• Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 11

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    “Well,” said Faraday, his voice low and seeming overly-loud in the darkened hall, “I suppose that’s as direct as one could expect.”

    Webb took a step forward towards the stairwell. They’d never actually been upstairs before—and had certainly never been here at night. They usually let themself in when it was quiet, but well-lit; one of the downstairs doors would be open, leading into a small sitting room where tea would be waiting, hot and steaming as if freshly poured, though Webb never saw anybody set it down.

    Their relationship with the Curator had begun early on in their career. Back then, before they’d really built up their network, they’d posted some flyers around asking for tips and sightings. They hadn’t bothered with online—that was a swift route to a lot of spam and garbage.

    Shortly after that, they’d received what would become the first of many letters that they’d exchanged with the Curator: a peculiar pen pal at first, but one that had graduated to an invitation to the Curator’s home, when more sensitive information was involved, it seemed. The types of tips they received from the Curator varied greatly, but were generally reliable, though they asked never to be credited as the source.

    Webb had asked questions throughout the years, of course—how could they not be curious about who or what the Curator was?—but was met each time with a gentle rebuff. They’d thought it best not to push the boundaries too much and risk losing a valuable contact.

    They were a combination of both intrigued and uneasy as they began to head upstairs, glancing back only briefly to confirm that Ariadne and Faraday were behind them. The stairs creaked gently as they proceeded, their hand gripping the railing tightly.

    “Webb?” Ariadne whispered. “Are you sure about this…?”

    “Of course,” Webb lied. Then, more assuredly: “I’m curious, more than anything. I… I think it’ll be fine.”

    I trust them almost came to Webb’s lips, but was quickly discarded. They didn’t know the Curator well enough to trust them, they reminded themself. Webb didn’t think they knew anybody well enough for that. And wasn’t this whole ludicrous day happening because they’d extended even the most minuscule amount of confidence in other people and were being soundly punished for it?

    Even so, some of the nicest days they could remember over the last lonely decade were spent curled up in the Curator’s sitting room, listening to quiet music playing and reading what the Curator had set out for them. Letters, of course—at first simply briefs outlining rumors, information, and leads. But over time, the letters occasionally asked about Webb. What kind of tea they liked. Were there any snacks they preferred? What did they like to read?

    And the next time they visited, there was new tea, and the requested snacks, and a book with a little note outlining what the Curator liked best about it. At first, they preferred that Webb read the book in the sitting room, rather than take it home with them, but over time that changed as well.

    As long as you tell me all about it later, the letter had read.

    “I don’t know if they can… hear or see us,” Webb said quietly, hesitating as they reached the second floor landing. It was dark here as well; Webb could see curtains fluttering in the high arched window, the dim light from the street and the flicker of Ariadne’s flashlight illuminating several enormous bookshelves and another narrow hallway. “Sometimes I’d talk to them as though they could hear me, but—I mean. Maybe I just like hearing the sound of my own voice.”

    “That is something I’d picked up about you,” Faraday murmured.

    Webb didn’t deign to respond to that, continuing up the stairs. Every time they seemed to be approaching the darkness looming ahead, another light flickered on.

    Webb examined one as they passed by. It was an old-fashioned type of lamp, designed to look a little like an ensconced lantern. They reached out to turn the small knob, flicking the light off, then on again.

    “I don’t smell anybody…” Ariadne said, pressing up close to Webb’s side. Her face was tilted up, her tongue wetting her lips. “Outside of the two of you, obviously.”

    “And how good’s your sense of smell?”

    Extremely good,” Ariadne said.

    Webb paused. “And how do I smell?” they asked. They weren’t sure why. Sometimes words just came out of their mouth and then they had to deal with the consequences.

    Ariadne scrunched up her nose, sticking her tongue out a little. “Also extremely good.”

    Ah, yes. Well, they were magic-blooded now, after all. Though that thought gave them pause.

    “… you must have known the entire time that I wasn’t… that I was…” Webb trailed off, giving her a slightly accusatory look.

    Ariadne just shrugged. “I figured you’d tell me if it became relevant, but before that, it was none of my business.”

    Webb let out a heavy breath, but then just continued onwards. They’d think about how that made them feel a little later.

    The winding stairwell ended, finally, at the top of the tower, opening up into a spacious library and reading room. A crackling fire in a massive fireplace cut through the chill of the nighttime air. The room was full of antiques and oddities: a delicate globe in a golden stand, a carving of a raven perched and looming from a bookshelf, glass cases behind which there were even more books and coins and statuettes.

    As with the downstairs sitting room, on each wall hung several oaken-framed paintings of beautiful vistas—sunsets, mountain ranges, and ocean views. There was also another door out of the sitting room that seemed to exit into a bedroom; Webb could see the edge of a four-poster bed and what seemed to be a clawfoot bathtub.

    Faraday let out a soft, low whistle. Ariadne tugged on Webb’s sleeve and whispered. “On the table, there.”

    Webb looked to where she was pointing and saw a neatly-folded piece of crisp, heavy paper. They hesitated for only a moment before picking it up, thumbing it open. In the Curator’s neat cursive, it read:

    Is everything okay?

