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Deer College Odyssey

The Buck Stops Here



By Indigo Norton (⁂anarcolumnist) and Leah Weil (⁂princex_leah)

Deer collects traditions like a practical thesis on hyperbolic geometry collects Hounds of Tindalos1. While many of our traditions are stupid, and others are irresponsible, none are stupider or more irresponsible than the Beltane Rugby Game, a yearly contest of athletic achievement between Deer and our bitter rivals at Portlands' other institute of higher learning, ICSUT2. Since the fourth such game, in 1957, every year students, alumni, and even faculty from one or both schools have unleashed their considerable magical prowess upon the field of play, not as rugbists3 but as pranksters, attempting to ensure their school's victory, the other school's victory, or simply the disruption of the game by the wackiest means possible.

"But Indigo and Leah," you must be thinking, "where can I find a list of these pranks, so I can be inspired to plan one of my own? How will I know what's already been done so often it's passé4? Who will tell me of the exploits of Deeries in the olden-times, when everything was black-and-white, when the weed was weak and the beer weaker still, when nobody cared about underage drinking and you could drop acid with your professors outside the lab section of Parapsychology 342: Methods of Psychonautics?" Well, oh noble seeker, look no further: for below is the comprehensive narrative of every major prank and counterprank in that most excellent of Deer traditions. Buckle up your robes, hold on to your pointy hats, and get ready for the Great Rugby Prank War.


The first Deer-ICSUT rugby game took place on May 1, 1953, proceeded uneventfully, and ended with an ICSUT victory, 23-175. The '54 (ICSUT, 19-14), '55 (ICSUT, 21-17), and '56 (Deer, 20-18) games were similarly prankless, although not without incident; the '56 game ended with Deer fans, overjoyed by their first victory, storming the field and lifting the players above their heads, all the while singing the Deer fight song6. ICSUT fans responded with their own college's fight song7 and grew increasingly rowdy; an all-out brawl was only prevented by ICSUT security golems, who formed a wall between the two sides until the Deeries could be escorted off campus.

Possibly inspired by the near-riot the previous year, the first real prank was unleashed in '57. A group of five unknown Deeries—who have never revealed their identities, more than 50 years later—came onto the pitch at halftime and summoned a demon8 to sabotage the ICSUT team. Before the demon could do more than ogle the ICSUTters unsettlingly, it was dispatched by the ICSUT cheer squad, who used the Pyramid of Solomon multi-user acrobatic banishment to great effect. The pranksters fled off the field and into the history books, and ICSUT went on to win 30-25.

In '58, retaliating for the previous year's prank, three ICSUT students—Ephraim Bazan9, Joseph Kent, and Michael Roberts—broke into the Deer Sports Center locker rooms the night before the game and dyed the Deer rugby team's uniforms pink. While the ISCUTters were caught by the CSOs, the Deer rugby team couldn't undo the dye's permanency charm before the game, and had to play with pink uniforms. Despite—or perhaps because of—the change in outfit, Deer won 30-27.

1959 marks the first year in which the prank had no clear source or motive10—a pattern that will be repeated numerous times in years to come. Just before the game started, American football gear manifested on all players, and all rugby balls in Portlands were transformed into footballs. Both teams agreed to play American football rather than rugby, although neither team had a strong grasp on the actual rules. At the end of the game, all rugby balls returned to their original form and the football gear disappeared. ICSUT won 28-21.

We don't know who pulled off the 1960 prank, but it was a doozy. On the night of April 27th, a herd of reindeer entered the ICSUT rugby firld. The reindeer were intangible and couldn't be permanently banished by magical means, but the shit they shat was definitely tangible, and quickly filled up the field; the game had to be played on the Deer field, where the home team won 22-13. On May 2nd, an ICSUT student noticed that feces patterns had formed themselves into the shape of the Seal of Deer College; further analysis of the spell matrix revealed that it could only be permanently dispelled by the entire ICSUT rugby team singing the Deer College fight song. It took four more days for the entire ICSUT rugby team to agree to this measure.

On game-day of '61, with ICSUT leading at halftime, their cheer squad performed a modified Zuni rainmaking dance; the resulting thunderstorm manifested immediately in Three Portlands and all three Portlands. The Deer rugby team refused to end the match because of the weather, even though the ICSUT rugby field was covered with as much as three feet of water. Deer's team captain that year was half-selkie, and used her fae power over the elements to lead the team to victory, 17-12.

During the weeks before the 1962 game, Deeries George Hopkins, Yngvar Tormundsson, and Suh Wu Rib broke into the ICSUT dorms and hid alarm clocks in walls, ceilings, furniture, plumbing and lighting fixtures, the astral and ethereal planes, and other alarm clocks. The alarms clocks were activated en masse via predetermined spell-triggers at various points between 12:07 AM and 8:43 AM on the morning of the game, preventing any of the ICSUT rugby players from getting any sleep. Deer won 26-11.


