Monday, May 22, 2017

Midas Journal 22

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Entry: May 12

Over the last couple of days, I've been asking everyone I know who's “in the know” about magic to write down for me a list of all the kinds of magic people they're familiar with. Between so many people, I feel like the combined list should at least account for a decent number of things I might “discover” for myself in the future. If I change like six people and none of them are on the list, even as I update the list with what each of those people says they know about, that's going to look really suspicious that maybe my powers are secretly just making up new kinds of magic people. But if I start just checking off things on the list, then either I haven't been “inventing” new things at all, or the list or my memory of it is also retroactively being changed (which is scary, but I shouldn't worry about it because there's no way I could tell that was going on). It's a long list, so instead of trying to memorize the whole thing I'm just memorizing how long it is. If a new kind of person is added the list has to get longer, or something I wrote down has to be replaced, which would mean somehow removing a kind of magic person either from the world or from possibly two or three different people's memories. I also put it in alphabetical order so hopefully I'll be able to spot it if something gets replaced.

Notable things I haven't run into yet are several more kinds of people based on animals, demons, vampires, dragon-people apparently? So some of my guesses the other day were weirdly on-point. Also even though my conversation with Annabel suggested Rabbits like for people to not know about them, and maybe especially 'predator' types, Lue wrote down “rabbit” on her list. The conversation went like this:

I was reading through the list, and paused at the word “rabbit”. I wanted to ask about it but I needed to ask in a way that didn't suggest I had already met a Rabbit; she'd probably be able to get who exactly out of me and I don't want to risk any trouble. So I pretended to be confused about the use of the word (which, honestly, I was the first time I heard it anyway) and said, “Rabbit? Like, just the animal?”
“No, silly! Rabbit people. I dunno why they don't call themselves something else to be less confusing, but they don't. They're pretty secretive about even existing, though, especially around 'predator' types like ourselves, so you better not let that list fall into the wrong hands.”
Great, an opening to ask my real question. “Um...if they're so secretive, why do you know about it?”
Lue shrugged. “In my past life, two young members of the giant pack I was head of found out about a certain Rabbit family and thought it would be funny to hurt their son. I didn't even know about it until the kid's parents came to me privately and informed me about the incident. What they did to him left him paralyzed from the waist down, about. After I found out about it,” (she started getting a scary kind of toothy grin with sharpened teeth at this point) “I kept those two in the pack just long enough to ensure they wouldn't be capable of hurting someone like that ever again, and then kicked them out.”
“O-okay,” I said, feeling a little scared for my own life even though it obviously wasn't in danger. I think that touch of instinctive fear was why I didn't really connect the dots until later that she might have actually been talking about Annabel's past life, and if she was, well, that's a pretty weird coincidence. But how exactly does it work if Lue's old-man past self wasn't even there to do the part she says she remembers doing? I don't want to give myself a headache, but it might be worth seeing if “he” still actually existed somehow in this version of events.

This was yesterday. Lue changed the subject: “By the way, I hope you're aware this Friday's the full moon?”
“Oh, yeah,” I said, nodding.
She grinned (much more pleasantly than the earlier one) and said, “Well, hurry up and get your boyfriend in the pack! It'd be a disgrace to go through a full moon as a mere two-member pack.”
“How do you know I haven't already..?” I started, and then just sighed when she continued to grin. “I'll talk to him about it tomorrow, ok?”

I also met Rio right after classes yesterday, to get a list from her. We hadn't actually run into each other before then, and she sort of looked me up and down. “Wow, is that really you?” she said.
“Err, I guess so?”
“You look really cute! And happy.”
“Oh, um, thanks.” I knew I was blushing again from the compliment but tried to ignore it. “Can we talk for a little bit?”
“Sure,” she shrugged. “If you're heading home I can just join you.”

It occurred to me somewhere in the middle of that that I wanted to talk with her about what had happened last Saturday and what I'd decided since then. I didn't mention Annabel, again, for the same reason I didn't say anything about that to Lue.
Of course she was happy that I've decided not to fret about the mind altering thing so much. She said, “Hmn, those seem like some pretty good rules,” she said. “You should add that you're allowed to use your powers for self-defense.”
“I guess that's sensible...” I said.
“Not just changing yourself, either. If someone's pointing a gun at you you're allowed to shift to a world where the gun won't fire or suddenly ceases existing. You're allowed to change them if you have to. I don't want you to get hurt because you thought you'd shift to some form that's immune to guns and whoever panicked and fired before you finished making the change...although I guess I'm not actually sure whether that's possible. It's better safe than sorry, is what I'm saying.”
It finally occurred to me: “Is this...are you thinking about your past life?”
She looked away a little and frowned slightly. “More like I'm thinking about what could've happened if, you know, if I'd fired before...”
“Well, you didn't,” I said. “Don't worry about it.”
“Heh,” she grinned. “I ever tell you you're way too nice? Just give me some peace of mind and add that to the rules, okay? If you already know you're allowed, you don't have to waste time thinking about it in a crisis situation.”
“Okay, okay.”

We reached my house at this point. “Well, you wanna just hang out for a bit?” I said. “I feel like every conversation we've ever had has been about me and my problems.”
“Sure,” she nodded. “Don't worry about it though, remember you're the one who gave me a second chance.”
“Well, I don't like the idea of our friendship being some kind of transactional thing where it's all just you owing me something,” I said, leading the way to the living room and offering a seat on the couch.
“Makes sense, too. On..a lighter topic, would you mind if I felt your tail a little bit?” She blushed slightly. “It looks really fluffy, and I've been curious ever since I saw it...”
“Sure, fine,” I said, bringing it around to her side of the couch. “Just don't pull on it or anything.”

“'Kay.” Rio started by just running one hand across it, but before I knew it she scooted a little closer to my end of the couch and just started hugging it and rubbing her face across it. “It's sooo soft! You're like a big fluffy pillow!”
I just giggled a bit, the free tip of the tail whipping back and forth in an effort to wag itself. It's strange, though, my tail doesn't seem any less sensitive but I didn't have any kind of...what I would call a “violent” reaction like I did with Lue, or even something quite the same as what I feel when Brian is petting me. It was nice, but there wasn't an extreme reaction emotionally or physically from the animal side or whatever.

