Midsummer 2, 6107 RTR (Jun 11, 2006) Miranda is examined by Natasha, and Axel tries to heal her wounds.
(Amelia) (Axel) (The Legend of Buffy) (Miranda) (Morgan) (Madame Natasha) (Olivia) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania)
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The morning has been a blur for everyone involved. What started as a typical day with Olivia going for her bath has turned into a lot of random running about, it seems. Poor Miranda's bitten bottom still aches and has grown quite stiff on their way over to the gypsy camp. Partway through the trip, Miranda needed to rest. During that period, Olivia headed off and ran into Amelia (who happened to be looking for her anyway, to discuss some dress specifics for the party). Instead of talking about party dresses, though, Olivia filled Amelia in on the current events of the day as they hurried back to gather up Morgan and Miranda. After a long, slow walk, the ragtag group have made it to the gypsy camp and over to Natasha's wagon. It seems like half the camp is out watching this odd group, including Liliana and Djivan who seem to be watching from a distance and whispering to each other.

"I can't believe this," Amy grumbles. "Bravil out cold, Miranda attacked… and all because of a shared dream?"

Olivia looks to the others. "You may wish for me to knock and let Natasha know that we're coming. I don't think she's expecting visitors – or this many visitors – this early in the morning!"

"Dreams occasionally have power beyond the ken of those uneducated in the Mysteries," Morgan says, his words sounding like a recitation. He waves to Liliana when he sees her.

"Knock away," Amy says, and looks to Morgan and Miranda, then notices the wave and turns to nod towards Lili.

Miranda looks a little bit nervous as the group enters the gypsy camp, still leaning slightly on Morgan and looking out of breath. The Lapi also turns in the direction of the wave briefly, blinking at the pretty bat.

Liliana blows a kiss towards Morgan when he waves. She doesn't come over, though, figuring some sort of business is afoot and doesn't want to interrupt. For as flirty as she is, she does respect when Morgan has real work to do and doesn't interfere.

Olivia nods briskly and leaves the Lapi with Morgan and Amelia. Then she raps on the door to Natasha's wagon. "Uh, Natasha?" she calls softly. "I'm sorry to disturb you so early, but I've brought someone to see you. Well, it's actually a group of someones," she confesses immediately after. "But we think one of them could help us with Bravil?"

After smiling Liliana's way, Morgan turns to Miranda. "How are you feeling?" he inquires as he shifts to help keep her steady.

"Tired… an thore… but at leatht I can walk now," Miranda replies quietly to Morgan with a slight smile, managing to a bit more positive and looking quite glad for her mobility.

There's a bit of movement inside the wagon and then the door opens. Inside is Natasha, wearing what appears to be a tattered sleeping gown. She blinks as the daylight assaults her eyes; it takes her a moment to realize just how many someones Olivia meant. "Ah, vou veren't kidding," the Khatta says, dropping back to her gypsy accent since at least one of them she doesn't know well. Her eyes immediately then fall on the weak Lapi. "An, I see vou vere quite serious about being ready to ask me for help," she says with a smile, "Or is dis de one who kin help me? Please, come inside and let de poor child sit down. Let me clear my bed for her."

"Sitting might be a problem," Amy notes. "Have you got a really soft cushion she could use?"

Morgan supports Miranda as she heads inside. He gives Natasha a smile as he does so, telling her, "I'm back a bit earlier than expected, but this is a serious matter. We may have a monster on the loose."

Olivia breathes a sigh of relief, for Miranda's sake, at least. She really wasn't sure how much longer the Lapi could keep walking. "Thank you, Natasha. Yes, this girl is the one who might help us, but she's had a rather long night of it. She may actually have to lie down on your bed a while – as Amy says, sitting is a, uh, problem right now!"

    Madame Natasha's Wagon
    Dark. Very, very dark. The Khatta seems to prefer to keep the lights low in her somber wagon. The walls are draped in black fabric with arcane silvery symbols. In the center of the wagon sits a round table that's about enough to seat three people around it. In the center of the table rests a crystal ball. A few feet behind the table hangs another sheet of dark fabric, presumably for keeping her bedding and personal items away from prying eyes.

Natasha has pulled back the usual separating curtain and is quickly cleaning up her sleeping area. She pulls the bed back into some semblance of order. "She kin lie down here. Vhat happen' to her?" the Khatta asks.

Miranda loses track of her thoughts briefly as she looks around the inside of the wagon, and then gives Natasha a grateful smile as she lies down with some help. The Lapi still looks embarrassed but tries to clarify, "I… um… I had a weird dream… and got bitten… on my butt… " she says, her voice trailing off…

"We're still trying to determine that, but the wound resembles that of a Lapi or bunny bite," Morgan explains as he eases Miranda onto the bed. "The circumstances are strange, though, and she says she saw Bravil within her dreams."

"Bitten by vhat, a Lapi?" Natasha asks as Miranda lays down. The Khatta then moves in and kneels beside the Lapi. She leans in and starts inspecting the girl, first by looking at her eyes and the insides of her ears.

Olivia steps inside after all the others and pulls the door shut behind them. At least this way, no one has to hear about where Miranda's wound is… well, unless someone sneaks up and presses their ear to the door!

Miranda holds very still for Natasha's inspection, her eyes following the Khatta as she moves.

"Crossing between dreams no' happen without some sort of external magical influence. Jus' bein' bitten should no' cause dream sharing. Unless vhat bit her vas supernatural," Natasha notes absently. The Khatta then pauses and looks to Morgan. "I presume vou treated de wound? Vhat did vou use? An did vou check for any spiritual contamination?""

"You saw the bite, Morgan," Amy says. "What did it look like?"

"It looked like the bite of a Lapi," Morgan repeats. He raises a hand to gesture to Miranda's bottom as he goes on. "The wound wasn't infected, but I do suspect blood loss given Miranda's disoriented state. The site where we found Miranda would have washed all the blood away, though. Beyond that, I treated the wound with some salve and a bandage."

