Midsummer 6, 6107 RTR (Nov 15, 2006) Morgan and Qing bring the captured spirit to Dr. Pike's castle so they can study it in one of the underground chambers.
(Inner Demons) (Morgan) (Qing) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania)

    Doctor Pike's Laboratory
    Like any respectable mad scientist, Dr. Pike fills her lab with strange machinery that spins and sparks and backlit glass tubes and beakers full of strange bubbling liquids. Most of the tables and workbenches are covered with heavy cloth to hide their contents, though, and quite a bit of them have lacy trim. The dark stone walls have been covered in a cheerful bright pink paint as well.

The doctor is currently covered in rubber: thick rubber gloves, boots and an apron to be exact, making the Eeee look bulky. The pair of oversized goggles add to this effect, while the butterfly net she holds is simply an odd accessory. She squeaks in alarm as Igor opens the lab door, followed by two visitors: Morgan the witch and Qing the Spirit Mage. "Quick, come in and close the door!" the Eeee chirps, "before it can escape!"

"Here we go again," Morgan whispers to Qing as he hurries inside. The crystal, which Morgan has held with an iron grip ever since he recovered it, is held close to his chest as he fully enters. He also ducks down a bit, glancing this way and that, lest a flying monstrosity take him unawares.

The pallid serpent poking his head through the door raises an eyeridge, but says nothing, pouring the rest of himself through the entryway after Morgan. His many arms bear some clasped cases, but he has one left over to close the door behind himself. A trio of ghostly wisps hurry in after him, barely seeming to get through the door in time, though it shouldn't really matter to them.

Igor stands guard at the closed door, while Pike spins around, her net poised to strike. "Be careful, I think it grew teeth! Keep an eye out for something purple!" After a moment, she adds, "Dark purple, not like Morgan's clothes… "

With practiced, albeit feigned, nonchalance, Morgan side-steps a bit closer to to Qing. "While I approve of your color choice, Dr. Pike, what, um, are we looking for exactly?" He continues to peer around, tail twitching. "And, did you say teeth?"

"It's… um… an eggplant," Pike explains. Once she's said it, Qing spots the vegetable in question creeping along an overhead rafter using a dozen root-like tentacles.

The snake tips his head back, glancing up and curving to one side to be sure the thing doesn't drop onto him. His free hand points up, and another sets one his cases down, and extends toward Pike, palm up. "There. On the rafter. Hand me your net."
"There, on the … " Morgan repeats, looking up. His words trail off as he spies what Qing has found. Apparently, Morgan doesn't know what to say in the face of mobile, potentially toothy, flora.

"Eeep!" Pike yelps when she sees it, and hands over her net. "I didn't think it could climb! It's got hardly any creeper in it."

Qing takes the handle, and sets the other cases down, hefting himself up a little higher. Not sure if the purplish plant-creature has eyes or not, he waves one of his wisps past it anyway, then tries to scoop the beasty up with the net.

The eggplant has a good grip on the wooden rafter, but a bit of shaking causes it to let go and promptly get it's roots tangled in the net. It hisses and spits furiously as it struggles.

"I keep thuggethting that the doctor keep a pot of boiling oil handy to fry up thethe little mithtaketh," Igor confides to Morgan.

The mage lowers himself back down, flipping the hoop of the net over to close off the mouth, and holding the mouth flush to the floor. He offers the handle back to Pike so she can reclaim the squirming mass. "Does this happen often?"

"Eeee," Morgan whispers, taking a step back. He suddenly startles when Igor addresses him, tail poofing a bit. "What? Oh, um … Lovely?" He eyes the monstrosity once more, then takes a moment to smooth out his pants, lacking a dress to smooth out. It's his way of calming down.

"Oh, only with squash, for some reason," Pike mutters as she takes the net and places the whole thing into a sturdy wooden crate. As she hammers down the top, she says, "It should calm down in a day or so, once it starts getting thirsty. The pumpkins where never this bad… "

With the rebellious produce thus secured, Pike turns back to her visitors and pulls her goggles up to her forehead. "Now, what can I do for you two gentlemen?" she asks.

At first, Morgan doesn't respond. He continues smoothing out his well-smoothed out pants, before suddenly blinking and looking up. "Oh you mean m- … Yes, well then, we'd like to borrow your dungeon for a little while. We have some, ah, research of our own to do, and would like some privacy. We also brought you some gifts you may appreciate," he explains.

