10 Unity, 6107 RTR (Jul 04, 2005) The gypsies throw a party to celebrate the defeat of the necromancer
(Amelia) (Axel) (Gunther) (Morgan) (Madame Natasha) (Olivia) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (The Return of Valicross) (Zahnrad)

    Dance Pavilion
    Set up just outside of town, this large open-sided tent can accommodate at least a hundred people. Benches surround the square wooden dance floor that sits in the center, freshly polished and lacquered, and a tier of raised benches off to one corner seats the musicians.

It's been a couple hectic days since the Necromancer was defeated on the dam. Most of the Wingnuts have been nonstop busy working on the dam repairs, except for Zahn. Amelia has been adamant he isn't to be working on it. She also managed to convince the others he shouldn't be, either. So, any of his sneaky attempts to do anything have failed. And then out of the blue, announcements were sent around by none other than the gypsies, inviting all those who wish to come to a small celebration at the dance pavilion. An Un-Undead festival, in other words. The pavilion has been decorated as best the tribe could manage, with colorful streamers and lights everywhere. The tribe musicians have taken up position in the raised benches, and off to the side Liliana can be seen talking with the various dancers of the tribe. She's also not wearing any of the heavy disguises she had earlier, so … whatever her allergic reaction was seems to have passed.

"You shouldn't try to dance, even if you can walk better now," Amelia warns Zahn. "And no sneaking off to the Carpenters or Cartwrights to check on the replacement parts for the dam either."

"What, so I'm supposed to look cute and just obey you, then?" Zahnrad asks Amelia. He's walking with the help of a rough walking stick, but at least he doesn't look like a mummy anymore.

Olivia looks up at the clear skies with the stars just appearing and nods in satisfaction as she arrives at the pavilion. "Much better than rain, and that's a fact," she says to herself, smiling. She then spots Zahn and Amy and goes over to them. "Hi there! It's so good to see you up and about, Zahn!"

"Yes, it's nice to be around, but they won't let me do anything. It's boring, is what it is," Zahnrad calls out to Olivia, pausing to wave at her too.

Olivia stops beside the Kadie boy to give him a quick, sideways, one-armed hug, so that she won't bump his hurt arm. "Well, you're just going to have to put up with boring until you're all better. You can't go having a relapse on us!" "How is your family, Olivia?" Amelia asks the Skeek. "Everything okay?"

Olivia flashes Amy a sad sort of smile before giving her friend a quick hug, too. "Yeah, they're fine. Since they live so far from town, they didn't even know that necromancer was around! Mother wasn't too pleased that I showed up unannounced, but Papa seemed glad to see me, at least.""I feel like I need to be doing something, though," Zahnrad complains. "I hate being unoccupied." He glances sidelong at Amelia, then adds, "But, at least I have good company."

"Yeah," Amy says, smiling at Zahn. "And it keeps me from having to report to my father yet. It's easier to have your mom upset with me than him, Zahn." "Eh, my mom isn't upset with you," Zahn notes to Amelia. "And I could always try and explain things to your father, if you want me to?"

"No, I'll see him myself," Amy says. "I would feel too awkward with someone else there." Looking to Olivia, Amelia changes the subject by asking, "So where is Djivan? Is he going to be part of the performance or anything?"

"I think you're just trying to keep me away from your family," Zahnrad observes, then shrugs slightly.

Olivia shrugs at Amy's question. "I dunno where Djivan is right now," she replies. "I haven't seen him since he walked me over to my parents right after the fight at the dam. So I'm not sure if he's going to be performing during the festivities or not."

Zahnrad peers over Olivia's shoulder. "I think he's over there, standing next to … Natasha? Since when did she wear white robes?"

Olivia looks over in the direction Zahn is indicating and ohs! "Yes, that's Natasha," she tells him. "I think that the white robes must, er, be new. Or she's performing somehow, too? Anyway, I'll leave you and Amelia alone for now… there's something I want to ask Natasha. I'll see you two in a while!" With that, she waves to the two Kadies and makes her way over to the gypsies.

"Eh, okay," Zahnrad says as the Skeek heads off rather suddenly. He shrugs at Amelia.

Circulating among the crowd, Nene and Bebe carry platters of snacks and drinks, as part of their Community Service punishment for blowing up a tree with the Piece Maker. The otters are also forced to wear frilly pink dresses, bows on their heads and tails, and most degrading of all… shoes! They look understandably miserable, but the glint in their eyes hints that it was all worth it.
And once Gunther spots the two otters, he falls over laughing and pointing. "Dresses. Pink! Bows!" he wheezes in between his bouts of laughter. "Better you than me!"

Nene sticks her tongue out at Gunther, and makes sure not to bring her tray close enough for him to get a snack from it.
Gunther gathers up some nearby dirt and slinks towards the otters. "You know, I could get you into trouble right now," he says, eyes glinting. "And there's noooothing you can do about it."

Nene and Bebe freeze at Gunther's threat. Finally, Nene says, "Good boys don't throw dirt at girls. Besides, if you get us dirty, then you have to kiss us. It's the rules."

"Who said I was good?" Gunther asks, still grinning evilly. "If you don't want me to get you into further trouble … well … I'm sure I can think of a few things you could do for me… "

"You're just upset because you were passed out when we blew up the tree," Nene claims, narrowing her eyes at Gunther. "And what sort of things do you think we could do for you?"

Gunther grins darkly. "One, I want you to describe in detail the weapon so I can build a better one," Gunther whispers. "Two, I expect you to dance with me tonight. Nene."

