8 Midsummer, 6107 RTR (Aug 25, 2005) Olivia and the gypsies return, and Amelia and Zahn prepare for another expedition into the underground canals.
(Amelia) (Axel) (Stonebarrow) (Sylvania) (Zahnrad)

    Mint Road
    The soft gurgling of the Mint River melds with the breezy susurrus of swaying leaves on the opposite side of the well-worn road. At this time of day, the water sparkles and reflects brightly, making the shadows of the woods and orchards seem darker in contrast. The side road leading into the Blacktail Clan territory shows signs of recent traffic, but here on the edge there isn't any sign of activity.

It's been a few weeks since the rather colorful band of gypsies left Stonebarrow to make sounds to other nearby towns and the like. Olivia Weaver went with them … though she rather stood out given her wagon was probably the one in the best shape out of all of them. The town has been absolutely quiet without them. No monsters, no evil, no lewd comments by the men and propositions by the dancers to those that live in the bizarre hamlet called Stonebarrow. Today too seems to be just another uneventful day … But lo, up the patch comes a small train of wagons.

"Wow, de place really hasn' changed," comes the comment from one of the lead wagons. Sitting in the bench is Djivan. He snaps the reins lightly to urge the beasts to move a bit faster and he grins over at what looks like Olivia's wagon. "Glad to be goin' home?"

The Skeek sitting atop the bench on the wagon across from Djivan's gives the gypsy a lop-sided grin. "What, you were expecting a bright new city in place of the same old Stonebarrow? I'm telling you, this place never changes. Well, hardly ever, anyway." Then she gives his question some thought. "I'll be glad to see everyone again, sure… but you know I wish you could stay."

"Times change, people change, Stonebarrow remains," remarks a Kadie, as if on cue, as he steps from behind a tree. He's wearing deep purple colors, pants, vest, and shirt, with large book and a knife at his side. If the voice doesn't mark him immediately as Morgan, the conspicuous book of witchcraft certainly does.

"Me? Stay? De otters woul' be all jealous of me an I'd just have endless fights, though," Djivan says with a melodramatic sigh. "An lord, if I stay, so would Liliana. An I don know if she ever let dat withch in training of vours outside. Speaking on which… " he adds with a smirk as an after though and motions towards Morgan.

Olivia pulls on the reins and urges her beast to a slow stop. "Morgan!" she calls, obviously glad to see him. She waves and calls, "How've you been?"

"Rested," Morgan answers, winking. "But I miss Lilly." He moves to stand beside Olivia's wagon and then gestures for her to feel free to keep going – he can walk.

Olivia nods at the gesture and urges the animal forward again, only more slowly this time. "That's good to hear, because the closer we got to Stonebarrow, the more Lili talked about you. So, um, you're probably going to get an… enthusiastic welcome."

And as if on cue, there's a sudden rustle of branches above and the bat in question comes darting down! She aims right for Morgan, but he manages to sidestep the attempted bat tackle. She lands unceremoniously in the leaves. "Oh pish, I miss," she grumbles.

Olivia doesn't look surprised at all by the sudden appearance of the Eee. "Told ya," is all she says, grinning.

In response, Morgan tackles Lilly. "Hello!" once down with the bat he gives Olivia a thumbs up as she rides on, urging her, "This is perfectly respectable behavior, by the way!"

"Bah, I suppose to tackle an embarrass vou!" Liliana protests, then starts trying to wrestle Morgan down and sit on top of him.

Olivia darts a glance at Djivan and says with another big smile, "You know, I think I'd rate that tackle as an eight, maybe a nine. Lili only gets a one for her miss, though."

Another dark figure emerges from the trees, this one carrying a complicated looking backpack half as big as the Kadie herself. "Hey, you came back!" Amelia declares as she spots Olivia. "Did you have fun?"

"I dunno, I t'ink dis worth watchin' don' you?" Djivan comments, grinning widely. He then laughs an says, "Still haven' forgiven Lili and crew rating the makeout in de woods, huh? A one … she'll be hurt!"

Morgan doesn't put up much of a fight and in short order has Lilly on top. "You forget," he tells he in mock conspiratorial tones, "that I am ever watching, ever vigilant against danger!"