"I don'th actually remember being bitten by anything." Miranda pipes up to make it clear that she doesn't really know additional specific information on the source of her bite.

"Dere is definitely blood loss. See de paleness inside her ears?" Natasha notes and shows Morgan the Lapi's ears. "Did vou look beyon' regular infection?" Natasha asks Morgan. "Undead kin leave behind things not always noticeable. Loss of blood is concerning, even if de wound spot is no' de usual place for de undead blood drinkers to use."

Amy growls in the back of her throat. "I'm gonna get some answers from Clover if I have to squeeze them out… " she mutters.

"I hadn't time to completely examine the wound, especially for supernatural influence. I felt it best we do that here, where we can combine our resources," the male Kadie explains. He leans over to examine Miranda's ear, nods as if expecting what he sees, and adds, "There are some particularly large and vicious bunnies in Sylvania, but I didn't find any evidence of them. I hate to say it, but whatever it was either flew, or walked her in there, and left her to her wound."

While the others are talking, Olivia leans close to Amelia and whispers, "I know what you mean… I don't like this at all, especially since it was Clover who asked Miranda to come meet this friend of hers."

"All righ'. I didn't vant to repeat anyt'ing vou had done," Natasha notes and motions for Morgan to sit next to her. "Kin you remove vour bandage so I kin see de wound?" she asks, then looks up. "Olivia, kin you call in Liliana for a momen'? I need to ask her opinion on somet'ing."

Olivia nods to Natasha and whisks out of the wagon to find Liliana.

The gray Lapi looks increasingly uncomfortable and a bit queasy at the thought of something undead drinking her blood, not a thought she had much chance to think on in her weary state. Laying on her stomach, Miranda makes sure she's in a position for easy removal of the bandage on her behind.

Morgan nods, then leans over to pat Miranda on the shoulder. "Miranda, I'm going to need to remove the bandage now. This might be a bit embarrassing, but remember you're with friends," he tells the Lapi.

Once Miranda rolls over, Morgan eases her clothes off until he can remove the bandage without snagging it on something.

Miranda still looks embarrassed but is certainly dealing with it much better than she did at first.

"If the old stories are correct… well, Miranda does fit the profile," Amy says with a sigh. "No mutations or illness, a maiden and not very strong willed… er, no offense meant, Miranda."

"Vhy don' vou tell me about dis dream vou had that involved Bravil," Natasha asks Miranda, trying to get the girl's mind off the fact there's an entire room is just staring at her butt. "An vhat stories an profile?"

In just a few moments, Olivia returns with the Eee, who is wearing a look of amused curiosity – especially when she sees a Lapi girl lying on Natasha's bed with her rear end exposed. "I hear vou wish my opinion on sometin'?" she asks.

Blinking a bit at Amy's mention of not being very strong willed, Miranda just smiles weakly. "It's okay, Amy… " Then turning her attention to Natasha the Lapi starts recounting her dream, only to stop when the Eeee steps in the door.

After removing the bandage, Morgan leans back as he continues to examine the wound. When Liliana enters he gives her a smile, then resumes his inspection. "I am seriously considering marching down to the Chalk hole and speaking with Clover," he murmurs.

Natasha waves Liliana to come over. The Eee does and kneels down beside Morgan. She lightly nudges Morgan and then looks at Miranda's backside intently. "It be a Lapi bum," she says.

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Olivia has to cover her smile with one hand.

"Just that those were the sorts of victims that Lord Snapfish always chose," Amelia says.

Morgan just clears his throat, looking at the ceiling as if trying very hard not to laugh.

Miranda groans and tugs her gray ears at Liliana's initial comment.

"Ah, not quit' de insight I needed from vou. I need de opinion from a vampire on de bite mark," Natasha says as she rubs over her eyes lightly. Liliana gives Natasha a look. Screwing her muzzle up a bit, Liliana leans down until her nosetip is a mere inch from the wound. "Vell, no vampire Eee be a bum biter dat I know of. But, de woun' stayed open for avhile, vhich is indicative of someone tryin' to drain blood. An no, I no lickin' it to taste fer Eeee spit. I draw de line."

Olivia murmurs to herself, "Thank goodness for small mercies… "

Certainly looking uncomfortable with Liliana's closeness to her behind, Miranda does however look quite relieved at the Eeee's blunt refusal to do anything drastic.

"Can you confirm the bite mark is Lapi-like, Lily? Have you seen anything like it before?" Morgan asks as he leans forward again.

Liliana taps her chin. "Nothin' like dat before, no. Cept de time Djivan go' his butt stuck in de hunters trap. But … I know. Madame Natasha, vou gots anything de Lapi kin bite on? We can have her bite it an den compare the marks with dat on her bottom," she says.

Olivia scratches one side of her head quizzically. "Hunters trap? Really? That would figure… I'll have to ask Djivan about that sometime. Er, in private, of course… "

"What could she bite that would hold an impression though?" Amelia asks. "Other than, you know… another Lapi butt."

"A big lump o' clay?" Liliana suggests.

"A piece of fruit?" Morgan offers.

"Got any thtiff wackth?" Miranda adds, trying to be helpful.

"Ah, a big candle then!" Amy says. "Good idea, Miranda."

Natasha gets to her feet and digs around in a box of stuff. She pulls out a dribbly, old, large candle. She walks back over and after kneeling back down, offers the candle for the Lapi to bite on.

Liliana waits patiently … and very quietly slips her arm around Morgan's back.

Miranda smiles at the bit of praise from Amy and, accepting the candle from Natasha, bites it hard, trying to leave a good impression without having the wax crack off around her teeth.

Amy nudges Olivia, and whispers to her, "That looks like the kind of candle Igor uses up at the castle. He said it was hard to get them 'properly dribbly' or something, didn't he?"

