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World of Darkness: The Academy - Chapter 11: Beasty Boys and Girls

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The time at HeartStone had been refreshing for the Daltonites. With their status as heroes and allies, they found that Chideran hospitality was always more than enough to satisfy. Food, drinks, training and information was theirs for the asking. There were other kinds of hospitality, and for those Daltonites so inclined, company at night.

Sean returned from his secret ritual as a full-blooded Chideran, whatever that meant. If nothing else, he seemed more comfortable in his skin – and with Swan. The kiss she’d given him on his return had made their status clear to everyone. Yithaja gave them one night to celebrate with Sean; early the next morning she roused them from bed and started back for DoorHold.

The return trip was just as arduous and dangerous as the trip out, and everyone was relieved when the smoke of the city became clear. They were welcomed back again. It was made clear to them by the Pimszt that they were welcome to stay. It seemed that their choices were limited anyway; the door to Dalton would not open. It seemed that the kids might be in for an extended stay, but the Pimszt had an alternate suggestion; she had the Key to the Beast-Skinned Door. She was honor-bound to give it to only Ravi and Sylvia, but the two could bring others with them, if they wished.

“Let me know what you’d like to do,” the Summer Shadow who led DoorHold told them, her hard body leaning casually against the wall of the longhall.

So what I’d like you to do is sum up what you did while Sean was a-quickening, then add in your PC’s input into what to do next. Those who post by next Sunday get a say in what the group does next.

Because this will be asked, I’ll tell you that it’s my plan for you to go to the Beast-Skinned Lands (as I'm sure you can tell from the title). However, I’ll not force you to do and will roll with wherever you do go.

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Ray had had a certainly worthwhile time in HeartStone. Lianja had proven amenable to repeated visits, which was always a good thing from Ray's male teenager perspective. But his stay had been intellectually stimulating as well. Anxious to understand the basis of his luck-controlling powers, Ray had managed to get access to Chideran lore for an introductory course into magic and other occult matters throughout known worlds. Curiosity was satisfied for a short time, but his questions unremained unanswered.

When asked about the Beast Lands, he had commented, "Why not? If we can find the Beast-Skinned, we may have more allies, and maybe we'll be able to figure out some way to ward off the Caramine." Besides- he wanted to see that world too.

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Lucia had been busy, using the skills she'd honed at Dalton to make friends among the Chiderans and learn what she could of what they knew about the Doors and Ahvia's center-of-everything place. They had a similar legend and Kanva, a Winter Amethyst that had taken a liking to the black-shrouded Daltonite, was more surprised the 'Dalton' didn't. Lucia had given up trying to explain that their world was Earth and that Dalton was a school; she'd also given up saying anything about the flirting. She was just very very careful not to say anything that could be construed as an invitation back to the hut she, Rosa, and Ahvia were sharing. Not after the first disaster.

Rosa, of course, found the whole thing hilarious and had only relented enough let some of the more...insistent...Chiderans assume that she and Lucia were an item. Or the three of them, which would send her off into another fit of giggles.

Lucia frowned at the suggestion of going to the homeworld of FitzCoventry's people. Nice as that might be for him and Sylvia, it didn't get her any closer to her mother and from what Yasu had said she barely had a chance of finding her period. But she also didn't have any other specific place to start looking, so she shrugged. "Allies and information - that's what we need right now. I say we go." She glanced over to the two werepanthers, her lips twitching into a ghost of a smile and added dryly, "That is, if the rest of us are invited along."

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Renata was scarce at Heartstone...at least as far as the other students from her world were concerned. She spent quite a bit of time with one or another Chiderans, but any curiosity was easily sated. Rather than indulging her tastes with the local amazons, she was throwing herself into practicing...one day she'd be sparring unarmed and doing decently, though she was often chided for not being aggressive enough...the next she'd be going along with a hunting party. She didn't have Mari's touch with a bow and arrow, but with some cheating she could make a thrown knife almost as good. Any advances made were deflected, sometimes even with a hint of regret, but firmly all the same.

Beyond that, she saw the others mostly at meals, where she was friendly but a little withdrawn.

The truth was that Renata found the low-tech rough-and-tumble world of the Chiderans appealing on several levels...not just because her attractions were normal among them, but certainly including that. She'd always been someone who liked to be doing things with her body, moving, exercising, fighting, whatever. Back home, people...and she felt especially girls...were pushed in a hundred subtle ways to talk and socialize and rely on everyone else. She felt like she fit in better here than in Dalton. The irony of her feeling this way as compared to Sean, who WAS Chideran...and formerly male to boot...wasn't lost on her.

And yet, every time she thought about staying, a hollow knot formed in her stomach. Did she really want to say goodbye to DVDs and Playstation 3, and Italian food, and...and Mari?

When she thought that, the house of cards came down, and she realized all this was just her trying to get some distance from Mari. From the quandry that Mari represented. From having to see her running around with Ravi. From being reminded all the time of what she didn't, and never could, have.

So she welcomed the trip back. Sure, it wasn't easy, but she'd hadn't wasted her time with the Chiderans. She was actually a little surprised to find how their educational methods...while they'd be amazingly illegal in the United States...DID result in her remembering how to do those little tricks they'd shown her. And she'd been practicing with her weird little gift from the Door too. Keeping the cold away was a breeze now; almost second nature. She didn't even need a coat most of the time.

When the door back home hadn't worked, it had been a stark reminder of one thing they'd left behind. An enemy at their backs.

Pritchard.

She'd said she could temporarily block the door. Looked like she had. Probably anticipating a retaliation for whatever she thought they were going to do over here.

