Welcome back to EclecticMasque, 2014!
If you’re just tuning in, you’ve got some catching up to do. Our host, EclecticAlli, will be collecting the various adventures of her guests as she encounters them. This will undoubtedly be devoid of anything resembling chronological order for the evening, so I hope all your TARDISes are charged, cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. I myself will be posting several pieces of my ridiculously long tale, along with my favorite co-author, Caitlin, and anyone else who happens to drop by. I’ll do my best to keep the authorship and timelines straight on here, but I can’t promise what you’ll find if you follow the #EclecticMasque tag….
I am ready to punch something. I don’t even care what. The tension from moments before is still humming along my skin, and none of this slapstick crap is helping.
When Cait peeks in behind the new Zig, I simply stand there and stare. My brain refuses to process until she calls that idiot griffin by name.
Before I can punch him, Frost has already decked Lark and is dragging toward the window.
“We’re all going downstairs now,” he snarls, and I for one am not inclined to argue. To be sure, Lark’s still gonna get his dues from me, but I am more than happy to leave this room behind first.
“Wait, what?” I’m not really unhappy with the declaration and am not surprised when it’s Frost’s voice from behind the phantom mask, but I am a little thrown that we’re leaving so abruptly. I mean, it’s not uncommon for Frost to be that upset with Lark, especially if he didn’t want to come to this party in the first place. Did Lark drag him here anyway? Did Lark leave because he felt Frost show up?
I’m so confused.
And then Frost is heading towards the broken window… “Okay, wait, seriously now… Why not just go back through the doors? Less jagged edges that way.”
“Hey, I am all for dragging your bonder’s bitch ass through some broken glass right now.”
I turn to Cait and the real (I hope) Zig, hand on my hip. I’m posturing, but I’m also pissed and still pretty freaked out, so I don’t mind being a little bitchy.
I blinked. I mean, it’s not unlike Raev to be annoyed with Lark, but that seemed a little extreme for him annoying her. “Why? What did he do now? I mean, aside from a weird impersonation there…”
“Huh, you’ve got a point.”
Calm as day, I stride up to Frost and punch him in the arm.
“That’s for trying to scare me.” I hit him again. “And that’s for playing stupid games all night- seriously, did you not learn from the stupid trying-to-kill-me-when-we-first-met-thing?! I don’t.” Punch. “Do well.” Punch. “With threats and stupid posturing.” One last punch, and I finally back off, breathing hard. Corsetted underthings were not made for brawling in. Not that this was much of a brawl, for Frost and I standards.
Frost just blinked calmly. “Are you finished?”
I think about kicking him, but in these skirts I’d probably just hurt myself.
“C’mon, let’s just get back downstairs. I’ve had enough of this Red Death crap.”
I watched the spectacle, utterly confused the more Raev ranted. Not unusual for her, but normally I had a better sense of what was going on when she did so.
As she took her frustration out on Frost, Lark calmly slipped out of the distracted Frost’s grasp. He made a show of adjusting himself and dusting himself off before coming over to offer a hand to me. I just stared at him.
“Not that I don’t like Zig’s face, but can we go back to the first costume of the night?”
Something more serious flits across Lark’s expression before he smiled winsomely. “What? You don’t want to be escorted by twins?”
Before I could answer, Raev was declaring something about Red Death and I was back to being confused. “Wait – Red what?” My mind pulled back to the dread I’d been feeling… And that flicker of a red figure in the white room. “Like a red figure, Red Death?”
Now I had Lark’s full attention and he reached for me in earnest. He pulled me into the room with him, his gaze intent on the shadows behind me.
That more than anything else I’d seen in the rooms so far worried me.
Zig slips into the room after Cait, clearly not happy about the whole situation. As if his face weren’t enough, I can tell by how quickly he’s speaking that he’s seriously spooked.
“Yeah, red figure- like in Poe’s short story? You didn’t think this whole spiral/dungeon nightmare was just a bad case of matchy-matchy gone wrong, did you?” I don’t know if he realizes it, but Zig’s eyes keep flicking between his “twin” and our own “red death” as he lectures us about the setting. Yup. Seriously spooked. Poor guy. I wonder if he’s Seen something…
Zig’s nervous babble did nothing to soothe my nerves. In fact, as he spoke, goosebumps raised on my arms.