"An against sexy women to tackle and have vour way wit? I bet she couldn't keep you off her, eh?" Liliana says smirking evilly and pointing to Amelia. She then sticks her tongue out at Morgan.

Amelia twitches her tail at the tackling and manhandling remarks, and grins.

Olivia twitches her nose mischievously. "Well, a one is all she deserves! I thought Eee were supposed to be more stealthy than that… and we sure did better when she was rating us, anyway!" Then she looks down the road and sees Amelia and her huge backpack. "Hullo Amelia! Yeah, I had lots of fun. How about you? What's been going on here since I've been gone?"

"Oh, I wouldn't do that to poor Zahnrad. He's broken enough body parts and he doesn't need his heart broken too," Morgan insists, then he smooches Lilly.

"It's been pretty quiet, for the most part," Amelia reports, and starts to walk alongside the wagon. "No weirdness aside from the people, and Zahn is finally done healing up. Your wagon seems to have come through your trip intact, it looks like. Did you let Djivan inside?" she asks, smirking.

"Yeah, vell, vhy do you t'ink she's called de winged annoyance, hmm?" Djivan points out, still smirking. He then sticks out his tongue at Amelia and comments, "Bah, like dat is any of vour business!"

"Well, did she come visit you in your wagon then, Djivan?" Amy asks, grinning toothily now.

Olivia looks sidelong at the Skreek before replying and gives a sly grin. "Yeah, once or twice. Not long enough for him to do any lasting damage, so my wagon is fine. His wagon, on the other hand, could really do without the socks on the walls! But he's too afraid to take them down. I tried peeling one off once and he nearly wrestled me to the floor!"

"Vell, dat was jus de excuse for wrestlin' you to de floor… " Djivan says proudly.

Olivia laughs. "Yeah, so I noticed about two minutes into it!"

And finally, Liliana de-liplocks from Morgan and sits on him lightly. "So, what new t'ings have vou been up to?" she asks him, then proceeds to play with his hair.

Amelia ooooos at the comment. "The socks are probably for warding off evil spirits and angry fathers," she says. "What'd you think of the places you visited though, Olivia? Any big towns?"

Morgan tucks his arms under his head and relaxes, obviously used to this sort of boy toy treatment. "The dam has been repaired, the Necromancer boxed, and the town has calmed down again. Turns out there's some sort of reward for defeated necromancers, I've heard talk about collecting that," Morgan answers.

Looking up at the Skeek in her wagon, the first thing Amelia notices is that even though Olivia's clothes are still brightly colored enough to cause eye-strain, there's certainly a lot less material in the outfit she wears. Her short, cherry-red skirt is made of only two or three layers of some gauzy material and the tails of her mint-green blouse end a few inches above her waist, showing off her stomach. A gold sash embellished with bits of colored glass and stones is tied around the waistband of her skirt, and over that Olivia wears a leather belt with scabbards for six short knives. "Well, we did fill out all the forms at the capital, as we discussed before I left. They're supposed to send somebody to verify it and all."

"Tsk. Well, vou won' have any time to do de collecting vourself for de next few days. I have plans," Liliana murmurs and twirls one of her fingertips in his hair. "Vou need to ask for a few days off. And hmm, I t'ink you need a new dye job."

"I'll have to look into it," Morgan says, quite seriously. "Had any, um, complications while you were away?"

Liliana leans in until she's nose to nose. "No, but I inten' to have some while I'm here," she says, grinning rather evilly.

"Oh my," says Morgan, tail twitching.

"Maybe I invit' some of de dancers along too, no?" Liliana adds, sounding even more evil now.

Djivan just rolls his eyes. "Don' make me get a bucket o' cold water for vou two!" he yells back at the bat and Kadie.

The male Kadie's brow shoots up. "I bet you would, too." Then he shakes a warning finger at Djivan, grinning.

"Three company," Liliana points out, then motions towards Amelia. "How abou' her?"

"Hmmm," thinks Morgan out loud. Teasingly, he calls out, "What do you think, Amelia?"

Amy opens her mouth in shock, then after a moment says, "Sorry, but Lili is just too skinny for my tastes… "
"Pish, don knock it," Liliana says teasingly to Amelia, then winks.

"Well there you go," Morgan tells Lilly, then tickles her lightly. Quietly, he whispers, "I didn't know she even liked women."