To Yithaja she asked, "What's the 'beast-skinned' world like? They're not ALL manthers, are they?" She caught Mari looking over at her and gave her a crooked grin.

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Yithaja smiled; just as the Daltonites had adjusted to the Chiderans, she'd grown more and more relaxed in their company, and her smiles came often now. "The Beast-Skinned are as different as you and I. Whatever animal they are based upon changes them, as do their internal... factions. It is not like your Juniors and Seniors; more that they all have different outlooks on life." Yithaja shrugged, a muscled brown shoulder rising and falling. "Their world, the one time I was there before my Quickening, was very green. A little cold, but it was early spring, they had said. And this is the door to the Black Cat Beast-Skinned, Ravi and Sylvia's people. You will not find non-panthars there." She snorted in amusement. "Perhaps all you will find is manthers."

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"I'm all for headin' to the Beastlands," Sean agreed with Lucia and Renata. "And not just to learn more 'bout th'Other and find us some allies." She nodded at Ravi and Ms. Dorn and shrugged with an easy smile reminiscent of the old male Sean. "I know you two can can change whenever you want now, but ya should still spend some time with those of yer kind, ta help you deal with what you are now, help with the berserking stuff. It's worked for me."

Her deep blue eyes narrowed, dark, shapely brows lowered musingly. "In fact, if we can, we should visit all the people those of us come from on th'otherside of the Door. Help people learn 'bout themselves." She snorted wryly. "God! That sounded cheesy, but it's true."

Looking at Sean, the others could certainly see some merit to her suggestion. Since her Quickening, Sean carried herself tall and confident, shoulders straight, just as she had as a star athlete back at Dalton. She held herself and moved with the balanced ease of a born warrior, almost like a natural Chideran, no trace of self-consciousness, despite wearing a new set of leathers replacing the mismatched set she had picked up at DoorHold. A gift from a cousin who had nearly exact same build she did, it hugged her athletic and curvy figure like a second skin of shiny deep blue and black.

A new pair of Dragon Claws completed Sean's outfit, all gleaming black steel, save for thin, mirror-bright crescents where the curved blades gracing her knuckles were sharpened to a razor keenness. They seemed natural on her, as if she had practiced with them all her life, as much a part of her as her hands.

A hand resting easily on Swan's hip, Sean found herself surprisingly not disappointed or worried that the Door back home was currently barred. As serious as the circumstances were, traveling on the Otherside was a thrilling adventure, and she believed she'd - they'd - all do better stopping the Caramines here than there. Since her Quickening she was far more comfortable with herself, even Ravi's and Ryan's teasing didn't bother her anymore. Okay, they didn't bother her as much. Nor did letting others know about the growing relationship with Swan, though Vena had certainly helped her overcome any embarrassment she might have had about that. And with the awakening of her Soul Fire, the cold no longer touched her.

"So, in addition to this City-at-the-Center thing, and lining up any allies we can find, Vena also mentioned the truce with the Caramines Dalton made. Maybe we should see if we can find out what he offered, eh? Could be important, help us find an angle on the Caramines."

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The others didn’t seem to have any disagreement with it, so Yithaja prepared them for one more journey. This time, they didn’t have to saddle the smelly beasts they had ridden before, and there was no need for food or tents. The kids kept their winter furs; Yithaja was sure it was spring there and wouldn’t be too cold. “Wet, perhaps,” she said with a smile.

“Spring showers?” Ren asked.

“They have a wet season where much rain falls.” Yithaja smiled at them. “Do not worry. The Beast-Skinned gate is not far from their building.”

“Have you been there?” Ravi asked, his green eyes glinting.

“Oh, yes.” Yithaja laughed. “As a child. I remember black cats with green eyes.”

In short time, they were assembled before the door, their packs filled with supplies and gifts. Yithaja handed Ravi and Sylvia each a set of the Key, then took time to clasp hands with each Daltonite. “Thank you for fighting with me.” Each person was given this greeting with the clasped hands.

Then it was time to go. The hide door was pulled back and Ravi and Sylvia stepped through.

The change in temperature was immediate. The air was muggier and thicker; the heat wasn’t untolerable but the urge to strip off furs was immediate. The two were-panthers were in a semi-wild jungle. It was ‘semi-wild’ because it didn’t feel virgin. It felt managed.

Sean and Swan were next. When they stepped through, Sean felt… strange. She glanced at Swan, who was staring her. “Sean… you are male again!”

Yep… you’re on a low-magic world. Your ‘tells’ are gone again, and Sean, your magical canary, is a boy. Enjoy!

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Ravi had enjoyed his time in the Heartstone, and Doorhold. The Chiderans didn't treat him like a 'man', or a boy for that matter. They treated him like a Beast-Skin, and the young werepanther found the female warriors respect pleasant. He returned it in kind, joining in the sparring sessions and learning the advantages and limitations of his shapes. Strangely, he found he had a gift for combat, which was something he'd not really thought about before. He'd kept himself in good shape mainly as a matter of vanity and pride - not for him the life of a sluggard - and, of course, to support his hitherto primary interest: seducing women. But due to what Yithaja called 'a warriors instinct', he found that he was actually remarkably good at the dance of combat. His balance was perfect, his footing never failed, and his speed and agility in either form was worthy of note. In his two-legged shape, he could dance with a Chideran for awhile, playing keep-away and landing a few hits of his own, though the advantage was usually with the warrior women unless they were very green. As a panther he was on more than equal footing, able to knock Yithaja down with one blow of his soup-plate-sized paw. It was all friendly, however. No claws, no weapons. And if any of Ravi's friends were nervous seeing a huge panther sparring, they quickly grew used to the fact that the young shapeshifter seemed in control of himself.

