Halloween 2020 IF,  Interactive Fiction

Halloween I.F – “Final Call” – Day 22

[Please read the Instructions before jumping in]

Lucien suspects at once that Katarin has picked up on his deliberate avoidance of what had been stolen from Shuni, but that’s also, essentially, none of her business. Still, he hesitates. Telling her that would be giving away information if it isn’t what she’d meant. “W-what are you asking, Katarin?” he asks, shakily. 

It isn’t hard to pretend to be addled after being told he’s lost three days to the tender care of the Moonlit Lord. He still isn’t even sure if it’s true, though he sees no reason Katarin would lie to him. He adds, “I think I’ve gone over everything I think is related. What information do you still need?”

She’s not going to let this go so easily, though, and frowns at him. “Drink your tea,” she says. It’s a soft chamomile, rather than the bracing black tea he was hoping for, and he doubts she’s added anything hard to it, more’s the pity. But after all, it’s past her bedtime, at least, so the choice is explainable. “What did Shuni have stolen, Lucien?”

He could lie to her and say he doesn’t know, or that Shuni hasn’t told him. But he thinks her trust in him is on shaky ground already. “Katarin, it’s something very personal to him,” he says honestly. “If he’s willing to tell you, that’s one thing, but I can’t in good faith tell you something told to me in confidence. I can promise you that after talking to him, I honestly believe that it has no bearing on the mystery at hand.”

She looks at him for a long moment, then sighs. “Fair enough,” she murmurs. “I only hope you’re right.” 

Lucien sips his tea. “Can I ask you to catch me up about the last few nights, Katarin? It seems almost unbelievable that I missed so much of it.”

“Sure, why not,” she sighs. She sips her own tea, her eyes tired. “Let me think. Play went well, I suppose. Frederik did fine, but he just doesn’t have the heart you do as Arcane. I think he’d do better as Logos, but Shuni and I decided not to suggest that they swap, in case it made the director catch on to the bullshit switch you pulled at one point in there.”

Lucien can’t quite help but make a face. He doesn’t love to think that his role’s done poorly recently, especially if… “Were any Lords present?”

“Oh, were there,” she says dryly. “Three per night, again. On the first, Lord Sol of the Blazing Sun, Lord Wolf the Hunter, and Lord Crow the Carrion Eater. On the second, Lord Shield the Defender, Lord Mask the Silent Liar, and Lord Vine of the New Growth. And just now, we had Lord the Endless, Lord Angler of the Deep Blue Sea, and Lord Bounty of the Feast. If we get Lord Peacock in the next show, we’ve got a full Grand Clock of Lords, and I don’t love thinking about that.”

A Grand Clock… unimaginable. “Has that ever happened in a single run before?”

“I’m sure it has,” she says, “but you know how few Lords ever show up to a show. I haven’t seen it happen, and I haven’t really heard about it happening except in, you know. Stage rumors.”

He drains the tea. Even if it doesn’t have the burn he wants, its lingering heat has a pleasant sear. “I mean, based on what you told me about their origin, probably there hasn’t always even been twelve lords. Maybe once upon a time, even two or three showing up was a huge deal.”

“Is it not a big deal any more?” she asks, almost sarcastic. “Have you grown used to it already?”

Fair enough. “Did you spread the dedications around?” 

“We tried to. Frederik didn’t seem inclined to do any dedications, so Shuni and I bore the brunt of it. I’ll admit we tried to steer the play a little ” 

Lucien tilts his head, watching her. She’s sipping her tea herself, her face closed off a little, her brows furrowed, but… “You seem closer to Shuni than you were before. Have you two been talking?”

“A little,” she says. “With you gone, I had to have the confrontation with him. He told me about how you’d talked to him, and insisted he knew nothing about any of this before that. That yes, he’s having the dreams, but he was hardly doing this intentionally. I almost believe him, just like I almost believe you.”

He makes a face at her. “Almost?”

“I mean, someone’s doing it,” she says. “I have to stay suspicious. If it comes down to it, if it looks like the finale is going to end in disaster, I can’t afford to have gotten complacent or let my feelings overruled my own need to take action.”

It was nice that she’s inclined to lose her suspicions, at least. “Anyone other than us you’re suspicious of?”

“I have some thoughts, but no decisions yet.” Katarin’s face has hardened a little, her jaw set. “It has to be someone involved in the production. So, cast or crew. I’m keeping my options open and I’ve been doing what I can to investigate.”

Lucien wants to dig more into that one, but she’s obviously not saying everything. Not ready yet, or doesn’t trust him enough yet, or something like that. So he follows up with a bigger concern. “Do you know where Shuni is? Or where he could be? He was going to try to get contact with a Lord, and I don’t know if he succeeded, but that was several nights ago. And he didn’t answer when I knocked, before I came to you.”

Katarin hmms. “If he’s had contact with a Lord, he didn’t tell me. Now, that doesn’t mean he didn’t, one of these nights, it just means that he didn’t tell me if he did, you know? We said goodbye after the show today, and I headed out first, but I thought he was heading home.”

“I really need to talk to him,” Lucien says, softly. He thinks about how long it’s been. Shuni must be worried for him, but probably also angry, let down, even betrayed. He’d made Shuni a lot of promises to help, and he hasn’t lived up to them yet. However reasonable and important it is to make the choices he’d made with the Moonlit Lord, that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t feel guilty, and it doesn’t mean Shuni won’t feel hurt. “It’s important.”

Katarin looks longingly over her shoulder, presumably toward her bedroom, but nods. “All right,” she says reluctantly. “Where do you think he is? I can help you look, if you want. As far as I can guess, he’s either back at the theatre, out with a Lord secretly, or at home asleep. Or at home, not sleeping but ignoring you. But hey, we can bang his door down if we want.”

[Please leave suggestions for Lucien in the comments.]

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