Alabaster — 108 of 123

John Cater, Rob Dubbin, Eric Eve, Elizabeth Heller, Jayzee, Kazuki Mishima, Sarah Morayati, Mark Musante, Emily Short, Adam Thornton, and Ziv Wities

Release 1

Chapter 2 - Leaving

Understand "go to castle/palace/queen/home" or "return" or "go back/home" or "go back home" or "go back to castle/palace/queen/home"or "castle" or "palace" or "home" or "go to the castle/palace/queen/home" or "go back to the castle/palace/queen/home" as going home. Going home is an action applying to nothing.

[Instead of going home:

try going south.]

Definition: a subject is haveny if it is the safe haven.

Understand "go to [any haveny subject]" or "[any haveny subject]" as going onward to. Going onward to is an action applying to one visible thing.[1]

Instead of going onward to:

try going north.

Instead of going nowhere when the player does not know haven-location:

say "She hasn't ever told you the exact direction to the safe haven: before you go on from here, you should get directions. And then, of course, you'll have to be sure whether you want to take her there[list where the safe haven seems]...";

Destiny warning is a truth state that varies. Destiny warning is false.

Instead of going a direction which is not north when the player knows haven-location:

try going home.

Instead of going home:

if stopped-time is happening:

say "You take a few steps and it becomes difficult to go further. 'Sorry,' says [the current interlocutor]. 'You'll have to wait until time begins to pass again.'" instead;

otherwise if destiny warning is false:

if the chain is part of Snow White's wrists:

say "If you go on from here, it should be to Snow White's haven[if the player knows haven-location] — the tiny house she has had fitted, and the servants she hired, and the sealed coffin-bed that she had made for herself (for protection, she said, from the vision of the mirror). And that lies to the north, she says[end if].

It would be dangerous to return to the castle while Snow White is still with you.";

otherwise:

say "You could go back now to the palace, leaving Snow White to go on alone. All the same you feel a little uncertain — will she be well if you do so? Will you?

But you will have to make a choice sooner or later. Perhaps now is the right time after all.";

now destiny warning is true;

otherwise:

say "If you are really going to leave, you will have to decide: do you set Snow White free? If not, she will have to come back with you, still chained, to face the Queen again. >>";

if the player consents:

remove the chain from play;

say "You take off the chain, and it vanishes as soon as it is removed. No ordinary silver, that.";

otherwise:

say "You harden your heart.";

follow the castle-ending rules.

The castle-ending rules are a rulebook. [The idea is that if the player goes back to the castle, we will check thorugh the conditions until we find one appropriate for ending the game]

A castle-ending rule when the current interlocutor is Snow White and the chain is part of Snow White's wrists:

say "'We're going back to the castle,' you announce, making up your mind. 'You're coming with me.'

Snow White tries to run away in order to avoid being dragged back, but you catch her and carry her along. The Queen will just have to be faced, you tell yourself, though it is possible that the balance of your judgment has been upset by the long journey.

But the Queen, it seems, is very determined not to have her stepdaughter back again: as soon as the two of you emerge from the woods, and in the bleak light of dawn approach the castle, archers appear on the battlements. Their expressions are grim, but they shoot you without compunction.

You drop Snow White and the chains break: she scampers away into the woods again with a fleetness that seems not quite human — if you didn't know better you might even think that she developed wings. But this strange sight is your last on earth, and you die without knowing for certain whether the Queen is able to recapture her, or whether the princess escapes after all.";

record "Returning with Snow White in chains, and being shot by archers" as an ending;

end the game in death;

rule succeeds.

A castle-ending rule when the current interlocutor is Snow White and the chain is not part of Snow White's wrists:

if the player carries the heart-sized box and the heart-sized box contains the hart's heart:

say "'I'm going back now,' you tell her. 'You can go on on your own; I'll take my chances lying about this matter to the Queen.' [if the player knows will-burn-box]This is to betray the promise that you made to the hart, but there are priorities in life, and in this case... you don't care to find out what would happen if you return without the box. [otherwise]

'I wish you luck,' she says. 'My life depends on your lie, as well as your own.'[end if]

You part ways. She is quickly gone to the north, her footsteps no longer audible. You make your way through a growing dawn back to the palace, where you present the Queen immediately with the heart in its box.

