, you can’t help but feel you got off easy. Is this okay?

[i]”Outcome falling within expectations of target Nevada. This is the desired result of all parties. Self-pity indicates weak and indecisive behavior - fatal for dragoon riders.”[/i]

> How do you feel about being the only one walking away scot-free?

> Arcadian red tape has prevented you from realizing your dream, and now it’s working in your favor for once. It’s only fair.
> Who cares? The Principality used you and your town, now you’re using them to get it back.
> Dr Nevada probably deserves worse, but you need her. Shame about Gwynn, though.
> Gwynn hasn’t done anything wrong, and Dr Nevada was right to break the rules. It’s not right.
> (Write-In)
Am I going insane or does the formatting randomly not work for no reason?

Also, was the text chat difficult to read, or was it fine? I didn't want to present it using apostrophes.
> Gwynn hasn’t done anything wrong, and Dr. Nevada was right to break the rules. It’s not right.

Dr. Nevada is already among the more likeable and caring nobles out there (if not exactly sane), while Dame Gwynn is an admirable person through an through - if anything, even if they're still part of the problem that is the Arcadian nobility they didn't contribute that much to it, especially when compared to the less savory nobles who treat their subjects and vassals like dirt.

That said, the entire world is a mess, and Arcadia is already probably leagues better than the other two superpowers when it comes to living standards and human rights (does Elysium even have a legal system? and I'm pretty sure Gaia don't even have modern healthcare) - if anything, Pandemonium sounds like a (comparatively) nice place to live in... but they are from an alternative timeline so moving there might be a bit hard.

... right, just what, exactly, is Elysium like? We know Arcadia is basically "magitech cyberpunk", Gaia is literally an iron age civilization with dragons and magic, and Pandemonium is pretty much their world's NATO with all of its upsides and downsides, but... what about Elysium? From the last thread we can infer Elysium have something called a "kinetic lance" which sounds like some sort of advanced magitech artillery but we have nothing solid on their government or living standards beyond "theocracy run by literal angels".
Ehhh... other than me almost mistaking the chat log for voting choices, it's concise and pretty clear on the "who sent what" department, so... it's good, I guess?
Plus, I'm much more interested in the story than the formatting, so keep up the good work!


> Gwynn hasn’t done anything wrong, and Dr Nevada was right to break the rules. It’s not right.

It does seem incredibly petty, doesn’t it? The court is busy building up a case against the both of them, and for what? Retrieving a relic that has been collecting dust for decades? You consider the enormous masts rising from the largest structures in Limur: the midsummer maypoles. A piece of technology that keeps millions safe, and Dr Nevada is responsible for it. And as absurd as it sounds, even the machine that spirited away your hometown is designed to help people. If her research is motivated by a desire to improve everyone’s life, she might very well be the first person you’d want to have the device that bound you and Enkidu together.

“Hey, Enk. Do you think there’s a lot more cases like this? Nobles sitting on tech that could potentially save millions, but gets stuck in endless bickering?”
“Probability approaching 100%. It shall be-”
“It shall be their downfall, I get it. Which is all the more reason I can’t help but feel bad for what Dr Nevada and Gwynn are going through. I was the one actually doing the trespassing, but I’m supposed to tell some lies, sit around and get released due to a loophole. Meanwhile, the two of them are going to get dragged through the mud for wanting to help the Principality.”
“Reminder: This was their desired outcome. A consequence of living under the festering banner of the fey.”
“Gwynn never agreed to losing her job! And stop saying they deserve it because they’re Arcadian! Don’t forget, you’re stuck with me, and that makes you just as much of an Arcadian as everyone else here.”


That seemed to have shut him up. You’re in no mood to listen to a metallic tirade about how pathetic the Principality is, so you make no attempt to revive the conversation. Instead, you turn to your second bowl of rice in silence as you watch the last slivers of the sun sink behind the tall facades dotting the campus grounds. What exactly are you going to do tomorrow, and the days after? With both people that provided you with some direction now kept behind bars, you’re left with an abundance of time to kill until the trial - or at least until you are summoned once more for questioning. There’s Briana, but you don’t want to just help her dodge her responsibilities. You actually want to do something useful, something that doesn’t just make you feel like a leech. A life in a small town has given you an aversion for lazing about while seeing the everyone else toil away.

