It's All Fun and Game Until...

SPOILER ALERT: This scene contains spoilers for the haunted house.

Xanadu Weyr - The Haunt
This room was probably beautiful - once. Now it's a dilapidated skeleton of its former glory, the bones of something once-magnificent left to rot, where Lord and Lady Holders alike must have spent their time fussing among high society. Now the painstakingly mastercrafted marble floors are cracking beneath the stress of time, one small portion ripped away, as if somebody came back to dig up a long-buried secret. Trees rip through the ruin, stretch elongated branches towards boarded spans of wall where once, perhaps, there must have been windows. A candelabra hangs from the main source of light in this wasting decorum: a circular skylight, a spirograph etched in colorful glass that's caved and left a huge chunk of its repetitive, spiderweb pattern unfinished. Vines creep in to hang from the ceiling, permeating this gloom-dark tenement with the illusion of something not quite right, like an overgrown mausoleum, a memento mori of a time long-past. Faded paintings hang along the walls, the audacity of their once-important someones a mere highlight to derelict furnishings in the throes of decay. One such painting hangs above a nondescript fireplace, the frame gilded in gold and holding the likeness of a dragonrider, heroics caught in one singular pose, bravery immortalized and destined to be forgotten amid such corrosion. Upon the mantle sits an amalgamation of abandoned things: two candle holders, a tarnished, indecipherable trophy, and a piece of fine china, chipped but upright on a minute triangular stand. A heavy table sits to the right, the surface lacking vibrancy and luster, barren except for one +note and a single black paperweight holding it in place. An elaborate but no-less warped mirror sits opposite, the backdrop for a claw-footed stand that harbors three boxes - two locked, one lying half-opened - and one picture frame upon it.

Amidst the convergence of barrack-spooks and other such things that go bump in the night, the derelict ruins of what was once a great building has been discovered lurking in the deep forest's darkest shadows. Ancient, decrepit, reeking of dread and decay, none of Xanadu's residents can agree on whether it's always been there or not… and frankly, which of those things is creepier? Nobody seems to know.

What we do know is that Xanadu Weyr's leadership stormed the candidate barracks late one evening, recruiting brave souls to be dumped into its midst without much more than a, "Good freaking luck."

Coming here was an accident. When Stefyr sets off from the barracks after dinner, his mood subdued and demeanor just off, he has his trusty tiny backpack and canteen, and a small cylindrical glow basket. It isn't dark as he moves away from the barracks and on, and on, and on through to the woods, and given the recent restrictions, he probably doesn't plan to go far, but things can get confusing at night and one thing and another, he found himself at the door to… this whatever this is, and so curiosity wins out over wisdom and the door is pressed open, the big blond disappearing within.

The moment Evangeline saw Stefyr leaving the barracks, she was ON IT. No way was she letting him sneak off and somehow destroy the note she wants back. NOPE BUDDY. For as loud as Evi is, she did the following quietly with only the silent brush of her skirt on her legs, making any noise. The further Stefyr went the more she looked back and started thinking she had NO clue where she was, turning back went from a possibility to the probability of dying alone in the woods eaten by wild whers, or giant felines. Never short on imagination, she was forced to follow him, if only to save herself. Unlike Stefyr, she didn't pack anything but firelizard meat, because she's a new mom and always has it on her. Watching him disappear, she curses under her breath, whining a bit and looking back. With no small amount of trepidation, she enters, attempting quiet for no reason WHATSOEVER.

Stefyr's spin and rise from where he had crouched to touch the marble floor with no small amount of wonder despite the dilapidated state of the rest of the room is fast, his hands already moving toward a defensive pose. "Shells. Evi? What, by the First Egg, are you doing here?" He sounds incredulous and maybe just a little angry, but probably only because she just scared him by appearing when he thought he was totally alone. Places like this have a way of putting a person on edge. He turns away from the younger girl now that she's a known entity, his eyes scanning the rest of the impressive, long disused space. His eyes are wide, wide, but he's not scared, or not nearly as scared as he probably should be.

Once inside Evangeline stops dead, eyes feasting on the sight before her and realizing she is WAY out of her comfort zone. Stefyr's reaction comes while she is mid-shiver, her shoulder trembling inwards and hands clasped in front of her fingernails digging into her own knuckles. "Um-." Silence, eyes scan up the broken ceiling, to the painting of the dragonrider, and back to the table. Turning her body slightly, she notices Stefyr's expression, and her face shrinks in lips puckered. "This place is.. old. " Yep, old is the first word coming to her mind. "I bet some of this stuff is um… Worth something." Yes, Evi, this is a money-making opportunity. She does not explain why she is here with him. "Do you come here a lot Stefyr?" Turning around in a circle, she looks up and down, the fear in her covered up by a bit of mischief and play.

"Got lost." That much makes Stefyr frown. "Should be able to find our way back though." Hopefully. And hopefully no eggs hatch while they're out here, but since the Weyrleaders dumped some candidates out somewhere and there were stories trickling back to the barracks about something like this, surely someone would come check if the timing was that poor. He moves slowly in the space, heading to the point of greatest interest, carefully touching nothing until he looks at the note. "Think this is what the others were talking about?" WHAT ELSE WOULD IT BE? But the dumb blond still has to ask in the haunted house. It's a rule.

