Cryptic Tales

Our scene opens in the middle of a graveyard, on a dark night, with a full moon bright overhead. Many of the graves look old and worn, some better cared for than others, and a tall, wrought iron fence surrounds the outskirts with twisted metal. The centrepiece of the graveyard, however, is an imposing mausoleum made out in gothic style stonework. What's this, though... the crypt door is ajar. It creaks, a long eerie sound that fills the graveyard as the heavy iron door yawns open. Let's take a look.

Dark stairs lead down, torches fixed in ancient braziers lighting up on the walls to either side as we descend. They flicker, casting shadows over the stone, cobwebs and respectfully laid out bones. further down, around a corner, the passage twisting and turning repeatedly as the wall sconces are replaced by half-melted clusters of white tallow candles, each lighting up on their own the further we press into this dim tomb. At last, the centre, and a large hall lined with columns. In the middle, a tall stone sarcophagus. The grave is open, the stone tablet tilted aside, and sitting with his feet propped up on one corner, a figure. His features are hard to see, but a deep cowl covers his face, and a black robe obscures most of his body. As we approach, the figure notices and kicks forward with a deep cackle, leaning now with his elbows on the edge of the tomb to steeple fingers in front of his hidden face. A pair of glowing green eyes look out from the cowl.


"So... what brings guests to my humble home this evening of freed spirits? Do you want a story?" Again, the laughter came, though this time it was a quieter chuckle.

Opposite, near the one entrance to the open tomb area, a small party was led by a woman dressed in old fashioned military uniform — north netopian, from about 1900 or so. It was a dark green, long sleeves and long trousers, with a button up front and flared lapels. A pair of revolvers were holstered on the belt at her waist, and an old style long range rifle was slung over her shoulder on a leather band. A hint of short red hair peeked out from beneath a brimmed soldier's hat. unusually, though, this hat was decorated with a spray of wispy purple feathers at the front that lay back over the hat without standing out too much. The girl herself was on the short side of average height, with a solid build; slim, but sturdy and toned.

She was accompanied, just behind, by a taller male dressed in a bright red trench-coat with broad lapels, and a matching red fedora, which was tilted back to show his face clearly. The inner lining of the outfit was black, matching the band on his hat, and his footwear were a pair of light slipper-like shoes, also bright red, that would be perfect for running in. He was wearing an amused grin, and didn't look to be carrying any obvious weapons tonight, though they might be hiding under the trench-coat. The passage was narrow enough that the others were hard to see immediately, but the first two stepped out into the room to give everyone space. The man in red answered first, his smile infectious.

"We heard there was treasure and excitement to be found. What can you share with my companions and I, oh master of the crypt?" He glanced back with a slight nod for the others to step out as well, while the hooded figure laughed.

"A tale to chill your bones and send you screaming, maybe. But first... shouldn't you tell everyone what's going on?" The hood twisted a little, looking more directly to where the theoretical 'camera' might be, and the others followed suit. This time the girl in military attire was the first to speak.

"Good evening everyone, and welcome to this years thrills and chills charity fund-raiser. We hope you're all having a spooky evening, and you're ready for a night full of ghost stories and mysteries." She glanced across to the others, letting one of the others pick up the greeting, to begin explaining how the event was going to work, and possibly introduce themselves if they wished.
Just after the tall man and short lady followed a woman, who'd fit right between the two height-wise, though didn't quite match their dress code. Instead of a uniform or anything sort of military or urban, she was dressed in a black, short cut dress with a halter top, including long gloves ending in fingered gloves with cat-like claws on the tips. The dress had a frayed hem, as though it had been torn; it might be a bit indecent if it weren't for the leggings underneath, which were full length and semi-transparent. She wore high-heeled boots on her feet. She also wore a black collar with a diamond hanging at the neck, along with a cat-eared headband and tail from behind her dress. Her hair was short, only a bit past the nape of her neck, jet-black and shiny as though it had been dyed. Her eyes were bright blue and her glossy lips smiled playfully, giving her an expression much like the gentleman's.

"You all have a strange sense of what it means to dress up for a costume party. This is a costume party, isn't it?" the black-haired lady chuckled, placing a hand beneath her chin coquettishly. She swung the tail of her costume idly with her other hand as she spoke. "Well, allow me to start the introductions. I'm Chic... off-work tonight, for fun and frolic. Well, much of my business is fun and frolic, regardless. But mostly, I'm interested in the terribly spooky proceedings of tonight's charity-slash-cryptwalk." She looked to the door behind them, as if expecting someone else, then shrugged and continued. "I may as well give the eyes and ears in the dark a little descriptor of what their role in tonight's events will be. Just as we're enjoying costumes and camaraderie, so too will you tickle the fancies of you and your friends by sharing exciting costumes of your own design... hopefully they're up to my discerning standards. This is sort of my wheel-house, after all. Holly gets the night off," she joked, swishing the tail back and forth.

"If you feel so inclined, you can even send friendly messages and fancy costumes to us here in the crypt! Perhaps some messenger will make it through the night and deliver them to us, hm hm," she explained, keeping that as vague as she could, considering she wasn't quite sure how that was going to work herself. She didn't know where the camera was either, but knew that there must be one somewhere; she tried to follow CrypticMan's lead and smile in the same direction. "That's quite enough gab out of me, however. I've got all night for that. I only think... someone else ought to be joining us..."

Finally, the last guest walked in, moving backwards while holding up a silver, rectangular device, a bit like an old-fashioned flip-hone. A pink flash came from it periodically. "Boy... get a load of this place. I feel, y'know... in the element. Somebody's element, anyway. Kind of like the guy in charge isn't pretend-spooky but like... real spooky, y'know? And I don't scare easily, cause I'm... what's it called... a cynic. One of those," the girl murmured to everyone else, before blowing a big, pink bubble. Her hair was short, sandy blond, with only the loosest effort at combing having been attempted. Her eyes were a faded purple color; her expression was young and apathetic. She was shorter than the other lady, only a little taller than the one in military uniform, and her womanly features only a little more advanced. Her outfit consisted of a long, silver shirt with a sort of crumpled texture, bisected by a zig-zagging seam, with matching gloves and boots. The shirt hung over a red, plaid skirt. That, along with the shirt, were worn above a hot pink navisuit, done in the style of a one-piece swimsuit. Her navi symbol, a pair of teeth, hung over her chest on a silver plate, attached by a chain.

"Aren't you going to introduce yourself, darling?" Chic chuckled. It was hard to tell if that name was used specifically for the little girl, as though she was fond of the young girl, or if that was just a name she used for everyone.

"Not 'darling'. 'Chew,'" the girl corrected, speaking around her gum, while she looked to the hooded figure and snapped a few more pictures with her flip-phone. "I'm Chew, from Webb and Chew's talk show. I'm not uh... well, I'm not the same type of person as you three. Whatever that means. But I know you needed some press coverage here and, y'know, I'm good at press. I ask the tough questions. And people love me," she spoke in relentless deadpan. "I didn't get the whole costume thing but... maybe somebody has a spare I can wear? Or maybe I'll pick one off a skeleton or something. Got any tablecloths? I'll be a bedsheet ghost, that was always my go-to..."

"No, no! No bedsheet ghosts, not on my watch," Chic complained, grabbing the girl around the neck and giving her a noogie. The girl's expression remained so vacant during the noogie that it seemed as though this routine had to be practiced.

"Okay, fine. If you have toilet paper I'll be a mummy," the little girl complained, before wrestling herself free. "Anyway, I'll take lots of photos and things during the event. Of myself, too. They call those 'selfies.' Did you guys know? You look a little 20th century," she joked, still very deadpan. "Anyway, the main thing everyone's dying to know is what all's on the plate? What are we gonna... er... do?" Chew asked, before approaching and holding out the silver device as though it were a microphone to speak into.
"Be careful where you point that... who knows what you'll hear?" The hooded figure behind the crypt chuckled softly, but as he spoke a small series of indecipherable whispers had crept out underneath his voice; some young, some old, some male, some female, but all sounding desperate and frightened. He continued, still grinning. "But yes, yes indeed... Let's get the four of you started then." The gleefully steepled fingers of the hands in front of him flexed and tapped their tips together. While the others had introduced themselves, the man in red had only raise an eyebrow at the lack of recognition for his costume, and the girl with the fancy hat hadn't seemed at all surprised that no-one recognised hers. Neither of them spoke up right away, instead deferring to the apparent crypt-master.