    Webb swallowed hard, staring down at that, reading the three words over and over again. They’d practiced everything in their head already: be honest, but not too honest, be cautious, try to pry for information, keep it simple, but now that they were here in this place that felt melancholy and comfortable and strange all at once… should they leave a letter and go, like they usually did? Should they talk out loud and just… wonder if anybody would answer, though they never had before?

    There was also the fact that Ariadne and Faraday were here, too. Webb had a relationship with the Curator, of a sort—these two were complete strangers. Would they get a different reaction if they asked to speak with the Curator privately?

    And as for that question, what… what could they say to that?

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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  • Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 10

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    [Content warning: spiders]

    The Curator lived in an actual, honest-to-goodness stone tower tucked away in a heavily-forested neighbourhood with a fantastic view of the city and the valley below. Webb caught more than a handful of heads turning as Ariadne’s bike rumbled down the quiet, winding streets, lit by pools of light cast by evenly-spaced streetlamps.

    Eventually, the streetlamps became fewer and further between. Distantly, it occurred to Webb that they’d invited Ariadne out to an extremely secluded secondary location, which was Don’t Get Murdered 101, but it was too late to back out now.

    Ariadne rolled to a stop in front of the tower gates, killing the ignition. “Wow,” she said, muffled under the helmet. “Would you get a load of this place.”

    Heavy trees and a thick hedge walled the Curator’s property away from the road. The tower itself was barely visible from the gate aside from the vague, looming shape and a single top-floor window lit with a soft orange glow.

    “Well, looks like somebody’s home, at least,” Ariadne added as she dismounted, offering a hand to help Webb off as well. They grasped it tightly—then didn’t release it as they stood in front of her, heart racing.

    “Yeah,” they said hoarsely. “Listen. Ariadne. There’s something I need to talk to you about before we head inside.”

    Webb couldn’t see her expression, but her head tilted to the side, and she squeezed Webb’s hand uncertainly in return. “… of course. What is it?”

    “Not here,” said Webb. Glancing around, they spied a copse of trees whose foliage was so heavy that it had created at least a little bit of a shield from the drizzling rain. “This way.”

    They tugged Ariadne that way. She took a seat, gingerly, on a bit of fallen log and took her helmet off, shaking out her hair and looking up at them with a concerned expression. “Should Faraday be listening to this or…?”

    Webb pulled off their helmet as well, trusting to the extremely dim light to obscure their eyes, for now. “Is… that an option? You didn’t tell me where he was.”

    “Well, if you don’t mind…” Ariadne slid a hand into her hood and pulled out a massive, palm-sized spider that immediately started to climb up her wrist.

    To their credit, Webb didn’t let out more than a small, indignant noise of surprise. “Oh.” A pause. “Well, why didn’t he do that earlier?

    “It takes a bit of time to cast, and he has to take off all his stuff like his wallet and phone,” Ariadne said as she gave Faraday-the-spider a little kiss, then set him down on her lap. “But it does make him very cute and portable.”

    There was a slight shimmer in the air, as though something were being unravelled. A moment later, Faraday was sprawled halfway across Ariadne’s lap, bracing himself on the log. He was still wearing that brightly-colored coat; as Webb watched, some of the pieces of embroidery seemed to skitter and chase each other across the fabric until they eventually settled into place again.

    “I won’t ask if you missed me,” Faraday murmured. He seemed to take in the mood pretty quickly, glancing around the darkened woods, brows creasing a little. “Is this the place?”

    “Yeah,” Ariadne said. “But Webb said they had something they wanted to tell us, first…?”

    Webb had crossed their arms, just watching this byplay with a ticking sense of nervousness. On the one hand, a vampire and a witch surely would have some sympathy, what with having visible weird powers of their own. On the other hand, Webb sure had put themself in a great position to be murdered if this went south.

    They drew in a breath. “I needed to know if I could trust you,” they said, before they could change their mind. “This has all been a lot to deal with, and you’re strangers, and you’re asking a lot of me. So, I used magic on Ariadne.”

    They both seemed startled, but not immediately angry—that was a good sign, at least.

    Ariadne touched her own cheek with one gloved hand. “Oh,” she said softly. “I’d thought I’d felt… something. But I don’t remember… What did you do?” She seemed troubled, understandably wary.

    “I can compel people to tell the truth,” Webb said. “I can also make people forget things, within reason. Adjust perception, rewrite memory. And a little bit of compulsion, but I haven’t ever…”

    “What did you do to her?” Faraday asked, his voice low and even.

    “I just asked if she was lying to me about this, and what your motivations really were. She answered truthfully, and I made her forget I’d asked. That’s all.”

    Ariadne turned her phone around a few times, then set it on her lap, thumbing it to flashlight mode and illuminating the small space around them. Rather than turn away, Webb let her examine their face, taking in their appearance, the almost catlike gleam of their eyes in the darkness.

    “… well,” Ariadne said after a moment, with a sigh and a bit of a wry smile. “I suppose I can’t really hold it against you, under the circumstances. Besides, I can do something a little similar. I’ve done worse and I’m not proud of it.”

