Welcome Back, Qistja

Elliott: There is a darkness upon the stage, and a body moves through it, crossing to the fore. The body leans now against — what? a crate? a wall? — and shuffles, trying to calculate the angle of what will look effortlessly cool. Above, the stage lights hum to sudden brightness, and we see the body flip ass-over-teakettle.

This is a story about Radegesis Ichneumon and the Tri-County Chapter of the Rider's Abstinence Society.

And the story begins in a van!

You're on your way to the local high school. Eric's told you that apparently it's tradition to do a day-long take-over event. You're not sure who'd really watch this sort of thing, but you'll be broadcasting live from there.

Who all did you bring for this little field trip, out of your ever-expanding menagerie?

:spotlight:

Sadabus: "Someone consented to this?" wonders Sadabus, who didn't bring anybody because seriously, what the hell.

He isn't used to actually being asked by authority figures to educate their children.

Radegesis: Rad points a finger at him. "They consented because you're not in charge today, old man. So no, like, corrupting the youth."

Whole Chancery has to come, obviously. Scalbrand might be good for a slapstick or something. Probably… Eric or, uh, maybe Jupiter for camera hands.

That's… how TV works, right?

Elliott: Eric, Jupe, and Poppy are all crammed in, yeah.

Radegesis: Almost certain we're forgetting someone. Sure it won't come back to bite us.

Elliott: Jupiter's driving, if no one else is.

Semegastes: This is a Tech Kids trip.

Gailizia: "Which one of us consented, again? I'm pretty sure it wasn't me; I'd bring a different bit."

Radegesis: Oh, hell yes, Technical Kids. We can be like a mini job fair.

Bright future, kids!

Semegastes: Slab’s got work during school hours and Everett… should not under any circumstances be allowed to talk near children. :fuguechip:

Sadabus: "What, exactly, am I going to do if not corrupt the youth?"

He's really quite sincerely puzzled. Someone must have screwed up real good for this to have happened.

Gailizia: "Slime them, I think."

Radegesis: Rad clenches a fist.

"In this world, Sad, it's slime or be slimed."

Elliott: "You'll do great, Sadabus," Eric says.

Radegesis: "And you can cast grease, so."

Sadabus: "I will do great, and that is precisely what they should have been afraid of."

Radegesis: "Anyways. High schoolers. No drinking, no murder, no smoking. No cussing?"

"Not like I can, anyways."

Elliott: "I dunno. I’m pretty afraid of teenagers."

Semegastes: "Rad, are you shitting me?"

"High school kids cuss like monkeys."

"…sailors?"

"Monkeys who are also sailors."

"Also they definitely smoke."

Radegesis: "That sounds like a hell of a combo. Maybe they're pirates. I don't think high schoolers should be pirates."

Gailizia: "Teens are a tough crowd, true." Gailizia nods sagely.

"Don't let them smell your fear."

Sadabus: "Why would we not drink?"

Radegesis: "Who, me? I've never been afraid in my life, ahahaha… uhhh…"

Semegastes: "Kids'll make fun of you, Sad."

Radegesis: "Oh, the kids are going to make hell of fun of you, Sad."

Sadabus: "Honestly, it's more effective for children to learn responsible alcohol use from competent adults than to do so at college from drunken peers."

Semegastes: "Oh, yeah, old man Sadabus, smells like rum."

Radegesis: "Smells like gin. The grandma of booze."

Elliott: "I would really appreciate it if you could not destroy everything, Mr. Argand," Poppy says. "My little sister's still a student, and… slightly more flammable than average?"

Radegesis: Rad frowns. "Is that, like… medical?"

Gailizia: "Wait, what's that mean? Is she a wooden fetch or something?"

Sadabus: "I have reluctantly agreed not to do any murders today but there is a broad variety of curses covering the middle ground between destruction and allowing myself to be mocked by hormone-addled teens."

Elliott: "Oh, cursing her is fair game. Go for the throat."

Radegesis: "With slime, man, slime." Rad makes… vaguely gooey motions?

Semegastes: "Sadabus is gonna curse, like, shithead Harry Potter, and all his magic'll bounce back and turn him into some kind of sex troll." :fuguechip:

Sadabus: What a horrible thing to say.

Radegesis: "Didn't that already happen? Hey-oh!" She holds a hand out for a high five.

Sadabus: I don't mock your bane.

Elliott: Poppy: "She… kind of catches fire sometimes? I dunno. It's weird stuff. Doesn't hurt, though, so long as she stops, drops, and rolls before it gets too big."

Semegastes: Valentine takes Rad up on it.

Radegesis: "Anyways, shut up and look adult, we're almost here."

So… what's the 'here' look like? :spotlight:

Gailizia: "Huh! Wild. I didn't know humans did that."

Radegesis: "I… am not sure they do, but what am I, a doctor?"

Gailizia: "I'm not that kind of doctor, that's for sure! And brains are known for randomly flaming out."

Semegastes: "…is your sister, perhaps, catching fire in a way that is… wrong?" Semegastes asks.

Elliott: The school is a big old building, four stories tall. It was clearly built to try and look like a college, but done so cheaply as to completely undermine the illusion. There are pillars that are just literally stacked bricks.

Radegesis: "Hey, I guess we'll fit right in."

Semegastes: (:spotreckoning: the incredible flammable sister once you're done with the school.)

Elliott: The students are out there waiting for you! Or, like, waiting for school to start in a completely normal way? It seems half-and_half: Some look jazzed, others unfazed as Jupiter backs the bigass TCPA-TV van into a spot.

Sadabus: "If she knows it's wrong, it's too late for her."

Elliott: The principal's nearby, and she's got a big-ass lottery basket like you'd see at a bingo hall; the half who are Into It cheer as you lot approach. Jupiter, Poppy, and Eric are setting things up at light speed, but you're left talking to the principal awkwardly for a few minutes.

Sadabus: I'm going to blot out the sun, spread eternal night across the school, and transform the moon into a wicked, grinning face.

Radegesis: Rad grabs a random prop and hoists it over her should to look like she's helping, and oh my god Sadabus.

Gailizia: Gailizia slaps his wizard hand.
"Sadabus! Where's the showmanship?"

Radegesis: "Yeah, shithead! Save it for the Halloween episode!"

Sadabus: "Oh, yes, right. Did you want to give the speech?"

Radegesis: "And do actually save it, because that is kind of sick."

Semegastes: The Technical Kids are glad that there's magic bullshit to distract this principal dude from noticing they totally smell like the scofflaw's foliage.

Elliott: Poppy explained that her sister catches on fire, right? Well, her dad used to be, like, catnip for insects. Weird, cursed shit runs in the family, and it's unpleasant, but not really a problem in the way something like that should be. If pressed, she'll probably recount some other cases from her family and friends, and it's all low-level weirdness that seems vaguely Glitchy and unwholesome, but not actively baneful, yeah?

Radegesis: Huh. Vaguely… Prescotty? I dunno, man, I only got Lore 4.