You make an attempt reviewing your Sidhean vocabulary, but you have a hard time concentrating on the book in front of you, so you decide to call it quits for today. And even though you ended your day with the same punctuality a lifetime on farmland has given you, it takes what feels like hours until you doze off. Hopefully tomorrow will give you something to keep your mind off of things - you’d gladly welcome any opportunity to make yourself useful and clear your head.

> End of Chapter 4
And that wraps things up for this thread!
It felt a bit odd closing things with such a small and uneventful update, but the timing was too good to pass up. I already almost dozed off twice writing this, and it gives me a good moment to prepare. Expect the next thread to go up this weekend.
Before I archive this thread, I want to write out a few of my thoughts about this thread in particular. They're to follow over the next day or two.

Thank you very much for reading my quest. It was a lot of fun reviving this project from a year ago, and hopefully you felt the same.
Yeah, always good to see a promising thread with good story and worldbuilding prosper... and just seeing this quest being successfully revived is nothing short of a miracle for a threadlurker like me.

...and how do we archive this thread again?
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> It's post mortin' time!

This thread has been very insightful to me, perhaps more so than the others so far. I almost killed it right out of the gate by demanding an unreasonable level of dedication to people who likely haven't seen the quest before, but thankfully people were willing to give it a go once I adjusted.
I remember the first threads coming to me fairly naturally - there's some railroading around important beats, but every update felt like a straightforward continuation of the last one. Just about everything the PC experiences from the beginning of the quest is narrated and acted out - the first 3 threads all take place in a span of 40 hours. In contrast, this single thread covered 3 days. And while I don't think those early parts were dragging at all, I quickly realized this style of storytelling wouldn't cut it for the next chapter. So I experimented with time skips, flashbacks and implied dialogue to improve the pacing - sometimes it felt off, but I think it was better than the alternative.

This time I was far more careful about structuring the story as well. There's an inherent mismatch in the current environment and the abilities of Sergey, let alone his pactmate's entire existence. The two aren't made to be infiltrators, so I want to get the story in a place where we can't express a major part of not only the identity of our PC, but the world as a whole. His role as a servant also greatly limits his agency - I've spent a lot of time thinking about a good excuse why a hillbilly errand boy would be allowed to decide who to team up with and which mission they should go on.
I think it would give both me and the readers the most freedom if Sergey is in a position where he can freely use Enkidu to help others, but I have to create a believable path to explain why he would be allowed to, given the rules of the land I've presented. I've made my bed, now I have to lie in it.

On this topic, it's almost silly how many roadblocks I've given myself that are keeping me from telling a straightforward story, all in the name of worldbuilding. It made sense to me that Arcadian officials only accept Sidhe, and Sergey can't speak it. It made sense that an Arcadian serf has zero social mobility and would be stuck for the rest of their life. It makes sense that a device that translated every language you saw or heard wouldn't help you actually speak it. There's all these elements that I felt added to the illusion of Arcadia, but ultimately made every other encounter a nightmare that required preparation to become plausible. I've been working on removing most of them (the PC learning Sidhe being the most obvious example), but even then it feels a bit heavy-handed.
I'm still having a hard time judging what parts work and what don't. I was constantly wondering whether certain sections were too long or others were glossed over, and I still don't know how long to make the trial arc. I'm also quite uncertain about skill tests and the degree of participation. I think the Minsk dive had a fairly good blend between randomness, story and participation, but I'm unsure how to translate that into the current scenes. I'm not a big fan of deception and persuasion checks, but the final version of the interrogation with detective Obréan feels pretty scripted, like the pitfalls and resolutions were all out of the reader's hands.

This is somewhat out of the blue, but when I started this quest, I imagined one engaging factor could be playing matchmaker for pacts, in which we bring a human and monster together, solve their problems, possibly invite the fresh pactmaker to our party and keep going. At this point, given the situation we're in, it's probably too late to introduce it as a main aspect of the quest - maybe something to consider for a sequel. That being said, there's no reason we couldn't do something like this at least once.

