Midsummer 2, 6107 RTR (Jun 24, 2006) Miranda arrives at the Gnarly Tree for Isolde the witch to check on.
(Amelia) (The Legend of Buffy) (Miranda) (Morgan) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (Zahnrad)

    The Gnarly Tree
    Climbing halfway to the top of Witches' Rock, the Gnarly Tree dwarfs even the oversized trees used by Kadies. The tree trunk-thick roots are twisted and knotted, and the multiple trunks bulge out oddly in places – some of the bulges even sporting windows. Beneath the shade of its canopy, an oddly shaped log cabin sits, its angles skewed to conform to the wandering roots it hugs. A clearing surrounds the tree and Rock, with several fenced off herb and vegetable gardens filling most of the open space. To the east, the bulk of the Gnarly Woods looms darkly, contrasting with the calm tinkling of the numerous wind-chimes hanging from the twisted limbs of the tree.

Isolde the witch has spent most of the morning sorting herbs and setting them out on the drying racks – something that Morgan was supposed to do, before he ran off with an otter and some first aid supplies. Now the Kadie sits in her rocking chair on the meandering porch of her home, and hopes to get a bit of rest before something else happens.

Her hopes come to naught, however, as Amelia Blacktail enters the yard carrying Miranda Chalk on her back, with Morgan and Liliana the Eeee close behind.

Liliana walks a bit behind the others, being the outsider of the little group. The Eee is probably more clothed today than she has been in quite some time. She wears a flowing skirt that goes down to her knees. Her upper body is covered in a blousy shirt, slit up the back to accommodate her wings. She hasn't given up her myriad earrings and bangles though, so her ears jingle and glint as they flick about. "I don' know how to feel about dis," she notes quietly behind the group, "It no exactly flatterin' to be invited only cuz vou are close to a monster."

"Nonsense, everything will be fine," Morgan assures Liliana, trying to cover his own nervousness with an air of confidence. "There's my mother now, even." The male Kadie points to the woman in the rocking chair, then, deciding taking the initiative will make him braver, waves and yells, "Mother! We've brought Miranda Chalk, she's been injured!"

"Den vhy vou no invite me before?" Liliana says a bit huffily. She crosses her arms over her chest and doesn't say anything further.

Resting a bit more while being carried along by Amelia, the Lapi on the Kadie's back has been recounting little bits of routine that go along with her job as one of the bunny ranchers to distract her mind a bit, not really caring whether Amy is paying any attention or not. Miranda falls silent when the group finally reaches the Gnarly Tree.

"Did she get kicked by a Rughrat?" Isolde calls, sounding a bit tired.

"Vampire bite!" Amy replies. "Undead kind! How do we stop the curse?"

Isolde sighs and pushes herself to her feet, just as Amelia stops at the foot of the porch with Miranda. "Mmmm, and it was looking to be such a nice day," the witch says, then gestures towards Liliana, asking, "Is that the vampire?"

"Yes, a vampire bite. A vampire lapi, if the injuries are any indication," Morgan confirms. He then reaches back and tries to nab Liliana's hand, so he can hold onto it, while explaining, "We found her in the hot springs alone, with no indication how she got there. After some investigation, we determined the bite is cursed."

"Well, that's Liliana… she's a vampire, but a normal one," Amy admits. "We brought her just in case… that would be close enough?"

"Do I look undead?" Liliana says, looking really annoyed now. She glowers, clawtips tapping on her arms.

"If you aren't undead, why do you have a death mask painted onto your face?" Isolde asks the Eeee.

"It's no' a death mask," Liliana counters. She then says to the others, "Ves, dis was a bad idea. I t'ink I be going back to de camp."

"Well, a live vampire can be of some use, actually," Isolde notes, then asks Amelia, "You haven't destroyed the undead one already have you?"

"Nonono," Morgan says, tugging on Liliana's arm. "Stay. We need you! I need you. Think of poor Miranda, too."

Miranda looks hopefully at Liliana with a look that clearly says, I'm sorry this isn't going well, but please stay?.

"What? No, we haven't even seen it," Amy says. "Miranda just remembers falling asleep to some music, and then waking up in the bath spring with a big bite on her… butt." She looks a bit awkward saying 'butt' to the senior witch.

Liliana rubs the bridge of her muzzle. "All righ'," she says with a sigh. "It be a good t'ing I be a softie."

Isolde's eyebrows raise up at the mention of where the girl was bitten, and she leans in to look closely at Miranda's face over Amy's shoulder. "How interesting. What were you doing just before you fell asleep, child?" she asks the Lapi.

Morgan steps out of the way so his mother can examine Miranda more closely, trying to hold the nervous Liliana's hand all the while.

The gray Lapi immediately thanks the Eee for staying, "Thank yu very much Liliana," before turning to the senior witch, her ears wilting. "I went into the tunnels with Clover and thtarted to reccord thome wierd moothic we could hear through tha rock," Miranda says honestly.

"Record… as in write down those funny dots and squiggles?" Isolde asks.

Unfortunately for Morgan, he gets reminded how sharp Eee claws can be now and then when the Eee's hand clenches reflexively.

Miranda looks a little uncomfortable with Isolde's comparison, or maybe with admitting the ability, but nods her head, "Yuth, recording tha moothical notation."