Liliana smirks and noses Morgan. "She prolly teasin'," she notes, then climbs off the Kadie and stands. She extends her hand to Morgan to help him up.

"You never know with Amelia," Morgan tells Lilly as he stands up with the bat's help. "She could see it as a challenge of sorts." Once up he keeps the bat's hand and walks with her after the wagon train.

"Vell, den ve jus' knock her out and kidnap her!" Liliana declares, grinning playfully.

Morgan laughs. "Knock out Amelia? Knock out me is more like it. I can't beat Amelia in any sort of a fight except magic – never could," he explains.

"Vou just got to be sneeaaaky," Liliana notes, then demonstrates by pinching his butt. "So, ride back wit me?"

"I like your new fashion," Amy tells Olivia. "Going to keep with it? You'll get more attention than the Frog Princess outfit brought you… "

Djivan shakes his head and quits watching Morgan and Liliana. "We saw lots o' towns quickly, really. Had a lot of land to cover fast. Mos' towns pretty run down dese days. Lotsa famine," he notes.

The male Kadie jumps, then swats Lilly's tush back playfully. "Absolutely. Where's your wagon?"

Liliana hops a step, then motions towards the back. "Dis way," she says, grinning. "An' don forget de rules, no?"

"I guess we're lucky here," Amy says. "But tree-farming doesn't work everywhere."

"The rules? Oh – those rules. We're going to be inside a bit, then," Morgan says, his voice trailing off as he follows Lilly.

"Yeah, after a while, everyone just have to leave tree farming," Djivan quips, grinning.

"Vell, a bit, ves. I have someone driving de wagon for me, so… " Liliana says as the two disappear into the background.

Amelia eyes Djivan, then asks Olivia, "So, do you throw a knife at him whenever he does that?"

Olivia fingers the material of her skirt with one hand and grins at the Kadie girl. "I'll probably wear more of this kind of stuff around town, but not so much at work. My aunt would have a fit if she saw me at a loom in something like this! And believe me, you don't want her yelling at you, you could go deaf from all the noise." Then she gestures back at the Eee. "A lot of this was influenced by Liliana's, if you can't tell."

"Tsk! I'm branchin' out! Getting to de root of humor!" Djivan insists. "An no, she does not."

Olivia waggles her eyebrows at Amelia's other question. "Nah, the knives are for protection. I have other ways of keeping this one in line."

"Protection?" Amy asks. "Are things that bad out on the road now? I'm beginning to feel you moved through towns quickly to avoid getting eaten by the locals."

"Did you bring me any presents," Morgan asks as he heads for the wagon.

"A few, ves," Liliana says, grinning, "Dey be a surprise for later… After vou introduce me to vour mother."

Olivia grimaces now. "Yeah, I asked Djivan to teach me how to use throwing knives after I had a sudden attack of otters in one town we stopped in. Thank goodness there were only two of them and I could run faster than they could! But you can't expect to make a clean getaway all the time."

Morgan grimaces. "Ah, mom. Well I'm sure she knows we're an "item" by now, I just haven't heard her say anything." The Kadie quirks a brow. "That could be good, or bad."

"Ah, so you are going to stick with the new look then?" Amy asks the Skeek. "And what will you do with your wagon?"

"I sure I can charm her," Liliana says and waggles her eyebrows. "An I'll like, even vere clothes when ve go! A few, anyway."

"Well my mother does like people to wear clothes," Morgan says. "Maybe if you shared some clothing making techniques, or crafts, or – well anything. I'll explain what'll be best later. DON'T assume she's harmless just because she seems nice; be ready for anything!"

Olivia twitches the reins to prod her lagging animal forward again. "I had thought of parking it near my room and using it to store all of my art supplies and canvases. I could work in there, too, make it into a little studio. That way I won't have to trip over things to find my bed every day! Plus, if my aunt needed anything delivered, I could do it now."

Djivan nudges his wagon again and it rolls along beside Olivia's. "But, vou don' haf de fartin' Rughrat, which is a staple of delivery in vour town," Djiivan points out.

"Now that you're home, I guess you'll want to spend time in your own bed again," Amy notes, adding in a whisper, "and not in those underground houses while we do a bit of exploring?"