It tastes a bit sooty, but it does take a bite impression pretty well. Natasha takes the now bitten candle and holds it next to Miranda's injury, trying to compare the wax bite spacing and size to the bite mark.

Morgan reaches over and pats Liliana's hand after she slips her arm around his back. Once the candle is ready, Morgan scoots over to have a look, as well.

Picking an errant bit of wax out of one of her teeth, Miranda waits quietly for the verdict on the bite marks.

Olivia whispers back to Amy, "I wonder if Natasha would be willing to trade candles for something with him, then… although I'm not quite sure if he'd have something Natasha would want! What do you think?"

Amelia just shrugs. "Maybe some sort of fried food recipe," she whispers back as a suggestion.

"Vell, de bite is definitely Lapi. See de spacing an de width of the hole? It matches de bun candle chomp, upper an lower. Vell, except for de jagged bit here. Somet'ing happen to vour teeth?" Liliana asks Miranda.

"So we know who – or what – ever bit Miranda probably has good teeth," the witch ponders aloud. "That matches Clover, but I can't exactly see Clover biting Miranda's bottom. Do you remember anything about Clover, Miranda?"

"I know Clover is back-biting, but this is a bit much," Amy comments.

"Thank vou, Liliana. Kin you leave us to continue de examination? It be a bit crowded in here," Natasha tells the Eeee.

Liliana smiles and nods. "Oh, sure. I sure I be seein' my poofy-tail later," she notes and leans over to lightly kiss Morgan's cheek.

Morgan coughs, but grins anyway. He returns the kiss and watches Liliana depart.

The Lapi just gives Liliana a faint smile as the Eee gets ready to leave, showing off the ragged edge of her broken front tooth, before saying, "Well… Clover wath being nithe for onthe, which wath rather weird. But thee wanted me to record thomething for thith friend of herth… Umm… I remember before I had my weird dream thee said thomething about how I looked tired… and thhould go to thleep… I think?"

"That looks so strange when Morgan is in uniform," Amy whispers to Olivia.

As weir' as ven I kissed vou?" Liliana says and flashes Amelia a sly grin as she heads out the door. The Eeee taps her ears as a reminder that whispering around an Eeee doesn't work well. The door closes behind her.

Olivia grins back at Amelia. "Yeah, it does a bit, but I'm getting a little more used to it, since I've been hanging around Lili more often!"

"If Mr. Nightshade does no' object, I'd like to do a simple magical test on de woun' to look for contact wit' undead. It vill take a a bit to prepare, so could vou tell us all about vour dream vile I vork?" Natasha says.

"I have no objections," the male Kadie replies.

"So, Clover was being nice – odd in itself – and asked you to record something for her friend. Then, she said you were looking tired, you had a dream, and awoke in the bath house. Is that correct, Miranda?" Morgan inquires.
"So Clover set you up then!" Amy declares to Miranda, smacking her fist down onto her palm. "She fed you to the vampire and then… uh… " The Kadie suddenly seems to run out of steam. "Wait, that makes no sense… "

Miranda nods honestly, "Yeth, that wath pretty much it Morgan… " The Lapi winces slightly at Amy's fervent declaration.

Natasha goes about doing an odd set of preparations, such as making a few chalk marks on the Lapi's injured rear. Once those are complete, she sits still, muttering softly to herself and waving her hands over the wound.

The gears turning in Amy's head aren't visible or audible, but they are connected to her tail, which twitches about as she tries to figure out a problem.

"Now, Clover isn't the nicest young woman in Stonebarrow, but I hesitate to accuse her of siding with malicious supernatural forces without proof. It seems to me Clover would look down her nose at them as much as anyone. She certain doesn't like Axel," Morgan deducts. "Still, she should be spoken to; alas, we have so little time right now."

"It doesn't add up though," Amelia laments. "Clover would have just put Miranda back in her bed or something, unless she was expecting her to just disappear. Same goes for the vampire. Why let evidence live? It makes no sense for them to have dumped Miranda off in the baths."

After a minute or two of Natasha muttering, the Khatta stops and folds her hands in her lap. "Ves, it is vhat I feared," she says quietly and looks to Morgan. "De injury is from de undead. An dat complicates matters. Because, dis Lapi may now be in danger of becoming one herself. Or if not a full vampire, a ghoul … a vampire's slave."

"So… cure her," Amy says, looking to both Morgan and Natasha.

"Dat not so easy," Natasha admits and looks to Morgan.

Olivia frowns, deeply worried now. "Um, wouldn't that involve taking out the undead thing that did this to Miranda?" she asks.

Morgan leans back at Natasha's words, frowning deeply. "Well," he sighs, glancing at Miranda's bottom, "that settles it. Clover may be manipulated or may not, but we need to locate her. She's our best bet to finding this monster at the moment." He then turns his frown towards Amy, and tells her, "It may be best if we speak with my mother. Combating the undead I've done before, but I don't have a lot of experience curing curses; I'm not willing to risk trying unless Natasha is confident."

Miranda's ears skew to the sides as Natasha begins explaining before going straight back in shock, eyes wide. The Lapi looks between Natasha and Morgan in panic before suddenly yelping, "I don'th wanna be a vampire and have Amelia hunt me doooowwn!" she looks like she might burst into tears any second.

"You're not going to become a vampire," Amy says, looking stern. "Okay, now you being set loose makes some sense, I think, if it's to get us to go down after Buffy. Assuming she wants us, that is."

"Destroying vhat has become undead I be most familar wit'. Stopping de spread in one still living I no so familiar wit," Natasha admits as she furrows her brow in thought. "Vhat I vould advise doin' is making sure de Lapi consumes a lot of garlic, to start. An making sure any salve applied to de wound includes both garlic an' honey. De honey to help prevent infections. I voul' imagine de town vitches voul' be better at brewin' a strong medicine to help prevent it. Dey have more experience with potions an disease treatments."