I thought about this a little bit later on. Lue's under the impression that a werewolf's instincts tend to show how they really feel about someone. Did not having some kind of reaction to Rio mean we weren't friends somehow? I don't think so, so it must mean our friendship is different somehow from my relationship with either of the other people I've let touch my new fuzzy parts. Rio is cute and nice, and very smart, but I guess she feels more like a younger sister to me than anything else.
It raises the question of what my reactions to Lue say about what I think of her, though. My best guess is that I've thought of her as an “alpha” ever since we first met. It feels like she's always been able to get me to do things I normally wouldn't for anyone; I mean, the first thing she did after we met was more or less bully me into turning into a girl for her. It's not a bad thing, though; I mean, she's always seemed about equally interested in helping me out and messing with me, and even the messing with me has helped me figure some things out. On top of everything else if it weren't for her kind of pushing me around that way I wouldn't have met Brian. I guess it's a combination of some kind of submissiveness toward her strange kind of “alpha” personality and...gratitude? Something like that.

Today I went over to Brian's place. We hadn't seen each other since Saturday, so when I called and asked if I could come over it sounded like he couldn't say yes fast enough. He opened the door and smiled down at me. “Hey, pretty girl,” he said. “C'mon in.”
I could feel myself blushing and giggling a little bit from the compliment, and did as asked.
He lead the way over the couch so we could sit down; I pulled myself up against his side and he put his arm over me. “So, uh, how' know, being a girl treating you?”
“Pretty well,” I said. “I dunno if I want to stay this way forever, but it feels a lot more normal than it did when I tried to change myself. A lot of people want to touch my fur, though.”
“Well, it's pretty touchable,” he said, brushing one of my ears with a hand. I leaned over a little closer, smiling, and then let him pull me into a long, slow kiss. After that we just stayed close for a while, until he finally decided to break the silence.

“So, uh, the full moon's pretty soon..”
“You're the second person to tell me that,” I said, “but I already know.”
“Well, it's just, I'm not really sure—the whole shifted memory thing—and we met after the last one, so—” he stuttered awkwardly, but I understood what he meant.
“You're worried if I'm still a werewolf then our instincts will take over or something like that.”
“Uh—yeah.” His face reddened. “And since you—and I agreed we...”
“It's fine, we'll figure this out. If all else fails I could just make us both girls that night.”
“Oh, yeah. I hadn't thought of that. But, so, you want to...?”
“I'm a little curious about it. Anyway, there's another reason I think I'll have to be a werewolf that night.”
“What's that?”

“Um..last Sunday Lue came over to my house, and uh, you know how you told me she's the alpha type and all that?”
“Yeah,” he nodded.
“Well, she's decided to actually start a pack, and wanted me to join.”
“Did you...fight?” he said, looking concerned even though I obviously wasn't injured.
“No. Lue wants to..” I blushed slightly. “She said she wanted to try out new pack members in a really different way. Err, by petting each other.”
“Petting,” he repeated, confused.
“She said some stuff about instincts being unable to lie about how people feel about each other, and like, she'd rather have a pack that trust each other than worry about having strong people because we don't really live in a world where physical strength is that important,” I said. It had sounded a lot more convincing the way she'd said it, but I couldn't exactly remember it just then.

“So, you agreed to join?” he said.
“Err, yeah. It's always really hard to say no to her, and she is my friend, and the only..”
“No, no, that's fine, she's my friend too. I was expecting her to try and start a pack pretty soon, to be honest. So did she ask you to invite me to her pack or something? I mean I've talked to her like five times this week and she didn't say anything to me.”
“Um..she said she wanted me as beta, and because of how the, uh, tryout works she'd rather I ask you to join the pack and do the test myself.”
“Oh.” He stared off in the distance for a second and then back at me. “Well, I think we both know how that'll end up.”

“Y-yeah, but I'm a terrible liar, so..if you want in the pack we probably have to actually do it. Anyway, d-do you not..?”
“No, I just wanted to make sure we were both on the same page,” he said. “Um..who should start?”
“I don't think it matters. I guess you can start. Uh..” My cheeks had been getting steadily hotter throughout this whole part of the conversation and by now I felt like they could boil water. “Y-you might have to uh, when Lue did it she sort of rubbed her tail against mine.”
“You just want me to do that, huh,” he said. He was blushing too but gave me a teasing smile, which I couldn't help but giggle at. It brought the tension down a bit, so when he carefully reached his hands up to my ears to start rubbing them I managed to calm myself down enough to not jump.

I pulled myself closer against him, and I could hear his tail brushing against the side of the couch as it grew out. His fur was sort of rough, but not nearly as much as Lue's, and when I felt his tail starting to curl itself around mine it came with a strong burst of pleasant, tingly feelings between my legs and a quiet “Mmf!” from my throat. Almost right away I was brushing my face across his, but even though I was a lot more consciously aware of it than I had been by the time it happened with Lue I didn't feel ashamed or want to stop doing it at all. I barked softly in my throat, occasionally allowing my lips to brush against his.
It was not very long before he just grabbed my head and pulled me into a close, intense kiss, the idea of petting my ears completely forgotten. I gave myself into the kiss eagerly, slowly leaning back as he pushed forward until he was laying on top of me on the couch, our tails still together hanging down off the front. We kept going for what felt like hours and really must have been at least a few minutes before he finally released me from the kiss and I pushed him off of me, causing him to roll over onto the floor.

I sat up, still panting rapidly and heavily with a lot of heat in my cheeks. We slowly calmed down, just looking at each other with giddy grins, and after a while I offered a hand to help him back up onto the couch. “Hhokay. So. Did you approve?” I said, grinning.
“Um, yeah,” he said. “S-so I guess it's your turn to do that to me, then, huh.”
“Mm-hm. W-we can take a break, you know, if you want to,” I said.
“N-no, just uh..I wonder if you'd let me be the girl this time?”
“You be the girl?” I repeated. “I mean...I don't have a problem with it, but I'm not sure if it counts if one of us isn't a werewolf...”
“You don't have to stop being a werewolf,” he said. “Here.” He brushed my cheek briefly and I felt myself gaining the power to be Kael again, but as a werewolf.

“Oh..why didn't I think of that?” I said.
“Too much excitement lately, I'd guess,” he said with another teasing grin. “Let's start?” He began to shrink and I realized he was beginning to change into Brie.
“Uh—yeah!” I activated the new power I'd just gained, and watched as my perspective pulled upward. Brian's hair puffed out and turned white, followed by his ears and tail visibly growing fluffier and changing colors, too. His face turned cute and his body curvy, his t-shirt hugging close and pants shrinking into tight shorts as he switched sexes again. In no time at all I was me—male me—again, but still sporting the wolf ears and tail, and in front of me was Brie, looking every bit as beautiful and cute as I remembered.

