Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
Sasha walked in silence at first. A part of her resented Alroy coming along, or rather that Bubbles was along for the ride. The dog was adorable as she trotted obediently at her masters heel, but she brought out the highly protective side of James that pushed him further towards his sister and thus away from his friend. Even with Fawns supposed truce, it would make for a lonely adventure in the long run if things stayed this way. As they walked however, she found herself tending towards man and dog simply for something to focus on. Engaging in conversation she found Alroy was just as open and friendly as he had appeared to be when first approaching them at the bus stop.

He was happy to keep her entertained and she learned that he was Scottish, which accounted for the accent, visiting his grandparents who had immigrated to America many years ago to fulfil their dream of starting a sheep farm. His stay had lengthened indefinitely while his grandfather recovered from an illness, prompting the elderly couple to gift Alroy his own sheep dog to help with the sudden workload he had to face. Why anyone would dream of raising sheep thousands of miles from their home country was beyond her, but she couldn’t help but smile as Alroy told her about his adventures learning the craft alongside Bubbles and his grandfather’s dog Lassie, the only experienced herder left.

It was growing dark by the time they spotted the dark line ahead that was apparently the estate wall. As they drew closer Sasha began to appreciate the sheer size of the thing. A medieval town could probably fit in in the area encased by the forbidding ivy covered walls. All they needed were a couple of watch towers. Who would build such a huge place all for themselves and so far away from everyone else? Bubble’s questing nose brushed against the half open gate as they entered, making the hinges creek loudly in protest. Inside, the walls were high enough that the dim evening light no longer reached them. Overgrown trees and hedges loomed over and around them and Sasha looked back to the beautifully wrought gate once. It shone like the exit of one of the platform games she sometimes liked to play. From this angle, she thought she could see some form of statues on top of the pillars on either side of the gate, although she couldn’t tell what they were supposed to be. She hurried after the three small beams of light that were the others flashlights. She pulled her own out and switched it on, not sure if the spotlight actually helped her to see or not. It made the darkness around them seem even more foreboding. Alroy had only his phone to act as a torch. The tiny speck of light looked even more lost than the flashlights.

She tried her best to ignore Fawn, who looked about ready to explode with excitement, and Jeanine, whose scaredy cat act was starting to annoy her. At Fawns dramatic gasp, she flicked her flashlight beam up to the balcony just as the others did. Seeing nothing, she rolled her eyes at the antics. The whole situation was clearly going to Fawns head and the other two were only encouraging her.

“Ghosts don’t have to be glowy or transparent,” Alroy threw in his two cents, “just because the media generally portrays them that way.”

“It’s probably just a hobo.” Sasha stated matter of factly, “Or a hermit who’s very glad people don’t come knocking every few hours. Even if there were ghosts in there, it’s not like they can actually do anything to someone, let alone kill them. Isn’t that kind of the point of a ghost? To be spooky and otherwise harmless.”

She was the last to enter the house and couldn’t help the quiet “Oh wow!” that escaped her. Even trashed the place was magnificent. It didn’t take too much imagination to see what it might have looked like in its prime.

“A place like this ought to be made up into a museum.” Alroy started to say, but broke off when Bubbles gave a quiet growl at his side. He looked down at her just as the lights went off. Infinitely glad he already had a hand on her collar he murmured “stay” to the now whimpering dog.

The slamming door made Sasha spin around, eyes futilely searching the gloom for any sign of someone. With her back turned, she didn’t realise they had company till a new voice broke the silence. Glancing back round, she choked in surprise, too shocked to actually feel fear at first. Either this was one freakishly good show or she had finally lost it.

Alroy dropped to his knees beside Bubbles, hugging her shaking frame to his chest, unsure if he was trembling too or if the poor animal was making him shiver along with her. Her high pitched, terrified whines formed an eerie undertone to the already unearthly voices of the figures on the stairs. Only when the sound cut off suddenly did he realise he couldn’t breathe anymore. He paid no heed to the ghosts or the others, desperately feeling for even the slightest puff of air from the dogs lungs, ignoring the burning in his own chest and the darkness creeping in at the edges of his vision.

It was over a second later. Alroy pulled in great gasps of wonderful air as Bubbles collapsed against him, panting hard, only to struggle to her feet and lick gently at his cheek as he fumbled for the clasp of her leash. Even as he freed her from the restraint he knew she would never leave his side, even if there were a way out other than the door that Fawn was pounding futilely against. Despite her youth and the fact that they had not spent much time together, she was as loyal as they came.

The next sound that came out of his beloved dog’s throat chilled him far more than anything the ghosts had said or done so far, yelping screams that sounded more like a child than an animal. Even as agony threatened to pull his body apart he curled around Bubbles, desperate to shield her from the pain that was making her scream so.

Sasha had bitten right through her lower lip in an attempt to remain silent through the torture. She stood stock still, knees locked to prevent her from toppling over and nails biting deep into her palms as she stared fixedly at the ghostly girl, Darcy. She was almost pretty behind the manic look in her eye and the hysterical laughter. Sasha wanted to run at the ghosts on the stairs, wanted to wave her arms and make their transparent images disperse, wanted to scream questions and accusations at the two figures who looked no older than she was herself, but she was locked in place.

When the sensations tearing at her nerves ceaced, a tiny moan escaped her clenched teeth. It took a moment for her to realise that the ghosts were gone, aftershocks of the pain still rippling through her body. She was the first to stumble forwards towards the figure at the head of the stairs. Seeing the beam of light from her newly relit torch lighting the bottom stairs from where she had dropped it at her feet, she raised the shaky beam to point it at the new arrival.
She felt something wet and warm trickle down her chin from her split lip as she opened her mouth to gasp out, “How did you do that? Who are you? Why did you help us?”
She refused to use the word 'saved', conscious mind still not wanting to accept what the rest of her had already understood.
 
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KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
The young man squinted through the sheet of shoulder length brown hair that hung around his bowed head into the beam of the flashlight. The panting breaths coming from his barely-visible open lips appeared in the air in puffs of fog. Despite the heavy chill in the air the beads of sweat that slid down his handsome face--instead of immediately evaporating--remained for several long moments, travelling down his high cheekbones and smooth cheeks and into his barely-there beard. The hand he raised to shield the light from his eyes was shaking violently.

"Please." His voice was now raspy, the booming power replaced by fatigue and pain. "Please, can you..." he panted for a moment, then continued, "can you move the light? It... It hurts."

((Imma just let you put in what she does exactly in your next post so I can continue. :) ))

"Thank you, that's much better." The strange man leaned back against a marble pillar of the stair railing and, letting his head rest backward over the partially--though smoothly--broken pillar, closed his eyes. Thick eyelashes cast soft shadows under his eyes. His adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed, then he smiled and chuckled tiredly.

"The answers to those latter questions are easy. My name is Arthur, and I helped you because, for once, I was able to get here in time." He chuckled again, though this time it wasn't a chuckle with any kind of positive emotion behind it. His chuckle was sad. Harsh, even. "For once. If I hadn't seen you arriving from the balcony you wouldn't be alive right now." He opened his eyes, but didn't look at Sasha, instead glaring straight up into the exposed rafters of the ceiling where beautifully muraled plaster had long since lost it's luster and crumbled away, a nasty sneer of self-hatred twisting his lips. "It's about time I was able to save someone from them."

Then his eyes slid to Sasha's, and all the negativity was gone as if it had never been. A real smile, broad and unintentionally charming lit his features. His eyes shone with compassion and care, and he slowly straightened his back--wincing only slightly at the pain--then made it to his feet. Standing a few steps above her made him appear even taller than his 5'10" stature already made him. He started to smile again, but suddenly his eyebrows shot up, and his eyes took on a hazy, confused look. He wobbled dangerously, his eyelids fluttering and beginning to tilt toward Sasha.

