A Learning Experience: Chapter 1, Turn 4

Maintainer's out-of-character note: The three threads detailed in this Turn Summary occur simultaneously. I apologize for any confusion this may cause.

When Trevor and Niko arrive at the auditorium, the room is almost preternaturally silent behind its closed doors. To faerie senses, there is a faint smell as of something burning seeping from under the doors.

When Niko and Trevor arrive, Trevor has copious amounts of plaid fabric wrapped around his left arm with the excess slung over his shoulder. Trevor says to Niko, "I should go in first in case that creature is waiting inside."

"I should probably go in first. I can get out of the way quicker, blend in with the shadows better," he gestures to his black attire, "and I'm not exactly a novice fighter; it would be better if you covered me instead due to these reasons. Now, remember that an argument will only give the creature a chance to escape." Niko starts to walk into the auditorium.

When Niko opens the door, he discovers that, to his fae senses, the auditorium's walls are burned and blackened, and the roof has a gaping hole in it; through that, a reddish sky can be seen. The sun is a weakly glowing orb, barely visible through a thick layer of some sort of dust.

Near the stage, a group of four figures are hunched over a fitfully-flickering campfire. There is some sort of meat spitted over the coals; this seems to be what is producing the burning smell.

Niko starts walking towards them, making his presence known by making sure he's heard. He's not making drastic noises, but he's not trying to cover his footsteps either.

Niko goes as close to the figures as they allow. He starts to browse over each one, to see what they're dressed like and anything else about them.

When Niko heads for the auditorium, Trevor takes off after him, aiming to enter through the door next to the one Niko uses. Trevor busts through his door only moments after Niko enters. Seeing Niko hasn't been ambushed, Trevor quickly scans their surroundings and then hastens to catch up to Niko.

Trevor walks next to Niko as they head for the group around the campfire. He says quietly, "Um, Niko? Do you know what's going on?"

Niko turns at the sudden noise. "From what I can gather, I think we've entered a dream. I may be wrong though. Just be careful, and don't get anyone angry, then maybe we'll be safe." He continues to walk towards the people, "If all goes well, we might get some information."

Hearing the two approaching, one of the figures around the fire turns around, proving to be an older woman. Her hair is snow-white, her face seamed with the lines of great age, and her ragged, layered clothes look like they've seen better days. "Welcome, strangers," she says in a rusty voice. "From whence do you come?"

Trevor looks at Niko. "You?" breathes Trevor, in a tone intended for sluagh ears only.

Niko whispers to Trevor "Check outside, see if it's different. " To the lady "We come from Dixon High." He holds his breath and hopes he doesn't sound crazy or isn't making a big mistake.

The old woman looks confused. "I know nothing of this 'Dixon High.' Is it far away?"

"Yes, it is very far and we have been traveling for a while now. Perhaps you can tell us where we have come to, as I've seem to have lost track of places we have stopped in. My companion and I would be grateful for the knowledge." Niko gives the woman a slight smile and makes sure to listen for anyone else that might arrive.

Trevor hesitates a moment before leaving, waiting to see how the group around the campfire reacts. Trevor goes back to the doors, open one and look back into the hall.

The hall appears just the same as when Trevor and Niko entered the auditorium.

Trevor comes back over to Niko. "Looks the same. I guess it's stable." Trevor gives a slight bow to the old woman and explains, "We're not familiar with this place and wouldn't want to accidently be trapped." Trevor gestures at the hole in the roof.

The old woman nods. "It is very easy to get lost here. As for your questions, this is the territory of the Dhy'zhonn tribe. I am Ama, the tribe's First Mother, and you are welcome to share the hospitality of our fire. My daughters," here the other three people around the fire look over at Niko and Trevor, revealing themselves to all be women younger than Ama, though costumed similarly to her, and smile shyly.

One of the women is perhaps middle-aged, and the other two seem to be teenagers or young adults. One of the younger ones pulls the spitted meat off the coals and puts it down on a platter that looks to be made of some sort of pottery, and offers the platter to Niko and Trevor. "You are guests; you take first."

