Logs:Wake House - Don't Feed the Shadows

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Wake House - Don't Feed the Shadows


Characters: Gast, Jacob, Jeanie and Rafael with Slip as ST
Date: 2020-04-22
Summary: Out the backyard and into the gardens where burdens can be forgotten and some shadows can talk.
Disclaimers:

When last we left our home invaders, they had stepped from a backyard garden into a much stranger sprawling estate with unusual flora stretching out in either direction, lined up along mismatched buildings which don't look particularly native to New Orleans. Like the stone structure into which three of them have entered, the fresh scent of clean water and fresh greenery leaving the air inside light and inviting even if the facilities remain out of sight along corridors and around corners. The trio talks with Manfred, an older woman who might pass for a hippie were it not for the weaponry at her hip, a short sword on one side, a pistol on the other. Outside farther along one of the paths, Rafael--who avoided that cleansing arch and all its implications--has found something stranger, an animate shadow which speaks, which, it seems, feeds on the death of flowers.


Manfred relaxes further with Jeanie's easy acceptance of her instructions and the entirely reasonable follow up questions. Her hand sinks from her pistols, the wariness draining from her otherwise kind eyes. "Can't miss the archives. It's the big brick building over there." She points in a direction that would be a right hand turn when exiting the building, the same direction that Rafael has wandered. "Conservatory's the big windowed bit stuck on one side. It's been fucked for years now. You won't come out the same's you went in. The archives aren't entirely my domain, and the greenhouse, well."

She just purses her thin lips and moves on from that, pointing to the arch which, from this side, reads Bathe the Body & Unburden the Heart. "This is a place of cleaning and clearing out, body and mind both. Can't bring your burdens into the bath with you and expect to come away anything but muddy." Her blue-eyed attention settling on Jacob, she then explains, "Not many of us left with Ms. Alexander absent, and some of 'em are guests like you. I'll respect their right to privacy, same's yours." Looking between Jeanie and Gast, she explains, "You're about four days early for Miss Dierdre, though. I can let her know you were by. And I can see you out if you've lost your keyflower."

"Yessss," the shadow breathes on a rustling sight, so pleased to be understood. It dips and weaves and dissipates at its edges in its excitement, thinner bits crumbling to dust before reforming into the shadowy whole. It slithers back up to a more-than-humanoid height, drawn thin and somewhat looming. "Have a name, yesss. Private, mine." It wobbles and crumbles a little more as it sinks back down to Rafael's height, relatively speaking, dimensions not all entirely comparable. "Share for friend. Friend help feed." It bows dramatically toward the flowers, back arching with long, curled spines that all meld back into it with movement. "Clossse. So clossssse."


Jacob watches Manfred curiously. There's some suspicion there, as if he's not quite settled on the fact that she's an ally, but he nods when he explains 'bath the body and unburden the heart'. "But is that not the reason to bathe? To wash away the burdens, cleanse oneself? Seems redundant to bath first just to bathe again. Perhaps there's a mind-cleansing station we missed?" He seems genuinely curious. He's new to cleansing and finding balance and all of that.

When she speaks of privacy, he nods, then lifts an eyebrow at the mention of a keyflower. "A keyflower? What's that?" If it was spoken about previously, he didn't quite catch it, but now he's interested.


"Keyflower?" Jeanie blinks as that's definitely a bit of flora she doesn't think that she happens to possess. "Is there anything in particular y'all are trying to clear out in the baths here? Or just general health and well being?" She gives a bit of an eyeroll at Jacob's questioning of bathing before. "Not if it's a shared bath. You should always rinse off so you don't inflict your dirt on others. Common courtesy."


"Do you have a name others use?" Rafael regards the shadow with a wary eye, keeping his distance for the moment, "And how, exactly, do you want me to help you feed...? You're certainly not feeding on me." A twitch of his lips, "I doubt you'd find it palatable."