Before I could even say anything Brie pounced on top of me and knocked me over on my back, her tail curling again around mine as she kissed me. She let go, and I started running my tail up and down hers, feeling a soft tail against my own for the first time, and brought my hands up to rub her ears. “Mrf..yip!” she gave a high, puppy-like bark, in between panting from the excitement of the kiss she'd just had. “Arr..rrf!” Her tongue hung partway out of her mouth for a second before she pulled it back in and just went straight to kissing me again, this one every bit as intense as the first one. I finally noticed in the middle of it that she had chosen not to have a bra on, as her breasts squished and rubbed against my chest with just a couple of thin shirts in between. She continued to give occasional high-pitched barks in her throat, which I found myself responding to with some low woofs of my own, until we finally seemed to both agree to stop and she pulled her lips up off of mine.

Still panting, I managed to say, “H-how come you keep ending up on top of me?”
She gave a bright, toothy smile. “You're just not the dominating type, I guess. So did I pass?”
“Well, duh. Um..welcome to the pack and all that?”
“Heehee,” she giggled, “you're so not a normal beta. That's prolly a good thing though, I think I get what Lue was going for.” Brie pushed herself up off of me and stood up, before her legs instantly wobbled and refused to support her, leading to her quickly falling to a cross-legged position on the floor. “Whoo—okay, too soon.”

I sat up on the couch again. Her face was bright red and her tail was wagging furiously, and I could tell that I was in pretty much the same state. “Uh— you want to, did you wanna keep being a girl a little longer?” she said. “I didn't really even ask...”
“Well, you seem to really like being the girl,” I said, “but um, yeah...I've been thinking about it and I kinda wanted to give it a solid week. If that's not too bad..?”
“No no, that's fine. I just wanted to check first,” she said, leaning forward and poking me on the leg. I started shrinking down right away. “We've had a lot of, err, 'excitement', so if we're gonna hang out for a while your idea of both being girls to know, or anything, sounds pretty good.”

I nodded, and my rapidly-growing hair swished around my face in response. I felt my sexual attraction to Brie slipping away as I went back to being female, but as I continued to look down at her she still looked every bit as adorable and pretty as ever. Soon my chest started to stretch out across the material of my shirt again, and I squirmed in my seat, feeling the same physical excitement from it as before and giving the same involuntary barks. My blush didn't fade away as I realized my own bra had gone missing between switching back and forth, and Brie leaned over and crawled on all fours up to the couch before climbing up to a seat again.

“Um—is there some particular reason for uh..” I said, poking my chest.
Brie giggled again. “I dunno, I just sorta felt like it.” She put her arms around me again, another girl-hug with our boobs squishing against each other. Even though I'm shorter as a girl, I'm still like a foot taller than Brie like this, and I had to appreciate the effort she made to not just bury her face in my chest. “I can fix it if you wanna though..”
“N-no, it's fine,” I said, hugging her back. “Um, but...I thought you weren't very happy with us both being the same before...”
“Well, we've just had our fill of kisses, so it's not so bad. Besides, we were boys last time. It feels easier to get close like this as girls, right?” She brushed her fingers across my face just a little bit and I didn't draw away at all, proving her point.

Only after I left there tonight did she change back. I didn't actually see it, but a kind of switch went off in my mind as to which set of memories were 'real' again. I'm getting strangely used to the feeling of my memories shifting around like this, to the point where it feels...well, not normal, but it's getting increasingly easy to keep track of everything somehow. I guess I should be glad it's getting less confusing instead of more, with how many different shifts in memory I've personally had. Most of the people I've changed only have one or two to deal with, as far as I know, but I have one for every one of them and also every time I go back and forth.

The strange just gets more normal every day, but I have to admit at least it's exciting. I wonder if I'm really starting to like it...

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Adventure: The Witch's Friend (update 13)

Introducing The Witch's Friend!
This adventure will be a bit of a different CYOA, focusing on probably one particular transformation rather than a bunch of branches and endings. It will also be run differently; rather than me coming up with a bunch of directions a particular page can go to, every page's comment section is a forum for suggestions on what should happen next.

I will basically pick my favorite suggestion(s) from those given, and branch off events from each. More than one mutually compatible suggestion may make it into the same page after the one in which they are suggested.

What's New? 
Update 13-5 new pieces, one with an image. Update 12-4 new pieces, one with an image. Thanks to Volt for suggestions which helped me get some new inspiration for this.
Update 11.5-1 new piece with an image. Also I forgot to say what needed suggestions down below and fixed that for this update.
Update 11-5 new pieces; admittedly mostly things I wrote a while ago and held back on publishing for one reason or another.
Update 10-4 new pieces; two have images. Re-ordered update list (the thing you're reading now) to have most recent first so it's easier to see what the newest stuff is instead of having to read down the whole list every time.
Update 9-9(!!) new pieces, 3 of which have images.
Update 8-5 new pieces, including two with an image.
Update 7-3 new pieces, all three of which have an image! (Used to be 2 but I decided to add a 3rd the next day)
Update 6-1 new piece; small update.
Update 5-3 new pieces, one of which has an image!
Update 4-4 new pieces (don't expect this pattern to continue though, honestly)!
Update 3-3 new bits, one of which has an image! I've amended the section above to reflect the reality that suggestions don't really just decide what the main character does next, but may dictate what other characters do and even events not connected to any character at all.
Update 2-One step forward added to each of U1's branches.
Update 1-Two branches begun! Fair warning, even events and facts prior to the story's beginning may differ from one branch to another until established somewhere along the branch.
Update 0-It exists! Now seeking suggestions for moving forward from the beginning.

Need Suggestions:
-New pages that have 0 suggestions:  Familiar, Robber, Getting Smaller, Teleportation, Weights
-Other pages I'd really like to see more/different suggestions for: Dark, Help Out, Resistant
As always, pretty much any new suggestions are welcome, but I am very interested in adding more "depth" to the graph representing the branching storylines if possible (that is, moving them farther forward as opposed to adding more splits).

