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File: 2.0 20.jpg (242 KB, 445x677)
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You are Charlotte Fawkins, noted heiress, detective, adventuress, and heroine, cruelly trapped underwater (in the sticks!) after the completion of your quest to find your long-lost family heirloom. Tragically, nobody here l̶i̶k̶e̶s̶ ̶y̶o̶u appreciates your talents, even Richard- the snake who lives in your head. Right now, your retainer Gil's been shot, and your frenemy Madrigal's been kidnapped. (Snakenapped?) And Ellery saw the whole thing.

He's pacing.

You hate him for pacing. You hate him because it's such a him thing to do. Talk and walk, walk and talk, the only God-damn things he's capable of. And he's not talking, for once, won't or can't, he hasn't said a word since that— since that stupid little— since he realized— since he said 'Maddie,' though 'said' is a stretch, it's more like it dropped out of his mouth, and splattered on the floor, and now it's just there, glistening, like a pool of rancid spittle. Waiting for you to acknowledging it. But you're not going to acknowledge it, and apparently he's not going to acknowledge it. He is going to pace. Like the useless rancid spit-puddle he is.

You hate him. He's supposed to be the talker. It's not like he's good at anything else. It's not like he can use any God-damned God-blessed situational awareness to notice there's a gunman at the door. It's not like he could've warned you, or anything. It's not like he could've not gotten shot. Of course he got shot. Of course. Of course he ruined it for you, ruined everything for you, and of course he's pacing as loudly as God-damn possible. More than possible! How heavy can he be, with his stick arms and stick legs and— hold on, he's not even— he doesn't even have bones. How the hell is this—?

"Ellery," you snarl.

He doesn't seem to hear you. Maybe because he's too busy tromping.

"ELLERY!"

Now he turns. He doesn't say anything. He has wide glossy scared-rabbit eyes, and you hate him, because what did he do to deserve shock? Get shot? You—

"Were you— were you raised in a barn? How are you walking so—"

Is a side-effect of those fancy bullets speech loss? Because Gil's not talking, and now Ellery's staring at you like you asked him to spell his own name. You stare back with loathing. He blinks first. "...What?"

"I mean— I think even a barn would be too good, frankly. Were you raised in a back alley? Because civilized people don't go around—"

(1/2?)
>>
He's not comprehending. Maybe the bullet just shot his whole brain out. But that can't be— he was normal a few minutes ago. (Normal for Ellery, at least.) Then he learned that— that Madrigal was the— and he's not dead. You're certain there's an Ellery still in there. But he's shut up in there, all balled-up and shrunken and wide-rabbit-eyed, and you hate his his huge throbbing self-regard to be so broken up about his ex. His ex. It was YOUR retainer that got shot. YOU should get to mope and pace and hold back manly tears (he can't fool you, he looks like he stood downwind from a chimney). But HE stole it, somehow, when he didn't even do anything, and you hate him. "I don't—" he says.

"YOU'RE WALKING TOO LOUD."

Finally: a different expression— a novel one, too, somewhere between 'incredulity' and 'disgust.' He looks at you, then past you, then down at his hand. He's holding a small, jagged knife. He looks back up at you and maintains eye contact as he plunges the knife into his hip.

"You can't be serious," you mutter.

You realize he's serious around the halfway mark of him sawing his legs off, but let it get to 2/3rds before rising to the bait. "Okay," you say. "Stop."

He pauses nonchalantly to jam his forearm through his half-open torso.

"I said stop."

He waggles himself back and down, like opening and closing some grotesque treasure chest.

"I said— I'm sorry your stupid ex-girlfriend got kidnapped, or whatever! But I'll have you know it was my retainer that got shot, and now he's just beetles—" Gil has burrowed under your armor. "—and face it, she was kind of a bitch, anyhow, and also, it kind of sucks for me that she got kidnapped, too, so I have two things, and you only have one, so you're not allowed to be such a— such a—"

"How long have you known her?" he says.

You blink. You weren't expecting a complete sentence, even one so mucous-y it's nigh inaudible. You're only been working with Madrigal for two-ish weeks, but it's not that much of a stretch to say— "Six months."

"Eight years." His smile is taut. His torso gapes.

"Oh."

At least he's talking.

>[1] Feign confusion. Eight years? How could it be eight years? It's only been three, hasn't it? What a bizarre inconsistency, almost as if Ellery's constructed some kind of elaborate multilayered deception... [Roll.]
>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]
>[3] Just try to calm him down. Madrigal is gone. Pat is gone. Gil is shot. You're still in the middle of a manse that might start collapsing around your ears. Your priority is getting out of here, no more, no less (then maybe doing some deserved moping of your own).
>[4] Write-in.
>>
File: waifu tourney2.png (1.41 MB, 974x1468)
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>Announcements
Welcome back to Drowned Quest Redux! It's good to be back in the saddle. I'm fully moved in, but I'm still a little bit busier than I used to be, so I apologize if I end up having to skip more update days. Luckily, this thread should be more chill than the last couple (for a certain degree of chill).

I've been moderately productive over the hiatus, including producing two comic pages for the waifu tournament and creating a... uh... a personality quiz. Just what everyone was hoping for, I assume. Check it out here: https://uquiz.com/9ZLOuQ

I also scrapped the Gil pastebin and replaced it with a "aftermath of Monty strangling you" bin, which is a little dry and dialogue-heavy and also only half-done, so we'll see if I complete it. If I do, I'll get it done before that becomes relevant again.

>Schedule
One a day, sometimes more if the first one was short. If I miss a day, I'll try to compensate with multiple updates the next. There may be sporadic half-updates (no options) if I start writing too late in the evening, sorry in advance. I am in the PST timezone.

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

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

>Mechanics
The MC has a pool of 9* Identity ("ID"), which may be considered both HP and the measure of her current sense of self. It may be lost through physical, metaphysical, or emotional damage. It may be regained through write-ins, designated options, and at reasonable narrative points, including sleep. It may be spent on a flat +10 bonus to most rolls, as well as on more elaborate metaphysical effects. Dropping to 0 ID is bad.

[*The ID cap is typically 12, but prior choices have lowered this until a sidequest is completed.]

>Archive
http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=drowned%20quest%20redux

>Twitter
https://twitter.com/BathicQM

>Pastebins
https://pastebin.com/u/BathicQM

>"Redux"?
This quest is a sort of sequel/reboot of the original Drowned Quest, which ran for eight threads in 2019. Reading the original isn't required.

>I have a question/comment/concern?
Tell me!
>>
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>TO-DO

Immediate goals:
- Get out of here!

Short-term goals:
- Speak to Eloise about her job proposition
- Speak to Monty about strangling you for no reason
- Spend your share of the heist $$$
- Meet back up with Annie the worm

Long-term goals:
- Rescue Madrigal (?)
- Procure permanent, non-melting body for Gil
- Regain your missing ID
- Regain your missing memories
- Finish your model
- Investigate your gooplicate with Jesse
- Find the Gold-Masked Person and their snake, reclaim the Crown
- In the meantime, continue collecting and storing Law (3/16)
- Learn more about, and explore, the Grande Mangrove
- GTFO of this underwater hellhole
- Make friends???

Mysteries:
- Who or what drove Ellery into self-imposed exile?
- Who or what is Namway Co.'s “Management”? What did they want with the clone of a snake?
- What's the deal with that weird sword training flashback you had?
- What kind of company(?) does Richard work for? What is its endgame? What does it want with you?
- What is Richard actually like, behind the whole... dad thing?
- What is a clone of you doing running around in the Fen? What was it saying about "Human Resources"?
- What is the meaning of Jesse's spiral tattoo?
- What is Ellery's patent for? Is it connected to his entire deal?
- Who is Horse Face investigating, and why?
- Who is the Gold-Masked Person? Why did they want your Crown? Where are they now?

Ongoing assignments:
- Inform Eloise (and the Wind Court?) about anything you discover about Namway Co
>>
>>5018319
>>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]
>>
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>LAST TIME ON DROWNED QUEST REDUX

You compete in the tournament, and proceed to kick the asses of a monkey thing, a bear(?), and Ellery, whom you (and definitely not Richard) torture a little bit. Your final opponent is Gil, whom you choose not to fight, drawing the ire of the ursurper-king of this fantasy land: the white-furred shopkeeper from the previous level. He summons every defeated tournament contender, including Ellery, and forces them to try and kill you.

Nettie finally turns up again, dropping her disguise as the guard captain to help you out. You and Gil wreak havoc, but your POV is cut short when you fly into a mindless rage.

The shopkeeper pulls Gil into some kind of pocket dimension ("whitespace"?) and attempts to convince him to switch sides. He also tells Gil about his tragic backstory. Gil, unmoved, rejects the offer, and with some clever negotiating manages to convince the shopkeeper of the truth: that he isn't real, his world isn't real, and nothing can be done about either of those things. The shopkeeper falls into despair.

Back outside whitespace, you have mopped up the rest of the contenders. With the shopkeeper unwilling to fight, you drag him back to the Horse-shod and ceremoniously execute him. The Horse-shod lets you, Ellery, and Madrigal drink divine nectar and ascend to the third level, the realm of the gods...

...Which is effectively a dev room. You discover that Headspace is responsible for constructing this manse, and that your false eye has been recording video. You also discover that Madrigal is now a very, very large snake, and that you'll have to negotiate with her to get where you need to go.

So you attempt to talk to Madrigal-- but discover that she's holed herself up in a safe, comforting corner of her mind, where she doesn't have to confront the fact that she's a very, very large snake. This manifests in the form of her family's general store, and you learn a little bit about her backstory before painfully snapping her out of it and convincing her to help. She does, and you finally make it where you need to go.

And Ellery's there, for some reason. Apparently, his secret mission was to assassinate the same guy you needed to kill in order to extract the Law: the owner of the manse, whom Ellery claims is stuck in whitespace. You don't entirely get it, but in the end Ellery kills the guy and you extract the Law. You return mostly unscathed...

...Only to discover Ellery shot and Gil at gunpoint. Nettie reveals herself to be Pat, the clone researcher, last seen in Thread 8 after you promised to get her a replacement snake. You did not get her a replacement snake, and now she wants the one you already have. Who is Madrigal. You attempt to convince her it's Madrigal, and she shoots Gil. You hand Madrigal over, and she vanishes with her.

Ellery discovers that the snake was Madrigal, and that Madrigal has just been kidnapped. He doesn't take it well.

--

>Don't forget to scroll up and vote!
>>
>>5018319
>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]

Welcome back!
>>
>>5018319
>1
I wanna see if he'll admit it himself.
>>
>>5018319
>[2] Out with it— you may never catch him more vulnerable. Tell him you know about Fake Ellery. Tell him Madrigal knew about it, too. You need him to stop playing stupid games and get a grip. [QM roll for reaction.]
Jeez, it's really been that long since we found out about fake Ellery?

Also welcome back Bathic.

>captcha was osjoy
>>
Rolled 17, 97, 17 = 131 (3d100)

>>5018323
>>5018552
>>5019204
>2

>>5018592
>1

Rolling for reaction. High is better/more composed. DC 60

Writing after. I'm hoping I'll be able to shake off the rust fairly easily.

>>5018552
>>5019204
Thanks, guys!

>>5019204
It's been... I can't access my notes at the moment, but I'm ballparking a week or week and a half since you found out about Fake Ellery, circa thread 12 or 13. (This is including the 5 days Richard possessed you.) The two-and-a-half weeks is since Madrigal asked you to investigate in Thread 1.
>>
>Listen here you little shit
>Ellery: 17, 97, 17 vs. DC 60 — Mitigated Success

At least he's talking, you think, like it's a good thing that he's talking, like you actually want to listen to him and his whining nasal voice, like you want to hear him fall to pieces over his own stupid, petty, selfish problems, like he didn't cause them himself, like he isn't the sole reason he's all— all— what? What's his problem? He's sad, or whatever? He's lonely? Well, you're sad, and you're lonely, and you don't see you— you—

He's still talking. How? How did you want this? You're not even sure what he's saying, his lips are sure moving but he's all "a buh buh buh, a buh buh buh, something something Charlotte—"

"Shut up," you say. You hate him.

"A buh buh buh—"

"Shut up!" You are standing and you don't know when you stood. "I don't- I don't care about your— shut up about Madrigal, first off, alright? Stop caring about her. She doesn't care about you. She hates you. So it's stupid to—"

"She doesn't hate me." Ellery is grappling for a measure of equinamity. "We parted on ami- amic- good terms."

"Amicable terms," you say.

"Yeah."

"Is this before or after you made the fake you?"

You'd like to say you don't know why you said it. You know why. You said it because you hate him, you hate him, you hate him, him and everything about him, and you are sick and tired and done with him. You are done with this entire fool's errand. And you will admit that here, in this moment, you would like to see Ellery suffer.

"What?" he mumbles reflexively. Then: "I don't know what you're—"

He knows. He is standing here and lying in your face. You're shaking all over, which makes you more intimidating. "The one who keeps dying in horrible ways? Do you enjoy that, Ellery? Do you get your kicks from a- a innocent suffering for your own selfish gain? While you stand by, all coddled in your- your—" You can barely get the words out, which makes you more intimidating. "—your stupid f-f-f-fucking fantasyland, where you don't have any responsibilities and never suffer any consequences and don't have to deal with the fact that other people exist, and care about you, and worry about you, and that, by the way, is why I'm here, you bastard. I'm not a spy. I'm not a- a monster. I'm here because you were worrying people, and your stupid girlfriend asked me to check what was going on. That's it. And you don't even deserve it! You don't even... deserve..."

(1/2)
>>
File: red spiral.gif (1.53 MB, 540x540)
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You have to sit down a little bit and put a hand over your face, like you're scratching your nose, or something, until your eyes clear up and your throat unclenches, though you're still shaking (on purpose), and then you catch a glimpse of Gil's splayed legs and have to start all over, until it's Ellery who says something.

"Um."

You hate him for the 'um,' the smarmiest thing he could've said, or uttered, but a part of you allows that it might've been all he's capable of. It was a particularly strangulated 'um.'

"You—" he continues, and you intend to say something really cutting about monosyllables and maybe the capacity of his intelligence, but everything's swirling too much. "You said Maddie didn't care, and now you say— she does. You're not exactly inspiring confidence in your— your—"

"Oh. Sorry." You lean your head back against the stone wall. "She hates you because she saw what a colossal prick you are now. And also because, you know, the whole 'exile/death clone' thing. How many times has he died? I forgot."

He is a colossal prick, you remind yourself, because it's hard to tell from looking at his corpse. It must be his corpse, on account of the waxen quality of his skin, and the blue color of his lips, and the fact that he isn't moving, no pacing, no twitching, no fidgeting, no tics, nothing. Dead. Embalming fluid is in his eyes.

"I don't keep—" Ellery's corpse says, and has to stop. The embalming fluid is leaking. "I don't keep track."

That's GS. You know it's GS and you would know it's GS even if you hadn't seen the binders and binders of him meticulously keeping track. You open your mouth to call him on it, then shut it, because you have realized quite belatedly that he has admitted to it. He has admitted to it! You are vindicated! And he has realized the same, you gather, from the way his mouth is hanging open, and the way the fluid is flowing quite freely, now, down his cheeks, catching somewhat in his stubble until he clutches his face and bends and it drips onto his potion bottles, beading there like dewdrops.

He makes a soft noise, like the moan of an animal, and you can't bear the pretense longer. Ellery is crying. He is crying— maybe "weeping," to be pedantic, but that's not really the issue— and— and— and what? This wasn't supposed to happen. You mean, this wasn't— something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Men are not supposed to cry: frankly, you had always assumed it was impossible. Like they had a different kind of tear duct. You're sure you read that somewhere. But certainly this is crying, and certainly Ellery is a man, if a poor excuse for one, meaning you were misinformed.

(2/3)
>>
Not that that helps. Not that you know what to do when a woman cries, much less a man, much less... Ellery. Ellery! What the hell! Are you— should you— you should do something, right? You feel as though you ought to do something, even if you do hate him, which— listen, it's difficult to look at him and hate him, at this particular moment. You're sure you'll get back to it later. But he's just— this is just—

God! What the hell?

>You need to...
>[1] Calm him down. You have a dim awareness that when women cry, one is supposed to... stroke them, maybe, and say "there there"? Not that you're going to do that with Ellery. But you could do, uh, something along those lines?
>[2] Rough him up. Give him a good shake, a good slap, whatever. This is clearly an unnatural, unhealthy state, and you would be best disposed to end it as soon as possible.
>[3] Press for details. Ignore the crying— he just admitted to everything! Hello! When are you ever going to get a better chance?! [What do you ask about? Write-in.]
>[4] Ignore this. Grab him by the elbow and drag him out of here with you. Whatever this is, it is not something you want to deal with here and now, or maybe ever.
>[5] Write-in.
>>
>>5019428
>>[2] Rough him up. Give him a good shake, a good slap, whatever. This is clearly an unnatural, unhealthy state, and you would be best disposed to end it as soon as possible.

Let’s do this in a less-abrasive way and more in a snap-out-of-it way
>>
>>5018322
>>5018324
Hello, new reader here. Which of these 2 images best represents the mc ? is the comic just a fun way or is she really that old ?
>>
>>5019428
>1

we could maybe pat him on the shoulder
with like our foot
or an eleven foot pole
>>
>>5019808
>>5019428

Kek. This is actually really funny.
Support.

>>5019791
MC is 23 years old-- I think the context of the comic is the answer to your question.
>>
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>>5019791
t. Richard

But seriously, anon, if you're so desperate to find out, why don't you read the quest?
>>
>>5019840
Thanks anon
>>5019846
QM I just wanted to know the character’s appearance, not an important plot point of the quest. You could’ve just answered like the anon above.
That being said, why should I read your quest ? Indulge me
>>
>>5019808
>>5019840
>1
You do not have a pole and you're not particularly flexible, but you do have a sword to pat with.