"S'what ya crossed, handsome," Manfred answers Jacob with a glint of humor in her blue eyes, gesturing again back to the arch. That, she indicates, would be the mind-cleansing station, already experienced, whether they noticed or not. She tips a satisfied nod to Jeanie when she seems to get how the baths here work a bit more readily. "I just like to spoil myself sometimes. Let go of a little more than just the dirt of the day. Come out smelling all pretty." Their curiosity about the keyflower diminishes her ease, her posture straightening again, this business of keeping hospitality getting tricky with folks who don't seem to know the rules and the workings of the place. She holds up a hand, the tips of thumb and forefinger maybe an inch apart. "Tiny thing. Blue?" She might mean the potted forget-me-nots around Ms. Alexander's house. "Can't get through the doors without it. Not without effort. And you're liable to lose the path if you ain't got one. I don't carry none extra. If you want accompaniment, for a while..." Her gaze strays as Gast wanders some, still listening, clearly, but moving to get a deeper look into the spa itself while they linger.

The shadow dips with a rasp, a disappointed sound when Rafael asks his question. A common name. It offers none, instead latching onto the inquiries which follow, blooming up again into a semi-humanoid shape. And then into an exaggeration of the shadows cast by the row of neatly planted flowers between them, ghostly blue petals around inky dark centers. While many are bright and vibrant and very much alive, some sag and wilt toward the shade, nearer to the building, unable to get quite enough sunlight to survive without help. "Not you," it whispers in its voice of dried leaves and ash. "Never you. No. No, them. So sad, so close. Slow deaths on their own. Struggle and pain." It seems to hiss, perhaps? An unpleasant exhale as its back arches up into existance again, a shadow hand stretching toward the blooms to pet, to comfort. "Is kind, yessss?"


Jacob blinks actually caught by Manfred's words. He looks back towards the way they came, and the archway they passed through, and laughs. "Of /course/. I should have realised that." He sounds amused, at himself, as if surprised he didn't figure it out himself. He looks back at Manfred then, curious, "So, what reasons might make a person unwilling to cross through bath number one?"

Jeanie gets a grin as she mentions rinsing off before a public bath. "I'm sorry I'm out of touch. I've never used a public bath before." The twitch at the corner of his mouth indicates that the thought it amusing, at least, possibly absurd. Well, until now. He looks back to Manfred. "The blue flowers." He doesn't know the name of them - he's no botanist - but he remembers seeing them and nods. "Are we allowed to pick them?"


"That's what life is, little shadow..." A slow step brings Rafael closer, moving around towards the flowers, considering the rows there, "Some are lucky enough to be planted in fertile soil, with plenty of sun and water. Some find themselves in the shade, and weaken and die if they find no aid. Life /is/ struggle and pain. That's what defines it." You paged Jeanie with ‘Shoooould be okay there for now. Manfred is a peacemaker as well, here.’


"You mean like the flowers in the kitchen?" Jeanie certainly remembers the tiny blue things, but maybe the fact that they didn't just take them bodes well for the whole 'don't take things not given freely' rule of the gardens. For at least some of them anyways. "We wouldn't want to take up any more of your valuable time. If those are the keyflowers, and freely given for folks wanting to help Ms. Alexander, I could slip back and grab one. Or three if we each need one and you could use an extra?" She's trying to be her helpfulest her, really. There's a shrug for Jacob's lack of familiarity. "Goes for any water really. Public baths or pools. Could get away without in the ocean or lakes though."


"Everybody's got their own reasons for doing as they do," Manfred offers diplomatically to Jacob. "I can't give you anybody's but my own." Her posture slowly sinks again, seemingly without her notice, as the question which had piqued her suspicion grows farther behind them. "If you say so," she answers Jeanie in regards to the placement of the flowers. Given her unfamiliarity with the house or the neighbors, one might wonder if she ever wanders out that way at all. "That's what they're there for," she confirms, meaning that they're meant to be taken. Possibly contradicting her earlier words. "You'll each want one, to be safe." She looks between the three of them, including the wandering investigator, and asks, "You all gon' be alright on your own then?" which is where Gast chimes in, noting that he might have a few extra questions, if she's amenable.

