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World of Darkness: The Academy - Chapter 9: Everyone's Dirty Underwear

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Sunday morning, 5:45 a.m.

Frida’s mural was still on the wall, offering a haunting reminder to anyone who cared to see that something unusual was going on here. It was a well-done mural, at the least.

That wasn’t why Isaac Rotterdown was in the room examining it. His interest was in the supernatural. He’d heard the stories about the painting and had come to see for himself. He’d meant to wait until later today to see it, but he couldn’t sleep. Figuring that he’d take a walk, he decided to swing by the building. To his surprise, it was unlocked and he took advantage of the lapse in security.

Slipping into the room, he left off the lights and used his small LED light on the keychain to illuminate the mural in six-inch circles. More than once, he thought about turning on the light but knew that would draw security. Instead, he forced patience and hoped his light would be sufficient.

The mural was everything he’d been told it was, and Isaac didn’t have a clue about what half of it meant.

There was a whisper of sound behind him; the man turned to see a man with gray skin and wrong eyes – white pupils and irises, black sclera – standing there. He was lean but gave off an aura of power that went beyond the physical. He wore finely-made clothing straight from a Ren-Faire. “This is most unfortunate,” he said, tilting his head. “I believe the current Daltonites say ‘awkward’?”

“Uh,” Isaac said, not sure if he was going to demand that to know what he was doing here or compliment him on the outstanding makeup and contacts. Then something touched the crown of his head and the urge to sleep was overwhelming. He dropped into slumber as a female voice spoke softly: “He’s one of them, too. This is-”

He had some very odd dreams.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

Brihn and Brahn were both waiting for the students and teacher to arrive the next morning. The two looked different today; perhaps they were merely tired. Being early was certainly a contrast to their usual habits of lurking in a dark shadow and then stepping out to scare the crap out of everyone, or at least out of Ryan.

One of the students, Isaac Rotterdown, lay sprawled on one of the tables. “We were not sure what to do with him,” Brihn said apologetically.

“He had already seen me,” Brahn said, his mouth twitching.

Click to reveal..
You arrive in order of posting, please – no posting and saying “But I’m the last there.” If you want to be first-first or last, please say so in the OOC thread and we’ll work it out. smile

The special guest stars will be along soon. wink

Oh, and say hi to Collider! He’ll be joining us. laugh

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Lucia frowned at the unconscious student and the two offworlders, with Rosa and Ahvia sidled up behind her like shadows. "What did you do to him? Will he be alright?" The questions were asked without suspicion, just a need for information.

She frowned more as she leaned over the boy, her arms crossing as she contemplated yet another complication. "Do you know why he was here? None of the students should be out and about this early. Not even track starts their morning run until six thirty."

She checked her watch, "Well, it's too late to move him now. Everyone else should be here in a few minutes; we'll figure it out then."

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Sean strode across the deserted Quad under the grey, pre-dawn light, his hiking pack hitched high on his back and Swan at his side. She was calm, cool, only a slight tenseness to the set of her shoulders, a finger occasionally tugging at the leather belt wrapped around her neck as a makeshift collar. Neither of them were too keen on that.

Despite having gotten little sleep last night, sleeping next to a naked Swan, Sean was energetic and excited. Due to all the sports he played and training he put in, he didn't find it hard to get up at the alarm from his watch. He and Swan even managed to steal a quick shower before leaving Mars House. It was like the coiled expectancy, the drive and potential, that rose inside just before stepping out onto the football field or the boxing ring. Only this time, we're stepping into another world.

Despite all the weirdness and danger surrounding them, Sean was still looking forward to this adventure, well aware of just how stupid this could end up being. There was stubborn desire to face his mother once more. Enough looking through the playbook, let's take the field and see how it goes.

Sean wasn't surprised to find the Art Building unlocked and walked through its silent halls without worry, Swan's steps barely a whisper, his hiking books drawing somewhat louder scuffs. Sean pulled open door to the Mural Room with a sharp yank and stepped inside, Swan following on his heels...

... To find the room already occupied by Brahn, Brihn, three girls - one of which he knew by name, and one he knew by sight - and an unconscious boy laying on a table. Sean had really only been expecting Brahn and Brihn here already, if them.

"Uh... hey, Lucia, heard 'bout Frida's mural and decided to get an early look, eh?" Sean cheerfully commented with what he hoped was a disarming - and honest - smile, pointedly adding the grey-skinned Lhesh to Lucia's 'group'. "Who're your friends?"

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Ravi was out of bed as soon as his alarm went off. Though he liked lounging in bed, curiousity and excitement, together with his newfound preternatural vitality served to fairly catapult the young shapeshifter out of with a bounce in his step.

That was a new development too, he pondered as he pulled on frayed jeans, scuffed tan hiking boots and a sweater. He almost decided on lighter, looser clothing in case he shifted. The shoes in particular were comfortable, well-worn in, and would be a pain to replace if an oversized panther foot ripped them open. At the last moment he decided instead to wear some old sneakers. The pads on his feet were hard enough that even in human form he didn't need boots other than to blend in. So if an accident happened, it wouldn't much matter. And the sneakers could always be discarded if they became an encumberance.

He left his hair loose, running a comb through it before rasping his overnight growth and deciding that he could forgo the usual ritual today. He'd shaved last thing before sleeping, so that would have to do.

Then he sent a brief text to Mari, letting her know he was up and on his way to the Art Building, before slipping out of his door and trotting silently down and out of Lancaster House, then loping easily across the Quad to the appointed meeting place. A number of scents lingered in the entranceway as he stepped in, and Ravi stopped to sample them.

First there was Sean, and Swan. They were the most recent. Then there were three females... one of which he recognised. Unbidden, a slight growl rumbled in his chest. The one that caused darkness. The stupid girl who'd nearly cost him his very sense of self, and thus his life, the other night. Over a dead horse. What the hell was she doing here? Was she in league with Pritchard and the others? If so, Ravi was disinclined to hold back his Beast from acting on it's urges this time.

