Strawberry Wine In Her Hand

Rand: So, on a certain day, though it would be hard to say exactly which, you found yourself and your film crew of somewhat-but-not-entirely-rescued semi-volunteers in the Lands Beyond Creation.

Rand: In a place that is no place, but which is also just outside the other non-place, Ssyagna Vos.

Alice: It is dark. Tonight, we feast on grue!

Alice: Well, gruit.

Alice: A nice gruit salad.

Rand: Or, perhaps, gollifer.

Alice: Gollifer's more of a travel food.

Rand: You open the box which contains your leading man. There is a hiss of releasing steam as the contraption opens, to reveal him strapped into the restraining chair Hannibal-style.

Alex: Go on?

Rand: I'm honestly not sure if the chair really does anything, but the Cammora is all about style.

Remy: "This can't possibly go poorly for us."

Rand: "Oh, indeed," agrees Gollifer. "Are you not on the verge of achieving everything you desire?"

Alice: "Gollifer," Alice says, intensely, "are you ready to play the role of a lifetime?'

Rand: "Yes," says Gollifer. "I am already completely aware of what you want me to do via my power over desire, but please exposit for anybody who missed that session."

Alice: "Today," Alice says, kneeling down, hands on top of the ropes that are tying his arms to the chair, staring intensely into his eyes as if to will Hollywood into him, "you are a young lawyer named Galindus, in a world that has ached for eons under the rule of Lord Murderhands."

Rand: "The concept has a familiar ring to it, as though based on my own life."

Alice: "You have been hunting, hunting, hunting for a law school that will take you, but no law school will take you. And why? It is because of a cruel and eternal curse placed upon your family line by that very Lord Murderhands, that never shall any spawn of his ancient nemesis, Citizen H. M. Lifehands, have any title of any sort. Including Esquire."

Alice: "But now, Lord Murderhands is dead."

Remy: "He must have touched his face by accident."

Alice: "Yeah, he was originally going to be played by that Home Alone kid."

Alex: "Sadly, he plays it safe, so no chance to recruit him."

Alice: Alice turns her attention back to Gollifer, the wheel of desire spinning lazily behind her in the air. "As you trudge dejectedly from yet another law firm that will not take your case and demand that a law school make allowances for your cursed-never-to-attend disability and let you in, a bunch of shady goons seize you. 'Are you eminent lawyer Gollifer Gray?' they ask. A thrill rushes through you. This is your chance."

Rand: "I am totally that guy."

Alice: "You nod. You are kidnapped, to a shady villa in the foothills of scenic Ssyagna Vos, where the dream-grapes grow." Alice glances at the horticultural effects crew meaningfully, then back to Gollifer when they've scurried off. "There you live in a hotel run by an adorably goofy landlady and live every day in horrible fear of what your employers will do if they discover the truth of your identity—that you're not Gollifer, I mean, not the truth that you actually are Gollifer, playing Galindus, who is not Gollifer, who is not a lawyer, who is playing a lawyer on TV, only this will not be on TV, because it is a movie and also we are all going to die."

Rand: "I'm actually immortal, but I play a mortal on TV, by which I mean, in this movie."

Alice: "You try desperately to defend the incredibly uncooperative defendant accused of killing Lord Murderhands, one Drake Appolodorus. You fall in love with a local neighbor, or possibly the landlady, we'll see how the chemistry works, who turns out to be the secret heir to Lord Murderhands."

Rand: "You should mention that the film is called Legal Rider because I actually think that's pretty clever."

Alex: "Ooh, that is good."

Alice: "This film," Alice says, intensely, "will be called: Legal Rider." She asides, "No lawyers have been hurt yet in the making of this film."

Alice: "You get life wisdom occasionally from a mysterious mentor figure."

Alice: "Then, in the end…"

Alice: "It turns out that Lord Murderhands faked his death to run away from ruling the universe, that Drake Appolodorus was under strict orders never to admit to not killing him, and you brilliantly blackmail Lord Murderhands, who may very well have been lurking as that eccentric mentor, into appointing Drake an actual lawyer and forging a confession that the extremely non-cooperative judge did it before letting Lord Murderhands escape for good."

Alice: "There is a fence."

Alice: "The fence overlooks Ssyagna Vos. It has been weakening steadily throughout this film, as people argue next to it, lean against it, lean on it and look over the valley, fight by it."