You expect her to take it before the mirror for verification, but she does not: not immediately. Instead she opens the box and looks at the heart-flesh inside, and commands you to leave her.";

pause the game;

say "After a day or two of waiting, you decide that the Queen has accepted the ruse. ";

pause the game;

say "For a time, everything is quiet. The mirror is heard less often in the halls. The Queen almost seems at peace. The servants begin to relax. The winter solstice feasts are celebrated as gaily as you can remember.

And then — after the frosts pass — there begin to be new rumors of trouble among the dwarrows. After their difficult pacification, they are growing restless again, angry, dangerous. You had very little part in the last war, but the news fills you with a nameless dread. Somehow this is her fault. The escaped princess is taking revenge, not only on her stepmother but on all the realm of men and dwarrows[if the player knows riddle-given and the player does not know riddle-solved]. You often wonder what it was she was trying to tell you, there in the woods[otherwise if the player knows riddle-solved]. You often wonder what secret she whispered to the hart — if that is what she did[otherwise]. But you cannot escape the feeling that whatever evil task she has come to, she did not wholly want it, or why would she have caused so much delay, there in the woods? She had some secret[end if].

The Queen sickens, and her famous beauty fades a little. She spends many hours closeted again with the mirror. Sometimes she even asks you to give her advice — though, of course, you have none of significance to offer. She seems to know that the princess must be alive, though she does not charge you with betrayal. The silence between you is full of secrets not spoken or even admitted in thought. Around you she wears her hair immodestly unbound, and does not cinch her robe, and though she knows she is torturing you a little, no one says anything about it. Even the servants do not find it strange.

And so for most of the spring she stands in her tower looking down in thought, as the orchards fill with apple blossom.";

record "Returning to the Queen with the hart's heart" as an ending;

end the game saying "You survive — for the time being.";

otherwise:

say "'You go on on your own,' you say. 'I'm returning to the Queen.'

She looks skeptical. 'Without the box and a heart inside to show her? That seems foolish.'

'I'll make up a lie,' you tell her.

'You're not good at it. I [when furious]am just as happy for the Queen to take vengeance on you[or aggressive]don't care if you squander your life[or warm]would rather the Queen didn't kill you[at other times]cannot tell you what to do with your own life[end when], but I would most especially prefer for my own safety in hiding not to be spoiled by the Queen finding out you didn't kill me.'

'I'm going,' you tell her anyway.

'Very well.' Her eyes glitter at you in the dark. 'It is your own fool choice. Remember that you are the one who chose this.'";

pause the game;

say "So you part ways. She vanishes to the north, her footsteps quickly silenced by distance or cunning. You walk back toward the palace, eager to be out of the woods though they are normally a comfort to you. The lantern begins to burn low, but the grey of dawn is beginning, and you can see your way dimly.

You are at the edge of the forest, almost back to the palace and daylight, when something catches you around the neck. You are conscious of constriction and startling pain. And then of nothing at all.";

record "Returning to the Queen empty-handed and being killed before reaching her" as an ending;

end the game in death;

rule succeeds.

A castle-ending rule when the current interlocutor is new-Snow-White and the silver chain is part of Snow White's wrists:

say "In a fit of fool stubbornness, you direct your footsteps back toward the castle; and she, poor girl, does not know enough to protest.

But the Queen, it seems, is very determined not to have her stepdaughter back again: as soon as the two of you emerge from the woods, and in the bleak light of dawn approach the castle, archers appear on the battlements; and their grim expressions are the last thing that you see alive.";

record "Returning to the Queen with the exorcised Snow White, and being shot by archers" as an ending;

end the game in death;

rule succeeds.