Morgan tries to smile, but mangles it when his hand is squeezed. His tail flickers anxiously.

"Ah," the witch goes, leaning back and grinning. "Then it wasn't actually trying to feed off of you, Miranda. It was trying to learn from you."

"Wouldn't it make more sense to have bitten her in the head then?" Amy wonders, a bit quietly.

The Lapi looks quite confused at this revelation… "But then why did I get bitten at all? Why would a vampire want to know how to write moothic?"

"I'm a little puzzled by that, myself," Morgan admits.

"Vell, bitin' someone is a way of sharin' wit dat person," Liliana admits. "But, dat is jus' in a symbolic vay."

"Ask a vampire why it does whatever it does," Isolde says. "But the buttocks is the one spot on a Lapi where the bite would cause the least amount of trauma. And as for the 'intimacy' of sharing blood… well, the undead don't actually draw any sustenance from blood. They use it as a carrier for the person's spirit, which is what really nourishes them."

"So, undead and living vampires are really quite different; they only seem similar on the surface. It's what's under the surface that counts," Morgan muses. Wincing as he holds Liliana's hand tighter, he adds, "This is Liliana, mom."

"Oh, they're actually more closely related than you might think," Isolde says, then looks over the bat critically. "Your paramour, Morgan?" she asks.

Now the Lapi looks a little bit sick having to think that instead of just blood whatever bit might have been ingesting little bits of her soul, Mumbling to herself, "And I thought drinking the blood was bad enough… "

"Ve are no related to de undead," Liliana insists. Her brow goes up at the mention of her name and what Isolde has apparently already been told.

"Paramour isn't the word I'd use – I prefer 'girlfriend,'" Morgan insists, sheepishly. After clearing his throat and glancing at Liliana, he says in a stronger voice, "Liliana has been a big help in dealing with this problem."

"Mmmm hmmm," Isolde grunts, and then asks Miranda, "How many days were you unconscious for?"

"Vell, I vouldn' go dat far. I no help much," Liliana admits with a slight shrug.

"Jutht latht night I think, if latht night ith the night I think it wath… " Miranda says after a moments thought. "I don't think I could have gone unnotithed in the bath for more than that… But I can't be thure."

And with a quiet sigh, the Eee resists commenting on how Isolde describes her.

Morgan gives Liliana a little shrug, too, then squeezes her hand despite her claws. "My mother's just tired, that's all," he assures the bat quietly.

"Hmm, unusual," Isolde mutters. "I would expect the vampire to have kept you asleep for several days, until your wound healed and you could be put back wherever you were taken from. And I'm not tired, Morgan. Your girlfriend simply does not understand her own lineage."

"Goo' t'ing she vour mother or I make her eat her tail," Liliana whispers in Morgan's ear. She then gives Isolde a disgruntled look.

Morgan's ears splay, and be blushes faintly. "You just seemed a little tired, mother, that's all," he mumbles. He then shoots Liliana a 'don't say things like that' look after her comment, trying to cover it up by asking, "Her lineage?"

"In any case, to prevent the curse from turning Miranda into a slave or a vampire, I'll need a pint of the vampire's own blood to work up into an antidote," Isolde explains. "And don't bother about that old fable about killing the vampire. That doesn't always cure the curse. But at least in a day or two, Miranda will be able to lead you to the vampire, with a bit of help from Liliana here."

Miranda's ears prick at the thought of anyone trying to make Stonebarrow's resident senior witch eat her own tail.

"A pint of blood?" Amy asks. "How do I get that?"

"How would I be able to lead anyone to tha vampire?" Miranda interjects curiously.

"How vou expect me to find dis vampire?" Liliana asks, looking rather unconvinced by the claim she can help, echoing Miranda's thoughts, it seems.

"Pint of blood, killing the vampire, following Miranda … Those all seem like closely tied events," Morgan remarks aside to Amy, teasingly.

Isolde holds up a hand. "One question at a time. As for Liliana's lineage: all vampire Eeee with glowing eyes are descendants of the first Count Draco – or in the old tongue, Count Dracul. He was not undead, but he was possessed, and part of that spirit nature is passed down. It is why the eyes glow."

Liliana doesn't look like she believes a word of it. "Not all vampire Eee have glowy eyes," she points out.

"Not all Kadies have feet like Amelia's either," Isolde points out. "Mutations are not uncommon, after all. But you, Liliana, do have glowing eyes. Your blood will help Miranda home in on the vampire that bit her, before that vampire's control is strong enough to overcome the girl's will."

The male Kadie's tail shoots up. "Wow," Morgan says, sounding impressed. Apparently he never knew that bit of witch wisdom.

"Wait a moment… you mean Miranda has to go back and lead us to the vampire herself?" Amelia asks. "Isn't that a bit dangerous?"

"Okay, now vou vant some of my blood too?" Liliana inquires, eyeing the witch. "Dat no such a good idea."

Isolde narrows her eyes a bit at Lili, and asks, "Have you taken any of my son's blood?"

"Err," Morgan stammers.

"Dat a bit of a personal question," Liliana says and crosses her arms.

"His blood is my blood, so I don't think it personal at all," Isolde notes. "Just a yes or no, please. You don't have anything fear from me."

"It's okay, Lily. Just answer, it'll be fine," Morgan insists, patting Liliana's hand.

