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A Christmas Carol

Stave One, Marly's Ghost

Common Ground, Ebenezer and Marly's

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly walks in, carrying a cloth-covered object in her arms. She heads to the storefront and unlocks the door. The origami cat doesn't even look up from its long nap.

<QQQ> talkydoor staggers in, panting, a folded ladder across her shoulders. She makes it to the by the shop before falling to her knees and dropping same.

<QQQ> talkydoor regains a little breath and starts assembling the ladder. After a lot of struggling, swearing and broken nails, she finally has the ladder in one length.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn chrpblurbles again! "Hiii little Joker lady! Hiii!"

<QQQ> talkydoor sighs, and heaves the ladder into position up against the storefront, before limping over to the bar, relieved, for a quick drink.

<QQQ> talkydoor hears herself addressed, and turns around. Seeing Ferryn, she waves weakly.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly looks out the window at talky. "Ah, good. So you can follow directions. Don't chip the paint. And remember what I said about potty breaks."

<QQQ> talkydoor hears Marly and, looking guiltily over, puts her drink down for later. "Yes'm."

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn runs over to Talky! She rocks back and forth on her feet, peering at the rather short Joker. "Hiiii. Ferryn knows you!"

<QQQ> talkydoor smiles at the Ferryn. "Yeah. Hi there, buglady. You're looking. . . different again."

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn nods. "Uh-huh! Ferryn didn't want to be all soft and cuddly anymore" A frown. "And so Jack fixed her and now she's all wiggly!" She wiggles the legs along her sides. WIgglewiggle.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly starts rifling through drawers. She knows there's a toolset around here somewhere, if the staff hasn't robbed her of it for a sub-standard, off-the-books trade. . . Or given it away in charity.

<QQQ> talkydoor watches the wiggle and shrugs, with her relatively pathetic one set of shoulders. "Well, if you're happy like that! But, er. . . Jack?" She reaches for her drink, then remembers and grumbles.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn nods. "Uh-huh! He's this little papery beetly thing and he's part of Chy. . Chymn. . Uh. All the improbable critters!"

<ROGUE> Contestant Kuviare laughs, heading over to Ferryn. "She means the Mass Chimental."

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly finds it! She smiles grim satisfaction at it, and hunts through it for the right tools.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn nods to Kuviare. "Uh-huh! Those guys!" She grins.

<QQQ> talkydoor laughs a little. "Oh, them! Of course. I should have guessed." Looks at the kitty. "Have we met? I have this awful patchy memory. . ."

<QQQ> talkydoor can hear the clanking of tools coming from behind her, and is feeling guilty about all this socialising. She fall-climbs off her barstool, and looks over at the shop consideringly.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly calls out the window to talky. "talky! Do I pay you to socialize?" Does she pay her at all? "I Have a task for you!"

<QQQ> talkydoor edges over into the shop. Not meeting Marly's eyes, she fiddles with her jacket. "What task?"

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip Slinks into the grounds, heading to His usuall seat. He's wearing a Poppy on his Jacket.

<QQQ> talkydoor nods and smiles at Kuviare, mentally apologising for calling him a kitty, even inside her head.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly points to the mannequin in the window. It's dressed in cargo shorts and has a white mop head for a wig. "That needs to be moved outside for now, and we need to think of something new to put there."

<QQQ> talkydoor sees the mannequin and gasps slightly. "Yep, I can do that." She picks the figure up in a bear hug and, taking small steps, props it up in the bar as bartender.

<QQQ> talkydoor looks round at Ferryn and tries to wink, but it goes disastrously wrong, and she can't stop blinking. Rubbing her face, she heads back inside the store.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly gestures imperiously to talky. "I want the mannequin over here, by the shop! Where I can see it!"

<QQQ> talkydoor sighs a put-upon sigh, and picks up the mannequin once again, leaning it against the shop next to the ladder. She mutters something about overbearing taskmasters, but quietly.

<QQQ> talkydoor stomps inside the shop and rummages around for something to go in the window.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly finds the tools she needs and picks up the cloth-covered item. She slowly starts climbing the ladder.

<QQQ> talkydoor is distracted with looking round the shop for obscure items, and completely fails to hold the base of the ladder for Marly.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly wobbles, but doesn't fall. She's beginning to take off the old sign.

<DICE> Ebenezer enters the Common Ground with a ledger under his arm and a bit of snow on his shoes. He heads straight for the store.

<QQQ> talkydoor is sat cross-legged on the shop floor, humming Jingle Bells to herself as she sorts through a box of pens, testing them all on her hand.

<DICE> Ebenezer sees that Marly is at work already. He puts his ledger down so he can assist with the sign-changing.

<QQQ> talkydoor seperates the pens into two piles: those that work, and those that don't. The second pile, she starts taking to bits. She's now humming a Cliff Richard number.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly nods to Eb as he approaches. "Can you catch the sign?"

<DICE> Ebenezer gives a business nod. "I can catch it." He readies himself.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly starts unhooking it, and it dangles over him precariously by one hook.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly releases the last hook and lets it drop! She hopes it doesn't hit him as she hurries to put up the new sign.

<QQQ> talkydoor looks up to smile a hello at Eb, and sees the heavy sign. She gets up to try to help, but her legs have gone dead.

<QQQ> talkydoor hops around, muttering imprecations under her breath and rubbing at her legs.

<DICE> Corporal Zolotisty sidles in quietly, arms behind her back, military beret cocked rakishly.

<DICE> Ebenezer puts on a frown. He watches the sign carefully. He doesn't want to be bonked on the head or anything. He catches it with a pained angh! Ow. Shoulder injury. He should not be doing heavy work.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly is finished with her work up here! She collects her tools, and starts climbing backwards down the ladder, one hand full. . . .Uh-oh.

<QQQ> talkydoor finally regains feeling enough to limp over to Eben, and holds out her hands for the sign, an apologetic grin on her face.

<DICE> Ebenezer lugs the old sign away from the ladder and drops it down on the ground, leaning it against the wall of the building. "Engh," he frowns at the old sign, since it has been troublesome to him.

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip waves to Zolo, smiling. He hears a pained grunt, and looks to Eb and the store

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly wobbles, and the ladder wobbles with her. This time. . . she does fall down. Hard. Onto that mannequin. She lays there, stunned. Her eyes go blank with a blip.

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns as Eben ignores her offer, and crosses arms. Mutters, "stronger than I look. . ."

<QQQ> talkydoor jumps!

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip 's Eye's widen as she falls

<DICE> Corporal Zolotisty 's ears flick sharply forward, jostling the beret.

<DICE> Ebenezer sneers at Talky and says, "I had it on my-" he stops mid-sentence. Marly? Oh dear.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn antennaeperks at the Marlythmp. She drops Gen and peeers to Marly. ". . Is the robot lady okay?"

<ROGUE> Genevieve jumps quite literally three feet into the air as she hears Marly fall.

<QQQ> talkydoor steps one step closer to the robot. "Marly. . . ?"

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip Quickly pads over to where Marly Fell, standing a few feet back. "Marly?"

<DICE> Corporal Zolotisty is quick after Neeip, casting a skeptical eye at Eben. Mn.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn foillows after Neeip. his normally cheerful face is worried. "Ferryn knows the robot and now she's worried and is the robot lady okay?" She peeers.

<DICE> Ebenezer stares for a moment. When Talky moves, so does he. He approaches and peers down at Marly. No lights in her eyes. She looks still and inanimate, like some sort of mannequin. He grimaces.

<QQQ> talkydoor looks over at Ebenezer, shock evident on her face. "Do you. . . Is she. . . ."

<DICE> Ebenezer nudges the lifeless, mannequin form with his toe. No response. He nudges a bit more forcefully. Pause. "Engh. ." He takes a few steps back and stares at Talky.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly lays there, a reset going on quietly in her neural network. Her eyes are still blank as she tries to recover archived footage of the last few minutes. An image of a mop-topped mannequin flits at her.

<QQQ> talkydoor stares back at Ebenezer. "What? She must have a reset switch or something, right?" She looks at the inanimate form. She would check herself, but. . . it would seem disrespectful.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn shakes Neeip. "Mister Neeip, the robotlady isn't getting up! SHouldn't she be getting up?"

<DICE> Ebenezer says all of a sudden, "Yes, I think she's dead." He puts on a frown and adjusts his spectacles.

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip Looks to Ferr "She, She's. . . . She'll be fine Curio. . ." He usher's Him a few feet back, looking to the Others, worry in his eyes.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn manages not to hear Eben. He's ushered away by Neeip. "Mister Neeip. . . this isn't good. . . She'll get beeter, right?" She looks up to Neeip, worried.

<DICE> Tyr watches Marly, Eben and talky worriedly.

<DICE> Ebenezer grimaces at Talky and then stoops to look over the mop-topped mannequin. Bravely, he shakes it a bit. "Marly?" He turns the mannequin's head, looking for a reset button. "Erm?"

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns at Eben. "Er. . . I don't think that's right." She looks around, in case the rest of the world has gone crazy without her noticing, then remembers where she is.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly twitches, and slowly sits up. She sees her business partner looking for a reset button. She tilts her head, and tries to focus the image. She looks down at herself, at the cracks in her chassis.

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn 's worriedness goes away! She perks, and claps. "She's okay! Yaay, robotlady is okay!"

<QQQ> talkydoor had believed Ebenezer so completely that, on seeing Marly sit up, she yells and jumps backwards.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly comes to a Logical Conclusion. Her life-simulation functions must have been forcibly halted. Ebenezer is searching her corpse!

<DICE> Ebenezer is shaking the mannequin. "Marly? Marly." This is not good. This is very not good!

<QQQ> talkydoor looks over at the developing scene in complete bafflement.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly stands up shakily, and looks around. 'Where. . . where a-aaare the rret-t-training personnel?' If she's dead, logically, they should be here!

<QQQ> talkydoor edges closer to the group again. "Er, guys?" She sends a Seriously Worried Look Eben's way.

<DICE> Ebenezer snaps, "Talky, don't just stand there! Do something!"

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip blinks, and Relaxes slightly as Marly stands up. "Oh thank the God's"

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly 's motions are jerky as she fluffles her hair, making it messier that before. She looks at Eb and her corpse, and up at the sign. She never even got to uncover it.

<QQQ> talkydoor picks up the mannequin's head and hands it to Eben, checking first to make sure it definitely isn't Marly's. "Er, here?"

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn hugs Neeip. "She's okay! She's okay! Yaaay!" She dances with him.

<DICE> Ebenezer is appalled at Talky. He gets to his feet and shakes her. "Call someone! The-the doctor." He pauses and looks down at the mannequin's head, left on the ground. "No. . . not a doctor. Won't do.

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns over at Marly. "You okay there? You've got a few cracks there," indicating the crazy paving, "Is anything else damaged?"

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly stumbles and twitches her way to the exit. 'Wh-errre ret-tttraiining p-ppeersonnel. Failb-b- -oat. . .'

<DICE> Ebenezer corrects himself, "Undertaker. Call an undertaker, Talky." He seems to have regained some composure.

<QQQ> talkydoor is shaken! "But I don't know any. . She doesn't need a. . ."

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn waves byebye to Marlybot. Apparently she doesn't notice anything wrong.

<QQQ> talkydoor yells at Ebenezer. "I don't know any! How would I know any on here? And she doesn't need an undertaker! Look at her!" She goes to indicate Marly, who has moved, and points at nothing.

<DICE> Ebenezer raises his voice, "Talky, do as I ask and call an undertaker."

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip looks to Eb. "Uhm. Mate? Marly went thataways. Your trying to get an undertaker for a mannequin. ."

<QQQ> talkydoor yells back, "Gah!" Yep, she's gone incoherent.

<DICE> Ebenezer frowns at Neeip. "I think it's obvious what happened, Neeip. Marly's gone. That's all there is to it. Gone."

<QQQ> talkydoor stomps after Marly, catching sight of her finally. "Marly, Marly, you're okay. You fell, what, ten feet?"

<SUGAR> CentipedeMorph Ferryn ums. "Um, mister Eben I think you're confused. The robotlady walked away!"

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip looks at the mannequin, then to where Marly left. "Uhm. Yes she's gone. Gone right out the Door. that one. Cause, she walked there, you know." He points to the Exit she left from.

<DICE> Technical Sergeant Marly lists to the right as she makes her twitching way out, oblivious to talky. 'Traaaaining-g-g- Perssson- -'

<DICE> Ebenezer scowls after Talky as she wanders off. "If you want a thing done right, you have to do it yourself," he mutters, glowering down at 'Marly's' headless corpse.

<QQQ> talkydoor throws her arms up in despair. "Fine! Retraining personnel. You want to get Failboated? That's just fine. Just go into the jungle and do it properly!"

<ROGUE> Technical Sergeant Neeip sighs and shakes his head, watching Eb. "But. . . Oh, forget it. ."

<DICE> Ebenezer glances up at the new sign. Marly didn't even uncover it before she died. He can reach the end of the cloth, just barely. He tugs it away, revealing the new sign. It reads: Scrooge and Marley.

<DICE> Ebenezer doesn't even bother examining the new sign. He covers the mannequin over with the cloth. "Marly's dead to begin with," he says to himself. "There's no doubt whatever about that."

<DICE> Ebenezer scowls and locks up the shop. That done, he spins on his heel and heads out, presumably to look for an undertaker.

Common Ground, Ebenezer and Marly's, Later

<DICE> Ebenezer enters the Common Ground, wearing a fancy Victorian suit and a tophat. He Heads straight for the shop without a single glance or wave to anyone. He's a busy man, after all.

<DICE> Ebenezer unlocks the door with a ker-click of his key. He enters, setting his hat down on the corner of the table, beside his stack of ledgers. He frowns at them.

<DICE> Ebenezer takes a seat and looks through his books. They are a complete mess. He always meant to redo them, but he never had the time. How will he find the time now, what, with Marly gone?

<DICE> Sessine is rather more raggedy than usual. His coat is in tatters, his trousers out at the knees, and that much-abused ancient top hat isn't anything like his ordinary wear.

<DICE> Sessine goes up to the door, hesitates, then sidles into the shop.

<DICE> Sessine turns his hat nervously in his hands. "Mister Scrooge, sir." He gulps. "You, um. . . did say that. . . you said you might have a-a job for me. Sir."

<DICE> Ebenezer 's gaze jumps from the books to the pathetic man in the doorway. "A job for you?" He repeats. After a pause, he gets up, looking the poor man over. He hmms as if he's not quite sure.

<DICE> Ebenezer asks the man, "Who are you?"

<DICE> Sessine speaks a little more strongly. "The name is Cratchit, sir. Bob Cratchit. I can write a fair hand, and do sums."

<DICE> Ebenezer repeats the name, "Cratchit." That does sound very familiar. "You put in your application a while ago," he recalls.

<DICE> Sessine nods eagerly. "I did."

<DICE> Ebenezer gestures sternly to the table and the ledgers, indicating that Mr. Cratchit should have a look.

<DICE> Sessine looks down at the books, and swallows hard.

<DICE> Sessine straightens his back. "Yes sir!" he says. "You won't be sorry."

<DICE> Ebenezer narrows his eyes at the man. "Well? Did you come here for a job or not?"

<DICE> Ebenezer sees that he's getting to it! "Hmm," is all he says in reply. He sets about re-arranging a few things on the shelves. Every now and again, he glances back to the new bookkeeper.

<DICE> Sessine is scratching his head. These books make no sense whatsoever. There are no prices in reqs, just things like "1 spool of yarn = 20 bottlecaps."

<DICE> Sessine is sure there's a system here, somewhere. He just has to find it.

<DICE> Ebenezer stares at the bookkeeper with one eyebrow raised. "You can start by copying everything into new books," he decides. That will be a large undertaking.

<DICE> Sessine says, "Excuse me, Mister Scrooge. Perhaps you can just tell me. . . which is the debit column here, and which is the credit?" He points at a chaotic page.

<DICE> Ebenezer frowns and approaches, leaning over Cratchit's shoulder to peer at the ledger. He adjusts his spectacles and retorts, "Can't you tell? That is your job to know the difference."

<DICE> Sessine abandons that line of inquiry. He agrees that recopying would be a very good idea. He looks around for books to copy into. "May I use these?" He points at a stack of school exercise notebooks.

<DICE> Ebenezer doesn't answer the bookkeeper's question. He's too busy sorting a box of mixed buttons.

<DICE> Sessine waits a moment for a reply. Getting none, he reasons that Mister Scrooge did want these books copied. Logically, they have to be copied into something.

<DICE> Sessine draws a fresh notebook towards him, and starts ruling lines on the clean white paper. He'll face the mammoth deciphering job after he has the columns drawn up.

<DICE> Ebenezer hears the 'scrrtch scrrtch' of a pencil on fresh paper. He turns to see what his employee is up to. "Cratchet! Who gave you that book?"

