I picked up Ava last night. It wasn't quite the movie moment some of you were probably expecting; she was too tired to do the dramatic run and when I hugged her, she fell asleep right there in my arms. I brought her back to Thage's car in a bridal carry and headed straight back to Thage's. She's still asleep in bed beside me. She was exhausted. She didn't puke during the night, thankfully, but I used pillows to keep her propped up on her side just in case, anyway.
As you may have noticed last night, I was still commenting long after I'd said I was going to go talk to Thage. I blame it on a combination of distraction and dread. At any rate, once I'd put Ava to bed, I went down to face the music. Thage and I decided to post the conversation here, it seemed like a good idea to make sure there are archives and backups of all our ideas and theories just in case anything happens to us. There will probably be a few more infodumps while we're staying here, hence the ", Part 1".
Me: -I enter the sitting room- Um, hello, Thage.
Thage: -she looks up from one of her many, many books- Oh, evening.
Me: -I slap my legs awkwardly and waddle over to a chair- What are you, uh, what are you reading?
Thage: -she tries not to snicker at the way I look- Oh, you remember that play I recommended Jean look for? I'm reading the playwright's journal. It's mostly aimless rambling but there's something coherent at least once a page.
Me: Ah, I see. Standard Slendercock in action, or something of particular interest?
Thage: -she flips through some of the earlier pages- Well, yes and no.
Me: Thage, you know an answer like that is only going to make me ask you to elaborate.
Thage: Yes in that there's your usual increasingly paranoid rantings, but he describes a creature more akin to Elizabeth Bathory than our mutual friend, although that does pose the possibility that the Countess was another of his forms through the ages.
Me: Elizabeth Bathory?
Thage: You know, the one who slaughtered virgin girls and bathed in their blood to remain eternally youthful, as the legend goes?
Me: Eh, can't say I've come across that one, I'm afraid. My knowledge banks are a bit bric-a-brac, really.
Thage: -she gestures to several heavy-looking books on a bookshelf on the other side of the room- European legends. There are a few accounts on her in there if you feel like reading later.
Me: Maybe I will, I haven't read anything in a good while.
Thage: But I digress--the point is he seems to be suffering hallucinations of--as he puts it--a tall, pale woman with indistinct features and an air of malice, and he's convinced it's the Countess Bathory.
Me: Then there remains the possiblity that he wasn't haunted by Slender Man at all. Unless I'm missing something?
Thage: You would prefer to think there really was someone so savage that they'd bathe in an innocent's blood to feed their delusion that it keeps them eternally young?
Me: It's not that I'd prefer that scenario, just that it seems more likely to me.
Thage: -she shrugs and turns a page- No, what has me convinced is all the collaborative evidence--madness, being stalked by a tall, pale individual with a face he can't quite get a bead on, a string of brutal killings that were never satisfactorily explained...
Me: The femininity aspect is the only thing that throws me, to be honest.
Thage: Well, do you want the logical response or the one that will keep you up tonight?
Me: I want the truth.
Thage: Either is as likely as the other. Logically, you could suppose he has no concept of gender and will affect the appearance of either as best fits the locale and time period, same as his general appearance. The nightmare-inducing theory is that he's not the only one of his kind here, that there are multiple, all engaged in the same hunt.
Me: The second theory isn't consistent with my own experiences, to be honest. There was a while that I thought it was likely but I've become a lot more cynical. I'm less accepting of the claims of Jack Tyler, among others.
Thage: -she wrinkles her nose- I'm not as familiar with that name as I should be.
Me: Lucky you.
Thage: I only entertained the second one because it would explain a great many things about his activities, and why nobody seems to be able to corroborate the various means he uses to get around.
Me: I'm afraid I can't clarify that any bit. For some reason, he always made sure he was out of sight before doing whatever he does to get around. Yet, at the same time, he let us use the Other World as a shortcut. Most bizarre.
Thage: -she wrinkles her nose again, and starts digging through her bookshelves, muttering to herself before pulling out a decrepit old book and handing it to me- Read about halfway in.
Me: -I flip through the pages-
Thage: Someone stumbled into that world, and described a world made almost entirely of gore. - she sits back down-
Thage: Ground, skies, plant and animal life...
Me: These are some...pretty, uh, graphic descriptions.
Thage: I think that other world is nebulous in nature--it takes on what you fear the most and applies it like a color pallet.
Me: And yet, I have no particular fear of swamps, which is the most common area I come across. Perhaps this merely implies that the Other World is bigger than previously thought.
Thage: A patchwork world of nightmares. That's not exactly something I'm fond of considering.
Me: Well, do you want the logical response or the one that will keep you up at night? -I smirk-
Thage: -she chuckles- In this case, I don't think there's a difference unless you attribute it to psychosomatic hallucinations.
Me: Well, there is a slight alternative; worldlets, rather than worlds.
Thage: Sort of line an island chain rather than a unified landmass?
Me: Sort of, except that instead of a chain of islands, it's a chain of universes. Just a theory.
Thage: -she nods and seems thoughtful for a moment- Maybe I'm just woolgathering here, but just for the sake of discussion, are you familiar with the SCP Foundation?
Me: I think Ava might have mentioned it in one of her big spiels about the Internet. I'm not too big into the Internet personally, so I tend to zone out a little, admittedly.
Thage: Ah. Well, on the off-chance you're familiar with , I might have a scenario which I don't doubt is wrong to bring up, if only because it could encourage thinking outside the box.
Me: How about I look up this SCP thing later and get back to you?
Thage: Next topic? -she starts scribbling things down on a notepad in some sort of weird shorthand-
Me: Well, your choices are "more cross-referencing our knowledge of Slender Man", "discussing the status of the board" or "watching me grovel for destroying your life". You choose.