"Pish. I just be me. She'll like me!" Liliana insists, then pushes Morgan up into her wagon. "I be good. Mostly."

"Well, I hope it works out. If not, what's a few curses and a life in exile?" Morgan shrugs as if to say "what will be, will be." Then he grins lopsidedly.

Olivia's eyebrows go up. In a whisper of her own, she says, "I have some work to do to get situated at the Weaver's again, yeah. But I might be able to join you later, when I have the chance."

"What dis? Plotting my doom are ya?" Djivan says and looks at Olivia and Amelia through narrowed eyes.

In a louder voice, Olivia remarks to Djivan, "Hey, we'll still need Ducky for the larger deliveries… although it's not usually me who goes on those trips, thank goodness!"

"That depends," Amy tells Djivan. "How long are you folks going to stay? I mean, it doesn't sound like there's much out there for you yet."

"Depends on how long vou let us, really," Djivan notes and shrugs. "Ves, it no like ve made the greates' impression last time," comes another familiar voice, that of Madame Natasha. She walks around one of the wagons and then alongside Amelia.

Olivia's expression brightens even more at seeing the fortune-teller appear beside them and she looks at the older woman fondly. "It's not like that was all your fault," she remarks lightly. "Someone else was really to blame for all that, you know."

"Oh, Madame Natasha!" Amelia nearly yelps, having been surprised by the woman's approach. "You didn't make a bad impression either. And I'm sure the Chalks would let you stay on or near their land, at least."

"Only because dey like the doe dancers, dear," Natasha points out. "Dey told me dey had a few, ah, offers, last time." She then dips her head slightly to Olivia and says, "Vell, still."

"Well, yeah, that would be the main reason," Amelia admits. "But, it's got to be better than traveling around when times are tough. Even if you leave again soon, you should see if you can arrange to winter over in Stonebarrow at least."

"Up to you on how long you stay, really," Olivia replies to Natasha, giving her a non-committal glance (so as not to appear over-eager at the chance of spending a bit more time with the gypsies). "What would you like to do?"

"Be gentle wit him," comes the voice of a male bat lounging on top of Liliana's wagon and dressed just as skimpily as Liliana. Liliana sticks her tongue out at him and pushes Morgan once more into the darkness of the wagon. "Oh, hush vou. Ve did vour family a favor an let vou along, Rey," Liliana says and then calls after Morgan, "Ignore my cousin, he be a pest."

"I can see the resemblance," Morgan can be heard to say before he vanishes in to the wagon.

Natasha considers the question carefully. "Vell, it vould be nice to have a semi-permanent home for a while. And I'm sure some of de tribe may want to stay around for various reasons," she observes, then glances towards Djivan. "Anyvay, ve should get settled before nightfall."

"I'm surprised you were able to keep Gunther from wanting to come along," Amelia tells Zahnrad as the afternoon begins slipping towards evening. The Kadies are walking along the road leading north towards Dr. Pike's castle, alongside the Milk Run River, and both are carrying heavily loaded up packs.

Zahnrad shrugs slightly and shifts the backpack. "I think he's working on some project right now; so he's a bit distracted. I also think he's trying to track down Nene and get revenge for stealing his pants," Zahnrad notes. His tail flicks as he glances around, then comments, "You know, it's nice to walk without limping."

"People steal pants aroun' here? Vell, disbe my kind of place," comes a whispery voice from behind the two. Zahn nearly jumps and drops his pack!

Amy jumps and spins as well, but her weapon is already secured to her pack. "Who… " she starts to say.

"Vou may call me Rey," says the Eee standing a few yards behind them. He's dressed a bit more than he was earlier; now wearing a billowy poet-style shirt, pants that go to his knees, and a wide brimmed hat. He grins fangily at the two and winks one of his glowing red eyes. The resemblance to Liliana is obvious, down to having red dyed black fur. "I hear dat de strange doctor up dis way likes to buy odd stuff from aroun' Sylvania, so I brought some stuff she migh' like. We can always use de extra money."

"Oh, you're… you're not really Lili in disguise, right?" Amelia asks, just to be sure.