Nene blinks at Gunther and twitches her whiskers. "Oh, that could take some time, it looked sorta complicated," she says. "And I didn't know you could dance!"

"Yeah, well, Mom made me learn," Gunther grumbles. "It does at least help with balance, and therefore I can sneak better."

"If you want to learn sneaking, you need to become an Otter Scout," Nene declares, and deigns to let Gunther look over her snack tray.

"I'm not an otter, though," Gunther complains. "I'm too poofy."

"We could shave you down a little," Nene offers to Gunther, eyes sparkling.

"Er … I don't know about that," Gunther says nervously. "Isn't there ways that don't involve shaving?"

"Maybe," Nene says, teasingly.

Gunther brandishes the dirt. "Okay then, what's the way?" he asks threateningly.

The otters just giggle, and Nene asks Gunther, "You just have to sneak into someplace hard to sneak into."

"Is that all?" Gunther scoffs. "That's not a problem."

"We'll see," Nene says to Gunther. "We need to circulate some more, but I'll be back when you want that dance," she says, gives a wink, and turns back into the crowd with her platter held high.

And Nene promptly finds her tail pinched … and Gunther gone; disappeared into the crowds. Probably off to find more trouble to cause.

"He's silly," Nene says. "I like that."

Morgan's got a lot of sleep since the necromancer was defeated and he's been a little down. When he wasn't tending to people or brooding, he's been sound asleep. All that's transpired these last few days seemed to have worn him out, and he looks a lot better for having a few days of recovery.

Axel's last few days have been uneventful – for him anyway. He's spent about as much time as Morgan sleeping, and he seems to have suffered considerable exhaustion from his contact with the necromancer and subsequent events.

Now recovered, the two men have decided to attend the dance. Morgan is staring absently somewhere beyond the band from his chair, and Axel seems particularly distracted by a colorful streamer blown by the wind.

"Oh, good, vou're here dis time," Liliana whispers into Morgan's ear after she slinks up behind him. "I can give you a nice, proper, public dance, hmmm?"

Morgan reaches absently behind him to pat Liliana's thigh, then side, then arm, as he tries to find her hand without looking back. "Mm, wha? Oh. Yes." He frowns as he seems to wrestle with whatever he was thinking about, and then the frown's gone and he stands up to face Liliana. "It's been a while since I danced. I usually attend these functions in an official capacity."

Liliana leans over Morgan and looks into his eyes upsidedown-like. "Pish, I be dancing for you, not with you. No' at first, at least. Dat way I can makes ya squirm a bit," she notes, then winks at him.

Morgan's lips crack into a grin. "You always could make me squirm," he admits in a whisper. The Kadie man glances around for a moment, then nods as if seeing what he wanted to. "I'm glad everyone is more or less alright." Liliana looks up and nods. "Yah, coul' haf been a lot vorse, really. Even Bravil seems to be doin' decently. But, he also big so not as easy to hurt, I guess," she notes.

"Bravil is an amazing man. I never thought anyone could survive so many wounds. I spent a part of that evening trying to find enough bandages for such a large man," Morgan tells Liliana.Liliana dips her head back down and looks into Morgan's eyes again. "An vou know, for a vitch vou not very observant. I back to normal," she points out, grinning.

"Oh, well yes. I noticed that," Morgan says as he peers up at the taller bat. He peers at her more, in a very melodramatic sort of way that includes taking a moment to lean back and look her up and down, and then declares, "To me, you are always beautiful, whatever happens."

"Hmph! People say t'ings like dat vhen dey are disappointed," Liliana says and mock pouts.

Morgan folds his arms. "Oh, sure, pooh-pooh my compliment. See if I give you another! A man could be terribly hurt by this sort of pickiness, why … " he leans up (on his toes, he's so short) and smooches Liliana where everyone can see, " … I dare say I'm wounded. Distressed!" He smooches her again, and grins lopsidedly.

Liliana grins evilly and comments, "Vell, perhaps I kin lick does wounds clean later, no?" She then glances around the pavilion and notes, "But dat vill haf to be much later, alas. I supposed to entertain in a bit."

Morgan clasps his hands together against his heart. "Then I shall lament your departure and wait wistfully for your return," he says with a breathy sigh.

Liliana looks at Morgan oddly. "Vou been borrowing de romance novels for de girls you treat, haven't vou?" she teases. "Dat soun' like a line out of de 'Sylvanian Heresy.' I read it like six times."

"Are you kidding," Morgan asks in mock-shocked disbelief. Then he leans forward and admits, "I have quite a few of my own," in a whisper to Liliana.

Liliana giggles and shakes her head. "I no gonna ask vhich character vou imagine vourself as," she remarks with a grin.

"Probably best," Morgan tells Liliana. "You can borrow them if you want. The girls, we trade them now and then too." He rubs his arm a little then lets his hand fall to grip the wrist of his other arm. "I'm sorry I didn't say, "I was worried about you during the battle," because I was largely sure you would be fine. I guess confidence isn't very romantic, is it?"

Liliana laughs. "Hon, I vas novhere near de battle. So, not'ing to vorry over, no? Vou had more important t'ings to vorry about," she notes, "Plus, I stronger den vou, remember?"

"Oh I know, I know," Morgan agrees with Liliana. "You can easily pin me do- er, well you know." He blushes faintly. "Anyway! You know, I feel bad about the battle. I was so tired – and it's not your fault – that I couldn't concentrate. I feel like I may have let people down."