The first decade of rugby established the pranking tradition; the next would bring an escalation of the prank war, sparked by the significant collateral damage of the '61 and '62 pranks. This escalation took a few years and the '63 prank was still pretty tame. The night before the game, ICSUTters Jessica Gutierrez and Lothar Gottesman snuck onto Deer campus and used a preprogrammed translocation charm11 to move ICSUT almunus Ephraim Bazan12 past the campus exclusion wards. They performed a ritual that turns the entire Deer rugby field pink, and while they got caught by CSOs, the ritual couldn't be undone before the start of the game. ICSUT wins 22-17.

During the '64 game, 17 queen-sized mattresses landed on the ICSUT field, apparently launched from somewhere on the other side of town. The Portlands Police tracked the origin of the mattresses to a rooftop in the Jurassic District, where a magically-augmented trebuchet had been disabled and abandoned. The pranksters were never found. ICSUT won 27-22.

Xenophilus Withers, one of the few students in ICSUT's short-lived MBA13 in Applied Eschatology program, discovered that May 1, 1965 coincideed perfectly with a planetary alignment that would allow him to complete his thesis project, the summoning of the Dark God K'Vuth from the 18th Hell-Dimension to wreak havoc upon the mortal plane. He performed his ritual at halftime after conjuring an astral ice-devil to freeze both teams and all spectators in place; fortunately, K'Vuth was summoned elsewhere on earth by the Cult of the Golden Prince Awakened before Withers could finish his ritual, and it fizzled. Withers, embarrassed, unfreezed the teams and spectators, and play resumed. Deer won 25-19.

During their jaunt across time, the 1985 Deer and ICSUT rugby teams14 came into phase with the main timeline a few hours before the 1966 game. Rather than a standard Deer-ICSUT game, all four teams agreed to select the best players from each year and pit the two eras against each other. The past team was unable to keep up with the future's advances in countermagic and spellbreaking, and 1985 won 27-23.

On the eve of the '67 game, the ICSUT rugby field was TP'd heavily by a large mob of Deeries. Either by accident or by design, the pattern of the toilet paper across the center of the field formed a sigil of power that opened a previously-undiscovered Way leading to a third-level branch universe filled entirely with heavy water. The field was quickly flooded and the toilet paper dissolved, closing the Way. The game was relocated to the Deer field, as the ICSUT field was both waterlogged and radioactive. Deer won 26-19.

Retaliating for the TP'ing of their field, the ICSUT rugby team came onto Deer campus the night before the 1968 game, heavily armed with rolls of toilet paper and cartons of eggs. Unfortunately, they began their assault in the Canyon. Deer won by forfeit, as none of the ICSUT players could be located until several days later, when they began falling out of the trees that had kidnapped them15.

The 196916 game apparently went off without a hitch, and ICSUT won 20-15. Several weeks after the game, a number of players from both teams revealed that they had been bribed and/or coerced to fix the game by unknown parties, who had appeared in their dreams wearing the faces of their families. ICSUT oneiromancers traced the source of these visions to an abandoned warehouse in the Jurassic District; investigation of the warehouse uncovered an illegal gambling operation run by the elven mob, who had used a stolen prototype Oneiroi Industries dream-projection device to make a significant profit on the game17.

The 1970 game was, reportedly, a much more interesting experience for the players than for the audience, as both teams' water coolers were spiked before the game by unknown saboteurs with a drug cocktail known locally as AUM18. The entheogenic effects of the cocktail resulted in every player having a simultaneous religious experience at some point during the third quarter; the teams continued to play, and ICSUT won 25-23. After the game, most players from both teams dropped out of college to found the First Church of the Prolate Spheroid, a sect that still has over a dozen adherents in the Portlands area, and almost four in the rest of the world.

One week before the 1971 game, ICSUT students replaced the Three Portlands flag on the Deer College front lawn with a pair of heart-pattern boxers. The boxers remained for seventeen months, due in large part to Deer students preferring the change. The Deer team, all dressed only in matching boxers and plain white tshirts, won 22-16.








1978 saw the return of a familiar face: Ephraim Bazan, now an adjunct professor at ICSUT. Since his role as a professor gave him diplomatic immunity from the Deer campus exclusion hex, Bazan was able to enter Deer campus just after midnight on the 1st. He broke into the Deer steam tunnels and released a biomagic retrovirus, which colored the skin, hair, and eyes of all Deer students bright pink. While Bazan evaded the CSOs, his name was encoded in the DNA of the retrovirus and he was arrested by city cops immediately after the game. The virus's effects were reversed after six days days. Deer won 22-19.