Rey saunters up and grins at Amelia. "Van to feel an find out?" he purrs at her. Zahnrad almost puffs up at that. "Now look here, you," he says quickly and takes a step towards him. "Don't even think it." Up close, Amelia can see subtle differences in the Eee's build. He's, well, less curvy for a start, and a little taller.

"I'll take your word for it," Amy says, taking a step back. "And yeah, I hear that Dr. Pike buys stuff from the Oggtons all the time."

"Oh, good. We find lots of weir' stuff on de road. Why, dere was dat one time we found de five headed Rughrat. Wow, dat was strange," Rey notes, then steps away from the two. He shifts a small bag draped on his shoulder and says, "So, I guess it dis way, den?"

Looking to Zahn first, Amy says, "Yeah, this is the way to her place. It's the crumbling castle up ahead."

"Right. A bit ahead," Zahn says, glaring at the bat. "I … guess you can walk with us till we get there. Just keep your hands to yourself." He almost growls.

Rey tries to give them both an innocent smile. "Vhy, I be an angel," he insists and puts a hand over his heart. "Absolutely pure."

"I thought you were related to Lili though?" Amy asks, straight-faced, then turns and continues on up the road.

"She be my cousin. She be de bad one. Really," Rey insists. Unfortunately, that grin doesn't help his story.

Zahnrad just shakes his head and sighs. "Come on, let's get to the knockers," he starts to say and sighs. "I mean, her gate." Rey snickers.

Up ahead, in the fields in front of the castle, a creature perches on a rock. A splash of color, it stands in total contrast to the gloomy environment around it. Dressed in vibrant clothes, with wings the color of a sunset, the thing looks like a gargoyle dressed and painted by gypsies.

"Hey, there's Axel," Amy points out. "HEY AXEL!" she shouts to the bright bird-man.

"What de heck is dat? An ugly statue?" Rey comments as they get closer to it. "A what huh? An axle? Isn't dat part of a wagon?"

Zahnrad squints and says in agreement wit Amelia, "Yes, that's Axel. What the heck is he doing out here?"

Axel stands up on the rock, an action which makes him even more of a contrast to the environment. He seems to have acquired more feathers since the gypsies left town and looks less like a colorful partially plucked chicken. "Hello," he calls out, squinting, " … Amelia, Zahnrad, and … "

"Hello, I be Rey," the Eee comments, peering at the odd figure. "What de heck are vou?" he asks.

"He's always out here," Amelia notes. "He stays with that little antlered shepherd." Louder, she says, "Hi Axel, this is Rey, one of the gypsies."

"Hello Rey, one of the gypsies." With a sudden hunch and then a leap, Axel takes to the sky and glides over to land near the party. He peers at Rey using mostly one eye, telling him, "You look like Liliana." His head cocks the other way so he can peer with his other eye. "I'm posse-" The bird man pauses, apparently aware he shouldn't complete that sentence and yet not witty enough to think of a better way to complete it.

"Has Dr. Pike actually figured out anything about you yet, Axel?" Amelia asks. "We're going to see her now."

"Don' hold dat against me," Rey comments, smirking. "We going up to de doc. I wan' to sell. Dey, vell, I dunno. Maybe dis one need a pregnancy test?" he notes and motions towards Amelia. The fur on Zahn's tail sticks straight out. "She does not," Zahn growls.

"No, she has been very busy, I think. I haven't seen her," Axel answers, the need to answer pulling him out of his sudden can't-think-of-what-to-say freeze. "I'll go with you. Kalvin won't be back for a while. I've been waiting."

Amy snickers at Rey's comment, and marches onward to the broken gate of the castle.

"Oh, lighten up," Rey says grinning and then elbows Zahn. He follows after Amelia. Zahn, meanwhile, glares at Rey and marches right after him, muttering.

The courtyard of Dontgointhe Castle is in its usual state of clutter, but the vegetation is at least standing still. A few knocks of the comically bat-shaped knocker summon Igor, who opens the door and gives the visitors a good looking-over – which is a bit disturbing as his eyes sometimes seem to move independently. "Ah, are you here to thee the Mithtreth then?" he sputters.

"No, we're here to raid the castle and steal all your butter," Zahnrad deadpans. He shakes his head, adding, "Of course we're here to see her."

"Why do we need butter?" Axel asks.

"No much of a doctor if her servan' look like dat, huh?" Rey comments.