>>5019724
>2

Writing in circa 30 min.

>>5019957
Sorry, anon, I don't like answering questions that appear to be in bad faith. If this was a genuine inquiry that you managed to phrase in a remarkably ingenuine way, then I apologize.

My readers are probably better equipped to answer why someone would want to read this than I am, but I'll give it a shot. If you like the sound of...
>a character-driven dramedy with an asshole feMC
>adventures in a weird post-post-apocalyptic low fantasy underwater setting
>dream logic
>body / psychological horror
>banter
>inexplicable amounts of snakes
...Or you like Sunless Sea, or Discworld, or the Hitchhiker's Guide, I've had the quest compared to those.

If you think all that sounds lame and terrible, I'm guessing you probably wouldn't enjoy Drowned, but it can't hurt to give it a shot anyhow :^)
>>
>>5020340
People cry without assuming the fetal position? weird.
>>
>>5020401
I mean, he didn't outright fail the composure check... he's still standing. Something like the stock image, I guess.
>>
>>5020340
>Sorry, anon, I don't like answering questions that appear to be in bad faith. If this was a genuine inquiry that you managed to phrase in a remarkably ingenuine way, then I apologize.
I don’t see how you could see it as bad faith, but I’m sorry if my wording wasn’t the best. esl here.
Well I’ll read the first thread and see about giving a shot until catching up with the current thread.
>>
>>5020442
>ESL
I thought that might be the case, honestly. What you posted here >>5019791 was less bad, but your posts in the QTG very much came across as a snide dig at my artstyle. If that wasn't the intent, I'm happy we could clear that up.

I hope you enjoy the first thread! I would personally advise reading up until Thread 3 before making a final decision, as the first couple threads are a little rocky and don't 100% reflect the full quest. Once you hit Thread 3, though, it's not going to change very much from that point on, so you'll for sure know whether it's your thing or not.
>>
>There, there

You attempt to compose yourself. This can't be that hard, can it? People far inferior to you manage it, so— yeah. Yeah! You can do this. Through your inborn prowess, you (and you alone) shall put an end to this— this— this perversion of nature.

And all you have to do is something classless ingrates are capable of: providing "support." Which, you're fairly sure, is a two-part process, consisting of 1), physical touch [specificaly a sort of patting or stroking of the shoulder, arm, or hand], and 2), words of consolation and/or encouragement, which is where you're blanking a bit. It's not as though you can take back what you said, considering that it's true and factual and you're not sorry about it. You can't say anything nice about him, because you can't think of anything. Where is Richard? Why can't Richard be here? He'd know what to say.

You'll just have to burn that bridge when you come to it, you suppose. But Part 1, the touching, poses its own concerns. Principally, you shouldn't touch unmarried men, and Ellery is almost startlingly unmarried. Also, you don't want to touch Ellery in general, in case he gives you diseases. And there's the whole other matter of reaching his shoulder...

You need something cleaner. More efficient. Like a pole, or something, except you don't have a— oh!

-

Ellery doesn't respond to your first attempts, so you use a little more force as you aim for his forearm. He flinches, which you take as a good sign, and moves his hands a little to expose his red-raw eyes. He mumbles something inaudible.

"What?" you say, and continue to pat.

He mumbles again but between the mucous and the hand over half his mouth it's useless. You make a face to say as much, and gesture for 'handsign?'

"Okay," he signs falteringly. "What— what the fuck are you doing?"

You look down at your ingenious setup: the blade of The Sword in your (well-armored) hand, its hilt pointed up toward Ellery in a sign of nonaggression, long enough so you didn't have to get close but not so long that it was weird. At least, you didn't think it was weird— but the thought of attempting to explain this all is making you squirm.

"Nothing," you say cannily, and pull The Sword away. "Nothing. I'm not— do you see me doing anything? Stop crying. Why are you crying. It's- it's weird."

"Why am I— you don't know?"

He expects you to decipher the workings of his mind? His mind? "Should I?"

Your eyes— his ugly and watery, yours bright and winsome— meet in mutual confusion, until Ellery glances sideways. "You know everything else. Somehow."

"I do?" Well, of course you do, but you like to see him say it. "Well— excuse me for not finishing the whole damn investigation in under a month? Sorry for only finishing 90% of it? Do you think I'd be here if there wasn't loose ends? It's not as if I'm here for the company—"

(1/3)
>>
"...No." He wipes his nose. "So you don't know... why."

You're affronted. "Does it matter? And— and if it does matter, can't you just tell me?"

He laughs at you, and speaks aloud. "Not a fucking chance, Charlotte."

You have returned to hating him, you decide. You hate Ellery, who has the gall to laugh at you, after he was the one who cried— who is still crying! In painful little spasms, interspersed with bouts of pitched laughter and long stretches of silence. Not silence. Of tromping, because he has taken to pacing, again, but in a tight circle instead of a straight line.

Yes, you hate him. But you're quite proud of yourself, because your two-step plan worked quite well: the state of the world has been restored, and you can chalk the remaining crying up to deep-rooted mental instability instead of... you don't know, emotion, or whatever. God.

You guess you ought to... take charge of the situation. Yes. You ought to take charge, because Ellery certainly won't, and Richard isn't here, and Nettie... isn't here, and Gil—

You don't want to think about Gil, but it's not like you can't, not when he's there on the ground, and not when he's here, under your breastplate, a couple dozen beetles clumped together for... warmth? Security? It's odd to contemplate them being a person, a... man, but it's far worse if they aren't one, and you—

You swallow. Taking charge. That's what you're doing. "Ellery!" you bark.

He laughs derisively.

"Ellery!" You hate him, and his stupid face and stupid laugh. Why can't anyone go right up and slap him? Where's Madrigal when you need her? She'd—

...She's not here, so— so you need to take charge of the situation. Yeah! You need to show Ellery who's boss, because it sure isn't him, not after he cried. You need to launch yourself to your feet, assertively, and stride right up, and grab his collar, because you can't reach his face otherwise, and- and—!

Your hand stings. (His jawbone was pointier than expected.) He blinks at you, presumably in awe. "Uh—"

"So there!" you add.

"...I can't, um, feel— I can't feel pain." He's almost apologetic.

"Well, that's—" Damnit. Damnit. "So what? So what. Stop being a useless twit— I mean, more than normal— and, and follow me." You grab his wrist (it's not— even if he is unmarried, the wrist doesn't count) and tug.

"Where?"

(2/3)
>>
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Where? How are you supposed to know? You just want out of this stinking pit, away from Gil, away from the Gil-bits strewn around, away from the bullet hole in the door, away from the furrows Ellery has trodden in the soggy dirt, away from the Horse-shod, which you think has returned to sleep, but which still unnerves you. You want to go home, or barring that you want to see Richard again, so he can tell you what a terrible job you did and how stupid you are and then fix all of your problems.

You just don't know how to get to there. "Through the door," you say.

"What door?"

"The- the door. There's a door somewhere that'll— that'll take us back up. We're going to go find it."

Ellery considers this. "...I guess that's true."

It is? "Great! Then— come on. We're going. And you can tell me why you're such a useless clone-torturing prick on the way."

You tug, and he follows: through the grass, across the Horse-shod's slumbering back, past the usurper's body, past the usurper's head. He only responds when you get to the stairs. "You know it doesn't— I mean, it shouldn't, uh— it shouldn't... suffer."

"Huh?"

"I mean, fuck, I'm not a fucking— I'm not a fucking sadist, alright? It shouldn't— any large amounts of pain should— should make it happy. It's not suffering."

You have to process that. "...You made Fake Ellery a masochist?"

"Please don't call it Fake Ellery." Ellery closes his eyes. "And if you have a better idea, then—"

"How about not making a suicidal clone? That would very easily—"

"That wasn't an option."

"Uh-huh." You jot down mental notes. "And why wasn't it a— oh, shoot." You've reached the top of the stairs. "Hold that thought."

Ellery blows his nose on his sleeve as you fiddle with the stuck door handle. "You know, you could just— oh!" The door unsticks, and you slam it open. "Oh? Oh. Oh, uh, hello."

The deserted courtyard is now— you'll put it delicately, less than deserted. "Overrun," maybe, by— these are unpeople, they have the same bland faces, but these ones are... peasants? They look like peasants. There's a couple pitchforks. There's some angry yelling.

You and Ellery, meanwhile, look like important, wealthy adventurers, excellent targets for a... peasant revolution? What exactly is going on here?

They've noticed you, but nobody's reacted yet.

(Choices next.)
>>
>[1] Start off on good footing. Hello! Yes! You are Charlotte, and this is your horrible, useless retainer Ellery. What are their names, by the way? What are they doing? What's going on here? [Roll for being nonthreatening.]
>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]
>[3] Start off on strong footing. Can these "people" even be reasoned with? What if they're dangerous? You need to grab a few and execute them, as examples, then send the whole crowd packing. They'll muck up the castle floors, anyhow. [Roll.]
>[4] Just flee. This isn't worth your time or energy. Hopefully you'll find the relevant door quick and this won't come back to bite you.
>[5] Write-in.
>>
>>5020579
>>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]
>>
>>5020579
>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]

I mean, we did just kill a fake king
We're by far the most experienced revolutionary here

heck if they're trying to revolt against the dude we tag teamed with Ellery we just did their whole job for them
>>
>>5020579
>>>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]
>>
>>5020579
>[2] Start off on bold footing. Hear ye, hear ye! You are Lady Charlotte Fawkins, slayer of monsters and kings and whatnot, and you would of course love to be the figurehead and honored leader of a peasant revolution (or whatever), thank you, thank you. (Anything you use to appeal to them in particular?) [Roll.]

Why have a vote when you know the outcome?
>>
>>5020739
>>5021035
>>5021156
>>5021200
>Unanimity
Kek, alright.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s + 10 (+15 Kingslayer, +10 Awesome Sword, -5 Disheveled, -10 Not A Peasant) vs. DC 65 (+15 Unruly Crowd) to successfully take control of the mob!

and...
>Spend 1 ID to down one of Ellery's potions (granting +10 to all rolls?) You are at 2/(9) ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N

>>5021035
To clarify, when you say "dude," are you talking about the old king (which you and Ellery tag-teamed and shot on the third level), or are you talking about the usurper king (which you and Gil tag-teamed and decapitated on the second level)?

>>5021200
I could ask myself the same question.
>>
>>5021620
>to all rolls
To all 3 1d100s, I mean, not all rolls forever. This is just a reskinned Richard bonus, it works the same way.
>>
Rolled + 10 (1d00 + 10)

>>5021620
>>
Rolled 24 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>5021629
>>5021620

Faulty roll. Rerolling.
>no ID
>>
Rolled 16 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>5021620
The fake king meant the usurper
The dude meant the old king

also yes spendy
>>
Rolled 41 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>5021620
Back to Drowned Dice.
>>
>>5021630
>>5021761
>>5021905
>34, 26, 51 vs. DC 65 -- Failure
An auspicious start! We're technically tied on the ID, but I'll go with "no spend" as to not rub salt in the wound. Writing.

>>5021761
Gotcha, I thought as much but I always like to be precise about what you guys intend.
>>
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>Lead the pack
>34, 26, 51 vs. DC 65 — Failure

Things begin to spill from your mouth before you're quite aware you're speaking. "Salutations, common folk! I have heard of your plight, and henceforth I— Lady Charlotte Fawkins— have cometh here, on this glorious day, to— to aid and abet your most noble cause, and, um—"

"Who the shit are you?!" someone in the crowd calls.

"Me? I'm— I told you. I'm Lady Charlotte Fawkins, knight-errant, and this is my retainer, uh, Ellery— haven't you heard of me? I mean— you have heard of me, surely— seeing as how I..." You're blanking on your backstory. "...slayed some very big, important monsters, and, um— oh! I killed the king! The, uh, the evil one, that plunged this land into eternal winter, and—"

"Sure still seems like eternal winter to me!" the same voice counters, and the peasants clamor in agreement. "My crops are frozen over!" "My cattle are dead!" "My son ran off with the milkmaid!"

You glance indignantly at Ellery, who is cradling his head in his hands. "Well, um, okay— how is that my problem, exactly? I killed him! Isn't that what you guys want? So you should- you should bear me aloft in your gross flea-ridden arms, and cheer, and— and drink to my health, and whatnot. And I should become your beloved leader, and you should follow me around, loyally, and—"

"She's a madwoman!" the vocal peasant cries, sparking more clamor. "Worse— you heard her," a deeper voice adds. "She's a noblewoman. She's more diseased than a pack of whores!" "Yeah!" "YEAH!"

"What?!" You fume. "I'm not— you're all diseased, not— shut up! I slew the usurper! What more do you want?!"

There's no response, for a few seconds— or rather, there's many responses, but they're all lost in the uniform gabble of the crowd. Then, suddenly, it parts, and a short, balding man comes stalking through.

Nettie, you think, instinctively, and you're attempting to work out why when he begins to speak. "We WANT," he bellows, "JUSTICE!" (The peasants cheer.) "Fer TOO LONG, fecking 'IGH-AND-MIGHTY types 'ave been in CHARGE of us 'ere COMMON FOLK! An' fer too long, you bastards have been fecking with our LIVES! We're out there STARVING, an' DYING, an' FREEZING TO OUR DEATHS, and you lot're in THERE—" He gestures widely at the castle. "—having a GRAND TIME! What kind of prissy feck 'as the time to SLAY MONSTERS?! And KILL KINGS?! You know what KINGS are? The worst fecking bastards of the lot! And you intend to put a new 'un in, don't you?"

(1/2)
>>
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He's pointing at you. "Um," you say. (Ellery appears to be wishing he's anywhere else.) "Well— the one I killed was a, uh, a bad one. So I guess... yes? You'll get a new king, and he'll be noble, and just, and—"

"He'll be a 'IGH-AND-MIGHTY BASTARD, jes' like the rest of 'em! And YOU, you prissy bitch—" He's addressing you, but facing the crowd, now. "—yer not jes' a bitch, I'll reckon— I'll reckon you're a THIEF!"

"What?" you cry.

"YESSIR! This bitch, ladies an' gents— she thinks she can jes' go ahead and ROB an innocent man of his livelihood! She's so en-titled, she thinks nothing of BEATING 'N ROBBING a poor soul jes' fending for 'is keep! What do you think of that, ladies an' gents?!"

Wait. Wait a second. You have seen this face before. And, more distinctively, heard this voice— it's the bear poacher! The one you knocked out and stole... and took the cart from, before you got all distracted with the king, and the tournament, and all that. You thought you'd never see him again. Maybe he thought he'd never see you again.

"—what do we do wit' a COMMON CRIMINAL an' her ACCOMPLICE?!" He's gesturing again. At you. The crowd is frothing for blood. "—I'll TELL you what. We SIEZE 'em, an' we—"

The remainder of his sentence is lost in the uproar: the crowd is beginning to move. You have seconds before they're upon you.

>[1] Flee to higher ground— the roof, maybe— and attempt to turn the mob against the poacher. There is something you can use... (What is it? Write-in. I do have something specific in mind, but I'l accept a different answer if it's good.)
>[2] Flee to higher ground and attempt to reason with, or bargain with, the poacher. He's clearly not the man of lofty virtue he's portraying himself as— there must be something you can do to get him (and the mob, by extension) off your back. (What do you say? Write-in.) [Possible roll.]
>[3] Flee to higher ground, period. This has escalated far beyond your exhausted capabilities. It's just a matter of making the jump... [Roll.]
>[4] To hell with it, take them head on. You don't have to kill all of them, just enough to demoralize. [Roll.]
>[5] ...Hmm. The principle issue, here, is that you stick out like a sore thumb. You're not one of them. But if you could make *yourself* believe that you belong, for a moment, then— (Advanced Gaslighting.) [Roll.]
>[6] Write-in.
>>
>>5022085
>[3] Flee to higher ground, period. This has escalated far beyond your exhausted capabilities. It's just a matter of making the jump... [Roll.]
Don't try it Anakin.
>>
>>5022085
>>[3] Flee to higher ground, period. This has escalated far beyond your exhausted capabilities. It's just a matter of making the jump... [Roll.]
>>
>>5022085
>1

He talks about honest men being robbed but he's a criminal! Poaching is a criminal act and he was never honest.
>>
>>5022274
>>5022665
>3

>>5022698
>1
This is good, but not the major gotcha I had in mind, so majority vote takes precedent. I might have Charlotte yell something to this effect anyhow (assuming all goes well with the roll).

You are making a tactical retreat!

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 2 (+5 Strong Grip, +5 Richard, +3 Ellery, -10 Fully Armored) vs. DC 55 (+5 Slick With Ice) to make the leap!

>Spend 1 ID for +10? You are still at 2/(9) ID.
>[1] Y
>[2] N
>>
Rolled 92 (1d100)

>>5022848
>N
>>
Rolled 67 + 2 (1d100 + 2)

>>5022848
Watch THIS!

And
>[2]N
>>
Rolled 84 - 2 (1d100 - 2)

>>5022848
imma say no spend
for all the good it does
>>
Rolled 54, 93, 76 - 2 = 221 (3d100 - 2)

>>5022852
>>5022853
>>5023049
>90, 65, 82 vs. DC 55 - Enhanced Success
>No spendy
Wow, great job! I guess you--

>[SUNSTROKE: The first Enhanced Success each thread is rerolled.]

--'re getting that out of the way early. Rerolling, crits do not apply.
>>
>>5023065
>52, 91, 74 - Success
Still an excellent set of rolls: you're getting up there unscathed. Writing in a little while.
>>
>>5023065
We need to cure that with a cool drink
Maybe Ellery can help since it's sun related
>>
>>5023076
>Maybe Ellery can help since it's sun related
Not a bad idea. Ask him about it when you're out of this mess. Friendly reminder that he still owes you a favor, too, since you bought him back from the shopkeeper
>>
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>It's over, Anakin! I have the high ground!
>52, 91, 74 vs. DC 55 - Success

For a fleeting moment, you consider fighting, then you feel the weight in your limbs and the rasp in your throat and your thoughts turn to escape. Where? Back down the stairs, and be trapped in that dank little cavern? Into the castle, and the waiting arms (limbs and weapons) of the usurper's waitstaff? Up the roof, and—

—and— that's not a bad idea, actually. It's safe up there, and quiet, and— and steep, and icy, and very far away, but that's not— positive thinking! "ELLERY!" you scream, and point up to the roof.