<TAMED> Corporal Juniper looking at Ebenezer. "I have several files on you, much of it is fragmented and incomplete. I wish to query you so as to complete my files."

<DICE> Sessine looks up at Juniper. "Er, I think. . . I'm supposed to be doing this by myself," he whispers. When Scrooge shouts, he jumps.

<TAMED> Corporal Juniper looking at the one identified as Cratchet. "Very well."

<DICE> Ebenezer scowls at Juniper. "Bah! Can't you see I'm busy? Take your records elsewhere." He turns to Cratchit. "Paper comes with a price tag, Mr. Cratchit. That book can come out of your pay."

<TAMED> Corporal Juniper does not move. "I need to reconcile my entries on the name Ebenezer, and since you seem to be that person, you would be a source of information."

<DICE> Ebenezer snarls at the woman, "Then you may add to your so-called records that Mister Scrooge is wholly unfond of pointless interruptions to his work. Good day, Madam."

<TAMED> Corporal Juniper looking back at Ebenezer. "Your input has been noted. It has allowed be to reconcile one of my files on the name Ebenezer."

<DICE> Sessine gulps. Out of his pay! But, but. . . He bites his lower lip. A job is a job. He has a family to think of.

<DICE> Ebenezer corrects the woman, "Mister Scrooge." With that, he turns to glower at his bookkeeper. "It would do you well, I think, to keep your writing small," he states.

<TAMED> Corporal Juniper still looking at Ebenezer. "Corrections are unnecessary Ebenezer Scrooge."

<DICE> Sessine begins copying, very small, into the clean white columns. He quickly comes to a roadblock. He has to ask! "Sir, excuse me. In this line here, did you receive the pair of pants, or trade them away?"

<DICE> Ebenezer is too busy scowling at his bookkeeper to pay any more time to Juniper. Time is money. "If you aren't certain, Mr. Cratchit," he frowns, "then I suggest you check the stock to see."

<DICE> Sessine says faintly, "The. . . stock." He looks about the crowded store. "Is this all of it?" he asks hopefully. But he knows it isn't. There's a warehouse.

<DICE> Ebenezer retorts, "Of course this isn't all." There is a pause. "It would be best of you to begin in the warehouse. Why aren't you there?" He fixes his employee with a stern look.

Returning Contestant chinaski "Hey Ebenezer, seen any interesting door knockers lately?" Milo asks innocently, perhaps in an effort to divert Scrooge's wratch from Sessine/ Cratchit.

<DICE> Sessine gathers up the 'books' and his just-started account book, takes a deep breath, and shivers. All that way, and so cold. Well, a job is a job.

<DICE> Ebenezer will not be distracted from his work and employee abuse by simple queries regarding door knockers! He snorts after Cratchet and exits the stoor, locking it up with a ker-click of his key.

<DICE> Ebenezer 's business takes him elsewhere. He resets his tophat on his head and makes an indignant exit, muttering to himself, "Which is the credit collumn and which is the debit? Humbug."

<DICE> Sessine walks out. He can see this is not going to be easy. The first step will have to be an inventory of the warehouse.

<DICE> Sessine is mumbling under his breath as he leaves.

CC404, The Warehouse

<DICE> Sessine goes to the warehouse door and waits. He has the books under his arm. His thin coat is not much protection from the cold. Mister Scrooge said he would be along soon to unlock the door.

<DICE> Sessine shivers miserably in the cold.

<QQQ> talkydoor stumbles in from the mountain, numb feet and hands. She nods to Sessine, and tries to rub feeling back in.

<DICE> Sessine rubs his fingers and blows on them, trying to warm them, but in vain.

<QQQ> talkydoor pulls out a ratpack, and tries to gnaw on a corner to give herself energy, but the block has frozen solid. She drops it to the ground, and puts hands under armpits.

<DICE> Ebenezer is seemingly unaffected by the cold. His key is already in hand. Without a glance to either employee, he opens the lock with a ker-click. "It's all got to be re-sorted," he says shortly.

<QQQ> Second Lieutenant Kestrel spots a talky below her, and drops a hot ration pack onto the ground beside her with a plop, where it starts to melt the surrounding snow.

<QQQ> talkydoor stumbles gratefully into the warehouse, pausing for identification by the overzealous security system. "But. . . it's no warmer in here!" she wails.

<DICE> Sessine nods and gives talkydoor a faint smile of recognition. "Ah, Peter, my boy. You've been hired to help with the inventory too, then?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker tromps into Cyber City after his hike up the mountain. "Hullo!" he greets the rhododendrons, cheerfully. "Isn't it a lovely night!" His breath steams in the cold night air.

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns over at Sessine. "Er, no. . . Um. I'm just here to help." Rubbing her hands together again, she looks around in dismay at the crates piled everywhere.

<DICE> Ebenezer opens the doors wide to let some light into the warehouse. Of course, this will also keep a nasty, freezing breeze blowing through as well. "Cut the chit-chat, Cratchits," he says.

<DICE> Ebenezer adds, "I'm not paying you to stand around and talk. Get to work." He gestures towards the shelves upon shelves of inventory.

<QQQ> talkydoor 's frown deepens. Is that two incomprehensible names she's just been called? She shrugs, shivers, and opens a nearby crate, confusingly labelled Octophant's.

<DICE> Sessine rubs his fingers and blows on them again. It still doesn't help. He goes to one corner where there is a pile of green and yellow towels, and starts counting them, making notes as he goes.

<QQQ> talkydoor finds Octophant's trunks. She shrugs, and makes a note on her battered notebook, before moving on to the next item.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker finds a watering can and waters the rhododendrons. The water steams as it hits the snow.

<DICE> Ebenezer paces between shelves, slowly, checking to make sure that nothing is suspiciously out of place. Of course, he also keeps a careful eye on his clerks to make sure they're not shirking.

<QQQ> talkydoor feels Eben's cold stare on her back, and shivers some more. Mutters, ". . .cold in here. . ."

<DICE> Sessine finds a box of paper clips and thumbtacks. He's about to ask if they have to be counted, but no. Of course they must be counted.

<QQQ> talkydoor works along the shelf, finding dismembered socktopusses, bits of panthzer tread, and. . . what's this? Her eyes light up.

<QQQ> talkydoor has found a box of bits of words on plays... She turns to Eben, a thoughtful expression on her face. "Ebenezer. Do we really need all these bits of paper? Only. . ."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker floomphs down in the snow next to the rhododendrons, takes out his brush, and starts brushing snow from his mane. Brush. Brush brush.

<DICE> Sessine drops a thumbtack, his fingers numb with cold. Where did it roll. . ? He searches under the table - ah. There. Right, back to counting. . . .

<DICE> Ebenezer corrects Young Mister Cratchit sternly, "Mister Scrooge." He lowers his eyebrows. "Of course we need it all. It's our inventory."

<QQQ> talkydoor takes a deep breath and looks worriedly at Eb- Scrooge. Something's Very Wrong There. "Only. . ." she continues, "I could start quite a nice fire in the middle with this stuff,"

<DICE> Ebenezer sharply turns his attention in the direction of the missing thumbtack! He stares until he's seen that Cratchit has collected it and put it where it rightfully belongs.

<QQQ> talkydoor continues, ". . .then we wouldn't be in such danger of losing stock due to numb hands." She nods in Sessine's direction, feeling clever.

<DICE> Sessine makes a note: thirty-seven paper clips, ninety-three thumbtacks. And a rubber band.

<DICE> Ebenezer turns again to the younger clerk. "Fire? And burn our inventory?" He snorts. "Absolutely not!"

<QQQ> talkydoor 's shoulders slump. "But, we can't work like this. Aren't you cold?" She fumbles the box, and spills the scraps of paper on the ground.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker 's ears perk up. Was that Ebenezer's voice he heard? He stands, and puts his brush away, and stomps his feet in the snow.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker heads towards the warehouse. Ooh, the door is open! He pokes his head inside. It's snowing out, and his mane is dusted with snow. He sees people, and grins!

<DICE> Ebenezer scowls. "Fire costs. Cold is free of charge. No fire." And that is final! He turns to see whose head is in his doorway. "What do you want?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker galumphs over to Ebenezer. "Hullo, Ebenezer! How's my favorite clansib!" He goes go give him a big hug. "Maybe I should start calling you brother! Or uncle! What do you think of that, huh?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins widely. "Uncle Ebenezer, I like the sound of that! Happy Christmas, uncle Ebenezer!"

<QQQ> talkydoor turns away and humphs a little, clumsily picking the scraps of paper off the floor and muttering about sadistic bosses as she does so.

<DICE> Ebenezer anghs and tenses at the hug. "Humbug!" he declares. "What's so happy about Christmas? Big waste of time and money if you ask me." He brushes himself off.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker draws back. He looks shocked. "Humbug?" he says, "But aren't you happy it's Christmas? Everybody's happy and friendly and hospitable and nice,"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "why, I bet a lot more people will come to your teas at Christmastime!"

<DICE> Ebenezer mutters grouchily, "It's a bunch of fluff and nonsense. A fool's holiday." He fixes his nephew with a serious look.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins even bigger. "Well, if it's a fool's holiday, we should all be fools, then!"

<QQQ> talkydoor grins up at Beeker. What a nice sentiment!

<DICE> Ebenezer does not crack even the tiniest of smiles. "I prefer not to make a fool of myself. I'll leave that to you." He mumbles, "And every other fluff-brained person on the Island."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Well! In the spirit of the season I won't press you, uncle Ebenezer!" He grins again at the moniker, "But I'm sure you'll come around to my way of thinking!"

Rookie Pepper bounces in, looking befuddled. He's bouncing because it's cold and he has no shoes (or pants), and befuddled because he's somehow found himself in the company of Bertram.

Rookie Bertram is chatting away pleasantly as he comes in the door. "So you see, hats, no shoes, and trumpets are the key to identifying them. They might also hate snow and cold and Christmas, but I'm not sure."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Here's something for you, to cheer you up!" And he drops an envelope on Ebenezer's desk, addressed "To my clansib, Ebenezer!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker picks up Ebenezer's pen from the desk, crosses out "clansib" and writes in "UNCLE".

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker pokes at one of the warehouse crates, opens it and peeks inside. Ooh! French hen feathers!

Rookie Pepper nods as if he understands. "Yeah. Okay." He shiveringly raises his cigarette to his lips and takes a shivering drag.

<DICE> Ebenezer waves his hands at his nephew, "Hands off!" He is distracted suddenly by two shabby Rookies. "What is it?" He asks, narrowing his eyes at them both.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins at Ebenezer, and tips his hat, and heads out the door with a cheery "Merry Christmas!"

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns as she sees one of Eben's pens walk out the door, and moves on to the next shelf down, still shivering despite the exertion.

Rookie Bertram steps aside neatly for a passing Beeker, looking him up and down as he goes to make sure he's not a bee. "I say, nice hat!" He turns his mild grin on Ebenezer.

<QQQ> talkydoor looks round for Sessine, to ask if he wants to sneak out for a warming drink, but decides Scrooge-Eben probably has super-hearing.

Rookie Pepper stares as the catman exits, then turns his attention to the people in the warehouse. Ah! It's marginally warmer in there! He huddles in, still bouncing from foot to foot.

Rookie Bertram sucks on a tooth before starting his pitch. "Ah, sir, I'm here to ask for assistance of a numer- muni- well, I'm asking for money."

Rookie Pepper adds, "Money for pants." He gestures to himself. He is, very sadly, pantless.

Rookie Bertram continues. "You see, every year, at this time especially, several of our fellow citizens find themselves in the soup."

<DICE> Ebenezer replies to Bertram's mild grin with a serious frown. "Money? For pants?" He is not looking even slightly charitable. "Get a job. Earn some wages."

Rookie Pepper would really like some soup as well as pants, in fact. . . "Yeah, friend, well, I had a job until I was kidnapped and dropped here naked. Lend us some money."

Rookie Bertram waves his hands placatingly. "No, my dear sir, you misunderstand, I'm in the pink! Just rosey! It's the others, see. Some of the rookies need pants."

Rookie Bertram continues. "The mutants can't afford reconstructive surgery. . ."

Rookie Pepper continues, "And rookies need pants." He, being in the blue, as in 'blue with cold', is all for providing pants to rookies.

<DICE> Ebenezer sputters, "Reconstructive what? I'm certainly not paying for that!"

<DICE> Ebenezer argues, "Respectable citizens work for a living. Begging only creates more beggars. You're letting them get away with being lazy." He is disgusted.

Rookie Bertram ahms, and looks at Pepper. This isn't going well. "So you won't help us ensure the feeding of Kittymorphs and provide stitches to the undead?"

Rookie Pepper huffs out a smoky breath. "I'm freezing my balls off, and if I die, it'll be your fault unless you give me some pants."

<DICE> Ebenezer replies slowly, in case this Rookie is stupid (which he does seem to be). "No. I will not pay the lazy, worthless people of this Island for doing nothing at all."

<DICE> Ebenezer adds to the other man, "Wrong. It will be your own fault for not earning a pair of pants yourself like the rest of us!"

Rookie Bertram thinks of all the people he knows, and shrugs. Pretty much all of them aren't getting anything from this gent. "Not even for Christmas?"

<DICE> Ebenezer sneers. "Especially not for Christmas."

Rookie Pepper makes a rude hand gesture at this Scroogelike man and shivers defiantly.

Rookie Bertram hms. "Right! Well, I know a lost cause when I hear one. Come on, ah. . . what is your name, anyway?" He shrugs again and pauses on his way to the door to ask, "By the way, are you a bee?"

Rookie Pepper follows after Bertram, muttering, "Pepper. What? No, I'm not a bee." This island really is the strangest place.

<DICE> Ebenezer scoffs and mutters to himself, "Beggars. Just another excuse to ask for a handout. Bah." He turns on his heel to make sure the Cratchits are still at work!

Rookie Bertram nods and walks him along. The words trumpets and eat bees drift along the scrap piles as they leave.

<QQQ> talkydoor is still at work! She wasn't listening in the whole time, honestly. She looks guiltily over at Sessine, who is also still hard at work!

<DICE> Sessine is currently sorting a pile of miscellaneous pens and pencils.

<DICE> Ebenezer realizes that it's time to close up already. Time flies when you're being harrassed by nephews and charity workers. He clears his throat stuffily and says, "Right. Time to close up. . ."

<DICE> Sessine notices the time. . .

<QQQ> talkydoor sighs as she finally finishes a shelf, only to remember how much more there is to go.

<DICE> Ebenezer looks between the clerks. "We'll meet back here bright and early tomorrow to finish up the job."

<DICE> Sessine is also mindful of the date.

<QQQ> talkydoor jumps up with relief, and offers Scrooge-Eben a small, unreal smile.

<DICE> Sessine says, "But, Mister Scrooge, tomorrow is Christmas! You won't be wanting us here on Christmas Day, sir."

<QQQ> talkydoor nods at the suggestion. "Sh-sh-sure. . ." she sh-shivers.

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns at Sessine. "What did you just say?"

<DICE> Sessine says reasonably, "It's traditional to allow employees a day off at Christmas. In honour of the day."

<DICE> Ebenezer raises an eyebrow at Cratchit. "And why should that have anything to do with it?"

<DICE> Ebenezer adds muttering, "There are a lot of silly, outdated traditions."

<QQQ> talkydoor protests, "But it isn't even December. We've got a calendar in clan halls. I can show you. . ." She ducks briefly into the QQQ hall.

<DICE> Sessine says, "But sir. . . ! Christmas!" He thinks fast. "Everyone else will be closed down, there won't be any customers. It would be cheaper to shut down for the day entirely."

<QQQ> talkydoor leaps back out with the calendar. "Yeah, I thought so. Guys, you've gone and got confused again. . ."

<DICE> Ebenezer silently stares at Cratchit for a moment. "That. . .is reasonable," he decides with a frown. "Alright. Have tomorrow off. The day after, we'll meet here extra sharp."

<QQQ> talkydoor sighs as she is ignored yet again, but brightens up. "A day off? Really?!" She doesn't mind this mistake so much, after all.

<DICE> Sessine smiles. "Very good, sir. Extra sharp, the day after tomorrow. And. . ." greatly daring. . . "A merry Christmas to you, sir."

<QQQ> talkydoor slides the calendar under a stack of magazines. "Yes, Eb-Scrooge, merry Christmas!" She's given up trying to understand, and just bathes in the confusion.

<DICE> Ebenezer gives Cratchit a sneer and then turns it on the other Cratchit as well. "Humbug." That's what he has to say about that!

<QQQ> talkydoor shrugs that response off her shoulders, and settles for glaring slightly at the person who used to be her friend. Mutters, "So much for Christmas spirit. . ."

<QQQ> talkydoor pushes past Eben and his sneer, and leaves the warehouse, pausing to frown back on everything. She still has no idea what's going on.

<DICE> Sessine looks regretfully at Mister Scrooge's uncompromising back. He's so grouchy! Must be miserable to be him. Then he smiles. Home! Christmas! He hurries out.