A castle-ending rule when the current interlocutor is new-Snow-White and the player knows ashes-scattered and the silver chain is not part of Snow White's wrists:

say "'Go on alone,' you say. 'You're free now; you should be able to find your way to the haven you prepared. I must return to the Queen, and as quickly as possible, before she begins to question my absence.'

'But —'

'Go!' You give her a little push in the small of her back. 'Remember whatever it was you did while Lilith possessed you, and use that knowledge to save yourself. And I will do likewise.'

You turn and go quickly, already wondering what you will say about the absent box. But you have fulfilled your promise to Happy, and set Snow White free of the creature that possessed her. ";

pause the game;

say "That is, in fact, all you can think on much, as you wander back through the woods: not your likely execution or the Queen's anger or anything that is ahead of you, but a sense that you made some kind of restitution and set right a tiny part of what ails the world. Does it matter at what cost to yourself?

Strange how familiar even that question seems: as though you had been your whole life walking through this pre-dawn towards your slaughter. The choice is behind you, the punishment ahead, and you are at peace because there is nothing more to do.

The walk is very long and very cold, but you come out of the edge of the woods at last. The castle before you is pale ivory in the dawning, and the birds are beginning to sing.";

record "Returning to the Queen empty-handed after scattering the hart's ashes" as an ending;

end the game saying "You may well die, but you accomplished some good at least";

rule succeeds.

A castle-ending rule when the current interlocutor is new-Snow-White and the player knows take-ashes and the player carries the ashes and the silver chain is not part of Snow White's wrists:

say "'You'd better go ahead,' you say. 'You're free now; you should be able to find your way to the haven you prepared. I must return to the Queen, and as quickly as possible: there is something more I must accomplish, for the good of the kingdom.'

'But —'

'I'll come back for you, if I can — if things become safe,' you say. You can only hope that Happy's prediction was correct and that he will be able to possess the mirror and use it to neutralize the Queen's evil influence.

'Now go!' You give her a little push in the small of her back. 'Remember whatever it was you did while Lilith possessed you, and use that knowledge to save yourself. And I will do likewise.'

You turn and begin walking quickly back in the direction of the palace; already rehearsing in your mind what you will say to account for the absence of the box.";

pause the game;

say "Your interview with the Queen is a difficult one — you are not a practiced liar. Even more terrible is the interlude afterward, when she has you put under guard for the time being, and takes the handful of ashes you brought back... and disappears with them into her own chamber. The shrieking conversation of the mirror is audible but incomprehensible from several rooms away.

And then, abruptly, it goes silent. When it begins again, it is in a different key: Happy's voice mimicking the voice of the errant serving woman. The change is so obvious to you even at a distance that you imagine the game must be up. Surely the Queen realizes?

But she does not emerge from her room for the rest of the day; nor for the next. It is only on the third day that she is seen in the halls again. She is pale, her voice unsteady, and yet it is like someone whose fever is broken. Her eyes do not look glassy.

She bathes only in cold water, and eats only fresh fruit. These changes are reported among the servants.";

pause the game;

if the player knows you-were-king:

say "It is not until nearly three weeks have elapsed that she remembers you. She comes to your guarded room one afternoon, and asks you to tell her the true story of what happened in the forest. And you oblige — extraordinary as the story is.

'I feared it would not deceive you,' you say at the end.

The Queen lays down the core of the apple she was eating, and looks at you. 'I was not [italic type]deceived[roman type].' She closes her eyes and frowns. 'No: let's say, I chose to permit myself to be deceived. The whole world had gone rotten and sickly, as the mirror showed it to me. I could scarcely bear to look into it; I could not look away.'

Her eyes open and you see your wife. 'Nonetheless,' she says, 'I could go back to what I was. It needs only to blood the mirror once more. The task is not difficult.'

She puts her hand over yours. Her hair is loose around her face and she is sleepy-eyed, and you have been without her touch for a long, long time. You turn your hand in hers and lace your fingers together, yours and hers.