Niko politely accepts the food, "Thank you for allowing us to sit among you."

Trevor pulls his arm out of the mass of fabric he'd wrapped around his arm earlier and takes a piece of meat too. He smiles at the young woman with the platter. "My thanks also." Trevor is about to take a bite when a look of concern appears on his face. "Um, Niko, are you going to need a knife?"

One of the young women picks up a bone knife and passes it to Niko. "If you need a knife, you can use this one."

Both Niko and Trevor find the meat marginally edible, though, due to Niko being a sluagh, for entirely different reasons.

Upon seeing that Niko is set, Trevor will start eating. After eating a little bit, Trevor grins at Niko and asks, "So does this remind you of cafeteria food?"

"Better than cafeteria food." He returns Trevor's smile. "If it isn't too personal, m'lady, can you tell us about yourselves?"

Ama looks thoughtful. "We of the Dhy'zhonn tribe have lived here for a very long time. In the Time Before, the Dreaming One gave us this place, and so we have lived here ever since."

She smiles at the two kithain youths. "We are most happy to have visitors. Our men have gone on the Hunt, and we did not expect them back for another turning of the moon. It is very lonely here with only us women."

"The Time Before? You mean before this happened?" Trevor indicates the hole in the roof.

Ama nods "yes." "That time is before even my memory, though."

Trevor's grin widens at Niko's smile. After Niko asks the ladies about themselves, Trevor will add, "By the way, I'm Trevor and this is my friend Niko."

Ama nods graciously at Trevor's introductions. "I have told you my name; my daughters are Riva," the middle-aged woman, "and Bekka and Linna," the two young women.

Bekka smiles shyly at the two youths.

As the group finishes eating, Riva inclines her head to Niko and Trevor and says, "As you have shared our fire and our food, you may now share our hospitality as well." She makes a gesture that includes herself, Bekka and Linna. "Which of us would you like to share with?"

Trevor hesitates a moment before answering. "We thank you for your generosity. As we are strangers and not familiar with your customs, I do not wish to misconstrue your offer of hospitality." Trevor hesitates and glances at Niko before continuing. "Are you referring to sharing a bed together?" There is a note of eagerness in Trevor's voice but nevertheless he looks at Niko again, as if seeking reassurance.

Riva nods, smiling at Trevor and Niko. "It is the custom of our tribe -- when you share food, you may also share a bed." She looks down at her feet. "And it has been very lonely since our menfolk left on the Hunt."

Niko gives Trevor a look that says "If it has to be done then so be it".

Trevor leans over and says something quietly to Niko.

Niko whispers back, while trying not to seem rude.

Trevor reaches over and gives Niko's and a squeeze. Smiling, he turns back to Riva. "As long as this is your wish," Trevor indicates the four ladies with his hand, "Niko and I will be happy to share." Trevor hands Niko the tartan fabric Trevor had been carrying. "This should be more comfortable than the ground. I've got my own." He pulls out the clasp that secures his kilt over his shoulder and that fabric joins the rest around his waist. "And you can choose first Niko," Trevor smiles, "I'd be happy to share with anyone here!"

Niko walks over to Ama and offers his hand. Whispering to her so only she can hear, "Since it is custom, would you honor me by sharing your bed with me." He'd wait for her response and then see if Trevor follows suit.

Trevor watches Niko go over to Ama and whisper to her. A look of uncertainty flickers crosses his face and then he turns to the other ladies. "I'm afraid my experience with girls hasn't gone much beyond kissing. So if whichever of you wouldn't mind showing me volunteered we'd probably have more fun than if I picked someone." Trevor pauses than adds, "I suppose I should show you what you'd be getting." He takes his shirt off and then reaches for the belt holding on his kilt.

Riva smiles at Trevor, giving him a thorough looking-over. "Let me show you, sweeting. I love showing."

