Tubes in the high ceiling illuminate this large workshop, which is a good fourteen feet by twenty-four. While the door to the south serves as the underground entry, there is another door in the middle of the north wall, and one in the west as well. The east wall is broken by a large recessed alcove. The walls and floor are made of fused material, like the walls of the underground apartments and tunnels. More conventional wooden furniture is used for tables, chairs and cabinets and not a single surface is without a pile of papers or tools or other objects cluttering it up.
As the strange, trollish Skeek looms over Zahn, the Kadie retreats backwards on all fours until he collides with a bookcase. Something heavy falls and bounces off of his head, followed by an avalanche of rolled up blueprints and leather-bound books. This, at least, obscures the sight of the strange creature that triggered his panicked retreat.
Zahn also doesn't like not seeing the monster that's chasing him, so he's trying to get the blueprints and books off in a flurry!
And he's not alone in that effort! White-furred limbs seems to be clawing at the junk in an attempt to uncover the Kadie as well!
"I'm telling you I'm not Abner!" Zahnrad says as he tries to dig himself free!
"What?" comes the voice of Parsley, as she hurries to pulls Zahn up out of the mess.
"Where did the Skeek go?!" Zahn asks as he looks around frantically. His tail is practically vibrating.
"What… Skeek?" the Lapi asks, sounding confused. She reaches over to run her fingers through Zahn's hair feeling for dents. "Why'd you run into that bookcase?"
"The white Skeek with the metal teeth and glowing eyes," Zahnrad explains, "She was right here. She petted my head and called me Abner!"
Parsley pulls her hands back away from Zahn's head as if something in his hair might bite her. "In here? But I didn't… see… " the doe starts to say, and then gets that confused look again. "I was drawing a bath… and… then you were on the floor… "
"On the floor under the books, yeah, when I backed away from her! I was tapping on the floor hatch and she came up behind me and petted my head!" Zahnrad repeats and waves his arms, "I thought it was you but it wasn't!" Boy does he look flustered. "It couldn't have been a hallucination, could it?"
The doe begins chewing on the tip of her left ear after brushing it forward, and her nose is wiggling even faster than usual. "Mmm… I… " she says, and then looks back into the bathroom. "I was looking in the mirror. It's really good the best I've ever seen," she says quietly. "Then I was here pulling this stuff off of you."
The sound of running water is still coming from the bathroom.
"You don't remember anything in-between?" Zahn asks as he runs his hands through his hair. "We better go check the bathroom."
"Yeah, before the tub overflows," the doe mutters. She doesn't seem about to take the lead though.
Zahnrad talks into the bathroom, taking a sidelong glance at the mirror as he heads towards the tub.
He sees himself in the full-length mirror that makes up most of one wall. There's even a tunnel effect since it's opposite the one over the sink. It's also starting to get a little steamy.
Zahnrad turns off the bathtub, then heads towards the mirror and uses his arm to wipe the steam away. "Maybe we're both suffering from some gas exposure. There pipes haven't been used in a long time. Stuff my have built up." he rationalizes.
"Yeah!" Parsley says, stepping into the bathroom. In the mirrors, the two of them duplicate off into the distance. Except for the twelfth reflection, were Parsley is replaced by the red-eyed Skeek at least, that's what Zahn sees.
"Uh, there she is again," Zahnrad says, pointing at the mirror. He looks back to Parsley and trying to not panic this time.
"What? I don't see anyone but us," the doe claims, glancing back and forth between the reflections and Zahn.
Zahn looks back in the mirror.
Now the Skeek has replaced Parsley number six, and is smiling.
Zahn pokes the mirror. "I guess I'm seeing stuff. Maybe all those, uh, touchy-feely paintings coupled with how I feel around you is messing with my head," Zahn offers by way of a sane explanation.
"What do you see?" Parsley asks nervously. "Think a bath would help?"
"I keep seeing the Skeek standing where you are in the mirror," Zahn says and shrugs. "And yes, a bath might help. Is there room enough for me to hop in?"
"Yes, it's a big tub," Parsley notes, sounding shaken. "And… uh… maybe you shouldn't look at the mirrors for awhile."
"Yeah, I think I agree with you," Zahn says as he disrobes for the third time today. The Kadie heads over and climbs in, then eases down as he lets out a contented sigh. "That's better," he says, then slides over to Parsley, "And this is too!"
The Lapi relaxes a bit. "So, you don't think place is haunted, right? Or… or that whatever made old Abner go crazy in still down here?" she asks.