"There vere injured to vorry about … Bravil tol' me. Dat jus' as important as fighting de batter, if no' moreso. T'ink how many might've died if no one vas dere to treat dem, hmm? So, don' feel bad about anything, or I migh have to get … rough," Liliana chastises, then grins slightly.
Morgan holds his hands up. "You can get rough, but not for that. You're right, of course. I suppose I ought to be glad the town is so capable. I think, some times, I forget that."

Two Lapi does arrive at the pavilion, and it may take a moment to register that they are nearly identical. For the first time in memory, Parsley and Clover Chalk are not dressed alike. Parsley is all smiles (as usual) in a bright yellow sun-dress with blue flower prints on it, while Clover is apparently dressed for a funeral, all in black with long black gloves and a hat with a veil. Her dress, though black, is a bit too clingy to be appropriate for an actual funeral though.
Displaying uncommon awareness, Axel glances away from the exciting streamer to the entering does. He blinks, looking mildly confused by the strange double image they present, and then wave a hand – twice, to both. Apparently he wants to be safe.

Breaking away from her sister, Parsley comes up to Axel, and tries to get his attention. "Are you okay, Axel? I was worried about you, what with all the secrecy and stuff. I hope you didn't have to fight."

Getting Axel's attention is less straightforward than it might have first appeared. Although he was staring right at the two does he somehow managed to lose both when they split up, and seemed surprised when Parsley materialized right next to him. He stares at her, reaches over, then places a hand firmly on her shoulder as if to steady her in space and time. "You are very bright today Parsley," he says, possibly attempting to dodge at answering.

Parsley smiles to Axel, although her eyes look worried. "You seem a little… brighter too, actually. Did your wings get bigger?" she asks the bird-man.
Axel demonstrates some of his increasing motor skill by fluttering a wing forward so that he can nab it with a hand – and managing to not hit anyone in the process. "I think I have more feathers," he answers. To check, he pulls at the top of the makeshift robe he's had to wear and peers at his chest. "I have more feathers," he declares, answering that mystery.

"Wow, are they all bright red?" Parsley asks Axel. The bird man checks again. "Some of them are purple, and orange, and yellow and … ," he waves a hand vaguely at a nearby lantern, narrowly avoiding whacking a townsperson with it as he does so, " … like that." He looks up, and peers at the Lapi woman. "Are there two of you? There are two of me."

"What?" Parsley asks, looking confused. Then her ears go up and she looks over her shoulder. "Oh, you mean Clover? She's my twin sister. So she's a different person who just looks like me."

"Oh," says Axel. He seems to process that a moment as he slowly looks between Clover and Parsley. After a moment he asks, "Is Clover a necromancer?" Parsley starts to answer, then pauses. "Well, no, I don't think so. She's just been… sorta in a dark mood lately," the Lapi explains.

Axel tilts his head so that he can peer at Clover with as much of one eye as a human head will allow. "Why?" "She won't tell me," Parsley whispers to Axel. "I think she's been spending too much time underground."

"I don't like the underground," Axel says, sounding sympathetic. His gaze almost returns to Parsley's face when they seem to spot something that gets an immediate surprised reaction out of him. His wings shift, making him look bigger, and his eyes widen a bit. "My head hurts," he tells Parsley. If she follows his gaze she can see he's looking right at Natasha.

"Those are pretty robes she has on," Parsley comments after following Axel's gaze. "Do you know what the markings mean?"

Axel searches the robe with his gaze, and his face twitches in a tick. "I think … they mean … ," he twitches again. " … witch hunter?" He shrugs, suggesting he doesn't really know.

Parsley blinks at Axel in shock, then breaks out in giggles. "Oh, you're trying to be funny aren't you? Witch-hunters are all afraid to come to Sylvania, after all."

"That's what Valicross said," Axel tells Parsley, his tone making it sound as much a question as an answer. He doesn't sound like he's kidding, but with his track record that could mean anything. To further the confusion, he looks around as if suddenly unsure where he was, then asks, "Where is the nice old man?"

"Any nice old man in particular?" Parsley asks, after glancing around. Axel looks around again. "Valicross, he had the funny staff," the bird man answers.

"With the chimes," adds Axel.

"I've never heard that name before," Parsley says. "A staff with chimes on it? That sounds like one of the gypsies maybe."

"Maybe Natasha knows. She was talking to him earlier," Axel tells Parsley. In an unprecedented change in tradition Axel holds out a hand and offers to lead Parsley somewhere for once.

The Lapi maid takes Axel's hand, and follows along.

Djivan seems to be discussing something with Natasha and doesn't notice immediately when Olivia heads over. He finally blinks and turns, then says, "Good eve, aww, no corset dis time?" He winks.

Natasha reaches over and lightly thwaps the back of Djivan's head. "Ah, good evening to you, Miss Weaver," she says sounding very serious … though, she also seems to be resisting an amused smile too.
Olivia sighs and gives the Skreek a quick kiss on the cheek, anyway. "Hello to you, too," she says. "And I'm sorry, you will never see me in a corset. Bloody uncomfortable things!" Then she smiles brightly over to Natasha. "Ah, still not calling me by my first name, I see," she teases the woman gently. "I thought we'd come to an agreement about that?"

"Too late, I saw vou in one de last festival," Djivan points out, grinning.
Olivia thinks about this, then pouts. "Ah yes, the Market Faire. Well, okay, you've seen me in a corset once, but it's not going to happen again!"

Natasha's ears twitch in amusement. "Ah, but how can I maintain an air of mystery and danger if I just called you Olivia?" she teases and then adjusts the white robes she's wearing. Up close, Olivia can see the edges of the robes are lined in blue runes which sparkle in the firelight.
Greatly daring, Olivia reaches out and with one finger, traces a few of the runes on the Khatta's sleeve. "It's beautiful," she murmurs. "Didn't think you'd wear it after the battle at the dam, though." She looks at the woman questioningly.

