Yep, you walk right out of that shop with that crossbow. You lift that lady's purse and other than looking concerned for a moment nobody really reacts. You start seeing how much you can get away with. You take a horse. You start a fire. Everyone is lazily putting out the flames and then they go about their normal business. If you cared to notice you'd see that everyone eats but they don't eat well, they have money and finery in their homes but they don't dress well, they don't seem concerned for their minor injuries....you don't notice this, of course, so busy are you in fleecing this city's aforementioned finery. You spiral through the city and end up in the center square...
When a building burns out or rots from within sometimes the walls still hang together, sallow but standing, there but only radiating a sense that there WAS something there. He's sitting near a fountain, or perhaps in the shade in early afternoon. He punched holy men and saved churches and burned fields and fed children and forgot things and remembered too many things and long ago ceased to be anything but Auld Darrel. People walk past him and drop him some coin, and your grouch sack is awfully heavy...do you need ALL those silver candlesticks?
You feel better once you've given Auld Darrel some of your stuff, invigorated, but somehow also drained. Perhaps you'll leave tomorrow.
The keeper shows you the bungalow and takes your deposit. You're not paying attention to him, just going through the motions at this point. You dream of sandwiches. The next day the way out of town seems steep, bright, and it's such a long way to your destination. You persevere, but you seem to have gotten lost. The road slopes down here, perhaps leading out of the mount-
He danced on his wedding and once when he had too much sherry on midsummer. He buried three sisters and two fathers. He fought in the war once, and was in all the other wars anyway. Auld Darrel is thin, and old, and so small...
Speaking of thinness, now that you've given Auld Darrel a few coins you seem to have found where you laid your appetite. You don't order much, and you don't order the best...just a quick bite to keep going. You'll have a big meal later. To get out of town now...
But it's nearly dusk.
Maybe you'll leave tomorrow.
Auld Darrel has lost who he once was, depending upon the kindness of strangers to survive. Who he once was, among many other things, almost not worth mentioning, really, was a Magic-User. He was no wizard or conjurer or summoner or warlock or whatever fancy title you want to use. He was a man in love who learned something he shouldn't have. He could extend his mind. First in mice, then cats, then dogs...he worked up his courage for weeks to ask Emma out, and he knew just how to do so by the time he'd gotten the nerve. He never controlled, never forced, not really, but his mind put up a little room and a home in her mind, and they were as together as anyone has ever been, and he loved her like he never loved anything or believed in anything
Auld Darrel is empty now but not. Auld Darrel is wide open. Auld Darrel is turned on. Emma is buried in the village crypt, a part of the stone, a part of the city, and Auld Darrel is a part of Emma. It started with mice. It started with cats. It worked its way up to people.
Auld Darrel does not control this little squat city, which by now I'm just going to name Bunning. Not actively. He goes through his motions, just enough to get by, and influences the people around him subtly but strongly to pity him and help him along. He is not evil. He is not greedy. He is, however, kind, and gentle, and terrified. He sleeps in a barrel and sends everyone home to a warm bed. Everyone. No one can leave Bunning.
The longer he influences them the more he influences them. The thinner their minds become, sallow, rotted. They become a part of Emma. But they are patient and forgiving and kind. Vestiges remain and so they busy themselves with their custom, with walking, with eating when they remember that they probably should have eaten hours ago...
No one especially wants to leave Bunning but no one particularly can, either. They come to stay in a little crablike overlook that has only the fattest, fattest, happiest stray dogs, everywhere, surrounded by people who are slowly collapsing into each other, buildings which are love, in a people and city which long ago ceased to be anything but Auld Darrel.
When a city breathes in and out like a city and rises and falls like a city, a great big yeasty loaf that is never baked but just grows, what else grows there? What else lurks about it, within it, beneath it? What kind of thing would choose to nest there, unaffected by the enchantments others suffer? And why?
When a mind is left open like a shack, what takes up residence there? When you are part of the dead what are you part of? When everyone is part of the dead what are they? When everyone is part of the stone, what else did they become, and wait a minute doesn't that sound incredibly familiar and old and Dark Run Screams Dark Run Red Wet Dark Dark Silence?
Exactly how long has this been going on and what the fuck happens with Auld Darrel dies? And what the fuck else was he into that he can't tell us about? How screwed COULD everyone be?
Why did Emma die?
Save vs. Spells.