Ama leads Niko a little ways away, out of earshot of the others, and then smiles, reaching over to pat his cheek in a maternal manner. Though not as soft as Niko's, her voice is quiet enough not to carry beyond the two of them. "I am flattered by your offer, Niko, but my years have mellowed me considerably -- my needs are...much smaller, compared to those of my daughter and her daughters. Perhaps you would be willing to share with one of them?"

"If that is what you wish, then I shall." He takes up her hand and kisses it gently. He then goes over to where Bekka and Linna are sitting. A slight blush probably comes to his cheeks, but he appears calm, "Ladies it's seems that you have been left out..."

Riva leads Trevor a little ways away, out of sight of the others, smiling charmingly at him all the while.

Meanwhile, Bekka looks shyly at Niko. "Um, would you like to go with me? I don't know as much as Riva, but I'm willing to try...." She bites at her lip, and Linna puts a comforting hand on her shoulder.

"I would be honored if you would have me." He gently takes her hand in his and if she's sitting helps her up. If she doesn't lead to a spot, he'd look for the most serene and private place available and take her there.

Trevor happily follows Riva, leaving his shirt and clasp forgotten on the ground.

Trevor, Niko, and their respective lady companions adjourn to more private surroundings and an enjoyable time is had by each of them. Relaxed and happy, all four fall asleep after their amorous adventures.

***

When Trevor and Niko wake up, the auditorium appears normal -- no hole in the roof, no fire, no ladies. Nothing remains of the encounter except for the boys' memories of the women with whom it seems they only just shared tender moments.

Trevor stands up and looks around. "Hey Niko, are you here? Can I come over?" Trevor collects his belt and kilt off the ground and looks around for his shirt and clasp - which are of course are not there.

Niko wakes up, smiles and get dressed. "Yeah I'm here." His voice has that groggy sound to it. He walks over to where Trevor is, "Should we continue to look around? And what time is it?" He grabs his sketchbook and makes a quick note of what he can remember from the experience.

While Niko was getting dressed, Trevor has laid out his kilt on the ground over his belt. He is kneeling on it and making folds into it (that will form the pleats when he puts it on) when Niko arrives. Spotting Niko, Trevor says happily, "Niko! You look like you had a good time too." Trevor finishes folding pleats and stands up, obviously unconcerned at Niko seeing him naked. Of course as an artist, Niko will probably realize Trevor has a body that puts the best Classical sculptures to shame. "Sorry to keep you waiting, but I couldn't find my shirt. And with a Great Kilt, if you don't put the shirt on first, you're not putting it on at all. But if you just point out where you were..." Trevor waits for Niko to do so. "...That means the fire was over there." Trevor retrieves his shirt and puts it on and then brings his clasp back over and puts the kilt on. "I'm willing to guess that we won't find anything relating to the creature's attack yesterday given how we just lost a whole reality. I'm sure there's a clock around here somewhere, as well as the extra fabric I brought." Trevor grins happily. "Though if it's not, the ladies are welcome to it!" A bit more seriously Trevor adds, "As much as I'd like to go back, perhaps we should leave before something worse turns up." Trevor gives Niko an affectionate thump on the shoulder. "So what do you think?"

"You're probably right, but in any case we didn't really get any information other than what I got up here," Niko taps his head,"And the fact that we both got laid." He looks up at the clock. Assuming they still have time, "I think if we decide not to check out the rest of the auditorium than we should look around the rest of the school." Niko smiles, "I doubt Dr. Summers would care to hear what we did with our time."

According to the clock above the stage, the time is about 4:20 pm -- a little more than an hour after everyone split up.

"Better Dr. Summers than Mr. Wethersfield. Though we can report that Ama said something about them being granted their land by the Dreaming One in the time before." Trevor smiles, "Though I'm not going to be sharing the tips I got from Riva." He adds a bit more seriously, "Unless it's with you." Trevor looks at Niko and says, "While I'd rather get out of the auditorium, I'll stick with you for whatever you want to do. Though in either case we should probably get started."

"I might be making a bad decision, but I think we should check out the rest of the auditorium. Nothing extensive, just a quick check."