"Oh- well." Evangeline's eyes are now twice there average size, her eyebrows disappearing in the bangs she's allowed to get much too long. Breathing deeply and blowing out a long exhale, a small attempt to bring inner peace. "Stefyr, maybe we should leave." Her voice is full of trepidation, a squeak barely above a whisper. When the note is examined, Evi follows over, her eyes momentarily distracted. Kneeling down, she explores the fabric on one of the old dining room chairs, running her fingers over it and coughing from the dust stirred up. "This " cough, hack, sneeze. Her arm comes up and covers her face, "Is old." Glancing at the note, she shakes her head, "Maybe, but Stefyr, they others are all crazy." He would have heard her say this before, about everyone. Everyone is crazy. Notwithstanding, her hand creeps towards the note, eye big "Ok, so read that, and we leave."

A note has been penned in a flourishing hand:

'Welcome to our humble abode. We hope you'll enjoy your stay - we've been DYING to meet you. Make yourselves comfortable. Explore. View our newest +painting. Mints are available in the middle +box on the table.'

Further words have been scratched beneath the original message in an ugly rust red:


Thankfully you haven’t come alone… have you?

"Well," Stefyr says, not really paying attention to where Evangeline is and what she's doing, a thing he might pay for later if certain horror stories are anything to go by. IT'S ALWAYS THE ONES YOU NEVER EXPECT. "This is comforting." He says of the note, the word 'comforting' heavy on the sarcasm, though he never touches it. "If this is so old, why would there be mints?" It's rhetorical, Evi. But don't let that stop you. It's not going to stop the big blond from going to find the middle box to investigate these fabled mints.

You shift the lid of the box to look inside and EEK THOSE AREN'T MINTS, THOSE ARE BUGS! A dozen small beetles scatter, frenzied clicks and scuttles accompanying their frantic fleeing for some dark space. If one is brave enough to peer back into the box following their exodus, one might notice the large metal +screwdriver resting in its otherwise empty depths.

After Stefyr is finished reading the note Evangeline peers up at it, head craning up from where she is admiring the decor and ignoring that the place is creepy with a capital C. "They had nice handwriting back then." Yes, she is definitely the first to be murdered in every horror film. OR the one who is going to be the killer. "Mints?" Standing up, she moves with excess caution, walking like she's on a tightrope with each foot carefully coming down on the creaking floor, every step she winces and then sighs. "I bet that's R'hyn's handwriting, he is probably hiding somewhere laughing at all of us." Eyes scan the room, searching for an errant Weyrleader or someone of similar ilk. Squinting for a moment, she walks to where the mints might be, opening the box and screaming, "EAACCCK, EW, EW, EW." Dancing backward and slamming it shut, shaking her head and swatting at herself as if one of the insects inside has gotten on her. "Let's leave." Her teeth are now chattering somewhat loudly, and hands crossed protectively over her chest.

Really, the bugs aren't that surprising. What's surprising to Stefyr is how well-contained they were in that box. In point of fact, he takes a minute looking at the lid as the bugs scatter, unperturbed by their presence. "Leave mints in a place like this, what else did you expect would happen?" He asks Evangeline blandly. This is also the former gardener and former farmer, bugs are… not even a blip on his mental warning system. He reaches into the tin, flicking aside a few of the clinging remainder to try to withdraw the screwdriver there. "Weird." He shows no signs of quitting while he's ahead. Sorry, Evi. In fact, it looks like he may not have heard her with how he's looking over the screwdriver so curiously.

Stefyr takes the screwdriver. What could it possibly be for? As though waiting for someone to ask that question, the answer whispers into your mind, your gaze inexorably drawn towards the knob of a door you didn't notice before. Has it always been there? It doesn't matter. Screws of the same silver metal look like they will be easily removed, freeing the door to swing open wide. Surely you're curious enough to go inside…

Stefyr glances over his shoulder as the door swings open and calls to the younger girl, "Coming?"

Xanadu Weyr - The Study
There is no more color left on these walls, only vestiges of a space that had once, perhaps, been vibrant. Hints of it can be found in threadbare carpets, in this tenement that is so small — too small. It's a wonder you can even breathe. It's a sepulchre for a derelict desk set against one wall and the dilapidated remainders of a small, wooden dollhouse to its right. A grand hutch seizes space to the left, defunct doors hanging open, protective glass long-since bereft its framework. Books and crumbling pieces of parchment hog every inch of space, add to the cluttered feel of chairs and knick-knacks that litter every surface, lay abandoned on the floor. Upon the desk sits a small basket of glows, a single box of +matches, an unfinished letter, and a doll of little consequence. It might have been a room wholly unremarkable compared to its brethren, if not for the double-sided mirror set at clear vantage, poised to watch occupants in the main room.

STill holding tightly onto herself, one hand going nervously to scratch at her shirt. Evangeline watches Stefyr. "Before we go, can you at least tell me if that's his handwriting?" Motioning with a few fingers at the note. Taking several steps backward as he gets the screwdriver shaking her head so fast, her dirty blonde hair smacks her cheeks and covers her face. "Ste- Fyyr, There could be more bugs. Come on." While he works on the doorknob, she gathers closer to him, stepping inside the room as soon as it's open because nervous feet like to move. Turning around, shoulders going up. "I don't know if you'll fit." Waving the blonde to follow her while still hugging herself and rocking slightly back and forth, side to side, all of her nervous energy needing an outlet. Recognizing the matches on the cluttered desk, she picks them up and looks them over. "This is a setup, how stupid do they think we are?" The matches are held close to her chest, her most prized possession at the moment. "YOU CAN COME OUT NOW, WE KNOW." Her voice loud and squeaky, despite her insistence that this is a game set upon them by the dastardly Weyrleadership.