Semegastes: Joke's on Rad; Semegastes is Lore 1.

Radegesis: I realized as I went to say it that her Lore is actually pretty good.

Gailizia: Honestly, it could be any number of things.

"No, the speech is better from you or Rad unless you want me to do it as a frame device. It's a good opener to the day, but it's gotta have the appropriate introduction."

Sadabus: I finally bought Lore 1, which I have definitely always had because I am a Proper Excrucian with the correct build. :fuguechip:

[Elliott swivels the spotlight to the sign, which reads ST. PRESCOTT'S SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL.]

Gailizia: Oh, well, that's different.

Sadabus: "Well, this explains many things."

"We shall recruit these children into my army of darkness, and then…"

Radegesis: "Right. Gotcha."

Sadabus: Sadabus tries to remember what he was going to do with the army of darkness after he got it.

"Do we still make television shows? I feel like it's been a while since we did anything but ill-advised adoptions."

Radegesis: They could help us set up. Speaking of which.

"So, uh… where we setting up?"

Elliott: You're setting up right here! Jupiter's got the camera out now, and Eric has the feed starting up. Poppy looks at you all: "Like… someone go hype us up. Get them excited. It's fun! And y'all are, like, magic, right?"

Radegesis: I cannot imagine that St. Prescott's has splurged otherwise but hell yes

Sadabus: "Greetings, incomplete humans!" :fuguechip:

"We come in conquest, to make ourselves masters of this school for a day!"

"I am pleased to announce that all laws, all social contracts, are hereby nullified!"

"Also, classes are cancelled, and homework banned!"

"Now, frolic!"

Elliott: The principal should definitely be saying something to that, but isn't.

Elliott: She's just kind of nondescriptly pleasant.

Radegesis: Rad is gonna… well, she might go back in the van, so she can kick it open to make a dramatic entrance. With Intensity!

Elliott: Poppy takes the mic and explains some boring technical stuff while chaos ensues.

Radegesis: "Ladies! Gentlemen! Motherf — uh, cool… kids… of every age!" :fuguechip:

She stalls a moment, while I also stall for something worth following that up with.

Sadabus: Sadabus leans into the mike. "Motherfuckers." :fuguechip:

Radegesis: "Thanks."

Elliott: That gets uproarious applause!

Sadabus: "Don't mention it."

[Sadabus turns the principal into a strange white bird-like creature just to get things started with a classic magic-school reference.]

Radegesis: "Welcome to, uh. Fuck it. Slimetopia!"

Greater Costumery to turn the parking lot into a skate-park-esque spot. +1 XP for 3 Stilling :fuguechip:

Semegastes: Semegastes leans in for a shot with Sadabus and the ensorcelled principal. "#Selfie!"

[Sadabus poses.]

Gailizia: Gailizia somehow fits in just in the nick of time.

Sadabus: Hm, what's the simplest way to turn the school into a school of black magic for the day?

Gailizia: Start teaching them spells in the parking lot?

Semegastes: Honestly, with teens I don't think you need a miracle for that.

Just be like, 'hey, kids, forbidden knowledge'.

Sadabus: Yeah, but I have to, like, produce the knowledge.

Radegesis: Rad is in the middle of Costuming, and therefore you catch her in a supremely-unflattering pose.

Sadabus: Classes with ogre teachers teaching Fight instead of regular teachers teaching history.

Sadabus: Witches doing potions.

I guess I could use Greater Misdirection?

Sadabus: Or just run around tossing stunts, that's cheap.

Semegastes: Greater Costumery is the environmental warp miracle.

Radegesis: Lemme go ahead and :spotlight: all the shit we're doing to this parking lot.

Sadabus: Okay, then.

I'm going to spotlight myself using Greater Costumery to turn this place into Black Magic Hogwarts while I run around cursing teachers and classrooms into a form suitable for this takeover.

Radegesis: Ramps shoot up and bowls slam down. Railings sprout in tangled hedges. Spray-painted markings signpost every direction, as long as you're going fast. And handy little gutters provide pathways for either injury blood or slime!

Sadabus: English class is now Conjury class. History is now The History The Law-Beings Don't Want You To Know.

Radegesis: Cool.

Sadabus: Physical Education is now Barehanded Combat.

Home Economics is now Potions.

Gailizia: Gailizia grabs the microphone.

"Today's a day without laws! You know what that means!"

For some reason their jacket is a lot more sparkly, to go with the mood Rad is laying down.

"A feast! And since the principal is indisposed, we'll have to elect a new one and anoint them with regal slime! And then we can make a Wizard's Court with myself and Sadabus assisting!"

Elliott: Poppy points out the big lottery barrel. Apparently they usually pick a kid to be, like, "king of mischief" with it, so that works if you like.

Radegesis: Rad slides into the spotlight just below Gailizia.

"And, later on, you're gonna elect your Royal Couple! And then either we slime them or they slime you!"

She points at the crowd.

"Stay tuned — I mean… in school!"

Semegastes: Semegastes is using [Costumery] to manifest their regalia: a tiny hard light holo-screen that's just full of writhing Semegastes-cells appears over Sid's forehead, and then slowly expands into a roughly full-length mirror rectangle. As the screen expands, it zooms in on the cells, which knit together into a human figure, an androgynously-beautiful, glitter-covered humansona, dressed in a toxoplasmosis-themed outfit. :fuguechip:

Elliott: Big Frizzle Energy.

Radegesis: (oh god damn fuck is semegastes hot)

Semegastes: "Do we have any fans of the Semegastes Sarcocystidae online brand presence cluster in the audience today?" :fuguechip:

("Online brand presence cluster" was a Technical Kid pitch.)

Gailizia: Gailizia is turning the barrel now, all the world of school in motion, until she lets go, satisfied and waiting for a ball to come out the tube.

Elliott: It's the damnest thing, Gailizia.

The barrel just gets lighter and lighter as you turn it!

Radegesis: It's called 'working out'. :fuguechip:

Elliott: When a ball finally tumbles out… it's the only one even there.

Radegesis: Oh. Well.

Elliott: Written on it in big block letters:

GRIFFIN COLE

Radegesis: Hey. Hey, that rings a bell…

Gailizia: "…"

"fuck"

:fuguechip:

Semegastes: "Oh, it's such a good thing I didn't invite Everett along for this."

Radegesis: "Okay. Uh. Okay."

Semegastes: "Or Slab, for that matter."

Elliott: A bell rings!

Sadabus: "This is simply the law of the void, Gailizia."

Elliott: The students — did they get, like, wizard hats, maybe? — are rushing off to Potions, or Dark Art History, or World Domination.

Gailizia: "Griffin Cole!"

"Your king of mischief today, folks!"

Sadabus: You don't just get a wizard hat; you have to earn it.

Elliott: Griffin waits for the crowd to thin and then runs over to all of you.

Radegesis: !

Elliott: "What the frick was all that?"

Semegastes: "Showmanship!"

Gailizia: "Did you do the ball trick?"