"Gifts?" Pike asks, stepping closer and smiling wider at Morgan. At least she's not a vampire – but there's something green stuck between two of her front teeth.

Qing begins collecting the cases again. He opens one, revealing some tubed jars, odd boxes, some corked beakers of chemicals, and other miscellaneous oddments that he couldn't himself use.

"Oh my, that's quite a collection," the Eeee says of the salvage, and takes out one of the vials to see if it's labeled. "I'm always running low on… umm… whatever this probably is."

Morgan gestures to the case Qing opens. "We came across some alchemy equipment, which the prior owner no longer has any use of. We thought you would appreciate our saving it for you, and so we have brought it to you. I do warn you," he points at the contents, "that some of the contents are dangerous, as the previous owner was something of a madman." He watches the Eeee a moment, then adds, "I'm sure you can handle it." To Qing, he gives a raised-brow 'is this really a good idea?' look.

"I'm sure that I'll find some productive use for it all, once I figure out what it is," Pike says happily. "And of course you can use the… uh… sub-basement," she adds. Apparently, the word 'dungeon' just doesn't agree with her. "I think Igor's been trying to tidy up some of it."

The reptile's face is unreadable at the moment, but he at least doesn't look testy or angry, so signs are good. "Very good. See that no more vegetables make their way down there, nor anyone who doesn't wish to become one."

"I always wondered if you could turn someone in to a vegetable," Morgan remarks out of the blue, before heading towards the basement door.

"Oh, of course Mage Qing," Pike says, a bit more submissively. She returns the vial to the box and moves it off out of the way. "Igor will show you to a room you can use, and get you whatever else you need."

Despite calling it a sub-basement, the room that Igor brings the mage and witch to practically shouts out "Dungeon!" Heavy manacles hang from the walls at various points, and despite some scrubbing there are still dark blood stains on the floor, walls and even the ceiling. The only furniture is a single ancient wooden chair (which is also heavily stained). The light comes from glowing rainbow crystals mounted in the ceiling. "Ith there anything elthe the marthterth require?" Igor asks them solicitously.

"I'd just like to begin," Morgan answers. He looks around the room with distaste, never having been one for the sight of too much blood. "It'll have to do," he concedes after a moment, to no one in particular.

"This will suffice. I have brought all we need," says the witchdoctor. His bleached form looks right at home here in the dank, and he sets one of the cases he kept down, flipping the latches open. "The place itself is the greatest asset we have here."

"Jutht thcream if you need anything, then," Igor says, and leaves the room. The heavy door closes with a loud THUNK sound.

"I'm beginning to understand what sort of people create all the monsters in this land," the Kadie remarks. He fingers the crystal in his hands, turning it over and over with nervous energy. "How should we proceed, Mage Qing? If possible, I," he looks down at the crystal, frowning, eyes distant in an expression of longing, "would like to be the one to greet this particular spirit."

Heedless of the rusty old stains on the floor, the reptile begins describing a wide circle around the largely featureless room, setting candles in seemingly arbitrary places as he does so. "I have prepared the spells we will need. The divination will tell me about the spirit itself, then the seance will draw forth the spirit within the crystal, give it form, and we will all be able to converse. As you wish, you may address it. I have no lesson in mind at this time. The circle I am making is to facilitate any further spells we wish to cast."

"Lessons! I had almost forgotten. I've been, well … distracted." Morgan holds the crystal up to the light, peering at its swirling colors. "I never dreamed I might find him – especially not like this. It makes me so mad, I'd … I'd … " He gives a ragged sigh, and shakes his head. "He's dead, what's done is done," he tells himself, the words sounding like a mantra. "No matter. I just hope he's okay, I dislike the sound of what that twisted spirit suggested. If he is hurt, I will find a way to heal him."

The circle is eventually completed, a stylized one reminiscent of reptilian coils from many Naga, dotted with candles where eyes would be and embellished with vine and scrollwork here and there. The design has a classic Imperial look to it that, while not perfectly suited to a Creen, is perhaps more so than others. The Rokuga retrieves a jar full of red liquid. "Place the stone in the center."