The '79-'80 game was the longest one yet, and also set a probably-unbeatable score record for both sides. Using a combination of Greco-Egyptian theurgy, temporal thaumatology, and paratechnology, Deeries Ptolemaios Kleiopatros, Leopold Rákóczi, and Stëve33 sealed the Deer rugby field inside a time-bubble lasting a year and a day. The bubble stopped people inside from being injured or needing food, water, or sleep; both rugby teams agreed to play constantly for the duration of the prank. Deer won 742-731.

Midway through the third quarter of the 1981 game, the ball hatched, revealing an infant with green scaled skin, four arms, and a serpentine tail. Play proceeded with a replacement ball, and ICSUT won 19-14. After the game, the infant was left with the Three Portlands Paranatural Orphanage, and was later adopted by ICSUT professors Zohrah bint Iblis al-Shaytan (Demonology, 1979-2002) and Padmavati Nagin (Alchemical Engineering, 1976-2002)19.

In 1982, neither of the teams were made of mortal flesh and blood. Ricky Lime, an ICSUT Robotics major, created a squad of androids to replace the ICSUT team; Max Lowenstein, a Deer Kabbalah major20 created a squad of golems to replace the Deer team. The two artificial teams were evenly matched, and the game ended in a 0-0 draw after everyone got bored during the fourth overtime period.


ICSUT won the 1983 game 17-13. Afterwards, ICSUT players celebrated by pouring a cooler of Powerade (Red Cherry) over their coach's head, only to discover that it had been transformed into human urine; the next time each member of the ICSUT team urinated, Gatorade (Blue Raspberry) was produced21.

In the weeks before the game in '84, ICSUTters Virgil Runnels, Mary Ellison, and Johnnie Young stole the components for an IPLEC22 from the ICSUT Physics department and set them up around the ICSUT rugby field. As the game started, the pranksters activated the device, setting friction and air resistance on the field to zero. The device could not be deactivated without a passcode that they refused to divulge until the game was complete. Both teams agreed to play, but had lots of trouble keeping hold of the ball. Deer won 2-0.

On April 14th, 1985, that year's entire game was broadcast on Three Portlands Public Access TV, significantly before the actual game took place. Deer won 19-14. As the results of the game were known, the teams decided not to play, causing a severe temporal paradox that sent both teams on a wild adventure through the history of sports23.

The 1985 teams came back to the main timeline just before the 1986 game, having aged almost a decade in their seemingly-short absence. In the intervening year, both schools had to scramble to replenish their rugby teams from scratch, and most of the players were poorly-coached and inexperienced; in the model of their game against the combined forces of the year 1966, the 1985 teams proposed that the '86 teams should choose their best players and compete with the combined might of '85. The '85 teams had been hardened by their temporal voyage, and handily defeated their younger counterparts 33-12.

One more year, one more prank from Ephraim Bazan, now Dean of Faculty at ICSUT. The 1987 version of this dude's bullshit was an unnecessarily complicated caper that involved sixteen plants in the incoming freshman class, the blackmail of two Community Safety Officers and one Deer Metaphys Plant worker, twenty-four tanker trucks full of pink paint (eight per Portland) piped directly through a number of Ways, the theft of four ancient Egyptian mummies and the sacrifice of a black lamb; the result of all this nonsense was the empinkening of every part of Deer campus not protected by heavy mystical wards (i.e. everything but the labs and the library). The game proceeded as normal, as the empinkening did not actively hinder play; Deer won 27-19. Bazan's prank was reversed over the course of the next few weeks, except for the lights on one of the bridges across the canyon, which retained their color by popular demand.




In 1991, Deeries Charnel Popplestaff and Amber Lockmore did… Something. Some wicca shit, probably, given the names. We couldn't actually find any records about the exact prank anywhere, so it was either so boring that nobody cared to mention anything about it but the primary pranksters or it erased itself from the collective memory afterwards. Either way, we got nothin'.






Just before the 1996 game, all sports drinks and water belonging to ICSUT players became slightly alcoholic. The prank wasn't noticed until halftime; the ICSUT team performed a mass sobriety ritual and got new, non-alcoholic drinks. Deer won 27-24.

Game day '97: the Three Portlands Community College rugby team used High Urbanomancy to manifest an alternative geometry around the ICSUT rugby field, creating a pitch with three sides that are exactly opposite each other. An athleto-nomurgic incantation created a loophole in the rugby rules which they used to forcibly insert themselves into the game. 3PPC won 31-17-12; however, because of their unlicensed use of urbanomancy and nomurgy within city limits, the 3PPC team was summarily disbanded by the Mayor.


