Like most of the living spaces in the Chalk Warrens, this room was originally mined out and then left when solid rock was hit. Now the roughly T-shaped tunnel serves as a residence for Miranda Chalk. Being one who spends much of her time aboveground, Miranda's color choices tend to be earthy ones: browns, greens, tans and blues. Shelves carved out of the chalk and then lined with cloth serve to hold a small collection of books and supplies, while a small desk and bed constitute the available wooden furniture. A violin and bow rest on a shelf of their own, next to an old book of sheet music.
Miranda's sleep has been troubled. Her dreams have been filled with fragmented images of battle: horrible creatures attacking some sort of fortress, with occasional glimpses of familiar figures, but the chaos of it all makes it difficult to remember. The only clear thing that seems to get through is a strange voice urging "Miranda, wake up. Miranda, wake up."
The gray Lapi bolts upright with a gasp as she abruptly wakes from the tangled, scattered fragments of her dream, peering about for the owner of the voice she seemed to have heard.
The girl is alone in the room, except for a black bunny rabbit huddled at the foot of her bed. The creature looks at her with red eyes, and says, "Miranda, can you hear me? Can you hear me?"
Miranda takes a moment to rub the sleep from her eyes before staring at the black bunny in apparent confusion… Was she hearing things now? Or maybe she's still hearing things, the gray Lapi thinks… After a few moments more of staring, the small rabbit's dark coloration starts to strike her as familiar… "Buffy ith that you?"
"Of course not," the bunny replies. "It's just a bunny I'm using to talk to you is all." The rabbit starts scratching an ear with a hind foot, and says, "I may have found where Clover went. You need to bring your friends and tools for climbing in caves."
"Thorry, my mind ithin't quite awake yet," Miranda murmurs apologetically before continuing, "Tools, right, I'll go find Thahn, he thhould have the right toolth… Where ecthactly am I bringing them to? Where we met you before?"
"No, just bring them to the underground door," the rabbit offers. "The place I found isn't near my lair."
The gray Lapi nods quickly, "Okay, ith there anything elth I thould know or tell them? Anything we thould bring other than climbing equipment?" she asks.
"Well, I'm sure they'll think of other things they might need," the bunny notes. "I couldn't get a really good look at the hole myself."
"Clover'th down a hole? Oh my… Well, I'll go get Thahn right away! I'll bring them to the door thoon." Miranda assures the black bunny, hopping out of bed and getting ready to leave the warren.
The strange bunny hops down and lopes out into the tunnels, vanishing.
Before long, Miranda is on her way to the dam, heading along the Rootrunner fields along the Milk Run River. Some of the ground-bound Kadies working the fields wave to her as she passes.
Miranda gives a friendly smile and a short wave to the few she passes but focuses on getting herself to the dam to look for Zahn.
Which is exactly why Miranda doesn't notice the rapidly diving shadow heading right towards her from behind until it lands with a thump, then wraps leathery wings around her! "Vell, lookies vhat I caught me'self, a leeetle bunny," the familiar voice chuckles … and then Miranda gets a rather wet lick along her ear.
Eeping loudly as wings abruptly surround her, Miranda then Eeeeews in mock disgust as her ear gets licked before turning to hug the Eeee behind her, "Oh no! I am caught, whatever thhall I do?" she says, and grinning asks more seriously, "Hi Lili! What are you doing over here?"
"Righ' now?" the Eeee says with a fangy grin, "Snoggin' a bunny." And she does that too, a few times, even. Releasing Miranda, she says, "But really, I vas headin' up to de hot springs for a bath. An dat reminds me, I need to make those fur dyes on ya permanent one of dese days. Vhere are you off to?"
Miranda still blushes straight to the insides of her ears as she is kissed, but returns the favor right back to the Eeee, giggling in an embarrassed manner afterwards. "Oh yeth! I definitely need to thee you about the dye thoon. I need to go to the dam and find Thahn."