"All right, you search and I'll be lookout. I'm sure you're better at finding things than I am." Trevor sticks with Niko as he searches and keep watch.

Niko nods his head and starts searching the auditorium.

A quick search of the auditorium yields nothing out of the ordinary, save for Trevor's extra kilt lying on the floor, somewhat rumpled but otherwise intact.

"It was still worth it Niko," Trevor says sympathetically. He holds up his spare kilt, "If someone had turned this into Mr. Wethersfield, he would probably have thought I was wandering around naked." He looks at Niko and smiles.

"Well, we at least have that. We have three choices now... go see Dr. Summers, find Layla or see if the cafeteria is open so I can finish sketching this picture and we can get our info straight. What do you want to do?"

"I'd say either find somewhere to finish your sketch and talk or go find Layla." Trevor perks up and adds, "I wonder if Layla would be willing to go out with the two of us on a date?" Trevor blushes and adds, "Um, if you wouldn't mind..."

"Ummm... well let's go find her, I mean she's bound to have info and I can finish my sketch later." Niko leaves the auditorium. "Now if I were a pooka where would I be?"

***

Meanwhile, Emmet, his companion, and Valeria make their way to the basement...

On the way to the basement, Valerie asks, "Do you mind if we stop at the gym first? There's something I want to pick up."

"Whatever."

Away from the rest of the group, and mostly alone with Val, Emmet seems much more reserved.

Valeria nods and leads the way to the gym. Once there, she pushes open the door and heads straight for Miss Emily Kapatelis' office. Knocking on the door, she calls, "Miss K.?"

After a few minutes, the door opens; noticing the threesome, Miss Kapatelis smiles and says, "Hi, Valerie. What can I do for you and your friends?" The girls' gym teacher is clad in her usual ensemble of Larry K. Dixon T-shirt, athletic shorts, and tennis shoes. Her auburn hair is pulled back into a ponytail; a few tendrils escape to frame her face. With her slim, athletic build and vivacious manner, she could almost be mistaken for a student herself.

To fae eyes, small horns curl up into Amalia's hair, and her goat's legs are covered by a silky russet pelt. She wears a short, simple green shift, its hem ornamented with a black Greek key design.

Valeria returns the smile and asks, "Could we borrow some of the fencing equipment to practice with? We'll bring it back I promise."

Miss Kapatelis seems to consider this for a moment or two, then nods. Pulling a ring of keys from her desk, she leads the little group into the storage area and unlocks one of the lockers against the wall. "I'm only doing this because you've promised to bring it back, okay?" she says, looking at Valeria with a serious expression. Val nods.

Opening the locker, Miss K. gestures to the fencing foils inside. "Take your pick. I've got lesson plans to make up, so I'll be in the office call me if you need anything."

Once the three are alone, Val starts searching through the foils until she comes up with one in particular. "Great!" she says suddenly. "They haven't gotten rid of it!" She shows Emmet and his companion a foil that appears more worn than the rest. "The tip kept coming off this one all the time in practice last year I thought it was a pain then, but maybe it'll come in handy now." She pulls off the rubber tip, then gestures to the rest of the foils. "Do either of you want one?"

Emmet takes a foil from the locker, gingerly giving it a few swipes back and forth.

"It's been a while... I haven't fenced since before my Saining. Was pretty furkin' good, if I say so myself. I'm sure I can recall a thing or two."

Emmet's companion smiles a secret little smile, but declines a foil for herself.

Val nods, keeping the now-tipless foil for herself as she arranges the remaining ones in the locker and shuts the door with an air of finality. Pitching her voice to carry, she calls, "Thanks, Miss K.! We're done in here!"

"Okay," Miss Kapatelis calls back. "Just make sure to return them when you're through, all right?"

"Uh-huh!" Valeria returns, then looks back at Emmet and his companion. "Shall we go?"

"Lead on."

***

The door to the school's basement is a dark gray, somehow forbidding in the mostly-empty building. Valeria surreptitiously grasps her pendant for a moment, almost as if to draw comfort from the contact. Taking a deep breath, she tries the handle.

