Work Header

four titles

Work Text:

It's one late night, when you and Dave are out killing Underlings and shooting the breeze, that he makes an offhand comment about having time in his head. Neither of you are entirely sure what this means - other than the obvious, the fact that the game changes you. Or, applying an overused Internet meme, the Russian reversal, that the game plays you, rather than the other way around.

It's when he tells you that it doesn't matter, that he's fine, that you get a flash of his thoughts - that he's lying, that he doesn't want you to worry about him. You ignore it, but when it comes time for you to bid goodnight to him and take first watch as he sleeps, you call him the Knight of Time, and he calls you the Seer of Light. You don't really know why.

A few months later, and Jade's trying to tell you that the fact that one corner of the tent is an inch higher than the other three and it's bothering her, and Dave's in the corner again trying to play his music to drown out the beat of time in his ears, and John's building a campfire with the help of the Breeze because he's terrified of going inside, and you're sitting there wondering if anyone else ever experienced the concept of a hive mind more completely than you are right at the moment. Probably not, you muse, and sigh as Jade comes over and, with her usual good grace, asks you to help her with the rope that's holding up the tent.


You thought the role of a Seer would be to find the truth, not simply to look inside others. But, you suppose (as you yank on the pins holding the corners of the tent in complete darkness that would make anyone else blind), it's still easier to see what everyone else is thinking when they're lying. Which all four of you do a lot these days, with your own problems and, presumably, no point in sharing them.

The game gives, and the game takes away, and you would give anything for that moment of clarity you had when you first awakened into your dreamself; especially so now, when you have powers and no way to stop them. You're sure the others think the same; after all, you've seen it in their own minds. The Gods of the Furthest Ring have nothing to say about your powers save that they will become bearable in time. They say something about having seen this in other sessions, and you're not sure you believe them, but it's the only thing you have to cling to.

There's nothing in your psychology textbooks that talks about new supernatural senses. (Of course there isn't.) There's one passage on habituation, the fact that an input, repeated enough times, will desensitize most complex organisms to said input, but you suppose that, if Dave can't drown out what he says is nothing but incessant pounding, there's no way for you to ignore a complex and varied stream of input save doing it consciously. Unfortunately, you can't ignore it consciously; the thoughts of others reach into your mind and fill it with thoughts, tales, ideas. At least they're those of your friends.

But when it comes time to consort with the Consorts, your friends tell you to do it, and you reach into their minds, choosing the friendlier ones to ask favors of and avoiding the less positively inclined of them. It's easy enough, you suppose, and it helps keep everyone safe, as you get clearer pictures of the minds of the ones that don't like you and scare a Dersian spy away by threatening his home and family. But you can't do that all day, and when the thoughts start crowding into your head too close, too fast, too thickly together, you find something to distract yourself.

You distract yourself by sitting down and doing mindless things: knitting, sewing, and other sorts of crafting. You knit light, an alchemized glowing yarn, into many of your creations, and your friends wear them into caverns or shadows with gratitude. Jade asks you what you're thinking about when you deposit yourself into the corner and start knitting again, because you've been quiet recently. You know her strange perceptiveness, not the same magnitude as your powers but still significant enough, and you tell her that everything's changed. She just replies, "I know."


She can change space with her music now. You're not sure how, but when something needs to be done, when a chasm needs to be made smaller or a goal brought within reach or something placed far away from anyone who would find it, she pulls out her bass, screws up her face in concentration, and with a few plucks of the strings the desired result is achieved.

Along with the use of this bass she also gets some kind of obsessive-compulsive need for things to line up straight in three-dimensional space - the corners of the tent not matching in elevation, say, or pictures needing to be hung exactly evenly on the walls. Sometimes she spins around in circles, for a long time, and she says being dizzy helps with the extra sense. You suppose it's better than taking to drink, and probably more convenient than your knitting, but when you're trying to help her across an uneven surface with her shutting her eyes and trying not to think of space, there's not much you can do.

You've heard that being told not to think of something increases the likelihood that you'll think of it anyway, so you try to distract her, the ditz that she is, and sometimes she'll sit down and play cards with you, or help you block your glowing knitting into shape for sweaters, or go swimming with you. She's good at swimming, and when it comes time to go back to shore and change back into your clothes, you let her lead you back.

It's from excursions like these that you learn she feels better when she can use her powers productively, so you stop trying to map your Land and let her navigate the sailboat through the shoals and islands and sandbars. She does this incredibly well, except when she takes ten minutes trying to park the boat exactly parallel to the dock and you finally let out a groan of exasperation and tie the boat down anyway. As soon as she steps onto land, she starts spinning again.