The shadow rises only to dip again as Rafael edges closer to the flowers. It has no eyes by which it might see, and yet its movement, its shape implies observation, like it's studying the stranger as he approaches. "Tell usss of your soil?" earnest curiosity, a patience, stillness within the shadowed shape, save for the edges and protrusions which occasionally shift and crumble and regrow.


"Public pools?" Jacob looks rather agast at Jeanie. He shakes his head and shoves the thought out of his mind, looking back at Manfred. "What happens if you lose your flower along the voyage?" When she asks if he has any other business with her, he glances around at the others, which is mostly Jeanie, and shakes his head. "Not at the moment, but... is it alright if we visit again? I would like to..." he smiles at Jeanie and then looks at Manfred, "Cleanse and unburden myself more often. I actually feels pretty good."

And he seems to mean it, even if he just discovered it, himself. He's no longer wrangled by that wrathful feeling he felt earlier. It must be working.


"Of my own soil..." Rafael brings one hand up a bit, fingers raking back through his hair as he considers the request. His gaze briefly searching the skies before returning to the shadow that feeds upon the death of flowers, "I grew in a land where some flowers drink the water of others' to leave them parched, and trick those in the shade to bicker amongst themselves for droplets. Where the soil is rocky and hard to grow in, save where those few flowers that get all the water grow. What flowers manage to prosper in that land are tough, strong, and have fought their way to the sun."


"Maybe you should keep better track of important things like keyflowers," Jeanie says with a shrug before turning back to the house. "I'll be right back..." At least she fully intends to be right back... she knows the direction she had came from although the considering the non-Euclidean geometry of the house the task might be trickier than the girl intended. She gets to the end of the path and stops, staring at the journal she's very sure had been placed in the gate and tentatively reaching out towards the book as if expecting there to still be the gate even if she can't SEE it. But she does see something else up ahead, or someone rather, also not quite where she left it. "Rafael? You alright?"


"You lose your way," Manfred answers Jacob easily enough. At his interest in revisiting, she notes, "Can't promise I'll still be here, but the facilities are free to use so long's you remain a guest of the gardens." When Jeanie leaves with those parting words, the Keeper of Hospitality pulls a peculiar face and murmurs after here, "S'not my job..." as if perplexed by the implication. With a little tsk, she turns away and moves to settle on a stone bench among some potted greenery to address Gast's lingering inquiries.

The space where Jeanie remembers the gate to have been has no more give to it than any fence might, a hint of flexibility without any suggestion of opening. The journal can easily be picked up without disrupting anything. All seems normal here. Not at all odd. Except, well. That whole missing exit thing. And a spectral frog near her feet that only she can see. And Rafael talking with a shadow.

The dark creature remains still for a long time after listening to Rafael's words, so much so that one might wonder if it had disappeared, were it not for the occasional ash shed from its substance, rejoining, recycled. When it moves again, it sinks low, first, as if in deference, then stretches tall, looming a little, adopting an appearance of authority. "Sympathetic, yesss," a disappointed but not disagreeable crackle. "An honesty. We will give you our name. We will wait." It seems to sigh, like wind through autumn trees as it twists and bends as it looking to Jeanie, acknowledging her, addressing the Infected. "We are the Petals when They Turn Black with Hunger."


"I am Rafael." A deep bow of the man's head, straightening then, "All things in their time. You will never go hungry long, I fear."

Then he turns a bit, looking back to the call - a hand raising, "Yes, it's fine. I'm just talking to this friendly shadow here." Becasuse that's not a weird thing to say at all.


Jacob nods to Manfred's words. Although usually joking, he accepts them seriously. He knows about losing his way. "Thank you, Manfred, for... your hospitality. I hope your own journeys lead you well. And I'd love to ask more questions should we meet again." But Jacob knows how tiring it can be for those in other realms, to always be questions - he's talked to a lot of them. So he's willing to work with the information he /has/ received.

He turns as Jeanie starts towards the gateway, only to realise there isn't one. "Interesting. I imagine it can only be seen from the other sight." He spots Rafael as Jeanie addresses him. Yet he hold back slightly, taking a moment to look around the spa, the grounds, for any of those little blue flowers, although he moves closer to where the gate was, his gaze focusing curiously on the shadow Rafael's speaking to.