    Vampiric mesmer. Webb knew about that, though they hadn’t wanted to be the first to bring it up. Vampires were known to be able to charm and otherwise coerce and influence those they wanted to bring under their thrall. They were pretty sure they’d be able to notice if Ariadne tried something like that, but as for whether or not they’d be able to resist…

    Webb’s shoulders slumped. “I’ve never hurt anybody with it,” they muttered. “But it’d make things complicated if people knew.”

    “They start to look at you a little different?” Faraday prompted, giving Ariadne’s knee a little squeeze. “Yeah. We know.”

    “… I get it,” says Ariadne. “I mean. I really get it. And… it’s okay. I’m glad you got some reassurance, and I hope it means we can work together a little better. As long as you promise not to do it to us again without consent, I’ll also give my word that I’ll never do anything like that to you, either.”

    She looked very serious, slightly troubled still, but she favored Webb with a small smile when they gave her a nod.

    Faraday stretched out with a sigh, then rose up, stepping a little closer to Webb. “You want to ask me too, don’t you?” he asked, reaching out to tilt Webb’s chin up with his fingers. His hands were fine-boned, lightly callused, and warm to the touch. Webb froze in place, staring up as an electric buzz ran through them, practically rooting them to the ground.

    “Uh,” said Webb. Behind Faraday, they swore they heard Ariadne giggle.

    “Go ahead,” Faraday prompted. “Do I need to do anything, or…?”

    Webb finally regained control of their fine motor skills and grabbed Faraday’s wrist, tugging it down. “No,” they snapped. “Just—don’t look away.”

    “The view is nice,” Faraday said agreeably.

    Webb enthralled him out of sheer self-preservation at that point. At least when Faraday’s expression softened, vague and pliant, Webb no longer felt like a butterfly pinned to a card. Their cheeks still burned.

    “Have you been lying to me?” they asked through gritted teeth.

    “No,” came the dreamlike answer.

    “What do you want to get out of working with me?”

    “I want to try to do good,” Faraday said slowly. This was a more complex question; it seemed to take him a moment to sort through his thoughts and find what was most true. “I want to support Ariadne. And… I want to get to know you.”

    Webb closed their eyes, feeling the connection between them drop. They drew in a breath through their nose, then huffed it out again.

    There was always the off chance that either Ariadne or Faraday could be lying to them. Webb didn’t really know the extent of their own abilities, though they did know that any ability could technically be countered by willpower, magic power, or otherwise. Faraday was a witch—who knew what wards or tricks he had up his sleeve?

    But as much as Webb preferred to keep themself separate from other people, they did understand people. They’d learned to read body language and pick up on subtle tells and how to coax for information and guide people into sales.

    They felt like they could trust these two, even if they weren’t sure they were ready to.

    “… you’re fine,” they muttered. “We should… I mean, that’s enough. We should head inside.”

    “Sure,” said Ariadne, as Faraday turned back to look at her. “Thanks, Webb. For telling us, I mean.” She paused, chewing at her lower lip. “Can I ask… I mean, not to be rude, but what are you? Were you always able to do that, or was it the valefication?”

    Webb grimaced, a lie immediately forming on the tip of their tongue… but they felt like they owed them more than that. Maybe not everything. But more.

    “I’m human. I just… had a run-in with the fae,” they said, tone a little terse. “About a decade ago. A chance encounter. I was… changed, after.” They tugged off their hat, letting their untidy hair tumble free, revealing the pointed tips of their ears.

    Ariadne’s eyes had widened. Faraday looked intrigued and a little worried. Webb hauled their hat back on before he could say anything or—worst case scenario—try to touch them.

    “It’s not a big deal,” Webb said hastily. “I just… I mean. You asked. So there we go. It’s fucking cold out here, though, so can we please…?”

    Ariadne looked torn, but nodded. “Yeah. We can… of course. What are we going to do? Just head inside? Knock at the gate?”

    “We could always take a look around, first,” Faraday suggested.

    Webb shook their head. “I want to approach this aboveboard if possible. Especially if we’re going in with the assumption that the Curator might be on our side. And if it turns out they’re not…”

    “Then we’ve walked directly onto their home turf and have no idea what we’re in for?” Faraday said. Ariadne jabbed him with an elbow. “What! I’m fine with it, I am. We’ll protect Webb if that happens. Which I’m sure it won’t,” he added hastily.

    Webb groaned a little, pulling up their hood and putting on their sunglasses. They had no idea if their eyes could affect the Curator—whatever they were—but they probably ought to keep them in reserve either way.

    “I usually get an invitation,” they say, leading the way to the gate. It was unlocked, and creaked slightly when they pushed it open. “But… as you said, there’s a light on upstairs, so… yes, let’s knock, and then just see what happens.”

    Ariadne and Faraday exchanged glances, but fell in step behind Webb as they made their way up the winding cobblestone walkway. The grounds were overgrown but at least slightly upkept; this late in the season, the flowerbeds were mostly barren, but showed signs of flowers having been in bloom earlier in the year.

    The front door was a massive oaken thing with a heavy wooden knocker. Webb reached up to grasp it—and found themself getting a handful of air instead as the door abruptly swung open in front of them.

    “Oh,” Ariadne whispered. Webb could hear Faraday suck in a breath.