"Really? Gon' to see dat vierd one? Vell! Von' Amelia gets mad vou be makin' moves on her guy?" Liliana teases.
The Lapi blinks at the suggestion, tapping her chin and saying more to herself than to the Eeee, "Hm… I thhould probably thee if I can find Amelia too… "
Liliana puts her arm around the Lapi and says, "I valk vith you. I von' even pinch, promise! I kin give you lessons on seduction."
What luck! The pair spot Zahnrad outside, and thus don't have to worry about entering his notoriously dangerous workshop. And they haven't even been harassed by Gunther yet, either.
Zahnrad is oblivious to the two even being in the area. He's carefully planing down an oddly shaped and twisted-looking log. After each stroke he stops, goes to the end, and peers down its length.
True to her word, Liliana didn't pinch Miranda. She did, however, insist Miranda hold her hand. That certainly got a few eyebrow raises on the way. But then, most already know Liliana is weird and pushy, so probably thought nothing of it, really.
Chatting with Liliana during the walk over (and occasionally blushing at some suggestive or embarrassing comment by the Eeee) Miranda breaks conversation in order to wave rapidly at the Kadie visible ahead, with her free hand of course, calling out loudly to try to get his attention, "Hey Thahn!"
Miranda yells at just the right time … when Zahn is crouched under the chunk of wood. He jerks up quickly … only to bonk his head hard on the object. "Ow," he complains as he rubs his head and walks over to the two. Pausing to look at the pair, he says, "Uh … when did you two. Er, never mind. Can I help you?"
"Ve haven' … yet," Liliana comments idly. She then just shrugs, noting, "She van' to see vou abou' som'ting."
" I need your help Thahn. Buffy found where Clover may haff gone to, but thee thayth we'll need your cave climbing equipment. Apparently Clover ith down a hole in the warren I think… " Miranda quickly explains in a serious tone to the Kadie while still holding onto Liliana's hand.
"Vait, vou gon' to go see dat … dat … vampire again?" Liliana asks, eying Miranda suspiciously. "No vay I gon' let you be alone vit her again."
"Clover is down a hole. Isn't that normal for Lapis?" Zahn has to ask, shaking his head. "Well, I can get the equipment. We can also get Amelia at the castle if she's free. I imagine she'll insist on going after Clover."
One of the Lapi's ears flops down at Liliana's comment, quickly replying, "Thee's really not that bad Lili! It would probably be okay if you come, tho long ath you don't attack her or anything… right Thahn?" Miranda looks at Zahn for potential confirmation.
"I'm more afraid the two might make out," Zahnrad says flatly … then grins.
Liliana hmphs. "I won' attack anyone, promise," she says.
Miranda chuckles quietly to herself for a moment at the suggestion, before questioning the Kadie again, "Well, we thould get going thoon right? I can help carry thingth for you if you need it Thahn. And did you thay Amelia ith at tha cathtle?"
"Yes, Amelia is. I just have to put this stuff away then get together the gear. I would estimate an hour or so before we can leave," Zahnrad notes. He starts gathering up his stuff, then pauses to ask, "How did Buffy tell you about Clover? She isn't sneaking into your bedroom, is she?"
"Yeah, how did she tell vou dis, vou be my Lapi, vou know," Liliana mock-chides Miranda, then tickles her nose with a clawtip. "I migh' get jealous!" The Eeee is, of course, obviously teasing.
"Well… actually… " Miranda starts to say as Zahn comments about Buffy sneaking into the Lapi's quarters, pausing in a joking manner herself before simply finishing, "She got a Sylvanian bunny into my room and spoke to me through it." Her nose twitches as Liliana tickles it.
"Uh. Right. I'll put stuff away. You two will have to entertain yourselves for a bit," Zahn says and resumes his cleanup, hauling the first pile back into the workshop.
"Vou never invited me into vour bedroom," Liliana chides Miranda again and crosses her arms over her chest. "Vhy, mebbe vou don van' to be me girlfrien!" She's really milking this, naturally.