Ephraim Bazan's retirement mellowed him a little, and his 1999 prank was actually subtle. Rather than turn everything to pink all at once, he placed a hex on the ball that caused it to dye anything it touched during the game pink. The clothes and exposed skin of most of the players were thoroughly dyed, as was the field. ICSUT won 16-11. It was not until the players tried to depinken themselves that the true genius of Bazan's hex was revealed: the pink was magically contagious, and would spread down any open thaumaturgical channels to infect the auras of anyone who tried to dispel it. While the physical pink was quickly removed, the metaphysical pink still lingers on over a dozen Deer faculty (current and former), staff, and alumni.



In 2002, Sophia Ennoia Shaytan-Nagin, Beltane-Born Heir of the Light-Bringer, Princess of the Kingdom of the Nāga, Child of the Serpent and the Morning Star, Deer College Student Body President-For-Life24, stole every rugby ball in Three Portlands on the eve of the game, bringing them to her great lair in the steam tunnels beneath the Old Dorm Block, where she coiled around a great pile of them like a mother serpent around a clutch of eggs. The referees were able to source a replacement ball from the Isle of Portland, and the game began as normal. Play was interrupted midway through the third quarter as Sophia's unholy brood of serpentfolk emerged from the soil, hungry for the blood of the unscaled ones; the dread army was defeated by the combined might of the two schools' faculty, and their queen fled through an ephemeral Way into an unknown dark dimension with a select few of her children. Play resumed, and ICSUT won 24-18. Sophia's mothers turned in their resignations to ICSUT shortly after the game and disappeared, presumably to join their daughter in her secret lair.






In 2007, to commemorate 50 years of pranks, a group of 5 Deeries came onto the field at halftime and summoned former Deer professor Andrealphus Pavo (Mathematics, 1973-1980) to sabotage the ICSUT team. ICSUT's cheer squad dispatched Professor Pavo with the Pyramid of Solomon multi-user acrobatic banishment, and the pranksters fled the field. ICSUT won 30-25.



Using a sound system mounted on a bicycle, Deeries Esther Kogan and Olga Tokareva played a memetic audio brainhack25 immediately before the 2010 game. The brainhack caused all players and spectators to switch their school allegiance; the teams switched uniforms, and played the game. The Deer team, wearing ICSUT uniforms, won 30-21.




We've now hit 60 years of rugby, and with that a number of other important milestones—the 100th anniversary of ICSUT's existence, the numerologically-significant 72nd anniversary of the founding of ICSUT Portlands in 1941, and the 50th anniversary of the creation of ICSUT Portlands' mascot suit, Lucy the Lighthouse, on March 12, 1963. On that day in 2013, Lucy became a tsukumogami26; it hid this property until the day of the game, when it came onto the field without a wearer and attacked Fianna, Deer's skeletal Irish Elk mascot. Several Deer Necromancy professors and majors subdued the mascots, and play proceeded as normal. ICSUT won 30-25.


At halftime during the 2015 game, the field cracked open and Ephraim Bazan, now an undead abomination powered by the darkest sorcery, flew out from a flaming pit riding a dragon made of the bones of wicked children and wielding strange amalgamations of enchantment and technology in all six of his shadow-arms. It turns out they were paintball guns. Filled, you guessed it, with pink pellets. And they never ran out of shots. The ensuing storm of paintballs left everyone in the stands and on the field covered in pink paint and welts; after about 20 minutes of this nonsense, Bazan disappeared once more beneath the earth, and has not been heard from since.


The 2017 prank was actually part of a larger magical working. As part of their thesis project27, GORED TO DEATH BY A TWELVE-POINT BUCK, Deerie Demian Strange participated heavily in every major Deer tradition during the '16-'17 academic year. During halftime, they crucified themself28 on the horns of Deer's mascot, Fianna at the center of the field; while this had no immediate effect, the public display of harm caused directly to them by a symbol of the college reinforced the symbolic purpose of the earlier works in the series and honestly neither of us do Anart, we really can't speak much to this other than that it was apparently "sick as hell" and "really reminded [the spectators] of the imminence of [their] own deaths". Play began while the performance piece was still ongoing, with both teams simply avoiding the mascot and artist. Deer won 29-24.


In 2019, Deeries "Fellatio" Chapman29 and Lewis Rodriguez, members of Deer's arcane improv comedy group, were selected as that year's halftime entertainment; in the true spirit of improv, they seized this opportunity, performing a sketch about the ICSUT guardian sphinx that utilized ambient narrato-thaumic potential to riddle-lock the field, preventing the continuation of the game until ICSUTter Jen Kennings30 solved the multi-step riddle-gauntlet. Deer won 23-1731.