"Once. An' it didn' react well wit' me," Liliana says flatly. Her wings do spread a bit, though, as if the Eee is about to take off."

"Ah, then really, you can't begrudge giving me a little bit in return, can you?" Isolde asks. "And if you cooperate, I'll tell you something that might be very useful for you to know, as well."

"I no afraid of bleedin'," Liliana says and shakes her head. "I more vorried about vhat vill happen to me if one of vou do it."

While the others are busy discussing blood, Miranda gives Amelia a little tap on the shoulder, asking quietly… "Do you think it will be okay, Amy? Like you thaid before about my will… " She doesn't phrase it directly as a personal doubt about the strength of her will, instead referring to what Amy said when they went to see Natasha, but her ears droop slightly.

"Well… anything that can give us an edge is a good thing," Amelia admits. "We don't want you falling under the control of a monster, so if we can take care of this before that point comes, we should."

"My mother doesn't share my … peculiarities," the male witch assures Liliana. "It will be fine. Plus, she isn't going to ingest it, I don't think."

"Dear girl," Isolde says to Lili, "we aren't going to bite you. You can do those honors yourself. I just need a little bit spilled into a cup."

"Anyt'ing involving vitches an my blood makes me vorry. I no sure it'll even be any goo' to vou. I no exactly, normal," Liliana admits and looks away from the group. "I coul' make t'ings vorse."

"That is for me to worry about," Isolde notes. "Now, will you donate a few drops of blood to help save young Miranda?"

Morgan pats Liliana's hand again, nodding to her. "My mother's even better than I am. You can trust her."

Miranda looks at Lili with another hopeful look, her ears perking forwards as she listens for the Eee's answer.

Liliana waves her free hand rather weakly. "Sure. Easy enough to bit' m'self," she says quietly. "Jus', be careful wit' it. I don' vant anyone hurt because I… " The Eee doesn't finish the sentence.

"Now, as promised, a bit of useful information," Isolde notes, grinning again. "Morgan is… a special boy. If you've tasted his blood, you probably know that already. So be careful, should you choose to progress to a more… physically intimate relationship. There is a chance that you will become pregnant."

"Uh," Liliana says. "Bit too late for dat warning," the Eeee admits. She rubs her muzzle again, "Grea'."

Morgan clears his throat again, and looks suddenly very interested in a passing cloud. "Ahh … "

"Oh?" Isolde asks, actually looking a bit surprised. "Really? I assumed you just… well, Eeee are known for being a bit… nontraditional about certain things… "

"No way!" Amelia says, and then busts out laughing – nearly dropping Miranda in the process. "Oh wow… little skinny bats with poofy tails… or… or… Kadies with wings!" She can barely contain herself now.

"Wit our own kin', yeah," Liliana notes with a shrug. She then glares at Amelia and says, "Yeah, laug' it off, fuzzbutt. Jus' pray vou kin compete wit' me vhen vou go after 'im."

Morgan's inner ears blush bright red. He looks very interested in that cloud, now, and tries to hide behind his tail.

The Lapi tightens her grip on Amelia slightly as she is almost dropped. "I think you can put me down Amelia… I don't want to hurt your back." Miranda whispers politely to the Kadie, still holding her as it looks like she might go into another fit of laughter at any time.

Amy lets Miranda down, and then, through her giggles, says, "Oh, I'm sorry Morgan, I didn't mean to make fun… it's just that… I didn't think you could fit… I mean… uh… I'm sorry!"

Clearing her throat, Isolde says, "Well, there are some things I can give you to prevent any surprises."

Morgan's tail twitches, and he gapes at Amy's comment about 'fitting' for a moment before 'hrmp'ing. "I am going to get you later," he assures Amelia after a moment.

"I'll help," Liliana says flatly.

Clamping her muzzle closed with her hands, Amy mutters, "I thought you were just snogging all that time. Especially after Lily's… allergic reaction… "

"Dat had not'ing to do with dat," Liliana snaps. If it's possible that an angry Eee's eyes glow brighter, Liliana's sure would be right about now.

"Tho you need a cup of blood from Liliana, tho I can help lead everyone to tha vampire… " Miranda begins fidgeting slightly, "But ith there anything thpethific you need me to do?" The Lapi asks Isolde, trying to take some of the embarrassing attention off of Morgan and Liliana.

"There will need to be a ritual to transfer some of the essence of Liliana's spirit from the blood to you, Miranda," Isolde says. "You can't just drink it, obviously. We only want to temporarily enhance your transformation into a ghoul or vampire."

The male witch still doesn't seem to have recovered from his embarrassment, since he's taken to inspecting the geography and avoiding everyone's gaze. "Hmm," he mumbles, ears still red.

"I'm sorry, Lili," Amy apologizes to the gypsy. "I… I underestimated just how flexible you are, I guess."

"Uh, dat is no a good idea," Liliana says very quickly. "My spiri' messed up."

"I said some of the essence," Isolde snaps. "Doesn't anybody listen to a witch anymore? Morgan, is this cavalier attitude your doing?"

"You're going to 'enhanth' my tranthformaythion?" Miranda says weakly, looking nervous, and even more so as Isolde snaps. "How long would it latht?"

"What?" The male witch blinks, looking back at his mother. "Cavalier? I haven't been teaching anyone to be cavalier. Amelia and Lily are cavalier all by themselves."