<DICE> Ebenezer lingers behind for a short while, straightening a few things on the shelves that don't really need to be straightened. He slips out and adjusts his tophat against the chilled wind.

<DICE> Ebenezer locks everything up tight and slips his key into his pocket. He exits, heading homewards.

Kittania, Marly's Cratepartment

<DICE> Ebenezer trudges into Kittania and heads directly for his crate house. It used to be Marly's, but she doesn't need it any longer, now that she's dead.

<DICE> Ebenezer starts suddenly, seeing the lettering on the side of the crate, which reads in plain letters: MARLY.

<DICE> Ebenezer adjusts his spectacles, shakingly and squints at the letters. They plainly read: CARGO. He blinks and snorts at himself. How ridiculous of him to think it said what he thought it said.

<DICE> Ebenezer removes his tophat and his overcoat. With a groan, he ducks into the crate. It is a bit of a claustrophobic place, small and simple. It is cheap.

<DICE> Ebenezer has enough room to sit up to eat his dinner and enough room to lay down to sleep. And that's all he needs.

<DICE> Ebenezer reaches to the corner of the crate, where there is stashed a ration pack for his dinner. It may not be as nutritious as a steak, but it's more economic for certain.

<DICE> Ebenezer removes his spectacles and sets them aside. He closes his eyes.

A bell tolls slowly, then stops. Somewhere, below the crate, chains rattle.

<DICE> Ebenezer opens one eye, then both. He can't see anything without his specs, but he looks around anyway. He fidgets and closes his eyes again, determined not to hear anything spooky. "Humbug. . ."

The chains sound like they're dragging across the lower crates. Thumps like someone climbing up are heard.

<DICE> Ebenezer does not hear anything spooky! "Mrrm. . ." Nothing spooky! He scrunches his eyes tighter closed and gives another, "Humbug." That's what he has to say about that!

A thump jars the crate Ebenezer is in, and a muffled 'ow' is heard. A knock on the frame follows shortly after.

<DICE> Ebenezer yelps, jerking into a sitting position. He grabs his spectacles and puts them in place at once! He demands with a bit of a squeak, "Who's there?"

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly 's voice, muffled and a bit hollow, calls out, "Can you open up the crate, Eb? This is an inter-" waitaminute. She checks something written on her hand. "A haunting."

<DICE> Ebenezer retorts cleverly, "A wh-a what? No! Stay out there!" He scoots away from the door.

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly opens the crate and glares in at him. It's not a very great distance to glare. "You have your choice. Do I come in and we'll be crowded, or do you come out here and be haunted properly?"

<DICE> Ebenezer anghs and points at her. "Stay right there! Just stay there, whoever you are."

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly sighs and rubs her nose. Chains clink. "Do you not recognize me?"

<DICE> Ebenezer is rather disturbed. He shakes his head. "Who are you?"

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly shakes her head. "Ask me who I was." Although she's not quite certain what the difference is. She wants to fluffle her hair so badly.

<DICE> Ebenezer asks, "Well, well, who were you, then?"

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly proclaims, "In life I was your partner Marly."

<DICE> Ebenezer sputters, "No you're not. You. You're probably just a potato!" He spares a glance to the ration pack wrapping nearby. Are there potatoes in those? It's hard to tell what they're made of.

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly growls and swings her chains up to her level with a THUD. "POTATO!" she snarls at him. Her cracked chassis gives off a white glow.

<DICE> Ebenezer squeaks and jumps back. He is now pressed against the wall. "Alright, alright! I take it back! You're not a potato, Marly. You're Marly, Marly. Why are you not-not, erm, staying dead?"

<DICE> Ebenezer rephrases his question, "Why are you here? Why are you bothering me right now?"

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly glares at him some more, for good measure. She didn't die and come back to haunt him just to be called a potato by an ungrateful wretch who's using her crate and then locks her out!

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly says, "I told you, this is a haunting!" She readjusts a bankbox carefully. "It is required of every man that he should walk abroad among his fellows, if not in life, then in death."

<DICE> Ebenezer answers, "Oh," as though he knows exactly what Marly means by that. "Erm. . .what's with the chains and locks, Marly? Odd sort of fashion."

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly lifts one arm carefully and looks at them. No, she supposes it's not fashionable. "I made it myself. Do you like it? There's one made special just for you."

<DICE> Ebenezer grimaces. "Why, Marly. . .you shouldn't have."

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly lifts her chains again as high as she can, and staggers under the weight. "You should see it, Ebenezer, it's a full seven years longer than this one! Oh, and all the bank boxes and ledgers!"

<DICE> Ebenezer is getting very worried. He folds his arms tightly and looks a bit ill. "What're you talking about? No. . . That's awful."

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly sneers. "Awful? But you love ledgers, Eb! You are such a good man. . . of Business." Her expression grows cold and she looks over her shoulder briefly as her chains drag on their own.

<DICE> Ebenezer shudders and looks away for a moment to take a few breaths in an attempt to calm himself. "I don't want any of that," he gestures vaguely to Marly and her chains.

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly looks at him, calculating, then nods. "Then I am here to warn you. If you wish to escape my fate-" The chains start dragging again. She yanks on them viciously. "You will be haunted."

<DICE> Ebenezer repeats, "Escape my fate. Yes, yes. Marly, that. Haunt away. Go on." He nods his head, assuming that's all up to her to finish up. It's not so bad so far, really.

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly sighs and rubs her nose. She really banged it on that crate. . . The chains try to drag her away, but she glares at them. Her attentions go back to how to explain. Perhaps with a song and dance number?

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly resumes, "You will be haunted by three spirits."

<DICE> Ebenezer groans, "Three?" Oh, this is getting way too complicated!

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly nods. "Three. Without them, you're a lost cause. Don't give them lip, and don't call the last one a potato."

<DICE> Ebenezer manages not to whine. "Alright, alright. If it's the only way." He does look very ill right about now.

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly nods, and the chains resume their yanking. "It's the only way! Don't forget, three of them!" The chains give one last tug, and she disappears over the edge of the crates.

<DICE> Ebenezer repeats, "Three of them. Only way." He creeps forward and peeks outside the crate to see if she's really gone.

<DICE> Master Sergeant Marly has limped away as fast as she can, burdened as she is with her ledgers and boxes and chains.

Stave Two, The First of the Three Spirits

Kittania, Marly's Cratepartment

<DICE> Zolotisty is doing a dodgy-dance with a frantic contestant at the edge of the Outpost. The contestant is covered in Improbably Burny Fire. Z, for her part, is covered in an unconscionable amount of flour.

<DICE> Zolotisty spent a bit of time havocking with an acquaintance in NewHome. Nicking things is messy business.1) She feints as the man howls. "I'd liii-i-iike," lean, "to help you, mate, but- -"

<DICE> Zolotisty groans as the flames leap ship. Her sleeve sizzles. So does the contestant. He tosses himself to the ground and rolls about, still wailing, as Z makes 'ugh what is this' faces.

<DICE> Zolotisty swipes at the flames with the cuff of her shirt, disconsolate. It only makes things worse.

<DICE> Ebenezer manages to sleep through the noise. The sound of his snore comes from Marly's crate house. Snooooore.

A bit behind schedule, the local clock begins to toll three. It should be tolling one, but the local Kittymorphs are a) lazy, and b) don't recognize Island Savings Time.

<DICE> Zolotisty has a tail! She would tell Prawn that they are not all that bad, if she weren't currently preoccupied with fire. Her ear twitches as the bell tolls, then her eyes narrow. Snoring.

<DICE> Zolotisty , all floury and fiery, trots cratepartment-ward, clambering until she finds the one that used to be Marly's. She raps on the side before poking her head in. ". .eben." Louder, "Eben!"

<KDUX> Returning Contestant Prawn Savage is unsure as to whether or not he should be helping Z with this fire.

<DICE> Ebenezer mrms quietly at the bell tolls and stirs a bit. He doesn't seem to be eager to get up. He yelps at the shout and sits up! "What-what who?" He grabs his spectacles and opens the door.

<DICE> Ebenezer gives a squeaking gasp. She is on fire!

<KDUX> Returning Contestant Prawn Savage waves at Z. "Should I be helping, or. . .?"

<DICE> Zolotisty glares at Eben. "You shouldn't sleep with your mouth open, might be indicative of sleep apnea and then where will you be." She crouches there, quite on fire! She peers over her shoulder.

<DICE> Zolotisty gestures in an 'ALL'S WELL, INSOFAR AS I AM BURNING' sort of way at Prawn. She looks back to Eben.

<DICE> Ebenezer blinks his eyes, a bit confused. Cautiously, he asks, "Are you. . .the Ghost of Christmas Past?" He winces.

<KDUX> Returning Contestant Prawn Savage really feels he should do something. "I've got some water here?" He runs to Z, throws the water, and misses her completely. "Well. How's that."

<DICE> Zolotisty blinks. Then, cagey, "Aye, so I am."

<DICE> Zolotisty has just been briefly back-lit by a splash of water, thereby magnifying the upsettingly persistent glow of the flames! Maybe this is ghost cred.

<KDUX> Returning Contestant Prawn Savage tried. But failed. "Epic."

<DICE> Ebenezer ohs. "Then, you're here to haunt me, I suppose." He frowns. Ghosts are frightening things.

<DICE> Zolotisty shakes her head. "I'm here because I care about you, Messire." She eyes him dourly. "And you've not been doing much caring yourself lately."

<DICE> Ebenezer rubs his face. "It'd be caring to let me get some sleep," he suggests. "Can't you come back and haunt me four-five hours from now?"

<DICE> Zolotisty stares. After a long moment, she says, quietly, "I don't suppose you'll be saved if I come back," she adopts a mocking note, "four-five hours from now. Com'on, come with me." Z straightens.

<DICE> Zolotisty steps off of the crate into the air, offering her hand to him.

<DICE> Ebenezer enghs and hesitantly exits the crate. "Where're we going?" He's not sure he wants to know.

<DICE> Ebenezer does not trust the air, but he takes the spirit's hand anyay. It's the only way! He grimaces.

<DICE> Zolotisty keeps her hand extended. "The past," she says importantly, gesturing. Flames lick off of her sleeve and swirl in the air, brightening the horizon for a moment. It's quite pretty!

<DICE> Zolotisty murmurs, ". .or, well, improbable central, but. ." She shakes her head.

<DICE> Zolotisty bodily hauls Eben along with her as she goes scamper-climbing quick-quick up into the air, following paths and dips that should not be there.

<DICE> Ebenezer yelps and clings to the spirit's hand as she drags him off. He will not, will not, will not look down!

<DICE> Zolotisty and her unfortunate charge decidedly disappear.

Improbable Central

<DICE> Zolotisty steps into the air above Improbable Central, not very far from the PSK. She's covered in flour and Improbably Burny Fire, and she has with her one Ebenezer (Scrooge).

<DICE> Zolotisty fumbles a Chronosphere out of her pocket, using her free hand, and says, "Eben, I want you to think of how things were before the Island. Your best memory. Are you thinking of it?" She eyes him.

<DICE> Ebenezer spouts, "Did you have to do it that way? I can walk, you know!" He does not like all this walking about on air and changing location in the blink of an eye!

<DICE> Zolotisty EYES HIM.

<DICE> Ebenezer shuts up at once. This is serious. "Ah-ah, erm. Yes. . ." He hurriedly shifts through memories.

<DICE> Zolotisty waits patiently, one eyebrow slightly cocked.

<DICE> Ebenezer stammers out, "I-I-I, well, maybe when I got. . .hired for my job?" Of course, he would count that as one of his 'best memories.'

<DICE> Zolotisty says, slowly, "Let's see what this gives us, hmn? Maybe it knows better than you." Z drops the chronosphere. It tumbles end over end before shattering on the cobblestones below.

There is a flash. Light consumes the square, and for a moment, it is another place.

Shadows of clouds pass over well-tended grass, good for walking in or throwing frisbees. Warm summer sun filters through trees alongside paved paths. Ducks argue in a shady pond.

<DICE> Zolotisty enquires, "A park?" She and Eben are still high above it all; observers.

<DICE> Ebenezer is rather angry at that chronosphere for not listening to him. "Not far from where I used to live," he admits. "Used to go there sometimes."

Two people come along one of the paths, slowly skirting around two chessplayers. There's a dog with them - - a greyhound. They're walking hand in hand, and the dog is tangling the two of them.

It barks, occasionally half-rearing on its hind legs. One of the people being tangled is a woman in a charcoal grey business skirt and blouse, expensive and well-tailored.

The other, slightly shorter than the woman, is a young man with scruffy brown hair and spectacles. He engh!s distantly.

<DICE> Zolotisty turns, curious. "Who's that." She gestures at the woman.

<DICE> Ebenezer 's eyes widen. He looks slightly ill, but also very red. "Her. Ah, erm. Jessica," he says shortly. After a pause, he adds, "Partner."

<DICE> Zolotisty tilts her head. "Business partner?" The two of them stumble as the dog breaks lose and goes galloping around them in circles before charging into the pond to bark at the ducks. They scatter. Memory-Eben visibly sags.

<DICE> Ebenezer winces and shakes his head. "Other kind. Erm. Romantic." This is actually rather embarrassing.

He can be heard calling gabby, here girl. . . .gabby. . half-heartedly. The woman, Jessica, corrects him. Gabriella, she says, stiff, and he nods immediately.

<DICE> Zolotisty looks doubtful. This is a good memory? "Did you like her, then?"

<DICE> Ebenezer squirms, uncomfortable. "I, ah. . . at the time, yes? Sort of."

<DICE> Zolotisty nods. "Then that's alright. Let's go visit someone else you used to like, hmn?" She gestures, and the scene dissipates. Z tugs Eben off toward the PSK, still Improbably Burny.

<DICE> Ebenezer is not sorry to see the scene dissipate. He nods his head and allows the burning ghost to lead him away.

The Prancing Spiderkitty, Aleatory Ensemble High Speed Ballroom Dancing Badge Attempt

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer prances on in, wearing a pleasantly befrilled yellow party dress and matching cloak. She couldn't pass up the opportunity for a party!

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer makes her way through the arriving crowds, looking for someone she knows.

<DICE> Tyr comes in a little after Escemfer. He nods to her, then heads for the bar.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer waves to Tyr when she spots him. She bounces around aimlessly, humming to the music.

<DICE> Tyr collects two eggnogs from Dan. He carefully threads his way throught he crowd, and offers one to Esc. "Hello, Escemfer! How are you?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker enters, rolling a small cart. Binjali's wallaby is perched on the cart.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer beams at Tyr and accepts the drink. "Hi! Thanks. I'm pretty good. What about you?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker looks around. There are a lot of people here! He spots Escemfer and Tyr, and waves.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali rolls foward a bit, slowly, carefully, trying not to get jostled.

<DICE> Tyr grins back at her. "Quite well!" He waves to Beeker and the wallaby. "Hello! I've never seen the wallaby without Binjali before. Is she behind you?"

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "I'm right here, Tyr. I am Binjali, we are Binjali, I am Binjali, please believe me." The vegetables look beseechingly at Tyr. The wallaby nods hello from her sling-nest in the middle.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer looks curiously at Beeker and his cart. The vegetables sing! "Hi! Binjali is vegetables?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker scratches an ear. "Uh, yes, I ran into her in Pleasantville, uh. She says the Drive turned her into vegetables."

<DICE> Tyr blinks. But then, his wife didn't have a face, once. "Hello, Binjali!" He nods gravely at the wallaby, then lifts his mug. "Anyone else need a drink? It appears to be an open bar!"

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer gives the wallaby a friendly scritch. "Oh, that's weird!" She drinks her eggnog pleasantly, tail swishing.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh! Uh, I'll have an eggnog, I guess!"

<DICE> Tyr nods, and weaves back to the bar. He returns with another mug, and hands it to Beeker.

<AIB> Captain Serene pokes her head in. someone said something was happening in here. her cat ears never lie. well, nearly never.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "Nothing for me, but a small glass of juice for my wal-a-by would be love-el-ley."

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali's wallaby enjoys the skritch, then pats the closest cabbage. Yes, juice would be nice, she hasn't had the chance to try that yet.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer appreciates the rather talented chorus of vegetables, and does a small dance to go with the small song.

<DICE> Tyr retrieves a cup of juice as well, and passes it to the wallaby. He hopes Dan resisted the urge to spike it.

<AIB> Captain Serene goes back out. seems to be a clan meeting.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker accepts the mug, and stands near the Binjali-cart.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali's wallaby carefully sips at the glass. Mmm! She keeps sipping at it slowly, stopping whenever the cart gets jostled. She manages not to dribble almost at all.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer looks around the room again, bouncing. "Is anyone else here?"

<SPICE> Captain Ochris strolls in, quite fat and quite cheerful. She spies the cabbage cart."There's vegetables? What sort of party...?" She heads to the bar for a pint.