"Come in then," Igor says, opening the door the rest of the way and leading them into the museum of weirdness that is the main hall. Small animals rustle and squeak and growl in their cages, and the evil black Creen glares at Rey and Axel in turn.

Rey sticks his tongue out at the Creen. He peers around and comments to Igor. "I like de place. Nice cobwebs and dribbly candles," he notes.

Axel seems particularly interested in the Creen, returning its steady stare with one of his own.

"Thank you," Igor smarms. "It taketh a lot of effort to get them dribbly like that," the Skreek says, then leaves the group to find the Doctor. Amelia unhooks her pack, and peeks into one of the cages to see if the mice have gotten new vests.

Zahn glances at Amelia. "This place is still creepy," he mutters.

Rye sniffs and says, "Is not. I like it." Zahnrad glances over to the bat and comments, "That's because you're a freak."

"What? Freak?" asks a high-pitched voice as Dr. Floribunda Pike enters the room. The Eeee adjusts her thick glasses, and then wipes her hands off on her work smock. "Oh, guests! And… Axel! I have a new test that I need you to do, hold on just a moment!" she says, then vanishes back into the side hall she had first emerged from.

"Hi, uh," Rey says as the Doctor enters, then leaves. He then just blinks. "Wow, she kinda scatterbrained," he comments. Zahnrad just smirks and mutters something like "As are most Eee."

The doctor reappears a moment later, struggling to carry a tall device that seems to be made of interconnected glass pipes filled with colorful fluids. She clears off a table with a sweep of her foot, and sets it down. "Here Axel," she says, offering the crimson-plumed man a long rubber hose. "I just need you to breath in through your nostrils, and exhale out through this hose for a bit."

Axel picks up the tube and looks at it doubtfully. After playing with it a bit, an activity that includes peering in it, lifting it up and down, and then sort of shaking it at nothing in particular, he sticks it in his mouth. After that he seems content to breath and peer at the colorful bits on the device.

"Uh, what exactly is that?" Zahnrad asks and heads over to examine the odd device. "And can I dismantle it and learn how it works?"

Pike bends down to observe the bubbles that rise through the various tubes. "It's an artifact my college roommate left me. She claimed it was for opening your mind to the oneness of being, which is certainly something Axel needs."

"Hey, I should try dat sometime," Rey comments and walks over to peer at the strange device. "I be Rey, by de way," he says to Pike and smiles at her fangily. "I come into town wit de gypsies and heard vou collect strange t'ings."

Dr. Pike looks up at the smiling vampire, and her ears pinken a bit. "Oh… you don't seem… all that strange. Although a pirate traveling with gypsies is certainly unusual… " she babbles.

Axel's breathing seems to heat the water, as the fluid containers steadily begin to radiate heat. Otherwise he just looks very silly.

Amelia covers her mouth to smother a snicker.

Rey removes his hat and shakes out his hair. "Oh, I no pirate I just dress up cause people 'round here prefer clothes, or so I be tol'" he says, then puts his hat on part of the device. "An no, I'm not here for vou to collect." He grins.

Bubbles turn into puffs of colorful steam as they burst from the open tops of some of the pipes. "Oh… well, you should make yourself feel comfortable, certainly," Pike says to Rey, finally standing up to her full height, which isn't very full, really.

As his working the tube continues, Axel discovers he can regulate bubble production by changing his breathing. An almost musical series of bloops, blops, and blorps follows. The whole operation becomes a mix of sound and color – Clashing sound and clashing color.

Rey grins and loosens his shirt. "Vell, maybe a little, den. I don' want to offend," he says then slips the bag off his shoulder. "Ve encounter all sorts of odd t'inks on de road. Like I vas telling dem earlier, ve even saw a five headed Rughrat."

Zahnrad just glances at Amelia. "Uhm, didn't we come here to go cave exploring?" he whispers to her.

"What, all heads on the same neck?" Pike asks, a bit distractedly.

"No, dey were all over it," Rey explains and uses his own body to show various points on his back and chest. "Vas very odd."