The door opens slowly, its hinges creaking protestingly; beyond it is an ominous darkness only feebly illuminated by the light from above. Swallowing hard and gripping the foil firmly in one hand, Val turns back to her companions. "Ready?"

Emmet jabs Val more or less gently on the backside with his foil, exasperation showing on his face as he shoulders past the young sidhe.

"If you're waiting on me, you're backing up. C'mon, honey, and move that shapely behind of yours. As exciting as this little 'adventure' has been so far, I do have other appointments on my schedule this evening."

Emmet's companion moves past Valeria as the nocker moves into the gloom beyond the door. The girl pauses at the threshold for a moment, turning to Val as if to say something. There is an odd look on her face that could be anything from an apology to jealousy. Emmet barks his annoyance at the delay before the redhead can speak and the moment is lost. She steps across the threshold, leaving Val standing alone in the hall.

As he presses deeper into the basement, Emmet notices that the darkness grows thicker the deeper he descends. By the time he passes the halfway point, he can barely see even an arm's length in front of him.

As Emmet descends the stairs, a cluster of gleaming red lights appears in front of him. Suddenly, something furry slams into him, and a sudden pain knifes through his foil arm. As the red lights draw closer, they prove to be the eyes of a pack of rats, each one easily the size of a German Shepherd....

Above, Valeria calls out, "Emmet? You OK?" and starts to come down the stairs. From the way the staircase is vibrating, it seems she's taking them two at a time.

"Get off him!" Valeria shrieks, her foil -- now visible to fae eyes as a gleaming saber -- sinking deep into one of the rats. Giving a shrill squeal, it tries to charge the young sidhe, but Emmet's companion neatly severs its head with the sword she now bears.

Pulling her saber free, Valeria attacks another of the rats, her expression no longer entirely sane. Somehow, she, Emmet and the nocker's companion manage to fight their way to the top of the stairs. With a desperate burst of speed, they burst through the door and back into the hall, slamming the basement door shut behind them.

***

Meanwhile, Layla has a conversation with the school's entranceway...

"What are you doing?" Layla asks.

"Standing here," replies the wall.

As she looks closely at the walls, Layla can see a small indentation almost right in front of her. A closer inspection of the wall reveals that there are four of these indentations in all, arranged in a rectangular shape about the size of a modern-day "No Smoking" sign (probably a bit over a foot long and something less than that tall). It occurs to her that there was probably something on this wall at one time (perhaps a sign of some sort) which has since been removed.

"Do you think you could tell me what used to be here," she touches the spots, "or what happened to the shadows earlier?"

"There was a piece of metal there -- something drove little things into me; it hurt a lot, but I learned to live with the pain after a while.

"People used to come here a while ago, whenever there was the loud noise that told them to hide here. They haven't come for a while, though. Some time ago, someone came and took out the little things, and filled in the holes -- that felt better! I guess they took the metal thing that was there too.

"When people came and hid here, they were afraid of things like the 'shadows' you mention. Maybe someone is still hiding here?"

"Ohh!!!!! well, that was helpful," says Layla, very sarcastic after the overly happy exclamation.. "Is there anything I can do for you? I can't believe those little tiny vindictive people, How could they ever drive those itty tiny woodlike skrewythings thingys into such a nice comfy wall as you."

Deducing that she has gleaned as much useful information from the wall as she can, Layla decides to continue her research in the school library.

The school library is in a large room on the first floor, its wooden bookcases filled almost to bursting with everything from old leather-bound volumes to new paperbacks. In one corner is a pile of large overstuffed pillows and a reading lamp; near the center of the room are the more usual tables and chairs.

In the corner opposite the pile of pillows is a desk of dark wood; behind it sits the school librarian, Miss Elspeth Danvers. She's a rather small woman -- only about five feet two inches tall -- and slender, with dark hair worn pulled back from her face. Her eyes are wide-set in a face with delicate features, and a deep brown. She wears a lacy white blouse fastened at the throat with a cameo pin, and a skirt of a soft dove gray.