Morgan does as he's told, walking forward and placing the stone where indicated. He seems hesitant to let it go, pausing beside it until he forces himself to pull away. There he stands, looking down at it from a few steps away. "Do I need to leave the circle?" he inquires, sounding as reluctant as he looks.

Qing points at a spot on the circle across from him, where some of the Naga twist away to form a loop of their own. "Stand in that, it is where you will listen from, and where you will assist me from."

Bowing his head slightly, Morgan begins moving. "Very well, Master Qing." Once he reaches the spot, he turns around and folds his hands together in front of him – quite likely to suppress the twiddling he seems intent on. Of course, nothing restrains his tail from twitching like one of the tentacles from the wayward monstrous eggplant.

The reptile takes up his position in another serpentine ring, his coils overlapping… from above it might look as though the circle is a continuation of his own body. Removing his spectacles, he stares intently at the crystal glinting in the center of the room with lidless crimson eyes. "We will begin by divining the spirit's nature before we bring it into being, to be assured this is what we sought, and that it is no danger."

"Wouldn't that just beat all, if it wasn't," Morgan remarks. He shifts all his weight to one leg, head tilted. Casually, he flicks his hair back over his shoulder before refolding his hands.

The reptile places his palms together, fingertips crossed slightly past each other. His voice is low and even. "Seers of the Crystal Spire, draw aside the veil immaterium… gift unto me knowledge unwritten, words unspoken, bidden by a witchdoctor of the Old Realm." He begins flicking his tongue, and stretches his neck out further, craning it toward the crystal… he almost looks like he'll pour out of the neck of his mantle and cross the circle, but he stops. At some point, his lens comes to one of his eyes, magnifying the red orb. The usual cobweb isn't there, instead some other translucent material, a membrane of some sort.

Morgan watches intently, if not exactly patiently. His tail twitches with an almost electric energy, and his fingers seem to be trying to wriggle their way free of his dainty folded-hand grip.

"Yessss… " Qing's eyes seem to stare through the crystal, intent. "It is inhabited… I recognize this design of crystal. A trap, like the amber I once used to try to catch a wayward ghost in. The one inside it is… agitated, angered perhaps, and rails at its prison, generating a great deal of energy." He pauses, and as his head tilts his hat nearly reaches a 45 degree angle. That forked tongue flicks again, and he adjusts the distance of his lens from his eye. "Sss… it has a primal feel. It tastes of raw elements, but… hm, it has faint resonance… with you, boy."

Morgan closes his eyes, letting out a sigh of relief. He seems to savor the words, before replying. "That is good, although I am sorely upset by his imprisonment. Were there anything further I could do, I'd seriously consider doing it, but it is done." The Kadie's face flickers, an agitated twitch bespeaking his frustration at an enemy beyond his reach. "But," he says with sudden confidence, "we can help the spirit within, now. That is what matters. Let us not wait any longer; I fear he has been trapped too long, and it pains me."

"Very well. This may take some time. Be patient, Nightshade. For our safety, I must give up a spell I was holding." The mage seems to dismiss one of the wisps near his head, and like the other one at the time of divining, it puffs away into nothingness. "The spirit within that crystal is strong, and it will be disoriented and possibly hostile when we begin the seance. I will do what I can."

"It is a Creen spirit? Rainbow in hue?" Morgan asks, glancing towards the mage. "Perhaps he will react favorably to me, we are … kin, I think." In a quieter voice, he adds, "I hope."

"I cannot yet visualize it. I get an impression of… luckiness. Perhaps chaos is interwoven." That said, the witchdoctor begins working again. Even though it may only be half an hour or so, it must seem like an eternity to wait, sitting in this dank dungeon with nothing to listen to but the snake's incomprehensible droning. At last, a new wisp appears around the brim of Qing's hat, and the mage takes up the jar that was sitting by him. His voice is loud and unusually sharp in the confines of the stone chamber. "Hear me, bound dweller! Emerge unto our world once again, and by the bounds of this circle and the wards of the Alabaster Tower, raise no force against us. Hear, take form, and speak." The candles gutter out, to be replaced by a cold blue glow. The seance begins.

"Luckiness?" The Kadie isn't quite sure how to take that piece of information. He simply turns to regard the crystal again, wondering at what surprises it holds. Wondering, for all the world, if it really is as connected to him as he hopes.

