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Dog Kisser
Mar 30, 2005

But People have fears that beasts do not. Questions, too.



Two Stars are destined to collide. ??? and Titania, your inexorable path begins here.



Learn and teach. You may now draw Birth Cards.

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Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


7♥ You are lucky enough to gain an education - where? In what did you excel?

many things can be educational. not just in university.

all monsters start in a shape like people, before time sands down the similarities. a lot of monsters *tell* themselves they're people, or close enough to it for kindness restraint to feel rewarding. they draw it out. they tell you they only want to help. they only have your happiness in mind. they spin it like noblesse oblige, a duty to you. won't you let them fulfill their duty to you? of course you can. good girl. and a duty to you becomes a duty to them becomes a bill past due becomes the worst indignation when you (won't? can't?) pay them back.

they have a sense of theatricality about it. a need for buildup and dramatic tension that gets in the way of the extortion part. maybe i'd seen it before. maybe i was--

if i excelled, maybe i'd still have a name. but i learned a lot about watching my words, and watching exits, and knowing when it's time to disappear. and i'm still here after disappearing from there, so that counts for something, right?

Ningyou fucked around with this message at 17:22 on Aug 7, 2021

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




10♥ You are frustrated in your training - what do you do to overcome your issue?

The courts of fae provide their own challenges, particularly after one's debut. The twisting chains of obligation and promise are far from intuitive, no matter what others might have you believe, and careful untangling of the hows and whys of court structuring is a painstaking process. To say the least, of course.

My own solution to this mess, like many others, was to find patronage. An experienced fae, willing to trade guidance for future favors, whose name I could wield like a sword. Or, at times, a quiet stilleto. It's incredible how simpler matters are when the tables turn. Fae now need consider who they offend by offending you, who they spurn by spurning you, and what benefits they might themselves grasp by uplifting you.

This isn't to say it'll be an arrangement for the ages. Hardly. I'll pay my favors forward, then soon enough I shall be sponsoring promising debutantes myself. I've tasted power, now, tasted the respect and desire that it awakens in others, and I can't well go back to that hardscrabble desperation.

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


JYour homeland is particularly known for something. What is it?

Would you believe that they advertised, once upon a time? Hypercurated websites playing to outsiders' fantasies of an older world, social media run like a nightmare-domme Denny's twitter (a tray of poisoned pastries in a people-shape, a joke here and there about sewing the self back into some button-eyed maid and maybe there was a point where it stopped sounding like A Bit, but she's so Hashtag Relatable). Filming incentives, but never anything so pedestrian as a tax break.

They tried focus groups. The website was "unnerving," people said. Their social media presence was "a little creepy," people said. (And that was *before* she got banned over elaborate, messy Twitter beef. Did you read that article last year?) So they got quieter.

There's still talk, though. "It's a place where you can become someone else." Most people don't take that literally, and tourists don't often get more than a taste -- bad for business, right? -- but for the adventurous and the dedicated and the desperate, it offers something you simply can't find anywhere else.

Sometimes it's simpler than it sounds. A passport with an RFID chip sewn in with little lies and a promise that You Don't Need To Worry About Me, Officer. A name that isn't my name, but a name that's good enough for now. Funds, papers, two tickets for safe passage. A little bit of volition can buy a lot.

Ningyou fucked around with this message at 17:23 on Aug 7, 2021

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




KYou are not alone in this world - who helped raise you into what you are now?

I spoke of patronage, of course, and I suppose that's as decisive an answer as any. Who else can claim credit for a thought? A soul? One who helps shape it.

I pledged myself to the Lady of Summer. Fiery, inspirational, and utterly unforgiving of betrayal. I can empathize with such. Perhaps that's what made us such a natural fit, mentor and protege. An understanding that, should a coup not see one of us diminished to nothing, the subsequent vengeance would burn with such fire that it would consume all involved.