"Nah, I don't. I just think its all the pictures and being nervous doing it," Zahn says as he drapes one of his arms around Parsley's shoulders. "I'm a logical kind of person; everything has a rational and scientific explanation."
The doe rests her head on Zahn's shoulder, and says, "You always were the logical one, Abner."
"Oh, now you're making fun of me, ha ha," Zahn notes with a grin and shakes his head. He tilts his head to the side to look at Parsley. "I'm Zahn, remember?"
The Lapi smiles back at Zahn with glowing red eyes. "Are you sure?" she asks.
Zahn does his best to not freak out this time. Instead, he reaches back and runs his fingers through his hair. "Yes, I'm quite sure," he says as if he didn't notice he red eyes. He also takes a brief moment to glance towards one of the mirrors.
A dazed-looking Parsley stares blankly from the mirror.
Zahnrad looks back to the Lapi next to him. "So … who are you and just what do you want?" he asks in forced calm.
"We needed Abner," the red-eyed doe says. "We needed his head. Where is it, do you know, not-Abner?" she coos seductively.
"He's dead. How could you even want the head of your dead lover? That's just … sick," Zahn says.
"We need his head," the doe (or whatever) repeats. "You've touched it, I can tell. Where is it?"
"Safe," Zahnrad remarks dryly. "Where it will stay. Unless you can tell me what you need it for and why you ruined his mind in the first place … and it was a good reason."
"Ruined his mind? Why would we do that?" the Lapi asks, and starts running her fingers through Zahn's hair again. "Maybe… we can use yours? It will be nice, I promise."
"Use it for what?" Zahnrad asks again and doesn't pull away.
The Lapi has worked her way into Zahn's lap now. "What is your wish?" she asks. "What do you want most?"
"Nothing you can give me," Zahnrad answers. "What did you give Abner?"
"He wanted what was best for everyone," the doe replies, and licks Zahn's lips. "As he saw it, that is."
"Did you tell him the cost would be his life?" Zahn asks, ears splaying out as he fights back the sensations that start anytime Parsley gets … friendly.
The doe blinks, and bursts out laughing! "Cost… his life? Oh… oh my!" She laughs so hard she actually chokes, and when she recovers… her eyes are brown again. "Ack! Did I swallow my ear?" Parsley asks.
"You fell asleep for a minute. I just caught you from going under water," Zahn lies and strokes along her cheek. "I've just been thinking about Abner. Well, feeling sorry for him, really. He had a Kadie he loved, but is unnamed. He had a Skeek he loved … but whom was probably just using him. That really … stinks."
"I'm not just using you, Zahn!" Parsley blurts. "Really! I liked you even before we had the baked bread effect."
"Wha? I know you're not! I'm talking about Abner," Zahnrad repeats, "And speaking of him, I should try to trace back the initials to a lady living around his time. I wonder what happened to her."
"Maybe she was turned into a Skeek?" Parsley asks. "Abner didn't have any legitimate children, right?"
"People can't be turned into something else," Zahnrad notes, "And as for kids … not that I know of. Doesn't mean he didn't have any, though. Heck, I might even be related to him if he did have one with a Kettenrad lady."
"Well, can't be too hard to check for that," Parsley notes. Then she realizes she's in Zahn's lap and gets a mischievous look.
Zahn smirks. "And just what are you thinking? You have the evil face again," he teases.
"Well, it wouldn't be right to make love on Abner's old trysting bed, would it?" the doe asks. "Bathtubs are fair game though!"
"I don't think he would care if we used his bed," Zahnrad says and llaughs. "And are you telling me you're ready, again?"
"What do you mean again? I'm a Lapi!" Parsley notes. "Besides, we should enjoy the water, because there aren't any towels to dry off with… "
"Well, I guess if we stay in the tub, we don't have to clean up afterward," Zahnrad rationalizes and leans into lick Parsley's nose. "Top or bottom… ?"
"Both!" Parsley replies.
"I should have known!" Zahnrad says with a laugh, "Well, I think I can manage again. Being around you has certain, uhm, effects and encouragement… "
Luckily, there were no more red-eye incidents that could have been embarrassing. And the towel issue was solved when Zahn found a tube-shaped device that blew hot air when its hose was connected to a socket in the wall. It did leave them both a bit fluffier than usual though, since neither of them had a brush or comb.
