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Maybe you had to be there?

So Morah got shot, see, and ended up dying in Venice’s arms, except it wasn’t really like you’re thinking, they’d just met, and anyway Morah wasn’t really dead, she ended up ghosting into Venice’s head, and maybe it’s because Venice is a powerful yet naïve telepath or maybe it’s because Morah is really a body-hopper and she’s been lying to us all this time, I mean, she is an agent for the Resistance, but I at least am predisposed to trust her if not for the best of reasons, but we’ll get to that, the important thing being that Morah’s now a matrix of data set askew inside Venice’s head, where she can be called up in secret with subvocal whispers, Venice’s own pocket oracle, but nothing more than that really, until Venice interfaced with that ancient computer and something happened which pretty much woke Morah back up again, so she wasn’t just a matrix of information, she was, you know, self aware, and she’d get up in the middle of the night and go walkabout in Venice’s body, which really freaked me out, since I was the Guard, and Venice was my charge, but a couple of tense conversations at gunpoint and we worked it all out because maybe I’m big and maybe I’m stupid and I don’t really remember all that much about myself at all which is why it was Burhan who had to come up with a name for me but I’m not the sort of person to go shooting at just anything that moves unless there’s drugs involved but that’s another story, anyway, after the bit with the baths and the tropical socks and the junkyard SATs which I’ll gloss over we ended up in the city that was under seige from the Madlands which are underneath, except when the Madlands beseige your city it looks a lot more like somebody’s trying to set up an embassy, unless of course the Nemesis of the folks from the Madlands is trying to scotch the whole thing by dressing up in the bodies of the city’s ruling class and working mischief after mischief, and there was the musicbox bomb that Burhan had to defuse, and I keep forgetting that K’ia has the tone plate from that bomb wrapped up in something soft and stuffed at the bottom of her pack, because one of these days she wants to get it up to one of the city ships that fly across the sky and ring it and see what it happens, but I really don’t want to think about that, I’ve got enough to worry about, see, because while we were sorting out the whole Nemesis-necromancer thing I shot the Zoxone of the folks from the Madlands and it wasn’t by accident, and I know I said I don’t shoot just anything that moves, I’m actually very careful about that sort of thing, because before I was a guard I was a soldier, and that sort of thing is what I know how to do and it’s important to do what you know how to do well, but let’s make this long story shorter than it is by leaving out the stuff with the soldiers who were just like me and who let me stand a watch or two at the emergency embassy, which was nice, but the point is at the end of it all the city was in chaos but the castle was still standing and the folks from the Madlands were pretty much okay and the Nemesis was dead dead dead, and we weren’t, only everybody else said Morah was still dead, because she was in Venice’s head and nowhere else, except I didn’t think she was dead, because you can’t talk to dead people, you know, and we’d been talking some when I was standing guard and nobody else was awake, and see the thing is Venice thought maybe the Nemesis wasn’t dead either, and Timbuk who was the one who thought maybe Morah was really a body-hopper also didn’t think the Nemesis was dead, or maybe he was, but see, nobody could talk to the Nemesis, right, so I mean he pretty much had to be dead, was what I thought, and anyway we were headed off elsewhere, we found the Resistance and Morah didn’t want to talk to them since she thought she was dead, too, and there was some more stuff with red dust and giant metal bugs and an ancient city, and the important thing here aside from the fact that we did in the end manage to stop the red dust from swallowing pretty much the entire world is that in the course of fighting off an attack by the soldiers from one of the city ships that fly across the sky I shot one of the soldiers who was doing something to the ancient computer we’d found except Timbuk really wanted him alive and Venice poured one of her potions on him and he wasn’t dead so much anymore except that inside the interface space where Morah didn’t look like she was in Venice’s head because I think when we were in that interface space nobody was in anybody’s head, anyway, Morah was able to race the soldier back to his body and beat him to it and now she had a body and Venice didn’t have anybody in her head except herself and the soldier was dead dead dead, except he was a matrix of data still fixed in his head which was now Morah’s head or at least the head where she was living for the moment, except when we were up at the edge of the Madlands while the rest of them were down inside the Madlands trying to make a copy of a dying village something happened which pretty much woke the soldier back up again, only it turned out that I was the only one who could talk to him, and even though I could see him and get him to feed the gorzah and follow him places where he’d been it turned out that he was in my head now, and I think it was because the Madlands made it happen, I mean I don’t think Morah pushed him, and I did feel responsible because I had shot him, you know, and he didn’t remember where he’d come from, like me, and he wanted to get back there anyway, like I did, but the sort of soldier he’d been had nothing to do with the sort of soldier I’d been, I mean, there’s a reason there’s a Resistance, and anyway I didn’t like him very much, he was supercilious and he called me his jailer like it was my fault, and so it was best for all concerned if we just got him the hell out, even if we didn’t have a body to put him into, because we’d left Morah’s behind way back at the beginning when she got shot and everybody was sure she was dead, so we decided to go deeper down into the Madlands, where Timbuk could lead us maybe to somebody who could maybe help, but Venice, who was pretty sure the Nemsis wasn’t dead, was also pretty sure that the thing I was talking to wasn’t the soldier, but was, instead, the Nemesis, only how on earth could the Nemesis have gotten into my head, you know, it doesn’t make any sense, but anyway we went down into the brightly colored copy of the village that wasn’t dying anymore and from there we got into a boat and we let it take us to the place where the windmills are, because a windmill was drawn on the plaque that we picked at random and stuck into the little frame on the back of the boat, because that’s how the Madlands are, and that’s why they’re down there and the city ships full of soldiers are up there, but anyway we were following the path because it’s very important not to get distracted or rock the boat and you must never, ever leave the path once you’re on it, and when we got to the end of this particular path Timbuk would get word to the folks we’d met earlier, who had been trying to open an embassy to that city, and whose Nemesis we’d killed until he was dead (dead dead), and because of that their Zoxone would come to us and help get the soldier out of my head, only we’d stopped to rest and I said the soldier’s name which I think was the name he’d had before he became a soldier, and he appeared, and everybody could see him now, because we were in the Madlands, which is like I think when we were in the interface space, only we all had our bodies with us, even him, and so K’ia who knows about smells and tastes and blood decided to do an experiment to see if she could tell the difference between me and him since we both smelled the same to her, even though Timbuk who knew the most about the Madlands didn’t think this was such a good idea, but he’s not the sort of person to leap in and say no, he just shook his head, and maybe he would have burned an orange duck again, but Venice, you remember, thought that it was really the Nemesis who was pretending to be the soldier while he bided his time and healed from what we’d done to him back in the city that was being beseiged, and she thought the best way to figure this out for sure (since Nemeses lie if you aren’t careful) would be to surprise him, and so while K’ia was tasting our blood and surrounded by silvery insects and while I was standing there shivering and while Burhan was holding his dog and while Timbuk was tut-tutting the whole thing and while the soldier was standing there shivering Venice drew the Nemesis’s sigil on a piece of paper and when she was finished she showed it to the soldier and the drawing grew claws and leaped after him and they both disappeared into me, because that’s how the Madlands are, and it doesn’t matter anymore if that’s the soldier or the Nemesis and it doesn’t matter if Venice is right or if K’ia is right because it’s damn well the Nemesis in there now and he’s only going to get stronger because a Nemesis draws strength from its nemesand and the Zoxone is on her way—