    “Hello?” Webb called out into the entrance hall, taking a hesitant step inside. It had been some weeks since they’d last been here, but it was as they remembered: a wide reception area and hallway, a spiral stairwell off to the left, and several closed doors directly ahead. The room was dim, lit only by the weak light of Ariadne’s phone flashlight, casting warped and looming shadows.

    Webb glanced back at the others, then took a step inside, wiping their shoes off on the mat. They heard Faraday and Ariadne following suit—and then, the sound of the door closing behind them.

    A lamp flickered on in the stairwell, light pooling against the glossy hardwood and marking a clear pathway further up into the Curator’s tower.

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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  • Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 9

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    Ariadne made the decision easy by immediately starting to fill Faraday in on everything they’d learned so far, particularly Lekha’s disappearance after taking the Hallow Society job and Sia’s unexpected vampirism.

    Faraday nodded along, taking that in with a slight frown as Ariadne paused only when the server came by to pour him some coffee. Webb, hungry again after having barely been able to pick at their dinner, ordered something called a Cheesesteak Melt Hashbrown Bowl out of sheer masochistic curiosity.

    “So that’s where we’re at,” Ariadne murmured after the server stepped away again. “It’s something, at least.”

    “Who gave you the tip you ended up passing along to Sia?” Faraday asked Webb.

    Webb frowned, curling their hands around their coffee cup. “It was Pax.”

    “So that’s one maybe traceable to Pax, the other to the Hallow Society…”

    “Or she could have just become a vampire totally independently of all that. I mean, you didn’t mention anything about recruits being part of the whole thing,” Webb pointed out, looking at Ariadne.

    “No, but that’s definitely something Grimm does,” Ariadne said. “Maybe it just… depends on the person? Or his whims? I don’t know.” She shook her head. “Vampire lords don’t go around making everyone into vampires, obviously, but growing your clan and keeping them loyal to you is part of the whole… thing.”

    She’d started to look a little unhappy again, as she’d done previously when talking about Grimm. Again, Webb felt that unsettling little twist in their stomach thinking about having pried the truth out of her about an obviously personal subject.

    They did what they had to do, they reminded themself. She didn’t need to know—about it, or about Webb. They didn’t think she’d hold the magic part against him, not exactly—it was pretty common for humans to pick up magical abilities or undergo some sort of transformation in their lives. Some people took it well, embracing their new life with excitement and enthusiasm, casting off their perceived mundanity wholeheartedly. Others struggled with it, especially if it upended their previous life; Webb had heard of families splintered, relationships lost, paths irrevocably altered.

    Close to the valley like this, you had to just accept the supernatural as part of your life. But further out… there was still a lot of fear, and confusion, and misunderstanding. And even with other supernatural creatures, an ability like Webb’s wasn’t always welcome.

    To be fair, there was a lot to potentially be afraid of. “Did you have any trouble with the Inquisitors on the way here?” Webb asked Faraday.

    He shook his head. “There was just the one that I saw, and they followed you for a bit before heading back. It just took me a bit longer to catch up. Ariadne is a menace on city streets.”

    “That reminds me, Webb. How far away is the Curator’s place?

    “About a fifteen minute drive,” said Webb. “So… we’ll have to figure out a way to get over there, with all three of us.”

    Faraday stretched out in his seat, giving Webb a little wink. “Now that we have a little more time and aren’t immediately being pursued by a blade-wielding phantom, I’m sure I can manage something.”

    Webb frowned at him the entire time that the server was setting a plate down between them. They picked up a fork and immediately impaled a stack of potato. “Well, isn’t that lucky.”

    “I do my best to please,” Faraday said easily.

    Webb shot a glance at Ariadne, betrayed to find that she was just grinning, teeth indenting her lower lip a little as she tried to stifle it, eyes widening. “What?” she asked.

    “Did you find out anything more about Sia?” Webb opted to change the subject instead.

    “I’m just signing up for an account to subscribe to locked content,” Ariadne said, flashing Webb a peace sign. “If it turns out she’s connected to Grimm, maybe she’ll let something slip that we can use, and if not.” She shrugged, and smiled. “I get to see titties, I guess?”

    “Truly, you can’t lose,” Webb said dryly. “You didn’t already have an account of your own?”

    “If you mean to subscribe, no—other vampires really don’t do a lot for me,” she said, easygoing. “And if you mean to release my own content, no, but I’m happy you’d think I’d be a hit.” She crept a hand out to try to steal one of Webb’s hashbrowns.

    “Did I say that?” Webb lightly slid the plate out of the way. “And don’t be crass. You have to have the whole bite at once. You have to understand the whole Waffle House culinary balance of flavors they’ve got going on.” They held the fork up to Ariadne’s lips instead.

    Her eyes widened a little, but she obediently leaned forward and ate the bite off Webb’s fork.

    Webb, who realized what they’d done about a second too late to stop themself, just stared back at her, then pulled the fork back and returned to eating, trying to brush that off by immediately pretending it hadn’t happened.

    “… here,” Faraday said after a moment, bemused, glancing between Ariadne and Webb. “Let me grab my credit card for you.”

    “You don’t need to buy my nudes, babe.”

    “For the subscription…”

    Webb sank down in their seat a little, grateful that the moment had passed. Unfortunately, they liked flirting with people. And they were very interested in pretty blonds wearing leather who rode motorcycles and would clearly be down for a little light bloodplay.