He'd almost been sorry to leave, but they had a long way to go yet, and more roads to travel. On finding the Door back to Dalton blocked, he hadn't been overly surprised, resignedly agreeing with the others that it was likely Pritchard's work. But at the prospect of going to the Beast Lands he'd brightened up, and the rest of their wait he'd spent pacing excitedly. More of his kind, and answers for questions he had about his nature. And Sylvia's, of course, though she was still an annoyance more often than not. The young werepanther spent most of his time assidiously ignoring her unless circumstance called for direct speech.

He'd clasped hands warmly with Yithaja in parting, giving her a faint grin in response to her direct gaze, then turned and stepped through the Door.

"Not bad." he commented as he looked around at the jungle, breathing in the tropical air. "Feels like India." He glanced at Sylvia as he shucked his fur vest and tucked it into his pack. Under it was a simple white linen shirt that fastened with ties rather than buttons. As an afterthought, he pulled off his boots too, balancing easily on first one foot, then the other, before straightening up once more as Sean and Swan came through the Door behind them. He glanced their way at Swan's exclamation, and laughed.

"Sean, you really need to pick a gender and stick to it." he said with a smirk. "I mean, look at you. You're wearing Chideran warrior leathers - you're crossdressing!" He started laughing again.

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Ray had shucked off the heavy layers of furs back into his pack once the heat became apparent. Now that Swan had given him something else to focus on, Ray sniggered a bit too before observing something else about the group. Lucia wasn't so dark-colored, and so on with much of the rest. He dug out his coin with a sudden burst of intuition and flipped it. It came up tails in his hand.

"Actually, Lucia doesn't look so Goth, too. Given that you guys are back to what you were at home..." Ray's face scrunched up in thought, and then he hit on it. "If I had to guess, there's varying amounts of magic in these other worlds, and much less of it here. Sean probably switches genders when it goes from high to low and vice versa." Suddenly he grinned, "Does that make him our magical boob canary then?"

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Renata gave the Sean crack a chuckle, even if the glance she threw his way was a combination of amused and envious.

She shrugged at Ray's theory. "Seems like it's a bit early to start thinking we know how all this works," she points out. "We've been to exactly two other worlds so far. Maybe there's just something special about Amazonia that changes people. Anyway..."

Having stopped wearing furs and gone back to her school clothes a while back, she seemed no more or less comfortable here than in 'amazonia.' Renata went to the edge of the small clear area around the door and peered through the jungle as best she could...which wasn't very.

"Don't see a town or anything like the Chiderans had. Seems weird they'd just leave their door hanging open for anyone to come through any time."

She looked over at Ravi, the Sylvia. "So where do we go from here?"

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Ryan had been strangely quiet during the trip back. Not withdrawn as such, just quiet. There was little he could say safely, he had promised Becor he would not tell the others and so he had kept his secret to himself. Ms. Dorn knew, or maybe suspected, Ryan had been cagey in answering her questions, and clammed up outright when she pressed him. She knew only what she had seen, and naught else. For Ryan it was hell. He had the coolest trick of them all and he couldn't tell people without making them ask more questions. Questions he couldn't afford to answer.

Once at the door he had been surprised to find that the could not open it back. He felt like he could have maybe figured it out had he been able to watch, but that proved incorrect when the door to the other other world was opened. Maybe once he knew more, but it still seemed like there was more there; Becor told him he would learn to build holes in time. Ryan had laughed at the idea of portable holes, something he recalled from Bugs Bunny when he was a kid, but now it seemed like it could be real. Things were only getting weirder.

The other world all forest and wilds, which made sense after watching Ravi. Thankfully Ryan didn't mind the woods, and he could see far greater in his mind than any of them, even Ravi and Sylvia, could with their eyes. He closed his eyes, it still helped to do so when searching the mental landscape his powers had granted him, and looked for a path, or a village, or any sign of something like civilization.

Perception

[jameson] 1:53 pm: Wits 3 + Composure 2

jameson *rolls* 5d10: 9+7+1+7+1: 25

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For someone travelling to her apparent land of origin, Sylvia had been very quiet. Her infamous glares of disapproval had given way to a more general brooding, a silent wariness peering out from behind green eyes. Even passage through the Door into a humid jungle elicited not excitement but something akin to dread in the were-cat, and even a raised brow and gentle needling from Ravi could not coax her out of it.

Is this really where I'm from? The question had begun nagging at her when she'd first heard of the Beast-Skinned Lands, and had only grown in ominous intensity as the reality of this place drew nearer. And if so, how? She could see in her mind's eye the disapproval of her father once more, and hear the whispers about her from extended family... whispers she'd never been intended to hear, but had caught bits of nonetheless.

He's not my father. She'd known it for years, even though it for years. Now, the proof was more apparent than ever. But the further question was unanswerable: If not, then who is? Who did you meet, mother, on your trip to the Amazon? And was it really the Amazon at all?

With silent dread, Sylvia stalked through the world that might hold the answer. To Renata's question, she barely muttered, "To water, then people" - the surest way to find anyone in any land, no matter how remote - then pushed forward as though that answered everything. If only it did.