That effort nearly killed me. I'd have died, clawed to pieces from the inside as my Beast tore free and dissipated. He knew this the way he knew of his other shape. It was there, knowledge in the bone. He swallowed his anger and decided to wait and see. Perhaps she was an ally. Perhaps.

There was another scent, an older one. A male, one he didn't recognise. Worse and worse. More strangers. He followed Sean's trail to the mural room, noting that the others went this way too. As he turned onto the corridor the room was on, he slipped off his sneakers and padded closer on the balls of his bare feet. If Pritchard had her stooges waiting, then Sean and Swan might already be in trouble. Did Ryan get caught? Is this whole thing a trap?

He flattened against the wall outside the room and heard Sean's voice. He sounded cheerful, relaxed, conversational. Ravi uncoiled a little and, sneakers dangling from one hand, pushed open the door and slipped into the room.

"Morning everyone." he said urbanely, green-gold eyes roaming over the three women Her. For certain. Cinnamon skin. Beautiful too. Wonderful... Well, lets get this over with. He locked eyes with Lucia, flanked by her friends, and nodded politely as he stepped towards her, right hand extended and still dangling his sneakers in the left.

"We've not been properly introduced." he began, with a faint smile. "Ravi FitzCoventry."

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Lucia shook the hand an auto-pilot, the hesitation as she looked him over was shorter than from most women, but her tone was friendly. "Lucia Blake....you're the new transfer student, yes? My apologies for the rather strange introduction to the Academy. It seems not the best time to be transferring here."

She glanced around the half-dozen people in the room, "Let's wait until everyone arrives to do all the introductions at once." She frowned at the twins, "Although, I'd have thought you would have reintroduced yourselves by now? And, no, Sean, I didn't know about the mural. Frida painted it? It's incredible."

She glanced at the artwork and then back to aliens. "Brahn? Brihn? What did you do to the boy?"

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"He merely slumbers," Brihn said, giving them a slight, benevolent smile. "I would not hurt one of your students."

"That still leaves the issue of what to do with him," Brahn replied. "I have understood that many would not accept the truth of magic and so forth in this world. Can you convince him to remain quiet?"

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Despite the taxing, confusing events of the previous day, Autumn had easily and readily found herself in the arms of Hypnos that evening. When she awoke, the pale light of dawn had only just begin to creep across the sky, still devoid of the washes of colour that would follow later. She untangled herself with some effort from the bedsheets and, squinting across the room at the vague form of her slumbering roommate, scooped up a bundle resting beside her bed.

She was, implausibly, wide awake. There was no residual sleepiness whatsoever; only a twisting knot of nervousness and anticipation wriggled in her stomach. The marks on her palms itched, and she rubbed her free hand idly over the seam of her lounge pants. After a moment's hesitation at the door, bare feet thumped quietly down the hall as she hurried toward the communal bathroom on Persephone's second floor. This is crazy, this is crazy, this is crazy... Her heart raced as she showered, and even though she knew she wasn't actually doing anything wrong- it wasn't a crime to be up early, after all- the same sort of giddiness she'd felt when she'd defied Yasu had plastered a manic grin on her face that lingered until the strawberry-scented suds of her shampoo dripped into her eyes.

"Shit," Autumn muttered, hissing sharply at the sting and tipping her face up beneath the streaming water. A somewhat more subdued redhead crept back down the hall a few minutes later, still blinking unhappily. Towels and toiletries landed carelessly on her bed, and with a hastily whispered, "Going for a hike, see you later," to Heather, she slung a canvas messenger bag over her shoulder and darted out before the blonde could awaken enough to reply.

She traveled lightly; only a few necessities were jumbled together in her bag, some lip balm and a knife were shoved in her jeans pockets, and an elastic band around her wrist awaited the drying of her still-damp curls. It didn't take her long to find the door Lucia had said would be unlocked, and with a frisson of anticipation, she forged ahead and into the building. A smile brightened her lips and her eyes as she caught sight of Lucia and the other girls, and she lifted her free hand in a friendly wave.

"Hey-" was all she managed before her visual sweep of the room came to a screeching halt at the sight of the twins. "Oh, wow."

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"Oh yes indeed. The mural's very good." Ravi agreed with a smile before moving away from the girl and settling onto a desk, dropping his sneakers on the floor and letting his feet dangle. He felt mild relief at Lucia's apparent failure to recognise him, and perversely a mild annoyance that she'd only given him a once-over in evaluation. Egotist he chuckled to himself, wriggling his toes while listening to the talk regarding the curious student that the twins had knocked out. Perhaps she's good at focusing on the business at hand. Perhaps she bats for the same team as Renata. He heard a step at the door, then Autumn came in, her red hair a splash of colour in the predominantly darker-coloured room, and Ravi's emerald gaze fixed on her in surprise as she stopped dead, looking at the twins. What the hell is she doing here? Someone else who's had a weird experience? Like Lucia?

"They do take getting used to, don't they?" he drawled, a faint smile tugging up one corner of his mouth. "Good morning again, Autumn. If this keeps up I'm going to start getting used to the sight of you first thing in the morning." The half-smile became a wicked grin.

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Ryan rubbed at his eyes and scowled, Fucking Sean. Fucking Dorn. Fucking Six a.m. He didn't add Ravi to his mental scorn list because he doubted the boy even knew that six a.m. existed. Ryan jogged, and climbed, and jumped, and rolled, and by the time he got to where he was going to was nicely stretched out and mostly awake. "Fucking six a.m.," he grumbled.

As he got closer he could "see" multiple people inside. He was pretty sure he recognized Sean and Ravi. He was certain one was Bran, which made him smile because he alone knew the shitstorm he'd stirred up the night before, and watching it unfold was going to be hilarious. Granted, Ryan wanted answers too, and this seemed as good a way as any to salvage getting caught last night, but he knew with capricious glee that shit was going to go down in a messy way.