Curious, how untouched some of these items are by the gentle layer of dust that coats the rest of the room. The matches, the glows… It's ALMOST as though someone had been here recently. One might well notice a similar trend throughout the room, small items disturbed where others are not. A decoration here. A singular book there. There's also a fresh +candle perched upon the wall sconce over there. Perhaps if it were to be lit…

"Nope," the 'p' gets popped. But Stefyr doesn't seem the least bit worried, so maybe it is his writing after all? "Come on, Evi. Bugs aren't dangerous. They're sometimes helpful. Often just annoying." Of course the farmer would think so. He manages the fit well enough, looking over the new space with thoughtful interest. He glances at the younger girl when she plucks up the matches and tilts his head, his eyes moving on. "There's a candle there, Evi. How about lighting it?" He suggests mildly, only to add just as calmly, "If you're sure enough to be shouting our presence to whoever else is here, then there should be no problem working our way through," he gestures now to that candle. "We need more light," despite the cylindrical glow canister that is hung on his pack now.

Palming the matches in both her hands, the box being thoroughly molested by texture hungry fingertips, Evangeline gives a false shiver shake. “Bugs are gross Stefyr. Are you seriously arguing about the helpfulness of insects here?” The popping of his P brings one eyebrow higher than the other, arms crossing. “I think it is R’hyn’s.” Huffing a bit, that stubbornness coming out with a hard set to her chin, stiffening her neck, shoulders, setting lips into a hard frown. Struggling to open the matchbox, fingering the matches clumsily the first one fails to light, a second match is retrieved and her lips seal tighter still. This one lights and immediately goes out, Evi shaking it and dropping it on the floor. On the third match, it’s easy to question if she should ever play with fire, carrying it over to the candle and nearly dropping it twice the candle get lit. The room is a tinderbox and Stefyr is clearly ready to burn to death. The task complete she turns around and throws her hands up, is he happy?

Ah. Yes. Let us shed some light on the subject: specifically the narrow, rickety ladder bolted to the wall in that shadowy corner. It passes through the room entirely, heading up through the ceiling or down through the floor via a pair of narrow holes cut in the wood.

"You're the one who shrieked and jumped as if bugs were going to hurt you." Stefyr points out in one of his blandest tones with expression to match (which might mean he finds is amusing). "And I don't need to argue what's fact. Helpful sometimes, annoying sometimes. Not dangerous." Not on Pern anyway. The blond tracks her progress with the matches and after the second, he opens his mouth to probably offer help lest she go through them all before being able to light the candle in question, but he closes his mouth when the third match lights and she manages the task while he pokes around. He happens to be near the ladder when it is illuminated and without hesitation, he swings onto it, testing his significant weight before he starts down. "Whether it's R'hyn or not," and since his face is to the wall his thoughts on the matter are completely hidden from view even if his expression weren't presently unreadable, "I'm going on. Coming?" And down he goes.

“They’re creepy and DIRTY,” Evangeline replies tartly, wiggling her head once more and smacking at her hair to ward off imaginary crawly things. “Why is it you’re suddenly an expert on bugs.” All of this dark, dankness brings out a fair bit of sass that does nothing to hide the fear and insecurity in her quiet tenor. The ladder appearing in the candlelight is met with an open-mouthed look of TOTAL consternation, eyes bulging slightly, and nose twitching. NOPE. But then there’s stupid Stefyr going down in, “Did you not read? Wait…” Gathering up her now dirty skirt hem with both hands, she steps down the ladder, each step a pause as she tests the rungs like a pro ladder inspector, groaning every single time. “Stefyr, you’re my only way home, so I don’t even HAVE a choice.” Groan, moan, complain, and grumble. There’s obviously a reason she’s not outdoorsy, who would want to take her.

Xanadu Weyr - The Library
It's quiet. Too quiet. Wooden bookcases deplete finite space, line every stretch of wall with shelves that sit atop low cabinets, fill the room - floor to ceiling - with books. Cupboard doors sit ajar, hundreds of spines bared in a myriad of muted colors, more yet collecting dust from where they sit in scattered disrepair among the floor. Dust collects in layers thick enough to obscure titles (if ever any ever existed), clinging to every surface, lending a stale musk to what should have been the overtly familiar scent of paper and ink… except even //that expected comfort has been omitted from this sinister, empty// nothingness in a space so full. Among the scattered detritus lies a doctor's +case, leather pulling away from seams, abandoned amid more relics of curiosity: a step ladder, forgotten in the middle of the room; a desk, harboring boxes and tins of varying shapes and size; a pair of gloves, untouched by age, resting innocuous on a small table. A wall sconce sits unperturbed on the wall, lurking unlit amidst growing shadows in a silence too complete.

