Midsummer 3, 6107 RTR (Jul 14, 2006) Down in the chalk catacombs, Miranda leads Morgan, Amy and Zahnrad to Buffy the vampire.
(Amelia) (The Legend of Buffy) (Miranda) (Morgan) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (Zahnrad)

Luckily, Zahnrad and Amelia made it to the castle before Morgan and Miranda, giving them a chance to usher the pair down to the unfamiliar basement before Dr. Pike could take notice of the Lapi girl's odd condition. Once in the basement, Amelia hands the staff and crystal Djivan brought over to Morgan. "Here," she says. "Natasha sent these. The crystal gives off light when it's in a slot in the top of the staff, and if it's broken it acts as a sort of anti-undead bomb."

"Why does he get the staff?" Zahnrad asks Amelia. The Kadie then kneels down and pulls out his makeshift waterproof lantern and lights it, then goes through the motions of checking the loaned crossbow from Gunther.

Morgan takes a moment to regard the canal, keeping his expression neutral. "You bring me to the nicest places, Amelia," he remarks. After taking the staff, he looks it up and down, then reaches to attach the crystal to the staff head.

The crystal flares to life, bathing the normally dank and dark hallway in brilliant blue light. To Amelia, it's definitely brighter down here than it was up near the dam.

Miranda takes a minute to look around the basement after having been ushered downstairs. The Lapi girl is back to wearing a general pair of work overalls, having taken off the scarves Liliana had dressed her in for fun, but keeping one small clip on her ear. "It smells like the swamp down here."

"Umm, the canal is a secret, so try not to blab about it Morgan," Amy notes, squinting against the sudden glare of the crystal.

"I don't blab," Morgan insists as he peers at the crystal curiously.

"How are you doing so far, Miranda?" Amy asks the glowing-eyed Lapi girl. At least now Miranda has some of her own clothes to wear, thanks to Parsley.

"Right, he must gossip, then," Zahnrad says with a small grin and stands, resting the crossbow on his shoulder.

"I'm doing alright Amelia… Jutht nervouth… " the gray Lapi replies, scratching one of her ears with a free hand, the other holding onto an old, but well cared for violin.

Morgan breathes a put-upon sigh, then clicks the staff to the floor. "Well," he begins, looking back at the others, "do you want to head out now, or wait until I can prepare a bit more?"

"Okay… how long do you need to prepare, Morgan?" Amy asks.

"Well, I know. How about I work on improving the boat some while we wait? Maybe I can make it mechanically propelled," Zahnrad suggests.

"You brought stuff to do that?" Amy asks Zahn, sounding a bit leery.

"Well, no. I can tear apart some of the piping down here and come up with something, though! Don't trust me?" Zahn asks.

"About ten minutes," Morgan replies.

"Umm, not sure I trust the piping," Amy notes. "Let's just get the boat ready, Morgan doesn't need much time."

"You let him do more than me," Zahnrad complains and heads towards the boat.

Miranda finds herself a seat on the floor to wait for everyone to be ready to go, fiddling with the instrument in her hand as Zahn walks over to the boat.

Morgan just shakes his head s he digs out some chalk from one of the pouches on his belt. Kneeling, he begins to inscribe a complicated pentagram on the floor, wide enough for someone to stand in the center.

"He's a witch," Amy says, trying to keep at Zahn's heels. "And a pole works just fine to move the boat… "

"But a pole is so boring," Zahn notes as he start tossing things into the boat.

"That's what I like about poles though," Amy mutters, and keeps an eye on Miranda.

"You have no sense of adventure," Zahnrad says as he works on item position to try and keep the boat well balanced.

"We're hunting a vampire Zahn," Amy argues. "Isn't that adventure enough without… mechanical paddles?"

"Hunting vampires is your sort of adventure. Going dangerously fast is mine," Zahnrad counters.

The Lapi girl just looks to be lost in thought at the moment, gently tuning and retuning the pegs of the violin in her hands, apparently out of habit and potential unease.

Morgan snorts at Zahnrad saying "no sense of adventure," as if trying to hold back a laugh. After completing the pentagram – a sharp-edged thing with lacy lines intertwined in it like vines – Morgan sits in the center, laying the staff across his lap. "I call to the spirits of this place," he can be heard to murmur, eyes closing.

"Well, when this is all over, I'll do something dangerously fast with you Zahn, I promise," Amelia says, hoping to mollify Zahnrad a bit.

"I'm not going to go raid the otters camp," Zahnrad says, then grins and pafs Amelia with his tail. "And I'm just teasing you."

Tail twitching, Amy takes a deep breath, then says, "Well, I'm glad you aren't a bundle of nerves at least. I feel strung tighter than one of Miranda's violin strings."

Although Amelia has seen Morgan ready his magic, most of the others present have not. All in all, it seems to require a great deal of focus, as well as muttering, from the Kadie. "By the blood," he whispers, "by the old pacts, I call to you … " His hair begins to stir with an unseen breeze.

"Work in my workshop for a month," Zahn offers. "And after that, nothing will make you that nervous anymore. I spend what, eight hours a day or more dodging dangerous flying things? Besides, I have the crossbow of doom, here. What could happen?"

A light twang sounds from Miranda's violin as she lightly plucks a string to test it, flicking an ear towards Morgan's faint muttering.

"You could use it, that's what could happen," Amy notes. "That thing would shred the boat if it went off accidentally." She's finished her own preparations by now, which involved assembling her nasty looking halberd and putting on a bandoleer of sharp, black wooden spikes held in leather loops.

"So, what's it like being part amorous Eee, Miranda?" Zahnrad asks the Lapi after he finishes loading the boat.

"I could thhow you… but I really don't think Amy would like that… tho, betht not to athk Zahn… " Miranda replies to the Kadie with a rather predatory looking grin.

Extending his arms, Morgan holds them out, paws up. "By the guardian right, I call to you. Aid me: for danger is near. Succor me: for we have paid the price." The unseen breeze picks up, stirring his skirts, and ruffling his sleeves. "I call to the spirits of this place."

