8FOLD: Mancers # 4, "The Old Dark House"

Drew Perron pwerdna at gmail.com
Tue Dec 4 22:14:37 PST 2018

Back on my bullshit! <3

On 7/30/2018 2:59 AM, Tom Russell wrote:
>     Maile locks the door and gets undressed. She opens the chest of
> drawers to search for a chemise or t-shirt to wear to bed. Nothing in
> any of the drawers is hers. It's all her size, all something that fits
> the contours of her body, but none of it is in her style, nothing that
> fits her personality. Not the tops, not even the socks, nothing. It's
> not even in the right drawers.


>     Of course, the outfit she had on in Detroit wasn't really her style
> either. Which makes the whole thing a bit more plausible. Lord knows
> she went through dramatic changes in fashion (not to mention hair
> color) during her first couple years of high school. But it got to a
> point where she had finally figured out who she was, and she liked
> that version of herself. Why would she change that now?
>     As if in reply, her mancer's mark starts to itch and glow. Oh,
> right. That. Yes, that would have redefined who she thought she was
> pretty radically.

I mean, it's an excellent point.

> So maybe that was it. Or maybe there was something
> on top of it, some terrible thing that she couldn't share with anyone
> else. Though the only times she held things back from people is when
> they were things that she had done, things that she was ashamed of.
> And maybe that's it. Maybe it's the persistent shame she feels but
> doesn't understand.
>     Maybe that's why everything about this feels so wrong.

The *shame* is fascinating. I wonder what it'll turn out to be. :o

>     "I was prepared for the whammy, but not for the salt," he says. He
> tries to sit up, but moving irritates his scabbed-over mancer's mark.

Oh, that sounds like some *intense* feedback.

>     "It still worked, though," says Samson. "She still got away. And
> she's still wondering if she's ours or theirs."
>     "She won't be wondering too much longer. She's a smart girl, our
> Maile. She was smart long before we got our hands on her. She'll
> figure it out sooner than anyone will expect.
>     "Yes," continues Claire, perversely satisfied. "I guess in the end
> it's all going according to Akaka's plan. Now we've got two vipers in
> their nest."

Oh-*ho*. I see.

> Even though she's exhausted, even though the past few days have
> amounted to categorically the strangest weekend in her life (that she
> can remember, anyway), Maile cannot sleep a wink.

And it does indeed seem to be working. @.@

> this strange huge house that, if she
> understood Lieke correctly, doesn't exist in normal space but in
> somewhere "in-between": the whole thing just gives her the creeps.

I wanna live there! :D

>     Well, no one said she had to stay in her room all night. And she's
> supposed to be the grand poobah of this crazy shindig after all. So
> why not wander around the weird magical Gothic mansion? "What kind of
> trouble could I possibly get into?" she asks one of the countless cats
> milling about the hallway.

Augh okay this character is cute as hell. Seriously, every one of these 
sentences is gold.

> She half-expects the cat to answer (weirder
> things have happened over the last couple of days) but the cat simply
> flops onto its side in front of her. "Well, good thing I didn't want
> to walk there, sweetie."

Eeeeeeee. ^.^

> She doesn't trust any of these folks, except maybe Lieke,

Oh boy.

> She
> lets her fingers dance at her sides, tippy-tapping, and soon enough
> there's a nice little midnight rainstorm, loud enough to drown out the
> creak of the floorboards. (Hey, she's getting pretty good at this rain
> magic thing.)

Seriously, *adorable*.

>     The hall isn't super-wide, just enough for two people walking
> abreast, but it is super-long. Maile can't tell exactly how long it
> is; it just seems to stretch on forever into the splotchy darkness.
> It'd be helpful if there was a light switch, but there isn't, just
> unlit candles in sconces. There is some very faint light spilling in
> from a corridor on the left a little ways down. As she passes it, she
> peers down the corridor but can't place the source of the light.
> Feeling adventurous, she ignores the corridor for now, and presses on
> into the narrow darkness.

This has a lovely light-hearted adventure tone and I'm on the edge of my *seat* 
wondering when it's gonna crash down~

>     "I'm the one drawing the map," she mumbles to herself. With her
> Sunday night campaign group, she was always the one who ended up
> etching out the map onto the graph paper, and she always advocated
> finding out how far a hallway went, and how many branches there were,
> before exploring any of the others. The rest of the party, Kyle
> especially, kept pushing to go check out this thing or that one.
> Inevitably they'd end up getting turned around, especially as their
> regular DM had an irritating habit of mixing up "West" and "East". It
> took just one TPK to convince them to be more methodical about it, and
> whenever Kyle whined about it, she'd remind him, I'm the one drawing
> the map. That was usually enough to overrule his objections.