I also recently downloaded Kevin Crawford's new Cities Without Numbers, which has some interesting mechanics and tables perfect for expanding and keeping track of Arcadia's inner workings. In term of mechanics, I have been winging just about everything since this hiatus, but I think it could help me develop a more lively world by incorporating TTRPG elements like Crawford's faction and scheme system.

Were you a reader before the hiatus? Thanks for the praise.

>...and how do we archive this thread again?
I was going to archive it on sup/tg/, as per usual. Unless you are talking about something else?
(sorry for the ID change, am currently stuyding in college and on public network)

For me, this quest would be far less interesting if it's just about a random guy piloting an ersatz liberty prime / riding a dragon / fusing with cthulhu and blasting monsters around. All stories, when you dig to the very bottom, are about the very world the stories are based in - so I'd say thread 3 and 4 actually added flesh to the story and made it more relatable, and shall I say, "lifelike": Dr. Nevada is no longer "just" a loopy elf wearing a lab coat: she's actually good at her job and cares about her subjects in her own ways; Dame Gwynn is also no longer just a random cop with a magic twin anymore - she's loyal to a fault and would rather stay in jail than to see her friend/superior getting into trouble trying to protect her; Acadia isn't just "cyberpunk fairyland", it's "cyberpunk feudal magocracy struggling to protect itself from invasion"; and Pandemonium is no longer just "a highly nationalistic faction from an alternate timeline", it's now "the NATO of an alternative timeline with similar government structures, advanced magitech, and cold war propaganda" - so if anything, I consider these two threads to be important additions to the story rather than a distraction. A straightforward story would be meaningless if we don't even know who our characters are and what their world looks like, so don't beat up over yourself over the fact you were doing worldbuilding instead of telling a straightforward story - you made an original setting that nobody else even dared to try, so be proud of yourself - because you made it work, perhaps exactly because you spent two entire threads going through the bits and pieces that fleshed out your setting instead of just "Sergey has a big unfriendly mech and blasts people and monsters for fun".

That said, if you want, we can always timeskip to the end of the trial in which both Dr. Nevada and Gwynn would probably get away with a "slap on the wrist" sort of deal, with you telling us we practiced our Sidhe language and networked with other fellow servants/vassals/labrats in the mean time. Then Nevada gets our pact with Tau-Enk officially registered and recognized (presumably by claiming she found something in her research and we're the perfect labrat to see what that particular artifact is), and we have a good reason to go back to the combat-heavy stuff - because from this thread, we can tell the inter-house stuff is all but concluded. Then it's just a choice on whether we ant to apply for strike team training or try to see if there are ruins we're legally allowed to dive... or if we can become some sort of freelance mechwarrior who spends his time exploring the world and diving ruins currently unclaimed by the Arcadian nobility - hell, if we can somehow get a chance to travel across the Atlantic, we might even see what became of the Americas with our own eyes (and Tau-Enk's, ofc)... and see if there's something resembling the the Goliath Union or the SSA over there... and whether he would get a mech's version of a heart attack if his homeland actually never existed in our timeline.

... yes, was a follower, and even bookmarked the MPQ archives. I like worldbuilding, and enjoy seeing fleshed-out original settings.

... Also, already archived it after asking that question last night. First time archiving a thread, and I think I did okay.
Damn, thank you so much for your words of encouragement. It's great to know there was at least one person I left an impression on and managed to do a favor for by bringing the quest back. I'm definitely having tons of fun coming up with new elements to add to the world, but I do want to restrain myself and reveal it gradually, rather than dumping everything like an SCP report.

I do have some plans how I want to move ahead, and I'm not planning on brushing past the current arc. What our gang did wasn't something you just let slide, and I want to make this apparent.

As for archiving, thanks for the help. I was about to archive it myself when I saw MPQ #4 as the most recent thread. The only thing I would have done different is noting that people can find a link to part 3 in the OP, but that's fine.

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