    But obviously, under the circumstances, every part of that was a bad idea. For one thing, there was no time to fuck around when they were being hunted down, their livelihood was completely uprooted, and peoples’ lives potentially hung in the balance. It was irresponsible and also frankly way too much pressure.

    Then there was the fact that Webb’s usual “relationships” had an approximate typical duration of twelve hours maximum. They met plenty of people out and about Hallow Point, got to know them well enough to get invited to a room or an appropriately secluded corner or movie theatre, and that was it. No morning after, no second date.

    Not only did they not follow up or stick around, they also made most of their dates forget that that was an option.

    Webb didn’t use their abilities very often. They’d been a normal human, once upon a time. But sometimes things happened, and sometimes those things weren’t very pleasant, and you woke up in the hospital with your life in shambles and the ability to influence peoples’ thoughts and memories with eyes that were distinctly not human anymore.

    They’d fallen into a deep depression for several years after that, withdrawing from any relationships, shutting themself away from the world that they didn’t want any part of. And even when they eventually came crawling back… well, they didn’t want anybody else knowing what they could do, or what they really looked like under their hat and behind their sunglasses.

    They never coerced anybody into anything, of course. But a little mesmerizing could make most people forget all about the way Webb’s eyes were an unnatural yellow-green, and the way that other parts of their body were not quite right anymore. And it could also make it so Webb never got a follow-up text or call. Webb could be a pleasant moment that they remembered distantly like a dream they put behind them and moved on with their life, much better without Webb in it.

    Ariadne and Faraday clearly had a good thing going on. They were obviously, to Webb’s mild despair, nice people. Webb could help them out a little, figure out how they themself wanted to start over somewhere else, and be done with it. No getting involved. No making mistakes.

    Webb pushed their plate away, finished off their cup of coffee, and stood up. “I’m going to the restroom. Let’s head out after that.”

    Ariadne nodded, wiggling Faraday’s credit card between her fingertips. “I’ll settle the bill.”

    Tucked away in the stall, Webb tugged out their notebook again. No message from the Inquisitor. Propelled and inspired by their own personal commitment to making bad decisions, Webb pulled out a pack of crayons they’d lifted on their way past the hostess’ podium and carefully drew a simple cartoon of a horned figure wielding a sword, their ghostly ‘hair’ wiggling off towards the edge of the page. Then they drew a little heart next to it.

    Snapping the book shut, Webb slid it, and the crayons into their jacket again. They finished up, washed up, and headed back out to find Ariadne waiting outside by herself, a helmet under each arm.

    “Ready to go?” she asked, a smile lighting up her face.

    It made Webb’s steps falter. They weren’t used to people seeming genuinely pleased to see them. And in this case, they absolutely didn’t deserve it. This was pretty much the first time they could remember that they had to look someone in the eye for more than a farewell after they’d messed with their head, and it felt… not good.

    Webb shivered a little, tugging their sleeves down slightly and hugging their elbows. “Yeah,” they muttered. “Faraday just going to meet up with us again later?”

    Ariadne patted her bag. “I’ve got his stuff,” she said, which wasn’t quite an answer. “You seem cold… do you want his sweater? It’ll be worse once we start riding…”

    The late autumn air was getting chillier and chillier as night had fully fallen. Webb had a thin rainproof jacket over their cardigan, but it wasn’t much against the wind when they were blazing down the street, and their pant hems were still damp.

    “Absolutely not,” they said, reaching out to take the helmet. “Let’s get going. I’ll give you directions…”

    It was weirder, this time, settling onto the bike with Ariadne, arms wrapped around her waist. Webb tried to put it out of their mind. Focus on figuring out what to do next, they reminded themself. How much did they want to tell the Curator? How did they want to approach the line of questioning? To that point, how were they going to approach the tower in the first place? Just walk up and knock on the door? Or try to snoop around a little first?

    They tried to think about that, and only that, as the ignition roared to life and Ariadne sent them peeling away from the Waffle House and into the night.

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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    Well… I didn’t quite get back on track with the earlier post because I failed to finish before I had to run D&D. But every day is a new opportunity. Earlier post tomorrow. So grateful for everyone’s participation and comments so far! Hope you’re enjoying! ♥

  • Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 8

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    Webb thumbed idly at the notebook for another moment before closing it, slipping it back inside their jacket. There would be time for that later, if it became relevant. Perhaps when they were alone—the fact that the Inquisitors were after them did lend some credence to Ariadne and Faraday’s story, but Webb still wanted to be cautious.

    They doubted that using the pen would create any more of a trail for magic-users to follow than, say, the fact that the Inquisitors almost certainly had access to Webb’s hairbrush and toothbrush, but who knew, with witches? The thought of asking Faraday’s opinion crossed Webb’s mind and was quickly discarded.

    They could check back on it later and see if the Inquisitor had left a message for them, first. The pen itself was clearly a non-subtle overture that they’d be willing to communicate, wasn’t it? Webb had other things to worry about in the meantime and could let that sort itself out for now.