He doesn't follow your gesture, like he was clearly(!!) supposed to. He flinches away from you. "Moron!" you mouth, before you clock the particular angle of his shoulder, and neck, and—

"Hey! Gerroff—" But Ellery's feeble protests can't deter you: you are upon him, clambering up his back as you might clamber up a pathetic, bony tree, paying no attention to where you place your sabotons: he told you he couldn't feel pain, and by God you're sticking with that. You've got one leg over his shoulder before he realizes what you're doing, and to his credit he gives you a boost: but you've already latched onto the slick edge of the roof, and that's all you need. You swing, scrabble, and find purchase on a loose tile.

Well... "purchase," in that you're still hanging one-handed from the side of the roof. You're in no danger of falling— not after what Richard did to your hands— but you could still be dragged down by a dozen angry peasants, to give a hypothetical example. Disgusting. Rather than suffer that fate, you draw The Sword— The Sword! You bring it around in a perfect, glorious arc and set it biting through the tile. As the ice hisses and steams, you use the momentum to lever yourself fully onto the roof— face-down, a bit banged-up, but safe.

You push yourself to your feet and peer over the edge. Ellery has made no effort to join you: he's just standing there, unfastening his bandolier, ignoring the three pitchforks aimed at his vital parts. The smuggler is still yelling things, though it's a bit hard to pick him out among the din. Does he want them to capture Ellery, or just kill him?

It's not as though it matters: Ellery raises the bandolier and with no ceremony dashes it against the floor. There is light, and garbled sound (screaming?), and colors— lavender and scarlet and saffron— and a grand plume of smoke, large enough to obscure the whole courtyard. You've backed away by the time it clears, and have to scoot forward again to see the grisly aftermath. What used to be a chunk of crowd is now a field of trees, golden statues, and melted slag. And what used to be Ellery is now, you're fairly sure, a scattering of black ash.

(1/3)
>>
...What used to be Ellery's body, you correct yourself. There's not a chance in hell Ellery won't pop up again— it's just a matter of when. In any case, the remaining peasants appear thoroughly cowed, so you lean over the edge and wave The Sword. "Ha! That's what you get for following a— a scam artist! You know he's a criminal, right? Not me! I've never done anything wrong in my life! You were all—"

Nobody's really listening (they're too busy screaming and panicking and whatnot), but it does make you feel better.

>[+1 ID: 3/(9)]

You turn around and nearly fall off the roof. "God! That was fast."

"...Yes." Ellery scratches the back of his head. His bloodshot eyes are gone, replaced with a general hangdog aura. "It's easier to get up here when you don't have... uh..."

"Legs?"

"...Uh..." He grimaces. (You assume that's a 'yes.') "...We should probably get out of sight."

"Yeah, yeah, okay." You use The Sword to support yourself as you pick across the roof. "I see you put your hands back on the right way around."

"Charlotte—"

"What, you don't want to talk about that?" You cock your head. You still hate Ellery, at least a little, and you want him to feel it. "Sure, that's fine. How does Fake Ellery work? I mean, how do you even—"

"I told you not to call it that," he mumbles.

"Okay." You listen to the nice crunchy sound your feet make on the ice. "So what do you call him? Don't say you don't have a name for him."

Ellery hunches over. "I don't have a name for..."

"GS."

"...I- I mean, it's not a name, it's—" He wipes his mouth, muffling his voice in the process. "—it's just a— a title, I guess. And I really didn't intend to talk about it with anyone else, so..."

You blink innocently. "Then I'll just have to keep calling him Fake Ellery. Or, I guess, 'that fake copy of Ellery that real Ellery planted when he, like a little bitch, abandoned—'"

"Okay! Gods-fucking-damn! It's 'That Guy 2.'"

"It's what?" That barely registered.

"I'm not saying it ag-"

"'That Guy 2'?" You assumed it'd be terrible, but he's managed to exceed expectations. "What kind of a name is that? Why is there a— a "2?" Was there a That Guy 1? Wh—"

"Yes," Ellery snaps. "And I told you it wasn't a name. So I'd really rather not—"

"No, that's— I'm not using that." You wave a hand of dismissal. "So, Fake Ellery. How do you even make a- a person? And don't try to tell me he's not a person. I mean, even if he isn't a 'person,' that's still— I mean, you're not that smart. Right?"

He's shut his eyes, but you know he heard you, so you busy yourself with stomping as loudly as possible in the drifts of snow until he responds. His tone is studied. "I was drunk."

"...Excuse me?"

(2/3)
>>
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"I was drunk. I was very, very drunk. I was—" He exhales. "—you know that level of drunk where it feels like you've sort of ascended to another plane of— of existence, where you're in perfect control, and you know everything, and everyone loves you, and—"

"No." (Maybe you do. But you're not helping Ellery.)

"...Oh. Um, well, you'll have to— you'll have to take my word for it. I was desperate, and very, very, very drunk, for— I don't know, maybe a week straight, and I—" He raises his hands. "I don't remember most of it, so that's all you're getting."

He doesn't sound very sorry about it. You raise your eyebrows. "You were desperate? Why?"

"..." He adjusts his collar. "That's not your problem."

You'll wear him down eventually, but maybe now isn't the time. You walk briskly past him, into the shadow of a looming castle spire, and squat against it. "So. What now?"

"What now."

"I mean, what do we do n—"

Ellery extends a finger toward the sky. You follow it, squinting— your vision is much worse, now, with your good eye gone and its replacement bandaged— and can just about make out the dark outline of a rectangle. Of a... door. "Oh, hell. That's not—"

"It's probably not the only one," he says, "but I'm not too keen on hunting around for alternatives— I don't know about you. And it still should be possible to get up there—"

"To get up there."

"Yes."

"To get up—" (you extend a matching finger) "—there. To get up, what is that, 50 damn feet in the air? Why is it in the sky? Could there be a less convenient—"

"There could." His tone indicates 'and I have personally experienced it.' "It's in the sky because— I don't know, they're just up there. That's how it is. At least we're on the roof... it could be 65 feet, alright? So you really shouldn't bitch about—"

"I'm not bitching." You stand. "It's just... I just don't... ugh."

>How are you getting 50 damn feet in the air?
>[1] Write-in. (This is more a creative exercise than a puzzle: don't stress about optimization, pick something fun.) [Possible roll.]
>>
>>5023343
The funnest thing I can think of is mary poppinsing our way up but we have no umbrella :(

maybe if we held our jacket like a parachute or something
>>
>>5023343
>[1] Write-in. (This is more a creative exercise than a puzzle: don't stress about optimization, pick something fun.) [Possible roll.]
Use the principal of trampoline double jumping.
>>
>>5024382
>>5023343

+1
>>
Rolled 16, 35, 28 = 79 (3d100)

>>5023585
>>5024382
>>5024396
>Double jump (and jacket?)
Excellent choice. Rolling for no particular reason and writing.
>>
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>The funnest way

Ellery doesn't say anything. You throw your hands out. "I suppose you have loads of great ideas, since you're so- so smart. Or wait, I'm sorry, do you need to get drunk first?"

"I can't."

"You can't get drunk?" How does he keep getting more awful? Like— surely you would've hit a nadir by now? "Well, then you're useless. I'll have to do the heavy lifting around here, like— well, like I have been doing, this whole time. We'll just—"

A piercing CRACK saves you from the plan you hadn't yet concocted: a noise like the castle, or maybe the ground itself, is being torn asunder. Or maybe the peasants are taking a battering ram to the supporting pillars. In either case, you stumble, curse, and straighten just in time to see the sun.

The... sun. The clouds— which have hung heavy and interminable over the realm of, of Faerieland, or Beaversdam, or whatever this place is called, since time immemorial, probably, but at least since you got here— are parting. The ice is melting. The eternal winter has—

"Wait," you say, to Ellery. "We didn't— we didn't restore the old king, though."

He doesn't respond. His gaze is fixed squarely upwards: at the sun? It's hard to blame him, considering how pale he is; he's probably never seen the sun in his whole damn life. You snatch a glance at the sky—

it dried the air, reddened your skin, stirred your thirst—
skin peeled from your hands, your feet, your neck, your thighs—
You are standing in an empty grey room. Your fist is bleeding.

—and turn away, just as fast. You hate the sun. It's no surprise, then, that Ellery's so entranced by it: birds of a feather, and all that. "Ellery!"

"...What?" He turns slowly.

"Stop looking at the stupid— why is the winter over?! We didn't restore the old king! Because you shot him."

"You sucked his blood out with a- a tube," Ellery says. "But, uh— I don't know."

"You don't know."

"Maybe it has nothing to do with the old king, and it's just because you beheaded the other guy. Maybe it interpreted euthanizing the guy as a return to default. Maybe this whole thing is a shoddy mess, and none of it follows any kind of logical order, because the people making it were, once again, hacks. Is that enough theories for you? I don't know everything, Charlotte, all I can do is—"

"You don't know anything," you correct him. "I just think it's weird. Why did it happen so late?"

"Because that's how long it took for it to register? How the fuck am I supposed to know? Answer that, and maybe I'll—"

"Shut up." You raise a finger.

"What?! You asked me the—"

"Shut up!" You crane your neck. "What's happening over there?"

He turns. "The ice is melting."

(1/4)
>>
Well, yes. Okay. The ice is melting: even with your subpar vision, you can tell that much. There's just... "I told you to shut up," you snap, and push past him. What is it? Is it the smell? There's something in the air, something beyond the must of damp soil and the crisp push of the wind. You follow your suspicions up the precarious tilt of the roof, using The Sword as guide, and confirm them as soon as you reach the top.

Your side of the roof is cast mainly in shadow. Your side of the roof is also solid. The other side, exposed directly to your foe the sun, is melting.

You don't mean that the ice and snow are melting: you mean that the roof is sagging inward, and the tiles are trickling off it in droplets, and the whole thing stinks of... you haven't the faintest idea. Stone, you suppose, with a large dose of something chemical.

Fueled by morbid curiosity, you take a small step onto the roof, fully prepared to leap back if it tears under your weight. To your surprise, it bears you perfectly well, bending only slightly. If anything, it feels springy.

You have a truly abysmal idea. Nobody is around to stop you.

>[+1 ID: 4/(9)]

...

"ELLERY!" you holler.

He sees you. You know he sees you, because you can just about make out the look of shock and despair on his face before you're down again, and the sunward roof coils under your weight, and springs back up, and— "ELLERY!!!"

You bounce a few more times for emphasis before he finally slogs up the side of the roof and looks down at you. "Remind me how old you are?"

"23," you say smugly. "Remind me how old you are? And tell me, by the way, that this doesn't look fun."

"...Uh." Ellery rubs the base of his chin. "...Whether it's fun isn't really the..."

"So yes, it does look fun. And yes, you would like to join me on the—" You search fruitlessly for a better word. "—roof."

"I just... I- I feel as though... um... I mean..." He's not looking you in the eye. "...We have to go."

"We have to go through the door?" You begin to bounce again. Small ones, to start. "In the sky?"

"...Yeah."

"Huh. What a funny—" Bounce. "—coincidence."

He sags.

"What's the big—" Bounce. "—deal? No, I mean—" Bounce. "—seriously, what's the big deal. It's not as though you're—" Bounce. "—normally mature and—" Bounce. "—dignified—"

"Hey." It's weak. "Fuck you."

"You're gonna deny it?" You attempt a somersault but don't have the agility. "You're gonna paint yourself as—" Bounce. "—some kind of elder statesman? You have—" Bounce. "—have less respectability than a—" Bounce. "—a, um—"

As it turns out, you didn't even have to think of a metaphor: Ellery, sufficiently riled, has jumped down to meet you. As he goes down, you spring up, higher than you've ever gone before.

"Fuck you," he reiterates, in the moment that you're face-to-face. "I take back—"

(2/4)
>>
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He bounces. You descend.

"—everything else I've said about—"

You bounce. He descends.

"—you. You know what you—"

He bounces. You descend.

"—are? You're a—"

You bounce. He descends. You don't think you could stop now if you wanted to.

"kid. You're a bratty fucking—"

He bounces. You descend. The wind no longer whistles in your ears: you think it might be melting, too.

"—kid, with a big mouth, and you don't—"

You bounce. He descends. It's not just the roof that's bending under your weight, you think. It's the castle. Or maybe the whole ground is sagging.

"—understand what adults do. You don't understand—"

He bounces. You descend. You don't think about the speed at which you're descending.

"—that they have to do things which aren't— which they regret, and—"

You bounce. He descends. You can see the door, but it's an arms-length out of reach.

"—you're just deluded! You think there's a black, and a white, and a right, and wrong, and you just don't— even if I explained, you wouldn't— you're just too- too—"

He bounces. You descend.

"—too young!"

He descends. You bounce, and at the apex of your parabola claw for the edge of the door, and catch it, and haul yourself up, and step back in time for Ellery to flop bodily inside. You lean over him. "And you were bouncing. So."

He glares and, scrambling to his feet, draws himself up to his full height. You're resolutely unintimidating. "Also," you say, "you already said all that, mostly. You called me a kid detective."

"You're that too." He wipes his nose for the thousandth time.

"Ah, yes, that's me. The kid detective. Who, need I remind you, unraveled your whole deal in a week?" You're feeling much better than you were previous, though whether that's on account of the bouncing or just some distance between you and Gil's... is hard to say.

...Gil is still with you, right? He didn't... no, he's there. "Gil?" you whisper, just in case.

The beetles don't speak, and don't appear to react. You swallow. "Can you understand me? If you can understand me, could you... flap your wings, or—"

Ellery is already up a flight of stairs. "Who are you talking to?"

Should you tell him? Well... do you have anything to lose? Not really. He saw Gil got shot, according to him. "Uh... Gil."

"..." He has to think. "...The demon?"

"Y- yes, but not— he's my retainer. You met him. The beetles—"

(3/4)
>>
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"The beetles!" Ellery hops the banister. "Yes. And he was... injured."

"He was shot," you say, bitterly. "In the head. Because I actually tried to help your precious girlfriend. And now he's— I don't know."

Ellery considers this. "Ah."

"Yeah. So— that's it. I was just checking on him. Sorry if that's childish, or whatever. I guess wizened elders like you wouldn't care about such a stupid—"

"...I didn't say that." He rakes a hand through his hair. "Uh... could I see them? Him. I mean."

You draw your arms up around your chest. "Why?"

"I- I don't know, maybe I could— I mean, I'm decent at— I could try to... get through to him," he finishes lamely.

"Uh-huh."

"...I have some experience with beetles."

"Uh-huh. What's the catch?"

"What? There's not a— there's no catch."

You look down at Gil.

>[1] No way. You don't trust this pathetic attempt to, what, apologize? And you don't trust Ellery's ability, either. Just head up the stairs.
>[2] ...Okay. Maybe. Let him attempt to commune with Gil, or whatever. If it buys you peace of mind, it's worth it.
>[3] ...Okay. Maybe. But you're not letting him muck up Gil like he mucks up everything else. Why can't he swallow a beetle, like Richard did, and let Gil talk through him? That'd work, right?
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5024689
>>[3] ...Okay. Maybe. But you're not letting him muck up Gil like he mucks up everything else. Why can't he swallow a beetle, like Richard did, and let Gil talk through him? That'd work, right?
>>
>>5024689
>3

Ellery is no Richard and we know this, but I want to see what he thinks of that feat
>>
>>5024689
>[3] ...Okay. Maybe. But you're not letting him muck up Gil like he mucks up everything else. Why can't he swallow a beetle, like Richard did, and let Gil talk through him? That'd work, right?
I would also be fine with Gil overwriting Ellery, but Ellery's powers might trump Gil's if it's a single beetle and it's inside Ellery.
>>
>>5024853
>>5024857
>>5024991
>3
Writing.
>>
>Ultimate BUG EATING CHALLENGE (gone wrong) (gone sexual)

"...Okay."

"'Okay'? Is that a- a yes?"

It isn't. You don't want to give him the satisfaction of a yes. And you certainly don't want him to feel like he's doing you a favor. He's not. (How could he be?) If anyone's doing a favor, it'd be you, for allowing him to— for graciously allowing him to soothe his conscience.

Or rather, you would be, if you accepted. You haven't accepted. You cast a derisive look at Ellery's hand, which is outstretched like a beggar's. "What's that for?"

"...Well, I need the beetles, in order to..."

"You're not holding him," you snipe. "You'll get snot on his— his shells. And grime, and— stuff."

"...But I need to hold..." He trails off. "I'm trying to help you, Charlotte. If you don't want help, then—"

"I don't need help." You pause. "But if you're so desperate to do something, you can— you can swallow one, I guess."

Ellery looks at you. He looks away. "What?"

"You can swallow one. It's sanitary." Probably. "Then he can talk through you."

"Are you fucking with me?"

"No."

"Are you sure? Because it sounds like— it sounds like you're fucking with me. It sounds like you're trying to get me to eat a bug. Is it poisonous?"

Is he poisonous? "Does it matter? Can you even get poisoned?"

"No, but—"

"So you're just scared for no reason," you say.

"I'm not scared," Ellery says with force. "I just think you're trying to get me to eat a bug, and then you're going to laugh at me because I ate a bug. Sorry I tried to lend a fucking hand, Charlotte, though I don't know what I expected, I really, honestly—"

"So what I'm hearing is that you're too mature and dignified to eat a bug? Gosh, Ellery, that's just—"

He looks at you. "Son of a bitch."

