Hey... pinch me. Am I dreamin'?
Episode description Edit
The citizens of Marielda close their eyes and dream of fire and water. On some nights in Canopy Row, people dream of crisp leaves, and residents of Emberboro wake suddenly with the taste of smoke in their mouths. Some years ago, a pamphlet was distributed in the city that purported to identify the difference between dreams and visions. Sceptics passed it between themselves and scoffed, others pinned it up in the windows of shops and apartment buildings. It described the difference between a lake and an ocean. The details are unclear in the memory, more than that is hard to say. There was a lake. There was a wide, black sea through which no lava flowed.
Cold open Edit
|“||I am not an academic sort, but, as far as I can tell, there are two types of dreams. The first is the sort you hear about most often: folks working through the quiet thoughts of the day arriving at images and ideas their woken mind couldn't consider, and of course, a little splash of this or that added in by any nearby spirits or sprites or imps. The second kind of dream, though, that's the sort I send. And I know, I know what you thinkin'. "Old friend, dreams are ethereal and spiritual, but ain't you physicality made alive?" Well, first of all, physicality is me made boring. And secondly, the dreams I send are physicalities that might have been, or might yet come to pass. Now, just as there are two types of dreams, there are two types of dreamers. The first dismisses the idea that dreams are meaningful as supernatural superstition. And then there are the other dreamers, the ones who realize that there ain't no supernatural. There's just the things in the dark. And the heat. Those terrible, natural things that most folks would prefer not to think about.||”|
In the Memoriam College rectory, Edmund Hitchcock drifts to sleep on Rector Sabinia's couch and begins to dream. He (or his brother) is wearing his cavalry uniform and riding a horse named Layabout through the streets of Quince Parish. There are no people around, and it's very hot. Layabout cuts through an alley to where the bridge to the continent used to be. The river is a mixture of lava water and ice floes. Hitchcock gets off Layabout and tosses a rock at the broken bridge to judge the distance. It hits the water at a trajectory at which it should not skip, but it does. The ripples, which seem unnaturally large, reach the ground, and where they do, the snow begins to melt. He feels the ground becoming hot. Hitchcock considers how and whether to desert the city, before realizing his horse is gone, and looking back to see his brother riding back toward the city. Suddenly, he is on the horse riding toward Marielda. The city is on fire, the fire that he saw in the observatory. It's painful. He wishes it would get cooler. While the heat is still on, something begins to block out the sun. At first he thinks with the dark that it's going to get cool, but instead it's hot, and he can't see where he's going.
In the library, Castille, told "You let them kill me," by Bolster Valentine, is confused and tries to remember what he means. She can tell that he believes what he is saying, and the way he snaps at her feels familiar. Mrs. Manufactory takes advantage of the situation to trip Castille with her cane. Sige throws the unconscious Miss Salary into the vault and punts the growling wolfboy Master Latitude off of Aubrey, who takes cover behind him. As Bolster begins to try lifting Castille by the throat like the last time they met, she tries to transfer herself into the porcelain cat, which is on her person. She leaves the statue, but can't get into the cat. She looks around and sees hundreds of ghosts in the library, who are startled and turn to look at her. She can feel air and the flesh of her body in a way she normally cannot. Meanwhile, Carolyn Fair-Play enters the room, holds her sword up, and asks, "All right, which one of you are Hitchcock's friends?" Aubrey raises her hand from behind Sige.
Hitchcock is in Iris Parish at the part where it meets Emberboro, surrounded by a mixture of cobbin architecture and factories. His horse is gone. He's having trouble breathing; the smog is low today. He holds a handkerchief over his face. He hears children playing and sees the medical facility next to what was once Christopher's church. As he gets closer, the children's voices are replaced by a chanting. He hears the Hospitaliers du Tristero worshiping the god of the dead and chanting his name. They are standing in the windows of the hospital and looking out. He sees a familiar-looking little girl with tight curls run into the church, and follows her in. The church is dilapidated, but he recognizes the more austere, cult-like decor of Maelgwyn's Faithful. The girl runs up a staircase, but she's having trouble, and the rhythm of her movement matches the jumbled rhythm of the Iris Parish factories. He's pushed aside by Ethan, who starts running up the stairs after her, but follows him. He switches to Ethan's perspective and reaches the top of a bell tower. He hears the deafening ring of this bell and another, and in the water to the east, he can see the gap in the sea. The hole into nothingness is growing wider, and first the bay, then Emberboro, then Iris Parish, is the Dark, and all of Marielda is consumed. Then he feels it, and it's comforting this time. A familiar warmth.