Miranda's ears go askew at the chiding, looking down and scuffing a foot through the dirt in a thoroughly chastised manner. Though from the smile on her face the Lapi is less chastised than you might think… before unexpectedly grabbing the Eeee and kissing her. "Well, maybe I just didn't think you'd like it underground? Besides you're the one teaching me to be a better kisser!"
Liliana actually blinks in surprise when she's kissed. The Eeee then just grins widely. "Vhy, I do think vou bein' properly corrupted. Now, I jus' gots to get vou in my bedroom for a night, no. I make it fun, promise," the Eeee teases, nudging the Lapi. She then pauses, her ears tilting. "Hm, didn' vou once mention dat de Buffy person vanted to meet me?" she asks randomly.
The Lapi giggles. "Well I do thtill need to get you to finithh the dye on my furr like you mentioned earlier," she suggests, though a bit more in a silly, almost joking manner at the mention of the Eeee dragging her into the bedroom. "Hmm, actually, thee did indeed thay thee wanted to meet you. Ath well ath implying she'd want to do thomething potentially indecent with you and Morgan."
"Righ'. Then vou comin' home wit me tonight. I von't take no for an answer, either," Liliana says and taps Miranda's nose again. "I finish vour dyevork. Vhat happens after dat, vell, ve shall see." She then rubs her chin and says, "I go wit vou to see de vampire den. Gots to make sure she be safe enough for vou to socialize vit. Plus, make sure she makes no grabbies for Morgan. At leas' no vitout includin' me."
Miranda nods agreeably but still blushes a bit in her ears, "I think you might like her Lili. Thee'th quite a bit like you."
Liliana sniffs loudly. "Ve shall see!" she says. "See what?" Zahnrad asks as he comes back out and grabs the chunk of wood and hefts it up onto his shoulder. Grinning evilly, Liliana leans over and whispers something in Zahnrad's ear … which gets the Kadie to run back into his shop, the wood bouncing all the way.
"Now, seriously, I don' make vou too nervous, do I?" Liliana asks. "I know I kin get kinda … feely."
The insides of Miranda's ears darken a bit but she shakes her head quickly, "Nono, it'th okay Lili… I have to admit it'th a bit odd, and not thomething I'm uthed too, but for the motht part I don't really mind. I've… well… never really felt attractive enough for someone to want to be feely with me, and well I like you Lili." The Lapi grabs Liliana in a tight hug. "An' I know you don't mean any harm."
"Pah, vou are plenty pretty," Liliana insists and hugs the Lapi. She reaches under Miranda's chin and lifts her head up. Looking into the Lapi's eyes, she adds, "An I mean dat. It now be my duty to make vou feel pretty." She winks, then immediately releases Miranda and starts whistling when Zahn returns, carrying a couple heavy packs.
Zahn pauses, then just shakes his head. "I'm better off not knowing," he says after a moment of thought. He offers one of the packs to Miranda, asking, "Mind carrying this?"
Miranda gives Lili a searching do you really mean that? look before smiling a happy flattered smile as the Eeee pulls away. Still smiling the Lapi accepts the pack from Zahn. "Of Courthe not! Pathh it here."
Zahnrad hands off the pack, then looks skyward. "Why am I surrounded by crazy people?" he asks, then hefts on his pack. "All right, we should get going."
Liliana helps Miranda put on her pack. It's certainly heavy enough, that's for sure. After it's on, Liliana leans in and whispers something to the Lapi, but nothing Zahn could hear.
"Maybe they're jutht attracted to you Thahn… " Miranda comments idly, trailing off as the Eee whispers into one of her long ears, which go straight up at the comment, whatever it is. The Lapi turns a little red but continues smiling, taking Lili's hand as they get ready to head off to get Amelia, she assumes.
"I need to invent crazy repellent," Zahnrad mutters, shaking his head. And then off up the road they go, towards the castle. Once Zahn's out of sight, two otter heads poke out of the bushes. One holds open a window while the other slinks inside. After a bit, out comes the wood that Zahn was working on, then followed by the other otter. They grin to each other, then dash off with their new 'prize'.