Just in time, though, his eyes cleared long enough for him to safely grab the banister and swing himself around so that he landed hard on the stairs, instead of sending both of them down the stairs.

He gave the girl a slightly woozy, apologetic smile through blurry vision. "S-Sorry. Guess I'm not ready to stand yet." He smiled sheepishly and blinked several times, trying to get his vision to clear, but, even when things started to come into focus, several large, stubborn floaters stayed with him, effectively making it impossible to truly see.

He scowled.




Meanwhile, Fawn was the fastest to recover of the others and made it over to the stairs, eagerly, though painfully just as the strange man--Arthur, was it?--settled on the stairs again.

"Wait, so you were the figure I glimpsed on the balcony as we were about to head inside?"

Arthur grinned and tried to look at her, but those sakra floaters just danced around wherever he looked. "Yeah, I was. I barely saw you at all, which was the reason I didn't try to stop you from going inside the castle in the first place. I didn't have time to do anything other than race downstairs and hope I didn't get to you too late."

"Yeah! I'm sure glad you did! But..." Fawn frowned. "I do have a question. You said that you didn't have time to stop us, but even if you couldn't have stopped us from up on the balcony, surely there was some way to could get to the ground and stop us there. You would have had time then."

Arthur smiled ruefully and shook his head. "Oh, if only I could have. He looked up at the ceiling again, the floaters starting to dissipate.
"But I'm afraid that one of the best things about the Constantine Castle is that, once you go inside, there's no way you can leave. Even the balcony is still part of the house, so it's possible to go out there, but I can't get out. Not any of the doors, not the windows, not from jumping." He lowered his head. "No, I'm stuck here." Then, without his head moving, his gaze shot up and traveled the foyer, trapping each person with a piercing, quizzical, testing look.

"And... so are you."



There was a moment's pregnant pause, then pandemonium.


Fawn let out a howl of panic and charged a window, only to trip on broken pottery and crash to the ground, hands and arms getting cut on the sharp pieces. She stayed, collapsed on the ground, screaming in pain and fear. Simultaneously, Jeanine shrieked and clutched at James, who had frozen stiff for a second, staring at Arthur with horror and terror, only to whip his head around to stare of the huge doors, then to spring to his feet, leaving a wailing Jeanine behind, and run to pound on the doors, jerk on the handles and kick the door savagely, which only brought about much hopping up and down and a storm of inappropriate words. Jeanine got to her feet and started running around, mostly in circles, arms out and shrieking like a banshee.




Arthur looked around at all them with alarm and pity, surprised by the sheer amount of noise that can be produced by panicking people. He had no idea what to do.

All of a sudden, he felt a familiar twitch in his Magic Core, and his eyes snapped up to the space behind the massive adornments above the doors. He could see, clear and obvious to those who knew to look for them, the two glowing specks of light that indicated he was not alone in watching the mess. The matching specks, the color of molten gold, moved around, easily followed the messy movements of the group from their high vantage point.


"You know," said a masterful voice, almost chilling in its depth, rolling silkily through his mind, "I really wouldn't mind it, but since you obviously went through all the trouble of saving these pathetic humans, and you would be dangerously grumpy if all your hard work went to waste, I should let you know that if you don't shut them up, denizens not so pleasant as myself will hear."

Arthur sighed. "I know."

"So? What are you going to do about it?"


Arthur squeezed his eyes shut. "I'm just so exhausted. I don't think I can manage another spell of that magnitude."

"Are you saying you want ME to help?"


Arthur groaned and pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes. "You'll just scare them more."

The snort that Arthur heard in his head was derisive. "It's been too long since you've seen me act, sorcerer."

Arthur cocked an eyebrow at the glowing specks so far above him and said mentally, "Are you telling me you could calm them down WITHOUT scaring them, because I find that nearly impossible to believe."


The next time the voice spoke it sounded defensive. "Yeah, well, since you don't seem to be capable of shifting your sorry rear to save the humans, and if I don't do SOMETHING they're going to die, and then I'll be on your bad side for who knows HOW long, I don't really have a choice in the matter." The voice returned to it's normal sonorous richness. "One way or another, these humans have to be calmed. So either you do something, or we do it my way. Choose quickly, Arthur, because several residents are coming a bit too close for your comfort." The golden, glowing eyes lifted from Arthur's ordinary brown pair and moved to one of the dark openings.

Arthur couldn't sense anyone coming--no big surprise, there--but he trusted the man above him implicitly, so he got to his feet carefully, and began to stretch out an arm.

"Are you sure you want to do this? You, yourself, said you weren't strong enough, and, now that I've had the time to See, I agree with you fully. You should see your Core, Arthur. I haven't seen it this dim since you first tried to end the curse. I thought the decision was obvious. I may not do it as gently as you would, but at least I wouldn't kill myself by even trying; sit back down, and don't be an idiot."

"Dočerta," he swore in Slovak. Arthur curled his fingers into his palm and dropped his arm. He sourly sat again and waited for the show to begin.
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
„Oh. Sorry“ Sasha lowered the torch so it illuminated the mans feet rather than his face. Without the slim beam of light directly on his features it was harder to tell, but he looked rather drained, half propped against the crumbling bannister. His voice too, was no longer quite the powerful rumble it had been before, the self-deprecating and somewhat defeated tone not helping the impression either. The way he repeated the phrase ‘for once’ made something inside Sasha flinch.

She was about to ask what exactly he meant by that, when he turned his head and smiled at her. Even in the dim light it lit up his eyes and made him look much younger and more carefree than he had a second ago. Sasha couldn’t help the half smile that formed in response. Her own smile broadened a little when he seemed to find the energy to get back to his feet and descend the steps towards her. For a brief instance an image of what this hall might have looked like in its prime flashed through her mind, with someone descending the stairs just like Arthur was now. The master of the manor perhaps, or a pretty lady preparing to be presented.

But no master or lady would sway on their feet quite like the figure coming towards her. Almost too late she realised what was happening and started forwards to attempt to steady Arthur, quite disregarding the fact that he was quite a bit taller and heavier than she was. Before she could even reach him, he had already caught himself and sat back down heavily, putting him on eye level with her. She paused at the foot of the stairs, suddenly unwilling to touch him for some reason.

“Are you-“ Sasha was cut off by Fawn, who jumped in to bombard the poor guy with questions. Jeez, what was it with her and butting into peoples conversations? He had just rescued them from who knew what and all she could do was worry about what she may or may not have seen earlier. Arthur looked almost worse off than any of them did, the least Faun could do was say thank you or check if he was alright.

Despite the scowl she sent the other girls way, she listened to Arthurs explanation almost as intently as Fawn did. His eyes shifted to each of them in turn, returning to Sasha last, just as he uttered the fateful words, “And so are you.”

Sasha froze, eyes locked with his, knees suddenly feeling rather weak. The stubbornly realistic and rational part of her mind wanted to scoff and ask how much he was paid to set up the light show and all that, but that part of her was growing feebler with every passing second, the echoes of the searing pain that had assaulted her earlier serving as a strong reminder that this was not a show in every fiber of her being.

A crash behind her pulled her out of the deer in headlights moment. Turning around and directing her flashlight in the direction of the sound she saw Fawn lying sprawled on the ground, obviously having just tripped in the bout of hysteria that was currently possessing her. Sasha had to suppress a snort of amusement. Truce or no truce, old habits died hard.

“Well, you sure know how to make an impression.” She muttered under her breath, simultaneously meaning both Fawn and Arthur.