The snake takes the glass stick from his jar, and flicks a few droplets of the red stuff into the circle. Flick, flick, flick. "Nightshade… it may behoove us for you to take on your Creen form."

Morgan blinks at that, but nods after a moment. "Oh, yes, I can see why." He reaches down and undoes his belt, dropping it to the floor as he adds, "I won't be able to communicate well with you until I return to my Kadie form. Magic, too, may be difficult for me. I've never attempted anything complicated as a Creen." Once he's ready, his clothes sufficiently loosened, Morgan closes his eyes and concentrates.

For a moment, nothing happens. Morgan simply looks focused, and that is all. Then, suddenly, his body looks hazy, almost wispy, as if it were crafted out of a peculiar sort of smoke. The rigid outlines of his body begin to falter, steadily causing him to look less and less distinct, until suddenly his outline breaks apart all together. Multi-hued smoke rises from the pile of clothes where Morgan was once standing, quickly evaporating into the winds of magic. The remains stir. From under the blouse, a purple head emerges, flicking its tongue.

At nearly the same instant, a ball of light appears in the center of the coiled circle. The released spirit spins around, gradually taking on a serpentine, glowing form. Two black points serve as eyes, while the spirit-Creen's wings are simply fans of light. "Free!" it peeps. "Show yourself, sorcerer! Face the wrath of Pilli the Otter Baiter! Tremble and cower, for your life from this day forward will be pure misery for what you did to me!"

"Calm yourself," hisses Qing, flicking a few more droplets of the red stuff into the circle. "The one who imprisoned you is slain. Feed, and by the geas of our seance, bring us no harm."

"Dead? DEAD!" the spirit squeals, flying in a figure-eight within the confines of the circle. "That cheating jerk! I demand that you bring him back to life so I may chastise him!"

The purple Creen that is Morgan suddenly ducks back under the clothes it is partially buried, in reaction to the sudden appearance of the spirit. Apparently, Morgan is even more timid when he's tiny. Qing's words seem to bring him some confidence, though, for he peeks back out, then wriggles his way free of his clothes to sit coiled atop them. It's head tilts to the side, making it look very puzzled.

"And please stop flicking blood at me," the spirit adds, stopping its antics to hover at the center of the circle.

Qing flicks his tongue, but rather than looking troubled, he moves his head a smidgen closer, intent… perhaps rapt. "So you have no need of sustenance despite your imprisonment, and the power you expended," he murmurs, laying the stick back in the jar. Louder, he hisses, "He is long gone, he and his dryad minion. Dead before we found you." He gestures at the pile of clothing across the circle from him.

Morgan the Creen's eyes widen, despite having no eyelids. A clear sign he spends far more time as a Kadie than as a Creen. It looks between the mage and the spirit quickly, then, timidly, gives the spirit a little wing-wave.

"I will never live this down now," the sprite complains. "But… you have rescued me, and by the laws of faerie I must grant you a boon. What is it you desire, oh great pale worm?" The motion of Morgan's wing catches its attention, and it turns to look at the purple Creen with interest.

Morgan's eyes widen even more, and it pauses in its wing wave when looked upon. It even gapes, wanting to speak but not knowing how, stunned and amazed all at once.

The glowing spirit comes closer to Morgan's side of the circle, as far as the ward will allow. It seems to stare at the Creen, and then notes, "Please make your boon something to do with gambling or fishing please. I'm good at those."

Morgan freezes up as the spirit approaches, keeping that stunned pose like some sort of bizarre Creen statue. When the spirit comes as close as it can, the witch seems to find some nerve, and slowly – carefully – it leans forward as close as it can, as well. Can you hear me? It wonders, mind left hazy by too many questions. Do you know me, Pilli?

This unexpected turn makes Qing bring his head back a little, and then his tongue flicks again, dismissively this time. "I have no need for fortune with cards or hooks. You shall grant that you will answer all my pupil here would know, that you speak with him for as long as he wishes. He has traveled long and endured much to see you, and it seems there are forces beyond the veil that link you."

"Your pupil?" the spirit asks, looking around the room quickly before focusing back on Morgan. "The Creen?"

Qing nods slowly. "He is more than he appears," he hisses.

The spirit's black-dot eyes expand as it stares at Morgan, and then it squeaks and flutters backwards in surprise! "Lord Xochi! But… but… shouldn't you be a Kadie?"