Mrs. Manufactory demands that they let her get the book. Aubrey, realizing they don't know what book she's looking for, asks her, but she does not tell them, but demands they let her into the vault. Aubrey doesn't care if they go through, as Mortal Liminality isn't here and Sige defers in spite of his desire to get things from the vault. Bolster tosses Castille's stone body through a wall and demands to know where she is.
In the spirit world, Castille can't see the real world but can feel the disturbance of where Winsley and Bolster are. There is an incredible golden light coming from the vault, and Castille investigates it. With her ghost senses, she recognizes it as a humanoid figure, and as with Bolster, there's something that gives her a familiar pause. Her gut reaction is to reach for a weapon. The vault closes behind her and becomes solid, and the figure's brightness decreases to the point that she can look at it. One of its hands is locked in place to the wall of the vault. Slowing down, she holds her hands up and the figure calms down, taking a more passive posture.
As Carolyn tries fruitlessly to attack Bolster with Hitchcock's non-magical sword, Aubrey yells at Sige to use his magic gun, and Sige blasts Bolster with it. Half of him is gone. Castille cannot see the others, but hears and feels the blast. She tries to communicate with the low-poly glowing figure as best as she can, though it cannot speak.
Aubrey hears a noise from the vault and looks in. Latitude is trying to wake Salary. Manufactory is searching through books and finds the one she's looking for, which says (in the old tongue, like on The Yellow House's card) something like "bring to life" on the front. Aubrey also sees a golden plumbob-like crystal on a shelf (similar to the one she saw on the train) and beneath it, a glass reliquary holding a gauntlet, which is shaking.
Hitchcock is in the top floor of Chrysanthemum Parish's Hanging Gardens of Maelgwyn, except now there is a massive tower built on top. In the tower he can feel all the different parts of Marielda. It kind of reminds him of the mage tower that used to be there, but is much bigger. He walks into the open archway, and there are people everywhere, going through their day the way people in the background of stories do, in small looping patterns. Some are talking, but he can't make out words. In the middle of the tower is a symbol of Samothes, but in the middle of the circle is a book, with a goblet in front. Hitchcock recognizes it as the symbol of Samot, but it normally does not have this circle around it. He looks out the doorway and at first still sees Marielda before the symbol begins to lift him through the tower, and as he passes through and looks out, he sees different places in Hieron; first a seaside fishing metropolis, then hills and valleys lined with vineyards, then craggy mountains, then harsh waves crashing against a coastal mountain region. Then he reaches the top level and can see the little girl, with stunning clarity, skipping toward a mansion. When he turns from her, he's back in Marielda, atop the tower, and again, sounds of the city are in small looping chunks. To the south, something large moves in the sea. Then, all at once, the Heat and the Dark arrive, with no separation between the two. This time, they come from inside. Hitchcock's brother points at him and says, "Huh," and he looks down to see his chest dissolving into void, and it burns.
Hitchcock hears a familiar voice calling his name and Caroline Fair-Play is slapping him on the face, waking him up. She tells him she's been looking all over for him. He asks why she isn't in the library, and says he gave her his sword, but she's confused. He tells her that he's here to take the test.
Carolyn Fair-Play-is-a-Fool's-Game steps past Sige and Aubrey into the vault and runs her sabre through the back of Mrs. Manufactory, catching the book as she drops it, then turns and slashes the throat of Master Latitude as she faces Aubrey, who blocks her way out of the vault. Behind her, the gauntlet is shaking louder. A certain type of light comes from the crystal. Aubrey asks Carolyn why she's doing this, and she says, "Just a good payday, same as you," with a wink. When asked what the book is, she says, "I'm not a scholar, I'm a thief," before flicking the blood off the sabre and putting it back into its sheath, as Sige and Bolster blast at one another. Aubrey lets her pass, throws a smoke bomb when her back is turned, then runs in to push over the glass reliquary and grab the gauntlet
There are two new ghosts next to Castille. Latitude is halfway between wolf and human shapes. Manufactory is instantly unimpressed. Both turn to look at Castille, taking a moment to realize who she is, before the golden figure breaks free as Aubrey breaks the reliquary, grabs Castille by the hand, and vanishes.