"Ey, I tryin' to warn vou. Vou know nothin' about me an you wan' to use my spirit. Leave Morgan out o' dis," Liliana snaps right back. "I don' vant to make Miranda any vorse, just cuz I be messed up, okay? She coul' end up a lo more den jus' a vampire." The Eee rubs her muzzle again and says, "Let' go inside an I'll explain. If vou feel vou kin safely do it after knowin' stuff, den fine."

"It should last for half a day at least," Isolde explains to Miranda. "Enough time for you to sense the vampire's location and lead Amy to her. Then Amelia just needs to collect the fresh blood without killing the vampire first, and bring it back here. Once I have it, we can transfer the curse from you back into the blood."

"Very well, Lili, you can explain your reservations to me inside if you wish," Isolde replies to the Eeee.

Morgan sighs. "I'll make tea. Good tea. We could all use some nice, relaxing, tea right now … " he murmurs, running a hand back through his long black hair.

"Get the blood without killing the vampire," Amy mutters. "How long do we have before Miranda falls under its control?"

"Fin'," Liliana replies. For as angry as Liliana looks, she looks as equally worried and freaked out.

Holding the door open for Lili and Morgan, Isolde says to Amy, "Oh, plenty of time. Four days at least."

Morgan steps inside, telling Liliana, "I'm going to make some tea, but first let me show you to the dining room."

Liliana walks inside without saying a word. She nods to Morgan.

From the worried look on Miranda's face, four days doesn't seem like a very long time to her…

"Shall we come in too, Morgan?" Amy asks before the younger witch can get out of earshot. "Or is this stuff Miranda shouldn't hear?"

"I don't mind thtaying out here if it'th thomething Lili wantth to keep more private," the Lapi says quietly.

Morgan pauses in the doorway. "That's for Lily to decide," he answers, then looks to Liliana.

"It no like vou don' already know some of it," Liliana calls back to Amelia. The Eee looks more defeated than anything and says, "Dey can come. Amy knows most already, an Miranda shoul' know what coul' happen. Just, don' tell anyone else."

"I haven't so far," Amy says, then takes Miranda's hand and warns her, "Stay close, it's a maze in there."

"Follow me please," Morgan tells the party before heading inside.

Liliana wraps her wings about herself and follows Morgan.

Miranda nods to Amy, holding the Kadie's hand firmly as Morgan ushers them inside.

There are a few confusing twists before reaching the dining room, such that one might have felt like going in a circle… except the room is clearly not where one would have expected.

Once in the dining area, Morgan pulls seats for Liliana, Amelia and his mother. Then, the Kadie heads deeper in to the house after telling Miranda he'd find her a cushion.

Liliana settles herself down into the chair. Her hands rest on the tabletop, claws tapping on it nervously.

Miranda nods to Morgan and stands by Amelia as she waits for the male Kadie to get back.

While Morgan is getting things, Isolde slides cups and saucers across the table to each guest. "So, Liliana… I presume this is going to be about your mildly demonic aura?" the witch asks in a casual tone.

The Eee rubs her eyelids, then nods. "Ves, it be about dat," she says, "Vhich noone bothered to tell me abou' until recently. After de incident wit' vour son."

After a bit of rummaging, Morgan brings Miranda a curiously donut-shaped pillow. "Just put the wound in the hole, here, and you should be able to sit fine," he instructs, placing the pillow down after pulling Miranda a chair. After that, Morgan rushes off in to the kitchen. "Tea'll be ready in five," he calls back.

Miranda looks curiously at the oddly shaped pillow before thanking Morgan with a small smile and carefully seating herself.

"Well, it wasn't really apparent until recently," Isolde notes. "Wouldn't have been noticeable at all if we hadn't managed to mask that Axel fellow."

"So, there's no danger of Miranda sprouting horns right?" Amelia asks.

"As I sai'. I no normal. Me parents were vild vhen de vere younger and frequented places dat, vell, darker t'ings visit. Place called Vorms vas one, if vou have ever heard of it," Liliana begins, then glares at Amelia again.

Morgan steps out of the kitchen after he sets the water to boil. Leaning in the doorway, he crosses his arms, and waits. "I hope everyone likes Earl Black."

"There's no danger in it, should it happen," Isolde says. "It's really not a serious condition at all. It does explain the attraction between Liliana and Morgan though, ignoring the physical reasons."

"Dere plenty of danger in being a monster," Liliana says and glances to Isolde. "Amelia seen wha' happen to me."

"Her appearance changed," Amy says, nodding. "But… well, I supposes that was all of it, really."

"I'm a special boy," Morgan remarks in response to his mother mentioning the similarity between himself and Liliana.

"Shapeshifting is a common trait of those with a bit of demon in them," Isolde says, turning a teacup in her hands. "It is generally harmless and temporary, and requires… unusual circumstances… to manifest."

Miranda for the most part sits quietly and listens, having nothing of much importance to add to the conversation of Liliana's 'differences'.

"To be brief abou' it all," Liliana says and looks to Miranda, "De place called Vorms I vas conceived at: vell, not'ing is free an dat place left a mark on me. No' one readily obvious, but is showed up physically vhen I bit 'im." She uses her thumb to point at Morgan. "An m' parents knew about it an so did Natasha. Bu' dey never tol' me," she adds, sounding a bit upset about it. "I guess de vere hopin' it never show up."