Radegesis: "Whoa! Hey! Good to see you too!"

Sadabus: "For some insane reason, we were invited to take over your school."

"Is this establishment normally run by the mad?"

Radegesis: "Naw, that's why they invited you, to fill in."

Sadabus: "I beg your pardon; I mean, the terminally whimsical?"

Radegesis: Rad holds out a fist for a bump.

Elliott: To Gailizia: "Of course! First of all, I think you'd end up getting most anyone else killed, and second, I need to know about the stuff. You know, the…void-y stuff."

Semegastes: "You could've just sent me a DM."

Gailizia: "Oh! Good. I was afraid this was some kind of sinister plan to put you together with us after I very clearly said I wouldn't do that if you didn't want to."

Elliott: As if in answer to Sadabus' question, he sees a small explosion in one of the classrooms and the familiar face of Dr. Judy Bernes peaks out as she throws the windows open to let out the smoke, just cackling with Science Joy.

Semegastes: "But hey, might as well give you an education in the deep lore of Ninuan, in which I am assuredly versed."

Gailizia: "In that case, we need to slime you with this barrel of royal jelly that Sadabus needs to make."

Sadabus: "I am not your slime technician!"

Elliott: "Wait, what?"

Radegesis: "Don't worry, it's asbestos-free."

"This time."

Sadabus: "If you wanted to be obsessed with slime, you should have brought your own."

Elliott: "I don't like that you have to qualify that!"

Sadabus: "More important, why is this child run through with the void?"

"You show no obvious signs of revenancy or Glitch infection."

Semegastes: "You should not fear asbestos, Cole; it is yours simply to remove it from your person."

"And yeah, what is up with that?"

[Sadabus cracks his knuckles.]

Sadabus: It is time for… a proper investigation.

Gailizia: "Well, the quick question, when you see the world, do you know that it is wrong, deeper than your bones?"

Sadabus: I use… Vision!

Radegesis: Rad, seeing Cole get increasingly legit distressed, is gonna drop down so she's sitting on the edge of the stage, so she can make eye contact with him if he's standing below or pat for him to sit next to her.

And, not Investigation?

Sadabus: I'll leave that to you.

Gailizia: "This is actually an important diagnostic, and not a bit!"

Also she just Has Vision Always now, if it's relevant here.

Sadabus: Also, I shall spotlight this weird child.

:spotlight:

Let's shine a light up in his eyes and check for stars.

We should also consider the possibility that he's Baalhermon dressed in a kid suit.

Elliott: Griffin Cole takes a seat beside Radegesis when she offers, allowing himself to be subjected to Sadabus' complicated examinations and probably Gailizia's subtler ones, too.

Radegesis: Rude! He doesn't come into your house and call you a Noble!

"Hey kid. So uh. While they're doctoring you. How you… doing?"

She mouths a little over his head at Gailizia what do i do?.

Elliott: This boy, he is… not of the Not, but not not of the Not?

Radegesis: But who's on second?

Sadabus: I hate every part of that sentence.

Gailizia: Well, yeah, they all are.

She mouths back establish rapport and listen to him.

Elliott: There's a very real Notness that kind of over-and-underlays him, weaving through his Creational body. He's definitely, you know, a kid in all the ways that matter. And he's not an Excrucian, but he's got this whole undercurrent of Ninuanni power thrumming through his form and the spiritual veins of his soul.

Radegesis: Sounds like a kid who's kind of fucked up. Rad can get that.

Elliott: "Not great," he says, a little shaken. "So, I need to know right now — you all can do the thing," he says, starting to gesture with his hand but stopping himself mid-motion. "The hand-wavey thing where you destroy stuff, right?"

Gailizia: "More or less."

Radegesis: "…yeah. Not the big one, not straight delete, but we destroy stuff too, yeah."

Gailizia: "Less, right now, but we don't really need to get into the details of it."

[Sadabus sears a pretty magic circle into the carpet, just to demonstrate.]

Radegesis: "Sometimes worse than others. And," [glares at Sadabus] "some people worse than others."

Semegastes: "We… can do the big one, but for most of us, it's only when we're… really not in a great place, mentally."

Elliott: He looks… desperate, and happy, and hopeful, and perfectly aware that he's either about to be saved or devastated:
"How do I get something back?"

Semegastes: Semegastes starts, then stops.

Gailizia: Gailizia glances at their companions. This is a conversation they've all had before, isn't it.

It never goes very well.

Radegesis: "…"

"Shit."

Sadabus: "How many parents did you kill, then?" asks Sadabus.

"One, or both, or more?"

Gailizia: "For the most part… you don't."

the lights dim

Elliott: He goes pale.

Radegesis: "Sorry, pal. Road to nothing is one-way."

Gailizia: "Well. Mostly? Sometimes it can sort of work, and sometimes it doesn't properly take. Like mine, you can sometimes come back from mine mostly intact."

Radegesis: "Hey, hey, hey, though, it's not always as bad as it looks. There's lots of, like, details. Bits. It's not always black and white. Do you wanna, fill us in on the details? We can get you, uh, coffee? You drink coffee yet?"

Sadabus: Sadabus is looking as close as he comes to feeling emotions like "pity" and "sympathy." How terrible, to suffer the path of the Glitched, and apparently not have the consolation of being the royalty of Ninuan.

How terrible to be quite alone. :fuguechip:

Elliott: The kid goes quite for a long while. Poppy tells you all that you're supposed to be heading to his first class; Jupiter's already got the cameras all set up. If you ask the kid carefully enough, softly enough, he'll say that he accidentally destroyed the concept of Fourth Period, but you all know that's… the truth, but also not the Truth.

Semegastes: Semegastes gives Poppy the universal give-us-a-second idol pose. :fuguechip:

Gailizia: Gailizia is using the other mode on Greater Vision. What isn't he saying?

What're the words he's saying behind those?

Radegesis: "Hey man. You're talking to, like, the four people in the world who get it. You can tell us."

Elliott: "I don't have parents. I don't have a family. I don't even remember having any. So… did I just unmake them? Did I forget? And if I forgot, what else have I forgotten?"

Radegesis: Double shit.

Elliott: "Let's just go to Gym. Or I guess whatever dark magic bull it's going to be now."

Gailizia: "Sure! There's plenty of time in the day." THE MASQUE FANTASTIC!

Sadabus: "What… would you like it to be?"
:fuguechip:

Radegesis: Rad stands up suddenly. "Nah, dude. C'mon. Let's blow this popsicle stand."
She points, pretty much at random, at the Technical Kids.

Sadabus: "It appears we are in the position of being bad fairy godparents, so, please feel free to make ill-advised wishes."

Radegesis: "We'll be back by lunch. Don't let Sadabus burn anything down."

"Me and Cole are gonna go do a field trip."
Intensity

Semegastes: "Rad, are you telling us we should smoke him out? Because, uh, that sounds like an awful idea." Neva whispers. :fuguechip:

Radegesis: "That actually sounds like a great idea, but not exactly what I'm thinking/"

Sadabus: Radegesis is bogarting the morality pet.