Alice: "We close on a romantic kiss outside Ssyagna Vos before the protagonists accidentally fall in because the fence finally gives out. Oh, it will be a fake kiss, because Excrucians have Excruciooties."

Rand: "The whole world is fake, etcetera, etcetera. Anyway, that all sounds great and you have made an excellent decision in casting me."

Rand: "You will totally not regret this."

Alice: "That seems inevitable," Alice agrees.

Alex: Alex looks wearily at the camera.

Alice: "Anyway, let's get you into makeup so we can get your eyes right, those stars are totally falling in the wrong direction."

Alice: Alice waves Gollifer away.

Rand: It is made so, by the magic of Hollywood.

Alice: Alice waves all the rest of the Excrucians away.

Alex: "Last chance to turn back."

Alice: Alice shakes her fists above her head. Victory! The Valde Bellum, won at last! Hooray for Hollywood!

Rand: And so the ritual of film begins!

Rand: While I prepare the climactic battle, I'm going to need you all to improv some scenes from the movie.

Alex: Alex is, true to form, mostly working on set design. As he has a strength that can hold up the world, his sets serve to bolster the unreality of Outside enough to produce legible recordings - stuff touched by and fragrant of the impossibility of outside without being consumed by that unreality.

Remy: FLASHBACK: A young Gallindus stands outside the ivy-choked gates of law school, a heavy rain pouring down on him as he clutches his perfectly scored LSAT to his chest. Remy runs between raindrops with a camera to catch the pathos in the Excrucian's tear-filled eyes.

Alice: Anastasia Murderfeet stares out from her balcony over the fields of ungrapes. "When I was growing up," she says, softly, "my father always told me, too many corpses left lying around would make for an early frost. I can't afford to lose the dream-grapes again this year, Gollifer." He reaches out. He takes her hand. He says, "There are never too many corpses, Anastasia. There's only not enough undertakers."

Alice: …"Objection!" shouts Gallindus furiously. "The prosecution can't cook that pig before I've cross-examined it!"

Rand: "The law demands that the defense have the opportunity to cross-examine," says the judge, "but I see no rules concerning barbecue."

Alice: "The right to cross-examine," Gallindus says triumphantly, "must, inherently, include the right to grill."

Rand: I tried hard to come up with a pun, but you are the winner.

Rand: And so it was that you arrived at the climax of the film, where the wicked judge demands that Gollifer present his evidence, little knowing that you have a juicy confession forged in his name.

Rand: So, it's honestly pretty surprising when the judge instead declares a trial by combat.

Remy: Whoops!

Alice: "Gasp!" gasps ~Alice~ Anastasia Murderfeet, from the pews.

Rand: "Mr. Gollifer, this has gone on long enough," says the wickedly off-script judge. "I shall ask that you and the counsel for the prosecution name your intermediaries for the ancient rite of trial by combat, to the death."

Rand: "Of course," says Galindus smoothly. "I call Remy Fiala to the stand."

Remy: "Um. How's this happening?" Remy asks the fourth wall.

Remy: "Oh. It's a trap."

Remy: Remy nonetheless swift-steps to Galindus' side.

Rand: Remy realizes, suddenly, as is his wont: that's no judge!

Rand: It's Tempa in a powdered wig!

Remy: "Just wait until SAG heres about this!"

Alice: Alice signals her gopher in a perfectly timed moment when the camera isn't on her and whispers, "Go get Murderhands' actor."

Rand: "And I," announces the prosecuting counsel, "call Alex Bartlett."

  • Rand has to take a minute to look up Alex's last name.

Alice: (Interestingly, Alex Bartlett already has two film credits on IMDB, but admittedly as an actor and not a character.)

Rand: "I," says Tempa, "shall further call Margaret Halliburton to act as an amicus curiae."

Alex: Alex strides in to the scene, or perhaps grows in to the scene - out here the distinction is ambiguous.

Rand: Margaret is escorted in by bailiffs. The average amicus curiae isn't quite so heavily armored, but it's within a judge's power to make such arrangements where justice requires it!

Rand: Don't forget to keep holding the camera!

Rand: It's the only thing anchoring your existence.

Rand: Well, that and tenure.

Remy: "Aww, fuck."