She plopped down on the bottom stair, resigned to the fact that there was no point in trying to talk sense into anyone just now. They needed their moments and then maybe they could talk like civilised people about what they were going to do next. Perhaps Arthur would have some advice.

Realising what the man had said before sending everyone into a panic, she half turned to ask him how not being able to leave was the best thing about the manor, only to find him not paying attention to any of the commotion going on around them, but rather leaning back and staring up at the ceiling, making what looked to be faces. She frowned, watching him with her head tilted to one side quizzically. A glance upwards didn’t help her understand either, as there was seemingly nothing there. As she watched, Arthur seemed to come to some conclusion as he got laboriously to his feet and raised an arm, only to let it drop with what sounded like a muttered curse and sit back down, this time actually watching her companions.

Seeing as he was no longer preoccupied with the ceiling, she felt it alright to carefully ask “Uh, what did you do?”

--------------------------------------------------

Alroy, though he had eyes only for his dog, who was a little slower in recovering than her human companions, heard the exchange and looked up, at first more confused than scared. Seeing the defeated but sadly earnest look in Arthurs gaze, he dug his fingers deeper into Bubbles’ warm fur, fighting to keep his heart from jumping right out of his throat.

“Shhhhh, its okay.” He murmured to the still shivering animal cowering between his knees, although at this point he wasn’t sure if it was for her benefit or his own. “We’ll get out of here soon, I promise.” Despite the slight quaver he couldn’t keep out of his voice, it seemed to be just enough to reassure Bubbles, who managed to uncurl and gently lick at his ear.

He gently nudged Bubbles nose away, then pushed himself upright, looking around just as James hammered on the doors and found them locked. Bubbles started to whine loudly again, pressing against her masters leg for comfort. He scratched her ears rather absently, scanning the hall again.

Making his way over the still sobbing Fawn, almost tripping over Bubbles as she stuck as close to his side as possible. He helped the girl to her feet, signalled Bubbles to stay with her, then moved on to do what she had presumably been planning to do; test the few downstairs windows. He found them all either boarded tight shut or still intact and just as firmly locked as the door seemed to be. Perhaps there was something they could smash the glass with. He stayed well away from the other doors leading further into the manor on either side of the staircase, but found a good sized piece of rubble and started trying to slam it into the glass of one of the windows to no avail.
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Arthur watched the girl next to him with no slight amount of admiration. She, of all her friends, remained calm. Relaxed, almost! In such a mess as this, she didn't panic or even react in the shock and horror that this situation rightly deserved. He remembered his own entrapment three years ago. He had had some idea of what he was submitting himself to, whereas none of these people did, but even he hadn't reacted as indifferent when the doors had slammed shut behind him as the girl was acting now. And he hadn't even faced the twins as their strongest! Yes, they had been pissed, but Arthur had had some preparation, and only with the assistance of the man, now preparing to silence the five below by whatever means necessary, nestled far above them in the massive, gothic doorway molding he had survived.


Arthur accepted Aidan's explanation that the reason he saved the nineteen year old was that he sensed the magic in him and knew he could help, but he had always felt there was more to it than that. Aidan didn't seem like a very sociable creature, but Arthur had suspected as soon as he learned how long Aidan had been here and why he was here in the first place that Aidan had been at least a little bit lonely. Aidan cared with a fiery passion befitting a dragon about the denizens of the estate, but that didn't make them any easier to deal with.

Aidan had been the young sorcerer's guide at the beginning, and finally become an ally... of sorts. Their end goal was the same: break the curse and set everyone free, but their methods and morals were very different, leading Arthur to keep a more wary eye upon the ancient beast than he would have preferred. Aidan, for his part, seemed to respect Arthur enough to not wildly and openly dismiss the humans wishes and demands and kept his claws in--literally!--rather well, but that didn't ensure that Aidan would alert him to everything that he needed to be alerted about.

For one prime example, Aidan had known the five kids and the dog were coming long before Arthur had, and he hadn't let Arthur know. It was only by dumb luck that Arthur had seen them in time. Aidan would have readily let them die--what were human lives to him?--and they would have had Arthur not seen a flashlight beam slash against his window.

Arthur should have been prepared in case something happened tonight. He should have known the chance that any presumptuous persons would attempt to enter was so much higher tonight than any other, besides Halloween. But no, he had forgotten his responsibilities and had almost paid for it. Again.

Arthur knew exactly how many deaths were on his head--how many people had suffered and died because of his neglect. Each being was a brutal scar upon his arms, a permanent reminder that he was a murderer. The most recent death, just nine days ago, was still a jagged scab on his right forearm. The more precious the soul that was lost, the more painful the cut he gave himself. It was far from the tribute each one deserved, but it was some way he felt he could show his eternal remorse. Aidan had, naturally, tried to talk him out of his ritual when he had first found out. Arthur had been ensuring that the death of a sixteen year old college initiate wouldn't fade quickly from his inner arm when Aidan had discovered him and said that human lives were just like dust anyway, so he shouldn't make a big deal out of any deaths other than those of the Supernaturals. Arthur had blown out a hallway's worth of windows in his rage and the dragon hadn't tried again.


He felt he should be giddy with his first success--and on tonight of all nights!--but he felt too wiped to feel that particular emotion. Actually, most of them. His relief was overwhelming, yes, but the battle was far from over, and, now that there were other humans in the castle, things would get a lot more dicey. Those that dwelled in the castle knew not to mess with him--most of them, anyway--but fresh and defenseless newcomers were too good to be passed up on. He would need to find a way to protect them.



The girl was watching him, as well, though Arthur knew his bewilderment wasn't mirrored in her pretty face. She was curious, he was baffled. And utterly, utterly in awe. "I..."




Just then Arthur's jaw popped independently, and he whipped his head to face Aidan "Wait-!" he cried.


Too late.

Arthur barely had enough time to clap his hands over the ears of the girl next to him and cast a quick cantrip to help mute the noise the poor girl was about to experience before an eardrum-bursting

ROOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRR


shook the entire castle.

Arthur had both known it was coming and was defended against it, and the girl next to him, thanks to the magic he devoted to her, shouldn't have more than a pounding headache, ringing in her ears, and blurry vision for a while. But the others...

All the people that he could see had dropped to the cracked marble floor like stones, instantly unconscious, but he wasn't sure he was able to see all of them.

When his dumb beast of an ally finished his totally unnecessary roar, Arthur sprang to his feet. "Aidan!" he cried. "Silence, not unconsciousness! Shocking them into silence would've been fine! Now, they're all unconscious, and what am I supposed to do?"

Nothing from above.

"AIDAIN, GET YOUR SCALY BUTT DOWN HERE AND EXPLAIN YOURSELF!"
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
Despite outward appearances, Sasha was not calm or relaxed. She just didn’t see the point of getting all worked up about something they weren’t even totally sure was true yet. And even if it was, there was little they could do about it and freaking out certainly wouldn’t help. One knee jiggled impatiently as her attention wandered from her companions to the man sitting a few steps away from her.

Arthur had just opened his mouth to answer her question, when his expression changed to alarm just as Bubbles, still stationed next to Fawn, let out a loud growling bark that sounded almost like a warning call. The next second Arthur was lunging at Sasha, closing the distance between them so fast she had no chance to do more than flinch backwards with a squeak of shock and surprise. Hadn’t he just saved them? Why was he attacking her now?

She tried to raise an arm in a feeble attempt to shield herself, but was too late. His hands clamped around her head and she braced herself for whatever he was going to her, already berating herself for letting down her guard. But the only thing that happened was a muffled pop, almost as though her ears were trying to adjust to a different pressure level. What had he done to her?