<DICE> Tyr waves at Ochris. "Hello! Come join us!"

<GERM> Jon Bishop mindlessly slides in, walking directly to the counter. "Ale, a lot of it."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker drinks his eggnog. It has lots of cream in it, and is therefore a Good Thing!

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer waves happily to the new arrivals. A cheerful tune starts playing, and she bounces. Her tail twitches. Her ears twitch. Her claws flex in and out.

<DICE> Sessine picks up a mulled cider from Dan and joins the party. "Wassail, wassail, all over the town," he hums under his breath. He seems in a festive mood.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris jumps up to grab her pint, spilling a bit over herself. "Ah, hello!" She hustles over towards Tyr and the cart of Binjalitables.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker waves to the people arriving. It's a busy party!

<DICE> Tyr clinks glasses with Sessine and Ochris. "Cheers, and welcome!"

<GERM> Jon Bishop lifts a brow as he finishes his drink. He pads over to the cart. "What's the deal with the lettece?" He grabs a piece, holding it outward.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer calls, "Hi, Sessine!" This is such a nice party!

<SPICE> Captain Ochris squeaks, "Cheers!" and promptly downs her ale. She looks happily at the strangers and familiar faces.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "I am not lettuce, I am a person, even thooooough at the moment I seem to be other than. I am Binjali, please believe me, I am Binjali."

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer does another dance to go with Binjali's song, which quite nicely goes with the music, as well!

<SPICE> Captain Ochris would spill her ale everywhere if she hadn't polished it off already. She addresses Binjali. "Ah! Sorry, I was about to lean on you!"

<GERM> Jon Bishop drops the vegetable, startled. "Agh! The hell?!" He lifts his foot, prepared to stomp the demon lettuce.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris snatches the adorable googly-eyed lettuce.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer waves frantically at Jon. "Don't! Don't stomp her!"

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "NONONONONONONONO!" The wallaby leaps, smacking feet-first into Jon's face.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris cheers. "Just like the parties back home!" She puts the Binjali lettuce into the cart.

<DICE> Tyr sees that Ochris has Binjli, and holds out his arms to catch wallaby on the rebound.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker yowps, and tries to swipe the dropped cabbage from the floor and put it back on the cart.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali's cabbage solos to Ochris, "Thank you so very-much, so kindly so kindly, thank you so very much muchly. I am Binjali, good to meet you, so good, so good!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker spills his eggnog in his haste. Oh, no!

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker was too late, as Ochris had snagged the lettuce already.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali 's wallaby, being very quick on the uptake indeed, lands neatly in Tyr's arms, then turns to watch Jon. Did he get the message or not? Does she need to deliver it again with greater prejudice?

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker gets a refill of his eggnog and a rag from Dan, who grumbles about the spillage.

<GERM> Jon Bishop stumbles backwards as he gets smacked in the face. "W-what the hell did I do wrong?!"

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer sees that Binjali is saved, so she does a dance and scritches the wallaby.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris glances around and bows to Binjali's wheel. "My name is Ochris, pleased to meet you!"

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali choruses, "Please do not eat me, please do not stomp me, instead please just talk to me, I am but felt!"

<DICE> Skirling Skidge dances into the PSK and promptly ducks under a table to avoid Dan's eye.

<DICE> Tyr looks at Jon Bishop. "The vegetables are a person. One of the Drive's amusements." He sets the wallaby gently on the cart, well within Esc's reach.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris army crawls over to Skidge. "Welcome! Would you like me to get you an ale?"

<DICE> Sessine sees Skidge, and sidles over to the table she's hiding under. "Psst! Want a drink?" he whispers. "I'll get you one. What kind d'you want?"

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali's wallaby is pleased by the continued skritchings. The gray ditz rises several points in her estimation.

<DICE> Zolotisty hauls Ebenezer through an open upper window and plunks him onto one of the rafters. In deference to alcohol-soaked dry wood, Z crouches in the air, observing the party.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge considers this offer. "Yes," she says solemnly.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge is apparently saying "yes" to both offers.

<GERM> Jon Bishop shrugs, then points to the wallaby "Just...keep that damn thing away from me!" Apparently it's close to a small mammal, in his book.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge will most likely continue saying "yes" to any offer involving drinks.

<DICE> Zolotisty says, quiet, "So that was one memory, here's another you can't be a part of, hmn?"

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer has been a little slow, caught up in the music and scritches. She does a spin. An idea strikes her. "Tyr! Do you want to come dance with me?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker sees that Skidge is being approached via army-crawl and sidling. He ponders briefly, then settles on shuffle-off-to-Buffalo. He shuffles-off-to-Buffalo over to Skidge.

<DICE> Ebenezer is not very comfortable up there! He frowns at the ghost and then at the scene below.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge scootches from under-table to under-table to under-table and finds a foot, which she taps. Tap Tap!

<SPICE> Captain Ochris nods back, just as solemn, then hefts herself up and over to the bar. "Dan! Three ales then!" A pause. "Yes, I can carry three!"

<DICE> Sessine brings back an eggnog for Skidge, with a dash of rum and lots of cream and nutmeg.

<DICE> Tyr turns to Esc, surprised. "Ah, if you'd like?" He walks over to her, hoping he won't trip before the dancing even starts.

<DICE> Zolotisty says, pleasant, "And you'd miss this if I hadn't brought you, because you'd've been asleep from your sums and little ticky check marks and books with numbers. Priorities, hm?"

<SPICE> Captain Ochris wouldn't let Skidge drink two ales all alone, thats not proper Midgjit etiquette!

<DICE> Skirling Skidge has acquired ale! Skirling Skidge has acquired eggnog! Skirling Skidge has acquired Leg Of Beeker!

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer nods at Tyr! "I haven't gotten to do my High Speed Ballroom Dancing badge yet!" She beams enthusiastically.

<DICE> Ebenezer widens his eyes and straightens his spectacles, keeping a close eye on Escemfer and Tyr. He doesn't reply to the spirit's words, but his frown does grow increasingly more frowny.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris clinks her own glasses together and waves to Z. She is already a bit red in the face and grinning widely.

<DICE> Tyr grins. "That I can do!" He bows, and offers her his hand.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris is clearly just drunk and imagining things!

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker drinks his second eggnog. Since he asked for extra cream in this one, it is extra super duper creamy. Mmm! He can no longer shuffle off to Buffalo or anywhere else, as his leg is now captive.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge manages, somehow, to drink ale + eggnog without spilling. It is not, by the way, recommended you try this at home.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker doesn't seem to mind, particularly.

<DICE> Sessine looks up with sudden interest. High-Speed Ballroom Dancing! He wants that badge, too. He looks around for a partner. He does not see Zolotisty, because she is being a Ghost right now.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer politely takes his hand, and off they swirl into a quick waltz, complete with stumbling and mayhem.

<DICE> Zolotisty is covered in Improbably Burny Fire and flour, and she is illuminating dark rafters. Of course you don't see her.

<DICE> Zolotisty waves back to Ochris-who-is-clearly-hallucinating, anyway.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker peeks under the table. "There's dancing, Sheriff."

<DICE> Tyr laughs as he and Escemfer whip around the pub, somehow not knocking into anyone or spilling any drinks.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings wordlessly along with the music loudly while Escemfer and Tyr dance. It sounds quite good, actually, especially when you ignore the source.

<DICE> Sessine surveys potential partners. Skidge... is an enthusiastic dancer, but she seems to have a partner already. Ah. He goes up to Binjali's wallaby and bows low. "Would you care to dance?" he inquires.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris gapes. She puts down her drinks and heads over to Sessine. She curtsies. "May I have this dance?"

<DICE> Stanlygirl grins as she spots her clansibs. "Is this a closed party? Or may I play, too?"

<SPICE> Captain Ochris backs away from the wallaby. She's seen what that fighter can do!

<DICE> Skirling Skidge finishes her ale and holds up a finger to indicate "hold on this is really good eggnog".

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali's wallaby would like to dance, but she thinks that Ochris might be a better partner. She twitches her ears uncertainly.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker waves to Stan.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer laughs and grins, red in the face. At some point, her cloak finds its way onto a coatrack, because it's getting hot in here!

<DICE> Ebenezer groans miserably. Groan, groan.

<DICE> Stanlygirl walks over to the bar and asks Dan for mug of Irish coffee. She watches the dancing as he builds the brew.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge finishes her eggnog and begins the long climb up Mount Beeker.

<DICE> Sessine is uncertain. Perhaps three can dance? Why, of course they can. He settles the question by settling the wallaby on his shoulder. "Delighted," he says to Ochris.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge stops climbing when she finds herself on her feet. "Proper dancing?" she enquires. They've never tried proper dancing before!

<DICE> Stanlygirl waves to Beeker. She walks over to him, but sees he's busy being a mountain, so she goes back to watching the dancing.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali's wallaby is quite happy to sit on Sessine's shoulder for a dance! She grips carefully, but firmly.

<DICE> Tyr spins Esc, then dips her. And does not drop her!

<DICE> Zolotisty nudges Eben. Improbably, the Improbably Burny Fire does not jump ship, as it should. "Wouldn't you prefer to be down there?"

<SPICE> Captain Ochris curtsies and takes Sessine's hand. "To the dancefloor!"

<DICE> Sessine whirls into a lightsome reel, or perhaps it's a polka, with the wallaby clinging tight to his hair. "Lovely party,

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh! Uh, it's for a badge, says Escemfer, and it's, uh. High speed ballroom dancing! Like that!" He gestures towards the whirling Escemfer and Tyr.

<DICE>High Lady Escemfer squeals gleefully. She is having such fun!

<DICE> Sessine says to Ochris.

<DICE> Ebenezer is nudged. He frowns. "I don't know. It. Hrm. Going well without me," he mutters. "Don't much like crowds." He has many excuses, but he doesn't seem to believe them himself today.

<DICE> Stanlygirl applauds Tyr and Esc. "Wonderful dip!" she exclaims.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge glances at them, a strange little gleam in her eyes. "That does look like fun. But." She gazes up at him. "Really proper dancing." Not high-speed?

<SPICE> Captain Ochris laughs from happiness. "Oh, isn't it? I think even Dan is having a bit of fun!"

<DICE> Sessine hears Skidge. Ah, yes. High speed. "Faster!" he calls, and the music speeds up.

<DICE> Zolotisty wags her foot. "Probably she'd prefer to be dancing with you, but you're not there. And when people aren't about long enough, you get to forgetting them, mn? Not purposefully.. or from spite."

<DICE> Zolotisty says, "It just happens."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker scratches an ear. "Uh. What's proper dancing? We can dance, and, uh. You can tell me if it's proper or not!" He grins down at her.

<DICE> Sessine is not sure how fast the dancing has to be to qualify as high-speed. Double-time? Triple?

<DICE> Skirling Skidge beams. "Okay."

<DICE> Stanlygirl claps in time (or almost in time) with the music.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali is keeping up with the speed increase just fine. Felt vegetables don't have to breathe, after all!

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker holds out his arms and starts into a foxtrot, double-time!

<DICE> Ebenezer rubs his nose with the back of his hand. "Yes. That's true," he unhappily agrees.

<DICE> Tyr smiles at Esc as they come out of the dip and proceed to tango.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge keeps up with his lead, easily.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer grins. Damn, if they had a rose, they could do it classic-style!

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker whirls Skidge around the floor, foxtrotting, one, two, one-two!

<DICE> Zolotisty itches her ear and observes the dancers. She also observes the barkeep, not a bit wistfully. Ah well. She can find cider later.

<DICE> Sessine and Ochris are definitely doing a very fast polka now. The wallaby is having to hold on very tight. How exciting!

<DICE> Skirling Skidge smiles and murmurs something that makes him blush. Their dance is no longer following any music that can currently be heard.

Curiously, the music seems to be perfectly appropriate and admirably suited for each of these quite different dances.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave stumbles into the PSK, and blinks at the dancing. "Hrm...is this one of those 'pants not optional' kind of things?" He regards the dancers with curiosity.

<DICE> Zolotisty 's ears perk. A Dave!

<DICE> Skirling Skidge beams over her husband's shoulder. "Decency is always optional! Come join the party!"

<SPICE> Captain Ochris twirls like a round blonde top, her hair going every which way.

<DICE> Stanlygirl smiles at the newcomer. "Pants are always optional for a kittymorph."

<DICE> Tyr and Esc stalk past Dave. "We seem to be all dressed for now. Welcome! Grab an eggnog!" They tango back.

<DICE> Ebenezer pulls a face. "It's too late now," he thinks. "I'll just have to go to the next one." Surely, there will be another chance. Right?

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer cheers a friendly Hi! at Dave and tangos away. She gracefully stumbles and falls onto the floor, skidding, pulling Tyr with her.

<DICE> Zolotisty tilts her head. "Will you know when it is if you're working?"

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave cheers and grabs himself a mug of something or other, and joins the dancing solo, jigging to his heart's content.

<DICE> Ebenezer rubs his head. "I didn't know this one." He looks to the Improbably firey spirit. "Too much work, maybe." Maybe? Definitely.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris comes out of the spin dizzily and shifts into the salsa.

<DICE> Tyr acks! as he falls, but manages to twist so that Esc lands on top of him, not below. "Oof!"

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer gives a startled squeak as they thud, and collapses into a giggling pile of fur and yellow atop her unfortunate clanmate.

<DICE> Stanlygirl wonders if the dancers aren't getting hot and tired. She whispers a word to Dan and req is passed. Bowls of vanilla ice cream and bottles of cordials and liqueurs are set up on the bar.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker dances conveniently around the tumbled pair, and continues around the floor, dancing to the specially perfectly timed Skidge-and-Beeker music. One, two, one-two!

<DICE> Zolotisty says, mild, "Then probably you won't know about the next one. It's not like they exclude you. You could be there if you wanted."

<DICE> Tyr catches his breath, then starts to laugh. He hugs Esc. "Thank you for the dance!"

<DICE> Stanlygirl takes a bowl of ice cream and douses it with a topping of cherry brandy.

<DICE> Zolotisty disappears briefly to get ICE CREAM, which she spirits away to her crouching spot with Eben. She savors it, contently ignorant to the continuous flames on her jacket.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker picks up his dance partner and sets her down conveniently next to a bowl of ice cream! He is flushed and a bit out of breath. "Whew!" he says, offering the bowl of ice cream.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave nearly trips over the fallen dancers, narrowly missing another pair, never spilling a drop of his, well, I guess it's beer. "Woah!" He steps off to the side and downs the mug.

<DICE> Sessine finishes with a flourish. "Wonderful," he laughs. He gently sets the slightly-dizzy wallaby down by the cart, and says to Ochris, "Let's get some ice cream before it's gone!"

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer happily declares, "That was fun!" Her twitching feline nose catches the scent of ice cream, so she hops up and offers Tyr a hand. "They have ice cream!"

<DICE> Ebenezer decides not to watch the dancing any more. He will not, will not, will not look. He seems very unsure about the whole situation and very miserable.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge looks disappointed for a split second until ICE CREAM is presented to her. Ice cream! "Thank you!"

<DICE> Tyr takes her hand and allows himself to be pulled up. He follows her over to the ice cream, and takes a plain bowl.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali 's wallaby tries to sit and falls off a cabbage onto another couple of cabbages. Which is, of course, what she meant to do in the first place. She rolls off into her nest and curls up.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer happily takes a seat at the bar and grabs the nearest bowl. Mmmm! Ice cream! What a great party.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave hears magic words, and runs over to the bar. "Whoever brought this, I love you" He looks around as he grabs a spoon, a bowl, and a bottle of chocolate liqueur.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali is trying to ignore that there is ice cream that she can't eat. She keeps singing, but one of the red cabbages is flat.

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild sneakily sneaks in to steal some ice cream, then skulks beneath a table to see what happens next.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge finishes her icecream scandalously early and starts in on more eggnog.

<DICE> Sessine finds a delicious raspberry cordial that adds a perfect touch to vanilla ice cream.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris scoops herself some ice cream, still breathing hard. She passes an ale down to threemilechild and beams at her.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker may have been helping with the finishing of the ice cream, which would help explain its scandalously early finish. He has a bit of ice cream in his whiskers.

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild nods thank you to Ochris and nudges the last of her icecream into the ale. Beer milkshake!

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave 's hat seems to get bored and dances back off into the crowd.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker yawns hugely, showing big teeth. He finds a napkin and gets the vestiges of ice cream out of his mane. This will require much brushing!

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave combines the liqueur and ice cream and begins mixing them into a delicious mess.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge curtseys, an unusual move for her, and grins. "To bed, m'lord?"

<DICE> Stanlygirl puts her empty bowl on the bar. She announces, "That was wonderful dancing, great fun for me to watch. And now, my friends, I must bid you all good night."