Rand: "We shall now begin the trial by combat," intones Judge Tempa, who may or may not be a member of any actual bar.

Alice: Alice stands up. "You can't!" she says. "Lord Murderhands cursed Margaret Halliburton to corrupt all justice!"

Rand: "There's no such curse!" cries Margaret indignantly. "I'm as pure as the driven snow!"

Rand: Margaret radiates a blissful uncursedness.

Alice: "See? She didn't even put her hand on a book!"

Alex: Alex snaps a gaze towards Tempa, then towards Alice. To Remy: "Do I want to win here or lose here? How real is this?"

Remy: "I'm pretty sure if we die in the movie, we die in real life."

Rand: "If I issued a stay every time Lord Murderhands corrupted the process of justice, I'd be on permanent vacation," Tempa extemporizes.

Rand: "All attorneys will remain within the circle which the bailiffs are now drawing. The last counsel alive may motion for a directed verdict."

Remy: "Is a ring-out a disqualification?"

Rand: "I have already stated that all attorneys will remain within the circle; please interpret this as an a priori statement of fact rather than a direction."

Alice: Alice goes pale. "He wasn't that bad," she says. "He… he hardly ever disrupted justice! He was a good man!"

Alice: "What are you alleging, Tempa?"

Alex: Alex flexes his fist, looking at Margaret. "So what's your game here?," he inquires soto-vocce. "You get dragged in to this by some game of Tempa's or do you have some reason I don't know to be involved in this?"

Rand: "That is for the surviving counsel to decide. Or, for the surviving amicus! I'm actually looking forward to hearing what verdict she moves for."

Rand: "Honestly, Tempa just offered me a chance to visit the craft services table," says Margaret. "Oh, and to put an end to your meddling in our bright future or something, and also I think Alice was going to destroy the world? You know how it is."

Rand: "You may begin," says Tempa, and Margaret draws her enormous broadsword and makes a spirited leap at Alex's cranium.

Rand: Meanwhile, Galindus, momentarily free from the camera's focus, makes a beeline for Anastasia, aka Alice.

Alex: "Alice wasn't going to destroy anyone but her own fool self," says Alex, examining the circle cautiously for things white. He catches the incoming sword in his hands—trusting in his Aspect and his Durance.

Rand: That's no sword! It's cotton wool made to look like a sword!

Rand: And now it's made to look like it's twining up your body and entangling you in downy softness.

Rand: In fact, Alice is in danger of finding herself frog-marched out of the room.

Remy: Remy's going to make use of Lightning Quickness to accelerate to sufficient speed to ignite the cotton, trusting Alex's durance.

Rand: Cotton, finding itself distressingly flammable, changes form again to become endless grains of salt, falling down from above to fill the circle as though it were the inside of an hourglass.

Alex: Alex kneels, and wrenches a chunk of the set floor in to his hands. The set he made himself, with his own hands, out of oak.

Alice: "Can this really be true?" Alice says, the spotlight snapping on to her as she activates Glorious. "Can my father really have been as terrible as all that?"

Rand: Alex is momentarily distracted by the need to point the camera at Alice.

Alex: Alex does this!

Alice: She sinks to her knees. "I… I have been fighting this for so long because I thought I could never live up to him. I thought that all those claims were lies. But… Gollifer, my we-don't-know-what-we-are-yet, I have a confession to make!"

Rand: This results in the circle becoming completely full of salt.

Alex: Alex can climb up the salt.

Alex: It makes a nice, steadily elevating shot.

Rand: Alex climbs the ever-growing pillar, which, yes, is good for the camera work.

Rand: Margaret's location remains unknown. Presumably she can swim through rising columns of salt like Scrooge McDuck.

Alice: "I am Anastasia Murderfeet, heir to Lord Murderhands," she cries out, straightening, "and I'll do it, father! I'll do it! I'll accept my rule over all things in this world!"

Rand: "No! It's not possible!" cries Galindus, broken-hearted.

Rand: How could his co-star be so perfidious?

Rand: He draws from his collar-roll a delicate flick-knife, torn for a moment between murder and broken-hearted suicide.

Rand: After two seconds he decides on murder.

Alex: Alex, meanwhile, uses a Lesser Motion of Oak to alter the nature of the oaken set here such that it will not hold Margaret or her creations aloft, allowing her to slip in to the Lands Beyond Creation.