The question had barely formed in her mind when an earth shattering sound split the air around them. The closest thing Sasha had ever heard was the revving of the engines in her fathers workshop, but this was magnified so extremely that her whole being vibrated with it. The sound seemed to have physical presence. Sasha was sure she would have toppled over if she had been standing. Reflexively, her hands flew to cover her ears, despite Arthurs hands already being there and her own not helping in the slightest.

She wasn’t sure how long the sound lasted. Eyes screwed shut and hunched over slightly, she only noticed something had changed when Arthurs hands pulled away from her, dislodging her own fingers. Looking up, she blinked several times until her vision cleared enough to make out the figure standing next to her. The silhouette might have been Arthur, but she really wasn’t sure. She hoped it was, not some other ghost or whatever. Through the ringing echoes still bouncing painfully around her skull, she thought she heard his voice, but it was muffled as though she was listening to something several rooms away.

Slowly, her foggy vision cleared, the things closest to her coming into proper focus first. Was this what it was like for short sighted people without glasses? She was glad to find it really was Arthur standing next to her, apparently yelling from the look on his face, though she still couldn’t hear much more than a murmur.

“What the hell was that?” She could barely hear her own voice and realised she was probably shouting, much like her father accused her of doing after a night at a party, but didn’t care because at that moment her vision had cleared enough to show her the prone forms of her friends scattered around the hall, none of them moving. The sight made her forget her own discomfort in an instant.

“What did you do?” This was asked in a very different tone to how she had asked it earlier. She was pretty sure her voice was bordering on a shriek by now. Lurching to her feet, she tried to dash to the closest –dare she think it?- body, Jeanines, only to list dangerously sideways at the first step. Her sense of equilibrium completely destroyed.
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
As soon as the girl stood next to him, Arthur already knew she was going to fall. It was because of this that he was able to smoothly catch her as she listed, stepping down to follow her movement and grabbing a hold of her. If Arthur had had the time to, he would have taken more care where his hands went on this stranger, but, without the necessary time, the instinctual places his hands moved to support her were her flailing wrist and around her waist to her abdomen. He pulled her toward him, not flush against, but closer, so he was an unmoving anchor in her shifting, choppy sea. Bringing her arm, and his along with it, down and around, he kept her stable in a loose, but firm cradle. His chin barely crested the crown of her head, and Arthur didn't have a choice but to inhale the air that was right above her head--which smelled like her hair. It was... wow her hair smelled good.

Before he was given any opportunity to process enough to shove away any and all of the weird thoughts, feelings, and brain circuits that were suddenly firing off, and thus regain his calm, there was a great woosh and two massive, leathery wings burst from the sides of the molding high above their heads, temporarily giving the mermaid attempting to display her bare bosom without having one anymore a new, and rather disturbing addition to her fantastical appearance. The wings were only there for a moment before the inevitable rush of blazing heat washed over them and Aidan, mid transformation, launched himself over the molding and swooped down, releasing a blast of flame that he consumed as he came down. What landed on the suddenly-much-more-splintered-marble-floor was a monster of red and scales and death.


Arthur had seen Aidan transform plenty of times before. These days he was blase about it, but, with the factors of his still-weakened physical state, mental exhaustion, and disorientation by the suddenly intimate position he had unintentionally placed himself in with the girl all working against him, and seared by Aidan's molten dragon eyes and faced with his deadly majesty as it swooped at him, Arthur couldn't even muster an appropriate reaction, instead tumbling backward in shock and, bringing the poor girl down on top of him, crashing to the stairs.
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
It felt as though she were standing on the middle of a seesaw and had taken a step too far in either direction. The ground seemed to simply tilt away on one side and Sasha's brain could only muster a feeble 'Oh no' as the world slanted sideways. Before she could make any painful contact with the ground however, something grabbed the wrist of the hand she had thrown out to break the fall, just as another something snaked around her waist.

Both somethings - hands, she realised - exerted gentle pressure, guiding her stumbling movements back into what seemed to be a vertical stance, though the world was still spinning around her so much that she couldn't really tell. Talking great gasping breaths to steady herself, Sasha took stock of the new situation. What she found made her freeze like a deer caught in headlights.

A tom boy through and through, Sasha had had plenty of contact with members of the opposite sex, be it during sports, roughhousing or even the two short relationships she had been in so far, but never in her life had she been held like this. Completely cocooned in Arthur's arms, the top of her head fit snugly beneath his chin and the tiny little girly part of her, usually buried deep inside, was inexplicably glad she had showered that morning.

Sasha still couldn't hear much over the ringing in her ears, but felt the thrust of air as something very large suddenly materialised out of nothing, pushing the air occupying that space to either side rather violently. Not knowing where to look at first, she almost missed the apparition of the demon winged mermaid, but caught the movement out of
the corner of her eye and looked upwards just in time to see the wings flex at their greatest span and launch away from the stucco figure.

Once again the remnants of Sashas rational brain piped up, 'nice CGI'. It was obviously still trying desperately to make any kind of normal sense of the proceedings, but its interjections were already becoming feebler. Indeed the beast that was now bearing down upon them was far too real for even 3D CGI to accomplish.

As the great red beast emerged in its entirety from the flames it had conjured, Sasha finally understood what some people found so great about fantasy in almost any media. It was a terrible and beautiful thing to behold and for a second she didn't even mind the prospect of probably becoming its evening snack. With this majesty as the last thing she ever saw dying didn't seem so bad.

'No!' something growled inside her. 'I am so not dying today!'
Wrenching her eyes away from the dragons molten gold ones, she realised that its sheer size was going to pose a rather large problem. The others were still scattered and immobile around the hall and in imminent danger of being squashed as the dragon moved to land. One taloned paw was already disturbingly close to where Jeanine lay and she couldn't see the others at all. The dragon's great bulk was blocking her view.

Forgetting that Arthur was still partially holding her upright, she started forward, not really knowing what she was going to do, only to overbalance and tip forwards again. In the process of pulling her back, poor Arthur seemed to misjudge his own precarious balance and overcompensated, sending them both tumbling backwards onto the stairs.

Sasha landed on her side on Arthur's chest with a muffled "Oof", managing to jam her elbow into his solar plexus rather hard. Having had the softer landing, she was the first to recover. Pushing herself up with both hands on his chest, she found herself straddling one of his thighs, staring into dark brown eyes that mirrored the shock and disorientation she was feeling herself.

Suddenly realising their situation, not just their fall but also the gigantic dragon looming over them, Sasha tore her hands away from the warm body beneath her as though she had received an electric shock and tried to scramble away, somehow managing to tangle their legs together in the process.

"On crap! I am so terribly sorry. I didn't - I mean uh thank you. You are much softer than the stai- I'm going to get off you now. Are you okay?" Her voice was still far too loud for normal face to face conversation, Iet alone the close proximity they currently found themselves in. If she lived long enough to ever look back on this moment she was going to wish the ground would open and swallow her whole, or the dragon could do it too if it felt like it. What was wrong with her? Why was she reacting like a simpering damsel in distress?
 
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KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Arthur's breath wooshed out of him as he landed on the stairs, the girl whamming into him. Some part of her effectively jabbed into his solar plexus and blasted the wind out of him. His head spun for a moment, his vision a bit blurry from the pain. At first, he wasn't sure if the strike had been purposeful in self defense, because, after all, he had pulled her into an inappropriately intimate position without permission. It had been to save her, but how was she to know it wasn't him trying to take advantage of her compromised state?

Her warm palms against his chest, very distinct through his thin shirt, burned his skin, launching even more unwelcome sensations to rocket through his whole being, and her face was very, very close to his. He stared up into her shocked eyes, a smokey grey like gathering storm clouds, and he knew she shared his disorientation. Maybe the blow had been an accident, a voice from the back of his mind tried to comfort him, but Arthur found himself too stunned to properly appreciate the possibility that she wasn't trying to assault him.