"Welcome all once again. I'm going to tell you four story, but you'll each play the pieces on the board. Those watching at home can even help you, if they want to send messages and costumes from the great beyond to find their way to you while you explore. Screw up your courage, you brave four... we wouldn't want the night to end early, would we?" His words degenerated into a long, low laugh that sounded worrisomely amused at itself, while the military-styled girl turned back to face forward.

"And remember; for every exchange you make with us tonight, or gift you send to any of the hosts, we'll be making a donation towards helping navis in need everywhere, so please, get creative and enjoy the evening." She grinned, showing off a small set of neat, straight teeth, though quickly put her more serious expression back in place afterwards. The crypt-keeper nodded then reached out to place a pair of hands on her shoulders lightly — not the same pair of hands that were steepled in front of him, or the ones that were, it seemed, turning the leaves of a large dusty tome he was reading from. The girl flinched and half turned, before shaking her head and settling back.

"Enough of that now. Quiet, children, and let us begin the story..." He turned a mouldering page and traced a finger over the words, eyes flashing with spirals of colour beneath his hood.

"Tonight, I'll tell you the tale of four young friends... Brave and foolish... though we've yet to see which is which. These four have heard a story of their own, you see... An old, old house, on a hill by the sea, surrounded by woods that died long ago, leaving only the skeletal bones of decrepit trees to bar the way. No-one knows who owns the house; it doesn't show up on any property deeds, or any old maps. The newer ones pencil it in, beyond the wood, but only because it's sitting up there on the hill, to see.

The story says, as such stories do, that there's a fantastic treasure hidden in the old house somewhere. They also say, as stories do, that the house is protected in some way, or haunted, or guarded... no-one really knows. No-one goes there; there's no need. Teenagers, as such teenagers do, dare each other to sneak out to the house for the sorts of activities that teenagers often need to find somewhere alone for. Most never really make it through the wood. The wood is private and scary enough for such things, and even though there seems to be no reason for it at all, they lose their nerve for going further before they make it up the hill.

Tonight is a little different though; tonight there are four, and the treasure they are seeking is not the sort found at the end of a bottle, or under one anothers' clothes. Well, at least that's not the main goal. The moon is full and bright; it's all hallows' eve, and these four are after the secrets of this house..."

As he turned the pages slowly, his deep voice curling around their senses, the room darkened and one by one the candles faded out. Soon the four were left in darkness, save only for the colourful swirls of their host's eyes, before even those faded away too.

They were only in the darkness for a moment, before a pale, silvery light from above began to filter down. The voice continues, even though they can't see anything, until the light begins to illuminate the shapes of gnarled and twisted trees, barren of leaves and rife with reaching, scratchy branches. The light is coming from the full moon overhead, in a sky mostly covered with thick clouds, save only for a few patches. It looks as though it was dark before because the moon was hidden, and now it has peeked out between the clouds.

The flagstones underfoot are only present in small, broken patches now; the path was only faint to begin with, and hard to follow at times, coming through the wood, even if it had once been much clearer. The four had made it though the woods at least, and were now climbing the hill towards the old house. The path was straight, but it seemed as though some of the now dead trees had grown up through it in their youth, and the group had to make small detours regularly just to progress.

Ahead, they could see the trees thinning — they climbed the hill most of the way, but stopped at the edge of a wrought iron fence that seemed to have stood the test of time remarkably well. The moon probably wouldn't stay out for long, though while it was here it caused shadows to dance between the trees in oddly unsettling ways. The steady roll of the ocean beyond the cliff dulled the sounds of the night just enough that the groans of the wood creaking in the wind settled in under the awareness, until a branch snapped or a bough cracked. At least the night air was warm.

The only male among them was nearest to the tall, pointed gates when they came into view, and he reached out a hand to test them. A padlock on the gate held them shut, but the creaked loudly and rattled with his movement all the same. Beyond the gate, the path continued up to the house itself. this close, it was clear that it was really more of a mansion, perched on the crest of the hill as it was. It was clearly at least two stories tall, with all the windows boarded up haphazardly. For the most part the mansion itself was of olden style wooden design, but for all its age it looked sturdy and well built; it didn't look run down, or dilapidated, at least not from this distance. Just neglected, and over grown in places.

"Well, we've come this far, I don't think a mean old padlock is going to stop us, right ladies?" the man in red slipped a few small tools out of his sleeves and got to work in it. "I still can't believe none of you recognised my costume. I simply must insist that you all call me Carmen for the rest of the evening." Just as the heavy padlock released and dropped to the flagstones, taking the iron chain with it, the moon passed behind more clouds, and the area darkened. The sound of the wind and the surf felt louder in the dark, as did the sound of the ancient security measure clattering down and the gates shrieking on their hinges as they swung open.

"Don't worry, this thing only picks up rhetorical questions- oh, huh, it's going off? It's gone off twice, actually," Chew replied to the crypt-keeper, breaking the sense of immersion somewhat. Other than that, she stayed quiet and let their dungeon-master do the talking. She elbow-nudged Chic lightly and pointed between the four of them, excluding CrypticMan. "So who's brave and who's foolish? I don't scare, so I think that makes you the, uuuuh-" she murmured, punctuating the accusation with another bubble gum pop instead of a word.

"There's a hidden treasure, but no one goes there? I think maybe the ones outside are the fools!" Chic joked. It was possibly the two were a little too jokey for this scenario... or maybe girls that were tone-deaf to the horror of the situation around them were just what such a scenario called for. She raised an eyebrow at CrypticMan's all-too-early implication that there might be some undressing tonight, but said nothing about it.

There was plenty of eerie scenery to take in. Oddly, while landscapes and locales could easily spring from anywhere on the net, the navis found themselves thinking there was something especially surreal about moving through a landscape so far developed for the sake of just one night's adventure. "Anybody bring an Unlocker?" Chew asked as the group, led by the male, reached the gate. "Carmen, huh? Well, you can call me Chew, Carmen."

The reference had flown and continued to fly over the heads of Chic and Chew. "Carmen, like the opera? Very classy," Chic giggled. "I'd come up with a code-name too, but I gave away my real name already." The gate was open now, having given off an ominous screech, as a front gate in a horror story must, but the lady crossed her arms and looked sideways at the smallest girl, rather than proceeding inside. One corner of her lips turned up as she spoke more quietly. "So? What's your name... Don Procopio?" she teased, swinging her tail in one hand idly. "I just need to confirm that you're not on my short-list before we start getting chummy. Holly may like to play nice with the NP," she continued, now in a whisper, "but that's not exactly part of my modus operandi."
While 'Carmen' got the gate open, the smaller woman took a moment to properly appraise her companions for the evening, looking first over Chew, then Chic in turn. The wind blowing in from the ocean rose higher as it moaned through the trees and somewhere a night bird called eerily in the distance.

"Tonight, I am Constance Markievicz... well, at least until the creep in the crypt decides to throw something more.. creepy... my way, I guess. She was a revolutionary, a couple of centuries ago." Her eyes flicked to chew briefly, then to the mansion ahead of them as she began walking through the gate behind 'Carmen'. "Don't worry. We're not affiliated with any factions. We didn't hear back from the NP in time for the event. Might as well get on though, and see what the perv has in store for us tonight..." Her response was in a low tone, the same as chic, and likely intended to be more or less under the public radar. Louder, she spoke up, in a more 'in character' style.