"Amy wouldn't like that? What, you'd grab her and make out with her?" Zahnrad asks and scratches his cheek lightly. He then looks at his claw and says, "Ah! So that's where that fragment of the file went. Stuck in the fur again."

"You shouldn't encourage here like that, Zahn," Amy notes, a bit uncomfortably. "She needs to stay focused."

The Lapi gets a sly smile on her face and looks about to get up and say something before the look turns to a slight frown and she nods in concession to Amelia's statement, turning her eyes back to her instrument.

"Come, it is time to go," Morgan says, seeming to address no one in particular. The breeze blowing his hair and clothes begins to thicken, like fog, taking the shape of a serpentine entity.

Jumping topics again, Zahn asks Miranda, "Have you ever considered contracting for a machine that can automatically tune that instrument?"

"What will that thing do?" Amy asks Morgan.

Miranda gapes at Zahnrad's suggestion, and not in a good way, but rather as though he had just suggested something sacrilegious… Clutching the violin a bit more tightly to her chest she shakes her head in an emphatic no.

"What did I say?" Zahn asks no one in particular.

Morgan lowers his right hand, taking up the staff again and opening his eyes. "It's a ward," he explains, holding his left hand up. The smoky creature flitters and snakes around his left arm, seeming to have solidified as much as it's going to. Now that it's more substantial, it looks like a Creen. A Creen made of mist.

"That should be helpful," Amy says, nodding to the witch. "Okay, let's get going!" she says, tapping her halberd's mace-end on the floor and heading for the archway.

"One of the best engineers of the Wingnut clan and what do they want me for? To push the boat," Zahnrad mumbles to himself as he gets into the boat and takes up his position at the rear.

The boat sits low in the water, and is made of some sort of chitin or similar material. The light of the staff causes the curved, mirror-like walls of the canal tunnel to shine and reflect in odd ways.

Amelia takes the front of the boat, to keep things level, and beckons Morgan and Miranda to sit in the middle.

Morgan pats Zahnrad's shoulder as he walks past. Since he has the staff, he takes up position near the front of the boat. "Let me illuminate your path," he offers, making a point of sounding mysterious.

Miranda edges herself into the boat as well, finding a seat and making sure she has a good grip on her instrument in one hand, the violins bow tucked into her overalls, so that she has a free hand to use if needed.

"Engage propulsion, Master Engineer!" Amy says, grinning a bit.

"Don't make me propel you into the canal," Zahnrad warns Amelia, then grins. The punt sinks into the water and with a dull thud, the boat lurches forward as Zahnrad pushes the boat off into the darkness.

Holding the staff forward, for light, Morgan remarks in reply to Zahnrad's quip, "It's not exactly a 'love tunnel,' now is it."

"Not with this smell," Amy mutters.

The journey down the canal is a bit slow, especially when there isn't anything to look at other than the strange curved reflections cast by the smooth tunnel walls and the occasional hideous gargoyle statue. Eventually they come to another tiny dock and archway however, and the air takes on the distinct odor of chalk.

"I could swear this trip took longer," Zahnrad notes as he pushes the boat steadily forward and angling towards the dock. "So, how is this supposed to work? Is Miranda suddenly supposed to run off crying for her new mistress and we chase her?"

"That would depend on Miranda," the witch answers. He glances back at Miranda, asking, "How do you feel? Do you feel … drawn … to any particular direction?"

"I thertianly hope not Thanrad… " Miranda murmurs as her ears perk up at the all too familiar smell in the air… At Morgan's question the Lapi closes her eyes and seems to focus inwardly for a moment.

"There's only one direction we can go for now," Amy notes, hopping to the dock to tie the boat down.

"True, to the pile of dead rabbits," Zahnrad says with a nod. When the boat connects to the dock, he jumps out and starts securing it firmly so it won't float away.

"It will help to know if we are heading in the right direction, or even in the right area," Morgan explains to Amy. He stands up when the boat docks, then carefully edges over to climb out, lifting his skirts.

"Good thing that Eee girlfriend of yours isn't here," Zahnrad notes absently, "She'd be looking under your skirt, I would bet… "

"It… it feelth like there ith thomething sort of… familiarThat way," Miranda says, gesturing vaguely in a westerly direction as she gets up out of the boat once it is tied to the dock, chuckling at Zahn's comment.

"Nothing she hasn't seen before," the witch remarks absently. Once on the dock, Morgan holds the staff high in order to cast a better light.

Amy hurries ahead to see if the big iron-clad door is still shut, and seems almost disappointed to see that it is. "Well, the chalk warrens start a little ways past this," she tells the others, and unbolts the door.

"Well, we suspect they're the chalk warrens," Zahnrad points out as he pulls the crossbow off his shoulder and starts arming the evil-looking device. "We never confirmed it."

"You found a secret way in to the Chalk warrens?" For a moment, Morgan's disapproving voice almost sounds just like his mother's. He follows along, though, brushing his skirts out. "Let us hope the Chalks don't take offense." He glances at Miranda, weighing her reaction.

Once the heavy door is pushed open, Amy beckons Morgan closer with the light. "The tunnels turns from stone to chalk, and then there's a big chamber with a lot of tunnels. We never went past that."

At the moment, Miranda just looks curious and rather interested in the idea that the Warrens would stretch this far, "Wow… I never thought the tunnelth could go quite thith deep… " But then, Miranda isn't one to take particular offense at such things, the scope of it just seems to escape her at the moment.

Zahnrad keeps behind Miranda and Morgan. "I'll watch the rear and make sure we don't get ambushed," he says.

As Morgan leans forward with the light, he murmurs, "Interesting." Nodding, he gestures Amy to take the lead. "Lead on, then. You're the best we have in a fight, and I know you like to charge into adventure."

"Plus he can look at your … tail," Zahnrad calls out. "Come to think of it, so can I."

"It's a nice tail," Amy agrees. As described, the stone tunnel does give way to the softer chalk, and then opens into a large, domed chamber with more tunnels branching off in every direction, and an opening in the center of the ceiling. Missing, however, is the mentioned pile of bunny corpses. Not a scrap of fur or a drop of blood mar the white, dusty floor.