"You were just lucky to have met Morgan," Isolde says. "Now that you know about it, you can keep it from happening again."

"You'll notice Axel, too, has transformed. The nature of his strong spirit has warped his body and his mind. But, of course, he wasn't born that way, by all indication. Lily was born with the magic influence, so it's part of her form and personality – a half demon, as it were," Morgan explains. Behind him, the tea can be heard to simmer.

Morgan also smiles when his mother says Liliana is lucky to have met him. "I feel lucky, too."

"So Miranda is fine as long as she doesn't bite Morgan?" Amy asks. "And is this condition of Lili's the real reason you think her blood can be useful?"

"If people van' to see, I kin bite Morgan righ' now," Liliana offers weakly.

Isolde smiles at Amelia. "You really would have made a good witch, Amy. Yes, that is why Lili's blood is actually useful. Demonic auras attract, so that extra little bit will help Miranda's growing demon sniff out the vampire's."

Morgan backs into the kitchen, returning with the Nightshade family tea pot. He then proceeds to go about filling everyone's cup. "Hear that Amelia? You might have been better than me. Probably not, though," he teases the younger female Kadie as he passes by her, swatting her tail as he does.

"It's not that startling a transformation," Amy says, trying to play it down a bit. "Just a bit embarrassing. I don't think we need to see it," she says, giving Morgan an 'okay, are we even now?' look.

Miranda flicks an ear and quietly asks the older female witch, "What exactly would tha ritual with Liliana'th blood entail then?"

Morgan returns a 'maybe' look, then grins. After filling everyone's cup he places the kettle on a stand and takes a seat himself. "Amelia's right. No need to embarrass Lily by making her uncomfortable," he says.

"Oh, lots of mumbo-jumbo and incense and something to make you very lightheaded," Isolde says, sipping her tea. "It won't hurt at all, but you may find yourself feeling a bit… " she looks at Lili, and the finishes, "more forward or bold until it wears off."

"I already uncomfortabl'. I don' like being looked at as a monster wit' useful properties," the Eeee grumbles.

"I don't think anyone has called you a monster yet, Lili," Amy points out, smiling to the Eeee.

"She call' me a demon, dat close," Liliana notes.

"You're no more a monster than I am, Lily," Morgan insists as he reaches over to pat Liliana's knee.

"Demons are as natural as trees," Amy counters.

"An as often cut down," Liliana counters.

Miranda thinks about the short explanation of the ritual before saying anything. "Okay… Well, that doethent thound ath thcary ath I thought. Thank you Itholde," the Lapi eventually replies to the witch.

"Amelia will stay with you until everything is ready, Miranda," Isolde announces. "Just in case anyone or anything decides to come after you. And Amy, you'll need to review vampire fighting techniques and equipment."

"Vhen do vou vant de blood?" Liliana asks Isolde.

"Gee, and here I thought I could just go up and ask it for its blood," Amy mutters.

"I'll need it just before the ritual is ready to begin, Liliana," Isolde says. "I'll have Morgan come fetch you when the time is right."

"Alright. I better tell Natasha about dis," the Eeee says with a nod.

"If you like, you can all stay at the Gnarly Tree until we're ready. We can make room if you'd rather stay here, Miranda," Morgan offers.

"That might be best," Amy comments on Morgan's offer. "So long as Lili won't get jealous."

"I'll be too busy plotting vour doom," Liliana deadpans and looks at Amelia.

"You can stay here too, Lily," Morgan adds.

The Lapi nods in agreement, "Yeth, I think I would actually prefer to thtay… It would probably be better to be here in cathe thomething happenth… " Indeed it would feel better to stay with witches who would know what to do.

"So vour mother kin better examine me?" Liliana asks.

Morgan shakes his head. "So you might feel more comfortable, and to help us all out," Morgan answers.

Liliana considers that, then nods. "Okay. I kin get her to check for pregnancy easier, too, considerin'," the Eee admits.

"You and Morgan will have separate rooms of course," Isolde notes.

"Dat I figured," Liliana notes and glances at Isolde.

Morgan nods slowly. "No surprise there," he admits.

"Girlfriends sleepover!" Amy cheers. "And this way, nobody really knows what happened to Miranda. So Clover might start to sweat and let something slip, if she ever shows up."

"Hello?" comes a faint voice from somewhere back towards the entrance of the tree. "Sorry to bother, but I was told Amelia and Miranda where coming here. I hope I'm not interrupting anything?" The voice sounds like Zahnrad.

"That's Zahn," Amy confirms. "Maybe they finally found out how Miranda was snuck into the baths."

"That sounds like Zahnrad. Amelia, do you want to fetch him from the door? I'll explain Clover's connection," Morgan asks. After that, he begins to relate to his mother about Clover and how she may, or may not, be a vampire's slave as well.

"Oh, do vou vant Natasha for anyt'ing?. I sure she help if she can," Liliana says to Isolde.

Amy gets up to let Zahn in, while Isolde says, "Natasha can attend the ritual if she wishes. It may interest her."

"I let her know, den," Liliana says with a nod.