I've learned much from her, over the years, and I'd dare say there's still much to learn. Still... our acquaintance is forged on a knife's edge. One day her title will be mine. I'm hungry for advancement, and she well knows it. Perhaps she'll see fit to move up the hierarchy and leave it vacant. Perhaps I'll prepare the ultimate coup and simply take it, along with all she has.

Such are the ways of the Courts of Fae.

Dog Kisser
Mar 30, 2005

But People have fears that beasts do not. Questions, too.




Two Stars draw nearer. ??? and Titania, your path continues.



Grow and inspire. You may now draw Inspiral Cards.

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


5♦️ What keeps you going? What do you fight for?

Well, if I stop, then something will catch up with me. ♪

That's. half a joke? I suppose I don't have to run as far or as fast anymore. They say people are lucky to live here, and maybe in a way that's true? After all that time in my homeland, the ordinary menace of an unfamiliar place feels like a relief.

they say that a society like this makes it difficult for the monsters i knew to freely operate. something about an Always Online society, or a surveillance society, or maybe just a society that lost its love for fairytale nobility with baroque personal mythology and bespoke gowns that evoke bright colors on a dart frog. i don't know if it's true, but it's a nice idea.

I keep going because I'm afraid to see what happens if I stop for too long, and because--because maybe if I keep going long enough, I'll stumble onto a new name, or maybe I'll just make one myself. That's something to fight for, right? The hope that things might get better if I hold on long enough?

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




A♦️ Your homeland has changed since your youth - for better or worse?

A mild understatement, to be sure, but I think it undeniable that my personal fortunes have taken off. My dear patron, the then-Lady, was lucky and cunning enough to snatch the title of the Queen. Certainly a coup in her favor, and one that came none too soon. I was about to put my own plans into motion, but seizing an empty title is certainly easier. Perhaps a little disappointing, not getting to see my machinations play out in full, but there's always time. She's in the big seat, now, and suffice to say that I think that crown of flowers would look quite fetching on my head.

She may have improved our fortunes, but... it does seem she's backed into a corner, don't you think? Such a shame. When you're at the peak, every potential claimant has their eye on your position. Let her worry about them. I'll play the dutiful Lady for now, but when the time is most opportune...

It will be good to be the Queen.

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


J♦️ Your very existence causes disruption in the established social order. How?

I was supposed to stay.

I left my partner in this rotten little pas de doux hanging.

There's a rhythm to these things. You panic and you scurry and you plead and you cry every tear you have left and then, when the dread's at its most suffocating, you're shown mercy. (of a kind.)

she'd have offered me a new life in her service. a new role. a new name, written in reshaped skin and whispered into my heart.

(or you find a clever enough out that you amuse them. they don't have to play by any rules they don't make up, but sometimes it's fun for them to play along. sometimes it's a nice change of pace.)

I wasn't going to resign myself to that out of some learned-helplessness sense of The Way Things Are, so now i'm here.

....here, I suppose I'm less prey and more of a neighborhood stray. They don't treat me like a liability. It inspires kinder instincts, food and fussing and protectiveness.

Sometimes I think I could get used to it, you know?

Sometimes, I like to think that--that maybe i inspired others. That I'm not the only one who ran, that the story spread and someone else declined to be a supporting character in some noble's grand story. That things will change, back home. ....it's not stupid to hope for that, right?

Ningyou fucked around with this message at 23:00 on Aug 7, 2021

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




K♦️ What is your absolute favorite place?

It's a bit of an oddity, but...

Well, as you well know, I was not always the Lady of Summer. That Titania had her own favorites and foibles. A nice cup of tea in a cafe, perhaps. But the Lady of Summer, well, the title carries more with it than mere power. It is as much a role as a station.

The Lady is well known for her fantastical gardens, famed even in the other seasons, and as such my priorities have changed somewhat. I find the company of bloom and blossom to be incomparably relaxing. Hosting a favored few amongst the hedges, smelling the sweet scent on the breeze...