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If the others were quiet, whether from nervousness, anticipation, or introspection, Autumn was the opposite. Everything she saw was amazing, and the quiet reserve and distance that marked her time among the Chiderans vanished along with the constant murmuring of voices buzzing in her ears. Once they were through the door, she brightened almost immediately, intense and visible relief washing over her face like a wave across the shore. Her bag was stuffed full of new provisions, graciously allotted by the warrior-women, as well as the leather and fur attire she'd kept, bundled into a tight roll that left the satchel bulging; she felt infinitely more comfortable in hiking boots and jeans, anyway, and when the humidity hit her, she was glad she'd changed. Already, she could feel her hair curling in the moist air and clinging to the back of her neck.

"Ms. Dorn's right," the redhead added, peering wide-eyed up into the canopy and all around. "If we find fresh water, there's bound to be someone nearby." The nature of her thoughts was plain in the rapt, attentive expression she wore as they began to move forward, she with an eager spring in her step echoed by the bouncing copper curls of her ponytail.

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"Okay, question two," Renata posed as she skirted the mossy log of a fallen tree, "This world has an open, unguarded door and hasn't been conquered by the Caramine...so I figure the manthers probably don't like strangers. So are they going to stalk us and try to kill us, and if so...what's the plan? Cuz, this is something I really don't want to have to argue about as it happens, you know?"

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Sylvia stopped dead in her tracks, and turned to face Renata with slit pupils. "Then Mr. FitzCoventry and I look at them with these eyes," she said, raising a hand which suddenly produced wicked claws. "And show them these hands. And if they still feel like attacking, then he and I hold them off while the rest of you run for your lives."

She dropped her hand - without putting away the claws, Renata noted - and turned back to her original heading and pace.

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.

"Sean, you really need to pick a gender and stick to it." he said with a smirk. "I mean, look at you. You're wearing Chideran warrior leathers - you're crossdressing!" He started laughing again.

"Does that make him our magical boob canary then?"

"Shut the fuck up, guys!" Sean cursed in a voice tight and wheezing due to the constriction of leathers not designed for a male figure, sounding deeper than he remembered after spending more than a week with a woman's voice. But through his grimace, the others could see him grin, and laughter coloured his tone as well. "I'm a guy again! A guy! That's all that mat - Jesus Christ! I can barely breath, barely bloody move! Someone help me get these leathers off before they burst or I pass out! Get them off! Get them off!"

Sean began awkwardly unfastening straps and buckles until Swan got over her surprise and helped him. Once free of the leathers, Sean panted in relief, patting himself on the chest and between the legs, finding himself all male again. To the others, he looked just liked he had at the Dalton Academy, face shadowed by several days worth of dark scruff; he could have looked really silly standing there in Chideran undergarments - and truthfully, he did; the loincloth wasn't made for male junk - but his grin was bright and so pleased it was hard to fault him.

"I'm a dude again!" he crowed, picking Swan up by the waist and spinning her around before giving her a kiss. "Isn't awesome, Swan?"

"Very serendipitous," Swan agreed with a smile, kissing him back, though everyone but Sean saw the somewhat reserved light in her eyes. "I am very happy for you, Sean."

The leathers never going to fit regardless of how much they were loosened, Sean was glad he still had a set of his original clothing stuffed at the bottom of his pack. Not even considering who was watching, Sean changed right there into a pair of jeans - giving ample evidence he was fully male once more - a sleeveless, grey-blue shirt, and his hiking boots. Oddly enough, his gleaming black Dragon Claws were still a perfect fit. He stuffed the leathers into his pack, making the pocket bulge.

"Make all the damned jokes you want," Sean challenged. "I'm me again!"

Which was true... and not true. He did feel like he used to, but after acclimatizing to being a leggy, well-endowed woman for over a week - and especially after the Quickening - the lack of weight hanging from his chest was a noticeable absence and his legs felt kinda short and stumpy. And he still felt a great deal the same as he had as a Chideran warrior, the heat of his Soul Fire burning brightly beneath his breast, keeping his passions on a high smolder. Though he didn't like the damp, the heat of the rainforest bothered him no more than the chill of the Chideran winter, and he still moved with a balanced, warrior's grace.

This is so fuckin' unfair! I'm the male me again and I still feel fuckin' odd! Goddammit! Sean missed the considering look Swan gave him, as if she could hear the gist of his thoughts. Then something Ray said made him beetle his dark brows in consternation as he glanced over his shoulder back in the direction of the Door. "This is bullshit! I was just getting used to the tits and everything and now, every time we step through the Door, I gotta worry 'bout if I'm swingin' a pair of chesticles or a pair of testicles? Dammit!"

Still, as he walked along with the others behind Ms. Dorn and Autumn, worries about his flip-flopping gender or no, Sean was obviously in a good mood being a guy again. His hands kept drifting to his crotch - reassuring himself that his manhood was still there - and to his chest, feeling the hard, smooth planes of muscle there, so different from the prominent bulges of firm, yet soft, flesh that had adorn it for a week and more.

"You helped show me the fun there could be as a woman," Sean said, leaning over to whisper in Swan's ear. "I hope I'll get the chance tonight to show you the fun you can have with a guy." Just thinking about it made him painfully hard. He blushed, but his stormy, grey-blue eyes were bright with eagerness.

"Perhaps" Swan hedged, arching a brow. "You will have to shave your whiskers, at least."

"Shave?" Sean ran a hand over his cheeks and lips, feeling the prick of sharp, short stubble. "Oh, yeah, guess I gotta do that again..." He hated shaving, and truthfully, he had found not needing to shave to be one of the biggest benefits of being a Chideran.