He pushed the doors to the art room open and verified that he had been right about Sean, Ravi, and Bran, but there were others he didn't recognize at all. A gaggle of girls and a boy laid out on a table before Bran and Brin like some kind of offering. "Morning freaks and freakettes!" Ryan did his best to sound far more cheery than he felt, "Lovely day for some learning right?"

Ravi and Sean immediately knew something was up.

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Rugged footware, check. Rugged clothing, check. Durable coat, check. Pocketknife, check. Full canteen, check.

The educator hefted a small backpack. Spare clothes for when I ruin mine if I turn into a damned monster again, check.

She sighed, settled the pack into position, then turned for the door. Catching sight of herself in the mirror, she stopped for a moment. I've done this before, she thought for a moment, the reflection reinforcing the nagging feeling of deja vu. And courtesy of Pritchard, I wouldn't remember if I did. She scowled; the administrator's act of mental thievery rankled her to the core. Scowl still in place, she set out for the art room.

It was in this state that she arrived to find one of her students - Issac Rotterdown, who tended toward day-dreaming and doodling in her classes - sprawled out on a table, with Brihn and Brahn standing nearby. The scowl shifted to immediate concern, and Sylvia hurried across the classroom to the unconscious boy's side. A quick check found both breath and pulse, and she turned to look at the rest of those gathered.

"What happened here?"

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Mari was tired. She had spent a restless night tangling herself in her sheets, burying her head into the pillow, and staring up at the ceiling of her room. The fire Ravi had ignited in her burned long and burned bright. In the early morning hours, Mari had finally given up on trying to get some sleep. Careful not to wake her roommate, she had stealthily stripped out of her Boricua Soy night shirt and into the same tee shirt Ravi’s hands had been exploring just hours ago. The whisper slide of her windbreaker pants travelling up her hips made her pause and hold her breath, but Rachel’s gentle snoring had gone unbroken. She had stolen out of her room like a thief in the night, slipping out of Landcaster unseen and into the cold and still dark morning.

The run had refreshed her. The wet grass smell of the athletic field filled her lungs, her feet pounded the hard packed earth, and the sharp brisk air stung her eyes. The vast emptiness of that lonely field had been strangely reassuring. It was like having the whole world laid out before her. Anything seemed possible.

Her second wind had not survived the shower. The steamy hot water had left Mari feeling a pleasant and heavy drowsiness. Combined with the blissful languor of her post-run ache, it was all Mari could do get dressed and drag herself to the Arts Building where the other students waited.

****

“Hey,” Mari offered timidly as she slipped into the room. She was dressed for mass, in a light brown corduroy skirt, a black sweater worn over a white blouse, white knee-socks and Mary Janes. Her glossy chocolate colored hair had been pulled into a long pony tail. It made her look every bit a freshman.

Mari’s eyes swept over the assembled teens. She broke into a tired smile and started toward Ravi, but she was stopped half-way to him by the sight of Isaac’s body stretched out across the table. “What’s going on?” Mari echoed Ms. Dorn in a frightened tone.

__________________

Height: 5'1", Weight: 102 lbs, Hair: Dark brown, Eyes: Hazel, Striking looks 4, Dexterity 4, Presence 4

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Lucia waved at Brihn, "Apparently he was in here when they arrived; she put him to sleep. It may just be coincidence or his curiosity about the mural, but with everything else going on I think it might be best to wait for him to wake up and find out." She gave Autumn a friendly smile and nod, one brow arched at the comment from Ravi.

Like the others, she and the girls with her were dressed for time outdoors, with backpacks stacked next to the door and filled with essentials for time away from what most of them considered "civilization". Ahvia had one of her new head scarves tucked over her "hair"; she looked more human than the twins, though she still stood out. Lucia glanced over the current attendees, "So, we're still missing a number of people, assuming that everyone that had their memories wiped is still involved."

"Who else is coming?"

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Ravi smiled at Mari as she entered, moving aside on the desk to let her sit once she'd recovered from the shock of seeing the comatose student, then fixed Ryan with a steady gaze.

"Never thought you to be someone excited about learning... or teaching. Especially this early." he said conversationally, but his eyes were pure hard emerald. "What you've found out must be something quite special." he suggested, his gaze not wavering one iota from his friend's.

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Frida rose and dressed herself, a little later than she had intended. At a loss for very practical clothing - since mountain hiking wasn't really part of her normal activity list - she settled on a pair of 1970's bell-bottom jeans passed on to her when her mother had found them in an old trunk, and another one of her loose cotton painters tunics - this one a soft, faded pink. She slipped on a pair of hiking boots that she hadn't worn in quite some time, not since her father had brought them for her for when they'd visited Greece. It was an awfully mountainous region, he'd told her, and if she wanted to climb up to all those ruins to paint them she would need to be wearing practical shoes. At least the rocky terrain of Delphi had helped her break them in, she mulled quietly.

She emptied out her canvas art sack - chosen for practicality, so that it could be washed whenever she had problems with leaking tubes of paint or pastel dust - and after a brief moment or two of consideration, packed it with some extra clothes, her travel sketchbook and pencil case, and a couple of water bottles and some of her favorite teas and granola bars. (When you were working on a very detailed painting, you could only forget to eat or drink for so long, after all). Having no roommate to worry about, she was able to do so without fear of waking anyone, and once she was done she hurried down towards the art room to meet the others.

She stepped not too far after Mari and Ryan quietly, and started to force a small smile at Ravi so he wouldn't be too worried about her. But he seemed otherwise occupied, and so the smile faded on her lips, and she leaned up against a wall unobtrusively. There seemed to be a lot of commotion going on, and as usual, she settle against the wall and observe.