Then she shifted and... scheisse! She was straddling his left thigh! This was worse than the embrace he had pulled her into. His throat was suddenly bone dry and heat flooded his already alarmingly warm body. He felt a simultaneously clenching and flailing movement deep within him, like worms were girating in a very finite space and the space was tensing to try and still the worms. It wasn't working. He felt his face blaze with heat that rivaled Aidan's flame and his head spun again, but this time for... another reason.

She suddenly ripped her hands away, but the burning remained on his skin. She attempted to get off him, and in his own limited awareness he tried to help her, but his own legs seemed unable to follow his commands, instead cruelly managing to tangle themselves with the girl's own. He gasped as her thigh accidentally stroked against his own and snapped to a sitting position, his arms supporting him from behind and again bringing them far too close together. He felt woozy, her stuttered sentences extra loud.

He attempted to reply in at least a semi-intelligent way, but instead of a rational response--either a lie about being fine or the truth about just how severely the events of the past few seconds had affected him--a stream of rasping gibberish erupted from his lips.
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
Still in the process of detangling her limbs and chattering in a most uncharacteristic way, Sasha was glad that the others weren’t around to see this. She didn’t know what Alroy would think and didn’t particularly care, but Fawn and Jeanine would be in hysterics, James probably too, although in a nicer way than the girls. None of them would ever let her forget it, that was for sure.

She had almost freed her left leg from where she had somehow hooked it under Arthurs right one, when the man in question suddenly sat up straight, as though someone had rammed an iron pole into his back in place of a spine, nearly knocking their heads together. In the split second before she jerked away, Sasha caught sight of his face as though in a freeze-frame.

Dark eyes burning into hers from under the equally dark, slightly wild hair. A pink tinge dusting the cheekbones, visible even in the semi darkness around them. Lips slightly parted in an expression she couldn’t quite place. Posture rigid and chest rising and falling a little faster than was probably necessary.

The force of her recoil was enough to finally dislodge her legs and she managed to shuffle away from Arthur a little, just as a stream of unintelligible words erupted from him. Was that something foreign? Or maybe more of the magic he had used to dispel the ghosts?

She managed to gasp out, “I’m sorry, what?” and in doing so realised that her own heart was pounding far faster than the situation called for, robbing her of the breath needed to talk normally. Then again, the situation also included a very real dragon, so maybe the adrenaline was fitting after all.

Speaking of dragons, she whirled around, still on her knees as she didn’t quite trust her legs to carry her, and stared up into the dragons great golden eye. If she was going to be burned to a crisp she wanted to face it head on.
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Arthur's heart was beating a violent war drum against his ribs, creating an aching burn and pounding head, and he knew that if he didn't slow his blood pressure soon things would get nasty very quickly, but he couldn't rip his eyes from the face of the girl that was now gazing at the dragon viewing them both. Everywhere her body had come in contact with his still burned as though he had been seared by her touch. The nest of worms hadn't stilled in the slightest, quite the opposite, actually. Another sensation was quickly building deep within him, one he was much more familiar with, but he wasn't thinking clearly enough to recognize it as the warning sign that it was.

Fortunately, the same couldn't be said for the man in front of him and, in one, gale-force upward swipe of his wings and another blast of scorching heat Aidan had returned to his human form. He sprinted toward the two on the stairs, his golden eyes locked on the sorcerer, and yelled, in his sonorous bass, "Arthur, no!" He reached Arthur in seven unnaturally-long steps, and grabbed at his left hand. On the middle finger a large, ornate ring clung to him. The main feature of the ring was a massive dragon's eye opal, the slitted golden pupil starting to pulse outward.


The dragon tried to touch the ring, but it burned his fingers as he attempted to grip it, and he let out a gasp of pain and shock and jerked his hand back. With a violent, draconiclly-snarled curse Aidan dropped Arthur's hand and pulled back. Arthur's eyes were now the appearance of the opal on his finger and the pupils were pulsing in sync with the ring. Aidan swore again and plunged his right hand, fingers first and hand at a downward angle, into Arthur's gut just above his navel. Simultaneously, both men threw their heads back and howled in pain. Somehow, Aidan's dragon cry didn't overwhelm Arthur's bellow, both entwining into a single terrible roar that boomed out, causing plaster from the ceiling to break free and pelt down around the huge room. Sweat coursed down the faces of the two men, soaking Arthur's shirt and steaming on Aidan's cheeks.

Suddenly, Arthur dropped back, eyes closed and slumped to the side. His mouth was slightly open, and the breaths that passed between his lips were even and calm. He looked totally at peace, a man sleeping comfortably with no realization of what almost happened.

Aidan took two stumbling steps back, his breaths coming out in wild pants. He stared at Arthur for a moment, then rounded on Sasha. "This is your fault!" he roared, pointed teeth bared. "You and your soft, stupid, female body! Had Arthur not known you were here, all of you would be long dead. and I wouldn't have had to do that! You can't conceive the magnitude of the catastrophe that you almost caused! I only barely prevented it, and you have no idea what toll it took on me!"

Indeed, the dragon was quivering uncontrollably and the gold of his eyes was dimmed, though not the emotion in them. He had to position his feet wide apart to not topple over, and the breath that was blasting over Sasha was barely hot at all. The hand and arm that had plunged into Arthur hung limply at his side, and he hunched slightly in that direction.

"You," Aidan panted, "stupid stupid human girl." He suddenly put his working hand to his forehead and swayed slightly. He stumbled over to the banister and leaned against it for support, now right in front of Sasha. He continued to glare at Sasha, his emotions not dulled at all by the physical trial he had put himself through for the sake of everyone in the castle.
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
Sasha stared defiantly into the eyes of what she still presumed would be her death, quite oblivious to the crisis building up behind her. When the dragon flared its great wings in a flash of heat, she braced herself only to find the dragon shrinking down into a humanoid figure. She barely had time to register this sudden change with a quiet "huh…" before the dragon man was launching himself past her towards Arthur with a shout.

By the time she had turned to see what was going on the two men seemed to be grappling with each other over something in Arthur's hand that Sasha couldn't see. What in the world was going on?

As the pair shifted, she finally got a clear view of Arthur and had to blink several times to make sure she wasn't seeing things (not even the strangest possibility right now). But even after doing so, the sight before her didn't change. Arthur's eyes, which she was sure had been brown only moments before, were now a strange shade of glowing Orange shot through with veins of purple that seemed to pulse as if with a life of their own. There was an identical glowing and pulsing something on the hand they had just been tussling over.

Sasha was still taking all this in and wondering if she should do something, when the dragon man thrust his arm into his opponents stomach with considerable force. Sashas own cry of alarm was drowned by the bellow of pain that surprisingly erupted from both combatants, not only the one being hit. At the sound several apparently unstable fragments broke off from the stucco ceiling and rained down around them. Something even the dragon roar earlier had not managed.

With her arms over her head to shield herself from the falling debris, Sasha was about to try and get between the two men, when the eerie light in Arthur's eyes dimmed and he stumped to the ground at the dragon man's feet like a rag doll. Sasha gasped and moved forwards, only to be cut off by the dragon man, who had rounded on her with rage burning in his eyes. It was only then that the realisation hit home that she was now the only conscious - potentially the only living - person left. It was not a comforting thought.

As the man berated her in a volume that was making her already aching head pound dangerously, Sasha found that enough was enough. No more damsel in distress. No more just accepting everything that was going on. She decided that she didn't care that this man had been a fire breathing dragon only a few moments ago, nor that he looked about ready to kill something right now. She waited for a pause in his tirade then lifted her head to glare at him.