'I miss the King,' she says, and her voice is thickened by tears. 'Why don't you bring him back? I cannot stay sane this way. I will go back to being what I was. Please find him.' She squeezes your hand until your fingers pinch. 'Please bring him back to me.'

Indeed. But how can you? The sundering is not easy to undo, and sometimes already when you look into the mirror you only see a huntsman.";

record "Returning to the Queen with Happy's ashes, knowing you had been the King" as an ending;

end the game saying "Time is slipping away from you";

otherwise:

say "It is not until nearly three weeks have elapsed that she remembers you. She comes to your guarded room one afternoon, and asks you to tell her the true story of what happened in the forest. And you oblige — extraordinary as the story is.

'I feared it would not deceive you,' you say at the end.

The Queen lays down the core of the apple she was eating, and looks at you. 'I was not [italic type]deceived[roman type].' She closes her eyes and frowns. 'No: let's say, I chose to permit myself to be deceived. The whole world had gone rotten and sickly, as the mirror showed it to me. I could scarcely bear to look into it; I could not look away.'

Her eyes open and you see some glimmer of the old Queen behind them. 'Nonetheless,' she says, 'I could go back to what I was. It needs only to blood the mirror once more. The task is not difficult.'

She puts her hand over yours: the first physical contact you have ever had. Her hair is loose around her face and she is sleepy-eyed and you want what you should not want. She knows, of course.

'Don't mistake: this now is only an idyll of sanity. The other mood will come again. If you are loyal,' she says, 'you will fetch home the King; and quickly.'

But this — this proves to be very difficult, for he is nowhere to be found. And day by day her sanity ebbs.";

record "Returning to the Queen with Happy's ashes" as an ending;

end the game saying "Time is slipping away from you";

A last castle-ending rule: [2]

say "'Go on alone,' you say. 'You're free now; you should be able to find your way to the haven you prepared. I must return to the Queen, and as quickly as possible, before she begins to question my absence.'

'But —'

'Go!' You give her a little push in the small of her back. 'Remember whatever it was you did while Lilith possessed you, and use that knowledge to save yourself. And I will do likewise.'

You turn and begin walking quickly back in the direction of the palace. When you arrive, you have, of course, not thought of any sufficient explanation for the absence of the box. The Queen is very angry at its loss, and takes you to speak before the mirror: and for a moment you glimpse what the mirror is reflecting: a craven, gibbering, venal man without the courage to make any difficult sacrifice, whether for loyalty or for the good of all. A weakling, spineless, lustful, easily persuaded even by a child.

You expect her to execute you then. In her anger she makes some mention of gelding. But in the end she simply banishes you from her sight — an outcome that leaves you heartsick despite yourself.

From the village you still watch the castle, especially the lit tower in which she spends many of her nights. She is preparing something against the little princess, but you hardly know what.";

record "Returning to the Queen empty-handed after exorcising Snow White" as an ending;

end the game saying "You have failed everyone".

Haven warning is a truth state that varies. Haven warning is false.

Instead of going north when the player knows haven-location:

if stopped-time is happening:

say "You take a few steps and it becomes difficult to go further. 'Sorry,' says [the current interlocutor]. 'You'll have to wait until time begins to pass again.'" instead;

if the hart's heart is part of the corpse:

say "You stopped here for the hart; you might as well take its heart, or it will have died to no purpose." instead;

if the player does not recollect oops-sorry and the current interlocutor is Snow White and the player does not know snow-white-possessed:

say "You nudge Snow White onward, but you don't get two steps before she makes a show of falling over the roots yet again[queue oops-sorry]." instead;

if haven warning is false:

say "You could go on, take Snow White to safety, and return alone. But afterward, you will have to lie to the Queen — perhaps for the rest of your life. It is not something to undertake unless you are certain.

But you will have to make a choice sooner or later. Perhaps now is the right time after all.";

now haven warning is true;

otherwise:

if the chain is part of Snow White's wrists:

say "If you are really going to leave, you will have to decide: do you set Snow White free? If not, you'll be dragging her chained through the woods to the haven. >>";

if the player consents:

remove the chain from play;

say "You take off the chain, and it vanishes as soon as it is removed. No ordinary silver, that.";

otherwise:

say "You harden your heart.";

follow the haven-ending rules.