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The "Best" RPG Ever-32

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Zack barely talked during breakfast, distrated by his dream the previous night. It didn't feel like it had been an ordinary dream, the kind one just forgets after shaking off the last vestiges of having been asleep the night before. If anything, its events felt more vivid and real now than they had in the dream itself, if no less vague about some of the details. Katherine and Mika were talking about someone they'd met through the psion's dream-walking powers or whatever, and Nora was quiet as usual. Once they were finished, however, he pushed thoughts of the dream off, thinking instead about their next step. It was time to go back to the guardhouse and speak with the Captain about the house—their house.

He knocked on the door, and her voice answered, "Come in." Once inside, she said, "Well, I assume you've made a decision."
"Right," said Zack. "We want it. Also, some of us were wondering what exactly the house came with. Like, what kind of rooms it'd have, that kind of thing."
"Since we're having it built, it can be laid out however you like," said the Captain. "I mean, within reason—we're not building an actual mansion or castle here." Everyone seemed ready to talk at once, but she preempted them: "But we can discuss those details in a moment. There's something else I'd like your help with."
"Oh..what?" said the catgirl.

"Some undead were spotted coming in from the west. Small numbers, but undead are consistently trouble. I'd like you to head out that way and find out what's causing them. If it's a necromancer, we'd prefer them taken alive but you have permission to kill if necessary. However, I suspect it isn't a person...they seemed to be randomly wandering rather than directed by anything in particular."
"Well..what else makes undead?" said Mika.
"It's likely some kind of dark artefact has surfaced, appeared, or activated over in that direction. If so, you'd be able to stop the undead from showing up just by picking it up. I'd prefer you take it here if possible so we can make sure it won't start causing trouble again. On the way there, it'd be best if you got rid of the ones it already made as well. Have you ever fought undead before?"
"I don't think any of us have," said Zack. Obviously all of them were familiar with the concept of undead, but there was no telling how exactly they worked in this setting.
"Well, they're not as easy to get rid of as normal monsters. Just beating them apart isn't enough; they have to be ground completely to powder or burned to a crisp unless you happen to know some holy magic, which can exorcise them."
"Does it matter if it's, uh, dark magic fire?" said Mika.
"It shouldn't, as long as it's hot enough to burn things. If you're willing to take care of this I'll do what I can for any unusual customizations you want on the house, in addition to some regular job pay. But I do want it done soon, before either any undead are sighted close enough to town to create a scare or they grow any greater in number at the source."
"Well, uh.." Zack paused, looking at Katherine. Understanding his intent immediately, she bridged the party's minds together just long enough to get an affirmative vote out of the other two, making it unanimous. "..sure."

"Good," said the Captain, nodding. "Now, about—" she was interrupted by another knock on the office door, and went up to open it herself. An elven man in overalls was on the other side. "There you are," she said. Turning to the surprised party she said, "This is Reed, an architect. Reed: Zack, Katherine, Mika, Nora. You can just use my office to hammer out the details, I have some errands to run anyway." Rather than wait for a response, she brushed past him on the way out.
The witch said, "Uhhh.."
"We just mentioned customizing the house today," said Katherine.
Reed just shrugged, walking inside and letting the door close behind him. "After a while you learn not to be surprised by anything that woman knows," he said.

The last person down the breakfast was Rose, who looked strangely tired and stressed compared to her usual bubbly deameanor. She'd even managed to tear a couple of holes into the nightgown she was wearing, despite the fact that it seemed nowhere near loose enough to get close to the claws one her hands or feet. After she sat down and mumbled an order for a bunch of sausages and bacon, no bread thanks, Rayna was the first person to speak up. "Hey, uh, you okay?"
"Mmngh..I didn't sleep super well last night," she said. "I kept having bad dreams about my I came back to find it all withered without me, or some big nasty monster was tearing it up, or—or it was on fire!"
"I'm sure it's fine," said the foxgirl. "You haven't even been away from it that long, right?"
"I know, but I can't stop thinking about it."
"Ohh, I get it," said Lynn, with a tone of realization.

"Get what?" said Rose, looking over at her.
"It's because you're part dragon. The forest is like your hoard, right?"
"It's my home!" she said, sounding insulted. She paused, calming down and uncertain why she was so agitated about it. "Mnh..I think someone called it that once, though."
"Well, dragons like to be in their hoard, where they can see all their treasure. your case, where you can take care of all your plants. Right? It's probably just, like, a natural instinct, and not something rational at all."
"Either way, though, I'm sure you'll feel better when you get back today," said Rayna.
The dragon-girl nodded. "Y-yeah..." She'd really wanted to stay in town longer, maybe get to know these girls—or the other ones—a little better, but now she was all stressed and agitated, which wouldn't be any good for making friends at all.
"You can always come back to visit us again," said Clera, sensing Rose's sadness. "Or we will visit you."
"Uh-huh," she nodded, perking up slightly. "I don't wanna be there on my own for such a long time again."

Even the time it took to eat felt like ages. In this new, alien state of mind Rose found it hard to enjoy the pleasant talk, or even being surrounded by cute girls at all. This was terrible, and if just going away from her forest for a day or so was always going to feel this way...well, that just wouldn't do! She resolved to try and do something about it once this stupid instinct thingy went away and she was back in her right mind again—well, at least the somewhat righter mind she'd wound up with initially on turning into a dragon girl. Either way, as soon as she was done eating she abruptly stood up to leave. "Um..I really—I don't wanna go, but I can't take it anymore," she said. "I'll see you again, right?"
"Yeah, we already said we would," said Rayna, smiling at her. "Don't worry about it."
"O-okay. Bye!" With a wave, she turned and ran off, unwittingly leaving them with the bill for her food but not thinking about that until she was already an entire hour out from town.

Once Rose left, Aria said, "Well, I didn't want to mention it when she was having such bad dreams, but I had a pretty good one last night. It looks like I even managed to unlock a new power!"
"What's that?" said Lynn.
"My sword can shapeshift now. Just like me. Anyway, I hope you're all ready for what we're gonna do today."
"We...haven't exactly decided that yet, have we?" said Rayna, one of her ears flopping aside in confusion.
"Well, we can't put it off any longer, especially since we have a good four-member crew now. Today is the day of the spreadsheets. Today we decide on a build for the whole party." She leaned forward onto the table excitedly. "We're gonna need to go buy a bunch of paper—big paper—and pens first, and then see if there's an empty office or something we can rent. Ohh, I wonder if they have pushpins and corkboards in this universe. Putting it all up on the walls would be the perfect way to see everything without having to crouch all over each other's shoulders."