"You could go back and wait at the door," Stefyr points out to the self-appointed victim. "I'm sure you would be safe there and I don't think I'll be long. I'm not sure I could find my way back to this place if I tried." He certainly wasn't trying tonight. "If this is something Risali and R'hyn put together," which given the rumors of the Weyrleaders' SUBTLE ENCOURAGEMENT of candidates to come out here seems a fair bet, "then this is weak as pranks go. And if it's not a prank, maybe it's a challenge. If it's a challenge… then I carry on." He steps down off the ladder and turns his eyes about the new space, stepping to the side even as he idly offers out a hand in case Evi wants help stepping off onto the floor. "And I've been a gardener, a farmer and a farm kid before that. I'd be a poor any of those things if I didn't have a pretty extensive knowledge of whether or not a bug is going to hurt you." He moves toward the scattered detritus, crouching by the step ladder, eyeing the joints and hinges, "I wouldn't stand on this," he notes, just in case the idea had crossed the other candidate's mind.

SLOWLY, extra special caution in each teeny step being taken as Evangeline steps off the ladder. Turning to face the man who has unwittingly become her guide through this terrible, musty place. "What about the wild felines? Or Whers? Or people who could take me?" Tightening her lips, so they zig-zag in a dramatic grimace, her eyes slowly adjusting to the room and mouth open in awe. "Do you think we should take these back to the Weyr?" The suggestion that they should carry hundreds of pounds of books on a trek through the forest. Leaning in close to the shelf immediately to the left from the ladder, her small hands run down the length of texts, the texture alone bringing brightness back into her dreary demeanor. Then fingers pause over a bright green spine, and deftly it is plucked. Examining the front of it, not reading the title out loud, she crosses her arms over it and moves towards the Case, standing next to Stefyr. "If they asked you to jump off the Yokohama, you might do it." Apparently, though, the weaver girl is sticking with her friend. At least for now.

"If you were that worried about wildcats, whers or people who could take you, what were you doing in the forest to begin with?" Stefyr inquires, turning his head to squint at Evangeline, as if it might just now be penetrating that she does not appear as one ready for a woodsy trek, like himself with his tiny pack of supplies, light source and canteen still slung over his shoulders. "I think… the Weyrleaders know this is here, so we don't need to do anything personally. And even if carrying piles of heavy books might do you some good," that comes with a toothy, teasing smile, "I'm not going to take over for you half way back to the Weyr." It's just on the heels of these words that the big blond twists in his crouch to reach out and touch the case, fingering the edge of the peeling leather—

“You have my note. From Ilda’den, from N’on.” Evangeline sounds petulant, arms crossed over her chest tightly on her book, the matches safely stowed in one of her deep hidden skirt pockets that house Evi’s numerous special things. “Also you aren’t supposed to be out here- and HEY what is that supposed to—”

You barely lay a finger on the forbidden object when suddenly there is a vicious rumble. The floor beneath your feet splinters, cracks and gives out, dumping you into a long, slick, metallic chute. Gravity has you in its hold. There's only one way to go: down. And so you do…

Xanadu Weyr - The Basement
Thirty seconds. Thirty seconds of weightlessness, thirty seconds of a sensory deprivation so absolute that it can only be disorienting lands you here, where the very air in this room inspires rib-clawing claustrophobia. Wrongwrongwrong . Everything about this room is wrong , from the trio of rusted chandeliers that hang overhead, melted candle-stubs dripping wax onto the room below, to the table in the center that they frame. It's hard to tell if the grotesque caricature of a cadaver upon a slab wrought with once-beautiful filigree (whose modesty is preserved only by virtue of a dirtied, once-white cloth spanning its hips) is made more or less real by the flicker of low candlelight. There are no windows, no space that grants an illusion of escape, no singular cut of crumbling wall that alludes to hidden passages. One wall is dominated by the crawling spanse of a massive bookcase, ancient apothic bottles of all shapes, size, and color weighing down aging shelves, repetition broken only in the placement of random knick-knacks: a cracked bowl harboring the remnants of dirtied bandages, a +vase whose black is so absolute, staring at it makes you feel as if it might swallow you whole. Beside it sits an antediluvian hutch, whose cabinet doors house warped glass and too thick a layer of dust. Tucked further back on top of this is a picture frame — though the contents inside are impossible to see through an amalgamation of filth. On another wall sits a built-in cupboard the height of crumbling facade, whose protective glass on lattice doors has long since fallen from its framework. The shelves behind it sit empty, and both doors are locked. Perhaps more unsettling than the tables littered with bottles and old, rusted medical equipment is the single chair sitting in the room, too new to belong within eroding surroundings — and the metal stand opposite it, supporting a large container reminiscent of a lantern, whose grim purpose appears to be a glass container one might liken to an IV drip, if only a swath of browned, dry blood were not the backdrop to a dark, concealed shape within. A massive +tapestry, faded and moth-eaten, does little to alleviate the chill, frigid stillness of the room.

