=><= **DRAGONSLAYER** <em>Before Alexandra was the slayer queen, she was a woman like any other. A slave like the rest of us. But she stole elemental power. She folded the steel of her sword into herself and affixed her armour to her body, that she would never be unarmed or undefended. And with her at our head we pinned the titans beneath the earth. We drove the faeries back to the wild places. We cast the giants down from the mountain. And from their ruin we built our strength.</em> <span>[[>>|Act1-Scene1-Part1]]</span> { <!--Overall--> (set: $TEST to "\"hello\"") (set: $monster to 0) (set: $will to 0) (set: $opinion to 0) <!--Act 1--> (set: $pcruel to false) (set: $nofear to false) (set: $reasons to 1) (set: $embrace to "ERROR") (set: $nembrace to "ERROR") (set: $emnem to true) (set: $grief2 to false) <!--Act 2--> (set: $aggress to true) (set: $stab to 1) (set: $defend to true) (set: $dfear to true) (set: $pwound to false) (set: $action to 3) (set: $thrill to true) <!--Act 3--> (set: $opin to true) (set: $ppriest to true) (set: $pdead to false) <!--Act 4--> (set: $hubby to true) (set: $fruit to true) (set: $sticky to true) (set: $count to 0) (set: $outcome to 0) (set: $wintext to "ERROR") }The only notable thing about Adrasteia's home is that it was destroyed. [[The Dragon|TheDragon]] descended, and its presence was ruination, and should you go there now you will find nothing at all. Time has completed what the Dragon began. But like so many things, this end was also a beginning. Some time after the Dragon had left the rubble stirred and <span>[[Adrasteia pulled herself free.|Act1-Scene1-Part2]]</span>A singular creature: ruination given shape and intellect. [[<<|Act1-Scene1-Part1]]She was not alone. Her eight-year-old son Peter had survived the devastation -- and so had Panagiota, the priestess, her face painted with the skull of her master and her hand on Peter's shoulder. "You cannot have my son," Adrasteia told her. "You are permitted only the children of the <span>[[dead|Act1-Scene1-Part3]]</span>."An interactive fiction by Chris Longhurst, written in Twine 2.0.8. Inspired at least in part by *First Draft of the Revolution*, by Emily Short, and *Chuubo's Marvellous Wish-Granting Engine*, by Jenna Moran. If you're not familiar with either of those names, you should check them out. Other credit is due to my wife, who listens to me warble on about CSS and other things she couldn't care less about with great patience, and my beta testers. [[<<|Act4-Scene1-Part3]] <!-- Note to self for CSS: http://twinery.org/forum/discussion/4731/harlowe-external-stylesheets-to-style-individual-passages http://twinery.org/forum/discussion/4797/basic-harlowe-passage-tag-based-styling TO DO: Fix ending. TICK Add Greek Key style border down left; design sidebar 8 'columns' wide, svg, scale to match supplied sidebar files. TICK blanchedalmond: #FFEBCD black: #000000 firebrick: #B22222 sienna: #882D17 lightcoral: #F08080 CHOICE POINTS Monster: 1. INTRO: Embrace or reject the animus? (TICK) 2. TREE: Carve away your weakness? (TICK) Will 1. INTRO: Do you show no fear before Death? (+) (TICK) 2. INTRO: Do you linger to listen to the pleading of the dead? (TICK) 3. FORGE: Do you throw the spear? (+) (TICK) 4. TREE: Do you collapse before the weight of your own memories? (-) (TICK) Opinion 1. INTRO: Is her desire for revenge heroic? (+) (TICK) 2. FORGE: Is her killing of the monks wanton? (-) (TICK) 3. FORGE: Does she fail to defend Peter? (-) (TICK) 4. TEMPLE: Is confronting Panagiota here heroic? (+) (TICK) -->"But you *are* dead," Panagiota said with a laugh. "Your skin is cold. Your heart does not beat. Your soul resides in Lord Death's kingdom, and your body will soon crumble without a soul to enliven it." All of these things were true. But Adrasteia was not of a mind to acknowledge them. "I cannot die, if dying will let you take my son," she said. "Grant me a day and a night; I will <span>[[enter Lord Death's kingdom|Act1-Scene2-Part1]]</span> and recover my soul."Panagiota [(if: $pcruel)[was pleased that a restless corpse would so eagerly enter the land of the dead](else:)[was not cruel enough to dash Adrasteia's hopes]]<pcheck|, so she allowed (if: $pcruel)[Adrasteia's](else:)[her] request and took her to [[a tree|TheTree]] that grew on the boundary between life and death. Adrasteia removed her sandals, for only barefoot may one enter Lord Death's kingdom, turned about the tree and descended into <span>[[the underworld|Act1-Scene2-Part2]]</span>. { (click: ?pcheck)[ (if: $pcruel)[(set: $pcruel to false)] (else:)[(set: $pcruel to true)] (goto: "Act1-Scene2-Part1") ] }It stands there still, barely taller than a man, lifeless branches hung with silver chimes and packets of folded paper. Melodies for the living, and messages for the dead. [[<<|Act1-Scene2-Part1]]Adrasteia descended through a valley from which all colour bled, running like rivers into impenetrable darkness below. She descended a narrow path along the side of a chasm. From below, the voices of the dead howled at her to turn back. She descended into a winding catacomb, seeing by the light of a balefire torch she received from a clattering skeleton at the entrance. And there, she gained an audience with <span>[[Death|Act1-Scene2-Part3]]</span>.Adrasteia stood before Lord Death, who slouched on a throne of basalt amid a throng of ghosts. [(if: $nofear)[She beheld him with wild purpose in her heart, and knew no fear.](else:)[Dread clutched at her heart, but she had come this far and would see her purpose through.]]<fear| "Return my soul to me," she said. "I cannot die now, for I have a son to raise in the lands of the living." Death looked down at the woman before him, and <span>[[spoke|Act1-Scene2-Part4]]</span>. { (click: ?fear)[ (if: $nofear)[(set: $nofear to false)] (else:)[(set: $nofear to true)] (goto: "Act1-Scene2-Part3") ] }"To return your soul," [[Death said|DeathVoice]], "would be a betrayal of my essential nature. You ask the impossible." (if: $nofear)[(set: $will = $will + 1)Adrasteia stood her ground, defiant. She opened her mouth to argue, but Death spoke again.](else:)[Adrasteia felt crushed by the weight of despair -- but while she faltered, Death spoke again.] "I care nothing for your son or your desires," Death went on, "but one such as you is a rare opportunity for me. Become a vessel for my power, slay [[the Dragon|DeathDragon]], and you may do as you wish with the rest of the life I shall bestow." And he held out to her an animus of basalt and silver, a link to the earth and to the stars. "I cannot