The witch leans over and pats Miranda's back comfortingly. "It's okay, Miranda. You're not the first person in this village to be attacked by an undead monster, nor cursed. We wouldn't be here right now if our town wasn't capable of handling these sorts of problems," he explains in a soothing voice. He then nods to Natasha. "I can brew that, or my mother can – she's stronger than I am." He shakes his head, glancing out the window. "We're really being pressed here. Bravil, Miranda, and a monster now."

"Yes. One t'ing at a time, den. Miranda, kin you please tell us about de dream?" Natasha says gently.

"We still need to find Axel as well," Amelia points out.

Miranda sniffles slightly, but looks reassured by Morgan's explanation, and a little embarrassed at her own outburst. To get her thoughts away from being cursed at the moment, the Lapi quickly launches into an explanation of her dream, starting out telling the gypsy about there being two Axels and two Bravils in the dream.

A light rapping comes from the door of the wagon.

"It be a party at Natasha's," the Khatta says with tired sigh. She stands up and goes to the door. "Vho be dere?" she asks.

"Hello?" comes a somewhat timid voice from the other side of the door. "Nene said that Axel was to be brought here. I'm Parsley Chalk, and I've got him with me… "

"Know dis person?" Natasha asks Amelia.

"Hello!" a familiar, if somewhat deeper, voice calls from outside the door. It sounds like Axel, just lower. Lower and … birdier.

"She's Clover's twin sister," Amy says, with a kind tone. "Everyone knows her."

"I don'," Natasha points out and places her hand on the door. Her brow immediately furrows and she notes, "De creature wit her … coul' be dangerous. It be spirit fused." Still, the Khatta opens the door for the two and says, "Enter."

"She may have some insights as to what her sister has been doing," Morgan offers.

A blond-haired Lapi head pokes in, and immediately focuses on Miranda. "Miranda!" Parsley squeaks, and hurries over to the other Lapi's side. "What happened? They said you were attacked!"

With the apparent ending of the examination of her wound and topic shift to her dream, Miranda had thankfully thought to recover herself before the knock on the door and appearance of Parsley and company. Quite honestly, and in a weak tone, the gray Lapi replies to the other, "I got bitten by a vampire apparently… "

"What? That can't be… possible?" Parsley asks, looking around and latching onto Morgan. "There aren't any vampires!"

Another head pokes in the door, copying Parsley's action. This head is human, dark skinned, with oddly reflective avian eyes. The light of the candles seems to dance in them, making them appear to glow. Unlikely Parsley, he doesn't bound inside. Instead he looks at everyone individually, staring at them for a long moment.

"He looks different," Amy notes quietly.

Natasha makes a 'come hither' motion with one of her fingers to Axel. "Enter so ve kin close the door," she says flatly.

"Wah!" Morgan cries when latched on to, having been lost in his thoughts. He quickly regains his composure and pats Parsley's head. "I'm afraid it's true, Parsley. You sister may be in danger, as well. Do you know what she's been doing lately?" he asks.

"No… she's been staying out at night I think, so I hardly even see her," Parsley says, eyes wide. "Is she a vampire now?"

Axel, being larger than just about everyone in Stonebarrow except Bravil and a few other men, hunches over and steps inside. In the dark candlelight his fully-feathered wings, sparse feathering, and eerily reflective – if they are reflecting – eyes seem more complete than he once did. He has symmetry now, like the scion of a flame-colored Vartan and a human.

Natasha closes the door and turns to look intently at Axel. "Vhat did vou do to Miranda and Bravil?" she asks finally and folds her hands together. "An vhat do vou know about vampires dat appear to be attacking de Lapis?"

Miranda looks slightly awed at the more complete looking flame colored humanoid, different from what she remembered in her dream, but still recognizable, saying, "Hullo there Ackthel… are you feeling better now?" before wincing at Natasha's harsh questioning.

Axel's brows shoot up, and he makes a noise that sounds a lot like, "awrk?" in response to Natasha's question. After his initial surprise, he leans forward and stares at Natasha searchingly, tilting his head this way, then that, then eyeing her with a single eye. "I am forbidden from harming anyone in Stonebarrow, or the greater one will take offense," he answers. Miranda's comment gets his attention, and he turns his head swiftly to stare at her. Without a word, he tries to edge past Natasha and go to the Lapi.

Natasha keeps herself between the creature and the injured Lapi. "Bravil is not part of Stonebarrow," she says quietly, but firm. "And something you have done has hurt him. He will no longer awaken."

"I don't know, Parsley. I just know that she may have been around when Miranda was attacked. She may be in danger," Morgan replies to the Lapi. When Axel speaks, he listens, then adds, "I heard something to that effect from my mother," while eyeing the bird-man as he tries to walk past Natasha.

"Axel, have you been down in the basement all this time?" Amy asks.

"Was he asleep? Were we asleep? We were asleep so long, but then we woke up. There's only one dreamer. I don't know why the other dreamer hasn't woken," Axel tells Natasha. He continues trying to get past her, though without using force. "Destiny intertwined where I was; it wrote a story in wooden serpents. The tinkerer woke the dreamer, but the dream was done."

"Okay, that answers that then," Amy says. "He's gone totally bonkers."

Miranda watches Axel quietly as he speaks in his rather odd way, before saying to the Khatta, "I don't think Ackthel did anyfing to Bravil, Natasha. He didn't actively do anything to either of uth in tha dream. He jutht thpoke and athked quethtionth."

"He must have some connection to him. Something about him that reacted with my friend," Natasha says, her tone that of someone forcing herself to sound calm. "Who was asleep so long?"

"The life and the flame; the man of the dying capitol and the spirit of the fallen tinker's barrow," the bird-man answers. He bites his lip after, frowning. "I miss the home of the tinkers, before it fell, before it was a barrow. Once, it was the mount of Primus, and I did watch over it."

Morgan works his muzzle as Axel speaks, remarking, "He was never this … poetic before. Natasha, can you take a look at him? He may have been influenced by the vampire. I know he suffered at the hands of the necromancer."