"I don't think you'll be disappointed in trusting Natasha, mother. She may be a mage, but she's lived a life on the road long enough to appreciate our way of life. Actually, I think the two of you should have tea. I think you'd have a lot in common," says the male Kadie.

Zahnrad is waiting by the front door. He's got a bag draped over his shoulder and his tail it twitching furiously.

"Hi Zahn," Amy says when she greets him at the door. "We're all having tea and… what's in the sack? It's not Gunther is it?"

Miranda sips lightly at the cooling tea in front of her and quietly ponders her situation, eventually she asks in general, "Ith there anything elthe I need to worry about before tha ritual?"

"You should brush your teeth," Isolde tells the Lapi. "Your breath smells disturbingly of fish. And you'll have a hearty breakfast as well. You need to have your strength back before seeking out the vampire."

"No, it's not Gunther. He did find out how Miranda was dumped in the baths, though," Zahnrad replies and steps inside. "Should we go to everyone or would you prefer I just tell you? I think … we have a problem."

"I know we have a problem, so yeah, better tell everyone," Amy says.

"Well, it's a worse problem," Zahnrad says and then takes Amelia's hand. "Lead. This place confuses me."

Amy leads Zahn back to the dining room, and lets him know along the way that she and Miranda will be staying the night here at the Gnarly Tree.

Morgan takes a sip of tea, then smiles at Liliana. "I can show you my room while we're waiting later. I don't wear all the clothes I have, and you may appreciate seeing some of my older dresses. Some of them are quite unusual, or hand-me-downs from my ancestors," he tells her.

Miranda wrinkles her nose slightly at being told her breath smells like fish and briefly places her hands over her muzzle, nodding, "Ok, I'll be thure to do that Itholde."

"Ah, okay. I won't wait up for you, then," Zahnrad tells Amelia. When he sees all the people here, his jaw almost drops. "Good grief," he says, then goes and sets his bag on the table. Quickly, the Kadie pulls out some plaster molds of what look like large claw marks.

"I expec' vou to model de clothes for me," Liliana tells Morgan with a small grin. "Or maybe model dem for all of us," she adds, then waves to Amelia and Miranda.

"Hmm, have you been poking around in those old tombs again?" Isolde asks Zahn as she sees the casts.

"What are those, Zahn?" Amelia asks quietly, not quite understanding what a relief mold would look like.

"That's fine," Morgan says, smiling. "I'm afraid some of them make me look almost matronly, though. We can make a bit of a sleepover of it."

Miranda peers curiously at the mold, inspecting the claw marks.

"No. Gunther found one of the floor stones in the bathes was loose. When he pulled it up, he found a very recently collapsed tunnel, with these claw marks on the rock. I took them to Doctor Pike's to compare with the old research stuff from her ancestor. You know, the stuff we found in the basement? Well, they matched, perfectly," Zahnrad explains and taps the plaster. "So, we have some burrowing monsters now coming to the surface … in Wingnut territory. And apparently dropping off bodies."

"Err, people," Amy says. "Dropping off people. Alive, you know?"

"This time," Zahnrad notes.

"I'm not dead yet!" Miranda squeaks uncomfortably.

"Trolls would not drop off dead bodies," Isolde says, sipping her tea. "They consume them. Do you want some tea, Zahnrad?"

"Huh… that explains some things," Amy says. "I mean, an undead vampire would really creep out something that eats dead bodies, just like… like a talking walnut would creep out a Kadie. Do you think they might have actually rescued Miranda?"

"Well, whatever it is, it's upset Gunther. He doesn't take intrusions lightly. So, uh, what is going on here?" Zahn asks, then blinks. "Wait, what? What is this about undead vampires?"

After pouring another cup, Morgan hands Zahnrad some tea. "Have a seat, Zahnrad. We're discussing recent attacks by a vampire."

"Okay, I've definitely missed a few things," Zahnrad says and sits down heavily into a chair. He stares at the teacup stupidly for a moment, then asks, "Can someone fill me in quickly?"

"I got bitten by a vampire and apparently curthed." Miranda states quietly, but bluntly.

"What sort of vampire?" Zahnrad asks and looks to Liliana. She glares back and says, "Oh, don' start dat again! I no bite her bum. I no dat kinky, t'anks." Zahnrad … blinks, muttering, "… kay."

"But in a weird way," Amy explains. "She wasn't bit to be… fed off of. But so the vampire could have some of her knowledge."

"If it were me, and I was stuck underground for a long time, assuming this was Buffy, given that's the only vampire I've heard of … I'd probably be rather lonely," Zahnrad reasons. "And probably afraid to really reveal myself to others … so to learn, huh. Maybe the vampire didn't mean any real harm. But that wouldn't explain a curse."

"Liliana has agreed to help us temporarily enhance Miranda's curse so that the girl will be able to track down the vampire," Isolde notes. "Then, Amelia will get a blood sample that can be used to remove the curse."

"It fed off her spirit," Morgan explains. "As for the curse, that may be an accident or … perhaps … 'Buffy' wishes to have a friend."

"Maybe she doesn't know about the curse part," Amy reasons. "I mean, maybe old Snapfish didn't get around to teaching her how to use her vampire skills before he was burned at the stake and beheaded and probably some other things they don't talk about."

"Oh, finding her should be eas … " Zahnrad starts to say then catches himself. "Uh, with their help, that is."