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer finds something delicious to drink, once her ice cream is gone, and sets about polishing that off as well. She rubs her eyes. Scouting is tiring work.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave for once is glad he hasn't done much of note today, well, that anyone with any authority should know about, giving him more energy to enjoy this party he seems to have crashed.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker bows back. "Oh! I think so!" He offers a hand.

<DICE> Tyr waves to Stan, and somehow talks a rootbeer out of Dan. He adds a final scoop of ice cream, then sits between Esc and Ochris.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge takes it, waving a goodnight to everyone else.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker also waves goodnight, with his free hand.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris looks around as the party begins to break up. She turns to Sessine. "It was lovely dancing with you. . .and you as well!" she hollers to Binjali's wallaby.

<SPICE> Captain Ochris scoops herself yet more ice cream. Who is she to say no to free ice cream?

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali 's wallaby would acknowledge Ochris, but she's fallen asleep.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave finishes off the soupy mess, his whiskers gleaming of chocolate. Pushing the dishes across to Dan with a grin, he turns to the rest of the PSK.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer gives a wide, pointy yawn, folds her arms on the counterop, and nestles her face in them. Her ears stay alert.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sees that people are done dancing and decides to take a break from singing. She rolls over near Tyr and doesn't stare at everyone's ice cream.

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild notes that it looks safe to come out, and emerges from under the table, swirling her aleshake. She wanders over to Binjali, careful not to wake the wallaby.

<DICE> Tyr pats the cart. "Can I get you anything? Water? Maybe. . .sprayed from a bottle?"

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "I do not know, we could tryyy. . ." The eggplant rotates in place to look at threemilechild. "Greetings, we haven't been introduced," it sings.

<DICE> Ebenezer looks to the firey spirit. "I've seen enough," he says miserably. "Do we have to stay any longer?" Look how miserable he is! He's learned his lesson, surely!

<DICE> Tyr cajoles a spray bottle out of Dan, then rinses it thoroughly even after Dan assures him that no cleaning products are allowed in his pub. He mists the vegetables.

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild smiles. "I'm threemilechild. I'd shake your hand, but I don't see any bananas. You are lovely singers - - how did you learn?"

<DICE> Zolotisty finishes off her ice cream. She thinks about it for a moment. ". .No. We don't have to stay. Com'on." Still floury, still fiery, Z takes Eben. . and they're gone.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali singsighs dotilasofamiredo as the water lands. It beads on the fabric and slowly absorbs. "Lovely, lovely, thank you," the cabbages chorus.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave goes to a washbin and washes his face off, at least rinsing the liqueur off his whiskers. He returns to the common area and pauses. "My hat. . ." He looks around, then shrugs. He'll find it.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali 's eggplant sings in a lovely baritone, "Thank you, the thoughts count. It seems to come nat-ur-al-leeee."

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer startles out of her snooze at some distant noise, stretches, yawns, and gets up. "Bye, everyone!"

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild nods. "I guess, with all the drive does to us, it hasn't stooped to genetic modification. At least."

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild waves to Escemfer! "Bye!"

<DICE> Tyr stashes the bottle in the cart for later. "You're welcome!" He yawns and stretches. "Goodnight, all!"

<SPICE> Captain Ochris waves to Escemfer blearily. Three ales was just about her limit. Maybe too much.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave leaps up from behind a table, holding his hat and, well, some questionable looking garment. "Well I'm glad at least one of us had some "fun" tonight." He tosses the thing aside and dons his cap.

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "Goodnight to you both, goodnight! Perhaps I should find a place to go myself. . ."

<SPICE> Captain Ochris waves her spoon at Tyr. Some ice cream drips off onto the bar.

<GERM> Civilian Teh Dave thinks for a moment. I don't have a cap. He picks up his actual hat from where he threw it on the ground, and waves to everyone as he slips out, more than one unused bottle slipping into the hat.

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild upends her aleshake. The last foamy bits of icecream fall out and onto her fur, but luckily, that's little problem from a kittymorph. She sets the glass on the bar.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer gathers up her cloak, gives everyone a wave, and heads out. To bed!

<DICE> Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "I am Binjali, but I cannot stay, I must put my wallaby to bed." The eggplant bobs at threemilechild.

<FNORD> First Sergeant threemilechild waves to Binjali! "Goodnight. i think I need to go kill some stuff, too."

<SPICE> Captain Ochris waves to Dan and anyone left, and rolls out after Binjali.

<DICE>Cabbage Cart Binjali sings, "Goodnight and good hunting," and creaks slowly out of the pub.

The Prancing Spiderkitty, Later

<DICE> The Ghost of Jacobia Marly drags her chains in as she enters. She ignores Seth and Emily, and even Dan as she peers around the dark room. She's looking for someone.

In the shadowed empty table beneath the steps leading to the second floor, a candle flickers on the table, failing to illuminate the heavy silhouette bundled in the corner.

<DICE> The Ghost of Jacobia Marly 's eyes fall on the table, and she peers at the silhouette. She walks slowly to the table, but doesn't sit down. "I'm looking for someone," she states softly. She reckons she's found him.

The silhouette shifts a little. A nod, maybe? Though, no other response.

<DICE> The Ghost of Jacobia Marly inclines her head and sits down opposite him, adjusting her chains. "I've heard of your. . .talents. Quite impressive. I'd like to arrange something for a friend of mine. Would you care for it?"

<DICE> The Ghost of Jacobia Marly holds her hand out as a bankbox opens and removes a small, rumpled piece of ledger, complete with the accountant's signature. She places it on the table, where the silhouette can see the name.

A knife suddenly slams down, and pins it to the table. A wicked looking tool, serrated on the opposite edge of the blade, made to tear things out as it is torn back out of a body.

The silhouette retracts a leather gloved hand back to the shadow, leaving the blade four inches through the table. It shifts again, leaning forward out of the shadows.

<DICE> KK Victoria leans out of the shadow, baring a grin of sharp, white fangs. The candlelight casts deep shadows onto his face. "He will die."2) 3)

<DICE> The Ghost of Jacobia Marly smiles, if you can call that expression 'smiling'. "Good."

<DICE> The Ghost of Jacobia Marly stands up slowly, her chains dragging. "It's a pleasure doing business with you." She leaves him there, and heads back out into the light.

<DICE> KK Victoria 's eyes glint a blood color after her. He cups a hand over the candle and breathes it out, leaving him and the table in pitch black.

Stave Three, The Second of the Three Spirits

Improbable Central

The city looks especially busy today, with shoppers bustling to and fro buying presents for their loved ones. There is a feeling in the air usually only detailed in Christmas carols. . .

Apropos, the stocks seem to have been magically transformed. They are covered in holly and mistletoe, which leaves sparkle in the candlelight. And spread before them. . .oh, what a feast!

Rookie Brother Matt says, "hello. . . what the deuce?"

Every kind of food is represented, piled to form a kind of throne. And upon the throne is a Giant, in a green robe, with a wild red beard. He is looking around, almost nervously. Waiting.

Rookie Brother Matt says, "now what. . ."

Rookie Brother Matt says, "Well. This is a fine pickle."

The Giant shakes his lantern above the feast and looks around. Was he supposed to find Scrooge, or was Scrooge supposed to find him? He is not sure. . .he is not very swift, this spirit.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge rounds a corner, in the middle of a spirited argument with fish and the Pedant. "I just don't understand how you can think them scary," she insists, half laughing.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge 's fish rounds on her angrily. "Do I laugh at you about your apparent fear of bathwater?" he asks, acidly.

The PedantSkidge appears to be enjoying herself immensely.

The Spirit looks around helplessly. He knows there is to be a scene, and here are these people. . .here. . .talking. . .this is not supposed to happen. "Um. . .excuse me. . ."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge rears backwards. "I'm not afraid of baths! I just. . ..forget them from time to time. . ." "The claustrophobia, then."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge halts in place, confused. She isn't afriad of claustros! She doesn't even know what claustros are. . .

The PedantSkidge takes pity. "Claustrophobia is fear of enclosed spaces," she reminds her gently.

". . .excuse me? Um, excuse me. . ."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge shudders. "Nngh." "There, you see? And do I even mention it." "I just think you need to FACE your fears, not spend your life cringing away from dead guys in sheets."

The Spirit clears his throat, quite loudly. "Excuse me, only there's to be a Scene here shortly, do you folk think you could possibly. . ..?"

The PedantSkidge raises her eyebrow and tugs on the other two.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge and her fish blink at the giant, becoming aware of his. . .presents. . .for the very first time. They blink at each other, confused. "Who're you?" Skidge asks cautiously.

The Spirit booms a gigantic laugh. This bit he knows. "I am the Ghost of Christmas Present!" he cries. "Come and know me better!"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge jumps; her fish jumps further, then is gone with a terrified "Erk!" "Wait, don't. . .dammit!" She and the Pedant regard each other, then turn twin glares to the Spirit.

Rookie Catri jumps at the booming laugh and spins around wildly looking for the source. After seeing the Giant, she scampers off to hide behind the curious looking rock.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge narrows her eyes. "You scared my fish," she accuses. "I have been trying to get him over his fear of ghosts since Halloween, and you just undid it all."

The PedantSkidge snorts as the Spirit stammers. "Months of work that was. Gone. Just like spirits, I mean really. No thought. No consideration for others, just flitting here and there. . ." She mutters.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge glares. The Spirit, honestly taken aback, stammers, "But. . ." "Don't you but me, you. . .you. . ."

The PedantSkidge completes the sentence, "You fish-scarer."

The Spirit does not know what to do. "But. . .I'm the Ghost of Christmas Present," he says miserably. It was not supposed to go like this, he suspects.

Rookie Catri peers put at the commotion. After pondering her choices for a moment, she sneaks out, hoping the giant is distracted, and reaches out to pet the fish.

Go in, show the old man the error of his ways, lay on the guilt, go out again, collect paycheck. It just isn't fair. Nobody ever prepared him for the fish-protectorates of the world.

Rookie Catri says, "Pretty fish. . . pretty pretty fish"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge is still glaring, although her attention is occasionally captured by the feast of food laid out before the spirit. She inches closer to a turkey surrpetitiously.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge 's fish cowers behind Catri and refuses to speak.

The Spirit has a very intense internal debate, then says plaintively, "Look, is there some way I can make it up to you? Only there's to be a Scene soon, and you can't be here. . ."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge looks up from the turky, mouth full. "Mmph. . ." She considers the food, and the robe, and the. . .is that a lantern? Shiny. . .her eyes narrow thoughtfully and take on a decidedly Jokerish gleam.

Rookie Catri giggles at the fish and hums softly to herself while petting the creature.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge takes up the Spirit's sleeve with a sudden, surprising surge of camaraderie. "Well, we might be able to work something out, my friend," she says cheerfully. "Are you. . .a gambling man?"

The PedantSkidge looks from Skidge to the Spirit (who is stammering again) back to Skidge, then comes to a decision. "Here. Use these." She pulls out a pair of dice and hands them to her.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge looks from the dice to her. "Yeah?" "He scared fish." she looks down at the dice, then turns a full-on beam onto the Spirit. "Just one game, yeah?"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge and the Pedant tow the objecting Spirit behind a nearby building. . .

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge 's fish waits until the. . .thing. . .is out of sight, then headbutts Catri gently. "My thanks, my lady. I suspect vengeance is being taken on my behalf. . .I must go." Creepy Ghost.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge 's fish vanishes with a snap.

<DICE> Ebenezer wanders through, frowning at the letter in his hand. "Christmas party," he mumbles to himself. "Humbug."

Rookie Catri blinks a few times wondering what just happened. After only a few seconds of contemplation, she skips off around town for no apparent reason, feeling slightly lonely without a fish to pet.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge stumbles out from behind a building, tripping over the hem of a green robe that is far too large for her. There is the distant sound of sobbing.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge looks very, very cheerful. "Ha-HAH!" she crows, then looks down at the robe. Hrm. It appears to have some kind of jollymaking mechanism. . .she shakes her newly-acquired lantern.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge 's eyes widen at the glitter that emerges. Then tastes it. Yum! She shakes it all over her newly-acquired feast.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge dances about the feast, the broken old Spirit that she left naked and dejected behind a building with a Pedant forgotten. Look at all the great stuff she's won!

<DICE> Ebenezer holds his letter out at arm's length, examining it. "Why did he even think to invite me to his party?" He stops mid-step and peers at the jolly spirit with the lantern and the feast.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge laughs happily and starts tasting all the food! She flavors the stocks with her magic lantern! She flavors the ground with her magic lantern! She flavors Ebenezer with her magic lantern!

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge booms out, "EBENEZER!" Goodness! This robe is lovely and warm! And everything is wonderful! She hums a christmas carol to herself, gnawing on a thing involving mincemeat.

<DICE> Ebenezer has been flavoured. He sneezes. Achoo! "Engh!" he flinches at the booming voice. After a pause, he asks, "Spirit?"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge considers this, then opens her mouth. ". . ." He had said something about a Scene, hadn't he, before. . . ". . ."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge looks around at the food, at Ebenezer, at her robe and lantern. ". . ." She decides, then, to do what she does best; improvise. ". . .Yes. Yes I am."

<DICE> Ebenezer asks, wary, "Are you the Ghost of Christmas Present?" She is a spirit, so she must be!

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge considers this, then nods with enthusiams. "Yeah, of course, what else would I be."

<DICE> Ebenezer looks this spirit over, very cautious. "You're. . .merry," he decides. It is a rather obvious statement.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge nods, solemnly. "Yes. Yes I am." Then gambols a bit, jingling, to show just how merry she is.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge dances through a crowd of shoppers, flavoring them with her magic lantern. They start wishing one another a Merry Christmas, handshaking and backclapping and looking very merry, indeed.

<DICE> Ebenezer nods his head, "Very merry." After a pause, he squints at her. "Spirit? Aren't we. . .supposed to be going somewhere?"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge asks, hopefully, "Because that's what Christmas is about, yeah?"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge 's eyes widen. "Um." Going somewhere, going somewhere. "Right, of course. . .um. . .this way. . ." She stumbles over the hem of her robe.

<DICE> Ebenezer hesitantly follows after her. "Erm. . . you are the Ghost of Christmas Present, aren't you?" He is slightly suspicious.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge nods, all offended sincerity. "Robe! Lantern! Happy! Hahaha! And look at that food. Of course I am."

<DICE> Ebenezer does not wish to offend the Spirit, so he nods agreeingly. "Yes. Yes, of course you are."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge stumbles back, then takes an end of her robe and thrusts it into Scrooge's hands. "Look, just. . .hold on,kay?"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge and Scrooge vanish.

<DICE> Ebenezer hasn't even got time to ask "what?" before he is vanished away!

The PedantSkidge edges frowning out from behind the building. She did not want to get ditched with the sad Spirit while she went off gallivanting! That's hardly fair!

East of Improbable Central

<DICE> Skirling Skidge stumbles out of IC, wearing a robe that is far too large for her and playing a part without quite knowing how. "There, you see? Here we are. Here in this field. It is very Christmassy."

<DICE> Skirling Skidge looks hopefully at the Ebenezer following her. "Erm. . ." he says, and she sighs. "Right, then, let's go somewhere. . .else."

The FailBoat, A Picnic Feast

Rookie Geash confusedly looks around. He eyes the loudspeaker and shakes his fist at it in rage. Then just resigns to stare at everyone with hatred. For no reason.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge appears back on the Failboat, towing on the end of her voluminous green robe an Ebenezer. The Christmas music on the loudspeaker loudens, the feast abruptly tastes better.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker waves to Geash. "Hullo, I'm Beeker!"

<DICE> Ebenezer yelps at her, "Warn me next time!"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge dances about the Failboat, flavoring it with her magic lantern. Mistletoe appears on the railings; the Cage creatures start moaning along with the carols over the loudspeaker.

Rookie Sorrik waves to Skidge

Rookie Geash mutters, "Hey. I'm Geash. Does the speaker ever get quiet? It's damn annoying."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge beams. "Look around you, Ebenezer. Look at the happiness." She eyes the miserable moaning despairing souls, and mutters, "Well, don't look too close, yeah?"

Rookie chaoscommander mutters, "damnit, again!"

<DICE> Ebenezer seems incredibly confused. "Erm. . . yes. They-they look very happy," he pretends, for the Spirit's sake.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge eases up to chaoscommander and Geash, throwing an arm around each. "Everyone is happy on this Christmas day!" She seems undeterred by their obvious unhappiness.

Rookie Geash scratches his head. . . wondering who this Ebenezer fellow is and if his brain will ever be able to remain sane in these circumstances.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Uh, I'm sorry you're having a hard day, Sorrik! It will get better, I'm sure!"

Rookie Geash mutters, "But it's not christmas yet. . . ."

Rookie Sorrik beams "Well, thankfully I am in great company"

<DICE> Ebenezer nods a bit. "So. . .uh. Christmas is a time of good cheer?" He is trying to follow this lesson. He is trying very hard.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins at Sorrik.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge shakes Geash in a play-along! This is important! kind of way.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge beams at Ebenezer. "Yes! You're getting it!"