"I hope we didn't inadvertently lead her to the canal," Amy mutters.

Natasha reaches out and places her hand firmly on Axel's forehead and looks directly in his eyes. She stares at him, quiet, resolute … and then her hand falls away. "He isn't the man you knew as Axel," she says finally.

"Wait, you mean there are two of these guys wandering around?" Amy asks.

Rubbing her head with one hand, Miranda tries to cut through some of the confusion by saying, "Hith memorieth have acthepted that he hath to try to live now ath he ith… and not ath tha two theperate beinth that make him up. Tho he ith one perthon." That was the best the Lapi could think of to explain how things had felt in the dream.

"Oh, so… he's only half as crazy as he used to be now, or twice as crazy?" Amelia asks, looking confused.

Turning to look at Axel with a friendly smile Miranda asks, "Tha latht thing I remember ith you thaying you weren't 'ouch' anymore Ackthel. Are you really feeling better?"

"In de dream," Natasha says and looks to Miranda. "Did a human named Axel die?"

Axel crosses his eyes, staring at the hand on his forehead. His wings rustle as he flutters them. "Rrk?"

" Yeth and no. In tha dream, tha human ackthel wath mortally wounded, he wath indeed dying." Miranda says quietly to Natasha.

Natasha rubs her forehead and says, "I understand."

"Hmm," says Morgan. He pats Parsley's hand absently.

"You do?" Olivia asks quietly. All the while she has been watching the bird-man warily, trying to incorporate this new being into what she once knew as Axel. "Because I'm completely lost… "

"What's going on, Morgan?" Parsley whispers to the Kadie, sounding confused. "What's going to happen to Miranda?"

"Ves, I do," Natasha says and sits heavily into a chair. She motions towards the strange creature and says, "He said he once watched over a town. A town that died. Morgan … dis soul is a guardian spirit of a town vhich died. I t'ink it final act was to try an save someone. But de only vay it coul' vas to join with it. Two souls, one body. I saw dat de first time I examined him. Now, it be one soul, one body. De two have gone and become one. Dey accepted each o'ter and a new spirit vas born. Basically, dis man be de chil' of de human named Axel and the guardian of a dead town."

"Miranda will be fine. Everything will be fine," Morgan replies, patting Parsley's hand again. "As for Axel, he's, well, difficult to explain. The elder witches were the ones that helped him when he arrived, so I can only guess what Natasha says is true." The Kadie frowns, tail flicking into that vague approximation of a question mark.

In response to all the comments about his nature, Axel just tilts his head – then he tries to edge past Natasha again.

"It no be de first time a spirit have influence in giving birth to new life in de worl'," Natasha notes and casts Morgan a glance. The Khatta finally just lets Axel go by.

Olivia sits down on the floor – the best place she can reach, with the crowd in the wagon now – and tries to process this. "Which town was the spirit a guardian of? Do you know?"

Natasha shakes her head and waves towards Axel. "He voul' haf to answer dat," she says.

Morgan avoids Natasha's gaze, instead examining a nearby candle intently.

Olivia hrmps and says shortly, "I could ask, but I'm not sure I'd get a direct answer."

Axel makes his way over to Miranda and drops down on his haunches, looking in her eyes as he leans forward. His wings flutter, he tilts his head, then he turns to eye her wound. Making unhappy squawking noises, he reaches over and lays a hand on her injured bottom.

"Axel? Uh… " Parsley starts to say, not knowing where Miranda was bitten.

Miranda watches Axel approach as Natasha lets him by, answering the question of the town's name without really thinking, "Federthtadt, I think. There was a thign in the dream… " The Lapi trails off, ears skewing at Axel's odd behavior before worriedly saying, "Careful Ackthel. I have an 'ouch' there."

The bird-man picks at Miranda's clothes, trying to pull her pants down around the wound. All the while he makes those unhappy avian noises, sounding like one of the gypsy Korvs in a unhappy mood.

Olivia notes this and says, "Thanks, Miranda." Perhaps she can find out more about the place later… "

Natasha just leans forward and rests her face in her hands, fingertips rubbing lightly against her temples.

"He's trying to heal her," Amy notes. "He does it by reflex or smell or something."

"Just… don't burn her… " Parsley says quietly.

"I heard he could so something like this, but I've never seen it. Direct sorcery by the possessed isn't usually so … pleasant," Morgan says as he looks up to watch. "I'm not sure we should let him."

"Maybe he can fix the curse though too," Amy says. "We thought he might be able to do something like that with the undead."

"Stopping him could be equally dangerous to him, vou know," Natasha finally says and looks up. "Halting or removing de spirit power behin' him migh' kill him. Given de lack of time ve haf, I say let him try. It voul' be one less problem for us to solve."

Miranda looks increasingly confused by Axel's behavior and tugging on her clothes, she herself not making it too easy and would have simply rolled over if not for the pain that it would cause in her tail. Eventually the Lapi rolls her eyes in a look of embarrassed acceptance, mumbling into arm "Well it lookth like everybody getth a chanthe to poke at me today… " and just laying still with that.

"Even if he can postpone it a little," Amy mutters. "Can't just go rushing into a vampire's den on short notice… "

Axel gives Miranda a brief smile when she stops struggling, then he reaches over again. Visible in the ambient light, it seems like Axel doesn't have 'hands' at all; he has talons. Three-digit hooked talons, like that of a Korv, with yellow scaling. His feet, likewise, have acquired a similar shape. Once he touches Miranda's wound, the outline of his arm begins to distort in an increasing heat-haze.

Natasha extends her hand and lowers her gaze on his arm, watching intently.

Morgan suddenly blinks, then "hmms" curiously.

Parsley looks around the small bedroom, and then asks Natasha, "Just in case… do you a bucket of water handy?"

Natasha doesn't answer that. Her attention is completely focused on Axel.