Jeanie raises an eyebrow slightly as Rafael mentions talking to a friendly shadow, but that's not the strangest thing she's ever seen and not even the strangest thing they've possibly seen today. "Better than an unfriendly shadow? How do you do, shadow?" She'll give a wave to the shadow as well before turning to look at the little frog near her feet. "And you... you look like you might not belong. Or maybe it's me that doesn't belong. But shouldn't you get off the path so someone doesn't step on you?" She'll make an effort to try and shoo the little frog off to safer resting spot.


Here, within these grand gardens, picking out a tiny little forget-me-not might prove challenging for all the variety and color, but a glance at the flowerbeds nearest to the group, even spread out as they are, shows none. It all seems like a fairly peaceful evening out here, fairylights and lanterns illuminating the paths which stretch out in either direction and helping to give the odd, animated shadow its depth and shape.

"Rafaeeel," Petalblack sighs like a rustling of leaves, considering this strange name which says, to it, so little of the peculiar creature that's come to visit. It dips toward Jeanie, toward Jacob, a curious turning of unusual shapes which fall to shadowed dust and rejoin the darkness. "Alwaysss hungry," sounds distracted as it sinks toward the line of the natural shadows, as if seeking to hide.


The frog does not move when Jeanie tries to shoo it, though it does react to the movement, taking shifting steps like it might consider retreat. It opens its mouth to croak, but that amphibious chirp shapes words. "Eaten," it croaks. "Food. Food. Stuck now. No moon. No moon. So dry."


"It is well. These are friends," says Rafael gently as the shadow slinks away, turning towards the others with a faint smile, one hand motioning after them, "This is the Petals When They Turn Black With Hunger. They, ah, feed on the death of flowers when their time comes." He pauses, "What did you find inside?"


Jacob hmms to himself when he sees that none of the blue flowers are apparent here, despite there being a garden. It seems they must be taken before. He makes a mental note, then turns his attention to Jeanie and Rafael. And... the spirit. He moves towards them, although he's looking around for any signs that there might be another gateway, or hints that one might have been here at one point, or that a new one might have taken it's place. He's always looking out for doorways, in other words. It's his thing.

He focuses on the spirit and offers a smile in greeting. "The death of flowers? Then plant more of them. Those ones that die off every year only to produce more the next year seem like a good start, or does it kill the ability to regrow? In which case, weeds. Some have beautiful flowers and they are /very/ determined. Or does it have to be a certain /type/ of flower? Little blue flowers, maybe?"


"No moon?" Jeanie glances over her shoulder and while there might be some momentary cloud cover, it's not so heavy that the moon shouldn't be completely hidden. "Do... do you need a moonbeam? To get unstuck? If you wait over there, one should come out soon..." She continues talking to the little phantom frog at her feet, before nodding up at Rafael and the very hungry shadow-pillar. "Does Petals' hunger have anything to do with the feeding of the frogs?"


There are a number of doors visible from here, though all of them seem to lead into other buildings, from cottages to greenhouses to more functional brick structures. None present as a garden gate which might lead back to their point of origins. Except, well. Right there. Where the old one had been. Nobody can see it, but Jacob knows the shape of its edges, can suss out where the magic that opens from one world into another is. The tells aren't precisely visual, more a matter of experience and intuition. A feeling, like steping out of a humid day and into shelter, that faint difference in the air pressure, in the occult presence. The gate is very much still there, even if nobody can see it.

From the shadows of the flowers, a hissing of dry leaves rattles up in answer to Jacob's advice, a little dusty ripple in the darkness cast against the building wall assuring that Petalblack is very much still present. It doesn't speak, though, until Jeanie asks a question directly of it, rising from the gloom to stretch out like the branches of a tree. "We know what eats the small things that sing of somewhere else. We will tell it for a giiiift, an offering new friend would not give." So much for patience from the shade.