Morgan shoots Qing a look, which the other reptile can interpret as a sort of 'way to go' expression. Then, Morgan looks back at the spirit, leaning forward as the spirit leans back. He flails his wings, trying to express himself and, yet, not really knowing how to do it as he is. Morgan has never been forced to try and communicate like this, after all. He finds it immensely vexing.

"It can't be, after all of that effort we put in!" the spirit wails, flying in a sad circle. "To end up just as Creens, is that the fate we are locked into? Never to have souls?"

Qing gives Morgan as quizzical a look as he can manage with his hard reptilian face. "Well, what are you waiting for, Nightshade? Turn back."

The little Creen mouthes something, trying to explain, then it hisses in frustration. Shrugging its wings, it drops its head to stare at the floor in concentration. Moments later, the air around Morgan begins to turn to a multi-colored fog. The fog gathers around the little purple Creen, expanding and solidifying its multi-hued colors into nebulous blackness. A shadowy outline, then detail forms, and finally Morgan is sitting there naked in his Kadie body. "That is so frustrating," he breathes. Then, he leans forward suddenly, tail twitching. "Are you the one?" he asks the spirit. "Are you … my father?"

The spirit squeals again and flies around in agitation! "It worked it worked it worked! You did it, Lord Xochi! Many said you were a fool, or that you were merely indulging your infatuation with the young witch, but I never doubted… what? What did you ask me?"

"Oh," Morgan says, falling back to sit. "You're not. But, wait," he looks up, blinking, "Lord Xochi? Is he my father? My mother, my mother is the young witch – Isolde Nightshade! I'm Morgan Nightshade! She's my mother!" It all comes out as a bit of a babble, the cadence matching the twitching or Morgan's tail.

The sprite dances around in confusion, and then says, "But you are Lord Xochi, my Lord! Don't you remember? You are your own father!"

The pallid mage simply sits quietly now, mumbling to himself. He listens, but he seems to study the faerie creature more closely than anything else, observing and making mental notes. This last revelation provokes a raise of one eyeridge, but no words.

"WHAT?!" Morgan sputters, tail shooting up as if it had been grabbed by the hand of a god and yanked upward. "What, what … wait … that can't … What?!" If Qing suspected Morgan was in squirrel-frenzy before, now he's practically bristling.

"It was your plan all along, my Lord!" the spirit exclaims, mirroring Morgan's agitation. "You were certain it would gain you a body and a soul! And then we could all be reborn, and carry on the Great Plan!"

"Wait, what … What?" Alas, Morgan appears to be stuck in a permanent loop of saying "what?" and looking poleaxed.

Qing hisses, "You may have to allow him a moment to collect himself." He doesn't stop studying, tilting his head the other way now. "He… your lord's memory may require a great deal of refreshing, as I would surmise such transitions must cause strain. Begin with Lord Xochi's history, and outline the plan."

"Oh my, this… this can't be good," Pilli the spirit mutters, and flies about in complicated patterns. "I knew it wouldn't work! Didn't I warn that you might lose yourself in the process? I warned you, I warned you! But you just had to try! For the Great Plan! You never even told us what the next step in the Great Plan was! Awwwrk!"

"Ummmmm." Morgan reaches up and rubs his forehead. He opens his mouth, pauses, closes it, then seems to focus as he narrows his brow and stares at the spirit. Then, he just shrugs. "Uh?"

Pilli calms down a little, and turns his (its?) attention back on Qing. "Oh, Great Pale Worm! Lord Xochi was the greatest of the bog fairy tribe! He could bedazzle many otters at the same time and lead them to the very best places to fish! He convinced us all to follow them here, to this most beautiful of swamps! He is… was… our king!"

"Uh … " Morgan blinks between the two. " … Huh."

"He was fastest at possessing Creens, and could stay in them longer than anyone else!" Pilli goes on, taking on an almost worshipful tone. "When the call was sent out, he was first to hear it! When we were called to the great sky island many years ago, there were many who stayed back, afraid to attempt it without Xochi to lead us!"

Still looking dazed, Morgan's brow narrows in perplexity as he continues to look back and forth between the others. "Um." He raises a hand, indicating he wishes to speak, " … w-why did he … I? Um, … my … me … need a … a soul? Do I … have a soul?" The spirit's volley of information leaves him wide-eyed, undoubtedly a severe case of information overload.