"Pardon me?"

"You're just going to be a little shit about it no matter what I do, huh? You're just going to— to— just give me the fucking bug, Charlotte."

"It's a beetle," you say, "and he's a person, so don't be rude. I know you were raised in a barn, but..." Yes! Success. He's forgotten all about his useless, mortifying pity. "Anyhow, here."

You gently pry a beetle away from the cluster and offer it in a fist to Ellery. As soon as you unfurl your hand, though, it flits from your grasp and back to its fellows. "Oh." You fish another out. "Uh... cup your hands."

Ellery does, and you deposit the second beetle more carefully. You hover over it for a few extra seconds, watching: you're no expert in beetle emotion, but it seems agitated. It keeps bashing itself into the walls of Ellery's palms. "I don't think it likes you," you say.

"Thanks." Ellery claps his other palm fully over the second beetle. "Now what?"

"You swallow it."

"I swallow it."

"Yes. And don't chew. That's murder."

"...Right." He closes his eyes. "And remind me what this is supposed to do?"

(1/4?)
>>
"What," you say, "metaphysically? Without the grounding presence of Reality, a single beetle cannot sustain a individual conceptualization-of-self, so when it ceases to be externally perceived it becomes entangled in its surrounding concept. In essence, it's stripped of form and woven into its nearby bylaws, which are now attuned to the resonations of the external—"

"I meant the outcome."

"Oh." You cough. "He'll be able to talk using... your voice. I hope."

"I guess that's not so bad." Ellery squints one eye shut, raises his hands to his face, and attempts, rather awkwardly, to swallow the beetle. Though you hadn't been planning on making fun of him for it, you give it serious contemplation. Maybe if you hadn't seen Richard smoothly and elegantly handle the matter, then—

But he forces it down before you can think of anything witty to say, and sniffs, and blinks rapidly, and wipes his mouth. He looks rather on the brink of a sneeze, though the sneeze never comes. "It's dark," he says.

"What?"

"It's dark. Where am I? I don't understand." (That much is accurate: Ellery looks as puzzled as you do.) "Where am I? I can't feel anything. I can't feel my legs."

"...Gil?"

"I don't understand. I can't feel my legs. I can't feel my arms. I can't feel my head. Where is everyone? I'm alone. I need help. Someone help. Someone find me. I'm alone. I'm scared. I need help."

"I'm- I'm right here, Gil, you're not—"

["I don't think he's lucid," Ellery signs.] "Oh god," he says. "Oh god." ["Another thing... about the resonations."]

"About the what?" Your left hand is covered in beetles.

["...That's what you said? The resonations? ...Look, the point is that I'm not feeling anything from your end— from the rest of the, uh, beetles. And maybe I'm not supposed to, I don't really know, but it feels wrong. Sort of... dead."]

You don't say anything.

["I'm not saying that he *is* dead, or unsalvageable, or... I mean, there's something in here, obviously."]
["But I do think he's kind of... broken."]

"Broken," you say.

["Yeah."]
["I mean, he did get shot, uh, in the head."]

>[-1 ID: 3/(9)]

You watch dismally as Ellery coughs the beetle back up. You watch dismally as it homes back in on you. You'd previously taken that as a sign of recognition, of conscious decision-making, of, perhaps, some loyalty, but now it reads like animal instinct. Broken.

It's not your fault, of course. It's not. It isn't. You haven't done anything wrong in your life. But, as as you trudge up the endless stairs, you're having trouble deciding who— precisely— is to blame, if not you. You do have options. It's not like you don't have options. They all just—

"Hah!" It's less an exclamation than an exhale, high and somewhat girlish, which means it wasn't Ellery. (As much as you like to deride his voice.) But it wasn't you, either, unless you've been in such a daze that you—

(2/4)
>>
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"Aha ha. Aha-ha."

Okay, it's not you. Ellery, several flights ahead, is unhearing. Nobody else is ahead of you, so you turn, slowly, one hand on The Sword's hilt...

...

"...Richard?" It's Richard, unmistakably, though he looks as though he's been run through the wash: he's flushed and rumpled and shining with sweat or something worse. He's looking down at himself like it's a brand new body, which you suppose must be true in some sense. "Richard! You, um— you exist."

"Ye-s." He rolls the word around in his mouth. "Yes. I suppose I must. You're unharmed."

"What?" It's a statement, not a question, and you're doubly thrown off by his voice: which is to say your voice. You're fairly sure it's your voice, in any case, though it sounds more like a bad parody. You do not have that strong of an accent. "Yeah, I— that's not funny, by the way."

"What isn't? Charlie, don't change the topic. I was attempting to extend a commemoration for your somewhat prudent decision-making, which is not normally something to be commended, but given your typical strategies, especially unsupervised, I feel I must reinforce—"

He's still using it. Why? To mock you? You assumed he'd be mocking you, but you thought you'd at least get some breathing room. "God, just- I don't care if you're if you're gonna lecture me about how stupid I was, and how I made all the worst decisions, and how I- I broke Gil, and I let Madrigal get stolen, and blah blah blah blah, I just— I don't want to hear it. Not right now. Okay? Just—"

"Excuse me?" It's not even just the voice— it's the same way you'd say 'excuse me.' "I take back the 'you're unharmed'— were you hit on the head? Because not only did I not say any of that, I seem to recall saying the opposite of—"

"In my voice," you hiss.

"..." Richard touches his throat. "Mm. I... hear that, yes. Er—"

He coughs exactly like a cat with a hairball as you watch Ellery above nervously. (No reaction. Still climbing.) Eventually he pulls a kind of bolus, black and semisolid, off his tongue, and pitches it off the side of the stairs. He clears his throat. "Pardon that," he says in his usual voice. "Though it really is your fault. You're very possessive."

"...Yes?" You're rather wishing all of the above didn't happen. "Wait, so you actually did mean to commend—"

(3/4)
>>
"And speaking of faults, I am curious about who you blame."

"What?" But you know what. You were just thinking about what. And he— "How much do you remember?"

"Everything." He clicks his tongue. "But it goes quick, so you may as well answer quick, Charlotte. Who do you blame?"

>[A1] Pat, obviously. She had the gun. She did the shooting. It is completely, objectively her fault.
>[A2] Gil. He's the one who wanted to go along. He's the one who let himself be taken hostage, like a— like an idiot. He should've known what he was getting yourself into.
>[A3] Ellery. He acted like he was all cool, and untouchable, and in control, and maybe some fraction of you had believed him. And then, when he was actually needed, he got shot like a bitch. You hate him.
>[A4] Madrigal. If /she/ hadn't wanted to go along— hadn't pleaded with you, personally, to take her— then she'd still be just fine today. And so would Gil.
>[A5] Richard. Yes, you blame him. If he wanted you to make the right decision, whatever that was, he could've influenced you. But he didn't. So here we are.
>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—

>[B] Discuss anything with Richard real quick? (You'll have more opportunity later. Write-in. Optional.)

>[C] Write-in.
>>
>>5025600
>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—
>>
>>5025600
>A1
NOTHING WRONG IN OUR ENTIRE LIFE
>>
>>5025600
>>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—
>>
>>5025600
>[A6] It's not as though you *blame* yourself. But maybe you do feel some degree of... remorse. Maybe you do feel as though, in some way, you failed to protect Gil. Not in, like, a bad way. You're not a bad person. You're not blaming yourself. You just, um— you—
>>
>>5026132
>You have never done anything wrong in your entire life

>>5026024
>>5026165
>>5026394
>It is within the realm of possibility that you have done at least one thing wrong in your entire life

Writing.
>>
>[uncomfortable self-reflection]

Who do you blame? What a stupid, meaningless question. He's just trying to get a rise out of you, you expect, and you're not falling for it. "Does it matter?"

"Does it matter? Must the fate of the world hang in the balance for every question I ask? No, it doesn't matter." He spreads his hands. "I'm simply curious."

Definitely trying to get a rise out of you. Why did you miss him? "I bet. And you can't just read my mind... why?"

"Ah, well, there's a tripartite answer. Part 1, that would be rather rude, Charlotte."

"Because that's stopped you before," you grumble.

He ignores you, choosing instead to adjust his sunglasses. "Part 2, which you would know if you paid any attention to anything I've said, is that I cannot, as you so tritely put it, 'read minds.' That is not a real concept. All I do is go about my day-to-day business while you radiate balderdash like a sort of... balderdash-radiator."

"That's a great metaphor."

"I suppose you'd be in peak condition, having existed for, let me see, a minute-forty. Part 3 is that I don't terribly care about the actual answer, as I know it already. I'd like to know what you think the answer is."

"So you're yanking me along," you say. "Thanks for the relevation, but I knew that much already, so I'm just going to go. Maybe be less of a—"

You knew in your gut he'd be in front of you when you turned around, but you still flinch. "—a- a prick, next time. Please move."

"We're having a civil conversation, Charlotte, I don't see what you're taking offense at." He doesn't move. This close, he smells of cigarette ash and wet dirt and, peculiarly, soap. "Is it the question? Is it making you uncomfortable?"

"No," you say. And then: "It's rather personal."

"And what are we if not personal? Really, Charlie." He leans. You can see his eyes through his sunglasses. "I will remind you of where I just was. Or wasn't. But in any case, you could at least acknowledge that it is making you uncomfortable. And maybe, from there, contemplate why... but I'm getting ahead of myself. Who do you blame?"

"You," you say.

He laughs. "Don't be glib."

You wish you could blame him, really and truly, so he could hear it radiating off your in big jagged waves and lose the damn smirk. But it's nothing you can sustain. He wasn't even there— and you know he would've wanted to interfere, if he were able.

"I'm not," you say. "Fine, I blame Ellery, alright? Is that what you want to hear? Because I do." It's not hard to summon genuine heat for this one. "He deserves it. He's all 'oh, look at me, I'm so cool and competent, I'm totally not a fake worthless illiterate loser,' and then he goes and— he goes and gets shot! And he doesn't contribute anything, and he- he—"

"That's well enough." Richard appraises you. "And do you believe that?"

(1/4)
>>
"What? Yes, I— yes. Do I sound like I don't? Aren't you the one who keeps calling me a bad liar? Surely you're— surely you—"

"Very well." He's unreadable as he steps aside. "Carry on. Don't let me stop you."

"Wait, but—" That was it? You expected a fight. Or a 'gotcha.' At least a 'gotcha.' "You can't just—"

"You asked me to move, didn't you?" He gestures up the staircase.

...Well, yes, you did, but... God. Now you have no choice but to walk. So you do, feeling quite odd about it all, as Richard reappears a few steps above you each time you blink.

"I didn't lie," you say, a dozen steps later.

"Did I call you a liar?"

"No, but— you implied it." You never want to see stairs again.

"I did nothing of the sort. Do you feel like a liar?"

"...I'm not a liar."

You hear the click-click-hiss of a lighter. "Again," Richard mumbles, "I didn't call you one. I don't care whether you are lying, I care about whether you believe you're lying. So would you bother applying a modicum of introspection and give me a straight answer? Unless you're incapable of that, which... is what I'm concerned about, in fairness."

"I can introspect," you say, offended. "I just— I don't get why anyone would want to. It's a waste of time."

"You are exhibiting," Richard notes around his cigarette, "a high degree of resistance to this simple yes-or-no question. I have an indefinite amount of time. I am, in fact, savoring the astonishing pleasures of being alive."

Meaning he's going to pester you until you give in. You hate that you can so readily translate Richardspeak. And, you'll admit it, you hate the question: "simple yes-or-no" or not, it implies all manner of things that you don't want implied. Are you lying to yourself? Does it matter if you're lying for yourself? If you are, it's surely for excellent reason. How would anyone get through life without lying to themselves? God. You suppose they'd end up like Monty, all sunshine and cuddles until they strangle innocent, unsuspecting young women. (God! He really did strangle you! You'll be having words, soon.)

Well, you're not like that. Like any sensible person, there are things you examine, and things you don't. Does it matter that "things you don't" is so much larger than "things you do?" No. Does that make you a liar? Also no. Does it make you feel like a liar?

...No. Usually no. So it's Richard's fault, then, as it always is, that you are, to a certain (small!) extent, feeling moderately... liar-y. Which makes no sense, because you aren't lying. You do blame Ellery.

You don't say anything. Richard still smirks. "I see."

"Shut up."

"You really are a poor liar, you're right. It just goes all over your face. In any case, now that we've acknowledged this together, let us return to the principal topic. You feel as though you're lying about who you blame, yes?"

"Shut up, Richard."

"So who do you blame?"

(2/4)
>>
"I don't want to talk about this anymore," you say.

"Perhaps this is too open-ended of a question. Let me revise. Do you blame yourself, Charlotte, for the events that occurred? Specifically, do you blame yourself for the beetles—"

"Gil."

"—for Gil being shot?"

You begin to jog. This is a daunting prospect, being that you're going upstairs in heels, but you feel it's worth it. Where's Ellery? You miss Ellery, who was too self-involved to care about how you felt. It's not as though Richard cares, either, but he's clearly got some kind of idea in his head and you're uninterested in feeding it. Wasn't he exhausted after the last time he re-existed? When's that supposed to kick in?

Not soon enough: he's vanishing and reappearing just the same as before, only faster. "Bravo," he says. "Literally running from your feelings, Charlotte. One would've thought that was constrained to bad metaphor, but look at you. Would you care to articulate any of your melodrama, or just repress it until I have to clean up the aftermath?"

You flash him a vulgar gesture.

"How classy. Would you like me to list what you've been telling me? Because I'll happily oblige. You—"

You don't need him to list it. You're scared about Gil. You're scared that something about him is gone, and isn't coming back, and that you caused it, you left him alone, you provoked Pat. She wasn't going to shoot him. You believe her, that she wasn't going to shoot him. But she did, because of you.

And— and it isn't like you and Gil had known each other for very long, or were very close, or were even really— you're not stupid, you know you weren't friends. You were just his only option. But you had thought that maybe you had, on certain occasions, experienced some kind of rapport, or "camaraderie," as they call it. And you had thought that maybe, given more of those certain occasions, he would begin to... want to stay around. You wanted him to stay around.

And now he is shot (you got him shot) and either something is gone and missing forever, and it's hopeless, or it's fixable, and he will hate you after he learns you got him shot, and he'll want to leave even faster. Not that you'd blame him. He was your retainer, and he was supposed to serve you loyally, and he did, and in return you were supposed to be a- a noble protector, and keep him safe from harm. And you didn't.

>[-1 ID: 2/(9)]

You are thinking all of these things you don't want to think, that Richard is making you think, and the beetles are cold under your coat, and you are crying a little. You are not climbing stairs. Ellery has probably made it out by now. The thought of that makes you cry harder and you do until someone grabs you.

"...Richard?" He is grasping you hard, half around your shoulders, and half around the chest. You sniffle. "Are you trying to pickpocket me?"

"No." His grip loosens. "This is— customary."

(3/4)
>>
This is customary? This is— "Oh, God." You push him off you. "Was that a- a- a hug? Are you drunk? Don't tell me you're drunk, I swear to God, I'll—"

"I'm not drunk, Charlie." He brushes himself down. "As I was saying, it's customary to- to offer an—"

"You make me cry all the time—" You are furiously wiping your nose. "—and you never hug me unless you're drunk."

"Well, yes, Charlie, that's when I intend to make you cry, it'd hardly make sense to— I didn't intend to, here, and I will additionally allow that, being newly, how shall we put it, reconstituted, I may be uniquely subsceptible to upswellings of feelings which are forced upon me by pushy, ungrateful little girls, and—" You have begun again to climb the stairs, and he is following, this time, on foot. He is already breathing heavily. "—and, I'll have you know, that if I had the foresight to get drunk, that would have shut you up, and that little incident would have been entirely averted—"

"You're such a bastard," you say.

"So I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't, how generous of you, Charlie— you know, I may as well go drink. I deserve it. You can stay sad and alone—"

"Go then," you spit, but he's already gone. You make short work of the rest of the stairs, wipe your nose one last time, and kick the small nondescript door open with a satisfying THUNK.

Ellery is there. Anthea is there. To be more precise, the two of them are entwined in a fashion you find entirely inappropriate, and you begin to say as much before Ellery's shoulders arch and he looses an ugly broken sob.

Ah.

>[1] Not this again. Slink back in through the door, shut it behind you, and wait the whole debacle out. You don't want to be involved, simple as that.
>[2] Attempt to clandestinely alert Anthea to your presence and hope she can sort the whole matter out. She seems... tactful.
>[3] Silence the alarm bells in your head and wade right into this. Hello! You don't see anybody crying! Say, how about getting out of this dump? How *is* Anthea doing, by the way?
>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]
>[5] Write-in.
>>
>>5026665
>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]
>>
>>5026665
>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]

Let's drop some eaves.
>>
>>5026665
>>[4] Ah! Aha. As deeply mortifying as watching this would be, you suspect it may involve pertinent information. What else would Ellery be a wreck about? (Not to mention it's a useful distraction from your own issues.) [Roll to eavesdrop.]
>>
>>5026665
>5

Join the cry huddle
>>
>>5027051
You would rather die, frankly.
>>
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>>5026695
>>5026811
>>5026870
>4

Okay! Time to exploit the heck out of this private moment.

>Please roll me 3 1d100s - 5 (+10 Good Eavesdropper, -15 Completely Exposed) vs. DC 40 (+5 When's Charlotte Coming?, -15 Very Distracted) to eavesdrop without being caught!
>>
Rolled 61 + 5 (1d100 + 5)

>>5027346
EAVESSSSS

>>5026811
This is me, by the way--was at work.
>>
Rolled 1 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

>>5027346
>>
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>>5027384

R E K T
E
K
T
>>
Rolled 16 - 5 (1d100 - 5)

>>5027346
epic roll??
>>
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>>5027384
Man... you guys just can't catch a break, can you?

I've been thinking about crits over the hiatus, and I'd like to make an offer. If you don't accept it, I'll offer it on the next critfail (and we all know there'll be a next one).