"Hey Robin! A bit of a set up just to put the moves on, isn't it? Do you even know what's up here?" Despite the cautious incredulity in her tone, she followed on after the man, up the winding path and towards the front doors of the mansion. 'Robin', in red, turned back, though he continued to take cautious backward steps, and held his hands out to either side in an gesture of innocence. The wind blew at his had and he had to break the pose a moment later to secure it with one hand. Even so, he wore a look of mock pain and hurt, underneath an amused smirk.

"Aww, come on Marian, it's not like that. Just a bit of fun, right? You've all heard the stories... what better night to check it out than hallowe'en? Besides. I brought drinks. We'll have a great time! Come on girls, let's at least get inside before we all get blown away." He winked mostly towards Chew, then turned back around to watch where he was going and made his way up to the door.

"Yeah, well... If you've got a bunch of your buddies in there waiting to play tricks on us, someone's going home with a black eye." The now so-called 'Marian' shrugged softly as she responded, and the other women near her would be hard pressed to miss the fact that she had no real fear of the man, even if he was tyring to pull.

At the friend door, up a few small steps and under the sturdy, if ancient, wooden veranda Robin reached for the handle, but stopped just short. While the others approached, he took an extra moment to look around the door-frame and check it for obvious tricks, then reached out and rapped the ornate knocker three times.

Of course, as must always happen in any spooky story, the clouds chose this moment to hide the moon again, and a particularly strong gust of wind wrenched the wrought iron gate at the bottom of the path closed again with a shriek and a clang. Naturally, it was the self-latching variety. A low creaking sound followed as the door swung inwards on its own, still in darkness. Standing mostly beside Chic and Chew, Uprising rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath, just enough for the other two to hear. "Really laying it on think tonight, isn't he...."

When the moon returned a few moments later, Hoodwink had stepped over the threshold of the now open door, and had picked up what looked to be a small note from a stand just inside the. He read it over once, then turned back to the others, raising an eyebrow and waving the folded piece of paper to draw their attention to it.

"Looks like we're expected!" Uprising looked to the other two then back to 'Robin' and shook her head.

"I bet we are. How convenient. Alright then, have your fun, go on, read it out...."

"A night of spirits freed and tricksters on the loose. This house is my legacy, for it holds the keys to my greatest treasure. In life I found no one to entrust with my secrets; in death my home waits for one to prove worthy of them. Be warned, brave visitors; the house keeps what it collects, as it always has. Go no further, if you doubt yourself. For those of steeled nerves, help from without may come to your aid when you falter; seek the keys in turn and find your way to the treasure I cherished most in life; your first clue is contained in this card."

When he finished reading, he turned the card over once or twice looking at it, then brightened as he found something on the back, tapping it with a finger apparently before thinking about it. The folded note immediately burst into a small flare of fire and "Robin's" outfit shimmered and shifted in front of them.

The red fedora turned into a raggedy-looking stray hat, with a blue cloth band around it and a brim that dropped as it sat lop-sided on his head. Extra straw poked out from underneath the hat on several sides. Below that, he was left wearing a red and black flannel shirt with holes in it, each of which protruded straw at varying angles, as well as out the open collar and from the ends of the long sleeves. The shirt was matched with a set of blue suspender-topped overalls with one strap broken and hanging down. Straw poked out from the ragged holes here, too, as well as from the bottom of the trouser legs. there was a scarecrow crucifix on his back, at an angle, and while it was made to look like his limbs were fixed to the cross, it was obviously not actually restraining them at all. Nevertheless, as the costume took full hold, the mans body straightened up with his arms high and out to the sides, hanging loose from the elbows in stereotypical scarecrow style. As well as these changes, his skin had taken on a greenish hue, wherever it was visible, and his hands and feet — now bare — had take on a gnarled appearance, with overgrown nails and scrawny, wiry proportions. His head dropped briefly, then when it rose again, the man's eyes flared in a rainbow-coloured. He spoke in a low, mono-tone voice that didn't sound at all like his normal way of talking.

"The Tattie-Bogle hides in plain sight, pretending to be that which is the opposite of what it truly is. By day it perplexes, by night it poisons. If the earth is turned afresh it must leave for greener pastures, but beware what it leaves in its wake. Let us also thank 'D.Obscura' for supporting our event, and sending a costume to Lucia!" Words spoken, his head dropped again, before his entire body relaxed and he stumbled slightly, shaking himself out. After a second he looked up, eyes normal again, glanced to the others and then to himself.

"Aww... what sort of clue is this? A scarecrow? Girls, any ideas?" He didn't seem to be aware that he had just delivered any words beyond reading the note itself — which had, coincidentally, reappeared on the door-side stand after burning up.

Chic smiled into her hand, looking curiously between the two guests who claimed not to be affiliated with any faction as they went from affected costume names to stage names. It was hard to tell whether all of the fake names were making her curious about their real names or if she was amused that they'd decided to go with character names after she and Chew had revealed their real ones. Regardless, backpedaling would only look foolish now, so they decided to keep as they were.

At her side, Chew did not smile; she never seemed to. "Sheesh, Robin, you should'a just said if you had a keg. Outta the way, I'll bust the gate down," the young lady spoke plainly. "Yeah Robin, my detector is detecting some uuuuh... horse-" she began, before Chic politely shushed her with one hand and she suddenly stopped, with all the grace of someone prepared to stop right before the dirty word. She moved the hand slightly, then quietly added, "-play."

"She's got a point! I won't tolerate funny business. It's bad luck to cross a black cat... or, to let a black cat cross you? It could be unlucky either way," Chic shrugged, knocking herself on the head with one paw-glove. The two girls followed behind Marian and Robin, noting a change in atmosphere from creepy to creepier as they came to the mansion's entrance. Chic swung her tail back and forth idly as Robin announced their first clue. "Expected? And here I'm used to being anticipated," she sighed. "Still, if there's one thing I don't do, it's doubt myself. Let's keep going and find that treasure!"

"Yeah, and I don't have the self-awareness to doubt myself either," Chew added. The clue contained more than just a clue, also serving as both an announcement and a change of GMO. Chic came to understand that this event's creepy theme extended to the costumes; it didn't seem like fashion was going to be the primary concern with these ones. The cross propping him up even managed to get a start from her, as it was pretty sinister looking before close inspection. "A scarecrow... Going indoors? There are crows indoors?" Chew pondered.

"You silly, it's not a scarecrow! Not exactly. It's a 'Tattie-Bogle', didn't you hear him?" Chic asked, trying to keep straight-faced but breaking into a smile at the name.

"I think it's telling us to stay outside," Chew joked. "Then you just stand around for a couple days and we see if any crows still land. Well, we can throw some candy corn if we really wanna know how well it works."

"Allow me to posit an alternate idea... the clue says that the Tattie-Bogle will seek greener pastures when it's displaced? Maybe if we can force it to leave, it will lead us to where we ought to be next!" Chic proposed, feeling satisfied with herself. "But... I have no idea what it means to turn afresh the earth, regardless."

"Just force it to leave, huh? That's no trouble. You should see how much some of my guests want to leave when I start asking questions," the younger one retorted. "Anyways, you're like... overthinking it. There's only one way to go right now, isn't there? All there is to do is head inside..." Chic was forced to concede that point, as Chew led the way inside. "Besides, I need to find a costume. I feel kinda dumb, being the only one without a spooky outfit. Or a sexy cat outfit," she corrected herself. "Assuming you can go inside and aren't actually rooted to the floor, I mean, Tattie."

While the group may have been expected, they weren't exactly invited; for that reason, perhaps, the inside of the building was dismally dark. "Shoot. Lighting? Anyone?" Chic asked, pretending to look to the rafters for someone to shine a stage light.