She asks you about the Witch part of her title. You dismiss the idea of letting her alchemize her rifle with the Grimoire - you don't think it would be a good idea to require a Prospit dreamer to consort with the Elder Gods - and instead let her alchemize with one of your many wizard statues. Her weapons let out green beams of fire to your violet, and you teach her the finer points of killing Underlings with them - aim for the base of the neck, that's the most effective part to hit - and some basic spells, like levitation and conjuring. She learns easily enough, she was destined for the title after all, and when Dave leans on his timetable-alchemized half-sword and watches you practice, you think Jade starts showing off a little.


His power is the most obvious of the four of you, probably the most powerful - but also the most likely to drive him totally insane. When you reach into his mind, it's a great pulsation of time, a thousand clocks ticking in unison and cuckoo-ing on the hour. He has two timetables, alchemizing his time-code into his favorite instruments and using them masterfully, scratching back and forth across time. Sometimes there are two, three copies of him at once, and he synchronizes with himself to fight a common foe, jumping, slashing, spinning like a trio of dancers. Except he hates it when you use that metaphor.

He always knows the exact time, the exact date, the exact year, both from your point of view and from his. His point of view is an existence that runs back and forth upon a timeline, a train that runs both forwards and backwards to everyone else's forwards, and he's lonely in his own subjective experience, wondering why he had to be the one to contradict all of modern science and deconstruct all of modern physics.

The pounding in his head he first mistook for a migraine, and so Dave spent several days in bed with his eyes shut and the curtains drawn, trying to think of something, anything, other than time. Finally everyone decided that it wasn't doing anyone any good to have the best fighter in the group incapacitated due to strange mind powers that didn't seem to have any other side effects, and so he takes his mp3 player out with him now, blasting music into his ears, any music, any beat other than his own.

He finally speaks tonight, the first time he's done so in a long while, and informs everyone that in two hours, five minutes and thirty-five seconds we will have spent one full year in the Medium. You ask him if it isn't just his subjective experience of a full year, his having scratched back and forth in time so often, and he shakes his head and puts his headphones back on.

Jade suggests that everyone celebrate this anniversary, and John has you drag a table out of his house, and you come up with a lacy tablecloth, and Jade adds some fine china. Dave deposits himself at the alchemiter, creating towers of food and desserts, and when everything's taken to the table, somehow John has come up with party hats and noisemakers and candles and tells everyone to make a wish. You feel Jade wishing she didn't have her power, and Dave wishing he didn't have his, and John wishing he didn't have his, and you have nothing to add to that but a plea of the same nature, wishing that this game had never changed your life in the way it had.


He can control the wind, a less useful power than everyone else's except that he can also control the breath. Jade would hyperventilate and he'd slow her down, holding the air in her lungs until she was back in a calmer state of mind and could figure out what was bothering her about space and position. But John still prefers working with great blocks of air rather than small currents, throwing sand into the Giclops' eye while he beats it down with a great hammer made of stone blocks and a sledgehammer and a hot iron, and this means he gets anxious if the air he works with is ever taken away from him by walls.

It's a good thing you don't have elevators anymore, you guess, and that Sburb doesn't require the stairs you build to his gate to have enclosures, because otherwise he would go mad. Already he's insisted you knock down several of the walls in his house, and you comply only because Sburb's wall-building material is so much stronger than anything you ever had on Earth. He has to use his own powers to calm himself when you explore caves or ruins, and you're not entirely sure why he gets the relatively mundane claustrophobia to your uncontrollable mindreading, or Jade's OCD, or Dave's pounding mind, but he's not complaining so you don't bring it up either.

Eventually he alchemizes an organ to give him more control over the Breeze, assisting the parcel pyxis system in getting things delivered to the ones who have asked for them in his free time. It sounds a bit like community service or volunteering to you, and that's what you tell him, but he shrugs and says it's helping his consorts route around his denizen's slime, and thus it's his obligation.

He shows a bit of his Dad's incredible strength in him now, a man who could lift safes and punch out enemies without breaking a sweat, but somehow it never shows on his frame - John is still a thin, gangly kid, and the only indication of his heirdom is the fact that he struggles less when he needs to toss great chunks of rock out of the way of a path to clear a cave-in. There are whispers of "so proud of you" coming through your mind when you catch a glimpse of John's dad watching his son show some mangrit, and you dutifully relay them. John just sighs and wipes his brow, and then goes back to work.

It's not that you play the game; you suppose, applying an overused Internet meme, the Russian reversal, that the game plays you. Late that night, after the party, you're putting the tent up yet again, trying to pitch it on level ground, routing around Dave with his pounding music running a counterpoint to his pounding mind, reassuring John that you'll take first watch to stay with him - and you realize you would prefer even this, strange and unavoidable as the sensations come, to being dead.

And you just barely notice as, when you and John are out killing Underlings and shooting the breeze, the pressure of thoughts on your mind shifts and you realize you can tune it out. You decide not to.