Wonderland, Scene II (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)

Making some assumptions, Beat began to simplify.
First Door: Ghost, Yellow House, Parables (Fox?) <--
Second Door: Blue House, Horse (Demon, Secret?) (Story, Faerie Wine?) (Spirit+Tea?) (Song?)
Third Door: Holy Water (Ivory House?) (Red House+Saint?) (Archduke+ Dog?) (Demon, Secret?) (Legend, Fish?) (Song?) (Fox?)
Fourth Door: (Ivory House?) (Green House+Poison?) (Archduke+ Dog?) (Demon, Secret) (Legend, Fish) (Story, Faerie Wine) (Spirit+Tea?) (Song?) (Fox?)
Fifth Door: (Green House+Poison?)(Red House+Saint?) (Archduke+ Dog?) (Demon, Secret?) (Legend, Fish?) (Story, Faerie Wine?) (Spirit+Tea?) (Fox?)
"It's more a matter of organization than intelligence, I feel," Erin said, examining Beat's notes, and on occasion murmuring corrections of her own, though these were directed towards Sergei. "The ghost is the the first house, and is next to the blue house, so the blue house is the second house by virtue of being the only one next door. The ghost can't live in the red house, because the saint lives there. He can't live in the ivory house, because that house in next to the green house. He likewise can't live in the green house for the same reason. He therefore lives in the yellow house. It says that parables are told there, so the ghost tells parables."

"Of drinks we have tea, faerie wine, poison, holy water, and presumably the potion we need or else this is a very cruel riddle. Don't look, I might do it," Erin admitted chipperly. "The ghost doesn't drink poison, because he does not live in the green house. He doesn't drink holy water because that is in the middle house. He doesn't drink faerie wine because he tells parables, not stories. He doesn't drink tea because the spirit drinks tea."

"Therefore!" Erin said, walking over and knocking on the first cask. "He has the potion, presumably."

"Now we just have to find the cat."

“Oh, hey, look, it’s math. Someone figured our manhunt needed math in it. That makes sense.” Underwood took off his hat to wipe his forehead, clearly not thrilled with the present circumstances.

“Yeah, I’m going to let the ladies take this while I stand here looking like a rube, if that’s okay with everyone. Sparky, you’ve got Excel – head on over and see what you can…oh.”

Sparky had already left. There had been an excited MIDI fanfare, and then the little phone had zoomed out of Underwood’s breast pocket, across the floor of the well, and up Sergei’s back, screeching to a halt on his shoulder. The BlackBerry was pointing his screen directly at the camera, beeping with extraordinary vigor, and quite literally jumping up and down, flashing a lightning-quick sequence of text and images across his display.

The camera was completely non-responsive, thus making Sparky look a tad silly. Sillier. At least, presuming one wasn't standing right over Sergei's shoulder and looking at Beat's display screen. The picture in picture screen flashed, even as the main screen kept compiling clues:

Erin watched this exchange with bemused amusement.

"Here we go," she said, tapping a specific one of Beat's lines.
Second Door: Blue House, Horse (Demon, Secret?) (Spirit+Tea?)(song) (Story, Faerie Wine?) <--
"These are all the options that could fit into the second house, grouped into groups by which variables can go together," she said, tapping her own lips idly. "The spirit, tea, and song are the only ones that don't contradict each other, and can fill all three missing variables. So we know that the second house contains the Horse, Spirit, Tea, Song. That means the fox has to be in either house one or three."

"Now, house one can only have the ghost or the cat, so let's make the assumption that it doesn't have the cat. If we can't make the puzzle work with the fox in house one, we know the cat must be in there. So let's adjust and simplify, and group all the variables into groups that don't contradict one another." In another moment, Beat had come up with:

"Now, let us remove all of these groups that don't fill all the missing variables. They're irrelevant, because the groups contain all possible variables that could work with one another. So if they don't fill all the missing variables, that means they never will. That pares the list down to two possibilities for each of the remaining three doors. Then it's just a matter of trial and error."

After a moment, Beat labeled each of the doors.
First Door: Ghost, Yellow House, Parables, Potion, Fox
Second Door: Blue House, Horse, Spirit, Tea, Song
Third Door: Holy Water, Red House, Saint, Legend, Fish
Fourth Door: Ivory House, Archduke, Dog, Story, Faerie Wine
Fifth Door: Green House, Poison, Demon, Secret, Cat

"Though I wonder if these casks are all correctly labeled," Erin mused, as she tapped the cask in front of door one. "I could go for some tea."

Having recovered from the fall without any broken branches, Daphne now watched the rest of the group. She was not being very helpful, though her eyes flitted back and forth as if she were calculating something. Then she went still again, rigid as a...well, tree.

"Unfortunately, my dear, the Mad Hatter is not in to take tea with." Daphne glanced at Erin briefly then stepped toward the first cask.

Before anyone could stop her, she was drinking the contents. And then she was reaching for the handle of Door 5, the one with the cat and the demon.

"It seems a shame to waste it, though," Erin noted, downing the potion. She sputtered a bit and made a face. "Tastes like cough syrup," she complained, pouring out the tea from cask number two, and gargling it down to clear the taste out.