Thage: Number three is right out and if you start I'll probably end up pissing Ava off for killing your chance at kids with her, so let's go with two.
Me: -I smile weakly- Fair enough. What do you think of this notion of Redlight as a collective noun?
Thage: -she stretches out her back- Hm. Either Robert's losing his mind again, he was killed and this is Redlight making himself out to be more than he is, or I'll need to be more careful about what I say to who.
Me: I'm tentatively giving Robert the benefit of the doubt while planning for the other eventualities. Naturally, I'd prefer if there was just one Redlight for me to choke the life out of.
Thage: On the reverse side, imagine how cathartic it will be getting to do it over and over.
Me: There is that aspect, true.
Thage: If there really is a collective, and there really are Revenants in it... I'm going to need to keep a pot of water boiling pretty regularly if they do secede.
Me: You could always wire a car battery up to your doorhandles and windowframes. -I imitate a shocking noise, badly-
Thage: -she snorts-
Me: Huh, I wouldn't have taken you for a snorter, oddly enough.
Thage: I'm also a talented fencer with the epeé. - she sets the book down and seems wistful for a moment- I think, after this is all over, I'm going to look into fencing professionally.
Me: I'm more of an unarmed figher myself, but I know a bit of bataireacht
Me: It's an Irish martial art based around the use of the shillelagh. Contrary to popular belief, the shillelagh is more than just a stick held by leprachauns and an inherently funny word. It's also a lethal weapon in the right hands, such as mine. It's the traditional weapon of the Irish gentlement, though, in a pinch, another type of cane will do. Any stick with a pointy end and a knobby end, really.
Thage: -she tilts her head to one side- Back on-topic, though. Now that the Heel's gone, I'm not sure why he's still abiding by the bargain you and I set up.
Me: Ah, that brings me to a somewhat sensitive matter. Something I was loathe to mention before but seems somewhat more...pertinent given my recent mortality.
Me: Basically, the way the deal was made, I was more a middleman negotiating terms than anything else and for him to be assured of the deal, he wanted some collateral, as well as a way out, if necessary. The deal is conditional on my life. If I die, Slender Man no longer has to abide by the deal.
Thage: -she looks up from yet another handwritten book- Hm.
Me: I didn't want to bring it up before because while I was a Revenant, it didn't seem like a major concern.
Thage: No, that's not it. As things stand, though, given my position... -she gestures to the notepad next to her- I could cause a lot of havoc by posting sensitive information on various proxies of varying strength and importance who have situated themselves in the American, German, French, Russian, Italian, South African, Israeli, and a dozen and more other governments, their family members, and what phobias they might have. You wouldn't believe what some of these people will talk about when they assume the person they're talking to will keep out of the fight forever.
Me: That actually brings me to something else I wanted to ask about. Are they still enforcing the "balance" clause?
Thage: They are. I've learned quite a few ways to give them what they ask without giving damaging information, though eventually they're going to catch on.
Me: I see. Well, since you've prohibited my grovelling, I don't have anything else of import to say apart from thanking you from the spaghetti, so if you have any more questions for me, then fire away.
Thage: -she taps the bottom of her pen on her chin thoughtfully. Slate, I think his name is? I keep getting that and the DC Comics villain mixed up. Any idea about his whereabouts?
Me: Dead. Ava finished him when we attacked the quarry.
Thage: Good, he was the one who didn't play ring around the mulberry bush.
Me: If my memory of the Revenant hierarchy is still accurate, the new keeper of the quarry should be a Revenant called Eulogy.
Thage: I'll just assume it's not because they're fond of Norweigan death metal and work from there.
Me: He was a priest, actually.
Thage: What flavor?
Me: Catholic. His name was Father Knight before he was turned. Worked at a school in the town where the quarry lies.
Thage: I feel terrible for making this joke, but that reminds me of a comic called Battle Pope. -she relaxes back in the couch and goes back to scribbling those notes- Any others I should be wary around if they pay a visit looking for information?
Me: You should be wary of all of them. But if you're looking for specifics, there are a pair of Revenant assassins called Arpeggio and Cadence, twins, actually, who even alone are better than I was in my prime, let alone when working in tandem.
Thage: Well, I'm naturally wary of any of his fan club that pay a visit, I'm just talking about the ones that I might not be able to doubletalk.
Me: Eulogy was more of the "general respect" variety than the kind who had sub-minions and whatnot. Arpeggio and Cadence work mainly under a Revenant called Legacy, who is probably after Eulogy's job.
Thage: Odds of infighting?
Me: They seem to be getting higher and higher if Redlight is any indication. It seems Slender Man may have given them too much freedom.
Thage: -she nods- I'm not sure if I should tell the other Runners and Fighters about the balance clause.
Me: Maybe you should tell them now before it comes back to bite you in the ass.
Thage: It's going to bite me in the ass either way.
Me: Quite probably. What are the pros and cons of each then?
Thage: If I do so now, the pros are that the information's out there. The cons are severely impacted trust. If I do so later, I could plan for it and try to balance things so they still get out ahead. Cons for doing so later include the obvious romantic comedy cliché of someone finding out and things going sour.
Me: Well, Thage, in the end, I can only let you decide.
Thage: -she nods- Well, regardless, I'm going to get some practice in and turn in for the night. -she produces an epee and fencing gear from behind her couch then heads out to the backyard to practice-
Me: -I head up to the spare room Ava and I are sharing for some well-earned rest-
Not quite as dramatic as the last conversation I dumped here, but we can't always be exciting, can we?