Elliott: Cole is still kind of shut down, but follows Radegesis wherever it is they're going.

Radegesis: You have a pet! Put your own morality in.

Sadabus: Fine, but I'm going to turn a student into something weird every fifteen minutes until you return. :spotninuan:

Radegesis: We are going to the vital, life-saving, land called getting some fucking ice cream. :fuguechip:

I'm not even ordering rum raisin!

Gailizia: Do we want to have a Rad and Cole scene, and then return to school anarchy?
That's what it sounds like right now.

Sadabus: Well, it's Radegesis' story.

Semegastes: Works for me.

Sadabus: I don't even have a quest because none of them quite fit.

Radegesis: I was thinking we might cut back and forth for comedic effect.

Like, if you have a real funny counterpoint to cut back to.

Sadabus: I'm just going to hang around and teach radical anarchy and so forth.

Radegesis: Or, I guess, just generally fun.

Gailizia: I don't think we have an actual agenda back at the school right now, so cutting back and forth would probably just weaken things.

Elliott: Feel free to do cut-away gags.

Gailizia: Doesn't really matter what we do, so long as we know when you get back, Gailin is teaching kids how to turn leaves into dollars.

(but only for an evening)

Elliott: A tanuki for all seasons. :fuguechip:

Radegesis: Actually… Rad might text the groupchat and suggest that y'all snoop a little bit about where all this Void stuff is coming from.

So! if it's a new scene I'm gonna :spotlight: us.

Elliott: It is indeed a new chapter.

Semegastes: You're the boss!

Radegesis: At an ice cream place, seated in a window booth, with our freshly ordered ice cream. What'd he get? You can learn a lot about a kid by what ice cream they get.

Elliott: He gets mint chocolate chip.

Radegesis: Solid. Reasonable.

Rad pokes at a Milky Road milkshake. Half Rocky Road, half Milky Way bars, all great decision.

She affects the most… businesslike? professional? honestly, just adult? tone she can.

"So, let's start at the beginning, huh? Do you remember how you got that hand?"

Elliott: He looks down at it, but for him — and you, barring Lore — it's just a hand. Whatever did this didn't even have the kindness to give him a theatrical aura or interesting scar.

Radegesis: Fortunately, I've got free Vision!

Elliott: His Not-energy is thrumming throughout all his λ-kras, but it definitely all circulates to and from his hand, like there's a heart beating there.

"I don't know. I've always had it. At least, for as long as I can remember. But I don’t remember much, really. And it seems more and more likely that my not remembering is my fault, too."

Radegesis: "Hey, now, slow down with that talk. Fault's a big word."

"You got the Hand, but I don't think you're on the big world-ending train, huh? I don't know how you got it, but that's not the kind of thing you steal from the dollar store for shits and giggles. If I had to guess, somebody gave it to you."

She drums her fingers for a minute, thinking.

"Okay, I'm gonna do something that might be a little creepy. Don't freak, okay?"

Elliott: "Okay…?"

Radegesis: She pulls out a pot of ink, mostly black-as-lightlessness but sheened with the iridescence of unreality and falling stars. And then she has to fumble for a minute and get a, napkin? to put under Cole's hand. And Rad uses Investigation (maybe Greater) to hatch the secret of where this Hand came from.

Elliott: So, a drop of the ink gets on his hand and you both watch it stretch and slide across, forming a complicated sigil.

It takes a second to recognize it because this version of the symbol is a little wonky — not just from the strangeness of the ink or the unusual canvas of a shaken boy's hand, but because it's different than it should be in weird but understandable ways, like reading Middle English.

On Cole's hand is the sigil of the Rider's Abstinence Society.

At least, a Rider's Abstinence Society.

Radegesis: Rad narrows her eyes. "That," she mutters, "is what we call not fucking playing ball."

Sadabus: How fascinating.

Radegesis: "Listen, Cole." It's the first time she's used his name. "Things are pretty sticky. The Hand is freaky, I get it, and kinda dangerous sometimes. Like someone taped a big sharp spear to your arm. I guess…" She drums her fingers again. "Guess there's two things we oughta say."

Sadabus: Did someone… slough their Wyrd off onto this boy?

How utterly blasphemous.

Gailizia: Could be a really arch Casting.

Sadabus: It's vile!

Gailizia: Actually no, with how Casting works it wouldn't actually be hard.

Sadabus: To turn your back on your deepest nature as the royalty of the silvered land, and also to dump it on a mortal child who cannot bear that weight.

Gailizia: Does mean we should be able to correlate them together, though.

Radegesis: "Thing number one, is this Hand isn't you, okay? Someone gave it to you, and I'm gonna start kicking down doors until I, we, find out who. And… it means you really shouldn't go around saying it's your fault."

"Thing number two is… still dangerous. You're a smart kid, you get it. So, I wanna…" She makes a face while she tries to find words.

"If you want to hang out with us, you can. The Hand doesn't hurt us like it does other things, and we know all kinds of Void stuff. We might be able to help. I really hope we can help."

Jesus, what a completely uncool thing to say. Turns out vulnerability sucks!

"Either way, though, we're gonna keep you safe."

Elliott: Cole cries. Not all at once, not loudly. Not even all that much, if we're being honest, but he cries in these little bouts, and eats his ice cream, and sits with that kindness. You think you can see his shoulders straighten, just a little. :spotreaction:

Radegesis: "It's gonna be all right, man. I'm with you." :fuguechip:

Sadabus: Meanwhile, at the school!

Sadabus is investigating for weird, Prescott-like phenomena.

This investigation involves a large box labelled Reveal Your Inner Monster.

This box is cursed to turn whoever passes within it into whichever monster they secretly are, inside.

For a bit, anyway.

Gailizia: This sounds like you're just trying to make Prescott's Children.

Sadabus: It sounds like some of them already are!

Gailizia: Everyone already is.

Elliott: One kid goes into the box and comes out as a werewolf, but in a cute way.

Sadabus: Oh, so, with a pink bow!

Radegesis: It sounds like you're gonna full on Breakthrough someone.

Gailizia: Sounds like they're either gonna get anxiety or horny.

Elliott: Another goes in and… comes out on fire. She runs a bit and then stops, drops, and rolls until she's extinguished, which takes what seems like an unusually long time.

Sadabus: Tcha! If turning people into werewolves caused Glitch awareness, there'd be Strategists everywhere.

Semegastes: Idol Semegastes is signing autographs, assuming any kids are willing to humor them on that. The Technical Kids are kinda huddled awkwardly nearby, because the holoscreen can't go too far from them.

Sadabus: Ooh, oh! I know this one!

Gailizia: Gailizia has unfastened a portion of the school with her fae magics and is showing kids how to make one thing as another, for a time.

When she sees the fire, she waves. "Oh! You must be Poppy's sister!"