In front of Aubrey, the figure comes out of the gauntlet and slowly shifts from glowing polygons into a tired-looking stunningly handsome man. He's holding the hand of a female ghost with elf-like ears. As she appears, Bolster bursts through the smoke and into the vault, rushing for Castille, saying, "Charter. You betrayed me," before slamming her against the back wall. Sige keeps shooting at Bolster, who moves out of the way into Castille's fist, but she takes a bit of the blast and part of her shoulder is gone. With the gauntlet, Maelgwyn reaches up and closes Bolster, erasing him from existence. There is no sign of Carolyn. One of the beams from Sige's gun has caught the crystal, which is glowing and making looping noises similar to the ones from Hitchcock's vision and projecting, shadow-puppet style, images onto the shelf behind it. Castille moves back into the smashed-up pala-din body, stands up, and dusts herself off.
Maelgwyn, who can now talk, tells Castille he didn't expect any help from her. "Yeah, I'm pretty dangerous," he says when asked. "They wouldn't have locked me up otherwise." He doesn't know where he is. "How's the war?" "That's not really something we worry about anymore," she replies.
Hitchcock and Caroline can hear the sounds of violence outside as Black Slacks and pala-din skirmish. "You don't have a sister, do you?" he asks her, which she sheepishly confirms. "Look, there's really no easy way to ask this, Caroline," he continues, "Is your sister a villain?" "Well, she's a little rough around the edges," Caroline confirms. Hitchcock tells her that her twin may have double-crossed him, explains a little bit of what happened, and tells her that they should be paying two tuitions. Caroline goes to pour him a glass of water, and gives the desk a weird look. Hitchcock goes to pour another glass, and sees an open book with words vibrating on the page and pulling him in. The characters begin to form a frame, inside of which he sees the figure of Sabinia in the void. There is also void where her face should be, and she turns to look at Hitchcock, who closes the book on her. The door to the observatory opens, and Sabinia steps out. Next to the book he's shut is another book, and beneath that one is Mortal Liminality: On the Space Between Life and Death.
Hitchcock tells Sabinia he's had dreams of Marielda destroyed, to which she replies that dreams like those are why she doesn't sleep. He tells her that also, Black Slacks are trying to break into the school, and he saw a cursed book with a bad version of her inside. "Why do you think that's the bad version?" she asks. The walls have begun to take on new character, showing the observatory's vision of Marielda being destroyed by the heat and the dark arriving together overlaid over the Black Slack rioters. "We should go," says Caroline. Hitchcock grabs Mortal Liminality and they rush down the stairs pursued by a void nun.
They get down into the chapel, but the walls of the observatory still seem to extend, covering the stained-glass symbol of Samothes. Here, he looks out and sees the dark, but there is no heat yet. Scrambling to come up with solutions, Caroline suggests prayer. "Does it still count as prayer if you do it while you're running away?" he asks. "I think that's where prayer was invented," she says. When asked if she is going to double-cross him, she says probably not, and is telling the truth. He takes the large candlestick, for the sake of Marielda. As they run toward the chapel door, it is closed and locked. He asks Caroline if she has a lockpick and she goes to work on it. The door to the staircase blows open as if Sabinia expected it to be barricaded.
"I told you, you can't leave," says Sabinia. "Do you know how many people have said that to me over the course of my life? Like, maybe four," says Hitchcock. "Four people. And every time, I've left." He uses the candlestick to threaten her with an exasperating determination. She swats the pews away, tells him he can't leave, and floats toward him. Caroline gets the door open and they run into the hallway. He hears Lance Noble Orchid yelling at the Black Slacks from the bottom floor, and tells Caroline to promise never to do what he's about to do. She does, but she's lying. Hitchcock yells "FIRE!" and people begin pouring from the dorms, and his lie is corroborated by the brawling outside, and the fire spreading through the classrooms and lobby.
- Austin Walker (GM)
- Jack de Quidt (Edmund Hitchcock)
- Ali Acampora (Castille)
- Andrew Lee Swan (Sige)
- Andi Clare (Aubrey)