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"Morning," Autumn replied to the green-eyed lordling with a reflexively easy smile, the fluttering of her pulse in response to his implication enough to distract her momentarily from the grey-skinned pair lingering nearby. She noted the unconscious male form on the table, and, following Lucia's reassurance of his well-being, gauged the slow rise and fall of his chest for herself before taking another look around the room.

Lucia, Rosa, and Ahvia were familiar, even if only marginally and only by virtue of their encounter the previous day. Ravi she recognized easily, and without thinking folded her arms across her chest as the pink of her freshly scrubbed cheeks deepened slightly. The others, though... The creepy, ashen man and woman. The robust, fit-looking guy with gorgeous stormy eyes and dark hair, and the pale, strange woman who came with him. The wiry boy with hair that looked as if it'd never known a comb and an aura of barely-contained energy, like a coiled spring. The slightly older woman, purposeful and authoritative, who couldn't be a student; staff maybe, or someone from off-campus? The startlingly pretty girl with huge hazel eyes who looked far too young to enroll. The pale, fragile-looking girl who held back quietly, watching. Then, of course, there was the mural, haunting and fascinating, looming in the background like another person, another presence in the room. Suppressing a shiver, Autumn glanced furtively away from the painting.

Strange as some of these people looked, they all seemed to know each other. No one was freaking out, or staring, and she wondered again, for the nth time in two days, what she was getting herself into that things like this were relatively commonplace.

"So," she announced with a smile and a sudden half-wave. "I'm Autumn, since I haven't run into most of you guys yet. I, uh, just transferred here. Lucky me, right?" Her shoulders twitched in something like a shrug, and her smile took on a rueful little twist as she pulled her hair forward over one shoulder. It felt like the weirdest AA meeting imaginable. Abruptly, she turned to Lucia, frowning.

"Are these guys all okay to talk to? After yesterday, I mean."

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Lucia frowned slightly. "I think it should be, but let's wait until everyone's here and I'll catch them up with everything just to be sure. He didn't make me swear for whatever reason, so you and Rosa should be covered once I tell them." She worried at her watch and sighed, "Somehow I think we're all going to end with more questions than answers after all of this."

"Is anyone else coming?" she asked the room, clearly ready to be moving on to doing something. "Oh! Brihn, you put him to sleep. Can you just wake him up, or do we have to wait for whatever it was to wear off?"

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As if on cue, the door opened and Renata came in. All that was missing was the laugh track. Her hair was still lank and wet around her face, and her eyes were half-lidded in protest against being open this early. She had a knapsack slung over her shoulder, and a steaming paper cup with a plastic lid in her other hand. Her clothes weren't far different than usual...a white T-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers. To that she added a black leather jacket now.

"Hey," she said, nodding her head as she came in. Then she stood stock still as it hit her that there were too many people here. "Uh...did I miss a memo or something? Are we recruiting?"

Her gaze lingered on Lucia as she went over to stand by Mari, then she took in the other newcomers as well.

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“Hi, I’m Mari.” The slender little teen answered Autumn’s introduction with shy politeness. She offered a timid, friendly smile that included Lucia, Rosa and Ahvia, and lifted her hand into a quick wave. Half a second later she had turned to Renata to whisper urgently, “How come everyone’s dressed for a camping trip? Are we supposed to go try the door thing now? Right now?” she asked nervously, “No one told me...did they?”

She glanced at Ravi, seated beside her on the desk and her voice dipped even lower, so that he and Renata both had to lean toward her to hear her say, “I didn’t bring anything. I was gonna go to mass right after this.”

__________________

Height: 5'1", Weight: 102 lbs, Hair: Dark brown, Eyes: Hazel, Striking looks 4, Dexterity 4, Presence 4

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"Not that I know of," Sean said wryly in response to Renata and Lucia. "I know barely more than half of who's already here, and was expectin' less than that to show up this morning. But it's done, so we keep moving on, eh? Hope this doesn't make the trip rougher on the other side of the Door. The Chiderans might think our... er, expedition is somethin' more than it is."

He almost missed Frida standing circumspectly against the wall, and gave her a nod and an encouraging smile - she was weird, but he was still glad she was here - before turning to the new, cute red-head. He did have a thing for red-heads. "Figures you'd meet Ravi first," Sean commented with a hint of self-deprecation.

"I'm Sean and this is Swan, one of the, uh, er foreign... 'students'? Screw it, she's from the 'other side,'" Sean said by way of introduction, tilting his head at the former Caramine before holding out his hand to give Autumn a handshake. Swan gave her a reserved nod and followed suit. "I'm new too, only been here for a couple of weeks, since the start of the school year. New to livin' in the US too. Sorry if all this... stuff got sprung on you in surprise - it happened to all of us too. Never figured private school would be like this, eh?"

As much as he wanted to politely keep his attention on Autumn, Sean's eyes kept straying back to Ryan and his cloyingly forced cheer. How he possibly thought he looked in any way innocent was beyond him. He should have demanded to know what they hell he was up to when he called last night, but he had been... distracted. He blue-grey eyes darted down at Swan before he leveled them on Ryan again.

"So... you ninja your way into findin' anything out, dude? And how much are we gonna regret it?"

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"It must have slipped your mind." Ravi murmured softly to Mari, with a wry smile that caused the sweet-faced teen to blush rose-red as she imagined why she would have forgotten. "We discussed meeting up and heading out in this room yesterday, and it had to be early because we didn't want Pritchard and Co. to interfere." He shifted his gaze to Renata, his voice still pitched low.

"These others... I can only guess they're other Dalton people who've had strange experiences. Or are a little strange themselves." he added mildly, glancing Lucia's way for a second for Ren and Mari's benefit before straightening up a little and adding in a more normal tone "And as for the sleeping beauty, he snuck in here, I assume to see the mural, and Brahn made him sleep. Now we're trying to decide who gets to eat him." The last was added in a dry, offhand tone, the gorgeous features impassive for a moment, then one green eye winked before the tall aristocrat slid off the desk and, with a murmured reassurance to Mari that he'd be back, padded silently on bare feet over to Ryan.