When discussion of the possible reception by the natives cropped up, Sean's tempestuous eyes hardened and he held up his own fists, adorned with claws of blackened steel. "Hey! I'll help hold them off until the others get clear too," Sean affirmed, eyes brightening with a competitive light. "Chiderans are tough bitches." He smiled crookedly. "And even with a dick, I guess I am too."

Sean glanced over at Ryan, walking along, following easily despite his eyes being closed. "Hey, dude! You pickin' anything up with your Ry-dar?"

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"Okaaaaayyy," Renata said slowly, "thanks for the answer Professor Creepy..." she noticed Mari's worried expression and hastily added, "I'm sure the Chiderans wouldn't have sent us here if they thought they'd fight us."

Then, remembering what the Chiderans loved most, she amended yet again with, "...or at least they'd have warned us."

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Despite what she had finally learned about her abilities, and despite the gracious hospitality of the Chiderans, Frida had been more than ready to leave the cold, snowy world of warrior women behind. Though she didn't know how much different the Beast-Skinned world would be, and though she had finally started to figure out how to deal with the unwelcome visions, in her mind the Chideran world would always be associate with death. It was a place where she had been forced to suffer the agony of death again and again in her dreams, and she was ready to take her leave of the place. So she anxiously awaited their departure, and once through the door, she laughed softly along with everyone else at Sean's gender-switched antics, and smiled happily as she took in their surroundings. It took some of the others by surprise.. not only had she grown more quiet and reserved than usual during much of their time with the Chiderans, her pale, otherworldly appearance had made it easy to look past her, once you got used to it. It was almost as if she wasn't quite part of that world, and her presence here - her laughter and smile, even the color of her hair and clothes, while still a bit paler than the others - seemed so much brighter, so easy and open.. she seemed alive again, and distinctly un-Frida-like, for anyone other than Ravi.

She was dressed in her original Dalton clothes with Chideran clothing stuffed safely in her pack, for she too had assumed the change in temperature would warrant the shedding of their furs and leathers. She was, instead, back to the simple jeans and soft pink tunic, which she'd had the opportunity to clean while they were at Heartstone. It stood out in the jungle, but at least it was color - wonderful, wonderful color, like everything else around them. She sighed softly, and followed the others, doing her best to keep up with the more athletic Daltonites.

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Sean glanced over at Ryan, walking along, following easily despite his eyes being closed. "Hey, dude! You pickin' anything up with your Ry-dar?"

"Crap." Ryan opened his eyes, he knew where the incoming beast folk were and yet he still couldn't pick them out. "Double crap. Guys, we got sum comp'ny. Tha four legg'd kind. The angry an' big an' manthery four legg'd kind." Ryan swallowed and added, "Oh, an' there's totally a big ol' buildin' 'bout a mile up thataway." His finger pointed with unerring accuracy toward the building he had seen, though it seemed he was pointing at random. "Umm, Ravi? I'ma thinkin' you an' Ms. Dorn might wanna, umm, like, announce yerselfs? Or sumthin'? Cause we're kinda gettin' all surrounded an' stuff."

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Renata looked back at Ryan, startled.

"A mile?" she asked, turning and going up to him to stare incredulously at him. "You can see a mile away with that? Jesus!"

She glanced around at the forest, but aside from resting a hand on the leather tie that bound her throwing ring to her belt, she didn't do anything just then.

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Ravi had at first been lost in the sights, sounds and smells of this place. Is this Home, then? Where we came from? Or is it where we settled? Even the spoor of panthers on the breeze hadn't bothered him - it had seemed natural that his kind live here. But the urgency of Ryan's tone brought the youth back from his woolgathering and to the present, where he was surrounded by and smelling strongly of not only humans, but a Caramine as well.

"Yes, some announcement is in order." he agreed softly, his nostrils flaring slightly as they caught the scents closing around the clearing. Instinct, ever sharp, seemed razor-honed right now as rather than reasoning, he relied on his inner Beast to supply the correct course of action. Stepping forward, he shrugged out of his pack and set it down by his feet, straightened up... and roared.

It was loud, shockingly so when one considered that it came from a human throat. This wasn't Ravi playing with his unusual vocal abilities, such as with the rhynnorm back on the Chideran world. This sound was purely animal, a long rumbling, grumbling roar, rising and falling in it's own particular cadences between proud challenge and a simple announcement of his presence and identity. Here I am, said the roar. Friend, come with friends, and not your prey. The reverberating bestial sound issued forth from the lips of the English lordling for perhaps ten seconds, then fell away into distant echoes, the cacophony of other wildlife temporarily silent in its wake as everything nearby went still, hoping to escape notice.

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"Jesus fuck!" Ryan blurted, his legs already carrying him at a dead run away from Ravi. He'd not been around his freind during the other rampages, or whatever this was going to turn into, and reflex and instinct were going to do their best to make sure he wasn't nearby this time either. Fingers found purchase in the rough bark of a nearby tree, his legs pushed off launching him upward to grab a limb. From there he flipped around and scrambled up and over and around. In a matter of seconds Ryan was thirty feet up crouched on a branch and wondering what would have happened if instinct had tried using his other ninja ability. Instead he looked down from above, thankful that he hadn't ended up only God knows where, with hungry manthers all around. After a moment he realized cats could climb trees. "God dammit."

MEEP!
[jameson] 7:35 pm: 30 ft climb, (-2) Dex + Athletics = 6 dice rote action

jameson *rolls* 6d10: 4+8+7+7+10+3: 39

[Jeremy] 7:35 pm: anyway, Ravi, you singlehandedly detered me from posting in Dalton right now. Congrat.