Abruptly her kitten anger is cutoff mid-thought as the floor rumbles, and her breath catches. The book in her arms is placed over her head, eyes peering up from underneath, to check the status of the ceiling, brown eyes are filled to the brim with fear. The small whimpers she's been letting out turn to loud continuous whines. Every muscle shaking, each tiny hair standing on end as bumps cover her from head to toe. Fear freezing the blood, each moment slowing down in a mind weakened by tribulation. This is a nightmare she relived over and over, each night waking her in a cold sweat. As the floor falls out from under the two Candidates, there's no screaming, all of her noise is trapped in her chest mind unable to process through total panic. Down, down, down, if anything can be heard over the rush of blood and the pounding of hearts, you might recognize gagging. Choking. Without realizing it herself, Evi is making choking sounds, eyes tightly closed, and mouth unable to bring forth any other reaction. Hitting the floor with a loud THUNK her body crumples, the book still grasped in one white-knuckled hand. The room itself gets no notice, no movement as she lays in a crumpled heap on the floor eyelids blocking out anything around her beyond the sound of her own heart racing, the rush of adrenaline inherent in pure fear. Nothing. For the moment she is limp, all skirt and hair. If one touched her, they would feel her pulse exceedingly fast, breathing in small gasps as her body fights for the oxygen it needs to FLEE from whatever this TERRIBLE danger is.

WELL THAT WAS UNEXPECTED. Also unexpected is Evangeline's reaction to the floor going out from under them. Does Stefyr's pulse race? Absolutely. One does not have the floor vanish and end up in some kind of RIDICULOUS SLIDE (WE'RE LOOKING RIGHT AT YOU, RISALI) into some unknown place without getting a spike of adrenaline. Since he tumbles onto solid ground and has a moment to get his bearings, he's rumpled now but not overly flustered. In fact, the crackpot grins. "That's more like it," is an approving murmur until he spots the other candidate and sweeps to his knee beside her. "Evi? Evi, are you okay?" He's gentle as he touches her, tapping her shoulder, his eyes sweeping her body for obvious blood or signs of trauma. He's careful not to move her, MAYBE HE GOT THAT FIRST AID TRAINING HE TALKED ABOUT AGES AGO when someone had the bright idea to go cliff jumping without a healer.

Nothing is outwardly wrong with Evangeline, no blood, nothing seems broken. No response is given to the shoulder tap, limp as a rag doll gasping for oxygen with eyes shut. While she may have landed in body, her mind is still falling, slowly her hands feel along the floor. Fingers tapping with arms splayed out, before pushing her up in time for a loud wretching. Yellow bile spills out of her mouth, and she spits several times. Pushing her body back and skittering into Stefyr, she leans back and looks up at him, the kind of terror in her brown eyes matches anyone standing on a gallows. Somehow this qualifies as near-death for Evi. Every part of her body is shaking uncontrollably, each breath catches and hysterical is the only description for the girl. Rocking slightly back and forth, her knees are pulled into her chest. "Stefyr?" The name is all breath, fear having stolen whoever Evi was before the floor fell. This person sitting two hands from her own vomit is not the same person he had upstairs.

Stefyr is a good guy. This pose is going to prove it. Honestly, he's not such a good guy that he doesn't recoil at the first of those retching sounds, but he does step back in quickly to efficiently gather her hair back from her face. It's a task done so smoothly that there's no doubt that he's done this for someone before. He tries to ease her back so her skirt doesn't get in what's just come out of the younger candidate. Once that's done (or not), he's taking off his tiny pack to produce a small washcloth and (GOOD GUY MOMENT) his canteen. He only pauses because… there's the rocking. "Evi, it's okay." And that's the moment when he takes in his surroundings. Oh. Shit. "Close your eyes," he encourages after a hitch of a breath and then he's shifting everything, tucking washcloth into one of her hands and canteen into the other, and then he's scooping her up in his strong arms, cradling her to his chest. "Just keep your eyes closed. For a minute." And he scans the room, looking looking and zeroing in on the tapestry and moving to push it aside with a knee.

NONE of this is Okay.” Evangeline stutters out, head shaking back forth. “You think Risali and R’hyn would do this?” Swallowing down whatever contents of her stomach are trying to come up. The shivering does not stop, adrenaline is a hell of a drug and once you come up you must come down. Teeth begin to chatter, and she allows herself to be picked up while holding onto Stefyr’s neck. The water canteen is held close to her body, washcloth used to wipe her mouth. “Stefyr, where are we? You know, I um— I’ve thought a lot about how I might die. I didn’t think it would be at the hands of R’hyn and Risali.” OBVIOUSLY, THE WEYRLEADERSHIP IS TRYING TO KILL THEM OFF. Don’t ask for logic from scared girls. The sensation of being carried is not Evi’s favorite, her hands cling into Stefyr but her eyes stay firmly closed. “Stefyr, I’m sorry. I um. Maybe I should of um. Stayed home.” Clarity seems to hit her firmly in the chest, the fear allowing her to evaluate her horrible choices for her day. While slowly coming down from whatever episode caused her to be nearly catatonic, she opens her eyes she as they reach the Tapestry and SOMEHOW what she sees doesn’t bother her nearly as much as the floor opening. “WHAT KIND of PEOPLE ARE WE DEALING WITH.” Is said probably a bit too loud for right by the man’s ear.