Miranda makes a pained noise of exasperation at the comments surrounding Amelia's tail, "Are you guyth trying to make thingth even harder for me?"

"Someone's cleaned up the place," Amelia notes to Zahnrad.

"I guess they decided to clean up after our last visit, yes," Zahn says and points to the dusty floor with a nod. "Want me to shoot up into the hole?"

"Well these are certainly the Chalk tunnels, obviously." Morgan reaches over and runs a finger down a wall, then flicks the chalk off. "It's quite a maze, though. I'd suggest we leave markings, but, given our location, that may be unwise."

"No," Amy hisses. "Who knows what's up there? Zahn is going to make a map as we go, aren't you Zahn?"

"Right, maps. No shooting," Zahnrad says. He heaves the crossbow back up on his shoulder and pulls out his rough-bound pad of paper. The Kadie paces out the room and starts scribbling.

Not seeing anything particularly dangerous looking, Miranda takes several tentative steps into the large chamber until she is almost in the center, turning to look at the various branching tunnels.

A cold breeze suddenly disturbs the chalk dust at Miranda's feet, and a soft voice seems to be carried with it… singing. And the tune seems to Miranda to be the same one she was trying to write down the night before she was bitten.

Go to sleep little Lapi, go to sleep little 'Randa
Your mem'ry's gone away and your keeper's gone astray
Didn't leave anybody but Miran-da

Zahnrad is too busy sketching out the room, rough sizes, positions, and exits, to have really noticed the singing.

"There was a big wind and a cloud of dust last time," Amy says quietly, looking around at the various tunnels. "Not… singing… though."

The gray Lapi's ears perk and swivel at the faint thread of music, listening hazily before starting to wander off to the entrance of one of the northward tunnels… Thankfully Miranda merely stops at the tunnel mouth and doesn't completely leave the group.

"Mm, this is the part where it gets creepy, I see," Morgan whispers. He glances at the mist-creen swirling about his left hand, then at the staff, reviewing his tools like a man readying for a fight. When he looks back and notices Miranda has moved off, he walks after her. "You heard it too, didn't you, Miranda?"

"Who, what?" Zahnrad says when he finally looks up from drawing maps. "Something going on?"

"I guess we go that way," Amy says, heading for the tunnel Miranda waits at, gesturing for Zahn to keep up.

"No one ever tells me anything," Zahnrad grumbles quietly and hurries over to the group and marks on the map which tunnel they're using.

Miranda nods at Morgan's question but doesn't look at the Kadie, merely staring into the tunnel she now stands at… "It thoundth… familiar… Like what I was trying to write down… I think… " the Lapi notes, starting down the tunnel once everyone has come over.

"It's no voice I recognize," Morgan admits as he follows along.

"Alright then," Amelia says, and heads into the tunnel. Dust keeps falling from the rough-cut ceiling, and it's a struggle not to sneeze. The tunnel isn't too long though, and opens into another small chamber with only half-a-dozen tunnels leading away.

You're sweet little 'Randa, you're a sweet little Lapi
Lost in the chalk and the singing won't stop
Gonna bring some music to Miran-da

"Okay, who's singing?" Zahnrad asks as he finally notices it and pauses briefly in sketching out a map.

"Who do you think?" Amy nearly snaps back, then calms and says, "It could be Clover, maybe… "

"It could be," Morgan agrees, although he sounds doubtful. "Either way, tell me if you start feeling anything unusual, Miranda."

"It's a cute song," Zahnrad notes and sketches a bit more. "it doesn't sound dangerous."

"Like a lullaby," Amy agrees.

Miranda flicks her ears, running the fingers of one hand along the chalk wall of the tunnel as she walks carefully along, gripping the violin in her hand tightly. Having a hold on the instrument helps her to focus… The Lapi continues to lead in a northern direction, curving westward… she doesn't say anything herself.

"Well, it clearly sounds like whoever they are is aware of our presence. Unless they heard Miranda's voice, or were aware of our plans, then they are detecting Miranda by other means," the witch explains. He follows after Miranda, keeping a concerned eye on her.

The next tunnel is quite different. There are old posts use to shore up the walls, and long alcoves carved out of the chalk on either side. Whatever they're for, they're empty. The next junction only has four branching tunnels.

Don't you weep pretty 'Randa, don't you weep pretty Lapi
Clover's long gone with her black dress on
Gonna need another loving la-pi

"Okay, that didn't sound very cute," Amy whispers.

"Uh, no, it didn't," Zahnrad agrees. He looks torn between continuing to map the passage and getting the crossbow out again. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but … I wish Gunther was here."

Miranda pauses in mid-step at the last line in the small song set, blinking… the song sending a ripple down her spine. "Clother now… I think… " the Lapi murmurs, unconsciously shifting her violin and bow each to one hand as she leads further to the west.

"Clover," Morgan murmurs, letting a hint of worry trickle in to his voice. "What must be, must be."

"There's nothing to imply that Clover is dead," Zahnrad says, trying to reassure Morgan. "Gone simply means, 'not here', to be technical about it."

The next tunnel is the same as the last, only now the alcoves are occupied. Each one holds a mummified Lapi, their hands placed on their chests as they repose under blankets of white powder. At the far end, light can be seen, and the foot-tickling breeze seems to pick up strength.

Go to sleep little 'Randa, go to sleep little Lapi
You and me and the devil make three
Don't need any other loving la-pi

"Oh, I realize. It's best to plan for any eventuality," the witch tells Zahnrad. "And, I'm feeling negotiations might be unlikely."

Zahnrad continues to map out their progress. "Are you sure you don't want the crossbow?" he asks Amelia.

"I'm not trained to use one," Amelia says, gripping her halberd and wearing a grim expression.

"You just point and fire," Zahnrad says, then just shrugs. "What do you feel, Miranda?"

Morgan eyes the mummified bodies as they walk past them. "This is also interesting," he points out. "Macabre, but interesting." As the wind picks up, he frowns at his feet. "I really should have avoided wearing dark colors," he sighs, trying to shake his skirt out to no avail.