Zahn is actually looking through the piles of blueprints while naked for the moment. Clothing plus fluff usually ends with a bad case to static discharge, after all. "You know, I bet Abner felt really alone," he remarks, "And when he met the people down here he probably felt for the first time like he was important. Of course, I also now think they used him."
"So maybe his girl up top spurned him," Parsley suggests, looking at her own extra fluffy tail and wiggling it a lot.
"Maybe, or her family did," Zahnrad says, "It was a long time ago and given the deterioration of the clan, well, there haven't been much oral history that has survived." He glances towards the glued hatch and adds, "I also think at some point he realized what they were after and escaped them. Then died anyway. A waste."
"What were they after?" the doe asks, going to look at the hatch now (which involved bending over in front of Zahn, of course). "Maybe sealing the hatch was part of his madness?"
"His head, for some bizarre plan, I guess. Remember the wires?" Zahn points out. "I wish I could find them, I guess, and just ask. But I don't think any of them are left. Just trolls and monsters now."
"Cute butt," Zahn adds as an afterthought (and just now noticing Parsley bent over… )
"Cuter than usual?" Parsley asks, and then goes and hugs Zahn's extra-poofy tail. A lot of the blueprints are actually preliminary plans for the dam. It seems Abner went through a lot of them before coming up with the one that got presented and finally approved.
A few of the other blueprints are more typically Wingnut, although they seem to imply that Abner intended to harness the hot springs for some sort of motive power that could be piped around. The hot-air blower plans are there, along with a powered toothbrush and a manicuring machine. In fact… the little inventions seem to focus a lot on grooming.
"He was very thorough in the layout of the dam. I can see where he worked out the stress issues and where the first designs would have failed," Zahnrad comments as he points to some scrawled equations in the border, "These should really go in the archives; not down here." He also proceeds to tickle Parsley's nose with his tail tip. "And … huh, I think he was trying to impress a girl. My guess, a very pretty one. Lots of grooming stuff designed here."
"A Kadie girl?" Parsley asks. "From the pictures, I don't think he had to impress the Skeek. And… well… he didn't look all that impressive himself."
"Neither do I. I'm ordinary as Kadies go," Zahnrad comments as he continues to flip through the plans and setting aside some to take back to the archives. "As for the Skeek, they were using him; so they wanted him to feel special. Or at least that' my guess. That's the worst of it all; to use someone and build them up … then rip it all away. That's just evil."
"Hmm, maybe you shouldn't jump to conclusions," Parsley notes. "Maybe Abner was using them too? I mean, he never told anyone about them."
"I'm sure there was some of that too," Zahn says with a small shrug. "I'm not sure we'll ever know, really. Well, not until I unglue that hatch and go deeper, I guess."
"You're sure they're all gone, right?" Parsley turns to ask, sounding nervous again. "You were surprised by the pictures."
"Pretty sure, yes," Zahnrad notes, "I think they turned into those troll things. Besides, I was also rapping on the hatch in mathematical sequences. If they were still around and near, they would have responded in kind. Mathematics, the universal language!"
"Uh… that was a special code?" Parsley asks. "But… weren't you tapping when you saw the ghost-Skeek?
"Yeah, but I think I was just imagining that now," Zahnrad comments. "Want me to try again and see if anything happens?"
"NO!" the doe barks, and squeezes really hard on Zahn's tail. "No ghosts! I'm still trying to get over seeing Buffy, and she had bunches of ghosts running all over the place!"
"Ack!" Zahn says as his tail gets tingly from the pressure! "But, er, Buffy had good ghosts, right? Not all ghosts are bad, supposedly." He taps his chin, then looks around the room, looking for journals or diaries.
"Ghosts are ghosts!" Parsley notes. "Dead people! Like zombies that are… you know… naked." There a lot of books scattered around (including the ones that fell on Zahn's head) but none of them seem to be labeled. They all have the same leathery-looking bindings that Zahn remembers from the underground school supplies.
Zahnrad tries to reach one of the nearby books to flip through it to see what it is. "I've heard rumors that Stephan's ghost has been seen before. Never seen it myself," he remarks.
The first page Zahn stops on reads, "You are reading this page out of order."
"Ha ha," Zahn says and flips to the next page out of curiosity.
It soon becomes apparent that… Abner was nuts. The single notebook is actually four notebooks… depending on how you hold it and which end you start from. At seemingly random, pages are written backwards, upside-down or sideways. And none of them are numbered.
A few of them have writing in all four modes. And one… is a spiral.
"Heh, he must have been paranoid about who might read his stuff. Still, this belongs in the archives; its our history, such as it is," Zahnrad comments, then sighs. "We're a pathetic clan, aren't we?"