All of which and more is why I gasped and leaped up from the couch, and it’s why John grinned sheepishly and Jenn put down her pencil and Charles shook his head with that smile and Dawn got that look and Becca outright laughed, because when six different people take up different threads of plot and character like that and under loose direction manage to drop something that big and patterned and meaningful into place without quite knowing that’s what we’d been doing right up until the last minute when it was too late and it all snicked into place, well, it’s as close to magic as I think I’m ever going to get, and it’s why gaming is such an intoxicating pasttime, even if it took us over a year to get this far. —But it’s also why that intoxication is so hard to get across to anybody else, you know? Or maybe you can extrapolate.

  1. Robert Walker-Smith    May 13, 06:52 AM    #
    This is beautiful.

    Just beautiful.

    One of the most enjoyable things I've
    read in. . . days, actually.
    By sheer effort of will, I made it all
    the way through without clicking on
    any of the links - now I can go back
    and hypertext.

    But. . . dayummn. Thanks for this.

  2. Sebbo    May 13, 12:19 PM    #
    Yow. Paragraph breaks are your friends, Kip.

    Okay, they're my friends,at least. I miss them already.

  3. --k.    May 13, 12:50 PM    #
    Sebbo, you wimp. (Good to have you back.) Breathe at the commas; cling to the italics like lampposts.

    Next thing, you'll be wanting full-stop sentence breaks. —Kids these days!

  4. Perverse Access Memory    May 14, 07:37 AM    #
    WISH 96: Click!
    This week's WISH is inspired by this entry at Long Story, Short Pier. Describe one or more occasions when a...

  5. Guy Burns    Feb 28, 11:54 AM    #

    Wow. This is awesome. It could use some periods and paragraph breaks, but still highly inspiring!

    It’s an RPG thing. We want you to understand. :)

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