The Rokuga goes over the term 'bog fairy' in his mind, a clawtip reaching up to tap at the side of his jaw thoughtfully. He remains silent as Morgan speaks.

Looking at Morgan, Pilli says, "It was what we lacked, he claimed. The thing that kept us from truly making a difference in the world. 'There is more than fish and games of chance that we could put our will to, if only we had the strength of a soul' he would say. And so he set out to prove it! That we could be reborn! It was the first part of his Great Plan! I think the second part involved otters, or possibly a casino or world conquest or something – Xochi was never one to reveal the prize when he could tease about it… "

"But then, he did compose an awful lot of poems about Isolde," the spirit mutters.

"Oh." Slowly standing, Morgan gets to his feet and, apparently forgetting he's quite naked, completely ignores his clothes. "So … I am Lord Xochi? Poems? Wait, wha-" The Kadie shakes his head rapidly, as if trying to shake out all the confusion and the questions with physical effort. "Pilli!" Morgan suddenly reaches to place his hand at the terminus if the barrier, stepping as close as he can. "My father, me, we're … the same being? The spirit within me IS my father? It was some great plan?"

At this, Qing wrinkles his snout. "A random phenomenon caught in an unfulfillable loop. A spirit is a thing of energy, existing only within its scope. It is not a living thing, not a confluence of the body and mind, has not the potential to attain a soul, any more than we can be sure we have souls at all. We waste our time."

"Well, yes, where else would you have gotten his spirit?" Pilli says, pulling back a little. "But something clearly went wrong. If you'll just release our King, we can try again."

"Wait, release? It's my soul," Morgan insists. He wraps his arms around himself, as if to keep his soul firmly in place. "The nymph said so. I can't just release it." A flickered glance towards Qing, and he asks, "Can I?"

"Of course, just kill the flesh!" Pilli says. "That's obviously the source of the problem!"

Morgan puts a hand on his hip suddenly in that no-nonsense witch way. "Now wait a minute, this is my flesh we're talking about. Morgan Nightshade's flesh. I may or may not have – or, I suppose, BE – Lord Xochi, but I definitely am Morgan Nightshade. If you're looking for meaning and souls, well, I have both."

The crease of Qing's snout smooths out, but his face is stony, the ridge of his brows lowering. "Perhaps there is a lesson for today, Nightshade. See here how wild spirits, left to shape themselves uncontrolled, can evolve along paths that become dangerous. Who knows how these 'luck spirits' began their existence, and who knows what twisted these spiritual eddies to echo the living contemplation of the soul?"

"Oh, you're Morgan?" Pilli asks, sounding suddenly somber.

The Kadie turns his no-nonsense look towards Mage Qing, frowning. "Now wait a minute, there's nothing wrong with Pilli. No more than there is with any people, I should think. He's a bit odd, but, well, where would I be without his kind? I wouldn't be, that's where." To Pilli, Morgan nods. "Um, yes. I did say that. Morgan Nightshade. My father was a spirit, I've been trying to find him. It seems, I may have always known him."

"Ohh, that Morgan Nightshade," Pilli says. "Maybe you should just… ignore everything I already said? Yes? Yes, that would be best. I'm just a swamp spirit, you shouldn't be listening to me. No, no… I never said anything at all!"

Morgan points at the spirit, aiming roughly for its nose. "Now, look you, you already told me everything. Don't go trying to deny it. I heard what you said!" His arm has to wave around to keep a bead on the nose, which soon tires the Kadie, forcing him to drop it.

"We don't want any trouble!" Pilli says, dancing around again. "It was all a mistake, we didn't think it'd mess up everything! Much less create the wrong witch! I mean, you being Xochi… well, that explains a lot… just… don't tell anyone!"

"What? The wrong witch? What do you mean?" Trying to follow Pilli's movement makes Morgan's neck sore, but he keeps at it. "Were you trying for my mother? And what do you mean, me being Xochi explains everything?"

"We didn't know you'd be the next witch!" Pilli wails. "It wasn't supposed to be you! You weren't supposed to be born… I mean, you wouldn't have been if we hadn't… it was supposed to be the other girl, but you got born first. It was just… luck… "

"Other girl? Do you mean Amelia? I don't have a sister," the Kadie insists. "And will you stop flying around … Oh, spirits alive!" The Kadie looks to Qing, asking, "Can I step in there?"