"So … maybe we just need to talk to her. You aren't going to stuff her head, are you?" Zahn asks Amelia.

"Clover's also been missing," Amy says, then shakes her head. "Stuffing Buffy's head would be… bad. Nobody can know she exists, it'd be too much of a scandal for the Chalks."

"Maybe you should introduce that vampire to her, if she needs a friend," Zahnrad suggests and points at Liliana. Liliana … grumbles, "My name is Liliana. No 'dat vampire.'"

"Well, we'll find out what she wants when we find her – if it is Buffy," Morgan states. He takes another sip of tea, then asks, "If Buffy should prove to be real, what are we to do, mother? Axel, and other half-demons are one thing, but a vampire is a different matter. I feel obligated to aid her, if her intentions are good. Still … " The Kadie swirls his tea, peering into the murky depths.

"She'll need to agree to follow certain rules," Amelia says. "Good intentions or not, pitiable or not, she abducted and assaulted Miranda. That sort of thing can't go on."

Liliana goes on drinking tea quietly. She looks as is she's a mix of tired and slightly depressed.

"Want me to see if the Wingnuts can dig out the tunnel?" Zahnrad asks.

"Gah, that would be bad too," Amy says. "Nobody else knows about it but Gunther, right?"

Miranda's apparent mood looks to be a bit of a match for Liliana's, the Lapi having finished her tea a short while ago and now is just sitting silently, feeling rather helpless in the situation and with little to add herself by way of help. Looking over at the Eee, Miranda smiles and tries to make some small, separate conversation, "I like the patternth in your fur ,Liliana.  They're very beautiful."

"And myself, obviously," Zahnrad points out. "Why would it be bad if we opened it back up?"

"Dese? I did dem myself," Liliana asks and holds up one of her dyed arms, "An de rest of m'body. I did 'er back, too." She points towards Amelia.

"Uh, think about it," Amelia says. "The critters dug the hole and put Miranda where she'd be found, then filled it in so nobody could follow it back to them. They don't want anyone to follow it back to them, is the key point. If people start digging it open again… well, don't you think they'd notice?"

"That they are," Morgan agrees with Miranda. He pours Liliana some more tea, then smiles at her.

"If they realize people know about them tunneling in, they may stop," Zahnrad points out, then shrugs.

"Gee… stop. So far, they've only done it to help someone. So, we do this to make them stop, and next time they can help someone, they won't because of how we reacted to the last time they did," Amelia recites.

Miranda looks at the Eee's dyed arm and then at Amelia with a little surprise. "Really? I never thought Amy would get thomething like that done… But thee hath a thtrong back so it would probably look nithe on her. And you do it all yourthelf? How long did it take you to learn to dye fur tho beautifully?" the Lapi asks Liliana.

"We can't confirm that the trolls are working to help us. For all we know, they may be under the vampire's control," Morgan puts forward.

"You don't know they did this to help," Zahnrad points out, then nods to Morgan, "You have no proof of their mindset. But anyway, I'll leave it alone."

"And until we know, we shouldn't do anything to rile them up," Amy says. "Besides, you can't hide an operation like digging out a tunnel. People will wonder what's going on, and eventually the vampire will be mentioned. The Wingnuts can't afford to expose something that embarrassing to the Chalks."

"To dye fur? Oh, takes a lot o' practice to get good at it, an really patien' friends who don' mind botched jobs," Liliana notes as she curls a lock of hair around one of her fingers. "It took several years before it be presentable."

"It really ith amazing, It'th eathy to believe it takes that long to learn. Do you make the dyeth you uthe yourthelf?" Miranda asks next.

"The immediate problem is dealing with Miranda's curse," Isolde reminds Amelia and Zahn. "Trolls and politics are secondary, and can wait."

"Large operations … at the Wingnuts? Amelia, people don't talk when things explode over there. Digging would not likely be a surprise, either," Zahnrad points out, then shrugs again. "And we can't afford to track down what's trespassing … oh, right. Our clan is the black sheep of the town, silly me."

"I have to agree with Amelia about riling the Chalks, Wingnuts, and trolls, however. We don't need any more conflicts right now," Morgan says.

"They didn't really trespass, they just entered in a way you hadn't accounted for," Amelia rationalizes.

"Some I kin make, others ve jus trade for in towns. Most are jus' fabric dyes with a few additions," Liliana answers.

"So, it wouldn't be trespassing if I tunneled into Blacktail lands, then?" Zahnrad asks Amelia.

Amy thinks about that. "No, it wouldn't be until you actually came out of the tunnel. I'm pretty sure only the Chalks have a claim to underground territory."

"They had to come out to drop her off, " Zahnrad notes and rubs his temples for a bit. "This isn't worth arguing over. My concern here is things like the dam. Do you realize what sort of damage they could do if they dug into the supports that anchor the dam?"

"No, I don't," Amelia admits. "But if we antagonize them, could you actually stop them from doing that?"

"I suggest we table talks of dealing with trolls until later. We have our hands full right now, and can't afford to fight against another group of monsters and the politics it involves. After this current matter is dealt with, we can call together a meeting of interested parties to discuss the trolls," Morgan proposes.

Amelia nods to Morgan. "We know, it's just… hard. The first instinct is always to chase off the invaders, regardless of who or what they are."