As she went on like this, Rayna and Lynn exchanged a look to the effect of 'what sort of monster did we unleash?' Finally, however, Clera cut in by clearing her throat. "What exactly are you talking about?" she said.
"Oh, right. Non-gamer," said Aria. The way she said the word didn't seem precisely insulting, but had a touch of 'I forgot there exist people in this category' to it. "So, we all have skill trees we can learn skills from, right? It's better if we coordinate what skills to learn or not learn to get the best possible party for any situation. And the only way to do that is to lay it all out and figure out what kind of synergies and strategies we have available to work with. We sort of agreed to do this before you joined the party, but it seems like a good idea to you too, right?"
"Well...I don't see any reason not to maximize our chances of survival and success," said the winged girl, crossing her arms.
"Good, good!" she nodded excitedly, before picking up some bacon and biting into it, muttering, "Ohh, the delicious synergies..."

Clera looked at the other two for a moment with a questioning look, and they just shrugged, neither of them having quite seen this side of her before. At least she was muttering about something other than blood.
"Any-way," said Rayna, "I had kind of a fun dream too. It was a little weird, but..I was doing some kinda sideshow for people in a town—or uh, maybe a bunch of towns?—using my illusion magic. And you were there too, Lynn! Doing some cool archery trick shots and stuff."
"Huh..." Lynn looked like she was thinking.
"What's up?" said the foxgirl.
"I...think I dreamed about the same thing. But...well, while I was on my date yesterday Rast asked me how the two of us came to the frontier, like how we met and stuff. A-and I couldn't just, not answer, so I made some stuff up. But it was—what both of us dreamed sounds a lot like what I made up, pretty much. I'm not sure but—I think something funny's going on."

They sat in silence for a few seconds, processing this strange new bit of information.
"Mmh." Aria swallowed her latest bite of food and turned to the winged girl. "So what about you, Doctor Sweet? You have any curiously backstoryish dreams?"
Clera raised an eyebrow. "What did you just address me as?"
The shifter shrugged. "Doctor Sweet. 'Cause you're a doctor, and you're sweet. Answer the question?"
Dr. Kellen blushed a tiny bit, but folded her arms and glared at Aria. "Let it be known that I do not approve of this nickname. But no, I did not have that kind of dream last night. However, I did learn something rather strange about my nature since appearing in this world..."

There had been about an hour or two of negotiating various hopes and desires for the house. The only thing Zack specifically requested was separate bedrooms and the presence of at least three bathrooms, since he'd become quite aware of certain needs all of their bodies now had which none of them were likely entirely used to yet. Reed had no problem with four bedrooms and just said he'd put a bathroom next to each one. The others agreed unanimously on a library and some kind of living room with plenty of comfy chairs and couches (furniture and appliances (probably magical ones) were part of the Captain's deal, Reed had said, but they would need to buy things like books and groceries themselves). A few training dummies for Katherine were easy enough to arrange, but Mika had to be talked down from a full-size outdoor pool to just a small hot tub in her own bathroom since all the real estate a pool would need was right on top of the ritual grounds for summoning another demon for her to eat. Nora had no real demands of her own, but when Katherine suggested a small, maybe magically soundproofed quiet space for meditation she meekly added her own approval to the idea. Beyond that, Reed had already mentioned that a kitchen and dining area were quite standard, along with a few storage areas and of course a door to town.
"A door to town," the psion repeated, not quite understanding the phrase.
"Well, I'm sure you don't want to walk all the way here every single day," said the architect. "Besides, the Captain already paid for someone to set it up. There'll just be a door at a certain address around here, and you all get keys. If you have a key the door opens straight to your new house. If not, it's locked and there's nothing but a wall behind it. Pretty tough to fake a key, at that. This kind of range is easy enough to get done, maybe a little pricey—but again, in your case it's already paid for, so..."
"Yes," said Zack, nodding. "That's good."
"Okay, great!"

After all of that, Reed said he would draw up a plan and get the Captain's final approval for everything, and then they could get the place up and running in probably a few days' time.
"Um, a-a few days?" asked Nora.
"Well, you did ask for a few things not exactly on the standard model," he answered, apparently misunderstanding the direction of the elf's expectations.
Katherine gently elbowed her side. Magic, remember?
"Oh! Uh, r-right," said the weaver sheepishly, in response to both.

After leaving the guardhouse, they went for an early lunch in preparation of the undead hunting expedition.
"Soo...holy magic," said the witch to Zack. "You got some?"
"Hmm." He paused, closing his eyes to see the skill menu again. "Looks like there's something a little farther up the 'neutral' skill chain. 'Smite Undead'. It...channels magic through physical attacks so they can kill undead."
"Sounds perfect!" Mika chirped. "Can you afford it?"
"Yeah...gotta buy a few other things to get there. Seem like...useful enough skills anyway."

"Um, w-what about you?" said Nora, turning to the catgirl. "Undead d-don't exactly have minds, usually..."
"I've got it covered," said Katherine with a smirk. "After my little meditation adventure yesterday the guy offered us prizes. I got a set of elemental knives to throw around; I'll just use the fire one."
"Prizes?" said Mika. "What, like you were a good little meditator?"
She shrugged. "I dunno, the guy just told us he didn't have much use for the things and preferred us having 'em to just letting 'em sit around collecting dust."
"Maybe I should go have a meditation session with you next time," said the witch.
"I'm pretty sure he'll be able to tell if you're not serious. He did invite us to come for tea, though, so maybe we could invite you along too, if we give him some advance warning..."

A little later, Mika said, "Hey, you know what we should do if this goes well?"
"What?" Zack sincerely hoped it wasn't another trip to the baths.
"We should go kill another demon tonight while we still can. Y'know, before the construction mages or whatever get there? I'd say we're powerful enough to take on the next one by now—especially if I get some kind of sweet dark magic artifact or whatever today—and I'd love to taste another delicious—err, I mean, be more powerful! So I can help out in fights a little more."
"What, seeing Aria's humongous sword-demon-nightmare thing last night whet your appetite or something?" said the catgirl.
"No!" Katherine gave her a knowing look, enhanced by the knowledge she could read minds. "Okay, maybe a little, but I'm serious about the helping out part! High luck is great and all, but I can't stand to keep being the useless one in battle."
"Seems reasonable enough," said the knight. "Okay, if we get back soon enough from the skeleton hunting we can take a nap this afternoon and head out around sunset. If there's somebody around already there, though, we'll have to call it off."
"Yeah..." Mika nodded, sounding a little saddened by that possibility.