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Still less than amused about the situation with Isaac, Sylvia took in the newcomers, her eyes settling on Autumn.

"Autumn... Autumn Keane? I believe I saw your transcripts cross my desk. I'm Sylvia Dorn, Den Mother for House Lancaster and instructor in a half-dozen different courses here at Dalton." She looked around and sighed before returning her gaze to Autumn. "And apparently the faculty sponsor for the newly reformed Young Adventurer's Club. What brings you to our little outing?"

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Originally Posted By: Sean Cassidy
"So... you ninja your way into findin' anything out, dude? And how much are we gonna regret it?"

Ryan smiled, "Prolly a lot, but I wasn't really in a bargainin' position, 'kay?" Ryan scowled at Ravi as he sidled up beside them, "Welcome back. Ya know, people say I have trouble payin' attention, but they never saw you when she was in the room." Sean snickered and Ryan laughed at Ravi.

"I am indefensible, nor would I wish to be." His self satisfaction made the other two stop laughing and frown.

"OK serious time." Ryan peered around the room quickly and assured himself that Brahn was nowhere nearby. Leaning in close to the other two he whispered, "I have think that voodoo doll might not have been Pritchard's." The other two gave him questioning glances, "I wasn't the one who found it in her office, Bran was. I think he planted it. I think he was using me, but I don't know why. Or why he wanted to get access to you."

"Are you sure?" Sean whispered, casting a glance at Brahn.

"Sure enough. Listen; I need you guys to help me make sure they don' try an slip out." Ryan stuck a finger at Ravi and poked his chest, "An' I need you to not freak out in like five minutes."

Ravi quirked a brow, "Why would I freak out?"

"'Cause I don' think you'll be all warm an' fuzzy about my special guest speakers, an' I want to make sure you don' get warm an' fuzzy; if ya know what I mean." Ravi narrowed his eyes. "Givin' you a warnin' here 'cause I don' know who we can trust, so I'm putting the snake an' the goose into the same room an' seein' what happens, aight?"

"Goose?" Sean asked quietly.

"Mongoose. They are made to fight cobras in India for sport." Ravi looked at Ryan, his unhappiness evident, "Pritchard is coming here isn't she?" Ryan nodded. He growled.

"Chillax, I was all cornered, an' I thought I was all square an' then, boom, six fucking a.m. So I ... kinda panicked an' figured I'd force the issue. 'Cause like, if we can't trust old Bran-flake and we go over there, then who? The fuck. Knows what kinda shit we're steppin' in? So yeah. I fuckin' invited Bitchard, and Corpse-boy, and motherfuckin' Morgan Freeman, an' a box of damned donuts, I hope, to come to this little shindig. 'Cause I'd rather this shit get real right here than in some alien motherfuckin' shit. 'Kay? 'Kay, thanks, bai." Sean and Ravi both opened their mouths to speak but Ryan added, "If ya, don' like it, an' it turns out like dogshit, then next time mebbe you can gimme some backup. Today though, today we get some info from the source."

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Cat-like but for the pupils, Ravi's eyes scrutinised Ryan for a long moment before he nodded slowly and glanced at Sean. He appeared to be thinking something over before he spoke in a low voice.

"You and Ryan watch the wonder twins, and I watch Pritchard?" he offered the powerful jock. Sean blinked in surprise, and Ryan started to say that he didn't think it a good idea, but Ravi held up a manicured hand halfway to forestall them.

"I don't like Pritchard, but if Brahn's got claws into me then he won't be too bothered that I'm watching him. Pritchard, on the other hand, has seen me up close and probably wouldn't care to do so again. I'll be staring at her the entire time, and she's smart enough to surmise that if I even see her twitch wrong it's all over." The hard look in the jade eyes stated louder than words that Pritchard wouldn't be far wrong. "Brahn thinks we're on his side for now, so you gents stand with him and Brihn and Swan like you're protecting the aliens from the big bad witch." Ravi looked each of the other two friends in the eye. "Sound reasonable?"

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“He will wake up when he does,” Brihn said, smiling at the boy. “I have released him from slumber; when he awakens is up to him.”

There was no time for the three boys to verbalize their agreement. The sound of heeled shoes was the only warning before Pritchard opened the door. The older woman’s eyes were already narrowed; her chin was set forward and though she was dressed in a sharp business suit, she seemed ready for war. She hesitated only a moment when she saw the Lhesk, her lips tightening further before she walked into the room like she owed it. A paper bag dangled from one hand.

Behind her were two security guards. The men were not quite right; they were too stiff and their faces were oddly blank. Their name tags said ‘Mann’ and ‘Body’.

Boxter was next, his dark skin a sharp contrast to Pritchard’s pale skin. He was easily recognizable as the school’s music teacher to anyone who’d had him in class. He gave Sylvia a nod when he saw her. He came alone, his suit the same tweed jacket and pants he always wore. He seemed tired today, probably from the early hour. Even his bowtie wasn’t as jaunty as normal.

Last was Reaver, dressed in a long, black coat over black slacks and a white shirt. His dry-looking shoulder-length hair hung loose around his gray-hued face. He moved to flank Pritchard on the other side, looking remarkably at ease.

“What is this?” Brahn asked, as Brihn quickly stepped backwards, toward the shadows.

Swan clamped down on Sean’s arm, her fingers going gray from the pressure of her grip.

“I might ask the same thing. Mr. Jackson, you have mislead us.” Pritchard tossed the bag to the table and turned. “We are through here.”

Click to reveal..
If your composure is 2 or less, you are in awe of Pritchard. Generally, she seems incredibly foreboding to you. If it is 3 or higher, you are unaffected.

There are two ghosts accompanying them; you can only see them if you have the ability to see the dead (and you know if you do).