This is extremely good backstory. Character-setting in an adorable way.

> There's a window at the far
> end of the room, and so there's just enough moonlight to see that the
> room doesn't have an occupant. There's a bed and a dresser, but no
> decoration, nothing to personalize it. "Weird. It looks like my room."
> And then she sees her clothes waddled on the floor.

Oh, oof. @.@ I see now.

>"Retracing her steps" isn't really an
> option, so Maile decides to march down the hall and see where this
> thing goes. It's not long before she comes to an open door: her open
> door.


> Still. She's arrived at her room again, and so maybe this is enough
> exploring for one night? Her aching feet certainly seem to think so.
> Maile steps in through the doorway, and into the hall. Wait, what?

Oh, oops. X3; Didn't expect that.

> Goliath here told me you were up and about."
>     So, apparently the cats do talk. Just not to Maile. Great.
>     "Apparently you almost stepped on him?"
>     Maile thought the cat looked familiar. "No, I didn't almost step on
> him," she says, mostly to the cat.

Heeheehee. :3
>  "It's just some spells, some
> warding spells. It senses when you're afraid, or hostile, or unsure,
> or alien. So, you basically self-identify.

Ahhhhh, that makes sense.

>     "Just wandering, really," says Maile. For some reason she trusts
> June immediately. Maybe even trusts her more than she trusts Lieke.


>     As June leads her down the hall, it seems lighter somehow, and
> shorter, with more forks. It's not long before they're in the kitchen,
> which is crawling with cats. June starts rummaging through the fridge,
> attracting intense and vocal attention.
>     "Oh, I know, my precious," says June. "You're all so hungry, yes.
> You haven't eaten in, oh, four or five hours. My cruelty is exquisite.
> You nearly starved to death. Well, you'll have to starve a little
> longer. It's not time to eat yet. You'll have to wait until the
> morning. Your disapproval has been noted. I hear, but I do not obey."

ADORABLE!! :D I love it

>     "Well," says June, "it makes sense. With me being an Ailuromancer."
>     "Which means cat magic!" facepalms Maile.
>     "Yes."
>     "That makes more sense now," says Maile. "I thought Leek has said
> Allure-o-mancer. Like, sexy magic."

Aw. X3 <3

>     "Nope," says June. "Cat magic."
>     "Is sexy magic a thing?"
>     "I don't see why not. Just not my thing."

It's my thing! >:D ...nah I would probably have the power to... create sunshine 
or something~

>     "So, you talk to cats?"
>     "I communicate with them," corrects June. "I understand them. They
> understand me. And I know the things they know. I'm the Director of
> your CIA. The Cat Intelligence Agency." It's clear that this is not
> the first time she's made this joke, nor will it be the last.

Heeheehee nerd. <3

>     "So, like, they do what you tell them to do?"
>     "Of course not," says June. "They're cats. They do what they want.


> But more often than not, I'm lucky and it aligns with what I want them
> to do." She hands Maile a tiny plate of cheese and fruit. "With what
> you want them to do."

Running an online community.jpg

>     Maile nods. "I'll keep that in mind. Not much use in a fight, are they?"
>     "They're nature's perfect killing machines," says June. "But no.
> They're not really combat troops."


> The husband Leek told me about...
> Donald?"
>     "David."
>     "David," says Maile. She knew that; for some reason, she remembers
> David's name more clearly than anyone else's, even though she's never
> met him. That seems like it should mean something.

Pressing, checking, groping for answers.

>     "You are good," says June, emphasis on the "are".
>     "You sound surprised," says Maile.
>     "Oh," says June, a bit flustered. "No, it's just. Well. I'm fairly
> new here, actually. We only met briefly before you disappeared.

Oho. The trust thing...

>     "So, what happens when you're not here? What happens when Leek cooks?"
>     "Oh, no, we don't let Lieke cook." She gets very solemn, very
> serious. "We made that mistake. Once."


>     "Okay, new metaphor. You're a ladle."
>     "I'm a ladle?"
>     "Just go with it. You're a ladle."
>     "I'm a ladle."