"Yes. I always liked the spirit robes," Natasha remarks and glances down at the runes. "Why did you think I wouldn't want to wear it again?"

"Plus, her o'ter robes are a bit stinky," Djivan notes and raises his hand slightly. Natasha thwaps him again on the back of his head, muttering, "Hush, you."

Olivia looks a little uncomfortable, but she manages to say, "Well, I thought that they might remind you of things that you'd rather not think about?"
Natasha considers that, then shrugs lightly. "Tonight is a night of new beginnings, and a time to let the past be lain to rest. Besides, it is just a thing … not that I plan to wear it often … but tonight was fitting."

Olivia's face clears immediately and she says to the Khatta, "Sounds like reason enough to me. Forgive my curiosity." Then she bursts out in a bit of a rush (mostly to keep her nerve from failing before she gets the words out), "Speaking of new beginnings… Natasha, there's something I'd like to ask you."

Natasha's brow goes up. "Yes?" she asks, her usual intense expression locking onto Olivia.

Olivia suddenly feels small and uneasy under the mage's stare. "Um, w-well," she stammers out before getting a hold of herself, "it's just that I've come into a little money recently. Given to me by my father. He'd been saving it all up for me for years and finally decided give it to me. And one of the things I've always wanted to do is see more of the world besides Stonebarrow, so… would it be all right if I traveled with your tribe for a month or two?"

Natasha's brow furrows. "Why would you need money for that? We don't charge people who want to join us," she says, looking a bit confused.

A pair of black paws plop onto Olivia's shoulder, and her left ear is suddenly tickled by otter whiskers. "What's this?" Emmett asks. "Our little Olivia is going off with Gypsies? And they haven't even properly bought her?"
Olivia lets out the breath she didn't know she was holding in a noisy sigh. "Oh, I'm sure you don't!" the Skeek says immediately. "I just wanted you to know that I'd be able to buy things for myself while I'm with you – it's not like someone would have to be responsible for making sure I had what I needed." Then she jumps nearly a foot off the ground as Emmett takes hold of her shoulder. "Emmett! You nearly scared the life out of me! And besides, Natasha hasn't exactly said yes, yet."

"Oi! Oi!" Emmett barks, and puts his paws to his heart. "I'm wounded, I am, Olivia! You chose the Gypsies over the Oggtons? We 'ave just as much fun, you know. And I bet you'd look cute in a bathing suit. Or out of one." "Ey, no hitting on me girlfrien'," Djivan growls at Emmett. "As for how she looks in or out o' clothes, dat my business, no' vours!"

"If you wish to travel with us, far be it for me to say no … Olivia," Natasha notes, then grins, amused by the sudden appearance of the local otters.

Olivia gives Djivan a grateful glance, but she turns to Emmett and lightly whaps his nose with the back of her hand. "Oh yes, I can just tell how wounded you are," she says with heavy sarcasm. Then she wiggles a finger at him, but her eyes are sparkling a bit. "Behave yourself!"

Olivia whirls back around as Natasha gives her consent. "Really?" she asks, her face lighting up. "Oh, thank you! I really do appreciate this, Natasha!"

"E'r now," Emmett says, leaning in close to Djivan. "If you could do some sketches, I'm sure I could get a pretty shekel for 'em. And mebbe a few of the dancing girls too. They gotta take baths sometime, roit?"

"Don't be so hasty there, Olivia. You might not be saying that a few weeks out. The road is rough," Natasha warns her. She then glances to Emmett and asks, "And who is this fine, handsome lad?"

Djivan grins and notes, "Can' sketch dem. I sometimes with them. An' besides, Liliana woul' clobber me. She rough."

Emmett straightens up to his full four-feet-nothing height, licks his palm and uses it to slick back his head fur. "Emmett Oggton, your Magicness, at yer service!" he says, introducing himself.

"Enchanted," Natasha notes and bows her head politely. "And what sort of services do you offer, Mr. Oggton?"

Olivia nods to the Khatta. "I'll do my best to manage, then," she says. "However, I think that after fifteen years with my mother, and a necromancer invading the town recently, I'm ready for another challenge."

"Information," Emmett says, smiling. "And musical entertainment, as leader of my band, the Oggtones. And, uh, any other special personal services a fine lady might require, yer know. Just ask."

"And I can hook you up with a good supply of fish, too," Emmett whispers, conspiratorially, to the Khatta. "Personal services, indeed?" Natasha asks, looking even more amused. She shakes her head, then says, "I may have to call upon your services sometime, before we leave. We will need supplies, after all." She then glances towards Olivia, and then Djivan, "So, will you two be staying together, then?"

Emmett slides over behind Djivan and Olivia, and pinches both of their behinds, to see if they'll blame each other. "'Course they will!" he says. "They's boyfriend and girlfriend ain't they?"

Olivia sees the Skreek start to say something, but she hurriedly pokes him in the ribs to keep him quiet. "I'm going to have my own wagon built before the tribe leaves," she says quickly. "I think that might be more… appropriate." Then she glares at Emmett for saying such a thing. Djivan stiffens, then turns around to glare at Emmett. He then looks to Olivia and says, "Oh, uhm, well, if vou vould prefer dat, I guess," he says, pouting.

"A wagon?" Emmett asks. "Gonna get Pretzel to pull it then? And here I was hoping to cut a deal with the rat about taking all those old socks off 'is hands. They make good bait for mudcrawlers."