There wasn't a lot to interact with that wasn't immediately hidden by the darkness. Chew managed to find the one thing that wasn't, however: a small handheld lantern. Immediately upon picking it up, her body changed, beginning to generate a bright, white light all around herself. The brightness was so heavy that it was actually difficult to make out her form any more, beyond just the general shape. "Something tells me, uuuh... the corpse light is a bright light that guides others to where a funeral's gonna take place. The white light means that it's going to be an adult female... So it could be any one of us four," she joked, even in her monologue. "Well that's good, since we needed the light and we needed the guidance. Although we don't need the funeral. I also need this..." she muttered, grabbing the table-cloth off of the same table she'd taken the lantern from, "because light isn't really clothes."

"Some people live for the spotlight," the fashionista added, ribbing her compatriot.

"Uh huh," Chew responded, rolling her eyes. She wrapped the cloth around herself quickly, which dimmed the light somewhat, just enough for the others to see that, besides being bright white, she was now wrapped only in a table-cloth. It wasn't particularly provocative; given her stature, it covered her down to the thighs and didn't cling too tightly, even once she tied the knot. The dim light also allowed them to see the area around them a bit more clearly, which could be fundamental in tracking down the next clue or simply deciding what room they ought to go to. "Oh, and before I forget, something also tells me to uh... Thank... What was the name... Harke Eternalis and Ezarith, for sending a nice gift to Splash Jetto and SabrinaMan."

"... That last one had to be on purpose," Chic murmured, her eyes focusing more on the scenery than on her companions.
As everyone responded to the unexpected wardrobe shuffle, Robin blinked a few additional times and glanced at them all. Some of the words seemed to confuse him more than other,s and a slight tilt of his head — more unnerving for the costume he'd suddenly found himself in, showed that he'd clearly not heard any of the 'clue' that he'd spoken in the creepier voice moments ago. Regardless, he seemed mostly recovered now and shook himself off. The back prop wasn't affixed to anything, fortunately, and he was able to walk with the others as they ventured deeper into the old mansion. Beside him, 'Marian' plucked at a few of the pieces of straw sticking out of his new outfit and pulled them free.

"There were a bunch of graves outside, around the side of the place, but I'm not sure we should be just following blindly wherever the things say. If it was that easy, someone would have found the treasure ages ago, right?" She shrugged, but pushed Robin ahead of her as they moved in. "As long as it's just words and clothes, I mean... no harm in that, right? It's just trying to be scary?" Despite himself, It looked like Robin wasn't able to behave himself completely, and he crept one hand out to tug playfully on Chic's tail.

"Don't worry, kitty, horseplay comes later. Treasure first. But I think this might help..." He reached into the top of his straw-filled shirt and pulled out what looked like a very old-fashioned bottle of wine. It looked old enough to suit the mansion, in fact, but the cork had a modern level pull fitted over it for easy opening. He passed her the bottle with a wink. Uprising just rolled her eyes. It was about at that moment when Chew found and activated the lantern, sharing the next brilliant costume change with the group. Both uprising and Hoodwink shielded their eyes slightly from the gleaming light, but when the smaller woman realised that it had voided her other clothing she just covered her eyes and facepalmed with a sigh, while Robin chuckled and stepped closer. He tried to get a better look while she delivered her clue, but then reached into the other side of his shirt for a second bottle of wine when the corpse-light decided to adds some more impromptu layers to her outfit.

"Well, if we're going to die, then maybe you'd better have this instead of me, huh? Though you know..." He chuckled softly. "You mentioned being a sheet ghost, so why not just drape the cloth over your head while you're all shiny, and leave it at that, hmm?" Clearly, 'Robin' was enjoying the fact that the amount of suggested skin exposure amongst his companions had gone from neutral to high so quickly, but alongside him Uprising was having none of it; she elbowed him sharply in the side.

"I think we should move on. We've had two clues now that seems to talk about death and burial, and I'd prefer not to end up in a grave any time soon. Maybe we should get off the designated path a bit..." she used the extra lights from Chic's glowing form to look around the space. The mansion entry chamber offered them a few choices, but uprising looked towards the staircase first. There was an open space that held a low, long coffee table with a dusty rug beneath it, as well as several decrepit-looking lounges, and a door behind which seemed to lead into a more formal sitting room, while directly ahead and to the left, the passage seemed to lead away into the more 'working' areas of the house — beyond the far door, the wood was replaced by tiles. Another doorway led to the right, and another beyond it, further back, but Uprising took the initiative and began to climb the stairs regardless of these other choices. She didn't seem inclined to wait for the others to follow either. Hoodwink moved to the foot of the creaky old stairs after her, hesitating between following and staying with Chic and Chew. He looked back and forth, then sighed and shook his head.

"Great gang, let's split up...." this was a murmur under his breath more than anything else, and came dripping with sarcasm. Uprising had already disappeared around the top of the staircase, though the creak of upper story boards continued for a few moments as she walked.

Upstairs, Uprising had picked a room at random and wandered inside, to be met with a small space, containing a single tall bookcase, a sewing cabinet, a couple of single seat cushioned chairs and a fireplace — the latter mirrored the same fireplace on the floor below, and obviously fed in the same chimney. the fire was set but not lit, and a small set of clicks tones rested in a box alongside the available kindling. More interesting, however, was a very small back cat, sitting on the mantle over the fireplace and watching the girl as she entered. He perked up and yawned, then passed a paw quickly over his whiskers.

"Oh my... visitors. Well, this is exciting..." For a small cat, his voice was calm and mature; not exactly deep, but with an edge of refinement to it. Uprising paused by the door and just watched him for a moment. Of course, if anyone had followed her up, they'd be witness to the same phenomena, but there were plenty of other rooms for them to explore if they did actually decide that splitting up was a great idea.

After a few seconds she entered the room, Uprising shook her head and stepped forward, casting only a side glance to the cat, who in turn settled back down without another word. Instead, she picked up the stones and clicked them once to start the fire, but the chain reaction began as her form started to ripple moments later. Her fingers dropped the stones ands he staggered back into the centre of the room, shaking and hunched over before arching back screaming while her arms clutched at her body. The cat just watched.

A flicker of fire burst out from the front of her chest as her arms were thrown to the side and it quickly spread, racing over the rest of her costume and consuming it in a blaze. Pale cream skin was revealed behind the flames, but uprising didn't seem particularly aware of this for the moment. At her hips, a faint scale pattern started as the fire passed, and before anything too needful of censorship could be shown her lower body began to transform into a long, serpentine form with deep crimson scales and flared spines. Even after the fire passed over, the spines continued to burn. Above, her body was simply stripped clear and exposed, though curls of fire formed a tight band across the centre of her chest a moment too late, hiding the essentials again. The chest band, if it could be called such, took on the appearance of a scaled circlet, bearing a central gem made of red agate. It was thin enough that it barely covered what it needed to, and it was fortunate that Uprising wasn't a major escape risk in that area — it managed to upsell in a flattering way, a little bit, but the relatively small amount of real estate meant she was in no danger of slippage.

As with the lower body changes, Uprising wasn't in a state to pay attention to this either. As the flame continued up her body it left her shoulders bare but set her already red hair ablaze in living fire that danced and waved. Her eyes, too, had been converted to burning flames that seethed bright in their sockets, and her scream cut off a moment later when she hunched forward again and spat a stream of almost liquid fire back into the hearth. Even after, left panting, her mouth glowed like an open fore-fire. Though, the fire had certainly been lit now.

It took her a moment to catch her breath, but when she straightened on her snake-like lower half, there was still a sense that she was in some kind of ragged pain. The fire in her eyes danced a rainbow of colours for a few moments and she began to speak in a laboured, gravelly tone, whether or not anyone else was around to hear it.

"Beware all of Caorthannach the fire-spitter, serpent flame and mother of demons! In wrath she scorches lands, sears hearts, poisons springs and toys with humans for her amusement. Flee from her or burn forever!" There was a beat of pause before she continued, still hissing steam from her mouth and accompanied by the crackle of fire. "A special toasting to Mazer, Mach, Aera and Vector, for donating costumes to many of their friends, including Yasu, Skywriter, Roc, Sylk, Escort and DragonierMan!" The flames in her eyes returned to a normal burning orange and she slumped slightly, breathing hard. A second cat slinked into the room, curling about the doorway and jumping up on the arm of one chair. it too was black, and was at least twice the size of the small on on the mantle. It looked at "Caorthannach", and any others who had shown up, if they had, then at the smaller cat.