return life once it is taken," he said, "but this will sustain you for as long as you pursue my quest -- and indefinitely thereafter." Slaying the Dragon seemed an impossible challenge, |butwhy>[(if: $reasons is 1)[but it was the only way she would see her son again.](elseif: $reasons is 2)[but the world would be a kinder place without it.](else:)[but a *heroic* one. A chance not only for revenge, but to be remembered for all time.]] Adrasteia stood before Death, and she <span>[[took his deal|Act1-Scene2-Part5]]</span>. { (click: ?butwhy)[ (if: $reasons is 1)[(set: $reasons to 2)] (elseif: $reasons is 2)[(set: $reasons to 3)] (else:)[(set: $reasons to 1)] (goto: "Act1-Scene2-Part4") ] (set: $embrace to "She let the power transform her, believing she would need it to complete Death's task.") (set: $nembrace to "But Adrasteia resisted the power -- how was she supposed to raise Peter as whatever inhuman monster Death wished her to become?") }Death spoke with the voice of a normal man. His cadence was slow, his words considered, his tone absolute. [[<<|Act1-Scene2-Part4]]Of all things that live, only the Dragon was not subject to Death -- and this he could not tolerate. [[<<|Act1-Scene2-Part4]]The animus slid smooth into the space where her soul used to be, filling her with the nature of stone and sky, night and death. [(if: $emnem)[$embrace](else:)[$nembrace]]<enclick| Fearing that she had lost track of time in the underworld, she <span>[[ascended|Act1-Scene2-Part6]]</span>. { (click: ?enclick)[ (if: $emnem)[(set: $emnem to false)] (else:)[(set: $emnem to true)] (goto: "Act1-Scene2-Part5") ] }Adrasteia returned her balefire torch to the clattering skeleton, which became silent as she passed. She ascended the narrow path beside the chasm. This time the voices of the dead pleaded with her, begging her to return them to light and life. [(if: $grief2)[She couldn't help herself,](else:)[She forced herself to focus on her task,]]<engriefen| (if: $grief2)[and stopped to <span>[[listen|Act1-Scene2-Part7]]</span>.](else:)[and leave their pleas behind. She followed the bleeding colour upstream, pursuing the vibrancy of the living world. And finally she walked about the tree and stood once more in the <span>[[land of the living|Act1-Scene3-Part1]]</span>.] { (click: ?engriefen)[ (if: $grief2)[(set: $grief2 to false)] (else:)[(set: $grief2 to true)] (goto: "Act1-Scene2-Part6") ] (if: $pcruel)[ (set: $myes to "\"I see our master has favoured you,\" she said, and her tone was equal parts envy and mockery. \"But I am as good as my word. Take your son, and slay the Dragon if you can. If not... I will be nearby to take care of him.\"") (set: $mno to "\"I do not understand what bargain you have struck with our master,\" she said, confused and frustrated that Adrasteia had returned. \"But I am as good as my word. Here is your son.\"") ] (else:)[ (set: $myes to "\"I see our master has favoured you,\" she said, and her tone was filled with sadness. \"I only hope that whatever you stand to gain is worth the sacrifice.\"") (set: $mno to "\"I have never heard of the like,\" she said, her voice full of shock. \"I do not know what bargain you have struck with our master to allow your return, but I can only hope that whatever you stand to gain is worth what you have promised him.\"") ] }Panagiota was as good as her word -- she and Peter remained by the tree where they had promised to wait for a day and a night. (if: $emnem)[Seeing the change in Adrasteia, Panagiota knelt before her and pressed her forehead to the ground. $myes](else:)[Panagiota could sense Death's touch on Adrasteia but could see no external change. $mno] What Adrasteia might have said in response has not been recorded. But <span>[[what she did|Act2-Scene1-Part1]]</span> is well-known. { (if: $reasons is 3)[(set: $opinion to $opinion +1 )] (if: $emnem)[(set: $monster to $monster + 1)] }The ancient dead spoke in languages Adrasteia could not understand. The long dead clamoured to visit those who had already joined them in the underworld. The newly dead were those of her village. "Who are you to live, when we all died?" they asked, and Adrasteia had no answer. "Take us back!" they pleaded. "Take us back and let us walk in the sun once more!" But nothing good would come of that, and well Adrasteia knew it. "How can you leave us?" they howled as she walked away. "Are you so cold? So heartless?" In the depths of the chasm Adrasteia thought she saw her husband, a familiar shape amid the shadows -- but she couldn't face him now. Perhaps never again. <span>[[She turned towards the light.|Act1-Scene3-Part1]]</span> { (set: $will to $will - 1) }Adrasteia travelled far in search of [(if: $aggress)[a weapon which could slay the dragon](else:)[a place to raise Peter away from danger]]<ag|. In a place where her skin marked her as an outsider, where bold-painted wyverns would snatch up lone travellers, and where household ghosts dispensed ancient wisdom, she thought she had found it. <span>[[But no.|Act2-Scene1-Part2]]</span> { (click: ?ag)[ (if: $aggress)[(set: $aggress to false)] (else:)[(set: $aggress to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene1-Part1") ] }The Kardia Asylo, also known as Heartseeker, also known as Yearning. It seeks not the hearts of its enemies, but rather the heart's desire of its wielder -- which is not always the same thing. [[<<|Act2-Scene1-Part2]]Armoured with scales, armed with teeth and talons, commander of the four elements. But also *that which destroys*, as much concept as creature. It bled into the world at its edges, where the distinction was thin. [[<<|Act2-Scene1-Part2]]"Kill her," the Dragon commanded. "And the boy, too." The monks leapt forward, eager to be the one to take Adrasteia's life before the eyes of their master. The Abbot raised his spear to stab the helpless child at his feet. Adrasteia |def>[(if: $defend)[threw herself at the Abbot](else:)[snatched Peter away from the Abbot]], (if: $defend)[heedless of her own safety in her rush to defend her son.](else:)[flinching back from the weapons arrayed against her.] <span>[[The spear came flashing down.