Rand: "I can't let you live to carry on your father's wicked, anti-higher-education ways!" he cries.

Rand: Hm, Margaret can't leave the circle, but the falling salt begins to pour out the bottom of the room.

Rand: In response, the ingress of salt from the top increases to a torrent.

Rand: So, you're effectively encased in a massive infinite salt column which is pushing relentlessly downwards.

Rand: Kind of like Tetris, really.

Remy: Lesser Destruction of Speed on the salt's downward movement.

Rand: This situation is really hard for you to film dramatically, although the effects team gets to work on some cut-ins to show where everybody is.

Rand: Unfortunately, they're only visible in the final cut—you actors can't see them!

Alex: "Thank you," says Alex, laying about him with his oaken hunk of set to disperse the salt from his person.

Rand: Galindus brandishes the knife, pushing Alice dramatically backwards out the open rear doors and towards the conveniently-placed clifftop fence.

Alice: "Starting," Alice says, turning en pointe and lifting one foot to point its toe dramatically at Tempa. "Here. You, Judge Tempa Loses-Everything Surkhang, are in contempt of court." That is probably about when she gets stabbed?

Alice: (Alice returns from Internet disconnection mid-dramatic moment.)

Rand: At present you are merely being herded backwards. You can't stab someone until the framing is right!

Alice: (Alice would like to object to having Perfect Timing on her character sheet and to having hit <CR> on 90% of her poses since the beginning of the game like two seconds too late.)

Rand: I could let you edit the logs to make your poses more dramatically apropos if you like.

Alice: Alice hops dramatically backwards, herded!

Rand: Alice is pushed out of view of the camera and towards the dangerously-rickety fence, and also towards stabby death.

Rand: Alex and Remy would probably wonder what was happening to her were the circle not filling with ominous vapor.

Alex: Alex refrains from breathing for a while, ponders an appropriate move…

Alex: Alex takes a moment to remember if Tempa is particularly difficult to kill.

Remy: Remy whirlwinds in an attempt to disperse the vapors.

Rand: It was pretty easy the first time you did it.

Rand: Not that it took!

Alex: Alex uses a miracle of superhuman senses to pinpoint Margaret's location in the sand/salt.

Rand: This works, although you find yourself with a mouthful of salt.

Alice: Alice says, "Go help them, I'll wait."

Rand: Wait, no, that doesn't taste like salt. It's metallic.

Remy: That's below average for Rich!

Rand: You have a feeling that you are encased in arsenic.

Rand: Arsenic in which you detect the faint tremors of Margaret moving like a shark, sword at the ready.

Alex: Alex is mildly surprised this isn't fatal to Margaret. Whatever - he hits some of the arsenic hard enough with his stick to send it at Tempa like a combination between a beehive canister round and, well, arsenic.

Rand: "Ah," says Gollifer, "with your assistance, I shall indeed help them."

Rand: "I shall render them all unto a world made perfect."

Alice: "I'm serious, dude," Alice says. "Don't screw this up."

Alice: "It'd be fucking tragic if I backed up like three more steps and had to start fighting you because they're still in trouble."

Rand: "I require only to take your boldness and make it my own, at which point I shall be ready to essay Ssyagna Vos myself."

Rand: Not sure where Alice is going with this?

Rand: Meanwhile, Tempa is getting faceful of arsenic.

Alex: "Sick of your shit, Tempa!"

Rand: "Ack, poison!' says Tempa, although honestly arsenic is a slow-acting poison so he's probably just being dramatic.

Alice: Alice assumed that he wanted her to go in, and was warning him that if he wanted that to go as planned his next step was to go help her Familia while she waited by the precipice, rather than pushing her to the point where she had to act. However, apparently, that was not what he actually wanted.

Rand: Meanwhile Margaret breaches the surface of the arsenic like an angry, sword-wielding whale and makes a spirited effort to bisect Alex.

Remy: Lesser Destruction of Speed on Margaret.

Rand: Margaret finds herself frozen in an undignified position, much like the whale on the Free Willy poster.

Alex: Alex follows up with the Big Stick. Batter up.

Alice: Alice sighs and opens a portal behind her to the courthouse as she continues to hop backwards.

Rand: Since you are not currently able to leave the circle, the result of this is not unlike what happens inside a pinball machine.