Olivia takes the Skreek's hand and squeezes it. "I think after a while, you'll be glad of still having your own space," she says gently. "Besides, it's not like we won't see each other every day for a while, now is it?" To Emmett she says, "No, I think Pretzel would be lonely without Ducky… I'll just have to buy my own Rughrat."

Djivan just shrugs and notes, "Vou can haf de socks if vou can get dem off de walls," he tells Emmett. "And I gots to get some repairs done on my wagon anyway. De roof is a bit too leaky now."

Axel winds his way through the crowd over to Natasha. By now most of Stonebarrow's population, and many of the gypsies, seem to know that the colorful man needs a wide berth if they want to avoid being feather whacked. "Mind the strange idiot, dear," a mother advises her son as she scoots him out of Axel's way. It makes for easy going.

"Buy? What's that?" Emmett jokes, then says to Natasha, "When you're ready, just ask around for me, and I'll be to your side quick as a shadow, Madame Gypsy." He scoots off, pausing only to give Parsley a peck on the cheek as he passes her and Axel.

Axel looks surprised when Parsley gets a peck, and looks at himself briefly as if contemplating why he didn't get one too. Pecklessness aside he eventually reaches Natasha's group where he asks the white dressed woman, "Where is the nice old man?"

Natasha's brow goes up at the sudden unpleasant question. "Axel … he's dead. He's the necromancer that twisted your mind and who Amelia killed," she says flatly.

Parsley's free hand goes to her mouth, and she asks, "Oh my, was Axel hurt in the battle after all?"

"Oh," says Axel evenly. He looks at Parsley and tells her, "He's dead," as if she hadn't been right there to hear it. He rubs his head as if the idea gave him a headache.

Olivia gapes at Axel's question, but recovers quickly enough to try and change the subject. "You know Axel, I'm glad you came by," she says in a brisk tone. "I ought to make you some more new clothes. You can't go around in that ill-fitting robe all the time. And anyway, I saved the pattern for that special shirt I made you last time, so making another will be easy."

"A bit, yes. The Necromancer used a spirit manipulation spell upon him. Given what he is, he is very vulnerable to such attacks. It was foolish of him to charge in there and try to fight him single-handedly," Natasha notes and shakes her head. "Very foolish."

"Oh, so it only hurt one of his minds then, right?" Parsley asks, looking to Axel with concern.
"His two minds are becoming one, more or less. So, it likely damaged both," Natasha replies to Parsley.

"Is there anything that can be done to help him recover?" Parsley asks the mage, while patting the back of Axel's hand.

Axel peers at Olivia as she addresses him and seems to brighten steadily. Know it or not, he seems to appreciate the sudden distraction from an unpleasant memory. "Thank you," he tells her, sounding genuinely thankful. He doesn't comment on being called foolish. Maybe he missed it, or maybe he's used to it.

"You're welcome," Olivia replies, smiling back. Then she seems to muse on something. "Come to think of it, though, I should see if there isn't some sort of fire-retardant liquid I can treat your new clothes with. Or just make you two sets, since you seem to go through them pretty quickly… "Natasha shrugs, commenting," Hard to say. I've never seen a fusion like this before. It's almost Bosch-like in it's level of mutation and alteration… "

Axel seems very interested in Parsley's hand as it pats his, he peers at it intently as if the motion were mesmerizing. "Wearing clothes is important," he tells Olivia, which seems to be his way of telling her that what she's done has helped him. He even reaches over and pats her hand too, like Parsley pats his.

Olivia watches the bird man pat her hand in a confused manner with a small smile of amusement. Then, more seriously, she asks, "So, what will you do now, Axel? Are you going to stay in Stonebarrow a while longer? Or are you going to travel someplace else?"

"Well, maybe he just needs something to focus his attention," Parsley suggests.

"What am I going to do," Axel repeats, sounding thoughtful. He lifts the patting hand and stares at it, then begins counting off on the highly calloused and yellowing appendage "What … am I … going … to do." At each pause he lifts a finger, marking something. "Are those witch hunter runes, is Dr. Pike done, preen, carrot cake, … " he stares longer, then his thumb goes up, "decide what to do."

Natasha glares at Axel briefly. "The runes as you call them are the basic incantations of spiritual magic. They are used during rituals to act as a focus point and storage source. It's where I bound the dispel ward and telekinesis burst I used against Valicross," she explains.

Olivia tries very hard not to laugh at this recitation, especially when 'carrot cake' comes after 'preen.' "Yes, what will you do next?" she repeats. "Will you stay with Kalvin a bit longer? Or go back to traveling on your own? That's what you were doing before you came here, right?"

The explanation goes right over Parsley's head, but she looks suitably impressed because it sounded impressive.

"They're the … "Axel waves vaguely at Natasha for Parsley's benefit, " … that, runes," again repeating it as if she hadn't been right there herself.

"The embroidery is very well done," Parsley manages to say. Answering Olivia, Axel says, "I will stay with Kalvin, I may leave or I may stay. I must ask this place."

Natasha rubs the bridge of her nose. "Thank you, Miss, ah, I don't think I got your name," she says to Parsley. "And to say it simply, they're special designs where spells can be bound. Powerful spells take a lot of time to prepare. We can't just conjure them at will."

"Oh, forgive me," the Lapi says, apologetically. "I'm Parsley Chalk, a friend of Axel's."

"Parsley likes carrot cake," Axel tells Natasha helpfully. The doe's ears pinken. "Uh, yes. That's true. I do like carrot cake," she says.