|Act2-Scene1-Part4]]</span> { (click: ?def)[ (if: $defend)[(set: $defend to false)] (else:)[(set: $defend to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene1-Part3") ] (if: $monster > 0)[ (set: $aspear to "The animus had made Adrasteia into something like moonlight on stones, hard and cold and quick. She arrested the spear's descent with a single hand locked immovable around its shaft. With her other hand threw the Abbot aside as if he were a discarded bone.") (set: $dspear to "The animus had made Adrasteia into something like moonlight on stones, hard and cold and quick. The Kardia Asylo struck sparks from the flagstones as Peter vanished from its path; seconds later the spear was in Adrasteia's grasp and the Abbot sprawling across the floor.") ] (else:)[ (set: $aspear to "Adrasteia hurled herself at the Abbot, sending them both sprawling clear of Peter even as other weapons found her back, her arms. The Abbot was a large man, strong from the forges; he must have thought Adrasteia an easy opponent, especially with his minions closing in. But |stabby>[(if: $stab is 1)[a life wandering amid bandits and thieves had made her wiry and savage](elseif: $stab is 2)[she had concealed a knife in her sleeve](else:)[desperation gave her strength]] -- the Abbot scrambled clear, bleeding, and the Kardia Asylo found itself in Adrasteia's hands.") (set: $dspear to "Adrasteia tried to snatch her son to safety but the Abbot was too fast, her attackers too determined; he would survive the wound, but the blade of the Kardia Asylo had found his blood.<br><br>The Abbot was a large man, strong from the forges; he must have thought Adrasteia an easy opponent, especially with his minions closing in. But |stabby>[(if: $stab is 1)[a life wandering amid bandits and thieves had made her wiry and savage](elseif: $stab is 2)[she had concealed a knife in her sleeve](else:)[desperation gave her strength]] -- the Abbot scrambled clear, bleeding, and the Kardia Asylo found itself in Adrasteia's hands.") ] }In the monastery of the Soulforge she found herself beset. (if: $aggress)[She had come for the spear called [[Kardia Asylo|Heartseeker]], and instead found Peter stolen away and that same weapon wielded against her.](else:)[She had thought to leave Peter with the monks -- better them than Panagiota -- only to have them steal her son and lure her into a trap.] The Abbot stood before her with the (if: $aggress)[Kardia Asylo](else:)[[[Kardia Asylo|Heartseeker]] spear] in his hand, his personal champions around him, Peter bound at his feet. The heat of the soulfires baked the room, the sound of the forges a distant tremor-hum. And there in the huge, vaulted chamber loomed [[the Dragon|Dragon2]]: immeasurable, inconceivable. "Join me," it suggested. "A woman of such steel could do well at my right hand." Of course, Adrasteia <span>[[refused|Act2-Scene1-Part3]]</span>.(if: not $defend)[(set: $opinion to $opinion - 1)$dspear](else:)[$aspear] The Dragon's wings beat and it took to the air, the far wall [[crumbling|TheView]] before its power. [(if: $dfear)[It feared the Kardia Asylo, and meant to flee.](else:)[Its arrogance led it to err, to entrust Adrasteia's death to others.]]<flee| Surrounded by enemies, Adrasteia |wotwot>[(if: $action is 1)[cut her son free](elseif: $action is 2)[lashed out at them with the spear](elseif: $action is 3)[hurled the spear at the departing Dragon](else:)[gave in to the bloody instincts of the animus]](if: $action is 1)[, and together they fled.](elseif: $action is 2)[.](elseif: $action is 3 and $monster is 0)[, leaving herself defenceless.](elseif: $action is 3 and $monster > 0)[.](else:)[.] <span>[[>>|Act2-Scene1-Part5]]</span> { (click: ?flee)[ (if: $dfear)[(set: $dfear to false)] (else:)[(set: $dfear to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene1-Part4") ] (if: not $defend)[ (if: $monster is 0)[(set: $pwound to true)] ] (click: ?stabby)[ (if: $stab is 1)[(set: $stab to 2)] (elseif: $stab is 2)[(set: $stab to 3)] (else:)[(set: $stab to 1)] (goto: "Act2-Scene1-Part4") ] (click: ?wotwot)[ (if: $action is 1)[(set: $action to 2)] (elseif: $action is 2)[(set: $action to 3)] (elseif: $action is 3)[ (if: $monster > 0)[(set: $action to 4)] (else:)[(set: $action to 1)] ] (else:)[(set: $action to 1)] (goto: "Act2-Scene1-Part4") ] }The chambers of the Soulforge were cramped, the heat oppressive, but outside the evening was quiet -- a time for wine and olives with friends, not violence. [[<<|Act2-Scene1-Part4]](if: $action is 3)[(set: $pwound to true)Adrasteia must have seen this as her chance -- perhaps her *only* chance -- to fulfill her deal with King Death. She burst past the monks, left Peter in their midst, and hurled the Kardia Asylo at the Dragon. (if: $reasons is 3)[The spear caught her intent, her yearning for *revenge*, and flew true. It pierced the Dragon's armoured hide and the beast roared in pain, tearing the weapon from the wound and casting it aside.](else:)[But the Heartseeker responds to intent, desire, the will to slay. Adrasteia's thoughts were of her son, of discharging an obligation. The spear bounced harmlessly from the Dragon's hide.] The monks saw their chance and attacked -- but (if: $monster is 0)[even dormant ]the animus gave Adrasteia enough of an edge to catch up the Kardia Asylo once again, and she and Peter <span>[[fled|Act2-Scene2-Part1]]</span> down the mountainside, injured but alive.](if: $action is 1)[With a beat of its wings the Dragon was airborne and away, leaving Adrasteia to stand in defence of Peter, the Kardia Asylo in her hands. The spear caught her intent, and many monks died on its blade to tell them they could not stop her from leaving. Together, mother and son fled the Soulforge and made good their <span>[[escape|Act2-Scene2-Part1]]</span> down the mountainside(if: $pwound)[, Peter's wound leaving a trail of blood across the stones](else:)[].](if: $action is 4 or $action is 2)[(if: $action is 4)[Did Adrasteia choose to feed the animus, or did she just give in? Either way, she killed them all.](if: $action is 2)[It must have started with frustration, or anger, or some other burst of emotion. The Kardia Asylo responded and moved like a serpent, cutting a monk free of mortality. Emboldened, the next kill came easily. By the third, or maybe the fourth, Adrasteia and the spear moved as one. And in the end, she killed them all.] She moved as a wind of death through that place, every murder fuelling the next until the monks of the Soulforge were sent each and every one to the kingdom of [[Lord Death|monksdeath]] and the forge itself fell cold and quiet. One can only imagine how she must have stood there afterward, blood-drenched (if: $action is 4)[and inhuman ]before her terrified son, and felt |thrill>[(if: $thrill)[the terrible exultation that comes with the use of overwhelming force.](else:)[a crushing sense of regret at what she had done.]] <span>[[>>|Act2-Scene2-Part1]]</span>] { (click: ?thrill)[ (if: $thrill)[(set: $thrill to false)] (else:)[(set: $thrill to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene1-Part5") ] }What Adrasteia did after that is uncertain(if: $pwound)[, although she must have found a place to see to Peter's wounds.](elseif: $monster is 0)[. She must have tended to her wounds somewhere, but the details are lost.](else:)[.] We know she next appeared in Caer Trennoc. Before the sea rose to drown that cursed city, it was a stronghold of Lord Death; a place where the dead could claim the bodies of the living while they slept, to walk the world in slices of stolen time. It was here that his priests had erected their greatest temple-grave. It was here that Panagiota had brought Peter, having stolen him from Adrasteia (if: $pwound)[during his convalescence](else:)[at an unguarded moment]. Adrasteia was not about to let this stand, so she diverted from her course to find Panagiota and recover her son. The Dragon was eternal, and could wait. This was <span>[[<em>important</em>|Act2-Scene2-Part2]]</span>. { (if: $action is 2 or $action is 4)[(set: $opinion to $opinion - 1)] (if: $action is 3)[(set: $will to $will + 1)] }It is said that the monks toil there in the underworld still, arming the dead for the inevitable day they march against the living. But that's another story, and this one is unfinished. [[<<|Act2-Scene1-Part5]]Adrasteia |choice>[(if: $opin)[chose](else:)[had no choice but]] to confront Panagiota in the temple-grave itself(if: $opin)[; to defeat her at the heart of her power, surrounded by her peers, would send <span>[[a clear message|Act2-Scene2-Part3]]</span> to anyone who thought to emulate her.](else:)[; Panagiota was not foolish enough to leave the heart of her power and the protection of her peers, so Adrasteia would have to <span>[[go to her|Act2-Scene2-Part3]]</span>.] <!-- Intro the temple, show how grim and unpleasant in sidebars. --> { (click: ?choice)[ (if: $opin)[(set: $opin to false)] (else:)[(set: $opin to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene2-Part2") ] }The great leaden gates of the temple-grave swung open as Adrasteia approached, and she (if: $opin)[strode](else:)[passed] through. It was a place of grey and black, stone and iron, its spaces too vast for comfort. In large, empty classrooms initiates learned the [[catechisms of Death|catechisms]], their lives carried out to the sonorous bells of a colossal clock in the central courtyard. Everywhere bodies were stored stacked like logs, preserved by their proximity to Death, awaiting study or burial or burning. Many priests turned to watch Adrasteia pass but (if: $pcruel)[all recognised the mark of Lord Death; she proceeded unchallenged.](else:)[Panagiota had instructed them not to challenge her; this was a matter to be settled between the two of them.] Overhead, thunderclouds blotted out what little light remained of the day, the storm promised but yet unrealised. (if: $pcruel)[The two of them](else:)[They] met in the courtyard, <span>[[beneath the granite face of the huge clock|Act2-Scene2-Part4]]</span>. { (if: $opin)[(set: $opinion to $opinion + 1)] (if: $pcruel)[ (if: $monster > 0)[(set: $ntext to "looking nervously from one woman to the other.")] (else:)[(set: $ntext to "the look on his face a plea to his mother.")] ] (else:)[ (if: $monster > 0)[(set: $ntext to "lingering close to the priestess.")] (else:)[(set: $ntext to "looking nervously from one woman to the other.")] ] }|c1>[The inevitability of death.] |c2>[The fragility of the body.] |c3>[The abandonment of hope.] [[<<|Act2-Scene2-Part3]] { (click-append: ?c1)[(t8n: "dissolve")[<br><br>(Death's animus could make Adrasteia immortal.)]] (click-append: ?c2)[(t8n: "dissolve")[<br><br>(Adrasteia's body remembered childbirth.)]] (click-append: ?c3)[(t8n: "dissolve")[<br><br>(No need for hope, when one can *act*.)]] }The women faced each other across flagstones made uneven by the carved names of the dead. Peter stood next to Panagiota, $ntext "You cannot have him," Adrasteia said. |pp>[(if: $pdead)[She raised the Kardia Asylo to point at Panagiota's heart.](else:)[She kept her spear lowered but ready.]] "You are dead," Panagiota (if: $pcruel)[spat](else:)[said, quietly]. "By rights he belongs to me. To *us*." "Death promised me a life," Adrasteia flung back, "to do with as I please. And I will use it to raise my son." The first raindrops fell, quickly becoming <span>[[a slanting downpour|Act2-Scene2-Part5]]</span>. { (click: ?pp)[ (if: $pdead)[(set: $pdead to false)] (else:)[(set: $pdead to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene2-Part4") ] }"Our master promised you life if you killed the Dragon," Panagiota said. "If you do not hunt it? You die. If you try to kill it and fail? You die." "If I try to kill it and succeed?" Adrasteia asked. Raindrops (if: $pdead)[scattered off the blade of her spear.](else:)[ran down her spear to spatter on the ground.] "To kill the Dragon you must become something other than what you were," Panagiota said. (if: $pcruel)[She laughed, coldly.](else:)[She looked away.] "Look at yourself. A spear-waving valkyrie.(if: $thrill)[ A bloodthirsty murderer.](if: $monster > 0)[ Already transforming into something inhuman.] And you think you can raise a child as well? *You will kill him.*" The clock struck a single, dolorous chime. The sound rolled, picking up strange echoes as it bounced around the massive architecture of the temple-grave, before vanishing into the storm <span>[[overhead|Act2-Scene2-Part6]]</span>."I cannot fight you," Panagiota said into the rain-streaked silence that followed. "So will you take the boy even into <span>[[the Dragon's lair?|Act2-Scene2-Part7a]]</span> Or will you let him enter the priesthood of <span>[[King Death|Act2-Scene2-Part7b]]</span>(if: $pcruel)[, as is right and proper]?""Peter comes with me," Adrasteia said. She advanced across the courtyard to take her son by the hand. "He will die," Panagiota replied. She stood her ground. "No less than he would here, under your tutelage." Adrasteia threw back. "At least out in the world I will be able to protect him." "You could not stop me from taking him." Panagiota held Adrasteia's stare. |stab>[(if: $pdead)["Yes I can," Adrasteia said.](else:)["Then I will have to do better in future," Adrasteia said.]] (if: $pdead)[The Kardia Asylo leapt forward, piercing completely through Panagiota's chest. The priestess slid from the blade, dead in the house of Death.](else:)[The Kardia Asylo twitched in her hand, responding to some unspoken desire, but she held it down. "Do not try to take him again."] Adrasteia and Peter left that place, then, before the gazes of priests and initiates alike. <span>[[None tried to stop them.