And finally, we come to the present. Having stockpiled large quantities of LaCroix-brand seltzer during an incident several months before the 2022 game, Deerie Indigo Norton32 used an army of minor servitor spirits to bury approximately 6,000 individual cans of the stuff in large caches beneath the field after shaking them heavily. During the game, whenever one of these caches was stepped on, a proximity triggered magical detonation would cause all the cans to explode, sending the players flying in a burst of mediocre sparkling water. Despite the soda-mines, which were clustered more heavily on Deer's side of the field to support the defense, ICSUT won 15-9.

There have now been 69 years33 of Deer-ICSUT rugby games; may of them have been mired in controversy, many have been only partially successful, many of them have involved teams that are neither Deer nor ICSUT, and all but a few have been pranked to hell and back. Of course, we realize that was a lot of information to take in, so we've provided a short summary below, that tries to encompass the scope of the prank war without getting into the nitty, gritty details; so without further ado, let us invoke the sacred pentagrammaton of one of the Grand Gods of the Webernet:


Deer Students/Alumni:
Deer Staff/Faculty:
ICSUT Students/Alumni:
ICSUT Staff/Faculty:

Deer Victory:
ICSUT Victory:
Other: (3PPC: 1; The Year 1985: 2; )

tags: three-portlands third-law goi-format _other

A lot of the little bits in this article were contributed by GreenWolf, ARD, and other people in the Third Law chat. Apologies to the professional wrestlers, real-life Reed students and faculty, and historical figures whose names have been remixed and/or just used straight up for this article. I would also like to thank my roommate, Color Antivirus, for being Indigo Norton's real-life counterpart.

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Troy's day had started pretty poorly. The flight from Miami to Boston had been stalled on the runway for about an hour by the weather, and by the time it landed he only had 15 minutes to make his connection to Portland, on a propeller plane that barely sat two dozen people and rumbled like a car on a gravel road—and of course, after he finally escaped the airport, his luggage had been roughed up pretty badly by the baggage handlers (all the important stuff was, thankfully, tucked away outside physical space). The Way he took to his final destination was in the most disgusting gas station bathroom he'd ever had the misfortune to enter, and he had to linger for a solid half-hour before there was nobody else in there who would be spooked by the unfortunate screeching noise it emitted when it opened.

And, of course, it was raining in Three Portlands. As expected.

But all of those indignities and misfortunes were the mere backdrop to Troy's least favorite part of any job: introducing himself to his client. This one owned a computer store in a small commercial zone near Prometheus Square, one of Portlands' few static landmarks; the store was just outside the Square's bubble of stability, but more than close enough that he usually had a solid customer base of parageeks looking for spare parts for their extracurricular activities. He was a Sidhe, slender and unusually pale, although that might've been as much from the weather and his occupation as his ancestry. Troy met him at the Prometheus Square trolley stop, did the standard hand-shaking and smile-and-nodding, and handed him a business card when it was finally time for actual introductions.

The elf took a second to examine the card, and gave Troy a concerned look. "Is this, like, your real name?"

Troy hadn't quite perfected this speech, so he tried a variation, a little less formal than usual. "Look, you know how Christians sometimes name kids after virtues? Chastity, Prudence, Constance, that sort of thing? Well, it used to be even worse back in Puritan times, and my folks were always pretty old-school. Also they were Satanists."

"Well, uh, welcome to Three Portlands, Mr. Diaz. Unless you prefer…" He looked down at the card again. "Destroy-The-Cities-And-Dignities-Of-Man?"

"Please, call me Troy."

"Nice to meet you, Troy. I'm Rowan. So you're a Satanist? I would imagine that's rare in your, uh, profession."

"Oh, I'm not a Satanist." Troy pulled an amulet from under his shirt. It was silver, of course, and on it was engraved the symbol of his faith: a flaming chalice. "I'm a Unitarian."

Troy cut an imposing figure as he strode down Syzygy Street toward his client's store. Or, rather, he hoped he did, because he had spent a lot of time and money perfecting his look, and he wanted it to work. His build helped, of course: six-foot-six and broad-shouldered, with the sort of wiry muscles that you get from martial arts, rather than body-building. That, and the rest of his appearance—long, beaded dreadlocks, all sorts of occult jewelry, the most colorful thrift-store suit he could find (its bright floral designs hid sigils, lucky charms, and excerpts from sacred texts written in a variety of languages both ancient and modern)—made him stand out like a sore thumb, in most places; but in Three Portlands on Halloween, he almost blended in.