Once the trio arrives at the Castle after Lili makes a quick flight to collect her inks and other tattooing materials they are greeted, as usual, by Igor. "Ah, Young Marthters. What can we do for you today?" he rasps.
"Is Amelia available?" Zahn asks, eying the odd Skreek for a moment. "We need to make another trip down the canal, quickly. We have a lead on the missing Lapi."
"Is me crazy cousin still here?" Liliana asks, craning her head and tilting her ears, trying to listen for him.
Igor looks between Zahn and Lili, then says, "Yeth, they're both together in the main hall right now. Thould I tell them you're here, or ith thith going to be a thurprithe?"
Before Zahn can speak, Liliana says, "Surprise." She grins evilly.
Miranda adjusts the heavy pack on her back before looking at Lili, "You have a cousin?"
"Right thith way then," Igor says, opening the door.
"Yeah, he a little like me," Liliana comments, "But vell, a lot more flighty." She then steps through the door. Zahn follows quickly after.
Miranda follows after Liliana as well.
"Ey, ven de doctor gets tired o' me, vhy don I come by vour place," says another dark-furred (with fur tattoos!) Eee as the group passes a corner into the main hall. He's dressed in … not much. Though it's probably not hard to laugh because that not much is a frilly pink bathrobe. But funny fades to disturbing in that, complete with a rusted chain. He's leaning against the wall and talking to … Amelia? Yes, it's Amelia. "She' even taught me a lot… "
"Huh, can you do laundry?" Amelia asks the Eeee. "The usual guy who comes over gets my blankets really fluffy too."
"AHEM!" Zahnrad announces himself rather loudly. "Step away from her, thank you. Liliana is bad enough."
"Oh, hey there Zahn!" Amelia says, smiling. "And Miranda and… Liliana? Okay, I didn't expect to see the three of you together."
Miranda has to clap a hand over her muzzle to keep from snickering at the pink bathrobe on the Eee, and manages valiantly to suppress it. "We may have found out where Clover ith Amy, tho we came to get you."
"We were having a party and decided we needed you," Zahnrad says dismissively. "Or, we have a clue where Clover is. Liliana … well, she's like a burr. She just sort of sticks to you and you can't get rid of her." That last comment gets the back of his head whapped by the Eee.
"Ey, Rey, nice robe," Liliana says with a giggle. "Don' quite go wit de thingie around vour neck, tho. Vas vondering if vou vere still here."
Rey waves his hand over his face in the mimic of eye rolling. "Short an' odd here won' unlock it. Not until de doc says so," he comments with a shrug. Seeing Miranda, he grins all the more and heads right towards her. Well, up to the point Liliana stops him by putting a hand over his face, commenting, "Don' even t'ink it. She vit me."
"Great! Where is she?" Amy asks. "Or do we have to go talk to Buffy to find out?"
Igor just goes 'Henh henh henh' at Rey.
"Buffy," Zahn says with a sigh. "She said to bring climbing gear, supposedly."
An odd smell begins to build in the air. It tastes like… burning.
When the other Eee comes towards her Miranda grips tightly onto Lili and shakes her head, saying "Yes, Lili is the only cute Eeee I hang onto… Um… does anyone else smell that?"
"Eh? Vhat burning?" Rey asks and starts looking around quickly. So does Liliana and Zahn for that matter.
"Come along, thir," Igor says, grabbing the dangling chain around Rey's neck. "Time for your tomato. The doctor wanth to thee if it maketh you thick again."
"What smell?" Amelia asks, looking around and rubbing her own nose. "My nose went numb a while ago… for some reason."
Rey looks ill just at the mention of another tomato. "Vell, dere are downsides to dis place," he grumbles, but does actually follow after the odd Skreek.
A whitish form winds its way into the hall. Scaly coils pour over the stone and carpet, a robed reptile making his unhurried way along, pausing every so often as if to listen curiously, or to look at some insignificant fixture or spot.
