April's ES: The Heart, the Devil and the Zee

[color=#cc0099]Delicious friends, the Exceptional Story for April is here!

A Conscientious Nurse. A Besotted Poet. A Garrulous Devil. Untangle a knot of love and duty among the sooty tenements of London’s working poor. But be warned: in this tale of hard lives and hard choices there is no peace to be made between the devils, the honey, and the heart.

The Heart, the Devil and the Zee is the second story in the Season of Stones, and was written by Olivia Wood and James Chew. This Season involves three linked stories delving into the hardships and injustices at the heart of London. Players will be able begin each story from the Season of Stones card.

At the end of the season, players who played all three will unlock bonus content allowing them to address – or profit from – London’s inequity.

Editing and QA: Cash DeCuir, Caolain Porter, Chris Gardner.

Art by Paul Arendt.


In addition to a new, substantial, stand-alone story every month, Exceptional Friends enjoy:

  • Access to the House of Chimes: an exclusive private member’s club on the Stolen River, packed with content[/li][li]An expanded opportunity deck: of ten cards instead of six![/li][li]A second candle: Twice the actions! 40 at once!

Finishing all three stories in the Season of Stones will make you eligible for an additional opportunity, to follow.

If you want to keep an Exceptional Story beyond the month it’s for, you must complete the related storylet in the current Season’s card throughout London. This will save it for you to return to another time.[/color]
edited by Absintheuse on 3/30/2017

I sent her to the zee, in the end. She deserved that much. I loved this one. It painted a picture of what life for ordinary people actually is in a city like London. The honey dream sequence and the Urchin chase are particularly well written. I also think Blind Tiger should become part of regular game, honestly. Devil was a joy to interact with.
I have to say, story-wise this one was better than Clay Man’s Arm. Hopefully, trend continues with the last one!

Are the Notes on the Commercial affairs of a devil the end of season turn in item?

I think so, since it is not required anywhere else in story

Well. That was convoluted.

What a strange dream. I was somehow able to access the Bazaar. From within Parabola. Sold a ton of brass and a few teaspoons of honey, ironically.

I think of myself as a pragmatist, at heart. We live in the skull of a dead thunder dragon because a wayward space crab and its’ fellow cosmic criminals are attempting to justify their existence to the ultimate lawmakers. And will attempt to bring either Paris or Moscow down on our heads unless something drastic is done. Putting faith in Victorian notions of marriage and familial duty in the face of that is like sticking your head in the ground to make the charging elephants go away.

By contrast, making an alliance with said thunder dragon, loitering in the dream dimenion to escape the dangers in what passes for reality and-yes, running away to sea offers a more fulfilling life-and a chance for survival.

How nice of her to wish me well on my dream! When the Ambitions are finished, I hope I can mail her one of Mr. Veils’ ears to let her know mine came true.

I am engaged and enthralled.

The writing was top-notch. The characters were very real and very believable. And I thought the relationship between the Nurse and the Admirer was very Victorian. Or perhaps it’s playing to my misconceptions of how things were at the time, but their reality is three steps removed from ours, and verisimilitude is as much a virtue as truth.

I have a certain whistfulness for how things played out for everybody. I think the imperfection of the circumstances made it feel more real to me. It’s also a nice break to have a story where I don’t feel the fate of the Neath hangs in the balance, but I still care deeply about the outcome.

I must say, I rather enjoy how the lore bits in this story are tiny little details, hidden away in deep corners. They evoke, rather than stating. I learned something about cats and Parabola, and something about devils and souls, and something about thunder.

I just drew the Epilogue and I don’t have enough actions to use it! The impatience is unbearable.

I have to say I quite enjoyed this story. Possibly because it is so relatable, balancing one’s personal desires, ambitions and feelings with the obligations to family, loved ones and society as a whole. It also really reflected what I think Failbetter strives to achieve through their games and stories: choices have consequences. They don’t have to be massive, earth shattering, Liberation of the Night scale consequences that encompass the entirety of the Neath and beyond. They can be entirely personal. Relational. The Conscientious Nurse chose to try and do what was best for everyone in her life. She found herself buried and struggling under a pile of obligations, perceived or otherwise, unable to tell what she felt was right or what she wanted anymore. Unable to make those choices. Whatever outcome you guide her towards, she lives with the consequence of the choice. There is no right or wrong answer. Only what you as a player or character feel was best at the time.

I felt each character had a very real and human dilemma or desire at their heart. Even the Garrulous Devil, with his fixation on souls that suited his tastes, was very relatable. Who hasn’t at one point in their life seen everything and everyone through the lens of a particular passion? All of their interactions with one another, the connections between their lives, how they see one another, how they see themselves, and the world as a whole…it really just made the entire story come together as a cohesive, vividly lifelike experience. I also enjoyed the further exploration of Urchin life and territory in the search for the sister, they are an aspect of Fallen London I feel deserves more content given their tendency to be written off by most as starving, struggling kids.

I just finished the Epilogue, significant question about the last exchange.

[spoiler]In case it matters, my choice makes the Nurse and her Admirer a couple.

The Garrulous Devil said that another recognized the value of my soul before he did. I want to know if people that still have their soul received the same text. The meaning would change quite a bit.

In case someone wants the Echo: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/PSGarak?fromEchoId=11436272 [/spoiler]
edited by PSGarak on 3/30/2017

Trying to record the result for unlocking the story (the one saying to look for a storylet in Watchmaker’s Hill) gives the generic error instead of bringing up the window to record to the journal.