    Ariadne had just set down her phone and let out a loud sigh, resting her chin in both hands. She, at least, had taken her helmet off in order to drink. “He’s alright,” she murmured. “He’ll be here soon.”

    A careless comment bubbled to Webb’s lips—that’s a shame, maybe, or and here I’d been hoping!—but Ariadne looked so genuinely relieved that Webb couldn’t bring themself to say it. They busied themself with their phone, instead.

    “Yes, well, he seemed like a guy who could take care of himself,” Webb muttered begrudgingly.

    Ariadne let out a soft laugh. “Yeah? In the ways that count, for sure. But in other ways, he’s totally hopeless. He can get very wrapped up in his work.”

    “Like, literally?”

    “There have been greater than zero instances of that happening, yes.”

    Webb grinned despite themself, and was grateful for the helmet hiding that from view. It wasn’t like they particularly wanted to give Ariadne the impression that they liked her or anything, not when they still weren’t 100% sure this wasn’t all part of some elaborate organ-harvesting ruse.

    A thought crossed Webb’s mind, and they casually surveyed the layout of the Waffle House. It was quiet; there was a lone couple near the front window, and a tired looking construction worker nursing a coffee at the bar. The sole server was chatting with one of the cooks. Webb and Ariadne were tucked out of view, and Webb’s back was to the door if they shifted in their seat a little.

    They were alone together for the first time.

    Before they could talk themself out of the idea, Webb took off the helmet, set it aside, and said softly: “Ariadne.”

    Ariadne looked up. Her mildly surprised expression turned to shock, her lips parting—before going blank, relaxed and placid, her pale lashes dropping somewhat over her bright eyes.

    “Yes?” she murmured.

    Good. Webb felt a rush of relief. Different magical creatures had different types of immunities and abilities. Webb had worked their magic on nonhumans before, but the stronger they were, the more difficult it could be. Still, they should probably make this quick.

    “Ariadne,” they repeated. “Have you been lying to me about anything?”

    Broad, but straightforward and to the point. Ariadne’s breath hitched softly, but her expression didn’t change.

    “No.”

    Webb forced themself not to blink at that, eyes widening instead. “You really just want me to help you deal with your sire, and stop him from hurting people?”

    Ariadne nodded again, her fingers curling into fists. An unhappy little frown line creased her brow. “Yes.”

    Webb worried at one of their piercings with their tongue, drawing in a slow breath. “Are you—” they began, but before they could ask another question, Ariadne’s phone buzzed, rattling on the table. They saw her gaze flicker, a faint shadow of confusion starting to churn in her expression.

    Webb tugged their hood back up over their hat and slid their sunglasses back on as they finally broke eye contact.

    “Your phone,” they prompted, gesturing to her and picking up their own coffee cup.

    Ariadne blinked a few times, shaking her head, and picked it up. “I, ah… oh. I don’t know what—I mean, thanks.”

    Webb watched her silently as she answered another text from Faraday, but other than a lingering fog of slight confusion, nothing seemed amiss. She didn’t seem to have realized that anything out of the ordinary had happened.

    Letting out a very soft sigh of relief, Webb picked up their own phone again. They felt… strange and a little unsettled, rather than relieved. Up until that moment, some part of them was still convinced that there was some trap in all of this. That Ariadne and Faraday’s clumsy attempts at kindness and heroism and doing the right thing had some kind of trick hidden behind it, and Webb should behave accordingly.

    Now that they knew that wasn’t the case… they weren’t sure what to do with themself.

    “I’m going to try looking for some information on some of my former clients,” they told her, tone coming out a bit terse. “I’ll give you a couple names to look for, too.”

    Ariadne seemed surprised again, then gave Webb a pretty smile, nodding. “Of course,” she said. “I’d be happy to help. I’m very good at creeping people online. Make sure to give me someone cute. Joke!” She added that last part hastily when Webb made a face. They weren’t entirely sure they believed that.

    “Look up the name Jenny Lim.” Webb gave a brief description of the brunette they’d spoken with earlier in the day: appearance, the names of her companions, their descriptions. She’d been carrying a bag with a logo from a nearby university; Elijah, one of her companions, had a water bottle from a nearby gym.

    Ariadne had paused and was staring at them over the top of her phone. “These were… people you saw today, right?”

    “Yeah. If they’re only just heading out, they’d be the best ones to try to catch if they’re in potential trouble but still safe for now.” Webb frowned at her after she continued to look at them, her head tilted to the side. “Why do you ask?”

    “You just remembered a lot about them,” Ariadne said. “I was surprised, that’s all. Do you have a list of the other names you want to look for…?”

    “I need to have an eye for detail in my line of work,” Webb said dismissively. “It’s not a big deal.”

    Ariadne just shook her head quietly, turning her attention back to her phone and starting to search, nails clicking softly. They were clipped short—not bare, as Webb had thought at first, but painted a very light pink.

    Turning their gaze away again, Webb got to searching.

    It was a lot like looking for a needle in a haystack, in a lot of ways, especially with people that had more common names. Webb didn’t maintain any sort of social media presence outside of their professional contacts, and they didn’t exactly go around connecting to people.