If you have heightened hearing, you’ll be able to hear a low hum coming from Boxter when you’re within 3 feet of him.

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Ryan swallowed hard, Pritchard looked even more bitchy than normal. Ryan rarely let little things like people being mad stop him though. With a smile, he shouted, "Woah! Woah. Woah, woah, woah! Hold on!" Ryan dashed out into the middle of the room. "Are those my donuts?" He grabbed the bag and peered inside. "These. Are not. Donuts." Looking up at Pitchard he frowned, "Looks like breakfast is deception with ... ugh! Fat-free cream cheese? Weak." Inside he was worried. Worried what the faculty would do, worried what Brahn would do, worried what the other students would do. He hoped, wished, needed Brahn and Brin to remain. Likewise he needed the faculty to remain.

He looked from the bag back to Pritchard, "I never said that Bran wouldn' be here. I only asked that you come, an' I did that cause otherwise we're all goin' on a hike through that damned door. An as you pointed out we don' know crap." Ryan jerked a thumb at Brahn and Brihn, "You said we shouldn' hang with them. You want that? You explain to everybody here why, an' let them make up their own minds. I don' control them, I don' make choices for them."

Ryan spun and stabbed an accusing finger at Brahn, "An' you, tell me, where did that really get that, umm, that fetish doll thing of Ravi? 'Cause she says it wasn't hers, or umm, I mean, she said she didn' make it either." He looked between the two of them, "One of you is lyin' an' I think it's time to find out which."

Click to reveal..

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Renata was on her feet, instinctively moving between the three and Mari, her eyes moving between Pritchard, the dead guy, and...

"Mr Boxter?!" she blurted, flabbergasted. "What are you...what are ANY of you doing here?"

She looked over at where Ravi, Sean and Ryan had been conferring and put two and twenty-thousand together. Even as Ryan was trying to explain himself to Pritchard, she pointed and demanded, "Did you guys know about this?!"

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"Hold on." Lucia held her hands up, frowning at everyone in the room now. "What's going on? Ryan? Why would you bring her here? Isn't she the one that took away everyone's memories?"

Something clicked in her head, and she stepped up to the councilwoman. "Wait...you're the reason my mother never got my letter." Brihn and Brahn suddenly found it far easier to sink into the growing shadows of the room. "You're the reason she ran off to wherever looking for me. You're the reason she's gone."

Even Pritchard's own shadow was taking Lucia's side, turning somehow a darker shade of black and twitching with anger against her prim heels. "Tell me everything you know, or so help me-"

"Lucia!" Ahvia's tugged on her friend's arm, saying something quickly in her own language.

Lucia jerked away, her eyes still on Pritchard, "She has to know something!"

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All it had taken for hell to break loose was for Pritchard and her entourage to step into the room. Frida had been briefly surprised at the sight of the music teacher, Mr. Boxter. She knew him well - almost as well as Mr. Bracks. She was one of his prize pupils in orchestra, even though he bemoaned the knowledge that her heart was never as truly in her music as it was in her paintings.. that and the fact that she sometimes left paint smudges on her violin bow. He was forever on her about cleaning it.

But she hadn't had time for her surprise to sink in before the room burst into chaos. Ryan started going on about breakfast, Renata started freaking out about the company, and Lucia started throwing accusations. Any minute now, Ravi would probably transform into a panther and try to maul someone who was making him angry, destroying another $75 designer t-shirt in the process.. and who only knew who else here was capable of doing what?

So Frida - quiet, unobtrusive, artistic, creepy Frida - grabbed ahold of one of the massively thick Art History book sitting on the shelf behind her. Then she stepped behind the teacher's podium - onto a small stool that was reserved for hanging some of the student's artwork higher on the walls that most people could reach - and slammed the book down as hard as she could.

*WHAM*

"Now listen up! I don't care who's angry at whom! I don't care who doesn't trust whom! I don't care what you want to do about it, or who knew this was happening, or who didn't! And I don't care if we're having stale crackers and paint thinner for breakfast!!! We're all here - in a room TOGETHER - for the first and probably ONLY time! And we're all going to sit, or stand, like civilized -"

She paused briefly, her eyes flickering to Brahn and Brihn, then to Swan, then to the strange-looking girl at Lucia's side, then to the ghosts, before moving back around the crowd and continuing, correcting her error before making it.

"-whatever we are, and talk about this!!"

Her eyes flickered to the two ghosts standing behind Reaver, and she suppressed her flicker of fear with a clench of her jaw.

"And if you two are going to be here too, then don't just stand there looking creepy - close the damned doors!"

Frida saw a very brief but slightly amused expression flicker across the ghostly face of the very spirit she'd been communicating with yesterday - that of Sherry Bolling. Frida felt a momentary pang of relief at knowing she hadn't, somehow, destroyed the spirit girl. And then, behind Reaver and the others, the doors suddenly slammed shut.

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Sean's face darkened when Ryan informed him and Ravi of his surprise guests, his knuckles cracking as his hands tightened into a pair of large fists. "Dude! What the fuck?! Swan's here, if Bit-"

But he got no further as Pritchard herself walked in, backed by a pair of her goons - Golems? - and flanked by who he assumed was Reaver, based on heard comments, and a black guy who he thought was a professor, but he didn't know for which class. He doesn't look a thing like Morgan Freeman.

Sean tensed, backing up a step, seeing Pritchard's foreboding, arrogant hauteur. She knows a lot more than we do, and now it's gonna cost us...

And all hell broke loose.

Ryan was spinning his justifications for all he was worth - and still worried about donuts?! - Renata talking right over him. Swan's hand closed down on his arm, terror lending her surprising strength, and Sean moved in front of her, hands starting to come up as he shifted them slightly towards a corner of a room so he could keep both Pritchard-and-Company and the Lheskii Twins in sight, Ryan's rambling raising concerns about the grey-skinned duo.