Miranda tenses, her ears perked forwards and quivering slightly towards the light at the far end of the tunnel. The gray Lapi looks torn between two thoughts for a moment, glancing at the mummified remains, a losing battle, before her footsteps quicken significantly… She doesn't answer Zahn, but looks like she is just barely restraining herself from hitting a full run towards the end.

    Ossuary Cathedral
    Bones in the walls. Bones in the ceiling. Bones used to make chandeliers and chairs and tables. Clusters of Lapi skulls, femurs and pelvises set in decorative patterns. And on one macabre table, a flute rests – also carved from a Lapi thighbone – alongside an antique violin. Light comes from glowing crystals in the chandelier, as well as from fat, dribbly candles held by skeletal hands.

Go to sleep little 'Randa, go to sleep little Lapi
Come lay your bones on the alabaster stones
And be my ever-loving la-pi

The voice seems to be flowing from the empty skulls adorning the walls.

Zahnrad almost drops his maps as he stares, wide eyed, at the room. "Okay, I an now officially creeped out," he admits. Slowly, the Kadie puts his map away and eases out the crossbow again. In short order, he's holding it firmly in his hands and aimed ahead.

Morgan comes to a stop when he enters the cathedral. "Oh," he breathes, sounding at a loss. Eyes widening, he slowly looks around the room, deliberately forcing himself to move; it helps him overcome his fear. "Well." His nerve seems to return quickly, as does his voice and grasp on words. "This is … unusual."

"Yeah… Gunther would have loved this," Amy mutters, looking around. There only seems to be one obvious entrance – they one they're using. The chalk dust covers up a layer of brightly woven rugs or tapestries on the floor, possibly from the old manor. Aside from the tables and chairs, there is what might be an altar made of bones, underneath a 'sculpture' that fans out up along the wall towards the domed ceiling, made of skeletal torsos all reaching and gazing upwards.

"Thee'th… Thee'th everywhere here… " Miranda murmurs faintly as she stares ahead, and then around, not entirely seeing the macabre scene of death and bones, but more simply seeing the vampires presence… all around.

"So … okay. Where is the monster that built this? What do you mean everywhere?" Zahnrad asks quietly and peers around slowly.

"Well, that doesn't bode well," Amelia comments, then nods towards the table with the instruments. "She does like to sing, and play music though. Maybe now is the time to use your violin, Miranda? Draw her out?"

"The irony that we locate a conspiracy without Gunther is not lost on me," Morgan remarks absently. He steps away from the group and peers at the skulls on a wall, tilting his head to listen. "Perhaps she is a disassociated spirit," he adds as he inspects the bones.

"I don't see blood on any of these skulls, so something physical bit Miranda," Amy points out.

Hesitantly Miranda lifts her violin and rests its end underneath her chin before touching her bow just lightly to the instrument, as though afraid for a moment to disturb the scene with any further noise of her own… Then she closes her eyes and starts to play.

"Perhaps the spirit has been possessing Clover," the witch suggests. He taps a skull, then goes "hmmmm."

"I kind of wish Natasha was here too," Zahn says quietly. His thumb nervously rests on the safety release on the crossbow.

As the music starts, the cold breeze picks up again… only this time it doesn't stay close to the ground. The wind coils around legs, then hips, then moves higher, rapidly cocooning everyone but Miranda in a blanket of frigid air that numbs their muscles. Only once Morgan, Zahn and Amy are half-paralyzed, does the lid of the altar begin to slide open.

The gray Lapi plays quietly and hesitantly at first, like someone asking an unsure question, before the sounds produced by the violin grow stronger. Her eyes remain closed, not noticing the rush of air, her mind lost for the moment in the music.

"T… time to u… use that ward, Mmmmorgan," Zahnrad forces out through chattering teeth. Straining, he tries to train the crossbow on the alter and push through the numbing cold.

Morgan leans back, looking up, and up. "Hmmm," he repeats. Despite the same sound, the tone is completely different. Morgan sounds worried. Shortly after, he is worried – and unable to move. The his left hand twitches as he tries to align it properly. "T-try- … -ing."

"Ugh," Amy grunts, before her teeth start to chatter. Black chalk begins to bulge up and pour out from the altar, pooling on the floor. And once more, the haunting singing begins.

In cases such as these I'd like a hand
Don't wake me up without a master plan

The breeze becomes a dust-devil, swirling over the black chalk and pulling it into a twisting column.

Morgan's fingers jerk, slowly spreading out until his hand is strained wide. "G-go," he chatters, jaw numb, yet shivering despite it. The hazy Creen suddenly stops circling his arm, lifting its head as if listening. Then, like a lightning bolt, it flashes down his arm and in to the air! The phantom Creen begins to circle Morgan, spinning faster and faster with a low keening, sucking the cold mist into its mouth.

By now the whirlwind has taken on a more or less Lapi shape, and the dark mass reaches out with a hand to Amelia, and brushes her cheek.

With black and white instead of color
Don't you understand?
When things that once were beautiful
Are now bland

In the midst of everything, Miranda plays on and on, drawing the violin's bow across its strings in practiced strokes, her face a look of concentration.

Amy just stares, frozen, as the coalescing shape turns its 'face' towards Morgan next, and his spirit ward that fights the chill.

"T… take y… you h… hand off … hhherrr," Zahnrad growls and redoubles his effort in trying to move.

The shadow has moved away from Amelia now, and looms before Morgan, singing to the witch…

In truth, there is no better place to be
Than falling out of darkness, still to see
Without a premonition
Could you tell me where we stand?
I'd hate to lose this light
If I take your hand

The witch's eyes widen when the black mass nears him – and then suddenly narrow. "Oh, just b-be gone," he chatters. Reaching for the top of the staff, he grabs for the crystal there!

The shadow darts away from Morgan, and Amy tries to cry out, "D-don't! We n-need her b-b-b-blood!"

The dark mass moves behind Zahn, so that the Kadie is between it and Morgan now. Cold, dusty hands rest on his shoulders, and the murky muzzle hovers next to his ear, whispering:

Before we let euphoria
Convince us we are free
Remind us how we used to feel
Before when life was real

Morgan clutches the crystal in his left hand, holding it back over his head. As his hand moves forward, it jerks to a halt at Amelia's warning. "How lucky you are," he says, his voice sounding clearer now. He must be warming up. "Very well." He doesn't lower his hand, but the strain in his arm lessens. "So." He eyes the spirit, frowning. "We 'talk.' Do not harm them, or I will not hesitate again."