Rand: Please imagine a bunch of lights and a high score counter ringing the changes.

Remy: Remy catches her fall with a whole ORA ORA ORA ORA ORA routine, punching her back into the perimeter of the circle and hammering away.

Rand: Galindus moves to intercept this evasion via various high-speed kung fu techniques. It's hard to hop delicately backwards when a demented fake lawyer is rushing you with knives!

Rand: Meanwhile, Margaret is ora'd fairly decisively into the floor.

Alex: Alex is surprised, and not pleasantly, to see that Margaret is still alive, but he imagines her bones are white enough that they're reinforced.

Rand: "Oh, I am dying," she says, before posing dramatically and corpsily on the arsenic-strewn floor.

Alice: Alice is unable to move backwards towards the portal and the cliff!

Rand: I was vaguely imagining you attempting to hop in various directions, only to find him constantly swiping around in the direction you're trying to get.

Alice: I am absolutely willing to believe that a modest Aspect can make her unable to maneuver elegantly backwards through the portal, but if he's gonna scoop me up with the knife and heave me over the portal or drive me in a large loop around it while keeping me too distracted to move the portal between me and the cliff again he's gonna have to say so.

Rand: Hm, I think his intent is mostly to stab you to death, rather than send you over the cliff. The likelihood you going over the cliff is more a matter of dramatic editing, which doesn't actually have mechanical weight.

Rand: "One attorney has fallen," intones Judge Tempa through the poison. "Two attorneys remain."

Alex: There's someone else inside the circle?

Remy: Remy charges Alex in a whirlwind of fists, but doesn't actually try to hit. "Don't worry," he says, "I have a plan. Hit me."

Alice: Alice is willing to get stabbed as she slips back into the main courthouse! Her preferred Deadly Wound is becoming infused with the essence of murder, particularly in her feet or hands, but that depends on how gullible local reality is.

Alex: Alex raises an eyebrow. "Okay!" He hits him!

Rand: That seems a little esoteric for being stabbed with an ordinary knife, but you can definitely get as much blood on your hands and/or feet as you like.

Remy: Lesser Destruction of Speed on Remy's metabolism and biological processes. His heartbeat slows to nothing.

Rand: Remy is struck with the Big Stick and smacked down to the floor to lie next to Margaret.

Rand: He has no heartbeat and no vital signs.

Remy: He is no longer counted among the Quick, but the Dead.

Rand: …if his condition does not change, this man is dead!

Rand: "The prosecuting attorney stands victorious," announces the judge, glumly. "Please make your motion."

Alice: Alice staggers in, John McClane style, and throws herself to the other side of the judge, protagonist aura still on in full force. She doesn't try to close the portal before higher-Aspect-than-she-is Gollifer gets through.

Alex: Alex takes a moment to figure out what his motion should be. @//@

Remy: Use Aspect-powered legal reasoning!

Alex: Alex does so: "I move that Alice be held in contempt of court for her disruption of these legal proceedings through the art of filmcraft, and be so punished for this disruption through exile to Ssyagna Vos."

Rand: "It seems like we're inevitably moving in that direction, anyway," admits Tempa. "Motion granted."

Alice: "How did you learn my birth name, mysterious esquire tree?"

Alex: "It was delivered to me by the breath of God."

Rand: It was on the little nameplate that appeared by your face when you were introduced.

(aka Alice)
Rating: ** 1/2 (by Siskel and Ebert)

Alice: "Then if the world won't have me," Alice says, "I will work one miracle before I go. Let these murderfeet, just once, bring back the breath of life."

Alice: Alice pokes Remy with a toe.

Remy: Remy ceases sustaining his miracle!

Alice: Alice turns and trudges towards the cliff, and death, and all endings.

Rand: "Oh, do me, do me!" says Margaret's corpse.

Rand: "Meanwhile, bailiffs, please club that Warmain," adds Tempa.

Rand: This thing happens.

Alice: Alice sighs. "He's never really wanted anything, you know, other than that there be someone strong enough to go into Ssyagna Vos, and live."

Alice: "Could someone throw him into Ssyagna Vos while I proceed along my death march so that that desire is guaranteed to come true?"

Rand: "What, no, don't do that," says Gollifer. "I don't want to go in there."