"This is exciting, visitors! Should we do it now?" The smaller cat only shook its head in a very human-like gesture.

"Not yet. Wait 'til Martin comes." The larger cat looked a bit dejected, but nodded back then settled down on the chair.

"Tugging on the tail of a black cat is also bad luck, or so I hear," Chic responded to Robin, though once she was done making up new cat superstitions, she accepted his gift. "But acts of charity are to be commended! So thank you, sir," she chuckled, taking a small sip of wine before Chew's sudden transformation to living lantern. Once it was clear that nothing dangerous was happening (well, unless you believed she was really leading the way to a funeral), she took a slightly longer sip, still only a taste, however. "I know my limits. You're not getting me tipsy so easily. That would be quite unbecoming of me," she warned, corking the bottle back neatly as she spoke.

"Hey, screw that, sister. I don't look a gift horse in the mouth, even if it's looking me in the ass," Chew joked in a vulgar manner, accepting the wine and taking a much deeper swig. "Though, I gotta warn you, I don't get tipsy no matter how much I drink. I do get carded though. No matter how much I drink." As she was chugging, the wine dripped down her chin onto the white sheet she'd wrapped, staining the breast red-purple. "Darn. Well, nothing wrong with a little blood coloring. Just helps make the costume better," she resolved. "And I'm not that short. If I hang this thing over my head, there's a good chance I'll be flashing more than just light at all of you. Shine a little sun from where the sun don't shine. Or whatever."

The two followed Marian upstairs; if Chew had known her real name, she might throw in a joke, but no Marian jokes came right to mind. Chew scurried up after her with Robin close-by. Chic kept up at first, but stopped near the top of the stairs.; she'd been forced to move a bit slower as Chew got away from her, being unaccustomed to seeing in the darkness. While the others were entering the room behind Uprising, she became distracted by a flash of light within a different room, further to the right. The others were watching Marian transform into a Caorthannach, but Chic was inside what seemed to be only a small closet. She reached further in, pulling out the sparkling object... a carved statuette of a cat, long but very light. "This could be treasure! Hm hm hm... Or it could be-" she began, before realizing another costume change was taking effect.

Inside the room, Chew was noting that the costumes seemed to be two-for-two in terms of giving the small girls amongst the outfits racier outfits than what it had given Robin. "Well, I think we're going to be okay. I was supposed to guide us to a funeral, not a cremation, so nobody's getting roasted just yet," she explained. "Anyways, talking cats might be considered a treasure. I could be a celebrity, with a couple of those. You could get a lot of attention too, Marian, if you go around dressed like that. I don't know if I'd call it a treasure though."

Shortly after, Chic slid back in discretely, carrying a bottle of wine in one hand and the cat statuette in the other. The color had changed on the statue, changing it from translucent jade to an ashy, black coal, as though the black from her cat outfit had been sucked out. Her outfit, ironically, had remained a cat's... though, now it included a long, geisha robe, hanging provocatively around the shoulders and revealing cleavage at the bust. It clashed a bit with the kerchief tied up around her hair, which had gone from dyed black to bright, natural blond. Cat ears framed the sides of the kerchief, being a bit larger and a bit more attached to her head than her previous set. They, along with her tail, were light tan color now. "I'm the nekomata. I swear I danced when I appeared, but I'm done with it now and you're not getting another one," she introduced herself. The fashionista cupped her statuette beneath one arm and began to swing her tail again, before realizing that it felt weird now that it was actually attached to herself. The audience would know that her dancing claim was a lie, of course.

"That's funny. You barely changed," Chew pointed out. "Well, we'll see which of us has a wardrobe malfunction first tonight. You missed Marian's; it was kind of a bit worse than either of ours, in a way."

"Well, I couldn't change too much, darling. After all, I'm in kindred company here," she smiled, noting the other two cats. "They're precious! How strange, to see such pretty kitties here in a dusty old mansion." Perhaps because she didn't realize they talked, she approached, leaning over and attempting to tickle-scratch beneath the chin of the smaller cat. Her leaning over revealed a rather indecent amount of bust, from the cat's angle. "Oh, and before I forget! The statuette included a lovely message of thanks for Leslie Battle and Martia's gift to Scourge and Sofia Langley. It's rather a cute gift, I must say, if not exactly 'fashionable.' All of that said, the statuette was a little lovelier when I first found it. I think I'll just set this down..."
The happy banter continued on the ground floor of the creepy mansion even as they began to head upstairs, with Robin chuckling at Chic's caution. At her chastisement of trying to get her drunk he'd raised an eyebrow and leaned in.

"'Not so easily'... So you're saying you're open to it, I've just got to try harder, hmm?" If 'Robin' and 'Marian' were playing at the charade of being an item-ish, then Robin was certainly making no bones about casting any line he might get a bite on anyway. He seemed a bit disappointed that Chew wasn't taking the bait to put the sheet over her head, but he shrugged in good humour; one couldn't win them all. The automatic good mood faltered with the sound of uprising's scream, and he darted the last short way to get to the room she'd gone to ahead of the others, but once it was clear noting really bad was going on, he relaxed and enjoyed more of the eye-candy. By the time Chic returned in her same-but-different attire, Robin gave her a thorough once-over with his eyes.

"I'll take a rain check on the dancing then. Who knows, maybe that'll be the key to something else soon!" Beside him, Uprising seemed to be struggling. She swayed back and forth on her lower snake-half and clutched at herself while occasionally puffing jets of fire from her mouth.

"I'm... not liking this place any more. This doesn't feel safe. Who even built a mansion like this, full of all this stuff?" she shifted as though trying to work out how to sit down in one of the lounges provided, but couldn't quite figure out how to do it in her current state, and ended up setting it on fire briefly before beating the piece of furniture out. This involved rather a lot more force that was probably necessary, and a few seconds later there was no chair left at all. The snake-girl looked... frustrated.

By the fireplace, the small cat allowed itself to be scratched, briefly, before pointedly moving to the other end of the mantle and settling down again. Another black cat ambled into the room, this one the size of a large dog, and it slinked around the edges until it settled in one corner.

"Surely it's time now. We should do it now." This cat's voice was deeper, with a slightly more sinister edge to it. It sounded excited as it looked at each of the visitors in turn. On the mantle piece, the smallest cat just shook its head.

"Wait 'til Martin comes." Was all it said before settling down again. The third cat seemed disappointed, but it didn't argue, and instead sat patiently in the corner, watching everyone. Amongst other things, Robin seemed less than pleased by the continued development and took a long drink from a bottle of his own. One had to wonder where he had been keeping all the booze. He passed this bottle to Uprising after taking a drink, and unlike before, she accepted this time, drawing a very long pull from it indeed. The bottle was half empty when she handed it back to him, though it hadn't seemed to have done much to quench her fire.

"I don't know about you just, but the cats are creeping me out a bit. Can we move this little drink party to somewhere else? I'm sure we've found all the clues we're going to here..." As he spoke this, turning open hands to the others, another cat entered the room behind him. This one was easily the size of a tiger, though still black, and it rumbled deep in its throat loudly enough to make the man jump back, startled. with the way clear, it ignored both Hoodwink, and the other navigators in the room, instead striding to the mantle and sitting in front of it to address the smallest cat.

"We've waited long enough. Please can we do it now?" It sounded impatient, but also like it was trying to be cautiously polite at the same time. The small cat shook its head.

"Not yet. We're waiting 'til Martin comes." The huge cat simply remained where it was, turning its head away in acceptance but otherwise disregarding the people in the room. Its tail swished back and forth in agitation. Robin put his hands up and backed to the doorway.