“So what you’re saying is that I didn’t imagine seeing a red figure in that mirror back there?” Alright, so there was a bit of a waver to my voice. Part of that was the sudden quickness with which Lark was suddenly moving me over towards Frost and Raev.
“Yes, yes, lovely discussion, great story – let’s continue these grand explanations elsewhere before something else is brought down on our heads.” His arm around my shoulders was tight, and hot, as if he had a fever. That alone would have given him away to me, even if I hadn’t felt his presence first. It’s a comfort though, and I stepped closer to it. It may have been my imagination, but the room suddenly felt much colder. Of course, it might also be Frost.
And now it’s my turn to be confused. I cross my arms and give Lark a pointed look.
“Something else? What else has already befallen uh, Larkie Boy? Surely you don’t mean our party-crasher Frost here?”
If I thought Frost was scary before, it’s nothing on him now. He’s pulled his ice around him, and is standing in the broken window in his full Destroyer glory. Nothing outwardly has changed, but man, he was not a force to be messed with right now.
“Everyone is going downstairs, now.”
While I usually live to give him crap, I’m in perfect agreement with my bonder.
“For real, guys. We can argue on the way- we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.”
As we maneuvered down the dimly lit hallways, I thought of asking several questions. What was happening? Where were we exactly? What had Lark been talking about? And what exactly happened in the Red Death? I loved Poe, but I don’t remember every one of his stories, let alone the details.
Every time I opened my mouth, Lark’s hand tightened. The grim set to his jaw kept me silent. I don’t know what’s going on, but clearly he had some idea, so I followed his silent suit while Zig and Raev followed us. I assumed Frost was bringing up the rear of our odd little parade, but I never glanced back to check.
It wasn’t until we hit the main hallway without incident that Lark’s grip began to loosen.
I had to admit, I felt a lot safer with the boys at our front and back. I didn’t mind filling the badass role when I had to, but those two were oh so much better at it than me.
When Zig reaches out for my hand, I want to draw it back, to keep myself ready for anything, but really, I’m out classed here. My hand is more useful as comfort for Zig than trying to battle a ghost that may or may not even be here. Or just around the corner. Or that corner. Or that- oh jeez, this was stupid.
Back in the main hallway, it’s much easier to trade fear for anger, and I spin on Frost as he exits the hallway on our heels.
“Alright, spill it.”
But he’s ignoring me in favor of the archway we just passed through. A blast of cold wind blows off of him, and I realize just how serious he is.
“Hey! Hey—Hey, Frost! We can’t just Destroy a part of this house- we’re guests damnit!”
I grab his shoulder to pull him around, wincing at the touch. He’s so cold, it burns my hand to touch him, but I’ll be damned if I let this idiot UnMake a part of someone else’s house.
“Lark! Help me, damnit.”
I spun at Raev’s yelling, but she’s right. Frost’s determined to end whatever threat we’d just left behind. Not that I blame him. He wouldn’t have come to the party unless Lark really needed the help.
I shifted my weight from foot to foot, partially to ease the ache that was building from unfamiliar heels, and partially to hide my discomfort. When Lark stepped in to help Raev, I shivered, wrapping my arms around myself. I don’t remember the hallway being so cold.
And lack of Lark.
He grabbed Raev’s hand and pulled her back from Frost, so he could grab Frost himself. It was a little weird to watch him do it still wearing Zig’s face though. Frost probably would have blasted the real Zig if he’d done the same thing.
“Come on, she’s right, Frost. It won’t leave its domain and we’re beyond that now.” His voice was a weird mix of his own and Zig’s. A little too low for Zig, not quite rich enough for Lark. The serious and jovial was all himself though.
When Frost showed no signs of listening, Lark pulled his shoulder hard enough that I saw Frost’s body rock with the motion. “We don’t know what our magic will do here, Frost. You don’t know what threads you’re risking if you unleash your power like this.”
Zig’s had to clear his throat twice before he could speak.
“Uh, are we sure it won’t leave here? Cause, uh, I chased something up from the ballroom, and it sure wasn’t as scary as the Big Guy here.”