The offer is:
>Defer the critfail. The 1 doesn't pass the DC, but has no special properties beyond that. (You would get a Mitigated Success.)
>In return, I get to convert one future failure into a critfail, at which point the crit is expended and the "defer" offer becomes available again.
>This would not be used to deliberately screw you: I would use it at a point where I deemed it narratively interesting for a critfail to happen.

So...
>Defer this crit?
>[1] Yes. You get a Mitigated Success. I get to turn one future Failure into a critical failure.
>[2] No. You critfail.
>>
>>5027403
>[2] No. You critfail.

I'd rather not critfail at all, but given the circumstances I'd rather we fuck this roll up than a later one...
>>
>>5027403
>>[2] No. You critfail.
>>
>>5027403
>>[2] No. You critfail.
>>
>>5027409
>>5027411
>>5027448
>Critfail
You got it. Writing.

>>5027358
No problem. I'm not ForgottenQM, I don't do autism checks.
>>
>>5027506
Goooood.
>>
>>5025597
>He looks at you. "Son of a bitch."
>"Pardon me?"
>"You're just going to be a little shit about it no matter what I do, huh? You're just going to— to— just give me the fucking bug, Charlotte."

Oh no, he's figured us out!
>>
>Scooby Doo the hell out of this one
>56, 1, 11 vs. DC 40 — CRITFAIL

Your first instinct is to turn and leave immediately, and you do, almost, until Anthea begins to speak. "Ell—" she says, and then something too soft to hear, then "Charlotte, she—"

Hold on, they're talking about you? That's different. That's entirely different. This is now, as a simple matter of fact, your business. Damn the crying! You have a right to know what's being said about you, at any time, on any occasion, and by God you intend to exercise this right. (And it's not as if Ellery wouldn't eavesdrop on you.)

The principal issue here is not one of morals, then: it's of logistics. You have come in through that gate you attempted to go through some hours before, before you were kidnapped— there's no sign of your kidnappers, though. It's bright and sunny out, and the snow on the ground has melted so rapidly that you're shin-deep in runoff. Meaning you have no cover.

...Well. No cover, unless— unless you take a cunning ploy out of Josey Hatchcock's playbook (the playbook from the earlier novels, before the new author tarted her up). You distinctly recall occasions where Josey had cause to hide from bandits, or hired guns, or the like, and, for lack of other options was forced to— yes!— hide under the water, with only a reed to breathe from. Only you don't have any reeds. And you don't want to get wet. But it's too late, you have already committed yourself to the plan, and now if you don't go through with it you'll begin to think of Gil again.

Which, er... can beetles go underwater? The question comes too late, as you've already begun to lower yourself into the snowmelt. Damn, you think, damn damn damn damn damn, and it's only through extraordinary strength of will that you don't say it aloud. You have almost immediately lost feeling in your fingers.

Damn damn damn damn. At least Richard isn't here, though it doesn't matter much, because you're already visualizing what he's going to say. Maybe you do need a drink after this. A warm one. You are fully submerged, now, and shivering, and shimmying forward on your forearms, and then you realize rather belatedly that you can't hear anything from down here. You can see their boots.

Damn! You rest your face on the cobblestone as you plot how to save face from this. Nothing comes. You roll sideways, in hopes a new position will stimulate ideas, and—

"It's not pointless."

...It's not exactly a voice. It's more like a noise, or a— maybe a vibration, or something, coming through the ground. You can't explain why you understand it.

"It's not? Go on, then, explain to me how it isn't—"

Still vibrations, but... lower? Deeper?

"How it isn't pointless? Ell, what about—"

(1/3?)
>>
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"Because the way I see it, I- I-" A pause. "I spent years tearing myself to pieces for a- a cause. I don't know why she thinks— I mean, if I'd done it for shits and giggles, I'd be— I'd be dead. Even with you I'd be— no offense."

"I know."

"But I- I had a cause, you know, a purpose, and I thought it was— gods, I—" Another pause. "You know, I was doing the right thing."

"I know. You were."

"And- and- and now it's been—" Long pause. "It was in my control. It wasn't like she- like she fucked over the wrong bootlegger— I was there, and I-I watched, and—"

"She shot you, Ell. We all trusted her."

"I shouldn't have! And I should've been more careful, and now— don't you see? It's wasted. It's pointless. All of it— fucking pointless."

"That's what I was trying to tell you. You can't think of it that way, or it'll— it really will kill you. Hasn't there been something worthwhile?"

A drawn-out pause. "No."

"Come on. What about the club, Ell? What about- what about me?"

And you don't know what happens, what look comes across Ellery, whether he pushes her or she shoves him or if Anthea just breaks away from the hug, but either way her foot lands directly on the small of your back. You gurgle, and she shrieks, and that's how you wind up, sopping wet, face-to-face with both of them.

Anthea radiates concern. "I- I can't believe I stepped on you! I'm so sorry! Are you alright? That was so stupid of me, I don't know how I—"

"You were spying on us," Ellery says flatly.

"No I wasn't," you say.

"Don't make accusations, Ellery, I don't care what kind of state you're in— she's just—"

"She was laying in the water right next to us." He kicks the water. "There's no explanation for that. She was spying on us, like she has been spying on us. For weeks. And what did you learn this time, Ms. Detective?"

You decide to stick to the script. "I wasn't spying."

"See, she said she wasn't spying, Ellery. Would you drop it? I'm sure she just—" Anthea stops midsentence, and squints, and reaches for your lapel. She retrieves a beetle. (It seems alive, if also sopping wet. Thank God.) "—is this a beetle?"

"No," you say.

"My god, it is a— hold on, do you have more of these?"

"No."

She plucks another beetle from your lapel. "Are these the beetles from— from a few weeks ago?"

It was less than that, but you don't say so. "No."

"The ones I expressly told you not to bring with you? And you're taking them places? Charlotte?"

"She's taking them places and getting them shot," Ellery interjects. "They're pretty fucked-up right now. Or it is, or... he, or whatever."

You stare daggers at Ellery. Anthea stares daggers at you. "I can't believe you'd do that! When I expressly told you— and I can't believe you'd lie! And I can't believe you'd- you'd spy on us!"

"For weeks." Ellery wipes his nose.

(2/3?)
>>
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"For— for weeks!" Her smoke is billowing out faster and darker than usual. "Do you know what you've done? What you've caused? This is a- a good man, a- a good and decent man, and he doesn't deserve what you're—"

"He deserves it," you say.

"No! He doesn't! And I can't believe you'd be so cruel as to take advantage of such a- a- a—" It's nearly black, now. "—a, a— oh, god, my head."

She sways and topples: you leap back as Ellery leaps forward, catching her before she hits the ground. His face is dark. He hoists her up and puts two fingers to her neck.

"She's not—" you say.

"She's just fainted. She doesn't... she doesn't do well with strong emotion, anymore." He lifts her over his shoulders. "We're going. Not you."

"Oh," you say, and then "wait, what about—"

"I hope I won't see you again." He fishes around in his pocket and pulls out a small clamshell mirror.

"But—" Your words finally catch up to you. "But, but Madrigal. Don't tell me you can rescue her. You're—"

"Gods-fucking-dammit." He looks ready to throw the mirror, but restrains himself. "Fine. Fine. You know how to contact me."

"...Uh, how do I—"

He flips the mirror open and looks into it and when it closes both he and Anthea are gone. You are alone. And wet.

Richard, you think. Rich-ard. Riiichard. Richard. R-I-C-H-A-R-D. Richard! Richard, you useless—

"You're wet," he says.

"You're drunk. Quick. Is it even possible to get drunk that—"

"It's amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it, Charlie." He hasn't gotten to the point where he's slurring his words, but between the slouch and the stench of whiskey you could clock him at a hundred paces. "You need a ride."

"...Yes."

"Easy enough." He slaps a hand over your eyes. You are turned inside-out and rightside-in before you can complain and then he removes the hand. You are back inside your manse, which still has an entire ravine inside it, but you're pretty sure the seating area is new. Richard's pulled up a table, a few chairs, and a tasteless rug. Is that where Richard was drinking? Is that...

...Gil? Why is Gil there? He was shot. He's on you. But he is there, he stands when he sees you and waves too broadly. Has he also been drinking? "Charlotte! Hi!"

You look down at your chest. The beetles are still there. You look at Gil, who has stopped waving. "...I-is something the matter?"

Richard leans in close. "Right. I forgot to remind you. You only brought a fraction of him, remember?"

...Well. Now that he mentions it.

(Choices next.)
>>
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>[A1] You know, this is fine. This is fine! Now you can pretend this never happened. Go stick the brain-damaged beetles in a shoebox and don't tell Gil anything.
>[A2] Vaguely tell Gil something happened, but don't let him see the beetles. Maybe you can buy enough time for Richard to fix them, or maybe just for Gil to forget about them.
>[A3] Fully fess up to what happened, but don't let Gil see the beetles. You don't want to risk him finding out about it later, but you don't know if it's... contagious, or whatever.
>[A4] Fully fess up, and let Gil see the beetles. There's, what, sixteen of them? And 300, 400 of him, rattling around inside that person suit? Odds are, he'll integrate them back in, fix all the problems, and you won't have to worry about anything.
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]
>[B2] Abstain. You want to be thinking clearly.

>[C] Write-in.
>>
>>5027627
>[A3] Fully fess up to what happened, but don't let Gil see the beetles. You don't want to risk him finding out about it later, but you don't know if it's... contagious, or whatever.
>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]
>>
>>5027627
>A3
Unless he knows he can fix it in which case A4, I'm sure he knows more about multi beetle existence than we do.
>>
>>5027627
>B1
Forgot the drink vote
>>
>>5027627
>>[A3] Fully fess up to what happened, but don't let Gil see the beetles. You don't want to risk him finding out about it later, but you don't know if it's... contagious, or whatever.
>>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]
>>
>>5027627
>[A4] Fully fess up, and let Gil see the beetles. There's, what, sixteen of them? And 300, 400 of him, rattling around inside that person suit? Odds are, he'll integrate them back in, fix all the problems, and you won't have to worry about anything.

I mean, what if they're also Gil, but have no must yet must scream.
>>
>>5027627
>[B1] Have a drink. [Regain ID.]

Thiniing clearly hasn't worked out for us.
>>
>>5027767
>>5028016
>>5027663
>A3

>>5028290
>A4

>>5027663
>>5027768
>>5028016
>>5028295
>B1

Neat. Writing.

>>5027767
You'll see if he knows.

>>5028290
>I mean, what if they're also Gil, but have no must yet must scream.
The beetles you have are definitely Gil... they're the Gil you've been hauling around for the past 3 threads. Not sure how clear I made that.
>>
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>Well uh you see
>Drink up

'Is something the matter.' Is something the matter? Gil's right there, isn't he? Unharmed, and unsuspecting, and— you could not tell him. You could go right ahead and not tell him a thing, and he'd never, ever know, and his trust would never— he wouldn't want to leave you, and—

Richard claps his hand on your shoulder. "I think Charlotte has something to tell you."

"Oh? ...What?"

"Well, I don't—" You kick Richard in the ankle. "I wouldn't say I have something to tell you, as such, but—"

"Really? I thought we talked about this, Charlie." You are forcibly walked forward: Richard's grip on your shoulder is unchanging. "You definitely had something. It was about what happened to him, wasn't it?"

"Something happened?" Yeah, okay, Gil's tipsy: he's gesticulating. "...Wait, where am I? I-I mean... the other me, not... is he okay?"

"Yes," you say, immediately. "Yes, he's okay, there's nothing to—"

"He was shot," Richard says.

"Well, he was shot, but you know, it was— it really wasn't such a big—"

"I-I-I was shot?" Gil collapses back into his chair. "...Where?"

Richard pokes your forehead. "Right here. Quite tragic."

"...Um, but I-I-I don't have a..." He touches his own forehead.

He means the beetles. "You were, uh, a person. Sort of. Person-ish. And yes, okay, you were shot, in the head, but, uh— that's not— I tried to intervene, but it was— it was too late, and, um—"

Gil looks down. "...So I-I'm dead?"

"No! No, you're not—" You laugh. "You're not dead! No. No. Of course not."

"...Then can I see—"

"No."

Gil's eyes widen.

You laugh again, strained. "Not because— I mean, he's fine, it's just— Richard, uh— Richard wants to take a look at him, first. Right, Richard? We talked about this."

"We did. Apologies, Gil, but it's for the best: you're a unique, very delicate system, at the moment, and the introduction of any destabilizer could send you—" Richard makes a 'poof' gesture. "Take it as a compliment."

"A compliment." Gil sags. "I-I-I-I've been shot, and you won't even let me see me, and— and you want me to take it as—"

"I," you say loudly. "want a drink. Does anyone else want a—?"

-
>>
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Richard, having already slammed a few shots, opts for nursing some kind of unpronounceable wine. Gil demurs, has Richard light him a cigarette, and sinks into a hollow-eyed stupor. You have your usual.

>[+3 ID: 5/(9)]

"...I don't get it." You tink the cocktail glass against your teeth. "You don't exist."

"Yes."

"So you can't feel anything. Or perceive anything. Because you don't exist."

"Yes."

"So shouldn't it just be... nothing? Like you go to sleep, and while you're asleep you happen to be me, and then you wake up and you're you again. What about that is hell? I mean, maybe- maybe philosophically, but you're talking about legitimate—"

"Charlie. Charlie." Richard, splayed over an entire chaise longue, straightens. "See, it's like a- a bell."

"A bell."

"A bell. Like this one." He displays a little brass bell. "See, when you ring the bell, it makes a bell noise."

You prop your head on your hand. "Sure."

"But imagine if it didn't make a— a bell noise. Imagine if you rang it and it emitted, instead, a peal of exquisite suffering."

"...Uh-huh."

"And then imagine the bell ceased to exist entirely. Like this." Richard closes his hand, and the bell is gone. "But imagine that the peal of the bell continued to ring out. The last and only proof it existed. The peal is not the bell, yes? But it is of the bell. It carries, in its very nature, the properties of the bell-that-does-not-exist."

"The bell that makes you suffer," you say. "Seems better it doesn't exist."

"It doesn't make you suffer, it— it just is suffering. It is transcendental agony. It is the scream of every fiber of your being as you revolt against—"

"And this is a bell? What kind of person would- would make such a sucky bell? Surely there's better things to do with—"

"Charlie, the bell is a- it's a, a metaphor." Richard rubs his eye.

"But you had a bell."

"Yes, and that bell was a metaphor for the metaphorical bell— the point was, that's how it works. The hell."

"The bell hell," you say, and snicker.

Richard does not. "Right. How am I holding my liquor better than you, Charlotte? Honestly, you've had—"

Half a glass. "I'm not drunk," you say, as clearly as you can manage. "I'm just— I don't want to think right now. I've done my thinking. I want to... I just want to sit here."

"Well, aren't you the little role model." Richard curls his top lip in a kind-of smile. "Embroiled in- in sloth and hedonism. What would we do without you, O Charlotte Fawkins, destroyer of worlds, savior of civilizations, supreme ruler of reality... I suppose we'd all fall to ash and ruin."

You adjust the eyepatch to see him better. "You have a winestain on your tie."

"No I—" He looks down at his tie. "Shit."

(Choices next.)
>>
>Get stuff done before you have to go. Pick a max of 3 options (for my sanity). You will talk about Madrigal's kidnapping no matter what.

>[1] Have Richard take an actual look at the beetles. Maybe he'll be able to tell what's wrong with them.
>[2] Ask Richard about your eye- which is, as far as you know, still recording. You need a better one ASAP. How?
>[3] Ask Richard what the deal is with the sun. Frankly, you don't know if there even *is* a deal with the sun... it's just starting to creep you out. (Ellery might know more about this, but you're not sure you're on speaking terms.)
>[4] Check on the heart you planted. How long does it take to grow, anyhow?
>[5] Shake Gil out of his nicotine coma and semi-sincerely make sure he's okay. Maybe he just needs time to think, but you don't want this to fester.
>[6] Write-in.
>>
>>5028510
>[1] Have Richard take an actual look at the beetles. Maybe he'll be able to tell what's wrong with them.
>[2] Ask Richard about your eye- which is, as far as you know, still recording. You need a better one ASAP. How?
>[5] Shake Gil out of his nicotine coma and semi-sincerely make sure he's okay. Maybe he just needs time to think, but you don't want this to fester.
>>
>>5028509
>1
>2
>4
>>
>>5028558
Yes
>>
>>5028509
>>[1] Have Richard take an actual look at the beetles. Maybe he'll be able to tell what's wrong with them.
>>[2] Ask Richard about your eye- which is, as far as you know, still recording. You need a better one ASAP. How?
>>[5] Shake Gil out of his nicotine coma and semi-sincerely make sure he's okay. Maybe he just needs time to think, but you don't want this to fester.
>>
>>5028558
>>5029155 (taking this as a +1)
>>5029163
>1, 2, 5

>>5028714
>1, 2, 4

Called for 1, 2, 5. I strongly suspect that I'll have to break this up over multiple days, but we'll see what happens.
>>
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>Make Richard do all the work

"Told you so." You stick out your tongue.

"Yes, well, aren't you a— a—" Richard waves his glass in a circle. "Well, you have something on your face."

"On my face? Oh." Now that he said it, something does tickle. A stray eyelash? "Oh, ew! Gil!"

"Mmn," Gil parries. His head lolls to one side. Plucking the beetle off your face, you storm over to his chair and hold it in front of his eyes. "Tell it that it isn't allowed to—!"

"Tell it how." Richard's staring at you from over his sunglasses.

"Well, can't he speak beetle, or—"

"Even supposing that was an ordinary insect, do you seriously think that, uh— that—" He wipes his mouth. "Listen, Charlie. Listen. Beetles don't know what faces are."

"And snakes don't talk and they sure don't spill wine on their tie. I don't see the issue."