Natasha smiles, saying, "Pleasure to meet you, Miss Chalk. And I must say, you should talk with Liliana before you leave. You have the form fit for a dancer. I imagine she could teach you a few things. Well, unless you don't wish to learn, of course."

Parsley turns to glance at the gypsy dancers, and then says, "Really? Maybe I will then."

Olivia nods sagely like she's understood everything that Axel has just said… which she hasn't, of course. "Well, just have Kalvin bring you by the Weavers' in a day or two to collect your clothes. Don't try to set yourself on fire before then, eh?" Then she turns to Natasha and says, "I'm going to tell my friends that I'll be leaving when the tribe leaves. I'll be back later!" "Can I dance too," Axel asks, sounding curious. Maybe he's just out to get closer to colorful ribbons.

"Taking dancing lessons may not be a bad idea for you, Axel," Parsley says. "They could help you learn better balance and control of your wings."

Axel smiles to Olivia as she goes, saying that he'll have Kalvin bring him by if the place lets him.

Natasha's brow goes up and she notes, "Well, the dances mainly are for women. Can you imagine him shaking his hips provocatively?" She really tries not to laugh. Axel beams, turning that enthusiasm Natasha's way. Her comment causes him to inspect his hips consideringly.

"I suppose… but that doesn't seem to be stopping Emmett from joining in," Parsley notes, and points to where the otter is happily gyrating and swaying next to one of the Lapi dancers.

"He's certainly persistent," Natasha observes. "Why, I think he even hit on me and I'm nearly twice his age." "He hit you?" The bird-man looks suddenly suspicious, and he turns his red-eyed glare on Emmett.

"Emmett likes older women," Parsley confides. "And younger women too. And… well, he likes women. I think he's even flirted with Isolde."

Natasha chuckles at that. "Well, maybe I should indulge him sometime. I've not been with a younger man in a long time," she notes, then shakes her head. "The younger ones are usually easier to train, after all."

"He has," Morgan says as he walks by with Liliana, sounding exasperated, adding just before they walk on, " … and everyone else too." He points at himself before he vanishes behind a group of people.

Axel's misguided glare is hopeless in the face of so many colorful moving things. He can't even look vaguely upset for more than a minute, and then he's smiling amusedly at all the dancing and colors.

"If you can train Emmett in any way, then that will be more impressive than defeating a mere necromancer," Parsley notes, with a wink and a giggle.

Natasha grins toothily at Parsley. "Dear child, they're all trainable. It's all in the bait you use, and the rewards you offer," she notes, winking in reply.

Suddenly, Axel looks up. He asks Natasha, "Do you think I'm dead?"

"No. Why do you ask that?" Natasha says, her attention shifting back to Axel.

"Oh … He wasn't sure. Dr. Pike isn't either. I was just … thinking … ahh … " There it goes, Axel's attention has been recaptured by the colorful dancers again.

"Do you want to be dead?" Natasha suddenly asks Axel, eyeing him warily.

Axel's head tilts. He turns and looks about to ask Parsley – and then suddenly aborts. Instead, he stares in her direction but doesn't seem to see the Lapi. His unfocused red eyes seem to look somewhere beyond her, and then he suddenly starts walking towards the exit.

"Axel?" Parsley asks, having to step out of the way. "Is something wrong?"

Natasha moves to try and put her hand on Axel's shoulder.

Axel stops when Natasha puts her hand on his shoulder, his unfocused gaze shifting from staring straight out to searching faces. He looks at the people in front of him: Parsley, various townsfolk, gypsies, searching on and on as if looking for something and not finding it.

"Is he still under a spell?" Parsley nervously asks Natasha.

Natasha doesn't answer Parsley. Instead she raises her hand and mutters something. One of her familiar blue flames pops into life, floating right in front of Axel's nose.

Axel goes crosseyed when the flame appears on his nose. If getting his attention was the goal, then it was a complete success. "Can you find them?" he asks the flame, sounding distracted.

Natasha snaps her fingers and the flame pops out of existence again. "You need to focus better, child, if you have any hope of stabilizing," she admonishes.

The bird man makes a face as the flame vanishes and his eyes strain. "I was looking for something," he insists, "but I don't remember now. Should I dance?"

Parsley grabs Axel's hand, and says, "Yes! We should dance, Axel."

"Tell Emmett to see me later tonight, Miss Chalk," Natasha notes to the soon to be departing pair.

"Of course, Madame Natasha," Parsley promises, and starts to drag Axel towards the dancers.

Axel, caught up in Parsley's enthusiasm, suddenly smiles and even bounces on his toes. "We should dance, Parsley!"

Natasha shakes her head and comments, "Kids."

Without further pondering, Axel walks off with Parsley to join the dancers. Like before most people know to scoot out of his way and the journey is, thankfully, uneventful. "Can we dance?" he asks the dancers, sounding enthused.

"Hey, what's up with Clover?" Zahnrad asks Amelia and motions towards the morose looking Lapi. "She looks even more unpleasant than usual."

Amelia whispers to Zahn, "So, what's the first thing you want to do when your arm is done healing?"

Zahnrad shakes his head, clearing it. "Oh, uh, well, I have a lot of things I need to get to work on, and we probably ought to head back to Pike's and do some more underground spelunking. I want to find out what else is down there," he notes.

"Yeah, I'd nearly forgotten about that," Amy says to Zahn.

"I hadn't. Being stuck in that pit reminded me of it every day," Zahnrad notes to Amelia. "And honestly, I'd like a couple quiet days with you, too." Amy grins. "It hasn't been quiet enough?" she asks. "It sounds like you want to mount a real expedition this time."