When Lark gave Zig his own raised eyebrow I finally had to say something. With Lark and Frost firmly between me and the Red Death or whatever, I was beginning to relax. “Okay, seriously Lark, can we have another costume change? I’m getting a little weirded out seeing Zig make your faces.”
There’s the barest hint of a familiar smile before he shifted. Gaining several inches, he was simply suddenly himself again in his handsome black and green tux from before.
Whatever smile I thought I might have seen was gone as he glanced between Zig and Frost. “Perhaps, but outside of its domain it lacks the upper hand.”
“Come into my parlor much?” Zig was trying for glib, but doubtless he was ready to get back downstairs proper and find some punch of some sort- hopefully the adult sort. I was inclined to agree with him.
I tug at Frost’s arm, not satisfied that he won’t blast the archway out of pure spite. I know him, better than he’d care to admit, partially because he’s so much like. And it is exactly the sort of thing I would do. I would love nothing more than to tear that hallway down stone by stone, and I let Frost see that in my thoughts. It seem to soothe him in some way, and he moves away from the door and wraps his usual possessive arm around my waist. I sigh, but let it stand. I hate to admit it, but it makes me feel better too.
Lark eyed Frost as he moved away from the doorway, clearly unconvinced that he had given up on destroying it. When he’d taken several steps away with Raev, then Lark seemed to relax, rolling his shoulders in a way reminiscent of settling feathers.
He glanced back to Zig. “That’s exactly the concept. Everything holds more power within its own reality… Or web.”
I turn to shoot Lark a dirty look. “No, no more spooky business. We are going back downstairs, and we are finding the punch bowl.”
Lark brightened and I knew he was deliberately putting on a lighthearted façade. He didn’t drop things like this that easily. “Punch? Hey, I’m all set for a bit of spiking.”
I rolled my eyes, but took his hand when he offered it. Then I felt the warmth creeping up my arm and pinched his wrist under the suit. I glared when he gave me a quizzical glance.
“You’re not very subtle.” I muttered.
He grinned, in no way abashed at being caught out. “If I’d been trying to, you’d only be angrier later when you figured it out. You don’t need to worry about it, I’m watching.”
My look was disbelieving, but finally I rolled my eyes. I did feel better, even if I knew it had more to do with Lark’s projection. Besides, he was right, it was his job to keep an eye out and it was something he was good at.
“Alright! Time to get our drink on, am I right?” His cheerful announcement came with another wave of warmth and this time I knew I wasn’t the only one getting a dose of it.
Frost scowls beside me, and I can’t help but laugh. This was more like it. I hadn’t been expecting the boys to come, but it was definitely good to see them again. And it was nice to have backup. Nothing against Zig, but I’d take Frost into a fight any day.
Suddenly, I realize Zig has been entirely too quiet. I turn to see him still standing at the archway, staring. I know that look- he’s a million miles away, lost in some Sight. I waffle a moment about interrupting him, but I still really want to get back downstairs and get this creepy hallway behind us for the evening.
“Oi! Ziggo- ya still with us?”
He startles, blinking his way back to reality. I stop and hold my hand out to him, feeling Frost tense beside me. He’s just as anxious as I am to get us out this hallway. Overprotectiveness, or him playing his cards close to his chest, as always?
Zig takes my hand in both of his like a lifeline, and I give him a reassuring squeeze. “You alright?”
He nods, a little too rapidly. His eyes are still wide and shiny. “Just… it’s nothing.”
He’s quiet for a moment, before finally nodding. “I think so.”
I nod as well, feeling my face set into something too grim for a party. “Awesome. Tell me all about it, when we’re not in Death’s-“
Lark cleared his throat and I looked up at him. I had been watching the hushed conversation between Zig and Raev, but I hadn’t been able to hear anything they’d been saying. Lark clearly hadn’t had that problem.
“Drinking now, yes?”
This time, his pointed look was directed at Frost himself and I had a moment to wonder if there weren’t mental words to go with the look.
His nod is more mechanical this time, and I can tell I’m already losing him. He’s back to mulling over whatever he’s seen, and I’m more than happy to let him. And Frost is not-so-subtly pulling me forward, though I doubt he’s as eager to “get his drink on” as Lark is. He’s still in full-blown serious mode, and it’s doing nothing for my confidence. I breathe a sigh of relief when the stairs come back into view.
That relief is short lived.