Elliott: "Oh, hi!" she says, shaking Gailizia's hand in an overly formal way that says My Dad Makes Me Practice This. "You're Gailizia, right?"

Gailizia: "The one and only!"

She does a little tumble for emphasis.

"She was talking about you on the way here! Only good things, trust me! Well, and the fire thing. That's not good, but it is a fact!" :fuguechip:

Elliott: "Ugh, I know, right? I mean, it's not the worst random weird curse at this place but — " she stops, distracted as another boy comes out of the box as a fishman.

Gailizia: Distracted how? :spotreckoning:

Radegesis: Leave the poor proto-furries alone!

Elliott: Distracted as in: that's not a particular kind of weirdness she sees. There's definitely a schema, here: the Known Weird and the Unknown Weird, of which fishboy is the latter. Presumably, he doesn't normally do that.

Semegastes: Semegastes is gonna do a Greater Investigation as to what is up with this school, by tweeting out to her followers "At St. Prescott's Senior High School! Lots of great people here, and we even met an old friend, but what is up with the vibes here??? #spooky #portentous #possiblyninuani #hopeIdon'thavetofightanymonsters"

And then waiting on her followers to respond

3 Fugue, +1 XP

Gailizia: "Oh, are curses like a common thing here?"

Elliott: The user another-round replies:

another-round: It's profoundly cursed :slight_frown: :wink:

Semegastes: @another-round, do not make wink-mouth at me, spill the deets!

Radegesis: At some point, the rumble of the, uh, hastily-borrowed van returns, bearing Cole and Rad with matching ice cream mustaches.

Elliott: "Yeah, although some folks definitely get better ones than others. Eliza Hayes' curse makes people have to answer her questions; she had, like, an investigative blogger phase where she really torqued that one up until she accidentally outed one of her best friends and now she's a lot more careful."

Gailizia: "Huh! So it's not really a familial thing, more of a regional one?"

Radegesis: Rad steers Cole through the crowd, with the latex glove she maybe stole from the ice cream place on Cole's hand.

Elliott: "I guess so. Lots of folks have some particular brand of weirdness."

Gailizia: "Don't I know it. If you don't mind me asking, can you do anything else with the fire thing? Or is it just about you, specifically, burning?"

Elliott: Semegastes gets another response from micczech1212:

micczech1212: It's a tragic den of children saddled with someone else's burdens. Good of you to care, but maybe stay in your lane?

A host of their other followers chime in to shout that person down, or to offer up stories about Prescott's.

A lot of it tracks with what Gailizia's getting from Dee: weird kids from all over the district get sent there. The teachers are weird, the classes are weirder, and apparently they only have three periods a day when everyone else has four so how is that fucking fair?

Radegesis: "You complaining about less school, kid?"

Semegastes: "No, Rad, they're on Twitter, they can't hear you."

Gailizia: She nods.

"Well, if you have any questions about weird stuff, you can always drop by the station. In the meantime, wanna learn some magic?"

Radegesis: "…tell your guys to turn off the text to speech then."

Elliott: She looks cautiously optimistic. "As long as it's not explosive."

Radegesis: "Hey, actually, Gailin, can I grab you for a minute?"

"Sorry kid, explosives aren't until after lunch."

Gailizia: She shrugs. "It can be, but it's faery magic, so any explosions are gonna be more… transient? than usual. Not really the strong point."

Gailin turns to Rad and smiles.

"Oh? Sure!"

Elliott: Note: It is after lunch.

Semegastes: Time flies!

Radegesis: I just had ice cream! I can't tell!

[Gailizia ate a big bowl of ice cream and lost all memory of time.]

Radegesis: Are Strategists lactose-intolerant? You can't prove they're not.

"Hey, so, good and bad news. Bad news is some fucker did this, good news is we have a lead. That doesn't matter right now. How'd you get Scalbrand into…" she gestures. "You?"

Semegastes: Neva of the Technical Kids comes over to hang with Dee while Gailizia's busy, and talks about like, fireballs and shit

It really isn't good conversation unless Dee happens to be exactly the right type of nerd.

Elliott: She doesn't seem to like talking about fireballs.

What with her sometimes being on fire.

Semegastes: "But… it's like you're half fire-elemental, you know?"

"Hey, do you read webcomics?"

Gailizia: She tilts her head.

"I took it as a treasure of my heart, and then scarred myself that I could wield the authority to break the truth of the world against my will. It's also an Actual, so it's already infectious."

Elliott: "I mean, neither of my parents is on fire, so I'm thinking that's not it."

Semegastes: "Or you got… bitten by a… werebonfire?"

Gailizia: Semegastes, talk to Dee about illusion magic, that's more what I can teach her.

Sadabus: I suppose if this curse isn't really hers, I could probably just… remove it again.

Bake it into a pie or something.

Semegastes: "Okay, the parasites in my brain also live in Gailizia's brain, just like, temporarily, and they're telling me she wants me to tell you about illusion magic." :fuguechip:

"Which is way cool and even better than fireballs. My level 12 half-celestial gnome beguiler — "

Unless Dee is very interested in being told about people's characters, this is… probably less bad than the fireball talk, but also terrible.

Radegesis: Meanwhile, Cole has probably been foisted off with Dee and Neva.

Rad frowns.

"Okay. Like you do. Listen, I wanna try and take some of the kid's Hand into myself. You know, so he doesn't erase shit every time he jumps."

"Is that like… a thing."

Elliott: Oh, thank Cneph, the bell for third period rings and the hall is filled with much bustle. Cole looks around and smiles at Rad and waves for you all to follow him to his last class of the day, because you have to go to at least one, right?

Semegastes: "Oh, thank god," Neva sighs.

Gailizia: Gailizia leans in, her head resting on her hand, studying Rad. "What is that boy to you? Does he want you to take that on?" :fuguechip:

Radegesis: Rad will thumbs up in a sort of be right there kinda way.

"He's freaked out, Gailin. He might have erased, like, his whole family. He's half-kid, half-nuke. Nobody should have to live like that." :fuguechip:

"I mean, I'm not just gonna rip it out of him, I'll see if he's cool. But I wanted to see if it was possible first."

Sadabus: Sadabus follows, ominously, which is basically the only way he knows how to move. :fuguechip:

Gailizia: "Oh, far be it from me to dissuade you — I'm nothing if not a fool. But the question needed asking if that's what you want."

She does that little smile again.

"It's important to know what the people you surround yourself with are to you, you know?"

She conjures a chair and sits down, legs crossed and hands on her knee.

"If it's his, it's his — you know that miracles aren't shared easily like that. Now, if you wanted to bend that, I'm sure some strategy could be devised, or some geas laid to bend or limit that power. Or maybe some kind of infusion of prudence? I don't think I have any of that handy, not a common muse, I'd have to look. You could just also work with the kid- if he lets you in, emotionally speaking, you might be able to leverage that. If you make him a flore, he'd always have you on speed dial, at least."