"Er, that's a different kind of quiet," Zahnrad says quickly, ears red. "And yes, I'd like to mount a more formal expedition this time, now that we have some idea of what is down there. Though, uh, no bringing back heads this time." "It was just one head," Amelia notes. "I'm sure we can avoid monsters if we're careful though."

"One head too many," Zahnrad notes with a shudder. "We need to bring stinkbombs and other distraction devices next time, too. Maybe even camping supplies."

Emmett finally finds Zahn and Amelia. "Ah, the lovely couple what ain't mousy about it," he says, and grins. Before waiting for a reply though, he drops a sack in Amy's lap. "'Sposed to deliver this to you, and now I have! You can tip me later," the otter quips, then scurries off into the crowd again.

Zahnrad nudges Amelia and whispers to her, "I'm going to see what's up with Clover. It might have something to do with what we found down below… " He then blinks and looks at the sack, muttering, "Please tell me that's not the head… "
Amy looks in the bag, and then pulls out a note with her name on it. She unfolds it and reads, moving her lips and muttering while she does. "Oh, no, it's something else," she explains, and pulls out another note from the bag. This one is on better parchment, and is sealed with a bit of wax. "Uh, this is for your father," she tells Zahn, handing over the sealed message.

Zahnrad takes the message and peers at it. He doesn't open it, at least. "Okay, so who all is this from, and what's in the bag?" he asks, curiosity taking the better of him. He brings the seal closer to his eyes to see if he can place the design.

The seal on the wax looks like it's from the Mayor's ring, possibly. Amelia takes the last item from the bag; a small, slim black box. "This last thing is for Gunther, have you seen him around?"
"Oh, I think he was bothering Nene earlier," Zahn notes then peers off into the crowds. "Oh, there he is! He's … oh lords, he's spying on the dancers. Probably thinks they're plotting something."

"Maybe he just likes the costumes, what there are of them," Amy suggests.
Amelia waves to try and get Gunther's attention.

Gunther manages to look over just in time to see the wave. So, he heads over. "Mom's probably going to want to talk to you later about your involvement in this," Zahnrad warns. Gunther grins weakly and says, "Lovely."
Amy offers the box to Gunther. "Here, this is for you, for… well, for doing what no Wingnut has ever done before," she says.

Gunther takes the box. "It's not going to explode, is it?" he asks nervously.

"Sorry, no," Amy says, grinning.

Gunther pokes at the box nervously. He then fiddles with the latch and opens it veeeeeery slowly, peeking at it with just one eye.

Something glints inside the box. Even through the sliver of an opening that Gunther dares to take, it shines like bronze.
Olivia looks around, trying to spot Amelia and Zahn again in the crowd. When she sees they're with Gunther, she heads over to them just in time to see the box the younger Kettenrad is holding. "What's this?" she asks quietly, coming up behind them.

Very curious now, Gunther just opens the box. He doesn't even seem to notice Olivia approach. Zahnrad just shrugs, commenting, "I have no idea. He's being painfully slow about opening it."

Olivia looks curiously over at the younger boy now. "Well, go on then, let's have a look," she says encouragingly.

Set on black cloth is a coin-sized medal. It's either bronze or at least bronze-coated, with an outer circle of engraved words (maybe Olympian, from the looks of the alphabet) while the center is an embossed sword slicing through the rune for the inverted grave.
Gunther blinks, then blinks again. Carefully, he removes the medal, looking as if he expects it to vanish at at moment. "But … I didn't do that much. I wasn't even there when he was killed," he says.

Amelia reads from the note, "Give this Valor Against The Undead medal to Gunther Kettenrad Wingnut, for being the first of his Clan to fight for the protection of others beyond the Dam, and also for placing the well-being of his fellow townspeople before the traditions of his Clan."
For the first time ever, Gunther looks to be speechless.

Olivia looks pleased as Amy reads the note and claps Gunther on the back. "I say you deserve it," she says simply. "Congratulations!"
"Don't let Nene steal it," Amelia whispers to Gunther, then gives him a kiss on the forehead. "And you did earn it."

"Uh, thanks," Gunther manages to say and quickly closes the box, adding, "I should run this home now to be safe." Zahnrad looks equally shocked. "Well, either this will make Mom happy, or really make her mad," he notes.

"Eh, that's my dad and the Mayor's problem if she gets mad," Amelia says.

"They don't have to live with her," Gunther notes, shrugging. "She'll get over it. She doesn't stay mad long. I mean, look at how many times Zahn has nearly killed himself." And for that, Zahnrad whacks the back of Gunther's head with his good arm.
"If you're going back to the dam, maybe you should deliver this letter to your dad then, Gunther," Amelia says, noting the letter Zahn has.

"Well, I'll only be gone for half an hour, but I could, sure," Gunther offers. Zahnrad hands it over and says, "Do not open it. It's sealed and therefore meant for only him." Gunther twitches.

"I shouldn't have said that," Zahnrad says and slaps his own forehead.
Olivia grins over at Zahnrad. "It's okay, we forgive you. You're still trying to recover, after all. I guess your brain hasn't quite healed up completely, either."

Zahn sticks his tongue out at Olivia. "So, when am I going to meet your father," Zahnrad asks Amelia bluntly, trying to change the subject.

Amy freezes up for a moment before replying, "Umm, when I'm ready? Unless you want to meet him without me… "

"Afraid he'll kill me?" Zahn asks next.

"What? No!" Amelia says, and forces a laugh. "It's just that… uh… I get a certain way around him, which… isn't like my usual self."
"What way is that?" Olivia can't help but ask, curiosity aroused now.