Some typo reports too:

When first talking to the Nurse: &quotThis state of limbo is unhappy one for all concerned.&quot
When talking to the Admirer a second time: &quotHe lurches to a halt on seeing you and stands there fidgeting, unsure what to do with this hands.&quot
In the confrontation with the Schoolmistress: &quotYour point is, that if a child is to be treated as an adult, then it deserves the privileges of that status.&quot
In the sister/admirer ending: ‘The girl’s words: &quotYou’re gonna marry him’

edited by Optimatum on 3/31/2017

[quote=PSGarak]I just finished the Epilogue, significant question about the last exchange.

[spoiler]In case it matters, my choice makes the Nurse and her Admirer a couple.

The Garrulous Devil said that another recognized the value of my soul before he did. I want to know if people that still have their soul received the same text. The meaning would change quite a bit.

In case someone wants the Echo: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/PSGarak?fromEchoId=11436272 [/spoiler]
edited by PSGarak on 3/30/2017[/quote]

I haven’t gotten it myself yet, but I did see the echo of someone else in passing. It is different for those who still have their soul. He’s tempted, comments on it, but doesn’t pursue it further than that.

Making the “Blind Tiger” and with it, the devil, part of the game would be fantastic. I would be almost tempted to sell my soul to him.
Anyway. I sent her to the Zee. Away from all of those Things that would dull her brilliance. The only Thing that should be holding her in London was her Sister and i would never stop an Acolyte of the wind from fulfilling her destiny.

It seems the Zee is the most popular ending. I made a different choice, and will share the Echo of that:

[spoiler]I set up the Conscientious Nurse with her Admirer. I also created two other couples: The Sister with Slivvy, and the Poet with his new love, Gin.

Echo for the conclusion: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/PSGarak?fromEchoId=11434841

The set of Echoes for the final choices for each character, the conclusion and the epilogue are all in one contiguous chunk, starting with the Urchin’s choice here: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/PSGarak?fromEchoId=11434314

This involved some of the hardest decisions I’ve made in Fallen London. It was a great story. I ended up

giving both the Poet and the Admirer the boot, and leaving the Nurse with her sister to raise. The sister gave up the Urchin gangs to be with the Nurse. It was a bittersweet ending. I really considered sending the Nurse to the zee, and leaving the sister with the Urchins, but couldn’t go through with it. The two lovers (Poet and Admirer) seemed too silly and self-absorbed for someone like the Nurse to be happy with. Echoed in my journal, starting here: http://fallenlondon.storynexus.com/Profile/Myrto?fromEchoId=11441111

I personally wasn’t a huge fan of the fact that you couldn’t choose help her decide independently of what you advised others. I chose the poet lover and no sister. But I feel like she should also be able to take on a lover and go to zee. Why should she be the one to give up her dreams, it’s not like he needs to remain in London.
Anyways it was a change of pace but not as suited to the game as the clay arm or last season.

This Exceptional Story is currently my favourite for 2017. What fun, tinkering in the background and guiding people about like little puppets!

And the choices! Easily the best part, such variety. While I did pair the Nurse and her sister with the Admirer (my reasoning that it might be nice for the two to be well taken care of) I was so tempted to send the Nurse off to Zee.

Perhaps on a subsequent playthrough.

An interesting change of pace from Fallen London’s usual content. The writing was pleasant, much better than last month’s. I particularly enjoyed interacting with the Garrulous Devil.

I’m a new EF, so perhaps I’m missing some important history, but: why do these stories require one to spend so many actions? This is paid content, crazy amounts of actions (at least 30 for me, though I did not count) should not be required to go through the story.
edited by mgl on 3/31/2017

Thank you so much. This ES had brilliant writing and clearly took care to elaborate each choice branch with a satisfying narrative. The new mechanic was very clever and drew me where I wanted my character to go without spoiling the story. I loved how flexible the mechanic was on a moral standpoint, where you could regard your actions as blatant manipulation or an involved act of charity. The additional bits of lore were atmospheric and delicious–sometimes literally. I really hope to engage in many more stories where my character can consume something again. Neathly food is always a treasure. In regards to the narrative content of this ES, I loved the Nurse and Urchin Sister. Their characters were an absolute delight and I very much was compelled to see them succeed. Being able to convince the Poet and the Admirer (?) not to rely on the Nurse to provide them with emotional fulfillment was incredibly gratifying. The auto-fire harassment stories in Ladybones were a fun surprise and really helped with character immersion. Not to mention I very much enjoyed the opportunity for the Nurse to reclaim her agency as a single mother. Her plight was incredibly sympathetic. I was so worried by the idea of separating her from her sister, seeing the two of them separately pining after the comfort of family. When I saw that both sisters shared mutual aspirations for adventure, however, it was a bittersweet but irresistible choice to have them part ways to discover the secrets of the Neath for themselves.
edited by Art Shrival on 3/31/2017

This scratched the same itch as the thrice dead governess - average people trying their best in London’s weirdness. I especially enjoyed the devil, and gin that gave me wounds.

I thought over the decision, since it hits on family but also on liberty. Once her sister talked about learning the thunder, I knew my choice. I let the nurse and sister become bigger things they could’ve if they stayed as respectable. (I had no hard time deciding to discard the poet and the admirer.)

It was not so long a story as some, nor were there as many mechanics or reveals, but I enjoyed it for the well written characters, the clarity with which I could choose my direction, and one of the most delightful honey-dreams I’ve had in a long time. It’s always best when I feel I can open my heart to the storylets and choose naturally. This has been very satisfying. I’ll take a short story, and a sweet one, over a confusing grind carousel any day.

And nice to see the urchin with the birthmark again. I’m glad he’s well.

I loved everything - the characters, the writing, the Neathy London bits, the simplicity and the complexity of this. It read like a short story. I consider the zee a realistic happy end, one where people achieve their dreams but need time to escape from themselves.
I also felt the need to whack some devils after. On to the labyrinth!