    Still, a couple of them were easily found because they’d liked or followed Webb’s professional account. They started mentally making notes as they went through—this one was still posting selfies as of yesterday, that one had done a job a few months ago but checked into a local restaurant last week…

    Some of them were dead accounts, or impossible to find, which could be innocuous, or could be sinister. They found one, a were-raven named Lekha, who had been posting regular photographs of her art up until a few months ago, when the posts abruptly stopped. Maybe she’d just lost interest, or taken a sabbatical—but the timing corresponded very closely to when she’d come to see Webb.

    She’d taken on a job for the Hallow Society—a trip that took her up north to investigate some disturbances outside a local orchard. It could be a coincidence, but…

    They opened their mouth to mention it but were interrupted by Ariadne suddenly piping up: “Oh! I found one! Oh, oh wow I found one. Oh, never mind, she was just posting yesterday, so… damn, though. I mean, good for her.”

    “Dare I ask?”

    Ariadne looked amused, scrolling with her chin in one hand. At Webb’s raised eyebrows, she spun the phone around and slid it forward with a bit of a grin. The name Sia Sileny Belmont was displayed under a photo of a dark haired, pointy-eared woman blowing a kiss.

    “She’s got an OnlyFangs account. Think we should subscribe?”

    Webb sat back, dragging their hands down their face and letting out a sharp laugh. “… yeah,” they said. “Actually. I think we should.”

    Ariadne didn’t seem to have been expecting that answer, doing a bit of a double take. “What? Really? I mean, I’m down for it, but—”

    “Ariadne,” Webb said slowly, “Sia wasn’t a vampire the last time I saw her.”

    “Wh—ohhhhh.”

    They both sat in silence for a moment, just staring at each other—which was, of course, the moment that they heard footsteps approach and Faraday slid heavily into the booth next to Ariadne, immediately wrapping an arm around her waist.

    “You made it!” Ariadne gasped, leaning in to give him a quick kiss on the cheek. “I’m so glad!”

    “You didn’t need to worry about me,” Faraday said with an easy smile. He glanced at Webb briefly, then down at the phone lying between them. “I see you, uh… right. I see I have a little bit of catching up to do.”

    Webb caught Ariadne’s gaze, unsure if they wanted to spend a lot of time filling Faraday in, or now that he was here, if they’d rather just get out of here and beeline for the Curator’s before it got too late. But at the same time, they were digging up some decent leads here— should they keep going and see what else they could find?

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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    Sorry for the late posts the last couple of nights! Some Stuff Happened. Tomorrow’s comment cutoff time will go back to around 4-5PM and I’ll be aiming to post by 6PM. Hoping to get back to that cadence again after that ♥

  • Halloween 2021 IF,  Interactive Fiction

    Halloween I.F – “That Which Lingers” – Day 7

    [ Please read the kickoff post before commenting! ] 

    Webb felt as though their fight-or-flight instincts had been activated—their palms sweating, their breath coming fast. Despite the fear buzzing through their veins like electricity, the temptation to just dash out into the street was incredibly high. They wanted to square off with this spooky motherfucker right in front of the Donut Unholy and demand answers. They didn’t want to run away as though they had something to hide.

    But Ariadne and Faraday were frightened—and rightfully so. The Inquisitors weren’t law enforcement; there wasn’t really anything lawful about them. As far as Webb knew, nobody understood who they reported to, or where they came from in the first place. They just existed, and they sometimes appeared to eliminate a problem… and anything else that stood in their way.

    Webb couldn’t deny that hungry little itch to know more. But they knew very well they were no damn hero, and now was not a good time to start pretending otherwise.

    “Get us out of here,” they muttered to Ariadne, turning. “Fuck. You sure you’ll be alright on your own, Mr. Witch?”

    They tried to keep the question as neutral as possible, but Faraday seemed to take it as a kindness regardless, flashing Webb a smile, his teeth very white in the darkness. “Don’t worry about me,” Faraday murmured. “I’ll catch up with you soon.”

    “I wasn’t worried—”

    “Just scatter for now,” Ariadne interrupted in a hushed hiss, already pulling Webb down the street hastily. “Text me when you can.”

    As she passed him, Faraday leaned in quickly to give her a brief kiss on the mouth. Webb, still pressed closely to Ariadne, let out a disgruntled noise of protest, turning their face away.

    It didn’t last long. Faraday turned and strode off down a nearby alley; and despite the ostentatious coat, as soon as Faraday started to move out of sight, Webb lost track of him immediately, as though he’d melted away into the shadows. They let out a low whistle under their breath.

    Ariadne laughed quietly. When Webb turned her way, they saw that her lips were slick with blood that she was still licking away. Her eyes were brighter than before, her pale cheeks slightly pink.

    “Are you shy, Mx. Webb?” she teased, though Webb could still see the nervousness on her face, the way that she kept glancing back over her shoulder as she hustled Webb down the street, picking up a light jog and forcing Webb to keep up.

    “Is now really the time for that?” Webb muttered, irritable about cardio at the best of times, let alone life-threatening times.

    “What, the blood?”

    “No, that part made sense.” Webb had known enough vampires over the years. Ariadne might have been able to eat dinner to enjoy the flavor, but even given the amount of raw meat she’d shoved into her face, she wouldn’t get as much of it as she would by drinking live blood. “Like a shot of espresso, right? A five hour energy twink.”