"What do you get like?" Zahn asks, rather curious now. "Do you sprout horns and breathe fire out your nose?"
"Err, no," Amelia says, then whispers, "More like the exact opposite."

"Which is? You get wimpy?" Zahn asks.

"Not exactly," Amelia says, starting to sound a bit gruff. "Are you going to pester me about it all night? I was going to go change and do some dancing with Lili… "
Olivia, seeing that Amelia is about to walk off in a huff now, says hastily, "Errr, not to step into the middle of this lovely quarrel you're suddenly having… but I wanted to tell you some news."

"No, I'm just curious, because I can't imagine you as anything other than … you," Zahnrad replies and shrugs slightly. "And I didn't know you were going to dance with her, either … but I guess since I can't, so er, have fun." The Kadie then turns his head to look at Olivia.

"Oh, are you and Djivan going to elope?" Amelia asks, her mood switching instantly.
"And I didn't mean that I was going to dance with Lili as my partner," Amy corrects Zahn. "I was going to perform with her."

Olivia suddenly acks! and takes a step back now. "You've been listening to Emmett, haven't you?" she says in an exasperated voice. "Well, it's not like that, but Djivan is involved in a way. I'm going to be leaving Stonebarrow for a while. I'll be traveling with the gypsies."
"Will we recognize you when you come back though?" Amy asks.

Zahnrad blinks at Amelia, and almost says something … then switches his attention back to Olivia. "Buh, wha? For how long? When? Why?" he asks.

Olivia laughs at the sudden barrage of questions! "Wait, let me see if I can answer these in order," she says, grinning. "First, to Amy: I certainly hope so! Second, to Zahn: for about a month or two, as soon as I can get a wagon built, and because I've always wanted to see places other than Stonebarrow before I die."

"And learn to belly-dance, too," Amelia adds.
Olivia sticks her tongue out at Amy for that one!

"Well, you may as well," Amelia points out. "You'll need the exercise. What else will you have to do after all?"
"Hey, Amy, didn't you mention the other day the necromancer should be taken to Justininople?" Zahnrad asks and nudges the other Kadie.

"Eh?" Amy asks, scratching her cheek. "Oh, I think the poodle said something like that, yeah. It struck me as odd, since, you know, we aren't supposed to still be part of Sylvania while he's the landlord."

"Well, we won't exactly have all the conveniences and comforts of home on the road, so I'm sure the tribe will find plenty of work for me to do to keep my place," Olivia notes, nudging the Kadie girl.

"Well, here's an opportunity, then. Could not Olivia help escort it as town representative?" Zahnrad suggests.

"Doing laundry?" Amy asks, her mouth in a grimace. Such a horrible fate!

"Amy has me doing her laundry," Zahnrad mumbles to Olivia.

"Well, if they do send it for some reason, I don't see why not," Amelia says. "It's not a very interesting trip though, from what I understand. Cross the swamp, catch a barge, and some other bits until you can get on the train."

Olivia laughs a little at the thought of perpetual laundry. "I'm sure there will be some of that, but other chores, too." Then she looks at Zahn and wrinkles her nose. "You want me to cart that nasty old necromancer's corpse all the way to the capital? Ugh, the nightmares I'm going to have!"

"It was just a suggestion," Zahnrad says and waves his good hand placatingly. "It's called optimization of resource… "

"We should find out if the gypsies are going that way, at least," Amy suggests.

Olivia still looks dubious over the idea of dragging the necromancer's body with her, but says, "And I suppose I should actually ask Erik directly what he meant by taking it there."

"I think he'll explain it at the next town council meeting or something," Amelia notes. "We should know more after that."

"He still has those? Wasn't he having problems keeping people from falling asleep or just talking over him during those?" Zahn asks Amelia.

Olivia nods to Amelia. "Then I'll mention this to Natasha. Goodness, I hope she's going to be okay with this! I thought asking her to travel with them was going to be a big question… !"

"Yeah, well, it's not like they wouldn't happen anyway if he didn't come," Amy says. "They have to humor him, so that he doesn't get the idea that he really should start ruling like a Gallee."

"If it does have to travel, then traveling with Natasha is at least safer," Amy says.
"It's not like he has any current authority to back him up if he tried," Zahnrad points out, then shrugs. "The town would just lynch him and his family like they did to Snapfish."

"After Snapfish, the Czar didn't send a new landlord though," Amelia points out. "The Marquis of Gallis may just send an army and a new Chevalier."

"He'd have to find out, and get here," Zahnrad asserts, then shrugs. "But eh, if playing to him makes him all warm and fuzzy, so be it."

Amy nods, then adds, "At least until he runs out of money."

"I see Lili waving to me," Amy notes. "Go get a good spot by the dancers, Zahn, and I'll be back in a few minutes to perform."

Olivia nudges both of her friends and says, "On that note, I'll leave you two lovebirds alone for a while longer. You've got a lot of catching up to do, after all, and don't need me around. Besides, I have to find out what Djivan's up to… See you around!"

"Oh, Olivia!" Amy calls out. "On your way, could you tie up Emmett? My costume is flimsy enough, and I've seen what he can do with a fishing pole… "

Zahnrad nods and says, "See you around Olivia!" With that Zahnrad heads off to find a seat. Gunther vanished some time ago to take the items home for safekeeping (and to avoid otter paws).

Before disappearing into the crowd, Olivia calls out merrily, "I'd be glad to! He deserves a good tying-up for all the grief he's caused Djivan and myself lately, anyway!"


GMed by BoingDragon & Jared

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