"Yeeaahh... I don't know about the rest of you ladies, but I vote we ask the kitties to tell Martin that we couldn't stick around." he backed through the doorway, and strangely, after passing beyond the frame, disappeared from sight. Uprising growled, spitting another small get of fire that set the carpet smouldering.

"I can't take this any more. Let me have a look at the list... any mail-ins for the hosts yet? Drat, nothing... ugh... this is damn painful... just..." It looked for a moment like she was going to grab her own chest, but thought better of it and instead turned away, into a corner of the room. Now her hands did jump in, and with a small crack the blazing band of fiery scales encircling her chest quenched with a hiss. She threw the gem from the centre back over her shoulder into the fireplace where it cracked a second time and made the flames leap high. The visible fire in her eyes and mouth, as well as the tips of her spines all went out, but unfortunately it seemed to have begun a chain reaction for the rest of the override, as her snake tail began to crumble and dissolve. There was a small sound of panic when she noticed this, and she moved quickly to try and put herself behind another piece of furniture before anything was left exposed. One arm was still wrapped across her chest, but before things could become too precarious a small cloud of red smoke began to funnel out of the broken gem in the fireplace towards her, wreathing the girl's body in a fresh cloud.

This one covered her completely for several moments, but when the mist began to dissipate it had changed the colour of her skin completely, from pale cream to a deep red. Her hair had shifted hue as well, to compliment her skin more closely, and she had been given a pair of golden hoop earrings. The mist had not granted her very much in the way of fresh upper-body covering; a pair of small, loose-tasselled nipple covers were the whole of it, leaving the rest of her modest endowment to speak for itself. Still standing behind one of the remaining chairs, this was all any of the others would be able to see at first, but Uprising scowled.

"You f—" Her voice cut off as her eyes swirled with a rainbow of colours. When she next spoke, it was in a calmer monotone that was clearly not her own. "Jinn are powerful creatures that exist as the focal points of many old myths and legends. They can be everything from helpful, loyal or subservient, to capricious, tricksome or dangerously violent. What one can do varies from legend to legend, doing everything from imparting knowledge, smiting enemies, and even using their powers to grant requests. They are often bound in servitude to a mundane object, and if it is destroyed they are banished to their original homes in the beyond. This Jinn grants knowledge: The treasure you see is the grandest step upon the path that leads to it, nothing more, and nothing less. It does not matter where you search, so long as you walk the path faithfully, you will find it in the end. With this knowledge, the Jinn gives thanks to Terra.Exe and their operator Scarlet Krysarch, for sending a lovely costume gift to Vee.Exe!" The eyes glows stopped, returning to Uprising's own green, and her expression leapt back into an angry snarl.

"That story-teller is pushing his damn luck..." she muttered. After another moment, she moved out from the chair to reveal the rest of her transformation; bare to the hips, a V-shaped golden sash wrapped her waist. It actually seemed to sit only just barely on her hips at the sides, and immediately dropped tantalisingly below them as it angled down even lower at the front; it looked almost certain that something adult would show, but it seemed perfectly tailored to cut that line as fine as possible. Below the sash, a trail of mist was all that remained, but a single red stone hung like a pendant below the bottom point of the 'V', affixed to an encircling gold chain that secured the sash in place as well. As much as it looked like a misty lower half, there was a slight bob in her movement that suggested that uprising herself was still walking on two feet.

"Hey, Crypt-Keeper! You ever freaking hear of underwear!? Where did that thief go... I need another drink..." She drifted towards the door, though still managed to give the impression of trying to storm out. the cats, for their part, looked vaguely miffed that their spooky atmospheric and intimidation-based ghost story was being suddenly ignored.

"Picking on people is fun. I guess I don't blame whoever built the place," Chew commented flatly with a shrug. "If I could build a mansion full of talking cats, weird clues, and weird costumes associated with those clues, I'd probably do it too. Must be nice to have money." She watched with a raised eyebrow as Marian first immolated then "put out" a piece of furniture. "Hopefully he didn't put all his money into this place... Or at least left a little nest egg stowed away for us to take on our way out..."

Chic didn't find the cat much in the mood for petting, but such was the way of cats, fickle creatures that they are. She straightened back up and took a moment to pull up the bust-line of her black and red colored kimono once again. "Do you have something against cats, Robin? I'm part of that esteemed family now," the feline fashionista joked, before turning and witnessing the arrival of a new cat that actually did give her pause. "Well, now that I'm not the largest cat in the room... I think I agree," she spoke quietly, beginning to edge away from the variously-sized animals and back towards the door out of the room to follow Robin out.

Even the appearance of what was essentially a talking panther didn't particularly phase Chew, who instead stuck around to watch curiously as Marian provided a self-induced wardrobe malfunction. The top had been self-induced, anyway... the bottom she probably hadn't been counting on. She started to open her mouth, before she was interrupted by the usual costume adoption speech. "Aw... I never liked knowledge. I was going to wish for something fun..." she sighed, allowing her arms to hang at her sides and looking slightly dejected. "And what's this house got against you having legs? And are we still being in character? Cause like... I'm completely different from this normally," she joked, taking count of the cats in the room again.

Chic had exited into the hallway with the intention of finding Robin, but as it turned out, it wasn't so easy in the dark. "Darn it, Chew... can't you go with the flow just every once in a while? And why did Marian stay in there?!" she complained quietly, feeling along the wall and edging sideways slowly, gently shifting her hips. "Robin? Are you out here?" she asked. "If you pop out at me and you're still all shriveled and gross, my claws are coming out!" If there was one light, one would be able to see that the kimono was hanging down further than normal while she wasn't tending it, below her shoulderblades on the back. Her movement was keeping it secured in the front, pressed against the wall.

The light had stayed back in the cat room, perhaps wanting to see what humorous thing would happen to Uprising next, or perhaps wanting to see if Martin would be a cat half the size of the room whenever he appeared. "Huh... If there was something inside that gem, then maybe there's something inside this cat too..." she murmured to herself, picking up the coal-like cat statue. She raised it above her head briefly, then smashed it quickly against the floor. Nothing came out, leaving behind a pathetic pile of black rocks, which messily bounced about her feet before coming to a stop. "Whoops. Hope that wasn't anything important. Look, I'll clean it up, alright?" Perhaps just trying to occupy some time, she grabbed up a nearby broom and dustpan from beside the fireplace, not seeming overly concerned with the cats there. When she did... nothing changed. "Ha. I thought I was going to turn into a maid or something... I'm not really sweeping that up, by the way. Sorry if I gave that impression."

When she spoke those words, a cloud of dust suddenly puffed out from around her, blowing the blanket away from her body. She grasped at it clumsily midair for a second, but missed it entirely. Thankfully for her, at the same time, her hair had grown out into a tremendous curtain, covering half of her face and most of her body. It looked like what clothes she had were only a few loosely tied rags around her body, but she'd been stained with dirt as well. She coughed, then spoke: "I'm a boggart now, I guess because I broke things and acted bratty. Boggarts are brat spirits, who like to make mischief in houses. So my personality didn't really change at all, just my appearance. I don't like getting ugly costumes," she complained, frowning and showing newly sharpened teeth. "Or I could use, like... a bath. That'd be a fun twist for everyone, wouldn't it? How about it, can you cats take me to the bathroom so I can wash up before Martin shows up? Or... Marian, I wish I was in the bathroom!" she called out, clapping her hands twice.

One consequence of the new costume was that, without her previous, she'd deprived the room of the light it had. Now, the best light sources available would be either the shine of cats eyes or any fire that Uprising was able to produce in her current form. "Uh... I wish we had a light in here!" she shouted again, raising both her hands high into the air as if expecting she could make lights come on by doing so.

"This stopped being funny when I almost fell through an open door just now!" Chic agreed, not realizing as she groped through the darkness that her kimono was now hanging down to her lower back, only secured on the front by virtue of her chest riding the wall.