"W… wait," Zahnrad stammers as the murky cloud comes close and actually touches him. "I … I think I understand. I … you … you want what i… isn't down here. Colors, … light … what it felt like to live… ? You … you don't want to be alone," he forces out slowly.

The shadow gives Zahn a kiss on the cheek, and actually feels solid. Then it lets him go and continues its dance, circling Miranda now, and becoming more and more realistic looking.

And when I feel like I can feel once again
Let me stay awhile, soak it in awhile
If we can hold on, we can fix what is wrong
Buy a little time, for this soul of mine
Make a haven here for us

And then the spell is broken. The chill and the wind die away, Miranda stops being compelled to play, and a very ordinary black doe sits in one of the bone chairs, dressed in what might have once been a wedding gown but is now no more than cobwebs. "Sorry for the dramatics… I get really bored down here and don't have much opportunity to show off," Buffy the vampire says, her eyes glowing red.

"Dangerous. Morgan could have possibly killed you," Zahnrad says as his muscles all suddenly jerk to life and then nearly give out on him.

"Wreckless," Morgan breathes, slowly lowering his arm. "Although, I suppose, I shouldn't be surprised. It seems to run in our town's blood." The Kadie smirks wryly, shaking his head. He glances at Zahnrad curiously, having echoed the man.

Miranda blinks her eyes open as she suddenly no longer feels compelled to play… The gray Lapi does not however simply cut the song, but lets it trail off before sitting abruptly on the floor with a small squeak.

"I'm already dead, how bad could it be?" Buffy says, smiling and batting her eyes at Zahn, at least until Amelia growls, and says, "Enough song and dance! We're here to remove the curse from Miranda, one way or another."

Zahnrad mutters, "She's as bad as Liliana, what with that eyelash flutter stuff."

"You fled from the crystal; I think you know how bad it can be." Morgan switches his crystal-wielding hand, his arm getting sore. "Amelia has the right of it. We're here for your blood, but not your head. You have a chance to negotiate with us, but we will not leave without Miranda's cure."

"Oh yeah, the curse," Buffy says, looking suddenly… worried? "I was wondering about that. I usually take care of it before they go back, but Miranda and Clover disappeared on me. Do any of you know where Clover is?"

"No. Miranda was just found unconscious in the bathing house, no sign of Clover," Zahnrad says. "She was taken there by ghouls, or trolls. Whatever those metal-clawed creatures are. We found the tunnel."

"But no Clover?" Buffy asks. "I didn't think the trolls came into these tunnels."

"We thought she'd be with you, and that's beyond the singing about her," Morgan replies.

"Wait, are you claiming that you didn't have anything to do with the trolls then?" Amelia asks, tail twitching anxiously.

Miranda looks the other Lapi doe up and down then at the others, and seeing they were alright apparently opts to just stay sitting on the floor for the moment.

"No, I've never even met one," Buffy claims. "They don't come into the chalk, and I can't leave it. And why are Miranda's eyes glowing already? I'm sure that shouldn't be happening so soon."

"They used a vampire that travels with the gypsies to boost the curse temporarily, I think," Zahnrad tries to explain. "And why can't you leave it?"

"A trick, to find you. It worked, as you can see," the witch explains. He walks over to Miranda and, after laying down the staff, pats her shoulder. "I'd assume she's bound to this place. The spirits are stronger below ground."

"It'th from a friend, to help find you… Err… yeah, pretty much what they thaid," Miranda murmurs before looking over in the direction of the pat on her shoulder and at Morgan.

"I'm bound to it," Buffy says, and shrugs. "You think I'd stay here otherwise? It gets up your nose, in your ears… in all sorts of places that chalk dust shouldn't get." Looking to Miranda again, Buffy smiles. "Well, I'm glad you aren't turning into a vampire then, Miranda. It's been so long since I've had anyone to share music with… but, you're here for the cure, right?"

Tilting his head, Morgan asks. "Tell me, did you bite Miranda in order to steal away some of her memories?" His tail quirks in to a semblance of a question mark. "And, yes, that's why we're here."

Miranda blinks at Buffy before returning a smile of her own, if a slightly broken one, nodding and getting herself to her feet. "Yeth Mithh. And I feel I have to thay, your muthic ith very nithe, if a bit creepy at timeth," the gray Lapi states politely.

"Well, not steal them really," Buffy says, trying not to squirm. "It's just the only way I can… feel what it's like out there," the vampire says, pointing upwards. "Clover shows me a lot, but… well, she's a bit too self-involved to really experience what's around her. Miranda's eyes are a lot more open."

"Ah, I get it, maybe," Zahnrad says and snaps his fingers!

"Clover got jealous. She was afraid you were going to replace her with Miranda," Zahnrad continues on. "Perhaps Clover dragged Miranda off, hoping to dispose of her and ran into the trolls deeper in the caves."

Amy jumps at the finger-snap, thinking it's the crossbow about to go off! "Zahn! Uh… anyway, yeah, we need some of your… blood," she tells Buffy. "Morgan can draw it. But… well, yeah, maybe Clover did do that."

"Maybe… " Miranda concedes, though looking reluctant to think that even Clover could do something that incredibly selfish and foolish.

"As a witch of Stonebarrow, it's my duty to help the women of this village – all of them. That includes you, Buffy." The witch begins forward, nodding to the part about drawing the blood. "If there's some way I can help you, it's best you ask. No more dramatics, okay? Zahnard wasn't exaggerating."

"Oh, that's sweet, but you know, I am already dead," Buffy reminds Morgan. "If you do anything for me, just don't… tell on me? I don't want the Chalks to stop feeding me for causing trouble. Oh, and try to find Clover, too. She's really not that bad… all the time."

"Morgan or his mother might be able to unbind you from this place," Zahnrad points out, "So you don't have to use other people to see the outside."