Excellent banter.

>     "What if I need a spoon?" says Maile. "Not some special, specific
> utensil with a specific purpose. Something that can be used in all
> sorts of ways without it being ad hoc. Just a simple, ordinary spoon?"
>     "Then you get a spoon," says June.
>     "Exactly," says Maile. "So where are my spoons? I'm fighting a war.
> We're fighting a war. And to do that, you need spies. You need
> saboteurs. You need quartermasters and medics and mechanics. You need
> all those things. I have all those things. The only thing I'm missing
> are people to do the actual fighting. My soldiers."
>     "Your spoons."
>     "My spoons," agrees Maile. "General purpose bad asses.

Excellent metaphor!

  I'm not
> saying you all need to multi-class the next time you level up. But I
> am saying that the second we get into an encounter, it's a TPK, and
> that's because we have a lot of artificers and shardminds and zero
> honest-to-goodness actual murderhobos." She stops and looks at June,
> dumbfounded. "Why did I say that? I never go full-on nerd unless I
> know the person I'm talking to is also full-on nerd."

That's some cute nerding.

>     June smiles. "Why can't you taste the cheese?"
>     Maile looks at the tiny plate in her hands. "Why can't...?" She looks up.
>     Beth smiles at her, and there's some invisible thing pressing
> against Maile's chest, pushing the air out of her lungs. Maile opens
> her eyes, and in the dark of her bedroom, she sees Goliath's yellow
> eyes. The huge cat is standing on her chest, staring at her.
>     "It was a dream?" she asks him.
>     He leaps off her chest, hard, using her as a springboard, and
> scampers to the floor.

ooooooooh. Gosh... he's an Omen. :D

>     Or maybe everything about this feels wrong because it is wrong.
> Maybe the weirdness is turned up to eleven so she'll latch onto that
> as an explanation, maybe they're keeping her disoriented so she'll
> question her own judgment, her own feelings. Maybe they're gaslighting
> her.
>     Probably they're gaslighting her. Because maybe she got rid of her
> DVDs, or cut off her friends and family, or went through a dramatic
> fashion shift. She supposes all those things are plausible given the
> right circumstances. But if she was really the leader of this group,
> in this desperate struggle against The Company for the fate of the
> world? She would darn well have spoons, and plenty of them. There's no
> way she would run some kind of half-assed resistance for any length of
> time with no muscle. Whatever things she might have given up over the
> summer, her brain wasn't one of them.

ooooooooh. This is some good, work-with-what-you've-got logic.

>     Probably that's what got their attention in the first place. And
> The Company's, for that matter. So maybe the secret circle has been
> losing this midnight war for a long time, and someone gets the bright
> idea that they need someone smart, like The Company's star aeromancer,
> the one that's been running around with Samson. (They must have slept
> together, Maile decides; when he looked at her, his eyes were familiar
> with her geography, knew exactly where and how to look, and how that
> would make her feel.) So then maybe someone says, not just "like" The
> Company's aeromancer, but her, exactly. What if we get her to flip?
>     But then she's not just smart, or clever. For the circle to go
> after her, she must have exhibited other qualities, qualities they
> think they need, that The Company had, so that they could fight fire
> with fire. Samson had said that compassion was a new look for Maile.
> So maybe she was ruthless, merciless, unyielding. She wants to say
> that that's not who she is, or who she was, but there were times in
> the past, there were moments, when she was those things, and if that
> was the crowd she was running around with, she could very easily see
> her falling back on that, becoming hard and cold.

This is amazing exposition-by-logic.

>     And so the question becomes, why was she running around with Samson
> and The Company in the first place? They're clearly not the good guys
> here. She's not sure if the circle is, either, since they wiped her
> damn memory and kidnapped her and are trying to make her think she's
> crazy. But Samson? Guy's a psychopath. And no matter how turned around
> she might get in the wrong company, she can't imagine herself doing
> anything like that.
>     And maybe that's something else the circle saw in her. That she had
> control. Purpose. Precision. That she was someone who could be
> flipped, and could be trusted and relied on, in ways a bastard like
> Samson never could.
>     So. Samson was right. They're lying. They're gaslighting her.
>     Now what?

THIS IS SUCH A GOOD CLIFFHANGER ZOMG. :D :D :D Man, I have been sleeping on 
coming back to this. You're such a good writer! <3 <3 <3

Drew "back hardcore" Perron

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