"My Fault?" she repeated quietly "How is this my fault? You were the one who attacked us without reason." her voice was rising with every word. "You were the one who did -something- to my friends and decided to drop out of the sky. Did you think it would be a funny prank? Noone asked you to do any of it. You could have just minded your own business and left us the hell alone. But no, you had to stick your overlarge scaly nose into things and make everything worse than it already was. If you didn't want us here you should have stopped us from coming in in the first place, not attack us and bitch about it in the aftermath."
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Aidan's shaking increased, but this time in rage. A dangerous growl, independent of the words he spoke, rumbled from his chest as he leaned down over her and snarled softly, "Attacked you? Human, if I had wanted to attack you you would already be dissolving in my belly. What I did was a mercy, because the options before me were very limited." His voice rose out of the murmur, but not yet returned to full volume as he continued. "Option one: I let the sorcerer sleeping next to you kill himself trying to shut you and your friends up. He almost did, too. If I hadn't stopped him this world and the realm next door would've been utterly doomed. Not an option. Option two: Arthur and I let the supernaturals that were drawn by the cacophony and on their way arrive and kill you. That was my preference, but since I need Arthur I alerted him before it was too late for you. And the safest and most merciful option: I take care of it. My roar wasn't only to shut you up--it was also a warning to my fellow supernaturals to back off. Arthur didn't know that, and, predictably, didn't wait to find out my reason for roaring before freaking out. It's not my fault your pathetic human bodies can't take a little auditory strain without collapsing.
"I came down because Arthur called me down. And you heard it too, though I suspect your fragile ears couldn't make out the words. As for preventing you from even entering, you were doomed as soon as you stepped through the gates. I couldn't make you leave once that was done, and if I had killed you personally Arthur would've noticed. He has a nasty habit of not forgiving me when I eat one of your kind, and it wouldn't have ended well for anybody if I had.
"And finally, the reason it's your fault that I'm now thoroughly unable to protect any of you is because you decided to freak out and try to go to your friends. If you had kept your pretty ass on the ground where it belonged then Arthur wouldn't have had to save you, and he wouldn't have gotten overwhelmed by your femininess being sprawled on him and nearly taken out two-thirds of the castle because of his stupid hormones. Do you know, dragons don't have even have nearly the same absurd reaction to the other sex's sudden proximity as humans do. Your flesh is so consistently weak."
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
Despite having a clearly enraged dragon man almost right up in her face, Sasha refused to back down in the slightest. She would have butted in to his monologue had she found an opening, but the words pouring out of him were like a solid brick wall. Plus he was actually mentioning a few rather interesting tidbits to consider at some later time.

The fact that Arthur was apparently only asleep made her want to sag in relief. She wasn't completely alone after all, even if a sleeping guy wasn't exactly much help. However the very much awake and angry man in front of her was still ranting and she found her spine stiffening the more he spoke.

"Oh yeah, sorry for having some compassion and worrying about people. it's quite obviously a foreign concept to you. If you possessed even an ounce of it you might have considered how the weak little humans would react and planned accordingly, or at least given some form of warning that we are actually capable of hearing. It's clearly not the first time you've come across humans and the apparent limitations we have. It's not exactly something we can change.
"If you want to actually do something useful rather than blow your gasket over things that can't be helped, feel free to let me know. If not, leave me the hell alone. I have five unconscious people and a dog to worry about and am not dealing with your hissy fit on top of it."

With that Sasha turned on her heel and marched away from the stairs and the fuming man standing on them, heading towards the prone shapes of her friends. Despite him being the furthest away, she made for James first, partly because she was rather ticked off at Fawn and Jeanine even through her worry. Those two and their stupid ideas were the reason they were all even here. It should have been them to get an angry dragon to the face, but no. They were all happily away in dream land while she had to deal with things. She was still stubbornly ignoring the other possibility that presented its self.

Kneeling at James's side, she carefully felt for a pulse, trying to calm her own racing heart enough to actually be able to feel anything. When she realised that the beat beneath her fingers was slower than the pounding in her ears, she breathed out a sigh of relief and sat back, trying to remember first aid procedures. Calling 911 didn't seem a plausible course of action.
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Aidan felt the fuel for his fire start to pool in his belly, but without the spark necessary to start the flame nor the strength to return to his natural form so he could release it, the fury could only roil and boil, sending up unpleasant bubbles. Aidan's head spun, he slumped to sit on a step, and tried not to vomit. Magma burning through the stairs wouldn't help anything. He needed to expunge the fuel before the havoc it was wrecking among his innards became permanent, and it was for that ungrateful ape crouched next her friend that he had sacrificed his ability to! Beyond the healthy pulses in Arthur, the humans, and the dog he couldn't sense anything. If the entire supernatural hoard, twins included, were around a corner he couldn't tell.

He was one of the most powerful denizens of the Constantine Estate--all the other beings knew from experience to always listen and obey when he roared at them, after all--but right now he was entirely at the mercy of any creature with at least a little power that might come along. It was disgruntling, to say the least.

Scales, if the girl came at him with a big rock he wasn't sure he could stop her, and that irked him worst of all.

The only hope any of them had now was the snoozing sorcerer a couple steps above him. His magic was severely depleted, yes, but he was physically fine, and even a weak Arthur was better than no Arthur at all. So, Aidan turned onto his side and started crawling--yes crawling, like a common gecko--toward Arthur. It was one of the most humiliating things he had ever done in his five hundred years, but desperate times called for desperate measures, and no one of any consequence was watching his indignity... he hoped.

He finally drew level with his napping ally, and allowed himself a little, pained moan. Then Aidan reached out and popped the man on his cheek, greeting Arthur's signature Sleepy-Gaze with the completely candid statement: "Sometimes I wonder why I ever gave you that ring."




Arthur had no idea how adorable his Sleepy-Gaze was, nor that he even had a Sleepy-Gaze, and no one that had ever seen and could appreciate it had ever told him, so he had no idea how cute his groggy blinks and yawn were. He stretched slightly, and Aidan didn't come into focus until Arthur's reply was already halfway out his lips. "You gave me the ring to protect me, and I must say it's come in hand- AIDAN!"

Aidan winced. "Easy on the ears, Arthur. I'm right here--you needn't yell." He attempted a grin, but all that his lips could form was a grimace, and the addition of the pointed teeth to the grimace didn't help at all to relay that Aidan had meant it to be a smile.

Arthur quickly got to his feet and reached down to help the dragon settle more comfortably on the step. "What happened to you, Aidan?" Arthur had seen his ally weakened before, but never this much. Only someone that had been around Aidan as long as Arthur had could fully appreciate how messed up he was, and it terrified the young man. Then he caught a glimpse of the patch of scales on Aidan's forearm, and his breath hitched. The small armor plates should've been scarlet and gleaming--miniature replicas those found on the full dragon--but instead they were lusterless like an eggshell and almost baby-pink. He had never even heard of this happening, and this horrified him more than anything else. What could've possibly caused th-?

"Your girlfriend happened to me, that's what. Well, technically she happened to you, and I had to clean up her mess, but the blame doesn't shift."

Arthur blinked blankly down at the supernatural, then his eyes widened and a blush dusted his cheekbones. He whipped his head around, searching for--and finding--the girl's white head in the shadows. So, she was okay. Good. But what had Aidan meant?

Suddenly, it clicked and Arthur blanched a sickly white. "You managed to stop me?" he breathed.

"Barely. Like I said, sometimes I wonder why I ever gave you that ring."

Arthur stared open-mouthed at the ring on his finger, then he lifted his right hand and started to remove it.