The inhabitants of that little pocket-dimension were colorful on normal days: the city's population was a frothy mixture of mages, anartists, scientists and other, weirder folks, both human and non, and the style tended toward the counterculture and the retro. And, of course, a city with such a large magical population went all-out for Halloween—the city temporarily relaxed enforcement of necromancy ordinances, tens of thousands of pumpkins were imported from the main-line universe, the students of Deer and ICSUT planned halloween ragers that would go down in history, and everybody—well, almost everybody—bought, stole, built, summoned, or otherwise acquired the best costume they possibly could. On the short walk to Rowan's store, Troy saw a Darth Vader with a working plasma sword; a handful of witches on real flying brooms; five ghosts, one of which was an actual spectre wearing a sheet-ghost costume over its ectoplasm; and, perhaps most confusingly, a group of college-age kids in riot gear carrying brooms, mops, garbage bags and a vacuum cleaner.

Rowan was able to explain that last one, when Troy him about it. "Oh, that's pretty funny. They're Janitors. That's what people here call the, uh, men in black. The spooks that aren't the feds. Foundation, GOC, all those boogeymen. Those were probably Deer kids—the ones at ICSUT are a little more… I don't want to call them fascists, but they're definitely pawns of the global shadow-government, you know? ICSUT indoctrinates them to become good little GOC thaumatologists, oppressing their fellow creatures of magic in the service of the so-called 'Veil', or as I like to call it, the international mystic apartheid system. Outside of Portlands, I'd be a second-class citizen, did you know that? I'd have to get cosmetic surgery! To hide my ears! It's patently unjust!" He was almost shouting, and a few people gave him odd looks; another Sidhe nodded slightly and raised a fist as they passed.

"Rowan, you're preaching to the choir, believe me. This your place up ahead?"

Circuit Seelie (formerly Data Druid (formerly Radio Sanctum (formerly Big Rowan's Discount Electronics))) inhabited a one-story brick building between a dry cleaner's and a barbershop. They stopped outside, and Troy got down to business.

"So, Rowan. What exactly is the problem? Our mutual friend was pretty vague on the specifics."

"It all started with a big lot of stuff I bought from a Prometheus auction," Rowan said, gesturing vaguely down the street toward the Plaza. "They're going out of business, selling off their old equipment to keep the lights on until they finally shut down or get bought out. And used electronics are my business, so I bid on a few of the items. Won the contents of, uh, some lab, I have the number written down somewhere. Mostly computers, fairly cutting-edge Prometheus-made stuff. And one that seemed to be, well, past the cutting edge. Like nothing I'd seen before. Almost a gigabyte of RAM, a 128-gig hard-drive, ran totally silent, never overheated." He sighed, lost in the blissful memory of futuristic technology. "And then the problems started. First the sound card started to fail, in weird ways—"

"Yeah, yeah," Troy interrupted, gesturing impatiently, "Spooky voices, telling you to do evil things, it probably started writing strange notes in your text editor, smelled like rotten eggs… Am I on the right track?"

"Uh. Yes. Exactly."

"And then at some point the spirit manifested? Horns, red skin, flaming eyes, goat hooves?"

"Well, the skin was more grey than red. And I'm not sure if there were hooves. But yeah, that's right."

Troy grinned. "Well. This shouldn't take too long. I see these all the time—as a matter of fact, I guessed it would be something like this as soon as you said it was Prometheus tech. When their higher-end or experimental stuff fails, it tends to be pretty spectacular, and this sort of infernal manifestation is one of the more common results."

Rowan was trying—and failing—to copy Troy's optimism. "So, you can deal with it? Oh great. Uh, the door's locked, just let me know when you're ready to go and I'll open it."

The grin only got wider. "I'll be ready in a sec," he said, giving his suitcase a pat. "Just gotta get my materials ready."

Troy's favorite part of any exorcism was gearing up. He laid his suitcase down onto the sidewalk, entering the combination that would unlock the secret compartment, hidden in a pocket of folded space. That space unfolded; inside was Troy's armory, his tools of the trade, the weapons with which he fought unquiet spirits and the fiends of hell. It was, to be honest, pretty empty—back home people preferred the Church or their local santero to a guy with a satanic pedigree and a name to match.

There was one pistol—a 15-year-old Glock that he'd bought at a pawn shop—and a few boxes of ammo, one of the boxes silver slugs tipped with hand-inscribed banishment sigils. Most of the silver was also from pawn shops, melted-down jewelry and the like; he tried to buy crucifixes when he could, but it was usually engagement rings with the stones removed. A few single-use protective amulets, mostly made by a mage down in Miami who owed him a favor (nothing mystical; he fixed the guy's car a few times and asked to be paid in magical aid). Some knives, totally mundane but very useful regardless. And, down under a false bottom inside the hidden compartment, his most prized possession: the DoomBox, a heavily-modified stereo capable of blasting prayers, mantras, hymns and incantations at volumes that could damage eardrums and violently destabilize ectoplasm.