And now the Student Council President was matching Pritchard bitch for bitch as the room began to darken ominously. It was all coming apart and Sean was debating just leaving with Swan before anybody thought to stop them when Frida dropped the book on the proceedings.

Literally.

*WHAM*

Sean stopped in his tracks, staring at the eccentric artist in complete shock as she spouted her sharp worded tirade, punctuated by the doors slamming close under their own power. What. The. Fuck!

Sean rolled his thick shoulders, then stepped back, though his hands were still fisted at his side. He looked over to give Swan a reassuring nod, then faced room again.

"We'll stay, we'll talk, but if she or her goons make one move for Swan," Sean pointed an accusing finger at Pritchard, then swung it at Brahn and Brihn, "or you too for that matter, then it's all off."

He folded his muscular arms across his thick chest, dark brows low over his tempestuous eyes. "And how 'bout everybody stop with the bloody magic or voodoo or whatever before this degenerates even more into a shitstorm, eh? Some of us can't do shit like that and it's makin' us antsy. It is me, anyway."

His handsome jaw was tight, a muscle in his cheek twitching as he ground his teeth. "Now, who's gonna admit to fuckin' with our memories?"

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"I have to admit, this is more entertaining than a meeting where everyone knows who's coming." Ravi said to Ryan with a smile as he moved back to stand beside Mari and Ren. Ryan scowled at him, and Ravi shrugged. To the others, he seemed to be making deliberate, measured movements as though if he moved too fast, something would snap. He smiled briefly at Frida. "Thank you." he said simply.

"Sean and I just found out about this. But lets see where it takes us before we turn on him." he confided quietly to Ren, then leaned back against the desk, addressing the faculty and the Lhesk in a strong voice that had obviously had a little practice at public speaking.

"Each of you is claiming the other isn't trustworthy. Here and now, we" and his hand swept over the students and Sylvia "are going to decide who we can trust for ourselves. Both of you, Lheskian and faculty, are asked to stay, to confront each other with your accusations in front of us." He looked at Pritchard and Reaver. "If you don't - if you turn and leave because you can't look in the face of the person you're maligning - then that doesn't speak highly of your reliability." He looked at Brahn and Brihn. "Same goes for you two. Someone is lying about the effigy that has been made of me. You skip out now, and it's not unfair to say that the finger will be left pointing at you."

"Now, let's all relax-" he looked at Lucia directly as he said 'relax', then let his emerald gaze sweep over everyone present "-and discuss this without spells, powers, threats, lies, and attitude. Points will be awarded for frankness and unpatronising honesty." He smiled again, a thin taut expression that betrayed some inner struggle.

Click to reveal..

Presence and Persuasion roll

1d10=9, 1d10=5, 1d10=5, 1d10=4, 1d10=10, 1d10=3

poppin' 10

1d10=9

3 succs

Edit: Oops! Forgot Striking Looks and stuff.

Striking Looks roll

1d10=1, 1d10=9

+1 Succ

Sexual Dimorphism (Supah kitteh pheromones for Ladies only!)

1d10=10, 1d10=3

poppin' 10

1d10=6

+1 succ

4 succs

5 succs for females

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Between Frida and Ravi, there was at least a momentary calm within the room. And a welcome calm it was; Sylvia's ears were ringing from the shouting and then the slammed book. She'd started moving - with as much calm as possible - over toward the third member of the new arrivals, more than a little surprised at his presence amongst them.

As the noise died down, however, she heard something else. Something... different. Something that came from an entirely unexpected source.

Her head cocked just a touch as her eyes met his, and a careful observer might have noticed a slight twitch of one ear.

Finally, she asked in a quiet voice, "Amos, how long have you been involved in all this? And what's that hum?"

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The painting had transfixed Isaac from the first day that he saw it, and for some reason he could not explain, this morning he had been drawn to it once again. He had heard one of the students painted it, making it only more appealing, knowing that someone his age could do this.

As most nights went, he couldn't sleep well, his dreams always turned to nightmares, visions of horror and the macabre. He couldn't explain it, and neither could his therapists. All too often they had tried to prescribe one drug or another, but always they were overridden by his doctors, preceding illnesses it seemed took precedence over mental maladies. So the dreams continued, always shifting, but always turning out the same way.

Thus, he found himself in the art building staring at the mural, wearing his black sweatpants, a black hoodie, and flipflops. Not what he would normally wear outdoors, but it was night, no one would be around anyway. Or so he thought.

The voice behind him had startled him out of his reverie, and the image of the man (?) had brought back images of his dreams, those eyes seemed far too unnatural for anyone of this world, he only had a moment to dwell on the thought though, as something touched his head and the world went black.

_________________________________________________________________

He opened his eyes to what appeared to be the same room, but now empty, the mural was still there, the eyes of the many subjects seemed to bore into his mind, follow his path as he paced the length of the room. Then came the voices, rising from the ground beneath his feet, whispers, inaudible, but definitely present, then came the sound of stampeding feet from every door around the room. Isaac ran to the nearest to see what the commotion was, but saw no sign of anyone outside once the door was pulled open. Running to the next door, still nothing appeared. As he re-entered the room, the painting seemed to shift, the faces growing into grotesque masks, their mouths shaping the sounds of the whispers emanating from the room, Isaac turned to run, but couldn't seem to move, his feet held in place by invisible shackles, he opened his mouth to scream, but couldn't, his lips melding together. The painting began shifting more and more, pressing out from the wall as if some otherworldly being was pushing its way through the mural.

Clenching his eyes shut against the horror, he dropped to one knee, battering at the floor with his bare knuckles, trying to break the bonds on his legs, he could feel the flesh being torn away from his fingers, and the sickly pops as bones broke in his hands, yet he still fought the unseen. The mural wall began to crack, energy from behind it leaking through, he made out a voice: "Fight it, Isaac" the voice whispered in his ear. His eyes shot open and he looked wildly around the room, a being now stood before him, its constantly shifting features making it impossible to describe its true form. "All you have to do it wake up, Isaac," it continued, "Just wake up."