[jameson] 7:35 pm: re roll 4 fails

jameson *rolls* 4d10: 6+8+1+5: 20

[jameson] 7:35 pm: pop 10

jameson *rolls* 1d10: 5: 5

[Ravi] 7:35 pm: o.O

[jameson] 7:36 pm: 3 sux

[jameson] 7:36 pm: way to go Ravi, now how is Ryan going to get -down-?

[jameson] 7:36 pm: :P

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Lucia started and then did her best to not to laugh as Ryan made like a housecat and scrambled up a tree. She trotted over and held up a hand, "Sorry about that. He's...well, he's FitzCoventry. That seems to be enough." The laugh finally came out and she looked the tree over for some way of getting him down now that she was sans shadow-arms.

"Hmmm....okay, I think it's going to take a few of us to get you down." She held out her arms, grinning at the absurdity of life over the past month. "Unless you want to jump?"

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Renata snapped her gaze over to look narrowly at Ravi, then slowly relaxed as it became apparently he wasn't going to cat-out and maul someone. It wasn't personal (well, not VERY personal)...she'd just seen it happen before, and it was hard to forget.

Lucia's laughter got her attention, and she followed her eyes up the tree to where Ryan cowered.

That got a laugh out of her too.

"You do know manthers probably wouldn't even slow down getting to you up there, right?" she called.

"Anyway, I got you. Just let go of the tree."

(OOC - Renata will, of course, spend some TK mojo to land him safely. Perhaps after letting him fall for just a second...tee hee...)

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With Ryan's warning of the incoming - presumable - manthers, Sean rolled his broad shoulders and shifted over to place himself between the girls in the group and the potentially hostile welcoming committee, though he wasn't sure how well that would work, with them coming from all directions. Not wanting to exacerbate things, he kept his be-spiked knuckles down at his sides, but was poised to bring them up in a second at the first sign of danger.

Ravi's thunderous roar made Sean dodge back and bring up his fists in wary concern that Ravi had just gone berserker-cat again, but it was just Ravi announcing his presence. Turning back to keep his eyes on the trees surrounding us, Sean chuckled at his and Ryan's reaction, then raised a dark brow at Lucia and Renata offering to help Ryan out of the trees.

"Girls, Ryan's a bloody parkour pro," he said wryly. "If he wants outta the tree, he can climb down outta the tree easy enough."

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An answering roar came back, and Ravi and Sylvia understood: Our lands. You are on our lands. We come. It wasn’t exactly a welcome mat, but it didn’t sound immediately hostile either. There was a definite sense that they would be assessed in-person, and shortly.

The panthers appeared like living shadows, as if Lucia had conjured them. But her shadows had never had possessed glittering green eyes. They approached out of the jungle and circled the wary students, bestial and beautiful. Sylvia and Ravi found them familiar as well; an instinctive understanding of kin.

The biggest of them appeared balancing on a thick branch, which put him above them. Merciless emerald eyes glittered down at them as the patriarch of this group assessed them. There was no question that this was the leader: his bearing and his attitude made his rule unquestioned. Then his body rippled and shifted, becoming a man wearing white Sherwani and churidars. The long jacket and tight pants were very Indian in design, adding to Ravi’s assessment of this world. The man wearing them was also very Indian; a shock of black hair framed a nut-brown face with blazing green eyes. The resemblance to Ravi was unmistakable.

For Ravi, the recognition went deeper. “Grandfather?” he asked, his eyes going wide.

“Ravi. What are you doing here? You should be in school.” His grandfather stared at him with grave, green and somewhat disappointed eyes.

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"In... school?" Ravi blinked, his usual aristocratic composure deserting him with the shock of seeing his grandfather here. For a moment he gaped, then his own shocked gaze narrowed into blazing slits. "In school?!" There was the faintest edge of a snarl in the boy's words when he repeated himself. "I was in school, grandfather. I was at Dalton Academy, making friends, getting used to the place, enjoying the car you bought for me - and thank you for that - BUT THEN I TURNED INTO A HUGE. DAMN. PANTHER!"

The snarl was more than a faint edge now as he shouted/roared the last word. Sylvia placed a cautionary hand on his shoulder, but the angry youth shrugged it off and stepped forwards.

"No warning! NONE! I turned into 400lbs of carnivore and killed a man, then rampaged through the campus like - well, there's no other way to describe it - I rampaged like a big hungry predatory cat. I menaced friends - even my girlfriend - then decided that the stables was a all-night buffet. Finally, I woke up miles from the damn academy next to a freezing Colorado stream with a worryingly full belly. Luckily, that was venison, or I'd be considerably more upset right now." he glared at the apparently unmoved werepanther on the branch above him.

"And as if that weren't fun and games enough, there's an evil interdimensional empire called the Caramine who want to conquer Earth using the Doors at Dalton. Turns out most of the senior faculty there are mystical types, not to mention a sizable cross-demographic of the students." he waved a hand back to indicate the others. "Mostly inherited traits, it seems. Fancy that." he summed-up, adding biting sarcasm to his irritated emotional outburst.

"I'm sure father had his reasons not to tell me I might someday turn into a panther. I'm fairly sure he didn't realise that Dalton was a welcome mat for cross-dimensional shenanigans." Ravi went on, calming down now that he'd vented and straightening his shirt before running his hands through his glossy black hair. "But the Caramine are on the warpath, and we're trying to stop them. That's what I'm doing here, grandfather." He grinned engagingly up at the older man on his branch, causing the others to wonder at his mercurial nature. "It's good to see you too, by the way."