A chilling juxtaposition to the dark glory of the painting above, this threadbare tapestry is faded , but not so faded that one can't tell it used to be a vivid study of a dragon struck by Thread. Why //anyone would wish to bear witness to the mycorrhizoid's leeching burrow into the great bronze's skin, its utter waste of fields and farms beyond, to mark the pained howl of its rider for all of eternity is unclear, but here it is nevertheless. Its corners ruffle gently, unbidden. It's as though, if one were to pull it to one side, one might find a secret passageway to a room beyond.//

Xanadu Weyr - The Meatlocker
It's impossible to tell what color this suffocating space might have been, so drenched is it with flaking shades of bloodred. Massive spatters stain the walls, coat the tile under feet with palpable gore and a visceral knowledge to the utter brutality that preceded it. Racks hang from the ceiling, massive, rusted hooks curved to dangerous points in the gloom of one single //light that does nothing to diminish shadows or curb the vibrancy of sanguine evidence. One wall harbors a basin that runs the length of it, interrupted only by a large shelf intended to house butchered meat in the aftermath. Rows are forced into separation by the division of black +tarps, tattered curtains that seem to shift and sway at intervals despite the absence of a breeze.//

Does Stefyr think Risali and R'hyn would do this? DEEP BREATH. "Yes." It's not really that surprising after the way candidates were swept up into helping the Weyrleaders collect on a debt that turned out to be two violently colorful runner statues THAT STEFYR HAS TO SEE AT WORK EVERY DAY. "I don't think they'd have meant to hurt anyone," as this girl is so obviously hurting now. That's probably why he can stay calm in light of what DEPRAVED STUFF is in this basement. And that knee takes the tapestry enough to the side to find the opening behind it. He ducks through, only to swear and say urgently, "Close your eyes, Evi." But is it too late? Has she seen?

The words from Stefyr's mouth arrive a moment too slow, her eyes were open as he entered this awful blood-covered room. Surprisingly Evangeline does not scream, a deep breath is taken, and she does gag before she wriggles a bit, "STEFYR. PUT ME DOWN." Is said much too loudly into the poor guy's ear; if she can, she will wiggle herself to the floor with small puppy whimpers and grab his hand. "YOU think that compares to THIS?" There are several gags, vomit choked down, and her hand pressing his arm forward, beckoning him to continue walking while she squeaks with every step she takes. The splash of blood as her feet hit the floor is the only real noise, everything looked at makes her eyes grow larger. "My shoes are ruined" WHY this seems to be the biggest deal, but finally she decides to close her eyes. "OK, you are going to walk and um. I'm going to tell you a story. OK?" Why she is choosing THIS moment, blood soaking up her skirt and adding to her shivering, feet squishing in maroon red viscera, one may never know.

Stefyr does give Evangeline's face a quick once-over when that too loud request makes him flinch slightly and he does as requested once he seems sure she's not going to faint, but really quite quickly lest she vomit on him this time, if that's where that was going. "This is just a slaughter room." It's no big deal if Evi's not scared of it, and that she's not not panicking which was his only real source of concern, sees his own concern evaporating, although he looks puzzled at her quick shift. "I'm not scared, Evi. I did some of the slaughtering on the farm." It's really no big deal for him. "If we impress, we're going to do the butchering for our lifemates." Extra no big deal. "Are you okay?" That's the concern, there it is in the way his brow puckers. He doesn't answer her question about stories, nor does he seem inclined to do as the sixteen turn old tells him. What he does do is move further into the room and push past one of the tarps. "I'll take the canteen and rag if you're done with them." He says, extending a hand back through the tarps even as he steps within and something clinks.

Sometimes you do something expecting the very worst… and what you receive is the best. Well. ‘Best’ might be a matter of opinion, an illusion as much as terror, a hope one clings to in the most desperate of times, and in times like these, //nothingness is precisely what one hopes to find. Behind the tarps lies a room little bigger than a closet, once-white walls dingy and darkened by the dark hulk of a smoker-oven in the corner. The gore of the room without makes the quaintness of the chalkboard within garish at best, small, childish stickers bearing cute bovine faces crusted over with age. Someone has written ‘GO BACK’ in a firm hand, a thin, surprisingly modern lanyard bearing a pair of keys hanging from its frame. Perhaps they will come in handy.//

Stefyr is back out a moment later, holding a lanyard with a pair of keys. "Guess we need to find the lock that this goes to." Points to the dumb blond for stating the obvious. (done)

Here is Stefyr trying to act like all of this is normal, cool, and pleasant. NOPE. Evangeline is far more reasonable, in her estimation. “Stefyr you’re comparing slaughtering something on a farm, to being in a room COATED in blood, in a house, in the wood, surrounded by bugs, and… “ Her voice gets more high pitched and more hysterical each word she says, ending in that whimpering sound near the end of her emotional range. “If I have to butcher my lifemates food, covered in blood, in a room covered IN blood, in the woods… I don’t want a lifemate.” You know, Evi really was doing alright until they got to the floor falling. Not saying Stefyr has enough forethought in him to notice that. The canteen and rag are handed back to Stefyr, her eyes searching the entire room with several gags face contorted mouth open wide and eyes shut. Cutting up meat with her in as little as ANY MOMENT NOW MAYBE will be a joy. RIGHT? A JOY. LISTENING TO HER POSSIBLY GAGGING AT 2AM FOR A WHILE COULD BE HIS FUTURE. YEP. Every step taken in this room comes with the funniest wriggle from the girl, the place is slippery, and her shoes weren’t meant for the surface. One wrong step backward, suddenly she is slipping and sliding, hands having given up on holding onto Stefyr. Ever seen Carrie? This is Carrie. Upon hitting the floor, she screams, both from the terrible, horrible travesty that is a well dressed young lady COVERED in blood and the fact that all of this is definitely never coming out. Never. Sitting on the blood, gut covered floor, white shirt now a bright crimson color that is seeping through to the front. Dirty blonde hair that is nearly light brown died a dark maroon, the red substance sticking it together. This can’t be Evi’s best day, not by a long shot. This is what Stefyr will see emerging from the tarp, Evi sitting up COATED in blood, everything but her face a victim to whatever was massacred in this room. “Sure. A LOCK. What could possibly be worse than THIS.” Rarely ever do you get sarcasm from the perky girl, it seems this is what it takes.