It's hard to imagine that ever having not been my favorite.

Dog Kisser
Mar 30, 2005

But People have fears that beasts do not. Questions, too.



Two Stars draw within sight, their gravity tearing at the world.. ??? and Titania, your inexorable path continues.



Approach and scout. You may now draw Coalescence Cards.

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


5♣️ Someone you know has been impacted by your Rival's works. Who, and how?

....do you tell yourself you're making the world a better place, or that you're *saving* lost little things who'd be doomed on their own?

there's--there was someone i met just recently. i suppose it's silly for me to think i was the only one who got out, right?

she said the Lady of Summer cultivated her and brought her to bloom. she didn't say how she came to be here, but I *knew*, and--and, and she said she still has trouble internalizing that she's *people* and not just something to spruce up the Lady's workspace, and--

she spends a lot of time in the city park. she says it feels like home. that she misses home, even if she shouldn't. that she wasn't anyone important, that she wasn't in the Lady's way, she just.....caught her eye. and now she's--

i almost stayed. i thought--i thought, 'maybe we'd be good for each other. maybe we'd Get each other in a way no one else could. or--or maybe she's a snare, and she'd *keep* me, and *you'd* keep me, and i'd at least have the certainty of knowing i couldn't run any longer.'

but

but i should keep going.

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




Q♣️ How have you improved the world by your actions?

Think, little one. Think of what I offer, and think of how happy it makes people.

Since my role in the telling has broadened my view, I have taken an interest in the flighty little things outside the courts. It is charming, really, how much they struggle and fight for the smallest place in their own stories, but... would it not be better for everyone to simply take their appointed place in mine?

There is hesitation, at first, then desperate, eager acceptance as they see what I can offer. The comfort of being known, and truly knowing one's place in the story. They are happy, truly happy, and I cannot understand why that little stray seems so frightened of having a place in the telling.

It could be comfortable, it could be everything she has ever dreamed of... and, deep down, I can sense the terrible hunger for purpose that fills her.

Such a poor dear. No place, no name, no purpose. I can offer her all of those things. All she needs do is ask.

And you will, won't you, stray?

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


6♣️Where is someplace you absolutely do not want to confront your Rival, and why?

Ugh, you're all such egomaniacs! You can't imagine anyone not wanting to be graced by your presence, anyone not wanting to be swallowed up by your sheer sense of self-importance, anyone not wanting to be subsumed into your story.

it's the mortifying ordeal of being known, not the comfort of being known. They're wise to your tricks, here.

there are places where the world gets...fuzzy. abandoned superfund sites carpeted in dreaming-flowers, places where reality's a fraying blanket ripe for reweaving. (or unraveling.) places that respond to a strong will.

So, you know--it's frightening, thinking of stumbling into something like her in one of those places. It's frightening thinking of drowning in her undiluted herness, drowning in her overwhelming sense of proper roles and proper places and How Things Ought To Be, and moreso in a place conducive to that.

But I left all that behind in the old country. Right? So--so I won't have to worry about--not that I'd ever be tempted to ask, but--

I left that behind. I'm okay. I'm safe. I won't be tempted.

Ningyou fucked around with this message at 02:57 on Aug 8, 2021

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




J♣️ You spread a rumor about your rival. What is it?

Spread a rumor? You make it sound so... distasteful. I simply let it be known that there was a stray on the loose, one that should be returned to me if found.

Perhaps, you might say, this implied a level of belonging that is inaccurate. To that, I simply say that what I said was entirely accurate. She should be returned to me if found. If people extrapolate, from all that, that she's had a role in my story prior to her current pitiful state... well, that is simply their misunderstanding.

I cannot be held accountable for assumptions, after all.

And isn't that what you do, stray? Assume the worst?

Dog Kisser
Mar 30, 2005

But People have fears that beasts do not. Questions, too.



Two Stars circle eachother, locked in fatal orbit. ??? and Titania, your inexorable path ends here.