That would stay in the bag for this one. No reason to bring out the heavy artillery when you're hunting rabbits. Metaphorically speaking, of course—if it was an actual lagodemon, Troy would definitely bring the artillery. Preferably literal, although metaphorical would work in a pinch. For what was probably just a minor manifestation caused by a faulty demonic circuit, the standard Latin Rite would do. He grabbed his Bible (Revised King James, with the useful passages marked by pink sticky-notes), clipped a flask of holy water to his belt, and—just in case—slipped his gun into its shoulder holster. A crucifix, an iron veve of Ogún, the Goetic seal of Marchosias, and a rabbit's foot joined the silver chalice around his neck; he buttoned his shirt all the way up, and slid in a little paper clerical collar—looking the part can be just as important, sometimes.

"Alright, Rowan," Troy said, standing bible-in-hand before the store's front door, "Open her up." Rowan nodded, and unlocked the door; Troy stepped in, already chanting the 23rd psalm: "And though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…"

About five minutes later, Troy crashed through the front window of the shop, bleeding from a few shallow cuts across his forehead. He landed on a pumpkin, which collapsed beneath him—cushioning his landing, but doing some serious damage to his pants in the process.

"Well, fuck." He stood, and did his best to brush the gourd-goop from his behind. "Alright, good news and bad news."

Rowan rushed over when he saw Troy's little accident. "Oh my god, are you OK?"

"Yeah yeah I'll be fine, don't worry about me. Do you want the good news or the bad news?"

"Uh. Bad news first, I guess."

"OK, there are actually two bits of bad news. Well, three. Four? There's one multi-faceted bit of bad news." Troy brushed his dreads back out of his face and then stared at his hand, realizing that it had until just a moment ago been coated in pumpkin slime and soot. "Fuck. OK, first bit of bad news: I was absolutely wrong about what you got haunting that shop. Second bit, I am not at all equipped to deal with it. And third, it's got my gun."

Rowan's expression fell further and further, until he hit rock bottom at that last shocking revelation. "Oh. Great. Excellent. You can't banish it AND it's armed. Wonderful. What could the good news possibly be?"

"I'm not equipped to deal with it right now, but I can be. It shouldn't take long. Oh, and I'll need your help."

"With the exorcism?" It came out as a squeak, Rowan's already taxed nerves almost giving out entirely at the thought of confronting the creature again.

"Yep. And also I need you to buy me some necessary materials. And guide me around the neighborhood, because I have never been here. So: pharmacy, record store, costume shop."

On the walk from the pharmacy to the record store, Troy—his head wound freshly-bandaged—began to explain the issues with his exorcism. "So what you got in there isn't a standard demonic interference pattern. You get those a lot with old Prometheus tech. They're no problem: you do a standard bell-book-candle, maybe splash some holy water, vade retro satana, done. I thought that's what I was dealing with and I went in half-cocked. Now, in this case, it was an easy mistake to make: when you saw it, that's exactly what it looked like. What it actually is is what we call a PCP: a pop culture phantom. Well, that's what I call it, I think the more academic terminology is an Ectoplasmic Manifestation of Cultural Fears, but EMCF isn't as much fun to say, and is, in my opinion, a little less accurate, since…" He paused, realizing that Rowan had stopped nodding about three sentences back and now just looked confused. "I realize that I am throwing a lot of jargon at you, are you following me or should I slow down?"

"Uh. What does that mean? The EMCF thing."

"You ever seen Ghostbusters?" Rowan nodded. "You know the thing at the end? Zuul, or whatever? How it turns into the marshmallow man, since that's what it can grab from the guy's head?" Another nod. "Well, it's sort of like that. But instead of grabbing things from people's heads, it grabs them from nearby media. Generally the horror genre nowadays; in the past I assume they used scary stories, cautionary tales, that sort of thing. I'm not sure what Prometheus was doing with it, but they probably fed it a bunch of stories with demons in them so that it would act like a demon and be easy to contain."

"Maybe one step simpler, please? I know that people expect the Fae to understand magic, but I'm an electrical engineer."

Troy sighed. "It's a ghost that reads books and turns into the scary things from those books. Powers and all. And it found your movie library."

Rowan frowned. "I mean, I see how that could get weird, maybe a little unpleasant depending on what you're into, but what sort of fears could it get from—oh! The horror films. Those movies. Right. So…" Comprehension dawned slowly and inevitably. "Fuck."