Rookie Geash suddenly laughs gleefully at the word "FailBoat".

<DICE> Ebenezer nods his head! "Yes, I can see how these people are obviously very cheery about the holidays, Spirit." He gestures vaguely.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge lets Geash and chaoscommander go, having elicited a laugh, and waits until Ebenezer is focussed on trying to hear carols in the groaning of the Cagebeasts.

Rookie Sorrik winks and smirks at Ebenezer and proclaims "Merry Christmas . . . everyone"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge runs over to Beeker. "Help help help where do I take him."

Rookie Geash sighs of relief being let go, eyeing Spirit ever so suspiciously. And hoping to never go that batscamp crazy.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker blinks at the ghostly Skidge. "Uh. Sheriff? You're see-through."

<DICE> Ebenezer squints his eyes and strains his ears. "What. . .festive music," he comments politely.

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge looks down at herself. "Oh, hey, look at that! HAHAHAHAeep! Beeks he thinks I'm a spirit an' I've got to do. . .something. . .what do I do Beeks."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker blinks. "Uh. Calli and Tyr and I are having a Christmas party? You could come? But, uh." He looks around at the FailBoat. "I think I'm going to be late."

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge points. "Yesyesyes that works. Um. C'mon! MEEERRRY CHRISTMAS!"

<DICE> Presently Spirited Skidge trips over her robe again, groans, and thrusts it into his hands, then rushes back to Ebenezer and puts his hand on the sleeve. They fade. . .

Rookie Sorrik mutters, "that was . . . . odd"

<DICE> Ebenezer watches the Spirit warily. She is a very. . .animated Spirit. "Very festive," he repeats, looking around the boat in general, as if he's convinced.

<DICE> Ebenezer yelps and he is gone!

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker is holding a robe, and fades from sight. "Oh! Uh!"

AceHigh

<QQQ> talkydoor slumps against the cake stand, full but still pretty much unable to stand. She looks at the sky, estimating time until NewDay, then starts rummaging around in her backpack.

Returning Contestant calliaphone bombs into AceHigh, and nearly bowls Talky over. "Eeeeek! Talky!! Are you okay? SorrysorrydidIhurtyou?"

<QQQ> talkydoor is even more bruised now. "Nah, 'm okay. . ." She's a bad liar.

Returning Contestant calliaphone checks her friend over anxiously. "sorrysorrysorry!"

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns at the contents of her backpack, strewn over the outpost. She sighs, and begins packing again. Mumbles, "Huh, so that's where that chronosphere went. . ."

Returning Contestant calliaphone kneels down to help talky pick up her stuff.

<QQQ> talkydoor grins weakly up at callia, and flops a hand dismissively. "Nah, 'm alright. . Just having a weak day."

<QQQ> talkydoor sees something pink and frilly draped across the front of the cake booth. Mutters, "Ah, crap. . ." and dives onto it, cramming it back in her bag.

Returning Contestant calliaphone boggles! was that something pink and frilly. she grabs talky's arm. "wait, talky? what was that. . .pink frilly thing there?"

<QQQ> talkydoor blushes, and refuses to meet callia's eyes. "Er, it's a nothing, it's. . . What's this?" She pulls out the offending item and stares at it in pretended bafflement.

<QQQ> talkydoor is holding a pink, frilly, multilayered can-can dress. She had forgotten that was there. . . .

Returning Contestant calliaphone puts out a hand, wonderingly. so much pink frillyness all in one place!

Returning Contestant calliaphone turns to talky. "it's a FROCK? you have a FROCK?"

<QQQ> talkydoor goes even redder. "Well, yeah, dunno where it came from though. . ." What she really means is she thought she'd put it somewhere safer than that.

Returning Contestant calliaphone is hopping about excitedly now. which is odd, because she doesn't look like the sort of girl who does Frocks a lot. still. "talkytalky, can i borrow it?

<QQQ> talkydoor blinks at callia. "Er, really?! What for?" She looks distrustfully at the dress, in case it's turned into something else while she wasn't looking.

Returning Contestant calliaphone beams and hugs her friend. "thankyouthankyou!" then she looks a bit bashful. "it's for a - thing, kind of thing. i gotta dress up smart for it, only. . ." she indicates her dungarees.

<QQQ> talkydoor looks callia up and down and scowls slightly. "What? You look fine." She transfers her scowl to the frilly, and shrugs. "But yeah, course you can! If you're sure. . ."

Returning Contestant calliaphone beams again, gathering up the frillyness into her arms. she looks like a walking candyfloss! "you are the best EVER, talky. i promise i'll bring it back in one piece. i'd better scoot off to change"

<QQQ> talkydoor nods, a bit dazed. "Yeah, sure, any time. . ." She doesn't really know what just happened!

Returning Contestant calliaphone skips off into the jungle, to make herself prett- well, something.

<QQQ> talkydoor slumps to the ground and, shaking at the slight weight, brings out a cronosphere. Poof! - and she's strong enough to head back to clan halls.

There is some sort of party going on here. Lanterns are lit, there are garlends and wreaths everywhere, and music plays from the speaker.

Food and drink is laid out on tables under a tent that protects them from the light snowfall. A cauldron of mulled cider bubbles merrily.

Returning Contestant calliaphone enters Ace High, arm-in-arm with a girl-friend. Both girls are carrying candle-lanterns and looking decidedly festive. They are giggling and nudging one another in great excitement.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr waves at calliaphone. He and his friend Burt are warming themselves by a bonfire in the middle of the square. "Happy Christmas!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone 's friend is bedecked in a silk crinoline, with her hair curled into a cascade of golden ringlets. She looks as plump and pretty as a picture.

Returning Contestant calliaphone is likewise got up in glad-rags. she has lime-green ribbons in her plaits, and a frilly pink chorus-girl's dress worn over her boots and dungarees. her flat-cap is tilted at a rakish angle.

Returning Contestant calliaphone nudges her girl-friend, giggling. "Look, Mabel! The boys are here ahead of us! How festive everything looks!" She winks and wolf-whistles Tyr and Bert, while Mabel dimples and nods.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr 's concessions to festiveness are the green scarf at his throat and the holly in his hat brim. Bert is likewise attired, though his scarf is red.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr rolls his eyes, but walks over to the ladies, Bert following behind. "Hallo! Can I get you two anything? Cider? Nog? Something stronger?"

Returning Contestant calliaphone grins broadly, flouncing her frills and trying to remember not to tip her cap at the gentlemen. She eyes the cider speculatively. "That looks good, don't it Mabes!" Mabel nods, still terribly shy.

Returning Contestant calliaphone and Mabel admire Ace High. It has been Got Up Proper for the Occasion. There are swags of holly and mistletoe on all the buildings, and candle-lanterns winking in the chilly air.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr winks at callia and goes to fetch two mugs. "Warms the hands as well as the spirit." Bert toasts the ladies, and Tyr follows suit.

A brazier is glowing cheerfully by the clock tower, with chestnuts crackling away on the red hot grille. Nearby, a roast leg of insurance salesman is turning on a spit over a roaring fire.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge fades in, staring in surprise at the robe she bedevilled off of the Spirit, its ends being held by a Beeks and an Ebenezer. Huh.

<DICE> Ebenezer anghs at the Spirit and whispers sharply, "Did I not just ask you to warn me before doing that?"

<DICE> Skirling Skidge hadn't expected that one, actually. "Nonsense, Ebenezer," she booms in a sudden, Christmassy voicce. "You need more surprises, and more joy, in that life of yours."

<GERM> Phyllis - friend of Bernard stands, hands on her hips, and glares, evilly, at those arrayed in front of her, making the place look untidy. "Would these ones like to leave so Phyllis can tidy" she muses, antisocially.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge appears fascninated by the goings-on, taking in the outfits, the food, the festivities. She shakes her lantern at it all and laughs joyfully.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker arrives at the party, courtesy of the Spirit Express! "Oh! Uh, thanks!" he says, after removing his tail from his mouth, and joins the festivities.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge grabs Ebenezer by the hand, keeping him from becoming visible. "It is not for us to interfere," she says happily. "C'mon, let's watch."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker 's friend Dot is already there, with a cup of punch. She shakes her finger waggishly at the tardy Beeker, who looks suitably chastened. "I've been here for hours already waiting for you!"

<DICE> Ebenezer seems a bit lost. After a hesitation, he says, "This looks like a Christmas party." He suddenly realizes, "My nephew's Cristmas party!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone and Mabel flounce and dimple across to welcome Beeker and Dot.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge throws her arm around Ebenezer. "Yes, the one you humbugged so readily. Look at them," she says approvingly. "Aren't they lovely."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker looks around for Ebenezer, but doesn't see him. He shakes his head. "And I thought I could get Ebenezer to come! I saw him on the FailBoat! But he must have gone to be dour instead!"

<DICE> Ebenezer enghs as he is suddenly clung to by the Spirit. "Well. . . they do look merry," he replies.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Do you know what he said when he read my invitation! Humbug! Humbug, a Christmas party!" Beeker grins hugely.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge tilts an eyebrow at Ebenezer and tows him closer, using the opportunity to steal some eggnog and a bit of pie.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr rolls his eyes. "Are you really all that surprised, Beeker? He's not really the partying, "good will towards men" sort."

<DICE> Ebenezer shuffles along, pulled by the Spirit. He frowns at the Ebenezer imitation and mmmns, displeased.

Returning Contestant calliaphone snorts, at Tyr's understatement. "More shame for him!" she announces, waving her cider emphatically.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh! Well, I like Ebenezer! Even if he is grumpy, I only think good things about him!" He gives Dot a big hug. "How are you, Dot! Merry Christmas!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone snorts again, but stops at Mabel's tender request. "Dear, it isn't becoming, to snort so."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker throws a big arm around Tyr. "Tyr, have you made us eggnog!"

<DICE> Rocket Tyr grins at Beeker. "'Course I have! And I even kept Bert from drinking the whole bowl on the way over, so there must be. . .oh, a cup or two left!" He nudges Bert with an elbow.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Let's have some eggnog, and some cheer, and some singing and games and celebration!"

<DICE> Ebenezer is slightly cheered by his nephew's kind words, but also slightly guilted. He had been calling that boy a fool earlier. He squirms uncomfortably a bit in his place by the Ghost's side.

Bert nudges right back. "What he is neglecting to tell you is that he "tasted" it quite liberally before we left."

Returning Contestant calliaphone and Mabel link hands and dance round excitedly. "Eggnog and Cheer and Singing and Games! Hurrah!" they chorus.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr looks affronted. "Had to make sure it was good enought to serve, didn't I? It's over here, next to the mincemeat tarts."

Returning Contestant calliaphone swigs back her cider, and holds out the cup for some eggnog.

Returning Contestant calliaphone 's friend Mabel nibbles daintily on a morsel of Salesman's Leg.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins at Tyr. "Uh huh, I bet you did!" He goes to get some eggnog. Dot already has some, and follows the conversation, laughing.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr ladles what is obviously more than enough eggnog into calliaphone's waiting cup. He takes one for himself, and then another, when Bert steals his.

<DICE> Ebenezer watches the party, quietly. He mumbles to the Spirit, "They do seem very cheery." It is very clear to see!

Returning Contestant calliaphone takes a foamy mouthful of eggnog, and allows Mabel to wipe away the resulting moustache with a pretty, embroidered handkerchief.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge smiles at him. "So they do, so they do. It's certainly the time of year for it. Not that certain people noticed, hmmh?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker starts singing "Good King Wenceslas," just because he likes singing! He floomphs down by the fire and waves his cup in the air in time with his singing.

Returning Contestant calliaphone and Mabel also love to sing. They join in - Mabel in a pretty soprano, Calli in a gusty alto.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr joins in in a soft tenor. Bert has a surprisingly deep baritone for such a small guy.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker gets into the song, and at the "hither page and stand by me," he jumps up and stands by Bert. Yonder peasant, who is he! He points at Dot.

<DICE> Ebenezer whispers to the Ghost, "They seem happy enough without me." His presence certainly wouldn't make them any more merry.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge sings along, unheard. Which is probably for the best; she could not actually carry a tune if given a backpack with infinite space worth 300 cigarettes. Nonetheless, she sings with gusto.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge interrupts her song to say, "But does that mean that their joy would not still be multiplied by your being there?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker belts out, bring me flesh and bring me wine! He gestures grandly towards the leg of insurance salesman and the punch bowl.

<DICE> Ebenezer seems uncertain. He considers this silently, watching the party-goers.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker tromps through invisible snow, singing grandly, and encouraging Bert to follow in his footsteps.

Bert follows where the snow lies dinted, carrying roast and punch.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker finishes up the song, throwing his arms in the air. He floomphs back down on the cushions, grinning hugely.

Returning Contestant calliaphone looks a little sad, remembering music she made, so long ago now, with her accordion. "fails my heart i know not how" she repeats, her voice wobbling. Mabel sqeezes her arm.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr laughs at the play-acting with what breath he has left.

<DICE> Ebenezer winces slightly, seeing Calliaphone. He grabs a handful of the sleeve of the Spirit's robe.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge clears her throat and gives a meaningful look from Calli to Ebenezer.

Bert drains the punch, then booms, "The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown. . ."

<DICE> Skirling Skidge murmurs, very quietly, "There is nothing wrong with business, Ebenezer. So long as you are mindful of others. You did her an unkindness, taking that which was most important to her."

Returning Contestant calliaphone whispers to Mabel. "i'm sorry, i won't take on. i just. . .miss him so, at times like this. Parties were made for accordions." Mabel nods sympathetically, and Calli puts on a cheery face.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker sings with gusto of the rising of the sun and the running of the deer!

Returning Contestant calliaphone looks a little brighter, but what she could really do with now, is a bit of laughter.

<DICE> Ebenezer looks sadly to the Spirit and back to Calliaphone. "I didn't realize." But now he does.

"The playing of the merry organ, sweet singing in the choir!" They finish, happy. "Perhaps a game, next?"

Returning Contestant calliaphone turns to Beeker. "Say, Beeker, why don't we play a GAME!" Mabel looks slightly alarmed.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge eyes him. "A thing to consider, Ebenezer. Business is nothing without kindness."

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh!" He brightens (could he really get more cheery?) and grins. "What sort of game!"

Dot, who is a mediocre singer at best, claps her hands delightedly. "Yes! A game! Maybe twenty questions!"

<DICE> Ebenezer is unsteady under the Spirit's gaze. He nods his head and repeats, mumbling, "Nothing without kindness."

Returning Contestant calliaphone skips, and Mabel looks immensely relieved.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge for her part stares down at the robe. Potent stuff, this spiritwear.

Returning Contestant calliaphone says , "let me, let me! i have a thing to guess at! will you guess, everyone?"

<DICE> Rocket Tyr ponders, mincemeat tart in hand. "Is it an animal?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker claps his hands. "Oh, uh huh! Is it something we find in the jungle?"

Returning Contestant calliaphone nods and claps her hands! "it is it is!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone may have meant yes to both questions!

<DICE> Rocket Tyr 's friend Bert asks, "Is it small?"

Returning Contestant calliaphone says, "nooooo"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker asks, "Is it bigger than a breadbox?" Dot asks, "Does it talk?"

Returning Contestant calliaphone squeaks "yes it IS, and yes it DOES!"

<DICE> Rocket Tyr 's mouth is full of tart. Burt tries, "Is it easy to kill?"

Returning Contestant calliaphone looks confused. "or maybe it doesn't." she scratches her head.

<DICE> Ebenezer watches the game, which is a wonderful distraction from the business-related guilt. He squints his eyes, trying to guess the answer.

Returning Contestant calliaphone shakes her head at Bert's question. "that it most certainly is NOT!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh! Does it like shiny things?" The Magpie likes shiny things!

<DICE> Rocket Tyr 's eyes widen. "Doff it wilke thiny thngs?"

Returning Contestant calliaphone frowns, thinking about this. "i, errr, don't think so!" she whispers to Mabel, who shakes her head vigorously.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker thinkthinkthinks. Dot asks, "Does it like tatoos?" She points at Beeker's phoenix tattoo, barely visible under his fur.

Returning Contestant calliaphone 's eyes glint with mischief. "Yup!!" she bounces on the spot.

<DICE> Ebenezer points to Dot and says, "Oh, I think she's got it."

Returning Contestant calliaphone stops bouncing at a nudge from Mabel. "wait! what? ohhh, maybe not, then! um. . ."

<DICE> Skirling Skidge beams at the game. "Think so," she agrees cheerfully.

Returning Contestant calliaphone looks at Mabel and shrugs. They giggle together.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker scratches an ear. "Maybe?" Dot pipes up, "Is it the Giant Tattoo Mutant!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone whoops delightedly and chucks a celebratory snowball at Dot. "yougotit yougotit!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins. "Oh! Oh! I've got one! You'll never guess this one!"