Canteen and rag are vanished behind the tarp with their owner. Both are back in place by the time he reappears. "I'm comparing a slaughter house to a slaughter room, Evi. There's a smoker back there," behind the tarps from whence he just returned. Stefyr makes the logical sound logical. The hysterical edge has his attention. Annnd that scream. Aaand all the blood all over the teenager. He cants his head like a confused canine. She wasn't like this when he left her. He hesitates, and then offers, "But look, I have keys now." He displays them in a jingle. "So let's find what this goes to. The note in there says to go back." AND THE NOTES HAVEN'T LED THEM ASTRAY SO FAR…. Have they? He reaches out the hand not holding the keys to offer her help from her predicament. "Up you get. We're going to keep moving. We'll be out soon, I'm sure." He's not, but he makes it sound good. He still seems LAMELY unintimidated by the undeniably creepy surroundings. As soon as she's up, even if she doesn't want his help getting there, he's turning to head back into the basement and begin a search in earnest. He might not be scared, but he might just have had enough of all this.

Xanadu Weyr - The Basement
The very air in this room inspires rib-clawing claustrophobia. Wrongwrongwrong . Everything about this room is wrong, from the trio of rusted chandeliers that hang overhead, melted candle-stubs dripping wax onto the room below, to the table in the center that they frame. It's hard to tell if the grotesque caricature of a cadaver upon a slab wrought with once-beautiful filigree (whose modesty is preserved only by virtue of a dirtied, once-white cloth spanning its hips) is made more or less real by the flicker of low candlelight. There are no windows, no space that grants an illusion of escape, no singular cut of crumbling wall that alludes to hidden passages. One wall is dominated by the crawling spanse of a massive bookcase, ancient apothic bottles of all shapes, size, and color weighing down aging shelves, repetition broken only in the placement of random knick-knacks: a cracked bowl harboring the remnants of dirtied bandages, a vase whose black is so absolute, staring at it makes you feel as if it might swallow you whole. Beside it sits an antediluvian hutch, whose cabinet doors house warped glass and too thick a layer of dust. Tucked further back on top of this is a picture frame — though the contents inside are impossible to see through an amalgamation of filth. On another wall sits a built-in cupboard the height of crumbling facade, whose protective glass on lattice doors has long since fallen from its framework. The shelves behind it sit empty, and both doors are locked. Perhaps more unsettling than the tables littered with bottles and old, rusted medical equipment is the single chair sitting in the room, too new to belong within eroding surroundings — and the metal stand opposite it, supporting a large container reminiscent of a lantern, whose grim purpose appears to be a glass container one might liken to an IV drip, if only a swath of browned, dry blood were not the backdrop to a dark, concealed shape within. A massive tapestry, faded and moth-eaten, does little to alleviate the chill, frigid stillness of the room.

The hand up his accepted, no doubt that some of the blood covering Evangeline will have gotten on Stefyr’s hand. There are so few fucks left in her body that her expression is permanently furrowed, brows knit together, and eyes squinting at the slow farmer man before her. A searching, reaching, probing look as if she has arrived on a new planet and has yet to find ANY SIGNS OF INTELLIGENT LIFE. Once upright, she shivers again, giving a soft whine and moan for her current predicament and the state of her wardrobe. With eyes shut, she follows Stefyr, covered head to toe in blood and waving both hands, hitting the wall and feeling around to find the Tapestry exit. “Stefyr, are you here?” Asking if only to prove that self-imposed Helen Keller land is not where this is headed. Coming through the tapestry, one eye peels open, breath quickening and whining which had temporarily ceased back. “If they did this… I hope they did this. I hope. Maybe. Um, Stefyr, this is all fake, isn’t it? Right? RIGHT? All for show. Nothing real. Nope. Fake. Not real, not real not real.” The creepy sing-song chant of this frightened girl saying ‘not real not real not real ad nauseam might not be helping anyone else but seems to be stabilizing Evi’s mental state. “Cupboard, out. Not real. Cupboard out. Not real. Not real. Not real.” Unfortunately, the smell of the REAL blood coating her fails to support this hypothesis, and the very REAL look of the IV bottle, the creepy chandeliers, DEAD PEOPLE ON THE TABLE. Gagging again. Yep. He might need to get used to this sound.

"Here," is Stefyr's reassuring return and he will even come back to help pull the tapestry aside for her. "I'm sure it's not real. We came down some sort of slide after all, and Risali and her weyrmates have one of those in their-" he stumbles of an accurate descriptive word and settled on, "-home," after a beat. But Evangeline's repetition brings his attention to that built-in cupboard some moments later and he carefully pulls open the doors. He sighs softly before calling, "This way, Evi," and vanishes through, though his arm remains back to keep the doors from closing. Stefyr getting eaten by a cupboard is not creepy at all, right? AT LEAST HE DOESN'T ACT ON THE IMPULSE TO PLAY IT UP.