The haven-ending rules are a rulebook.

A haven-ending rule when the current interlocutor is Snow White and the chain is part of Snow White's wrists:

say "'We go on,' you say. 'I'm going with you to your safe haven.'

She pouts and fusses some about being forced through the woods in the current circumstances, but there is not much that she can do about it. Presently (because what else can she do?) she gives you more precise directions to finding the cottage. It is well into the territory of the dwarrows, away from the land that your people inhabit: the paths are narrower, the turns sharper.";

pause the game;

say "When you arrive, she shouts for the dwarrows, and they boil out of their little cottage and across the silty river to meet you. They are small, but there are many more of them: they quickly get her away from you and take off the chain that ties her wrists.

'Is he friend or foe?' they ask her. They are carrying axes and daggers and small brutal hammers.

She puts a hand on the shoulder of one of them. In the improving light you can see the trace of blood, real blood, on her mouth[if the player knows hart-thanked and the player does not know undead-hart] — what [italic type]did[roman type] she do to the hart[otherwise if the player knows undead-hart] — the hart's, no doubt, and why did you not question him more fully when you had the chance[otherwise]— why didn't you spend a little longer in the woods with her before deciding to bring her with you[end if]?

She smiles nastily at you. 'He hasn't decided,' she says archly. 'Let him live for a few days, at least, while he considers it.'";

record "Going with a chained Snow White to the haven" as an ending;

end the game saying "Your position is rather precarious"

A haven-ending rule when the current interlocutor is Snow White and the chain is not part of Snow White's wrists:

say "'We go on,' you say. 'I'm going with you to your safe haven.'

'If you must,' she says — and freed of her bonds she walks very quickly and quietly, so that it is not easy for you to keep up.

She knows the path unerringly, though the land soon becomes more broken and hilly, and the way gets narrower and passes over rock. A little later there are gorges, crossable only by rough wood bridges that are made for smaller feet. White water runs swiftly far beneath you.

Descending along these gorges, you come to a point where the water widens; and there you find the cottage.";

pause the game;

say "And what a strange place it proves to be: a low rambling barrow of earth built into the gorge face, with reeds up almost to its walls, and a rough-wrought door. Three dwarrows come out to meet you in the chilly dawn light. You must ford the river once more to reach them (wishing you'd worn better boots, hoping they will think right to offer you breakfast).

She puts a hand on the shoulder of one of them. In the improving light you can see the trace of blood, real blood, on her mouth[if the player knows hart-thanked and the player does not know undead-hart] — what [italic type]did[roman type] she do to the hart[otherwise if the player knows undead-hart] — the hart's, no doubt, and why did you not question him more fully when you had the chance[otherwise] — why didn't you spend a little longer in the woods with her before deciding to bring her with you[end if]?

Inside there are more dwarrows — you are losing count — and in the front room they show to Snow White the provisions they made for her coming. A box like a coffin, bedded with new dirt; a robe sized for a human girl but made in dwarf-fashion, with ornamented discs of wood and brass at the neckline; wine, obviously bought or stolen from humans; stores of winter food that look pitiful to your eyes, all withered fruit and old grains, and a freshly-killed rabbit that no one has thought to clean.

Eagerly, nervously, they watch as she inspects all these, and pronounces them good. You might as well not be in the room. They do [italic type]not[roman type] offer breakfast. They murmur to one another. At last Snow White thanks them all for their preparations and asks to be left here alone. Her voice is a little girl's, but it is terribly commanding.

You all shuffle out together, you and the dwarrows. From the corner of your eye as you go you see Snow White climbing into the dirt-box, with a look of relief after a trying night.";

pause the game;

say "Outside, one of the dwarrows speaks up:

'You are not staying here.'

You explain your position — how much you gave up to save Snow White — that you cannot return to the Queen. That things are difficult now with the King gone.