Elliott: Sadabus, Semegastes, Neva, and Cole make their way to the classroom. It's deadly quiet inside, but like… the quiet is anticipatory and charged. The students are thumbing through their books, and the teacher is writing something on the board.

Radegesis: Rad sighs and flops down on a nearby conjured chair, trusting Gailizia to catch her, and of course sitting backwards. "Yeah. No, I get it. It's weird. I dunno, maybe anchoring's the way to go. But… I dunno."

Elliott: "Ah," the teacher says, "there's our harlequin regnant!"

Gailizia: "It definitely changes the relationship, and I'm not sure he's ready for that."

Radegesis: "I just… why have five people who are Void-fucked when we could at least bring it down to four, you know?"

"You're telling me I gotta keep having heartfelt conversations, huh?"

She lies her head down sideways on the back of the chair and whines. "Gailizia, this fucking sucks." :fuguechip:

Gailizia: "That's part of it. But I'm also not sold that it's something we have to blunt? However he got the hand, it's a part of him, and he can choose how to use it. A lot of ensuring that goes better than worse is giving him the support he needs and the knowledge to grow and use it with care. It could be… so much worse."

She slouches and sighs.

"…yeah, it really fucking sucks."

Radegesis: Somewhere deep inside Radegesis' skull, a tiny chibi-Rad is jumping up and down ringing a bell marked ITS PROJECTENCE YOU IDIOT. Unfortunately, Radegesis can't tell!

She sighs too. "Yeah. All right."

Gailizia: "Be his cool weird older sibling, I guess."

She glances over her shoulder.

"Any idea what this next class is?"

…She asks, walking in just in the nick of time for class to start with Rad in tow.

Elliott: "And these must be the last of our evanescent novitiates! Welcome," the teacher says, turning on her heel to reveal a dress made entirely out of books, "to Language Arts!"

Jupiter is in the corner with the camera, looking kind of intimidated.

Radegesis: "Hey, Gailizia; I'm thinking of getting really into literature." :fuguechip: :spotwicked:

Elliott: "Now then, if everyone would take their seats, I believe we might best be served starting the class off with a jaunty little peregrination into the land of Elizabeth Bishop."

Radegesis: Radegesis barely catches herself from saying "yes, ma'am" in a classroom inappropriate way. She sits hard. :fuguechip:

Gailizia: "I didn't know you liked teachers like that, dear." Gailin is clearly enjoying Rad's reaction.

Semegastes: "Elizabeth Bishop?" The Tech Kids groan. "Why not a more modern and relevant author, like @TheUnrealSemegastes?" :fuguechip:

Radegesis: "If I knew I might have actually gone to school!"

Elliott: The teacher rounds on the Tech Kids in a trice, smiling at them with a saintly look that could make devils turn to page 22.

Gailizia: "Maybe I should start some classes at the studio…"

Elliott: "It's very rude to butt in without even raising one's hand," she says, and the weight of this falls upon the Tech Kids like a lead apron.

Semegastes: Neva bears up under the weight of this iron gaze, like a bullock struggling free of its fetters. "I'm sorry; it's just that I've been taking a lot of informal seminars today."

"But if you want to talk about the art of losing, who better to go to than a Strategist?"

Elliott: "Ah," the teacher's eyes twinkle at that and she turns back to the board,

"the art of losing isn’t hard to master
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster."

Radegesis: Rad would nudge Neva to sitdown if it weren't for Intensity. And also, this is also kinda hot cool!

Semegastes: "I've always been fond of the ways Creation's poets have described the strand of Ninuan that permeates their world," Semegastes says, borrowing Neva's mouth.

Elliott: The teacher stops.

Semegastes: "But they can't really capture it from the outside."

Elliott: "What did you say?"

Radegesis: Uh-oh.

Semegastes: Semegastes tweets what she just said, and then holds Neva's phone up to the teacher.

Elliott: Semegastes feels the urge to follow classroom protocol and turn off their phone.

Semegastes: How bad would it hurt for them to buck that?

Gailizia:

"They speak of Ninuan, a silvered land
far and sunless, colorless light
the loss of which still haunts our band."

Elliott: 3 Stilling, I think.

Semegastes: I'll eat it, with +1 XP

And then eat another 4 Stilling to blanket the classroom in Greater Costumery, as Semegastes recites some eerie verse…

Radegesis: :spotattention:

Semegastes:

"I a prince of Ninuan am I, I the loss intended

the sum of all your hours badly spent.
I am the loss farther, the loss faster
the loss of houses, cities, realms, and vaster
I am they that was lost, and I loss' own master
#selfie!"

:fuguechip:

And every book, note, and cheesy academic decoration in the room goes Semegastes-themed.

Elliott: The room is transformed, every surface now practically teeming with Semegastes merch and swag.

But the teacher's book-dress remains unaffected, and she rises to the affront, a spark of manic fun catching somewhere inside of her.

"I lost two cities, lovely ones. And vaster
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster."

The students, as one, get out of their seats and round on Semegastes.

Radegesis: Radegesis jumps to her feet in front of Semegastes and the Kids.

Elliott: Cole briefly stands, but shakes his head to clear it of whatever and sits back down, looking worried.

Radegesis: OK, that assuages Rad's panic a little, but she's still ready to throw down.

Sadabus: "Best not to get involved with this one," says Sadabus to Cole, on behalf of men everywhere.

Radegesis: She will… Percipience or maybe Vision to see what this teacher is up to.

Gailizia: Gailizia stands on her desk, grinning ear to ear.

"Dear madam, do I spy a game?
A wicked play for fun and fame?
For I, a fool, must confess
my fascination with this duress.
A question asked, a question answered—so tell me dear:
With whom today are we the dancer?"

Elliott: The teacher looks at Gailizia, that strange smile so uncomfortable on her face. This is a woman twisting. This is a woman trying to be two irreconcilable things at once.

"Oh, the paggliaci feigns herself a poet! But I'm afraid the time for talk is over. Now it's time to sit and be illuminated."

Those last words carry a terrible force.

You are all of you filled up with urges.

Hideous, academic urges.

Like sitting up straight and paying attention and doing the extra credit mini-essay.

Radegesis: What, study? You'll never take me alive!

Rad points accusingly, since drawing Gabrelt in a classroom seems unwise.

"Roses are red, violets are blue, leave my friends the hell alone or I'll hand your ass to you!"

:fuguechip:

Gailizia: Are these urges acting as miracles or Ability as far as resistance goes?

Radegesis: She pays whatever Cost it takes to stay standing.

Elliott: Miracles. She's pressing down for probably a big 6 Stilling!

Semegastes: Probably not gonna be able to get away with Unfettering here.

Elliott: Rad, Gabrelt — you can feel a little ember of jealousy, of need. Won't you draw your weapon? Won't you let it do its awful work?

Unfettering does not seem to buy you any lenience, no.

Radegesis: Rad's palm itches. Her finger twitches. Gabrelt is so close to hand. She pulls back to draw —

and her eye falls on Cole, eyes wide, and she lets her hand fall away.