"Oh hey! Also! Thanks to uh... Lyntael! Who sent a nice outfit with a red cap to Holly! There's a pretty cute message included too but what do I know... I'm a stinky boggart," Chew announced loudly, again showing an amazing talent for raising her voice without losing her monotone.
Out in the hall, the lack of light was mildly problematic for some and borderline scandalous for others. Viewers at home were treated to some... delicately cut night-vision shots of the explorers moving about in the dark and finding each other again. Strangely, the light from the fire in the cat room didn't seem to pass beyond the door. Between the three of them, though, and Chew once she followed and left the cats alone, they were left in what seemed to be an upper floor landing space; a meeting of ways between a couple of the upstairs hallways and the stairs back down, as well as a set of large double doors set into the back wall. Without a proper light, of course, this was near impossible to make out. At one point, Chic became the 'victim' of a hand slipping across the fabric of her drooping kimono, 'helping' to keep it up and decent, particularly in the region of the upper left of her chest area. Another one helpfully made sure the garment was still properly in place around her right hip and her behind, briefly, before a whisper quick brush gave the suggestion of lips on the side of her neck. Whoever it was backed off again immediately without making a sound... though chances were her reaction would determine how encouraged or discouraged the perpetrator was.

Elsewhere, Uprising grumbled more pronouncedly, as though the darkness required her to speak up more than normal.

"It'd be nice if wish granting came with the look. Hmph. I'd wish that our story-teller wasn't such a creepy perv." There was a sigh, before the sound of slight scuffling and moving fabric. "Thief? Is that you? Give me that bottle..." This was followed by a soft chuckle.

"Now Marian... it's my last one, what do I get for it, hmm?"
"You get to keep your teeth."
"... Deal!" The unmistakable sound of the lever pull lifting the stopper on the bottle came next, and of liquid being upended in glass, both in an almost cartoonish amount of clarity.
"... Meh... And if you get the creep to stop putting me in these degrading costumes, I'll let you... do that thing, that you want..." This was a much quieter mumble, though it sounded like it was coming from fairly close to Chic. From opposite ends of the hallways, small, wall-mounted lamps began to flicker on one at a time, spreading a soft glow that crept closer and closer to the central area, but Uprising didn't seem to be paying attention to them. The spreading light revealed the small area to have a single low tea table and two chairs made for comfort. There were a few copies of newspapers on the table, looking old and very out of date. 'Marian', still looking like a red jinn, was holding what looked like a mostly empty wine bottle in one hand, and was pointing firmly against 'Robin's chest with the other, looking up at him with a serious expression. Despite the red shade of her skin, her cheeks managed to look much rosier than the rest of her body.

"Once. Just once, ok... And he's got to promise, got it?" She punctuated the continuation with a poke against his chest. for his part, 'Robin' looked equal parts intrigued and off-balance.
"One bottle of wine isn't enough to make you say things like that... Marian, otherwise I'd put it down to the drink and not hold you to a promise like that." He raised an eyebrow at her, then glanced up to the other two women, flashing them a momentary request for assistance with his eyes. It would become clear, if they looked closer, that she wasn't just prodding him in the chest; the one-fingered poke had him pushed against the wall, and he seemed to be at least somewhat pinned there as a result.
"I... May have had something to make tonight bearable, before I came. Because I knew Creepy was going to dress me up in some revealing costume again. A few somethings. Strong somethings. Doesn't matter. Make him promise. I'm sick of playing dress up in costumes with no bloody underwear, like this one." It was only now that she seemed to recognise that there were lights in the room, and remember, as a result of that, that they weren't, and actually had never been, alone. She backed off rather more quickly than was casual and gently set the mostly empty bottle down on the low table.

"Anyone find any treasure yet? Night's getting old..." was the statement that she announced to the other two, as if to distract from the pseudo-private conversation.

Robin stood away from where he'd been pressed to the wall and shook himself out. To his credit, his poker face was immaculate, and chic would probably have a hard time guessing if the earlier dark-shrouded touches had been him, if not for the fact that, well, who else could it really have been, right? He walked over to pick up one of the old papers and look at it, reading to himself for a few moments to feign distraction in case the others decided to pass commentary on the exchange. It was a few longer moments later when he looked up from the paper and nodded.

"At any rate, we should keep moving... these charades are pointing us somewhere, I'm sure." He seemed unsurprised as his old outfit began to fade and fall away. "Ah well, wish me luck, ladies..." He managed a quick wink to Chic. "There's one in here for you, too, have a peek!"

Quote (Demon Trickster)

In this graphical override, Hoodwink is dressed in a dark red and black short-sleeved compression shirt and dark grey pants. The shirt's design is such that it is dark red from the chest down, and black further up from that, up to the base of Hoodwink's neck. The border between the red and black is demarcated by a series of five alternating red and black diamonds. His hands are covered in a black tribal-esque tattoo design up to halfway up his upper arm, though it is mostly solid black up to his elbow. The back of his hands has a glowing set of three red triangular gems set into each of them. Behind his back, three pairs of free-floating red lights, in the shape of long, thin triangles, are fanned out to resemble wings. Atop his head, two large twisted black horns grow out from his temples, resembling that of a ram's, except much more compressed into a tight spiral. Black leather shoes shined to a fault complete the look.

Stylish transformation completes, he took an extra moment to look himself over with a grin, and made a small 'how do I look' gesture to the women in the room.

"Very nice. We should all thank Sofia Langley for this gorgeous gift donation, which I'm please to wear proudly for her. I am rather fond of playing the trickster, after all, and I'm very, very far from an angel..." A second alter, the now-familiar swirl of rainbow colours flashed through Robin's eyes as his body adopted a more neutral pose.

"Demons serve their own ends, and tricksters are usually out for a laugh. They like to deceive and fool, but they rarely outright lie; where would be the fun? so, when one tells you that the end of your journey draws near, and that the grand ballroom awaits ahead, it's up to each of you to decide what to do with those words!" This time an amused laugh followed before the 'possession' faded and his eyes returned to normal. for her part, 'Marian' just seemed annoyed that he'd gotten an entirely sensible outfit, while she was still left.. sans pants.
With her body pushed against the wall, Chic was unable to verify who had gotten behind to "help" her, but she probably wasn't going to thank them regardless. "Ack! Hands off! I don't remember anything in the description about a Tattie-Bogle doing that!" she complained, squirming as unseen hands sampled her best parts. She pressed against the wall a bit harder, perhaps not wanting to give the hands any further access to the front. The lights began to come back on, blessedly, but what Chic saw after fixing her kimono only got her more upset: it looked very much as though her teaser had gone over to play with Marian after getting what he wanted. The two were seemingly flirting and rather boldly. She was still smiling, but it was more of a smirk. "Maybe I should have had more of that wine after all..." she muttered under her breath, fixing the kimono up a bit so that not so much of her skin was showing.

On the other side, covered in brown dust and not looking nearly as appealing as either Chic or Uprising at the moment, Chew shook her head and took out her gray, rectangular recording device, pantomiming scanning it around the room. "Nope, the treasure radar's on the fritz. When I find it, I'll let you all know, okay? I won't just like... bolt for the door," she responded with a straight face, pausing to flip the device open. She held it horizontally in front of her eyes to read something, then closed it back. "It is late, though. Maybe we should find a bedroom. For sleep, I mean."

"It would have to be one luxurious bedspread," Chic replied impatiently, rolling her eyes. She seemed to be joining team "get this over with" pretty quickly. "Well, at least you're done being a Tattie-Bogle. I'm tired of being a cat for now as well, so I'll take a peek," she sighed, walking over to snatch the paper cattily from her compatriot's hand. "Perhaps I'll get something that stays on a little better..." Her kimono began to vanish, placing her in a new costume as well.