The ambient distortion along Axel's arm increases until, without a sound, his arm ignites! The flame bathes the room in a soft glow, like that of the light cast from a peaceful fireplace. Unlike a fireplace fire, Axel's flame isn't producing any smoke, nor smell, nor the awful scent of singed bunny behind.

"He should be more effective now, if he's got a single mind," Amy says reassuringly to Parsley.

"I hope," Morgan adds, quietly.

Olivia starts, watching Axel's arm go up in flames. "Maybe that bucket of water would be a good idea… " she says nervously.

Miranda currently has her face planted in her arms, resting that way so she doesn't really see much beyond the flicker of cast light behind her eyelids, and she doesn't react in any way to signify discomfort. The Lapi can be heard to mumble quietly, "Hmm… feelth kind of warm… now hot… " The bite was starting to itch on top of the heat.

"Yee-ah, I'll go get one… " Amy says, and squirms out to the door…

Axel doesn't move. He keeps his hand on the wound as the flames flicker and dance across his arm and Miranda's rear end. The smell of flame, of any sort, continues to be absent.

"Can you make heads or tails of that, Natasha? It's a great deal like the movements of spirits, but I've never had one so … well … incarnate before," Morgan asks, glancing at Natasha.

"It's a mixture of several types of magic," Natasha murmurs, her attention never wavering. "But how it's intermixing is … different from anyt'ing I've seen. De primary component is that of life itself, wit de power of flame to boost it, and de flow of spirit for control. I voul' no be able to replicate it behavior. De subtleties of the mix no likely possible without a direct connection to dem."

"The powers of the spirits are truly different from our own. I suppose it's like moving a cup with your hand, for us, but I can only guess," the witch comments. He pats Parsley's hand again, and asks her, "Has your sister made any new friends lately?"

Miranda looks quite comfortable and rather relaxed just laying where she is with her face pillowed in her arms while Axel attempts whatever it is he's attempting.

"Clover… she's different than usual," Parsley says. "I don't know what she thinks anymore, and sometimes she goes down deep into the tunnels to 'meditate' as she calls it. If there's something down there… then she's been in contact with it for awhile now."

"I've got the bucket," Amy announces as she returns, carrying what could very well be a slop bucket hastily filled with water."

"Wait," Natasha tells Amelia. "There is no danger, yet."

"'Meditate'? Clover? And the tunnels… If I were a vampire, the tunnels would be my choice, but going down there without a plan could be exceedingly dangerous," Morgan comments. As he talks, he glances at Axel. The bird-man continues right on with what he's doing. While having a flaming-handed monster is quite likely disconcerting, nothing bad seems to be happening. Indeed, the wound under Miranda's hand looks a little smaller. But, that may just be the glare off the flame.

"Vell, if he be doing anyt'ing, it be slow. He sure no spirit o' time," Natasha notes as she watches Axel curiously. "Maybe de woun' no be healing… Forever a bruse' bum."

Natasha is quite right: Axel isn't healing Miranda's bottom at a fast rate. Despite his impressive display, the wound looks only slightly better. On the other hand, it seems to be improving still. The bird-man himself remains concentrating, occasionally fluttering his wings or making a birdlike sound.

"Maybe vampire bites are just naturally hard to heal?" Amy asks. "We'll need ask Isolde. Gotta find out how to get rid of the curse anyway."

"Mos' undead injury har' to heal, true," Natasha says with a nod. "Particularly if de intention vas to make another undead."

Miranda looks almost like she might begin to fall asleep, tired as she already was, but seems much more relaxed at least, even if the wound on her bottom has only healed a little bit so far.

"Hmm, then why let Miranda go at all?" Amy asks.

"Hard or no, we'll fix it. We also need to concern ourselves with Clover. Whatever opinions are of her, she may be in danger or under the vampire's control, and we should try and locate her quickly," Morgan insists. He reaches up and rubs his forehead, then shakes his head and leans back. "Much to do."

"Vell, hm. Vhat be Miranda's job? Is it importan?" Natasha inquires and looks to Amelia, then Morgan. "Perhap' if de vampire intended a slave, dere is some'ting Miranda kin do for her, or has somet'ing she need?"

"Miranda raises rabbits in hutches," Amelia notes. "Lots of Chalks are involved in that though."

"Hm, vell, dat coul' be a good food souce. An if Miranda is timid an easy to control, vell, less obvious, no?" Natasha suggests.

Piping up an addition to Amelia's statement, the gray Lapi mumbles, "An babythit… and run errandth… "

"Miranda can be anywhere, and she has a food supply under her care. That would make sense. The vampire may want a innocuous spy, as well as food," Morgan suggests.

"I doubt a vampire needs a babysitter," Amy says, thinking. "It still seems an awful risk to let her go before she's under control. Especially leaving her out where her presence was sure to cause a stir. Why not keep her a few days until she's turned into a ghoul?"

Miranda blinks suddenly and turns to look at Amy, before setting her head down again saying, "Maybe… maybe that dream I had interrupted thomething then?"

"Maybe Clover got her out or something else di'? Perhaps de vampire intended t keep 'er an someone snuck 'er out?" Natasha suggests. "Dat may make de most sense."

"Perhaps Clover is resisting the vampire, and, instead of something worse, left Miranda out for others to find. On the other hand, perhaps the vampire wishes to cause a stir for some other purpose," Morgan adds. He rubs his chin, then glances over as Axel continues to work.

Amy just throws her hands up. "I guess it doesn't matter… all that's important is curing Miranda. Then we can figure out the rest," she says.

"Dis is quite de puzzle. Perhap' vou shoul' tell it to people goo at solving puzzles?" Natasha says with a small shrug and glances towards the quiet Skeek.

Olivia watches Axel as he continues to concentrate on Miranda's bottom. "Well, unless Axel can cure her now, I assume that we'd have to take out the vampire itself to do that?" She then jumps a little at Natasha's suggestion. "Puzzles? Me?"

"Maybe. We need to ask Isolde," Amy says.