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“You were never going to turn, Ravi.” His grandfather looked at him, his face impassive. “You were a shifter null; all the tests confirmed this. We thought – your father and I – you’d grow up to be a normal human. We kept you away from this because you would never have it. And yet… here we are.”

The older man – who looked more like Ravi’s father than grandfather – turned and stepped off the branch. He dropped like a cat, landing lightly on his feet. “I never expected you’d be drawn into the Caramine war, else I would have said something. We thought it a kindness to leave you ignorant of powers you’d never have, abilities you’d never know and a world where you’d be, at best, breeding stock. So before you growl at us, cub, you might wish to get the full story.”

Turning, the elder cat gazed at Sylvia. “You are South American,” he stated after a moment. “I can smell that.”

“Excuse me?” Sylvia asked sharply.

“I meant no offense. I am Amrit FitzCoventry. Please, all of you: friends of Ravi’s are my honored guests.” Two more of the panthers shifted into humans as the remaining three melted back into the woods. Ravi was pleased to see that one was his cousin Lal; the two men were similar in age and mindset. He was less pleased to see Simran, a cousin who he didn’t get along with because she was a stick in the mud. “Shall we go back to the house?”

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"Yes, I think it would be best for us to go somewhere and talk." Sylvia replied, only belatedly sheathing her claws. She sighed, looking around at the students and then back at her... kin.

"And you might say that Ravi is still in school, Mr. FitzCoventry. I am Sylvia Dorn, his teacher at the Dalton Academy. These are my students - and friends," she added, looking at Avhia and Swan. "As you've gathered by now, Dalton isn't all it seemed. We've learned that the hard way."

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Ryan couldn't believe what he was hearing; did they not know that he could probably climb a dozen such trees before any of them could climb even a single one? When the panther turned into a man and the yelling between he and Ravi started Ryan tensed, but soon after he relaxed; this really was where Ravi's family was. He sprung from his perch and descended quickly bounding down from limb to limb and landing lightly on the forest floor. He looked at Renata and Lucia both, especially the older girl, "Jus' cause I act like a goof don' mean I ain't got mad skills." He sidled up behind Ravi again and whispered to his freind, "Ask 'em if they got somethin' ta eat! Like people food I mean, not somethin' I gotta chase down. " He grinned like an idiot, a hungry one at that.

more rolls
[jameson] 11:04 am: climbing

jameson *rolls* 6d10: 10+1+7+2+5+9: 34

[jameson] 11:04 am: rote action

jameson *rolls* 4d10: 10+9+7+8: 34

[jameson] 11:04 am: popping 10s

jameson *rolls* 2d10: 7+1: 8

[jameson] 11:04 am: 5 sux

[jameson] 11:04 am: witness?

[jameson] 11:07 am: anybody?

[Lobby]: Malachite has entered at 11:10 am

[jameson] 11:10 am: hi Mala

[Asarasa] 11:10 am: Heya Mala

[Asarasa] 11:10 am: Witness

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Lucia blinked, then held up her hands in surrender, still grinning. "My mistake."

Behind her, Ahvia watched Ryan's agile antics with dark, curious eyes. She liked Lucia and travelling with her, but Ryan was the first human she'd met that moved like one of her own people; the rest of them were too heavy even though they weren't fat or out of shape. The feather-haired girl's gaze followed the reckless blond all the way to Ravi's side, and flicked over curiously to the strangers. She was hungry too, and the Chiderans ate far too much meat for her tastes. The forest smelled wonderful and she hoped that either they could eat with Ravi's grandfather or take some time to forage for themselves.

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Once the initial shock had worn off, and the uncomfortable (and, she knew, fruitless) urge to reach behind her head for an arrow had disappeared along with Amrit's four-legged companions, Autumn's enthusiasm quickly returned. She could hardly believe that this man was old enough to be Ravi's grandfather; everyone she knew over the age of 50 grumbled and groaned about this aching joint or that one, and here he was, just sort of flowing down from the tree branch overhead as if it was nothing. Spending time with the younger FitzCoventry- from their evening encounter and intense Q&A session at Dalton to idle banter whilst among the Chiderans- had helped ameliorate some of the instinctual fight-or-flight response provoked by the sight of the shadowy felines, and given her a greater appreciation and respect for their capabilities. That didn't mean, of course, that they didn't put her a teensy bit on edge, what with the potential for a mauling by a strange manther.

That thought led unbidden to another, and the redhead felt her stomach churn uneasily as she recalled the overpowering smell of raw meat and rent innards, and the distant sound of Ravi's triumphant roar.

"Food definitely sounds good," she added with a shaky laugh as she wiped the back of her hand over her damp forehead, though in truth it sounded anything but.

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Renata just laughed at Ryan and watched him head over to Ravi; who was quite the manther of the hour, it seemed. Not for the first time, it struck her how much fun it might be to just go from door to door, checking out all the worlds. Dangerous as hell, yeah, but awesome. And you didn't need a degree to do it either.

'Course, that didn't mean you could be dumb either. Huh.

Her musings on the type of educational background required to qualify one as an interdimensional traveler was interrupted by talk of food.

"Food!" she exclaimed. "Hell yes. I'm hungry enough to wrestle down a gazelle, and I'm not even a manther."

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Amrit nodded and led them deeper into the woods, while Lal and Simran moved to the rear to make sure no one fell behind. It may have also been to herd them forward instead of letting them wander elsewhere. At Renata’s exclamation, Lal laughed. He wasn’t as naturally handsome as Ravi, but still not hard to look at with a charming smile. That smile was in full effect as he leaned toward Ren and said, “We’ll not require you to bring down your dinner, unless you’d like to.”