<DICE> Ebenezer bounces ever-so-slightly and says, "I knew she would get it."

Returning Contestant calliaphone grins back at Beeker. "i bet we will!"

<DICE> Skirling Skidge has, meanwhile, found a script in one pocket and is flipping through it frantically. She stiffens; she has definitely missed a bit, here. Who's Cratchit? And Tiny Tim. . .oh, no.,

Returning Contestant calliaphone nudges Mabel, who blushes, and makes a guess. "is it an animal?" she dimples.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge absently says, "Right, of course. . ." She catches Ebenezer eying her and beams reassuringly, then goes back to flipping frantically.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins. "Yes, it is an animal!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone adds "a live one?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker nodnods. "Uh huh! A live animal!'

<DICE> Ebenezer is curious about this script, but he does not question the Spirit about her ways. He looks back to the party.

Returning Contestant calliaphone claps, and hugs Mabel.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr guesses, "Is it a disagreeable animal?" "Or a savage one?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh, yes, very disagreeable! And savage, grr!" Dot aks, "Does it growl and grunt?" "Oh! Uh, sometimes!" answers Beeker.

Returning Contestant calliaphone says "does it talk?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh, it talks sometimes! Uh huh!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone 's friend Mabel pipes up, "does it live on the Island?"

<DICE> Ebenezer wonders!

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh, uh huh! It does live on the Island!"

<DICE> Skirling Skidge pockets the script. She'll think of something later.

Burt asks, "Does it walk about the streets?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Uh huh, it does!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker hears someone ask, "Does someone lead it around on a leash?" "Oh, uh, no! Nobody leads it on a leash!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone and mabel ask together "does it live in a zoo! was it ever killed in a market?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker shakes his head. "No, it doesn't, and no, it never was!"

<DICE> Rocket Tyr hms. "A horse?" "A donkey - zombie or otherwise?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker shakes his head. "Not a horse, not a donkey!" "Is it an Interrupting Cow?" "No, not an Interrupting Cow!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone and Mabel shout "a bull! a TIGER!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker shakes his head. "Not a bull or a tiger!"

<DICE> Ebenezer looks to all the players and back to his nephew. This game is getting very animated!

<DICE> Rocket Tyr and Bert guess: "A dog?" "A grunting piggy?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker shakes his head. "Not a dog or a grunting piggy!" "How about a Schrodinger's Cat?" "No, not a Schrodinger's Cat!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone 's friend Mabel calls out "a bear, then! it must be a bear!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker says, "Oh! Uh uh, no, not a bear!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone 's eyes go wide, and she gasps! She jumps up and down in the snow. "I have found it out! I know what it is, Beeker, I know what it is!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins. "Uh huh, what is it, then!"

Returning Contestant calliaphone gurgles with laughter. "it's your Uncle! Your Uncle Ebenezer Scrooooooge!"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker grins wide. "Uh huh! It's my Uncle Ebenezer!"

<DICE> Ebenezer widens his eyes! "No." Surely not! He darts his gaze to his nephew. It is?

Returning Contestant calliaphone flops to the floor, clutching her sides.

<DICE> Rocket Tyr sputters, as Bert stomps the ground and laughs. "A growly, grumbly creature indeed!"

<DICE> Skirling Skidge sideeyes Ebenezer and pats him on his shoulder. She'd say something comforting, but her mouth is full of stolen mincemeat tart.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker laughs heartily. "Bless him! I wish he'd been here tonight!"

<DICE> Skirling Skidge mrpmhs something, then swallows and says, "You see? You are missed, even as unpleasant as they recognize you to be."

<DICE> Rocket Tyr nods. "Merry Christmas to him, the grump."

<DICE> Ebenezer enghs and scowls at the floor. He doesn't reply to the Spirit.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker raises a mug of eggnog. "Merry Christmas to Uncle Ebenezer! May he find joy in it someday!"

<DICE> Rocket Tyr and Bert clink glasses with Beeker and Dot and callia and Mable. "To Ebenezer!"

<DICE> Skirling Skidge chuckles and elbows Ebenezer.

The party continued long into the night, and tired everyone out with laughing. There was more singing, and more games, and more eggnog, and an excess of Christmas spirit.

<DICE> Ebenezer groans in response to the nudging and the well-wishes.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge is very fond of her Christmas Spirit lantern.

But the editors decided the viewers had enough of this jollity, and went on to advertisements for Diet Shockolate. After the commercial breaks, the end of the party was not broadcast.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge 's eyes are distant, towards the end. There is a tug on her robe. 'I want a turn," says the Pedant. "No way," she hisses. "You're not jolly enough." "I could be jolly."

<DICE> Skirling Skidge looks very dubious. "Well, at least I'd have gotten the order right," she ammends. "I don't think so." "They were MY dice."

<DICE> Ebenezer rubs his nose and stays quiet. After a moment he looks at the Spirit. Spirits? He squints at them.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge and the Pedant freeze, then give twin smiles of reassurance before huddling back into a whispery bicker.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge is hissing about "complete and utter inability to be funny," while the Pedant is muttering about ". . .what do you know about Christmas anyway. . ." They wander off, bickering.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge and the Pedant have completely forgot about Ebenezer. .

<DICE> Ebenezer questions, "Is this all you have to show me, Spirit?" He watches them wander away. "Err. . Spirit?" Shaking his head, he exits. Those Spirits know where to find him when they're ready.

Meanwhile, in Kittania

Time slows to a snail's pace. There has been a quiet ticking coming from the base crate of Marly's crate home. Sound recedes into silence, and the solid TICK. TICK. TICK. Is all that is heard.

Contender chinaski looks at the ticking crate. And at Ophelia. He clutches her to his chest.

The house suddenly erupts in a glorious fire that reaches up to the sky. Scorched boards and burnt papers dissolve into ash in the flames of the explosion.

A tall figure walks back into the jungle as Kittymorphs scramble past him, rushing with buckets of water to douse the raging fires and check if anyone is still alive.

<Hope> Philosopher Ophelia flinches and ducks her head into Milo as fire fills the sky

<SAVOR> First Sergeant Joseph Kemys 's silhouette grins. Someone knows how to make a dramatic entrance. Or exit, if you will.

Pleasantville

<DICE> Ebenezer believes he is supposed to meet someone here. He glances around carefully. He hears a clock chime deeply in the distance.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge is always on time. She fades into existence; the robe fits her no better than it did the other.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge is flipping through a book. . .let's see, she missed this bit. . .flipflipflip. . .this bit, too. . . .

<DICE> Ebenezer spots a familiar-looking Spirit in a familiar robe. "Erm. Spirit, is that you?" He squints.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge looks up and catches sight of Ebenezer. "Right, then, come here. We're a bit behind schedule," she snaps, as if it is his fault, then remembers. . .she's supposed to be jolly.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge stretches a large and wholly unconvincing smile onto her features. "Yes, it is I, the Spirit of Christmas Present. Come and know me better, and could you do it in rather a hurry, please?"

<DICE> Ebenezer raises an eyebrow, but approaches. "Right. Well, hello then, Spirit. Where are we going this time?" He is cautious.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge flips a page. "Dinner."

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge grabs him, and they fade. . .

<DICE> Ebenezer hasn't even got time to explain that he's already had dinner before he and the Spirit fade away.

Squat Hole, The Cratchit Home

<DICE> Tiny Ochris limps into Squat Hole wearing a squeaky clean pair of steel toe boots. "Ugh, I hate breaking in new shoes!"

<DICE> Tiny Ochris kneels down to untie the shoes. "Blisters? What sort of low quality leather is this, Sheila?" She shakes her fist in futility.

<QQQ> talkydoor bustles out of clan halls, wiping her hands on an apron. She looks around, frowning. Mutters, "What a mess. . ." and starts sweeping dirt around.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine comes in and lifts Tiny Ochris to his shoulder. "How about a ride, son?" he says.

<QQQ> talkydoor smiles with satisfaction, despite the area possibly looking grubbier than before. Humming off-keyly to herself, she disappears into clan halls, a smell of roasted fowl wafting out.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris cheers, then coughs miserably.

<QQQ> talkydoor appears again, and frowns at the others playing. She rubs at two large bumps on her head.

<QQQ> talkydoor shrugs and begins setting up a table. Despite the surrounding squalor, the cloth is. . . relatively unstained, and the silverware even shines after enough rubbing.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris grabs two handfuls of his father's hair and cries, 'Giddy-up!"

<QQQ> talkydoor smiles at the two playing around. Chuckling, says, "Be careful, he's fragile!" and bustles back into halls to tend to the kettle.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge is never late, yet somehow, she is. She makes a noise halfway between a yelp and a harrumph. "There, see? Dinner. Now pay attention."

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine obligingly gallops across the square, to the great delight of his tiny son, who laughs and whips him on.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris laughs at his galloping steed. "Faster!" He nudges his father gently with the heel of his shoe.

<QQQ> talkydoor brings out dish after dish. Well, just the two, really. Roasted French Hen and mashed Potato Newscaster. There's a dish of something that was possibly derived from fruit at some point.

<DICE> Ebenezer is suddenly in a very poor district. "Is that. . .is that Cratchit?" He can clearly see that it is!

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge sniffs. "Indeed. And it is filthy, isn't it." She wipes one finger along a sill; it sticks.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris cries, "Faster, father! Faster!" He shakes the fistfuls of hair lightly as though he's holding the reigns of a particularly friendly horse.

<QQQ> talkydoor ahs and heads back into the clan halls, to bring out a pot of steaming gravy. Just don't ask what it's made from. . . Puts it on the table, and frowns at the spread.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine is going so fast. . . but then he comes to a halt, laughing. "We're here!" he says. "My dear, we're home!" He gives his wife a kiss on the cheek.

<QQQ> talkydoor is shaken from her reverie by the laughter of the. . . child? She knows something's wrong, but the food is all there now. . .

<QQQ> talkydoor is kissed! She blinks, then frowns down at her ring finger. "Er, husband?" She squints up at him.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris smiles at his mother. "Oh, but I hope that people see me! Then they'll remember that it is the Drive that makes lame midgets walk, and blind mutants see!"

<QQQ> talkydoor gives the. . . child a faltering smile. "Yes, dear. Are you hungry?"

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge is still trying to get her finger unstuck, surrpetitiously. Tug. Tugtug.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine says, "We had such a fine time. I really do think he's -- he's growing stronger." His voice falters a bit as he says this.

<DICE> Ebenezer looks around with a frown. "This is where he lives?" It is not the most habitable environment.

<DICE> Ebenezer stares at the tiny little child. He suddenly cannot speak.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge snorts irritably. "What would you expect, Ebenezer? With what you pay the man."

<QQQ> talkydoor surreptitiously wipes a tear from the corner of her eye. "He's. . . so. . . brave." She blinks, and frowns slightly.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris smiles lovingly at his mother. "Could you help me to my stool, father?"

<QQQ> talkydoor fusses around with napkins (fashioned from sock puppet) and pours a highly suspicious warm punch into glasses.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine sets Tiny Ochris in a corner where he can watch everything, and sits close beside him.

<QQQ> talkydoor pulls out a meat fork and kitchen knife from deep apron pockets and attacks the French Hen gleefully.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge eyes her book. Eyes the French Hen. "That's not a goose. It's supposed to be a goose." She tugs on Ebenezer and points! "There never was such a goose."

<QQQ> talkydoor dishes up the meagre food proudly, beaming round at those assembled.

<DICE> Ebenezer is more preoccupied with the tiny little child at his employee's side than with the bird on the table.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris eyes the food as though it is the greatest feast of mutant steak ever beheld. "Oh, Mother, it smells wonderful!"

<QQQ> talkydoor blushes slightly, and tucks wisps of hair behind her ear.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine says, "My dear, this is so tender, and such a large bird for the price!" It is not large at all. It is a very small French Hen. But it is delicious!

<QQQ> talkydoor bustles for a moment more, then settles down with a napkin tucked into her collar. "Well, this is nice. . ."

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine serves Tiny Ochris some applesauce, mashed potatoes, and sage and onion stuffing.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge stumbles suddenly, then straightens and looks at Ebenezer to see if he noticed. "That is my robe!" hisses a voice, from under the selfsame robe. "Get off my leg," she whispers.

<DICE> Ebenezer whispers, "Such a small meal for such a large family."

<DICE> Tiny Ochris digs in. "Oh, its more than nice, Mother, I've never seen such a feast!" His emphatic and heartfelt compliments seem to take something out of him, and he begins coughing into his sleeve.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine savors his own delicious plateful of food. "My dear, you have done wonders here. Wonders!"

<QQQ> talkydoor pokes the food warily, waiting for it to attack. Hearing the child cough, she sends a pitying look across the table. Whispers, "so very brave. . ."

<QQQ> talkydoor smirks over at her husband. "We all know how hard you work for us, dear."

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge kicks. "Yes." She clings, obstinately.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine at last pushes his chair back. "Ahh. And. ." observing a crumb of bone left on the dish, "we haven't even eaten it all, at last!"

<QQQ> talkydoor settles back, a satisfied smile on her face. Then panic grabs hold. "Er, be right back. . ." Black smoke is trickling from under QQQ's door.

<QQQ> talkydoor returns with a. . . pudding. She doesn't remember making it, and eyes the black specks warily in case of movement.

<QQQ> talkydoor trips on her way back to the table, and knocks a lit lamp onto the pudding. It catches fire. Swearing softly, yet thoroughly, as only a midget can, she places it on the table.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris grabs his father's hand excitedly, his own frail hand dwarfed in comparison.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine says calmly and admiringly, "I do believe that pudding, my dear, is the greatest success you have achieved since our marriage."

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns at that remark. "Well, I dunno. . ." She winces as she probes at the head wound again.

<QQQ> talkydoor dishes up generous helpings of the pudding. She pokes each gingerly, just in case, before handing them round.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine digs into his own helping with apparent relish. It is doubtful whether those black dots are all fruit - this is Squat Hole, after all - but he doesn't wince. Not visibly, anyway.

<QQQ> talkydoor finishes her helping in record time and smiles blearily round at everyone. She's seeing at least two for every one, and prides herself on feeding such a large family.

<DICE> Tiny Ochris wouldn't even guess that the questionable bits might not be fruit.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine sighs in satisfaction at last. He helps clear away the plates, then apples and oranges, and it is time for the hot punch. He hands a steaming cup round to each.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine raises his glass. "A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!"

<DICE> Ebenezer tugs on the sleeve of the Spirit's robe. He asks very quietly, "Spirit? Tell me. . .does the child live?"

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine tenderly holds his small son's withered hand.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge starts (there is someone biting her leg) and says, "Oh! Ah. I see. . .owtch! In the poor chimney-corner, I see a pantsless seat. . .if these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will."

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge stammers, unsure. . ."Um. Fail."

<QQQ> talkydoor smiles dazedly at where her family was. They've moved, and she's now making an inhabitant very uncomfortable.

<DICE> Ebenezer shakes his head and tugs on the sleeve of the Spirit's robe. "No! No, you're supposed to be the nice Ghost. Tell me the child will live!"

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge is many things, and nice is probably the most debatable of them. She looks at him, then rebuts, dryly, "It's his own fault for not earning a pair of pants like the rest of you, hmh?"

<DICE> Ebenezer grimaces at hearing his own words repeated back at him. Shamed, he hangs his head.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine proposes another toast. "Mister Scrooge!" he says. "I'll give you Mister Ebenezer Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!"

<QQQ> talkydoor frowns at this, and waves her glass in her husband's general direction. "Nah. . . I'm not drinking to that old grump."

<DICE> Ebenezer is doubly shamed! Hearing his name, he looks up again, looking miserably on the scene before him.

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine says, "My dear, the child. Christmas Day."

<QQQ> talkydoor rants, "I wish he was here. I'd have a right go. . ."

<QQQ> talkydoor scowls blearily at her husband. "Huh. Well, since it's christmas, I s'pose. . . . ." She raises her glass. "A merry Christmas to 'im!"

<DICE> Bob Cratchit Sessine drinks to Scrooge's health, and the shadow cast by his name quickly passes. A merry time is had by all, and Scrooge stays to watch to the end.

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge looks tired, by the end (it is not easy, fighting off someone who wants something of yours and is far too ignorant of proper social behaviors to just bloody well share).

<DICE> The Ghost of Christmas PedantSkidge turns to Ebenezer.

<DICE> Skirling Skidge , fed up, causes them both to vanish.

<DICE> Ebenezer is gone!

Without the Spirit, the vision of the happy Cratchit family gathering quickly fades. Squat Hole is back to its normal squalor. . . .

Stave Four, The Last of the Spirits

Squat Hole, Later

<DICE> Ebenezer has been left all alone by the Ghost of Christmas Present. He fidgets, knowing to expect the next Ghost to arrive any moment.