Rose finally stopped, panting, feeling as if she had sprinted the entire way, when her forest came into view at last. It was...fine. No fire or smoke, and as she took a few steps closer and felt her influence reach out across the whole domain once more it became clear that there were no trespassers or visitors here, nor had there been in the last couple of days: Not a blade of grass was out of place.

She breathed a sigh of relief as her feet reached the soft grass of her home, feeling her usual sense of excited, cheerful confidence return. After that, however, her face changed to a small frown of though as she realized Lynn was almost certainly right. This wasn't merely like arriving at home, comforting an event as that was in Rob's memories; it had felt terribly awful to be away for so long and now it felt immensely good to be back. Was she really...addicted to being here? It might be instinct, sure, but it was awful to think she couldn't handle going off somewhere with her new friends for even as much as a day without feeling all awful and having to come running home to her...hoard.

She sat down on a tree stump, leaning her chin on a fist and that elbow on a thigh, and closed her eyes to think. Was there a plant here or something that could suppress this unsavory part of her instincts?

As if in response, the menu reappeared. At first her mind stumbled in confusion; a menu like...a game? Right, this was some kind of video game or something. There was an empty inventory which—come to think—she could have used to carry more flowers and herbs to town; maybe uesful for next time? And there was a skill tree; she'd seen it before, just rapidly skimming over a bunch of powers she already had, but it was in the middle of a crisis situation and she hadn't really taken stock of the whole thing.

First of all—Rose giggled to herself—the skill tree was arranged to fit over an image of a great, spreading real tree, like from nature. Long chains of nodes had come pre-filled with all those powers she already felt quite used to having, some of them upgraded several times: Physical enhancements to strength, endurance, balance, speed, agility; magical powers largely running down a line focused on allowing her a massive home-field advantage in her own forest...but one line, clearly labelled "Humanoid Sociability", was conspicuously empty, not one of the skills ever taken.

Indeed, the very first one sitting at the tree's trunk was "Diminish Hoard Instinct", with a description indicating it was exactly the sort of thing she was after. There were loads of points available to buy skills with, seemingly all accumulated over her recent adventure; many were labeled as only usable on this particular branch with a note indicating that meeting and interacting with a bunch of "normal" people had awarded them.

This was perfect! But the dragon-girl also recognized that some parts of her socially awkward behavior was actually sort of cute and endearing, and may have been responsible for the kind of reception' she'd gotten from some of those girls. Besides, the idea of drastically altering her own personality felt deeply discomforting, so there were lots of reasons to be wary of some of these skills. But not freaking out so quickly about her forest every time she left it for a few hours? That was a far more than welcome change to make. She went ahead and started making it, upgrading it a few times to be really sure she'd be okay going out to visit the town again. For now she still wanted to rest in her forest a little while, but when the time came it would be great!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Beach Science

Apparently it's been about six and a half years since the last time I made a GCB related caption. Hard to believe I've even been at this that long.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The "Best" RPG Ever-31

Ian Kellen found himself, once again. It felt almost alien for a second, and his surroundings were blurry, indistinct somehow...but things slowly came into focus. He was...sitting down in...his office. His office back on Earth. Was what had transpired before some kind of dream? He wasn't exactly the kind of person who would sleep on the job.
"Yeah, you're not..." The doctor was startled by a woman's voice, which felt deeply familiar but difficult to place somehow. As soon as it had spoken, its owner appeared sitting in the chair on the other end of his desk: A woman with long dark hair, bright red eyes, and big pearly white wings from her back, but other than this difference in coloration, nearly identical to what he'd seen in a mirror the previous day. Of course...the voice was the one he'd spent all day getting used to having.

This didn't really fit the description of an ordinary dream. He asked the first question that came to mind. "..Who are you?"
"Er..." she scratched the side of her head briefly, uncertain how to proceed. "Well, my name is Clera. We've...sort of...met before? Well, more than that. You saw me in the uh..white place."
"You were the apparition I encountered there, before being transformed," he concluded.
"Right," she nodded. "I was called to an Empath ritual to be a Soul of Empathy, and you were the one who called me there. Ex...cept that it wasn't a normal ritual at all."
"I would be hard pressed to describe anything that's happened today as 'normal'," said Ian, leaning forward onto his elbows on the desk. "What happened?"
"Well, I did what a Soul of Empathy normally does. I sort of...looked into your soul to see if you were worthy of being an Empath, and then when I had decided you were, I joined with you. It had...a different effect from usual, though. But because that happened, when you're awake we're both the same person. I thought it would be...a good idea to try and sort out what happened here."
"Hm." He decided to take this at face value for now. "Did the look at my soul tell you anything about how I got there?"
"Yes. I didn't get a very good look because it wasn't directly relevant to what I was supposed to be checking for, but it looked like you were in the middle of a very complicated, powerful summoning spell. I would guess that's how you got to our world from..." She hesitated, for the first time looking around the office instead of directly at him. ""

"So, how does one become a 'Soul of Empathy'?"
"Well, I—"
"Wait." Dr. Kellen remembered some unusual behavior on his part throughout the preceding day. "How much influence do you have over my mind?"
"Er, not really much. The only thing I can do is give you ideas. Or at least, that's how it's supposed to're right though, there were some times we did things you wouldn't have...Um, to answer your first question, a Soul of Empathy is supposed to be someone who died heroically. You know, a sacrifice that saves lives, that kind of thing..."
"Why can you read my mind and I can't read yours?" he asked next.
"I'm not really reading your mind," she said, tilting her head slightly. "You're directing thoughts at me. I can do the same thing, and...I probably should, I guess, for your obvious next question."

Clera was born with an unusual talent for fire magic, a talent which seemed more like a curse than a blessing. Even after years of study as a mage, she had never been fully in control of her power. After a while she gave up being a mage at all and took up a job as a shopkeep in a certain town, keeping her powers a secret. One day a near army of bandits had descended on the town. She evacuated or hid as many people as she could, and then carefully lead the majority of the raiders into a trap. A large storehouse for grain which she claimed was full of treasure. It was winter, so there was no grain, but the place was made of wood. Not using her magic in so long had caused it to build up rather than die down, and since she was surrounded anyway she had just decided let all of it loose. Something after she had died had informed her that her actions saved the lives of everyone in the town, but in the moment there had only been a great deal of heat and pain.