"I never did inherit that," Morgan remarks, sounding a bit thankful.

"Well, I did," Amy says. "But then, I've also been trained not to try and chase someone that I don't know how to fight."

"I could learn how to prevent the damage by inspecting the tunnels they have made," Zahnrad says, then shrugs.

"But as I said, I'll leave it alone," Zahn adds.

"Now, what will it take to make Gunther leave it alone for the time being?" Amy asks Zahn.

"I have no idea," Zahnrad admits. "Some sort of distraction, I guess."

"Well, we do have a sack … " Morgan jokes. "Actually, I've been meaning to bake him some cookies."

"With tranquilizers in them?" Amy asks, cocking her head at the notion…

Morgan tilts his head. "I suppose we could do that, but, I could also hide them somewhere and make a adventure of it. A clue here, a clue there, a mysterious cookie … It should keep him busy for a while," the Kadie offers.

"That would upset him even more," Zahn tells Amelia.

"That could work," Amy says, perking up. Noticing the gloomy Miranda and Lili, she says, "And we can have fun tonight, gossiping about our boyfriends and… and dying Miranda's fur, maybe. And we can sleep together all in a pile!"

"Vou haf a boyfrien?" Liliana asks Amelia, brow arched up a bit. "An, no dye stuffs here or I voul' do dat, sure."

"I'm sure I could tap into our clothing dye and mix something up," the male witch offers. "I make my own clothes, after all. I'm no Weaver, but I do alright."

Miranda blinks at the notion of dying her fur, looking unsure… it would certainly drive her aunt (or several of them) up the wall most likely, "Umm… I'm not thure about that… " But she smiles at the idea of sleeping in a pile, a comforting thought.

"Well, maybe some temporary coloring," Amy says. "I mean, if Miranda is going to have little bit of Lili in her, she might as well look the part, right?"

"Dat no exactly how vou get a little bit of someone in someone else, usually," Liliana says quietly and laughs to herself.

Morgan clears his throat, peering in to his tea again.

"Ah, well, if this is going to be a girls' night, I guess I should be going," Zahnrad says quickly. "Before you tackle and dye all the males, or something."

"Well… maybe if it'th temporary… " the Lapi says, looking over at the Eee, "I could never be ath pretty ath Liliana anyway… " she continues and then grasps Lili's statement and the insides of her ears turn pink.

"I'll be here, Zahnrad, although I suppose I'm more of a girl than a boy to most," Morgan admits.

"Ftt, vou coul' be. Vou bilt no differently den some of de dancers in my troup'," Liliana notes to Miranda.

"Well, you're special," Zahnrad notes to Morgan and puts away the plaster claw casts. "Will I be needed for anything later?"

"I doubt the bunnies would mind a bit of color," Amy says, and gets up to hug Zahn before he leaves. "Tell Gunther I'll personally reward him if he keeps quiet, okay? Might want your help getting Miranda to where she needs to go, too."

"Nice of you to notice, Zahnrad," Morgan says, winking back at the other male. He then laughs, and pets Liliana's hand. "I think I have some spare clothes for the sleepover, if you need them. It wouldn't be the first time Amelia has borrowed my nightie."

"Vou people sleep in clothing?" Liliana asks, looking shocked. "Dat soun' very uncomfortable. I prefer to sleep naked."

"I usually do too, lately," Amy admits.

"I only do when I don't have a room-mate in the warren." Miranda adds.

"It is refreshing," Isolde admits.

Zahnrad hugs Amelia back and for a moment doesn't want to let go. "Well, I'll do what I can with him. You know how he is," the Kadie says. "It's going to be quiet not having you around for a while," he then admits.

"Den it settled, no clothing, in a pile," Liliana declares.

"Don't worry, it never stays quiet for long," Amy tells Zahn, smiling.

Morgan just glances at his mother, curious as to her reaction.

Miranda looks momentarily mortified at Lili's declaration, then smiles and laughs lightly, "It'll be comfy!."

"In my youth, that is," Isolde adds, drinking some tea.

"Yeah. Well, just, be careful. If you need anything, just come by and I'll drop whatever I'm working on at the time," Zahn tells Amelia. Liliana rolls her hand over her forehead in the 'eye-rolling' gesture, then says, "Oh jus' snog 'er an go already. Men!"

Morgan rises now, glancing off into the house. "I'll see about preparing a room for all of us, then. I'll need blankets, and … " he goes over the list of what he'll need as he walks, vanishing in to the twisting corridors.

Amy gives Zahn a kiss, and says, "I'll have a surprise for you later," before letting him go.

Zahnrad just looks … bewildered. "Okay, I'll look forward to it," he says and blinks repeatedly after the kiss. Smiling, he waves to the others and heads back into the hallway he entered from, hoping he can find the way out.

Liliana leans over the table and peers at Miranda. "So … vant to go fully body on dyes?" she says, grinning a bit in that predatory way that she tends to do. "Jus decide vhat vou van' to look like an ve kin make it happen… "

Blinking oddly at the look the Eee is giving her, Miranda thinks for a moment before smiling and saying, "Well… I've alwayth liked curlth and curveth… they're very organic… "

"Just no clovers, please," Amy remarks.


GMed by BoingDragon

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Today is 32 days before Unity Day, Year 29 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6128)