"You're right! They don't." This utter non-joke causes Richard to break into throaty laughter for a good 20 seconds, splashing more wine on himself. "Ahh. But seriously, Charlie, get that fucking thing away from him. Did you not listen to what I said?"

"Um," you say, and pull the beetle away a little.

"I don't know why I asked that. Do you do it on purpose? Be— be honest, Charlie. Do you not listen to me just t'— is it just to piss me off? Tell me."

You can't even remember what he said earlier. "You're just boring. And- and you talk about boring things whenever you're not yelling at me. Who cares about bells?"

"It was a metaphor! Maybe if you had an attention span of more than—"

"See," you say, "and now you're yelling at me."

"'And now you're yelling at me,'" he mouths, and downs the rest of his wine. "Okay. I'll dumb it down for your human brain. BEETLE near GIL... BAD. BEETLE transmit BAD STUFF."

"Aren't snake brains, like, this big?" You pinch your fingers together.

"Yes. Now bring that thing here. Bring all of them, Charlie. Come on. Chop-chop." Richard claps his hands together. "I need to do a proper examination."

"Can't you come here?" But you come over.

-

The most difficult part of the process was shaking all the beetles out from under your coat. The second-most difficult was helping Richard up off the chaise longue. But eventually you got them out, and he staggered over to the table, and all you really had to do was watch.

Not that there was much to see: just Richard muttering and prodding the beetles with tweezers. Occasionally he lifted one up to a jeweler's loupe. You closed your eyes pretty quick.

"Charlie!"

You start. There is a blackboard in front of you. Richard is in front of the blackboard. "Oh, God."

"It is—" He strikes the blackboard with a stick of chalk. "—done. And I have prepared a visual example—"

"Oh, God."

"—since you will not comprehend any other means of communication."

"That's a lie," you say. You feel pleasantly warm. (Your glass is empty.) "You just want to draw a picture because it's fun."

(1/3)
>>
He laughs for too long, again, and you can't tell if it's because you're right or if it's the whiskey or both. Then he stops very abruptly and points the chalk at you. "No."

"You do. It's fun, and you want to..." You wave your arm. "...show off. Or whatever. So go on, show off, it's not like you care about what I think. Just don't expect me to— to clap."

He purses his lips and looks away, and down, and back at you, and then he turns back to the blackboard. "Very well. Have you, darling Charlie— uh— have you—" He squints. "—ah. Have you ever wondered what factors make up 'you?' What invisible forces—"

"Can you just draw the picture already?" you say.

His face colors. He draws sixteen circles in two concentric ring-ish shapes: one outer, one inner. He draws wobbly lines in between all the circles, though you're uncertain whether they're wobbly on purpose. "There. There you go, Charlotte Fawkins. There is your picture."

You contemplate it. "That's a terrible picture."

Richard throws the chalk at your forehead and misses by a fair distance. Then he vanishes.

You kick your seat waiting for him to reappear. He does not reappear. The chalkboard remains. "Richard?"

Nothing. Silence. Your voice echoes in the huge hollow space. "...Richard?"

"Mn," Gil contributes, from somewhere behind the blackboard.

"Richard, don't be a- a bastard. This is silly. Just..." You contort your face. "Okay, I'll listen to a... condensed version. Tell me what your stupid picture means, or whatever."

"It's not a picture, Charlotte, it's a diagram, and since you insist." He's back just where he was, though notably un-winestained, and swaying less. He taps on the chalkboard. "This is Gil. The circles—" They are barely circles. "—are what you see of him. His physical body(s). Each body contains A), the ordinary rudimentary nervous system of the beetle, and B) a splinter of the original human person, Gil Wallace. Each splinter alone is not powerful to create the illusion of a coherent, congruent 'self,' but in combination..." Richard gestures to the lines between the non-circles. "...They create connections, or I am coining the usage 'webs,' and this 'webbing' is what produces what you know as Gil."

"That was not condensed," you say.

"Yes it—"

"You could've just said there's a separate Gil bit in every beetle, but invisible thingies stick them together so it's like there's only one Gil."

(2/3)
>>
Richard curls his lip. "Yes, I could've, if I wanted to sound dim. In any case, I propose that, when your Gil was shot, the shock, pain, or trauma caused this webbing to—" He wipes away the lines on the chalkboard. "The experience of a central self was shattered in an instant."

You raise your hand. "Aren't they just normal beetles, then."

"No, Charlotte, because those slivers—" He pokes a non-circle. "—are still there. There's something human in them, still, or there ought to be. It just isn't whole, and to be terribly honest I suspect it'll deteriorate rapidly. Don't get too attached."

Don't get too attached. You think of him gagged and at gunpoint, and the shards of him scattered on the ground, like you dropped a vase, and you think of him hugging onto you, and you think of Ellery, speaking— it's dark. He doesn't understand. Please help.

You rub your nose. "Right. So how do you fix it?"

"How do I fix it?"

"How do you fix it. You— you fix things. That's your job."

Richard stares at you. "You want me to fix it. You want me to perform exploratory surgery on— on a novel specimen—"

"He's a person," you say.

"'He' is 5% of a person, and the other 95%—" Richard points behind the blackboard. "—is doing perfectly well without him. Charlotte, I will be blunt, I don't know how I'd begin to repair— and even if I did, the amount of time it would take is just astronomical—"

"You're supposed to fix things."

Richard just looks at you. "Charlie..."

>[1] You don't care about the time it'd take or if he knows how to do it or anything. It's Richard job to clean up your messes, it's as simple as that. Browbeat him into it.
>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.
>[3] ...You mean, it's not... Gil is still here. He's alive and well. He won't miss the beetles if they just... if you just let them go, surely. And it would save you a whole mess of trouble.
>[4] Write-in.
>>
>>5029534
>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.
We haven't done anything wrong in our life _yet_, but if we don't help our loyal retainer we _will_ have done, because noblesse oblige, feudal contract, etc, etc, and not guilt at all.
>>
>>5029574
>>5029534
Can't argue this stance
>>
>>5029534
>>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.
>>
>>5029534
>1

agree with >>5029574
but richard just said it would rapidly deteriorate
so the stupid complicated way might take too long unless it's like inception
>>
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>>5029574
>>5029815
>>5030099
>>5030165
Hey guys-- I'm not feeling too great, so I'm going to take a pass on updating tonight. I'll be back tomorrow. Leaving the vote open in the off-chance anyone else stops by, though I don't expect anything.
>>
>>5029534
>[2] Okay, if there's no easy, normal way to do it, shouldn't there be a stupid complicated way? Shouldn't you be able to go on some wacky symbolic escapade to get it all sorted out? You'd like to do that.

Would we be a /qst/ protagonist if we didn't?

>>5030559
Feel better and get some rest!
>>
>>5030559
Please feel better fren.
>>
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>>5030859
>>5030907
Thanks, guys! I do feel better. Think I just needed some sleep.

>>5029574
>>5029815
>>5030099
>>5030859
>2

>>5030165
>1

Called for [2] and writing.
>>
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>Take matters into your own hands

"Okay," you say quietly.

Richard tilts his head. "I don't suppose that's a wholehearted 'yes,' with maybe a 'thank you, Richard, you have shown me the error of my ways, I will no longer assume that every colossal cock-up I make has a simple—'"

"You'd suppose wrong, then." You purse your lips. "I'm asking Gil."

"What for? To get the most biased possible response? Think rationally, Charlotte, this is not worth our—"

"I'm asking him." Lurching out of your seat, you stalk around the blackboard and over to Gil, who is contorted in a bizarre sitting posture: slumped, one leg up to his chest, one arm hooked around the chair, his head resting on his knee. He is wreathed in smoke, which is leaking from his mouth, nose, and joints as well as from the stubby end of his cigarette. He is uncannily still. "Gil? GIL."

"Mm."

"Gil. Hello. Can you say words? Tell me you can say words."

"He's probably paralyzed." The sound of wheels on tile: Richard must be rolling away the blackboard. "Mildly."

You whip around. "He's paralyzed?!"

"Mildly." The blackboard is gone, though Richard still waggles the chalk. "What, what did you think it did to him?"

"Well, I'm not a smoker, Richard—"

"You don't have to be. But if you'd like a solution, why not pop off the head? It's detachable. Should just take a grab and a twist—" He reads your look of horror. "I have to do everything around here."

You nod vigorously.

"Very well." He comes up next to you, grasps Gil's head at the temples, and— you assume twists it off, but you shut your eyes. When you look again, his arm is deep in Gil's neck, which is venting smoke like a chimney. After some banging around, he retrieves a heaping handful of beetles. "There. Don't ask me for anything else."

"I didn't ask you to—" you start, before he dumps the beetles into your palms and retreats. You cast a sidelong glance at Gil's headless (it's not a corpse it's not a corpse) body, rub your nose, and squint. "Uh... Gil?"

The beetles' legs are twitching in a sickly sort of way. You poke one in the underbelly. "Hey," it— Gil slurs. "Hey, don't..."

"Gil!" It's words. It's progress. "Oh, God, I'm glad you're okay. Um, at least I hope you're okay. You're kind of— you know, um, nevermind. Would you like to die?"

"...Trick question? I-I-Is that a— a..."

You raise the beetles to eye level. "No. It's not. Richard over there thinks we should consign you— uh, the part of you that went along— to death. Because he thinks it's too hard to fix you. Do you agree?"

His voice has risen. "Do I-I... no? I-I-I don't— I don't want to die, Lottie. Please don't let him kill me."

"Oh!" you say. "Oh! So you don't want to die? You don't want to be left to suffer, cruelly, at the uncaring hands of a certain RICHARD—" You make direct eye contact.

(1/3)
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Richard, unmoved, beckons at you. You look down at Gil, and over at the rest of Gil, which appears to be attempting to drag his head back over to his body. "I won't let him," you stage-whisper at your palm, and trot over to help the poor beetles.

Twenty seconds later, Gil's head is screwed back on his neck— it got easier to stomach when you realized it was cold and hard and not at all fleshy. "...Thanks," he mumbles, "for, um..."

Swelled with emotion, you give him a brief hug and trot back over to Richard.

Richard appraises you over his sunglasses. "Maybe I made that higher proof than I intended."

"What?" you say.

"In any case, I have some questions for you, Charlotte Fawkins. The first is why?" He nods towards Gil.

"Why?" You glance over your shoulder. "Um, because he's my retainer, obviously? He hath foresworneth to be in mine service, and he— I mean— it's my sacred duty to protect those of lesser stock, and, um, he— he— you can't kill my guy, Richard, that's not fair. Kill your own guy."

"Don't hyperbolize, Charlotte, it's more like lopping off a gangrenous finger. And it's not out of guilt?"

"...No."

"You do not feel horrendously responsible for his present suffering?"

You glare. "I said no."

"I suppose you did. Well, then, my second question is 'how?' How do you intend to fix him, Charlotte, since you know so well what's possible and what isn't."

"Um," you say, "I'll figure it out as I go along. Don't worry about it." Positive thinking. "I'll go into his mind, or whatever. And do battle with his... mind demons."

("What?" Gil says.)

"You'll go into his mind-or-whatever." Richard removes his sunglasses specifically to pinch the bridge of his nose. "You're going to hurt yourself, Charlotte."

"No I won't. I went through that whole—" You gesture broadly. "—that, um— the whole— the thing I just went through, and look at me. I didn't get hurt once."

"You lost your eye."

"No I—" You touch your bandaged eye. "I— I— okay, maybe, but that's not relevant."

Richard checks his watch. "Uh-huh. Well. I know better than tell you not to do it, though I am, in fact, telling you not to do it. But please wait until I'm able to supervise."

"Wait?" You stick your arms out at Gil. "You said it deteriorates rapidly!"

"Not that rapidly. You have until this evening in r-time, by my estimate."

"Oh." You lower your arms. "Okay, but you look pretty able to supervise."

"That's illusory, I'm afraid. Right now, I'm—" He touches his neck, as if feeling for a pulse. "—let's see, three sheets to the wind, and... doing paperwork. A charming combination. Speaking of eyes—"

"But you're right here," you say. "And you seem... sober. Soberish."

"Yes." He checks his watch again.

(2/3)
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"And you're less, um, rumpled." The winestain is gone, but so is the sweaty pallor, the stray hairs, the untucked tie. "Did you— when did you—"

"It's amazing what some R&R will do for a man, Charlie. Oh, don't give me that look." (You continue to give him that look.) "It's standard procedure, I just don't often follow it because it's a pain in the ass. And it's hardly my fault my chronology isn't bound at the hip with yours. Now, I really have to—" He checks his watch for the third time. "...Your eye. What possessed you to remove this, again?"

You tug at the bandage. "I, uh— keys."

"Keys." Richard shakes his head. "Okay. Well, the damage is done. And this thing is a video camera?"

"A what camera?" you say.

"A— it captures moving pictures, Charlotte. Give it here."

"...My eye?"

"Yes."

Reluctantly, you lift up the bandage and press hard around your socket. The eye falls into your hand. It is wet, and the world is dim and grainy.

Richard takes it from you. "I'll take a look at it later. The good news is that you still have your eye."

"I do?"

"Yes. It's in your skull. That being said, this one—" You can feel him poke at your socket. "—isn't coming back, so we may as well discuss alternatives."

"Alternatives." You touch your bad eye. "Like this? I don't want another one of these."

Richard is silent for a long time. "Not like that. Like..."

>This is not a binding vote, but it will influence your future opportunities.

>[1] ...something realistic. Like an actual eye, say. You could pluck an eye out of a defeated enemy and it would be super awesome and metal and only a little disgusting.
>[2] ...something beautiful. If you keep losing all your proper eyes, maybe it's a sign you need to branch out? Get something in gold. Or silver. Or precious gemstones. Or a relic of an ancient civilization, maybe. You just have to find something first (or steal it).
>[3] ...something technological. You have two handsome, intelligent, talented, handy men(?) here, and neither of them will just make little old you another eye? You'll even get whatever special parts they need, or whatever.
>[4] Write-in. (Almost anything eye-sized and very roughly eye-shaped will work, provided it carries enough significance— you can't just stick a dirt clod in your eye socket and hope to see out of it.)
>>
>>5031397
>[2]
A relic of a lost civilisation in particular would appeal to Charlie's sensibilities, I think.
>>
>>5031403
>>5031397

Supporting this
>>
>>5031397
>2 definitely the most charlotte option
>>
>>5031397
>[3] ...something technological. You have two handsome, intelligent, talented, handy men(?) here, and neither of them will just make little old you another eye? You'll even get whatever special parts they need, or whatever.

Mostly I want to see Richard gag on us being sweet and flattering.
>>
>>5031397
>[2] ...something beautiful. If you keep losing all your proper eyes, maybe it's a sign you need to branch out? Get something in gold. Or silver. Or precious gemstones. Or a relic of an ancient civilization, maybe. You just have to find something first (or steal it).
>>
File deleted.
>>5031403
>>5031564
>>5031580
>>5031971
>2

>>5031624
>1

Called for [2] and writing.

>>5031624
Good news for you, anon: I started writing up a "what if" pastebin where Richard gags on you being sweet and flattering, and I think I'm just going to incorporate it into the main update. You'll get your wish.
>>
>>5032106
Sorry, that should be >3 for the single vote. My mistake.
>>
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>Bling bling

"...a real eye. There's really no better substitute— it's least obtrusive, easiest to adapt to, most likely best quality of vision..."

"A real eye," you say. "Like somebody *else's* eye?"

"It'd be your eye once we installed it."

"You want me to put somebody else's *eyeball* in my *face.*"

Richard rubs his forehead. "You know what the answer to that is, Charlotte, so I'll instead urge you to consider the cost-benefit analysis, in this instance, and not your inconsequential 'feelings' about such a—"

God. "You're such a- a- a snake. If I cut *your* eye out—" (Richard sighs.) "—don't *sigh* at me— if I cut your eye out, and you only had one eye, would *you* go put a dead person's eyeball in your face?"

"Assuming that such a scenario were remotely plausible, then yes. It's the best—"

"'It's the best option,'" you mimic. "It's gross! It's— it is gross. I am *not*— isn't there another solution? Can't you just— make something."

"Make something."

"Like an eye, or— I mean, between you and Gil, you ought to be able to—"

"Charlotte. What do you suppose I am?"

This is a dangerously open-ended question. You make your best attempt. "Um, you're a snake. Except not really, because you... don't exist, or something. But you're definitely not human, I'm just making you look like one, and act like one, I guess, because I, uh— because you're— you were— maybe, at one point, my- my- my- my dad. I guess."

"Really?" Richard laces his fingers. "Because I was under the impression you thought I was some kind of miraculous automaton, enslaved to do your will, who never slows, never tires, never requires breaks from your incessant yammering, who leaps at the opportunity to spend his frankly miniscule free time working on a wholly unnecessary side project that remains inferior to the much easier option I just presented, without so much as a 'please' or 'thank you.'"

It takes some time for you to process all of that. "Hey, I- I didn't say any of that. But even if I did, how is it my fault? You're the one who acts like a robot half the time— 'ooh, Charlie, you're not dynamicizing your efficiency,' 'ooh, here's how to optimize your- your- conversation quotient,' blah blah blah. For years. And now you're an actual person, sort of, for all of half a month, and that's how you want me to think of you? As a person? You've never gotten tired before! So how—"

"I have gotten tired before," Richard says coolly. "I just haven't been able to articulate it. That's the only difference."

"Oh." You turn your empty glass around in your hand. "Well, um, that's— would you please make me a new eye?"

"No."

(1/4?)
>>
"But you're so... talented. And smart. And you—" You wedge the glass into the chair cushion and brush your hair out of your face. "—you know, I wouldn't ask things of you if I didn't think you could handle them... you're so capable, you know, you can do so many things that I-I just couldn't, and I-I-I— I need you, Richard. I need you to—" You're managing to tear up, even. God, you're good. "—to— to make me an eye. Please. Pretty please."