All of that was communicated in an instant, and Dr. Kellen felt as if he remembered the series of events himself, rather than someone else's having related them to him. He jolted back slightly in surprise at the sudden appearance of the information in his mind, and then straightened in his chair, composing himself again. "...I see," he said.

"...What kind of person would be capable of the spell you saw?"
"Someone really powerful with a lot of time on their hands," she said. "I don't even know how they targeted your world for it, since it seems like it operates on completely different laws."
"There isn't magic here," he said, nodding in agreement.
"But uh, back to...I'll try not to take over anymore. It' to be uncomfortable."
"Don't promise what you can't keep," said Dr. Kellen. When she gave a confused look he said, "You said we were one person while awake, correct?"
"Then that person can't tell the difference between your desires and mine. Whatever one of us wants to do, the body will carry out, unless the other one stridently doesn't want it."
"Oh. I guess you're right. But.."
"We are in this situation whether we like it or not," he said. "We may as well attempt to cooperate." He leaned over the desk and offered her a hand.
"Yeah..." She took the hand and shook. "It's nice to meet you, such as it is, anyway..."

Aria sat down, perfectly still. As before, the sound of blood pumped through her ears, and even with the benefit of Tsaron's lesson it was very difficult to remain calm and avoid being distracted. Before the attempt at meditation had lasted long enough to yield results, it was interrupted by a feeling like something poking her.

She opened her eyes and looked around, eventually locating a black cat floating in midair a couple of feet off. "Oh, hi...Katherine?"
"Yeah. I can't really—"
"You're adorable like that!" The shifter hopped up onto her feet and moved closer. "Can I squeeze you? Just a little bit?"
"Um, yeah, no.." The cat floated backwards and up a bit, trying to get out of reach. "It's weird enough being this tiny without everyone trying to grab you, sheesh."
"I bet you'd enjoy it, though. A little scratching of the ears, maybe?" Aria had always been quite a cat person, and having one that could actually talk in front of her made it hard to focus on other priorities. She reached up one hand toward Katherine, who sighed and floated down a bit to allow it.

"Anyway, uh, so this is what your dream space looks like..?" she said, turning her head left and right to see the wall of static and giant pit with a demon behind it.
"Yeah, it's not much and I don't like it. You see anything with psycho-vision or whatever?" She ran a hand down the cat's back while she talked.
"Well, uh..the pit over there has some kind of...fear attached to it. I don't know exactly how to describe it, but it's like more of a mental wall than something physically dangerous. The other looks, I dunno, damaged? Kinda like it's trying to repair itself somehow."
"So you're saying it won't do anything bad if I just jump into the pit?"
"No..I mean, since when can dreams hurt you anyway? Especially since this is your dream. Anyway, can't you just grow wings and fly?"

Aria finally withdrew her hand to cross her arms for a second. "I can grow wings, I think, but I'm too heavy to actually...oh wait. That's physics. Dreams don't care about physics, right?"
"I don't think I need to tell you that."
"Well, let's try it then!" Aria willed it, and grew a pair of massive wings from her back, spreading them out experimentally for a second or two while the cat quickly floated out of the way. She looked to the pit again, and felt the same kind of fear from it as before. But she took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and remembered who she was—who she had always been. That person had set countless new score and time records on game after game, found all sorts of new bugs and shortcuts with ease, took all the riskiest strats to show off and to get ahead. If it was in a game, nothing was truly impossible...and this was some kind of game after all, right?

Keeping her eyes closed, the shifter ran at the pit, felt its end, and leapt forward and up, spreading her wings out. She flew a short distance before opening them and seeing clearly that the flight was going just fine. After a few experimental flips and turns, she went into a full-on dive toward the abyss below, and went as far down as she dared before turning around and flapping her way back up toward the cliffside. The sense of fear from this place had vanished, replaced by a heart-pounding exhilaration, a knowledge of freedom. This was just her mind, and she was the one in control here after all.

Katherine watched her land and fold the wings back out of existence. "Well, that was easy," she said. "Something's occurred to me, though."
"Well," Aria summoned a dream-likeness of her sword into her hand, looking at it, "since this sword is bound to me, or me to's a part of me. We're the same being, more or less. And I—" she paused, and the sword appeared to melt into a kind of liquid metal, followed by reforming into a pair of smaller blades joined by a chain, "—am a shapeshifter." It changed again, into the shape of a massive warhammer, and then a scythe, before going back to its original appearance. "There's no reason this thing has to be stuck as just one big sword if it's as powerful as it's supposed to be, right? And sometimes it's better if I can use it as some other kind of weapon, so it should just be whatever I need it to be."
"So, that means you've figured out how to make it do that in the real world?" said the cat curiously.
"Pretty sure I did, yeah," she grinned. "Um..thank you. Even though I really should've figured it out on my own, having someone tell me that pit isn't really dangerous sort of made some things click in my head."

"Yeah, no problem," said Katherine, nodding. She looked around again. "So...your dreams just last as long as the entire night?"
"I think so. The last one did." Aria looked at the indistinct, staticy area opposite the pit, and briefly considered asking whether Katherine could get cable before remembering what world they were supposed to be from, and making an effort to re-word the request. "Do you know of any way to make, not fixed but less boring?"
"Actually, there's something I've been meaning to try. This dream-walking thing is really just my power to connect my mind to those of others...but I can also bridge people's minds so they can think-talk to each other, so...maybe I can bridge dreams, too?"
"Well, go for it."

"Hmnn..." The cat closed her eyes, concentrating, and gained a slight purplish glow to her outline for a few seconds. The static before them flickered a few times in a way that did indeed remind Aria of a TV changing channels before settling itself to the scene of a dense forest at night, and in front of the two of them in particular was a small girl in very 'witch'-looking clothes, looking up at a boy who had been pinned to a tree trunk well above her reach by about ten knives stuck through his clothes and buried into the trunk.

After a couple of seconds the girl, who Aria now realized looked like a younger version of the 'witch' she'd seen speaking with Rose before, turned to see them, and yelled in surprise. "Aah! Uhmm, this isn't what it looks like," she said.

Zack was dreaming again, and back to the same physically-male but still wolf-person form he'd encountered before. This felt a little more...vivid somehow, more real. He was fighting alongside a group of other knights...their faces were indistinct, and the group's opponent even more so. He only knew that their enemy was a woman, and a group of demons she had summoned. They were at the top of some kind of tower...but it was hard to remember exactly how coming up here had gone.