"I jus' haf one t'ing to say to dat, Ms. Veaver. Necromancer," Natasha says and spares a small, momentary, grin.

Miranda looks over at Morgan at the mention of Isolde.

"Vou coul' ask Liliana on vampire lore, too, perhaps. Or she coul' go wit' vou to Isolde' place," Natasha suggests.

The insides of Olivia's ears go red momentarily. "Yeah, well… " she says a little sheepishly. Then she shakes her head. "I just don't get why a vampire would want to call attention to itself like this. I mean, doesn't that sound odd to anyone else? Especially around here, where whenever they crop up… er, we kill them?"

Morgan frowns at Axel before telling Olivia, "I'm not sure he can cure her. He doesn't show the, ah, know-how to deal with complex spiritual infection. I wouldn't rely on it, although I appreciate his help," he explains. Glancing at Miranda, Morgan replies, "My mother is likely at the Gnarly Tree. Once we're ready we need to relocate Miranda there."

"An, vell, vou may van' to get some stakes ready, jus' in case," Natasha suggests. "If she does change, it voul' be a favor to destroy her… "

Miranda puts her head in her arms, looking both scared and despondent at Natasha's suggestion, Her long ears flatten reflexively off to the sides.

"Isolde has all of our thistlebark for that sort of thing," Amelia mutters.

"Let's save stake creating until after we treat Miranda, please," Morgan insists, eyeing Natasha.

"Actually… Natasha may have a point about mercy," Amy says, not looking at Miranda. "I mean, if you'd been locked up underground for… I guess about seventy years now… wouldn't you rather be dead than face an eternity of that?"

"I jus' sayin' to be prepared for anyt'ing," Natasha says and holds up her hands placatingly.

Morgan nods. "True, perhaps the vampire wants to be found. In any case, we need to: bring Miranda to my mother, locate Clover, find the vampire, and they deal with it – in that order, likely," the Kadie says.

Abruptly, the Lapi girl starts to cry, very quietly, and hardly noticeable, save for the light shaking of her shoulders.

"We'll take Lili with us to the Gnarly Tree then, just in case," Amelia says. "Maybe a mortal vampire can provide what's needed to cure Miranda."

"I haven't seen Clover in over a day," Parsley notes. "Maybe the vampire has her too now, for whatever reason."

Olivia reaches over to pat Miranda's arm consolingly before saying, "I agree with Morgan. We need to do what we can to cure Miranda before looking at any more drastic measures."

Sniffling softly, Miranda puts one of her hands over Olivia's, in acceptance of the kind gesture.

Natasha leans and reaches over, placing a hand lightly on Miranda's shoulder. "Do no' weep. little one. It no be hopeless yet. It take time for infection to spread. An in de worst case, legend say if vou kill de parent vampire, its children vill be freed. I t'ink, so long as de children no partake of another mortal's blood. Dere be options."

Morgan tries to lean over and pat Miranda too, but he nearly gets whapped by a fluttering Axel. "Ahh! Ah," he pushes the wing away, then nods. "I'm uncertain how to arrange warning people. Usually the monsters are outsiders, not potentially ancient insiders, or fellow Stonebarrow residents. Warnings may alert the vampire and cause it to take action, but, then again, a lack of warning may endanger the Chalks – or others. Hmm."

"That's right! We just have to chop off the monster's head," Amy says, grinning. "Decapitation solves all sorts of problems!"

Olivia snorts a little, but she looks amused. "I'll leave that part to you, then," she notes. "You're much better at it than I am!"

"Vell, Mr. Nightshade, vou coul' put wards up around town against de undead. Just as general protection. Dat way, no need to immediately varn anyone. Suggest dat de witches feel it be a good t'ing to do a general town purification, jus' in case," Natasha says.

"You are so violent, Amelia," Morgan sighs.

"Hey, it's not like I'd be biting the head off," Amy says.

Miranda looks a little better after having received various bits of consolation, before blinking at Amelia's rather zealous proclamation about decapitation. Very quietly, more to herself than anyone else she says, "Blood'th icky… I'd never want to drink it."

"At least it won't give you fish-breath though," Amy points out, then leans over to see if Axel has finished yet.

"Here's the problem with wards: between Bravil, treating Miranda, and hunting a vampire, we're a bit strained for witches. You may have more success, Natasha, if you're free to try. Otherwise, well, it'll be busy. We only have so much time now," the male Kadie insists.

"Yes, when are we going to try to help Bravil?" the Skeek asks quietly.

"If vou coul' bite de head off de monster, Miss Blacktail, I be impressed," Natasha notes, amused. "Vell, is dere any more to discuss here? I kin look through some books I haf here for suggestions on cures. As for wards, ves, I coul' come up wit' something. An Bravil … I vish he aroun' for dis. He a good protector. Perhaps ve shoul' try soon. Ve coul' use help."

Axel's work has progressed over the minutes of talking. Miranda's wound is pink, the color of a fresh scar, and much of the bruising has faded away. It still looks mighty unpleasant, and it may well scar, but it's a marked improvement over earlier. Axel himself seems to be straining more, now. His brows are narrowed, and the muscles on his flaming hand are tight.

"That looks good enough for now, Axel," Amelia says. "We have to get Miranda looked at by Isolde now."

Olivia now casts a worried glance at the bird-man. "Umm, don't you think you should rest now, Axel?" she asks. "Miranda's wound is much better, perhaps you should just stop?"

"Olivia, kin vou and Djivan fetch a few t'ings for me sometime today? I vill need dem for de ritual to use wit' Bravil. I kin den spend some time working on town vards today an free up Mr. Nightshade for o'ter tings. I vill also tell Liliana to accompany Mr. Nightshade home to speak to his mother," Natasha says as she rubs her chin, obviously considering something.

The male Kadie's tail suddenly straightens. "Would the vampiric nature of Miranda's curse appear within the spirit world?" Morgan asks suddenly.