    Ariadne choked on a breathless noise, near-hysterical, laughing even as she cast the occasional furtive glance over her shoulder. “So what’s the problem, then? The flirting? The kissing?”

    “Are you flirting? Is this flirting?” Webb demanded, wincing as they splashed through a puddle, soaking their sock up to their ankle. “This is the worst date I’ve ever been on, if so.”

    “Is it really?”

    “Honestly, no.”

    “Didn’t think so.”

    They’d reached a motorcycle parked in front of a convenience store that Webb presumed was Ariadne’s, given that she immediately popped the storage and hauled out a spare helmet. Webb grimaced, turning it around in their hands. It probably smelled like Faraday’s perfect hair. More annoyingly, it would probably be a tight fit over their sunglasses. And their hat. And their hood.

    Webb considered themself to be fairly forgettable-looking, as humans went. Tall, though they appeared shorter, mostly due to having the postural integrity of a bent paperclip. Skinny, in an all-elbows-and-knees sort of way, largely obscured by their baggy drop pants and their oversized, hooded cardigan. They were neither noticeably pale, nor particularly dark-skinned. Some dark curls tended to escape from under their ever-present woolen hat, but otherwise, only their pair of snakebite piercings were overly notable, and they preferred to keep it that way.

    Then again, they were currently being pursued by a ghost wielding a blade, and sometimes sacrifices needed to be made outside of one’s comfort zone.

    Waiting until Ariadne had turned away to start her bike, Webb pressed their eyes tightly closed, whipped off their oversized sunglasses, then shoved the helmet over their head, snapping the tinted visor down into place.

    It was a bit of a snug fit, but what Webb had in hat, Faraday had in hair, so it worked out. And they were right. It did smell unnecessarily like lavender.

    “Hold on,” Ariadne instructed as the engine roared to life. Webb awkwardly mounted onto the seat behind her, wrapping their arms around her waist after a moment’s hesitation. Their grip tightened immediately as Ariadne peeled out of the parking lot with a rush of exhaust and a squeal of tires, sending them hurtling down the street in the neon-lit darkness.

    Glancing in Ariadne’s side mirror as they tore out of sight, Webb felt their mouth go dry. Standing in the middle of the road, growing vanishingly small in the distance, was the wraithlike figure of the Inquisitor. As Webb watched, the Inquisitor leaned down and picked something up off the ground, followed by a little telltale flash of green—the ghostly plume of Webb’s enchanted pen.

    Webb smiled grimly to themself, pressing a little more closely to Ariadne’s back. Dropping it had been a bit of a gamble, but they doubted the Inquisitors carried cellphones. For now, this would have to do.

    Ariadne didn’t take them far, though Webb began to worry about halfway through the trip that they were, in fact, going to be taken to the bad kind of secondary location for nefarious purposes despite all their careful planning. Instead, she pulled up in front of a Waffle House, killed the ignition, then let out a big sigh, slumping back into Webb’s arms.

    “Ughhh,” she sighed. “I’m so sorry about all this, Webb. I figure this isn’t how you wanted your night to go.”

    Webb held her awkwardly, not sure how to get off the bike without them both falling over. At a loss, they ducked their head forward slightly to clonk their helmet against hers.

    “As long as you don’t turn out to be fucking with me, I suppose we’ll call it even, since I’m not currently getting murdered by Ghost Rider in my bed, and I appreciate that fact.”

    Ariadne let out a laugh. After another moment, she hauled herself up, hopping off the bike and offering Webb a hand. She left her helmet on as they headed inside, so Webb did the same. Waffle House had seen worse.

    “I’ll text Faraday to let him know where we are,” Ariadne murmured as they got settled into a booth. They ordered two coffees they wouldn’t be able to drink, as was customary. “Then after that, we’ll go… where?”

    “To the Curator’s,” Webb said. “And if there’s no luck there—to the Drawing Dead. If we go soon, it’ll be late evening, but not so late that it’ll be absolutely, you know, terrifying. Meanwhile, Pax should be around and working until 3AM, so we’ve got time, there.”

    “Got it.” Ariadne turned her attention to her phone.

    Shifting into the corner of the booth, legs stretched out, Webb pulled out their own phone. While they were waiting, they figured they might as well start looking for some information on former clients that may or may not have gone missing. Or…

    They reached in the inner pocket of their coat and pulled out their slim black notebook, flipping it open to the most recent blank page. Nothing was written there yet, but as long as they willed it do so, whatever their pen wrote—no matter where, or how far away it was—Webb would be able to read it here. And on the flip side, whatever they wrote in their book, the pen would try to write out… on whatever surface seemed most reasonable.

    They had no guarantees that the Inquisitor was still holding onto it and hadn’t either shown it to their ghostly buddies or tossed it in a lockbox as evidence, but it might be worth a shot.

    That said, they didn’t know how far away Faraday was, or if and when Ariadne might look up from her texting and get curious. Should they risk using the book right now, or focus on digging up more info about their clients first, in preparation for meeting up with the Curator? Or just, you know, have a conversation to try to get to know Ariadne a little more?

    [Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.

    As a reminder, it can be thoughts, words, deeds, or curiosities!]

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