The fight seemed to last an eternity, small blades flying from their opponent as the demons and his allies fell one by one. Eventually there were only two left standing: Zack, and the woman...their target. Having just finished taking out the last of the demons under her command, he raised his sword and said something. It must have been some kind of challenge or declaration of intent to bring justice...something like that. She laughed and said something mocking, driving him to attack.

This last part of the fight was frenetic and rapid, like some kind of frantic dance. Both sides fought desperately against one another, and he took occasional hits to his armor or superficial scratches. But after a little while, she started chanting something, a spell of some kind. It was a long, complicated spell by the sound of it, and it seemed impossible that she should be able to keep it up while still holding up the fight. In fact, it did appear to distract her somewhat to cast it, as he caught a few real mistakes in her movements and got in a hit each time—never a firm enough hit to finish her off, but clearly leaving meaningful wounds behind. There was a sense of urgency—a spell this costly on concentration, this long to cast, had to be dangerous; for her to finish it would surely mean death.

But when she did finish it, death didn't follow. His opponent jumped away from one of his attacks and turned her hands forward, sending the spell at him. There was a brilliant flash, too quickly to respond, and then..seemingly nothing. After a brief pause of confusion on Zack's part, his opponent panting too heavily from the effort to take advantage, he moved to strike her again and the fight seemed to proceed as before. But...something did start to happen, after a moment.

The knight's hair grew longer, flowing its way across the sides of his face. He started to shrink slowly, the tower growing taller around him, and his armor began to subtly shift. In another brief pause of the combat, noticing the changes, he made some demand to know what was happening, which the opponent responded to with deranged laughter. His voice, higher than before. The changes progressed, bringing his height down below hers and trailing his hair out down his back as far as his hips. His sense of balance changed subtly as his hips widened, and his stomach pressed inward. His greaves split at the thighs, tightening below and spreading out above, while his breastplate lost much of its visible metal, pulling itself down off of his neck.

Sounds from his throat rose higher and higher, soon drifting entirely out of masculine range. He said something else, an accusation of what he suspected was happening. She replied in a coy way that clearly indicated he was right. Just then, he began to feel an unusual tugging between his legs, a heat in his cheeks. The full realization of the spell's effects, along with her mocking response, finally drove him over the edge into a full rage.

He attacked faster and harder than ever before, and even her more desperate maneuvers didn't save her from losing ground and taking hits over and over again. In the full heat of rage he didn't even consciously register the shift of his body from male to female, the slow growth of a pair of bumps on his chest into a waiting bra which had formed beneath the altered armor. Only after one final, decisive set of swipes gave him an opening to plunge his sword straight through her chest and into the wall behind it, and that opening was taken, did he really begin to notice the full effects of the spell. She laughed, and said something about it being a curse, and mocked him with her final breath. He drew back, letting go of the sword's hilt, panting heavily from the effort.

Time seemed to stand still as he remained there, alone, in the top of the tower, slowly coming to grips with what had happened.. There were no witnesses to the change; nobody would recognize him like this. He couldn't imagine trying to explain to anyone he knew what had happened, even if he wanted to convince them.

So many people had died to do this...a part of him questioned whether it had been worth it. But something...some indistinct memory convinced him that it had been. He couldn't stay here, couldn't stand to be a stranger to people he knew. Instead...instead he needed to go somewhere else, and try to make a new start.

Zack felt at the same time deeply immersed and yet somehow detached from the events of this dream. He had no control over the actions and decision of the knight, so it felt less like something he was experiencing now, and more like some kind of...memory being relived. He couldn't remember all the much of it was missing...but somehow, the events felt real. It felt like something that...maybe didn't happen, but certainly could have happened.

"Well, what's it supposed to look like?" said Aria.
"Um, sorry if I'm interrupting something. I wanted to try out the dream bridging thing," said the cat, floating over to Mika.
"Oh. Uh, no, you're not really interrupting something. I'm not really even sure what's going on," said the witch, her body slowly starting to grow and mature. "I was going through the forest to get...something, I think, and then I found this guy pinned to a tree. I...feel like someone was going to see me here and accuse me of doing it when you two showed up."
Aria came a little closer, noting that the lighting on her own body and clothes changed from the reddish glow of her own 'dreamscape' to the dark, bluish night look of the witch's as she went from one to the other. "Well, I don't see how anyone could blame you for that. You're nowhere near tall enough to get up there, and there's no ladder or anything around..."
Mika turned toward Aria to respond with something, and then paused, headtilting. "Who're you?"

"Mika, this is Aria. Aria, Mika."
"Yeah, nice to meetcha," said the taller one, offering a hand. By now Mika was rapidly progressing through the teenage years and starting to (re?)gain her breasts. Not seeming to notice this, she took the hand and shook.
"Did Kath tell you anything mean about me?"
"Not particularly. Just that you were a witch?"
"Oh, yeah—whoa!" Mika's eyes widened as she finally noticed the gigantic demon across the pit. "Wow, that demon's so big and powerful.." she visibly salivated.
"Mika...that's Aria's demon," said Katherine, moving into a spot to obstruct the witch's vision of said demon. "You can't eat it. I don't even know how you'd go about trying to kill it, honestly."
"Eat? Kill?" said Aria, "Can people eat demons for power?"

"Well, just witches. And warlocks, I guess," said Mika, looking completely like her usual self by now. "Uhh, a witch actually kills demons and eats their souls for power. But if that's yours I won't bother it."
"That is so.." Aria restrained herself from using the word 'metal', " I wish someone had told me how to become a witch before I tried pulling the dumb cursed sword out of a rock."
"You pulled a sword from a stone?" said the witch. "You're probably better off than I am, then. 'Cause that's like, classic hero stuff."
"I can think of a few villains who start that way, too, though...especially with a cursed sword?" said Aria.

The shifter turned to Katherine. "Hey, how long can you keep this up, anyway?"
She shrugged. "Until someone wakes up. This is basically zero-effort."
"Great! I'd love to just hang out with you two instead of being stuck on the cliff by myself the whole night. For that matter, can you pull other people in? We could have a dream party!"
"I mean, I can but I don't really want to do it without their permission," said Katherine, remembering the incident with Zack. "Sometimes people are dreaming about...y'know...private stuff."
"Oh, yeah, that's fair. Well, this is still a huge improvement over last night, anyway."

"Soo," said the witch, "Did you get Kath to let you pet her?"
"I tried, but she's awfully stiff about it."
"I'm right here, you know!"