"Eat my shorts." :fuguechip:

Elliott: You feel a sting, Radegesis Ichneumon.

As if pricked from the inside of your chest.

Not a big sting, but a definite one, a digging, twisting, testing pressure.

Infection +1

Radegesis: Radegesis stumbles a little, inexplicably, then straightens.

"Oh, sorry, poetry thing. Uh… you… horse. Horts." :fuguechip:

Semegastes: "Rad…"

Semegastes eats the 6 Stilling to come to Rad's poetic defense.

"She wrote it right, but wrote it with self deception:
The art of losing is awfully hard to master.
The art of losing is awfully hard to master.
The art of losing is fucking hard to master.
The art of losing will break your heart to master."

Greater Intensity to sway her.

:fuguechip:

Elliott: She sways on her heels, almost as if struck. "It is so terribly hard to master."

Radegesis: Rad snaps like she's at a poetry slam.

Semegastes: "What's your deal, teacher? Suffering shared is suffering divided."

Gailizia: Gailizia thows her head back and puts her hand against her face, posing in profile for the presumed viewer, laughing a deep stage laugh.

"The table rich with dice and feast
a noble servant of the world unmade —
that tis' I, the clown so bold
In my glamour your geasa fade.

You play the part, a teacher true
strict and curt and fair
yet your seeming, your comport, your act —
this is just your lair.

So tell me this, tyrant true
this is all I now ask
let us play, face to face
and cast away that mask."

And so she reaches out with her hand and wipes away the face she's wearing for the class, to get at what's underneath.

6 Stilling to ignore her demands and 4 Burn for the hand, +2 XP

:fuguechip:

Elliott: The faceless teacher staggers back, then stands perfectly straight and still. An arm reaches out from behind her and begins to loosen something unseen — a knot or a zipper, something meant to fasten and hold. She emerges from it like a creature escaping its cocoon, slick and new with skin that hasn't felt fresh air on its raw matter for God only knows how long.

The woman who stands before you now is the teacher, yes. But also, no: where her eyes should be there are only falling stars.

"Oh, for the love of ornate fuckery, I went too deep that time," she says. "Never get lost in a role, kids."

Radegesis: :O

Gailizia: Do we know her?

Radegesis: "So, who the hell are you for real? And what kind of fuck shit is this place?"

:spotreckoning:

Semegastes: Semegastes is staring fucking daggers as she realizes why Cole has a Hand.

Elliott: She holds up a finger as if to say "one moment," and then opens her desk and pulls out a fifth of bourbon, a jaunty cap, and a long, wrinkled coat that she shakes out before putting on, frowning at its tatters.

"I am the heart of the hollow hills, my dear
salvation to the world."

You recognize the luthe as Yvanas Quisad, a Deceiver of the Host.

Radegesis: Man! I been specifically not drinking to be good to the kids!

Elliott: "Uhhh," Cole says, looking at Rad. "Is she one of yours?"

Radegesis: Friggin' Deceivers.

Gailizia: I want to know about why I know her from before. :spotreckoning:

Radegesis: "Great question, kid."

Elliott: From before, before? Before the Chancery?

Gailizia: Probably! Most of my before is before the Chancery.

And she seems cool, so i want to establish context for how we'd interact.

Elliott: Yvanas was a lost Deceiver before the Chancery was even a thing. By most accounts, she was assumed destroyed, in whatever way a creature such as she could truly be said to be so. But you are likely a fairly old and experienced Strategist, Gailizia Fantastic. You don't know her first-hand, but definitely second — she's spoken of with a certain dreamy remembrance, for she was one of the great teachers of the Host, who once convinced a Power to Rite himself.

Gailizia: "Yvanas you bitch, you've been alive this whole time? The whole Host thought you were lost!"

She goes to toast her with a glass of wine she's produced from… somewhere.

Radegesis: Rad's head is darting back and forth.

"…okay, I guess she is one of ours."

Elliott: Yvanas takes the glass in one hand, and the handle of bourbon in the other, and toasts with both. "Strategists! My dear qistja! What glory it is to meet you, and to be met!"

Semegastes: "Hey, before we start getting all cozy with each other, tell me."

"You know anything about Mr. Cole over here?"

Elliott: She looks pensive for a moment. A meaningful pause, then, where the silence stretches almost to the point of snapping.

"I know that he is adequate at meter, but particularly transcendent at enjambment."

Radegesis: "i'm gonna enjamb you in the ass in a minute i swear to"

Semegastes: "And I guess all the other cursed kids here, you weren't involved with any of that?"

Elliott: "Darling, I have been wearing that suit since… oh!"

"Did it work? Did they make it? I imagine not, what with this place existing, but I can scrape up the barest cinder of hope: Did the raid on Heaven succeed?"

Semegastes: "…answer my question first."

"Don't expect us to believe you were just being a perfectly ordinary schoolteacher all this time."

"This school definitely, probably, isn't older than the Third Age."

Elliott: "Oh, darling, I was a perfectly exceptional schoolteacher."

Gailizia: "…They broke the Seal of Time, but Attaris stopped them from going further."

Elliott: "Third Age? Attaris?"

Radegesis: Radegesis' fist clenches around an absent spearhaft.

Elliott: She asks, and sits on the edge of her desk, and takes a belt of the bourbon straight from the bottle.

Gailizia: "Uh, Attaris Ebrôt Appêkā. The Third Age, the Age of Pain. Not the old Ebrôt Appêkā. We're not sure what happened to them."

Semegastes: Semegastes uses a Destruction to strip away that quality of the bourbon that makes it pleasing to Yvanas.

"The curses, please."

Intensity

"My friend has a flammable sister, and if it's because of you, then you need to help us fix that."

Elliott: "Curses? Oh. Oh," she says, and sips the bourbon and swallows it as if it were sand, her expression distant and sour. "I've barely been awake behind those eyes, my darling. It was practically catenular in its cinch! I didn't enlighten these children, if that's what you're suggesting. Well, maybe one or two in the whole of this — Third Age? Really? — but never intentionally. They would have seen the truth in the fullness of time. This is just a place where the refuse and jetsam washes ashore, I suppose. No wonder if some of them get caught up in it."

Radegesis: "Refuse and jetsam like you."

Elliott: "We needn't hurl barbs, my dear."

Semegastes: "So we're just going with the 'school's cursed' explanation?"

Gailizia: "Wouldn't be that strange. Given the name though, I'm inclined to conspiracy. Way too on the nose."

"Here, Yvanas, could you draw a card?"

She offers her her deck.

Greater Investigation for a clue as to what the deal is with this school.

Semegastes: "Assuming we can trust you, Yvanas, I'm… sorry I ruined your booze. I'd offer to replace it, but the only liquor I can get my hands on is going to be just, absolutely awful. Even worse than miraculously ruined booze."

Elliott: "Certainly, dear," she says, "anything to forestall clarigation."

Radegesis: Radegesis watches the card with bated breath.