_________________________________________________________________

Frida slammed the book down, and the doors crashed shut, followed by a sharp intake of breath from the table where Isaac lay. His lungs fought for air, and he coughed fitfully for a moment, tasting the metallic tinge of copper in his throat. As his eyes finally opened, he looked at his hands, feeling that they were still in one piece, again the dream faded, and he tried desperately to see the features of the ever changing being that always woke him up. As with most dreams, he couldn't make out the face of his savior, or his demon.

"Wha-" he managed, "What's going on? Who are you? Ms. Dorn?"

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Mari felt her blood run cold. With all the theatrics and posturing going on around her, her eyes stayed fixed on Pritchard. From behind Renata's shoulder she peered out, hardly daring to move. She barely even flinched when Frida slammed the heavy book down, didn't even notice the lengthening shadows in the room. She was a rabbit staring down a hawk across an open plain. This was not going to end well.

"We have to get out of here." Mari whispered urgently. Only her self-appointed protectors, Ravi and Renata, stood close enough to hear. "Something terrible is going to happen."

__________________

Height: 5'1", Weight: 102 lbs, Hair: Dark brown, Eyes: Hazel, Striking looks 4, Dexterity 4, Presence 4

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“I know nothing of your mother,” Pritchard said coldly to Lucia, “and you will stop threatening me.”

Frida’s outburst cut off any other conversation, save for Ravi’s statement and Sylvia’s soft questions to Boxter. Quietly, he murmured back, “I’ve been in this since the beginning. And that hum is some of my protections. I’m surprised you can hear it.” Graying eyebrows darted downward in consternation as he looked at Sylvia.

Isaac woke up, groggily adding to the confusion. “It’s alright Isaac,” Sylvia said, nodding to the boy. “We’ll have some answers for you soon. I hope.”

“I came here to talk, not be accused,” Pritchard said, her voice hot with outrage. “I came in good faith and instead was jumped with accusations and lies. This is exactly why I have excluded all of you, because these are exactly the actions I expect from a bunch of children and a woman who should know better.” She cast a scathing glance around the room, her rage a nearly physical thing; the guards shivered nervously from their positions behind her. “When you are ready to talk, then you know where to find me.” Turning, she stalked for the door.

Amos didn’t move, nor did Reaver, though Reaver did wave his fingers at Pritchard in farewell. Brahn and Brihn were nearly invisible in the shadows; they’d pulled back into a corner, Brahn standing between everyone else and his sister in a defensive posture. Silently, the twins watched the room with wary readiness.

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"Takes a child throwing a temper tantrum to know one!" Ryan yelled at Pritchard's back. A hush fell over the room and everybody looked at Ryan. He glared back at them as much as he glared at Pritchard, "I call it like I see it, an' if she wants to stomp off in a huff jus' 'cause she ain't gettin' her way, then, well, tough crap."

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"You excluded us?!? Where were you when the Caramines came and numbered students off like cattle?!? Where wer-" Lucia stalked after Pritchard, but Ahvia grabbed her arms and held the black-eyed girl back, speaking softly and trying to calm her down before she did something truly stupid.

It was Rosa, her voice calm and measured, that took up the argument. "So, are you leaving because you aren't the one in total control over everyone, or just because you're running away from the questions? You say you came here to talk, but you're the one leaving. Why should we trust you over the others? They're at least willing to stay." She crossed her arms, "We might be nothing but children to you, Ms. Pritchard, but we're involved and we're not going away. Neither is the Door, or the Caramines, or whatever is happening to the people here."

The usually timid girl sighed and held out her hands, "You can leave. You can try to do this all on your own and look down on the rest of us for not doing it your way." She glanced around the room, "But I think we've all seen how well that's gone so far, including you. If we're going to solve this issue, if we're going to survive trying, our best chance is working together."

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"Seconded, both Ryan and this lovely young lady's sentiments." Ravi nodded to Rosa, then fixed Pritchard's back with a stare. "The fact you react to honest suspicion with such outrage, after we know that you toyed with our memories and turned a guard into a flesh and blood robot, leads me to believe your claims of 'good faith' are so much horseshit, woman. Go if you wish, and stay away. We won't miss your type of help. But the next time I see you, your parlay flag had better be held high and whiter-than-white." His voice dropped to a low, level tone. "Or I may misunderstand your intentions."

He dismissed the old bitch from his universe, shifting his gaze to Boxter and Reaver and nodding politely to them both. "I notice you two aren't leaving. Thank you for staying." He looked around at the other Daltonites, flashing a brief smile. "Shall we get started?"

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"I just...look, I don't mind talking, I just didn't expect...goddamnit..."

Renata shot Ryan a look that would stun a buffalo at a dozen paces.

"Why didn't you TELL us this was what you had in mind?!"

On reflex, without really thinking, she reaches down and takes one of Mari's hands in her own. "Don't worry," she says to the shorter girl, "Things'll be fine. It's just...stupidity and stubbornness hitting each other head on."

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"Ummm, started with what exactly?" Isaac shifts his weight to climb down from the table he woke on, looking to his teacher for some kind of reassurance that he wasn't about to be sacrificed in some ancient Aztec tradition. Though the lack of a volcano did alleviate that thought slightly.

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With a last glance at Boxter that clearly said, We'll talk more later, Sylvia stepped over to Isaac's side, the caring look on her face unfortunately sabotaged somewhat by a certain undefinable edge that permeated her being. She knew that the boy was often ill in one way or another, and something akin to a motherly instinct brought a gentle tenor to her voice that was atypical for the usually-strict teacher.

"It's a very long story, and this probably isn't the moment for it." She stayed his effort to stand for a moment with a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Are you alright? Do you sure you feel OK to stand?"

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