"Oh, you must just smell Mage Qing," Amy points out. "Have you all met him yet?"
"Ey, it be that odd snake guy who came through camp de other day," Liliana says and points towards Qing. "I haven'. Djivan said … vell, I von' repeat it here."
Amelia waves to the Rokuga, and says, "Hey, Master Qing! These are some of my friends. Miranda probably brought your meals, and this is my boyfriend Zahn, who is a genius some of the time, and this is Dame Natasha's friend Liliana from the gypsies."
"Some of the time?" Zahn asks Amelia and looks at her oddly. "What do you mean by that?"
Miranda blinks at the arrival of the familiar serpent. Her ears flop over but she still smiles as she says, "I hope you've been doing well Mage Qing."
Liliana is … all fangs and glowing eyes when she smiles towards the Rokuga. Nevermind the stylized blood-red fur dye that crisscrosses all over her body. "Pleasure t' meet vou. I saw vou once, I t'ink, vhen vou vere visiting de Madame."
"I was just trying to build you up a little," Amy whispers out of the side of her mouth to Zahn.
The snake's head perks up as if he'd noticed the group for the first time, a little blue wisp creeping out from beneath the bowl of his hat. His coils rearrange themselves, pushing off the wall to begin pouring over to the assemblage. "Ah. Constable. Yes, I remember Miranda. The rabbits have proven to be a staple for me here. And I recall Liliana also, from the wagon." He tilts his head thoughtfully, to look Zahn over. "Zahn? Zahnrad? Gunther's… brother, was it?"
"He's not like Gunther though," Amy quickly points out.
Zahnrad winces at that. "Ah. I see you've met Gunther. I'm sorry. We'll fix anything he broke of yours, of course," he says apologetically.
"I'm glad the rabbitth are thatithfactory to you," Miranda comments to the Mage before raising an eyebrow at the mention of Gunther.
"Mm. Do not concern yourself," says the witchdoctor, waving a hand. "After his initial reaction to me calmed, he seemed an intelligent boy, and personable enough. We spoke of you."
"Ah. Well," Zahnrad says and rubs his hands together. "That could be good, or it could be bad."
"Well, now that that's out of the way," Amelia says, turning to give Zahn a hug before going on, "What's in the packs?"
Thankful to be distracted for a moment, Zahn rattles off, "Climbing gear. Ropes, lamps, helmets, claw guards, crossbows, grappling hooks, that sort of thing."
"We need to do thome climbing in the warren to find Clover." The gray Lapi adds in after Zahn's statement.
"I just here to meet de vampire and make sure she safe enough to be spending time vit Miranda," Liliana notes. "Dis Buffy seem to taken a fancy to her."
"Oh, she must have fallen down a hole then," Amelia mutters. "I guess we'd better hit the stairs… and I just finished coming up them a little while ago too."
"I'm a little worried. We Chalkth thpend a lot of time underground, it would be thurprithing if Clover thimply stumbled into a hole… " Miranda notes in a near whisper to Amelia.
"Well, it was probably a hole she hoped to dump you down, after all," Amy whispers back.
The witchdoctor's eyeridge rises, and after a few moments of waiting, he intrudes. "Vampire?"
Zahn says, "Buffy? She's more the local Lapi guardian spirit, who takes the form of a 'vampire' to scare people off. Or something like that. She's not really like the stories."
"No thanks, we've already got one," Amelia says, then bursts out laughing. Wiping her eyes, she chokes out, "Sorry… couldn't resist… "
Miranda almost facepalms when the mage asks his quiet question and seriously hopes the serpent wont get pulled into it… Feeling quite relieved when both Zahn and Amelia seemingly brush the idea of 'vampire' off.
Qing's brow smooths out. "I see. Intriguing. Nightshade made mention that the local spirits are regarded… differently than we would elsewhere."