"No, she's not," Morgan agrees. "We came here to rescue her, too." He nods to Zahnrad, as well. "That might be possible, if you've been good about your … borrowing. You know I can't allow a threat into Stonebarrow, as much as I want to help you. I do feel bad about almost obliterating you." He smiles a bit. "You see? I can be just as protective as Gunther. I'll have to bake him cookies."

Amelia blinks at Zahn's suggestion, and even Buffy waves it off. "Oh, I'm sure that wouldn't be a good idea. If I could go out… I don't know, maybe I'd really become a monster, you know? I'm safe in here, and everyone else is safe from me. I wouldn't mind a visitor now and then though." The vampire then adds, "To talk to, that is. Not biting. Not biting very often, anyway."

"You'd probably get along with his girlfriend," Zahnrad notes and points at Morgan. "And you seem to get along with Miranda. Sort of, I suppose. Maybe. You did bite her butt."

"Well, I couldn't just… have her come down and play with me," Buffy notes, then grins at the other Lapi. "You don't know how good it was to hear your music, Miranda. All Clover listens too is that horrible jug band."

"Oh dear Gods, Emmett," Zahnrad groans.

"I'm willing to volunteer my time. Also, perhaps Axel would appreciate meeting you," Morgan muses. He glances back at Miranda, and asks her, "You like him, don't you?"

Miranda's ears perk up and she smiles at the compliment from Buffy saying, "Thank you Mithh, thatth very nithe of you. I don't think I would mind vithiting every onthe in a while. I don't play often for anyone… it uthually maketh me nervouth… But I like your muthic too."

"Uh, Axel might set her on fire," Zahnrad says quickly.

Amy frowns in silent thought during the conversation, chewing something over in her head.

"She's dead," Morgan replies to Zahnrad, shrugging. "And made out of chalk."

"Fire is one of the ways to help destroy a vampire," Zahnrad notes.

"The bird man?" Buffy asks. "Clover hates him. She thinks he burned up her dress once. And it irks her that Parsley seems to like him, and that she likes Amy and Zahn too."

"I think Ackthel ith nithe. He ith a friendly perthon who wanth to do good thingth. And I would thertainly like to get to know him beyond that funny dream," Miranda says, both as an answer to Morgan, and comment to Buffy.

"Oh, that's probably nonsense," Morgan insists.

"I thought I sensed some sort of oddness the night I bit you," Buffy tells Miranda. "I don't dream anymore myself though."

Noticing Amelia's frown, Zahn asks her, "What's on your mind?"

Miranda gives Buffy a wry smile before nodding, "Oh yeth, if anything it wath thertianly odd."

"Well, I'll leave the judgment to you and Buffy, then," Morgan tells the two Lapi. He approaches the vampire and inclines his head. "If you don't mind, I'll need to draw your blood now. And yes, the bird man is who I meant. You may have something in common. He, too, is cursed, in his own way."

"If the trolls didn't come in here and take Clover and Miranda, then Clover must know about the door and the canals," Amelia says. "But there isn't a boat at this dock. So where did she think she was going?"

Buffy holds out an arm for Morgan.

"And we have the only key I know of to that one room," Zahnrad says with a nod. "There may be another waterway out and another boat. Maybe someplace out in the swamp."

"We can only look for her where we've already been," Amelia says, whispering in case Morgan tries to eavesdrop.

"While he's with us, yes," Zahnrad says with a nod and a whisper back. "Or, maybe there is another door down here other than that one iron one."

As if summoned by the suspiciousness, Morgan glances at Amelia curiously. Shaking his head, he returns his attention to Buffy. "This … well, I'm not sure if it will hurt. You're quite unique." He draws his dagger, then takes Buffy's thumb. "I never thought I'd be holding Buffy's hand … " he murmurs in wonder.

"Slugs," Amelia curses under her breath. "We may have dig up that hole after all."

"Or come back here later without him," Zahn whispers. "I wonder what Gunther would think of her?"

Buffy giggles at Morgan, and winks to Miranda. "It's been ever so long since a handsome man has poked me with anything," she says to the witch. "And if you already have one vampire girlfriend, why not two?"

Miranda chuckles at the wink from Buffy, saying, "I would have tried mythelf after I got thome of hith girlfriend'th thpirit… but I'm not allowed too." The gray Lapi makes a somewhat silly pout with the comment.

"I'd really like to meet this vampire now," Buffy says. "She sounds like fun."

"Uh." Morgan suddenly seems very interested in his work, peering at Buffy's hand and carefully inching the dagger towards her thumb. "Well. Um. Uh." He has to steady the dagger several times.

"Want me to put it in for you?" Buffy asks Morgan, noting the jittering. "I've done this before you know."

Morgan almost drops the dagger at "want me to put it in for you," coughing suddenly. "I just need to focus," he insists.

Giggling again, Miranda murmurs in the other doe's ear, "You thould thee how he reactth when Lili kithheth other girlth." The gray Lapi grins widely.

"She has that effect on him too," Zahnrad tells Buffy when Morgan jitters. "From everything I've heard. I've only met her a few times. Odd girl."

Finally, Morgan manages to pierce the vampire's thumb. he begins collecting the blood in a vial, keeping his eyes focused on his work. "Really," he complains, "that's not true."

"How would you react if you saw me kissing Lili?" Amy asks Zahn, curious.

With a slight grimace, Miranda pulls up another one of the apparently bone chairs next to the one Buffy sits in and plops herself down while Morgan draws the blood, setting her violin in her lap. After a moment the gray doe asks of the black one, "Umm… Tho do you mind if I athk what yu thought of tha theet muthic I gave to Clover to give to you?"

"Well, I would be worried that she might need a breath mint. Blood breath has to be gross," Zahnrad says and shrugs slightly. "And later I would blow up her wagon."

"Okay, just checking," Amy says.

Zahn grins. "Kidding about the blowing up her wagon part, by the way," he notes.

"I enjoyed it," Buffy says to Miranda. "The first thing I did after biting you and learning how to read it, I went to look over the copy I made. That's probably why I didn't notice Clover taking you off somewhere."