Axel goes, "rrrrk," in an aggitated manner, when told to stop. He narrows his eyebrows more, tenses more, then suddenly pulls away. As he pulls away, the flame goes out only to be replaced by actual smoke; it smells a little like singed flesh.

"Ves, it voul' At least to de effect of bein' infected. Dese two should know all abou' dat," Natasha says and motions to Olivia and Amelia. "De go' to experience seeing de spirtual side of t'ings not so long ago.

Olivia nods to Natasha. "Certainly. I can go now, if you like? Just tell me what it is you need." Then her brow furrows at the Khatta's last suggestion. "And, er, no offense meant, Morgan – but is sending Lili home with him a good idea? The current situation notwithstanding?"

"You did well, Axel," Parsley says to the bird-man, putting a hand on his shoulder. "And you didn't burn up anything this time."

When Axel pulls away Miranda winces slightly and then lets out a sigh and re-covers herself, making an attempt to sit up now that her tail doesn't hurt as much. "Thank yu Ackthel." she murmurs with a small smile before smelling the smoke, "Ith your hand ok?"

"Lili is the closest thing we have to a real vampire," Amy notes to Olivia. "She could have insight into how it thinks, or some other useful ability."

Natasha then swivels her head towards Axel. "Do no' do dat again. You try too har' vou coul haf hurt her because vou almost lost control," she chastizes, but not in an unkind tone. "Don' extend vour abilities beyond dere limits, no matter how much vou van' to help."

Axel reaches over and picks Parsley up, putting her in his lap and showing her his singed hand. "Ouch," he complains, then he points at Miranda's bare bottom with his other hand, "Tried. Tired now. There's a shadow there, yes, yes, a shadow to eat the light." Then he lays his head on Parsley's shoulder and closes his eyes. "Sorry Miranda. Tired now."

"Vell, it either be Liliana, or her cousin, Rey. Rey voul' hit on Isolde. Dat be even vorse, I voul' t'ink. Do no vorry, I ask Liliana to dress respectfuly," Natasha says after her attentin returns to Olivia.

Parsley cradle's Axel's head as best she can. "Everything will be okay," she says to nobody specific.

Morgan's face twitches several times at the mention of the vampires interacting with his mother.

Miranda swallows slightly as Axel finishes speaking and reaches over to gently pat him on the shoulder, saying, "It… it'th ok Ackthel. Thank yu for trying, it wath very kind of yu."

"She's got that cloak she wore to hide herself before," Amy notes. "It should be enough. Are you okay to walk, Miranda, or do you need to be carried?"

Axel puts his singed hand on Miranda's when she pats him, then holds on to it.

Olivia sighs and gives Natasha a tired, lopsided grin. "You have a point there." Then she turns to Amy and says, "So it'll be up to you to see that Lili and Isolde don't get into a fight… I hope you're up for that!"

"Fight? Does Isolde even know she's Morgan's girlfriend?" Amy asks.

Natasha pulls on a scrap of paper from a nearby drawer. She starts writing quickly on it, then says, "Let me git de list for vou an' Djivan to fetch, an vou can get to it if vou vish, Olivia. I kin sense vou are feeling a bit antsy."

"I don't think I'll be able to move very fatht… But with a little help I think I can walk." the Lapi says, holding back onto Axel's hand in turn and saying quietly to him, "Oh… and I have a little thtory to tell you thometime Ackthel… depending on how much you remember from tha dream… "

Olivia quirks an eyebrow in Morgan's direction. "Ask him."

"Morgan, is it okay to bring Lili along?" Amy asks, while turning around and squatting down in front of Miranda. "Climb onto my back then, Miranda, and I'll carry you."

Axel sucks in a breath, then picks Parsley up again. He places her down, stands slowly, then leans over Miranda. "Carry?" he prompts.

"You should rest a bit, Axel," Parsley says.

"Yes, I'll take the list to Djivan as soon as it's ready," the Skeek says.

"Erm, well, I was hoping to introduce Lily under better cicumstances, but, well, trouble brings people together," Morgan answers as he stands as well. He rubs his temple, glancing around, then adds in a whisper, "I hope."

Miranda looks over at Axel from where she was already getting settled on Amelia's back, smiling and saying, "Yeth Ackthel, you tried very hard, I know you did. You thould take a break. Thank you again."

Natasha nods and concentrates on finishing up the list of items she will need. "De list may seem a bi' odd, but it is de essense of de items and de concept dey provid' day is de key," the Khatta notes. She finishes and folds up the note. The Khatta then offers it to Olivia.

Axel's wings slump, and he shoots Parsley a pursed-lip look that resembles a pout. Then, having lost Miranda's grip, he takes Parsley's hand and insists, "My ears are clean."

Olivia takes the list from the Khatta and heads for the door. Before she goes, however, she stops again to give Miranda a little pat on the shoulder. "We're going to do all we can for you, don't worry." Then with a smile and a 'good luck!' to the rest of the assembled, she whisks out the door and out of sight.

Amy links her hands behind her back, giving Miranda a seat of sorts, then gets up. "Okay then, let's get Lili and head for the Tree, Morgan," Amy says. "Parsley can watch after Axel."

"I do some research on undead curses too an see vhat I kin uncover. If I fin' anything useful, I sen someone to tell vou at Isolde' place," Natasha promises and stands. She heads over to one of her myriad of chests and starts pulling out tattered books.

"Okay then!" Amy says. "Miranda, hold on tight, and please… I know you're feeling light-headed and all, but try not to barf on me."

"I'll go explain the situation to Lily," Morgan announces. He proceeds out of the cabin, giving Miranda a smile as he goes.

Miranda holds onto Amy's shoulders tightly saying, "Ok, I promith I wont barf Amy." And more quietly she adds, "And I promith I'll do my betht not to turn into a Vampire… ethpecially with all tha help."


---

GMed by Jared

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Today is 9 days before New Year's Day, Year 26 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6125)