|Act3-Scene1-Part1]]</span> { (set: $ppriest to false) (click: ?stab)[ (if: $pdead)[(set: $pdead to false)] (else:)[(set: $pdead to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene2-Part7a") ] }Panagiota was right. It scoured Adrasteia's heart to admit it -- to realise that for the sake of her son she had committed herself to a course that would carry her away from him forever -- but she could not deny the truth. She didn't need to speak. "He stays," Panagiota said(if: $pcruel)[ triumphantly]. Then Adrasteia |stab>[(if: $pdead)[killed her](else:)[walked away, alone]]. (if: $pdead)[Did the grief spill over into anger? Was she settling a balance of some kind -- a life for a life? Did she simply lose control of the Kardia Asylo as it responded to her unspoken desire? We do not know. But that is the last anyone heard of Panagiota and Peter.](else:)[It is the hardest thing to do, for a parent to give up their child. But that is the last we hear of Panagiota and Peter.] Adrasteia's quest, however, <span>[[continued|Act3-Scene1-Part1]]</span>. { (set: $ppriest to true) (click: ?stab)[ (if: $pdead)[(set: $pdead to false)] (else:)[(set: $pdead to true)] (goto: "Act2-Scene2-Part7b") ] }In the trackless Allforest of the east, where legend holds that the end of the world can be found, Adrasteia found the [[Syllectis|Syllectis]] at the heart of its garden. "I mean to forget my weakness," Adrasteia told it, "to bury it deep amid the roots from where it can never escape." The Syllectis made a gesture, and a sprouting tree coiled from the ground to lift it far over Adrasteia's head. (if: not $ppriest)[Leaving Peter at the foot of the tree, ]Adrasteia began to <span>[[climb|Act3-Scene1-Part2]]</span>. A thing of uncertain visage: four slender arms, a cloud of pastel colours, the taste of cherries. It dealt in forgetfulness, and the removal of that which one believes to be essential, but is not. [[<<|Act3-Scene1-Part1]] Adrasteia climbed past branches full of blossoms, the perfume bringing memories of her youth. Her husband had courted her with such flowers, many years before. |hub>[(if: $hubby)[She lingered there for a while](else:)[She climbed on]], (if: $hubby)[remembering better times with bittersweet fondness.](else:)[putting thoughts of her past out of her mind.] She climbed past branches heavy with fruit, where light through the leaves painted everything in a thousand shades of green. |fruity>[(if: $fruit)[She stayed to eat and rest](else:)[She climbed on]](if: $fruit)[, and she wondered if she would ever get the chance to indulge such simple pleasures again.](else:)[; such pleasures were for people with lesser challenges to surmount.] She climbed past leaves in the reds and golds of autumn, in a shape that resembled a woman. Her? The wind blew and the leaves whirled away, leaving behind a tangle of sticks that resembled nothing so much as the Dragon itself. |sticks>[(if: $sticky)[Adrasteia spent some time considering this omen](else:)[Adrasteia climbed on]](if: $sticky)[ but eventually resumed her climb, albeit with a new sense of foreboding.](else:)[. She had no care for portents or omens.] And then she came to <span>[the top]<away|.</span> { (click: ?away)[ (if: $hubby)[(set: $count to $count + 1)] (if: $fruit)[(set: $count to $count + 1)] (if: $sticky)[(set: $count to $count + 1)] (if: $count > 1)[(set: $will to $will - 1)] (goto: "Act3-Scene1-Part3") ] (click: ?hub)[ (if: $hubby)[(set: $hubby to false)] (else:)[(set: $hubby to true)] (goto: "Act3-Scene1-Part2") ] (click: ?fruity)[ (if: $fruit)[(set: $fruit to false)] (else:)[(set: $fruit to true)] (goto: "Act3-Scene1-Part2") ] (click: ?sticks)[ (if: $sticky)[(set: $sticky to false)] (else:)[(set: $sticky to true)] (goto: "Act3-Scene1-Part2") ] }Adrasteia stood on a wide plain that had no business being atop a tree, some ten paces from the Syllectis. Snow was falling, obscuring everything around them and blanketing them in total silence. The Syllectis made a gesture. In one hand it held a knife of some blue-black material, to <span>[[cut away Adrasteia's weakness|Act3-Scene1-Part4a]]</span>. With a second hand it pointed away. She could still simply <span>[[leave|Act3-Scene1-Part4b]]</span>. With its other hands, it offered her the choice. { (if: $will < 0)[ (if: $monster is 0)[(set: $outcome to 1)] (elseif: $monster is 1)[(set: $outcome to 2)] ] (elseif: $will is 0)[ (if: $monster is 0)[(set: $outcome to 4)] (elseif: $monster is 1)[(set: $outcome to 5)] ] (elseif: $will is 1)[ (if: $monster is 0)[(set: $outcome to 7)] (elseif: $monster is 1)[(set: $outcome to 8)] ] (elseif: $will is > 1)[ (if: $monster is 0)[(set: $outcome to 10)] (elseif: $monster is 1)[(set: $outcome to 11)] ] }The knife moved and, in moving, cut. Adrasteia was changed. Her weakness gone, and the larger part of her humanity with it. From then on, she pursued the Dragon with <span>[[a terrible intensity|Act4-Scene1-Part0]]</span>. { (set: $monster to $monster + 1) (set: $outcome to $outcome + 1) }In that moment Adrasteia must have understood that we cannot be human if we are not permitted our weaknesses. (if: not $ppriest)[She couldn't allow Panagiota to (if: $pdead)[have been](else:)[be] right.] (if: $monster > 0)[She had already sacrificed too much of herself to the animus to lose any more.] She descended the tree once again. Changed, but still human. <span>[[The Dragon awaited.|Act4-Scene1-Part0]]</span>Adrasteia approached the ruins, the Kardia Asylo in her hands(if: $monster is 0)[, just a woman with a spear(if: $will is 1)[. Fear clawed at her, but she kept her breathing steady and forged ahead.](elseif: $will is 2)[ -- yet she showed no sign of fear.](else:)[. Every step was a struggle against terror, yet she persisted.]](if: $monster is 1)[, the animus purring inside her, urging her to bloodshed(if: $will is 2)[ -- not that she needed much urging. The death of the Dragon consumed her attention.](elseif: $will > 0)[.](else:)[. She struggled to control it, to keep it focused on her task.]](if: $monster is 2)[only faintly resembling a human in gait or appearance(if: $will is 2)[. She strode a direct path towards the lair, a tidal wave of purpose and power come to drown the world.](elseif: $will > -1)[.](else:)[. Her attention wandered, her path erratic, a powerful urge to kill threatening to overwhelm her purpose.]](if: not $ppriest)[ And behind her came Peter, a boy in a land not meant for people(if: $monster is 2)[, trailing ever further behind his monstrous mother.](elseif: $will is 2)[, dragged here by his mother's determination.](else:)[.]] Adrasteia entered the <span>[[ruins|Act4-Scene1-Part2]]</span>. { (set: $count to $monster + $will) }Giant-made, from when giants were more than just stories. A castle sized for people twenty feet high, every surface engraved with the stories of their lives. [[<<|Act4-Scene1-Part0]]{(if: $outcome is 1)[(display: "Outcome1")] (if: $outcome is 2)[(display: "Outcome2")] (if: $outcome is 3)[(display: "Outcome3")] (if: $outcome is 4)[(display: "Outcome4")] (if: $outcome is 5)[(display: "Outcome5")] (if: $outcome is 6)[(display: "Outcome6")] (if: $outcome is 7)[(display: "Outcome7")] (if: $outcome is 8)[(display: "Outcome8")] (if: $outcome is 9)[(display: "Outcome9")] (if: $outcome is 10)[(display: "Outcome10")] (if: $outcome is 11)[(display: "Outcome11")] (if: $outcome is 12)[(display: "Outcome12")]} <span>[[>>|Act4-Scene1-Part3]]</span> <!