BY the time Stefyr disappears through the cabinet the candidate that started on a long woodland walk to retrieve a note of questionable ownership has transformed into a blood and guts covered shivering, whining, grumpy mess. Evangeline follows him through the cupboard, mumbling under her breath “Some of us don’t spend all our time with the leadership.” This is true, Evi is rarely seen anywhere near the Weyrleadership and does not go out of her way to befriend them. Nope. Emerging through the cabinet her arms locked around herself, red handprints now gracing one of the few white areas left on her shirt.-

Xanadu Weyr - The Gardens
Air. Fresh air. Night beckons you to a backyard garden no less eerie, no more safe than the domicile that lies in desolate ruin behind you. There is something foreboding about the lugubrious rise of a building so replete with decay, a silent spectator bearing witness to every horror you've only just escaped, beckoning you to come back, come back, come back and never leave. But there are lights here — a hundred glass lanterns filled with tea candles, a hundred reasons to never look back strung from trees that have overgrown the once-lush facade of a perfect garden. They bring a dim-but-brilliant glow to a wide spread of tables, like a thousand points of quiescent starlight, forming a canopy that illustrates infinity. The further away you come from the dilapidated detritus at your back, the easier it is to breathe — to take in more sights, more smells, more of your surroundings. There's a brilliance just beyond the reach of midnight sky, the forest kept at bay by virtue of one low fence that stands at attention in disrepair amid a sea of colors lighting up the trees seen from a distance. It's hard to say how they've done it, but they have, creating a backdrop of purples, and pinks; of teal and green and blue that lights up trunks and branches. Gold and orange and red stretch in a wide breadth on the outskirts, and inside of those walls: a feast. Chairs draped in cloth are tied around the middle with bows made from fabric, sitting the length of every table except for one, where trays weigh down its runner-cloth with an amalgamation of food. Bubblies, meatpies, mashed tubers, every fruit, and cake, and sandwich you can imagine sits nestled between large plates and utensils to one side, cups and giant beverage dispensers (filled with juice and something suspiciously alcoholic) on the other. A massive banner bears a message, strung between two poles overtop the feast: 'WE'RE SORRY.' And there, at the forefront of so many comestibles, a folded note: 'You badasses made it, you survived! That was your trick, now for your treat. Love, R'hyn and Risali.'

At first her eyes are partly closed, waiting for another terrible horror filled place to come into view. There’s a pause, standing in a place juxtaposed completely from everything she has seen. Squinting shifts to wide eyed blinking, headshaking with a long blink before cautiously her feet wander towards the food. “It’s so pretty..” A deep sigh, careful to touch as little as possible in her grisly state she reads the banner out loud. “They’re both terrible.” Grumbling not yet over, but a glass of juice is filled, red fingers leaving marks on the cup. “Thank you, Stefyr. Um. Would you um. Here.” One hand waving to the chairs, there’s a serious air about her. The grumpies slowly leaving, but whatever she wants to say is not being reduced by the enchanting nature of the garden. “I-. Back there.” Yep, back to being regular fumble mouthed Evi. Now with 10x more blood.

Stefyr's eyes should be wide with wonder at all the twinkle lights and the spread in the garden, but they're not. His expression is blank as his eyes take it all in. He moves to the offering, eyes falling over the food, then he really looks, around. There is no one to be seen except himself and Evangeline. So he shakes his head at the younger girl and leans over the table to lift the lids of the beverage containers one at a time to sniff the contents. He settles on one and pours himself a cup before prudently also grabbing up one of the meat pies. "We can head back whenever you're ready. I'll stay in sight but I want to get my bearings." It has gotten darker after all. He shuffles his cup and pie to one hand while he unhooks his cylindrical glow basket, before heading to the perimeter of the garden to eat and drink while he walks the edge so he knows how to lead them back to the barracks by way of the weyrlings' dragon pool to dunk in fully dressed and get rid of the worst of the evidence before returning to the barracks, well. It's probably the best idea. He can even fetch and carry clean clothes to Evi and leave her to finish her ablutions in private, or wait outside the cave if she's feeling nervy. And if he's quietly tipsy while doing all that? He'll sober up before they get back to the barracks for the night and he hides it well in any case. No giggle giveaways tonight!

Evangeline has never been the alcohol patrol, though quietly abstaining from drinking herself. After three glasses of juice, she walks back to the dragon pools, avoiding anyone who could comment on the bloodbath. On the way back, there’s silence, being the slower of the two candidates by limb length, and overall endurance will hold her back, but any attempt to stay close to her will be met with the gap slowly appearing again. The deliberate separation, allowing her to be ‘alone’ with her thoughts. Whatever happened in that house, it’s obviously nagging at the girl. The silence that follows is heavy, several times, there’s a small stutter, but nothing comes of it. Evi will allow Stefyr to get her clothes, thanking him before retiring to take the bath of the century. Not ever one to stay quiet about her grievances, the trip will not get a single mention in the barracks. Houses are not the only thing that can be haunted around Xanadu.

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