Not a word about the weather, not even a thought. It begins to snow, quickly coating the streets in a thin, pristine white layer. It is cold, very cold. It is also quiet. Silent.

Ebenezer wraps his arms around himself and shivers. This is a cold he does not like and a silence he does not trust.

The crunching of heavy footfalls in the snow precedes the faint outline that fades in through the downpour of snowflakes. A silhouette in the distance, slow, yet entirely unstoppable.

<DICE> Ebenezer sees a terrifying figure approaching him. He cannot help but begin to back away. . . .

The call echoes. More than it should. It assaults Ebenezer from every angle, bouncing, rebounding, and reverberating. "Ebenezer. . ."

<DICE> Ebenezer is not sure whether to run or stop in place. He stumbles slightly and holds still, looking carefully at the figure as it grows nearer.

The figure seems to skip the remaining thirty feet, stopping to tower over Ebenezer. It is a mass in a large gray robe. Beneath it, a heavy black coat. The head is obscured with a large hood.

<DICE> Ebenezer flinches at the sudden, large, looming spirit. Trembling, he looks up, and up, and up. "You must be the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come? Here-here to show me things that have yet to happen?"

<DICE> Ebenezer waits for an answer, but no answer comes. After a moment, he blurts, "Spirit! Say something. You're really . . . sort of worrying me. A bit." It is a typical understatement.

<DICE> Ebenezer is met with only silence as a reply. He jitters. "Look! Look, I know you're here to take me somewhere, so. . . well, let's get on with it, then!"

<DICE> Ebenezer looks as if he's ready to pick a direction at random and march off to find something on his own, whether that Spirit is coming along or not!

The crack is loud and finishing. The only sound in the entire outpost. It echoes as Ebenezer falls, limp into the snow. Some of the white, stains with red.

The figure stoops, picking up Ebenezer by the collar and slinging his limp form over his shoulder. Blood drips into the snow as the form wanders off into the threatening blizzard.

CC404

A cloaked form wanders into the outpost. Snow drifts in the stale air, mingled with exhaust fumes and smog. There is a body draped over it's shoulder. The unconscious form of Ebenezer.

He's dropped off of the shoulder. Quite the fall into the packed snow on the ground. The figure is waiting. Waiting for the man to get up. Realize where he is. What is to happen to him.

<DICE> Ebenezer stirs with a nauseous groan. He moves to straighten his spectacles, his hand shaking with a mix of nerves and cold. Carefully, he touches his headwound and glances towards the looming Phantom.

A black glove slides out of the robe. It is spotted with blood. His. One finger points, over Ebenezer's head to something behind him.

<DICE> Ebenezer 's breath catches. Dizzily and fearfully, he turns to see it is behind him that the Phantom might be indicating.

He is at the edge of a perfect rectangle carved in the ground. Six feet deep, eight feet long, three feet wide. There is a stick, stabbed into the ground. The only mark for a grave. His.

<DICE> Ebenezer gasps sharply and scoots away from that open grave, but stops, not wanting to be any closer to the Phantom. "No! No, this can't. . . . . . . . . I've learned my lesson! I'm changed!"

The only sound from the spirit, the only response. The sharp click of a shotgun shell being pushed into the chamber.

<DICE> Ebenezer 's entire body gives a sharp jerk. He yelps and scrambles around to grip the lowest hem of the Ghost's robe, "I learned my lesson! Please! Have mercy!"

He is kicked away, his shoulders at the edge of the grave so his head hangs over. A foot is planted on his chest. The barrel of a dull black shotgun is leveled at his forehead. It is cold.

<DICE> Ebenezer oofts and stares along the barrel of the shotgun for a horrifying split-second before squinching his eyes shut very tightly. He is beyond words at this point.

In the silence of the empty outpost. A wind passes, whispering an apology to Ebenezer. The spirit's cloak moves with it, rustles. The hood moves, just slightly.

A mouth of sharp white fangs flickers from the shade. The trigger is pulled.

The click is hollow. No skull is shattered, no blood splatters into the grave. The spirit cocks the weapon back. A shell pops out, landing in the snow. Silence.

The figure lifts the barrel from Ebenezer's face, bending down and picking him up on his knees, turning him so he faces the grave. The spirit takes the barrel of the weapon, holds it up.

The pistol grip of the shotgun is smashed into the back of Ebenezer's head. He drops into the grave, bleeding from a wound in his skull. Besides the patter of blood dripping, it is silent.

<DICE> KK Victoria pulls back his hood, examining the weapon. He looks into the grave, a sneer on his face, fire in his eyes. "Someone won't let you die." He growls, dropping the shotgun in with him.

<DICE> KK Victoria picks up the shell, dropping it in after him. "Is not my place to force it." The hood is restored, Death moves on and out of the outpost, leaving a living man in his grave.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer comes into town a short while later, in search of her husband. She's not really dressed for the weather. "Eeeeebenezeeeeer!"

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer kicks around through the snow. She bangs on the warehouse door, but hears no response. Hmm.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer wanders. She sees something odd, over there. . . . . . . . . . .? She heads toward it and discovers a deep hole. A frown. This is weird. She peeks in?

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer gasps. "Ebenezer!" How did he get down there? And why is he sleeping in a big hole? "Ebenezer, get up!"

<DICE> Ebenezer groans and doesn't do much else.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer 's ears perk. "Ebenezer?" She frets and fidgets. What is he doing down there? "Ebenezerrrrr."

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer looks around, but there's nobody to help! She whines and hops down into the hole, crouching over him. "Ebenezer, you can't be down here." She notices blood, and whines again, ears back.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer fidgets, then grabs him beneath the arms, awkwardly. "It's cold," she tells him, trying to figure out how to get him up out of here.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer shoves him up onto the edge, with great difficulty. She's shivering; it sure is cold out here. They should go home where it's warm.

<DICE> High Lady Escemfer climbs back out and pulls the rest of her husband up. She looks around, spies the entrance to their clan hall, and takes him inside, half-carrying and half-dragging.

Stave Five, The End of It All

KITTANIA

<DICE> Ebenezer strolls out into Kittania in high spirits. "Hello, hello, hello!" He greets the random Kittymorphs, tipping his hat to them all.

Rookie Bertram is wandering around Kittania, ostensibly to get donations for his Charity. What he's really doing is nattering on about ties.

Rookie Pepper is following Bertram around, smoking a cigarette. He just nods to whatever the oddball says.

<DICE> Ebenezer spots a pair of familiar Rookies. He hails them with a wave and calls, "You there! What day is it?" He approaches the pair.

Rookie Pepper scowls an ill-tempered scowl at Ebenezer. "I don't fuckin' know, do I?"

Rookie Bertram explains, with gestures, "So you see, you need to flip the back to the front, or else it'd be in the back, and-" He pauses, and blinkes at Ebenezer. "It's Thursday?" he guesses.

Rookie Bertram frowns at Pepper. "It is Thursday, yes? No? Hang on. . ." He reaches into his pocket and flips open a little notebook. "Carry the two. . . That can't be right."

Rookie Pepper takes a drag and mumbles to himself, "Figured it was Monday, actually. Feels like a Monday." He glances patiently at Bertram's notebook. Rookie Bertram shows the notebook and its scribbles to Pepper and Ebenezer.

<DICE> Ebenezer 's cheer is unaffected by Pepper's scowl. He leans in to look at Bertram's book. "Christmas day," he replies. "It's Christmas day! Those Spirits did all that in one night? Amazing!"

Rookie Pepper frowns. "What? It's not Christmas." He's sure of at least that much! He hasn't been here that long.

Rookie Bertram shrugs. "It does, doesn't it? Has a certain whatnot. I was always rubbish at Math. It might be a Monday." He looks back at the notebook. "Does it say that?"

<DICE> Ebenezer insists, "It's Christmas day! You there, clever lad, I need you to do something for me. See Maiko's just there?" He points down the street.

<DICE> Ebenezer continues, "Go there and buy the biggest goose. Erm. Steak? Erm. Whatever's the biggest! Buy it!" He fishes through his pockets and hands Bertram a handful of requisition coins.

Rookie Bertram takes it and blinks. "Right." He blinks and wanders into Maiko's negotiating for a side of Panthzer. Rookie Pepper stares at Ebenezer. What? "Why don't you go buy it? It's right there."

<DICE> Ebenezer shushes Pepper and says, "You. I need you to go to Cyber City. Go to my warehouse and get the accordion. It's clearly labeled." He offers Pepper his key.

Rookie Bertram stumbles out under the weight of a huge haunch, almost more than his bean frame can carry. "Got the. . . Goose? Steak?"

<DICE> Ebenezer adds, "And while you're there, get yourself some pants. Hurry now!" Rookie Pepper takes the key, bewildered. This Island is a crazy, crazy place. "Sure, whatever." Finally! Pants! He goes.

<DICE> Ebenezer calls after the Rookie, "If you're fast about it, I'll transfer you requisition!" He looks to Bertram and adds, "Keep the change, by the way."

Rookie Pepper is inspired to be quick! Halfway through the gate, he swears and runs back. "Teleporter money, please." He's not running all the way to CC404 and back, even for a pair of pants!

Rookie Bertram blinks. "Ah, what change?" Maiko carefully weighed it and shaved off slices and raised the price on him.

<DICE> Ebenezer says, "Alright, yes!" He fetches more requisition from his pockets. Where did he get so much money? "Have some for your charity as well."

Rookie Pepper snatches a liberal amount of req and heads off to Eboy's.

<DICE> Ebenezer says to Bertram, "As soon as he returns, we're off to Improbable Central. You can carry that, can't you? Good man."

Rookie Bertram teeters and totters, but doesn't answer. It wouldn't make much difference either way.

Rookie Pepper FWUMPs back into town, wearing pants and carrying an accordion. He tries to take a step forward, and finds his feet securely buried in dirt. "Oh, come on!"

<DICE> Ebenezer says, "There you are. Time to go. Christmas won't wait. Follow me." He leads the way out.

Rookie Bertram follows, peering around the Panthzer.

Rookie Pepper calls after him, "It's not even Christmas!" He yanks his feet out of the ground and follows.

IMP CENTRAL

<DICE> Ebenezer strolls into Improbable Central with two heavily-laden Rookies behind him. "Merry Christmas!" He announces.

<DICE> Ebenezer spots Calliaphone and gestures for her to approach. "You! You. Just the person I wanted to see. Come here."

Rookie Pepper troops into town, scowling, a cigarette clamped between his lips. He carries in his arms an accordion.

Returning Contestant calliaphone looks up and sees Eben. She stares a little, and then glares a little. "what?"

<DICE> Ebenezer repeats, "Merry Christmas." He takes the accordion from Pepper's hands and holds it out towards Calliaphone.

Rookie Bertram stumbles under the panthzer he's carrying, and waits to one side.

Rookie Pepper considers the little freckled girl. She doesn't seem taken with Ebenezer. That's a point in his book. And she's cute. He puts his scowl away.

Returning Contestant calliaphone stares and stares. at Eben. At Pepper. At the accordion. At Eben. Her pint-mug slips out of her hand and smashes on the ground. She whispers, "C-Cordy?"

<DICE> Ebenezer says, "Here. Take it. It's a present."

Returning Contestant calliaphone stammers, "p-present? but, whhhuh, we said, you said, i mean, i thought i had to. . .reallyyoureallymeanit?" her eyes say please don't mess with my head here.

<DICE> Ebenezer puts the accordion into Calliaphone's arms. "Merry Christmas. I've got to run. Cheer to spread and all that. Merry Christmas!" He jerks his head at Bertram in a "come along" gesture.

Rookie Bertram follows, gripping the haunch tightly.

<DICE> Ebenezer leads the way out! To Squat Hole!

Returning Contestant calliaphone staggers back, hugging the accordion very tight. very very tight. she gulps. sniffs. and stammers "uhhh, i. . . .m-merry christmas, ebenezer. merry christmas." and then she bursts into tears.

Rookie Pepper waves after Bertram and Ebenezer. "Yeah, whatever!" His job here is done. He gives calliaphone a small, sideways smile. "He thinks it's Christmas," he says, in lieu of a better pickup line.

Returning Contestant calliaphone glances up at the kind voice and the shoulder-pat. she gulps, and hiccups, and manages a shrug. "maybe he's right?" she's very confused right about now.

Rookie Pepper breathes out a smokey breath. "I think it's Monday," he says noncommitally. Pause. "Nice accordion."

SQUAT HOLE

There's a ramshackle crate-shack near the massage parlour, as run-down and daubed with filth as any in Squat Hole, yet sounds of laughter echo from within.

<DICE> Ebenezer enters Squat Hole and glances over his shoulder at Bertram. "That's the place," he says, approaching the ramshackle shack. He knocks loudly on the door. KNOCK-KNOCK-KNOCK!

Rookie Bertram wobbles and holds the panthzer carefully, trying not to think of what he just stepped in.

<DICE> Sessine Bob Cratchit answers the door. "Yes?" His jaw drops - it's his employer! "Mister Scrooge," he says, stunned. Here in Squat Hole?

<DICE> Ebenezer says, "I wanted a word with you. No. Two, actually." Unable to wait, he goes ahead and says them, "Merry Christmas." He gestures to Bertram again. Come closer!

Rookie Bertram stumbles forward, almost dropping the haunch into Sessine's arms.

<DICE> Sessine Bob Cratchit blinks. Merry Christmas? From Scrooge. . .? Has he gone mad?

<DICE> Ebenezer gestures to the haunch in Bertram's arms, "This is for you. For your family. And what's more, I'm giving you a raise." Quite obviously, the poor man needs it.

<DICE> Sessine Bob Cratchit is stunned. Quite speechless. Rookie Bertram offers the haunch. "Well, here you go. Merry Christmas, and whatnot."

<DICE> Ebenezer says, "You've been a loyal, hard-working employee. I wanted to give you something for Christmas."

<DICE> Sessine Bob Cratchit accepts the haunch. He looks from Bertram, to Ebenezer. . . . . . . . . . .- - - - . . and then his face splits into a wide delighted grin. "Thank-you, sir! Thank-you. And a very Merry Christmas to you, too!"

<DICE> Ebenezer claps Mr. Cratchit on the shoulder, "Merry Christmas! I've got a nephew to visit, so I'd best hurry off. Good to see you!" He tips his hat to the two men and exits Northwards.

Rookie Bertram smiles and waves goodbye, wandering off before he can be press-ganged into anything else.

<DICE> Sessine Bob Cratchit gazes after his departing employer, shaking his head in wonder. "What on earth. . . but I sure hope it lasts!" Then he turns back inside. "My dear, you'll never guess. . .!"

ACE HIGH

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker is inside a warm, cheery house. Delicious smells are coming from the chimney, and Beeker can be heard inside, laughing.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker occasionally peers out the window, eyes shining with delight, admiring the falling snow.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker emerges briefly, gathers up several snowballs, and dashes back inside. Shrieks of laughter and sounds of running feet quickly follow. With a splat, the front window is obscured by a coating of snow.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker emerges again. He hangs a wreath on the front door. Gladsome Beeker 's wreath is so heavily decorated that one can barely see that there are evergreen boughs under there. There are bells and berries and shells and shiny crystals,

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker has also added wires shaped like grapevine curlicues, and wires bent into the shapes of holly leaves, and feathers, and a tiny obsidian snowflake.

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker adjusts the wreath so it's hanging nicely, puffs out his breath just to see it fog in the cold, grins widely, claps his hands together, and heads back inside.

<DICE> Ebenezer enters Ace High and approaches the door with the beautiful wreath. He knocks. KNOCK-KNOCK!

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker opens the door wide. "Oh! Hullo, Ebenezer! Uncle Ebenezer!" He grins.

<DICE> Ebenezer says, "Hello, nephew." Very suddenly, he snatches the grinning nephew up into a hug. "Merry Christmas," he says, not yet tired of the phrase. How could he be on Christmas day?

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker is surprised! An Ebenezer-hug! How Improbably delightful! He hugs back. "Oh! Happy Christmas!" He scoffles Ebenezer's hair for good measure.

<DICE> Ebenezer doesn't seem to mind the scroffling. "I seem to remember getting an invitation to a party? I'm still invited, aren't I?"

<DICE> Gladsome Beeker nodnods enthusiastically. "Oh, uh huh! Come on in!"

<DICE> Ebenezer follows his newphew indoors, where the party continues the merry holiday celebration.

The End.

CAST

Scrooge Ebenezer

Jacob Marley Marly

Bob Cratchit Sessine

Tiny Tim Cadye/Ochris

Various Members of the Cratchit Family talkydoor

Fred Beeker

The Ghost of Christmas Past Zolotisty

The Ghost of Christmas Present Skidge/The_Pedant

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come K.K._Victoria

Charity Men Bertram/Pepper

Revelers calliaphone Tyr

2) No Ebenezers were harmed in the making of this Story.
3) Yet
 
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christmas_carol.txt · Last modified: 2017/05/28 03:35 (external edit)