“I’m fine with you doing it,” Mari said quickly, giving him a polite smile. He was clearly related to Ravi and she was eager to make a good impression on his family.

“Good, I like to hunt for pretty girls,” Lal laughed, while Simran rolled her eyes. She made an exasperated noise when he added, “In all meanings of the word.”

The jungle thinned and disappeared, revealing a massive house. The main part was a couple of stories and had a small dome on the roof. The exterior was painted a yellow that somehow worked well for the building, which architectural details were green or a burnt umber color. Well-tended grounds surrounded the house, adding to the pleasing effect. A wing extended off the house to the left, done in a simpler style but still attractive.

Ravi blinked green eyes, his eyebrows rising. “That looks just like the house in India! I haven’t been there since I was a boy, but it’s amazing how similar it is.”

Amrit looked at him and replied, “Ravi, that is the house in India.”

manther-house.jpg

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The house was something, rather elegant and ornate. Ray supposed given what he had learned previously about Ravi's family, it shouldn't be a surprise. Amrit's rejoinder, was. "Wait," he exclaimed as the implications set in... "we're back on Earth? So much for the Door back home acting up." Another thought occurred to him, coming back from his initial reunion with the fellow classmates and Ms Dorn. "What's the date, Earth time? I have a feeling we've got inconvenient questions to face when we return to the Academy."

This was with a questioning glance at Ms. Dorn, the authority figure on whom much (though not all) of the weight would fall on.

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"So the door to Dalton isn't the only door to Earth. How.. fascinating."

She stepped forward, and glanced up at Ravi with a soft smile.

"Your home in India is beautiful, Ravi. I would offer to paint it for you so that you would always be able to look upon it, but it seems as if you can merely step through the door to do so now. But he does raise a legitimate question.. perhaps you could answer it for us, sir? It may be that much more time has passed since we stepped through the door at Dalton than it seemed to us, or it may be much less. After all, the time you spent amongst the Chiderans was but a few days to us in Colorado, Ray."

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The redhead made a non-committal sound, a muffled grunt. They were looking at what was probably one of the most beautiful places she'd ever seen, surrounded by shapeshifters, and all they could think of was to ask what day it was? Autumn shook her head in quiet disbelief; if she was honest with herself, it was difficult for her to care about the answer. Abstractly, she knew that gathering allies was important to help combat the Caramines, but all that seemed so far away when they could walk through a door and end up in an entirely new and different world. The mundane details just seemed so dull in the face of what she was seeing. It was like being asked to write a school report or clean her room on a sunny spring afternoon: a necessary evil, but also an incredibly unappealing one.

Consigning the chatter to background noise, Autumn's feet trudged along with the group on autopilot as she focused on taking it all in: the colors, the sounds, the smells, and the feeling of the thick, heated air.

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Sean's shoulders were tight as he couldn't seem to stop himself from watching the woods. Sure, the manthers remaining were in man - and woman - form, but they hardly seemed less dangerous for it, and there were still at least three others out there he couldn't see. He darted surreptitious glances at the were-panther woman - she was very fit - and giving Swan a sheepish shrug when she caught him doing it.

Swan seemed more at ease, walking easily at his side, and at the very least, Ravi's people didn't appear to be instinctively hostile towards her either. By the time the manor appeared through the trees, Sean was beginning to relax. He whistled, scratching at his scruffy cheek. His mother had a very nice house in Denver, but this place was... palatial. And way too yellow. And in India?! On the other hand, especially compared to the land of the Chiderans they had just left, this place looked way too well tended to be a rustic land.

"No way..." he muttered, looking around, though he couldn't tell if this was someplace in India or not - he'd never been there before, and really, to him, one rainforest looked much the same as any other. He just couldn't believe it - there's no way a family of were-panthers wouldn't be discovered in the real world. Whatever that means now...

Sean slowed to a stop, another thought percolating, if this was in fact somewhere else on Earth. It meant the Door could reach more than one place in the same dimension, which made locking them out of a specific dimension was tougher. It also meant more Keys to remember and carry around,

He leaned over to Swan, dropping his voice. "Uh, Swan, d'you know if the Door can reach more than one specific place on each world?"

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Ahvia spoke up, "My world has two Doors that I know of. There might be others."

"Yeah," Lucia crossed her arms and gave her feathered friend a wry grin. "The one I came through was made for giants. I mean that. It was too large for me to get to the box to get home. If Ahvia hadn't know about a second Door, I would never have been able to make it back to Dalton."

The cinnamon-hued girl gave Lal a speculative look and sidled over to him. "I don't suppose you'd have any baby pictures of FitzCoventry, would you? Or at least something embarrassing? He's been entirely too pleased with himself since....well, ever, I suppose. Besides, my best friend will make the most amusing noises if she has baby pictures to coo over."

Her eyes flicked over to Rosa, who was turning deeper shades of red and doing her best to look like she wasn't avidly listening for Lal's response. Ahvia glanced between her friends and the new strangers and blinked in confusion. "Baby pictures?"

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For no reason at all, something occurred to Autumn as she glanced at Ravi's grandfather. He'd just been a panther a few moments ago, and there he was, dressed as comfortably as if he'd been human when he'd arrived. Turning back to her schoolmate with sea-coloured eyes brimming over with curiosity, she asked the first question that popped into her head.

"Ravi? Do you always have to be naked to change your shape?"

Someone snickered nearby, and she felt her cheeks flush with warmth unrelated to the climate.

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