"Don't take it off, idiot!" yelped Aidan. "That ring is the only thing that has kept reality together for three and a half years, and if you take it off you'll condemn everyone to really sadistic deaths."

Arthur dropped his hand and shook his head. "Right, yes, of course. It was stupid for me to even entertain the thought of taking it off."

"Damn straight."

"But..." Arthur dropped to a squat two steps down from the ruined dragon, "Aidan, there's more to it than that, unless I've always underestimated my abilities when I lose control. You... you're sick."

"Thanks, Arthur, that's really nice of you to say." When Arthur's concerned expression didn't crack in the slightest from Aidan's sarcasm, the dragon sighed and let his head drop. He slumped, feeling more defeated than he had ever felt before in his centuries. "It's my fire," he said quietly. "I can't light it."

Arthur reeled backward, the flood of panic that bowled him over pounding in his ears. He regained his balance before he could tumble down the stairs and cried clearly, "You've lost your fire? But, Aidan-!"

"Not so loud," growled the dragon. "Unless you want everyone that has something against either of us to join the party."

Arthur swallowed and nodded, suddenly feeling like a little boy again, faced with a new magic challenge that he knew he hadn't been taught how to deal with. "You're..."

"Yeah. I'm dying." Aidan's voice was flat. Flat and pained.

Arthur felt his head spin. Too much! Too much at once! He spun on his heels, his coat arching out around him, and took quick stock of the situation that was suddenly thrust into his unprepared arms with no concern about whether he could handle it. Five unconscious bodies were scattered across the floor, and the only person he had to help him was the girl. He didn't even know her name...

He bounded down the stairs, taking them four at a time until he made it to the floor and then sprinting toward the girl. "Hey, I need your help!" he cried, one arm thrown out toward her. When he pulled up right in front of her, eyes bright and wild and chest heaving, he must've been quite the spectical, but none of that mattered anymore. There were seven helpless people that were all now his sole responsibility, and nothing beyond their guaranteed safety was important.

"I don't know how strong you are," he said, his serious, piercing gaze pinning hers, "but if you can, I need you to help me. I'm far away from my full magical strength, so I'll be relying on my body's strength much more than I normally would, and that will limit me." He shrugged smoothly out of his coat and let it drop off his arm to the black and white checkered floor. Beneath his coat he wore nothing other than the black teeshirt he had worn the day he had stepped into the manor and realized he could never step out. The teeshirt had thinned and frayed other the years, and now he only wore it when he was actually working out, which he had been doing when he had seen the flashlight beam. He hadn't had time to change, but he wasn't self-conscious about the way the now-too-tight shirt was clinging to him. He needed to move, and couldn't allow himself to be restricted by his coat. Action was the only thing that would save the lives depending on him, and there was no time for any thoughts that might slow him down.

"I don't think I can save us without your assistance. It'd take too long to try on my own, and causalities aren't a price I'm willing to pay. Can you help me?" he asked earnestly.
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
First aid… First aid… there was CPR, thanks to 'staying alive' for making that one easy to remember, and also mouth to mouth resuscitation (not something she wanted to try on her best friend or anyone else for that matter). But both of those procedures were for people who weren't breathing, which James thankfully was.

Why had she not paid more attention when learning this stuff? Oh yeah, because she never would have thought she would land in a situation where she was completely alone, with no phone signal and potentially 4 people's lives in her hands. By now she wasn't even sure who to blame for putting her in this mess.

There had been some kind of lying down pose, but that might have just been for drunk people. She distinctly remembered vomit being mentioned by the instructor and half the girls in the room squealing 'Eww'.

Voices behind her told her that Arthur had woken up. Either that or they had new company, but a quick glance over her shoulder confirmed that it was the former. She couldn't make out most of what they were saying, though she could hazard a guess. Mr. Flamebreath was probably continuing his complaint about her now that he had a new and far more willing audience. She felt her suspicions confirmed when Arthur looked around the hall till he caught sight of her. She quickly looked back down at James.

She wished they would shut up for just a moment. She was trying to remember how to help her friends and while the dragon man might think that inconsequential, she most certainly did not.

She was about to turn around and snap at the pair to kindly keep it down, when Arthurs voice rang out, clearly understandable this time. "You've lost your fire? But, Aidan-!"
So the dragon guy's name was Aiden huh? Or were they talking about someone else? And what did ‘losing fire’ mean? Somehow she didn’t think it meant what a drama teacher meant when chastising their students.

She didn't have any more time to ponder it though, as running footsteps approached. By the time she had turned around, placing herself in front of James, Arthur was already standing over her, one hand held out as he spoke. Her eyes lingered on his hand and the now normal, if still gaudy ring on his finger, before rising to his face where the fierce look in his eyes caught and held her attention more than any ring ever could.

Only when he stopped talking did she notice that he had shrugged off his coat and let it pool around his feet. Wh-Why was he stripping? And why the hell was the shirt under that coat a) skintight and b) obviously so old and worn that it was almost sheer? Sasha locked her eyes firmly on the slight crease between Arthurs eyebrows to prevent them from wandering anywhere else.

Rising to her feet and crossing her arms with a scowl, she channeled as much of her previous irritation as she could muster and retorted, “Why don't you get your scaly friend over there to help you? As he so eloquently put it, humans, which includes me, are pathetically weak and not capable of anything. He's clearly stronger than I am.”

Although a glance past Arthur's shoulder belied that statement. Aidan, if that was indeed his name, was slumped on the stairs, almost as immobile as her friends, though the gleam of his eyes as he watched them proved he was at least still conscious. Between them lay Jeanine and Sasha knew that she need only turn her head a little to see Fawn, Alroy and Bubbles on the other side of the hall.

Looking back at Arthur she seemed to deflate slightly, a forlorn look creeping into her eyes. “You can help them?” she asked quietly.
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Arthur was bewildered, at first, the intense gleam in his eyes melting away to be replaced with shock and confusion, his focus and determination quickly following after the intensity into oblivion. "W-What? What are you talking about? Aidan said that? W-Why would he say that? I-" he stopped himself abruptly and roughly shook his head, casting the distraction out of him. He needed to focus. "It doesn't matter right now. What matters is that he is dying and he can't.The fault is mine--I shouldn't have allowed myself to lose control like that--and Aidan sacrificed himself for all of us. I've never seen him this bad off, and I don't know what I can do to keep him alive right now, but I do know I can do more than help everyone. I can save them, but not without your help."

He extended his hand, palm up, a gesture of trust and appeal, toward the girl. "Please." His eyes, gentle and desperate, pleaded for her aid.
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
Sasha raised an eyebrow at Arthur's reaction. Surely the dragon's views on humans weren't news to him? Aiden had been more than willing to share them with her, quite disregarding the fact that she might prefer not to know. There was no way he had hidden his views from the other man. The thought occurred to her that maybe Arthur wasn't human either. There was the magic for one thing and the dragon man seemed to like him well enough. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind to examine in more detail later.

Her brow furrowed a little as she continued to listen. He seemed so adamant about specifically 'saving' them. From what? she wondered. He had already said that they were trapped in this place and that he was too. Just getting her friends to wake up didn't constitute as saving them in her book, that would have to involve something a little bit bigger, preferably like getting them out of here. Still, he had gotten rid of the ghosts for them and seemed at least more interested in their wellbeing than Aiden…

In the end it was his sincere and open gaze that made her grudgingly say,
"I still don't really see how I'm supposed to help. You're the one with all the magic." she fluttered her fingers for a moment then let them drop to her sides and shrugged. "But I guess if you think it'll change something, sure I can help."

She got the impression that Arthur wouldn't be able to pull off a lie very well in the best of circumstances, which theirs certainly wasn't, and if it helped change anything about the current, very much hopeless looking situation, she was willing to try.
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Arthur sagged in relief and smiled gently, his eyes softening for a moment. Then the firm concentration returned and he half-turned to survey the room again.