-- Cut this after testing (((Test Output: Your will was $will. Your monstrousness was $monster. Your outcome was number $outcome.))) -->And the moral? What does all this mean? Maybe it's about embracing things whole-heartedly, even if that thing is bloody revenge or turning into a monster. Maybe it's about the mistakes we make in pursuit of power. Maybe it's that when you die, you should stay dead. Maybe there isn't a meaning at all. It is, after all, just how things happened. =><= **END** (text-style: "subscript")[[[About|About]]]Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair uncertain, afraid, her mind anywhere but present. She had rejected the power of the animus and the perfection of having her weaknesses excised in order to better remain human, for the sake of Peter(if: not $ppriest)[ -- who she had lost anyway]. And she died. (if: $opinion > 0)[It was a brave thing she did, to confront a power so much greater than herself, but she was profoundly unequipped to do so -- and that's what happens when you attempt to take on challenges you're not equipped for: you fail.](elseif: $opinion < 0)[Of <em>course</em> she died. She stole a weapon she didn't know how to use, rejected whatever power she was offered, and showed hesitation and fear at every turn. The Dragon would have annihilated her without even noticing.](else:)[Her desire to remain human in the face of an impossible task is understandable, but in the end it undid her.]Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair uncertain, afraid, her mind anywhere but present. (if: $emnem)[The animus gave her power, made her other than human, but the Dragon's power was greater still. Supernatural might alone was not enough.](else:)[She had rejected the power of the animus, and even the perfection of having her weaknesses excised was not enough to make up for her lack of focus.] So she died. (if: $opinion > 0)[It was a brave thing she did, to confront a power so much greater than herself, to sacrifice what parts of herself she thought she could spare(if: $ppriest)[ -- and her son --] in the name of her quest. But she was distracted, unfocused, giving up too much in exchange for not enough. Not all heroic quests end well.](elseif: $opinion < 0)[Of <em>course</em> she died. She gave up her humanity(if: $ppriest)[ -- and her son --] but didn't ask for enough in return. She wavered and vacillated, dominated by fear and hesitation, and in the end the Dragon's singularity of purpose destroyed her completely.](else:)[Her fear and hesitation in the face of an enemy like the Dragon are understandable, as is her desire to remain as human as possible... but in the end her unwillingness to commit to her quest was her undoing.]Adrasteia had embraced the transformation wrought by the animus and sought out the Syllectis to have her imperfections carved away and sealed beneath a tree at the edge of the world. She had taken up the Kardia Asylo, the spear against which no defence is sufficient, a weapon so powerful its name is legend. But she did not slay the Dragon. Her mind was confused, a whirl of conflicting priorities and desires. (if: $opinion > 0)[I believe she honestly intended to slay the Dragon. But somewhere in her transformation that became lost, subordinate to other ideas. Perhaps when the Syllectis cut her, it cut away the last remnants of Adrasteia standing between the animus and its full expression. I'd like to think that. That the monster we gained is in *no part* the mother it germinated within. But only Lord Death and the Vampire herself know the truth, and neither spill their secrets lightly.](else:)[And somewhere in there what was left of the woman blended together with the animus and became something else. Another monster, kin to the Dragon. A keen-eyed night hunter, strong and quick and as invulnerable as the bones of the earth.](if: $opinion < 0)[ The Dragon was a tyrant, but the Vampire is a *killer*. I can only hope she proves potent enough to bring a swift end to any future slayers -- I shudder to think what they will turn into to stop her, given the chance.](else:)[ I hope that the Dragon and the Vampire will kill each other yet -- Lord Death's grudge against the immortal is as relentless and untiring as he himself -- but I fear that some other would-be hero might become something even worse in order to slay one or both of them. All things will work out in time, but we might not survive the working.]Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair uncertain and afraid, but focused on her task. She had rejected the power of the animus and the perfection of having her weaknesses excised in order to better remain human, for the sake of Peter(if: not $ppriest)[ -- who she had lost anyway]. And she died. (if: $opinion > 0)[It was a brave thing she did, to confront a power so much greater than herself, but she was profoundly unequipped to do so -- and that's what happens when you attempt to take on challenges you're not equipped for: you fail.](elseif: $opinion < 0)[Of <em>course</em> she died. She stole a weapon she didn't know how to use, rejected whatever power she was offered, and thought that a noble cause would be enough to carry her through. The Dragon would have annihilated her without even noticing.](else:)[Her desire to remain human in the face of an impossible task is understandable, but in the end it undid her.]Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair uncertain and afraid, but focused on her task. (if: $emnem)[The animus gave her power, made her other than human, but the Dragon's power was greater still. Supernatural might alone was not enough.](else:)[She had rejected the power of the animus, and even the perfection of having her weaknesses excised made her no more than human.] So she died. (if: $opinion > 0)[It was a brave thing she did, to confront a power so much greater than herself, to sacrifice what parts of herself she thought she could spare(if: $ppriest)[ -- and her son --] in the name of her quest. But in the end it simply was not enough. Not all heroic quests end well.](elseif: $opinion < 0)[[Of <em>course</em> she died. She gave up her humanity(if: $ppriest)[ -- and her son --] but didn't ask for enough in return. She clung vaguely to her purpose, and in the end the Dragon's singularity of focus destroyed her completely.](else:)[Her fear and hesitation in the face of an enemy like the Dragon are understandable, as is her desire to remain as human as possible... but in the end her unwillingness to commit to her quest was her undoing.]Adrasteia had embraced the transformation wrought by the animus and sought out the Syllectis to have her imperfections carved away and sealed beneath a tree at the edge of the world. She had taken up the Kardia Asylo, the spear against which no defence is sufficient, a weapon so powerful its name is legend. And with it she slew the Dragon. If this were some other story, it would end there. An unalloyed triumph. Unfortunately... the story continues. (if: $opinion > 0)[I don't believe that Adrasteia's transformation was intentional. After everything she did, how could it be? How could a woman who hunted and killed the Dragon for the sake of her son(if: $ppriest)[ -- who gave up that son in the process --] have *wanted* to become a night-haunting monster? I believe instead that when the Syllectis cut her, it cut away the last remnants of Adrasteia standing between the animus and its full expression. I believe that the monster we gained is in *no part* the mother it germinated within. But only Lord Death and the Vampire herself know the truth, and neither spill their secrets lightly.](else:)[In order to slay a monster Adrasteia became one. She left herself buried somewhere beneath the animus, had herself cut away to make it more of what it was, and in the end merely replaced the tyranny of the Dragon with the ever-present fear of the Vampire. Perhaps some new hero will rise to hunt this night-haunt that feeds on death. I only hope they don't become something even worse in the process.]Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair completely unafraid, shielded by her indomitable will and the power of the Kardia Asylo. Perhaps her rejection of the power offered by the animus and the Syllectis hindered her in their confrontation; perhaps not. Either way, the spear followed Adrasteia's vision and found the heart of the Dragon. It was struck dead. After that, Adrasteia vanished. (if: $opinion > 0)[I like to think she (if: not $ppriest)[took Peter somewhere quiet and settled down to raise him, as she had wanted all along, perhaps using the Kardia Asylo to spear boar or support one end of a washing line.](else:)[found somewhere quiet to settle and gained a measure of peace, despite giving Peter up to the priests of Death. Perhaps she returned to the underworld and died in truth, her objective reached.]](elseif: $opinion < 0)[She had achieved a masterful bond with the spear, so could have killed any victim or breached any boundary if she had willed it. The fact that we know nothing of her later life suggests she did none of these things.<br><br>(if: $ppriest)[She had given up her son to the priests of Death, so perhaps she simply retreated from the world to focus her single-mindedness elsewhere.](else:)[She did have a son to raise, although her single-mindedness and unerring magical spear would have made it an unusual and likely unpleasant childhood.]](else:)[With her formidable will and magical spear she could have done great things, so the fact her name never appears in the annals of history again suggests that she deliberately kept a low profile. (if: not $ppriest)[It is likely that she found somewhere quiet to raise Peter to adulthood, but other than that... who could say?](else:)[It is likely that she spent some time reflecting on what she had given up -- not least her own son -- and perhaps reaching some kind of reconciliation with herself. But other than that... who could say?]]<br><br>Whatever happened to her, she remains the Dragonslayer: the woman who destroyed destruction-made-flesh.Adrasteia had embraced the transformation wrought by the animus and sought out the Syllectis to have her imperfections carved away and sealed beneath a tree at the edge of the world. She had taken up the Kardia Asylo, the spear against which no defence is sufficient, a weapon so powerful its name is legend. And with it she slew the Dragon. Driven by inhuman strength, aimed with perfected precision, and guided by Adrasteia's uncommon will, the Kardia Asylo pierced the Dragon's heart and brought low destruction-made-flesh. Mortal after all. And then? Nobody knows. Adrasteia vanishes from history, although the spear appears in other tales. (if: $opinion > -1)[I like to think she settled somewhere (if: not $ppriest)[with Peter and raised him as his mother](else:)[and found a measure of peace], but given what she had become I have little hope that was how things worked out.](elseif: $opinion < 0)[Given what she had become I fear that she haunts us still; every time I hear of an unexplained disappearance or a grisly killing under mysterious circumstances, I wonder if perhaps this new monster is responsible.<br><br>(if: not $ppriest)[Who knows what became of her son.](else:)[At least Peter remained safe with the priests of Death, to live a normal mortal lifespan.]](else:)[ERROR]Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair determined, focused on her task despite its daunting nature. (if: $emnem)[The animus had transformed her into something cold and hard but also *powerful*, supplementing the keen point of the Kardia Asylo with raw might and speed.](else:)[She had rejected the inhuman power offered by the animus but allowed the Syllectis to carve away her imperfections; she was as strong as a human could be, as fast, as aware -- if perhaps not as human as she had been.] And she won. (if: $opinion > -1)[Somewhere in there, between her uncommon will and the raw power of her new self, Adrasteia found the strength to drive the Kardia Asylo through the Dragon's heart.