"Hey, you have a written history at least," Parsley notes. "Um, if you bring this to the archive, won't people ask where it came from?"
"The only ones who have access are Wingnuts, and not that many of us now," Zahnrad points out. "I'll claim I dug it out of storage from the former territories … or something."
"And the binding?" Parsley points out. "Do you have other books like this? I've never seen one before."
"I can change the binding," Zahnrad points out, grinning. "Do you really think I should leave all this stuff down here? It does no good to anyone."
"Oh… I just thought you wanted it all kept secret," Parsley notes. "What if he talks about crazy stuff in these books? I mean… he left them down here instead of sharing them, after all."
"Fair enough, I guess. I'll just come down here to read them, then. Or try," Zahnrad comments as he turns a journal around. "The plans, though, I'm taking."
"They're all of the dam?" Parsley asks. "That's sure a lot!"
"Plans take up a lot of space and usually go through many iterations. My engine one is up to thirty pages now. You have to detail out each part with exact specs on size. Otherwise you can't build it right," Zahnrad comments as he rolls up the blueprints; verifying that they are, all, the dam.
The doe gets an odd look, and then sheepishly asks, "Can I ask a stupid question? Or… more than one?"
"Go ahead. No question is stupid, really," Zahn says.
"Well, first off… do any of those plans show the hatch and secret entrance?" the doe asks.
"Unlikely," Zahnrad notes and checks for it anyway.
"Okay, so… next dumb question: could Abner have built the secret entrance by himself?" Parsley asks. "Like… the whole turning piling thing? That was pretty big."
"Not likely. I expect his Skeek friends built it afterward. They probably tunneled up from down here," Zahnrad notes.
"That… is even scarier than there being a conspiracy to build it, you know," Parsley says. "What if these things could just tunnel up anywhere! And what if the otters found the tunnels they made?"
"They're safe. Their heads are all hollow so nothing to plug into," Zahnrad says with a huge grin. "And finding the tunnels are different from having keys to them. Has Emmett said something before about finding weird tunnels?"
"Emmett talks about weird stuff all the time," Parsley notes, her ears drooping. "I never really listened because I figured he was just making it all up. Especially the stories about gnomes."
"Er, what did he say about gnomes?" Zahn has to ask.
"They pinch butts when girls aren't looking and make them think their boyfriends did it to get them into trouble so they'll break up and walk home alone, and then the gnomes can abduct them," Parsley recites, giving it the same sort of intonation that Emmett would.
Zahn … laughs! "He's making that up. That boy is too bizarre for his own good," the Kadie says once he can breathe again. "Say, could you grab that box of paintings before we go? I want to hold onto those."
Parsley goes into the bedroom and fetches the box of glass plates. "I guess we should get dressed at some point, right?" she asks. "Or did you want to try the bed first?"
Zahnrad grins. "We should get dressed. Haven't we, ah, done enough today?" he asks.
"But… that was a neat mattress… " Parsley mutters as she sets down the box and goes to get the clothes out of the bathroom. She pulls her ears down over her eyes and feels around for them so that she won't have to look into the mirrors.
"Well, if you really want to try the mattress … we could before we go," Zahnrad relents as he follows after Parsley and peers in the bathroom.
The reflections look normal this time. "Oh, that's okay," Parsley says as she backs out with the clothes in her arms. "I wouldn't want to tire you out to much before the climb up the ladder. I can wait until next time. Unless you think we can carry the mattress out without anyone seeing?"
Zahnrad hehs. "No, it probably weighs a lot," Zahn says as he collects his clothes, then dresses. He peers curiously at the hatch for a bit, sorely tempted to rap on it some more … but in the end, resists doing so. Instead, he gathers up a selected set of the blueprints to take and leaves the paintings for Parsley to carry. "Well, all it all, its been a fun day, even if a ghost wanted my head," he says.
"You do have a sexy head," the Lapi notes.
"I do?" Zahnrad asks, checking the Lapi for red eyes…
Parsley's eyes are their usual brown, and twinkling. "Sure, just ask Amelia what your sexiest part is!"
Zahn beams at that. "She appreciates the finer qualities of my clan," the Kadie claims and puffs up (even more than he already is). "I'll come back here later to do more research, but probably alone. Right now, though, I'll be happy to see my workshop and cabin again. As neat as this place is … its just not mine." And as the Kadie heads to the exit, he adds, "Well, not yet anyway!"