Qing, quietly observing all this time, merely nods.

"Good." Stepping inside the circle, Morgan beckons the spirit over. Come here, I'm not going to hurt you. I just want to work this all out, that is all. Maybe I can help you, too." He holds his arm out for the spirit to rest upon, glancing down briefly as he notes he's still naked. "Oh, this is why … gah, no matter," he sighs.

Pilli's panic subsides a little, and the spirit perches on the offered arm. "It's all a mistake, right Xochi? This wasn't your Great Plan all along, was it? I mean… meddling with the Big Spirit… that's pretty bold!"

"I'll … have to talk to Him about that," the Kadie replies. Settling down, Morgan crosses his legs and absently reaches over to try and pet the spirit. "You know, you're a funny little guy? I bet Lord Xochi liked you." He frowns, then, tilting his head. "So, I was supposed to be born after Amelia? She's the first witch, I take it, the black-tailed Kadie, I mean. But, I was born first, so I'm the witch. Then, that means … " Morgan bites his lip, shaking his head. "Oh, poor Amelia."

"It was the timing," Pilli explains. "I mean… well, it's not like we were told how it was going to work… but, Isolde was supposed to lead Blacktail on for a few more years. But she got pregnant, and Blacktail got married years too soon, so Amelia was born too early and the power wasn't set up right. It's complicated! I mean, the Spirit doesn't leave witches up to chance. There has to be a witch!"

"So the Spirit hadn't chosen you to be the witch, but there wasn't any other choice. You're the wrong witch, Morgan." The little fairy-Creen tries to smile apologetically.

"There does, but is there more reason to it than taking care of the town?" Thinking, Morgan taps his free hand's fingers against his knee. "So Amelia was supposed to the be the witch. Telling her might break her heart, and … Hm. Then I was … chosen? He chose- … Oh." The Kadie bobs his head, sinking a little. "I see. I had suspected, but I never … " He reaches over and tries to pat the spirit's head. "I was supposed to be Lord Xochi's incarnation, then. I wonder if He knew? Do you think He knew?"

"Um, if I were Xochi and had planned for this to be the outcome, I'd be sure that I didn't remember anything!" Pilli says. "So… well, there you are. Maybe it was all an accident, or maybe you… uh… Xochi… planned it."

"If the Big One knew… well, we haven't been banished yet," the spirit adds.

"So I'm possibly my own father who forgot, intentionally, to live this life without a memory, or I'm a mistake, or … Well, I don't know," the Kadie admits. "I always felt a little … different … but not THIS different. Does that make you my … my uncle?" Morgan shoots the spirit a questioning look. "And, what will become of all of you? Have you been waiting for Lord Xochi? Me?"

"We just need the otters," Pilli says. "Big Spirits need witches, little ones like us just need… otters."

Qing nods, and speaks up finally. "I have heard of you bog spirits. The Akwavi pray to you for fortune."

"Yeah! That's why we followed them," Pilli says, puffing up a little. "They need us!"

"I feel like I have an obligation to you, I guess. I feel … a little numb, too." Morgan lifts his hand, looking at it. "Now I'm a little uncertain of myself." To the spirit, Morgan adds, "Could I … meet the others, you think? It would be nice to have other Creen spirits around, you know. Lord Xochi gets lonely, mm?" He smiles, faintly.

"Well… are you lonely?" Pilli asks. "Xochi would have gotten the hottest otter girl he could find, I'd think."

"I have a hot Eeee," Morgan confides.

And, in a conspiratorial whisper, Morgan adds, "And Miranda is pretty cute!"

"Oh, that's something at least!" Pilli says. "I'd hate to go back to the others and not have some good news about Xochi."

"Am I the king, then? The Creen king?" Morgan asks. "Because after all this, I feel like I've been crowned. Hard, in fact. I'm not sure I'm not dead or unconscious inside that lab, really."

"Then you'd be naked in front of the Eeee doctor," Pilli says. "She's got a reward for bringing one of us in, you know. Lots of the otters keep jars with them when they go out fishing now."

"I'll break you out, if they catch you," Morgan promises. "You can count on me."