"Aaaaacutually..." Erin mused, taking a magic marker out of her pocket and beginning to mark all the casks with their contents. "Hey Heather, have a sip of this potion and take that door down. Let's use it as a sledge and take these things along." Excepting, perhaps, that poison cask. Just a recipe for trouble, that.

Daphne waited for a moment, then saw that no one had followed her through.

She swung the door back and put her green head through. "I am correct you know, so you might as well---are you taking that with us?"

Daphne raised her brows curiously. She had not expected the little moth to be so devious. "Don't forget the last cask," she emphasized with a very slight tilt upward of her lips. "Now come on, I don't want this to wear off too soon."

And don't let the door hit your ass on the way in, Cinder.

Originally Posted by Erin
"These things just happen, sometimes," Erin answered Cinder, antennae tapping on the casks momentarily. "Appreciate them! It means that Fate has acknowledged we are on a Quest of Import. It shows that this is a worthy story, by setting trials forth."
"Aye lass, listen to the little one, she's got a good head on her shoulders." Isengrim said with a broad wink at Erin. The top-hatted wolf-fae poked one of the casks. "I haven't got one of these since I met the missus. Brings back memories, it does."

Reynarde, for her part, was sniffing around the casks, her small nose twitching madly. She was probably the most human-looking changeling present. And the least human-thinking.

"Silly." Was Cinder's judgment on the matter. The cloak of pain seemed to scrunch up in agreement, getting a little smaller. More a cape now.

Originally Posted by Underwood
“Oh, hey, look, it’s math. Someone figured our manhunt needed math in it. That makes sense.”
"Perfect sense, if one is a Fae." Cinder agreed somberly. She looked at Underwood. She might have been smiling, if one can consider a tiny twitch of the lips a smile. "I am glad I am not the only one that's finding this a bit strange."

The werewolf stood well back, crossing her arms as she watched the others solve the puzzle. This was what she was paying them for. Well, coldly forcing them into her service for.

Originally Posted by Daphne
"Unfortunately, my dear, the Mad Hatter is not in to take tea with."
Originally Posted by Erin
"Aaaaacutually..." Erin mused, taking a magic marker out of her pocket and beginning to mark all the casks with their contents. "Hey Heather, have a sip of this potion and take that door down. Let's use it as a sledge and take these things along."
"Lamb, you're a genius. And don't worry, we've got two hats here," Isengrim said, tipping his own top hat. Underwood was also sporting a rather dashing fedora. "And I'm sure we can scrounge up a madman between the lot of us. We're Lost, after all."

"Oh hey, creative destruction leading to booze." Heather grinned, as she hung off the door. With a wrench, and some splintering of wood, she tore the wooden door off its hinges. "Like this?"

"Don't forget the tea, Heather." Sasha said. He was Russian. Tea was important.

"Lamb, you're turning into a proper privateer." Isengrim said, clapping Erin on the shoulder as he helped man-handle the barrel of faerie-wine onto the makeshift sledge. "Stealing aught that isn't nailed down. I'm proud of ye."

"You people are weirdos." Cinder shook her head and followed on after Daphne. Othello was close. She could feel it.


The green house which contained a cat, a demon, and a secret proved to be a small, gypsy-esque wagon in the middle of a clearing. It was, as a matter of fact, painted bright green, and on its side was written The Marquis de Carabas's Traveling Emporium of Wonders, in brilliant red-and-gold lettering. It was very dramatic, and yet oddly cozy. There was a tiny plume of smoke coming up from a small chimney, and there were windows of thickly frosted glass, allowing light in but letting no one see anything inside.

Song-birds chirped as you arrived, a brilliant array of bird-song. They scattered, however, as Cinder's cloak-of-pain billowed forth into a cloud, scaring the birds away. Something foreign had come into this pastoral idyll, and that foreign object was Cinder, with her madness and her confusion and her indomitable will.

"Wait here." Cinder said quietly. Hers was not the sort of voice one disobeyed lightly. "This will be over soon."

Leaving her guides and privateers behind, the cloud of pain settling into a low mist before them, Cinder strode towards the wagon's door. She climbed the steps, and she knocked, a sharp, authoritative rat-a-tat-tat. Now, the wagon's door was one of those old-fashioned ones, where one could open the whole door, or just the top, or just the bottom part.

After a moment, someone opened the top part. It was not Othello, at least unless the Cat was into some very odd sort of shapeshifting. It was a young woman, really just a girl, with long, dark hair and a somewhat disheveled look to her, as though she needed a haircut and a comb. She was clad in a long dress shirt, messily buttoned, and blinked up at Cinder with extreme (justified) dubiousness.

"I wish to speak with Felix March." Cinder said, her voice quiet, intense. You could see ever muscle in her body coiled like a spring, so much energy that it would have to erupt, and soon.

"Riiiiight. Othello, visitors!" The teenaged girl called, and disappeared back into the wagon. A moment later, Othello himself appeared, a dapper figure in a lime-green waistcoat, with dark skin and greyish hair, and clever whiskers upon his face.