Amelia blinks, also a bit distracted by the various spectacles. "Oh, right," she whispers. Aloud, she says, "Dr. Pike, we'd like to continue our… uh… " The Kadie falters a bit, not wanting to explain things in front of the strange gypsy and Axel. It doesn't help that Igor returns at that moment, carrying a large, reptilian head mounted on a plaque, with its teeth bared in a snarl. "Oh Amelia, I have finithed mounting the head of the monthter you dithpatched in the thubterranean tunnelth."

Zahnrad groans when the head is brought in. He then rubs his temples, muttering, "Why couldn't you have lost that thing?" He then seemingly remembers something. "Say, uh, Igor. I was told you worked on me. Uh, what exactly did you do?" he asks nervously.

"Oh, nothing major, Mathter Thahnrad," Igor says, putting the monster head in Axel's lap for the time being. "Jutht thome thewing and a few bone thcrewth here and there."

"You put screws in me?" Zahn says, sounding aghast.

"They were made of bone, nothing to worry about," Igor says reassuringly.

Axel looks down at the head in his lap. Curious, he turns it around with his hands so that the face is staring right back at him. The bubbling suddenly picks up.

"Er, whose bone?" Zahnrad asks, then peers at his arms and legs.

Dr. Pike doesn't notice the increased bubbling, fascinated as she is with Rey's loosening shirt. "All over, you say?" she mutters. Amelia does notice the increase, however, and puts a hand on Zahn's shoulder to try and nudge him back away from the glass device.

"Nobody you'd know," Igor claims. "But I'm pretty thure they were Kadie boneth. I try to make thure thingth match up."

Zahnrad edges slowly away from the machine and Igor now. He also looks a bit ill at the idea of someone else's bone in him. "I think I'm gonna be sick," he says weakly.

"It's just bone, Zahn," Amy says, trying to sound soothing. "We make lots of things out of it… "

Rey eases the shirt the rest of the way off, showing off a stylized pattern of natural black fur and red dye. "Ves, quite. If vou can imagine de heads at the points on dese patterns, vou'd get somewhat of an idea," Rey explains. "Anyvay, ve don't have dat. Vhat ve did bring is in de bag I brought here… "

The bubbling continues to pick up, created not only by Axel's increased breathing but also by the rising temperature of his exhalations. If the head agitates him, his picking it up and shaking it at himself menacingly likely is only making it worse.

Zahn looks at Amelia. "How would you feel if you might have bone bits of one of your brothers in you… ?" he asks.

BLOORP goes the glass pipes. At least the stuffed head doesn't have beady glass eyes (or any eyes to speak of) – but the teeth seem to stare at Axel.

"Well, I did have an accident when I was little," Amelia starts to say, but then the fluid in the pipes reaches critical temperature and erupts upwards like a Technicolor volcano, dousing fur and feathers in hot, colorful goop.

"THE PAIN! THE PAIN! AAAAAAAAAAAUGH!" screams Gaspode the Creen, as he bobs and dances on his perch, clearly amused.

Axel's wings arch up, perhaps in an effort to intimidate the disembodied head back. He's just in time to catch two wings full of colored goo! A ragged wheeze later (and a rude sounding blooorp from a broken vessel) and the bird man falls out of his chair. The jaws of the head dislodge, so that when Axel falls the trophy seems to devour his head.

Much dodging of fluids ensues. While the colored liquids are not painfully hot, they do splatter quite a ways and have tendency to stain. Rey – who is already partially dyed – manages to only get splashed on his pants. Zahn and Amy duck behind their tails instinctively, which intercept the spray. Dr. Pike manages to get a big splash on her head, turning her hair a nice shade of purple. Igor manages to not get touched at all, despite standing perfectly still.

Once the spray is over, Zahnrad is looking at his tail with a forlorn expression. The end of his tail is now primarily blue, with some mottling of purple in it. "This looks awful," he complains.

Amelia checks out her own tail, which sports a long white stripe now. "Well… it isn't that bad, she comments."

Rey breathes a sigh of relief as his fur seems to survive the brunt of the spray, although he now has Technicolor camo pants. He grins, rather amused, and comments to Pike as he reaches over to lift some strands of her purple hair, "Dis isn' a bad look for vou."