Remy: Remy picks Gollifer up by the ankles and begins winding up for a throw.

Rand: "Only a crazy person woud do that."

Rand: "That's why I needed to make your suicidal devotion to duty my own before I could succeed!"

Remy: "I can't let you eat my Familia, but I can lend you a helping hand!"

Alex: "Yes, well, part of the problem with crazy people is that they're hard to predict."

Alice: Alice's wheel spins furiously in the air as she steals 12 MP from her other traits and points her foot at him and channels a burst of desire to enter Ssyagna Vos right into Gollifer's eyes.

Alex: "I've pretty much given up on it myself."

Alice: (Treasure 6)

Rand: Is this something you're using the PANE for?

Alice: Indeed.

Rand: Gollifer does not want to go.

Alex: Dang it!

Rand: But on the other hand, he also really, really does.

Alex: Yeah!

Rand: Even before people start using anti-nirvana engines on him.

Alex: Also, we're physically throwing him into it.

Remy: "Just say when, Gollifer."

Alex: So that probably helps him decide.

Alice: Well, I don't want a paradox.

Rand: "This isn't what I—"

Rand: Which are pretty terrible last words.

Alex: Alex averts his gaze as the boundary to Ssygana Vos is breached.

Alice: Alice nods. "Thank you, Remy."

Rand: If anyone didn't avert their gaze, it pretty much looks like what happens when Team Rocket blasts off again.

Remy: "Seeya, Gollifer."

Alice: She hugs Remy. She hugs Alex.

Remy: "No chance I can convince you to back down now, is there?"

Alice: "Oh, Remy," Alice says. She smiles at him. There are tears in her eyes. "What good are people, if we aren't really dumb?"

Alex: "Have a nice time in where-ever this takes you, Respite."

Alex: "You're the weirdest friend I've ever had and I'll always remember you fondly."

Alex: Alex hugs Alice in arms that feel terrifically safe.

Alice: "If we don't want the things we aren't supposed to want, and break the laws that we hold sacred above us, and live our lives as flames of folly, brightness, light, and song—well, why would Cneph and Lord Murderhands even bother?"

Alice: "These feet weren't made for killing, loves. They were made to run. They were made to dance. And most of all, they were made to jump, past where there is no accounting."

Alice: Alice's PANE spins up again, bright golden fury. (Treasure 6)

Remy: "I won't let you do this alone, then."

Remy: Lesser Incarnation of Speed.

Remy: Specifically, the speed with which Alice approaches her doom.

Alice: She snorts a laugh, and turns, and runs, and leaps.

Alex: Alex watches Alice vanish in to the unknown. This time, he does not avert his gaze.

Rand: And thus it is that Alice finds herself falling.

Rand: Falling, into a world of complicated choices and compulsions.

Rand: A world in which people are buffeted about by mighty forces that seek to corral them into the "right" decisions.

Rand: How strange!

Rand: You thought that was the world you were leaving, but instead Alice seems to be entering it.

Rand: It's a world that's in need of someone to stand in the path of all these entangling destinies.

Rand: Some invisible spirit to infuse just enough chaos into everything that nothing can ever be certain.

Rand: You have the opportunity to be that spirit.

Rand: Well, I say "opportunity". It's not really optional at this point owing to gravity and such.

Rand: It's the promise of freedom for everybody except you.

Alex: How dark.

Alice: Gravity!!

Rand: You don't approve, Alex?

Rand: Will you reach out, then, and save Alice from the fate she chose for herself?

Rand: It's not like you can't.

Rand: Or like Remy couldn't.

Remy: As much as Remy disagrees, it's not his place to gainsay Alice.

Remy: Unless her speed indicates a desire to be saved.

Alice: "I'll tell you a secret," Alice confides, to the air, to the fall, to the just in case her microphone's still picking up a possible voiceover. "I never really thought I had a choice to begin with."

Alex: Not at all.

Alex: She is the Dark.

Alex: It would be absurd to deny this to her.

Rand: Then that, I guess, is how it was.

Rand: Thus does freedom reward those who serve her fully.

Rand: Freedom isn't made, you see.

Rand: It's found.

Rand: And that, I guess, is that!

Alex: Yep!

Alice: In the end the kiwi found was in ourselves all along.

Alex: Hee.

Rand: Thanks to everybody who played.

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