He looks down at his hand, which you're grasping in a beseeching manner, and back up at you. He raises his eyebrows. "Well, nothing that you said is wrong."

Bastard. "Well, of- of course! So will you—"

"Still no. But that was a decent show, Charlie, I liked the tears." He pats your hand. "It'd help if you picked a particular emotional register, though, mixing it weakens the whole ploy. Try it on someone who isn't in your head, how about that. Like the actual enslaved automaton?"

"Oh!" You'd entirely forgotten about Gil. (Why is he so quiet?) "Gotcha. Okay. Thanks for the tips. Uh—" You offer Richard an awkward side-hug, which he does not reciprocate, and stride back over to Gil. You squat. "Hello! I must say, you're looking awfully handsome."

Gil reddens. "I-I-I-I heard you guys."

"What?"

"You were— I-I mean, you were just standing right there, and you weren't whispering, or anything, so I... heard you." He rubs the bottom of his nose. "Um, you can keep going i-i-if you want. ...For practice."

You stand in disgust. "So I'm just not going to have an eye, then?"

"You didn't even ask him, Charlotte." Richard looks amused.

"'You didn't even'— Gil, are you going to make me an eye?"

"Um... I-I-I don't know how, exactly, but I could- I could give it a shot..."

"Shut up!" You bury your face in your hands. Why are you so hot? You shouldn't be so hot. "I don't even want your stupid eye. I just want... I don't know."

"Charlotte Fawkins doesn't know what she wants. Who would've possibly guessed. You know, you don't have to put an eye in there."

You unshield your upper face. "What? How would I know that?"

He taps his right eye.

Oh. Oh. Of course. "Urgh," you say, and go to lay on the table. It's cool against your cheek and hands. "I told you, I don't want another one of those. It's ugly."

"It doesn't have to be iron, Charlotte. It could be brass."

"Brass is ugly," you mumble into the wood. "What is it with you and brass?"

"Nothing. It could be gold or silver. Or crystal, though I'd strongly recommend against that, lest you get shot in the face."

"...Okay. I guess." You try and envision yourself with two metal eyes. "Could it be, I don't know, an ancient relic? Super cool, very important, um... powerful... that sort of thing?"

Richard doesn't say anything for a little bit. "...I suppose?"

"Okay." You can definitely envision the relic. "Okay. I want that."

(2/4?)
>>
"...Well, then the matter's settled, I suppose. We'll find you one of those important powerful relics lying around. Excellent." He sounds tired. "I really do have to go. Would you get off the table?"

"No." You scooch further onto the table. "Where are you going? And what about Madrigal?"

"I am going to unplug. What about Madrigal?"

"Unplug?" It feels like he's speaking a foreign language, sometimes. "And she's- she got kidnapped. Snakenapped."

"So?" ("She what?" Gil interjects.)

"Got snakenapped. And that's— I don't know— shouldn't I do something? I mean... who's gonna host Game Night now?"

"Game Night, our most pressing concern. I really don't think it's your problem, Charlotte. She wanted to go along, so she accepted the entailed risks— not to mention, that's our primary leak out of the way."

"I guess..." You feel less sick about it than you did about Gil, but 'less sick' is still sick. "I just... I mean, her body's still going to be there, right? In a... coma, or whatever."

"I'd expect it would be, yes."

"In the same tent as me. And Branwen knows I was in there, and Ellery— Fake Ellery knows, and— they're going to think I poisoned her, or something! And Monty's not gonna— he just strangled me, for, for, for some reason, and Eloise... they're going to blame me. Me, Richard." You splay your arms. "When I haven't done a single thing wrong. Because they're all a bunch of- a bunch of jerks. Tell me they won't."

"Ah." It's not a good 'ah.' "...Now that you say it."

"Richard!" You sit up. "You didn't think about this? You're supposed to think about this stuff!"

He's shoving his glasses back on. "I've been preoccupied with a little bit of ego death, Charlotte Fawkins. But yes, I suppose that would be a concern. Wish I could be there to help."

"Richard!"

"I'm on somewhat of a strict timetable. You'll have me back in..." He checks his watch. "...an hour or so, your time. Don't cause trouble."

"RICHARD!"

"Best of luck, Charlie." He waves. He vanishes.

You flop back onto the table.

Gil clears his throat. "Uh... there's a body? With nobody in it?"

"...Yeah?"

"Will it melt?"

(Choices next.)
>>
>[A1] Speak to Monty first. You need to rip off the bandage, here: he's the one with ultimate jurisdiction over you. And you really would like to know why you were strangled. He's not still in a strangling mood, right?
>[A2] Speak to Branwen first. She likes you, maybe, or at least doesn't mind you. Probably. (She's hard to read.) You doubt she'd think you'd poison Madrigal. And it was her snake that was snakenapped in the first place.
>[A3] Speak to Eloise first. You did promise to update her about Namway activities, and this is certainly Namway activities— very serious ones.
>[A4] Speak to (Mirror) Ellery first. He's blatantly clingy toward Madrigal— and his real version was an eyewitness. Maybe you can get him to remember something? Or communicate somehow?
>[A5] Write-in.

>[B1] Let Gil have Madrigal's body, at least temporarily. He can consider it a reward for good behavior— and more importantly, he's the only eyewitness you have. Even if he doesn't technically remember the incident.
>[B2] Don't let Gil have Madrigal's body. It's weird. And it could be a lot more trouble than it's worth.
>>
>>5032249

[A1]
[A3]
[B2]

I just want to see how Gil will try (and fail) to impersonate Madrigal
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>>5032609
This is who you're speaking to first, not who you're speaking to total. Please pick one of the [A]s, or at least specify which order.

Also, if you want Gil to impersonate Madrigal, shouldn't that be [B1]?
>>
>>5032609
>>5032249
>>5032623

Okay

>[A1]
>[B1]
>>
>>5032249
>A1
>B1
would this really be drowned quest if we picked B2
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>>5032249
>[A3] Speak to Eloise first. You did promise to update her about Namway activities, and this is certainly Namway activities— very serious ones.

Hell, let's tell everyone about Namway. Get a good lynch mob going on.
>>
>>5032249
>[B1] Let Gil have Madrigal's body, at least temporarily. He can consider it a reward for good behavior— and more importantly, he's the only eyewitness you have. Even if he doesn't technically remember the incident.

Forgot this part. Ask him furst though, has he ever wanted to be a woman?
>>
>>5032675
>>5032632
>A1

>>5032863
>A3

>>5032632
>>5032675
>>5032866
>B1

Called for A1/B1.

>>5032675
Listen, I have to provide the option, at least...

>>5032866
I'll take the write-in, but I'm going to shift it to after the fact because it's funnier that way.
>>
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>Weird science redux

You inform Gil that the body shouldn't melt, which he seems greatly relieved by. You're a little relieved, too: it'll be much safer to have a sidekick when you go see Monty. He probably won't strangle you again, but you didn't exactly expect him to strangle you the first time, so you're not sure how well that assumption will hold up.

You attempt, then, to wake up. It fails. Gil looks on with consternation. "What are you doing?"

You cease whacking yourself on the side of the head. "Uh... nothing."

"Are you trying to get out of here? Don't you have an anchor?"

The term is only dimly familiar. "...Like a ship?"

"No, like a... i-it's a little doohickey that sort of, uh, ties you back to where you're going? You're supposed to have one. Everyone has one. That's how you... get back."

"Well, I don't have one," you say stiffly. "Maybe cause they don't work very well. I mean— you got stuck for how long?"

Gil shrinks back into his chair. "I-i-i-i-it didn't work after, um... after..."

"Yes, see? Exactly." You fold your arms. "I would never stoop to something so untrustworthy. I rely on my own willpower, my own... prowess, in order to—"

"...But i-i-i-it isn't working."

"What?" You scoff. "It's working. Slowly."

"...Um, I-I-I'm sure it is, but..." Gil taps his forefingers together. "...would you like a different way?"

"Oh, sure, Mr. I-Was-Trapped-In—"

"I-it needs two people." He stands from his chair and, entirely without permission, walks right up to you. He reaches out a hand; you bat it away. "Excuse me?"

"I-I-I need to... I need to hold your eyelid open."

"My eyelid open?" You hold your eyelid open. "Like that?"

"...Um, yeah, but i-it's like tickling yourself, you know. I-i-it doesn't really... work. Can I? Please?"

You attempt to calculate his possible ulterior motives and come up short. Maybe he's overflowing with goodwill after learning about the body, you don't know. "Okay. Fine."

Gil gently reaches for your eyelid and pins it open with his finger. "Close the other one," he says. You do. "And on the count of three, open them. Open both of them. One... two..."

-

You never hear the "three," because that's when you bolt upright, gasping. You're alive, and awake, and you- you— your good eye's back! You're prodding your face, and kicking off the blanket, and rolling out of your cot, and springing to your feet, and— ow. You are picking yourself off the sand. You had not bargained for how numb your limbs were.

This is where Richard would undoubtedly say something terrible about your lack of coordination and/or judgment, but you wait a little and nothing comes. You guess he really is gone. Just like Madrigal. Where is Madrigal? You thought she was with you, but— oh. You left her body in her tent, you think.

(1/4)
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On on hand, that means you could plausibly deny that you had anything to do with her unconsciousness. On the other hand, now you'll have to hope nobody sees you sneaking in. Wonderful. You brush yourself down, rake your hair back, and are about to leave when you spot Richard after all, twined around the tentpole over the door. "Okay. So all that 'so sorry, got to go' was a lie?"

He doesn't respond. "Okay, God," you say, and reach to get him down. "Be that w— hey!" You narrowly avoid a snakebite. "...Wait."

Richard never would've passed up a chance to insult you; Richard doesn't bite you (usually). This is just his empty body: a snake. A normal snake. "Hey, pal," you say softly. "Hey, I just want to get you down from there, please don't... ow! God blessed!" Its fangs are buried in the fleshy part of your palm. "Your venom doesn't work on me, stupid. Don't— hey— there." You have wrangled the snake onto your shoulders. "Stay there."

It hisses at you but stays put: you nurse the bite wound as you exit the tent. The outside world is too bright and that's all you have to say about it. You figure that, if you don't notice anyone staring at you, maybe they won't be.

Madrigal's tent still has your hasty "ASLEEP - DO NOT DISTURB" sign on it, which you take as a good omen, even if your throat clogs when seeing it. You push the shredded doors open.

She's still there. "Madrigal?" you say, knowing she won't respond.

She doesn't respond. Her chest rises and falls shallowly, barely moving the blanket. The tent smells like pus and death. You retreat against a wall and sink down. Gil? you think.

He doesn't respond, either, but you're not sure if he can't hear you or if you can't hear him. Gil? Gil, please? Gil— um— the body's—

How did it go last time? You barely remember. Richard was managing the whole thing. You just kind of stood over Ellery's... Mirror Ellery's corpse, and all the beetles came out of your... mouth, and, um—

You get up and stand over Madrigal's cot. Gil! Gil. Gi-il. You need this to work, or it'll just be— Richard will be all, you're useless, you can't do anything without him, he can't even leave for a second without you messing up the most basic... you need to sneeze.

You really, powerfully need to sneeze. Is there something in the water? Are you inhaling little floating bits of Madrigal? (Don't think that.) You'd almost forgotten what it was like to— to— to—

"—CHOO!"

All you see for an instant is whirling, buzzing color, and then it clarifies into— beetles. Beetles are pouring from your nose, beetles are streaming toward Madrigal, are crawling into her ears and nostrils, are pushing through her lips, are burrowing through her sunken cheeks. And then they aren't, and you stumble backwards.

Madrigal's eyes open. They are green. But then, they always were green. "Gil?" you verify.

(2/4)
>>
The eyes dart, but nothing else, and then you remember how long it took for him to get settled in Ellery's body. 15 minutes, or something. You sit back down.

-

It takes three minutes before he's, uh— before she's— before he's moving. Maybe he got more used to having a single body after you made him one? You don't know, you don't care, gift horse, maw, etcetera. "So? I mean, it's better than the last one, isn't it? Not melting at all."

"...Uh." Gil's voice is raw and high-pitched. His hands keep drifting, irrepressibly, to his chest. "I-I-I have tits."

You winkle your nose. "Don't be crass. You have a bosom. And it's really not much of one, so don't act so impressed."

"...I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I—" He can't force the sentence out. "You have put me i-i-i-in a, a, a, a girl."

"She's not a girl, she's a woman. She's, like, 35." You think she's actually 30, or thereabouts, but Gil doesn't know that. "Or 40. And so what? It's a body. Haven't you ever wanted to be a girl?"

"No? Why would I-I-I-I want..."

"I don't know." You'd envy boys, sometimes, when Aunt Ruby was being especially stringent about learning your domestics. (You still barely know how to sew.) "But how can it be that bad? You can't tell me it's worse than beetles."

"Uh..." He's breathing hard. "Um, I-I-I-I wish you would've... told me."

"I thought it was obvious! I mean— what kind of name is 'Madrigal?' That's not a man's name."

"I-I-I, um, I kind of skipped over that part. You could've made it more... obvious."

Is this how Richard feels when he calls you ungrateful? "It's a body! God, just—" You tug him out of bed by an arm, and he rolls onto the floor. You nudge him with your foot. "Get up."

"Ow." He attempts to push himself up, but wobbles and collapses. A second attempt goes better (you grabbed an arm) until his left knee crunches and inverts and his leg collapses the wrong way around. He turns ashen. "Um."

"Uh." You rub your mouth. "Um, that's not a... that's not a girl thing. Just so you know."

"I-I-I figured." His voice is even higher. "So what i-in the goddamn shit is wrong with me? Lottie?"

"Uh... she was not... feeling well. And the snake, kind of loosened her... joints?" This is Richard's thing to explain, not yours.

"The snake..." Gil's head droops. "The snake loosened her- her- her joints."

"And you turned into beetles, okay? These things happen. Come on." You drag him up and hook his arm around your shoulder. "Can you at least walk with support? Fix your knee."

After staring at you, he reaches down and pops his knee back the correct way. You drag him on a lap around the tent: you walk briskly, he stumbles and mutters but ultimately makes it. You consider that good enough, and drag him over to Monty's tent, which is mercifully nearby.

(3/4)
>>
There's a sign on the door. "DO NOT DISTURB."

"Oh," Gil quavers. "I-I-I-I think they're busy. Maybe you should come back another— aw, hell."

"MONTY!" You are already barging in. "MONTY, you owe me an, an explanation! Hello? Did you think you could just... Monty?" Where is he?

"There's a sign on the door." Monty shoves the folding screen aside a little. "Charlotte."

"I don't care about signs," you say.

"I know." His eyes are bloodshot. "It was worth a try— wait, Mads? Mads, what are you... you should be in bed."

Gil freezes. "Uhhh."

"Did you bring her, Charlotte? That's..." Monty's fingers tauten around the edge of the folding screen. "...I can't think of any charitable reason for you to do that. Could you please bring her back to her tent?"

>[1] Yes, okay, you can put Gil outside. He doesn't have to overhear all the stuff about you getting strangled, anyhow, it'll just make you look weak. And you seriously need to clear the air about that before getting to the snakenapping.
>>[A] How do you approach the topic of Monty strangling you for literally no reason? (Write-in.)

>[2] Nope. You're keeping Gil here. And considering that Monty met him the last time he possessed someone, you see little reason to pretend he's Madrigal. Out with it.
>>[A] You need to get this over with as fast as possible. Just spill the whole thing— snakes, Madrigal, Ellery, Pat, Namway Co., held at gunpoint— before Monty can get mad or suspicious or whatever he's going to get.
>>[B] As far as you know, Monty knows nothing about anything metaphysical, so slamming him with it all at once is going to do his head in. Take it nice and slow.
>>[C] Okay, it's obvious he's still mad at you (for some reason). Maybe not strangling-mad, but anything you say right now is going to get construed in all sorts of ways. Stick to the basic facts, only elaborate if he asks questions.
>>[D] Write-in.
>>
(For reference, folks, since this was 5 months ago IRL: here's the post where Monty strangles you. I recommend rereading if you don't remember the details. http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/4781265/#p4792332)
>>
>>5033190
>2C
the basic facts that make us look as good as possible
>>
>>5033190

>2C
>>
>>5033190
> 2B

Preface it with everything is horrible and we're trying to fix it, and that's also going horribly, and if Monty still believes he's in Hell then he isn't here alone at least. He climbed to the top of the tower, and that probably sucked because he seems . . . . Better, here.

Anyways he's the only person we know who both wants to make things better, and has achieved some sort of success with it. We're sorry, (not for anything we did of course) that he thinks this place is hell because there are genuinely nice and innocent people here and he doesn't have to save them.

But he could. And we can use the help on our end with if not saving the world than at least keeping others from making it worse.
>>
>>5033551
>>5033591
>2C

>>5033701
>2B + write-in

Called for 2C, but I'm going to take this write-in >>5033701 as well since it isn't super tied to your particular approach. Writing.
>>
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>Well uh you see

"...No," you say convincingly.

"No." Monty smiles without his eyes. "I don't know why I bother asking you things. Let me put it this way— for however long you insist on roping innocent parties into your manipulation scheme, I'm not going to talk to you. Have a good day."

"Manipulation scheme?" Who does he think you are? Do you look like a manipulator? You've never done anything like that in your life. "I'm not— firstly, that's rude, and secondly, I'm the innocent party here, and thirdly, that's not Madrigal anyhow, so ha."

"...I'm sorry?"

"That's not Madrigal, it's Gil. Gil. Gil, say hello."

You whack him on the arm. He starts. "Hello. Uh... wait. I-I-I-I know you."

Monty is mouthing words, but for a while nothing comes out. "...You know me."

"Yeah! Um, you tackled me, and you, um— you tried to— you had the big pitchfork, and, um—"

"Trident," Monty corrects, dumbly.