To kithain eyes, Elzbieta is pale and gaunt, her large dark eyes sunken in a face the color of pale clay. Her fingers move across the book on her desk in a manner reminiscent of a spider's legs, and a cloud of raven-black hair shot through with strands of almost glowing silver falls to her hips. Her voile is an intricate Victorian gown of dark velvet; a brooch cast in the shape of a jeweled spider glimmers at her throat.

"Why, hello, Layla," she says as she notices the pooka, her voice a cultured murmur as opposed to the reedy whisper more common to the sluagh. "What brings you here this late in the afternoon?"

"No nothing nothing at all, unimportant mission from lady-ma'am principal. this school has a very uninteresting history I've gathered, I swear I almost fell asleep listening, I mean loud noises and how nails don't hurt at all and that signs on the building must still be somewhere, and as my rocky friend will be glad to tell you at length he was ever so unhappy when they took out the wooden nickels. but anyway, I was getting so bored and it was so uninteresting and unuseful I decided to come and look it up, do you think you can help me?"

Elzbieta rises from her chair with a fluid, almost boneless grace. The velvet folds of her gown rustle faintly against the floor as she makes her way to one of the shelves, her long skirts giving the impression that she's gliding along the floor. "The history of the school is a most fascinating subject, indeed." She stands on a stool to reach one of the high shelves, then brings down a large, leather-bound book with thick, parchment-colored pages. "I've kept this scrapbook for a number of years now -- it has clippings detailing the events from the school's founding up to the present day." She climbs back down, the book looking almost absurdly large in her long, skinny fingers. She sets the book carefully down on one of the tables, opens it up to the first page, and beckons Layla over. "Did you know the school building dates back almost a hundred years?" She gestures with a bony finger to a yellowed clipping on the page, showing people in turn-of-the-(twentieth) century clothing posing with shovels. The headline reads, "Ground Broken for New School!"

"Really, I would never have guessed? and here I was thinking it went up yesterday! Is there anything about loud noises and people hiding a lot? or shadows lots of people shaped shadows?"

Elzbieta's thin lips purse as she appears to be turning things over in her mind. "'Loud noises and people hiding a lot'? That is peculiar. Perhaps there is something in here which might explain that -- let's take a look." She begins carefully turning the pages, looking to Layla for confirmation before moving on to the next one.

About a third of the way or so through the book, a photo catches Layla's eye -- it's the school's entranceway, but there's a sign that reads "Fallout Shelter Downstairs" at just about the place where the filled-in holes were.

"Go, I mean don't yes there, those were the darker spots on my stony friend, where they put in the silver pennies and hurt him lots and lots. Do you know anything more about that?" says Layla, pointing out the signs.

Elzbieta gives a slight nod. "There was a fallout shelter in this school until the mid-1980s, when they walled that part of the basement off." She puts her head to one side, apparently turning things over in her mind. "It may very well still be there."

"Really! where where where! whobuiltitwhathappendwhydweneedit?please tell me you know I gotta find out. well actually I don't really but it might be helpful... maybe." She gives Elzbieta a momentary puzzled look.

The sluagh librarian gives what passes for a smile, and says in her murmuring voice, "Back in the 1950s, right up until, oh, about the early 1980s, people were afraid there might be atomic wars, so they built fallout shelters where people could be protected from the blast and radiation. I believe it was the city which built the one in the basement. When the city decided the shelter was no longer needed, they closed it off -- and that is how it has been ever since."

Layla pulls out a notebook and starts scribbling all this information down. "I love you, trust you, but is there any books or maps or something or another that I could use to show miss sumersbody?"


Time: 4:25 pm, Thursday, September 5, 2002
Current weather: Rain. Expected weather: Cloudy skies, chance of rain

This web page copyright 2002 by Midori Hirtzel-Church.
This page first posted -- November 18, 2002
First uploaded to mirror site -- January 10, 2003

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