"Exactly. I went in there expecting Mephistopheles and I got Freddy Kreuger. And they learn over time—eventually it'll stop copying what it reads and start figuring out what actually scares people. Best case, it's just the worst monster you've ever seen; worst case, it finds a way to turn into a false positive on a nuclear early-warning system." He grimaced. "And if it does get to that point—which, considering the scope of the film library I could see before it threw me out the window, might not take very long—we'll have to bring in some more serious backup. You might want to have the feds on speed dial, just in case. Not that they'd be any use, but maybe they could call in the Skippers—what did you say people called them here? Janitors? I like that—to clean it up."

"But you can beat it, right? That's what we're preparing for?"

"Yes. Well, probably," Troy said with a shrug. "I know the theory at least."

Rowan let out an involuntary whimper.

"Oh, don't worry, it's pretty simple. So, a PCP runs off narrative, yeah? Not in like, a weird metaphysical our-world-is-a-narrative way—it just can only become what it reads, until it hits the magic threshold that lets it start thinking for itself. What we gotta do is change its narrative, get it to transform into something that can be beaten, and then insert ourselves into that narrative as something that can beat it. Simple."

"So… That's why we're going to the costume store? Wait, what narrative are we going to give it?"

Troy grinned the biggest grin of the night. It was not a reassuring grin. "All will be revealed in time. This the record store?"

One shopping spree later, and the exorcist and his unwilling assistant returned to Circuit Seelie, dressed to kill.

"Why do I have to be Robin?" Rowan complained. "Couldn't I be, like, Spider-man? They had a teen size in that, it would fit me better than this ages-10-to-12 abomination. I think it's cutting off my circulation." And, indeed, the elf's costume was clearly child-size, the shorts a little too short and the shirt exposing his midriff.

Troy—who made a very convincing Batman, although he'd had to modify the cowl slightly to make room for his dreadlocks—was unsympathetic. "Spider-man is Marvel. Batman is DC. Totally different universes. We need narrative consistency. Plus, I didn't bring any Spider-man with me, and I don't want to look for a comic shop that's open this late." The costume store had been halfway across the city, and it was already past midnight; Portlands was, of course, still in full party mode, since (as everyone knows) Halloween doesn't stop until the sun comes up.

"I still don't understand why you brought Batman comics with you on a business trip. Or why they're all like 20 years old."

"I like Batman, OK? Classic Batman, not the new dark and gritty stuff. And I needed reading material for the plane." Troy retrieved said comics from his suitcase, which he had left in the alley next to the store—it could take care of itself. "You know what? I don't have to defend my packing habits. If I hadn't brought them, we'd probably still be trying to find a suitable replacement, and that thing would be getting even smarter."

"Yeah. So… What is the plan?"

"The plan is that we throw these comics into that store and then give it, oh…" He checked his watch. "Two hours? It needs to completely absorb the narrative before we can act. You hungry? I'm hungry. Let's go get dinner, huh?"

"Alright, let's do this. You got the DoomBox?"

"Do you really have to call it that? And yeah, I got it."

"That's its name. Tape loaded?"


"Alright. Press play as soon as I open the door. And stay in character. Robin doesn't question the Batman."


Troy and Rowan burst through the door into the (temporarily) abandoned computer store, the DoomBox blasting a classic tune. Then they dove for cover as a bullets flew from the darkness, destroying the door, the remaining window, several computers, and, to Troy's horror, his precious DoomBox, which Rowan had dropped in his haste to cower under a counter.

"Heya, Bats!


"Yeah, about that—I noticed that your business card doesn't actually have a number. Or an address. Or any other way of contacting you."

"Well, that's not by choice. I'm currently… Between housing opportunities. Hey, I noticed a couch in that back room, any chance I could crash for a few nights? Just until I get my next gig."

Rowan sighed. "Go for it. I think the store's gonna be closed for a while anyway."

The two men fell silent, and gazed across the rooftops of Three Portlands as the false sun rose in the east.

tags: tale three-portlands halloween2018 third-law

The Halloween Contest stipulations I chose were "One of the characters has to end up in a costume, against their will, to solve some issue that comes up in the tale" and "The piece must start on Halloween and end during All Saints' Day sunrise." I originally wasn't planning on doing this contest, but then they accepted my suggestion (only one survivor) and I felt obligated to give it a shot. Hopefully this is enough of an "SCP Background" for the contest, since it's pretty clearly in-universe; if it's not, feel free to disqualify me, I won't be too upset. This is very firmly in the Third Law canon, rather than the main SCP timeline, which might explain any canonical issues you might have with the setting (for example: elves). Also, it's 1998.

GreenWolf is the mastermind behind "Circuit Seelie", and I will forever be in his debt. Tawny and TyGently gave me crit in chat.