Once Morgan has the blood, he tucks it away in his belt pouch. "Ah-again, I'm sorry about threatening you, Buffy. I'm very protective of the town, but it seems like you've suffered a long time, too," he insists.

"Mmmm-hmmm," Amy says to Zahn, nodding and looking like she doesn't believe the bit about kidding.

"Really. I'd just tell your father about it," Zahnrad adds and waggles his eyebrows.

Buffy sucks on her pricked thumb for a moment, then tells Morgan, "Oh, that's alright. It's why I'm here too, to protect the town. Just in case."

Amy's cheeks puff up and then she blows out. "You wouldn't dare… besides, that wouldn't make you look very manly to my father."

"Ah, well, I'm glad you liked it Buffy. Could I jutht get my copy back if you thtill have it? It ith one of my favorite peitheth of muthic and tha betht lullaby I know," Miranda asks politely of the other doe.

Zahn grins and pats Amelia's cheek. "Why did you ask, anyway? Do you want to kiss her?" he asks curiously.

"Nope, not curious at all anymore," Amelia claims, crossing her arms against her chest.

"I think you are," Zahnrad says and peers at Amelia.

"You defend the town, as well?" Morgan inquires. He looks around the room, distinctly trying to not look directly at Buffy. "From here?"

"Oh, I'll go get it," Buffy says, and hops up to go over to the altar-slash-coffin. "Technically, I defend the warren. Or will, if it ever gets invaded. I'm supposed to slaughter them all or scare them or whatever," she says while rummaging around to find the original score sheet.

Amelia looks right into Zahn's eyes, and says, "Believe me, I don't need to kiss Liliana."

"I never said you needed to," Zahnrad says and then the Kadie merely leans in and kisses Amelia himself. "And I'll have to keep making sure you won't want to, either."

Amy grins, then covers her mouth and wonders if she has blood on her breath… but no, Lili hadn't eaten yet that last time. "You call that a kiss?" she says to Zahn instead.

"I have no doubt you could slaughter intruders, and most certainly not that you could scare them. That mist was an interesting trick." Now that Buffy's away from him, Morgan drops in to a chair and breathes a sigh of relief.

"No, but we're not alone down here," Zahnrad points out and thumbs towards the others. "And this room is not exactly inspiring to, ah, well. I mean, it's a room of bones and a creepy coffin."

"True… and we do taste a bit like chalk right now," Amy admits.

Miranda watches the black doe rummage around for the music that had been lent, running her fingers over her violin while she waits.

"Tastes better than grease, at least," Zahnrad notes with a shrug.

The vampire-bunny returns with the music, and gives it to Miranda. "Will you play the rest of it for me some time?" she asks, and then sits in Morgan's lap without even turning to see him sitting in the chair.

Morgan twiddles his thumbs as he looks around. He just looks back when the vampire drops in his lap! His tail shoots up, and his eyes widen, mouth agape.

"What is it with you, Morgan? You are an absolute vampire magnet," Zahnrad says and rubs the back of his neck. "If they're not snogging you, they're sitting on you."

"Yeth, I would love to play tha retht for you thometime. And maybe you could thing the wordth… I can't thing on account of… well… " Miranda gestures embarrassedly to her mouth, not seeming to notice Morgan's discomfort.

"I have no idea," Morgan insists, holding his hands up as if to indicate this is no fault of his own. "Really!"

"Oh, didn't see you there!" Buffy apologizes to Morgan, turning to sit sideways in his lap and drape an arm around his shoulders, and sniffing at the spot where Lili bit him. "You'll introduce me to your girlfriend, right?" Then to Miranda, she brightens up and says, "I'd love to sing! It's so hard to do alone, without anyone to play the music. I tried to teach the skeletons, but they just don't have the knack."

Morgan blinks several times once Buffy gets comfortable, then leans back a little when she sniffs his neck. "Oh, um, ah, of course," he stammers.

"Uh, can you tell if someone has been bitten?" Zahn asks curiously.

"Ah that'th great! I haven't heard anyone actually thing that thong thinthe… well… it'th been a long time thertainly!" Miranda exclaims happily at Buffy's note about loving to sing.

"Oh, I'm really good at smelling blood," Buffy says, grinning like a patch of snow in a coal bin. "Bites, scratches, anything that draws blood leaves… a sort of sign."

"Ah, so she has bitten him before, then. I wasn't sure," Zahnrad says with a nod. Curious, he asks Morgan, "Was it fun?"

"I can see she did the eye mark too," Buffy says. "And the ones hidden by Amy and Miranda's clothes. When you bring her, be sure she brings her dyes along."

"How can you tell she did that?" Zahn asks.

"Urm … " Morgan blinks at Zahnrad, as if unable to comprehend him. "Wha? Oh. The … bite. Of course." He blinks again, glances at Buffy, then looks heavenward. "It was."

"Has the same aura as the bite," Buffy says. "Living things leave them all over the place. It's how I can see the drawings too, since your bodies really shine through your clothes. I can even tell if she's kissed someone… "

"Oh Lili would love to dye you! Thee getth really ecthited about dyeing new people," Miranda says while puzzledly trying to picture her body shining through her clothes.

"Of course she's kissed someone. I just kissed Amelia," Zahn notes and finally just puts the crossbow on the floor. "Or, oh, you mean if Liliana's kissed someone?"

"Yes, Liliana," Buffy says, and tries to explain better. "It's not that your bodies glow so much as… ah… well, from where I am, half in the spirit world and half in the real world, I can see both at once."

"Does Liliana leave that much of a mark? That seems odd," Zahn notes.

"Well, Morgan is in love with her, so it makes more of an… impression," Buffy says, and winks.

Morgan suddenly inspects his nails very intensely.

Zahnrad clasps a hand over his mouth to stop a laugh. It comes out as a loud snort.

Buffy noses Morgan's cheek, and says, "And you have a very pretty set of spirit colors, Morgan, did you know that?"

Morgan mumbles something that sounds like "Yes'm," as he continues to look very interested in his nails.

Amy clears her throat, then says, "Well, we have to use the blood while it's fresh, Isolde said. We should get it to her to make into the antidote for Miranda."

