Further Troubleshooting: Last Days of Loneliness

Turkey Day approaches.  I’ll be spending a bunch of time with family around then, and for the week after.  This means that I’m unlikely to post much in the next two weeks, though I’ll see if I can scare up a few more interesting posts for you.  This Wednesday will be largely occupied with travel.

Today’s post is going to be a lot like last Wednesday’s, so spoilers abound.  This time I’ll be working through how exactly Amanda ends up deciding to break the town’s covenant with its deity-figure.  Oglaf illustrates the concept quite admirably here (surprisingly SFW, though the rest of the site isn’t).  Enjoy!

I know more or less how I want things to end, and I have a pretty clear idea of the necessary preconditions to make that happen.  But reaching those preconditions is tricky.  It might even be tricky enough to make me change the story again, though I’d really like to keep the basic ending I’ve got already.  It seems appropriate.

The end that I have in mind at the moment works as follows: Amanda destroys the monstrous eggs which the town has pledged to protect, and the monster which the town has worshipped destroys the town in retaliation for their failure.  However, Amanda must know that the town will be destroyed or imperiled as a result of her actions or else her course makes very little sense.  Furthermore, her actions only really make sense if she’s already tried and failed to get her family to leave Loneliness; destroying the town completely is a pretty desperate move, especially since it puts her own family in danger as well.

So who is going to tell Amanda the basics of the cult’s covenant with the monster?  (I’ll just call it Mother from here on out, since that’s what the cult calls it).  Doug Felber works to some extent, but he’s been gone from town for a long time, and I don’t know that the cult’s leadership has ever clarified things for those who cannot speak with the Mother.  I mean, why would they share the knowledge that destroying the eggs would destroy the town?

Doug can (and should) tell Amanda about the cult after Mr. Picket’s death, and he can tell her the basics of the cult’s agreements.  Namely, he can tell her that the people of the town have worshipped this thing for more than a century at this point, that they’ve been sacrificing people to it yearly and covering up those deaths, that some people seem able to communicate with it, and that the ones who claim to communicate with Mother also say that Mother has been gradually shifting segments of the earth for them to ensure that they don’t run out of minerals to mine.  Mother looks after the town’s well-being so long as the townsfolk hold to their covenant, and there’s the implication that breaking the covenant would mean bad things for the town.

But that’s probably the extent of Doug’s knowledge, unless the town’s fate in the case of breaking the covenant is an open secret.  I dislike the idea of having everyone know what would happen if Mother were upset, and I think I’d rather see it be limited or inferred knowledge.  People who can communicate with Mother would know implicitly how protective and loving Mother feels towards her young, and with any level of empathy they could easily imagine the rage that Mother would feel if her young were destroyed… so what if I change things up and let Rich (or whomever ends up being Amanda’s intercessor) actually be in contact with Mother?

Amanda’s intercessor wants to welcome Amanda into the fold, and might be willing to talk with her about her reaction to learning about the cult.  They’d see it as a chance to convert her and comfort her, and if Amanda already knows what she’s looking for she could use the conversation as a way to pump her intercessor for more information.

Here’s an idea for how that could work out: Amanda has gotten the info-dump from Doug Felber, and asks the obvious question of “what if the covenant were broken?”  Doug basically shrugs and suggests that it would probably be bad but says he has no idea how bad, and Amanda decides that the time has come to get a little more aggressive about looking for information.  She goes to her “friend” (who did keep her from being killed, let us recall), and starts asking them questions, maybe trying to cover her tracks by mentioning looking things up in the library or something.  Somehow, she has to wiggle her way around to asking the really important “what if,” and tries to gauge the person’s response.  The person is no doubt quite disturbed and worried by the idea, and Amanda decides that she’s struck gold.

This means that there could be a cool scene in which Amanda is trying to pull information from someone while playing along as though she’s considering converting (she’d probably try to keep it a secret between them).  Then her entire ploy with Mr. Felber is a little more improvised, and neither of them know exactly what to expect, except that they know that they should be ready to flee town and wait for the dust to settle.  There’s no reason for Amanda to know that the town will be destroyed, but she would probably think there would be an earthquake or something, given that Mother appears to be able to shift stone and minerals.

It would make sense for Doug to know where the eggs are, since the egg chamber is probably a feature of the cult, though people generally wouldn’t be allowed to go in unaccompanied, or touch the eggs without supervision.  The eggs are definite proof of a greater being, or at least proof of something that is not covered by known science and therefore is useful as an article and fixture of faith.  For those who are able to communicate with Mother, they represent a tangible manifestation of her presence.  For those who pretend to be able to communicate with Mother, they are a symbol of faith that is actually pretty easy to believe in.  Everyone loves functional holy relics, right?  The position of mine nightwatchman would also therefore be a fairly authoritative (or at least important) one for members of the cult, and you’d have to be pretty well trusted by the cult’s leadership in order to become the nightwatchman.  But since there haven’t been any big pushes to oppose the cult since it was first established in the 1880s, the security for the eggs could be relatively lax (I mean, they don’t exactly live in a security state).

Another important point: how would Amanda know to kill the eggs with fire?  Apart from general geek / internet wisdom, what would give her that idea?  What if she were given a personal tour of the eggs by her intercessor (again, this is easier if the intercessor is well placed within the cult’s present or future power structure).  Then she could scope out the site and ask questions about the eggs, like why they were kept in such a cool dark place.  Is it too much of a stretch for the response of “that’s what Mother told us is needed,” coupled with the eggs being as heavy and hard as a normal rock, to give Amanda the idea of using fire and heat?

All of these specifics look like they’re going to need more thought and work than I can give them just now.  On the other hand, I definitely think this is good progress from where I started today.  I have clear ideas for a few more scenes, and can write them out, find them lacking, and revise them as I see fit.

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One response to “Further Troubleshooting: Last Days of Loneliness

  1. Pingback: Work In Progress: Last Days of Loneliness | Fistful of Wits

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