"Yeah. Well, this spirit has some information about a lost Lapi, so we've gotta go talk to her… " Amy starts to say, then looks thoughtful. Turning to Miranda, she asks, "How did Buffy contact you anyway? A dream?"
"They look after us and we look after them, if that makes any sense. Anyway, this Buffy I'm guessing has found one of the missing Lapis and we're going to go get her," Zahnrad says. "The only dangerous vampire around here is her," he adds as an afterthought and points to Liliana. "And she's dangerous only to your morals."
"I like t' t'ink of myself as someone who expands people's horizons," Liliana quips, then puts her arm around Miranda.
"Thee used one of the thmall rabbitth. Directed it and uthed it to talk to me." Miranda replies quietly to Amelia before turning to Qing saying, "Buffy protectth the Chalk warrenth."
Miranda slips an arm around Lili's waist and hugs the Eeee with a smile.
"See?" Liliana says proudly.
"We lost another one to her," Zahn whispers to Amelia.
The serpent's neck bends backward at Zahnrad's comment, and his glance turns to Liliana, the look appraising, though probably not sizing her up for her moral potential. He regards Miranda again. "I see. Does this… Buffy see the public at large?"
"They aren't lost if we know where they are," Amy whispers back, and starts heading for the ruined tower that leads to the basement. "So… anyway, Buffy isn't dangerous. We only have to worry about trolls and gorts and such."
The gray Lapi shakes her head at Qing, "No. Buffy thtayth with the Chalkth, Thir." she replies honestly.
"Underground monsters," Zahnrad clarifies. "Ugly and dumb."
"She isn't going to get you, right?" Zahn whispers to Amelia, then glances towards Liliana.
"How do you know she hasn't already?" Amelia whispers to Zahn with a grin.
Qing runs his clawtips along his chin and throat. "Mm. I should like to meet her, sometime. But if you are looking for someone of importance, I should not intrude."
"That wouldn't be fair!" Zahn whispers back, "I've known you longer."
"Important, Clover? Well, Important to herself I suppose. I can't stand her," Zahnrad admits, returning his attention to the group. "But it is a town issue we should address. We can ask Buffy if she's willing to talk with you later, though."
"Don't worry Zahn, I've got you no matter what," Amy whispers, then says, "It doesn't matter if Clover is important or not, we have to try and bring her home."
"People from outside generally aren't allowed in the Warrens, except for occasional cases… " Miranda comments in a mumble, more to herself than anyone else… looking at Zahn oddly when he mentions asking Buffy if she'd want to meet the mage… The Lapi certainly doesn't want the serpent prowling around in the catacombs.
Qing nods thoughtfully. "And I should remain and see to Bravil's recovery. Still, if you are willing to ask on my behalf, perhaps I can be of assistance anyway. If the path is dangerous, I can send some aid with you."
"We don't know if it is dangerous or not yet. We need to see what Buffy found. If it is, we will head back for help," Zahnrad says, "Thank you for the offer."
"Hold on a minute," Amy says to Zahn, and asks Qing, "How about a spirit that could scout ahead and find the safest route to take?"
The serpent shakes his head slowly. "You needn't come back to me. The Constable knows what I speak of. Let me see what you have, perhaps there will be something suitable to enchant."
Miranda looks between Amy and Zahn and seems to gradually be getting more and more uncomfortable…
In the distance, there's a sound of someone vomiting, then a loud complaint, "Do I have to keep tryin' dese? All dey do is make me feel like death!"
Zahnrad looks to Miranda and shrugs. "We'll talk about it later," he says quietly.
The Lapi looks at Zahn but doesn't reply, looking down at her feet and biting her lip. She looks quite like she wants to say something, but is holding it in at the moment, probably because of the Mage nearby.
"How about a lamp?" Amelia suggests to Zahn, and pats Miranda on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Miranda. Buffy wouldn't do anything to risk herself or the Warren."