"Oh no!" Pike says, and flutters her wings. She pulls a rag out of her smock and kneels down to try and rub the stain out of Rey's pants. "Not a bad… what?" she then asks, looking up and finally noticing a strand of her own hair. "Oh my… "

Axel ends up with pink and white spots all across his wings. It makes the bird-man look like an anthropomorphic rendition of a Gallisian style sunset. An anthropomorphic sunset with a decapitated monster head as a helmet.

"Olivia would have liked this I bet," Amelia says, then notices Axel and goes to rescue her trophy head!

"Eh, don' worry about de pants. No major loss to me," Rey says and smiles down at her. He gets a little of the purple dye on his fingertip and grins. "Dis stuff coul' be … fun."

"Mmmm," Igor says. "Thall I thtart running the bath and get out the laundry barrel, Mithreth?" he asks Dr. Pike.

Zahnrad sighs and shakes his head. "Well, maybe it washes out," he remarks. "And yeah, she probably … " Zahn says, then sees Amelia run after her trophy. "See? I told you not to keep that thing, it's dangerous!" he says loudly.

With a bit of twisting and tugging, Amelia gets the head off of Axel without decapitating the man. "It was just an accident," she says, defending the head and hugging it to her chest. "It's not like it was trying to eat Axel's face."

"Are you sure about that? It might be possessed!" Zahnrad insists.

"But… but… " Pike says, waving her hands about. "Oh… yes… a bath. Good idea, Igor, we should find out if this stuff washes off… "

"Yes, it's possessed," Amy says. "By me. It is my possession! I killed it, I get to keep it," she argues, then glances at Axel to see if he's still alive or not.

Axel looks a little dazed. His eyes are crossed and his feathers are all askew. Testingly, he reaches up and pats his head to assure himself it's still attached to his body. After that he sits up, then waves to Gaspode.

"I help vou clean vour vings if vou like," Rey offers Pike. "I know how hard it is to do dat vourself."

Zahnrad just sighs and shakes his head. "I give up," he mutters.

The black Creen blows a raspberry and laughs maniacally.

"Oh, would you?" Pike says, a bit dazed. "I have a hard time with the brush, and… " the babbling stops as the bat blushes, finally realizing the implications.

"Oh, that reminds me," Amelia says. "Dr. Pike? We brought some supplies for a proper expedition into the tunnels. Is it alright if we borrow your boat?"

"Sure, it no problem," Rey says with a grin, "Plus, I coul' get vou to do mine."

"Isn't your dye more intentional though?" Pike asks the vampire, and waves a hand distractedly towards Amelia. "Oh, sure, just be sure to bring it back… "

"That won' wash out," Rye notes and taps a few dye spots. "It's done by bleaching, den pigmenting de fur. Soap won do anything to it, it only grows out. I can show vou how it done?"

Axel finally stands up and brushes his wings out. This serves to both remove dust and add long streaks of white and pink all across the interior of his wings. "That was exciting," he declares belatedly.

"Thith could take awhile," Igor tells the Kadies and Axel, tilting his head toward the pair of Eeee. "I can thet up a tub out back if you want to wath off though," he offers.

Zahn looks at Amelia. "Say, shouldn't we be waiting for Olivia and Djivan?" he starts to say, then dips his head. "Ah, right, bath before we go. It'll take up some of the time, eh? Heh. Not thinking."

"Wash off?" Axel follows Igor's gaze to his wings, blinks, pokes at his wings, then frowns confusedly. "This isn't my color," he insists, as if reality had gotten his style all wrong.

"Well, you have me curious," Pike says, and then takes off her glasses to wipe off some condensation. "From a purely scientific standpoint, that is."

"We could run back to the hot springs," Amy suggests, then her gaze drifts to Axel again. "Or, just let Axel get in the water first and heat it up a bit for us… "

"I like hot water," Axel remarks as he pokes at his wings some more.

"Of course," Rey says with a nod. "De technique comes from Babel, or so I'm tol'. I bet we coul' find a nice pattern for vou, too." Zahnrad considers, then nods to Amelia, "Let's get Axel to just heat the water. I'd rather not walk all the way back."

"I'll get thingth ready then," Igor says, and shuffles towards one of the halls. "I've only got one rubber ducky though, tho you'll have to thare it."


GMed by BoingDragon & Jared

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Today is 22 days after Candlemass, Year 25 of the Reign of Archelaus the First (6124)