Semegastes: "She's gotta be making some of these up, right?" Semegastes brain-whispers to Neva.

Elliott: "How long have I been here?" she asks, absently. She gestures and the students — they've been standing all this time! — return to their seats, seemingly enthralled with today's reading of… well, since Costumery, it's a little book of Semegastes' most-liked tweets.

Radegesis: Pure poetry, they are. Especially the ones that are "funny shit Rad says."

"Long time. Forget the war. Go home."

Elliott: "Forget the — forget the War? My dear, one musn't quit at the first sign of obluctation."

Gailizia: Gailizia does some math with her free hand. "…that can't be right. Has this Age really lasted around five thousand years?"

Elliott: "FIVE DAMNED THOUSAND YEARS?"

Semegastes: "It's not the setbacks. It's the… cruelty, the pointlessness of it."

Gailizia: "Give or take a thousand. Heaven renumbered the things like a thousand years in."

Elliott: She makes to faint, but if no one moves to catch her, she stops, upset that no one will indulge her drama.

Radegesis: "Long, long, time."

Gailizia: Gailizia will indulge her, being a consummate showman.

Radegesis: It's astonishing! Yvanas has engineered pretty much the one situation Rad wouldn't catch her.

Semegastes: "Even after the siege failed, thousands of years of scourging the world for it's wrongness, and still… nothing is better, for us or for them. We see the wrong but not the worth, and they, the other way around."

"Wouldn't you rather do something that matters?"

Elliott: "This isn't all some pasquinian play, is it? You really have given up?"

Radegesis: "Five thousand years teaching poetry is probably the most productive thing any of us has ever done."

Semegastes: "Not given up. Retired. Defected."

Radegesis: She glances around the room and amends, "Of us Excrucians. Maybe the kids are great artists or something."

Elliott: A look of long and lingering understanding plays across her face, then a sadness, then a certain resolve, a certain stoniness.

"You're sounding an awful lot like the Chancerists."

Gailizia: "You're gonna hate this next bit then." :fuguechip:

"We are, in fact, a modern Chancery."

Elliott: "Uggh," she says. And keeps on saying, for that matter, throwing herself limply across any surface she can find as if in search of just the right angle to convey how exhaustingly disappointed she is.

Gailizia: "Easy for you to say, dear."

Radegesis: "I dunno, I feel pretty ugh about all this too."

Elliott: She looks at Cole with sudden interest, and instantly regains her stately bearing, the ineffable sense of poetic rapture that animates her every movement.

"What's wrong with the boy?"

Semegastes: "Someone's given him a World-Breaker's Hand."

Gailizia: "He's not glitched, though."

Radegesis: "Just pissed off."

"Listen, Yvanas, great to see you, so good catching up. Help us get it off him or get the hell outta here."

Elliott: "Mmmm. I've spent five millennia in a Second Skin that I forgot was my own, dear. I'm not an expert on the affairs of the qistja in the first place, much less now."

Gailizia: "Oh, Cole, quick pointer- she's what you call a Deceiver. She's like us, but instead of dying all the time because she saw the wrongness of the world, she saw the true thing behind the lies of everything. She doesn't die nearly as much as us."

XP for 'teaching the child'.

Elliott: "I try to avoid it as a rule."

Gailizia: Gailizia shrugs.

"I'd say 'so do we', but to be honest I tempt fate a lot by being an artist dying of a genre of art."

Elliott: Cole, for his lot, looks to be about at his wit's end.

Radegesis: "We'll see about that. What's your next move? You gonna keep up poetry teaching?"

Elliott: She considers this for a moment, rolling her head from side to side in a dreamy way. "I think I might like to. For a little while, at least; and there's so much more to teach, now that I remember the Shape of the World (which is to say, the illusion of its depths, the secret of its emptiness)."

"I suppose I should also check in with… well, whoever's left I suppose. Did we lose very many? In the siege, I mean."

Semegastes: "It wasn't great."

Gailizia: Gailizia waves her hand. "You know how it is. We're hard to count."

Elliott: "Cool. Can't deal right now," Cole says, standing and walking straight out the wall, which disappears with a wave as he approaches.

Radegesis: Radegesis opens her mouth to say something else rude, then blinks, yells "Shit!" and runs after Cole.

Elliott: "Was it something I said?"

Semegastes: "Kids are a lot of stress even without the curses."

Gailizia: "He's traumatized about his deal and we're all pretty high-energy people to be around when we aren't in a depressed fugue state."

"Oh, speaking of—"

She hands her one of her cards.

"Send me a text if you wanna hang out and talk sometime. I make a lot of local television these days."

Elliott: "I shall note it in my book of memory."

Cole is power-walking across the campus and into the woods that surround the campus, swiping trees out of his way like an angry god on Tinder. :fuguechip:

Radegesis: Rad catches up pretty quickly, with her l33t rollerderby legs.

"Whoa, hey man, you… well, I guess I can't ask if you're good, huh? But, you good?"

Intensity

Elliott: "No," he says, small and shaking. He clenches his fist, and the soil starts to fizz and disintegrate beneath his feet. The trees boil.

"What kind of shit were you doing? Before… before whatever you are now."

Radegesis: Radegesis sighs and drops to sit against a tree trunk.

"Bad shit, little man." She lifts her own hand, something crawling under the skin. "Bad, bad shit. A whole long story full of it."

She looks up at him briefly before looking away. "I'll tell you a little, if you want."

Semegastes: :spotreckoning:

Elliott: You've got a spotlight, Radegesis.

Radegesis: "Once upon a time, there was… no. Once upon a time, there wasn't anything at all. It was dark, and it was quiet, and it was safe."

"And then the angels came along, singing and trumpeting and lighting fires, and the devils and the serpents and the whole damn lot of them. And it hurt, Cole. It killed us. It kills us. As long as this world is here, we're here, getting sucked in and dying." :fuguechip:

She raises her hand. Something is crawling underneath the skin. "It pissed us off. We put on our swords and our armor and our fancy hats and we rode out to kill and destroy. There are places in Creation where nothing grows, five thousand years later, because of what my people did. Just like there are places in Ninuan where nothing can be itself, safe and free, because of what the world has done to it."

"Five thousand years later, kid, and I'm still pissed. I'll be pissed till I die and then I'll be pissed even more. But I'm done destroying. I'm sick of it. We all — well, the four of us are. Your old teacher maybe is. Besides… this world is broken and it hurts and it's fucking wrong but some of the stuff in it ain't so bad. Hot dogs. Cattails. Kids laughing." She turns her head to look away, out over what is currently a rearranged parking lot but might, in silvered memory, be ripples on water. "Can't you hear it? Listen to those birds."

:spotdecisive: tell the kid about your past

Elliott: "…I don't like birds," Cole says, and you're not sure how much is true and how much is all that hard glossy teenage armor. But there's something there. "I don't… I don't know how to deal with this. But I believe you," he says, and starts to walk off.

Radegesis: "That makes one of us."

[The curtain falls.]

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