Quote (Demon Chic.GMO)

In this graphical override, Chic is dressed in a sharp-looking black business suit with a slim-fitting, narrow-cut skirt; no shirt or undersuit is worn underneath. A red silk scarf is loosely tied around her neck, which has a curved black arrow design printed on it. Her hair is dyed a fiery red, extended slightly past her shoulders, and her eyes turn into a similar crimson color. A pair of small leathery reddish black wings perch themselves slightly above her temples. These are mirrored similarly by another larger pair from her shoulderblades, which have a wingspan of about half her height. These wings are completely articulate, but do not enable flight in any manner. Her hands are covered in a black tribal-esque design, up to slightly above her wrists, that resembles tight gloves, but it seems to be only tattooed on. Her fingernails are the exception, being painted bright red. From the back of her suit, a prehensile red tail with a pointed arrowhead end extends from her tailbone, being long enough to be able to reach her ankles in a straight line. Further below, she dons some dark brown pantyhose, and bright red high heels accentuate her feet well. The heel end of these sport a tiny bat wing extension, jutting upwards at an angle.

The fashionista's mood seemed to brighten once she was in her new wardrobe; her eyes seemed to sparkle. "Oh! Someone out there knows me well," she chuckled, admiring the tips of the red shoes. She filled the jacket and skirt quite well; there wasn't so much exposed cleavage as with her last outfit, but there was also less hiding the shape of her waist and hips. "I'm a sucker for a stylish outfit. Thanks again to Sofia for this one! You're a saint, darling... if I'm going to be stuck in this creaky old mansion, I may as well look good."

"Yeah, me too," Chew added.

"Ahem," Chic coughed awkwardly, then continued. "And let's not forget a special thanks for others who sent nice costumes and well-wishes.. Kabuki sent a nice gift to Pirouette, although I think I'm over kimonos for a while. Thanks to all who sent such pleasant gifts to others, though. Now... did I hear something about a ballroom? Although none of us are dressed for a ball, at least that's a hint where to go."

"Following the hints hasn't gotten us any closer to this treasure!" Chew complained. "I bet it was buried outside in the yard."

"That would be quite a twist," Chic was forced to agree. "But before we dismiss all of these helpful hints... let's see what's in the ballroom."

"I'll bet it's Martin," Chew added, waving her silver device this way and that to record the scenery as they moved. She stopped with the square focused on Marian for a few moments, then flipped it open again to inspect. After nodding approvingly, she got back to inspecting the scenery, wordlessly.
For his part, Hoodwink seemed mostly confused by Chic's declined mood, and only raised an eyebrow at her as she took the paper from him, changing her own clothes as well. He still nodded with an appraising approval once she was done though, flicking one eye up and down with a grin. while this was going on, Uprising cast a suspicious eye at Chew's recording device, and instinctively dropped her hands to block the central area below her waist, just in case the other woman's screen was looking through the costume more than it should. At the mention of the ballroom, however, the lights in the main area flickered off for another few moments, and this time 'Marian' was the one to utter a brief squeak of surprise.

"Oi! Watch it, or I'll end up thinking you're as creepy as him!" One might have expected a swift punch of some kind to follow, but no such sound came, and when the lights flickered back up again, it was quite clear that 'Robin' hadn't moved. He raised his hands in an innocent gesture, somewhat helpless to defend himself as the only boy present... but it would have been a very tall order for him to cross the space to Marian, offend her, and get back again seamlessly in the brief second that the lights were down. He was spared the potential interrogation, though, as the double doors ahead of them began to creak inwards of their own accord. A series of six lights around the door frame began to glow brighter as the rest of the flames in the room dimmed more slowly. There was little question of where they were meant to be heading, it seemed. The group headed through with their other minor disagreements on temporary hold for now

The doors led them to the upper observation gallery over the grand ballroom of the mansion; a circular arc balcony that ringed the outside of the chamber, supported by graceful columns at regular intervals. The dance floor below was patterned marble, but as they stepped up to the balcony, it was easier to see the grand design from above, depicting two figures dancing. One, patently the female figure, was dressed mostly in black, while the taller male figure dancing with her was made mostly from white. The rest of the background marble surrounding the piece of floor art was a delicate shade of pink that more thoroughly contrasted the dual tones.

The double doors creaked shut behind them, and sealed with an ominous thud, and the double layer of torches lining the room shifted from a warm yellow to a slightly more worrisome purple shade. The great chandelier in the middle of the domes ceiling also shifted hue, sending refractions of purple light across the room. Soft strains of piano music began to fill the air once the doors were shut, coming from nowhere and everywhere at one, and gradually indistinct figures and shapes began to play into sight, moving in flowing dances about the floor below. It was hard to make out any details of them; looking directly at any pair of shapes seemed to make them that much harder to actually see, but the chamber was full of waltzing couples, just seen from the corner of the eye.

Further, if any of them turned their heads, they'd catch glimpses of intangible, indistinct figures arrayed along the balcony on either side of them, dressed in old-world fashions and laughing and talking as they watched the dancers below. Even so, wherever they actually looked properly, it seemed like they must surely be the only actually real people in the room.

"It is always nice to receive new guests..." The voice made several of the explorers flinch as it came from behind; an old, creaking voice that sounded dry, but still with a note of strength to it. Turning would reveal a very tall figure, dressed all in white with his arms behind his back, and wearing a white face mask. "It has been a long time since any newcomers joined the dance... would any of you care to take a turn on the floor?" The piano music grew stronger, and the moving figures below a littler clearer to see. It was only now that any of them noticed there were long, winding stairs leading down to the dance floor below, at either end of the curved balcony they were on.

"Never mind your worries for now; the night is young, and we have all the time in the world to dance and remember." He extended a pair of hands, offering them to any who might take them, though primarily to Uprising and Chew. The costumes of the two women seemed to melt away quite rapidly; for a moment Uprising's lower half was clearly visible for the lack of costume on it, before her default appearance took over, putting her back in her comfortable rebel clothing. Chew, likewise, ended up in her more normal wear again. Each girl experienced the wash of colours over their eyes, as Chew first felt compelled to offer thanks to Joanna and Pyre's gift to Ship, and Uprising jumped in over her right away with her own automated acknowledgement.

"And a last minute entrant, our thanks also to Lucia and Vincent, for sending gifts to all of their friends as well!" She shook her head a moment later, as though trying to clear it, and blinked. One hand reached out as though to take the tall figure's offer, then pulled back.

"Technical problems? What do you mean, technical problems? You're controlling this entire set, aren't you? How can you not be doing it?" Her face turned away as she spoke this, as though she was muttering the communication to someone else in a private message. The tall figure seemed to ignore her outburst, waiting patiently.

"I am sorry if you have been misled; my greatest treasure, you see, is the costume that my dearest used to wear when we danced such balls. Now we dance to remember, and whoever dances the fairest may wear the costume and preside over our grand ball until another earns the right. Now come, let us dance, and remember, always..." The piano music filled the room, growing clearer still, and the dancers and spectators had gradually gained firmer forms and clearer details, until it now felt as though they were in a busy dance hall, filled with people. Other figures moved forward from the crowd of on-lookers, smiling and laughing now as they reached out to take the hands of each treasure-hunter in an effort to lead them to the dance floor.

It was at about that moment that the entire scene faded to black, and returned a few moments later with the four standing where they had been earlier, before the deep sarcophagus in the middle of the crypt-master's lair.

"Sorry boys and girls..." The withered figure laughed at them from behind steepled fingers. "That one got away from me a bit, had to pull the plug before we lost you all forever. There's spooky, and then there's... law-suites." He cackled again. "It's getting late anyway, hadn't you all better be running on home now? Thank you all to everyone who sent in gifts for their friends. Remember, every gift sent means another donation from us to supporting navis in need everywhere, so thank you all for your generous donations... and perhaps we'll see you again next year, for another night of frights. Good night, boys and girls. Sleep tight." He laughed again, bones clicking around him as he did, and the scene faded out while the four treasure-seekers were still getting their bearings.

((Entries are now closed for the Thrills and Chills Hallowe'en event! thanks to everyone who sent costumes to friends. FXP will be tallied and awarded shortly. It will be recorded at the bottom of each post in the email thread.))