<br><br>We don't know what happened to her after that -- she vanishes from history, although the Kardia Asylo reappears in other tales -- but (if: not $ppriest)[I like to think she and Peter settled down somewhere, and she was able to raise her son as she had always intended. Given what she had become I'm not sure this is a plausible ending, but it's the one I prefer.](else:)[I like to think she found some measure of peace. She had left Peter with the priests, which I'm sure she regretted bitterly, but given what she had become I'm not sure what sort of mother she could have been. I'd like to think she came to terms with this herself, one way or another.]](elseif: $opinion < 0)[Somehow willpower kept her going where her supernatural might failed her, or perhaps the other way around, and the Kardia Asylo found the Dragon's heart. As for Adrasteia herself, she vanished.<br><br>(if: not $ppriest)[I suppose she might have settled somewhere with Peter, but given that she had become (if: $emnem)[a night-stalking monster](else:)[a thing of inhuman perfection] I hope for her son's sake that she found an alternative course.](else:)[Perhaps she gave herself up to Death in the end. Perhaps she lives among us still as (if: $emnem)[a night-stalking monster](else:)[a thing of inhuman perfection], although I hope not.]](else:)[ERROR]Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair afraid but determined, focused on her task despite its daunting nature. She had rejected the power of the animus and the perfection of having her weaknesses excised in order to better remain human, for the sake of Peter(if: not $ppriest)[ -- who she had lost anyway --](else:)[,] and placed her trust in the Kardia Asylo. She died. (if: $opinion > 0)[It's understandable. With such a powerful weapon and the will to use it she must have thought she was equipped for the task, only to discover as she came face to face with destruction-made-flesh that she was not. Perhaps there was a doubt, somewhere, about what she was doing and why, and so the Kardia Asylo glanced off where it should have pierced through. Perhaps it is simply impossible to fight a monster without also becoming one.](elseif: $opinion < 0)[Which is what you can expect when you face a legendary monster with only a magic spear and an uncommon will. It takes *power* to fight power, and Adrasteia's inability to realise or unwillingness to admit this was always going to be her undoing.](else:)[You can understand how one might think that a legendary weapon would be the counter to a legendary monster -- that is, after all, the substance of many other tales -- but in this case it was not. Adrasteia needed something more, which she did not have, and paid the price with her life.] <!--Moral: sometimes you can do everything the stories say, and still be wrong-->Adrasteia walked into the Dragon's lair completely unafraid, shielded by her indomitable will and the power of the Kardia Asylo, (if: $emnem)[transformed into something mighty and inhuman by the animus.](else:)[her human weaknesses cut away and left buried with the Syllectis in the depths of the Allforest.] She struck down the Dragon, and perhaps even found it easy. Driven as she was, the spear would have passed through the creature's iron hide as if it was paper. If this were some other story, it would end there. An unalloyed triumph. But this story continues. (if: $opinion > -1)[An unbending will can be a virtue in the face of adversity, but it can also drive someone to terrible lengths. I don't know what Adrasteia thought when she looked at the corpse of the Dragon she had just slain. Perhaps (if: $emnem)[there was something in the animus that pushed her to it.](else:)[she thought she could bring her inhuman perfection into other people's lives -- that it was *good* that she do so.] Perhaps she always had the leaning.<br><br>But she left that cave not just as the Dragon's slayer, but also as its *replacement*. The new power over humanity.](elseif: $opinion < 0)[Adrasteia left that cave not just as the Dragon's slayer, but also as its *replacement*. Perhaps she had always been a tyrant at heart, lacking only the power to see her desires made real. Perhaps she had slid little by little towards tyranny as she had seen how easily people died before her; how simple it was to coerce them when backed up by threats.<br><br>However it happened, that was what she became: the new power over humanity.](else:)[ERROR]Adrasteia had embraced the transformation wrought by the animus and sought out the Syllectis to have her imperfections carved away and sealed beneath a tree at the edge of the world. She had taken up the Kardia Asylo, the spear against which no defence is sufficient, a weapon so powerful its name is legend. And with it she slew the Dragon. Driven by inhuman strength, aimed with perfected precision, and guided by Adrasteia's uncommon will, the Kardia Asylo pierced the Dragon's heart and brought low destruction-made-flesh. Mortal after all. But we all know what happened after that. (if: $opinion > 0)[I don't believe that Adrasteia's transformation was intentional. After everything she did, how could it be? How could a woman who hunted and killed the Dragon for the sake of her son(if: $ppriest)[ -- who gave up that son in the process --] have *wanted* to become its replacement? A night-haunter, hard and cold and unstoppable, the Kardia Asylo driven by a will of unbending, inhuman certainty. A thing of *fear* to replace the Dragon's tyranny. I believe instead that when the Syllectis cut her, it cut away the last remnants of Adrasteia standing between the animus and its full expression. I believe that the monster we gained is in *no part* the mother it germinated within. But only Lord Death and the Vampire herself know the truth, and neither spill their secrets lightly.](else:)[In order to slay a monster Adrasteia became one. She left herself buried somewhere beneath the animus, had herself cut away to make it more of what it was, and in the end merely replaced the tyranny of the Dragon with the ever-present fear of the Vampire. Perhaps some new hero will rise to hunt this night-haunt that feeds on death. I only hope they don't become something even worse in the process.]At that time the Dragon's country was a blighted place, where life withered and poison gas slipped in great curling plumes from cracks in the ground. At its heart, the [[cavernous ruins|ruins]] where the Dragon laired. It was <span>[[into this wasteland|Act4-Scene1-Part1]]</span> that Adrasteia (if: $will < 1)[stumbled](elseif: $will is 1)[walked](else:)[strode](if: $ppriest)[.](else:)[, Peter at her heels.]