The end is coming. You may now draw Ringdown Cards.

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


8 The end of your rivalry is coming, one way or another. How do you feel?

i don't assume any worse than you deserve. it's a learned response, learned over and over and over again, so--so it's not like i'm being unfair, right?

i had to leave the first safe place i'd found in weeks because--

there was a change in the air, a look in their eye. murmurings about how *sad* it all was 'til i finally cornered someone and asked and--

oh, you must be soooo scared, all alone without your mistress. that's why you look so hackles-up and underfed, right? a little bit pity, a little bit excitement, stumbling questions about the particulars of being a noble's pet. a breathiness like they imagined themselves getting some magical contact high from being in the same room with me. a gradual understanding that gosh, it'd just be terrible if this stray wasn't reunited with her rightful owner, right?

and now i'm somewhere else. so thanks for teaching me never to let my guard down, i guess.

i guess i feel like--i'm trying to hold onto that. the guardedness, the fear, the sickly pain in my gut. because after we're done, if it doesn't go my way......well, i'll feel however you want me to feel, right?

Ningyou fucked around with this message at 05:23 on Aug 8, 2021

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




10♠ You strike a glancing blow against your rival. How?

All this talk of blows and violence, when it's anything but. I simply made her an offer.

She saw fit to scurry out of her little hole, quite panicked and in a rush, and I simply happened to be in the neighborhood. Taking one's proper role in the story is a gradual process, of course, but there are routes for one to experience what it might be like sooner than not.

I asked her, "Poor, sweet little stray. Do you not want a comfortable place to live? An end to your worries?" A beat, then I said, "See how it feels. A taste of what might be... but next time, you shall ask for it."

She scurried off, as though I was a fearsome predator, but I can only imagine how good she must have felt in the glimpse I gave her. Fulfilled! Safe! Known to herself and the story.

When is the last time you felt that, little stray?

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


Q♠ You happen upon your rival in a brief respite from your conflict. What do you say to them?

i'm in another city, now.

in another life this place might feel cozy, picturesque, like something out of a television show. but now it's just another point in the journey, another way to put space between us.

i don't know what to do.

---

Poor, sweet little stray. Do you not want an end to your worries?

i haven't been sleeping much, because when I sleep I dream of her. of that, of whatever she--whatever she infected me with.

it's a lie, right? they don't show kindness like that, not without a price, not without fine print. they don't--they don't *care*. fae are fickle and a life as one's favorite toy has an expiration date. and who knows how things would go when she gets bored of me?

---

it had to catch up to me sometime. after a few days, it starts to feel like disassociating, like not being sure if you're awake or asleep and maybe you start to question if you're even *you* and--

i'm twitchy and ragged and i probably look like i'm on the verge of crying from all the--

it's fine. it's fine. it's fine! it's fine.

i found a cafe. i don't know why i chose *that* cafe, i don't know why i took a moment to rest, but--maybe i had a feeling.

i asked for something sweet, something soothing, something to help me stay awake. and it was sweet, and it was soothing, but

i woke up

on a wide, soft sofa

to the feeling of one arm around my waist and another petting my hair.

I don't--I don't know what I said. i went a little feral, a little frantic, a little trapped-animal but too weak and worn to do anything about it. maybe i just said 'please,' or 'let me go,' or--

i could ask you. i could ask you, because you just know better, don't you? but--

but i can't trust you. i can already hear what you'd tell me. 'dear, sweet little stray, you said OH HECK OH GOLLY WHAT A SILLY MISTAKE IT WAS TO EVER OPPOSE YOU, GUESS I BETTER RESIGN MYSELF TO AN ENDLESS EMPTY EXISTENCE AS YOUR ADORING PET WITH NO INTERNAL LIFE OF MY OWN AS RECOMPENSE FOR THIS BIG GOOF.' do i have it right?

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




6♠ You wield a powerful weapon against your foe. Where did you get it?