"Better look out, Morgan, I think she likes you," Zahn says with a grin. "Whatever you do, don't think about being alone with both Liliana and Buffy at the same time… "

"You and me and the devil make three," Buffy sings to Morgan, then laughs and hops off of his lap.

"Did she just call Liliana a devil?" Zahn asks Amy.

"Ummm," Amelia says, looking at a skull. "It was just a song. You don't have to take it literally… "

The witch looks a little dazed when Buffy hops out of his lap, blinking unsteadily before standing. "Fresh. Blood. Right. Antidote. Right. Going, we shou- … We should get going." He brushes his skirts out and refrains from commenting about Liliana being the devil.

"I always feel like I'm missing something important," Zahnrad notes, then just looks upwards and shrugs. He collects his crossbow and pulls out the map he made. "I hope I can follow this mess," he mutters.

"Don't forget to visit, and try to find Clover," Buffy says, then turns to Miranda and adds, "But not you, not right away. Wait a few days after taking the antidote, just to be safe."

"We're all welcome to visit?" Zahn asks and looks to Buffy.

"Oh, I can give you a guide if you want," Buffy says, then smiles to Zahn and waggles her ears. "Sure, sugar. Bring a snack though."

"Oh. Visit. Right. Of course. I'll tell Lily," Morgan replies, sounding a little strained. He reaches up and fingers at the snug collar of his dress, then, after inclining his head to Buffy, hurries towards the exit.

"Uh," Zahn says. "Well, maybe Olivia should come next time. She could make you a new dress."

The gayy Lapi smiles and nods to Buffy. "It wath very nithe to meet you Buffy. I'll bring my violin again when I come to vithit for thure!" Miranda says and heads over to the opening of the exit tunnel.

"New?" Buffy says, holding up her arms to look at the tattered remains she wears. "But I like this one… it looks lived in."

"It looks just fine," Amy says, and starts nudging Zahn towards the tunnel. "But… well, you could use a bit more color."

"I'm going, I'm going," Zahnrad grumbles to Amelia. The Kadie looks to the ceiling briefly, then heads out the exit as well.

Once out of the tunnels and back at the dock, Amelia closes and bolts the heavy door behind them, and claps her hands together to brush off the chalk. "Well… that wasn't so bad, was it?"

Morgan was the first to get out, and he stands staring at the boat and brushing his hair over his head. "That was … " He leaves the rest unsaid, sounding distracted.

"No, it was worse, really. If it had just been a monster, we would have killed it, rescued Clover, and be done. Now we have to find Clover, probably deal with trolls, AND be the occasional guest of the legendary vampire," Zahnrad counts off. "And to top it off, I can't tell Gunther a thing. And you know him, he'll know we were up t something. Now he'll be spying on me."

"Oh, I'm sure Gunther has secrets of his own," Amelia says, nodding towards the crossbow. "Who knows what he's dug up under the dam, after all?"

"Whew." Morgan drops down on the floor, sitting on his legs. "Buffy! She actually exists! And she … " He just shakes his head. "Spirits alive!"

"Yes, she flirted with you," Zahnrad says and shakes his head as well.

"She's gotta be nearly a hundred years old, Morgan," Amy notes. "And she's got chalk in places she'd rather not. I'm sure if you brought her a washtub and some soap she'd forget all about your physical charms."

Miranda is busy cleaning chalk off of her violin with a clean edge of her clothing, sticking the violin bow back into her clothes. "Morgan likes being flirted with I think," the Lapi idly notes.

"I don't get it," Morgan insists. "I didn't do anything!" He shakes his head again, and looks back. "Did I?"

"You didn't zap her," Amy says.

"You give them that doe-eyed lost look and they just fall all over you," Zahn notes and then looks to the staff. "So, think it would have actually killed her?"

"Natasha seems to know what she'd doing when it comes to these things," Amy says. "Although Djivan did say it probably wouldn't kill a full-fledged vampire."

"I … guess it would have depended on the power of the vampire, maybe," Zahnrad says with a shrug. "So, are you going to tell Natasha about her?"

"I have no idea. I was just furious she looked like she was going to kill you all," Morgan replies. He reattaches the crystal to the staff head, and scootches around. "Do I really have a doe-eyed look?"

"YETH, you certainly do," is Miranda's immediate reply though she is still looking at her violin.

"Well I don't try to look doe-eyed," the witch insists. "I only wanted to help her. I felt guilty about almost killing her, too. Imagine, all that time, stuck down there!"

Amy nods in agreement. "Well, you could always 'invite' her to your home. Maybe she could visit you there then."

"How would that go over with his mother, though?" Zahn asks.

"Well… she is a local girl, at least," Amy remarks.

"Ah, so you're suggesting she's a better choice than Liliana, then?" Zahn asks.

"Oh my," Morgan breathes. "I think I need to sit down for a while."

"Lili's a gypsy, she'll leave eventually," Amelia says.

Miranda grabs Morgan by the sleeve and pulls him firmly down into a sitting position next to herself, chuckling, "You're so cute when you're fluthtered Morgan," and kisses said Kadie on the cheek.

"You sure about that? Maybe she'll want to stay," Zahnrad says with a shrug and heads back to the boat.

"Gah!" Morgan wails, when kissed! He flails hims arms and promptly falls over on the floor.

Leaning over to look down at Morgan, Miranda promptly beeps his nose commenting, "Well… at leatht I didna thnog yu. I'm being good."

"Lili's weird, who knows what she'll do," Amelia says, shrugging, then goes over to pick up Morgan. "C'mon, you're acting like you've already been sucked half dry."
"Told you, stop with the doe-eyes," Zahnrad calls back to the flailing Morgan. "Great and heroic adventurers we are not," he mutters, "I doubt we could scare a Creen."

"I'm not sure I'd survive," the witch breathes. He goes crosseyed when his nose is beeped, then thanks Amelia when she picks him up. "I think I have been sucked dry, of something … " He shakes his head, at a loss to describe it.

"I've scared plenty of Creens," Amelia protests, getting into the boat.


GMed by BoingDragon

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