They look at one another and snicker and giggle. 'Perhaps you should fetch the King back,' suggests the largest, whose hat comes up to your navel.

'Yes, go find the King,' says a second, in on the joke. 'Bring him back.'

'I've always wanted to meet him again — he's got something belongs to me,' says a third, holding up the stump of an arm. Wounded in the war, most likely, and why didn't you think more carefully about [italic type]that[roman type]?

In the end you manage to barter for a day's rest and a little food to take away with you, when you go— wherever you are going. To find the King, if you can.";

record "Going with a freed Snow White to the haven" as an ending;

end the game saying "You have a quest that is unlikely to succeed"

A haven-ending rule when the current interlocutor is new-Snow-White and the chain is not part of Snow White's wrists:

say "'I'm coming with you to your haven,' you say. 'I think that's safest.'

She nods, obviously relieved. 'I do know the way, still,' she says. 'But Lilith did most of the negotiation with the dwarrows, and I am a bit nervous of them.'

And it proves to be as she says. The way to the cottage takes you out of the part of the woods that you know, into a rougher land cut with gorges and littered with fallen trees — a place that seems gloomier and more blasted than your own territory. Here and there sloping tunnels descend into the earth, but you know better than to enter any of those.

When you reach your destination, she draws closer to you and holds your hand. It is dawn now, but a cloudy, unhappy dawn.";

pause the game;

say "Before you is a low, unwelcoming cottage built into the side of the gorge, which you can reach only by fording the river. Three dwarrows form a welcoming committee, which is to say that they stand outside the cottage and stare at you in silence as you struggle through the icy grey water.

'What a beautiful cottage,' Snow White lies, gritting her teeth and dragging sodden skirts through the floods. 'And a well-protected location.'

The dwarrows do not speak.

'Is there good fishing?' you ask one of them courteously, as you dump the liquid from your boots.

'No. Who are you?'

And you explain; and then Snow White tries to explain; but it is clear that your explanations are only making them more suspicious.";

pause the game;

say "Inside, you find that they have made preparations for Snow White — rather sordid ones. A coffin of dirt has a place of honor by the fire, and there is a fresh-killed rabbit, still bloody. 'This is — would have been — my nice cozy breakfast and comfortable bed,' Snow White says to you, under her breath.

'Everything as you asked,' says the nearest dwarf, stroking the broken neck of the rabbit with one hand as he looks eagerly up at her.

'Lovely,' she says, looking rather ill. 'But now I must speak with— my retainer.' She gestures at you.

The dwarrows look at one another, then bow, as one, and go out.";

pause the game;

say "You and she sink into different corners of the room and are silent for a little while, contemplating all the horror that is behind you and everything left to come. It is obvious you won't be able to stay here for long; you will have to go on, do something more.

Finally Snow White opens the wine the dwarrows left, and pours some of it into a cup. After a sip, she makes a face and passes the cup to you. 'It's— rough,' she warns.

'You've grown used to palace vintages,' you say. 'You're not used to what ordinary folk drink. Any wine at all's a treat; most of us make do on ale.' Warmed by this moral lesson, you take a swig.

'We could look for the King,' Snow White suggests, while you are still coughing and wiping the tears from your eyes. 'Lilith was very interested in him; I remember that. She thought something mysterious had happened to him. She was disappointed that I didn't know more myself. Perhaps if we were able to bring him back... I don't suppose the dwarf-spirit told you where to find him?'

[if the player does not know you-were-king]You shake your head simply[otherwise]You look away. There is no explaining this to her. You have made your decision, to leave yourself sundered; soon enough you will even forget that there was a decision to make, and be merely the huntsman again[end if].";

record "Taking the exorcised Snow White to the haven" as an ending;

end the game saying "You are in exile"

Notes

[1]. We supply compass directions out of convention, but let's suppose that the player might try to express these obvious actions in a more natural way.

[2]. We want to default down to this when other special-case exceptions fail, because it's much less interesting than most of the other options