Qing breaks in again. "And how did Valicross capture you? What did he and the dryad do to you?"

"Wait, I should be mad at you. I'm not sure why I'm so … chummy, with you," the Kadie tells the spirit. "I should be very mad, in fact! Except, it's kind of hard to take in. Plus, if it's true, I can only blame myself – which is even stranger. Oooh." Morgan reaches up and rubs his head with a free hand. "Be careful what you wish for," he murmurs.

"He tricked me," Pilli admits, sounding bitter. "I thought I heard an Akwavi distress call, but it was a trap. Then they used me to… uh… make something unlikely more likely. Tip the odds. Cheat!"

"You are sort of a cheater. If Amelia finds out, she's going to call me a cheater," Morgan insists.

"Don't tell her!" Pilli urges. "She'll drive out the otters!"

"Good point." Morgan rubs his chin, then glances at the spirit. "I guess I'll have to reconsider the otters. So, there wasn't anything I was supposed to do, then? I suppose we're like family." The Kadie smiles. "I don't know why, with all that's happened, but … I guess I like you, Pilli. And, anyone that can control the otters is due respect."

"We don't control them, that would be silly," Pilli says. "If they could be controlled, they wouldn't be otters."

"You know what I mean," Morgan insists. He reaches over and pokes at the spirit's 'nose.'

"And be careful of the Amelia! Especially as a Creen. She's mean to Creens," Pilli warns.

"I bet she's on to us," Morgan says, with a nod. After a moment, he blinks, and adds quickly, "To you! You. Lord Xochi remembers nothing."

"Best keep it that way, Lord Xo- Morgan," the spirit agrees. "You're going to let me go, right? Or is your worm friend going to eat me?"

"You may go, but you must return to your lord now and then and report your doings. Especially mischief, and if you are in trouble," the Kadie insists. "I am the king, after all. But that's between us." To Qing, Morgan turns and makes a 'shh' gesture. "Don't tell anyone!"

Qing lifts himself up, arms crossed. His expression is neutral again. "I am the Nagai Mage Qing. Yes, I will release you, as my apprentice no doubt wishes."

The little spirit salutes with one if its wings.

Qing lifts one hand up. "Let the wards of the Alabaster Tower bear witness: the geas is fulfilled." He snaps his fingers, and there's a brief distortion, as if a bubble the size of the ritual circle had popped.

Leaning over, Morgan whispers to the spirit, "He's a little stuffy – tell me if you find anyone cute." Then he leans back, and stands up. "Yes, you may go, my faithful friend. Bring gifts next time."

"I'll keep in touch, My Lord Witch!" Pilli promises, and then flies off towards the swamp – through the stone wall.

"I wish I could do that. Maybe I could, I am Lord Xochi!" Morgan nods, tilting his head back and making an excessively regal pose … before he blinks and rubs his head. "I feel … funny," he breathes.

Qing eyes Morgan for a few long seconds, then begins gathering up the case and jar of blood. "That is no surprise, Nightshade. One often feels disoriented after being manipulated by spirits. It disturbs me to see they have meddled with your village to this extent. No good comes of being at their mercy."

Morgan takes a moment to recover himself, then smiles lopsidedly. "But, am I not, at least, part of they? I think … I think I wouldn't trade them for the world." He gives the Mage a helpless shrug, then walks back over to his clothes. "It wasn't the answer I wanted, and I'm sure once this all sinks in I am going to feel it, but for now … " He shrugs again, pulling his pants on. "On the brighter side, it seems I'm nobility. That's Lord Morgan, to you, peasant. I also have this funny urge to trick otters. Huh."

"Not that I was calling you a peasant, Mage Qing," Morgan insists quickly. "I was just saying, well, if I were … well … Um … " He flashes Qing his winningest smile. "Spare some mercy for poor Lord Morgan? He's had a rough day."

The mage slithers to the center of the circle, and takes up the now empty crystal from its center. He doesn't look amused in the slightest, but his voice is even. "You have had much to absorb. We will speak of it later, apprentice."

Morgan's ears wilt. "Yes Master Qing," he says in a quiet tone. "And, thank you, Master Qing. It wasn't what I expected, but at least I have my answer, now. And, it's not so bad, really."


GMed by BoingDragon & Qing

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