"Why hello Madam, how can I---ohmygoodgodhelloAlice." Othello's eyes went wide as dishes, all but bugging out of his head. His cat-like ears pressed flat against his skull, and from what you could glimpse, his tail went absolutely rigid. The smooth, bantering tone turned fast and breathless, and his voice broke into an undignified squeak on Cinder's name. "Itsbeenaverylongtime."

"Very long." Cinder agreed. She smiled, utterly without humor. "Hello father."

"Some of us are Lost," Erin replied softly to Isengrim. Privateers, she didn't think, should be counted in their number.


Erin waved politely at Mary, when she appeared at the door. She'd been hoping the wagon wouldn't be there, and was working herself up to apologize to her erstwhile mentor. She was midway through a sip of tea - that cough syrup taste really stuck in your mouth - when Alice said the word "father", at which point Erin wanted to spit it out.

She was far to polite to do that, however, which meant she choked on it instead. And she was still too polite to spit it out, or cough loudly, so she choked for quite some time.

Well. That explained a few things.

"Othello...!" Erin croaked in protest, wiping her lips with her sleeve. She paused for a moment to weakly eye the father-daughter reunion.

She suddenly felt a sense of foreboding, and since she recalled Isengrim saying his wife had an in with Fate, she sidled over to Reynarde. "Hey," she gave a broken whisper. "What's about to happen?" She had liver to bribe the fox with, or throw at Reynarde if she tried to eat Erin, and if Othello's future read "eaten by a werewolf", Erin wanted to have time to try to think of something to do before it happened.

Originally Posted by Beat
Sparky slowed down a little bit, emitting a long, awestruck coo along the lines of R2D2.

This “conversation” took less time than it might have for a human, but Sergei had started moseying through the door by the time Sparky had finished communicating. Underwood just watched the exchange, chuckling to himself as he chugged down his share of potion. It was like setting your puppy up on a playdate, really it was.


Originally Posted by Miss Pleasance
"Hello father."
Underwood had spent upwards of three decades keeping his facial expression utterly motionless while drifting in and out of a hallucinatory fugue state, lest he be summarily disassembled by transdimensional employers from hell. He was currently maintaining a contract with the primal forces of Sorrow to assist him in keeping his composure. He also did not believe that he would particularly enjoy being disemboweled by a werewolf.

Thus, from just behind Cinder, there came an UNMISTAKEABLE LACK of any kind of snorting, hysterical laughter, any kind of doubling over with sheer force of schadenfreude, or any sort of half-gasped jokes about “cats and dogs living together.” Absolutely nothing like that happened. At all.

Originally Posted by Erin
"Hey," she gave a broken whisper. "What's about to happen?"
The fox-wife regarded Erin for a long moment, her beautiful, emotionless face turned upon Erin. There was something strange in her expression, but then she turned away from the little moth, and towards the family reunion now taking place between the Thorns.

Reynarde whispered something, and plucked at the webs of Fate. Which way, what now, what would happen to these two. She didn't see it, not exactly, but she smelled it. She smelled the scents that would come, and by dint of long experience, she interpreted them into some manner of logic and sense.

Othello reeked of tears. Tears and regrets and decisions made in a panic, the things that once done cannot be undone. He smelled of window-polish and mildewed books, and he smelled of fear. He smelled of blood, rich and potent and curiously powerful. He smelled of metal and cloth. But most of all, he smelled of madness. Madness brought upon by his own actions, by actions he would regret and repent for.

Reynarde wrinkled her nose. That had been less helpful than one might hope. With a delicate, ladylike sniff, Reynarde turned her attentions to Cinder.

Cinder's smells were clearer. Blood. Decay. Death. She smelled of death. Those vigorous limbs would cease to move, that vibrant heart would cease to beat, that tortured soul would gain the peace of death. Cinder would die, and she would die in a battle-frenzy, and she would die to sharp metal, and the smell of cloth.

Reynarde frowned. Cinder smelled of scissors. The fox-wife shook her head, resolving to speak with Isengrim at the first possible moment. Isengrim understood these sorts of things. They were beyond Reynarde, beyond her altogether. But if the client was going to die, it was the Venatores' job to forestall that. Or failing that, to make sure they were well away when it happened.

"Tragedy." Reynarde answered Erin. "Regret and death. His regret. Her death."


"How is your mother?" Othello said. He was watching Cinder much like a cat would watch a very much larger dog. Cinder was certainly bigger than him, towering over her father -- was he actually? -- by a good six inches. Othello had always been a trickster, a charmer and conniver. He meant well, but he was a creature of mischief. Cinder was not.

"Dead. For fifteen years." Cinder said, her voice flat. She was having trouble forming full sentences. "I killed her. The First Change."

"Oh... Phoebe." Othello said. The Cat's voice had gone small and weak.

"You didn't know?" Cinder said. From behind her, one could see the hairs sprouting over her bare arms clearly, and one could see the muscles growing and cording together, into one long spring of lethal sinew. Her fingers grew longer, and her nails grew sharper. Not just the claws of a wolf, but something more, something absolutely daemonic. They were like the legs of a spider, with too many joins and fingertips like swords, the fingers and the claws molding into one vicious blade.

"No..." Othello said quietly. "I didn't."


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