See how much you suffer? How much angst and sorrow you've brought to yourself? It could all be different. You need only say the word.

And, dear, why would I lie? You may exaggerate what you said, making a joke of it all, but... well, you can't run from your own truth. I won't tell you what was said. When the time comes, you'll simply say it again and remember, this time.

But that's not where our story ends, not yet, for this is where our little rendezvous became quite interesting. You see, I'd brought with me a little gift. A memento, of sorts, that you lost.

A name. It was a pretty little thing, all delicate and floral. Sadly without an owner, but... it's the strangest thing, isn't it? When I offered to return it to you, as a gesture of goodwill, you seemed as though I'd shot you in the heart.

Quite uncouth, if I may say so. I went through a fair spot of trouble to see this fall into my possession. I had to follow all of those frayed edges of story and role back to the courtier who once let you get away. We chatted, quite amicably, though I emerged with all I wanted... and all for a simple expression of gratitude, making it well known that I appreciated her for letting me meet such an interesting little stray.

Perhaps she'll swim through the coming tide of attention and intrigue. Perhaps she will drown.

What will be, will be. The story flows ever onward, rushing towards a climax.

Ningyou
Aug 14, 2005

we aaaaare
not your kind of pearls
you seem kind of pho~ny
everything's a liiiiie

we aaaare
not your kind of pearls
something in your make~up
don't see eye to e~y~e


3♠ What awful defeat have you suffered because of your rival?

Don't you get it?

It's not--it isn't me anymore. it doesn't fit anymore. i'm changed now, i'm something else now, and i wouldn't know how to go back--to my old life, to my old name, to the idea of being People--if i wanted to. and for you to scoop me up and stroke my hair and offer everything i was crammed into a ring-box with a smile and a will-you-be-mine? for you to pretend that fixes anything?

it felt cruel. it made me want to break down and sob right there.

maybe i did, a little. maybe i'm not strong enough for this. maybe the best i can do is shivering and scooting and keeping a little distance, like a puppy coaxed out of a rainstorm but too proud to let herself go full housepet just yet.

and maybe

i--i won't give you too much credit, okay? for all your magic, for all your power, you're not everywhere. i won't let myself believe that this is some grandiose drama you orchestrated from the start, that there was no escape from the happy ending you'd written yourself. i made my own dumb choices, and had my own bad luck, and--and maybe it feels good to hold onto that speck of agency, you know?

but

there's no pain or loss that hurts as bad as realizing what i've been shaped into, bit by bit. nothing worse than a stray who wants to ask trust.

nothing worse than the thought that i might want to be yours.

Tricky
Jun 12, 2007

after a great meal i like to lie on the ground and feel like garbage




K♠ You are the victor in the final clash. How does it go down?

It's enough to break one's heart, seeing what you've put yourself through. See the knowledge of knowing what you truly want, and holding back out of... Why, exactly? Maybe you had reasons. Maybe they were even good reasons! And, yet, that was then. The moment you found yourself at my door? Those reasons were as incomprehensible to you in the moment as they ever were to me.

It was nice, wasn't it? Getting out of the cold and wet, getting something nice to drink and fresh, beautiful clothes? Gifts, freely given, as I savored the moment. It doesn't do to rush the climax. Better to hear the words from you, experiencing the pleasures of what might well be, once you've had a chance to truly think about what's best.

Then, when the time is right, a cordial invitation to tea in the gardens. Ah, how you looked at me. I knew the words that would come even before you could ask them. But the fun is in the hearing, isn't it?

What fun it was.

I considered for a moment, one last tease, and finally said, "Of course, darling, you only ever had to ask." You needed a new name, of course, since you wouldn't accept your old one... and I was happy to give it.

Ever and always, you shall be Mine.

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Dog Kisser
Mar 30, 2005

But People have fears that beasts do not. Questions, too.



One remains. Congratulations Titania, may your Star rise and rise, casting your light over the heavens.



The End.

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