The frog chirrups, "Moonbeam, moonbeam," in echo of Jeanie, turning with small steps to angle toward the moon overhead. "All wrong. All wrong. Not right. No moon. Just rock. Rock doesn't know. Doesn't sing. No singing. No song." Its croaked words sound like a lamentation, and more echo through the garden in response. Wordless, those. Just frogs.


A series of croaks rise from the flowers and grasses of the garden, all far off from where the group stand now. It seems one answers another and so on, a kind of communication. Or just nature doing as nature does.


"Inside...? The bathhouse? What did you two find in there?" Rafael's brow furrows as the inquiry is ignored, looking between the two of them with a hint of worry-- one hand coming up to rub at the nape of his neck. Then Petalblack speaks up, and he breathes out a chuckle, noting, "They want you to kill some of the flowers, I believe. I wasn't about to start crushing flowers in someone else's garden."


Jacob watches Rafael and the spirit and Jeanie as she approaches them, and he's interested. Until something catches his eye. He pauses, looks back at about where the old gateway would be, his dark, depthless gaze tracing what used to be the perimeter. He murmurs quietly to himself, "I see you. I know you're there, darling. I'll be back."

He then turns his attention towards the others, and their newfound spirit friend. He's anxious now, though. The spirit gains his curiosity, but it's clear part of him's itching to be doing something else as well.


Jeanie seems to be listening to those croaks before looking up to the moon. "Maybe your right Auspice isn't in the sky? If so, you'll probably just got to wait. I don't know any way to change the moon. Folks would notice." And it's reeeeally important folks don't notice things that big and magical. She stares over at the stretching gloom now. "What sort of gift? And I don't kill things." She'll nod in agreement to Rafael's stance on not killing random flowers in random gardens and Jacob's anxiousness doesn't seem to phase her in the least.


"Oh... kay," Rafael just trails off, one hand coming up to rub over the side of his face, "I guess whatever it was, you're not going to talk to me about it."

Unwilling to perform the sacrifice the shadow requests, and without his other queries answered, he moves to walk off through the garden and investigate the outside of some of the other buildings by himself.


"Yessss," the shadow sighs when Rafael explains its hunger, what it wants in payment for its knowledge. The branches it had become draw in and twist together, smaller twig-shadows breaking off and crumbling, and it stretches toward Jeanie. "One little death for so much knowledge. Just one. Aaaaany one."

The ghostly frog at Jeanie's feet that only she can see chirps up at her, a repetition of, "Stuck."

Inside the spa, a pair of voices grow closer, Manfred and Gast concluding their conversation.


Jacob's anxiousness to go and do things as quickly as possibly in order to return it pushed aside when he hears the spirit's hissing voice. He looks towards it, his body tensing. He remembers his own little ordeal not long past. "Don't listen to it. Don't kill /anything/. Not a frog, not a flower, especially not a spirit."

Something's forming in his mind that he can't quite piece together, but he knows he's onto something. "We should leave, not. Regroup, come back better supplied." A glance towards the door - a sense of longing, there - but he's looking back at Jeanie and Rafael. "We should go. And don't /kill/ anything." He speaks as if he has some experience with something that may or may not be similar.


Jeanie shrugs towards the shadow. "They're not mine to kill." She straightens up, and very carefully steps around the phantom frog while taking the journal. "As much as I hate agreeing with him..." She tilts her head towards Jacob while talking to Rafael. "I think he's right. None of this should be here. Going in unprepared could pretty much be suicide." And while she may be selfless in many ways, it doesn't extend quite that far.


"Sure," Rafael shrugs, "Let's get out of here."


The Petals when They Turn Black with Hunger deflates, a dejected darkness which must wait for its meal. It's hard to see where it's gone. But, then again, it might be hiding from the Keeper of Hospitality as she and the private investigator step out of the spa and into the evening air. Manfred surveys the group, catching the talk of departure, and nods. It takes no effort for her at all, to cross the path and open the gate that, by everyone's eyes, was very much not there a moment ago. It's still a bit difficult to look at, like the world wants to assert its absence, but no, there's the plum tree on the other side, and the frog pond, the house beyond. "Come back and see Deirdre. She keeps to the main house there. She can help you if you wanna help her."