"Yeah, the trident." You rest your elbow on Gil's shoulder. "He was Ellery, then, remember? I mean, not actually. But he was in his—"

"...Yes." He sucks in his cheek. "So this is your... friend."

"Retainer," Gil mumbles, at the same time as you say "Yeah."

"And he..." The 'he' is drawn-out. "...is in Madrigal's body. Is she also in there, or is she in, uh, in his body?"

You wave a hand. "He doesn't have a body, remember? He's just beetles. Or, well, his mind is beetles, or—"

"Goddammit, I don't care." You flinch back: maybe you were too hasty in deciding he won't strangle you again. He must realize it, because he attempts another pasted-on smile. "I mean... just tell me what you did to her, Charlotte."

Again with the assumptions! For someone so supposedly ""nice,"" he sure looks down his nose at you, the victim. "I did nothing. As a matter of fact, I'm the one trying to fix it, out of the goodness of my heart, and incurring great— great!— personal expense, and I— I—"

"Is she dead?"

"No! No, she's not dead—" Is this how it's going to be? Him throwing spurious accusations at your innocent person, you on the eternal defense? If anything, it ought to be the exact opposite— he did strangle you. But bringing that up again now will only make this worse. "Just sit down, would you? And then I'll explain it."

"I would rather not, thank you."

He would rather not sit down? "Okay, then." You sit in his chair, the big cushy one. "I'll sit down. You can sit down too, Gil."

"...Okay." Gil sits in the other chair.

"Right." You throw your arms back. "So, look, she's not dead. She's just, um, sn— kidnapped. Kidnapped. But it's okay, and I am working on it, and I can... solve it, without anybody's help, and— yeah. That's all. Nothing to worry about."

Monty darkens. "And what do you have to do with this?"

"I—" Look at him! He doesn't believe you at all, does he? He thinks you're somehow responsible. Have you done something to hurt him? "Why do you hate me?"
>>
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"...I don't hate you." But he's gripping the folding screen very hard.

You slouch back against the chair. "Yes you do. Is it because of the hell thing? You just think everyone you meet here is automatically a bad person? I mean, I'm sorry you think that way, because that's a horrible mindset! What about your dead wife? Wasn't she here? Was your wife a bad person?"

"Don't talk about my wife."

That's a strangling voice, right there. "Okay, I won't talk about your wife. But seriously, Montgomery, it doesn't— I mean, things are horrible here, I'll grant you that, but are they really worse than up there? What with the whole—" You mime stabbing, and a mask, and (in case it didn't come through) your throat getting slit. "I mean, at least now you're a good person, and people like you, and whatever."

Monty is unamused by your charades. "Being a good person hurts more than being a bad one. As I'm sure you know."

Is he calling you a bad person? "But it's better, isn't it? And- and you're a better person, aren't you? So—"

"Am I?"

God! Why are you even attempting this? "Yes, I mean, obviously, because you're not going around murdering people anymore. Except for me, but we'll— we'll get around to that. You are obviously a better person, and you're trying to do good stuff, or whatever, so why not do another good thing and be nice to me? And help me? I mean, it's your second-in-command, or whatever."

He leans his head against the screen. "Charlotte, you just said you could 'solve this' without help."

"Yes." You point. "I can. But will I? I don't know, maybe I will, if you're a jerk and don't even listen to my whole explanation of the—"

"You haven't even bothered to explain this."

"Because you're being mean. Madrigal got kidnapped."

He waits for elaboration, which you fail to give. "...Not very well, apparently, as that's her right there." He gestures to Gil.

"Her mind got kidnapped."

"Ah. Was Ellery involved in this?"

"Uh... yes." Not the one he's thinking of, but still. "Very involved."

Monty nods. "Shocking. And, I'm sorry, how do you claim her... mind got kidnapped?"

"Um." It's a complicated question. "Nettie turned out to be Pat, in disguise, and she shot Ellery, and she took Gil hostage, and she put me at gunpoint 'cause she wanted to kidnap Madrigal, and I tried to persuade her, but then she shot Gil, and, um, I— and then she kidnapped her."

"Ellery was shot? And who's— who's Pat?"

(2/3)
>>
"Uh... he got better. Pat's the main research lady at, um, Namway. Which—" You anticipate another question. "—is a weird company in a sewer in the Fen that clones people out of goo for pay."

"...Okay." Monty grinds his thumbnail into the edge of the screen. "Makes perfect sense. And why kidnap Madrigal? Was this your fault?"

You start to answer, then stop. The answer to the first one is 'because she was a snake,' but do you really want to tell Monty about the snake thing? Because then he might ask who offered to put her in a snake, which was Richard but you'd say it was you, and maybe he'd think it was too risky (and therefore your fault), or maybe he'd start wondering how one exactly puts someone in a snake, and what special snake-related abilities they'd have to have, and... was it your fault? No, it wasn't, but if someone was already deeply biased against you it might seem like it was, and you saying no would be even more evidence... God! But then if you don't tell him, he might accuse you of hiding something, and— and—

>[1] Tell him about the snake thing in a not-super-suspicious manner. [Roll.]
>[2] Don't tell him about the snake thing. Say you don't know the motive (which is sort of true... what promise was Pat talking about?) in a not-super-suspicious manner. [Roll.]
>[3] This is getting nowhere. Make Gil talk to him about it. He can explain the manse stuff, probably, and maybe him sounding like Madrigal (ish) will calm Monty down. Or not. The man *is* a lunatic.
>[4] This is getting nowhere. Leave and get someone else to believe you: you can drag them back in here so Monty will have someone to trust. Probably. (Who do you talk to? Eloise / M!Ellery / Branwen)
>[5] He wants to talk *faults?* After he— to be clear— strangled you for no God-damn reason? And, sorry, what was the thing where he plunged you into some kind of dark nightmare realm? You said you'd get around to it, and you're getting around to it.
>[6] Write-in.

Sorry for butchering your eloquent write-in, anon, but the emotional intelligence there was too implausible for a pure Charlotte POV...
>>
>>5034062
>3
he's clearly biased against us and feels no guilt over the strangling

maybe he'll feel guilt over attacking gil with a trident
>>
>>5034282
>3
Jesus, slow day. Writing soon.
>>
>>5034062

>3

Here for a late vote!
>>
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>Call for backup

"Gil!" you hiss, and reach over the desk. "You talk to him!"

Gil leans away from your hand. "Me?! Why? I-I-I-I-I-I wasn't—"

"Yes," Monty says. "Why, er, him? Why can't you answer the questions?"

"Because you won't listen to me. Gil, tell him what happened."

("I WASN'T THERE,") he mouths at you. You point at yourself, then him, then mime squeezing his throat with your hands. He shuts his eyes. "I-I-I-I-I mean, it's like she said."

"Maybe you could repeat what she said?" Monty's voice is unfriendly. "I don't think I caught all that."

"Uhhhh... sure. I-I-I'll just warn you, um, I don't remember all the details. Since I-I was... shot."

"You got better, though, clearly? Like Ellery."

"Uh..." Gil rubs his mouth. "I-I-I don't think I... did. But i-it's complicated. Anyhow, um, i-it went like this. Lottie and I and and Madrigal and Ellery were— oh. And Nettie—" (He caught your frantic signing.) "—were spelunking this locus, and i-it— sorry." (More signing.) "I mean manse. I-I-I learned it as 'loci,' but you know, um, it's the same thing."

"Uh..." Monty hesitates. "I'm not sure what you mean by—"

"It's an Ellery thing," you drawl, as Gil twists his hands. "I-i-it's, um, well— when your mind wanders, do you ever imagine you... go somewhere? I-it's like that, but... you actually do go there, or it... feels like you do. Like being awake in a dream, only nobody's dreaming it, exactly. Um."

"...So you're saying that your consciousness leaves your body and goes somewhere... else."

"Um, yes, I guess that's right." (An odd look crosses Monty's face.) "So we were all there, and, um, we split up. Lottie and Ellery and Madrigal took the left tunnel, and Nettie and I took the right tunnel, and almost as soon as the rest of them are out of sight, she— Nettie— she goes like this—" He mimics being shoved. "—and next thing I know, there's a fucking pistol right under my chin. And I'm all, you know, 'what the fuck! what are you doing, you manic—' and she just leans in and goes 'sorry, buster, you're just collateral damage,' and I-I try and kick her, you know, go for the- the- the groin, and she doubles over, and I tackle her, and we wrestle, and— the pistol goes off."

He stops for breath, which you're grateful for, because you're having a hard enough time wrapping your head around this. He's— he's lying. Every single word of that was complete and utter gull. He's capable of that?

(1/4)
>>
"So Ellery comes, you know, racing around the corner, because he heard the shot, a-and I swear to god this woman pulls out another gun, a— a fucking rifle, and she shoots him! In the head! And he falls, I-I-I mean, obviously, and then Lottie comes, and she's kind of dragging Madrigal... I-I don't know what happened in the other tunnel, but she was unconscious— and while I'm looking at them Nettie shoves me against the wall again, and puts the rifle in my mouth, so I can't move— and she goes something like 'give me Madrigal, or I-I-I-I'll shoot your... your retainer.' To Lottie. And Lottie... I-I-I-I-I don't know, maybe you can take it from there?"

You raise your eyebrows. "I don't know, Gil, you're doing such a good job."

"...Um... okay. Lottie tries to— to— to negotiate, a-a-and talk her down, and that's how we find out that she's actually... Pat, in, um, disguise. And I-I mean disguise, because she kind of... ripped her whole face off, like it was a mask, and, uh—" He's faltering. "—uh, uh, she, she, um— Lottie tried, um, real hard, but i-i-i-i-i-it didn't— I-I-I-I-I-I-I mean, she, um, well, she— she— she s-s-s-s-s— um, she— the gun was in my mouth, and she—"

"She shot you," Monty finishes.

Gil nods vigorously. He's trembling all over, especially his hands— is he faking that, too? God. You're not sure whether to be disgusted or impressed.

"She shot him," you say, "and then— I mean— what was I supposed to do? She had a gun... uh, two guns, and, I mean, I'm not— I'm not made of beetles, and I'm not all screwed up like Ellery is. She would've killed me. I'm not kidding, Monty, she would've— and then she would've taken Madrigal anyways, and—"

"I understand, Charlotte. Thank you, er... Gil." Monty doesn't seem entirely comfortable with him in Madrigal's body, yet. "That was helpful."

Gil has sunk back into his chair, his head leaned against the backrest. He's still shaking, a little, and one hand picks at the skin of his throat. "...Yeah," he manages.

"So it's her—" He squints. "—mind that's kidnapped? Am I getting that correctly? Considering that her body is still... here."

"Yup," you say, before Gil can say anything.

(2/4)
>>
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"...Right. So how does one—" He squints. "—track down, or rescue, or, uh... you know, a mind? Do you have any sort of... whereabouts? Should I be expecting a ransom note shortly— was that the motivation? Money? Was she in business dealings with this company? Sorry, Gil, you weren't terribly clear about—"

Gil. He's addressing Gil. Who doesn't even know what's going on, who doesn't know Madrigal, who just lied to his face for a good two straight minutes— he's addressing Gil. You kick Monty's fancy chair back and rise. "Sorry, is there something wrong with me?"

"What?"

"Why are you all nice and normal with him, the, the, the liar, the beetles liar, who, who didn't do anything but get shot, and then you're all pissy with me, who actually— in case you didn't hear him— tried to save Madrigal? Who didn't get shot like a bitch? I mean— I don't even care if you're going to be mean to me, that's your problem, but at least tell me why."

Monty looks at you sideways. "You don't know?"

"Should I?"

"Should you... do you not... I'm sorry, do you not remember?"

Remember what? This is all cryptic nonsense. "No? Did I say something about your wife, I don't know, in passing? Sorry I can't read your mind, Monty, but—"

He smiles in a calm-the-rabid-dog kind of way. His shoulders are tensed. "It wasn't about Constance, though please don't take that as an invitation. You really don't remember... I mean, you're not capable of faking it."

"I'm capable of—" You slam the desk. "Would you just tell me what I supposedly did?! God!"

"If I tell you, you're just going to repeat it."

"I'm— I'm not going to repeat it. Do you not trust me at all?" Monty's expression answers that one for you. "Why? What have I ever done?! I— I have been nothing but kind, and courteous, and upstanding, and— name one thing I've ever done. I dare you."

The expression intensifies. "Charlotte... do I have to get out your folder?"

"What folder?" Cryptic, cryptic, cryptic. He should duke it out with Richard for who gets to say more ominous nonsense.

"...Okay, let me get out your folder." Monty vanishes behind the screen, rustles, and reappears with a thick manila folder. He holds it out; Gil takes it and passes it to you. "I'll wait."

He'll wait. Oh, la-di-da. You scowl as you turn the folder around in your hand. "Why do you have a giant folder with my name on it? That's creepy, you realize?"

"Charlotte, it's a disciplinary folder. Open it."

(3/4)
>>
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You open it and rifle through the contents. You pull out a paper and scan it. You pull out another paper and scan it. You slam the folder shut, swallow down the lump in your throat, and shove it across the desk. "That's twisted. That's- that's just— I mean, why would you forge an entire—?! What kind of person does that?! How much time did you spend on this sick little attempt to demoralize me? Well, you won't. I see through your lies, your- your deceptions, and I will— I will not, um... what is it?"

At first blush, Monty appears entirely unreadable, his face contorted in some kind of toxic soup of emotion— but not emotion you can name. It takes you a few seconds before you realize it's really something rather specific, and a few more before you believe it. People don't make this face about you, usually. Monty sure doesn't. You squint. "What the hell are you jealous of?"

"What am I jealous of?!"

"Would you like someone to forge a very nasty folder about you? Is this some kind of—" You reach over and tap the folder. "—bizarre projection thing? Because—"

"You don't deserve to start over! You don't regret what you do." He rattles the folding screen with every emphasized word. "You don't suffer over the things you can't change. You don't care about what you do to others— give me that." Gil, wide-eyed, passes him the folder. Monty shakes it. "You don't care, or you don't realize— I mean, you sure don't realize anymore, do you!? You don't have nightmares over—"

"I have nightmares," you say.

He scoff-laughs. "Okay, Charlotte, you have nightmares. What about."

"Um." You fold your hands. "My father keeps getting stabbed in the stomach. And he always says the same... thing. Like I'm the one who's stabbing him."

"And did you actually stab him? In real life?"

You cross your legs. "No."

"Well, I guess you wouldn't remember, would you! But okay, Charlotte, you have nightmares. But they're not nightmares about the things you've seen, are they? They're not nightmares about the things you've done. They're not nightmares about the people you've lost—"

"My father's dead."

"Oh." Something seems to reassert itself in Monty. He lets go of the screen. "...My condolences."

(Choices next.)
>>
>[1] Well, you don't know what the hell that just was, but that last part was promising. Maybe he got that... out of his system? Maybe he'll be calmer, now? Or something? Maybe it's a good time to broach the topic of the, er, strangling? [Roll.]
>[2] *Yeah,* his condolences. Does he realize how inappropriate his behavior has been? If not, you'll be sure to remind him, because you, frankly, are offended. You would like some compensation for this. Like information. About him strangling you. Guilt-trip him into it. [Roll.]
>[3] Right. Can you just get back to the thing about Madrigal? And the logistics of finding her, and whatever? Maybe he'll actually talk to you this time. (This will end the conversation. You can still bring up the strangling if you see Monty later, but it will be less fresh in his mind, for better or worse.) [Who do you talk to next? Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face*]
>[4] Write-in.

*As he claimed to have at one point been friends with Madrigal, and he knows a lot of weird stuff

>>5034881
Thanks, anon, it's the thought that counts (at least in my heart, if not the actual vote count)...
>>
>>5034926
>[3] Right. Can you just get back to the thing about Madrigal? And the logistics of finding her, and whatever? Maybe he'll actually talk to you this time. (This will end the conversation. You can still bring up the strangling if you see Monty later, but it will be less fresh in his mind, for better or worse.) [Who do you talk to next? Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face*]

Charlotte being a colossal unrepentant faggot gets less and less amusing each time.
>>
>>5034926
>1
as someone who did not bring the strangling upon themselves in any way, shape, or form, I demand reparations.
>>
>>5034980
>Charlotte being a colossal unrepentant faggot gets less and less amusing each time.
In fairness, anon, she literally can't remember what she has to repent for. This would've gone much differently if you guys had chosen to wipe something else (or not at all).
That being said, I usually try to include 'nice' options, so if you'd like to start changing 20 thread's worth of characterization I recommend you vote and advocate for those. (Maybe start with talking to this guy >>5035082, who has picked this vote's dickhead option.)

Also, I need your next stop (Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face/I guess you can go around and rally everyone if you want a group meeting)
>>
>>5035189
>Also, I need your next stop
Let's report on Namway's activities.
>>
>>5035201
To? Eloise? The Wind Court?
>>
>>5034926
>>[1] Well, you don't know what the hell that just was, but that last part was promising. Maybe he got that... out of his system? Maybe he'll be calmer, now? Or something? Maybe it's a good time to broach the topic of the, er, strangling? [Roll.]
>>
>>5034926
>[3] Right. Can you just get back to the thing about Madrigal? And the logistics of finding her, and whatever? Maybe he'll actually talk to you this time. (This will end the conversation. You can still bring up the strangling if you see Monty later, but it will be less fresh in his mind, for better or worse.) [Who do you talk to next? Eloise/M!Ellery/Branwen/Horse Face*]

Horse Face. Haha horse... anywhere else?
>>
>>5035204
To the Wind Court
>>
>>5035189
hey, 2 was the full dickhead option
I went only partial dickhead
>>
>>5035367
Oh, jeez, my mistake, I read that as [2]. You're correct, [1] is only the partial dickhead option-- and it's not even that bad, it's not unreasonable to want explanation/justification/an apology for literal assault.
>>
>>5035291
Seconded
>>
>>5035376
I'm sure my flavor text didn't help





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