Pippin crossed and uncrossed his legs on the bed. The clothes that had been lent to him by the Leading Player were decent, but fit him tightly. Whether or not that was purposeful on the part of the other man, he couldn't say, but it made him constantly self aware and a bit uncomfortable.

When the two Players entered the room, they stood around him with smiles, waiting. Finally, Pippin cleared his throat.

"Hello," he greeted simply, waving his hand slightly at them, "I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me about your lives here. It's very important and I request that you both answer truthfully as it will greatly affect my decision and my life."

The two Players nodded and exchanged unreadable glances. Pippin fidgeted.

"Okay… so first off… he claims not to abuse his power. Is this true, or does this seem true, from your standpoint?"

"The Master is relatively fair," the taller of the two confessed easily, "by which, I mean, as a whole, he is very kind and keeps to his own firm sense of justice." Pippin winced.


"But how he treats you relies first and foremost on his mood and how he's feeling… he is angered rather easily, and does not always show patience. Therefore we all try our best not to displease him even in the slightest way. Normally when we fail a mission or expedition for him, he'll punish us rather… severely. But when we all returned here empty-handed after our mingling about you, he acted rather uncharacteristic."

The other Player nodded. "Melancholy. He'd hardly speak to anyone or do much of anything. We were all thankful for that, however, though we figure it's only a matter of time before one or more of us are blamed for the entire troupe's failure."

"That is… unless you come through for us, Pippin. It really all depends on what you do now… if you try to cheat him of his favorite daughter-Player, he'll be livid… Please don't wish his ire and hatred upon us, Prince Pippin. Please work to satisfy him as much as you can. We know he wants you, as well as Catherine. It's not just about Catherine and Theo anymore."

"But why me?!"

"You're special," the tall one said, "you're… different. You resisted his charms and somehow inspired Catherine to take your side. He's intrigued."

"And he probably wants to dominate you." Pippin shivered.

"So you're saying that if I try to leave here with Catherine, or just flat-out leave without consulting him, your master, that it'll bring pain and misery upon all of you, but if I stay here to protect all of you and Catherine that I'll be the one bearing the pain and misery?!"

"Precisely, Prince Pippin."

"Well where's the fairness in that!" The two Players exchanged glances.

"Did the Master ever promise you that your decision would be fair?" They asked him blankly, curious. Pippin sighed and lowered his head.

"No… he didn't," he admitted with a growing weight on his heart. He was beginning to feel hopelessly frustrated, despite his sincere appreciation for their honesty. But the fact that their words were failing to bring him closer to making a decision one way or another really was spoiling his perception of them. They were no help.

They shrugged in response and the shorter one merely said, "We are all sure that you will make the right decision." And, well, Pippin looked at him strangely! What was that supposed to mean?!

"Thank you..." he said heavily, his lips in a frown, "is there anything else that the two of you can tell me? Or am I wasting my time?"

They appeared slightly offended at his words, but the taller one managed to retain his faux smile. "Like what, Pippin?"

"Well..." Pippin pondered. Before his mind had been racing with questions, but they all seemed now long gone. "What will happen to me once the Leading Player loses interest in me? I can't possibly be fresh and exciting to him forever...!"

"Most likely you will just disappear. Not entirely, of course..."

"Unless you really make him angry."

"But surely you are wise enough to avoid that?" Pippin nodded grimly.

"I have already had the misfortune of learning what happens when you make his displeasure."

"We're sorry to hear that," they replied with genuine empathy. Pippin sighed and then glanced forward at them seriously.

"... Do you think he'll ever really let me be with Catherine?"

The Players stopped their fidgeting and swaying, and the smiles faded from their faces. Even the taller of the two had taken on a far more grim expression, a contrite gleam in his eyes.

"No… probably not."

The shorter one raised an eyebrow, as though amused by something. "If anything, he'll probably only give you the illusion of being with Catherine."

"He can do that?!" Pippin wondered aloud, worriedly. "That's possible?"

"When he has complete dominion over your mind… I don't see why not."

Pippin's hands turned into fists in his lap. There was no avoiding it, really; if he chose not to join the Leading Player's family, then Pippin would never be with Catherine… at least if he played along, there was a slight chance of holding onto his happiness… even if it was all just ended up being a product of the Leading Player's deceit.

Pippin felt defeated… but he was done with his interrogation.

"Thank you... that is all I needed to ask... I really do appreciate your honesty."

"You are welcome, Prince Pippin… we only regret that the answers we gave may not have been the ones you wanted to hear."

"It's fine," Pippin waved them off, surprised that they were still calling him 'prince', "there's nothing you or any of us can do about it if it's the truth."

And with that they nodded, did a little strange dance and left Pippin alone in the elaborate room. And for a long time, Pippin just lay there on the Leading Player's bed… until finally, the desire for rest was too great and he fell asleep.