"I'm utterly unable to teleport anyone in my weakened state, and even the magic needed to make carrying them easier might be beyond me. I won't know until I try. I'll reserve attempting it for the heavier of them. Aidan might be able to make it to his feet, but doing so might worsen his condition. I'm not sure, but I don't want to risk it." He took a deep chest breath and let it out with a "Hwooo" while looking around once more. Then he looked back down at Sasha.

"Okay, so I'm going to need to you to help me carry the people I can't carry myself, and if you can lift somebody yourself that would be amazing. Nobody's dead. We just can't wake them up, before they wake up themselves, without magic I don't have for the time being. My home isn't too far from here, and the wards I already have set up should prevent anyone unwelcome to block us from getting in, so we just have to get everyone there before anyone comes here.

"I still have enough magic that I should be able to tell if somebody's getting close. Aidan's normally able to sense them long before I can--even at my peak strength--and it was him that let me know other denizens were coming. His roar," Arthur grimaced, "was unnecessary. He could've quietened the ruckus without knocking everyone out. It would have been preferable for him to just scare everyone into silence." His look turned a little guilty and he bit his lip, for a moment. "I was going to cast a spell to deaden sound within this room, but Aidan let me know I would kill myself if I tried to, so I let him take care of it." He grimaced again. "That turned out perfectly. And now we need to hurry and get everyone to safety before anyone with a hunger for human death comes along.

"I should be able to lift the girls without your help, but I doubt the same can be said for the men." He gestured forlornly at his notable, though not impressive, right bicep with his left hand, the ring a flash a color. "I'm clearly not Hercules." He looked at her again. "Can you lift the dog without help?" Then his look turned sheepish, and he awkwardly half-smiled. "And uh... what's your name?"
 
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Appletree

Resident Fruit Tree
Sasha listened to Arthurs explanation in slightly stunned silence, mind racing from one random thought to the next.

He could teleport?!? How cool was that? Being a wizard or whatever seemed pretty nice, even if you did have weird glowing-eye-episodes that had to be stopped with a punch to the gut.
Jeez, that shirt was dangerously close to splitting at the seams.
Lift someone herself? Everyone here was bigger than she was. Did he think she was capable of turning big and green?
His home? Well she sure hoped it was in better shape than his shirt. And what did he mean with wards?
Unnecessary, huh? You don’t say. He really didn’t need to tell her that, but rather the stupid dragon who had had the idea in the first place.
Hunger for human death sure sounded reassuring. One man eating dragon guy in the room was more than enough if she had any say in the matter. How many potentially deadly things could one spooky manor hold?
Why did he want to be Hercules? He looked just fine the way he was. Sometimes she really did think guys chased fabricated ideals even more than girls did. The buff gym dudes were like bags of chips, all puffed up with air and little contents.

At his first question, she only nodded curtly and turned towards the spot where Fawn and Bubbles lay, almost glad for an excuse to stop looking at him. What was wrong with her? His second question prompted her to half turn back, slightly confused why she knew his name if he didn’t know hers. Then she remembered, things- and Fawn- and gotten in the way after he had introduced himself.

“I’m Sasha.” She indicated the boy lying at his feet. “That’s James. Please be careful with him. And the others too.” With that she turned and headed across the hall.

While Sasha was reasonably strong for her size, she wasn’t sure she would be able to lift an unconscious person for any meaningful amount of time. She was used to lugging around various things while helping her dad in his workshop, but there the really weighty things that needed to be mobile where all on wheeled trolleys. The heaviest thing she had probably moved was car tires and even those could be rolled if necessary. She sure hoped Bubbles size was due to a whole lot of fluffy fur rather than actual body mass.

Eyeing the collapsed form, all long limbs and tail, topped with huge ears and floppy tongue, she wondered how best to go about this. She had never had a pet and was rather at a loss on how to best get an animal off the ground without potentially hurting it or herself. She supposed it was a good thing the dog currently wasn’t capable of moving and making this even harder. Taking a deep breath she crouched next to Bubbles and slung both arms around her midriff. She could almost hear her dads voice in her head, ‘Always lift from the legs and keep it close to your center of balance.’

With a heave, she managed to lift the dog, only to find that the lack of tension in the muscles under the thick fur made the body so flexible that Bubbles tail and hind legs still trailed on the floor. Sasha rolled her eyes, then hefted the limp form higher till she managed to get the head and front paws over her shoulder. Spitting out a mouth full of fur, she started towards the stairs, calling out “Where exactly are we going?”
 

KittyRoid

InTeReStInG
Sasha, huh? Beautiful name. He flicked his glance to the dying dragon on the stairs, Adain's eyes--less and less their healthy liquid-fire gold--still glinted as he watched the sorcerer and the human girl. This'll be quick, he projected to Aidan. Don't worry.

Adain's mental grunt has his only reply, and Arthur fought a pitying smile. He followed Sasha across the room to the girl with short brown hair and the dog. The young man bit his lip as he watched her, from behind and the side, struggle to lift the big mass of fluff and apparent weight. Maybe she wouldn't be able to handle it...

He let out a sigh of relief as she managed it, then he stepped forward, lowered himself to one knee, slid one arm under the girl's knees, the other under her neck, breathed out, tensed his muscle core, and lifted. His muscles bulged, but she was actually easier to lift than he had thought. He grinned and stepped back.

"Not that way, Sasha! I was only on the second floor because I needed to see how many were in and how close your group was to the doors, from the balcony over the doors. I didn't have the time to prepare that I wanted," he snorted, "needed, actually. I just needed to get down here. I live that way." He jerked his head to a black passageway to their left, then led the way toward and down it, making sure to avoid and alert Sasha to the treacherous places in the floor as they went.

As they neared where he lived, he felt the comforting vibrations in his Magic Core that signified their approach to the wards he had set up to protect himself and his base from all the denizens of the manor other than Aidan. He breathed a sigh of happiness and relief when the shimmering and always moving, multi-colored sheet of magic into view. He hadn't seen bubbles in a very long time, but the first time he had cast the spell--in a far distant, far safer time--it had struck his past self how remarkably alike the two substances appeared. The colors that appeared one moment and were gone the next were in the brilliant spectrum that his ring had. Before Aidan had given Arthur the ring, the colors of Arthur's magic had varied wildly, but since he had been gifted the ring the majority of all his magic possessed those stunning colors.

The thrum in his Core was now so strong that he couldn't help but giggle. He always had that reaction on this side on the barrier when he got as near as he was to it. It was just so ticklish! He looked back over his shoulder at the girl and said merrily, "Don't worry, it won't hurt you. I've made sure of that. You won't feel anything at all."

As he stepped into the field the vibrations grew so strong his own body quivered. It was barely perceptible at all, and it lasted less than a blink. Then he was through and the thrumming disappeared.

Past the field the castle looked different. Less decrepit and filthy. The floor, walls, and ceiling were clear of debris and signs of abandonment, the windows all had glass again, and red candles in little brackets in the wall lit their way in dancing shades of his magic. Primarily the gold of the dragon eye opal's pupil, but there were flashes of the purple, pink, orange, and all the others, as well. It was hardly restored to it's former glory, but it was clear that Arthur cared about the condition of his home and had made great efforts to ensure it's habitability.

Arthur stopped a few yards/meters into his domain, crouched, set down the girl, stood, and faced Sasha. "We needn't go any further yet. They're completely safe here, and bringing the others into my protection is utterly more important than settling them on comfortable surfaces. That will have to wait until we are all past my ward field and Aidan isn't dying."
 
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