Zahn pulls his pack off and starts shuffling through it. "No, no, no, no, oh, I have been looking for that, no, no," the Kadie goes as he looks through the stuff. In the end, he pulls out a chitin helmet, complete with a shuttered lamp on the top for aiming the light. "Would this work?" he asks.
"It's not that… you don't hear me potentially inviting thomeone into the inner parts of the dam do you? Or your orchard, Amelia?" Miranda murmurs faintly to the two Kadies. "The warren is my home. You may know the mage better than I do now, but show some consideration… I understand your position though Amy… being in the Militia… "
Feeling Miranda's unease, Liliana slips behind her and wraps the Lapi in a hug. "It'll be okay," she says.
"I didn't invite. I said I would ask. It's the same as if you came to me and asked if someone could come into the territory," Zahn says, looking confused.
The mage sits silent and expressionless, though his eyes pass between each person as they speak. Occasionally they stray to Miranda, but he doesn't seem to hear, and his gaze returns to the Kadie when he comes up with the helmet. "It is adequate," he says, taking the helmet by the edge and turning it this way and that to look it over.
"Buffy might want to talk to someone who knows spirit magic," Amy reminds Miranda. "That's why she was so interested in Morgan, I think. Besides, it's not like Qing would physically go see her anyway."
Miranda hugs the colorful Eee warmly before saying to Zahn, "I'm thorry if I mithunderthtood Thahn, it didn't theem that way to me… I don't even really like the idea of thuggethting it to the mage… But okay… I just worry, how a spirit mage ith going to react to the undead?" Miranda whispers to Amelia… "Remember Buffy isn't a vampire in the conventional sense of Eee… "
The helmet is crafted from a myriad of parts, probably a soldier's helmet and a mining lantern for the most part. The glass of the lens is probably fashioned from a bottle. Still, it has been rather well put together, all the joints are clean and smooth. Even the lens can be rotated through a turn of a few knobs to adjust whether the beam spreads or focuses.
"Buffy had us at her mercy pretty easily last time," Amy reminds Miranda. "She's meant to protect the warren from necromancers and monsters and poodles, after all."
The serpent has moved some distance away, and begins spilling sand in handfuls on the floor in little streaks. They form the vague outline of a circle around him, and his lower arms nudge the grit into place, or sketch little dots in areas with fingertips. All of it happens with his focus intent on the lamp, opening the shutter to peer into it. A free hand emerges from the witchdoctor's mantle, bearing a small Creen's skull, and the hand with his guild ring briefly clenches into a fist and begins painting the bone with small red marks. "Dre'lo… ssselnath… ordo… mesznath."
"Yeth… but that thtill doethen't remove the possibility of what the mage might attempt to do," Miranda whispers with a sigh, looking like she is ready to give in on the argument. "But well… if you think it will be alright Amelia I will trutht your judgment. I thuppothe it really can't hurt to athk Buffy anyways."
"Actually, I was just trying to be polite and not raise suspicion," Zahn whispers when the mage moves away. "I was just going to tell him when we got back she said 'no' and never even ask her."
"Oh?" Amy whispers to Miranda and Zahn. "Well, I guess it's like that old saying: a butcher who backs into a meat-grinder gets a little behind in his orders."
The Lapi nods at Zahn, looking as though she's calmed down quite a bit, "It'th ok, I'm thorry I over-reacted Zahn."
Qing's fingertips thread into the eyesockets of the skull. "Edreth… salro… idrass… vul'rissss." The lamp lights, but the flame is small, blue, and cold, flickering fitfully. He closes the shutter and smears a red streak across the slats, then takes his fingers out of the skull's sockets, pale wisps like smoke trailing out and evaporating. Satisfied, the witchdoctor turns. "Keep both of these," he says, proffering helmet and skull to Zahnrad. "When you wish the spirit's assistance, open the shutter and hold the skull near."
Zahn takes the skull and holds it out between two fingers. The helmet goes back into his pack. "What is it with all of you and the heads of dead things? First Amelia, now this," he grumbles. "I always wanted to get ahead in the world, but this is not what I meant."